Book 3 of our steampunk RP shenanigans was possibly my favorite book thus far. Ronin, Major Fitzwiggins, Genevieve and even Professor Extreme all joined in the fun (and of course a few of the original players, some writing under pseudonyms), and though there was more emphasis on ‘gravitas’, there was still plenty of silliness to go around.

I intend to inflict some more of my early attempts at comic illustration on you, but on the plus side, prepare for some truly stellar examples of role play prose.

Now grab a bowl of popcorn, get comfortable and release the Snails of Doom!

 

Reply by Chaplain Forlath Grey on October 8, 2011 at 6:17pm

BOOK III

The Riddle of the Clockwork Mouse

CHAPTER ONE
Chaplain Sean Grey returned to consciousness with a ringing in his ears and a bump on the back of his head that was tender to the touch. He tried to recollect where he was, what had happened. Everything was hazy but… he remembered something about an explosion and a rapid descent and… blackness. The Chaplain tried to open his eyes, move his toes, assess his damage, assess his situation. He couldn’t sit up, the interior of the transport was blurred and Chaplain Grey felt a stinging sensation on his face. The harness, of course, he was buckled into a harness. He fumbled with the latch, released the harness and slowly, awkwardly got to his feet. His vision was returning but still, there was a haziness, and was that sensation on his cheeks… snow?

The ringing in Chaplain Grey’s ears stopped to be replaced with the sound of rushing wind, crackling, sparking electronics and the shouts of his fellow passengers. The Chaplain blinked his eyes a couple of times, there was a body motionless in the harness next to him. Chaplain Grey reached over and checked for a pulse… dead, the man was dead. Grey looked around, the entire front portion of the transport ship was gone. The ship must have broken up before impact. Chaplain Grey staggered to check on the rest of his crew mates, helping those he could, saying last rites for those he couldn’t…

Reply by Chaplain Forlath Grey on October 8, 2011 at 6:18pm
Snow. Lots and lots of snow. Every direction they looked they saw snow. The survivors of the shuttle craft crash had no idea where they were or even what had happened. A heated debate took place on what their next move should be. The overwhelming consensus was that they needed to find shelter, but where? “Right” Chaplain Sean Grey announced “well we have to do something. Tie a line to me, hold onto one end and I’ll go outside and see if I can figure out where we are. And just so we’re perfectly clear on this point, I do not intend to be some time, this is not some selfless act of self sacrifice to conserve our dwindling supplies and if I haven’t returned in 15 minutes for the love of the wee man, reel me back in!”

Chaplain Grey slogged his way through the hip deep drifts; the driving snow obscured his vision as he climbed to the top of the nearest rise. He saw what appeared to be snow covered trees. Well thank providence for that he thought. At least they weren’t above the tree line. He reviewed in his mind how he had ended up here, how he had been one of the original recruits from the Royal Navy HMS Prince of Narwhales back on Earth in what seemed like years ago. How the Captain had apparently taken a liking to him, suggested that they were distant relatives. How he had been attached to the Royal Marine contingent assigned to this mission to rescue the officers held captive on the Mechanoid Base Ship. Now, now he was fighting his way through snow, heavens knew where. The Captain and all the other crew members who were seated in the front part of the shuttle were gone, just gone. Where ever the front portion of the shuttle had gone, those crew members had gone with them, the chance that they were still alive seemed slim…

Reply by Chaplain Forlath Grey on October 8, 2011 at 6:21pm
Nestled in the valley ahead, covered in snow was a picturesque Germanic looking village. There was no sign of life except for the glow of lights coming from the windows of the little houses and shops grouped together below them. The weary party redoubled their efforts and fought their way through the snow until they reached the buried cobblestoned street that ran through the middle of the village. Could it be? Yes, it was, oh thank the heavens, there banging back and forth in the wind was a sign that read ‘Gasthaus zur Burg Sheutzenstein’.

The exhausted survivors practically fell over each other up the stairs and through the door into the pub. Inside they were greeted by the cold stares of half a dozen patrons but the party didn’t care. There was a roaring fire in the hearth, the wood beam interior was merrily lit by gas lamps and the landlord was in the middle of pulling a pint. As far as the fellow voyagers were concerned the place was heaven.
The group quickly ordered a round of drinks and shed their now damp coats. As they waited the Padre tallied up the dead and missing. It was now obvious that they were miles, possibly worlds away from the Queen Bran’s Revenge. Would they ever see the airship again he wondered? He certainly hoped so.
The landlord set up the round. The Padre gratefully took his pint from off the bar and took a long satisfying drink. It occurred to him that the sign outside had read Burg Sheutzenstein, did that mean there was a castle around here somewhere…?

Reply by Therese de Bertole on October 9, 2011 at 5:10am
There she…I…sat.
Eyes wide open in a blank stare
seeing nothingness
hearing silence.
Then a slow whirring sound,
like the droning of a hive,
began.
She felt the pressure of something
pressing on the side of her throat,
then, what she assumed was a hand,
brushed lightly over her eyes
closing her lids.
A noise.
A voice
It was a male voice
speaking softly and swiftly something unknown to her.
Perhaps a foreigner, she thought?…or an alien!
“mereantur evadere iudicium ultionis,
et lucis æternae beatitudine perfrui.”
and then the voice moved away.
Suddenly, like a bolt of lightning, she felt something akin to an electrical charge run
from her head, down her spine and flowing into her legs then feet.
Her eyelids flickered for a moment
and reopened.
In seconds she focused on the most beautiful blue she had ever seen.
Tiny crystalline shapes were floating down from it
touching her face.
Heaven, she thought, this must be the heaven of which she had read.
She gasped, inhaling cold
Another voice,
this one louder, with a different tone and pitch.
“Well I’ll be!” she heard followed by
“She’s alive! Alive!”
A man stood beside her
as another, dressed completely in black,
or was it grey,
came quickly near.
“Can you hear me, my child?” it was the soft spoken one,
only now she could understand his speech.
I nodded, then forced a “yes.”
This man turned to the other and told him to get me up and moving
to return circulation.
I looked up, the face seemed vaguely familiar but I couldn’t place with it a name.
What was that he called me?
Mara?
That held no meaning.
Therese came to her, yes Therese was her name.
Or so she thought.
Lifting me from the seat, more of a dragging then walking, the man who called me ‘Mara”
guided me out of some contorted metal remains.
Placing a blanket round my shoulders,
he questioned “can you walk on your own now?”
Again I nodded and croaked a ‘yes.”
Tying a rope about my waste,
joining me to others like some continuous umbilical cord,
the foreign man,
the one who spoke a strange language,
led the way.
We trudged through the snow.

Reply by Chaplain Forlath Grey on October 9, 2011 at 5:29am
Rooms were arranged for the night. Conversing with the proprietor was like giving a polar bear a root canal. What, you don’t think polar bears are concerned with their orthodontia? You’d be amazed, but I digress. From the information gleaned from the landlord this was the village of Furchtenberg, located in the Heiliges Tumanes Kaiserreich. Furchtenberg was located in the mountains north, northeast from the province capital Schmitten. Apparently Schmitten, the provincial seat of government with the nearest rail link was about a fortnight’s travel away by carriage in good weather. In snow like this, well they could be stuck here for a while.

When Chaplain Sean Grey tried to ask about the Sheutzenstein castle indicated on the sign outside, the landlord suddenly excused himself to go urgently tap a new keg and quickly went into the back. The Padre puzzled, glanced around at the other guests in the pub all of whom exactly at that moment were determinedly studying the depths of their beer steins. The Padre scratched his head, this would require further consideration but first things first, they needed to eat…

 

Reply by Ezra on October 9, 2011 at some indeterminate time
Meanwhile: In a kitchen…Somewhere else…
The Warder was just pouring his well-earned tea when he felt a tap on his leg; looking down, he saw Bill Gir standing there, hands behind his back as if at parade rest.

“Yes, small one what is it you… Why… why you’re a new one aren’t you… OH! I must write this down,” he turned from the steaming mug, momentarily forgotten in the excitement of a scientist with a new discovery, and walked toward his cluttered desk, “I don’t believe I’ve seen a new one of you in at least…”

He stopped mid stride and stiffened as the little clockwork creature piped and whirred at him.
Without turning, he said, “No, little friend, there is no help for that now, what’s done is done.”

More piping, whirring and an urgent, plaintive whistle followed. He turned now, to face the little creature, “NO! What you ask…It just isn’t done. The rules. Well, you are new, so maybe the rules haven’t finished downloading yet… but even if it were not forbidden, I’m not sure…”
He was interrupted again, this time more loudly and, at one point, with what could only be construed as a rude noise.
He stooped down suddenly, anger written clear on his face, and stabbed a finger at the defiant creature at his feet.

“No, YOU, Listen, you rude, arrogant, shiny, brand new little Toy! I have been doing this,” the angry sweep of his arm he gave seemed to somehow encompass much more than the room in which they stood, maybe more than the very planet it was nestled ,“…Protecting …all of this for a very, VERY long time… How Dare you, a bauble, still with your factory shine, tell me.. ME! That my rules are no longer valid.. I have half a mind to…” as he curled his hand into a claw, in an apparent attempt to snatch up the little automaton and perhaps shake it in anger, Bill calmly brought his hands around to the front revealing a tiny leather briefcase.

The Warder froze where he was and, as Bill opened the clasps holding it closed and turned it toward the man towering over him; the wizened little man said, his voice quiet, and once more tinged with curiosity “What is that? …Where did you get such a….”
Golden light shone out of the case as the lid opened, glaring off the features of the Warder, his face set in unabashed wonderment.
He spoke, his voice suddenly reverent and awed, “Is…is that what I think it is?…”
********
In another place, a small meteor came streaking out of the night, impacting on a snowdrift near the remains of an abandoned shuttle craft with familiar markings. There was silence for a few minutes, then a golden glow emanated from the snowy crater, accompanied by whirring’s, beeping’s and what could only be construed as a rude noise….
********
The Warder took his trembling hand from the lever of the Divergent Worlds Machine and used it to fish a dirty rag from his back pocket, which he used to mop the cold sweat from his pasty, waxen visage. He mumbled to himself, and wandering about the room, finally stopped at a desk in the corner and opened the bottom drawer. He fished out a dusty bottle of vodka, pulled the cork with his teeth and spit it absently onto the cluttered desktop.
Then, taking a long pull directly from the neck of the bottle, he wandered off to bed, still muttering…
Leaving his mug of tea, sitting ice cold and forgotten, on the kitchen counter.

Reply by Chaplain Forlath Grey on October 9, 2011 at 5:44am
The survivors all partook of the stew bubbling away over the pub fire. It was simple, but filling and the survivors turned in afterwards without much further conversation. There would be time to reassess and decide a plan of action tomorrow morning. Chaplain Grey was led to his room by one of the waitresses and to his relief the room was clean and warm, with a fireplace with a roaring fire of its own. The bed was comfortable and the Padre was asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow.

The Padre awoke to the sounds of the church tower clock chiming two o’clock. The fire had died down and the room was bathed in a dim orangey glow. The temperature had dropped in the room and the Padre snuggled deeper under his down comforter but he couldn’t shake the chill. The Padre grumbling, got up out of bed and went to the fire to stoke it up and throw another log on. That accomplished Champlain Grey turned to get back into bed, stopping to look out the frost etched window. The snow had stopped and the cloud cover had started to break, the village was lit in faint moonlight.

The view out of the window was absolutely breathtaking in its beauty. The village was covered in a blanket of undisturbed snow that sparkled in the bitterly cold moonlight. The Padre appreciated the view for a moment and started to turn back to his bed when a motion out of the corner of his eye caught his attention. There on the other side of the village square what appeared to be two figures wrapped against the cold in voluminous robes had just exited a house helping a third robed figure along between them. Must have had too much to drink thought the Padre to himself, shrugged and went back to bed…

Reply by Madame Gris on October 9, 2011 at 12:27pm
She knew they were moving her somewhere else.
She felt the bitter wind caress her cheeks, it had been a long time since she’d been outside, even the cold wind was welcome. She could smell the snow and knew it must be deep winter. How long had she been here? Wasn’t it still warm when she’d come here? It must be months. Time was when she counted the days, the hours, even tried to count the minutes but that time was gone.

They had arrived, as usual with cloaks and hoods, never a face to be seen, never more than muffled voices to be heard. This time was different though, they were not just here to feed her or check on her. They entered the room. Not that room was an adequate description, cell more like it.
Weakness had seeped into her very bones so when it was clear they wanted her to get up and go with them, she really wasn’t sure she could. They approached her and a flame flickered inside, should she try to grab one of them. A smile flitted across her face. She could barely walk and she was considering violence? It seemed to steal the last of her strength so when they took hold of her arms she passively let them lead her.
Where were they going? Cold, so very cold.

Reply by Madelaine Phillips-Carter on October 10, 2011 at 10:03am
It is said that the Eskimos have over a hundred words for snow…Madelaine Phillips-Carter cursed each and every one of them. She had fought her way through a veritable blizzard to this sleepy little Burg, with only a bottle of gin and a wool coat, retrieved from the corpse of a fallen marine, to keep her warm, and this was the treatment she received?

Madelaine went from house to house banging on the doors, to no avail. Everything, even the Inn, was locked up tight. “Bloody hell!” she screamed, rapping on another door “Where am I? Transylvania?” An old woman peeked out at her throught the shuttered window. “Hello? Hello! Madame!” Maddie cried “I just survived a blasted crash, would you please allow me inside?” The old woman shook her ancient head. “Madame, please, have mercy! I’m freezing out here! Just a few minutes to warm myself!” The crone merely shook her head again and crossing herself, turned from the window, leaving Madelaine alone. “Damn you all! Bloody hell!” Madelaine raged, kicking at a pile of snow “Blasted snow! Blasted town…”
“Shhhhh!!!” came a harsh whisper from behind. Maddie turned to see a young man pop his head cautiously out the door. “If you value your life, you will shut up and come inside!” he hissed, his voice thickly accented. It all seemed a bit suspicious to Madelaine, but then, what other choice did she have? Another hour or so outside and she would likely freeze to death. She made her way to the door as the young man hurried her inside. After drawing numerous heavy bolts across the door, the man turned to Madelaine. Eyeing her with suspicion he muttered “Where did you come from! Speak fast! It is obvious you are not from around here or you would not have been wandering the streets at this hour!”

Madelaine recounted her tale of the crash as the young man, whose mind seemed more at ease with the explanation, poured her a snifter of warm brandy. She had been in the fore-section of the shuttle when the explosion occurred. The impact of the crash had somehow thrown her from the wreckage…she had awoken to find no survivors. Try as she might to remain stoic, recounting the tale brought tears to Madelaine’s eyes. The young man, whose name Maddie had learnt was Gunther, shook his head sympathetically, patting her hand across the table “I am sorry for your loss…but… I believe you are mistaken in your belief that there were no surviors….” he began. “A small band of outsiders arrived in town earlier this evening…a few of them attired much like you” he said, gesturing to her wool coat. “I believe they are staying at the Inn…” at the news Maddie bolted up, heading for the door “Then I must go to them, now!”

Gunther caught hold of her arm, stopping her in her tracks. “I can not let you do that…not tonight.” Madelaine glared at him “And why the hell not? Just what exactly is going on here?!” Gunther motioned for her to follow him to the window “Things in this town are not as they seem…here…have a look…”

Madelaine narrowed her eyes to focus…off in the distance two robed figures were leading a third, who seemed to struggle and falter, across the village square. Was the third figure a hostage? Or were they ill? Drunk perhaps, but then, why all the secrecy? “You may go to your friends at day break…” Gunther spoke, leaning in over her shoulder to gaze out the window “…but no sooner…and before you ask, no…I am sorry, I can tell you no more…”

Reply by Therese de Bertole on October 10, 2011 at 10:03am
Therese tried to sleep.
After struggling through heavily drifted snow,
and having had a hearty warm meal when finally arriving at the inn,
she thought surely she should be completely exhausted.
But she wasn’t. Not at all.
She lay upon the soft feather bed, pulled the blankets and quilt up over her head. forming a cocoon of safety.
She closed her eyes again in an attempt at rest.
In a state of semi-lucidness, her mind flitted between fitful dreams of walking bread, severed heads, mummies and mechanicals.
She was always running. Running away, or was it to, something or someone?
Each time she closed her eyes it would happen again and again and again.
Like an endless reel of ‘B’ movies.
The good kind where at least some of the main characters come out alive.
Finally, giving up Therese arose, bathed and dressed.
It was nearly morning.
The sleeper had awakened.
She left her room, passing several doors with ‘Bitte nicht stören’ signs hanging from the handles and headed down the stairs.

Reply by Chaplain Forlath Grey on October 10, 2011 at 4:31pm
Chaplain Sean Grey opened his eyes. The weak wintery sunlight filtered into the room. The fire had gone out and the Chaplain could see the vapor of his breath before his face. He got up, went over and broke the thin ice covering the water in the basin, made his ablution and quickly got dressed. The Padre had just finished buttoning his collar when a sound at the door made him turn around. A folded, white piece of parchment had just slipped under the door. The Padre quickly took the three steps over to the door and yanked it open. The corridor was empty. Chaplain Grey took a step into the corridor and looked in both directions; there was no one to be seen. The Padre frowned, bent over, picked up the folded parchment, steeped back into his room and closed the door.

The Padre fished his reading spectacles out of an inner pocket, hooked the wire stems behind his ears and unfolded the piece of parchment. He read it three times in the false hope that further study might reveal its meaning, he turned over the page, turned it back and read it again: “beware the clockwork mouse.” That was it; there was nothing more on either side of the paper. The Padre sighed deeply, would it have killed them to add just a little more detail?

After a moment’s consideration the Padre did what he always did in these sorts of situations. He went to his bag and dug out his vestments which had thankfully survived the crash. In amongst the fabric was an old, wooden box. The Padre picked up the box and opened it to reveal a .42 caliber LeMat revolver wrapped in a lightly oiled cloth. The Padre unwrapped the revolver and taking brass pinfire cartridges out of the box, loaded the 9-shot cylinder and then the secondary 16 gauge smooth bore barrel. That done, Chaplain Grey put the box and vestments back in his bag, secreted the revolver in one of his larger pockets and made his way downstairs hoping for some breakfast…

Reply by Chaplain Forlath Grey on October 12, 2011 at 3:46am
Chaplain Sean Grey was feeling somewhat buoyant despite the recent events; presumably a good night’s sleep will do that for you. He started to whistle a merry tune as he descended the stairs with a spring in his step and a song in his heart. He jumped down the last three steps into the main room with a big ‘ta-da’ and a huge grin only to have three dragoon looking individuals spin quickly around at his sudden appearance and aim carbines at his head. The smile on the Padre’s face slowly died as he took in the tableau in front of him.

There were about a dozen individuals standing in the room wearing thigh length blue coats with red piping over grey cavalry overalls with black buttons down the legs and black riding boots. They were wearing white belts with black ammo pouches and highly decorated helmets. The Padre’s heart leapt into his throat. Two of the dragoons were currently each holding one of Therese’s arms on the other side of the room. Chaplain Grey and Therese briefly made eye contact; with a slight nod of her head Therese indicated the center of the room. The dragoons, all armed with carbines and sabers, except for the three currently menacing the Padre all seemed intent on two figures sitting at the center table.

One of the figures was the landlord looking somewhat worse for wear, undergoing what appeared to be an interrogation at the hands of another one of the dragoons with epaulettes of rank on his shoulders. “Herr Gastwirt, nun kommen Sie, machen Sie es doch einfach mein Lieber. Wir wollen hier doch keinen Ärger machen. Wir sind doch alle Fruende, oder? Seien Sie doch vernünftig.” “Aber ich weiss es nicht” replied the landlord weakly. At this the officer stood up abruptly and flipped the table over. Everyone in the room flinched at the resulting crash as the table and its contents scattered across the floor. The officer grabbed the landlord and backhanded him across the face, the Padre took a step forward only to have one of the dragoons slam the butt of his carbine into the Padre’s stomach. Champlain Grey doubled over, the air knocked out of him.

“Herr Oberst” one of the dragoons called. The officer stopped and turned “Was denn!” he shouted. The dragoon indicated the Padre. The officer took a proffered cloth from one of the dragoons and wiped the landlord’s blood off his hands as he approached the Padre. “Wer sind Sie, was machen Sie hier!” he demanded. The Padre straightened up painfully and wheezed in reply “could you… could you repeat the question?”

Reply by Chaplain Forlath Grey on October 12, 2011 at 7:08pm
“I see, another foreigner, like the woman” the officer indicated in Therese’s direction. “But of course, where are my manners, yes? Please, have a seat” with that the cavalry officer gestured toward another table with a couple chairs and a bench. “If it’s all the same to you, I’d rather stand” Chaplain Grey glanced over at the landlord slouched in the chair where the officer had left him “sitting appears to a dangerous pastime in these parts.” The officer chuckled “fine, then you will join me for a drink at the bar.” The officer turned and shouted at one of the soldiers “Gefreite, zwei Bier, aber ein bisschen dalli!” The Padre looked in Therese’s direction “is that entirely necessary?” The officer raised an eyebrow in the direction of the men holding Therese and they quickly released her. “Thank you. You’ll have to excuse me though,” Chaplain Grey continued “it’s a bit early for me yet.” “Nonsense” insisted the officer “In the Heiliges Tumanes Kaiserreich, beer is a staple. Surely you’ve heard that saying that beer has food value but food has no beer value? Yes? Hahaha.”

Once at the bar, the officer turned and scrutinized the Padre “let me introduce myself,” he started “I am Oberlieutenant Friedrich von Drecksler, in his Holy Emperor’s Imperial Cavalry, 10th Uhlan Regiment. And you are?” The Padre’s mind raced, he sighed and replied “I am Chaplain Sean Grey until recently of the independent Airship Queen Bran’s Revenge” “Independent you say, so you are pirates” Oberlieutenant Drecksler concluded disapprovingly. “No, not at all” the Padre rejoined “we’re uh, more of a passenger, cruise, airship kind of thing…” The Oberlieutenant looked dubious “I see you wear military uniforms, yes? Is that not unusual for a pleasure vessel?” Before the Padre could answer, Oberlieutenant went on “you will satisfy my curiosity by telling me why you are here, the crew contingent and disposition of your airship, its current location and we will go from there, yes?”

Just at that moment another dragoon rushed in through the front door letting in a gust of cold air “Herr Oberst, wir haben’s gefunden!” “Ah excellent” von Drecksler replied “well my fine chaplain we shall have to postpone our little chat. Duty calls” with that the Oberlieutenant snapped his heels together, took his helmet off the bar and strode out of the inn followed by his soldiers pausing only long enough to look at the battered landlord with disgust and say “pull yourself together, your guests are awaiting their breakfast… and go clean yourself up, you’re a disgrace” and then with a slam of the front door they were gone.

The Padre reached over the bar to where the half pulled pints were still sitting, grabbed one and took a deep drink. He set the stein back down and mumbled “that’ll teach me to whistle a merry tune…”

 

Reply by Ronin on October 13, 2011 at 11:27am
Ronin struggled under the weight of the boards and debris that lay atop him. He could see a small bit of light streaming in at him through the wreckage strewn about like a dolls house crushed under the weight of a boot. The wind was icy cold and penetrating as he pushed his way out of his prison of broken timber, bits of metal and debris, trying to make some sense of what had just happened. Stowing away in a container of who-knows-what headed for who-knows-where seemed a good idea at the time, with his pursuers hot on his trail. He had not however, foreseen ending up here…wherever ‘here’ was.

He gathered what few belongings he had managed to smuggle aboard. His weapon and a few scant rounds of ammo, some spent cartridge cases in his pocket, some bread and a canteen of now frozen water, and the small flask of rum he always had stashed in his vest with but a few small sips left. Struggling to his feet he realized there had been some catastrophe aboard the airship he’d been so careful to stow away on. Bodies and burned wreckage were strewn across the snowy hillsides for as far as he could see in the lightly falling snow. Looking around, he could scarcely believe he’d survived with little more than a bump on the head.

He stomped his feet in an effort to gather some sort of feeling back in them, pulled a tarp from underneath some poor souls remains and wrapped himself in it to try and stem off freezing. As he reached down to dust the snow and debris off, he patted his trouser pocket in a startled realization that his whole reason for stowing away had not been lost. A sigh of relief overtook him to find his charge still with him as he squinted into the bright rays of sunlight cascading across the hills face.

“I need to get off this mountain lest I join these poor souls in their frozen doom” he muttered to himself, bringing his flask to his lips for what would surely be the last taste of rum he’d have for a bit, as he steered himself down the hillside to the valley below.

Reply by Madame Gris on October 13, 2011 at 11:57am
The walking wasn’t so bad and quite envigorating after the long incarceration but she was so weak she didnt think she could do it for long. It was lucky, for it seemed that wasn’t their intention either.

“Please Madame, get up,” it was the first thing they had said to her in, well, she couldn’t remember. It wasn’t an unkind tone, more pleading than an order but Guinevere knew they meant business. Thoughts flitted in and out of her head; up? Up where? Am I lying down? Where are we going now? Are they freeing me, or something much worse?

It occurred to her, slower than it ought to, that she could look around; she was outside. The chill in her fingers and toes reminded her of that. They had stopped at a covered wagon with something she couldn’t quite make out at the front; was it a horse? No, there was steam coming from somewhere. They clearly wanted her to get up into the wagon for who knew what kind of reason. The path of least resistance was the one up these two steps. The firm grip of the hands on her arms half guided, half lifted her up and in. The door closed and once again she was in a cell. At least it was enclosed and somehow had a heat source. This thought did much for the chills in her hands but nothing to ease the chill in her heart. She still knew nothing. Perhaps bad news could be better than no news. This nothingness was a torture of which she had no experience.

The wagon lurched to life, rattling and hissing sounds coming from somewhere out in front. There was a soft velvet covered bench where she settled herself. Her eyes soon became accustomed to poor light and she could see more of the inside. It was quite luxurious. Guinevere pullled back her hood as the warmth slowly released it’s grip on her. She saw something that was quite shocking to one who had been locked up for who knows how long: On the other side of the wagon was a small shelf, and on that shelf (she got up and examined it, to truly believe it was true) was a small stove with a kettle which was currently just on the boil.

Set up quite the thing next to the stove were all the fixings for tea. Guinevere had so forgotten how much she missed tea that she was almost afraid to make it. But make it she did, carefully and methodically. She poured a tiny amount of water into the tea pot and warmed it, swishing the water around and around before emptying it into the small bucket on the floor. She then spooned some of the deliciously scented leaves from the caddy into the pot before pouring the boiling water on top. Whilst allowing the tea to brew she sourced the tea cup and saucer from a small cupboard above the stove, which also held a strainer, milk jug and sugar bowl.

She released a deep sigh after the first sip and felt it’s warmth seep into her very bones. Now if only there were a little biscuit to go with?

 

Reply by sgt. ian macbruiche on October 13, 2011 at 7:39pm
“Oy, there lad. What ‘r ya’ spyin’ at there?” I says to my room mate o’ the past month ‘n a half. “Shut that lid up ‘n leave well enough alone.” “They have another one, boss.” says the wiry young punjabi as he peeps out the door into the early morning. “And the Dragoons are down at the inn. Doesn’t look good.” With a yelp and a dodge to the side of the room, Haji grabs the back of his head and scowls at me. Bad form, that. “Hey, it’s no’ that i’m not pityin’ any outsiders fool enough to show up ‘ere at all, but we ‘ave our own issues. Hey, listen ‘ere. We ‘ave a job to do, ‘n I for…” *as outside the steady footsteps of disciplined soldiers gets louder* “Hush now. We’re guests ‘ere.”

 

Reply by Ronin on October 13, 2011 at 8:02pm
As Ronin made his way down the snowy mountain face, the thinness of the air and insufferable cold took their toll on his stamina. Winded and freezing, he peered back at the wreck near the top of the mountain, still smoldering and smoking from its impact into the rocky face of the hillside. He wondered aloud at the warmth of those fires still burning in the hulking wreckage and for a moment, considered making his way back to search for some sort of shelter he could use until the weather might improve.

“that’d be sometime in the spring I think” he quipped to himself, dismissing the thought as pure fantasy and at best, delayed suicide.
He was a bit disappointed at how far he’d come. More to the fact, how far he had not yet gone, hoping by now to be well warmed by a fire and a flagon of whatever local brew that might be had. “soon enough” he said to himself in his most reassuring tone trying hard to fight off the feeling of dread that filled him as he peered hard into the white desert that still lie ahead in as far as his vision would carry.

He made his way to a nearby jutting rock face using it to shield himself from the wind, now whipping up sharp bits of ice that pierced his face and hands with merciless razors of frost that whistled past him like a hail of bullets from some unseen army ahead.

He leaned back against the pyramid of stone, now serving as the best shelter he could find, when a stabbing pain in his ribcage startled him, spinning him around, his hand reflexively set to the butt of his pistol, the hammer locked back in the blink of an eye. Jutting out from a smallish crack in the rock face, the smallest sapling of a tree, set back into the stone peeked out through the packed snow, windblown and crooked, reaching for sunlight. The sight gave Ronin the first moment of hope he’d felt since this odyssey had begun.

He smiled as he realized he’d made it to the mountain tree line. He knew better shelter could be found in the trees, firewood, game and perhaps even a village or township might be close at hand. He reached down and cleared he snow away from the struggling sapling and bid it a thanking nod as he looked down the hill with renewed spirit. It was at this moment, he felt the breezes calm a bit and the first wisps of something on the wind reach out to him.

His nose drew it in deeply. He knew what this was. Smoke wafting up the hill, carrying with it the heady fragrance of…
bacon.

Reply by Chaplain Forlath Grey on October 14, 2011 at 8:28am
As soon as the front door of the inn slammed shut behind the last of the lancers, the staff rushed out of the kitchen where they had been cowering to attend to the landlord. Chaplain Grey wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and went over to see if he could help in someway but they appeared to have it well in hand.

“Herr Gastwirt,” the Padre addressed the proprietor “who were those men and what did they want with you? Are they connected to the castle?” The landlord avoided the Padre’s gaze and didn’t answer. The Chaplain sighed exasperatedly “look what they’ve done to you, do you really think not talking to me is going to make them go any easier on you?” Still the barkeep didn’t respond. The Padre raised his eyes to heaven and murmured “Da mihi, Domine, animi fortitudinem!” and started to turn away. He was stopped by the landlord’s bitter laugh “Ha! Those swine are garrisoned a couple kilometers outside the village at an old manor. They’re mere child’s play compared with the inhabitants of the castle!” the landlord then futilely attempted to spit derisively through his busted lip.

The Padre pressed him for more details but to no avail. The proprietor would say no more. “Very well,” the Padre sighed “can you at least tell me about the clockwork mouse?” The landlord looked perplexed by the question and said “the Emeritus, go see the Emeritus, he knows of such things” and would say no more. The Padre allowed himself to be shooed away by the staff, stood for a moment and pondered the landlord’s words…

Reply by Chaplain Forlath Grey on October 14, 2011 at 8:29am
The Padre was brought out of his reverie by Therese standing at his elbow with a questioning look on her face. “Let’s go pay this Emeritus a visit shall we? Get your coat and meet me back down here in five.” The Padre grabbed one of the wait staff who were currently cleaning the mess left by the lancers. He ignored the look of indignation and asked directions to the Emeritus’ place of abode. “Also,” the Padre added “please let anyone else of our party who happens to ask know where we are headed.” With that the Padre went for his coat, perhaps now we’ll get some answers he thought to himself…

Reply by Chaplain Forlath Grey on October 14, 2011 at 8:31am
Therese de Bertole and Chaplain Sean Grey stood in the village square, their coat collars up against the bitter wind, and looked up the steps at what was apparently the house and offices of the Emeritus. It was an imposing, granite building, with brass railings along the steps, huge ornate shutters on either side of the tall thin windows and a widow’s walk on the roof. The Padre took a deep breath and said “shall we?” With that they ascended the steps to the solid, highly polished, oak double doors. A shiny brass plaque on the wall next to the front doors read ‘Professor Diogenes Teufelsdröckh’.

When they reached the doors it was readily visible that one of them was ajar. Puzzled, the Padre raised an eyebrow quizzically at Therese, and then pushed the door open a bit further and stepped into the darkened interior. “Hallooo,” the Padre called “apologies for coming unannounced but my colleague and I would like to have a word with the Professor?” The Padre’s voice echoed eerily around the large entrance hall. He needn’t have bothered; it seemed fairly obvious that no one was there. All the curtains were drawn, the candelabrum above their heads was unlit and all the gas lamps were out.

When nobody answered, Therese and the Padre gingerly entered the entrance hall, closing the door behind them to stop the snow from drifting in any further. “It’s as cold as a witches you know what in here” Therese shivered. The Padre looked at her admonishingly. “What?” Therese said “it’s true.” The Padre shook his head and scanned the room. Stairs went up the wall on the right side to a landing up above. There were closed doors to their left and right and another straight ahead slightly offset to the left of the staircase.
“Right!” The Padre slapped his hands together causing Therese to jump slightly “time to do a little snooping I should think…”

Reply by Chaplain Forlath Grey on October 14, 2011 at 9:36am
The door on the left lead to a drawing room, the dining room and ultimately the kitchen and pantry, nothing of interest was noted. The Padre and Therese retraced their steps, crossed the tiled entrance hall and opened the door on the right. They were greeted by a scene of chaos. One of the tall plate glass windows had been smashed in; books and furnishings were strewn about what must have been the study. Snow and papers were blowing about the room and the Persian style rug was covered in shards of glass.

Therese and the Padre cautiously entered the room. This was no act of nature, that much was clear. The Padre went to what was left of the window and looked out, if something had come in that way its tracks had long since been blown away in the deep snow cover outside. Another doorway led to a library, its contents relatively untouched by the disarray of the study.

One of the papers flying about the room, landed with a wet smack right onto the Padre’s face. The Padre peeled what appeared to be a page out of a notebook off his face and inspected it briefly. It was hard to make out without his glasses on but was that the word ‘mouse’ in the margin?? Before the Padre could fish his glasses out and take a closer look Therese spoke up “what was that?” The Padre glanced over and replied “what was what? I didn’t hear anything.” “I swear I heard something in the hall” Therese insisted.

The Padre stuffed the page into his pocket, pulled out his LeMat revolver and took a wary step back into the entrance hall. “I don’t see anything” he said in a stage whisper to Therese, right behind him. Therese walked into the center of the vestibule and said in a normal tone of voice “I swear I heard… something. Almost like a little girl… well, crying.” The Padre was about to pooh pooh the notion as nonsense when a little indian rubber ball bounced down the stairs three at a time and rolled past the Padre’s feet. With a chill like a block of ice running down his spine the Padre looked up the stairs to see an almost translucent little girl standing at the top of the stair in a white night gown looking right at him with soulless dark pits where her eyes should be…

Reply by Ronin on October 14, 2011 at 10:46am
Following the inviting aroma calling to him from down the mountainside, Ronin’s pace quickened, his growling stomach urging him on to find the source and perhaps salvation from this wintery gulag. The ice and snow along his path made navigating the now more increasingly rocky journey even more treacherous, as every few steps his footing would slip on some frozen patch, sending him reeling and tumbling down the slope. His strength was fading quickly but the promise of food and shelter of any sort drove him forward down the snow blanketed slopes. He shook the tarp clean of the snow building on the exterior and again wrapped himself in its less than ideal comfort and trudged on, his feet now devoid of feeling and surely to his thinking, long since solidly frozen.

Looking back up the hill, he could scarcely see the wreckage of the downed airship, looking more now like leaves scattered atop a distant hilltop. The mountain top now nearly totally obscured by clouds, whipped along by the fierce winter winds. Neither smoke nor fire could be seen from his location. He was sure the wreck would be lost for all time now and he half-heartedly commended himself for not waiting for ‘rescue’ from the crash site. A rescue that would surely never have come in time, if at all.

He could see trees now stabbing out at the winter sky from below him. Still quite a bit of a march down the maddening icy cliff face, but heartening in their majesty and assured presence of, at the very least, fuel for a campfire.

The slope of the hillside seemed now, to be lessening as he headed towards the stand of trees now finally coming into his clear view. The jutting and jagged wind tortured rock that had provided some small amount of shelter were now falling away, now replaced by a gentler, open snowy field along the valley floor. He could feel that the frosty inhospitable climate at the top of the mountain was now being replaced by a much more forgiving landscape. A small smile growing on his face as his hand reached forward and touched the first tree in the grove.

Gathering some wood, pine cones and needles, Ronin found his way to a nearby fallen tree and cleared an area behind it and began to build a fire, his frozen hands fighting him at every turn. Pulling the bullet from one of his cartridges, he dumped the powder on to the kindling, chambered the emptied brass in his pistol, pointed it to the powder, pulled the trigger and with a small crack!, the fire burst to life.

As he huddled close to the slowly burning fire, adding branch after branch he remembered the smell of bacon on the air on his way down the mountain. He stomach growled at the thought. Looking around, he could see rabbit tracks heading off in various directions and could hear birds fluttering and singing in the nearby trees. He would have to find some food soon as he picked up a hand full of snow and bit off a piece, melting it in his mouth. Then, pulling the small rum flask from his pocket, he tipped it up, draining the last of the contents from it and smiled.

 

Reply by Therese de Bertole on October 15, 2011 at 3:49am
The ordeal at the Inn had caused Therese de Bertole, some apprehension.
Especially this new stranger.
What did he call himself?
Chaplain?

Although a bit authoritative to the point of bossiness, it was he who had made those soldiers release her,
and if it hadn’t been for him, she and the others most definitely would have perished in the harsh, bitter climate, she thought to herself.
What had happened before all this?
She hadn’t the slightest remembrance of anything that occurred prior to the crash.
This bothered her, but now was not a time for contemplation.
As she walked along beside this man,
she indiscretely began to scrutinize his features.

He looked quite scholarly.
Analyzation began-
High forehead, slightly furrowed denoting intelligence and thoughtfulness.
Brown, rather deep set eyes, set beneath well shaped brows.
The eyes themselves intense and stern, belying the tenderness within and having many small creases in the outer corners either from smiling and/or squinting. Perhaps the need for spectacles.

Long narrow nose with a bit of a twist, probably broken at one time or another.
Full bottom lip, the top one being obscured by a fastidiously groomed mustache.
Deep lines beginning at the corners of the nose ran down and ended at the sides of the mouth in
what she imagined to be from smiling, plus there was the slightest hint of a dimple in the left cheek.
A fairly strong jawline although the chin did seem a bit weak.
Pale to medium non-ruddy complexion, appearing not to have been exposed to the elements.
At least not for some time.

Or so she imagined.
All in all, from a certain angle, in a certain light he could be considered somewhat attractive.
But there was something else, something of him that seemed very familiar to her but she could not place it.
Noticing her keen and earnest stare Chaplain Grey spoke.
“Is there a problem?”

“No, no, not at all” Therese replied “it’s just well, the cold, I think I have to go to the bathroom.”
Nonplussed he replied “Why did you not go before we left the Inn?”
“Because you said get your coat and meet me back down here in five!”
The Chaplain just shook his head in frustration, “I’m sure there is a loo at the Emeritus’.”
They continued walking towards an imposing granite building that stood forebodingly across the village square.
“This appears to be it”as he read aloud the name on the shiny brass plaque beside the oak double doors “Professor Diogenes Teufelsdröckh,”
“Shall we?” he added.

The door was ajar (as opposed to what? Therese mused to herself, a tin? a box?…she always thought that word to be quite amusing.)
They entered, searched the ground floor, finding only a broken window in what appeared to be the study. The place seemed to be abandoned.
A sudden gust of wind caused a single leaf of paper to affix itself to the Chaplain’s face almost as though it had been done with purpose. Removing it, he squinted as he reached for something in his pocket.

“What was that?” Therese whispered turning her head sideward to listen more closely.
The Padre glanced over and replied “what was what? I didn’t hear anything.”
Putting her finger to her lips “Shhh, I swear I heard something in the hall” Therese insisted.
They walked out into the hall. There was a sound. It was the sound of a little girl crying.

As she began to relate this to the Chaplain, a black rubber ball bounced down the stairs and standing at the top was a child. A barely opaque little girl. She stared down at them with empty black sockets where her eyes should have been.
Therese’s face turned as white as the snow outside. She felt the fear building inside her and instinctively clung like a vine to the nearest living thing, this being her companion.

“Zoinks” was all she could muster.
The specter vanished with the trailing sound of laughter and a child’s sing-song nursery rhyme slowly fading along with it.
Face to face with Therese yet clinging to him, the Chaplain cleared his throat. He too seemed shaken by what they had just witnessed.
Therese slowly released her vice like grip from around his neck and slid back to a standing position.
Chaplain Grey, rearranging his tunic and managing a steady voice, spoke.
“Well, that was something of a surprise, now wasn’t it?”

Therese, tempted to say ‘I ain’t afraid of no ghost’ but because the word ‘ain’t’ is not in her personal dictionary replied “I want to go home now.”
“I think this warrants further exploration?” the Chaplain’s voice now calm and in control.
“I don’t think so” Therese said, readying to reattach herself to her companion at the slightest sight or sound.
“Suck it up, soldier” was the Chaplain’s only reply as he proceeded up the staircase, Therese shadowing as closely behind as was humanly possible.

Reply by sgt. ian macbruiche on October 15, 2011 at 1:20pm
As the village lightened up with the coming of mid-morning, a tattered looking pair of vagrants exits one of the shacks on the outskirts of town. “A touch o’ the nip in the air, eh Haji? No matter. Duty calls and all that.” whilst under his breath the young pujabi mutters of witches and their something or others. “It does make one ‘omesick for the ol’ ‘omestead on the heath though”, wistfully reminisces the taller of the two. “The Emeritus’s building is over here, boss,” hisses the shorter, bringing the other out of his reverie.
Pausing at the door and checking to ensure no one takes notices, they slip inside and slide the bar on the lock home. “No chances, boss.” Keeping his eyes peeled, the Caledonian, for he must surely be, nods in appreciation to his partner and continues searching the rooms as they walk through one by one. “Someone made a mess of the place, boss. Hope we can find what the… Did you hear that, boss?”, Haji asked as they searched the downstairs study. “Upstairs”, he says as I swing in his direction. As I pull my Colt SAA from my coat pocket, I sign for him to follow me out to the main hall. When I pull around the corner, I spy a couple moving down the upstairs hall. “Careful, Haji. Up the stairs and quiet now,” as we mount the first step…

Reply by Ronin on October 16, 2011 at 12:03am
Ronin sat at the end of his makeshift encampment under the tarp he’d worn down from the mountain top, polishing off one of the rabbit he’d taken just as the sun began to rise over the snow covered valley. The storm that had chased him down the mountain seemed to have given up the fight and was looking to move on. The small fire he’d managed to keep going through the night was beginning to wane and smolder as he took stock of what equipment had survived the crash and arduous trek down the hillside. A canteen filled with melted snow, an empty rum flask which he tipped up one last disappointing time, his blade, a single 10 round belt of ammo for his heavily modified machine pistol and his ‘bag of tricks’, a leather bag filled with bits and pieces he’d collected over the years that have served quite useful on numerous occasions. Everything from mouse traps to lengths of copper wire and fish hooks.

If it caught his eye, it went in there.

His eyes scanned the horizon for some sort of landmark that he’d hoped would reveal a clue or direction in which to find some sign of humanity. A full belly and a cold nights sleep were returning his senses to what his life over the past decade had honed them to.
The faintest aroma of recently cut lumber and coal smoke drifted from lower in the valley to the south. It seemed as good a direction as any.

Reply by Ronin on October 16, 2011 at 12:16am
Ronin’s life had not progressed as he’d envisioned seemingly not so long ago. The last memories he had before running was working as a henchman and bodyguard to the local Yakuza boss. His life since that time had become a blur of odd jobs, trying hard to forget his own name, aimless travel and running from a past determined to silence him ‘for the greater good’.

Life in the old country was hard and largely consisted of intense training, servitude, and early on in his career, almost daily beatings for the slightest of errors on his behalf. His half breed bloodline made him few friends and had prevented him from moving very far forward in the rank and file of the Shinihibu crime family, but his skills and dedication to his lord had earned him favor enough to keep a position of some note and fortune enough to live well, even beyond some blooded members of old clan’s society. (a thing he learned could prove nearly fatal on more than one occasion. He’d always, however, prevailed…but always coming at a high price. )

His skills were also the only thing that kept him alive after being framed for Lord Shinihibu’s murder.
Ronin sighed deeply at the thought of being so easily duped into taking the blame for the slaughter of his master, his shame welling in his chest. He gripped the metal amulet that hung around his neck tightly, vowing vengeance.

He shook off the memory and prepared to head further into the wooded landscape in search of civilization. He packed the other cooked rabbit into his pack, piled snow on the remains of the campfire and headed off, determined to put as much distance as he could between himself and the mountain crash site.

Reply by Madelaine Phillips-Carter on October 16, 2011 at 7:53am
“You must leave now!” Gunther hissed, jabbing Madelaine sharply with the back of a wooden spoon. “Morning is here and you will leave… at once!”
Maddie groaned. Somehow she had managed to fall asleep at the kitchen table, her head propped on her arms. She rubbed her eyes and yawned wearily “What’s all this then?”

“You…will leave…now!” Gunther snapped, his eyes darting nervously from the window, to Madelaine, then back again. Heavy footfall could be heard outside…hard-soled boots on freshly fallen snow. He rushed to Maddie’s side…”Schnell! Schnell! There…the back door…RAUS!”
Maddie made her way to the door with a huff “Thank you ever so much for the hospitality” she quipped, the sarcasm obvious “Now, if you could just point me to the Inn…”

“….down the alley, to the right…hurry now!” Gunther interjected, almost pushing her out into the street. “And….do be careful…” he addeed, dropping his voice to an almost inaudible whisper “…there is… much danger… for one like you” and with that he slammed the door, leaving Madelaine to puzzle over his warning.

When she had finally reached the inn Madelaine was informed that her companions had moved on. The innkeeper seemed ill-at-ease with her presence and for the second time that morning she was hurried off like some sort of pariah. She had been told to seek out her company at the abode of a certain Professor Emeritus, and so she slugged across the village square to the domain in question. When she reached the tall, granite building, she found the doors to be locked tight. Madelaine hammerred on the wooden frame with a sense of deja-vu, but there came no reply. Just when she was about to give up and make her way back to the inn, welcome or not, she noticed a broken window on the ground floor of the domicile. “Something’s amiss” she thought to herself…and without giving it a second thought, wormed her way inside.

Reply by Ronin on October 16, 2011 at 10:58am
The flare of the sun shining down on the snow covered valley hit Ronin squarely as he crested the embankment above the logging camp. Billows of steam and smoke swirled about the log buildings and steam driven saw blade as he observed numerous men, horses and machinery dragging logs to the mill and whittling the oversized trees into boards, planks and tons of saw dust. The smell of sap and coal fires filled the valley to the edges, the smoke and fumes spilling out across the area like waves on a beach.

The air surrounding him was humming with the sound of industry echoing about the valley. Voices shouting over the din could be heard rebounding about the area. The words were unintelligible, but the intent clear. As he made his way closer in to the worksite, he saw a large, well fed and warmly dressed man barking orders from a second floor platform to men below. He was waving handfuls of documents, pointing and seemingly cursing at several of the men standing below. The workers below were also arguing and pointing to what seemed a convoy of wagons loaded with large amounts of cut lumber.

The wagons were hooked together like train cars, each overflowing with heavy loads of lumber goods, lacking only the locomotive. Not far away, a behemoth of a machine sat belching steam as a flurry of men surrounded it, loading coal into its belly, turning huge wrenches and striking it with large hammers trying to get the beast underway. A man who appeared to be the engineer frantically waving his arms and gesturing to the crew that swarmed the metal monster like ants, was pulling and pushing on the various levers in the engines control section, with little change in the motionless gargantuan.

Suddenly, the beast lurched forward, nearly crushing one poor fellow under its massive metal wheels and a cheer could be heard rising from around the camp.
It was alive!

The crew that was so frantically moving about the locomotive scattered as the engineer pulled hard on one of the many levers sending the steaming giant slowly crawling backward while the crews near the trainload of lumber cars dragged heavy chains towards the monstrosity.

The well fed gent from the second floor was now headed to the engineer with a large stack of paper and a leather satchel, still yelling and pointing as the crew now worked to hook the train to the gigantic steam engine. As the man reached the engineers platform, Ronin could see him pouring over the paperwork with the engineer, thumbing through the pages and pointing to the stacked cars now solidly hooked to the waiting locomotive.

The engineer nodded, then nodded again, and again as the foreman carried on with his yelled instructions, then with a final shout, pointed to the south and handed the engineer the satchel now stuffed with stacks of paperwork, walking off in apparent disgust.

The engineer waved two more men aboard who summarily grabbed shovels and began stoking the steamships boiler with shovel after shovel of coal. The crewman who surrounded the train checked the links from car to car then stood back as the train began its slow crawl forward.

The train headed southward from camp at what could only be described as a walking pace, its long burden of wood following closely behind. Ronin ran to catch up as the train left view of the camp and climbed aboard the last car. Wherever it was going, would likely be a concentration of industry and people, so it would surely have supplies and serve as a starting point for whatever the future would bring. Ronin leaned back, pulled a bit of rabbit from his pack and bundled himself up against the chill. Whatever the next stop held for him, it was surely be a better choice than freezing out in the wilderness alone.

Reply by sgt. ian macbruiche on October 16, 2011 at 12:33pm
…”Back to the study,” I hiss at Haji as the door is practically rattled from it’s hinges. As we dash into the study, I notice a draft from a broken window and point this out to my servant. While I peer around the corner for any forthcoming movement from upstairs, my servant slips over to the drapes hoping to catch a glimpse of whomever is at the door.
A number of things suddenly happen at once…

Reply by Madame Gris on October 16, 2011 at 5:55pm
After finishing her tea Guinevere felt much better. Better than she had in some time in fact. Something seemed odd. the warm glow spreading out through her extremities did not normally happen after she drank a cup of tea. As she sank back into the plush sofa the thought occurred to her that perhaps there was more than just water and tea in there…
She could hear birds twittering when as she slowly surfaced into consciousness, it sounded nice, till she sat up. The noise of birds was suddenly and overwhelmingly replaced by the thundering within her own head and on top of that came the crashing realisation of where she was. It seemed that she had been moved whilst she was unconscious. She was in a bed. After a quick check it appeared she had not been tampered with; in fact she even still had her shoes on. Her eyes began the slow scan of the room, taking in the fact that it was a sunny day so she had been here for at least a few hours. At worst, who knew how long.

Reply by Alister Montnoir on October 17, 2011 at 11:37am
“Herr Alister, Herr Alister gibt Ausländer in der Herberge!” There was youthful enthusiasm in the voice and the knocking.
“Go away Karl.” It was Karl, the cobbler’s son.
“Herr Alister!” He was not going to leave.
“If you wish to speak to me Karl, you will speak English.” The boy had pestered Alister for months to teach him English.
“Es tut mir…eh…I am sorry mister Alister.”
“Now lad, what brings you banging on my door at this hour?”
“Dere are foreigners at de inn….sir.” He made an unsuccessful attempt at concealing his excitement.
“Foreigners you say.” The lines on his forehead deepened, “Englishmen?”
He sat up, slipped off the bed, walked to the door and opened it. It was indeed young Karl, wide eyed, nervously wringing his hat.
“Ya, I tink so und I tink vone iss….a priest.”
There was a long silence, “There is something else, what is it Karl?”
“He vas talking mit lancers.”

Another long silence. American Pinkertons were not beyond posing as clergy.
“It was good that you brought this to my attention Karl. Now there’s a good lad, off you go to your fathers shop.”
He handed the boy an English sixpence, “Stay at your fathers shop today and I’ll give you an English shilling tomorrow.”
His expression of enthusiasm intensified and the boy sprinted down the hall.

“Karl!” the boy skidded to a stop and turned and looked back at Alister, “Tell you father this would be a good day to stay in his shop.”
“Ja mister Alister, I vill.” The boy held up his shinny new sixpence, grinned, and bolted down the stairs.
Alister closed the door and threw the bolt.

He’d made a habit of dressing for the next day before he retired for the night. Since leaving England he’d been forced to make an unexpected midnight departure on more than one occasion.

A smile crossed his face; it seemed a bit narcissistic to assume that he was the reason for these new arrivals from England. However…..
He sat down at the small dressing table and broke his Webley revolver open. It spit the unfired cartridges clattering out on the tabletop. From the back of the dressing table drawer he retrieved a small box with bright red letters stating “Danger – Fulminated Mercury Cartridges Cal .455”. If these strangers were here for him they would offer no quarter. He cautiously reloaded the pistol with the explosive bullets and gently closed the action.

Reply by Ronin on October 18, 2011 at 9:31am
Peering over the top of the lumber car, Ronin could see the steam engine bellowing smoke as it pulled the five heavily loaded lumber cars along the valley floor. In the distance saw the tell tales signs of a township of some sort. As they approached they passed a partially fallen sign saying ‘Sheutzenstein’.

As he felt the train begin to slow, Ronin jumped from the train car into the snow and waited for the train to move off, then made his way towards the village through the woods. He could see a few people moving about near the head of the train, loading coal and water into the steam engine, checking the load and once again firing up the boiler. The engines slow rolling start caused a cloud of thick black smoke to engulf the village as it departed. Under cover of the clouds of exhaust, Ronin slid in behind a storage shed at the end of town and pried the lock off, letting himself in.
As the door shut behind him, he glanced about outside making sure no one saw him sneaking his way into the village. He decided to wait until nightfall to take a look around and see what was available and took stock of the sheds contents. It appeared to be where extra chain sections for the train were stored. He felt sure that no one would need anything from the shed anytime soon, so it was a good place to work out of in the meantime.
As he waited for nightfall, he could hear the voices of the people moving about the village. As he peered through a small break in the shed wall, he could see several heavily armed uniformed men walking patrols around the village. They would stop almost anyone found in the street, seemingly ask them a few questions and send them on their way.

Looking further down the main road, he saw several of the armed men leaving a building near the middle of town, followed by a well-dressed uniformed man. His mannerism and the fact the other men jumped at his barked orders let all who could see him know well and good that he was in charge. Ronin decided it would be best if the armed men and himself did not meet if he could help it.

He could see the officer rounding up the armed men and heading off away from the center of town. Thinking they would be absent for only a short time, he decided not to wait for nightfall and try to find out who they were and why they were in such a small insignificant looking village in such force.
Grabbing an old blanket from the shed and wrapping himself up, he carefully emerged from the shed and headed slowly up the street, being careful to avoid anyone directly. He hefted up a pile of sticks and carried them along on his shoulder to help hide him from the townsfolk.

Ronin just kept repeating over and over in his head ‘just another villager, just another villager’ as he made his way up the road towards the other end of town. As he did, he saw a man and a woman leave the building that only minutes before, the officer had emerged from, the two of them heading up the street towards a large house near the far end of the village. They were strangely dressed for the location, surely not from the village. One appearing to be a priest, the other a well coifed shapely woman who looked a little shaken by whatever had transpired inside the building they were leaving.

As they headed quickly up the street, looking this way and that as if they feared being seen, Ronin could overhear them speaking…
…in English!

He had to catch up and see what was going on and he knew they were his best chance and finding out. Dropping the bundle of sticks, Ronin headed around the back side of the buildings and ran, catching up just in time to seem them enter the old, dilapidated building.

Reply by Chaplain Forlath Grey on October 18, 2011 at 1:51pm
After freeing himself from Therese’s vice like grip, Chaplain Grey cleared his throat and commented with only a slight crack in his voice “Well, that was something of a surprise, now wasn’t it?” The Padre straightened his frock coat, adjusted his collar and added “I would think this warrants further investigation; wouldn’t you agree Ms. De Bertole?” Therese mumbled something about snowballs, odds and hell. The Padre, unsure of what any of those things had to do with the current situation, thought it prudent to ignore the remark. The poor woman was obviously a tad shook up about what they had just seen so in an effort to comfort her the Padre reached over and unsure exactly where to put his hand ended up patting her on the head. Granted, not his original intent but he was sure she got the point.

The Padre bent over and picked up the india-rubber ball and gave it a squeeze. It seemed real enough. He set it back down, stood up, switched his LeMat revolver from his right hand to his left, nodded once at Therese in what he hoped was a reassuring way and slowly started up the stairs.
I am a man of reason, I am a man of reason, Chaplain Grey kept repeating to himself like a mantra as he slowly made his way up the stairs. This was ridiculous; the Padre thought to himself, he had stopped believing in spooks as a child. Surely there was some other explanation, but what? Start with the plausible such as the clever use of mirrors or perhaps some kind of projection using a Kinetoscope or the like, that sort of thing and if the occurrence still defied explanation then and only then move onto the unlikely such as… well, to be honest the Padre hadn’t a clue…

Reply by Chaplain Forlath Grey on October 18, 2011 at 1:53pm
Therese and the Padre crested the top stair. Four doors exited off the landing, two in front of them, one to their immediate right and one to the left across the landing. The floor up here was adorned with one of Begelow’s broadloom carpets, a bit tacky for the Padre’s tastes but he had to admit it gave a somewhat warmer aesthetic to the place. The ceiling fresco of clouds and cherubs was just as tacky as the carpet. The crown molding on the other hand had a distinctly different look, almost gothic with its twisting vines, praying saints and grinning demons. The detail and workmanship was astounded and seemed at odds with the rest of the décor.

The Padre’s contemplation was interrupted by the sound of pounding on the front door. The Padre looked down towards the front door. The hard tile floor of the vestibule was a good 20 feet down from the railing along one side of the landing. A movement by the study door below caught the Padre’s eye; did he just see someone dart into the study? Before he could consider further, Therese was at his arm again. Slightly exasperated, the Padre started “honestly child…” The Padre never finished his sentence, following the line of Therese’s outstretched index finger with his eyes; the Padre stared opened mouth as the vines on the crown molding started to writhe like snakes, the saints and demons opened their eyes, stretched, turned their heads in the direction of Therese and the Padre and appeared to be regarding them with what appeared to be evil intent…

Reply by Chaplain Forlath Grey on October 18, 2011 at 1:55pm
“I’m sure there’s a perfectly good explanation…” the Padre offered. Then, while the plaster saints waved their arms and mouthed silent curses at Therese and the Padre, the demons, none of which were larger than six inches begin to extricate themselves from the plaster, drop out of the crown molding into the space near the vestibule ceiling and take flight.

The Padre’s fascination quickly turned to consternation as the little demons flew straight at them with razor sharp talons. The first one to dive bomb the Padre raked the clergyman’s cheek leaving three slices that drew blood. Therese and the Padre flailed their arms around, trying to beat the demons off. “Shoot them!” Therese screamed. “Pardon?” the Padre shouted. “Oh, right, of course.” With that the Padre took careful aim, leading his aerial target and fired. A direct hit turned the demon into a cloud of plaster. So whatever they were they were not hallucinations. The Padre took aim again and… misfire! “Oh for the love of Pete!” the Padre exclaimed and quickly tried to clear the round. “The door!” Therese shouted, ran and pulled open one of the doors at random. The Padre instantly realized the wisdom of her action, hunched his shoulders and quickly ran after her, pulling the door shut after him… only to find they were in a broom closet.

Out of all the doors… still, it was a 25% chance I suppose the Padre sighed to himself. Therese and the Padre could hear the demons smacking against the broom closet door. “Well, Ms. De Bertole, as much as I enjoy your company perhaps we should consider our options” commented the Padre jovially. Therese responded with a shushing sound that the Padre found just a tad uncalled for but then he heard it too, was that the sound of gunfire out on the vestibule floor? Just at that moment the broom closet floor fell away from their feet and Therese Bertole and the Padre plummeted into darkness…

Reply by Ezra Yesterday on October 18, 2011 at 2:34pm
It was cold.
Merciful Zeus! Was it cold.
That was his first thought.
His second was a memory, a full Sense-O- Round, HD and Technicolor vision:
Smug smile freezing on his face [Freezing…. Gods! It’s COLD!]

…Slowly turning to fear… then terror as a voice countdown informed him that his cleverly conceived plan to beat the Mechanoids had failed…
‘Well, no. Credit where credit’s due,’ he thought to himself from one still coherent, detached corner of his psyche, ‘You Did manage to destroy them, we just got caught up in it as well… now pay attention, you’re missing the best part’

The movie had continued to roll, so he shifted his focus back to the last moments of his life, hanging there, too cold to even shiver, watching as he and his crewmates made a valiant attempt to escape the countdown he had somehow flubbed, killing them all.

The images began to slow, taking on that nightmarish feel where you seem to run, always slowing, never really moving.., and the horror you are fleeing, seemingly unaffected, easily catching up to you, like Pepe le’ Pew, bouncing along… at its leisure, strolling up to you as you desperately try to run faster…

[Hanging? Cold? Was he dead or not? Do ghosts feel the cold, the discomfort of the odd, upside down angle… did they smell the scent of freshly broken pine… Where was he, anyway?]

Reply by Ezra Yesterday on October 18, 2011 at 2:34pm
The images had fully stopped, and his inner voice scolded him, ‘Pay attention, j******. Technically speaking, I ain’t Ever supposed to do this, so you have to get it the first time.. I can’t even talk to you any more after this, so LOOK!’
The picture in his head showed the landing bay, himself and the captain the last ones getting into the landing shuttle as the countdown reached 5 seconds to “BOOM”…

He looked around, the only being able to move in this imaginary freeze frame…
Over in the corner!

This had to be what his subconscious was trying to tell him, because there was a capering figure he didn’t ever remember seeing before…
An Insane, demented face in clown makeup, wearing a long, red coat and tails of a Ringmaster, dancing…

His motion arrested mid-jig…

The creature was holding a ripped out control panel over its head, levers and numbered dials…
the words ‘Auxiliary Self Destruct Override’ stenciled across its surface…

This sick little man had a look of unholy glee on his face as he stared up lovingly at the symbol and instrument of the chaos he had wrought…
He was looking up, and thus completely unaware of the bullet [paused and waiting for the movie to start once more] scant feet from his twisted evil face, that was streaking forward to send his evil a** over to the “Other Side” 5 seconds earlier than was meant to have been the case….
On a trajectory that clearly traced straight back to the rock steady gun in the Captains hands.

Reply by Ezra Yesterday on October 18, 2011 at 2:37pm
The movie started again, and He was once more a full participant, out of body revelations a thing of the past.
Everything became confused rushed flashes again.
The captain shoving him through the hatch
The two of them working together frantically, dogging it shut.
Screaming forward for Luke to ‘Take off! Go Go GO!’
The Voice of Doom outside their cockpit counting down to 2…1…
The sudden shimmer of golden light…
The unexpected wash of OTHERNESS that saved them…
The feeling of falling like a stone…
Bouncing off a seat back in the turbulence…
the impact crushing against and activating Slushy, the ice spider in his shirt pocket…
The sudden wash of cold as he was covered in a foot thick sheet of ice…
His last coherent thought, cutting through the terror of the moment:
“I hope that creature who sold me the ice spider wasn’t lying about the protective long johns he sold me, otherwise I’m about to be 15 stone of gruesome ice chips scattered about the floor…”
Another impact, muffled by the ice…and oblivion.
==============================================================================
He opened his eyes to the real world, and found himself frozen to the upper boughs of a giant pine tree.
He was alive!
The air smelled faintly of coal and heated steel.
He could see black smoke in the near distance, and further away, the shattered remains of a great Airship spread across the landscape.
As he contemplated his predicament, he noticed a rhythmic thudding that had been happening for some time now…
There was a mighty:
CRACK
As if Zeus Himself had fired a shotgun somewhere close behind …
then the tree he was frozen against seemed to shrug, and the world began to tilt… as slowly, majestically the great tree began to fall.
As the ground rushed up to meet him, he muttered his new favorite mantra:
“Oh, Crap!”

 

Reply by Ronin on October 18, 2011 at 2:54pm
Ronin reflexes gripped him as if being kicked by a mule as he dived headfirst into a nearby snowbank in response to the first shot ringing out, his hands bringing his pistol to ready. his hair felt to be standing straight up at the suddenness of the gunfire.
‘whats this now?’ he muttered, his eyes racing about the area, looking for whatever might have brought such a welcome.
realizing the shot had come from inside the building, he grew hesitant to be poking about someone elses affairs, especially when it was drawing gunfire before he’d even arrived. he also knew he’d little choice in the matter if he was ever to find a way to escape this snowbound village.
worried that the two he saw entering the building had already fallen in the rukus, taking with them any useful information he might be able exploit to his own ends, he surveyed the building looking to find a ‘quiet’ way in beyond using the front door.

 

Reply by Ezra Yesterday on October 18, 2011 at 4:40pm
Ezra Yesterday, one time XO of the Queen Brans Revenge [and current Ice Sculpture frozen to a newly felled, still toppling pine tree], plummeted toward the Earth… or whatever the natives called the place he was about to grace with a new crater.
He muttered his mantra all the way down…”ohcrapohcrapohcrapohcrapohcrap”

And once more it seemed to pay off, for as his tree hit another one standing nearby, the uppermost portion of the tree snapped off and slowly tumbled/slid/crashed to the ground, broken end hitting first.
The tree top whipped violently back and forth, catapulting Ezra, still coated in his thick sheet of ice, free of the limb to which he had been attached and across a clearing into a snow bank.

He landed more or less face up, but covered in the loose snow of the drift, so while he had a seomewhat ice distorted view into the busy logging camp a few yards away, no one seemed to have taken note of his landing.

As he lay there, frozen and at a loss what to do next, a stealthy figure moved out of the trees and crouched down near him, watching the camp intently. Then, the indistinct figure seemed to come to a decision, and raced off through the smoke and jumped onto a passing train car.
‘This is all well and good.’ Ezra thought to himself, dismissing the mystery man for now, ‘But lying here like a poor man’s Han Solo is getting old…’
He dredged his memory for the combination to thaw his Ice Spider safety suit…

“ It was something to you had to hum,”he thought to himself, “since you can’t speak when frozen solid like this… a secret chord”
He pictured the old shop-creature as it explained in its odd, singsong voice
” It goes like this:
The fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift…”
Then there was something about…a baffled king… How did one Hum like that, exactly?
Ezra hummed along as best he could to the memory, and as he did, the ice began to melt from around his head, causing him to let out a cold and broken :
“Hallelujah!”

[No one heard him in the din of the logging operations, so his obscure, but funny to him, Leonard Cohen reference went unnoticed.]
“Well now,” he said with a sigh, “time to see which type of trouble we have managed to land ourselves in THIS time.”
And with that he circled around the camp and began following the train, wherever it was headed.

 

Reply by Therese de Bertole on October 19, 2011 at 5:45am
As the floor dropped from beneath their feet, the two fell for what seemed like forever, but in actuality was but a few feet into something soft and spongy.

It was black as pitch,
the air stagnant and dense with the smell of….well, let us just say something not nice.
A disembodied voice spoke-
“Are you all right?” it questioned.
Therese responded “I think so.”

“Umphf” then a slightly bemoaned “Lord have mercy” followed,
as her elbow was withdrawn from his abdomen and she scrambled to a stance.
“Sorry” Therese said apologetically, and added

“I can’t see you, sir” as she groped at the vacant air in front of her.
“Very astute observation” the Chaplain remarked *rolling his eyes* which, although unable to see in the darkness, she sensed and had the sudden urge to jab him in the gut again though purposefully this time.
But no, that would be unkind although satisfying.

After all, he was a man of the cloth, or so he said, whatever that meant?
She was unfamiliar with this term.

She knew of dishcloths, dustcloths, tablecloths and the like, but just what sort of cloth he was a man of she had no idea.
Chaplain Grey, now standing as well, reached into a pocket of his tunic and rummaged about searching for his vesta case. Yes, the Chaplain had a penchant for pipe tobacco, thus the need for a light.

Removing a wooden matchstick from the safe, he fumbled for it’s rough edge in the darkness and struck it, releasing the slight smell of sulphur as it ignited.

Holding it aloft, it gave off very little light in the dankness of their surroundings.
As it quickly burnt down, he had to release it so as not to scorch his fingers.
“Could you see what broke our fall?” Therese asked.
“Perhaps it is best we do not know” the Chaplain answered.

In the dim light of the match he had made out bodies, stacked where they had fallen, possibly those of Teufelsdröckh’s staff he thought, but felt it better to keep to himself.
There was no need to worry his companion any further.
As it was, she now clung to him with both arms and he resolved himself to the fact that Therese was now going to be a permanent attachment, at least until they found a way out of this new predicament.

“Well, let us….” before he could finish what most likely would have been a lengthy description of what they should do next, Therese dislodged her grip of his arm and clamped her hand swiftly across his nose, then realizing she had missed, slid it down over the mustache and tightened her clasp over his mouth.

“Shhh” she whispered, “listen.”
There were sounds of movement all around them, echoing off the walls.
Her mind raced. What could it be? She hoped beyond all hope it was not giant spiders. Or human heads with spider legs scurrying about. Her imagination always made things worse.
But this time……

 

Reply by Chaplain Forlath Grey on October 19, 2011 at 10:03am
But this time, this time the scurrying noises Therese Bertole and Chaplain Grey could hear all around them were not the dire imaginings of a slightly unhinged mind come to life but rather the sound of rats come to feed. The Padre disentangled himself from Ms. Bertole. Again. Then he paused to say a word over the poor souls that had come to such a cruel end. Considering the circumstances, the Padre found it expedient to sacrifice some eloquence in favor of swiftness. As the Padre’s eyes became accustomed to the gloom it was becoming increasingly evident that although only rats, their size seemed unusually large for your standard Norwegian Brown. The rats were increasing in number at an alarming rate and the Padre had the distinct feeling that the corpses were perhaps just an appetizer.

“Ms. Bertole,” the Padre began “I don’t mean to alarm you but perhaps it would be in our best interest to vacate the immediate vicinity post-haste.” As it turns out, telling someone you ‘don’t mean to alarm them’ apparently has the exact opposite effect to the one desired. The Padre nimbly dodged Therese’s attempt to cling onto him again and persuasively steered her down the corridor away from the rats. The Padre looked over his shoulder as they hurried down the passageway. An ever increasing number of the oversized beasts appeared to be coming to the conclusion that a bit of live prey was preferable to cold leftovers and began following Therese and the Padre. “Ms. Bertole,” the Padre said in a stage whisper “when I give the word, run as if the very hounds of Hades were on your heels, but not yet!” Therese looked over her shoulder, stifled a gasp, quickly checked her natural fight or flight impulse and kept hurrying down the passageway. The entire corridor floor behind them was covered in a churning, heaving mass of giant rats all of whom were currently intent on Therese and the Padre… Oh sure, one or two of the rats at the back of the group were probably just following, curious where everyone else was going but on the whole, the swarm was definitely intent on Therese and the Padre…

 

Reply by Ronin on October 19, 2011 at 11:26am
Ronin worked his way around to the back side of the building in haste, locating what he knew had to be there. A cellar door, half buried with grey snow nearly hidden by the landscape. He looked around, and could see traces of coal dust everywhere but no sign that anyone had been there in recent days.

Sweeping away a bit of the snow, he found a rather large, time worn lock the size of his fist locked across two large oaken cellar doors and secured with massive iron hinges .

Ronin scratched his chin whiskers a bit and thought. Shooting the lock off would only draw more attention to his attempted ingress, but the lock and hinges looked far too sturdy to simply pry them open as he did with the toolshed.

Reaching in to his leather bag-of-tricks, he retrieved two small glass viles from within. Holding them up to the light, he could see he had just a few drops left in each. A fact he lamented as he uncorked the first vile. He very carefully poured the thick greenish contents into the keyway of the lock, making sure not to spill even the slightest amount. Replacing the cork, he dropped it back into the satchel and held the other vile in his hand, warming its contents with breath and body heat, swirling it about gently.

With a disappointed sigh, he held a kerchief over his mouth, uncorked the second vile, winching as the stinging vapors reached his eyes, poured it abruptly into the lock and stepped back with great haste, as the combination of the two began boiling and smoking heavily with the most foul odor one could imagine. Smoldering sparks and little trails of molten metal began running down the oak doors like melted candle wax.
Ronin squinted and turned away, knowing what was next. A bright flash followed by a smallish ‘POP!’ shattered the lock, sending pieces of the still melting case in all directions.

He loved that part. It always made him grin wickedly that this concoction worked so well. He did however regret having to use the last of it for this purpose as it would surely be a long while before more components could be had.

Ronin reached down and hefted the heavy oak doors, swinging them open wide…only to be met by a woman running at full speed crashing headlong into him, sending them both flying backward into the snow bank.

 

Reply by sgt. ian macbruiche on October 19, 2011 at 11:30am
Upon hearing some scuffling near the window, “Damn it lad, don’t ya’ know how ta’ keep quiet long enough… umm… that’s not your finger tappin’ at my ear, is it lad?” As the cold realization of someone getting the drop on us comes to bare, I wonder if this is our last assignment for God and country. Maybe Pinkerton was right and we should have kept to the colonies. A hint of eau de toilette and lilac comes to my attention and I take a chance with, “Never knew a lass what could creep up on me ‘fore…”

 

Reply by Chaplain Forlath Grey on October 19, 2011 at 12:42pm
“The doors! Close the blasted doors!” shouted Chaplain Grey close on Therese’s heels. The Padre stumbled up the short flight of stairs to the outside world, slid about in the now packed snow surrounding the bulkhead, grabbed one of the heavy oak doors, put his shoulder into it throwing it shut, sprang to the other door and swung it over as quickly as he could. A squishing, crunching, squealing sound could be heard as the Padre slammed the second door down and threw his full weight back first, against the doors. The doors heaved under the Padre as the pack of rats tried to reach their escaped prey. The Padre reclining with his back against the portal, took a handkerchief out of one of his pockets and mopped his forehead. Only then did his eyes alight upon Therese and a foreign looking gentleman currently lying entangled in the snow. The Padre chuckled and said “please, don’t get up on my account.”

“I don’t believe we have been properly introduced,” The Padre addressed their savior “I am Chaplain Sean Grey and this lovely young lady is Therese de Bertole, but I see you’ve all ready met.” At that the Padre chuckled again “now if it wouldn’t be too much of an imposition I would be greatly appreciative if someone could assist in securing these doors and depriving our furry friends of a meal?”

 

Reply by Madelaine Phillips-Carter on October 19, 2011 at 2:09pm
“We’re going to do this nice and slow” Madelaine Phillips-Carter began, her .44-40 modified Winchester “Mare’s Leg” rifle cocked inches from the strangers head. “Place your weapon on the ground in front of you and turn around…that’s it…nice and steady now…”

In her peripheral vision Maddie could see the stranger’s partner, a young Punjabi boy, make a dart towards the Colt as it lay upon the floor. “Ah-Ah-Ah” she rebuked, kicking the revolver out of the boys reach. “One false move and your friend here gets it…I’m tired…cold…and worst of all, sober…you don’t want to test me.” The Punjabi shot a glance at his partner, who nodded almost imperceptively, before yielding to the seemingly trigger-happy woman.

“Now then…I have no idea who you two are, but I think it is quite safe to assume that neither of you are Professor Teufelsdröckh…” Madelaine said, narrowing her eyes at the rag-tag duo. She continued “… nor are you any of my compatriots, whom I was told I could find here…” she glanced across the study, noting the upended desk, the parchement littering the floor, obvious signs of a struggle “Are you responsible for this?”
POP! A shot rang out from somewhere above, interrupting Madelaine’s train of thought…”Was there anyone else with you” she hissed at the strangers, her voice dropping to a nearly inaudible whisper. The taller of the two men shook his head “No, but we thought we heard…” POP! Another shot.

“Out into the hall!” Madelaine whispered, poking her rifle into the man’s back….”You too boy!” she motioned to the punjabi. “Are you…mad?!” the boy yelped. Maddie shot the boy a wicked scowl “Don’t ever call me that again!! OUT!! OUT INTO THE HALL I SAY!”

She hurried the two men out into the foyer and up the stairs. The house had fallen silent again. “You, yes, you boy…I want you to start checking the rooms on that side of the hall…” she said with a flurry of the wrist “…no funny business now…understand?” The punjabi nodded nervously and began inching his way slowly down the hall. Every door he checked was locked. Bolted tight. As Madelaine and the other stranger searched the doors on the opposing side, they discovered the same thing. Each and every door was locked up tight. “Hmmm…something’s amiss here…” Maddie mumbled to herself…”OK you two, back downstairs…same drill…”she barked, pushing the men back towards the steps…

 

Reply by sgt. ian macbruiche on October 19, 2011 at 6:12pm
Backing away toward the steps, I and my lad, Haji, keeping our hands in the air and empty. “Now ma’me, let’s no’ be hasty ‘ere. We’re obviously no’ on the same page, but that does no’ mean we need ta go wavin’ firearms aboot willy nilly, ya ken?” I continue to talk to the madwoman with the dangerous end of the gun pointed at me knowing the lad is looking for an opportunity to jump into action. Good lad, Haji. “Is that a .44-40 winchester yur ‘oldin’ on us marm? Saw a few of ’em in the colonies whilst servin’ the mcmire cause. Solid gun,”” I said as the boy gave the ‘all-clear’ and in a flurry of feints and dodges, he leaps over the rail, pivots on his right hand and throws a deft kick at the ‘mare’s leg’. Meanwhile, I ‘trip’ and spin low toward our captor with a pepperbox in my right.

“Marm, you’ll hold where ya’ stand,” whilst I pull my credentials from my pocket… *Hmm.. there’s that lilac scent again. Can’t be from herself. All I get from her direction is whisky and saddle soap. Healthy that…*

 

Reply by Ronin on October 19, 2011 at 8:06pm
A stunned Ronin lay face up, sprawling in the snow bank, legs and arms fully entangled with the poor frightened woman, still struggling madly to extract herself and get away from whatever it was that had chased the two of them from the cellar in such an abrupt manner. She was all elbows and knees, claws and ire and trying as hard as any human he’d ever seen to take flight and escape her pursuers.

Try as he might, the frantic woman, flailing wildly on top of him, wasn’t about to let him up. Tossing his arms around her and rolling over hard, he pushed her deeply into the pile of snow the two of them were now firmly embedded in and thrust himself up, scrambling to aid the Padre secure the cellar doors, still barely containing whatever creature or creatures still attacking the hatch, trying to catch up to their prey.

Reaching down into his boot, Ronin pulled a long thin stiletto from a hidden sheath and, rushing to the Priests side, jumped hard on the oak doors and slid the blade through the latch he had burned the lock off of only a moment before.

The padre and Ronin sat quietly panting for a few moments, both turning to look at Therese, still covered in snow, her eyes wide as saucers, staring back at the two of them but finally beginning to breathe again.

“what…the hell…was that?” were the only words Ronin could seem to muster as his breath and senses started returning to him, his head still ringing from the impact of the woman’s egress from the cellar.

 

Reply by Chaplain Forlath Grey on October 20, 2011 at 12:27pm
“That?” the Padre answered “that my dear boy was a clear indication that there is more to the sleepy little village of Furchtenberg than initially meets the eye.” With the bulkhead doors secured, the Padre stood up, wiped his hands off, walked over and reached out a hand to help up Therese. Once she was back on her feet, the Padre turned and studied the foreign looking fellow who had happened to come along just when their need was greatest. “I don’t know about anyone else, but I for one think recent events warrant a libation to the deity of our choice.” Just then the Rathaus clock tower started to chime ten o’clock causing the Padre to pause… he suddenly had the distinct feeling he was overlooking something obvious but for the life of him he couldn’t think what. No matter, it would surely occur to him later. “Where was I,” the Padre continued once the clock had stopped chiming. “Ah, yes, of course, a drink. You’ll join us of course?”

Before Ronin could respond Therese interrupted “shhh, did you hear that?” Chaplain Grey looked at Therese and replied dourly “Madam, the last two times I investigated one of your noises I was rewarded with distinctly unpleasant results so you’ll excuse me if I don’t greet your newest noise with enthusiasm.” It was Therese’s turn to roll her eyes “the role of drama queen does not suit you Chaplain” she retorted. “I’m certain I heard something, but I will readily admit I also face reentering that carnival funhouse of horrors with a bit of trepidation. Surely though we should at least peek in at the broken window in the study?” The Padre sighed, pocketed his LeMat revolver for safekeeping and started to trudge through the snow towards the front of the house. “Next Christmas I’m buying her a nice thick, insulated pair of earmuffs” the Padre grumbled to himself…

Reply by Ronin on October 20, 2011 at 12:38pm
Furchtenberg. Well, at least he now had a name to go along with how lost he was.
Ronin eyed the two suspiciously as they gathered themselves and headed back around to the front of the building. This was indeed not how he’d intended to find out what was going on, and now was unsure of the wisdom of tagging along to ‘investigate’ anything this old house might contain.
Pawing through his satchel, Ronin pulled out an old bit of heavy wire, and fastened it through the latch of the cellar doors and slid his blade back in its hidden sheath. He could still hear scratching and squealing coming from within the basement and was sure whatever it was in there, was likely to be waiting for them if they returned inside. Peering between the doors, he could see a bright red pair of eyes glaring back at him, growling and hissing through the small opening in between the doors, jumping back as it slammed itself hard against the oak.

“I don’t think the owner’s dogs want anyone poking around in there” he half-jokingly quipped to the pair, hoping perhaps to dissuade their re-entering the house. “I was almost sure the two of you were already dead after I heard the shooting inside. Are you sure you want to give whoever that was another crack at you?”

Ronin pulled his rum flask from his coat and nearly had it to his lips before remembering it was empty.
“oh, and um…about that drink you mentioned..” he inquired. “what say we find one and talk about what’s going on around here before you two try to get yourselves killed again?”

 

Reply by Madelaine Phillips-Carter on October 20, 2011 at 2:08pm
A tattered piece of parchement bearing a royal insignia was thrust unceremoniously into Madelaine’s view. She read it carefully, shooting a furtive glance every now and then at her captives-turned-captors. The document was worded in the abstruse, near-incomprehensible manner of a legal statute. From the little that Madelaine could glean, it was some sort of official writ, outlining the duties of the men who stood before her. Never one to fully trust the authorities, Madelaine continued to treat the men with suspicion.

“So you say you were investigating this building under official orders?” she began at last. “That is correct marm…” the taller of the two men answered. “Well, if you are indeed who you claim to be, then why pray tell were you sneaking around like a couple of thieves in the night?” she pried further. “We could ask the same of you marm…” the tall chap retorted. “I told you, I was looking for my companions!” Maddie spat, her patience waning “I’ve been on a veritable wild goose chase through this wretched little berg, sent from door to door without so much as a how do you do…all I want to do is find my friends and have a nice, stiff drink!!!”

“Now, that’s enough of that marm!” the tall stranger scolded, waving his pepperbox admonishingly. “BLOOD-Y HELL! ENOUGH WITH THE ‘MARM’ BUSINESS” Madelaine exploded “MY NAME IS MADELAINE!!! MADELAINE BLOODY-PHILLIPS-BLOODY-CARTER, FORMER CHIEF ENGINEER OF THE QUEEN BRAN’S REVENGE!” she screeched. “Marm, I will not stand for your antics much longer!” the man tsked “…now, what’s all this about a Queen Bran’s Revenge?” “It was an airship, a bloody airship…” Maddie gasped, trying to calm herself. “And where is this airship now?” the man questioned. “I…I…don’t know. We, we were trying to return to the Revenge…only we weren’t here, we were somewhere else…there was an explosion…and a crash, and now we’re here…”

The punjabi boy shot his friend a glance “Nutter…” he mumbled under his breath “…told you she was mad…” Before Madelaine could muster up a retort, something caught her attention. Peering across the study, through the broken window, a familiar…no two…familiar faces…
“MARA!!! GREY!!! OVER HERE!!!” Madelaine cried.

 

Reply by Therese de Bertole on October 21, 2011 at 6:44am
Therese pondered their newly acquired companion.
She studied his face searching for clues as to whom he might be.
She had never seen the likes of someone like him before.
Rugged looking yet there was something else.
Something in his eyes she could not yet place.
Something almost familiar.

She brushed the notion aside, turned to Chaplain Grey,
acknowledged his near silent grumble concerning ‘earmuffs’
with one of her own, so earnestly quiet it was barely audible and to his ear only.
The three cautiously ventured along the side of the building as noiselessly as
was possible in crunching through snow that had been upon the ground for days now.
In the least since their disastrous arrival from wherever they had been before the crash.
Therese was about to hum, which calmed her when in distress, but remembering the need
for silence when sneaking hummed in her mind instead.

Or so she thought,
but with a glare from the Chaplain realized she was indeed doing it aloud,
thus clasped a hand over her own mouth in recognition of his admonishment and nodded.
As the Chaplain turned away, Therese stuck her tongue out at him then turned to Ronin and grinned whispering ‘he is such a dourface’ rolled her eyes and again covered her mouth awaiting the next reprimand.
But it didn’t arrive for they were now approaching the broken window, of which they had taken note of (she and the Chaplain) when they first entered the stone structure.

They could hear shoutings of blood and hell or something of the sort, as they gingerly peeked in at what appeared to be somewhat of a showdown.
A voice shouted “MARA!!! GREY!!! OVER HERE!!!”
Therese looked at Chaplain Grey,
then to Ronin questioningly….
“Which one of us is Mara?”

 

Reply by Ezra Yesterday on October 22, 2011 at 12:19am
Former Queen Bran’s Revenge XO Ezra …
[Should I just say Ex-XO?

No, quite right…too cute, quite obviously just playing for laughs…
And besides, the QBR is currently AWOL…
Best to just stick with his name….
leave his rank and the little improv jokes off for now…
We’ll clean it up in Editing.]
*Voice off camera*

“Ezra enters the town: Take Two. And… Action!”
Ezra Yesterday followed the logging “train” for several miles before approaching a lumber yard on the outskirts of town. The tracks in the snow eventually dead-ended in the yard, so he must have been walking along a temporary road set up for the sole purpose of connecting the logging camp to the town.

The wagons had already been un-hitched from each other and wheeled to various docks for unloading by the time he got there, so any hope of satisfying his curiosity as to the identity of the mysterious stowaway seemed to be dashed.
Or so it seemed, because as he was scanning the area he noted three things:

A large band of military types led by an officer were just leaving the town square rounding the corner and heading away from him, most likely reacting to news brought into town with the logging convoy concerning the scattered remains of the Mechanoid ship he had spotted from his icy vantage point, detailed several posts back…

As he was pondering this departure, the door of a storage shed just down the street opened and a man in a ragged, dusty blanket stepped out carrying a bundle of sticks. There was something in the way he moved that brought to mind the mysterious figure from the logging camp.
[Yes, I know it’s a stretch, since Ezra was coated in ice and barely able to see… But really, by now we all know he’s part of the story, so I might as well use this thin plot device as an excuse to follow him, so as to insert Ezra back into the party at the funniest, to me at least, possible moment.]
Stick Boy ™ walked down the street, doing a very good job of blending in as just another villager.
[What? I don’t know his name yet and it’s a better nickname than calling him the Second Little Pig… Now hush and let me tell my story.]
As he watched the stranger from the corner of his eye, he noticed a figure he recognized come out of the Pub down the street, following a vaguely familiar man in priests clothing. As he drew breath to call out to his shipmates, he noticed the stick bearing stranger alter his course to start following them.

Ezra decided to remain quiet and follow Stick Boy™ to see what he was up to, so as his shipmates walked up into the house they had approached, he circled around behind the building following his quarry from a discrete distance.

 

Reply by Ezra Yesterday on October 22, 2011 at 12:49am
As Ezra watched Stick Boy™ who was “strolling casually” down the street, something odd happened unexpectedly.
For no apparent reason that Ezra could see from across the alley, the stranger suddenly dropped his sticks and dove for cover in a snow bank, coming up with pistol in hand. After several seconds of … well, nothing really, as far as Ezra could tell… the stranger stood and worked his way behind the building, where he seemed to find an entrance hidden by snow. After a short flurry of activity hidden by this body, there was a flash and small report, and the man bent down to open the cellar door…

Only to be bowled over by the hurtling form of Mara as she preceded the priest out of the cellar stairway and fell in a tangle with the stranger. The padre slammed the door shut and with the help of the stranger, once he finally disentangled himself from Mara, secured it against whatever menace lurked below.

Ezra shadowed the trio as they snuck, in relative but humorous quiet, around the side of the house, and watched then as they peered into the window, where a rather loud, Erm…. Discussion appeared to be going on with what sounded very much like another QBR alumni.
Recognizing the voice of Chief Maddie, Ezra felt confident enough to stride up to the three peering into the window…just as Mara straightened up and, looking at her companions in turn said,
“Which one of us is Mara? “

“Well,’ Ezra said with a grin, the sudden appearance of a fourth person in this small corner of the yard making the three lurkers jump in guilty reaction, “She’s certainly not talking to Me!”

 

Reply by Ronin on October 23, 2011 at 9:22am
Ronin turned with a start, leveling his pistol at the newcomers head. Stepping back, Ronin looked over the group in frustrated confusion.
“Alright look! I don’t know who any of you are or what the blazes is going on here! In the last few weeks I’ve been crammed in a shipping crate, fallen from the sky in some stinking flying machine, nearly frozen to death, ridden on some behemoth of a smoke billowing land whale pulling trees cross country, nearly killed by a cellar full of wild dogs and given a concussion by this woman running me over!” he growled, looking over the three of them.
“I’m hungry, cold, broke, tired and out of rum! I’m not Mara, but whichever one of you is, I want some stinking answers or so help me, I AM going to start shooting!”

Ronin took several deep breaths and lowered his pistol.
“Look Padre…you seem to have at least some of the answers in all this. So, how about we go help whoever that is inside the building, who seems to know you and the young lady here, get your friend out of whatever trouble she’s in and in exchange, you tell me what the heck is going on around here so I can take my leave and be on my way. “

Ronin slowly holstered his pistol and looking hard at the three standing about in the snow.
“Deal?”
Ronin put his open hand out to the Priest. “people call me Ronin”

 

Reply by sgt. ian macbruiche on October 23, 2011 at 11:55am
Listening in on the conversation taking place outside near the window and keeping an eye on the mad..er wait, let’s be polite to the lass, I call out to my earnstwhile partner to cover the window. “Now.. Ms. Phillips-Carter, I would nae mind if ya could lower yur ‘boomstick’ there and I’ll lower mine. I’m sure we can work all this out.” As we comply, I spot a hint of mischief in her eyes.

Since the front door is still barred from within, I throw caution to the wind and back slowly down the steps to the door and call out, “If I open the door, we’ll all play this calm and collected, right? No more guns blazin’?” Haji catches my attention, smirks and with a glance lets me know there’s some planning going on outside. *Can nae trust anyone these days…(sighs)*

 

Reply by Chaplain Forlath Grey on October 24, 2011 at 3:39pm
‘When it rains, it pours’ was another one of those adages whose common usage had always mildly irritated the Padre. Oh he understood the metaphor, that wasn’t the issue, what he found perturbing was the implied notion that it never sprinkled. Well as of today the Padre was willing to revisit his opinion on that little philosophical concept.

Just today he had received cryptic warnings, been roughed up by Teutonic thugs, received supernatural visitations, been dive bombed by cornicing and had almost became the main course for the local theatre production of the Rat Pack. To top it all off, he now found himself in at least three awkward social situations at once and it wasn’t even lunchtime.
The Padre shook the foreign looking gentleman’s hand “Ronin, it’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance. It occurs to me that potentially both of us would benefit from some mutual cooperation at least until we can all find a way out of this place. Perhaps we can discuss the finer details of such an arrangement as soon as time allows, yes?”

The Padre then turned to the XO, “XO Yesterday, I don’t know if you remember me, Chaplain Grey, attached to the Royal Marine contingent? Sir, it’s a relief to see you again.” The Padre paused midsentence and studied the XO with a slight look of puzzlement on his face “XO, I fully realize this is hardly the time to discuss the latest fashion trends in facial hair, and it really is a minor point in the grand scheme of things, but uh, were you aware that half of your mustache is missing?”

The Padre then turned towards the broken study window, cleared his throat and shouted into the building “Ahoy Chief Phillips-Carter and unknown associated individuals inside, a suggestion if I may – GET OUT OF THAT HOUSE WHILE YOU STILL CAN!!”
The words were barely out of the Padre’s mouth when doors inside the house started to swing shut and lock. Walls began to pulse. Furnishings began to move across the floor as if experiencing an earthquake, and high near the ceiling of the vestibule little red eyes began to pop open…

 

Reply by Chaplain Forlath Grey on October 25, 2011 at 9:38am
CHAPTER TWO

This was absurd, Chaplain Grey thought to himself as he anxiously ran around to the front of the building followed closely by Ronin, XO Ezra Yesterday and Therese Bertole. Belief in the supernatural was for the weak minded. Surely there must be an explanation! But be that as it may the Padre could not deny that the study door had inexplicably swung shut, locking Chief Madelaine Phillips-Carter and her companions in the building vestibule.

They pounded up the front steps and pulled on the front doors. They were stuck fast. The Padre looked hopefully at Ronin. Ronin shrugged his shoulders and shook his head. He had used the last of his chemical compound on the bulkhead doors around back. The Padre looked around frantically while the XO threw his weight repeatedly against the doors in a vain effort to get them to budge. A commotion of some sort could be heard on the other side of the doors. The Padre could only too easily imagine what was going on in there.

“Hold on, I’ve got an idea” said the Padre then he ran back down the steps and off into the village square. As was bound to happen sooner or later, the group on the Emeritus manor stair was starting to draw attention to itself from the few villagers who were out and about on this bitterly cold winter’s day. Just at that moment Ronin, Therese and Ezra heard what sounded like a mechanical engine roar to life somewhere nearby and then start to approach their location at an ever increasing rate of speed. In unison they all turned back towards the square to see what can only be described as a military staff vehicle come barreling towards them across the village square sending the villagers scampering for cover…

 

Reply by Chaplain Forlath Grey on October 25, 2011 at 9:39am
“Get out of the way!!” the Padre shouted from behind the steering wheel moments before throwing himself out of the vehicle. Ronin pushed Therese backwards off the steps into a snow drift before jumping in after her. Ezra was momentarily distracted by the thought ‘what exactly did he mean – where’s the other half of your mustache’ before he too realized the danger and jumped in the other direction landing head first in a snow bank. The Padre rolled a few times across the square, possibly losing a tooth in the process and came to rest just in time to see the vehicle’s forward momentum send it bouncing up the stairs to crash into the double front doors.

The racket was earsplitting as the metal construction of the vehicle met the oak doors and stone construction of the front entryway. The massive doors were smashed off their hinges. Hot bits of machinery and wood flew everywhere, landing and sizzling into the snow. It was a miracle that the XO, Ronin, Therese and the Padre were none the worse for wear as they picked themselves up, dusted themselves off and examined the wreckage. Chief Maddie stuck her head out the remains of the entryway and said “bloody hell; remind me not to call you lot next time I need a locksmith.”
Delighted to see the Chief and her companions were in one piece. The group quickly helped them out of the house and over the rubble. XO Ezra Yesterday turned to Chaplain Grey “by the way Padre, where in heaven’s name did you find a motor conveyance?”
“Um, if memory serves I believe his name is Oberlieutenant Friedrich von Drecksler, in his Holy Emperor’s Imperial Cavalry, 10th Uhlan Regiment. At least I saw him in it earlier when he and his men left the inn” the Padre replied.

Just then the group could hear shouts and the sound of jackboots running in their direction. “Perhaps now would be a prudent time to vacate the premises” the Padre added hastily “there’s a group of shops down that street there we can hide in, quickly!”

 

Reply by Ezra Yesterday on October 25, 2011 at 10:41am
In the sky, not too far away:
++ TRANSITION COMPLETE, PREPARE FOR ATMOSPHERIC REINSERTION++
The Intelligence Construct Unit noted the telemetry of the descent with a tiny portion of its processing capability, while it reviewed the mission parameters and target specifications it had been given.

The targets were biological creatures, transported here from elsewhere suddenly, just as the construct had been.
Noting the debris below it, it realized that the point might well be moot, since the remains of a large airship lay scattered across the landscape he was rapidly approaching. Analysis confirmed it to be a significant portion of the Base ship of the Battle Constructs, last seen menacing the smaller ship belonging to the target units in his mission file.

++ SURFACE TEMPERATURE NOMINAL, IMPACT IN 15 SECONDS++
The ICU [I.C.U…”I see you”, get it?] tilted slightly, changing its flight path so that it impacted in the middle of a large snow drift, steam billowed from the crater as the outer shell cooled, then broke open like a mechanical flower bud and deposited its passenger on its metal feet. The ground beneath it, having been turned to solid ice, caused it to slip, fall flat on its back and slowly toboggan down to the bottom of the crater.
It released a string of ++NULL DATA++, extruded sharp spikes from its lower appendages and, slowly climbing to its feet, began to climb out of the bowl of ice.ng to its feet, began to climb out of the bowl of ice.

As it neared the top, the ice became brittle and thin and finally broke under its weight; it toppled face forward into the snow, once again releasing a string of ++NULL DATA++, as it hit. It lay still for several seconds, as a electronic countdown beeped from 1 to 10, then it sat up and retracted the spikes and replaced them with snow shoes. Once it had righted itself, it adjusted its burden and raised a sensor dish, scanning for its quarry… At last zeroing in on a faint DNA signature off to its West.
With a careful look down at its feet, it gingerly set off in the direction its Primary Programing demanded it go.

 

Reply by Ronin on October 25, 2011 at 11:55am
Ronin scooped Therese up from the snow bank and after quickly brushing the snow from her, pointed to the priest “Hurry! Follow them. I’ll be right behind you! …wait, do you have a weapon?” he asked with an urgent haste in his voice.

Therese looked back a Ronin, puzzled by the question. “Do I need one?” she answered, tilting her head quizzically.
Ronin slid his hand into his boot and snatched out the sheathed shining steel stiletto, pushing it into her hand.
“I truly hope not” he whispered and gave her the slightest nudge, pointing to the group, now running towards the shops in the village. “Go! Stay with the Padre! You’ll be fine. I’ll be along directly.”

Therese took off at a full run, dagger in hand catching up to the group as they ran quickly towards the shops in town.
Ronin ducked behind a large heavy chunk of the debris left from the wrecked vehicle, still smoking and steaming in a pile at the front entrance. He could see the soldiers running towards the battered hulk as he raised his pistol and fired two shots into the air over their heads sending them diving for cover.

Raising himself up, Ronin made sure the soldiers could see him before dashing around the back side of the building, a rifle shot whizzing past his right shoulder as he ran. He could see the group reach the buildings in town as he rounded the corner.
Stopping at the cellar doors, Ronin grabbed a roll of twine from his bag and tied it to the heavy wire holding the doors shut, loosening the wire. As he could hear the soldiers approaching, he began banging on the doors with his fist to stir up its inhabitants.
As the first soldier rounded the back side of the building, Ronin fired a shot into the ground near his feet, the soldier jumping back around the corner. He could hear more soldiers arrive, cursing and yelling in their foreign tongue. He knew they were preparing for a rush on him.
Ronin, looking into the dense woods just in the distance, fed out as much twine as he could as he made a break for cover. Giving the twine a hard pull as he took flight, just as the soldiers bolted around the corner. As the wire flew from the cellar door latch, he could hear the soldiers yelling, screaming and firing in what seemed like all directions. He could also hear loud growling and hissing as the cellar occupants came spilling out en masse from the unlocked doors.

Running into a stream flowing past the house, Ronin doubled back and headed up a rocky hillside nearby to hide any tracks they might follow. The shooting and yelling seemed to go on for minutes as he made his way back around to the township and into the shop he’d seen the group file into.
“is everyone alright?”

 

Reply by sgt. ian macbruiche on October 25, 2011 at 11:57am
“Round the back, my wee bairns. We have a hidey-hole on the far side o’ town. Haji, take yourself out and lead the boyos a merry chase. Come along now. No stragglers,” I call to those of my companions what are up and aware. As we hear shouts confirming my young friend’s efforts in the other direction, I lead the party from one back alley to another till we come to an apparent dead end. Ignoring the cries of consternation and a snort of derision from the peanut gallery, I give the back wall a swift kick and open a gap in the wall.”Welcome to my humble home. Make yourselves comfy.”

 

Reply by Chaplain Forlath Grey on October 25, 2011 at 2:46pm
Thanks to the clever decoy work of Ronin and Haji, the group made it safely to Sergeant Ian Macbruiche’s front parlor. At least the hope was this was only the front parlor because frankly, the place was a bit small. The décor wasn’t anything to write home about either but at least the cornicing was of the inanimate variety. Anyway, introductions were made. Back stories were swapped. An uneasy alliance of sorts was formed. Tea was served and finally the Padre asked the question that was on everybody’s mind, namely “you wouldn’t happen to have any biscuits to go with this tea would you?”

 

Reply by sgt. ian macbruiche on October 25, 2011 at 7:46pm
“Please pardon me for a bit. We’re still in the soup as yet, and I for one am not interested in these ‘goons’ taking an interest in my ‘shack’,” while sliding an opening in the floor, “Down the hatch and enjoy the accommodations.The scotch is in the parlor and the facilities are two doors down from there, Padre,” The last of the party disappears into my subterranean domicile just as the cacophany of boots on paving stone and the stentorian voice of an officer halts just outside my shack. “Herr Johann! Offen zum Tur!” comes from the other side of the door as I put on yet another ‘persona’. “Warten, mein Herr Oberst,” I call out to the man hammering at my door. *yes, yes, one, my german is atrocious, and two, i’ve served in every corner of the empire, for the empire.* “Ja, mein Herr. Was der aufgabe?” I ask as contentiously as possible. The officer seems put off by this behavior and more politely asks, “Entschuldigen Sei, Herr Johann. Es scheinen wir hatte Storung heinen Dorf. Wenn Sei seihe nichts ungewohnlich, bericht uber zum Kneipe. Gutten taugen, mein herr.” As Herr Oberst called his men to order, “Achtung!”, I close the door and shuffle ‘back’ to bed with grumbling and much noise.

 

Reply by Ronin on October 26, 2011 at 12:00pm
Ronins eyes grew wide at seeing the underground bunkers splendor. After so much time running through thick woods, climbing about on snowy hillsides and being years on the run, the underground looked like a palace to him. It was warm, sheltered, secure and surprisingly accommodating for being in actuality, little more than a (albeit large) hole in the ground.
After pouring himself a glass of the scotch so generously offered up, he sat himself slowly into a comfortable looking chair and sipped the liquid splendor, a small smile growing on his face. As he reclined into the welcoming arms of the seat, a satisfied sigh he couldn’t contain echoed in the chamber.
No sooner had he finished the glass, Ronin fell fast asleep in the chair, his hand resting on his pistol.

 

Reply by Chaplain Forlath Grey on October 26, 2011 at 5:10pm
While looking for matches Chaplain Grey came across the page that had flown into his face in Professor Teufelsdröckh’s study. The Padre had tucked it into his pocket at the time and then promptly forgot all about it. Now he held up and inspected the parchment. If the text was anything to go by the page appeared to have been ripped out of a treatise on the theoretical process of transmogrification. While interesting in and of itself, much more interesting were the few hand written lines in the bottom margin of the page:

One clever Professor in his solid house of stone

There he sat nice and safe, till it crunched up all his bones

One little Arztin hiding in plain sight

Imagine her shock when she died of extreme stage fright

One important Bürgermeister always on the go

Twiddle while you wait as he freezes in the snow

One righteous Pfarrer trusting God to keep him sound

Watch him as he twists and turns, ten feet off the ground

One brave Soldat with his men by his side

Imagine his surprise when he too has died…

The Padre read the words once more and then scratched his beard in consternation. Never mind that the meter was all over the place, “what did it mean?” Realizing he had spoken those last words out loud the Padre looked up to see if anyone had noticed. Everyone seemed to be otherwise occupied, grateful for their brief respite. Ronin in particular seemed to be out cold in a chair, with his hand on his pistol… oh good heavens. The Padre stood up and found an afghan to cover Ronin up with, there were ladies present after all…

 

Reply by Therese de Bertole on October 27, 2011 at 5:08am
Therese spotted a suitable high wingback chair in a corner of the room, walked over and literally flopped down in it.
She felt wet, bedraggled and chilled to the bone.
As she sat shivering both from her damp clothing and the aftershock of pursuit,
the somewhat fierce woman approached her carrying two small glasses of clear liquid.
She thrust one into Therese’s hand and barked a command.
“Here, drink this.”

A bit unnerved, Therese took the offered libation.
She sniffed it, wrinkled up her nose at the strong scent and replied
“I don’t think I should” casting a glanced over at the stranger, now sleeping, then to the Chaplain and the man he called Exoezra.
The Chaplain smiled and nodded approval.
Therese returned her attention to the woman as she repeated
“drink- like this” and placing the glass to her lips, tossing her head back, gulped the liquid in one fell swoop, winked and added “believe me, it will help.”

Again Therese shot a sideways glance to the men as they continued to nod and smile.
Looking at the glass, she followed suit mimicking the woman and tossed back the glistening clear liquid.
Therese immediately sat upright, grasping at her throat, coughing and gasping for breath.
“She poisoned me” she attempted to yell but all that came out was a sputtered, choking, barely audible “poison…”
With that, the woman slapped Therese on the back and said with a grin “that’ll cure what ails you, Mara.”
Still clutching her throat as the heat of the liquid fire burned her mouth and numbed her lips, she thought to herself ‘this woman is completely insane!”

She looked over and saw the Chaplain and Exoezraman tittering.
“Sure, smile as I am leaving this cruel, cruel world’ she croaked (<haha) which only incited further laughter from the two, as the third slept on.
“Stop being such a drama queen, you’re not dying” the Chaplain spat between guffaws.
Pulling himself together he added “just give it time and I guarantee you will feel much, much better lass.”
As the heat began to subside it was replaced by a most pleasing warmth that began in her face and coursed it’s way through the rest of her body.
Her head began to swim as her sense of propriety faded and she began to unbutton her bodice “I must get out of these damp things” she slurred.
The woman, which for some reason she thought she knew, stayed Therese’s hand and in what seemed like a faraway voice said in a reassuring manner-

“You just sit back, close your eyes and sleep now, your clothes are nearly dry”
Looking down at her clothes with a huge grin, Therese nodded as a feeling of contentment washed over her.
Glimpsing over at the fading blur of the others in the room, she did what she was told, and
in minutes was sleeping the most sound she had ever remembered doing.

 

Reply by Ronin on October 27, 2011 at 10:17pm
Ronin fell into a deep fitful, sleep. A malformed dream of his life during the last decade fueled by 12 year old scotch and almost no food twisted and swirled in his mind and memory. He saw the disembodied face of his former master as it lay lifeless at his feet suddenly awaken and blaze curses and fire upon him.

“With my death, you become Ronin. A faceless waste of life, disgraced by remaining alive while his Lord lay slain! None who know of your shame shall acknowledge your true name until I am avenged. Only then may you enter the afterlife. Only then may you find peace.”
The streaming images exploded into scenes of his escape, of the true assassins identity revealed and the betrayal it signified, wrapping itself around Ronin like a snake of chain. Duped into taking the blame for the crime Lords own daughter, her image flashing past him as a flower that twists itself into a black widow and then vanishes from his hands, the sound of her laughter echoing in his ears.

His dreams flowed past like a muddied river, carrying with it the faces of the men he’d slain. The men sent to end his life “for the greater good”, whose endless pursuit had driven him from his homeland to a hundred towns and nameless places like the one he found himself in once again.
Ronin slowly awakened from his slumber, the dream ending as it always did. Standing in a darkened empty room where it had all begun. His Lords lifeless body at his feet as the sound of a dozen Yakuza soldiers headed to him. In his blood soaked hands, the broken tsuba of the true killer’s sword gripped tightly within. The tsuba that now hung around his neck, the only proof of the killer’s true identity.

He pulled the blanket up around him snugly and closed his eyes, content for now with the warmth that had so often been denied him and softly prayed for some small peace of mind, even if only for the time being.

 

Reply by Chaplain Forlath Grey on October 28, 2011 at 5:26pm
The Padre considered the riddle a few minutes more and then came to a decision. He stood up and approached Sergeant Ian Macbruiche, “Sergeant, we need to find the village Doctor. Do you know where she (presumably) has her office and potentially how to get there without attracting the attention of the entire Imperial Cavalry?” Sergeant Macbruiche laid his index finger along his nose and winked “you’re in for a treat Padre, follow me…”

The Sergeant led the group to a curtain covering a wall of the pantry. He pulled the curtain aside to reveal a circular iron door set into a steel bulkhead; remarkably similar to what you would see on a ship. The Sergeant spun the wheel on the door, disengaged the retaining bolts and opened the door to reveal an old cobble-stoned alleyway twisting away into the darkness, all completely underground.
Ian handed out torches to the group while explaining that the current village appeared to have been built on the remains of an old town. Not on the ruins of an old town mind you, but a town that had inexplicably been covered over lock, stock and barrel. It was all very exciting stuff Ian said with a smile and then went on to say he had as of yet been unable to determine who was responsible or what their motivation might have been. Chaplain Grey studied Ian for a moment and then asked “who are you and just what is your connection to this town Sergeant?” Ian just smiled and said “after you ladies and gents.”

The group stepped out into the alleyway with torches lit; the sense of otherworldliness was overwhelming as they walked down along the cobblestones between perfectly intact brick buildings. There was nothing to distinguish their surroundings from any normal industrial town except of course for the complete silence, the darkness and the utter lack of a sky overhead.

The band of gallant adventurers had been walking for about 15 minutes when Chief Madelaine Phillips-Carter said over her shoulder to Ian “Sergeant, would you please be so kind as to edify me on exactly what manner of inhabitants we are likely to encounter down here?” “Inhabitants?” chuckled Ian “there are none. Rest assured Miss Phillips-Carter, whatever inhabitants there might once have been are long since gone.” “Really? You might want to tell him that” interjected Therese de Bertole and indicated a figure in the alleyway up ahead.

Twenty feet in front of them at a crossroads in the maze of underground streets stood a robed, hooded figure with head bowed. “Extraordinary,” exclaimed Sergeant Macbruiche as he pushed his way to the head of the group “hallo there! I say, pardon us old chap, can you hear me?” Slowly the head looked up; red lights gleamed under its hood. Suddenly blades extended where hands should have been and start spinning at a high velocity with a high pitched whirring sound. Sgt Ian quickly drew his revolver and fired off three shots at the figure in quick succession, the figure used its spinning blades and blocked the shots, one, two, three. With metallic clanking noises the figure began to advance on the party, its blades scrapping the brick walls on either side, sending showers of sparks shooting through the air.
“Is it too late to take our chance with the Imperial Cavalry?” asked the Padre…

 

Reply by sgt. ian macbruiche on October 31, 2011 at 8:21am
*muttering under his breath,”Blasted mad tinkers!”* I realize we may be in a bit of a pickle. “Forward the buffs, Padre!”, I call out to my fellow-in-arms. As we draw beads on the mechanized menace and proceed to open fire, I sense a quick rushing of air at my back followed by a watery deluge forcing the chaplian and myself against opposite sides of the tunnel. With a quick glance around, I notice my earstwhile Punjabi with a ‘fire-hose’ soaking the ‘robotic goon’ and shorting out it’s innards. “Top hole, Haji! Keep at it, lad,” I exclaim to my young friend.

 

Reply by Therese de Bertole on October 31, 2011 at 10:34am
As the hooded menace came ever nearer,
Therese grasped the dagger Ronin recently had given her.
Not that she knew of much good it would do against what now approached the party,
but it gave her a feeling of security and yes, power.
At least the power to overcome the fear she generally felt coursing through her nervous system.
The formidable frightened flight reaction.
As she pondered (yes, pondered as if time was irrelevant) what to do next,
of which the options seemed few,
shots rang out,
one…two…three
(Therese was tempted to sing ‘or as simple as do…re…mi’
but withheld the urge to burst into song, and it was oh so difficult not to.)
Sergeant Macbruiche, calling out to the Chaplain to do the same (fire his weapon, not sing along, because no song was actually sung but only thought of), was firing at certain death as it drew closer still.
Unbeknownst to the Seargeant, the Chaplain’s firearm had the habit of misfiring, which it most
certainly did as he took aim and ‘pop’ followed by a small puff of smoke was all that it accomplished.
Ronin was readied and about to charge when they were all disbanded by a very powerful stream, nay torrent of water, sending them colliding with one another against the tunnel walls

Their adversary seemed to spark and sputter, it’s red eyes now extinguished, as it blinked in and out of sight, then disappeared completely, as if it was never really there in the first place.

It was beginning to become quite difficult to exact what was real and what was possibly an illusion in this new adventure.
Now, dripping wet yet again, Therese smiled, unusually unconcerned by what had just occurred, looked about at her comrades and shouted
“Marco!”and waiting for a reply, she proceeded to wring the water out of her skirts.

 

Reply by Ezra Yesterday on October 31, 2011 at 7:49pm
This world was quickly becoming intolerable.
First the mad, near fatal plunge from the sky…

Next waking up in a tree, A Tree In the Process of Being Cut Down, mind you! frozen in a block of ice to one of the uppermost branches.
Then falling [again] and being buried in a snowbank..
Finally thawing out, and by some miracle finding a few of his friends, 2 new possible allies, and a Priest …or some such… of passing acquaintance, who promptly drives a stolen staff car nearly over him and into a building.
[OK, admittedly the car had to die in the line of duty so that Maddie and her new drinking buddies could escape the horrors of the Vestibule of Doom, but being wet and cold was starting to make him cranky.]
And then just as things were settling down, this newest indignity…
At some point in the events of the day…

Half of his mustache had gone missing.
The Vicar had mentioned it in passing, but really! Just because you vaguely know someone, some distant relative of the Captain, even, it doesn’t automatically mean that you believe them when they calmly say…
Out Of the Blue:
“I say, old man, did you know one half of your mustache is missing?”
Ezra had never been a particularly devout church going man, so he had put it down to some form of Ecclesiastical humor to which he had not been previously exposed….
Or perhaps the Cleric simply wanted to get back at him for the surprising way that Ezra had suddenly appeared on the scene.
But NO!

Once they had made their wild scamper through the town and hidden in the Sergeant’s underground lair, he had finally caught sight of his reflection, and by Cerberus’s trebled chins, it was true!
At some point, his wonderful facial ornament had been irreparably maimed.
This glorious hairy extension of himself…
that been with him in the flight from the Bread Rampage,
that had survived his dessication and subsequent time spent as a mummy…
that had waved firm and proud as he helped dispatch the dreaded Dough Hive Queen…
and that had only drooped slightly in the steam that shattered the frozen, reanimated corpse of Marion, the Cameo that wouldn’t die… [or at least , refused to remain dead.]

As he stood in front of the mirror, he looked around the room and made sure no one was looking as he raised a farewell salute, and as he did, he shed a single, Manly tear for his departed lip decoration.
He hoped that wherever it was, it was resting in peace.
Then the time had come to once more move onward… and the group headed down into the tunnels.
Lost in his thoughts, he missed what the commotion was all about until the blast of ice cold water drenched him…
Then his maudlin mood left him, and he was once more what he had been…
Wet.
Cold.
CRANKY.

 

Reply by Ezra Yesterday on October 31, 2011 at 8:18pm
++DNA TRACE STRENGTHENING++
The ICU had been trudging for some time over the vast distance between its landing site and the source of the Target DNA signature, but it stopped at this new reading. It was still the same distance away, but for some reason, it appeared that some form of shielding had been removed from it, allowing the sensors to really lock on for the first time since the Landing Event.
As the unit started forward with renewed purpose, there was a mighty crack, and in the middle distance, a tree began to tilt and fall gracefully, only to slam into another tree and snap its top third off before falling the rest of the way down.
The reverberations of the forest giant crashing to ground caused the trees around the ICU to tremble in sympathetic vibration.
It had already begun to tilt and look skyward, its metal face somehow showing both apprehension and dawning frustration as the sensor array beeped its warning:

++COLLISION ALERT++
…as what looked like several hundred pounds of snow was shaken free of the limbs overhead and came plummeting down toward the exasperated Mechanical being, far below.
It had time to utter ++ NULL DATA!.. NULL DATA!!.. NULL D..++
.. before the miniature avalanche hit it dead in the face with a muffled *WHUMP* ..
Burying it deep, Deep! below the new surface layer of snow.

 

Reply by Ezra Yesterday on October 31, 2011 at 9:00pm
In the seconds prior to the impact, the ICU realized that it had a choice to make… save the Sensor array, or save the precious package currently riding on its back. As the cargo was by far more important than even the Unit’s own continued functioning, it logically chose to let the sensor be damaged, but in the milliseconds left to it, it sent out a sensor burst, making a detailed pinpoint map of the current location of the DNA trace, and the three most optimal routes to reach it.

Then with a string of ++NULL DATA++ it was cut off from the rest of the world.
Assessing the damage, it realized that even though it was at nearly full power, the replacement part replication process was going to require several cycles before it could repair the sensor array enough to make it functional again.
The ICU let the replicator process get to work, while it began to slowly dig its way out of the giant new drift above it.
Later.

The sensor was still only 18 % repaired when the ICU at last drug itself and its burden out from under the last of the snowbank. It righted itself and began to trudge in the direction of the last known location of the Target Being.
[I’m going to skip ahead now, as the hapless unit has several more mishaps and sidetracking adventures on its way to the Target coordinates… I’ll just pick up at the point where it moves out of the undergrowth, disguised behind a small pine sapling with a birds nest draped over its head….like a coon skin cap, but made of twigs and leaves.]
The ICU looked warily up into the sky, and sensing no immediate threats from above, scampered out into the clearing and up to the snowbank nestled against a towering oak.

The short range internal sensors finaly registered a faint ghost of the DNA Trace it had been following for the last several cycles…
It scanned the crater in the snow bank for several seconds, at last spotting what it was looking for…
Frozen into a oddly symmetrical cone of ice was the source of the Trace…
1/2 of a large, well groomed handlebar mustache.

As the Unit pondered the significance of this newest development, there was a semi distant chattering, followed by suddenly closer flapping sounds coming from just above and directly behind it…
++ NULL DATA!!!++
The Monkey-Bat had returned.

 

Reply by sgt. ian macbruiche on Friday
After the party takes a breather and wrings themselves out, I decide to take some initiative and try to put a sense of order in place. “Ok, folks. May haps a guid idea ‘ould be to organise this stroll thru the unknown,” I start only to pause at the cantankerous looks of disdain from certain quarters. *Not sure if the Phillipes-Carter woman is the forgiving type. Still smells of saddle soap and gun oil though. Loverly.*

“If anyone else has a thought, I’ll be more than ready to ‘ear them owt. Just be quick aboot it,” I state signalling my partner to move up front with me.”There might be more of those things down here, boss” Haji says in sotto voca. As noone seeems ready to speak up, I take charge with, “Padre, yurself and Ronin, guard the rear, if you ‘ould. Maddie and Ezra flanking Therese in the middle, and myself and Haji taking the lead. All settled? Right then, let’s move out.”

*Well, I’ve thrown in my cards with these people and in doing so may have tossed away any chance of success with this assignment. Dear Jesu above, watch over your faithful servant in all his endeavors, Amen.*…”Oh, and POLO.”

 

Reply by Chaplain Forlath Grey on Friday
Chaplain Grey knelt down and inspected the remains of their hooded mechanical assailant. It had been a mechanical construct of that there was no doubt, but the mass to size ratio didn’t make any sense. Instead of a heap of metal struts, cogs and sprockets, there was a small mechanical turbine, some filaments and a lot of broken glass. This would take some further thought but first things first. The Padre stood up and brushed himself off.

The Padre found it somewhat challenging to get his bearings underground but surely they must be somewhere under the village Rathaus by now. Presumably the Sergeant knew of another egress to the surface that would bring them out somewhere by the Doctor’s office. The riddle read ‘…hiding in plain sight…’ something was definitely implied by that but what? Even more puzzling was the question of where that Pakistani kid found a fire hose but one riddle at a time the Padre thought to himself, one riddle at a time…

 

Reply by Ronin on Saturday
Ronin finished loading the ammunition belt for his pistol. he considered himself lucky to have found a couple of boxes of ammo in the sergeants stores. as he pulled the sling over his shoulder, his eyes kept darting towards the machine that had attacked them earlier.
It made him very nervous.

As he looked over the remains of the mechanical terror a chill ran though him. He’d never seen such a device and wondered at the mind that could construct such a thing. he thought back to the Russian machinist who’d built his weapon. He’d always thought of Vlad as a genius in such things. he was crazed and drunk most of the time, but truly wise in the ways of mechanical warfare. He felt sure that whoever had created something as devious and complex must be mad beyond all imagining and surely would have other like devices at their disposal. This thought did not sit well in his mind.

He pulled the slide back and it slid forward with a dull clank that echoed in the underground. he nodded to the sergeant and took his place at the back of the pack.

 

Reply by Ezra Yesterday yesterday
“I have to say,” said Ezra Yesterday, wringing his clothing out as best he could, “If I don’t die of the ague before this day is out, I for one will call that a win.’

“Still,” he said, with a glance and a nod back at the Sergeant’s young ward, “good show with the waterworks, Haji. Real life saver, that.”
He stooped down and took another look at the wreckage that had been their assailant.

After rummaging around for a bit, he seemed satisfied that there was nothing left of interest, and straightening up, he gave it an unneeded and decidedly vicious kick before taking his place in the procession.

“Well, I fo-for one am v..ve..ve,” he paused with a scowl until his shivering abated somewhat, “…Very interested to see what hap- happens next.”

 

Reply by Madelaine Phillips-Carter 18 hours ago
Maddie, patience waning by the second, cried out at last “Bloody hell! What are we still standing about for?”

 

Reply by Therese de Bertole 18 hours ago
Therese coughed and fidgeted.
Feet were heard shuffling.
Throats were cleared.
Then an uncomfortable silence ensued
as all 14 (!?!) eyes turned towards Chaplain Grey.

 

Reply by Chaplain Forlath Grey 17 hours ago
“What are you looking at me for?” The Padre asked, “the Sergeant is the one who supposedly knows his way around this labyrinth.”

 

Reply by sgt. ian macbruiche 12 hours ago
“Sorry, my wee bairns. Thought I haird somethin’ or other. Off we go and to the right hallway, not the left,” I call out to the group. “Haji, keep an weather eye OWWWTTTT!!…” is heard as the Sgt. and his erstwhile Punjabi friend fall from sight down into what appears to be a hole in the floor before them. Swallowed up by the darkness, they don’t notice the trap-door slide shut above them.
*A disembodied voice from above remarks on the situation in the corridor* “Will our heroes of the hour escape from their grisly, intended ending. Will those left above go on with their search for the Clock-work Mouse or will they try to find and effect a last minute escape for their fallen comrades? Until then, same monkey-bat time, same monkey-bat channel.

 

Reply by Ezra Yesterday 6 hours ago
“You know what?” Ezra said with a certain amount of venom, “I think he did that on purpose!”

 

Reply by Therese de Bertole 48 minutes ago
Ignoring the present situation, Therese espied what appeared to be a ladder
just a few feet from where the remaining party now stood.
“Is that a ladder over there?” she remarked, quite observantly as she
sashayed over, which was quite difficult with her wet clothing clinging to her
like, well, wet clothing.

“Oh, and look” she added “there’s a plaque on the wall!”
“Let me see, it reads ‘Village Rathaus’ with an arrow pointing up,
now what do you think of that!” she continued.

Glancing upward she hoped it led to a nice warm fireplace
where they could all rest and gather their thoughts,
but she had her doubts.

 

Reply by Therese de Bertole 9 hours ago
A decision had to be made-
to afford a rescue then and there,
or to opt for dry clothing and a chance to think things over
and form a plan of action.
(Unless, of course, this was yet another delusional illusion .)
What to do,
what to do!?

 

Reply by Forlath Grey 2 hours ago
Chaplain Grey quickly knelt on the ground and inspected the flagstones where the Sergeant and his sidekick had only moments before been standing for a pressure trigger, seams, in fact for anything that might provide the band of misfits with a way to force the trapdoor open again. “For the love of the wee man,” the Padre mumbled anxiously to himself as he frantically searched the floor on all fours. “Is that a ladder over there?” Therese de Bertole offered pointing to a wrought iron ladder affixed to a nearby wall, ascending up into the darkness overhead. “We can’t just leave them behind,” the Padre shouted as he continued to search. “We might not have a choice here Padre…” said Chief Phillips-Carter. Something in her voice caused the Padre to look up. From back the way the party had come, what appeared to be bugs, millions and millions of bugs in a veritable black, teeming wave of insectoids was advancing on the party at speed. The insects covered the ground and walls inches deep, the loud scurrying sound of million of bugs headed their way gave the Padre the worst case of the willies he had ever had in his life. “Are you freaking kidding me?” exclaimed the Padre. After a brief moment’s consideration the Padre continued “perhaps it would behoove us to trust the Sergeant can look after himself while we head for higher ground?” With that the Padre sprinted for the ladder as the group desperately jostled each other in their efforts to get up the ladder.

After ten minutes of strenuous climbing the band reached the top of the ladder, the sound of insects was still audible beneath them. The Padre and Ronin put their shoulders to the manhole cover at the top of the ladder and together on their third attempt were able to force it open, covering themselves in snow in the process. Once the last member of the group was helped through the manhole, they slid the heavy iron cover back into place and stood panting in the cold, in what appeared to be an alley behind a massive timber and stone building. “The village Rathaus I presume,” guessed the Padre. “Without the Sergeant we’ve lost our guide to the Doctor, so what say you we pay the Burgermeister a visit instead, shall we?” Just at that moment a wind came whipping down the alleyway, chilling the party in their wet clothes to the very bone. “Burgermeister it is then,” chattered the Padre as the group started to surreptitiously look for an entrance into the Rathaus…

 

Reply by Forlath Grey yesterday
Ronin gave a low whistle. The rest of the party keeping watch in the alleyway quickly gathered under the window ledge where Ronin was currently perched and watched apprehensively as Ronin slid the now unlocked (thanks to Ronin’s particular skill set) window slowly open. Once the window was open, Ronin disappeared inside. After what seemed an eternity but was actually only about two minutes, Ronin’s head appeared back at the window and gave a quick nod. The group using Ronin’s outstretched arm, a drainpipe and a combination of pushing and pulling, managed to climb one at a time up to the eight foot high ledge, through the window and into what appeared to be a parlor or hall of some sort.

Weak, winter sunshine spilled in through the windows set in one wall of the parlor, onto the wide plank floor. Pedestals with bronze busts of previous Burgermeisters were interspaced at regular intervals along the walls. Two sets of double doors were at either end of the hall. The Padre looked at Ronin wondering which doors they should try. Ronin shrugged as if to indicate one set was as good as the other. The Padre nodded and headed towards the doors on his right. Ezra, the last one through the window turned to close the four paned window behind him. Ronin stopped him with a gesture and whispered “always leave an escape route.” Ezra nodded in understanding and left the window open but muttered under his breath “oh look at me, I’m a ninja, I always leave an escape route.” Therese made a shushing sound causing Ezra to turn towards her with an innocent ‘moi?’ look on his face.

The Padre put his hand on the right side door knob of the double door pair, leaned his head against the door and listened for a moment before slowly turning the knob. He cautiously pushed the door open and looked inside. He stopped dead in his tracks in shock and dropped his hand off the door knob. The door swung slowly open revealing a plushly appointed office, well lit, with a roaring fire on the grate. Perhaps it should be mentioned there was also a large snowman built right in the middle of the room with a human head sticking out the top, the face blue and lifeless.
The group stared dumbfounded for a moment, when suddenly the other side of the double doors was jerked opened revealing Oberlieutenant Friedrich von Drecksler with his lancers at his back. “Herzlich Willkommen meine Fruende! Imagine seeing you all here, now isn’t this just the most amusing coincidence?” the Oberlieutnant asked with a smile on his scarred face, his eyes completely devoid of mirth…

 

Reply by Ezra Yesterday yesterday
Ezra Yesterday looked a the newcomers in confusion, then held a quick, whispered conference out of the corner of his mouth with the Padre.
“OK, so we have a German.. Colonel Klink… or Dr. Mengele?”
“Doctor, I’m afraid… tread carefully, my son.”
“Thanks, Pop… I’ll take that under advisement.”

Oberlieutenant von Drecksler strode into the room slowly as the lancers fanned out to cover the rest of the party.
He asked the Chaplain, ” There are four of you now. I hope, my dear chaplain, that your group does not continue to double itself every time we meet, otherwise we will shortly run out of room to stand.”

At this the party looked around, realizing too late that they had given away the fact that there had been one other.
“Oh, look at me,” Ezra muttered “I’m a ninja, I always use my escape route….”

“Yes, it is as I thought, the reports were correct.” The Oberlieutenant clapped his hands and pointed to the room behind the Mara.” Take 3 others and search that room… the others should be there.”

“Very Well,You heard the man.. ” Ezra replied in his best XO voice, with just a hint of Buggs Bunny thrown in for luck, and pointing at his 3 companions in turn, he said “You, you and… You, Padre, with me. We have a room to search! The rest of you, guard Encino Man here, until we return! ”
The lancers stood stock still and glanced at each other in bewilderment; as he turned to usher the flabbergasted women, and cleric, toward their escape route there was a deep, angry growling behind him, followed by a sharp blow to the back of his head. As the room suddenly exploded into pretty colors, he thought,”No fair, that trick always works for Buggs…”
Pretty…Swirling…Colors.
Then…
Blackness

 

Reply by Ezra Yesterday yesterday
Ezra Yesterday woke up tied to a chair.
“This is not the first time that has happened… but it is the first time the other party was wearing a Military uniform…”
A memory stirred, compelling a bit of honesty,

“Well, no, actually.. but it IS the first time they were wearing the Entire uniform.”
He sat up as best he could and looked around groggily
“It’s also the first time that there were 3 others tied to chairs of their own at the table with me.” He recognized the others, one of whom was making odd faces at him, and shaking her head…

“Or am I shaking my head?”, he wondered, as it seemed his eyes weren’t cooperating just now.
“Hmmm…There’s some sort of debate going on. I recognize the Padre’s voice,”
“…Ezra…” Maddies voice came from the left. low and insistent, but he continued his thought..
.”And the other voice is the German Schmuck that sucker punched me…”
Again, Maddie called him, a louder whisper “Ezra!”

“Ugly, scar-faced bugger, I’m going have to remember to give him a couple of lefts to the gut, first chance I get…”
As the debate stopped dead, Maddie said loudly enough to penetrate the fog in his head
“Ezra, for the love of Beefeater, man! Shut… UP!”

“Hahaha, I gt it! was talking out loud.. Oh!.. I bet I’m in trouble Now!’
A pause then,”Oops, I did it again.”

He subsided into giggles… that were abruptly cut off with a hiss of pain as his head was jerked back roughly.
It served to bring his wits somewhat back to him, insofar as he quit babbling his every thought aloud and began to listen.
“Very well, Herr Cleric. I will leave the woman alone… for now. We will start with,” another, more brutal shake of his head, bringing more pain and a great deal more clarity, “..this one!.. The Left hand, if you please.”

His left hand was released, then retied suspended over what looked to be huge, set bear trap.
The Schmuck talked as this was done…
“This is a trap, for the bears that live far up in the mountains.They are very big, so the traps must be very big, also. Now, as I said earlier, the rules are simple, Herr Cleric.”

He took a thin book off the shelf behind him and set it on Ezra’s outstretched, upturned palm.
Ezra noticed that the Lancer on his right was still close to his chair, and that there was a rhythmic tightening and loosening motion going on with his ropes, like someone was slowly and carefully cutting them without drawing notice to themselves.
“Well, look at me,” Ezra was very, Very careful to think, only in his head, ” I’m a ninja, master of disguise, with some sort of plan for escape!”
Meanwhile, their captor continued, in true villain form…

“I will ask a question, and if I don’t get the answer I want, I will add another book. Then we will repeat the process.”
he picked up another, larger book,

“Eventually, if one of you does not tell me what I need to know, he won’t be able to hold up the weight, or it will overbalance, and then…”
His deep set eyes, shadowed by his heavy brow, suddenly lit with what seemed to be an internal reddish glow, and turning the book up on its long end, he slammed it down onto the one already balanced on Ezras palm…

Triggering the trap, brutally crushing the bones of his wrist three or four inches up from the meat of his palm…
…and shearing almost all the way through.

 

Reply by Ezra Yesterday yesterday
Ezra Yesterday didn’t lose consciousness this time…
He woke up.. and the world was Crystal clear and Diamond hard.
Time slowed nearly to a stop.
He saw the look of demonic glee in the unnatural red eyes of the … Thing… in Military dress standing to his left,
He smelled the fresh blood pumping from his wrist,
He tasted the bile rising with his emotions, mixed fury and revulsion at the senseless damage inflicted upon him.
He heard screaming… Not of Fear, not of Pain… something else…
He felt… Nothing yet from the ruin at the end of his arm… that would come later.
But the Ropes, he felt them part.
And then..

Just before time resumed its normal course and his conscious awareness went off with a click, he realized two fundamental things..
The screaming he heard was his own, and it was a sound of unbridled Fury..
And he felt one more thing…

HATE.
The others told him of it when he came back to himself later, after they had stitched him up, and bandaged him. They spoke in hushed tones, taking turns.
They told of how he stood suddenly, and with a wrench, jerked his arm free of the tattered remains that had been his hand.
Then turning to the creature beside him, he began punching it, repeatedly,
In the stomach,
Then the chest
And finally the face…

With the jagged ends of broken bone protruding from the wound. When the creature died, all the Lancers died with it, and in the same way… crumbling away to oddly colored dust and mechanical bits as if they were merely extensions of the same machine.

The stabbing went on Much longer than it needed to, but Ronin was the only one free to stop him, and he stood transfixed by the demon of vengeance unleashing its wrath before him.
None of them would ever speak of it again.

 

Reply by Forlath Grey 17 hours ago
CHAPTER THREE
The group ran out the front doors of the Rathaus into the snow covered street. Ezra was huddled between them with his arm wrapped in a lancer coat. The events of the last half hour (had it really only been 30 minutes?), had happened so quickly it was all a blur but two things were crystal clear. None of those constructs had been the Oberlieutenant and his men, and Ezra was in dire need of a doctor. What madman had created those automatons, they were all so lifelike and convincing but more bewildering, to what end had they been built? This would take further consideration and possibly large quantities of liquid refreshments to figure out, let alone fill in all the new plot holes but first things first; they needed to find Ezra a doctor before he bled to death.

The band of adventurers hurried down the street completely oblivious now to whether or not they attracted attention. The Padre repeatedly stopped passersby for directions to the Doctor’s office. They finally found the right street but it was hard to read the signs covered as they were with snow. The Padre grabbed a bundled up lady carrying her recently purchased groceries by the arm “Entshuldigung Sie, können Sie mir bitte helfen? Gibt es hier einen Atrztpraxis irgendwo?” The lady looked up at the Padre, mumbled something, looked startled at his response, mumbled something else, pulled her arm away and quickly hurried off. “What was that all about?” queried the Chief. “I don’t know,” the Padre responded somewhat puzzled “I asked her where the Doctor’s office was, she said at the end of the street, I asked if she meant there across from the statue, she looked at me like I was a madman and said there’s no statue on this street.”

The group looked down the street; there on the corner was what plainly appeared to be a statue. The party understandably given the events of the past few hours advanced on the statue with some trepidation. When they finally came abreast of the statue they saw that it was in actuality not a statue at all but rather the corpse of a human female, painted bronze and impaled on a pike. Hanging around her neck was a scrawled sign that read “Generously donated by a loving community.”

The group was stunned. To be fair Ezra had already been stunned of course, that in addition to the pain induced semi-consciousness and delirium. The Padre’s thoughts were currently torn between what all of this could possibly mean and were to stash Ezra’s body if, you know, worst case scenario, it should come to that, heaven forbid, when a voice whispered ‘pssst’ at them from a darkened doorway. The Padre rolled his eyes and started to say that this was the worst possible time for them to even begin to consider purchasing a pocket watch of questionable origin when the ‘pssst’ was followed with a “if you want your friend to live, follow me.” The Padre started to object that ‘friend’ was perhaps slightly overstated; they barely knew each other but he was shushed by Therese. Having no other viable option, the group quickly followed after the heavily cowled figure…

 

Reply by Therese de Bertole 16 hours ago
Therese could not understand why they had not the sense to use her newly acquired dagger to cauterize the jagged stump where the one called XO Ezra’s hand used to be.

The formidable woman named Maddie could have given the XO what remained of her gin stash (although she could not explain how, Therese knew this to be true) to at least dull some of the pain while the dagger was heated in the few flames that had lingered in the room’s fireplace.
But no, rush the poor man out into the cold, bleeding profusely to inquire where a doctor might be found while his life’s blood was rapidly diminishing.

And now, expecting him to walk as well, even if supported?
“If someone could carry him, we could move faster and perhaps lessen his blood loss?” Therese said with concern, and without a seconds thought Ronin lifted XO Ezra over his shoulder, while Therese tried to keep the wound elevated the best she could as they made their way through the snow.
Something crossed her mind as they hurried along.

‘I wonder what happened to the other side of his lovely mustache she thought to herself.
She made a note that when all was taken care of, perhaps as a surprise before he regained complete consciousness, she would draw the other half on for him.

 

Reply by Ezra Yesterday 10 hours ago
With a terrific crash, the window blew inward, and the form of a Monkey-bat with a small clockwork creature riding it like a cowboy flew into the room…

[Yes, this is Bill Gir, the helpful, if foul mouthed, little windup fellow last seen at the end of Book 2… and he has apparently overcome his Monkey-bat problem.]

++YEE…HAW++
He looked around expecting an appreciative welcome, only to find a deserted, though plushly appointed office.

++SCANNING… FRESH DNA TRACES DETECTED++
Bill the ICU swept his optics around the room, saw no life forms, and guided the monkey-bat to a landing on the top of an odd ice sculpture, situated for some reason in the very center of this room.

Puzzled, it turned a full circle looking for his target, then toggled the DNA scanner visual overlay.
The entire table and floor opposite it was highlighted in a spray pattern, lit in its visual array as a light, cotton candy blue.
The deepest blue was concentrated around a primitive mechanical object under the table. It was a spring loaded trap of some sort, and in its razor sharp jaws were clasped two severely damaged, blood soaked books.

[One was a large book of fairy tales, while the other one was a Tofu cookbook, which explained both its relatively small size, and the pristine, quite obviously never opened condition it was in… because, really, who actually eats that stuff?]
And under the mangled books was a severed hand, still tacky with drying blood.

After looping the reigns to his “steed” around the left ear of a conveniently placed frozen human head, the ICU known as Bill climbed down the ice sculpture and walked across to examine the trap and its bloody contents.

After several moments of contemplation, he took the package off his back and opened it so a golden light shone down on the ruined appendage..
The light shone steadily for several seconds, then pulsed suddenly brighter, and when it faded, all traces of the hand and the blood, [and inexplicably, the Tofu cookbook] were gone. He shut the case, strapped it back into place, and adjusted the settings on his scanning array.
++ SWITCHING TO UNIVERSAL SCAN MODE…INDICATIONS OF 4 LIFE FORMS BESIDES TARGET… INDICATIONS ARE THAT THEY EXITED, STAGE LEFT, APPROXIMATELY 15 MINUTES AGO.. NEW TRACE PATTERNS RECORDED… COMMENCE TRACKING SUBROUTINE++
Bill turned and looked up at the creature perched atop the ice sculpture and emitted a whistle. The Monkey-bat immediately untied its own reigns from around the ear and flew down to the floor, allowing Bill to mount up and prepare for flight.
Bill leaned forward, braced for a swift takeoff, and twitched the reins.
Nothing happened.

He prodded the monkey bat with his tiny heels…
Still nothing.

He tried both twitching the reins and kicking at the same time
More nothing, except he nearly overbalanced and fell off.

The Monkey bat turned and looked steadily back at its rider for several seconds.
Finally, Bill seemed to slump, breaking their staring contest and gave a very biological seeming sigh…
The creature turned once more to face forward, the slightest hint of a simian smirk evident as he did
Then, when a last halfhearted twitch of the reins still produced no reaction…
Bill uttered, in a small seemingly defeated voice:
++YIP…YIP++
And the monkey-bat sprang into the air, nearly unseating its rider, and flew back out the broken window.
The search was on once again, and seemed finally to be nearing its end.

 

Reply by Ronin 6 hours ago
“Good grief, you’re heavy” grunted Ronin as he hefted Ezra up on his shoulders, the poor man quickly becoming quite delirious from his recent trauma. He wondered under his breath how a man could still be so heavy after losing a hand and what must be a gallon of blood as the group trudged forward through the snow, in hot pursuit of the cloaked figure.

Mara stripped a small bit of cloth from her skirt and tied it in a makeshift tourniquet around Ezra’s wrist to try and control the blood flowing from the wound. The nearly unconscious Ezra was still trying to speak but seemed more to be squeaking out the occasional grumbling complaint about being carried like a sack of dirty laundry, insisting he was more than able to walk.
As the group rushed along behind the mysterious figure, they watched as he slipped around the corner of a darkened alleyway, vanishing into the shadows. They rounded the corner where they’d all seen him dash only to see a dead end.
The walls climbed high along the way, and was boarded fast on all sides. No doors or windows, nor sign of the cloaked figure could be seen anywhere.

“Ambush!” was the first thought rushing through Ronin’s brain as his hand swept quickly to his pistol, only to be stayed by Mara, pointing to a figure in the furthest dark corner of the alley, beckoning the group onward towards the back wall of the blind alleyway. “hurry…you must hurry” they whispered waving the band on to what appeared to be a disguised door leading in through what looked to be a solid wall.

 

Reply by Madelaine Phillips-Carter 31 minutes ago
“Hurry…you must hurry!” The stranger hissed, a barely audible whisper. There was something eerily familiar about that voice; the curt, halting tone, thickly accented. Madelaine paused before the cowled figure…peering into the hood, she attempted to discern it’s occupants features, but alas, his countenance was cloaked in shadows.

“Why do you linger? Hurry…SCHNELL!” the stranger growled from under the hood.
“Gunther?” Madelaine whispered at last.
The figure sighed, almost imperceptibly, before rushing Madelaine through the door after her companions.

 

Reply by Forlath Grey 2 hours ago
The party found themselves ushered into what appeared to be the resulting lovechild of an illicit tryst between a scientific laboratory and a mechanic’s workshop. What looked to be a standard three story brownstone, attached dwelling from the outside was a single warehouse like room on the inside, with a hodgepodge collection of equipment, tools, lathes, power cables, workbenches covered with beakers and of course the mandatory Tesla coil zapping away in a corner. The party gaped in astonishment at the room but quickly snapped back to the issue at hand (no pun intended) when robed figures pushed past them, took Ezra, laid him on a gurney and wheeled him over to an area of the room surrounded by surgical lights and implements, and began prepping him for surgery.

The Padre stepped forward to demand answers but before he could speak a woman stood up from a desk in the corner of the room and approached the adventurers. “I am Madame Gris,” the woman said “I will do all I can for your colleague but time is of the essence so with your approval we will dispense with the formal introductions until I have stabilized his condition. Thank you for your understanding.” With that Madam Gris went to Ezra’s side and began to inspect his arm. The Padre sputtered but realized the common sense of her words and fell silent.
“This man has lost a lot of blood,” Madame Gris said accusingly “you should have brought him to me sooner.” The Padre sputtered again before he got out “I am not a doctor but I am attached to a military unit and I am quite conversant in battlefield first aid, I followed all the standard steps – checked for breathing, bleeding and shock. The bleeding part was obvious of course so I used the lancer coat to create a pressure dressing, elevated the wound, applied digital pressure and then sought medical aid just as I was trained to do. Quite frankly it was all I could do to stop these lunatics from worsening his condition by going at him with red hot blades in an ill-conceived attempt to cauterize the wound. As it was they ignored my arguments that a tourniquet should only be used as a last result and started flinging him about like a sack of potatoes! Granted, I guess potentially this was a last resort kind of situation, but I digress… and what do you mean should have brought him to you sooner? How were we to know you were even here!” Madame Gris shot him a withering glance, causing the Padre to realize he was bordering on shrill. He gulped once and stopped talking.

The Padre took a step back and reluctantly let Madame Gris work. What proof did they have she was even a doctor, for the love of all that is holy, what sort of doctor uses a lathe? But what choice did they have. Well that is curious, the thought suddenly occurred to the Padre, is that a restraining device on her ankle? Meanwhile, while everyone else’s eyes were fixed on the operating table, Chief Madelaine Phillips-Carter took the opportunity to slip a couple of bottles of high quality, rubbing alcohol into her pack…

 

Reply by Ronin 58 minutes ago
Ronin stood back watching the woman prepare Ezra for surgery. The Padre stood closely by, now attentively silent as she deftly cleaned and prepared the severed stump for…whatever it was she was about to do. Looking around the room, he could see numerous glass vials, tools and machinery. All carefully cared for and well used.

Various half-done projects and parts could be seen on the many work tables in the large, somewhat sterile looking room. There were some pieces that looked nearly to be unassembled hands and other human-like parts stacked neatly along the far wall.

The cloaked figure moved about the room in a familiar manner, ever watching Madame Gris, bringing her a tray full of strange looking tools and several medicinal bottles and clean cloth. A quick injection and Ezra fell quiet, his eyes rolling back for a brief moment, then falling soundly unconscious. A collective gasp could be felt from the group as his head tipped back onto the table with a thud.

Without looking up from her work, Madame Gris said in a calm, methodical voice “Everyone, please remain back and try to make yourselves comfortable while I attend to this fellow. Just don’t touch anything, no matter how ‘interesting’ you may find it.” , obviously recognizing how odd the groups new surroundings appeared to them.

Therese, averting her eyes to the ongoing surgery, found a table that seemed to be loaded with masks or facial features exactingly crafted from some sort of metal. She reached out with her index finger and poked one of the metal figures in the forehead curiously like a cat seeing its reflection in a mirror for the first time, her head tipping to the side in a puzzled gesture.

The cloaked figure watched Therese’s actions, whispering something to Madame Gris as she worked. Looking up briefly, she nodded softly to the figure and continued her work on Ezra’s wound.

 

Reply by sgt. ian macbruiche yesterday
Meanwhile, in a cozy little room at the Inn, Sergeant MacBruiche and Haji try to figure out all that has happened today and how best to work the many angles. “A bit embarrassing this,” says I. “My honor cries out that was a bit underhanded while my duty is to country, not fellow travellers along the way. Maybe by way of explanation, I’ll fade back a few years.”

*My future in the old country being in doubt,(older brother being a bit of a rascal and not up to par with what the old man wanted out of his heir), I thought I’d join the army and see the world. I did a tour of duty with the 98th reg. of the Argyleshire ‘stompers’ during the Mutiny, where I ended up with a pain in the tuckass name of Haji trailing along behind. I finally shook him like a bad case of the ‘crup’ and put in some time against the ‘Borscht’ heavy infantry outside of Capetown. I was mustered out with a sgt.’s half-pay pension and a chunk of bayonet from Herr Commandante lodged in my hip.*

*After a year of sitting on my arse, shooting pheasant and even a trip by zeppelin to the Orient, I escaped the indignity of wedlock,(lovely, big lass, sure my dissipated brother with grow to love her eventually. I can still hear his screams of condemnation thrown my way. Sweet music that.) and found employment with the “Stinkertons’ in ‘the colonies’. When I arrived in New Amsterdam,(I refuse to dignify their ridiculous, ‘new york’ sham), the man himself greeted me at the dock with my erstwhile Punjabi ‘tick’ standing right behind him. Before I go any further maybe I should explain that I may gripe about the lad, might even kick him out of spite, but he has proven himself a number of times.*

*We were sent to the West for a time to ‘prove’ ourselves to the boss. Don’t know why these colonists call it ‘the wild west’. Nothing of the sort. If they want wild, they should have been among the Hindoos during the Mutiny. Bloodthirsty devils they were when compared to the ‘Burps’ and Holly Day. I did meet a few good women though. Might head back after all this. Well, after our time out west, Allen pulled us back ‘East’ to help out with the ‘Irish’ problem. He started exhibiting some teetotalling mannerisms and bible thumping policy. Figured I’d had enough of the ‘Company’, so I made some inquiries back across the pond to some of my old comrades from the regiment and they hooked me up with a bosh job for the Empire.*
“We do have some more of this lovely Earl Grey the Herr Doktor provided somewhere, right, Haji old lad?” I asked and received an affirmative from himself.

*We’ve been camped out in this village and the surrounds for a year and six months now eating some fairly horrid food, drinking their rancid swill and rubbing elbows with these quaint, little rebels what call themselves ‘patriots’ and speaking their gibberish and suddenly I’m up to my ears in people who speak a civilized language and know good whisky when it’s offered. What to do, what to do…?*

“Boss, I think they looked plenty upset by all the cold water. Maybe let them cool down and we sit back and think for a bit, no?” my Punjabi friend wisely declares. “Sound advice there, Haji. The fellow with only half a mustache and the Phillips-Carter didn’t look none to happy with you and your ‘firehose’ bit,” I supposed. “To the Empire and wise comrades-in-arm!”

 

Reply by Ezra Yesterday 23 hours ago
After a time, the surgery was complete and Madame Gris came back over to the group waiting to hear her prognosis.
“I have done all I can for him, for now.” she said “I had to cut away the jagged ends of bone, and there was extensive damage to the flesh of…”
She paused, seeing the looks of discomfort and growing nausea on the faces before her.
“Yes, well. I cleaned up the damage as best I could. There was a great deal of dirt and metal in the wound, did he get his hand caught in some form of milling machine?”

The Padre shifted uncomfortably and started to speak, but she continued, ” No matter. I have done all I can for him, the rest is up to him. He seems to have lost quite a bit of blood. You did a good job getting here when you did, he was nearly gone. If he makes it, I will see what I can do about fitting a prosthetic, but for now, we wait…”

She sank down onto a nearby workbench, obviously worn out from the long procedure, and turning to the Chaplain, said, “…and Padre, I have a feeling you would do well to put in a bit of overtime on his behalf. He will need all the help he can get.”

 

Reply by Forlath Grey 21 hours ago
Oberlieutenant Friedrich von Drecksler surveyed the wreckage. He was tempted to say carnage but except for the Bürgermeister none of the other prone figures in the room were human. The Oberlieutenant stuck his foot under one of the figures and flipped it over on its back. It was surprisingly light for a mechanical construct, not to mention lifelike, in fact it was startlingly just how lifelike it was. He unsheathed his saber and cleared the rubbish away from the construct’s ‘face’. “Gefreite! Herheirkommen!” Drecksler called loudly. “Jawohl, Herr Oberst!” one of the lancers replied and quickly ran over to where the Oberlieutenant was standing.

“Gefreite Mueller, what is the current tally” Drecksler asked grimly. The Gefreite pulled out a notepad and scanned some hand scribbled notes and started to read them out loud “Professor – found crushed by steam powered logging machine. Artzin – found impaled outside her office. Bürgermeister – found frozen to death in his office. Pfarrer – found hanging by the neck from one of the ropes in the church bell tower.” The Gefreite grew visibly nervous when he got to the last line and paused. “Go ahead Gefreite” the Oberlieutenant encouraged impatiently. “Soldat – no causalities recorded at this time” Mueller finished.

Drecksler made a suddenly slashing motion with his saber causing Gefreite Mueller to jump in surprise, while simultaneously severing the construct’s head from the rest of its body. The Oberlieutenant sheathed his saber and then knelt down and picked up the severed head. “Gefreite, read the last stanza to me” the Oberlieutenant ordered. Mueller cleared his voice and read “One brave Soldat with his men by his side, Imagine his surprise when he too has died.” The Oberlieutenant looked at the head in his hand for a moment, his silent contemplation made Mueller nervously fidget and shift his weight from one foot to the next. The Oberlieutenant grinned sardonically and turned the head’s face towards Gefreite Mueller “imagine my surprise that I too have died,” the Oberlieutenant quoted. The construct’s face was a perfect copy of the Oberlieutenant’s. The resemblance was so uncanny that the Gefreite gasped aloud.

“He knew this would happen, he planned it all!” with that the Oberlieutenant turned and hurled the head at an ornamental, glass display case. The head crashed into the display case, smashing the contents and spilling them onto the floor. “He toys with us Gefreite Mueller, he toys with us and I intend to put a stop to it! Did you find the woman?” the Oberlieutenant snapped. “We found the cell here in the village where they had been hiding her Herr Oberst, but they had already moved her, indications are just last night,” Mueller’s voice cracked as he answered, the Oberlieutenant’s mood swings made him anxious. Gott im Himmel grant that the Oberlieutenant did not run out of glass display cases to vent his anger on.
Drecksler growled in response. “Those damn monks, whose side are they on! No matter, we will find her soon enough. What of the foreigners, the cleric and his companions who demolished my automobile?” The scowl on the Oberlieutenant face made Mueller’s voice fail him completely, forcing him to shake his head in response. “I don’t know what they have to do with all this but I intend to find out and believe me Gefreite, when next we meet Chaplain Grey will wish he had accepted my hospitality when he had the chance!”

Before the Oberlieutenant could destroy something else, Gefreite Mueller quickly spat out the one bit of good news he had “Herr Oberst, the break in the weather has allowed the cargo airship to cross the mountains. They radio-ed ahead to say that they will reach the docking tower by morning and will begin unloading the behemoths immediately after tie down!” The Oberlieutenant paused mid-smash and turned back towards the Gefreite with a huge grin on his scarred face. “Finally, some good news. Why didn’t you tell me earlier my dear Gefreite? Yes, Gefreite Mueller, I think it’s safe to say the behemoths will be a game changer, wouldn’t you agree?” With that the Oberlieutenant threw his head back and started to laugh loudly. Gefreite Mueller frantically gestured to all the other lancers in the room to laugh as well. Soon everyone in the room was laughing uproariously, many not entirely sure why. Suddenly the Oberlieutenant shouted “enough you fools! You sound like a pack of laughing hyenas.” With that

Oberlieutenant Friedrich von Drecksler strode out of the Rathaus, a grin on his face and an evil glint in his eye. Oh yes indeed, things were about to become immensely entertaining…

 

Reply by Therese de Bertole 19 hours ago
Therese wandered the room, inspecting everything she saw, trying to draw her thoughts away from the events that led up to and included what was now happening to the man called XO Ezra.

He was in critical condition when they finally arrived, having lost so much blood.
The doctor had reassured that he was stable, but was not quite out of the woods yet.
It was suggested that shifts should be taken to keep watch over him, while the rest got some much needed sleep.
Since Therese rarely felt tired, she volunteered for first watch as the others were ushered into a side room where they could rest and talk amongst themselves without creating any disturbance.

Left alone in the room, Therese walked over and carefully examined the unconscious man lying on the gurney.
Just looking at the bandaged stump, caused a chill to run down her spine and she quickly averted her eyes from it.
Even the thought of how it all played out was horrifying to her.
Thus, she turned her attention to his face.
Although very pale from the loss of blood, it appeared quite peaceful she thought, considering what he had just gone through.
Focusing on the remaining half of what must have been a magnificent duo, a thought occurred to her.
His mustache!

She had to correct this.
When he awakens he must have it complete, as it was bad enough he was now without a hand, let alone half a mustache.
She remembered seeing a petri dish on one of the tables that appeared to have just what she needed!
Finding said specimen, she read the attached label.
‘Vivus Sentiens Mustacium’

“Hmm, this should work” she whispered.
Removing it carefully from the viscous liquid, Therese carried it over and placed it upon the nakedness above the XO’s top lip.
Immediately upon touching his skin, tiny tendrils emerged and burrowed into the pores, attaching itself firmly to it’s new host.
“Wow” Therese intoned “that was interesting” then smiled, quite pleased with her accomplishment.
She hoped, in her heart of hearts, that he would be as pleased with it when he recovered as she was.
At that moment, Doctor Gris entered the room and with an astonished inhale exclaimed
“what have you done!”

Therese sheepishly put her head down, what had she done?
“I thought it would be a surprise for when he comes to” Therese replied.
“That was experimental, we have no idea of what attributes it may or may not have” the Doctor added “and if you had read the label, you would have realized this.”

Therese was at a loss for words and stammered “but….but…I wanted to help…and it looked like a mustache. I thought the label meant ‘Vivacious Sensuous Mustache’.
A slight smile began to form at the corners of the Doctor’s mouth, as she shook her head.
“Well, what it actually translates to is ‘Living Sentient Mustache’.

It is a prototype and we actually have no idea what it is capable of, but when, or should I say if, the gentleman recovers (which sent another chill down Therese’s spine) we will find out, now won’t we” Madame Gris replied as her face returned to it’s serious demeanor.

 

Reply by Ezra Yesterday 17 hours ago
Bill Gir, ICU and current delivery agent of the Engineers, flew through the sky on his newly acquired steed, the monkey bat that insisted on being called Mo-Mo.

He was hot on the trail of his target, XOEZRA, the lone surviving being of the three that he had been created to protect by the MARA Unit. As he flew over an odd open space that existed in the corner of four buildings with no visible entrance or exit he noticed something strange.. There were piles of mechanical constructs designed to look realistically human, lying stacked like cord-wood in the open.
As he got directly overhead, he saw movement and a flash of color, and suddenly, the form of XOEZRA sat up on top of one of the piles. He banked Mo-Mo around for a second look, because even though his sensors told him that this was not his target, the mere fact of a suddenly created mechanical doppelganger needed further investigation.

After all, his primary function WAS Intelligence Collection.

As he Mo-Mo swooped lower for a closer look, the entire oubliette exploded into motion, all the mechanical forms leaping upward and attempting to grasp, capture, or simply pummel the flying pair as they descended into range.

With a chittering shriek of simian terror, Mo-Mo went into a series of brilliant rolling acrobatic maneuvers, keeping himself clear of every grasping, swinging, swatting appendage, some by scant inches.
Bill, due to his robotic reflexes, and also to his tiny size, managed to stay clear also, grasping the reins like a lifeline and holding on for dear…
Well, existence.

He did really well, too…right up to the point where he was slapped clear of the reins by a dismembered mechanical hand that was flung with astounding velocity, ironically thrown by the XOEZRA Clone in the corner.
As Bill tumbled head over… winding stem back toward the ground, he reached back and opened the case on his back.
A sudden tremendous flash of light blasted outward, like a miniature sun…
And when the light dimmed, several seconds later… there was nothing but a cone shaped mountain of scorched, fused, formerly human shaped mechanical wreckage.

And sitting at the very top….
A sad little monkey-bat named Mo-Mo, holding the tiny, twisted form of his first and only friend, Bill Gir, in its lap.

 

Reply by Ezra Yesterday 16 hours ago
++…++
++ REBOOT COMPLETE++
++ INTERNAL DAMAGE REPLICATORS DRAINED++
++ WARNING: SENSORS OFFLINE++
++ VISUAL ARRAY AT 38%++

Recent memory files came back online, and as he reviewed them, he realized, dimly, that there was a moon high in the sky. Time had passed as repairs were underway.
He attempted to stand, but what happened instead was that he turned a complete circle, hopped sideways for 3 1/2 steps, leaned completely backward, and did a belly flop onto his face.
++… INTERNAL STABILIZERS OFFLINE++

As he lay on his face, he queried as to the length of time that he had been inoperable.
The response was slow in coming, and vague. It boiled down to the fact that it must be only several hours since the lass sensor input, since internal power was insufficient for a full rotation of the planet.
++NULL DATA++

He had been so close, and now he was lost, damaged…
And alone.

 

Reply by Ezra Yesterday 16 minutes ago
Bill Gir lay face down in the dirt, contemplating what to do next.
His internal repair functions were currently completely drained of energy, and his stabilizers were damaged.
A review of the somewhat chaotic images of the past few minutes revealed that he was in a darkened corner of a dead end alley alley he didn’t recognize.

++WARNING++
++WARNING++
++WARNING… LOGIC CIRCUIT FIELD POWER LOSS… CONTAINMENT DIMINISHED 23%…ESTIMATED FIELD SHUTDOWN IN 17.5 MINUTES++

Oh, yes…and his higher thought functions were shutting down, would be completely beyond repair long before the replicator systems came back online…

He was going to fail Both of his mission objectives
++NULL DATA++
There was a sudden commotion out of his range of vision, a flapping of wings and stirring of dust, and the Monkey bat, Mo-Mo landed next to him.
Mo-Mo leaned down and said, clearly and in a perfect imitation of Bill’s electronic voice, ” ++YIP…YIP++”, then sat back on his haunches, tilting his head sideways and looking at the little mechanical construct.
Bill attempted to move, only to emit a miniature shower of sparks and an odd, low whistle.

++WARNING… LOGIC CIRCUIT FIELD POWER LOSS… CONTAINMENT DIMINISHED 37%…REVISED SHUTDOWN ESTIMATE 11.25 MINUTES++
Mo-Mo, unaware of this internal dialog, poked him with a finger, and repeated, ” ++YIP…YIP++”
Another attempt was calculated to be even less successful, so Bill said “I am too damaged to be move myself, Mo-Mo. You must go find and protect the XOEZRA unit now.”
The creature continued to sit, staring at him, apparently unable to understand, so Bill followed the time honored ritual of beings faced with language barriers…

Increasing his vocal output by 17% he continued,” Mo-Mo, you must go, I can not Yip Yip on my …”
On the words Yip Yip, Mo-Mo scooped up the damaged little robot and shot into the air up the side of the brownstone on the left. Upon reaching the top he angled down and flew through an open skylight.. and as they flew into the open space inside, Mo-Mo again imitated Bills voice perfectly…
“++YEE… HAW++”

 

Reply by Ezra Yesterday 6 hours ago
Before Madame Gris could say more, Therese looked up and said, “Did you hear that?”
[In the adjoining room, the Padre frowned and stirred restlessly in his sleep, reacting unconsciously to the barely heard words.]
They both stood still for several seconds, listening… but nothing came of it. Madame Gris, her train of thought broken by the distraction, checked on Ezra again, noting his breathing , pulse and color were still shallow, weak and extremely pale, respectively.
As she started to leave his side there was a sudden sound of flapping wings from high above and a mechanical
“++YEE…HAW++”

And suddenly a Monkey-Bat holding a broken clock of some kind was perched on the bed above her patients head.
The disturbance the creature caused as she attempted to gently shoo it away from her charge woke the rest of the party, who joined in. The Padre tried standing at the foot of the bed waving his arms to distract it so that Madame Gris and one of the monks could snare it in a sheet, but it flapped up and then landed on Ezra’s chest.

Therese and Maddie were circling to opposite sides, trying to coax it away, Therese with a crust of bread, Maddie with a beaker of medicinal alcohol that, somehow, she already had poured and ready.

Ronin as he always did, suddenly appeared from nowhere behind the little simian and was about to grab it by both the throat and tail, when the little broken robot it held cradled in its arms suddenly stirred and said ++NO++

There was a flash of golden light, blinding everyone.
And when their sight cleared, the bed with Ezra lying on it was encased in a shimmering sphere of golden light.

 

Reply by Ezra Yesterday 8 hours ago
He was floating…
Floating in a sea of golden light.
There was no pain, there was no sound.
Just soothing, healing Golden light
<Oh Crap!… I’m dead> he thought.
<That miserable stupid red eyed thing took my hand, we ran through the streets, that Madame Gris lady sewed me up…All for nothing>
NO, EZRA YESTERDAY… YOU ARE NOT DEAD..
He cowered away from the sound of the BIBLICALY too loud voice… while a part of him noted it was a voice that he recognized.
SORRY…
::Sound of feedback, quickly stopped::
“Sorry again.. Is that better? Its been forever since I projected on a biological wavelength.”
<Yes, I … I’m sorry…do I know you? Your voice…>
“Reminds you of a certain windbag from your past? A loud mouthed, obnoxious, pompous, [yet amusing, in his own way] person that you thought was now history?”
<Well, yes actually…> Ezra paused, thinking back…
<I was still on Earth…We all saw the news reports… The media didn’t fall for two more days… Rush Limbaugh was eaten by a tray of meatball hoagies live on his radio show on the 2nd day of the Bread War…He was calling it a hoax perpetrated by the “Lame Stream Media ™”, right up till the Hoagies started chewing on his call screener…then, when it was obvious it was real, with his last breath of life he blamed the Democrats. Legend says he took 4 of the Hoagies with him before he died… If I’m not dead, why do you sound like him?>
“Because your subconscious is in charge of casting… and it has rightly judged that I am loud mouthed, obnoxious, pompous and condescending, as well. But, I am here to help you, so you will just have to suffer the rest.”

There was a pause, and Ezra became aware of another couple of forms on the bed with him… Which is when he also became aware that he was still in the bed.
“These two brave creatures have been trying to deliver me to you for some time now,” The golden light parted a bit and a small winged creature with a brilliant white mustache came clearly into view, “This is Mo-Mo. he is the bravest of his tribe, and a superb flier.”
He brought your second visitor, A small creature of OUR manufacture called Bill Gir. He is damaged… worse than you , actually. But! as it happens, I can make repairs both of you, but only partially… Sadly most of my “juice” as they say was used protecting little Bill here, so I will simply have to improvise. Now, the why and how of this is not for you to know, but I will tell you this…”
*****************************************************************************************************************************************************
Scant seconds after it appeared, the golden sphere slowly shrunk down to the size and shape of a human figure, then faded, revealing Ezra Yesterday standing, healthy and nearly whole.

The golden glow did not fade everywhere, rather it flowed to his left arm, down past the recently repaired flesh of his arm, and further still past more healthy flesh that had not been there scant seconds ago… and finally seeming to pool a second before slowly sinking into the shiny mechanical brass hand with the clockwork form of Bill Gir, mounted on the wrist like an over sized watch.

He blinked, looked at his hand, reached up and touched his mustache, feeling one side stir and cringe slightly away from his touch, and seeming to take it all in stride, he simply shrugged, causing Mo-Mo, who was perched on his shoulder, to shift slightly.
Madame Gris was the first to recover from this spectacle, and stepping forward slowly, asked.”H..How do you feel?”
“Actually,” he said absently still looking at his new hand, “I’m really, Really hungry… do you happen to have any tofu?”
As the words he had just uttered sank into his consciousness, his eyes widened in shock, and then he sank down onto the bed, a stunned look on his face.
” Tofu?… TOFU?!?” A look of real fear spread across his face…
“Merciful Zeus! What has been done to me????”

 

Reply by Therese de Bertole 13 hours ago
After the golden glow had completely subsided, the room fell silent as all stepped back a few paces in awe of what had just occurred.
Miraculous recovery was putting it mildly.

No one seemed to know what to do next, they were all too stunned at this remarkable event.
Doctor Guinevere Gris was first to speak.
Stepping forward slowly, she asked.”H..How do you feel?”
Ezra Yesterday, fully healed, in fact he was more a ‘new and improved’ version,
made an unusual request-
“I’m really, Really hungry… do you happen to have any tofu?”
Raising a questioning eyebrow, Doctor Gris ignored the appeal, motioned to one of her cloaked assistants to fetch a more appropriate libation, adding “perhaps just a nice broth would be more in order.”

Clearing a spot on one of the tables in the room, the newly improved Ezra Yesterday sat down over a warm bowl of what he considered dishwater. This was not what he had in mind as nourishment.
There was nary a scrap of meat, nor potato. Just a pale, consomme of unknown origin, but it was better than nothing.
Afer all, it was the Doctor’s order, he thought with a grimace.
Trying not to stare, the others went about occupying themselves.

Maddie decided rather than pour out the alcohol, which was actually grain and not wood, downed it in one gulp and proceeded to look for more.
Ronin sat cleaning his pistol, keeping one eye trained on Ezra Yesterday just in case he should have any hostile reactions since his ‘transformation’.

Chaplain Grey was speaking in hushed tones with the Doctor, seeking a rational explanation of what had just occurred.
Therese was trying to coax the little monkey-bat to eat, offering bits of bread and grapes, which she had gotten from a tray one cloaked assistant had prepared for them.

It reached out it’s tiny hand, grasping a grape from her fingers then nervously nibbling away, while constantly surveying the room.
It delighted Therese, as she had never seen it’s like before.
As it sat perched on the man called Ezra’s shoulder, she spoke softly, hoping eventually the little creature would trust her enough so they could become friends.

Every so often she would steal a glance at the man’s brass hand as he flexed it open, then closed.
She was especially fascinated by the small clockwork form attached to his wrist.
It somehow seemed familiar to her.

As she moved closer to have a better look, Ezra Yesterday turned his head towards her and for just a brief moment there was a fleeting recognition, a deja vu, that somehow she knew this man.
And then it was gone.

Caught off guard and not knowing what to say Therese blurted out “how’s that mustache working out for you?”

 

Reply by Ezra Yesterday 6 hours ago
Ezra Yesterday smiled at Therese’s question, [the mustache seemed to smile much bigger on one side than the other] and seemed ready to reply, when Mo-Mo, the monkey-bat on his shoulder suddenly sat up straight and said, his eyes glowing an eerie yet familiar gold, “Wait…”in a strangely familiar and pompous voice.

Ezra looked surprised for a moment, glancing at his new hand, then back to the creature on his shoulder, and said “Right now? We just got back.”
“This has waited far too long already.” And with that, Mo-Mo walked down Ezra’s arm and hopped to Therese’s shoulder and leaning in close whispered…

She was never able to remember exactly What Mo-Mo said, but she suddenly found herself in a place of endless Golden Light.
The voice that had been coming form Mo-Mo now surrounded her.
“Therese de Bertole… That is not your true name. You were once a MARA unit, one of the most destructive devices in the world. Made of an amalgam of biological and vastly, unimaginably powerful technology… you have waited for a war that never came…
You do not even remember what you are, but your deep programing does… and it has been trying to exert itself past the blocks we put on you. This Can NOT be allowed, for it will destroy you, it will destroy all the people that you have come to know as friends… And it would really mess up my weekend.’

There came a chuckle that seemed to rock the very foundations of the world, then the voice continued
“Sorry, I really crack myself up sometimes… where was I?”
Therese made to answer, and the voice chided, “Rhetorical question, my dear.”
“OH! yes I remember now… I have plans for this group of misfits, you included. To that end, the stupendous power that you wield must be taken away….
‘You’ll shoot your eye out.'”

There came a cosmos shaking bout of sniggering, quickly stifled.
“Now, the only question that remains is:
Who do you want to be? Once I remove the weapon, what personality do you want to keep?
You can Return to the MARA unit that started this adventure, forgetting Therese forever…
You can Remain Therese de Bertole, erasing all knowledge of MARA, and truly becoming the newest in what was a series of assumed identities your programming has created down through the ages…
OR..

You can Reintegrate, be Therese, but retain the knowledge and skills, but Not the power, you had as MARA.
You will be truly human, I must insist on that, but this much of a choice is yours:
Return…
Remain…
Reintegrate.”
A pause, then…
“Oh, yes… feel free to deliberate as long as you wish, my dear… Time has no meaning in this place.”

 

Reply by Forlath Grey 21 minutes ago
Chaplain Grey’s jaw dropped in amazement. He was absolutely gobsmacked by this latest in the long line of recent astounding developments. Was there anyway the events of this day could possibly be topped on the scale of pure inconceivability?? The Padre pulled out his pocket watch, and here it was just five minutes after 2 o’clock in the afternoon. Why, to think it was just this morning that he was being roughed up by thugs of the Prussian variety, could this day possibly get any more bizarre!!

…I said “could this day possibly get any… oh never mind”, with that the Padre turned and went to look for a newspaper, a comfy chair – preferable of the overstuffed leather variety, a cup of tea and if the gods were smiling down upon him – a biscuit.
Reply by sgt. ian macbruiche 3 hours ago

“So as it stands Haji, we have received a ‘go’ from the PM to ‘remove Herr Doktor from current surrounds’, ‘acquire, retrieve and/or destroy’ his notes and find out more about these ‘behemoths’. Again with the proviso that if they cannot be ‘acquired’ for the Empire, then ‘disable and remove from equation’,” says the tall gent of scottish persuasion to his Punjabi partner. The tinkling of glassware being refilled in the background brings to mind the fellow travellers, doubtless left in good hands with the Padre and the asian chap looking to be more than capable to ‘hold the fort’ as it were. The short lad, taking his ease in front of the fire, mumbles along the same lines, “Too bad we have strict orders from Mister to keep abreast of the mission, Boss. I don’t like that skipping out just then.” “Neither do I, Haji, but we have a duty greater than personal honor here,” I declare to my friend. “Maybe,” I muse aloud to no one in particular. “I’ll see if the doc is ready to go, Boss,” Haji informs me as he leaves the room by way of the open door to the hallway outside.As his steps recede into the background, the cheery, little fire helping the fine scotch lull me into a pleasant reverie, I try to recall the events of the last two weeks in Sheutzenstein and the surrounds.

 

Reply by Forlath Grey 2 hours ago
Chaplain Grey decided the room was getting a bit stuffy with all the portent, mystic happenings and soul searching going on, so he slipped out the door when the monks weren’t looking for a quick breath of fresh air. As he stood in the alley, with his frock coat buttoned up and his hands buried deep in his pockets against the cold humming to himself and considering the events of the day, a sleek, self propelled sleigh pulled up at the end of the alleyway. The tinted window in the driver’s side door was rolled down just enough to expose part of the driver’s face who shouted over “excuse me kind Sir, could you possibly direct me to the nearest service station?”

The Padre scratched his head, wandered over and replied “sorry buddy, I’m not actually from these parts.” Suddenly, quick as a whip, the Padre was grabbed from behind. His hands were forcibly tied together despite his best efforts to the contrary and a burlap sack smelling of potatoes was slipped over his head. He heard one of the sleigh doors being opened and then he was bodily lifted off the ground and thrown into the back seat. The Padre continued to struggle up until he was hit in the back of the head with a blunt object and everything went black…

 

Reply by Therese de Bertole 16 minutes ago
A box of biscuits
a box of mixed biscuits
and a biscuit mixer,
attempt to say this thrice
as quickly as possible.
That is what went through
Therese’s confused mind.
*click* changing channels
or was that channeling change?
Next up some soothing music by…..
*click*
To be,
or
what not
to be
was the plaguing
question.
Therese’s head had ached incessantly these past few days.
Although she tried to ignore it, so it remained,
ever there,
a dull persistent throbbing,
when a sudden realization struck like an electric shock to the frontal lobe..
Perhaps the cause of pain, the ever mounting pressure,
was the beginning of something she could no longer control,
and which would inevitably result in severe consequences.
The last thing she remembered was of Ezra Yesterday, the
man with the amazing shiny brass mechanical hand, smiling at her
followed by the little Monkey-bat climbing onto her shoulder and
whispering something in her left ear….
She could not remember what it had said as she found
herself surrounded by a wondrous, reassuring endless Golden Light.
A voice began relating data.
As it did, memories of her past came rushing back.
The voice continued, almost like a narrator of her existence, the film of her
‘life’ playing out in her mind’s eye.
She was given the opportunity to become what she had always wanted-
a normal, living, female human, instead of a destructive unit designed for war, always
on the edge of detonation, which she had subconsciously, until now, been able to control for the most part.
Her decision was carefully thought out in but a few moments.
She needn’t even utter a word.
The call was made.
As her senses returned, and the golden light dissipated,
she was again standing next to the man with the shiny brass hand.
“So” she said, colour flushing her cheeks, slightly embarrassed by what she had blurted out previously concerning his mustache, she held out her hand in a gesture of friendship
followed with-
“I don’t believe we’ve formally (or was that formerly) met.
My name is Therese de Bertole and I am pleased to make your acquaintance, sir.”
Ezra, furrowing his brow in a questioning manner, nonetheless politely took her hand, as a gentleman would not shaking it but just grasping it lightly and replied,
“I am pleased to meet you as w….” but his words were cut short by Madelaine Phillips-Carter standing up abruptly from where she was seated and exclaimed with a bit of a slur,
“Where in bloody hell has the Chaplain got to!?!”

 

The Padre regained consciousness in a huge room, with stone walls and a high vaulted ceiling. He was seated in a large, comfortable, upholstered chair. His arms were secured to the armrests with heavy, iron manacles. He was sat facing a big plate glass window. A snow covered village with mountains behind it was framed by the window, laid out below like some grand artist’s rendering. The Padre attempted to pull his arms free but couldn’t budge. Just then, behind his left shoulder a voice like silk with a Midlands accent spoke “beautiful isn’t it? I find the view from up here almost… celestial. It makes it nearly possible to forget that the lovely village of Furchtenberg is teeming with humanity, like a fatal parasitic infestation.”

The Padre’s initial view of the speaker was obscured by the back of his chair but the voice; the voice had an almost lulling quality to it, if of course you could ignore the iciness and cruelty that frosted every syllable. If freezing to death had a voice, this would be it. The speaker stepped into the Padre’s field of vision. He was of medium height and weight and was dressed in a lab coat. In fact he was rather unremarkable except for his completely bald head that shined in the electric lamp light, the monocle in his right eye, the white Persian cat he currently carried, cradled in his arms and his eyes, his eyes were the eyes of a madman.

“So we meet at last Chaplain Grey, but where are my manners?” the speaker sneered, stroking the cat all the while “you have no idea who I am do you? Chaplain Grey, allow me to introduce myself. I have many names but currently I am known as Professor Extreme…”

 

Reply by Ezra Yesterday
Outside the town there was a Forest.
Beyond the Forest was a Hill
Atop the Hill there was a Castle
Inside the Castle there was a Laboratory
Near the Laboratory there was a Door
Behind the Door there was a Room
In the Room there was a bank of Screens
In front of the Screens there was a Chair
Upon the chair there sat a Goblin…
A Goblin… called McFeely.
********
Earlier:
The Goblin McFeely sat at his monitor screens and stared. Something
was wrong… Very wrong. As he reached for the intercom button to
contact the master of the Castle, he went over recent events in his
head…
[slowly, since that was the only speed his brain possessed]
It had started so innocently…
He had been following the goings on in town with some interest for
over an hour. All sorts of interesting new people had appeared in the
small nearby town he had been tasked to watch. There was some
commotion involving a house in the town that started at the coal door
leading into the cellar and somehow ended up with the complete
destruction of the hated Herr Drecksler’s car…
[He was still hooting and pounding the reinforced tabletop in front of
him about that]
… then the entire group of them had suddenly disappeared down a blind
alley. Checking his map of the underground tunnel system, he realized
that they must have found their way into one of the older, less used
portions. He hit the intercom button and informed “the Boss” of the
situation.
“Very good, Mr. McFeely; Activate one of the Drones to follow them
and see what they are up to… dress it as a monk this time, and keep
me informed. If they are sufficiently interesting, I may want to…
personally welcome them to my neighborhood.”
McFeely hooted again in happy memory of the last Welcome “The Boss”
had personally given, as he activated one of the Drones from the
underground cache.
He pushed the Monk shaped button that sent the signal that created the
monks robe it used for a disguise, then put the visual input from its
sensors up on the big screen. As the drone moved into a side tunnel in
order to wait for the party to pass it, he stood, stretched his back
and walked over to an icebox in the corner to grab a Ginger Ale.
Not for the first time, he wished Fermented blood stout… or just
normal beer.. was allowed in the castle, but “The Boss” was funny that
way.
While his back was turned he completely missed the malevolent red fog
that washed across his screen for a second, somehow suggesting the
form of a hate twisted face for the brief instant it was visible.
When McFeely took his seat again the screen seemed to have taken on a
slight red tint, but not being the sharpest tool in the drawer, even
if it was a drawer of dirty gym socks, he took no special note of it.
As the party neared the Drone, however, he couldn’t help but note the
sudden change that took place.
As the entire screen went Blood red, the Drone leapt out of the
shadows and began waving blades of some sort at the group, as if to
attack them. Shots were fired, and then, as he realized he had no
control whatsoever over his mechanical spy, a torrent of water
mysteriously came spraying down the corridor and into the drones face.
Rather than wasting any more time in an attempt to wrest back control
of the rogue machine, he hit the big red button on the console that
deactivated it, rendering it instantly into a pile of useless debris.

 

Reply by Ezra Yesterday 1 second ago
McFeely, the Goblin Minion in the Castle on the Hill, called his
“Boss” and explained the malfunction that had just occurred with the
Spy Drone that was sent to shadow the group of strangers in the
underground tunnels beneath the town.
“… and when it not lisss-shen no more,’ he concluded into the grille of
the intercom, a bit of drool dripping down his fang onto the controls
that had been covered in plastic for just such an eventuality, “I hit
big button.”
“You did well, Mr. McFeely.” replied the voice out of the intercom,
“Now, you say that the screens turned red as this was happening?
Interesting… Very interesting. I will be down momentarily.”

McFeely rolled his eyes. “The Boss’ paid well, and the job was really
easy most days, but there were certain things that he did, rituals
that he always, Always followed, that simply got on the ugly little
minions nerves. For example..

Before the thought fully materialized, “The Boss” came into the room,
singing a song under his breath, and walked to a closet just inside
the door. There, still singing his happy little tune, he took off his
lab coat, hung it up neatly, pulled on a cardigan sweater and zipped
it up. Next, he sat on a bench, took off his dress shoes and put on a
pair of white soled sneakers.

McFeely stood there, inwardly impatient, but with an outward look of calm..
[“The Boss” paid… Extremely well. and Boy! did he have a temper…]
…Waiting for the ritual to end, knowing from long suffering experience
not to interrupt, as the ritual would just be started again from the
beginning otherwise.
“The Boss” walked over to the screen, gazed at the panoramic view of
the town, tiny houses looking like models and said:
“‘It’s a beautiful day in the Neighborhood… Isn’t it, Mr. McFeely?”

(Professor Extreme and Ezra fighting over the last Jammie Dodger back when I envisioned the Professor as more of the stereotypical steampunk mad scientist, but for some reason the Professor complained about his lack of hair . . . yes, that’s an alligator, don’t remember why . . .)

Ezra vs. Extreme3

Reply by Ezra Yesterday 1 second ago
A crazed Professor talked to his Minion:
“The red color of the screen is significant, Mr. McFeely.” He said in
his eerie far to calm and jovial voice, “I built it into the system as
a warning of signal interference and loss of control.

It either means that someone took over my Drone outright, or some
outside signal has interfered, causing a dangerous but accidental
glitch. And since there is no one in 100 miles of this pathetic little
‘burgh that could even begin to understand my Drones, much less take
one over…’”

He paused, noting the blank, Nay! completely vacant look on Mr
McFeelys face.” Ahhh…Never mind.”
He stood there, with his hands tucked deep into his cardigan pockets,
deliberating for several minutes and at last came to a fateful
decision.

“Mr Mcfeely, let’s use the Drone Lancers.”
The little goblinoid scampered over to his panel and pushed the
buttons for several Lancers and then pushed a larger one marked with
the shape of a horse, [as seen from behind], with DRECKSLER stenciled
on the panel above it.

“… And, Mr McFeeley,” he said, the light from the monitor gleaming
from his shiny dome, and causing his monocle to reflect like a mirror
“ I’ll drive the Jack-ass.”
**********
Scant minutes later, they sat there stunned, minion and mad Professor alike.
The Drecksler bot had been performing perfectly.
The Professor recognized a family resemblance to his Nemesis… in the
guise of a Chaplain! of all things.

So he did what any good host would do… he incapacitated the entire
party, tied them up and decided to play for a bit.. Any relative of
the Despised Grey would be a coward where his friends were concerned,
so the professor devised a bit of mental torture, meant to get “The
Grey” to break and tell the truth of their sudden appearance in his
hideout..

Errrm, that is… Winter Base of Operations.
He was just explaining the rules when there was a sudden, oddly
Liquid wash of red across the screen, and the Drone was no longer in
his control.

As he sat there stunned, the Professor watched as the one called
Yesterday was suddenly and without warning mutilated….and then
retaliated nearly as quickly, with commendable panache and verve,
rendering the Drone inoperative in record time.

Before the malfunction could spread further, The Professor hit the
switch that destroyed the rest of the Lancer drones in the room.
He sat still, staring off into space, contemplating this newest
conundrum for nearly 20 minutes, when Mr. McFeely spoke up, snapping
him back to reality…

“Duhh-hey… Bosss-sh!! Sss-shomething just blew up all the extra plasss-shticmen…
Look!” He pointed to the screen as a small Monkey-bat flew out of the
smoking crater that had been the oubliette containing 85% of his spare
Drones.

The Professor ground his teeth, and his eyes opened so wide that he
dropped his monocle…
The only thought in his head:
GREY! He’s here, hiding somewhere..
HE Did This.

“Mr. McFeely, “ he said, in a voice so cold that the ghost of the last
Ice Age stood and saluted… then went and huddled closer to the fire.
“Prepare the Auto-Sleigh, I’m going to meet the new neighbors.”

 

Reply by Professor Extreme ! on Saturday
Mr McFeely, Engage…….
A large hum built up inside the Auto-Sleigh and a dark read light emanated from underneath, After a few seconds steam blew out from the sides and the wheels of the auto sledge met with solid, but slightly damp rock..
The sled lurched forwards

A bright light shone out from the front cutting a path ahead in the snow. The sledge built up speed.
At a blistering 6 miles an hour the sledge suddenly plunged down a crevasse in to the rock of the mountain and soon came to rest in the tunnels near the room the Professor had last seen Grey..

Feathers were cascading down from the roof, Springs and wooden splinters decorated the flagstone floor..
Drat! said extreme, Grey has cut himself free by going through the chair. Next time it a hard stone slab for him. Mr McFreely, Release the “Snails of Doom”.

(Another early Professor Extreme prototype . . .)

Professor Imp

Reply by Valentine the Underworld Warden on Monday
The blast of light lit up the night like an explosion, scattering the wild-life in all directions. At the epicenter of the blast, kneeling in a pool of his own vomit, was Valentine, the new Underworld Warden. Still not used to teleporting through the Aether and the crushing, suffocating, mist that is the Aether, he knelt there continuing to vomit for a while and then he rose to survey his surroundings.

He seemed to be in a mountainous region, surrounded by a forest. What a place to be dumped out. ‘Well, no sense in standing around,’ he thought to himself ‘might as well go explore this desolate place.’ He started up the mountain in the direction of a large cave.
When he reached the cave mouth, he found a large security door ‘hmm, i wonder what’s on the other side…’ Using his body as a channel, he funneled the Aether into the door. Slowly, the door grew brighter, and brighter until it just evaporated. now, with his way open he decided to rest against the wall.

 

Reply by sgt. ian macbruiche on Monday
*The main room at the inn, logs popping in the fireplace, cheery voices raised in song and loud conversations sounding over all, one in particular standing out from the rest…* “Mien herr Oberlieutenant, when was the last time you saw me being carried up to my bed to be ‘tucked in’ like some naughty, liebkin,” the stooped, older gentleman sitting with the local cavalry officers declared with a touch of slurring in his speech. The other officers, shaking their heads at the anticipated fun and games, shift their chairs back away from the table and glance pointedly at the youngest of their group. As the officer in question returns those looks and returns with a hint of disdain in his voice, “I think tonight, you will be much surprised by the turn of events here in Furchtenberg, mien freund.” As the nightly gathering continued, upstairs in the study, a small, olive skinned lad keeps a weather eye toward the door as he operates the listening/recording device the sargeant had clandestinely recieved with other packages from the Chief, Mr. Pinkerton. “Here Haji sit, slaving away the hours as the boss whiles away the time with good cheer and good food, enjoying himself emmensely, I’m sure,” grumbles my partner.*

 

Reply by Forlath Grey on Monday
Through some quirk of fate, a latency event in the linear time stream caused Professor Extreme to depart mid-monologue for the village, leaving the Padre manacled to the chair, in the tower observatory on his own.

As soon as the Professor left the room the Padre slammed his right heel down three times, this caused a vial inside his boot heel to shatter, releasing a low pH corrosive acid which in turn dissolved a small quantity of Acacia gum the result of which released an escapement mechanism which started the unwinding of a diminutive spring, which in turn started up a minute clockwork apparatus, the direct result of which was for a small but wickedly sharp spinning saw to protrude out a slit in the back side of his boot heel.

Quickly, before the device wound down, the Padre lifted his heel to the underside of the chair, the blade whined in high pitched complaint as it sent stuffing flying, sawed through wooden supports and even snapped the metal springs that comprised the seat of the chair. The Padre leaned forward as far as he could, his thigh cramping up as he contorted his leg to angle the blade to best effect. Eventually the blade ran down, it’s wind up mechanism spent. The Padre withdrew his leg, braced both feet flat on the floor and started to bounce as hard as he could, up and down on the seat. Finally the Padre’s efforts were rewarded with the sound of cracking as the seat gave way and the Padre was deposited unceremoniously onto the floor through the middle of the chair.

Champlain Grey swiftly pulled his feet inside the chair, set his feet shoulder length apart and stood straight up in the middle of the chair, the armrests could not take the direct force and broke away from the rest of the chair which as a result loosened the manacles just enough to allow the Padre to pull his arms free. With a shout of triumph, the Padre rubbed his wrists and smiled grimly at his accomplishment.

Just then the door to the observatory opened, the Padre turned around to see two goblinoid-ish looking figures, armed obviously in a mad scientist, castle guard type capacity, standing there with shocked expressions on their face. All three figures stood stock still for a moment considering their next move, when one of the goblinoids spoke up “Oy! Who’s going to clean this mess up??” The other goblin raised his rifle but before he could squeeze off a shot, the Padre sprung into action…

 

Reply by Professor Extreme ! on Tuesday
Mr McFreely carefully opened the vivarium door, Inside 5 large molluscs each standing fully two feet tall from their slime pad to the tip of their shells. They were currently finishing their meal of sabre-tooth tiger, bones of other large predators were spread over the floor of the vivarium. Each of the molluscs had once had a large Iridescent shell, but now It was obvious that these snails had seen some action. Large pock marks and cracks distorted the fine curls of their shells, crudely repaired with black duck tape and bath sealant. At the zenith of their shells was mounted a weapon, each different, each glowed ominously in the dark red light.

Mr McFreely quickly placed the remnants of a cushion in the cage, then closed and locked the door. He bent down to the floor and picked up a small gold coloured bell, ringing it once, gently, he turned and fled down the corridor.
From the cage a loud ‘Squelch’ echoed down the corridor to the fleeing henchman. The snails of doom slid towards the pieces of cushion, extending their feelers towards the new and strange smell.

Mr McFreely returned to Professor Extreme in the control room. “The snails are ready” he said, “Good” replied the professor, he turned to a large console and selected a large red button labelled with the letters TSOD™. He smashed his fist down on it with force and let out a maniacal laugh “Muhahaha!”.
“Maybe if you tried twisting it first then smashing down on it it would work better, it is a safety button” said Mr McFreely crouched down behind a console.

The Professor slightly miffed, Twisted the button and again smashed down heavily with his fist . Muhahaha!…
“Err, The other way perhaps?”
The Professor really annoyed, Twisted the button anticlockwise and again smashed down heavily with his fist … Muhahaha! he said as the button snapped, bounced off the ceiling and rolled out of the door…
“McFreely!”, screamed the professor, “pull the string that releases the Snails of Doom and then go fix that bloody button. I’m off to the aether shower to calm down and remove the smell of henchmen.”
In the Snails of doom™ vivarium a small door opens…
‘Squelch’, ‘Squelch’, ‘Squelch’, ‘Squelch’, ‘Scrape’…

Reply by Therese de Bertole on Wednesday
“Where in bloody hell has the Chaplain got to!?!”
Ezra, Ronin and Therese turned widdrshins and stared, gape mouthed, at Maddie.
“Did anyone see Grey leave?” she added to her outburst.
No one answered, all shrugged their shoulders simultaneously.
“Grey?” Therese muttered.

“Blast it all! The fussy, verbose, mustached priest or padre or whatever he is” Maddie spat out, irritated by their response as she downed another alcoholic ‘beverage’ which she insisted she did for medicinal purposes only.
Ronin, man of mystery, switching to stealth mode grasped Therese’s hand and the two slipped silently into the night, following a trail of biscuit crumbs, in search of the holy grey’s trail, or holy “Greyail” as Therese referred to it (she was obviously disoriented by what had occurred earlier) and to which Maddie immediately perked up saying “Grey’s Ale, where?”

Ezra Yesterday, taking the matter into his own hand, uttered “go go gadget TomTom hand, activate” as he pressed the small figure set atop his mechanical wristband and proceeded to follow the signal out the door and into the darkness.
Maddie, sighed “here we go again” then added “but it’s going to have to wait until sunrise” as she glanced over at Doctor Guinevere Gris (who was still in disbelief at the recent events) then slumped back in the chair in which she was seated and promptly fell asleep.

In short- Ezra, Ronin and Therese groped the walls in search of the invisible exit when they realized, thanks to the observant Mo-Mo who had perched himself above the chamber door and quothed ‘Yip Yip’ to get their attention, that said door was indeed actually visible from the inside.
They all piled out into the street to begin their search except for Maddie who decided to wait (and sleep it off) until dawn, since they had been warned previously it was not safe to venture out at night, plus she would find out just why the Doctor was being held captive.
Perhaps Gunther would help her yet again.

 

Reply by Forlath Grey at 3:34pm
Chaplain Grey’s intention was to do a jump and roll, come up by the goblinoids, dispatch one with a quick blow to the neck, quickly overpower the other, disarm him and then knock him unconscious with a rifle-butt blow to the head with the goblinoid’s own rifle.

What actually happened was the Padre attempted to jump, caught his foot on the edge of the chair he had been standing in, tumbled over and landed flat on his face. The chair teetered for a moment and then fell over and landed on top of him. The bullet meant for him, missed the Padre entirely and hit the back of the chair with a big poof of chair stuffing. An awkward silence filled the room…

 

Reply by Ezra Yesterday on November 26, 2011 at 8:13pm
Ezra Yesterday was walking down the alley outside the mechanic’s shop/ clinic where he had so recently “grown” a mechanical hand.
“Null Data,” he muttered without realizing it, as he consulted the tracking feature that he just moments ago learned it had. He stopped walking, and turning to the his two companions said, “These are some really strange readings. It appears the Padre walked out here, down this alley, and climbed into some form of temporal anomaly.”

He pointed to he tracks in the dirty slush and snow that covered the street at the end of the alley.
” The energy signature that Bill here is getting,” he said, pointing at his clockwork hand ornament,”indicates that Father Grey both Did… and Did Not… get kidnapped right here. There is apparently a timeline overlap of some sort happening here.”

He hesitated as the small mechanical beeped and whirred on his wrist. ” R2 here says that while he doesn’t understand how the Flying Null Data that is even possible, he is able to track it… and it is headed that direction.” he said, pointing up into the sky, at a dimly seen castle, far out in the forest.

The small group sat pondering this in silence for several seconds, when Mo-Mo, with a gleeful cry of “Null Data!” sprang off the ledge where he had been sitting and flew off into the night, in the direction of the Castle.
With a group shrug, Ezra and the others followed his newest companion, off in search of Schrodinger’s Priest.

 

Reply by Maj. Bastable “Iggy” Fitzwiggins on November 28, 2011 at 2:00pm

As the effects of my gentle reverie and the scotch wears thin, a greatly flustered Haji rushes into the room crying out “Boss, we have company.” He barely gets done delivering this news when in bursts an aggressive looking squad of Imperial Dragoons and their commander, Herr Oberlieutenant von Drecksler wearing the proverbial cat eating mouse grin. “Herr Johann, it appears that you and your servant are more than you seem,” Herr Freddy states with a nasty, little grin. “I have in my hand a missive describing some very interesting activities in your immediate past, mien freund.” I know I can trust my Punjabi ally to react as needed, but it appears that we might want to take this situation slowly as I’m highly allergic to lead and the rifles pointed in our direction look to be curiously full of menace. Addressing the officer in a calm manner, “Herr Drecksler, I’m sure we can sit and discuss the situation as it stands…” when suddenly he steps forward and delivers a stinging backhand to my face. As I recover from the surprise of the blow, two of the dragoons try to apprehend my dusky skinned friend….

 

Reply by Ronin on November 29, 2011 at 1:48am

Ronin pulled the fur collar of his coat up around his neck against the cold as the trio took off in the direction they saw the winged monkey whatsis fly off in (a lovely warm coat and gloves he ‘acquired’ along with a number of other useful items, from a few of the closed shops around the burg.  He much preferred the pricing in the shops after they were closed.  Not to mention fewer questions were asked as to their use or purpose or in as far as any other who’s or why’s). Ezra, Therese and Ronin stepped lively, following a small flickering light emanating from Ezra’s wrist creature, pointing the groups’ way through the dark towards the castle, now quickly fading from view in the waning light.

Therese’s vision seemed much clearer than his own, as she would occasionally spot the monkey bat thing flying ahead of them, and point it out in what Ronin could only see as blackness.  Even when the clouds would part, allowing a sliver of moonlight to reflect off the fields of snow, Ronin could see no trace of the flying tracker as they pushed forward toward the now silhouetted form of an immense forbidding hilltop castle.
“Come on!  The Chaplain has got to be in there!” Therese said in an all but shouted whisper.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Ezra slow his pace, peering down at the light still flickering from his wrist-bound companion, but slowly turning a deeper and deeper red as they approached.  “Wait a moment Therese.  I think this thing is trying to tell us something”.
Sure enough, as the three of them found darkened cover behind a nearby stonewall, a pair of voices in conversation could be heard heading in their direction.   As the three peered over the wall, just ahead, were two soldiers, heavily armed, walking patrol, just outside the castle portcullis.
Therese looked over to Ezra and Ronin and whispered ‘now what?’

 

Reply by Maj. Bastable “Iggy” Fitzwiggins on December 5, 2011 at 2:20pm

I wake to the sounds of heavy machinery and the acrid smells of an ironmonger’s shop. I turn my head in response to the insistant nudging and the ‘flat tire’ sound coming from my left side,(damn, I’ve sprung a leak!). “Hey Boss, we in deep doo-doo here,” my erstwhile friend states with his usual aplomb. With my hands and feet bound to the cold, metal chair I’ve been to tied to, I can’t response with my usual ‘smack upside his head’. In perusing our surroundings and testing the surprisingly loose ropes keeping us here, I notice we’ve been brought to a large underground cavern illuminated by a hundred or so hanging gaslamps.

“Well, Haji, it seems like we’ve spent entirely too much time enduring the ‘hospitality’ of dear, old Fruchtenberg and her citizens trying to find this place…,” I start and my Punjabi ally finishes, “…when all we really had to do was wait for some other poor saps to stumble into this mess, right Boss?” With a reproving glance toward his glib remark, the both of us hush up when we hear the ‘clip-clop’ of our captors’ hard cavalry boot heels on the stone paving ringing out above the cacophany of gears grinding, whistles blowing, and the thudding of pistons running.

“I see you and your partner are awake now, mien fruend. Have you had a pleasant nap?” the officer in charge quips menacingly. “It is a fine little secret we have here in the… well, it cannot hurt telling you where you are seeing as your leaving is not an option,” he continues in his maddeningly smug manner. “Welcome to the birthplace of The Neo-Teutonik Mechanical Age, here in the bowels of Castle Sheutzenstein!”

*pan camera around and back for panoramic view of mechanical constructs literally taking up all available space within a cavern spanning the length and breadth of four standard regulation rugby fields*

 

Reply by Ronin on December 12, 2011 at 2:02am

“now what?” Ronin thought to himself.  Thereses question summarizing his own thinking as he took quick stock of the situation.  there were only two guards, he had cover and the element of surprise, plenty of ammo and a solid want to have this done.  his feet felt like blocks of ice.  he was hungry, tired and sick of chasing that strange looking monkey bat thing cross country.  “a fine question” he grumbled…
quickly standing up from behind his cover, Ronin pushing his pistol out in front of him and with a quick “pop! pop!” the two guards fell face first into the snow, a thick black oil leaking from the wounds to their respective skulls steaming in the snow covered ground.  with but a few sparks and some twitching, the automatons lay lifeless (as if ever truly living) near the front entrance portcullis of the castle.
“lets go find the padre shall we?  Im sure he’d enjoy some familiar company about now”

 

Reply by Maj. Bastable “Iggy” Fitzwiggins on December 12, 2011 at 1:52pm

“Are these the ‘behemoths’ we’ve been hearing about, Boss?” my friend Haji asks aloud. As I gaze at the sheer immensity of the cavern and the machinery clanking and whistling around us, the officer responds with an exclaimed “Was?” and casts a shrewd look in Haji’s direction. “You have heard of our work from the villagers perhaps,” he gently probes, looking for an answer to this revelation. “Come now, you have my assurance that no one will be hurt if you, how do you ‘yanks’ put it, ‘spill the beans’. I am merely curious about your sources. We seriously don’t mind a few rumors running loose around the country side. It keeps the populace…Was! Nein, nein, nein!” Drecksler screams as he rushes away from us toward a commotion on the other side of the room and up a dimly lit stairway. With a knowing glance toward my partner, we wriggle loose from the rope-bound chairs and set out toward the far end of the cavern, keeping to the shadows as we go. Various ‘workers’ pass to, from and between tasks, keeping busy and luckily for us we pass our time skulking unnoticed.

A steel plated door appears on our right, matched by what appears to be another one on the other side of the room. Haji carefully tests the door and noticing nothing untoward, tries the latch. As he eases it open, a klaxon alarm sounds throughout the cavern and we quickly dodge inside the still darkened room, closing the door behind us. The alarm ceases immediately, leaving our senses a bit muddled…

 

Reply by Therese on December 13, 2011 at 8:26am

It was cold,
biting and bone chillingly so.
Therese stood huddled between her two companions
hoping their body heat would take away the numbing she felt
as the wind cut through her cloak.
She gathered it more tightly about her and leaned in closer to them.
There were guards on duty,
patrolling the vicinity of the portcullis.
“Now what?” she asked in barely a whisper.
Only a few moments had elapsed, yet it seemed an eternity for the three
shivering in the snow.
It was Ronin who took the initiative.
Stepping defiantly away from their hiding place behind the stone wall
he fired off two shots, quickly and neatly dispatching both guards with his pistol.
“Does that answer your question” he replied to Therese, a satisfied grin turning up the corners of his mouth.
Ezra checked his Gir-wrist bracer.
It had stopped it’s menacing flash of deep red and now held a steady golden glow,
hopefully indicating they were out of any present danger.
Instinctively now, Ezra Yesterday would flex his newly acquired mechanical hand- open, closed, open, closed -to keep it functional, as the cold and wet caused it some amount of stiffness.
A slight grimace furrowed his brow in response to the constant residual pain he felt at the point where it connected to his lower arm.
He would have that dull pain, as a reminder of what had happened to him, for the rest of his days.
“Quod nocet, saepe docet ” he muttered to himself.
And so it did.

Little Mo-mo had now ceased his circling, descended and perched himself upon Ezra’s shoulder.
“I don’t think it wise to try entering through the front gates, do you?” Therese asked.
Ronin, as if reading her thoughts, had already taken her arm, then motioned to Ezra to follow.
It had begun to snow again, as they crept round the fortress wall, looking for some way inside.
All the way around the entire castle surround, in the ever deepening snow, only to end up back where they had started.
“I’m at a loss” Ronin said, with a puzzled expression.
He stomped the snow from his boots, and as he did so they heard a clank.
A hollow metallic sound from beneath his feet.
A smile crossed his lips as he raised a hand and declared “Eureka!”
Brushing away the white powdery concealment they discovered what appeared to be a hatch.
Ezra and Therese, after having trudged through snow up to their knees only to end up back where they had begun,  gave a disgruntled glare at Ronin, who just raised his shoulders and sheepishly declared,
“Who knew?”

Ronin grasped the round attached ring and pulled. It wouldn’t budge.
He tried again. Still no luck, and to make matters worse, the snow was now turning to blizzard force.
Ezra stood back watching, then said “Let me have a go at it”.
Grasping the ring with his clockwork hand he gave a tug, they heard a creak and groan (whether it emanated from Ezra himself or the door, they were unsure) as the actual hinges gave way.

Now holding the hatch door in his hand, both Therese and Ronin stared at Ezra in marvel.
Apparently the hand itself held it’s own independent strength, defying both physics and biology.
Ezra too was quite surprised, as he casually tossed the large hunk of rusty iron to the side.
“Well then, shall we” he said with a smile and flourished bow, extending his mechanical hand to indicate the now open entrance.
There was a ladder descending downward into darkness.
Where it led, they did not know.
Hopefully into the castle’s underground cellars, bringing them closer to the whereabouts of the Chaplain, Sean Grey.

 

Reply by Ronin on December 17, 2011 at 2:21am

as the trio decended down the long black passage towards the unknown, the smell of foul air and decay grew thick and heavy.
“at least its a little warmer in here…stinky, but warmer” quipped Therese in the slightest of whispers, as they continued  their long climb down.
Ezras pointed his hand down the shaft, the faintest of light eminating from his wrist bound companion showing no bottom within its range.  the cold, near frozen steel of the ladder stung their hands as they crept down into the abyss, every echoed sound  of a footfall upon a rung bouncing in the pipe like the beat of a snare drum.   slowly the three adventurers could hear the faint sounds of water dripping into unseen pools at the bottom of the shaft as the snow from above melted in the now nearly steaming warmth of the underground lair.
“we’re close…be ready for…anything” Ezra warned, as the light from his wrist finally showed signs of a an end to their climb.
Ezras foot reached the bottom of the passage with a splash, startling the wouldbe rescuers.  the water, not quite a half inch deep seemed to be running freely away from the castle.  Ezra stepped softly down from the ladder and shined the wrist light off in one direction, then the other.
“its some sort of drainage system” he whispered, motioning Roning and Therese to follow.
Ronin stepped from the ladder and drew his pistol from its holster.  Therese stepped quietly down onto the darkened passage floor, looking up for the first time since they began their decent.  the faintest bits of moonlight could be seen shining through small vent holes in the hatch cover (which she smartly thought to pull shut behind them) bouncing around the pipe walls, the small rays of light cascading down the slick sides.
“I do hope we can find a better way out than this” she said to Ronin.  “thats not a climb I’d wish to repeat”
Ronin nodded in agreement as the three of them headed off down the dark passage towards the castle, hopeful there was still time to save their comrade from an unknown fate.

 

Reply by The Doctor on December 17, 2011 at 12:42pm

Valentine awoke with a start. ‘How long have I been asleep?’ he wondered. Just then an explosion rocked the entryway where he was resting, causing him to decide that leaving was probably the best course of action. As he rose another explosion, one incredibly more powerful than the last threw him from the entryway out into the cold hard ground outside then entrance. Landing flat on his face, he did not see how close his story was to coming to a close, for when he was thrown outside, a massive chunk of the roof broke free of the rest and landed precisely where he was resting. Rolling over, he saw what was causing the explosions, a behemoth of an airship bombing the mountain for an unknown purpose. Not one to involve himself with careless mortals with high explosives, he decided to leave.
Once he had escaped a comfortable distance into the forest surrounding the now pile of rubble, Valentine began to sense the spark of human life nearby. As he drew closer, he found a settlement that would hardly qualify as a village, but there was smoke rising from the chimneys of the homes so he decided to ask for shelter. Stepping into the main square of the village he began to grow curiously faint, stumbling to the largest house he could find he find. He was only able to withhold consciousness long enough to knock on the door and as soon as the door opened he darkness swimming just outside his vision overwhelmed him and he dropped inside unconscious.

 

Reply by Therese on December 17, 2011 at 2:54pm

Therese looked down at what was once her beautiful, shiny red combat boots.
It was distressing.
She was quite fond of them, and was still, even though they
were now dull and darkened from all the wet and muck they had faithfully carried her through.
She shook her head with disappointment, hoping they would polish back up to their once ruby magnificence.
She had her doubts though, as she trudged along the watery corridor.

She was both cold and damp, yet again.
The snow had permeated her cloak, the wetness causing it’s wool
to smell not unlike the sheep from which it was taken, eliciting a sneeze.
“Achoo!”

Searching the pockets of her skirt for a handkerchief, her fingers touched something unknown.
How had she not noticed this before?

Well, possibly because the long list of never ending dilemmas gave their band of misadventurers little time to actually relax for anything other than the briefest of seconds-

all events they encountered, as it were, occurring in a matter of hours…minutes even, she grumbled to herself, mindlessly fidgeting with whatever it was in her pocket.
She looked forward to an eventual evening of much needed rest, sleep, warmth and nourishment.
How much (sleep/rest) had there been, she mused, since they started this adventure?
She thought perhaps only 2 or three times, but she could be mistaken of course,
because all that went before was clouded in her memory.
Only ghosts of episodes past, flickered across the screen of her subconscious.

Returning to the moment, Theresa withdrew her hand from her pocket along
with what was also within.
She gazed down at what appeared to be a small, jointed, metallic, mechanical doll,
now limp and lifeless.

It was apparently ‘damaged’, or in the least, ‘in danger’ of being so, from all the dampness and cold it had endured.
She caressed it lovingly, as if someplace inside her she knew it held an important part in her life.
Turning it over in her hands, Theresa searched for an opening for a key or battery compartment with which it might be reanimated, but could find none.
And then it struck her.
Ezra!
(No, Ezra did not strike her, nor did the object she was holding.)
She whispered-
“STOP!”

At least she thought it was a whisper as her companions abruptly stopped,
Ezra turning, clamped his clockwork hand over her mouth with a “shhhh.”
She had apparently spoken rather loudly in her excitement, risking their discovery if anything was lurking about the underground catacombs.
She now had a direct, close-up view of what had aroused her outburst.
Sitting upon Ezra’s armband, an exact duplicate down to the tiniest of details,
was an identical replica of what she held in her hand.

Theresa slowly took Ezra’s hand from her mouth, it’s metallic taste lingering on her lips.
With wide eyes, still holding his hand, she held up the little matching ‘brother’ she had found
in her pocket.

“How curious is this?” she whispered, this time making sure it was barely audible not wanting another taste of silence across her mouth.

 

Reply by Ezra Yesterday on December 17, 2011 at 8:45pm

Ezra Yesterday slogged through a tunnel…
Another tunnel…
Actually this was YET Another Blasted Tunnel!!!
This time, he thought to himself after a few moments pondering the issue, at least this time is different.. Because This time, we’re under a Castle! That’s completely different than all the other times, when we were under other, vastly different things…
Like Peacekeeper Carnivals…
Or small Villages…
Or that one time he was hiding from hordes of bread under Washington DC, just before he got turned into a mummy.
Yep. Those times were totally different than being under a Castle, each and every one.
His companions slogged along beside him, quiet and unaware of his sardonic plot recap musings, his thoughts turned to more immediate concerns.
Would this damp never cease? I mean seriously, every three or four posts I seem to be getting doused with something.
And another thing, why….
At that moment, Therese shouted “Stop!”
Startled, because he thought he had been speaking his thoughts aloud again, Ezra looked around, but quickly realized she was looking at something in her hand. He spun and clamped his mechanical hand over her mouth… only just remembering its new strength in time to pull back before he accidentally hurt her.
“Shhhh,” he said, as one does in these situations.
After staring at his hand, a bit cross-eyed, since it was so close under her nose, she reached up and gently pushed it away, then whispering quietly she held up the object in her hand and said, “How curious is this?”
As he started to look down at the dimly seen, yet familiar, outline of the object gleaming dully in the light from his gauntlet, there was the sound of a door opening just around the corner, accompanied by a wash of light spilling in from the loudly busy room beyond…. A room now suddenly filled with a loud klaxon alarm…

 

Reply by Ezra Yesterday on December 17, 2011 at 8:46pm

At the sound and sudden light, Ezra and Therese froze in place. Ronin, as he was wont to do, was once again gone.. apparently making himself one with whatever clever concealment he had found or devised this time.   As soon as it appeared, the light was gone, shut off, along with the alarm, by the shutting of what sounded like a rather heavy steel door.
Both the hallway where Ezra and Therese stood and the room around the corner were quiet for several heartbeats, then a quiet voice began to speak.
“Haji, lad… Did you not see the trip for the alarm…”
The voice was cut off with a sudden intake of breath as the hallway was filled with red, slowly blinking light, spilling from the room. Ezra crept forward and peered through the wire mesh grate that had slammed up from the floor covering all openings into the room beyond, including the heavy steel door.  Motioning for Therese to stay silent so they could see what happened next, he knelt down so as not to attract attention. In the room stood the Sergeant and Haji, staring up at a blinking red neon sign that read in turn:
*blink*
WARNING:
*blink*
You have entered the Intra-Suite Neutral Zone.
*blink*
Stay where you are.
*blink*
A representative will be with you as soon as possible.
*PAUSE*
*blink*
WARNING…
As this puzzling instruction continued to cycle, flashing on and off, no one moved either in the room or outside in the access hallway.  Then in the distance, another klaxon was heard, cut off as quickly as the first. The sound of footsteps could be heard approaching.
There was a jingling as of the sound of a set of keys being sorted.

Quiet muttering.
Another jingle.

More muttering, louder now.
Finally a sound of rusty hinges as a door is opened…
More footsteps, across what sounds like industrial grates, far overhead.
More jingles, more mutters.

Three doors, one set of dropped and eventually found keys and innumerable mutters later, the sounds of an electrical motor engaging are heard, followed by an ancient wire cage elevator descending from the darkness above and settling to the floor of the room with the still blinking WARNING sign.
A small goblinoid creature stepped out looked Haji and the Sergeant up and down and snarled around crooked, tusk like teeth, foamy spittle flying every which way,
“Yesss-sh? My name isss-sh McFeely. You sss-sheem to have wandered into the Neutral Zone. How may I be of asss-shistance?”

 

Reply by Ezra Yesterday on December 17, 2011 at 8:53pm

The Goblin Mcfeely adjusted his Speedy Delivery hat,  faced the intruders and said, “Look, you guysss-sh can’t be here. You tell your bosss-sh that he’sss-sh breaking the termsss-sh of hisss-sh Leasss-sh agreement, sss-shending you in here. He could get evicted if my Bosss-sh wanted to lodge a complaint.”

The sergeant was so dumbfounded he couldn’t reply. But Haji, ever the quick witted, inquisitive one, took a nonthreatening ½ step forward and asked, ”I’m sorry, what’s that again?”

The Goblin reached into the holster at his side [causing Haji to raise his hands and take a full step backward] and pulled out a rolled up document. He unrolled it, pushed his wire rimmed glasses further up his bulbous nose, scanned it for a second and sighed deeply. Then, glancing self-consciously at the two puzzled humans in front of him, he began to read from the scroll in his hand.
“ The party of the firsss-sht part, known hensss-shforth as the Lesss-shor, sss-shall let the party of the sss-shecond part, known hensss-shforth as the Lesss-shee, rent the Property, known hensss-shforth as  Casss-shle Sss-sheutzen-sss-shtein, Sss-shuite A, for a sss-shum detailed below, and for a sss-shet time, detailed below…”

He paused, muttered, and said, ”Never mind.. I’ll sss-shkip to the important part…”
He rolled much , much further down the document, then with an exasperated grunt said, “You know what, How about I jusss-sht sss-shum… Sh-ummerissh…” [mutter.]” Condensss-sh it for you….

My Bosss-sh, Professs-shor Exsss-shtreme! is Leasss-shing Castle SSS-Sheut…”
Haji, taking pity on the poor, dentally challenged creature, offered,” Castle Sheutzenstein?”
With a grateful nod, Mcfeely said,’Yesss-sh…The ‘A’ Sss-shuite is oursss-sh. Your Bosss-sh, Drecksss-shler,” here, the little goblin spit on the floor in agitation,” has leasss-shed the other half… Sss-shuite ‘B’ for his usss-sh.”

The sergeant spoke, a look of puzzlement on his face, “Wait just a minute now…you mean to tell me this castle is a Duplex?!?”
McFeely nodded and  hefted the Lease agreement, “No one from one Sss-shuite may enter the other sss-shide or enter the Neutral Zone between them without pre-approved permisss-shhon. You don’t have it…Now,’ he said, his brow furrowing in goblinish irritation, ”Bugger Off…Before I sss-shummon the Hamster wrangler.”

 

Reply by The Doctor on December 17, 2011 at 9:41pm

Valentine was getting sick of waking up to loud noises. This time he was jerked out of a disturbing robotic doll filled dream to the sound of heavy chattering almost like the sound of…GUNFIRE! Prepared for a fight he leaped out of the bed he was resting in and grabbed hold of the first thing he could find. Which, without his goggles seemed like a coat rack. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. ‘Hey, those are NOT radiator knobs!’ Shocked and slightly confused as to why this coat rack was talking to him we set the rack down and started to look for his goggles. He was about to give up when someone dangled a familiar blur in front of his face.
‘Looking for these tall, dark, and pervy?’ snatching his goggles back he stood up ‘I apologize for my abruptness, but can you tell me exact where I WOAH!’ Turning around he found out why he was having robotic doll filled dreams. Standing in front of him was a disturbing realistic female android in a heavy coat and carrying an enormous chain gun. ‘Wait, I picked her up?’ he wondered to himself. ‘Where are you? Well, at the moment you’re in the middle of a war zone. Would you like a tour?’ Never one to appear off balance for long, Valentine decided to appear in control of the situation. ‘I see, then take me to where the fighting is and please, for the love of the aether, find me my pants!’

 

Reply by Maj. Bastable “Iggy” Fitzwiggins on December 17, 2011 at 10:48pm

“We do apologise for this intrusion. Must have gotten turned around,” I reply with a look of dismay on my face. “Now you said the other side right?,” and with a nod from our strange little, not sure what he/she/it is, I turn and guide Haji to the door. Again the alarm goes off as we open and walk out the door, quickly closing it again. “Over here Boss,” my Punjabi friend says and points toward the looming hulks, “We can cross through the shadows to the other side.” My ears still ringing from the klaxon alarm, I allow him to guide me forward, one hand on my .41 cal. volcanic repeater, ready for trouble…

(With a slight break for Christmas . . .)

The_Divergent_Worlds_Machine23

 

Reply by Maj. Bastable “Iggy” Fitzwiggins on December 26, 2011 at 11:01pm

In the dark of the shadows cast by the mechanical hulks looming over us, my partner and I find a spot midway between the doors and have a ‘sitdown’ to talk about further plans. In a hushed whisper, I point out the issues at hand and Haji throws some solutions I’m not so happy with, but they appear to be the only way to go.

We backtrack to the near end of the cavern and the drainage pipe opening next to an upward leading stairway. The bars blocking the opening seem rather substantial, so we turn toward the stairs and start climbing them to the next level and an iron-bound door. I leave Haji to the task of opening the door and take a look up the stairs as they spiral upwards for what appears to be another three levels. With my .41 cal. volcanic arms repeater in hand, I return to my Punjabi friend’s side just as he slowly opens the door to a dimly lit room. We pass within and closing said door, we each take opposing sides and search thru out the office area we find ourselves in. With another door opening into what was apperantly an alchemist’s lab with some thaumetuargical experiments, the room we’re in has a few filing cabinets, a book shelf and a good sized mahogany desk littered with used stationary, notes and sketches, and the remains of last night’s dinner. Someone likes his shepard pie. “Haji, you search the cabinets, I’ll take the desk,” I call to my sidekick, not knowing he already passed through the door into the other room.

As I finish the last of Herr Doktor’s dinner, I notice Haji is no longer in the same room with me. A muffled yelp from the other side of the lab door gives me a clue as to his whereabouts and cautiously I approach and peer into the room. “Comme in, mein freund, Herr Macbruiche. It’s been a tiring chase, ja?” the Doktor holding the blunderbuss to Haji’s head calls out. I slowly, with gun in hand and pointed upwards to keep the threat of violence at an acceptable level, walk into the room, keeping my eyes on my adversary and that hand cannon of his. “Listen Doc,” I start with in a soothing, relaxed manner,”we don’t have to end it this way. Just come back with me without any unwarranted violence and it’ll go easier for you.” “You’d like that now, ja? Very much I can see….” the Herr Doktor calmly states. “But I believe I have the ‘upper hand’, Sgt. We both know your Arbeitgeber has the scruples of a jackel and would not hesitate to sell me to the highest bidder. Here, I’m given the respect I’ve earned and the funding so long witheld from me by your fellow colonialist, how do you yanks put it, quacks and crackpots, ja?”
Reply by Therese on December 27, 2011 at 9:09am

They hid themselves, silently watching, listening- well at least Ezra was because
Therese was very deep in thought, formulating a plan…….not!
She was still thinking how desperately uncomfortable and tired she was.
When, oh when, will they ever be able to find a safe haven with a warm fire?
Heck, she would even settle for a simple campsite, safe or not!
Her mind drifted, as it often did.

Yes, a campfire with marshmallows and stories and singing. Just a restful Kumbayah moment, she thought.
A flash of memory caught her.

Another campfire, in another place and time, in a divergent world perhaps.
The inner scene unfolded on an unconscious royal marine, another someone named Corporal Chemisesrouges who suddenly appeared (also injured) out of nowhere, an instantaneous flip from day to night and there was that other one who strongly resembled Chaplain Grey and was just as verbose. His name was Grey too, but they were somehow different….and then it was gone.
Snapping back to the present.

Ronin had disappeared again, to where we seldom knew.
Hopefully it was to find further information on the whereabouts of the Chaplain who had been gone for what seemed like an eternity.
And there they crouched, she and this Ezra person with his amazing mechanical hand.
She had even temporarily forgotten about the little motionless robotic which she still held tightly clutched in her hand. That small link to her past. She knew it was, most definitely, but it would have to wait, and she tucked it safely back into her pocket with the utmost care.
Now, to the moment at hand.

Seeing that the ones they had been stealthily observing….er the ones he had been stealthily observing, had distanced themselves from earshot, Therese tapped Ezra lightly on the shoulder.
He turned to face her and again she had that fastly fleeting feeling she had known him well once upon a time, then the image of someone ‘wrapped all in gauze from his head to his foot, and his clothes were all….gold panties?….’ but she was easily distracted by the shiny mesmerizing digit he was now bringing to his lips in another hushing motion.

The hushing motion which she totally ignored and whispered the words which seemed to have become her catch-phrase.
“What do we do now?” (she added the extra ‘do we do’, which actually sounded sort of musical when extracted from the sentence, just to keep the line from becoming unbearable) finishing with “by the way, do you know your left mustache is twitching?”
She hoped it didn’t mean more trouble was brewing, as the only brewing she wanted just now was tea. A steaming pot of chai, it’s spices reminding her of Christmas which apparently did not exist in this world.

But at least there was snow, and plenty of it. When all was said and done perhaps they could make a snowman and snowangels and have a snowball fight, as that was actually the only fighting she enjoyed. That would be fun for a change. Fun? She couldn’t remember when was the last time they had any.

 

Reply by Ezra Yesterday on December 27, 2011 at 3:23pm

Ezra Yesterday stared unseeingly through the protective mesh that sealed the way into the hallway where the Goblin Mcfeely stood, rolling up his Lease Scroll.
It took an effort not to crumple the mesh with his mechanical hand and rush after the departing pair of humans in a rage.
They were the cause of his maiming, he thought in a white hot fury. They had led them into the underground tunnel system and abandoned them, at just the right spot for them to climb up and be captured by that demented Torquemada-Bot.
And now, here they were, wandering about in the castle, armed and free as a bird, while he squatted in filth and cold dampness… Yet Again!!!
Admittedly, the inexplicably territorial mush-mouthed Goblin was a new, odd twist…. but the way to what he was just realizing was much needed vengeance was clear:

Follow the traitor through that door…
Confront him with his crime…
Pummel him senseless.
Repeat as necessary.

As the Goblin finally finished his task and turned to get onto the elevator, Therese snapped out of the reverie she had been lost in, leaned over and tapped him on the shoulder. He raised a finger to his lips to hush her, since goblin ears that big might still hear even from that distance away.. for all the good it did. She went right ahead and whispered,”What do we do, do we do, now?”…luckily at the same time as the Goblin pulled the wire cage elevator door closed with a rattle.

He looked at her, the anger of betrayal still foremost in his mind, and she continued “…by the way, do you know your left mustache is twitching?”
The Elevator rose into the darkness above, and he made no response as he prepared to rip the grate out of his way. That was one soon to be sorry Traitor [and manservant]. Just then Mo-Mo swooped out of the darkness and landed on his Brass and steel forearm.
“Wait.” The monkey bat said in an oddly pompous voice, his eyes flashing with a brief touch of otherworldly golden light, and pointed to the light flashing on the gauntlet…

The tracker indicating the direction of the Padre pointed at the spot vacated by the recently risen elevator.
Reply by Forlath Grey on December 28, 2011 at 1:04pm

“Of for the love of his most despicable, not again,” the goblin Gronkit sighed as the coffee automat took his money and failed to provide a lukewarm, vile tasting attempt at coffee as advertised. At times like these the goblin strayed dangerously close to the brink of mental sedition and wondered if his most evil high genius, Professor Extreme, intentionally rigged these machines scattered throughout their half of the castle to malfunction and take his employees hard earned pay in a shameless attempt to help fund the Professor’s diabolical machinations and pay his share of the rent and utilities.

Gronkit was engrossed in violent attempts to either:

a. retrieve his 17 Krone f5 in coins from the machine,

b. extract a cup of coffee (in name only), or

c. the most likely of the three options – succeed in tipping the automat over on top of himself, when he was interrupted by another goblin. “Hallo, hallo, hallo, what’s all this then Gronkit?” Gronkit stopped beating on the automat, rolled his eyes and turned around in an exasperated fashion. It was that know-it-all from Quality Control, Plunkett.

“What do you want Plunkett,” Gronkit snarled “can’t you see I’m busy here?” Plunkett raised his hand placatingly “yes, I can see you’re a very busy goblin indeed, places to go, people to see, I’d hate to hold you up from your meteoric raise up the corporate ladder but some people, important people if you get my drift, are wondering how the information extraction from that priest is going, down in your section?”

He could be bluffing Gronkit thought to himself but better to play it safe than sorry “Yeah, fine, fine. He’s told us plenty. Granted, nothing really of any use just yet. I mean sure,” Gronkit quickly added “There’s definitely value in the Colonel’s secret seven herbs and spices recipe, not to mention how they get tooth paste in the tubes and that Lindbergh Baby thing, I’ve always wondered about that one but nothing yet on the location of the Queen Bran’s Revenge.” Plunkett looked at Gronkit for a couple of minutes with one eyebrow cocked in an irritating manner. Gronkit inexplicably felt sweat run down the small of his back and stuttering a bit added “but don’t worry, he’ll crack soon I’m sure…”

Plunkett looked at Gronkit like he was deciding whether or not to step on a bug, apparently reached a decision and said “well, just don’t take too long, you know how impatient ‘some people’ get” and with that turned on his heel and left the room. Gronkit wiped his brow with the back of a hairy hand, grumbled a couple of choice phrases under his breath and then turned his attentions back to the coffee automat with renewed vigor…

 

Reply by Maj. Bastable “Iggy” Fitzwiggins on January 3, 2012 at 1:39am

*It’s always a bit disconcerting when in moments like these we start to question our course in life and begin to doubt the decisions we’ve made.* “Now Doktor, I’m sure we can work something out,” I state as calmly as I can, all things considered. My partner passes me a look that makes me want to slap him in the snot locker, a devil may care look, as the Herr Doktor replies with a certain level of excitment, “Nein, nein, nein! It will be as….Ooof!” *That boy gives me the shakes and jitters when he gets creative* “You have got to stop doing that, Haji. These quick movements of yours are going give me a heart attack. Let’s wrap this up and see if we can maybe get free without too much fuss,” I tell him. As he finishes securing the doktor, I take a quick look around the lab at the various “experiments” with a growing horror and apprehension. Having been around, out of, and even thru the world, I have seen similar displays of man’s inability to not ‘play God’, but FOUR disembodied hands of different size, shape and pigment calmly SITTING AND PLAYING BRIDGE!!!??? Monstrous, to say the least….

With my dusky skinned side-kick and the now unconscious and unconscionable doktor in tow, I finish searching for and finding the packet of designs ‘lost’ in transit from the Automaton Research and Studies, Empirical chapter XIII. After listening for and receiving no hint of impending trouble, *I feel the need to make mention that as well as having gained a great deal more experience than your average ostrich, I and my partner have also been “supplied” with some very ‘interesting’ gadgets over the years. Perhaps a current list might be in order, but as we’re short on time and effort, perhaps later, when we’re not so busy.* we make our way back down the stairwell we climbed to the doktor’s lab.
Sticking again to the shadows with my .41 caliber v.p. in hand, we stay on the other side of the cavern near the suite the short hairy chap with a lisp told us was for Herr Drecksler’s people. It was at about the point we were at before, but now across the way on the other side that Haji grabs my attention and points toward the door with the alarm.

 

Reply by Ezra Yesterday on January 7, 2012 at 6:25pm

Ezra Yesterday looked at his mechanical wrist through a red tinged haze of anger, as it continued pulsing with the light of the tracking device set to “Padre”….
He looked at the door, so recently vacated by that ++NULL DATA++ duo who abandoned him to his painful fate…
Decisions, Decisions… he thought bitterly.
He looked at Mo-Mo, perched on his metallic forearm, still pointing at the tracker in his wrist.
He looked at Therese squatting beside him, a look of concern and mild fear on her face.
I guess my anger shows on my face more than I realized.
He didn’t bother to look for Ronin, he was always invisible unless he wanted to be seen anyway.
Then he looked down at the muck they were squatting in, and in a moment of crystal clarity, his decision was made.
He handed Mo-Mo to Therese with a [hopefully] reassuring smile.
Then with a squeal of tearing metal, but no effort whatsoever, he ripped a section of the mesh grating out of the way so he could climb up onto the floor Mushy the Goblin and his elevator had vacated moments before. Still dragging the twisted metal behind him, almost as an afterthought, he strode over to the door leading to out into the Drecksler half of the castle.
There he stopped for a moment, seemed to gather himself for some great task, and then…
Then he held the grating up against the opening, covering it completely.
His glove began to glow with golden light, and the mesh straightened, thickened, and then, incredibly, sank into the door, and the wall surrounding it, leaving a glowing golden mesh of intersecting lines wherever the metal had sunk into the structure in front of him.
He turned, somewhat unsteadily, sweat sheening his face, and smiled in a more natural and relaxed manner he had in hours, and said, ”There! That should keep them from coming up to stab us in the back. Family first, Then we take out the garbage. Let’s go find Chaplain Grey.”
He walked over and gave Therese his hand, the real one, to help her up onto the stone of the floor, and smiled as Mo-Mo flapped up and landed on his shoulder and wrapped his tail loosely around Ezra’s neck, a move that seemed both protective and possessive at the same time.
Then he turned to the bare stone corner where the elevator had stood, and said, “Hmmm. Now the question is… How do we get the elevator back?”

 

Reply by Ezra Yesterday on January 7, 2012 at 9:18pm

No sooner was the question out of his mouth than there came the sounds of the elevator descending once more.  Ezra and Therese exchanged somewhat panicked glances and then, [thanks to Ezra and his golden magic, there was nowhere left to go] they jumped back into the slimy water and crouched out of sight.
Ezra looked first at the ragged edge of ripped apart metal grating, then at the crisscrossing muddy footprints in the dust on the floor, and… Oh, Yes! …The eerie golden grid-work glowing from inside the steel and masonry of the sealed door.
He snickered, then turned to Therese and whispered, “So, do you think anyone will notice we were here?”
She turned to him, a look of incredulity and a touch of outrage dawning on her face, and he put a finger to his grinning lips and said “Sshhhh.”
The elevator clanged to a stop.
The door rattled open.
Then… nothing.
Ezra waited, hunched down like he was waiting for a bomb blast, unmoving, Mo-Mo curled in his lap..
Still nothing.

Therese fidgeted beside him, but didn’t speak.
Again, nothing happened.
She nudged Ezra in the ribs. He looked at her, in the continuing nothing happening status quo.
She gestured with her chin toward the ledge above them.
He shrugged at her; she gestured again, emphatically, and did it once more adding a scowl when he still didn’t move.
At last, after a full minute of utter quiet, he handed Mo-Mo to her and slowly peeked into the room…
His eyes cleared the edge of the platform to see Ronin leaning casually against the elevator door. When the super-ninja formerly known as Stick-Boy caught sight of the movement, he stood straight and sardonically waved his hand into the elevator as if to say “After You.”

 

Reply by Ezra Yesterday on January 7, 2012 at 10:26pm

As they rode up in the elevator to the sounds of light jazz elevator music [with trolley bells mixed in, for some odd reason], Ezra had time to feel a bit of resentment toward Ronin.
Not only had he managed to get onto the elevator and bring it back down without being caught and drooled to death by “Mr. McMush-Mouth”… He did it without getting telltale footprints all over the floor… and worse, his shoes didn’t even look wet!
Ezra, rocked back and forth on his heels, his soggy shoes making squishing sounds as he did, looked at Ronin’s silent [and very probably imagined] smug expression, and said, defensively,“ Yeah, OK, good job with the elevator… but I would like to see you weld a door closed with a tattered bit of chicken wire.”
Ronin’s eyes widened slightly, and he glanced at Therese, possibly in understated confusion, but he said not a word.
Ezra took the rest of the ride up to reflect. Other than his wet feet and slight feelings of Stealth Envy ™ he was feeling remarkably calm. Considering that he was not only ready to tear this place down for his vengeance, he actually had started the process by ripping the security grate apart only a few minutes ago. But he decided to search for “Little Cleric Lost” instead of beating the ++NULL DATA++ out of Ian and Haji, instead.  Somehow, it seemed that when he used his gauntlet to seal the door, it was as if all the anger and hate were drawn out of him, like poison from a wound…
The elevator finally reached the top of the shaft and halted with a clang, breaking his train of thought. They stepped off and took in their surroundings. In front of them stretched a long suspended metal catwalk with a fire escape type stairway leading up into the darkness and a single wooden door, set into a rock wall and lit by a torch, at the other end.
Ezra turned toward Ronin and said in a low voice, “So which way should we take…”, he paused and then with a roll of his eyes, continued, “And of course!… he’s gone.”
He turned to Therese and said, “Well, I say we should take the door, seeing as Ronin probably just took the stairs… Besides,” he added, hefting his blinking mechanical hand and pointing at it, “that’s the way the Cleric-Track points anyway.”
And so saying, he headed down the catwalk toward the door.

 

Reply by Therese on January 20, 2012 at 12:52pm

Ezra turned to Therese and said, “Well, I say we should take the door, seeing as Ronin probably just took the stairs… Besides,” he added, hefting his blinking mechanical hand and pointing at it, “that’s the way the Cleric-Track points anyway.”
And with that, Ezra did his little turn on the catwalk, on the catwalk, and advanced towards the door.
As they continued along the suspended metal walkway, Therese was distracted by what she thought was movement in the tunnel below.
Pausing, she carefully leaned over the rail and peered down into what was mostly darkness save for an occasional torch and the soft glow of the door Ezra had sealed.

There was definitely movement, although from that height, in the dimly lit tunnel beneath, she could not tell exactly whom or even what it was, but what she could see was that it was headed towards the elevator they had just ascended in.
Therese turned to alert her companions but to her consternation, neither were there any longer.
Ezra seemed in favour of the door and Ronin (who had disappeared previously) could be, for all intents and purposes, standing right in front of her again, cloaked in his mysterious way of ‘now you see him, now you don’t’.

In fact, she reached out with both her hands and grasped at the air in front and beside her just to make sure.
But alas, she was alone and to make matters worse, she heard the sound of the elevator now in use.
She had to make a rational decision immediately, which was not one of her finer points.

There was the staircase nearest her to the left which lead upward, and straight ahead, several yards away, was the door.
She had no idea where either led as she tried in urgency to make a decision.
Would she have time enough, since her dallying, to make it to the door ahead as Ezra had suggested (Frank Stockton’s story came to mind) or should she take the stairs?

The sound of the rising elevator grew louder causing her to panic, thus without any further thought, she chose the nearest escape route (an escape she hoped it was) and ran as quietly as was possible on the metal grating, taking the stairway to heaven…
knows where.

 

Reply by Therese on January 23, 2012 at 4:10pm

As she crept up the stairs, Therese heard the elevator hurtle to a stop followed by the screech of the doors as they opened.
Then what seemed a familiar sound came to her ear.
She paused, turned and listened more closely.
She could not comprehend the garble of most of what was said, but she did grasp ‘Bloody hell’.
Yes, she was almost sure she recognized that voice, that unmistakable catch phrase.                                                                                                                                                                          Quietly, she tip-toed back down a few steps to hear more clearly.
There was retching, followed by another ‘bloody hell….and booze.’
Moving down a little further to where Therese was able to discern from whom the sound was coming, with recognition of delight, she scrambled down the last few steps.
“Maddie!” she cried with excitement.
Maddie looked up, belched and mumbled “Oh, it’s you.”
A bit disappointed at the less than exuberant meeting, Therese, telling herself it was the nearing sobriety speaking, forced a smile and asked “Are you O.K.?”
“Give me a sec” Maddie replied as she pulled out a flask, took a sip, swished it around in her mouth then spat it over the side.
“such a waste” she added and took another nip, this time swallowing.
“Where are the rest?” she asked as she struggled to stand.
Therese grasped her under the arm to assist.
“I don’t know, I think Ezra may have gone through the door ahead, but I have no idea where Ronin is” she groaned, trying to lift what was almost dead weight.
Maddie started to slide back down to the floor.
“I really don’t think we should tarry here” Therese whispered glancing about nervously, adding “I do not believe it is safe” as she finally managed to pull Maddie back up to a standing position.
“Where to then?” Maddie blurted out rather loudly.
Therese just shook her head, and tried to shush Maddie as the two stumbled along the metal scaffolding.

 

Reply by Forlath Grey on February 2, 2012 at 1:52pm

Gronkit walked along the metal catwalk back towards the ‘Torture, Inquiries and Returns Department’, chewing thoughtfully. He had always thought the department name would make a really amusing acronym if he could only think of another word for inquiries… queries perhaps? Naa, that didn’t work. He’d have to give it more thought. As Gronkit meandered back to work, he occasionally dropped empty snack packaging, leaving a very definite trail on the ground behind him.

If one were to follow the trail back to its origins one would find oneself in a break room. In that break room one would see a tipped over coffee auto-mat that had fallen over directly into the glass front of a snack good auto-mat, scattering shattered glass and snack packages everywhere. Gronkit, upon witnessing the unexpected consequences of his actions did what every underpaid office drone everywhere would have done in his place, he scooped up as many bags of chips, pretzels and sweets as his bandy goblin arms could carry and scampered off, but not until he had stuck a “this machine owes me 17 Krone f5” note on the side of the coffee auto-mat, first.

Thusly lost in his amusing and somewhat mildly disturbing thoughts, imagine Gronkit’s surprise when he rounded a corner and came face to face with two human females, the smell of high proof, wood grain, rubbing alcohol filled the air…

 

Reply by Forlath Grey on February 4, 2012 at 1:30pm

Gronkit came to a complete stop, apprehension on his ugly, little, goblin face as he absentmindedly continued chewing. Therese slowly went down on one knee and said in a friendly, lulling voice “hey there little fella, don’t be frightened, we won’t hurt you. We just want to talk. What’s your name?”
Gronkit slowly stopped chewing and swallowed loudly. Maddie looked at Gronkit and then at Theresa, muttered “bugger this” and then shouted “get him!” Gronkit’s eyes opened wide, snack packets went everywhere and Gronkit jumped over the catwalk railing.

Therese rushed to the railing and watched as Gronkit’s shrieking form dwindled and then disappeared into the gloom below. She turned and looked at Maddie disapprovingly. Maddie smiled, hiccuped and said “well, that went better than expected”…

 

Reply by Therese on February 5, 2012 at 6:37pm

The event that had just occurred vexed and distressed Therese.
“Why did you do that!” she scolded at Maddie, who reeled as she grasped the rail of the catwalk so she too would not go over the edge.
“We could have asked him if he knew where the Chaplain was!” she added with renewed indignation, then looking over the railing added “do you think goblins bounce?”

Maddie only grinned and pulled out a flask from her pocket, unscrewed the lid and was about to take a swig when Therese grabbed it from her hand and dropped it over the side in rebellion, precisely where the little goblin had just fallen, knowing all to well she was risking the wrath of Madelaine Phillips-Carter with that action.

But, to her surprise, Maddie only stared unblinkingly, unphased by the action as she withdrew yet another small flask from her boot.
“I always carry a spare” she winked and as Therese went to grab for this one, parried her attempted grasp, took a large gulp and placed it back in her boot top.

“Uh-uh” Maddie smiled, shaking her head from side to side and wagging a ‘oh no you don’t’ finger at Therese.
At that point, Therese knew it was pointless to even try and just said “Well, since you made the little guy jump, you can decide what we do next” as she sat down, pulled her knees up under her chin and started to cry.

It must have sobered Maddie up a bit because she actually became concerned.
“Now, what’s all the tears for?” she cooed somewhat sympathetically as she handed Therese a dirty strip of an old cloth bar rag. (Possibly a scrap of some long gone and forgotten fragment of embroidered tabby-woven linen.)

“Well, first the Chaplain is Chaplainapped or Padrenapped or whatever it is called, then you decided to stay behind. Ronin is always disappearing and then Ezra went all ballistic and scary…did you see what he did to the doorway down below?…and then it was just me.
Alone and on my own again, without an inkling as to what to do next or where to go.

I miss the QBR and the Captain and crew and…and….” she drew in a sobbing breath and just shook her head.
Old memories had been returning to her in fits and starts, but at that moment they all came flooding back along with her tears.
“Ask yourself this” Maddie queried trying to console her weeping friend, “what would Chef Gordon Ramsay do, huh?”
It was the one memory that seemed to never have left her completely, and with that Therese wiped her eyes with the filthy rag, then blew her nose, hoping she would not contract anything plaguey from it and forced a smile.

“All better now? “ Maddie said reassuringly “then, lets go find the Chaplain, wot wot?” she added holding out a hand that was just as grubby as the ‘handker-rag’.

 

Reply by Forlath Grey on February 12, 2012 at 2:47pm

CHAPTER SEVEN? NINE? Who knows…
The sound of roaring engines was deafening. The day was dawning cold and bright. Oberlieutenant Friedrich von Drecksler stood in the top side hatch of the lead behemoth. He slid back his goggles and raised a pair of binoculars. The Oberlieutenant scanned the road leading up the side of the mountain to the castle gates. There was no sign of any of Professor Extreme’s forces. Oberlieutenant Friedrich von Drecksler raised one gloved hand up above his head, smiled a cruel smile and gestured forward with a sharp motion. Resolutely, Drecksler’s battalions started their march on the castle; the assault on Castle Sheutzenstein had begun…

 

Reply by Maj. Bastable “Iggy” Fitzwiggins on February 14, 2012 at 12:03am

I truly do not appreciate these heart thumping surprises. One day, I will retire to the savannahs of Afrika. Maybe Tsavo… I hear it’s nice most of…”Hey Boss, the machines are leaving,” my dark skinned compatriot states, bringing me out of my reviery. As we listen to them leave, I try to to take in and analyze the last few thrilling moments within the cavern.

First, Haji and myself re-enter the cavern via the stairs leading to Doktor T’s lab with said Doktor in tow. Second, as we silently keep to the shadows closest to the “Dreckler suite”, we hear a scuffle on the “Goblin side” second level catwalk after which we hear a small squeak silenced by a dull thump made by a small hairy form falling to the cavern floor. Third, upon a quick glance upward toward the second level catwalk, I note and bring to Haji’s attention the two women standing there. Fourth, upon hearing the sharp staccato sounds of an officers’ boot coming toward us, we quietly slip inside another room hoping there’s no alarms or occupants. Once safely inside, we hear Drecksler issue orders to proceed according to plan. Lastly, we risk a chance and peek out the door as the machines leave the cavern. Did I miss anything? No. Good. “Haji, we could be in trouble this time,” says I.
“Heh, heh, heh…” is all the warning we get.

 

Reply by Ezra Yesterday on February 18, 2012 at 11:05am

Ezra Yesterday stepped through the door into a dark tunnel stretching in both directions, with light showing not too far to the left. Gesturing behind him to silently let Therese, [and maybe Ninja boy ™, at this point who really knew?] know he was going to scout ahead, he squatted down and moved forward into the light in his very best imitation of a Special Forces operative.
[Mind you, an outside observer would have had trouble understanding his motive for the awkward, drunken, duck-like movements… In point of fact he looked ridiculous, but it was as close as he could get to professional stealthy movement, and it made him feel better.]
He finished the “sneaking” and eased his head up where he could peer into the cavernous opening ahead and stopped, stunned at what he was seeing.

There were giant fake trees in every direction, he could tell they were fake because some of them were only ½ trees, built against the wall he knew was to his left… in fact the door he had come through was hidden in a cave dressed up to look like the hollow of a giant tree. In the distance he could see several giant papier-mâché figures:  A striped feline inside a giant clock with no hands on its face, a male figure with a golden crown, another cat, this one dark grey/brown, in a schoolhouse in the crook of a tree…
“What the leaping blue blazes?” he thought “This is the most bizarre thing I have ever seen… And, since I once saw a Marine torn apart by living cotton candy, I know a thing or two about bizarre.”   As he looked around at this oversized “Neighborhood of Make-Believe” he failed to notice two, no wait… three very important things:
1-      He didn’t hear the door swing shut behind him.
2-      He didn’t realize Therese had not followed him through the door.
And most important to him at this moment, with the deep gloom in the tunnel lightening around him, as if from a swiftly moving headlight of some sort:
3- He didn’t see that he was crouching in the middle of a full size trolley track.

 

Reply by Ezra Yesterday on February 18, 2012 at 12:11pm

As Ezra stared in amazement at the giant children’s show set spread before him, Mo-Mo suddenly pinched his ear painfully and said “Yip-Yip!!!”
He jerked away from the pain, causing his head to turn far enough to see the Trolley bearing down on him.. so he continued his turning motion into a truly graceful [and surprisingly Green Beret- worthy, considering his “stealth” attempt of the previous post.. the same outside observer who scoffed earlier would have been impressed] combat roll, off the tracks and into the gloom at the wall of the tunnel.

Sadly, the athletic movement was wasted, because the trolley stopped at the exact spot where he had entered the tunnel. There appeared to be no one inside, so it must be an automated system, he surmised. After nearly a minute of desperate searching he realized that Therese wasn’t mangled beneath the wheels, and in fact wasn’t in the tunnel at all… he also discovered that the door was one way, since it had no handle he could find on this side, and was actually barely detectable, once closed.

A quick once-over of the trolley showed it was empty, and on standby, waiting for instructions as to destination…he decided it was as safe to ride as to sneak [in his mind, he seriously thought of what he did as sneaking, the poor sod], so he opted for the easy route.
The controls were completely simple; there were raised plastic buttons in shapes meant to suggest the destination. There was a tree currently glowing green on the panel… That must mean the Forest, here.

He searched the other buttons, puzzled as to their meaning…there was what appeared to be a snail, another that was a tornado, a pyramid with an eye at the top, one was a rear end of a horse in the doorway of what appeared to be a stable, and the last one was an archway with vertical lines… He surmised that to be the front gate.

[Incorrectly, as it happens. Yes, yes… I know. Complete shock, that.]
Deciding that it was time for backup, he chose the gate button; he would go visit Madame Gris, sober up Maddie and maybe borrow a few of the monks…

“Yes,” he thought sliding down in his seat and kicking his feet up on the one opposite, as the trolley rocked gently and played light jazz music, punctuated with the occasional musical ringing or the trolley bell, “a proper assault is in order. With troops and weapons, it should be easy to sneak back in and… ZZZZZZ”
[Give him a break; he’s had a rough week.]
Some undetermined time later, the world came rushing back.
The trolley was stopped…
He really needed to use the restroom…
There were the sounds of agonized screams around him…
There was drool on his chin …
And in front of him, looking down at his sprawled form was another goblin, this one with a large green Mohawk… and a huge ebony battleax.
Spittle flying from his tusks, the guard said, “Welcome to the Dungeon.”
[Well, at least he didn’t need to use the restroom any more.]
Reply by Forlath Grey on February 20, 2012 at 11:25am

Gronkit regained consciousness with a steady pounding in his ears. It took a full five minutes before Gronkit realized the pounding was not the result of damage to his cranium but rather came from outside his head. With every deep rumbling the walls shook, shaking loose bits of mortar and flakes of stone. A very dim light bulb blinked repeatedly above Gronkit’s head – the castle was under attack! Sound the alarm, man the battle stations, secure all snack packets! But first, Gronkit thought to himself as he looked up at the shear walls on all sides, first figure out a way to get out of the castle cesspool… and notify maintenance about that faulty bulb…
Reply by Ezra Yesterday on February 26, 2012 at 3:56pm

Gamorr the dungeon guard looked up from his book when the trolley arrival music started to blare from the speakers.
<Oh Crap!,> he thought [Translated from Goblinish] < The Boss must be coming down for one of his surprise inspections.> He grimaced… and until you have seen a goblin grimace, you have no true conception of the word. <I’ll kill Gronkit! He had to know this was coming, that’s why his ‘quick run to the vending machines while the prisoner wakes up again’ has been over 45 minutes long.>
Gamorr quickly grabbed the loose parts of his uniform and settled them into place as fast as he could. As the trolley pulled into the station he just barely remembered to stop and flip the security monitor away from Fox News™ and back to the prison surveillance circuit.
[ He had been written up, put on ½ rations, beaten on several occasions, required to pull a double shift without overtime and even forced to watch Madonna movies for this infraction…There was even a sticky note posted next to the channel knob from the Boss:
“One more time… Just Once more and I Swear! it’s Shanghai Surprise for you, me bucko!!
Cordially,  P. E..! ”
But he simply couldn’t help himself; every chance he got, he would tune in to Fox and watch Geraldo do his show, or one of his Billion guest appearances…
He just loved seeing a fellow goblin make the big time.]
He grabbed his battle ax, straightened the Green wig and came to attention, eyes staring at a point high on the far wall as the Trolley rumbled to a stop.
He waited.
No one got off the trolley.
His waited some more.. this could be part of the test.
A sound like a low growl, ending in a snort came from the direction of the trolley, but still no movement.
<Has the Boss sent another new creature to be stored down here?> he thought.
After a few seconds the sound repeated… and repeated again.
His nose was beginning to itch.
More noise, still no movement.
He finally placed the sound: Something, or someone, was snoring.
Finally, he scratched his nose, shuffled back and forth for a bit in indecision, then, making up his mind, he sauntered over and looked in…
Apparently the Boss had a “Special Guest” who had fallen to sleep during the Trolley Tour… since there would be guards, chains and a lot of blood if this guy were some kind of a prisoner. Best treat him with respect. While he was standing there wondering what to do next, the Trolley speakers went silent for a moment, then switched to the Dungeon Mood Enhancement channel.
As the recorded screams woke the sleeping guest, Gammor straightened his Mohawk again, and putting on his best smile, snapping to attention with his Battle Ax at port arms, he said in his most efficient, martial voice,
“Welcome to the Dungeon!”

 

Nichtdasein on March 4, 2012 at 12:45pm

Previously, on the misadventures of the stalwart crew of the Queen Bran’s Revenge, we left Madelaine Phillips Carter and Therese whatever, on a catwalk inside the bowels of Castle Sheutzenstein.
Recovering from her self-pity party, Therese, once again said to her newly refound companion “Maddie, whatever possessed you to shout ‘Get him’? He could have been helpful, plus he was rather cute in a warty, drooling, bristly sort-of-way.”
Eyes yet swollen from her ‘crying jag’ Therese crossed her arms as she tapped her foot nervously, and continued-
“Well, I’m going back down to see if he survived the fall” and noticing Maddie was still rather unsteady on her feet as she continued sipping from her‘spare’ flask, Therese made a mental note to try and cajole that one from Maddie for her own good at a later date, should there ever come a time when they were no longer in danger.

Maddie was, in point, still drinking far too much for her own good.
Of course, the added thought of her friend going through withdrawal, was not a pleasant one, as Therese imagined herself with a blackened eye and/or broken nose….but, it would be worth it all to help her friend.
Looking at Maddie with thoughtful concern, Therese proposed “you wait here, I will be back in a few moments” as she walked towards the elevator.
Once inside, Therese pressed the down button and the elevator shuttered into motion.
Grinding to a halt at the bottom, the doors creaked open and she stepped out.

To her amazement, there sat the small goblinoid drinking from Maddie’s primary flask, which she, Therese, had dropped over the rail.
“Are you all right?” Therese asked.
“Yeeeepppppburp” the word and sound blending into a sort of musical conglomerate, albeit a bit flat, as the creature replied rather surlily, “what, you think I would jump off if not? Adding, “Goblins bounce!”

Shaking his head, he took another jot of Maddie’s most precious commodity, wiped the spittle from his lips on the back of his arm and proceeded to grab and open a packet of snacks, of which a mixed lot were scattered about him on the floor.
“By what are you called” Therese asked “your name, do you have a name?”
“Gronkit” he muttered as he stuffed what appeared to be chips into his mouth.
“Please to meet you, Gonkit. My name is Therese” she smiled.
“What are you doing here?” Gronkit quizzed. “This is a private castle and you trespass” he grumbled, stuffing yet another handful of chips, into his mouth.
“We are looking for a friend of ours, perhaps you would know where he is?” Therese asked in the most friendliest voice she could muster.
Disregarding her query, Gronkit continued.
“You ladies should not be here. It is not safe for you. If Professor knew….well, just say you could be his next lab experiment.”
As drool dribbled down his chin and into the open snack bag, he held it out in a gesture of offering.
“You want some?” he sputtered, squinting his beady eyes in challenge, as crumbs flew everywhere.
Not to seem impolite, and assuming this was meant as a token of friendship, Therese reached gingerly into the bag, trying to find a dry chip.
She was fairly successful, and pulled out one that held only a hint of goblin saliva.
Holding it up as if to toast (the goblinoid pausing mid-munch, never taking his eyes from her and the chip) Therese smiled, withheld the urge to gag, and popped it into her mouth.
An unspoken pact was made.
Gronkit smiled a particularly toothy grin and nodded.
“Taste good, huh?” he asked.
Therese just nodded and returned the smile, afraid to open her mouth for fear of regurgitation, as she tried to compose herself and not ruin their new found comradery.
“What are you here for again?” Gronkit asked in a much more pleasant tone then previously.
And, as he spoke, the ground beneath their feet began to shake, the walls, rumble.
A large piece of debris fell from above, hitting Gronkit in the head, momentarily stunning him.
Therese went down on bended knees, lightly shook the goblinoid and gently patted his cheeks…er jowls, trying to bring him round.
As he became fully conscious, an alarm was heard echoing throughout the caverns.
Scooping up as many snack packets as he could, then grabbing Therese by the hand, he rushed into the elevator, dragging her, with little resistance, along behind.
‘Got to get to the Trolley” was all he said as the elevator lurched upward.
-The castle was under siege.

 

Reply by Maj. Bastable “Iggy” Fitzwiggins on March 4, 2012 at 5:54pm

“Holy Deuteronomy!,” I exclaim just a touch too loudly for comfort. The last time I felt like this, I had a heated argument about Manchester vs United with some ‘larger than I’ fella’s at Flannery’s. Carefully opening my eyes just a tad for a quick look around, I spy with my little eyes the lichen covered stone walls of pre-pubescent imaginings from Dungeons & Dragons TM. The green fella with a Mohawk confirms my guess that with the accompanying shackles keeping me from bending over to tie my shoes, I’m in deep dooh dooh. Ah yes, and there’s Haji with his inane little ‘holy crap boss’ look similarly accoutered across the way.

There’s a trolley on my side of the room, but with the dim lighting I only see that there’s a body within. A live one at that. As a hand with a mechanical construct attached grips the side of the cart, the Mohawk strides up to it and adds to my surprise with a pleasant “Welcome to the Dungeon!”

 

Reply by Bran Caedamon Conal on March 8, 2012 at 11:47pm

he moved quickly down the hall, he kept against the wall his sword celtuched tightly in his hand shield on his other arm hugged close to his chest. his face with contorted into pure focus. he could hear the claws of those giving chase behind him, he was on a mission and NOTHING would stop him. he reached a small sitting room at the base of a tower. he quickly looked around and started climbing the stairs. higher and higher he went, until he reached the room at the top. inside was some straw, a lone chair, and a busted out window. he cursed softly and turned to face his persuers.

the two rats topped the stairs and sniffed and located their quarry. the wheat-bread man, stepped forward in all his sliced glory. “how nice of you to join me. but i knead you to stop chasing me rye now.” he growled. the rats glanced at each other and charged him there hunger overriding caution. “SOUR DOUGH!!” shouted the slice of bread with arms, legs, a little face, and a sword and shield to fit as he charged into battle. after he had killed the rats he sat on the window sill to rest for a moment.
he looked up at the moon and thought back to the good old days. back in the other universe where bread ruled. back before the meat loafs arrived and killed all his other brothers and sisters. he remembered watching his loaf mates get toasted and buttered, being eaten while still alive with slices of meats and cheese pressed between two of them. he sniffled loudly whipeing away from crums coming out of his nose. he looked back up at the moon and softly began to sing “someone…somewhere…is bakeing me tonight….adding just enough yeast…and kneading me just right….someone some where! is feeling my despair!! (an ecko calls back”feeling your despear!!”) and this same spoon is making them think of the day i breathed fresh air….” he looked at his sword which was made from a spoon, the blade being the handle, his shield a coffee saucer. he softly began to wheep as a distant cloud crossed over moon momentarly

 

Reply by Maj. Bastable “Iggy” Fitzwiggins on March 15, 2012 at 1:52pm

I’m feeling lighter, most likely because, ah yes, all my gear sitting on display on the table nearest the opposite end of the room. I can only hope they haven’t found my, oh yes… There’s my open pocket and the kerchief of holding. And look, the only door in sight right next to it. Mohawk seems to be busy with the trolley, so I cast a questioning look in my partner’s direction. In response, he just jangles his chains, then shrugs. A bit lower than my previous exclaimation, I ask, “I say, sir (Nothing wrong with some civility and consideration. Mohawk may have had a mother, you know.)…might I have a word or two with you about why I and my friend over there are in chains and have had our belongings searched?”
Reply by Nichtdasein on March 16, 2012 at 9:12am

When Therese was finally able to upright herself after being dragged bodily along behind her new acquaintance, a thought popped into her head.
“Excuse me, Gonkit” she said politely, not wanting to seem inconsiderate of his aid “ but, shouldn’t we be taking stairs? Isn’t it unsafe to ride in elevat…..” and before she could finish the doors slammed shut, the goblinoid pressed, well actually punched the ‘up’ arrow several times in urgency, the elevator shuttered, then began joltingly to move upward.
When it finally reached their destination, and rumbled to an abrupt stop, the doors began struggling in an attempt to open.
“Power must be damaged” Gronkit grunted.

Placing his rather gnarled looking, warty fingers (of both hands) in the slight opening, which was all the machine could muster before the power failed, Gronkit, with only the slightest strain, wrenched open the doors with a grunt and nod, then smiled his pointy toothed grin at Therese.
“Good work” Therese smiled back as she patted his coarse, bristled head.
Looking down the catwalk to where she had left Maddie only moments before, Therese noticed another figure standing with her.
Recognizing him immediately, Therese took off at a sprint along the scaffolding.
Throwing her arms around him in delight, she completely forgot her self restraint (as if she ever had any in the first place), then quickly released him with a blush.
“Where did you go?” she said, now with a slight scold to her voice, just as Gronkit came bounding towards them, ready for a fight.
Ronin simply reached out his hand, placed it on the small goblins forehead as Gronkit proceeded to swing at the air in his attempt at an attack.
Therese took hold of the back of the creatures tunic in an attempt to pull him away.
“Stop this immediately” she scolded. “Ronin, that means you too.”
Gronkit stopped flailing, Ronin still held him at bay.
“This is Gronkit” she began the introductions looking from Ronin to Maddie.
“Gronkit, this is Maddie and Ronin” followed by “we are all friends here, correct?”
Maddie mumbled something under her breath, Ronin gave a distrustful nod, and Gronkit merely grunted.
“That means he likes you in Goblinoid” Therese chirped “isn’t that right, Gronkit?” she added.
Another less formidable grunt was heard, as the catwalk began to sway and buckle in places.
“We need to get off this walkway and to someplace safe, asap!” Ronin ordered.
Gronkit pointed towards the door that Ezra had previously gone through, as the stairs were now out of the question.
“That way” he grumbled, as the quartet headed as quickly as possible towards their goal.
The distinct popping sound of rivets was heard as they unleashed themselves from the framework and now as the walkway succumbed to the continuing tremors, pipes started bursting, sending streams of water every which-way, causing the metal path to become even more treacherous to the groups footing.

As they neared their destination, an ex’cruciatingly, painful, grating moan, like the sound of a dragon with a toothache, echoed throughout the chamber as the last remaining bolt, nearest the elevator released and the catwalk started to tilt downward at an alarming rate.
The four were thrown to the floor by the rupture and started to slide down towards what would surely be their deaths.
Ronin, who had been in the lead, grabbed Maddie by her ankle as she started to slide away and she in turn grabbed Therese by the wrist. As for Gronkit, well since goblins bounce, he let out a gleeful howl as he glided past them with a grin, as if on a park waterslide.
“See you at the bottom” he bellowed in mirth (he was unaware that humans, unlike goblins, could not rebound from a fall without any consequence.)
Therese was the first to slip off the edge.

Still being held tightly around the wrist by Maddie, Therese closed her eyes and prepared for the worst. Maddie, slid off as well, still held at her ankle by Ronin.
Ronin, clawing at whatever he could with his free hand, finally gripped his fingers through the floors grating at what was nearly the end of the trail for all three.
Dangling there, at least 20 feet above the stone floor of the tunnel below, they swayed a bit like a pendulum, another ‘quake’ was felt and the scaffolding dropped further.
It was now quite dark since all power had failed, leaving only a slight glow coming from the door Ezra had sealed shut with his amazing metallic hand.
“How far from the floor are we now?” Ronin asked Maddie, who being held upside down,
was in the better position for seeing.
“Can’t tell” she hiccuped, “it’s a bit blurry, you know, what with all the blood rushing to my head, and besides, I always had trouble with measurements.”
“Well are we close enough if I let go, for us to drop safely?”
“Can’t say for sure” Maddie replied.
“Therese?” Ronin questioned.
“I don’t know!” Therese whispered, being afraid her voice would cause more havoc.
“Why not?”
“Because my eyes are closed” she replied.

Ronin rolled his own eyes. “Well, could you open themmmmmmm” and as he spoke, his grip on the grating gave way and they plummeted precisely six inches to the floor, ending in a heap on top of one another, as Gronkit rolled on the floor in a fit of gurgling laughter.
Back where they had started, that is minus one (Ezra) plus one (Maddie) which equaled out, a new plan was in order. The ‘daring three’ sincerely hoped that Gronkit knew of another way out, before the ceiling itself gave way and they would all be crushed.

 

Reply by Nichtdasein on March 16, 2012 at 4:34pm

After the untangling of arms and legs, the process of which sent Gronkit into further convulsive laughter, the three brushed themselves off, which was most difficult since they were once again drenched from the leaking pipes.
“What now?” Ronin posed the question that was on everyone’s mind, save Gronkit’s who had finally composed himself and simply shrugged his shoulders.
“Well someone better suggest something quickly because the support pillars down here aren’t going to hold up much longer” Ronin said as he examined with concern a huge crack in the stanchion directly beside him, then turning away, he glanced over at Therese who was now staring intently at Gronkit.
She was pointing (as we recall earlier she was wont to do) at Gronkit and in amazement, almost to herself, muttered “he glows too.”
They all turned to look and sure enough there was a soft, phosphorescent glow emanating from the skin of the small goblinoid.
“Humph! Just another one of the Professor’s experiments” Gronkit spat, sounding a bit annoyed at having mentioned the Professor. “He ‘thought it would come in handy when entering parts of the underground network that isn’t as well lit’ ” he mimicked in a rather deep voice with snarky undertones.
“I guess that would be now” he added as an afterthought.
Most of the water had stopped spewing from the pipes above, and had drained off into the channel running along the left side of the main pathway.
Poor Maddie had lost her ‘spare’ flask in the fall and espied what appeared to be the glint of a metallic skull screw-cap, peaking over the top of the pocket in Gronkit’s tunic. She recognized it as her ‘primary’ vial.
“Where did you get that?” she barked as she reached towards the pocket.
Gronkit took a step backwards, put his hand over said pocket and hissed “it’s my preciousss” (yes, I know, pushing it a little there.)
Maddie was about to grab the goblinoid by the throat and do whatever was necessary to procure her liquid sustenance when once again, yes I said once again, Therese limply pointed at something (‘this is getting monotonous’ she thought to herself.)
Just behind the almost galvanic glowing goblinoid Gronkit, a small, shiny, scintillant metallic mechanized mouse whirred across the floor in front of them and entered a small hole in the right wall of the tunnel. <(ooooo, look at all the alliteration in that sentence, booyah!)
Everyone’s attention had turned towards it.
“Was that what I thought it was?” Ronin asked, scratching his head in puzzlement.
Therese, now no longer pointing, spoke almost in a trance-like state.
“the clockwork mouse….be aware of the clockwork mouse…beware of the clockwork mouse.”
Ronin gave a quizzical look to Maddie. Maddie had returned her intent to the flask in Gronkit’s pocket.
“Well, what is it?” Ronin questioned “is it be aware of, or beware of, and by the way, how do you know this?”
“What?” Therese murmured softly, coming out of her catatonic-like reverie.
Ronin repeated “is it BE AWARE of the mouse or BEWARE of the mouse?”
“I don’t know, but maybe we should follow it?” was Therese’s response.
Gronkit just cowered, quaked and shook his head.
“What’s wrong?” Therese cooed as she stroked his bristled head with her hand. He was rather like a pet warthog she remembered having as a child (unless, of course, that was just a ‘memory’ programmed into her from her previous makers.)
“We are never, ever supposed to venture into that portion of the castle” Gronkit said in a disturbed, hushed tone.
“Why not?” Therese continued in a very comforting timbre.
“Because that is Suite B. Friedrich von Drecksler sublets that section of Castle Sheutzenstein” Gronkit stammered in what was almost a whimper.
“Never go there…never go there…never go there…” he repeated over and over again in a fearful chant.

 

Reply by Ezra Yesterday on March 19, 2012 at 10:19pm

Ezra Yesterday, never one to miss an opportunity to dazzle with his intellect, sat bolt upright, wiped the drool off his chin and said in his most ambassadorial tones, ” Huh?!?”
As the dungeon goblin stood at quivering attention before him, Ezra watched the green Mohawk wig slip slowly, regally toward the creature’s left ear. After a good thirty seconds of awkward, staring silence, it finally occurred to him that the little fella was scared of him for some reason. At last, as the wig was threatening to topple off, it reached up and straightened it with what seemed to be an embarrassed grimace. “Umm,’ It started with a squeak, cleared its throat and tried again,”…How hass-ssh the… Lord?… enjoyed the cass-sshtle tour ss-ssho far?”
” Well,” Ezra replied with a weary smile, “to be honest, it’s been kind of drawn out. Don’t get me wrong, its a really Nice castle you have here, but I didn’t sleep much on the trip in, so….” He shrugged and gestured helplessly at the drool stained seat behind him.”Umm, At ease. No need to be so formal, you did see me drooling after… ULP!”

This startled exclamation was caused by a louder than usual scream of pain. The Goblin grinned lopsidedly then reached up and turned off the trolley speaker.”That’ss-ssh enough of that. The mood music is meant to ss-ssh, ss-shh-tim…,”
With another grimass-ssh, and a glanss-ssh over hiss-ssh ss-sshoulder…
[Great! now he has ME doing it!!]
…The guard reached up and yanked the tusks out of his mouth, then resumed in a cultured accent, tinged with Harvard,”Aaah.. That’s better old chap, now… The tusks, the screaming and the,” he yanked off the mohawk as it began to slide again, “Wig are all to scare the prisoners. The Boss does like his prisoners docile and quaking…”
There was the scream of rusty hinges somewhere near by,”Speaking of…” He gestured to his right as another pair of guards came in carrying suspiciously familiar, unconscious figures  bound in chains, slumped like bags of wet cement over their shoulders, “It looks like there are two new ones now, so back to work for me. Feel free to wander as you will, I’m sure the boss will send someone to get you soon enough.” With a final, friendly wave, Gammor fixed his uniform and headed after the retreating guards.
“So,” thought Ezra, “Sergeant Ian.. and Haji, is it? At last, we meet again.”
As he headed off into the dungeon, he also thought…
“This would probably be a great place to find some new allies.”
[<Hint> If you want to jump into the story, Now would be a great time! ,</Hint>]

 

Reply by G.A. Jack Hammerquist on March 21, 2012 at 10:23pm

A wailing wind winds woshingly and wonderingly flaps the frocks whilst wizzing past the would be wondering hero’s. Seemingly coming from no where and everywhere at once.  As the screaming winds begin to calm. A glowing light appears behind the Ezra. The grunting goblinoids gather their garters and grab the genes growling and gurgling at the glowing disk that appears before them. Their charge thuds to the floor as the now gellified goblinoids grab at the gunk that now soils there genes.  “I getting gone’ grumbles one “I going too” agrees the other and they flee fleet footed as far as the funky foul smelling funnel of a tunnel allows. Which is not to far because it ends at a closed door which they both bash their bulbous noses into and bounce of their butts but once. Goblinoids may bounce but their heads are not such a good thing to bang into any object harder than their own heads. The both go out like blown out candles.

The spinning disk grows rapidly till the size seems to equal a portal of some form and a portal it is, For a leg appears out of it quickly followed by the rest of the body.  The man which is now standing before you looks as if he just stepped off a horse. He sports a brown leather duster, a brown cowboy hat, tan pants and knee high black boots. One hand seems to sparkle from the light which is bouncing off a metal glove of some sort. In the other is a wicked looking pistol. The dirt and dust that billows through the portal is proof of the source of the dust that covers his masked faced. Glowing green eyes lenses scans the room before him as he points the pistol in the general direction of Ezra. “Howdy. You friend, foe, or fend?”
[How’d I do on my first entry in to both the story and the situation?]

 

Reply by Nichtdasein on March 26, 2012 at 9:07am

As Gronkit sat, now rocking and continuing to chant fearfully like a small frightened child, Therese, leaned down and stroked his head.
“There, there now” she soothed “it can’t be all that bad?”
As she continued trying to console him, Gronkit looked up, his eyes brimming and on the edge of overflow.
Feeling empathy towards the quivering creature, as she too knew fear all to well, Therese took the hem of her skirt, wiped his eyes with it, leaned closer and without a second thought, lightly kissed the top of his bristled head (unfortunately, he did not turn into a handsome enchanted prince, but that hadn’t even crossed her mind. Well, perhaps just a little, since he was rather warty and a mottled shade of green.)
“Goblins come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colours to accent, as well as suit, every castle’s and/or dungeon’s need! Plus, act now and receive a free can-opener with every purchase!”
‘Wait, where did that come from’ Therese thought to herself momentarily distracted.
“Did anyone else hear that?” she voiced casting a perplexed glance at her companions.
They looked at her a bit puzzled, shook their heads slowly from side to side in negation and replied in unison “Hear what?”
“Oh, never mind” Therese mumbled partially to herself then turned her attention back to Gronkit in a further attempt to comfort him.
The goblinoid looked up as if it were the first time anyone had ever been kind to him, and smiled that toothy ear-to-ear grin, took the skirt’s hem from Therese’s hand and blew his nose.
On her skirt.

He blew his nose, on her skirt.
Eww, went through Therese’s head but did not come out of her mouth.
She felt sympathy, who knew what kind of torture and unhappiness he may have been exposed to? Looking at her skirt hem, now slimy with goblin snot, she only hoped he wasn’t exposed to something catchy.

 

Reply by Nichtdasein on March 26, 2012 at 9:09am

The bombardment of castle Sheutzenstein had ceased for the time being, but bits of loosened ceiling still fell so they needed a plan.
Ronin had gone over to where the clockwork mouse entered the small opening in the wall and proceeded to inspect it. He noticed the lines of what appeared to be a hidden doorway, uttered softly ‘Mellon’ and smiled when nothing happened. ‘It was worth a try’ he thought.
Placing his shoulder against the outline, he gave it a nudge.
The scraping of stone against stone was heard as the wall slightly gave to his effort. It was indeed, a doorway.
He pushed again and it opened just enough for them to enter.
“You shall not pass” Gronkit cried jumping to his feet.
Forgetting his fear, he placed himself between the three and the opening.
“It is not safe” he added adamantly.
“Tell us what you know, you bloody little toad!” Maddie snapped. She was apparently not in a good humour from want of her flask, namely it’s contents.

Gronkit stood rooted to the floor and glared in defiance.
Therese sighed and began “What can you tell us about this Drecksler?” she asked patiently.
Still scowling at Maddie, Gronkit revealed what he knew.
He cleared his voice and rattled off a rehearsed proclamation.
“We are not to venture into that area by order of the Professor” (and then spat in animosity).
“Did he tell you why?” Ronin asked.
“The Professor *spits again* shares little information with his lackeys. That was his order, and we obey” Gronkit replied.
“If he never gave you a reason” Therese retorted “why so afraid?”
“Because there are stories. Blood curdling stories of torture, mutilation and horrific dismemberments. Screams are often heard emanating from that section of castle” his voice dropped to a whisper, as his face ashened and an obvious shiver ran through him.
Therese gave a knowing look to Maddie and Ronin.
“Yes, we have met some of Herr Drecksler’s ‘men’ and are quite aware of his atrocities” she recounted the heinous brutality that had been inflicted on Ezra. She wondered where their friend was now, whether he was safe and if he had found the Chaplain.
“Let us take a vote” she suggested, “all in favour of following the mouse, raise your hand” and as she spoke she raised her own, followed by Ronin and Maddie.
“It’s unanimous then” Maddie affirmed “now move aside you mangy troll or I’ll…..”
Gronkit still refused to budge “even Goblins know how to count” he huffed “and it was not unanimous!” adding “furthermore, I am of the noble goblin race, not a troll. Trolls are big smelly mindless oafs! Humph!” He glowered even the more at Maddie for her insulting remark.
Maddie glared back and made a move towards the creature just as Ronin, sensing what she was about to do next, casually side-stepped between them.
“Look little, er man? we have decided to follow the mouse, now you can either stay here, or come with us, the decision is up to you” Ronin said in a voice of reason.
Gronkit trembled. The fear surfaced in his eyes again.
“You need not be afraid” Therese reassured “we are all friends here and friends look out for one another, right?”
“And anyway, I have an idea!” she beamed.
“Gronkit, Ronin can carry you in that greater bag of holding of his, so you won’t even be aware of where you are, and won’t be breaking the Professor’s (and with that she spit at the ground) rules!”
Gronkit made an amused snort and spat again as well.
Ronin agreed, took the bag from off his shoulder and opened it.
With apprehension, Gronkit looked to Therese for a nod of approval, which she gave, then stepped in, pulled it up over his head, and in a muffled mumble muttered “make it so.”
With that, Ronin flung the bag over his shoulder with little effort as a grunt was heard from within the bag.
The three amigos plus one, entered the lair of Drecksler.

 

Reply by G.A. Jack Hammerquist on March 26, 2012 at 10:47pm

I stand there looking at the knocked out goblinoids and cock my head to the side. “This is most diffidently not my lab nor even my castle. So where the bloody toad knockers am I. I pull out the ultimate map of Life, the Universe and Everything… I unfold it and cross check my temporal reference. Ah that is what happened I should have taken that left at Albuquerque… exit 42…hummm I will have to remember that next time.” I look up and see Ezra. “Ezra? Is that you… or some parallel version of the Ezra I know… and what HAPPENED to your hand???”

 

Reply by Ezra Yesterday on March 27, 2012 at 7:51pm

Ezra Yesterday looked at the newest inhabitant of the dungeon and pondered what to do next. The flashy newcomer was obviously from a high tech world, based on his method of arrival. He also had formidable weapons at his disposal, if that Hog-leg he was carrying with such deceptively relaxed ease was any indication.
Ezra didn’t ponder the issue for very long, for several reasons:
The sudden spectacular mode of his arrival would bring curious jailers soon, so time was short.
The dungeon was staffed by an indeterminate number of Goblins
He was alone and searching for the Phantom Cleric deep in bowels of The Castle of Mystery™ [suite A]
This whole bizarre show was run by some sort of Madman Professor known thus far only as “the Boss”
[Ezra had the sudden and totally inexplicable urge to spit on the floor at this thought, but he controlled it, just barely, and moved on.]
There were the dull thumps of bombardment coming from far above, so there was apparently some sort of siege going on, as well.
He had a bit of business to discuss with two gentlemen over in the corner before he did anything else.
On the one hand, the Cowboy could be a potentially very helpful ally…
And since Ezra only Had the one hand, he made the snap judgment to trust the new guy.
He extended said lone appendage in greeting and said, “Pleased to make your acquaintance; since I don’t recognize you, I’m guessing I’m an Alternate version… Ezra Yesterday is the name.”
He waved his mechanical left hand and gave a lopsided grin, “As to my hand, I was just about to discuss that with the two trussed up bundles over there…”
He slowly stalked over into the corner where two forms lay tied like sacrificial lambs, the golden glow reflecting from his eyes the only light touching his face…
“Seeing as they led me to the trap that lost it for me, I think they have a bit of explaining to do.”
He squatted down and whispered, voice full of menace…
“Hello, Sargent… Haji.”

 

Reply by G.A. Jack Hammerquist on March 27, 2012 at 9:16pm

I shake the offered hand. “Pleased to meet another Ezra. Which seems to be a very rare event in my travels. Anyway since I am here and pardon the pun but you look like you could use a hand. So I since the Ezra I know is a pretty good joe I think I can see my way to hang around a bit and see if I can help you out.”  I step to the side and open my coat a bit and reveal that the hog leg is not the only weapon I carry. It appears that I have more weapons on me than any man has rights to own. At least all at once. I pull a mares leg off my back holster and check the load. Put it away then pull a truly massive shotgun from the opposite side and add a few rounds to the rotary magizne under the barrel. “Yes this one should do nicely. Hey Ezra you need a weapon? I think I can spare one and some ammo.”  If anyone was watching they would notice a emerald green dragons head poking out of my coat. Soon followed by the rest of the dragon which climbs up stretches like a house cat and curls itself around my neck and get comfortable. “Hello Brack glad you decide to join us. You are correct that is not the Ezra we know but I have a hunch they are a lot alike. Lets see what kind of adventure this place has to offer shall we.” I lean up against the wall and push my hat up just a tad and watch the goings on in the corner.

 

Reply by Forlath Grey on March 28, 2012 at 3:40pm

Suddenly screaming could be heard, emanating from one of the many heavy, iron bound, oaken doors, which lined what appeared to be the central guard room Ezra and co. were currently standing in. The hairs stood up on the back of Ezra’s neck, truly only a tortured soul from the very pits of hell could make such a noise. Nothing human could be making a noise like that. Ezra looked up from where he was kneeling next to the Sergeant and Haji and raised his eyebrows in Jack’s direction. Jack shook his head and shrugged. Ezra looked over at the trolley speaker, more dungeon ambiance sound track? But that wasn’t possible; he saw the mohawk goblin switch the trolley speaker off earlier.

Ezra’s eyes widened as a realization dawned on him, the screaming and wailing noise from behind the cell door undulating all the while. Ezra sprang to his feet and rushed towards the cell door with his heart in his throat. Just as he reached the door the shrieking stopped. Oh dear gods, Ezra prayed feverishly, please don’t let me be too late! With that Ezra threw the door wide open with his ‘improved’ hand. The force nearly tearing the door off its hinges in the process.

There on the other side of the door, just stepping out of a shower cubicle with a whoosh of steam, water rivulets streaming down, his midriff wrapped in a towel, his eyes squinting through the vapor was Chaplain Sean Grey “Ezra, is that you?”
Ezra was gobsmacked. After standing with his mouth open like a codfish for what seemed an eternity, gaping in amazement, Ezra managed to croak “but, but the screaming, we heard screaming!”

“I think you’ll find I was singing,” the Chaplain sniffed, “habitual shower singer – guilty as charged” Chaplain Grey chuckled, “now be a good chap and close the door would you, you’re letting in a draft…”

 

Reply by Ezra Yesterday on March 28, 2012 at 8:09pm

Ezra was at a complete and total loss for words.
All the time spent wandering…
All the endless slogging through the gods only knew what filth in the tunnels below…
Sneaking past goblin guards….
The ride on the trolley…
Waking up to realistic, if recorded, screams and the drooling face of a looming guard…
Sudden appearances and the chance for sweet, long delayed [by several hours at least] revenge…
And then the most shocking thing of all:
” Wait, this is your cell?” He looked around incredulously, then stared at the cleric in near accusation,
“It has a Shower? My stateroom on the Queen Bran didn’t have its own shower, and [you should pardon the expression, Padre]… I’m the Bloody XO!!!!”

 

Reply by G.A. Jack Hammerquist on March 28, 2012 at 10:04pm

I poke my head around the corner and take a look when I hear voices and well no one getting killed so over come by my own wonder just follow my instincts and let my peek be proceeded by the barrel of my custom 8 gauged shot gun. Hey Ezra you okay in here and did you find the remains of that poor cat someone was running through a meat grinder?

 

Reply by Forlath Grey on March 30, 2012 at 1:48pm

The Padre buttoned his collar, put on his coat then turned to Ezra Yesterday and said “this is the first shower I’ve had since leaving the inn. These goblinoids may be tortuous, murderous fiends, but they’re not savages after all. Now then XO, where to next?”
Meanwhile, the mechanical marching constructs of Oberlieutenant Friedrich von Drecksler continued their steady march on Professor Extreme’s side of the castle. Upon reaching the gatehouse, the lead construct reached out with two mechanical claws, grabbed both sides of the wrought iron portcullis, the driver pulled back on the appropriate lever and the construct’s smoke stack belched black smoke as the claws wrenched the gates from their hinges with a satisfying, ear piercing, screech of tortured metal.

Drecksler smiled in malevolent glee. Let slip the Dogs of War, release the Hounds of Hell and set loose the understandably less known but equally as terrifying Hamsters of Mild Inconvenience. Tonight, Drecksler thought to himself, he would dine on the best pickings of Professor Extreme’s larder, drink the Professor’s finest wine and have the Professor’s head on a plate as company…

 

Reply by G.A. Jack Hammerquist on March 30, 2012 at 10:51pm

Hearing the distant but sure sounds of metal being torn apart by sheer force. I at first wonder what I have gotten myself into. Then on second thought I wonder what mad machine could do such a thing to cold steel or iron…. I hoped it was not another Giant Devil lizard better known as a Red Iron Dragon.  That last battle I had with one cost me one of my neatest acquisitions. That portal gun was just so very niffty. But timing it where I could put the first portal over the head of the dragon and the second on his ares. Then all I had to do is wait for him to blow some flame up his on ares. What I did not expect was the explosion which nearly killed me and half the tinker gnomes that were in my party. Honestly I think one of the damnedable gnomes hid my portal gun while I was knocked out and kept it for himself. Seeing as that was the only thing I ended up losing in that battle I guess I was lucky.  “Uh since you two seem to know each other could you possible tell me what the hell I have gotten myself into?”

 

Reply by Ezra Yesterday on April 5, 2012 at 6:52pm

A long silence followed Jack’s question.
Ezra Yesterday looked at Padre Grey blankly for a second, the padre looked back, and then they both began to laugh.
Hard.
For several minutes.
Just as one would start to get control, he would make eye contact with the other, and they would be off once more.
Finally, after several minutes of this shared hilarity, Ezra finally calmed down, wiped his streaming eyes and firmly turned his back on the still giggling cleric.
[Side note, Giggling Cleric would be a pretty good name for either a Band or a Pub.]
“Sorry, Jack, we arent laughing at you. You might want to have a seat, this will take awhile…What have you gotten yourself into?” He gasped out, his voice strained, but returning to normal, ” I have been asking myself that same question for 3 books now. First there was the outbreak of carnivorous bread that nearly destroyed Humanity. I managed to stumble upon a secret Lab where they were perfecting a super weapon, deceptively shaped like a pie, designed to kill the source of the yeasty menace, but I misunderstood the directions and ate it myself, mummifying myself for most of the remainder of the first book.

At some point as we fled across the crumb- blasted landscape that had once been America, accompanied for a short time by the decapitated head of Gordon Ramsay, we found a dimension hopping airship called the Queen Bran’s Revenge.

We set sail, planning to take the fight directly to the Crusty bastards, but osome sort of malfunction sent us off on a dimensional jaunt that ended us on a rock ball with a huge cave system full of fanatical Peacekeeping animals, intent on arresting us for making noise as we defended ourselves.
There was also a series of appearances by a supposedly one shot Marine character named Marion, the Cameo who wouldn’t die. Well, actually he died just fine, but he came back as an agent of the Mechanoids, a mechanical race that we think was after us for some reason. Its hard to say, really, because just about then, there was a huge blast of golden light, and we were suddenly here, scattered about the frozen landscape of this place… I was frozen to the top of a tree for awhile there…. What? I got better.

At some point I also picked up a furry, smartass Monkey-bat named Mo-Mo, who come to think of it, has been missing since I woke up on the trolley.
Anyway we slowly started to regroup, and found ourselves smack dab in the middle of this mess: Two rival factions fighting over a frozen little German town in the middle of nowhere.”

He pauses for a long, much needed breath, mutters something about turning into a windbag just like the Captain, then hefting his mechanical hand for emphasis, continues, “I know next to nothing about the one side of the battle, but on this side we have a maniac Professor who employs goblins of dubious intelligence, and he has some weird thing for Mr Rogers neighborhood, including a human scaled trolley and a giant Forest of Make Believe.. But don’t let that fool you. It’s a dangerous place, so watch yourself. Those two tied up out in the dungeon atrium led us into a trap that cost me my hand at the whim of some robotic beast dressed as a German… It was a frightening mechanism, until I dismantled it.”
He paused, considered the dissertation he had just completed and with a grin said, “Basically, I told you that long story just to tell you this: We have no better idea what we have all gotten into than You do.”

 

Reply by Forlath Grey on April 5, 2012 at 7:24pm

The Chaplain took off his glasses and dried his eyes. Such good times… Wait a second the Chaplain thought, “Ezra,” he added “don’t forget the time we held that concert to save the high school music program. Don’t you remember, You ended up having relations with Stifler’s mom under the bleachers… Wasn’t that you?

 

Reply by Ezra Yesterday on April 5, 2012 at 9:55pm

“No, if you remember, that was the Captain under the bleachers.” Ezra said absently as he turned toward the door with a grim, determined look on his face “Now. Time to deal with our two Turncoats…’

 

Reply by Forlath Grey on April 6, 2012 at 10:37am

The Padre paused to take out his copy of the script and started searching through past scenes. “Did I miss something,” Chaplain Grey murmured to himself “when did the Sergeant and his sidekick become turncoats…?” The Padre looked up to see that Ezra and Jack had already left the room; he quickly gathered his things and hurried to catch up…

 

Reply by Ezra Yesterday on April 6, 2012 at 10:23pm

Ezra knelt down in front of the tied pair and said, “Where was I? Oh yes…” He held up his mechanical hand in front of the Sergeant’s face, and slowly the tip of the middle finger elongated into a needle sharp blade, ” First things first.”

And with that, he stuck the finger into the flesh of the captives upper arm, just deep enough to draw blood, the blade so sharp that it hardly caused a twinge of pain. Shifting slightly, he nicked Haji in the same manner, while the Padre looked on in trepidation. ” Well, what do you know, you are human after all. The robots only appeared real, but they bleed dark grey oil.” With that, the blade retracted. “I don’t intend to torture you, since your human and all. But I have to ask two questions…First,Who do you work for?”

He leaned forward intently, now,  right in the Sergeant’s face, and his voice rose with every word,
“And why did you lead us into that trap? What Possible reason did you have to feed my Hand to that Robotic Monster?!?!?”
He pondered, and his voice returned to a more normal level as he added, “OK, I guess that’s actually three questions.. Well? I’m waiting.”
[For new readers, it should be pointed out that this will seem to be the rantings of a madman from Haji and Ian’s point of view, seeing as they really had Nothing to do with Ezra’s Amputation. I would sure hate to be in his shoes, wouldn’t you? Tied up, at the mercy of a apparent madman? I wonder what he will do, what he could possibly say in the face of this dilema.. Lets watch…]

 

Reply by Ezra Yesterday on April 7, 2012 at 11:53am

[While we wait for Ian and Haji to try and explain themselves, we have time for a quick rewind so we can see what has become of Mo-Mo, Ezras newly found trusty Monkey-Bat companion… We pick up just after he and Ezra are settling down on the Trolley]

Mo-Mo the Monkey-Bat sat at the control panel, pretending to drive the Trolley, while the land of Make Believe trundled past and the strains of its theme song flowed quietly from its speakers. Mo-Mo watched the green lights on the control buttons with interest, as they passed stops. Here the head in a crown would light, as they passed the fake, cardboard facade of a castle passed on the left, then a stylized school button lit as they passed a school shaped treehouse without stopping.
As they continued on their way, Mo-Mo suddenly heard an unsettling sound behind him, like the low growl of a forest predator about to pounce. as he turned in terror, he realized that it was actually his new human, making noises in its sleep and drooling on itself. with a wide grin of relief, he turned back to the controls… After all, the Trolley wasn’t going to drive itself, he thought.

A short time later, the mouth of another rock tunnel loomed in the near distance, and the trolley passed within.
After several yards, they passed into a wide open space that must be the entrance hall, with the doors standing wide open to the outside and no guards in sight. The Trolley glided to a smooth halt and sat for over a minute; this was apparently a hardwired stop on its circuit.
[Both of  our loyal readers will note that this is what Ezra was hoping for when he set the trolley in motion, to find the exit so he could regroup with the rest of his party at the hideout of Lady Grey and they mysterious monks, so they could lead a proper assault to save the Padre. He had been convinced that a stop for the exit existed, and as it turns out he was right, for once…. It’s a real shame that he slept right through it.]
After its programmed pause, the Trolley slid back into motion, crossed the entry hall and entered the next forbidding cave leading ever deeper into the bowels of the castle.

Mo-Mo, for his part, was still pretending to drive the Trolley. He had even managed to find a discarded and dust covered conductors cap under a seat… It was far to large for him, but he wore it cocked back onto his shoulders, so the bill was over his wildly grinning face.
He would occasionally stand on tiptoe to reach up and pull the bell cord, then sit back down, readjust the huge hat and continue on his merry way.

From the look on his face, Mo-Mo was having the time of his life.
As they exited the tunnel, the lighting changed to the sterile bright shades of hospital florescent tubes. There were long windows along the sides of the track, showing laboratories, ranks of cages and a few operating rooms.
Before he fully understood why, Mo-Mo was out of the conductors seat and out the window.
Then it struck him. There were more of his kind here.. and they were suffering.
The cages behind the glass were full of various types of woodland creatures, there were badgers, moles, rabbits, one or two baby deer.. and up on the top rank, 3 cages with monkey-bats.

There was a palpable air of misery coming from the cages, even from out here in the hall, and it nearly broke Mo-Mos heart to feel it… But after several minutes of frantic effort, he realized he couldn’t get through the locked door to help them.
Suddenly, from off to the side, there was the Creak/BOOM of a door being slammed open, followed by the gutteral, slobbering sounds of Goblinish conversation…..

 

Reply by Ezra Yesterday on April 7, 2012 at 4:40pm

[Mo-Mo’s story, Continued…]
As the door slammed open, Mo-Mo slid quietly back into the safety of the shadows to watch what would happen as two Goblin guards came in, carrying the trussed and unconscious forms of Ian and Haji.
The one wearing a huge curly red Afro wig stopped near the door and said,” Lest stop here, I need to go talk to Grommley about the money he owes me.”
The other one, who’s wig was a collection dark blue spikes tipped with neon yellow, nodded and they both unceremoniously dumped their burdens to the floor.
Spikes said, “You know, Grommley won’t have your money… Grommley Never has any money, and pay day isn’t for another week. Why did you ever loan that deadbeat anything in the first place. Every time you ask him for it, he’s broke, and you just end up hitting him so hard that he bounces off the walls five or six times.”
Afro smiled grimly…
[And if you have never seen it, let me just say that a goblins face will take the concept of a Grim Smile to a whole new level]
… and said “Yes, I know. You see, every couple of weeks this job just starts to get to me, and finally the Boss [both of them spit on the floor in habitual reaction to the name] will have me doing something that gets my blood boiling again.” He tapped the side of his bulbous nose knowingly, “See? That’s when I stop down here and ask good old Grommley for my money. He tells me that he hasn’t got it, then I get to pound him until my anger is back to manageable levels.”
He paused in thought…
[And really, the look of something as ugly and malevolent as this afro wearing creature actually deep in thought is even more unsettling than its grim smile, in my humble opinion.]
..Then said, “You know, I guess you could say I made an investment in Mental Health. HAR-Har har har har…” He opened the door, still chuckling to himself, put a finger to his lips, to tell Spikes to keep quiet,  and then bellowed, “Grommley!! Where Is My Money!!!”
From the next room, there was the crash of what sounded like a steel tray of surgical instruments being overturned, followed by swiftly retreating footsteps.
“HAR! Hear that?” Afro asked, “Sounds like he’s trying to rabbit on me…Come on, you should get in on this, it really is very therapeutic. Don’t worry about those two, they won’t go anywhere, and this is the only door, so Grommley can’t get far.”
With a shrug, Spikes followed Afro into the back of the lab complex. Neither one noticed as Mo-Mo flew silently through the door and up to the darkened corner above the cage.
The sound of a minor war erupted in the near distance as Spikes and Afro apparently caught up to poor Grommley, so Mo-Mo settled further back into the corner to wait… and plan.

 

Reply by G.A. Jack Hammerquist on April 8, 2012 at 3:09pm

Jack is standing there looking from the two captives to Ezra and the looks back at the priest. “Well this is a fine kettle of fish and chips.” he says under his breath. With out warning a hidden door way opens which he was unknowingly leaning on and he stumbles backwards with a clatter of weapons. Turning to look around the new room which is no room at all but the other side of the set which this movie is taking place. The grips and scrip gorilla in a purple too too are looking at Jack in stunned surprise. “Cut CUT! some one yells. Who left that pass word door there. Get him back on the set before he sees anything else… Jack stands there looking from right to left and back again still wondering what the hades he has fallen into… this place makes no sense what so ever… the grips do what they are meant to do and grip Jack on each shoulder and go to rush him through the door but the too too wearing gorilla with the script runs up and grabs Jacks face and plants a kiss on him that he will NEVER EVER forget unless someone knocks the events from his brain and as he stands there being held by the grips and kissed by a great ape in a too too he fervently hopes that someone will PLEASE knock this memory from his brain. The grips grow tired of the kissing gorilla and shoves Jack back onto the set and the door slams shut.

[Unknown to Jack but the gorilla has placed a map of the entire castle in his pocket of his duster. The kiss was just a diversion to give him the map. After all she is a nice gorilla and does not go around kissing strangers with out the best of reasons. And after all she does have an eye on that cute little Mo Mo.]

The priest sees Jack fall through the wall and the moments later he comes stumbling back out as if he had been pushed. The hidden door way which was once again closed and sealed can be clearly seen now if one were to look closely for the hidden seams. The priest looks at Jack as Jack brushes himself off. “Where did that door lead?” He ask with a bit of a surprise in his voice.
“Uh…uh broom closet?”

 

Reply by Maj. Bastable “Iggy” Fitzwiggins on April 8, 2012 at 8:55pm

The time was you could count on the people you take into your home to NOT behave so atrociously. Seriously, a blade. Probably not even sterile either. “Mr. Ezra was it. Whatever it is you’re accusing us of (can’t be forgetting Haji, the poor lad) I and my friend here haven’t got the foggiest clue,” I reply with a certain amount of heat. My dark skinned companion nods an affirmative, worried that should he make more noise than necissary, the mad tekno-organic man with the blade might take offense. “If you explain the betrayal you’re reffering to,” I begin with as much calm as I can muster, all things considered.

Donning my pokir-face and tensing up for a bit of action, I signal to Haji through secret Indian arts to be on his guard. Just as I make a reverse ridge hand aimed for his throat, I remember the moment he might be talking about. “Close one that,” I mutter and then I try to explain what I think may have happened. To Ezra, I begin with, ”You’re reffering to the passage under the village I led everyone into, I assume. It was quite a surprise for myself as well, you know, or perhaps because we’re having this talk, you don’t. I planned on leading the party to a rebel safe-house. From there, after a bit of recovery in more comfortable surroundings, we could have gotten better acquainted, right Haji?” My partner next to me just nods and says, “That’s right Boss.” “It was with quite a bit of consternation that we noted you hadn’t made it into the chute before the lid slid shut. We would have tried to reopen the hatch, but for the fact we were sliding away from it. Scout’s honor, right Haji?”

 

Reply by Ezra Yesterday on April 8, 2012 at 9:21pm

Ezra, listening to this with a sarcastic, completely unbelieving look on his face, is suddenly distracted by a small compartment on the inside of his machanical wrist popping open of its own accord. An over-sized earbud, reminiscent of a 1950’s era hearing aid earpiece tumbles out and dangles from its equally old fashioned looking cord. With a look of consternation, he holds his hand up and says ” One second there, Sergeant, I think my ACME Bullcrap Filter just arrived. Give me a minute to install it, then you can continue with your story.’ Muttering mostly to himself as he puts the earpiece in his ear, “I wonder if there is any popcorn in this thing, I love a snack when I’m enjoying a good fiction.”
The face of the clockwork man on his Mechanical Wonder-Hand(tm) lights up in staccato golden bursts, and Ezra listens intently, nodding occasionally, and after about 20 seconds, relaxes back out of the captives faces and and finally sits on the floor, seemingly stunned. He nods, says, “OK…Thanks.”, and takes the earpiece out of his ear.

Then he extends his hand again, the finger once more a sharpened blade, and leaning forward…
Cuts the ropes binding the Sergeant’s hands.
“Well,” he says, “Turns out, while you Are a liar, you really didnt have squat do with my hand incident…”
There is an insistent beep and golden flash from the wrist of his hand. He hung his head like a middle school kid caught stealing apples from a neighbors tree.

“…AND, I guess I owe you an apology.”
Another beep and flash.
“So, yes… Sorry to have menaced the two of you, and to have poked holes in you… You haven’t by any chance seen a large Robot control center around in your recent travels, have you? Because, now that I can’t blame you anymore, I owe SOME-one around here a butt kicking.”

 

Reply by G.A. Jack Hammerquist on April 8, 2012 at 11:10pm

The padre takes one look at me and pulls out a handkerchief and hands it to me while trying not to look like he was wondering why my face suddenly looked like it was covered from ear to ear with purple lipstick. Maybe it was just the light but it looks a lot like lipstick….naw it couldn’t be he must have fallen into some dirt in there.

Jack takes the offered handkerchief and wipes at his face then pulls a flask from his pocket and douse the rag with some of it;s content and wipes at his face some more. He looks up at the Padre and ask “better?”

Well besides now smelling like a drunk you face is clean sir.
Jack shudders and takes a swig of the flask and spits it out after rinsing his mouth out. For some unknown reason the image of the professor comes to mind as he spits. “Now who is this professor fellow that just came to my mind?” and he and the Padre both spit at the mention of the name.

 

Reply by Nichtdasein on April 13, 2012 at 9:01am

It was deathly quiet, only the grating sound of the door as it mysteriously slid shut behind them,
without justification, disturbed the morbid silence.
Their entrance stirred years of dust from the floor, making the air thick and heavy.
Breathing became a labour, but they had no other choice as the outline of the doorway slowly faded, and became a wall once again.
Ronin put his shoulder up against where the opening had been and pushed, but it was of no use.  Even with his strength, he could not reopen what was just no longer there.
“Guess the fates have decided for us once again” he sighed.
Their eyes stung, as did their lungs.

Ronin, placing his bag on the floor, opened it and reached in causing a muted grumble demanding to know what was going on.
“Let go of my tunic!” Gronkit spat (figuratively speaking, the non-saliva type) followed by what sounded like several muffled oaths.
“Sorry” Ronin replied peering into the bag, “there is some loose cloth inside, do you see it?”
Gronkit rummaged about, as the bag contorted this way and that for a few moments, then a gnarled hand popped up above the opening holding some scraps of fabric.
Ronin took the pieces, handed one to Maddie, another to Therese and instructed them to wrap it about their nose and mouth (somewhat like a bandana or mask) to at least filter out some of the dust, which they all did in turn.
Gronkit coughed, and retreated into the bag as Ronin closed the flap and slung it back over his shoulder.
There before them lay another long corridor, but this, lined with multiple closed doors.
“So, what next?” Maddie carped, becoming increasingly agitated with each passing minute, her eyes never straying for long from the bag of Gronkit.
“Shhh” Therese hushed as she listened closely for the soft whir of the clockwork mouse.
Nothing. Just dismal silence.
She shrugged her shoulders.
“Well then, let’s just explore” Ronin spoke, breaking the stillness.
The others nodded and they began to walk along the corridor, kicking up more dust as they went.
“Oomph! Will you stop kicking me!” Ronin said annoyed, which was quite unusual for his normally calm temperament.
“Confounded bag of tricks!  I want out!” Gronkit grumped.
“Are you sure?” Therese asked.

Ronin left out another groan.
A wicked glimmer appeared in Maddie’s eyes, as she rubbed her hands together in a miserly fashion.
“Excellent, excellent” she intoned “yes, Ronin, let him out” her voice, sinister with intent.
Therese glared at Maddie, turned to the bag and asked “you feel at ease, and won’t panic?”
“Anything is better than this” Gronkit bemoaned.
As Ronin once again lowered the bag to the floor and lifted the flap, Gronkit crawled out.
Tufts of tinder starter, various lengths of string and cording, a feather or two were all stuck to the coarse hairs atop Gronkit’s head.
Bits and bobs of other paraphernalia came along with, and he had imprints on his legs and arms of shuriken and other oddities.
“Phew” Gronkit gave an accusing scowl at Ronin as he stood up and rearranged his tunic, “that bag of yours is like a never ending pain in my…..” and before he was able to finish his expletive, Maddie had him by the throat and was shaking him unmercifully while maliciously screaming “why you little….”

 

Reply by Ezra Yesterday on April 15, 2012 at 3:48pm

[Mo-Mo. Part 3]
Mo-Mo huddled back in his dark corner atop the cage and few minutes later the sounds of fighting tapered off followed by the reappearance of Spikes and Afro. They laugh as they walk out, and Afro yells back over his shoulder, “I’ll let you slide this time, but you better have my money next week, or I’m gonna’ break your whole arm instead of just your pinky!”
As he opend the door he said to Spikes, in a lower voice “You know, it would really funny to bust back in here in a few minutes and yell, ‘I changed my Mind, Grommley, I want that arm Now!’, just to see him scramble.”
The two Goblins guffawed loudly as the door swung shut with a loud bang. Then they picked up their bundled captives and continued on their way to the dungeon, none the wiser.

After several minutes of silence, Mo-Mo feels it is safe to climb down and investigate the cages. Row upon row of miserable woodland life meets his eyes. All have been experimented on in various hideous ways, some with mechanical limbs, some missing parts, and others with patched on parts from different animals; one poor squirrel had what looked like a Brussels sprout grafted to the back of its head.
One thing they all [except the veggie-squirrel] had in common was a small bundle of electronics with a red blinking diode in its center attached to the back of their head, with wires seemingly sunk into their skulls.

The other thing they all had in common, especially the squirrel, was a sullen, defeated sort of rage, seething in the backs of their eyes.
Mo-Mo, so disturbed by this parade of misery and hate that he was turning to leave as fast as possible, was suddenly distracted by a feeble movement on the table near the inner door. Strapped face down to a board on the table next to a pan of surgical instruments was a golden form with wings and a shaved spot on the back of its head.

He crept closer; At last!, this was what he sensed as the trolley was trundling past this lab of horrors…another Monkey-bat in trouble!
Suddenly, just as he started to climb up to see what could be done, there was a noise that momentarily robbed him of movement.
There were footsteps approaching from the next room.
Reply by Ezra Yesterday on April 15, 2012 at 4:46pm

[Mo-Mo part 3.5]
Grommley the Goblin was furious. I mean he was always quietly angry [and more than a bit mad, in the scientific sense], but at the moment he was in a towering rage. He lay on the floor in a beat up heap, gently setting his pinky, and ranted to himself in his head.
Once again that Afro wearing buffoon had burst in and beat the stuffing out of him, expecting his money back with no notice, yet again… And this time he brought a friend!

The idiot had no appreciation of the cost of running a lab: the price of new animal subjects, electronics, various interesting bits for grafting…  not to mention disposal of the useless failures that had so far come from his more recent research completely outstripped the meager stipend the Boss [Grommley absently turned his head and spit blood on the floor] paid to run the place.  He was just glad that the Super Snails he had created were acceptable to the Boss.
[More spit, this time with a piece of tusk.]

That the snails were made on an accidental fluke, and an unrepeatable one thus far, was what accounted for a great deal of his ever present anger. Eventually he would be expected to produce something else useful, and he had no idea how that was going to happen.
That was why he would continue to beg, borrow or steal all the money and materials [he lumped his test animals into the latter category] he could lay his hands on, for as long as he could get away with it… because someday soon, he would either make a new creature, or he would be killed for failure to do so.

These little inconveniences inflicted on his body would just have to be born, if the Science was to get done, [and just incidentally, if he had any chance of saving his ass.]

At last, his internal monologue done, he remembered that he had a new specimen ready to implant…
[and maybe replace its tail with a grafted king cobra??… mmmm, yes, back to work.]
This sudden inspiration running through his, ummm… mind?, he got to his feet and headed back toward the front.  Just as he reached for the doorknob there was a loud *BANG* of the front door. He froze; that sounded all too familiar…
And from just the other side of the wall he heard the Afro fool’s voice, in a low, menacing tone much worse than the normal bellow he normally used,  saying, “I changed my Mind, Grommley, I want that arm… Now!”
The sound of the two recent assailants chuckling chased him back into his back office while he cursed under his breath, yet again.
****************************
Mo-Mo heard the sound of retreating footsteps start even before the mimicked “…Now” was out of his mouth, but he added the evil chuckles as well, just to make sure the creature on the other side stayed hidden and out of the way.
He flew up to the table, found a pair of surgical scissors on the pan nearby, and cut the leather cords holding the orange monkey-bat captive.
As it sat up, he realized it was a member of the Lion tribe.. and it was a Girl!!
[There followed a complex, deep and meaningful exchange of mental images, family history, their names, details of how each came to be here, in this place…all jumbled together, yet making perfect sense… also meaningful glances, promises, and other really mushy stuff… in humans what happened is called love at first sight, but in monkey-bats, it’s real, and if it is felt equally by both they instantly mate for life… let’s just leave it at that and move on, shall we?]

Chi-Chi, his new bride, reached up with one paw, stroked Mo-Mo’s cheek lovingly, then turning to the desktop, she picked up a heavy blotter and flung it at the window in the door, shattering it and creating their escape route. The happy couple flew away together, while the highly disturbed little goblin named Grommley cowered in his utility closet.

 

Reply by Ezra Yesterday on April 15, 2012 at 7:21pm

Meanwhile, At the Snail Vivarium…
The first of the Snails of Doom™ [ahead of the pack by almost half a length] was nearly to the first turn in the hall outside the Vivarium.

 

Reply by G.A. Jack Hammerquist on April 17, 2012 at 7:06pm

Looking back and forth between the former captives and well everyone else, I clear my throat “You know gentlemen if you want to leave this place you have but to ask I have at my disposal a time machine that has more tricks up it’s sleeve than you can shake a wombat at.” My real agenda is to get the heck out of this strange place as fast as I can because I do not want to ever meet another kissing gorilla no matter how nice she might be. I am assuming it was a she because of the purple lipstick and the too too. But I will not leave anyone no matter what even if I have just met them in danger.

 

Reply by Nichtdasein on April 19, 2012 at 12:01am

Therese quickly stepped forward and snatched the flask from Gronkit’s tunic pocket.
She held it up in the arid, stale air and, with a stern and slightly disgusted tone, said “Is this what you want”, ruffling the cloth covering her nose and mouth.
Maddie paused her garroting of Gronkit and released her grip. He dropped to the ground, now clutching his own throat as he coughed and gasped for air.
“Do you see what this stuff does to you?” Therese snapped at Maddie.
Maddie, still in the throes of withdrawal, her face livid with agitation, reached out for her flask as Therese swiftly removed it’s cap and turned it upside down.
Nothing, not even a drop, fell from it’s lip.
All eyes were upon it, then turned to focus on Maddie who now appeared as empty as the flask.
“Fasten your seatbelts, it’s gonna’ be a bumpy night” was all Therese said.
Therese knew that Madelaine Phillips Carter had once been a brilliant and audacious adventuress, but the devil’s brew had reduced her to this.
It was as if she were no longer even with them anymore. Just in a constant drunken stupor.
Her heart just wasn’t in it, and something drastic (such as this) had to be done for her to regain interest once again.
Maybe sobriety would clear her head. At least until they reached their next destination.
Therese began to recite aloud the stories Maddie had told her, about the vast markets on the borders of the Dreamlands; being held a prisoner of the Dholes; riding night gaunts in the city of the ghouls and enjoying a pint of Shoggoth’s Old Peculiar in an inn in Innsmouth.
Although sounding far-fetched, Therese knew these stories to be true. After all, who would have believed in the walking bread incident if they hadn’t met it face to focaccia.

Tears welled up in Maddie’s eyes and proceeded to run down her cheeks.
Therese put her arms around her friend in a consoling embrace. Ronin was there as well, patting Maddie’s back and in his ever calm and reassuring way, encouraged the two that all would be well.
Suddenly, the lights along the hallway began to brighten, then a clunk, followed by the sound of a compressor engaging was heard as vents in the floor and ceiling started to draw in air, recirculating and filtering out the dust.
“Automated ventilation system” Gronkit croaked, his voice still weak from being choked.
“We have it in our section of the castle as well” he added.
Gronkit just sat, rubbing his throat and staring in amazement at the good, the bad and the weirdness.
Now he understood why the Professor *spit* both hated as well as admired these ‘humans’.

 

Reply by Forlath Grey on April 20, 2012 at 2:21pm

The Padre shook his head in an attempt to clear his thoughts. The hallucinations he first developed in town seemed to be returning. At least he prayed they were hallucinations. The alternative was too dire to even contemplate… Purple lipstick, with that the Padre shuddered and turned to address Jack’s offer.

“That is a very generous offer Jack-a-lope, me lad but I think we must decline for three very essential reasons,” the Padre counted his points off on his fingers “number one, we have comrades in arms elsewhere in this complex and we can not possibly leave them behind. Two, we have yet to uncover who or what was behind those murders and most importantly, number three – time travel? Seriously? Come now, everyone knows there’s no such thing as time.

Before Jack could respond the booming vibrations began again, shaking plaster from the ceiling, Drecksler had reached the main doors…

 

Reply by Forlath Grey on April 20, 2012 at 7:55pm

Oberlieutenant Friedrich von Drecksler and his mechanized 10th Uhlan Regiment finally busted through the main doors of Professor X’s side of the fortress with grim satisfaction. The large mechs lurched through the shattered remains of the once mighty, reinforced portal, now nothing more than a pile of toothpicks. The sound of metal feet clamping on the stone floor echoed through the large, empty entry hall.

“Wo sind die alle?” asked one of the gefreite. Drecksler surveyed the room and snarled “sehr verscheinlich abgehauen, die Feiglinge”. This brought laughter from the Oberst’s troops within earshot.

“Alle Raeume durchsuchen, Professor Extreme muss gefunden werden!”
Foot soldiers began to secure the ground floor while the mechs stood on alert with chainguns at the ready.

Suddenly the air was filled with the sound of shrieking goblins as they dropped from the walls, ceilings, tumbled out of cupboards and crevices brandishing a wide array of melee weapons and firearms.

Intense fighting began with bullets flying in all directions while axes and bayonets sought soft flesh. Casualties began mounting on either side with no quarter asked or given.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the castle a group consciousness born of mutual intense suffering was seething with pain, rage and an insatiable animal desire for revenge…

 

Reply by Ezra Yesterday on April 20, 2012 at 9:04pm

Mr Mcfeely was busy.
He was Very busy in fact. He was running the Inpersonator-bot board while the entire world tried to come spewing into the Professor’s [*Spit*… he was Never too busy for that] domain. Well, OK, slight exaggeration there, he admitted to himself… but saying the portion of the world represented by every denizen of the other 1/2 of the Castle Duplex was pouring through the shattered front doors, now.. That was the solid truth.
His job was a simple one. He was to sit at this console and wait for the appropriate time to activate a special robot, this one made to look like the Boss *spit* himself.  The appropriate time would be when The Drecksler showed his face, at which time the robot would run away and hide, in  just obvious enough fashion so as to draw The Drecksler into a hideous trap.

The fighting was going poorly for the assembled goblins, all of whom were caught flat footed when the assault came. In their defense, it was 3:17 pm, so the educational program that was mandatory viewing had just started. Everyone heard the initial assault, but as the orders were very clear, posted on the inside of every WC door “DO NOT Miss The Neighborhood!! Violators will be Inventoried!!”
[No one had ever risked finding out what this dire warning meant, so it remained yet one more minor mystery in a Duplex/Castle full of them.]

All of them knowing the warning, they simply assumed the commotion was some form of a drill…Right up until the Boss came on the screen [to a veritable shower of spittle] and ranted at them that the Neighborhood would be back tomorrow, “Now Go Save the Bloody Castle!”
Then he saw his target, walking down the hall outside the Rec Room with goblin blood dripping from the sword in his left hand, a smoking pistol in his right, and the steely gleam of quiet, malicious madness in his eyes.
Mcfeely pushed the gleaming, polished reflective golden sphere that wasmade to activate one very special robot…
And nothing happened.
He pushed it again, still nothing.

Looking at the screens, searching each view in turn for an expalnation for this anomaly, at last he saw it…
The Robot was headed away from both the combat and the fiendishly horrible trap with a purposeful stride, unobserved by anyone save a lone, increasingly uneasy goblin, down the ramp leading to lower levels.

With a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach, he realized he had done all of this before.
Something else, something malignant and twisted… but not the Professor or Drecksler, had taken over the Robot control systems…
Again.

And he realized something else, even more fundamentally shocking…
He was so stunned with fear a moment ago that, for the first time ever in his long term of employment here, even though he had processed a thought directly involving his employer… By NAME!!
… And he had Forgotten to spit!!!

 

Reply by Ezra Yesterday on April 20, 2012 at 10:43pm

After hiding for almost an hour in the broom closet, Grommley the demented “scientist” finally decided Afro was gone for good. Still, he came out timidly, and when he was not attacked anew, got his pinky set and bound, and was just headed out to grab one of the more intact cobras. He and his newest flying acquisition  were scheduled for a little session of pin the venomous tail on the Monkey-Bat. Just as he reached for the outer door handle he heard the sound of the front door banging open yet again.
He muttered a curse as he flung open the door, momentarily too angry to be scared.
He immediately got over it.

In the front room stood the Professor, who was staring intently into the experiment storage units.
At first he was so terrified of the possibility the Professor was here to punish him that he didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary.
Then, when the form before him continued to do nothing but stare, not even seeming to breathe, he started to wonder if this was another of the Boss’s little quirks manifesting.

But finally, once his adrenalin began to wear off, he realized something else was wrong…
Once again, the blasted experiments were singing.

Well to be fair, a chorus of woodland creatures all moaning, growling, whimpering and screaming in unison could not really be called singing, per se, but it had a distinctly concerted, Shared…Directed air about it. It was also, quite possibly, the most hauntingly sad, and somehow at the same time most terrifyingly angry sound ever heard on that ridiculously Teutonic planet.
And sadly for Grommley, he simply could not comprehend all that beauty, all the terror, pain and anger woven into the song … or the very sinister significance of this unity of thought.

Nope, all of that flew right over his head.
“This again!… Sorry Boss, excuse me a second,” Turning from the Professor, who’s eyes he had failed to notice were glowing a malignant blood red beneath lowered brows, he picked up a faded and scratched up purple plastic chair,[obviously bought from an elementary school of the late70’s] and turned to the cages.

With a loud scream of “ SHUT UP, you miserable creatures!”
[Irony, just one more concept poor Grommley simply wasn’t equipped to appreciate.],
And with a grunt, he hurled the chair at the cages.

Tuning back to the Professor, he shrugged and said,” I’m not sure what gets into them, sir. Every once in a while they all just begin making that racket,” a racket that had lowered in volume, yet intensified in menace at the collision of the chair, “ I haven’t figured out what it all means yet, But I’m wo…URK!”

This sudden glottal stop was caused as he got within arm’s reach of the Professor, who shot out his hand and lifted the twisted little goblin by the throat until they were eye to eye.

Grommley’s eyes began to bug out from surprise as much as the sudden lack of air, because the Professor’s face took on a strange, alien expression. As he regarded the goblin at arm’s length he turned his head sideways in an oddly predatory manner, as if he were a feline toying with a particularly stupid mouse.
Then, opening his mouth wider than a human possibly could, the Professor-Bot began to sing along with the swelling animal chorus.
*********
Outside the lab, a new song is heard echoing in time to the beat of the raging battle far, far above.
A song, still full of Anger, still full of Hate, still heartbreakingly Sad, but rising above it, a new harmony of mingled Glee and Malice…
And amongst the chorus, singing for both the first and final time…
A brand new voice, lost, terrified and in horrible pain…
Yet ultimately, supremely deserving of its fate.
Reply by G.A. Jack Hammerquist on April 21, 2012 at 12:29am

Brack leaps from Jacks shoulder and begins to fly in circles above his head after the third lap he simply disappears. Now to say he vanished is not to say he really faded from view, no this was altogether something else. For if one were to reach up his arm he would not encounter the emerald green dragon still flying in circles, nor would you feel the breeze created by the flapping of his wings. No Little Brack the oldest grand chrono dragon ever known had not simply gone intangible, and invisible he had teleported and in that brief instant he was both here and somewhere else a person who was listening very close would have heard a chorus of animals singing. Now Jack who knows Brack better than any other living being did hear the song and his connection to Brack let him hear a bit more. And what he heard was simple. Someone was in deep do do and Brack was going to make sure they became exactly that.

 

Reply by Nichtdasein on April 21, 2012 at 12:48pm

A moaning wail, underlying the clap of what sounded like distant thunder, was heard echoing throughout the castle.
The slightest quiver was felt in the air that surrounded them, followed by several more clashes in tandem, resounding like the finale of a fireworks display.
It vibrated within the cavity surrounding their hearts, even moreso than their eardrums.
“This does not bode well” Ronin sighed, shaking his head.
“We need to find a way to return” Therese replied “Ezra and the Chaplain are still in the Professor’s zone” and as she spoke, her face paled and a shiver ran through her. She tried to push away the thought of her friends being in the midst of the chaos taking place there.
“They will be fine” Ronin responded, ever reassuring, as if he read her thoughts, “now let’s press on.”
Therese, removed the protective cloth from her face as it was no longer needed, then gently removed Maddie’s as well. Maddie had composed herself and was ‘relatively’ with them once again. Therese took her by the hand and they followed Ronin to the first door on the right.
As they approached this door, they noticed a brass plaque bolted upon it reading “Lebenszeiten”.
Not knowing what it translated to, Ronin reached for the knob.
“Wait” Therese began, “shouldn’t we knock first? Maybe that is what it says ‘please knock’?”
“From the looks of this place, I don’t think that will be necessary.” Ronin responded.
“Or wise” Gronkit added.
The group had momentarily forgotten he was still with them.
Therese gave him the slightest shake of her head and a warning glance, it was best if Maddie was not reminded of his presence.
Gronkit pinched his thumb and forefinger together, then drew it across his mouth in the ‘zipping-it-shut’ motion and nodded his acknowledgment.
Ronin grasped, then turned the doorknob and with a light push, opened door #1 (and no, they did not win a washer and dryer.)
The sound of what seemed like a thousand hearts beating out-of-sync was heard.
They gazed in awe.

The room was filled from ceiling to floor with clocks of all different shapes and sizes.
There were tall cased clocks-grandfathers and grandmothers, mantle clocks, cuckoo clocks, wall clocks of all shapes and sizes, small pocket watches hanging from fobs, figural clocks- some with moving eyes, pendulum-ed and not.
All hands moved in different directions, the numbers on the faces ranged from none at all, into the hundreds.
All were unharmoniously alive, except for a few whose time had been completely spent.
Since there were obviously no doors, windows nor mouse within, only clocks covering it’s entire surface, Ronin backed out, stepping on Gronkit’s bare toes as he did so causing Gronkit to slap his own hand over his mouth to suppress his pain.
Ronin quietly closed the door.
“Well” he said “I say we see what’s behind door #2 then” as they crossed the hallway to the first door on the left.
Upon this door was the same type of plaque with just the word “Klo”.
Ronin once again turned the knob and with a slight push, it swung open.
Their mouths dropped in unison. There before them was a skeleton, pants down around it’s ankles, reading a newspaper, seated upon a commode.

Ronin stifling his laughter, walked over and carefully attempted to remove the paper from it’s hands.
Of course, you guessed it, both skeletal hands and arms came away with it.
“Hmm, will you look at this” Ronin said, holding up the paper with dangling bones attached so the others could read it as well.
The headline read “OUTBREAK OF SENTIENT BREAD OVERWHELMS EARTH! THOUSANDS DEAD! CITIES OVERRUN!”
They all, save Gronkit, looked at one another in disbelief. How was this possible? The thought was with them all.
“That’s just a prank prop newspaper” Gronkit snorted, observing the dumbfounded look on all their faces “none of that is real. Whoever heard of such a thing!” he smirked.

Ronin carefully tried to return the arms, hands and paper to their owner to no avail, so just laid it, eyes averted, on the skeletal lap and they quietly vacated the loo.

 

Reply by Nichtdasein on April 21, 2012 at 12:54pm

Crossing back and forth the corridor, opening doors with various plaques only to find a broom closet, storage rooms, an empty room with only the sound of phantom yodeling and a room filled with rather unpleasant looking specimen jars, which upon closer observation, turned out to be merely Sauerkraut pickling inside, they came upon door #11.
This one was marked “Gespiegelt-Blendwerk ”.

Opening the door they found this room was lined with various mirrors. But not just ordinary mirrors, these were more like video screens showing various locales throughout the village and castle.
The one reflecting the village seemed empty, the streets deserted. Another, showed the battered front gate of the castle, and in most of the others were scenes of a violent battle taking place.
Therese caught sight of Ezra and the Chaplain together in one of the ‘mirrors’.  She walked over and absent-mindedly reached out to touch their reflection.

Her hand never connected to it’s surface but instead passed through the mirror itself.
Suddenly the familiar sound of a soft clockwork whir was heard. The mechanical mouse entered the room then vanished as it passed through the mirror.
With astonishment Therese realized these were, in fact, portals. She turned to motion the others to follow, then stepped into the melee.

 

Reply by Ezra Yesterday on April 21, 2012 at 4:05pm

Afro and Spikes woke to the sound of thunder.
How far off? They sat and wondered.
Spikes started to hum a song from 1962…

Suddenly Afro snapped out of his reverie, turned to his left, slapped Spikes and said “Hey, dim-bulb! That’s an assault! We need to hurry if we are going to find good hiding places.”
So saying, the bully and his assistant stand and slink away into the shadows and toward the door leading back to Grommley’s lab..and supposed safety.
[ Boy! Are they in for a shock]
Meanwhile, Jack, Ezra, and the Padre, along with Ian and Haji, all watch this complete lack of effective stealth with amusement.
Ian absently leans closer to The Padre and says in a low whisper, “Should we stop them?”
Ezra replies, from behind them both “Why bother? Better to let them think they managed to sneak off than to fight them here.”
As the fleeing idiots opened the door, Mo-Mo came flying in followed by a smaller orange companion and settled on the floor in front of the group.
Mo-Mo waved his hand at Ezra, and in a perfect imitation of Bill Gir, said, ”XOEZRA”, then, turning to indicate his new companion, said in his normal voice, “Chi-Chi.”

Chi-Chi curtsied and said, “XOEZRA”, in exactly the same tone as Mo-Mo had used.
Ezra, not quite smiling at the formality of the introduction, bowed to the little Monkey-Bat and said gravely, “Chi-Chi… nice to meet you.”
Before any more introductions can be passed around, Therese and company come walking out of the same wall that Jack stumbled back out of just moments before. [Jack looked closely for any signs of purple lipstick, to no avail.]
“Well!”, said Ezra jovially, scanning the large group of people now crowding the Dungeon entryway “ Looks like we got the band back together… Now what?”
**********************
Meanwhile, Afro and Spikes, not knowing that they had been observed scampering into the shadows, headed up the hallway tot the sound of strange, not so distant music.
In fact, they were getting closer to it with each step.
As they approached the door to the Lab,Spikes slowed his pace and whined, ”I don’t think we should go in there, that is just weird sounding.”
As these words finish leaving his mouth, Afro punched him in the stomach and said, “Look, I’m the one who will do the thinking around here… Got that? Now, Grommley has some prime hiding spots in there, and we are going to chuck him out of his and take it for our own… and nothing is gonna stop us.”
[As last words go, they weren’t bad.]
So saying, he turns the corner into the room and walks straight into the waiting hands of the Professor-bot.
Ain’t it funny how the Fate moves?

 

Reply by Ezra Yesterday on April 21, 2012 at 5:15pm

Mr McFeely was horrified.
The monitor screen was looking in on the Lab, and the things being done to Old Grommley were terrible, inhuman…unspeakable. Nothing had disgusted and frightened him more in his life.
[And he had once been forced by the Professor to watch Desperately Seeking Susan… Twice… Back. To. Back!! That is what had qualified him for this job, in fact; but even that vile filth could not prepare him for the scene in front of him.]
At some point, he had removed the false tusks that made him drool and stutter so.. and about ½ way through the Professor himself had come in. He was sitting on his bench, his cardigan buttoned askew, and a different shoe on each foot with his head in his hands.

Finally it was over, what was left of Grommley nothing but a still twitching, moaning pile on the floor.  The change in the “song” finally brought the Professors attention back to the present, just as two more of his Goblin Guard, one with an Afro wig and the other with Spikes, came bumbling into the room.

The out of control Professor-Bot caught them up, one in each hand, obviously prepared to deal with them in the same manner as he had with Grommley.  And then, still holding the struggling goblins at arm’s length, chillingly, it turned its head….
And looked straight into the camera…And Smiled.

In the Control Room, the flesh and blood Professor said with a shudder, “That’s it, Mcfeely. Initiate Lab Quarantine procedure.”
McFeely, still in shock, forgot who he was talking to for a nearly fatal second and said, “Don’t be stupid.. that will…” The professor was across the room and had backhanded Mcfeely so hard that he bounced twice before coming to rest upside down on a console before the thought was complete.

Luckily for him, the Professor had other things on his mind, or Mcfeely would have died then and there.
Turning a key in a special lock, he chose the Lab button and then with no ceremony whatsoever, pressed it down.
Steel shutters slammed down over the windows and door to the lab, a yellow light began to flash, and then jets of flame engulfed the room, melting the camera and mercifully cutting off the view of writhing goblins and flaming cages.

McFeely slowly slid off the console onto his head, then said, his tone full of [false] respect.
“Boss, what I meant to say was, all the life signs monitors show that all the animals in that room have been dead longer than Grommley has. They apparently finished…. downloading themselves?…. into that robot about 2 ½ minutes ago …” He paused as the Professor turned a murderous look on him, as if just remembering that McFeely was there, then continued, “…And sir, that’s not one of the normal infiltrator bots… it’s is your personal, Drecksler Extermination robot.”

He paused, a sick look on his face, and then concluded “ As you well know, The Quarantine procedure is just going to.. Well, you will pardon the expression, sir.. Piss it off.”

 

Reply by Forlath Grey on April 22, 2012 at 9:19pm

“Well,” said Ezra, with a big grin on his face “it looks like we got the band back together… Now what?”

The Padre considered the little group of misfits, what with their growing menagerie and – was that a goblin? There was no denying it, they were starting to resemble a traveling circus. All they needed now was a wagon to carry their bottle of spritzer, custard pies, oversized trousers and their unicycle and they could start touring the countryside as the proprietors of a three ring extravaganza to delight the young and old…

The sound of gunfire coming closer snapped the Padre out of his musings. This location was quickly becoming a potential health hazard. They needed to relocate before they found themselves the center of attention in the battle above, let alone before they caught the attention of whatever was going on down here in the dungeons…

Suddenly it hit him like a wet salmon to the face – of course, why didn’t he think of it sooner “Therese,” Chaplain Grey barked “what’s the German for town hall?” Therese started with surprise, regained her composure, thought for a moment and replied “Rathaus.”
“Exactly,” said the Padre with just a tad of smug, self satisfaction “ladies, gents and… others, I believe we will potentially find the answers we seek back at the town hall or the “Rat house” as it’s known locally!”

As the others struggled to come to terms with the Padre’s rather cryptic announcement (Ezra’s exact words were – “you’re reaching now, mate”), the Padre glanced over at Therese, was it his imagination or did she appear unusually pale…?

 

Reply by G.A. Jack Hammerquist on April 23, 2012 at 1:39am

“How do you do ladies, nice to make your acquaintance.”  Jack doffs his hat and bows to each lady in turn. Gregory Alexander Hammerquist but please you may call me Jack.” Putting his hat back on he turns to the new gentlemen and offers his gloved hand. “Nice to meet you sir.” And this must be your guide or pet.” Turning to look at Gronkit. “How…. unique.”  Gronkit marches up to Jack with his hand extended while Jack bends over to shake hand Gronkit promptly kicks Jack in the armored shin of his boot.

Falling down and grabbing his foot Gronkit looks at Jack with disgust in his eyes. “Pet! Bla. Gronkit is no pet.”
“Oh sorry about that I am new here.” Jack reaches into his coat pocket and finds to his surprise a map that he did not put there. He opens it and discovers it is a map of the local area but not just the duplex castle but the surrounding country side. “Uh? Guys… Ladies, Gents and others. Would a map help us get out of here if cause I have one… how I got it I have no clue. Anyway I can get us anywhere you would like to go if you want… but I do agree it sounds like time to make ourselves scares before this place falls down on our heads. And even though I am not one to run from a fight I am not one to run into a fight blindly nor fight without need.”

 

Reply by Forlath Grey on April 23, 2012 at 2:47pm

“Maps! I love maps,” exclaimed the Padre as he took the proffered map from Jack’s hand “if only I understood what all these squiggles, lines, dots and numbers meant…”
Ezra rolled his eyes and said “we could just take the trolley.”
“We could just take the trolley,“ interjected the Padre enthusiastically. “To the trolley! Um… where was the trolley exactly Ezra old chap?”
Ezra, looked heavenward and mouthed silently “why me, why?” Then turned on his heel and headed back towards the trolley. The band of misfits followed in his footsteps. Unbeknownst to the others Therese started to fall behind; Ronin noticed and fearing some sort of injury, quickly went to her side to help her along…

 

Reply by Forlath Grey on April 23, 2012 at 3:42pm

Meanwhile far above their heads things were going badly for Professor Extreme’s goblinoid forces as their superior numbers proved no match for the Oberlieutenant’s chain guns. Row after row of the ugly creatures were mowed down like wheat. We could wax poetic about the flower of goblinoid youth face down in the mud… but we won’t, because that would be stupid.

At Therese’s urgent pleading not to say anything, Ronin helped Therese to the back of the trolley telling Champlain Grey she was fine, she had just twisted her ankle a bit. The Padre just nodded and continued to hurry the other members of the group onto the trolley. Therese gasped her thanks as soon as they were at back end of the trolley, out of immediate earshot of the rest of the group. Ronin pulled out his first aid kit and whispered urgently so as not to be overheard “you have to tell me what’s going on, and why don’t you want the others to know?” Therese just shut her eyes and shook her head.

Just by chance, the motion out the corner of his eye caught Mr. McFeely’s attention on monitor number eight and he saw trolley number six leave the fortress grounds on track number three, but fearing another one of the Professor’s (*spit*) violent outbursts he said nothing. He surreptitiously watched the trolley dwindle from view thinking all the while – lucky bastards…

 

Reply by Forlath Grey on April 23, 2012 at 6:38pm

The trolley rolled into the station at the center of town (odd that I never noticed a station here before, the Padre thought to himself). All was deathly quiet. None of the town inhabitants appeared to be about. “I don’t like it,” croaked Gronkit, sniffing around “it smells unnatural.”

“Why is that goblin still with us exactly?” The Padre stage whispered out of the corner of his mouth to Ezra, or rather he thought he was talking to Ezra, only Ezra’s head happened to be turned and one of those monkey things (zoology not being one of the Padre’s strong suits) was sitting on Ezra’s shoulder, when the Padre turned his head to see Ezra’s response he found himself face to face with Mo-Mo. Mo-Mo shrugged in answer to the Padre’s question and then smiled a huge monkey grin when the Padre recoiled in surprise.
“Er, yes. Quite.” was all the Padre was able to manage in response and quickly moved towards the front of the group.

The party stepped off the platform and started cautiously towards the Rathaus, their feet crunching loudly on the packed snow…

 

Reply by G.A. Jack Hammerquist on April 23, 2012 at 8:04pm

Jack stretches his arm above his head as if he were about to do a summoning spell then as if on cue Brack pops back into being just above his head. He flares his wings and settles onto Jacks shoulder. Then with out warning Jack lets a sneeze go that would wake the dead..[If there were such a thing…. which of course there are… Jack would know he destroyed enough of them in an alternate per WW2 Germany… Undead Nazis… especially cloned undead nazis are no fun what so ever. But one thing Jack did learn out of that experience. You can’t kill something that was never alive you can just destroy it.] Jack watches everyone jump a good foot into the air as a result of his sneeze. Taking a handkerchief from an inside pocket he wipes his nose and looks around sheepishly. “Sorry about that. Dungeons always give me the sniffles. Would you excuse me a moment…” Jack pulls his pocket watch form his inside coat pocket and flips it open. After making a few adjustments he says. “Back in a flash.” With that he presses a button on his watch and disappears from view… no more than three seconds pass and anyone who was counting foot steps…. if you were you all took no more than three steps and before any of you can mutter a word about how strange that was Jack pops back into existence with a pop of displaced air and a light flash.  In his place is…well Jack but he is fully shaved showered and wearing fresh cloths. Brack is still sitting on his shoulder but now he is chewing on a leg bone of a chicken…. the foot is still attached if any one is paying that much attention. On his back is a rather large back pack with what appears to be tins of some sort filling it from top to bottom. “I though I would get us something to eat because I was starving. Shall we find some place out of the weather?”

 

Reply by Forlath Grey on May 3, 2012 at 10:22am

“Nobody likes a showoff Jack, nobody likes a showoff.” With that the Padre turned back towards the town. The darkened streets were empty except for the occasional empty snack packet blown along by the cold wind. This was no pleasant tropical breeze full of gentle caresses and playful tugs at your hair. Oh no, this wind was known in wind circles as the wind equivalent of the icy hand of death. This was a wind that said ‘here, let me get that chair for you’ and then would laugh as it pulled the chair out from under you and you landed ignominiously on your arse. So to recap – not a nice wind.

The Padre paused and buttoned up the top button of his frock coat in a futile effort to fight off the cold. He pulled out his pocket watch and checked the time. A quarter after ten in the morning. The Padre looked up; surely it should be lighter than this? The sky above was a swirling mass of dark clouds. Puzzled, the Padre re-pocketed the watch and quickened his stride to catch up with the rest of group.
The Padre reached the party just as they arrived at the base of the town hall. They were all gazing up at the top of the town hall’s clock tower.
“Oh crud” said Gonkit.
“There’s no excuse for that kind of language,” the Padre replied automatically, before looking to see what they were all staring at.
Above the clock tower was the center of the twisting, spinning maelstrom of black clouds, radiating out in an ever increasing radius, covering the town under a suffocating blanket of oppressiveness. Apparently they had found the cause at the center of the effects of the past couple of days.
“Oh crud,” said the Padre…

 

Reply by Forlath Grey on May 3, 2012 at 11:18am

Oberlieutenant Friedrich von Drecksler was furious. So far, despite his glorious victory over the Professor’s goblinoid forces (granted, slaughter was also an appropriate word under the circumstances but that word should under no circumstances detract from the general sense of accomplishment), the search of the fortress had turned up no sign of the Professor (correction – the real Professor). To top it all off a group of the Oberlieutenant’s best men were currently faring poorly in the lab holding pens against what appeared to be a robot that looked like the Professor, something about animals, supernatural wosits, and well, to be honest Oberlieutenant Friedrich von Drecksler hadn’t really been listening to his men after it became clear that that wasn’t the Professor currently throttling people and busting through feet thick, steel reinforced, lead containment doors.

Currently, Drecksler was in a control room directing a couple of his men as they spooled back through surveillance tape in an effort to find a clue as to the Professor’s whereabouts.
“Stop!” Drecksler bellowed, “there, on that monitor there. What is that?”
The Gefreite rewinding the tape on monitor eight hit the stop button, rewound the tape a short ways and hit play. “It looks like a trolley with passengers leaving the fortress grounds, Herr Oberst!”
“Well where is it headed?” Drecksler demanded in his ‘talking to idiots’ voice. His men shrugged in reply. “Well find out! I want that trolley!” Drecksler commanded and with that slammed his fist on top on the console.

Inside the maintenance hatch Mr. McFeely flinched at the sound of Drecksler’s fist hitting the metal surface just above his head. ‘Something tells me it’s time for a career change, pension plan be damned’ Mr. McFeely thought to himself…

 

Reply by G.A. Jack Hammerquist on May 3, 2012 at 9:34pm

Looking up at the spiraling vortex looming above our heads I shift the pack of hot food cans to a more comfortable position. The last time I saw something like that I did what any smart person would do in such circumstances… I found cover. However since that is not a Texas twister. I am unsure what to do so lets eat while it is hot and then we can tackle this new wrinkle on full stomachs. I can slow time down for us all if that will make you all feel better till we finish the meal. After all there is no rush when you have a time master handy. Pulls out my pocket watch again and begins to make some minor adjustments. Just let me know when you are ready and you must stay with in 10 ft or so. Give or take an inch. Otherwise you get split between the now that is with me and the then that is outside. And believe me that is not pretty.

 

Reply by Ezra Yesterday on May 10, 2012 at 12:13am

“Well,” Ezra says with a grin at the Padre, “Unlike some people, I didn’t have a luxury suite in the Spitsville Hilton, so I’m starved.” And with that, he promptly settled to the ground.
Seeing the looks his companions were giving him, he said, “What? I’m hungry, he’s got backpack full of food and a magic time thingee; This pavement is warmer and Much cleaner than the sewer I had to climb through to get to the nice clean dungeon where our Cleric was resting. I’m all for a bit of comfort food before we tackle,” he gestured absently toward the ominous swirling manifestation of evil far above, “whatever the blazes is causing that.”

Mo-Mo nodded sagely in agreement from one shoulder, while Chi-Chi looked up at the black vortex and bared her teeth in defiance.
After considering the logic of this briefly, the rest of the party shrugged and joined him on the ground, anticipating a wondrous feast.
“So, Jack.” Ezra said, a wry grin on his face as he noted that Gronkit was the last to give in and settle to the ground with a small [for a goblin] grimace of distaste, “Whats for Lunch?”

 

Reply by Sparrow on May 11, 2012 at 10:28pm

Maddie took a seat away from the others.
The symptoms of delirium tremens (better known as the DTs) made the very thought of food
nauseating to her.
Taking the flask from her pocket, she unscrewed it’s skull cap and inhaled deeply the remaining
vapors, her last breath before spontaneously combusting in a burst of bluish white flames.
The force of the ignition jettisoned the flask airborne. It landed directly in front of Therese.
There was a simultaneous gasp of horror, as within the blink of an eye, all that was left where Maddie sat was a pile of ashes and one shoe.
Therese, looking from the flask to the ashes broke into tears, sobbing uncontrollably (as she was wont to do), the others were in such a state of shock that no one spoke but simply stared at what remained of Madelaine Phillips Carter, adventuress.
Gronkit took this as an opportunity to reclaim the flask, which he felt rightfully belonged to him. After all, she had not been very nice to him and as the saying goes ‘finders keepers, losers spontaneously combust’.
Bending down, he plucked it from the ground and as he straightened again, his eyes met Therese’s.
Seeing the tears flowing down her face, he felt a pang inside his chest, and what happened then…? Well…in Sheutzenstein they say, that Gronkit’s small heart grew three sizes that day.
He held out the flask to Therese and said “Here, I think she would have wanted you to have this”
then taking a corner of his filthy, tattered tunic, dabbed her eyes as he patted her head rather roughly. He was still unused to all this ‘human’ interaction.
XO Ezra was the first to speak.
“I suppose we should say a few words” motioning towards the shoe, then glancing skyward added “before the heavens come raining down upon us.”
He began, “Maddie was many things, a tippler, an imbiber, a dipsomaniac but most of all she was the Chief Engineer of the good ship Queen Brans Revenge, our comrade, our friend.
He paused to compose himself, then said “Chaplain, would you care to take it from here?”
Chaplain Grey cleared his throat. “Ashes to ashes” he began “and I guess that about sums it up.
May she retire in revelry at that great tavern in the sky where happy hour never ends. Amen.”
Each member of the Padre’s cadre somberly filed past the shoe, paying their last respects.
Therese, who was last in line, paused for a moment, then scooped up a handful of ashes and funneled them with her hand into the flask for safe keeping.
What happened next, was anyone’s guess.

 

Reply by Sparrow on May 12, 2012 at 9:02pm

Therese had been very apathetic since the loss of Maddie.
She spoke very little and ate even less.
Gronkit showed his concern by doing all sorts of zany antics, trying to cheer her up.
Feigning to trip then bouncing about on his bum; making horrendous faces (as if
that were even possible, given that his actual face was only something a mother could love); shoving all sorts of objects up his nose then ‘sneezing’ them out;
or sticking things like twigs and small animals in his ears followed by making humourous noises (both from Gronkit himself as well as from the small animals, only their’s were not so humourous).
Anything he thought would make Therese smile again.
But even when she did, it was not the same.
She grew morose and distant.
She constantly took the flask from her pocket and just stared at it without even a glimmer of emotion.
Once, she even thought she heard a moaning sound coming from it, but it was
only her own stomach growling.
There it was again, though!
Therese shook the flask, then placed it against her ear.
It sounded like a garbled voice, or perhaps it was merely speaking a foreign language?
‘A Genie! That was it! This was a magic flask, that is why it was so precious to anyone
to whom it belonged’, Therese thought to herself.
In her addled brain, all that had happened finally took it’s toll.
Once again.
Removing the cork, then rubbing the flask, Therese prepared to ask for her first wish.
She recalled, from stories, there were always only three wishes allowed, so she had to be
very specific and cautious in her choices.
She began in a tremulous voice-
“Grant me this wish, Oh Genie of the flask” she chanted “I wish for….”
and before she could finish, she heard the voice once again, only this time
it was as clear and sharp as a shot from a Winchester rifle.
It spoke to her in a voice she finally recognized.
“I’m no damn genie, you idjit, it’s me, Maddie!”
Therese’s mouth dropped open.
Was it her imagination?
Was she in denial from grief?
“Who is this REALLY” Therese emphasized as she spoke into the lip of the flask as if
it were a microphone, then held it to her ear for a reply.
“Oh bloody hell!” was the response.

 

Reply by Forlath Grey on May 12, 2012 at 10:58pm

“Right,” the Padre exclaimed as he stood up and slapped his hands together “if you are all done with your little picnic break before the very gates of hell itself, perhaps we can finally get to the bottom of this little mystery? If it’s not too much to ask?”

The rest of group mumbled their assent in a somewhat half hearted fashion and started to pack up. The Padre turned back towards the clock tower and rubbing his chin contemplativly started towards the Rathaus front doors. He only managed three steps before nearly tripping over something in the cobblestoned street, looking down he saw the one remaining shoe of the recently departed lush. The Padre leaned over and picked up the shoe, thought for a moment and then surreptiously looked around. The other group members were still busy with their site clean up (collapsing and rolling up the dining tent back down to backpack size was proving particularly challenging, never mind the Persian rug), the Padre took another look at this last remaining physical evidence that the erstwhile engineer had ever existed, shrugged and tossed it underhand into the nearby town well. All net, he thought to himself and smiled as the shoe disappeared from sight. “Right, last one to die a horrible, painful death is a rotten egg” the Padre called and with that strode to the townhall doors and threw them both open…

 

Reply by Forlath Grey on May 12, 2012 at 11:31pm

The merry band of misfits made their way cautiously up the clock tower stairs. With each step the rickety old wooden steps creaked and groaned. The further they went up the stairs the more oppressive the air became, like the feeling right before an electrical storm. The Padre looked down, the hair on the back of his arms was standing straight up. Ezra reached up a hand to comfort the increasingly anxious monkeys on his shoulders only to have huge arcs of static electricity spark between his fingertips and the monkeys’ fur.

“I’ve got a bad feeling about this” Ezra intoned.

“I think I need da toilet,” Gronkit replied “what? I’ve got one of dem nervous bladders!” Gronkit snapped in reply to the looks from the rest of the party.

The party continued ever upwards until finally they reached the landing at the top of the stairs. Clockwork gears filled the space above their heads. Truly an engineering marvel, the gears rotated in perfect synchronicity but not one member of the party noticed for before them, wreathed in vapors, swirling smoke and the smell of ozone, was a huge pair of wrought iron bound doors ominously standing between them and a rift in time and space.

The Padre gulped once and croaked “despite my earlier comment, I wasn’t really expecting the actual gates of hell…”

Gronkit started hopping from foot to the other “hey buddy,” he stage whispered to Jack “you wouldn’t happen to have a time traveling toilet in your bag of tricks would you?”

When Jack failed to dignify that with a response, Gronkit growing desperate cast his eyes about looking for the nearest ‘Gents’ sign. Gronkit’s eyes alighted upon the flask sticking out of Theresa’s backpack, the flask he had only just given back to Therese downstairs when it was apparent she was about to start bawling again. Gronkit considered, quickly reached a decision, muttered “any port in a storm” and sidled surreptiously up behind Theresa…

 

Reply by Ezra Yesterday on May 13, 2012 at 2:16am

Mr Mcfeely sat huddled inside the maintenance hatch, trembling in fear and listening to the utter stillness of the control room. He was fairly certain that the entire elite shock-force had accompanied Drecksler on his misguided mission of vengeance, following the trolley back into town, when the Boss *silently mimed spit* was actually in a hidden passage not six feet away.

Mcfeely was Fairly certain the control room was empty, which was not good enough in his way of thinking, and for a very important reason.
Since he was so highly placed in the organization, he was one of the few Goblins [the only one still living, in point of fact] who knew that all of the minions in this half of the castle were implanted with a hollow tooth full of a vile philter brewed by the Boss himself *mimed spit*. Then they were post-hypnotically programed to break the tooth and ingest the horrible concoction  in the event of their capture and interrogation; the effects were said to be horrifying to behold, in order to both prevent information from being repeated, and to damage the morale of the enemy. Of course, all memories of this tooth and its contents were erased from their memories during programming.

Needless to say, this was a fate that Mcfeely wanted desperately to avoid; for, even though he knew about the tooth, he was Completely certain that wouldn’t do a thing to prevent the programming forcing him to use it if he was captured. Waiting until he was Sure he was alone was only prudent.
As he shifted a little bit to the left to avoid a cramp tat was threatening to manifest in his upper thigh, there was a sudden wrenching sound and the entire top of the console just over his head was ripped free and tossed across the room. Mcfeely looked up at the profile of his employer and, his lips already working in the habitual manner he had developed to not spit in the Professors presence, started to exclaim, “Boss!”
I say started to exclaim, because the figure turned back toward him  after finishing his motion of effortlessly tossing hundreds of pounds of console into the other corner just as the “B—” left his mouth, then cut off sharply.

Mcfeely began to stutter, because the face that turned back to him had angry, glowing blood red eyes, and the plastic that covered the titanium cheek and jawbone was melted completely away on the left side.
“B..B.. Bu.. Bugger!” Mcfeely said, his stutter winding down into the most heartfelt utterance he had ever spoken.
The Professor-bot reached down, pulled the hapless minion right up in its face, eye to eye and then tilting its head in an oddly avian manner spoke one word, in the most disturbing multi-voice that Mcfeely had ever heard.
[And considering he was a Goblin who worked for a Mr. Rogers obsessed madman, that is saying something much, Much more terrifying than either of us could possibly comprehend.]
The one word, drawn out for almost 3 full seconds, was sibilant, mixed up hate, pain and self loathing evident in its inflection… and possibly most horrifying of all, with a good measure of poor old Grommley’s voice:
“Where?”

Mcfeeley’s hair turned solid white, and he seemed to age 50 years in the space of that word, his face crumpling like a time lapse movie of a souffle deflating.
Without hesitation, he reached a shaking, liver spotted hand into his apron pocket, pulled out a old 1970’s era click-style television remote and pointed it at the seemingly smooth granite wall to their far right.
With a *click* a large wedge of wall slid smoothly outward, then sank into the floor, revealing a darkened archway behind it.
In a trembling voice Mcfeely said,”There.. He went that way.”
The Professor-bot smiled, licked its lips [what was left of them] and leaned forward, apparently preparing to bite Mcfeely’s face off, when echoing out of the darkness came the Professor’s voice, high and shrill:
‘Mcfeely, You ungrateful little bastard! You’re Fired!!!”, followed by swiftly retreating footsteps.
With a chilling, “Laterrrr…” the bot casually tossed Mcfeely on top of the wrecked console across the room and bounded into the darkness.
As he sat up, relieved to be alive, he suddenly and without conscious will bit down on the false tooth in the back of his mouth and swallowed the pleasant tasting lime flavored contents.

He froze in place, sure he would start convulsing at any time, but nothing happened for almost a full minute.
He had just started to relax, when two things happened in quick succession.
A guard walked into the room, weapon drawn and pointed at Mcfeely’s head, and asked in German, “Where did you come from, little troll?”
And then as he stood slowly, hands raised in surrender, Mcfeely felt the first effects of the insidious little surprise the Professor had left for his enemies:
With a small burp, followed by a sloshing rumble deep in his abdomen, Mcfeely was suddenly, violently, uncontrollably sick from both ends at the same time, and in quantities completely unexplainable by any known law of physics.
**********
That day a legend was born, told by a guard of the elite forces and passed on to everyone in the Drecksler army.
A guard that had to be dug out of a blasted, stinking, overflowing ruin of a control room.
A man that was never quite the same.. or quite sane ever again.
But a man who was sought out for the rest of his days, that he mighe once again recount the horrible, disgusting tale. Trusted despite his obvious instability, as the only living witness to the horror of:
Mcfeely, The Sewage Troll.

 

Reply by Ezra Yesterday on May 13, 2012 at 8:53am

**********
As for Mcfeely:
When asked about the incident, the tips of his ears would always flush a bright crimson and he would turn and shuffle away…
Goblins being the cruel and inquisitive lot that they are, he was asked repeatedly, forcefully, and in usually in front of large, snickering groups of Goblin children, led by little punk-ass goblin teens who were out for a laugh at anyone’s expense.
[Sometimes the questioner would offer prunes or maybe a Choco-laxitive bar as a whimsical “bribe”.]
But to the end of his days, he would simply refuse to speak of it.
Ever.

 

Reply by Sparrow on May 13, 2012 at 9:57am

Therese caught sight of the sidling Gronkit, his left hand now holding his crotch.
“Not on your life!” Therese scolded as she realized what he was about, then
pushed the flask deeper into her pocket.
“Just go over there and do your business” she said POINTING to a corner of the room.
Gronkit did as he was told, and in mid-stream turned to hear what the
Chaplain was saying only to direct his ‘business’ onto the Padre’s shoes.

 

Reply by Ezra Yesterday on May 13, 2012 at 11:09am

Meanwhile, deep in the heart of Texas [stupid auto-correct]…
Ahem… that is, in the lowest reaches deep under Castle *Spit*-Zenstein…
The Snails of Doom ™ had turned the corner and were nearly to the doorway of the room containing the mirror based transmat booth. Once inside, they would be instantly transported to the programmed destination.
[Yes, I realize this is taking a long time, but snails being snails… it would. Unfortunately, the stipulations of the lease stated that new construction within the castle required several building permits, and a union shop steward to oversee the entire process. Always pragmatic, the Professor bowed to the might of the superior evil and had instead used the closest available existing structure, [an unused water closet at the end of the hall] to house the dedicated Snails Of Doom(tm) transport mirror.]
Yep… Any minute now, the Snails Of Doom will arrive..
Then the tables will turn, of that I can assure you.

 

Reply by G.A. Jack Hammerquist on May 14, 2012 at 10:40pm

Jack stands at the edge of the door way looking down into the coiling mass of inky blackness and blood and fiery reds The patterns ever changing the stench nearly over powering. The view sicking enough to make any grown man weak in the knees. While causing mind numbing blinding migraine level head aches. Turning away from it and stepping back to the wall. “You know folks, I have seen giant demons, undead clone nazis, monsters, and even the gates of hell once and I can tell you all one thing for absolutely certain and sure. We are not looking at the very bowels of hell… that. “pointing downward into the eye twisting gut wrenching ugliness.”That dear friends is what lies under the bowels of hell after it has done it’s business. I am very glad I was able to provide you a good meal. Because it might just be our last meal!” And with that Jack turns and vomits his last meal all over wall and manages to coat the foot of Gronkit and the Padre’s other boot.”Oh… Uh sorry about that.”

 

Reply by Sparrow on May 15, 2012 at 8:11pm

In the interim, while awaiting all hell to break loose from both above and below them,
something came to Therese’s attention, so she asked
“Gronkit, why do you not wear trousers?”
“What are trousers?” Gronkit replied.
“You know, they cover your, well, bottom and lower extremities” answered Therese.
“Like these” Gronkit said as he pulled up his tunic to reveal gold lamé underpants.
XO Ezra, caught the metallic glint from the corner of his eye.
“Where did you get those” he demanded.
“What, these” Gronkit motioned to his undergarment.
“Yes, those” Ezra said indignantly.
“Found them in the debris from that crash site awhile back” adding
“finders keepers, losers….”
“Yes, I know” XO snapped, ”losers spontaneously combust” fanning himself at the thought.
“No” Gronkit retaliated ”losers no longer have gold lame shorts, and what’s it to you anyway?”
“Nothing” XO Ezra answered curtly.
Gronkit returned the conversation to Therese again.
“Now, about these trousers” he continued.
“Like what they *pointing towards the male members of the group* are wearing on their bottom halves. Doesn’t the Professor wear them?” she queried.
“The Professor *spit* wears gowns. ”
“What sort, like a formal, a hospital, a judicial, a surgical?” Therese rattles off all she can think of.
“Don’t know what they are, but he calls them kaftans (*under his breath mutters muumuu*), like his other hero Doctor Moreau, or was that Doctor Alphonse Mephisto, no, definitely Moreau. He wears them with his cardigan and sneakers.”
“Oh” was all Therese had for a response.
In the meantime….

 

Reply by Ezra Yesterday on May 15, 2012 at 9:53pm

Earlier…
Professor Extreme..! watched on a monitor as the multiform ghost inhabiting his personal immortality robot ripped Mcfeely from his hiding place in the console and then asked one simple, [if heart stopping in it’s shear menace] question. He waited for his faithful servant to spit in the creatures eye, valiantly giving his life to save his beloved master.
As Mcfeely reached his hand into the pocket of his apron and brought out the Clicker-Key™, the professor muttered, “Son of a B…”
He caught himself just short of uttering something the Great Mister would never have said, and continued watching as his ungrateful little minion opened the secret doorway in the wall for the Death Bot 3000.
Suddenly he was:
Blinded with rage ,
Nearly Crippled with fear,
Deafened to his own now constant and increasingly vile muttered curses..
And, well, let’s face it…He was already pretty Dumb to begin with.
In his fury, he snatched up the microphone and screeched, “Mcfeely! You ungrateful little bastard! You’re Fired!!!”
With that he took off as quickly as his pudgy little legs would carry him, taking random turns as fast as he could, because he had no idea where he was going… Mcfeely was the one who knew these tunnels, after all.  After nearly 45 seconds of all out [for him] sprinting…
He turned a corner and realized he was back where he had started, in the corridor behind the opened secret door…looking into the control room. Suddenly,as he stood leaning against the wall and panting, he heard a German voice demanding something about a troll… or something.
[He had never admitted it to anyone, but his German was limited to ordering beer (and assorted other vices) and asking for directions to the bathroom… Oh and “Fahrvergnügen “… Whatever the hell that meant.] Thinking the guard was speaking to him, he spun and hobbled back the way he had come, still out of breath but attempting to make his escape, nonetheless.
He had turned the corner and gone about 3 steps when the most vile, disgusting… Squelching noise…. he had ever heard came echoing from behind him. He stopped dead still in sudden, thunderstruck realization, then leaning against the wall he began giggling, then chuckling and finally laughing maniacally as the sound continued…
And continued…
And continued some more.
“Well,” he thought, still giggling and wiping tears from his eyes as the sound simply kept going, “That worked much better than I ever expected; and it serves the little turncoat right, too.”
He moved into the labyrinth again, taking his time, merely walking now, since there was no way anything that had been in that room could possibly sneak up on him. He wandered the tunnels for what seemed like hours, getting more and more lost. Even on his best day, he would have had trouble finding his buttocks with both hands, a mirrored room and a team of Sherpa guides…News flash: This was Not his best day.
Once, as he walked, he thought he heard a sound behind him, but when he whirled to look, there was no one there, so he chuckled nervously and continued on his oblivious way.
[Why, oh why does the victim never, Ever look up in these situations? I mean, sound travels in 3 dimensions, how is it no one ever remembers that fact.. until its far, Far too late. If  the noxious little madman known as Professor Extreme…! had remembered this, he would have discovered the terrifying and very, very close source of the sound he had heard…
Of course, if he had, this would be a considerably shorter, and likely much less messy, account.]

 

Reply by Forlath Grey on May 17, 2012 at 1:36pm

Suddenly the party staggered about as a large booming sound filled the air and the clock tower floor buckled beneath their feet. “Heilige Strohsack! What was that?” the Padre shouted over the combined noise of the blast reverberations and the sucking noise of the swirling vortex on the other side of the door.

XO Yesterday peered through a conveniently placed window slot and shouted “it’s that bastard Drecksler. He’s followed us. Brace yourselves!” as another half dozen high explosive siege shells slammed into the side of the tower.
All else was forgotten as supporting beams began to give way and the walls began to crumble. “We all gonna die!” Gonkit wailed as the stairs were ripped away by falling masonry.

“What now, XO?” The Padre called out as he dodged falling debris. Just then the floor opened up beneath Therese’s feet and she fell shrieking through the gaping hole. XO Ezra Yesterday leaped with arms outstretched, landed on his stomach and slid across the floor, only just managing to grab one of Therese’s hands before she plummeted to the stone floor, five stories below.

Ezra smiled briefly in triumph, right up to the point when he realized that he was still sliding steadily closer towards the hole in the floor. Ezra shouted “dammit Therese, what have you been eating, bricks?” as he flailed his legs about trying to find purchase with his toes. With barely a moment’s hesitation Ronin, then Jack and then the chaplain piled on top of Ezra, stopping his forward motion. All the while Gonkit was under a table screeching “we gonna die, we gonna die, please dear gods, take them and let me live!”

“Will someone shut that little troll up!” Ronin shouted uncharacteristically as they pulled Ezra and Therese up and away from the hole in the floor. “One more shell and this whole tower’s going to collapse,” Jack shouted. XO Ezra Yesterday felt the mantle of authority weighing heavily upon him as he reached a decision and gestured towards the vortex “quick, through the door, it’s our only chance!”
“Are you insane!” Jack shouted, “did you not hear anything I just said? That door is the last place we want to go, I’ve got a better idea, any idea would be a better idea, why don’t we just . . .” but before Jack could finish his sentence, a piece of masonry clipped him on the side of the head and knocked him out cold.

The Padre ran to Jack’s side and begun to shake his unconscious form by the lapels “what! What are our other options?” but to no avail.
When it became clear that Jack was not currently capable of answering and with no other options available, Ronin pulled the Padre off Jack and threw him over his shoulder (Jack, not the Padre), while Jack’s pet flew in agitated circles above them. Then he together with Therese, XO Ezra Yesterday and the Padre approached the vortex door with more than a little trepidation. Ezra considered briefly at the threshold and then spoke firmly “once more into the breach dear friends, once more . . .” and with that stepped into the vortex, closely followed by the rest of the group.
Gronkit considered his options, cursed the day he was hatched, crawled out from under his table, ran and then dove after the party into the vortex just as the roof of the clock tower caved in . . .

 

Reply by Forlath Grey on May 17, 2012 at 2:11pm

Oberlieutenant Friedrich von Drecksler cackled with glee as the clock tower unsuited to this kind of abuse, slowly but surely folded in on itself and then toppled over, crashing onto the town hall, turning it into a burning heap of debris.

“Victory is mine!” Drecksler shouted. He half jumped, half fell down the ladder on the side of his command construct and danced a jig in the snow shrieking repeatedly “I’ve won, I’ve won, I’ve finally won!” His troops fidgeted nervously at this display of his obvious, full blown madness.
So distracted where they all, that they noticed too late, much too late, the shadow falling over them. Their collective attention was snapped back upwards when air to ground rockets began to explode all around them.

Oberlieutenant Friedrich von Drecksler stopped and looked up. His mouth gaped in surprise as he began to scream “no it can’t be! Not you! Not here! Not now! This is my victory . . .” Drecksler’s wail was stopped mid rant when his head was ripped clean off by a self propelled rocket dropped off the side of the airship “the Queen Bran’s Revenge”, in the sky above them.

In the command gondola of the airship QBR, Captain Forlath Grey snapped his spyglass shut and said “damn good shot, I never did like that German buffoon. Corporal Chemisesrouges, assemble a landing party, mop up the survivors and locate the rest of our crew.” Corporal Chemisesrouges saluted sharply, turned and headed resolutely to the landing bay . . .
Reply by Forlath Grey on May 24, 2012 at 8:35pm

STAY TUNED FOR BOOK FOUR . . . I dunno, something with the seven planes of hell? Dinosaurs? Figuring out who keeps swiping the last tea bag without replenishing? We’ll come up with something. In the meantime imagine dramatic exit music a la LOST . . .

 

(Earlier QBR attempt – basically just a ripped off Battleship)

The QBR Airship

 

Reply by Ezra Yesterday on June 3, 2012 at 10:40pm

EPILOGUE:
Ezra Yesterday, [XO of the dimension hopping airship Queen Bran’s Revenge, the incredible vessel that has been entirely missing until the Very last post of book #3 of its own chronicled adventures] was floating in a vast gray sea of nothingness.
<Great,> he thought to himself, <here we go again. Let me guess, its time for the flashback sequence.>
Suddenly, in his head there was the sound of a microphone being activated, and the voice of a famous, pompous and quite dead radio host rang in his head.
#Thank you for traveling with Inter-Dimensional Transport, this is your guide, ENGINEER speaking. You have chosen a rash but necessary extra dimensional escape route from an almost certainly fatal situation. These trips are always nearly instantaneous, but the subjective time tends to stretch much longer, so to help while away the dragging microseconds, please enjoy this in flight movie.#
There is the sound of a throat being cleared, then #Since I hear that flashbacks are getting monotonous, we will instead be showing a scene that only made it into the directors cut of the previous story… I give you, * dramatic musical crescendo*  The Fall of Professor Extreme..!#

The nothingness was gone, replaced by a movie screen, on which was projected the view of a long torchlit stone corridor. Bumbling around the corner came a figure in a sweaty and torn cardigan sweater. The figure stumbled to a stop in the pool of light from a torch  and looked in both directions, in quite obvious and comedic confusion. He then began to mutter to himself and make strange eldritch passes with his hands first in one direction, then the other, in an apparent attempt to execute a spell.

Suddenly the scene shifted, gaining color and dimension, so that Ezra seemed now to be standing in the hallway with the figure, and he could hear the muttered ending of the ‘spell’ each word punctuated by a gesture down one hall or the other in turn, “..Miney… Moe! …My mother told me to pick this one!”  With that the silly little man wandered off down the left hand hall.

There was a small, sinister sound that echoed off the damp stone walls from somewhere close by, which caused the figure to snap his head around, looking uselessly back the way he had come, and just incidentally straight through Ezra who had been floating down the hall behind him like a ghost… or a really good Stedi-Cam(tm) operator.

For his part, Ezra looked up, because that’s where the trouble always lurks in bare, dimly lit hallways.

As he gazed up at the cause of the noise, the scene froze around Ezra and the thought-voice of the ENGINEER spoke in his head,
#Here, my passengers, stand the twin causes of Ezra’s well deserved anger. The figure on the ground before you is Professor Extreme..!, a self styled world conqueror, currently being hunted through his “Winter Retreat” by a creature of his own, albeit accidental, making. The creature above him simply thinks of itself as HATE, and is the combined life essence of 38 different forest creatures that were used in endless and horrible lab experiments, along with the soul of the goblin who tortured and maimed them… Oh, and hidden in its chest cavity is a slightly singed but still living squirrel with a Brussels sprout grafted to its head. The animals managed to download themselves into the professors personal Death Bot torture and suck in the goblins life essence, kill two more goblinoid guards, and stash Brussels the angry Squirrel  just before the professor torched the lab complex.

As a side note, it was an early form of this this combined entity that took over the robots that destroyed Ezra’s hand and later attacked Mo-Mo, damaging the Gir unit that is now the central processing unit of his mechanical gauntlet.

HATE has been stalking and toying with the Professor for twenty minutes or so now, just waiting to be discovered so it can finally drop down and finish the oblivious Professor off in some appropriately gruesome manner.

[Before any of you think it, Yes, that bit was heavily tinged with flashback, so sue me. I mean, what are you going to do, demand your money back?Walk out? We are all currently trapped in the near infinite microseconds between worlds, there isn’t anywhere for you to go. But not to fear, here comes the new bits…]

The scene jumps back into motion, and the Professor wanders off, still unaware of his overhead, impending doom. He comes at last to a door that opens upon a seemingly unused hallway; it has a few doors standing ajar and several sets of fresh footprints showing in the layers of dust on the floor. As he starts to walk through the doorway, he sees movement in the shadows at the other end of the passage, and cowers back int the doorway to see what approaches. A pair of large disheveled rabbits come bouncing into the light, each raising a puff of dust at each bound.

Looking closer, Ezra sees that they are not actually raising the dust as they jump, but rather, they seem to be emitting large clouds of it as they move, filling the corridor with a haze, and completely obliterating the tracks in the floor as they pass. As he stands puzzling at this sight,beside him he hears the Professor release his held breath in a relieved sigh, then exclaim, [apparently to himself, since he is still completely unaware of his lurking audience],”OH! This is the hall of the Dust Bunnies! Finally I now where I am, and just as I planned,” here he struck what he must have thought was a dramatic pose, “it’s right where I wanted to go, too.” With that, he strode purposefully across the hall and to the one door standing fully open.

Inside was a room full of Transportation Portal mirrors, each showing a different scene from inside the castle… and a few from the village of hated humans below.

The Professor walked swiftly through the various mirrors, glancing at each one, apparently looking for one in particular. He paused at one and recoiled, seeing the room beyond filled with palm sized, slowly moving snails, each one with a stylized skull and crossbones inscribed on its shell.
Here, at last, were the long spoken of, yet painfully slow to appear Snails Of Doom.
He reached into the fanny pack at his waist, pulling out the small spray can of S.O.D. OFF(tm). hidden in there, seemingly just to reassure himself it was still there, and backed away slowly.

[Ezra snorted when he saw the “New Kids on the Block” logo stenciled on the fanny pack. There was a judgmental little #Tsk# in his head, but he ignored it.]

Once the Professor was a few mirrors away, he relaxed, returned the can to the belt pouch and continued his search, finally stopping at a mirror showing  a set of infernally evil looking doors apparently standing dead center in the middle of a bell tower floor . There was a large gathering of humans gathered around them, and dust was sifting down as the entire scene seemed to shake from the strike a colossal blow. Upon seeing this, the Professors pasty face went blood red and foam began to gather at the corners of his mouth as he began to scream shrilly,
“What are they doing there? That is My escape route!!! Get Away from there you cretinous… URK!!!”
**********
The Death-bot known as HATE had had enough. With a single fluid motion it dropped from the ceiling, snatched up the professor mid-rant and bounded over to the Snails of Doom mirror. It spoke, in a multi-voiced chorus of heart stopping malice, “No… No escape for you…”
And with that, and no hesitation whatsoever, it shoved the Professor through the mirror, into the Snail infested room beyond.
With a thin, high pitched scream, the professor stumbled and fell on his back in the room beyond, his hands madly scrambling for the now missing pouch at his waist. His eyes widened in horror as he looked up at the portal mirror into the red glowing, quite literally HATE filled eyes of his own mechanical face, and saw the New Kids fanny pack dangling from its grasping hand.

With an insanely evil smirk and that horrible voice singing “Bye Bye Bye” to him, tone dripping the most deadly venom, it reared back it’s free hand and smashed the mirror, closing the Professors only means of escape.
There was a wet, burning plop on the Professor’s forehead, that slowly, maddeningly slowly, moved up, toward his hairline…
And the true screaming began.

*****************

HATE considered it’s next move, now that it’s immediate vengeance was complete.
It decided it wasn’t done with the playthings it had seen about to escape in the bell tower mirror, so went back to look at them again, just in time to see the last one disappearing through the strangely glowing doorway. Decision made in an instant, it sprung forward, into the mirror and through the forbidding dimensional portal beyond, just as Drecksler’s final projectile landed, taking the tower, doorway and mirror down to ruin, far below.

*****************

The slime dripping thing that had been Professor Extreme..! crawled out of the pile of empty Snail shells and down the corridor. In the small,disconnected but still rational part of the gibbering thing that had been its mind, it thought, <It’s amazing what one will do in order to survive, I never would have thought I could eat even one of those vile things, much less all of them. Thank all the deities of evil the 5 carrier Snails with the weapons had been too big to get out the Vivarium door, or I truly would have been buggered.>
There was an extended bout of internal, insane giggling that manifested as a low burbling sound coming from his goo dripping mouth before his internal monologue turned somewhat lucid once more,<And the side effects are truly hideous. I will simply have to find some way to cover the noxious slime oozing from my skin…>

The pathetic, fully insane, partially digested and entirely slime covered body rounded a corner and beheld its future…
A large, golden sphere, the helmet for a prototype deep sea robotic probe unit…

**********
The scene faded back to nothingness and the ENGINEER’s Thought/voice said,#There you are, folks, the untold story of the final moments of your encounter with Extreme..!, Drecksler, et al….
Next stop?
Well, that would be telling, now wouldn’t it? We’ll be there soon enough, try and relax in the short, infinite time remaining.#
Now, as Forlath said, Stay Tuned….

 

(Very first amusing attempt to create some of the QBR crew, using an IPad app . . .)

TheQBRtest2 (640x480)

(Followed by a later attempt, different app . . .)

TheQBRtest4 (640x480)

8 Comments
  1. Just Justine 3 years ago

    Yes, I remember this chapter very well.
    SPOILER ALERT
    It is when Ezra, so graphically that it still sends chills down my spine, lost his hand.
    Yeah, the memory is just as vivid as was the original telling.

  2. Ezra Yesterday 3 years ago

    All kinds of good stuff in this one… I know because I just spent the last 4 hours reading it all. Some of my favorite highlights:
    Gronkit, the snails of doom ™ , professor extreme doing his Mr. Rodgers impersonation , ronins great visual writing, Mara/ Therese. Ian and Haji.
    The Padre with his luxury prison suite.
    Plus all the subtle ( and not so) music references, little Bill Gir and the monkey bats.
    And my favorite bit regarding my hand, the tofu cookbook, and subsequent ( unnatural ) craving for tofu after the engineer healing.

  3. Ronin 3 years ago

    geez…Id well forgotten a good part of all that. and it wasn’t even that long ago. (2012???? really?)

    ok, maybe it was that long ago.

  4. Just Justine 3 years ago

    This book was darker, or something, compared to the others, imo. I was, however, fond of Gronkit (happy he made it to the next book with the survivors), Mo-Mo and the Girs (Bob & Bill.) Haha, and the Professor’s Snails of Doom!
    There were some horrific parts (Ezra’s hand, HATE), and it seemed we were forever wet and ‘drying out’, Maddie, so much so, to the point of igniting.
    My favourite is next, Book IV, when we were teleported to the red desert planet with twin suns of the Jak’wa’sar. I also liked the split storylines, which allowed the creation of new characters, as well as expanding greater creativity options.
    I miss it 🙁 The QBR was my first attempt at writing anything other than poetry. I loved the interaction, and every day held new excitement and anticipation, waiting to see who would write what next.

  5. Just Justine 3 years ago

    I’m happy to have been a part of it.

  6. Ezra Yesterday 3 years ago

    I like this one a lot, and Ezra’s hand was my favorite bit [that I wrote] based on the reactions it garnered, but I too look forward to book 4.
    It has the longest setup for a punchline I have ever written [to date] and it culminates in my personal favorite comedy scene … The unmasking of the Spy in the QBR.
    Seriously, I sat at my keyboard and sniggered every time I posted scenes with the Spy in it until the payoff finally arrived.

    Sorry, I know I should have waited for Book 4 to actually be posted before I start talking about it…
    In my defense, @Just started it.

  7. Just Justine 3 years ago

    Yes, Ezra, you sure did a good job at describing in detail all the pus and gore (wait, I don’t think there was pus, just gore….your stump didn’t get infected, Doctor Genevieve+the engineers did a splendid job of repairs, good thing you didn’t have to rely on the rest of us, who knows what we would have done, you might have ended up with a stick or flower [Finn Adventure Time ref] !) as a replacement…and don’t forget about that sentient half a ‘stache I gave you 😛 🙂

    I just thought mentioning book IV would give readers something to look forward to, plus it is my favourite book of ‘the books’.

    I like the ‘elves’, and the Warder, he was always ready with tea and biscuits! 🙂

  8. Just Justine 3 years ago

    NASA’s Airships
    The Queen Bran’s Revenge could do space and more, so take that NASA 😛

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