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Dec 22, 2007

Cold Blood: Session 8

Sheen stared at the golem. “This can’t be good,” she remarked. It returned her gaze with dull, lifeless eyes.

“Ever the optimist, you are,” Haden said. Very slowly, the golem turned back to face the sea of flame.

“It could be worse,” Talan said.

Perplexed, Sheen approached the golem. “Hey, do you speak?” It did not move or utter a sound. “It is a golem, isn’t it? What is it doing here?”

Joris frowned. “It may be here to defend the fortress against elementals. It’d be immune to almost anything they could do. Look how old it is. It’s very possible that the Illuminated don’t know how to control it.”

“That seems sad,” Sheen said. “Do golems get bored?”

“Let’s hope not,” Talan said, “ Or this one might want to play with us.” Haden yawned, bored. “Let’s go before we overstay our welcome,” Talan added, pulling on Sheen’s arm.

“All right,” she said. “Where to next? We’ve explored almost everything, I think.”

“What about those stairs?” Haden asked, pointing across the room. They climbed again, and went around a curve to another massive set of double doors. These doors, however, were hanging open, the room beyond a sheath of white marble. Five people stood in the center of the room, obviously waiting.

“Which one of you is the psionic?” one of them asked, stepping forward. It was a tall, emaciated woman with a nearly-skeletal face and yellow, spotted skin. Sheen recognized her as a githzerai, a member of a planar race known for their psionic power. She gripped the haft of her spear tightly.

“I am.”

The gith gestured and a blade-like plane of force appeared in her hand. “Good.”

Sheen concentrated and a field of force manifested before her yet again. “Come to me, soul knife! Your paltry tricks don’t frighten me!”

“Great, there’s two of them,” Talan whispered to Joris.

“Not for long,” Joris said. Talan drew his swords and dodged to the side, attacking what appeared to be a hobgoblin in full plate, while Sheen charged at the soul knife, gouging the gith solidly with the spear.

Talan staggered back with a cry of pain as the hobgoblin retaliated, burying his greataxe in the half-elf’s slender chest. The hobgoblin sneered and moved in to finish Talan off, but Joris reached out a hand and healing magic closed most of Talan’s wounds. The other mercenaries moved in to surround the cleric and ranger, while a man wielding two swords attacked Haden.

Haden struggled to fend off his attacker, but the two-hander was clearly the better swordsman. Calling upon his fiendish nature, Haden threw up a sphere of darkness and scurried away. He could hear the other man lumbering heavily after him, his plate armor rattling with every step. It gave Haden an idea.

“Slow as a snail ye are, ye are,
Marching off to make war, make war.
When you arrive there is nothing to save, to save,
But daisies that grow on a grave, a grave.”

He heard the man snarl angrily and felt himself well rewarded. Emerging from the darkness, he dodged past Talan and stabbed the gith, who was keeping Sheen at bay after wounding her severely. Joris cracked one of the mercenaries in the skull with his mace. The man wobbled and went down. Talan was trying to avoid the hobgoblin and bore several more axe-wounds. While Joris tried to heal the half-elf again, Haden dispatched the other mercenary and tried to help Sheen with the gith once again. Under their combined assault, she finally went down and Sheen concentrated, her eyes glowing as she tried to knit her wounds together again.

The two-hander fumbled his way out of the darkness, and seeing Sheen preoccupied he attacked her. She dodged aside awkwardly, but took his sword in her leg all the same. The hobgoblin finally dropped, and Haden, Talan, and Joris turned to regard the two-hander.

“Berk, you’re surrounded,” Haden said. “Give it up now while you still have a chance.” The man glared at Haden, furious, then threw his swords to the ground in disgust. Haden smiled thinly. “So, tell us everything that you know. Seriously. Everything.”

“I’m Trent, the captain of the guard for the Citadel.” He pointed at the gith. “Imogen recruited me.”

Haden grimaced at the blood staining his clothing in several places. “And what a pleasure it has been to make your acquaintance.”

“What can you tell us about the Citadel?” Talan asked.

“Yes,” Sheen added, “And tell us about Baltazo.”

“Baltazo?” Trent said, laughing. “That’s like telling you about a shadow. I’ve only seen him three times, and every time he had a different face. As for the Citadel, Efreeti built it, thousands of years ago. I don’t know how the Illuminated found it. When Toranna said you were coming, they actually pulled all the guards out. Can you imagine?”

“What, were they frightened? Of us?” Haden asked skeptically.

“I don’t know,” Trent said. “I think they wanted to consolidate their strength to take back the Citadel. I never understood what they were doing here, anyway.”

“We don’t want your stupid Citadel,” Sheen said. “We’re just here to stop you from screwing with people.”

Joris nodded. “Yes. How can we end this ‘Eternal Boundary’ nonsense?”

Trent turned around and pointed across the room, to where a blue-glowing gem sat on an alter of sorts. “That’s what protects the Citadel from the fire.”

Sheen frowned. “So, if we take it with us when we leave, the entire place is destroyed? I’m sure the golem would be THRILLED about that.”

“You ought to have enough time to reach the portal back to the Mortuary, if Alver was right. I think Marvent enchanted it, but I don’t know much else about it.”

“Do you know how to open the other portal?” Sheen asked, as Haden began methodically stripping the bodies of the fallen and gathering their valuable equipment together.

“We should take these weapons and the full plate with us, their worth a fair bit of cash,” he said.

Trent shook his head. “No. The key is a spell you cast on it. Marvent and Baltazo were the only ones who could open it.”

“So Baltazo is some kind of wizard?” Sheen asked. Haden pulled a sheaf of documents out of Imogen’s belt pouch and began leafing through them. Joris and Talan crowded over to have a look as well.

“He was Marvent’s apprentice.”

“Did you ever meet someone named Gyderic?”

Trent frowned. “No, but I heard Baltazo talking about him once. He was upset that someone wrote Gyderic in the dead-book, since it cocked up his plans. That’s about all I remember.”

“There’s a letter here, and an invitation,” Haden said. “Command the Citadel and guard it from any attack. If you’re free, please join me at the Jester’s Masque. You may be able to help me with a promising new recruit there. Best wishes, Baltazo. The invitation is to the Masque, for the bearer and a guest. Convenient.”

“I think someone should go with you, Sheen,” Talan said.

“What, me?” Sheen asked, startled. Haden grimaced.

“What is it, Haden?”

“It’s a big society ball for people with more money than could possibly be good for them,” Haden explained. “If you REALLY think we should go, I MAY be able to scare up another invitation.” He paused. “Hells, I’ve become attached to you people. Unbelievable.”

Talan laughed. “Yeah, and we’ve become rather fond of you.”

“Don’t tell anyone, it will ruin my reputation,” Haden said.

They gathered up the prisoners and anything in the Citadel that looked interesting and activated the Mortuary portal with a glass bead. Then Talan climbed up the stairs to remove the crystal, and sprinted back towards the portal. The temperature climbed rapidly, roaring flames licking at the edges of the stone. Sweat pouring down his face, Talan leapt through the portal into the comparatively cool Mortuary hall. A dozen Dustmen guards were waiting. One of them grinned at the sight of Toranna.

“Skall has some questions for you,” he intoned. A look of pure terror crossed her face as they hauled her away.

“Let’s go back to Chirper’s,” Sheen said. So they did.

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