Lobster - nice. But what now.
Preston told his version & left the party to their own devices, it's up to the five - err - make that two. Scrylash & Sanguine only. The others are no longer there. There is a momentary hiatus as realities try to force themselves to fit the here & now, but maybe they've shifted too often or maybe they're too stupid, they notice that the change has occurred.
Preston Elliot comes over to join them "You two got my message then"
He seems genuinely surprised when informed that he was there just 5 minutes ago. Meeting a party of five. The current, here & now, Preston has heard of Balintine, but not the others.
Taking this in his stride, he informs Scrylash and Sanguine that the breaking of the mace caused some 17 of the adjacent planes to become entangled at this point, (Scrylash & Sanguine had felt the buzz of shifting a number of times since entering the hotel).
Preston continued, they had succeeded in getting the attention of the Calbeck Rise. Even the Rise couldn't ignore the mess caused by this many realities crashing into each other. The Rises' reaction, it appeared to Preston, was to stop the nexus from occurring by messing with the past. Perhaps this was why three of the party had disappeared.
Preston told a tale to demonstrate how the Rise dislikes messing with time, with himself as the central character - of course. It appears that Preston was (or will be) killed by the Rise, not that that slowed him down too much. It appears that we have met the him from both before & after his death. He tells them that there is a good chance that the Rise will allow the 17 planes to disappear with everyone in them.
Preston wandered off to do some quick scouting leaving behind his bag, notebook & gun.
A few minutes later, Preston Elliot turns up saying "You two got my message then" - He pauses when he sees his own stuff on the table but otherwise takes it all in his stride.
The whole story is explained again!
While he's digesting all of this, Preston Elliot turns up, looking rather the worse for wear ! and before collapsing hands Preston a rather blood stained wine list.
Rather than try to explain to the staff why one of the Prestons is unconscious on their floor, bleeding on their carpet, everyone decides to leave this rather nice restaurant.
Heading into the lobby they start to feel sick, not quite as sick as the hotel doorman who chooses this moment to fly backwards through the main hotel window, across the lobby & into the far wall. This behaviour is sufficiently strange, even for an establishment like this, to cause heads to turn to the main doors. The sight that greets them is even more disturbing than that of the flying doorman as a 15 foot high stone and crystal creature widens the door sufficiently to gain entrance. Scrylash & Sanguine felt sick, not just because of the sight of this creature, but something other. Scrylash shouts, "let's shift out". This voiced thought is sufficient to increase the feeling of sickness greatly.
Preston, Scrylash & Sanguine have the same thought. "Run".
As they pelt off toward the kitchen door, Preston shouts "NO" and heads for the cellar door. Sanguine and Scrylash, assuming probably correctly, that everyone else knows better than they, follow. Down the stairs, into the basement, Scrylash picks the lock to gain access to the wine cellar. Across the cellar and as Scrylash & Sanguine search in vain or an exit, Preston starts shooting the lock of a small metal door. His shouts of "the old stuff should be in here" are almost downed out by the sounds of the creature crunching it's way down the cellar stairs.
Through the small door they find a wine collection that would make even the greatest connoisseur falter. Preston turns to the travellers "corkscrew, who's got a corkscrew". Seeing their looks of complete consternation, he mutters "fuck it" & starts breaking bottles & pouring them over his head. Preston has obviously & finally lost it. As the beast starts smashing down the metal wall between them and it, they decide that loosing it is far from the worst option & start breaking the necks off bottles of wine and drenching themselves.
"Try shifting," shouts Scrylash, but just vocalising the thought was enough to increase the nausea. As soon as the space was big enough, the creature's head joins them in the room. They freeze. The creature seems to sniff the room, back & forth, back & forth, passing just inches from them. It withdraws and starts its laborious journey back across the cellar towards the entrance stairs. As they re-learn how to breathe, Preston says "Old wine. Old wine's good. It's been cared for and passed through many hands." Seeing the still blank faces he elucidates. "It senses chakras, and old stuff, old cared for stuff, emanates enough of it's own presence to disguise you. Old books work well, and postcards. If you want to hide, put one on your door before you go to sleep."
A thought comes unbidden to Sanguine, "I've seen that beast before" From where he doesn't know, but even the thought is enough to loosen his spleen.
"It's a golem, made by Hayden" says Scrylash. "Designed to kill jumpers," adds Preston "Not really surprising that its here with so much going on, this place must be like a beacon."
They quickly realise that hanging around a destroyed wine cellar is a pastime best left to people madder than themselves, assuming that there are such people, and head back towards the lobby, where the golem can be heard making it's less than subtle exit.
The chaos in the lobby is sufficient for them to make their exit relatively
unnoticed. Out in the street Sanguine's magic cleans the three of them up.
Preston makes his excuses & leaves them to their own devices, but before he goes, Sanguine asks him the time on his faithful watch, "Just in case we bump into you in 5 minutes"
"10 to 1 Sutus"
With Preston gone, they decide to head for the Market square and have a quick look round before shifting out. Avoiding the crowded main streets, they take to the quieter back streets. As they get closer to the centre of town, they find that the feeling of sickness, which has left them, is being replaced with almost the opposite. The feeling that if they turned their heads too quickly they would be elsewhere. As they get nearer the centre they find that parks surrounding the centre of town have themselves changed somewhat to resemble something more jungle like.
Here and there families picnic and over there bodies are being burned at the stake. Families doing what families do.
The area surrounding the square has been turned into an impromptu bazaar. Hawkers from many planes have gathered to trade their wares. The square itself however appeared deserted. Talking to a stall holder, Scrylash, while buying a trinket, discovers that the presence of the black clad Calbeck Rise heavies is sufficient to put traders off setting up in there.
Sanguine & Scrylash briefly consider sneaking into one of the overlooking buildings to see if they could discern what is going on in the square, but quickly decided that this is a stupid idea. Having seen enough, they decide to seek somewhere quiet to shift out from. As they head back through the market, Sanguine borrows the trinket that Scrylash has just bought and inscribed his sigil upon it "Just in case we get separated"
"Hey you" comes the cry from behind them. They ignore it. "Oy. You. I know you." They ignore it harder. "I know you. I know him I do"
This doesn't sound official. Sanguine turns round. A small guy behind a stall is looking at them. He nudges Scrylash "You know him"
"I've seen him before"
As they made their way back to the stall a smile spreads over the vendor's face "I knew I knew you"
"I have met you haven't I, the summer isles wasn't it" ventures Scrylash
"Yea and you remember Bill" he points into the tent beside his stall where a minataur sits.
"Bill the minataur," says Scrylash "I remember him"
"Everybody remembers Bill, no one remembers me"
"You're Rogen's shell guy"
"Yup - that's me"
"What is your name?" Asks Scrylash
"Don't have one"
With the introductions out of the way and hands shaken all round, the shell guy starts trying to do some business. If there was anything that he had that they wanted then business would have been brisk. Eventually the trader says to Scrylash "tell you what, what do you have to trade?"
"Well, only this trinket" Scrylash said, holding up the recently purchased, sigil marked bauble. The trader looks over the knickknack and says, "Hmm, so what do you want for it".
Suddenly remembering the sigil, Scrylash changes his mind "No, actually I can't trade that"
Intrigued, the stallholder's valuation of the charm jumps. "Come now, surely there must be something" Taking Sanguine aside, Scrylash asks, "Is it ok to trade that".
"Not a problem" replies Sanguine, shaking his head. Turning back to the trader, Sanguine says "Well I don't need any weapons or anything, but what have you got in the way of shells"
"Got lots of shells, for lots of different purposes"
"How about something to help me be quiet"
"That's not a problem, got one that will keep you silent"
"That will help me sneak about"
"Oh, you want to be quiet and move, not be still, like sitting in a chair or something" After some bargaining, Scrylash finally settles on a shell that, when filled with water, that water will cause someone's tongue to swell up and make them unable to talk. That concluded, they are just about to leave when Sanguine asks, "You two aren't planning to hang around here long are you?"
"A couple of months or so - why do you ask?"
"It seems likely that this place will cease to exist in the near future, as the realities that are mixed here cancel each other out and they, and everyone on them disappear. I'm not trying to worry you, you might have weeks. Or hours. We're just about to find somewhere quiet to jump out from"
"Funny that. Bill was saying that he wasn't happy about being here, weren't you Bill"
Bill looks up from packing away the tent and nods. "But I'm sure it can't be that bad, can it Bill" Bill, who is popping the last of the supplies into a bag, grunts. "Perhaps you have a point, we might just move on." The trader puts out his hand, "We owe you one for that warning"
"Not a problem" Says Sanguine, "You just take care of yourselves, and maybe we'll see you again … somewhere"
"What's not your name?" asks Scrylash
"Hmm. 'Whatsnot'" murmurs the trader, trying it for size.
Back through the wood they travel, avoiding the staked out burning bodies.
On the other side they find a deserted building to jump from, unseen. The feeling
of dislocation that should make the jump easy is still strong.
The plan: Ice up, bounce off Londinium and head for our original Swarkstone.
With just the two of them, rather than the circle of protection with one of them pushing and directing, they both direct the jump and, with surprising ease they skim Londinium and arrive in Ashwell.
The one that they are both from.
The grounds of the Thane's house are as well kept as ever and there appears
to be some sort of garden party going on. Tents and bunting festoon the area.
Approaching the house, they are greeted by a guard.
"So what's the occasion?" asks Scrylash.
"Very funny" smiles the guard.
"No, really. We've been away for quite a while. Which celebration is this"
Looking at them quizzically the guard says "The emissary from Falfax, with the wedding papers"
Scrylash and Sanguine look at each other "Shit. Day one. We're back at the
"Gwen, I need to find Gwen," says Sanguine.
From the tents, a fanfare sounds and they spot a dwarf, in full armour running from the direction of the pub muttering "Fuck fuck fuck" They turn their backs as Rogen runs past, late as usual.
Sanguine leads them off towards the mages wing of the house, grabbing the first
apprentice he spots, he barks "Where's Gwen" "Err, studying, in her room or
the study" the surprised magelet stammers. The study room is nearest, and there
they find a teenage Gwen. She looks up "Hello professor"
"Who is the emissary from Falfax?" asks Sanguine, without preamble.
"This is not a trick and you won't be tested on it. There are some strange goings on and I need to be sure of some things"
Still unsure, Gwen ventures "Ass something"
"Aston" Sanguine prompts
"That's it, Aston Deagh"
"Thank you" Gwen looks somewhat relieved.
They turn to leave and Sanguine mutters "Be careful you don't get caught messing with Necromancy" to Gwen Unsure of quite what to do next, and certain that they shouldn't be spotted by their other selves, Scrylash and Sanguine head for the scribes cottage, a couple of miles outside town.
What can they do here without changing the past?
Not much in Ashwell, but what information can they gather about what is going on now that would be helpful.
The books in Swarkstone library were destroyed before Hamlyn could get to them, but perhaps they haven't been destroyed yet. The Sanguine that's here & now wouldn't be allowed access to them without a letter from Hamlyn, or at least a letter with the Court Mage's seal, which Sanguine has, being the Court Mage in his own personal time line. All they need is someone to forge a letter. Who better that Scrylash?
The feeling of having a plan is wondrous.
A quick jump to Swarkstone, bouncing off Londinium brings them directly to.
Where they left from.
But, from the dust lying around, at some other time.
Before heading into Ashwell to find out when they are they disguise themselves as an ageing scholar and a scribe. Not much of a disguise then.
In the Raven, Rogen is well in her cups and holding forth about her derring-do
upon the Ameroso, having just returned from Falfax.
So this is the day of the debrief with the Thaneson that they never arrived at. This is the day they were first jumped.
Briefly engaging Rogen in conversation confirms their suspicion; she really can be full of shit sometimes.
The barman points out a friend who is travelling with them. One P. Elliot
He is somewhat surprised to discover that they have met recently in a rather unstable Swarkstone but the information about his time at that local helps him add another gap in his personal jigsaw. Scrylash & Sanguine bring him up to date on their latest attempts to jump and about the goings on in this place and time. Preston ventures outside to quickly check the lie of the land.
Just after he leaves, Preston Elliot arrives in the Raven. He recognises Rogen but is surprised to see Scrylash and Sanguine. They fill him in, yet again.
When Preston returns from his reconnaissance he points to Preston Elliot and shouts - "Who's that"
The 'that' in the bar turns into a panther.
Quick as a flash, Sanguine and Scrylash fail to kill it and, in fact, allow it to escape.
Tracking the beast across the fields outside the village, it appears, from its tracks, to turn into a small rodent, a small person, a panther and back a number of times before meeting with some other things with feet. These footed creatures head off away from the village.
"The Crystals!" Exclaims Sanguine. "In the Thaneson's office."
Rounding the bottom of the stairs outside the Thaneson's office they meet and instantly attack two black clad Calbeck Rise goons. One hits with a body of metal; the other wields a staff of great destructive power. Thankfully both have rather weak defences. As Scrylash takes significant damage from the metal one, Sanguine dispatches the other before employing the staff to kill the first. Preston clears his throat "I don't really do much fighting"
Inside the Thaneson's office, Scrylash discovers evidence of theft. The window has been forced and the desk has met with the same fate. No sign of the crystals.
Movement in the courtyard outside the window catches Scrylash's eye.
They give chase, hoping to catch the thief.
Their progress through the yard is blocked by a 30-foot high black clad golem like creature.
This gives them pause. Looking round they realise that they are surrounded.
A 30 foot thing, a goon with a bulbous forehead, a female and one other with
a red satin clad priest of the Calbeck Rise.
"Ice up" shouts Scrylash, but a wave of the priest's hand robs him of any power he may have had to jump.
The female appears in front of Scrylash "Give up"
She stabs him. "Give up"
"OK" shouts Scrylash before she can stab him again.
"Remove their weapons. In fact, strip them" orders the priest.
With no apology, the harridan tares their clothes from them. The priest approaches.
"Oh shit, it's Gill" mutters Preston, "you better pray that this hurts because if it doesn't hurt, you'll be dead"
Gill looks them up and down with some disdain. Taking the girl's knife, he slices off the section of Scrylash's arm that contains the crystal and drops it on the ground.
Pointing at Preston he says "Not that one. That foul unclean beast"
Pulling a case from his robe he extracts a red ribbon and a book. The ribbon he places round his neck and starts reading from the book in some strange tongue. "No" howls Preston, before the now 15 foot high monster silences him with a swipe.
Preston continues between strikes "What ever you … do you must … get a … crystal"
Scrylash grabs his separated flesh from the ground and grabs for Sanguine, but a slight wave from the priest removes all thoughts of a successful shift. As Gill continues Preston starts gibbering till, as Gill litany reaches its climax Preston dissolves into dust.
With another wave of his hand Scrylash and Sanguine find themselves shifted back to the wrecked lobby of a familiar hotel in Swarkstone.