The Pakthryxl Proxy

Game Over!!! Juju Myrrh Strikes!!!
Captain's log found on the fiddley

“RUN NANCIES!!!”, howled Mr. Finn. The shattering of ice grew nearer. Heavy footsteps came in like thunder.
“This will all end in tears…”, huffed Brittlehope, as he shuffled away.

Mr. Finn took to the north. It was a total hip shot on his part, but better trust Mr. Finn’s intuition than die planning. We fled fast. The creaking of bones and dull thuds of flesh against flesh pursued us through the maze-like corridors. Thud! We ran faster. Crack! We took a wrong turn. The gangrenous hoard of flesh golems were gaining on us!

I started to lag behind realizing someone needed to stall them. My crew saved me a half dozen times in the game so far, so it was time to repay my debt. It figured, I was the best equipped to take down the anti-magic bastards. Now I wasn’t foolishly planning to sacrifice myself for my crew, I tried that before and it didn’t work out, but I was crazy enough to risk hearing the golem’s death song again. I found a tasty choke point at the end of long narrow hall with unobstructed firing lanes. The enormous ghoulish gorillas would be forced to attack in a single file in order to reach me. When they did, I would mow them down like wheat stalks before the reaping machine, then high-tail it. The thunderous flesh stampede was inches from entering my gun sight. I packed my powder, cocked my musket, and knew I couldn’t lose this time.

ninjaassassin.jpgI didn’t see the invisible bastard. I had no way of knowing. I thought he was on my side, not beside me with knives ready to stab me in the back. The first stab put me in circulatory shock. Musta nicked my spinal cord and dulled my pain receptors. The second stab hit me between the fourth and fifth rib, puncturing my left lung. That one fucking hurt. I slumped over just in time to receive a third stab wound in the soft tissue of my right armpit. That stab hole put me as close to dead as kobold-ly possible. I fell prone, the light in my eyes quickly going dark. The assassin’s large paw pressed down on my back while he pulled out the hilt buried knives one by one. Short curls of blood red fur fluttered down in front of me like late autumn leaves. “That cunt! Myrrh!, was my last thought before losing the light.

I dreamed of wide open ocean and strong headwinds. I stood at the helm of the Deep Sea Current, the lead ship, in a vast armada of pirates ships with black dragon jolly rogers. Not a care or responsibility in sight. I was the freest Kobold on the seas! The Pirate King!

Then potent spirits of hartshorn aroused my consciousness like a mule kick to the gonads. It was the second time in as many minutes that I woke up to Lorenz’s busy hands. And there I thought, I’d outgrown the need of a babysitter! I’d much rather of stayed in my wonderful dream, than waking in the stupid cave with berserking flesh golems and an invisible stab happy assassin. Dahak’s game sucked.

“Was it Myrrh?”, asked Lorenz, frantically.
“I reckon”, I wheezed.
“He may be Dahak’s puppet. We have to move! The flesh golems joined”, commanded Lorenz. Goethe and Brittlehope used their magic skills to seal the newly sewn cadaverous brute behind walls of illusions and ice. It wasn’t going to last long..

dahasymbol.jpgMr. Finn the lucky sack of gills was right! He found a way out through the mother of all scary doors. Bloody Hell! Engraved corner to corner on the massive adamantine door was Dahak’s ominous blazon of a falling burning scale. It was the first freaking door we’d encountered so either it was an obvious trap or Dahak’s personal chamber. Like a whirling inferno consuming accelerant the flesh colossus crashed into the antechamber with an explosion of ice, flesh, and bone. I didn’t have my musket, probably taken by the juju backstabber tit puncher asshole, so fighting seemed reckless. My plan. Stage one, get behind the door. Stage two, bar it. Stage three, pee on door. Lorenz, Goethe, Brittlehope, and Mr. Finn bum rushed the gate and escaped.

I tried, but couldn’t follow. Dahak’s symbol towered over me. My animal brain broadcasted the universal sign of fear, I epically peed all over myself, then fled like a chicken shit. My dilemma, fleeing two equally scary things that are flanking you when trapped in a small room, so I hid myself in a treasure trove in the corner. Goethe’s imp familiar, Blatz, joined me. The grave titan remained stationary at the gate. It appeared it didn’t have permission to enter Dahak’s bedroom. It turned from the gate and searched for me with its hundreds of undead eyes to no avail. I‘m good at hiding!

After my courage budded again, Blatz and I devised a plan. Blatz lured the rotten giant away using clever illusions. While the monster’s back was turned, we bolted for the protected door. My heart began pounding like a timpani drum as I entered the sigil’s threat range. In one big gush, I let go of all of all of Apsu’s divine power to stave off the fear. It wasn’t enough, I slowed. Terror crept down my spine, I knew, I was a goner if it reached my legs. The titanic sutured ghoul heard me, it reversed course in an instant by bone shattering all if its joints the wrong way, and aggressively swiped at me. Right before my will broke to pieces at the gate’s demarcation line, Lorenz’s fist grabbed me by my collar. I forgot the fear for an instant and took the last step across. The third time Lorenz saved my skin in as many minutes! I turned back to see the flesh colossus’ putrid grasp paralyzed like a statue inches from my face.

I took a deep breath. Drew my tertiary gun and opened fire on the helpless flesh colossus from the safe side of the door. Laughing like a madman the whole time.

“No! Coward!”, erupted Dahak like an angry volcano.
“Screw You!”, I screamed, whilst firing another shot.
“I told you to STOP little Kobold!”, roared the God, with almighty authority.

Dahak is very petty. How was I suppose to know that? I crashed to the ground in crushing pain like a swatted fly and instantly slipped back into my happy place. The wind was sublime. It looked like I was well on my way to being revived for the the fourth time in as many minutes.

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Dahak’s Most Dangerous Game!!! Cursed to Struggle
Captain's log found on the leeboard

“Welcome Heroes!”, rumbled an ancient voice like rusty chains against Varisian sandstone. I stopped dead in my tracks in-front of the trio of freshly slain flesh golems. If I had hairs then would’ve been standing on end like tiny erections. The Sorrow Maker alas decided to welcome us to his adamantine pit. His errant low grumbles gradually coalesced into a playful chuckle, “My father has chosen wisely. You fight like true champions, but I grow bored seeing my meat toys broken. Let me adjust the odds! Your misery will amuse me for a little while longer.” His wispy snigger amplified a hundredfold into raucous laughter that bounced off the impenetrable walls with violence. My outmatched senses saturated with the flavor of unbridled dread that only a god can cook up. Dahak was surely about to bend us over and fuck us.

Dahak’s invisible wave struck me like a blacksmith’s hammer ping against a steel anvil. The searing pain rang down into my bone marrow until my very root spurned me. My organs wrenched counterclockwise while my head corkscrewed the opposite. I swear the divine raping lasted at least a 1000 years; and without gentleness, but by a prolonged pileated pecker. After the bad touch subsided, my body was left heavy, numb, and depleted. Getting robbed of your power and purpose leaves a man like me only one card left to play. Rage! I never said it was a good card.

“Is that the best you got!”, I roared, “Does festering meat mean that much to you, Dark Lizard? Am gonna blast them to bloody bits!”
“Such…faith…in worthless trinkets”, smirked the faceless God. Suddenly, my musket jumped out of my hand and slide across the cavern floor a dozen feet. I tried to retrieve it and it again slipped out. Dahak the pissant just lubed me up! In fact, all of my guns were compromised. The cockbiter.

“Losers say what?”, scoffed Dahak.
“What?”, I shouted. Another curse hit me like a dragon tail’s whiplash. It was not a physical manifestation of pain like the previous salvo but a sweet release of my inner being. A total release from fear, from laws, and from morals. Thoughts of savagery entered my mind meat. All my heart’s desires were mine to be taken. There was no price too high to pay or bond to important to break. All others were peasants destined to lick my boots! My crew noticed the change in my demeanor. Probably because of the maniacal grin chiseled on my maw.

“Does anyone else in class have anything to add?”, demanded Dahak. The others were quiet staring down at their feet. Lorenz quickly tackled me right before I was going to run my mouth again at our dick referee.
“Good! If you entertain me well, I will grant you an audience”, it trailed off. Ahh! There was the carrot! Gods always dangle a carrot. I fucking hate carrots.

Luckily, Lorenz’s was able to partially undo Dahak’s mind fucking me and cleanse the slippery magic coating my musket before we explored the pit further. The man was invaluable! Mr. Finn put his ear to the ground and led the way. A thousand paces into the stinky black cave, we heard the familiar guttural roar of the flesh monsters. They came at us in waves. Each one more hideous, bloody, and outrageous than the next. One appeared to be a hoard of stitched together munthreks, another gnomes, another devils, and the last one dragon bits. I expertly shot down the nearest ball of limbs barreling down on us with glee. Suck my trinket Dahak!

The three remaining flesh golems stampeded towards us at a thousand mile per hour on a thousand amputated legs. I was confidant I would lay them to waste. Goethe had other plans. He did his magic dance and summoned a pit below my feet. I don’t think it was for me but you never know with that guy. Normally, I could’ve avoided such an obstacle, but my legs were still lifeless from Dahak’s thumping. I fell into the hole. I had no way to climb out of the smooth walled stone pit. God Damnit! I heard the others fighting above and looked up, needing to shield my eyes from the rain droplets of blood and bits of flesh.

fleshgolem.jpg“They’re joining!”, screamed Mr. Finn. I saw flashes of the titanic creature from the opening of my prison. It was a mass of smashed corpses clinging to one another in a grotesque embrace that you can’t unsee. Amazingly, the sound it made was even worse than its foul appearance. Each of its ungainly movements was accompanied by the sharp snapping of bones as its corpse structure torqued and shifted under its own immense weight. Dahak’s sense of humor was super fucked up to employ such a death fueled abomination. I hungered to fight it tooth and nail, but I couldn’t traverse the pit’s lack of footholds. I cursed my shriveled wings. I cursed my short arms. I cursed Goethe.

Thankfully, spidery Myrrh came to my rescue. He jumped down the pit with acrobatic ease, scooped me up in his strong arms, and dashed away. So glad Myrrh was on my side! At the top, an enlarged Mr. Finn was hacking away layers of interlocking festering body parts from the towering undead golem. I opened fire, Lorenz bolstered us, Goethe summoned fire, and Myrrh found fulsome organs to stab. The flesh colossus was fading fast under our collective efforts. Just as it was about to collapse inward the blood shot eyes of hundreds of inlaid severed heads suddenly opened wide, their saggy mouths stretched open beyond jaw limits and wailed the song of death. The song was damn beautiful. A melody so irresistibly sweet it made you want to close your smiling eyes forever and drift away. My eyes got very heavy. And shut.

How pathetic? Killed by a flesh peon. Killed after falling into a hole. Killed by a song. The bards will surely sing songs of my last stand!

I soon felt a squeezing on my chest right over my heart. Breath not my own filled my empty lungs. More rhythmic compression. More foreign breath. The cycle repeated until the deadly tune dissipated and the sleepiness subsided. My eyes opened to Lorenz’s busy hands. Rescued three times in one day ain’t half bad. Pathetic, yes, but not bad. Myrrh wasn’t so lucky. His eyes were smiling.

“A death most unworthy”, pleaded Goethe, “The Kitsune can still entertain you!”
“hemuchfunwhenkicking”, garbled Mr. Finn.
“That was a shit death! Let him struggle!”, groveled Lorenz.
“What Myrrh’s dead?”, I blabbered in a quiet haze.
“Fuffuffuffu! So be it”, a gravelly omnipresence voice responded. All eyes shot to Myrrh.

crazysmile.jpgMyrrh’s slowly and eerily sat up. The smile left his eyes. Without making a sound or taking a breath he stared at us for a spell then a wide grin formed like time-lapsed photography on his otherwise unanimated face. He vanished.

No one was sure what just happened.
“Thank You Dahak for reviving him! You’re not that bad of a guy”, I cheered. Lorenz looked at me in disbelief.

“I think you ought to know…”, deadpanned Brittlehope. The bone devil paused.
“Well?”, asked an irritated Goethe.
“You’re not going to like it…”, sighed Brittlehope.
“Spit it out!”
“…my ice walls are failing. More flesh golems are coming to kill us. Ghastly isn’t it?”, said Brittlehope flatly.

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Pipp's log
to shrimp and back again

I must catalog this most extraordinary event. There I was in intrigued conversation with the large creature of chaos. A protean they called it. How such a being full of seeming wanderlust could be subject to such a structured hierarchy was of most interest to me. Although he allowed me to pursue this line of curiosity, it was at once a selfish endeavor as well as a means to detract him from his obvious objective: he means to acquire the living rune they call Vaghol. Though I have chronicled the captain’s logs which tell of their relation with Vaghol and the Pirate Queen, the captain’s intentions were still unclear. If Master Torrentail has imparted in me no stronger message, it is that a crew remains loyal even in the face of the storm itself.

After the conversation grew stale, and the creature’s ire and ambition overcame it, I offered to guide it through our ship in the hopes that I might prove to it Vaghol is quite a wily fellow not so easily coaxed to one’s palm. This deception proved eventually unfruitful.

Although I would like to say that I fought bravely, and with great tenacity, I’m afraid something much more mystical happened. Upon the onset of clenched teeth and fists…upon the spark of war in the air… as the first blades were borne, I felt my form shift under the waves of chaos. My hands no longer full of phalanges, but writhing feet. My form shrank and my eyes detected more than they have ever beheld before. A kaleidoscope of what I can only describe as colors came to view, though no colors that are beset in any rainbow nor sunset. Amidst this strange background, I managed to make my way across the deck. Though combat was rife and much larger than I have ever experienced, I climbed amongst the warring giants. To the banister I had just moments before used as an armrest to speak to the creature of chaos I climbed. A foe now I knew him to be, and did my best to drum and squirm forth a dirge to weaken his resolve. Even now, I can see the magic emanating from my prawn fingers. So many colors. It must have found purchase in his heart for he stayed paralyzed as the boxer planted a fist firmly at his temple.

The rest for me was a tempest of movement. Thrown from one hand to the next, then thrust into the waters of the maelstrom. Swimming had never come so easily, and to breathe…to breathe water…what a strange sensation. As my body and the kaleidoscope settled, I found my mind lost in the tides of magical auras surrounding me. I may have been lost for ages had it not been for the fortuitous visage of Master Torrentail coming to view. Thankfully it only took a bit of strumming my feet against his forearm for him to recognize me.

After him swimming around for a bit muttering something about saving the writings, we emerged to a grand vessel that would prove to be our salvation. Amidst the new vessel, ten times larger than the deep sea current, the hellknight was able to restore me to my human form. Though I am relieved to feel like myself again, able to write and chronicle this amazing experience, I fear I will never look at a shrimp cocktail in the same light as I once did. Truly, I have been transformed.

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The Domain of Endless Destruction!!! Taunted by a God!!!
Captain’s log found on the dodger

Brittlehope was a total sadsack. I have never come across a more severely depressed self loathing S.O.B. in my span. Devils are without a doubt the best at being morose and whiny, but Brittlehope made sulking a freaking artform. I dare say his downer outlook could bring down a room faster than a bigoted misogynist with a punchable orange face and thin butthole lips. Brittlehope easily trumped the rudest rabble rouser and darkest doomsayer with his dour demeanor. So of course, I invited him to join the crew without a second thought. He responded that he would ally with us until he could feast on our melted flesh. More convincing was needed.

To Brittlehope’s credit he knew the way around the Adamantine Morass. His ice wall building skills were good at keeping the acidic elementals out like they were illegal immigrants. He also was one bad hombre when it was time to throw down. We progressed through many acid flooded tunnels with a slow ease thanks to Goethe’s life bubble magic. At every turn Brittlehope was certain that someone was going to die horrifically. He’d say, “We’re all going to die in a sea of misery” or “No one has ever escaped alive” whenever things got a bit hairy. Despite his annoying predictions, we arduously made it to the end of the venomous maze, a magnificent 60 feet tall waterfall of concentrated caustic acid. The legendary Well of Venom which could dissolve powerful artifacts in two snaps and flesh in one. Did I mention the life bubble was awesome?!

At the basin of the sulfuric plunge was a cave filled with treasure and a dead dragon thingy. I say thingy because it resembled no dragon I have ever seen. The dead thing spoke to us, “To think that tarnishing the platinums would beget their reign of destruction upon all dragonkind eons later!”

What the hell? Was Dahak communicating with us? We were in his hunting grounds after all. Very interesting! I tried talking to it, but dead dragon thing didn’t speak again. Goethe did some wizardry to remove some dangerous death magic and we looted the treasure. Next, we climbed up the eroded rock to the mouth of acid spout like the itsy bitsy spider. Myrrh was almost washed away but he’s got tough fur. We eventually wallowed our way to the next level of the hunting grounds, the Lair of Endless Destruction. Brittlehope warned, “Dahak’s petitioners are going to tear us apart!”

We heard the chorus upon entering.

“See how my cowardly thyxl slithers from his realm to fashion champions – all to annihilate my cursed platinums!”

“It is the work of a maestro – a masterpiece! The ruin of both dragons AND the pathetic legacy of Dariiv’Ux who tore my fang!”

“By all means, do the work of Apsu and do it well. Or, ally with grays. It matters not, for I am Endless Destruction.”

Then a trio of anti-magic flesh monsters attacked us with reckless abandon. Unfortunately for them, meat doesn’t scare me, so I blew two away with glee. The others dropped the other meat man. It seemed Dahak was in a playful mood. Good thing we’re always game. I can’t wait to see what else he has planned for us!

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Memoirs of an Oracle #4
B-Squad Adventures #4

I‘m woefully unqualified to explain the Great Beyond and its myriad planes of existence. Untangling that infinite jigsaw puzzle is not my forte, but I will say, the bizarre outlines of the endless eternities opened my eyes to what is possible. We take for granted many natural properties of our mortal plane like the blue sky, firm ground, or not being on fire all the time. Believe it or not some planes don’t have such paltry rules!

Chapter 7: Travelogue of Hell

I got to the fiendish terrarium that is second layer of Hell, known as Dis, when the Deep Sea Current sailed through a miniature two-headed snake talisman’s hellmouth. Hell wouldn’t have been my first choice, I’d much rather have visited the sweet rolling hills of Nirvana or the blissful untouched wilderness of Elysium, but the crew goes to where the Captain points the sails. Dis was as unwelcoming and cruel as you might imagine. I tasted the stale air, felt the squelching heat, smelled the brimstone, saw the everyday torment, and heard the constant cries of condemned souls. A fitting place for a world run by a group of totalitarian devil Overlords who value hierarchy, order, and punishment.

My time in Dis was thankfully fleeting as the morning dew. The ship took another hellmouth to the furthest rim of Hell, known as the Bolgian Shores, where Hell’s order erodes into the Maelstrom’s chaos. This was far more enticing excursion for me. The Captain was especially eager too. Dis’ ceiling slowly broke away into shards of sky like rays of sunlight through a stain glass window as we moved closer to the shore. Entropy was literally deconstructing Hell before our very eyes, which was unthinkable after seeing Hell’s immovable monoliths. But leaving Hell is not that easy, Hell always extracts a tax.

The Captain allied with a group of bearded devil pirates, Red Beard’s Whiskers, that ended up being more renegade than respected. At the last checkpoint out of Hell there was a fortification of epic proportion that didn’t take to kindly to renegades and their associates. Our renegade allies’ ship bolted like a bat out of Hell through the lock! We closed, but not before cannon fire came in like thunder. To complicate matters the senior crew was hijacked by unseen forces. Their journey is not my story to tell. (I highly recommend Pipp’s biography on Mr. Finnegan Torrentail if you care to learn more). In the vacuum of power left in their absence, Admiral Tebrilith was instrumental getting us out of threat range with her quick thinking. She dove the ship under the the waves instead of fighting back. The ship and crew were in tatters when we surfaced in the middle of the Maelstrom. We were alone. The elemental spirit of the ship was silent, our allies were nowhere to be seen, and the senior crew had gotten kidnapped. At least, Captain Reskafar would be proud that we all survived the long odds.

Chapter 8: Travelogue of the Maelstrom

The Maelstrom is the second plane the Deep Sea Current visited. Calling the Maelstrom a plane of existence is a bit loose. Nothing and everything exist in the Maelstrom. It is either the primordial sea that makes up the other planes or an unstoppable blob that is consuming the other planes. There is no discernible horizon which makes navigation impossible, your only option is to point the ship away from the shore and hope for the best. While moving through the seas you very well could be moving in three-dimensions instead of two since your senses get so screwed up. Unfortunately, Magic is also as unreliable as your senses. On the other hand, the thrill of adventure is through the sky. As the Captain Reskafar frequently said, “When you don’t know what’s comin’, anything is possible.”

No truer words.

What happened next to us no one could have anticipated. A powerful impentesh protean with an army of voidworms flocked to us in search of Vaghol. We learned Vaghol was originally the crown decoration of the Colorless Lord, a powerful protean of the highest rank, before anything else. Vaghol felt betrayed by the crew for winding up in the Maelstrom, we proved our sincerity by defended him to the last. During the fight, Hexa got turned into a voidworm and Pipp’s mind games got him turned into a tiny prawn. Vandlo ended up knocking out the imentesh with his bare hands. A crazy feat considering proteans don’t possess physical bodies. Tebrilith at one point decided to sacrifice herself only to change her mind later. It was not enough. The ship sank from all the accumulated damage with Thuxfeldt on-board. As for me, I got to summon the Pirate Goddess Besmara, who answered the call with panache!

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Heartless Summoning!!! Prisoners of Adamantine and Venom
Captain’s log found on the forebitt

A dark power, unwelcomed as a heart attack, summoned us against our desire. The overwhelming force ripped us from the decks of the Deep Sea Current in under a half a heartbeat without cause or concern like a schoolyard bully. The power behind the extraplanar pull was beyond the mortal measuring stick and it didn’t feel like Apsu’s shenanigans. It totally lacked his flair for theatrics. So I reckoned another puppy punching omnipotent shitbag was to blame.

Begads! What really bends my stool the wrong way, getting kidnapped right before laying eyes on the Maelstrom. I was so ready to thrust my rudder deep into her virgin wilds and wriggle it around like a savage. I was aiming to lay claim on the unclaimable if you catch my drift. I can only imagine the orgy Tebrilith and the rest of the crew were in the midst of on board the Current. I am sure one measly Hellish checkpoint wouldn’t deter them from hound dogging the Chin Strap into the patternless seas of the Maelstrom. Lucky sons of bitches!

The heart attack ended in the way most don’t. I woke up. My eyes flared wide open in an adrenaline rush that shoved an impossible weight off my chest. I floundered about until I knew which was up and down. The ground was hard and ceiling low. Lorenz, Goethe, Mr. Finn, and Myrrh were with me in a similar disoriented but alive state. We took a minute to gather ourselves from the shock and absorb our surroundings. The foreign cave was hot, narrow, metallic, and reeked of sulfur. The cave appeared to be made completely out of adamantine so digging our way was out of the question. Likewise, Goethe’s spatial magic was also stifled. It seemed we’d have to get out the old-fashioned way, by walking.

The path only went one way towards a ledge that overlooked a bubbling pool of mysterious greenish water, a stone’s throw across the pool was the way out. The weird cave juice was the source of the rotten egg odor that could make a dire skunk envious. Goethe tested the water with his science gadgets and found it to be slightly acidic in nature. Not enough to kill you fast but good at killing you slow. Myrrh and Mr. Finn gingerly stepped around the perimeter of the acid lake while I covered them from the rear ledge with my musket. At the halfway point the greenish acid below their feet started to swell into a living wave with a faint grotesque munthrek face in the center. It was impossible to tell where the stink water ended and the monster began. Without hesitation, I squeezed off a well placed round to its center mass that exploded the ambusher in a puff of acid spatter. The acid wash continued to rise. The trap was sprung!

We all sped down the tunnel only to find the pattern repeated in the next tunnel. Another acid lake with another quasi-acid elemental guard. This time as soon as we neared the acid it immediately started to rise at an alarming rate. Was the whole cavern going to be filled with acid juice? We had to find a way out! Myrrh and I raced down the maze of tunnels triggering acid flood and by passing elementals left and right. The others fell behind. One of the chambers we passed through was clouded in an acidic mist that contained the bleached bones of long dead great wyrm dragon. We had no time to survey.

Eventually we encountered a dead end encased in ice. The coldness was refreshing, but the water still rose. Surprisingly no acid monster popped out of the water to greet us. Something far more formidable stood waist deep in the sulfuric spring, it locked onto us like a praying mantis. The insectoid creature was gigantic, bone white, and horrifying. I saw some of these devils in Hell, it was called an Osyluth or Bone Devil. I remembered Goethe wanted to avoid them at all costs on the streets of Dis.
osyluth.jpg

The Osyluth expertly lurched forward, hissed wickedly at us, and charged. Myrrh engaged without a second thought. The devil fought fiercely but struggled to land hits on the crafty Myrrh; equally, Myrrh struggled to penetrate the devil’s dense bone hide. As for me, the terrain made it impossible for me to fully utilize my musket since I needed both my hands free to fire. The last thing I wanted was to fall into the acid pool which would neutralize my gunpowder. I held on to the cave face and watched the dance. Hopefully Goeth, Finn, and Lorenz were having better luck finding a way out of the deadly maze.

Then the bastard Osyluth cheated. The white bugger ended the stalemate by creating infinite walls of ice to seal us off in a corner of the cave. Even with Myrrh bracing me, I couldn’t blast away the ice fast enough to keep up with devil icemaker. The water was rising fast and the numerous quasi elementals were on the way. Things weren’t looking good for Myrrh and me.

I continued to chip away at the ice blocks with my lead bullets. Between the deafening blasts from my musket the telltale sounds of melee echoed from behind the ice sheets. The Osyluth musta been trading blows with Lorenz, Mr. Finn, and Goethe! I heard Geothe spout magic gibberish, Lorenz’s commands, and Mr. Finn’s weapons clash. Finally, I managed to crack open the last ice shield with Myrrh’s help. The scene was madness. An ice igloo had formed in the middle of the chamber and it was on fire. The Osyluth and Lorenz were entwined in a fierce struggle of bone and pistol. Mr. Finn and Goethe were out of sight probably under the fiery igloo. Near the entrance of the cavern a horde of quasi acid elementals were barrelling down on all of us. I took aim at the Bone Devil’s insect head. Suddenly, the Osyluth waved its hand over the doorway filling every nook and cranny with ice. The elementals thudded against the transparent ice like birds on a window pane.

Finally it dawned on us. The Bone Devil was trapped here too! Lorenz flashed a sign and I lowered my weapon. The peace talks ensued.

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To the Sea of Strange

Been all about tha streets a hell, all in our likin’, meanin ta figure tha likin’ a Merk’s business. Bein’ stung an’ worked up upon by tha devils therein. A bit worse for tha weathar an goethe-y boy lookin’ like a wind what had too many sails been washed in tha waves.
Outa nothin’ comin’ tha liken a’ old Myrhh, sight for soar eyes that bein fa’r me, woulda been liken ta have him around for a spell or two. Tricksy he ‘is with a lock or a shuddered window. Entreated I was, yet noddin’ ta tha way a thar naked form, and lookin like a fox sort a fella. Wet they were, and learnin from Master Goethe the way a tha waters down in these ways, I looked to give ‘em shelter. From the rear I ’eard tha captain call, “back to the boat!”
Double time thar was in tha’, with me bleedin’ the whole wary. Up, on tha boat, an we be bein a happy crew once more. Yet sailin’ through the Malestrom not sittin’ well in ma soul. Gneshi bein a soar soul ta be missin’ we played, an’ I told a ma travels on tha land waves. He be liken an treatin’ me tha same. Suddenly, at tha aft a tha ship tha old clockwork fright be wakin’. A message from Apsu? A liken a foe? I didn’t ta reckon, so I looked ta ma captain. Like a cat he pounced upon tha large clocklike-crank at tha back a tha fiend. If tha captain be liken, I be liken ta help tha captain. So I aim ta lend me arms ta tha struggle. Meanwhile, I be watchin’ master goethe spakin spells an handerin tha way in which ‘is likin, about tha spirits I imagine. Then as me an tha captain be tearin’ our muscles apart, old myrrhh be pullin up right underneath us. He be givin a pull of a pin, a shrug an’ a wink, an’ he be gone again. Against tha wind an tha waves, tha old clockwork fiend seemed ta falter and shut down.
Aftar tha mood calmed like an ocean spray ceasing ta a quiet sea breeze, ma calm mind pondered tha future. About this time I be wonderin’ “what’s next? Where did Myrr come from? Did we accomplish what we needed ta in hell? Do we confront the Infernal line, or chase this Slate fellow?” And as we need to answer these questions as a crew…where is Myrr? The one that could have been so helpful.
Goethe be comin up from undar, with tha look on ‘is face in a dissapointin’ way. Best ta Myrr ta be rightin tha likes a tha crew an thar destination. Be comin about him in a personal sort of affair. He an ‘is sisters want’n ta ‘ave thar privacy. Likin ta tha’ n a showin’ respect, but tha likin’ a tha crew an thar captain bein’ of a bit more import. I spake, “tha captain be wantin a word” yet all I be getting’ was tart eyes. Back ta tha captain then, an’ tha plan at hand.
Tha Captain in ‘is bravin sort a way be meanin’ ta’ traverse the maelstrom a Hell. Not sittin’ right with me thar in. A compatriotism thar bein’ in the ship a devils, with tha captain’s permitten’. Spakin a spell with tha Captain a tha devils, wantin a sea fairin’ folk what could attest ta’ our way in tha waters. ‘Just tha fella’ he be spaken, without a spell.
Upon ma he brought a devil what would lend a sea fairin parley ta show our kinship with tha Chinstrap. “Goes by tha name a Balbaal.” As I reasoned ta spake with his liken, all in response be bein’ “Balbaal.” As I entreated his likin’ ta our ship, all he be spaken be “Balbaal.” Unliken ta this I introduced him ta tha Captain, what might take ‘im off my hands. Still, all he be spaken be “Balbaal.” Entreated he bein’ ta tha likes a tha presto oozes, I entreat ‘im ta tha liken thar in. Thinkin’ a bit a washn’ be good far tha old sea dog. He be liken ta eat tha thing instead.
So thar I be…hope’in’ tha Captain be entreated with ma’ new acquisition, and ‘im….thar….chompin’ on a presto ooze. About this time, Master Goethe be touchin’ the devil’s head an spakin a spell. Ol’ Balbaal be getting’ tha liken ta spake a word what any man might be comprehendin’. Time ta dissapear an let the liken a which play out whithin’ tha Captain’s presence.
As ta tha Captain’s liken, we sails down ta tha bulges shore. A bit a hell what hell be tremblin’ about. Not liken much ta tha’. Meetin’ up with tha Chinstrap thar bein a bit a parley with tha captain an Balbaal all entreaten’ ta our liken. Upon this parley I hear ma Captain spake. Now mind ya, never ta let anyone say ‘Ol Finn not bein’ a right sailor. I follow ma’ Captain’s orders, but this sailin’ inta tha Sea of Strange got me hairs all standin’ at attention. Then I hears him call out ta the Chinstrap, and as it appeared ta the wind itself, and any other sortin a thing might try ta stand in ‘is way. To traverse the unknown, to chart uncharted waters, THIS, or death be no greater loss than cowardice.
Well I tell ya, the swell a pride be wellin’ up indeed. Into the unknown, or death. These words be ringin’ true in me indeed. The Captain had so much bravery, it seemed ta be as infectious as tha Plague itself. If we be makin’ it outa this alive, thar be bein’ stories ta tell indeed. Reskafar the Brave, Reskafar the Unwavering, Moxt Darastrix, the little dragon.
‘Twas about this time I noticed Goethe-y boy blinked outa sight. Not too strange a his likin’, but then another blinked away, then another, until it was only maself an’ tha Captain. Figurin’ it bein’ about my turn, I thinks ta maself, “Inta tha unknown is right.” I gives ma Captain a knowin’ sorta grin an a wink, and spake, “See ya on tha othar side.”

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Certain Peril
First Mate's Log - Part 1

She sits atop Reskafar’s Roost and repositions the new patch where her left eye used to be. The other masts fell during the attack, so Vandlo had already found new purpose for all the splintered timbers. Now, the captain’s nest provides the only suitable lookout over the maddening waves of the Maelstrom.

Tebrilith is exhausted, but she stretches parchment across the platform anyway. Reskafar would expect a written report, even if she didn’t have time to carve it on her cabin wall. She writes:

Peril’s Log

For the record, Pearl, Reyna, Tiny, Bart, James, Bart, Nick, Jane, Cordelia, Baldwin and myself stood alert on the gun deck. We were to reload the cannons should the Deep Sea Current fire them. Any further orders were left to my discretion as first mate.

Having seen the Bolgian Shore kill box from afar, I decided to send as many crew below the waterline as possible. It was a risk, that much is sure, but even cannonballs are stopped by the sea’s surface. We hoped the Maelstrom would prove no exception. Others stowed across the ship wherever walls were many.

Our reckless captain planned to follow the Chinstrap through an infernal navy checkpoint. Did it matter to him that Red Beard’s fleet is held in very low regard among devils? They say Hell’s Privateer has been tainted by protean warp-waves and infected by Besmara’s plunder. The other officers crewed the top deck themselves, which was always enough to set us on edge. This time we feared for our souls. I remember Captain Souvarov exclaiming, “You’re going to cross the Maelstrom in that?”

The hull felt very thin as we turned into the bay. Suddenly, there was a swell in the water followed by an immediate explosive crumbling noise. That would have been the Chinstrap’s adamantine ram, no doubt endowed by some powerful magic. Our sails filled with the winds of Hell, and we surged forward in pursuit.

Then, instead of Vestin’s reality-altering diplomacy came brief shouts from each of the officers as if their words were being cut short. One by one they fell silent until our simpleton barbezu guide nervously questioned, “Balbaal?”

We know now what we didn’t know at the time. They had vanished. Oh, where are they now when we need them more than ever?

I clearly recall what happened next in our dragon-crowded compartment. The moment of confused silence became that rich ear-thumping basso of close cannon fire. The bay doors imploded, and those damnable wall hangings Goethe made of Lirovelix’s hoard collapsed. Treasure riddled us like bullets. The weight of it caused the ship to dip further into the otherworldly water.

Pearl fell. The rest, save for Tiny, Reyna and myself, were no longer able-bodied. Through broken gun portals we glimpsed the enemy. Warmongers ordered their hosts to reload banks of fiend’s mouth cannons to port and starboard. The Deep Sea Current was silent and slowing. I needed sailing crew above decks to move us out of range before the next broadside attacks. I needed fighters to protect them and healers for the wounded. We had half a minute.

“Vandlo, Hexa, Dervish and Nomawyn up here now, ”I ordered! Without thinking I drew my fiddle, but something was wrong. Pimsley was there facing me.

He said calmly, “I’ll see to morale. You see to your eye.”

The reality of loss lands as she writes. Ms. Peril collects herself and pauses to survey the horizons. She shakes off her muse and looks up with a single eye.

The surprise of it prompts a cold sweat. Fifteen feet of serpentine terror now circles the crow’s nest in clouds that distort the air like heat vapor. Tebrilith is exhilarated by a predator she failed to notice this close to their lifeless ship. Her good eye dilates. The other lights with phantom pain. She winces and presses against the eyepatch. She feels the perfect amethyst from Lirovelex’s treasure piles still lodged there despite Nomawyn’s best efforts.

“Whose idea was it for me to take watch again?” she mutters.

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Myrrh's Mistake
A Son's Duty Stolen!
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Naked Amnesiacs!!! Killbox on the Bolgian Shores!!!
Captain's log found on the washboard

I love naked people. The more naked the better so seeing Hexa, Myrrh, and his twin sexy sisters, Inari and Yokai, tearing each others clothes off in the middle of the street was the best. Modesty was the least of their worries since they were drenched in the River Styx’s amnesia infused water. I wondered how much time they were gonna lose. Each drop a second? A minute? What about a mouth full? A day? Two? Who knows?

Upon closer inspection their naked bodies were covered in bruises and slashes. Myrrh in particular looked like he lost a fight with a greater devil with sword fingers and hammer teeth. From the look of it, they musta had the devil’s luck to have escaped through Hexa’s half of GIGACETAN’s with the remaining skin on their backs. We quickly shepherded the nudist to the ship, where Nomawyn examined them in detail and determined they lost about a month of memories to the Lethe. They had no idea what the hell happened to them so we were left with a mystery. I am sure one day we discover the truth.

Another missing crew member reported to me later that afternoon, Kovgamux, the mythril clockwork dragon that Apsu flew away with outside of Westcrown. It was deactivated and in box-form on the topdeck. It definitely saw some action. The clawed grooves and puncture holes were proof enough. Apsu got to some rattling! I decided to give it a wind. I wagered Apsu had more wisdom to share with his chosen hero or at least a good story. The machine hummed along after a half turn. I knocked impatiently on the metal case while waiting for it to unfolded itself. I couldn’t wait for a blast of Apus’ genius!

“Captain, please step away from the clockwork killing machine”, commanded Goethe. He then weaved some magic hand signs that stalled the contraption in its tracks. I looked up to see the dragon had pointed its heavy bombard over the top of me! Either Apsu was no longer inhabiting the mechanical beast or was being a huge dick.
“Hahaha. Thanks Goethe!”

The lads and I had a planning meeting over lunch. My plan was simple. Find Slate at all costs before he finds the next set of dragon Obelisks and puts more dragons to sleep. We knew Slate was currently traveling the River Styx’s somewhere near the plane of Axis. If we could get to Slate before he reached his goal we could learn a lot about the patkthryxl. But to get to Axis in time, we’d have to take a very dangerous shortcut through GIGACETAN’s hellmouth to the Bolgian Shore; an area between Hell and the Maelstrom, and then sail across the most chaotic part of the Maelstrom. I was game. The others took some convincing. The Infernal Line would be out of commission for a while since Goethe wouldn’t be doing his duties. Asad would be pissed, but we doubted he could do much if we were in a different plane. No one had a better plan so it became the plan.

Mr. Finn was nervous sailing to the Bolgian shore. I alleviated his fears like the kind captain that I am by giving him a job.

“Go see Captain Hulihee. Ask him for advice and his most capable guide. Lorenz says we got more opportunity for contracts if we meet up with another one of Redbeard’s whiskers, Captain Souvarov. Let’s do that. You can arrange”, I commanded.
“Aye aye, Captain”, Mr Finn said.

Mr. Finn came back later with the filthiest and most grotesque bearded Devil I had ever seen. His smell alone encouraged you to jump headlong into the river just to forget about it. His name was Balbaal. He was not the sharpest tool in the shed.

“Welcome on board, Balbaal”, I offered.
“BALBAAL!”, said Balbaal. I looked puzzled at Mr. Finn, who shrugged.
“All he can say”, said Mr. Finn.
“Balbaal?”, said Balbaal grinning big.

We fired up GIGACETAN, shot through the hellmouth, and got spat out on the Bolgian Shore. The shore was a fortified coast heavily guarded by Hell’s forces. Balbaal instantly jumped into the water and started drinking it like a man dying of thirst. After swirling it around his mouth like a fine wine he pointed out where to go next. Begads! Balbaal navigated by guzzling River Styx water! We followed his directions.

Soon Balbaal’s tongue led us straight to the Chin Strap at the last fortified lock out of Hell. Beyond the barrier was the pure chaos of the Maelstrom just waiting for us! The Chin Strap was freaking massive like a floating city with an adamantine battering ram. Captain Souvarov’s could’ve been Hulihee’s ugly twin brother. He noticed Balbaal screaming “Balbaal” like his head was about to fall in the water and gave us a knowing smile.

“Hulihee told me he sent some mortals my way. I didn’t believe it. But now your here!”, shouted Souvarov.
“Aye, we need you take us into the Maelstrom”, I sneered.
“Huh, so you want to go into the random deep with that puny boat?”, laughed Souvarov.
“Aye”
“You got guts. Follow me if you can! Hahahahahaha”, roared Souvarov.

The Chin Strap’s sails caught a ghostly wind and accelerated forward like it was shot out of cannon. Its adamantine ram crashed through the steel lock gate like it was tissue paper. I wasn’t expecting that! I thought the devil would pull a few strings, but he thought better. I ordered the Deep Sea Current all ahead full. We slowly accelerated through the kill box. The Hellish troops trained their many cannons on us. It was going to be close whether we’d escape or get lit up like the Fourth of Erastus!

Suddenly I doubled over like I was having a heart attack. I couldn’t breath. I could barely speak. It felt like something was pulling at my heart with great force. I saw a struggling Mr. Finn disappear, then Myrrh, then Lorenz, and lastly Goethe. “What the hell was happening?”, sizzled through my mind. With my last ounce of strength, I shouted at Tebrilith, “Follow the Chin Strap!” Then I faded out.

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