Aboard the Anchor's Bane

A Fortress in one Night
War of Masks: Morrick

“Do you have any idea how much we are paying the gangs to protect us already? What youa re asking, it’s completely counterproductive to business and trade.”

A heavy growl of a sigh rolls out of Morrick’s lips as he rolls his eyes before taking two causal steps forward and forces a smile before clearing his throat and stroking his chin. He takes a moment to consider the options and looks out to the eight other ships in the port. He nods and looks the Captain Peicio and archs his brows

“ Look sir, it’s not that I can’t appreciate the enormity infact it’s the reverse. What I struggle to understand if your approach to business. Just follow my lead and we will be able to report profits when everyone else in this city is going to be luck to keep their necks.”

The captain’s eyes narrowed, he didn’t like the tone Morrick took with him. To the dwarf’s credit he was absolutely correct. Between the explosives, the embargo, and riots he was just sitting on his hands. “I’m still hazy on why exactly you care if we are safe or not.”

Morrick gave a sullen look to the Captain. He didn’t fault him for his caution given the circumstances, place or his silver tongue but he was in no mood to waste time. Other things needed attending “Look, who do you work for again? Mercerian League yeah? I don’t wanna cause no ruckus, i want what you want and that’s safety. I ain’t gonna get that unless I know every boat captain here, every stevedore working for them and every mercenary in the area is working together to keep out the rioters and terrorists. All I ask is you give me some workers I got all the supplies already, aint much to ask for… free protection.”

Peicio yielded pointing out three able sailors to him “They’ll be the best workers for your needs, make sure they know their rations depend on your satisfaction.” Morrick just grinned and hustled off to them. He pulled out a document and smiled to the three who were currently sitting idle

“Up an’ at em boys! We got lots of work before sunset to make this dock a palace ya hear? And we Dwarves… we don’t use the word palace lightly. “ The men looked confused at one another then back to Morrick who pointed to their tools. “Fraid the explainations are going to be on the brief side boys, I have barricades to construct, ladders to remove, sharp shooters to place, doors to bar, windows to board and captains to call to a meeting, Talk to that spunky young lad in the silver armor with a fox he’ll get ya set. By the way boys, If Connor doesn’t like the quality of your work he’ll be eatting your lunches in front of ya.”

The sailors were about to ask Morrick if he was serious before he whistled across the dock drawing Connor’s attention who locked eyes on Morrick who pointed out the three sailors and gave him an okay sign which the young man shook his head to.

“You boys can sit and dawdle all you like but I wouldn’t want to anger your captain and lose a meal at the same time.” One of the sailors shrugged without asking any questions of the dwarf and went straight to their captain for instruction. Morrick only waved and headed off towards a saw mill wringing his his hands

“Quillie, you better be sawing that lumber it costs more than this shop!”

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Streets of the Abyss
War of Masks: Sasha (part2)

“Twelve of em… I think”

Kepli, one of the Sweetlings best stalkers whispered as he look back to his fellows. He peeked one last time around the corner of a dark alley and watched a hunched over figure in dirty black linens waddle forward. Like the rest of the freaks he was wearing a porcelain mask, it was clean plain white and molded into the form of a crying man. Kepli squatted and pulled his crossbow out pivoting on the spot and silently aiming at the puppet. A hand planted on his shoulder and a stern tone murmured into his ear.

“Don’t, they haven’t seen us.”

Sasha watched the hunched form suddenly snap into an erect position and twist his neck back and forth. “K..k…” the empty shell pulled it’s knife out of it’s scabbard and suddenly looked near her and the Sweetlings. She narrowed her eyes seeing the face was off, it was looking at something else. “..k…Kitty?… KITTY?!” The head swayed left and right like the vague shadow of it’s mind was circling a drain as it held out it’s blood soaked out feebling feeling around the empty street for an invisible cat. “Oh… i’m alone.” it said despite other puppets staggering around in view, the maniac suddenly traced the razor edge along the right tendon of his neck splitting the flesh and trickling with blood before it said “…they… hurt her?” The head twisted showing the muscles and blood desperately trying to hold his neck together as the monster stared at a bolted door, boarded windows and silent flat apartment which likely housed a dozen or more people. The body of the puppet went still and the others looked at him as though curious.

“..y…yes.” it said meekly as it stumbled forward, then paced, jogged and suddenly exploded into a sprint as he let out a high pitched wail like a man being eatten alive as quickly rushed toward impact with the door. In the last closing feet the monster lowered it’s head like a battery ram at the reinforced wood continuing at full pace. The gore went everywhere as the remains plopped backward in a hefty spasm. As though the gore has marked the house, and all the people inside surely used everything they could to secure the building and hid under what was left of the furniture it didn’t save them. What started at eight to nine of these masked maniacs exploded into twenty and then above thirty in under a minute. Knives pryed up boards, fires forced openings, and everyone inside began screaming out as the craven sadists went to work.

Sasha and Kepli looked to one another and both nodded in agreement as they began to move. Samuel Scraggs and the others trailed behind with pistols, knives, swords and wires to deal with any threats. As they creeped away from the house a door suddenly flung open ahead of them. Sasha about drew her swords until she say a struggling woman with her son as she looked about in a panic and shot them a pleading look. Sasha held up her fist with an order of hold position, the sweetlings looked to one another after seeing the mother had been stabbed above her collar bone and was bleeding heavily. The silence was quickly broken by the sound of a cracked door and flipped table from inside her home. With panic on her she mouthed “please” before spotting a leather tarp and throwing it over her and her young son. Emerging from inside came a bloated hefty man in black linens, his mask was yellow and shaped like a pig. He held a bloody looking meat cleaver in his hand and shook angrily “Olly olly oxinfreeeee!” he say with a dumb chuckle snorting the air exactly like he were a pig or bloody thirsty boar. The Oaf moved with a girth and preponderance of an overweight man as he suddenly started to skip toward Sasha and the others who just narrowed avoided meeting as they turned the corner. Sasha stayed behind as Kepli looked toward to the Garrison of Chaser Island only two block away.

“I know a secret…hehe… I know a SECRET!” He said like a jovial nine-year-old stopping half way down the alley. Sasha held her breath as did the rest of the sweetlings. “I know your hiiiiiiding spot! Hehe” His chuckles turned into snorts as suddenly the lummox turned around and his voice turned deep. “I’m gonna make cutlets out of you.” he seemed empty saying it but the roar the followed bellowed with a fierce predatory howl as he crashed through the refuse in the alley and pulled the tarp off the terrifed mother and her son. She pleaded for her son’s life but the monster only choked her by the throat and pulled her a good five inches off the ground pressing her against the brick and mortar building as she gasped for her son to run. He only stared in frozen terror as he watched the meat cleaver smash into her face over and over and over again. The skull shattered in red twisted chucked bit my by like a stubborn bit of lumber as the murderer just continued to snort out laughs before shouting “So.. pretty.”

Kepli heard the screams… he had doubled back just in time to see the horror before him. Sasha watched without breaking her resolve. Kepli leveled his Crossbow at the monster and Sasha planted her gauntlet around the firing mechanism as she shook her head now. Kepli silently glared at her as he pulled the weapon only to find Sasha’s knee crushing into his nose which cause a groan of pain before the other Sweetlings Latched onto Kepli to keep him from making any more noise. Sasha watched as the inhuman filth that butchered that poor woman turned dumbly toward the Sweetlings watching without a word. Sasha locked eyes and began to draw her swords before a shrill scream echoed out and the boy skewered a small flenching knife he pulled off the oaf’s belt into his leg. The overweight behemoth dropped to the ground with a squeal before the knife was pulled free and the boy continued to stab him into the mask for a solid fifteen seconds.

Scraggs looked to Sasha and whispered “Well? what now?”. She said no words back she watched as the boy cried over his mother and trembled as he was drenched in blood. “We could take him with us… Atticus does enjoy the Orphans.” Most of the Sweetlings nod from experience as the others knew better than to take a moment of levity. The boy looked up at their whispers and his eyes widened maybe with anger or desperation as he stepped closer.

“Why…?! …Why did you just watch!? We need your h-”

Kepli sat up nursing a bloody nose as he blinked back into consciousness. An errie silence filled the alleyway as he looked around for a moment trying to get his barings. Suddenly his own crossbow was shoved back into his hands by Sasha.

“You’ll need to reload.” Sasha’s tone was colder than a Khardic night as she took point waiting for him to figure it out.

Kepli looked down the alley way seeing the frozen, twisted dead remains of the boy; shot with an arrow through the throat, he wouldn’t have gone quickly but it would have been silent. He looks over his shoulder to Sasha who was already moving the Sweetlings forward with signal language. Tears streamed down his face as he walked over to the boy separating from the group for a moment to pay his silent respects.

In odd silence he pulled out the crossbow bolt… realizing how hard it was to loosen from the bones in his neck. The shocked eyes of the boy were frozen on his face, after pulling the bolt out with a few twists he slid the boy’s eyes shut and kneeled down closing his own whispering out. “I…I’m sorry.” As he opened his eyes a pair of felt covered hands wrapped around his face which a light giggle.

“Peeka boo…” Kepli tried to struggle against the grip knowing he just needed to shout and he was safe. He didn’t get the chance, A dagger plunged into his eye releasing a sickly yellow trail of liquids into his body before the body went limp and silence overtook the Streets of the Abyss.

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Waltz of Shadow
War of Masks: Erdrick

“Seek and Destroy”

The voice rang in it’s mind, filling it with burning, false purpose. Undeniable willpower bent it, rigid like steel and cold like winter; perhaps it soothed it’s own burning hate for this unlife it lived now. The ghostly wraith silently glided through the dark tunnels of the Olgunholdt glaring into the dark winding tunnels as if to feel the quivering fear of the living in this unholy dark hive.

The scenes of toiling thralls chipping away at the underground to make room for expansion, dumping supplies into carts frequents his view. Metal slabs with Necrotechs & Surgeons plying their craft in the unseen shadows as the forces of the nightmare empire only swell in this place. The target remained elusive from its spirit sight as a cold flare of blue green light burned in the eye sockets of the skeletal frame as it hungered to complete its order.

Time was irrelevant to this wraith it’s search would never cease until the heartbeat of it’s prey did. Scouring the depths of the catacombs it at last felt it, the warmth of life a shadow of it’s former passion bleed through the prison that was its very own soul at that moment. Drawing both it’s pistols from underneath coat the creature turned toward the exit of the catacombs… sunlight poured into the mouth as the wraith’s eyes narrowed. It caused the creature no harm… yet brought back aching memories and emotions.

“Seek And Destroy.”

The Wraith twisted as though tortured by unseen tools as it realized it had angered its master. A sigh of hatred echoed from the phantom as it caught a glimpse of a still figure in the light. It was wreathed in black linens and a pecuilar porcelain mask holding no weapons and was small like a child. In a brief flash the ghost saw something other than a mysterious figure. It saw a familiar… unplaceable face of a young tomboyish girl impose itself where it knew the target was. The torterous scraps at it’s essence resumed in it’s deliurim as though to reign in it’s perceptions as it hissed low and pointed it’s pistols at the figure stating in a distorted voice “In the end, May the Ocean take us.”

The words were not it’s own… they spilled freely from it like a compulsion as it waited in a tense silence for it’s prey to make a move. They were under it’s mercy now a twitch the wrong way and everything would be over, it’s original thirst to end its order no longer was present the spirit for this brief moment resumed a semblance of it’s original life once more. The figure didn’t move, not one bit. Like a perfectly still doll the two were in perfect balance of light and dark, life and death. The puppet was the first to break the silence though it didn’t move a voice said as though without a soul “Bring me your master. We have much to discuss.”

The voice was enough for the wraith to pull the trigger, but it was the master’s will which held back it’s minion as the wraith was denied it’s prize. Folding its arms in a traditional Llaellese Duelist stance the phantom slipped below into the catacombs through the soil itself.
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The deep sound of strained breathing accompanied by Necromechanika operating announced the presence of the Black Necromancer well before he came into view. The thing that once might have been called a man sits upon a throne of iron bones his scythe resting in his hands as he stares down to the mere messenger before him secured deeply within his lair. To him it was a ridiculous mockery of menace, though the painful glare of the Black Necromancer was more than sufficient to invite the conversation to begin, and quickly.

“Speak. The Eye of Toruk is upon you.”

The puppet forces a laugh out of its diaphragm like a slow and broken toy as it twists backward with a snap looking at Edrick from behind. The necromancer is not amused as runes of magic form around his iron’t arm. The puppets head snaps a full half rotation and the body lowers onto all fours and crawls toward him whispering now in a dying voice.

“The Black Needle is upon the Anchor’s Bane.”

The eyes of the Necromancer widen as he rises from his seat and points at his scythe attempting to reave the soul of the messenger as he finds it slithering from his grasp a feat never before felt by him. With a blast of his spell from his hand even the reach of Dark Fire couldn’t snare the soul of the minion though it blew apart most of the mask and surface level of the poor creature’s face. The brief silence was filled by a rasping sentence followed by dry unnatural laughter that isn’t organic it is more like a forced sound from it’s mouth.

“And I … know… where… it is, come find me.”

Erdrick lowers himself down the stairs of his seat as he examines the creature at his feet. Beneath the mask was engraved a thrall rune upon living flesh all the way into the skull. This final mockery was planned this person had taunted him. A snickering laugh in the corner turned into a ‘hmm’ of curiosity as a sickly form clatters out from the shadows

“Most intriguing wouldn’t you agree? A bait that tells you it’s a hook; a peculiar method indeed m’lord. How shall you respond.”

Erdrick’s eyes narrow at the thrall beneath him attempting to laugh despite its own writhing form now. With a raised butt of the Scythe the blunted point of it crunched through the skull splattering it’s brains upon the floor. Erdrick looked to Vileknot with a commanding presence and lets Cryxlight dance upon his fingertips.

“Gather my army…”

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Unfathomable Calculations
recordings of a cyrissian tome

What follows is the deciphering of a cyrissist’s tome, transcribed by Azz Ekka Uldara, Master Gunner of the Anchor’s Bane.

Unfathomable, the findings of this deciphered code have unveiled a profound truth. The ley-lines of this world had previously been perceived as a finite number of locations; we never understood how the blight of dragons such as Toruk could dismantle and remove these points from the grid.

But these findings suggest an ability to infuse galvanic resonance to a new set location, if specified. This discovery remained hidden likely due to its founders… the Orgoth. Five Fingers has always held a focal point of the ley-lines, thus this data would perhaps imply that they chose this location intentionally.

While the creation of ley-lines is exciting, news of this unveils a previously unheard of concept: “line repair.” Through this technique, the Convergence of Cyriss could craft sub-routines of the networks, allowing for stabilized travel and harvesting. Furtherly, the research request promises the possibility of counteracting Draconic Blight. It remains to be seen whether the circle will attempt to contest the strategic value of this site.

………………………………………………………………..

The results were better than we imagined! The Orgoth purging erased most of the notes of Vortensius. It’s clear now that even after six centuries, the machinations of these invaders is still just now being understood.

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The temple of our faith beneath the waters of Five Fingers has been discovered to be a “disarmed circuit”; what this means is that additional networks have already been developed around our primary ley-line. The focal channels are not currently active, and the related trigrams are in disuse. Just imagine it: all of that potential power, being brought to a single purpose.

………………………………………………………………..

The channels extend well past the municipal borders of Five Fingers. I’ve reached out to Atimos, who confirmed that the distant city of Ceryl also shows connection to this font. The constant struggles between our efforts and those of the Circle have been well-documented; perhaps our rivals have a better understanding of this connection?

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The information gathered from the archives of Ceryl, combined with several interrogations conducted by our chosen optifex, have yielded data that suggests this is a project of impressive size. Truly gratuitous amounts of manpower must have been required to initially create and adjust the circuit, which is estimated to be nearly 300 miles in circumference. Such prodigious need for slave labor points to the theory of the Orgoth creating this device as a near certainty.

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Our initial recon has concluded. The mass of interconnected ley-line networks is being notationally designated as “the Sigil.” Over 55% of the network was apparently created underwater. Variables of its composition have been calculated to the following statuses: Blighted ley-lines are 8 in number; functional locations are 13, unstable sources 3, contested locations 2. It was confirmed that the extremity of these locations encompasses a small portion of the Scharde Isles.

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Militarized actions have been denied by the Iron Mother; small organized recon teams, however, are approved. With any luck, we should be able to take back a several of the aforementioned functional locations. I will reach out to Atimos for an ancilliary force which is independent of my own meagre allocation…

……………………………………………………………….

It appears that Atimos is no longer functional. Deceased. This uncalculable setback is most unfortunate. At least he provided the foundations of progress to the Convergence.

……………………………………………………………….

Iron Mother Directorix has requested that I now server under another. The “Sigil” project is being taken from me! Unacceptable. I will not allow another to claim my research!

……………………………………………………………….

It is now postulated that Atimos and a large assembly of the High Order of Wizardry within Ceryl had become afflicted by unknown means. The Sigil’s significance demands one of the Iron Mother’s most loyal operators; I can no longer fault her logic. We must proceed carefully to avoid exposing ourselves to scrutiny or corruption.

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A fractured soul harness was spontaneously robbed of purpose today. Investigating a location near the Olgunholt River revealed that these deactivated points are merely missing a power source; souls suffice readily as fuel. Remain vigilant, that we may prevent further mishaps from tarnishing our equation.

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Further investigation has shown the Sigil to contain several blind spots; this is likely due to draconic blight or diminished energy levels. The function of these locations remains incapable of execution. We are currently considering portending its use through an isolated functionality test, which we will administer by committing power to the circuit at a point where continuous cycling can occur.

……………………………………………………………….

Functional Testing is now complete. Traditional galvanic energy increases exponentially per power units given; this equation looks to exemplify the qualities of Harmonic Resonance. Hypothesis: With enough starting power, this device could permanently maintain ever larger quantities… we hesitate to cement these findings, however, as this phenomena may simply be due to the cyclical nature of the testing area. Further procedures will be required to determine plausibility of this theory.

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Larger scale testing is unable to proceed. A fault has been discovered within the whole of the Sigil. Luckily, given the large area of fabrication, it’s been deduced that the fault likely exists within the confines of the primary font, located in Five Fingers. I must find where…

……………………………………………………………

Unthinkable. The original findings of brother Atimos may have given us a clue to the location of the Sigil’s fault. His report speaks of a stone dias which might be the vital link, a power source sufficient to maintain the necessary “Sigil-wide” cyclical effect. In all likelihood, the old terrible site that was once Havershaw’s Folly may have been the original boiler to this engine. The dias’ location must be found.

……………………………………………………………

Ah, societal issues. Typical. It appears that a local land baron by the name of Jacob Horley now owns the entirety of the area that would encompass the dias’ sight. While it is possible that the location has already been found, much of the territory is under current reconstruction. I suspect that foul play may be a factor.

……………………………………………………………

I’m now certain that the Thamarite septs knew about this site… my contingent died while investigating the area after hours. I wasn’t able to save a single soul. I shall attend to this personally…

…………………………………………………………….

I have over-estimated my abilities. I was unable to exact vengeance against the Thamarites; their leader, in an insane parlor trick of their heinous variety, spoke through her servants to tell me that I must fulfill my purpose. They allowed me to live, though I know not to what end. I have reported to the temple on the subject of this tragic setback.

…………………………………………………………….

A lead, at last! The coat of arms belonging to a vessel called “the Anchor’s Bane” was spotted by a man offering salvage on one of the dockyards of Five Fingers. In exchange for his profitable information, he has been allowed to join the Convergence. At long last, I can interrogate another member of the Havershaw’s Harriers, that infamous group whom, according to our sources, have seen the dias first hand. I shall seek him out this very night, after discussing our objectives with my superiors.

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A Killer in Red
War of Masks: Sasha (part1)

“You’re her are ya? … he could have sent me a looker at least.” A youthful streetsharp murmurs to a red haired woman with an athletic looking body in tailored plate and two swords at her sides. The Woman silently turned her gaze to him showing the scar of shrapnel in her face and the wicked glare in her eye which wasn’t respected. In a flash and a flick of her wrist blood was drawn as the unaware thug suddenly felt a hot sting of steel glance his eye causing blood to fill his vision and clench his eye shut. Before he could speak anything other than a howl of anquish she set upon him. Using her powerful frame to push him to the ground with one hand and placed a foot on his windpipe before slowly twisting her foot pushing out what air he tried to gasp down.

" He sent me to talk, not listen." The gangster flailed on the ground as Sasha felt like putting all her strength into the ball of her foot and just giving herself a little gratification but couldn’t ignore the guns slowly being drawn by the men hiding in the dark alleys which must have been his back up. She looks to the closest man and broke her stare into the terrified man “I’m not one of them. Also…” *She lets go of her foot as the gangster springs up coughing for air before Sasha hooks him in the temple with an iron gauntlet now a bit bloody. “I play nice, long as others do. So, mind your manners.”

One of the men steps forward with a smile curling his mustache before arching his rich dark eyebrows and smiles bowing courteously. “You’ll excuse Mickey, he doesn’t know a gorgeous woman when he sees one; and if I may be so bold I already see what he sees in you. Samuel Scraggs, I understand that our employer would like a bit of… cooperation yes?” Sasha sighs walking calmly forward to Samuel Scraggs with a grim face on though Scraggs only replies with a crazed look that would make Atticus proud. “Close enough, lets talk business, we’ve set up a small place for this meeting.”
-—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————-

Samuel Scraggs rolls his eyes reading over some of the parts of the letter handed off to him by Sasha. A diner full of Khadorian meals surrounds them both as Scraggs folds the document with a grin handing it back to her. Many of the sweetlings are scattered among the establishment trying their best to appear to enjoy the food while keeping a hawk’s eye on Sasha.

“You’ve been made aware of these terms?” Scraggs says with a raised eyebrow. “Because… he’s made a tall order for a bunch of professionals who work best when vigilance is weakest. So a request during daylight riots against a hardened complex… seems a bit peculiar for our talents… he must have a lot of faith in your skills.”

Sasha stared Scraggs down before breaking eye contact “He can believe whatever the fuck he likes.” Scraggs retorts “Oh? you don’t think you can do this?” Sasha gives him a look dignifying a fool. Scraggs’ lips thin at that as he maintains a cool deameaor. “Oh so you can then.” Sasha pulls an arm behind the seat and smirks “In or out?”

Scraggs half closes his eyes and mouths a few words thinking about costs and risk verse reward. He starts to make dashes for ten and nodding showing obvious signs of computing before he says. “Considering the amount of assets I and the boys lose should we refuse. We’re in, however tell Mr. Sweets we’d like to talk about some liquidations.” Sasha stands up from the table and starts to walk out after retorting. “Tell him yourself, or send a kid. I’m not either of yours or his errand girl. Get those morons ready for a raid already.”

Scraggs releases a hand off his gun and scowls at the back of Sasha’s head as one of the men comes over to him. “Real bitch am I right boss?” Samuel rolls his eyes and shoos away the man but replying all the same. “Oh, no I see exactly why he sent her. You just watch we’ll be seeing more of her. Exactly his type.”

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Every Gobber has their day!
War of Masks: Smindle

“I don’t like it Smindle…” Muttered a runty looking Gobber as he looks to a few of his peers looking for approval only finding that they are giving him a minor amount of attention “I know they stopped the gases for us b-”

A tough looking drops a large sack down at his feet infront of his peers and looks up chewing his top lip before silently looking at them all. Each Gobber had been listening to Spetta; he was the one stupid enough to say was was on his mind in front of Smindle. Whether they knew of not, in their silence they incriminated Spetta who shook nervously when he locked eyes on the furious glare of Smindle who immediately socked him in the jaw bringing the little runt to the ground. “Listen up I’m only gun’ say this once.” He warned to them all shifty eyed to his partners*

“Here in Five Fingers we’z aint given much; so we take instead yea? Well the humans know it, why do you think we live the say we do, plenty of us got coin! No one ever gives us considerations. When the gases rose no one cared, no bidness, no chruch, no shopz and certainly no chemists!” He raises a hand to Spetta who cowers on the ground whimpering “But ya know what was worst? Not even other gobs cared! Better us than them right?! Not him! He cared enough to solve the whole problem. Saved me nieces and nephews; …ugh they is missing but I’m sure he had nothing to do with it! Point is we owe im! He gave us help when nobody would. And I’ll make sure ya pay because the Riggs can always use friends like him! So shut-up put on yer masks and look Real sneaky before I go fishing with one of yer ears!”

The Gobbers begin to tear into the sack laid infront of them arguing over who’s mask is whose and which one gets which nifty bits. Smindle sighs and pick up a mask looking over a description provided by Az to him. “Right, Frigate sized; wavy flag bits… people? …why is that a question? And big sexy guns…” Smindle chuckles thankful he remembers how the Bane looks but doesn’t disagree with the description.

“Move ya Green earred iggets!”

Like a sudden breeze the gobbers seems to vanish from eyesight as they scrambled up buildings into the dark allies and into homes in search of the Anchor’s Bane

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The Red Streets
Jacapo's End. Two months ago.

Jacapo stared into the darkness from outside his foreman’s office. The old Paulson Street Steel Mill had long since been in rustic disrepair, better serving as a lair with ample cover and tools for interrogation. It was still inside the obfuscation and his eyes narrowed hearing only one keen sound at place in the darkness. The groaning of aged steel from the left to the right a dark shadow swaying to match the sound like a terrible pendulum.

“It’s gone too far…” Jacapo whispered looking intently at the shadow as the moonlight slowly revealed one of his last men strung up upon meat hooks and skewered through the throat and back hanging by the decomposing muscles that hooked through it on only a small scaffolding.

Jacapo pulls “Final Word” from it’s holster and levels it at the chains letting the archaic handcannon fire off with a hot thump cleaving the chains and causing the disfigured corpse to plummet to the floor below in a sickening thud. Without another word Jacapo turns his back to the gore below his Foreman’s office as he folds hims arms behind his back and stares outside toward Havershaw’s Folly. His eyes glaze over in deep thought as he chews his lip and walks over to his desk placing Final Word against the desk and pulls out two sheets of parchment before dabbing his pen in a small ink vial.

-——————————————————————-

A low mist rolled inside the slaughterhouse, Jacapo held a small cloth to his nose and mouth seeing the heinous carnage before him. He stared out into the mist seeing the dead crumpled forms of his associates the Paulson Street Rovers. Eyes slit open, fingernails pried off, throats slit and smiles carved into their faces. Many were mangled or maimed; disembowled or dismembered but all were ravaged in ways reminiscent to livestock to be hung upside down and their blood draining into the ocean beneath him. He had come a long way simply for revenge… the Marionette Killer had never been known to flee or kill outside Havershaw’s Folly yet he had chased her down to this destitute location. He took a breath and shouted out.

“I’ve seen enough, We don’t need to play this game of hide and seek anymore… Let’s end this! I’m right here… finish your job.” Jacapo’s eyes were sharp he looked in every corner he could scanned every shadow and kept his hand on his rapier “Flick” knowing the killer would make her move soon. Yet all that responded was silence.

He weaved through the remains of his gang, ready to draw and kill the next bit of movement that came his way. He held his breath trying to listen when he heard it… a gentle clink of chains near the north side of the slaughterhouse. Deftly pressing forward he came to edge of the ‘trophies’ to see a door marked with wet red paint with an “X”. He silently stared at the door half expecting it to fly open with a trap. But he noticed the clinking was behind him now. He was certain no one could have gotten back there without him spotting them. He wasn’t wrong… he walked right past them. A sudden snarl escaped the skinned lips of his female lieutenant Mori. In shock he didn’t even notice her among the bodies and his heart raced as her body latched onto his ankle while being suspended upside down on a pair of hooks through her ankles. A green glowing rune shined out of the rotting skin of her forehead as she snapped and growled trying to bring Jacapo close

With a loud crack Jacapo drew a simple hand cannon pistol from his hip firing into Mori with tears in his eyes as her face vanished in the penetration of the round. He started seeing more bodies begin to twitch among the hooks growling and writhing as he realized they were all starting to move and try and pull themselves free of their restraints. Without another word Jacapo reloaded his weapon and sprinted toward a door only to crumpled against the door, it was bolted from the other side. He saw a Risen thrall fall prone onto it’s back reaching for him already. He winced realizing the Slaughter house had no first floor windows. they were all upstairs and the ramps removed to gain higher access. He gulped looking back the way he came only to suddenly see the doors slam shut and hear the sound of heavy chains cinch them shut.*

“Fuck!” He shouted as more of the undead mutilated themselves to pursue their prey with lumionous glowing eyes and hungry moans.Without a second thought Jacapo knew he’d use all his ammunition and still need more to deal with the emerging horde he looked back to the door with the red X and knew he’d be fleeing into an even worse trap but he needed to limit how well the undead could surround him if he hoped to live. He rushed back a thrall dragging his hooked restraints behind it and kicked the door as hard as he could. He saw bodies rise from inside the room as well as he swiftly shot two and struck down a third in his way climbing the stairs upward to try and make it up the fire escape. No sooner than he did a glowing orange canister full of fire came rolling down the stairs spreading fire down the stairs before exploding once level above him. Whipping around to face the oncoming horde of undead Jacapo’s face turned wild as he powered up Flick and cocked back his pistol.

-————————————————————

Limping away from the burning warehouse while covered in soot and blood Jacapo had been victorious but by a narrow margin… he walked down the stairs as the buildings foundations began to crumble. He caught a glance of a figure in black with a porcelain mask stared back at him silently upon the street with three dead city watchmen at her feet with a lingering green miasma rolling out of their mouths. The head of the figure tilted and a hand rose above her face level and let a small Llael necklace dangle upon her black velvet hand. The Pendant was Jacapo’s he had gave it to Mori as a marriage proposal before she and the entire gang vanished. His face welled up with rage as he leaped down twenty feet feeling something pop in his joints before he sprinted after her as best he could. The winding back alleys gave way to a small dock able to fit only two or 3 row boats. The fog from outside concealed must of the Marionette killer but she faced her hunter without a word.

He wanted to talk to this pyschotic… but he was in too much pain and his anger was foaming over as he simply pointed a his pistol at her and fired. In silence the boom he had hoped to hear only clacked lifelessly… a misfire. He threw the pistol into the water near him and raced foreward screaming out for a vicious series of strikes all of which slid past her graceful dodges in a compact space. before he realized it a black Steel dagger suddenly plunged into his forearm and rent his flesh, muscle and blood free from him as his grip dropped immediately in shock.

“Who the fuck… are you?” Jacapo asked noting how flawless and proper the woman’s posture was to his own. With a wince he waited for a response to which nothing was said merely a twisting of the knifes snapped the bones of his arm into a useless bundle of bits as he whimpered out gently.

_"Why them?… Why my crew… WHY NOT JUST ME?!" Jacapo shouted finding a surge of strength in his anger. The dagger was pulled free from the twisted remains of his arm and before he could stop screaming his own weapon flick was picked up and pushed through his left lung elegantly. Which made him immediately cough up blood and fall onto his back growing very pale.

“Killing me … will only motivate Killbride… and all the High Captains to end you.” The Marionette Killer swiftly jerked the fine edge of the blade toward his heart as the edge stopped on the bone but tore his lung wide open as he only managed to gurgle and spasm. The black figure pulled the weapon free of his lung and carelessly tossed it into the water before using her knife again to slice open his shirt.

Jacapo’s eyes teared up and the Marionette Killer kneeled down next to him. Without a second thought he reached out his his left hand and began to try and strangle her. His entire focus was to crush the life out of her but her fingers traced along his bicepts and firm fingers as she straddled the underside of his arm between her legs gently grinding against him in his deaththroes the soft murmurers of lust escaping from underneath the mask. Despite his shock to the situation he held true to the course trying to continue strangling her as he felt her bones shift and snap. He smiled seeing his strength was overpowering her before suddenly her knee planted firmly on his wound and snapped three of his ribs.

“I want him back…” The woman’s voice says in anger as she snaps her neck into position again. “My little boy he wouldn’t have died if it wasn’t for you… you killed. And so many others… you must be punished.” *She slides her fingers into his wounds caressing herself and Jacapo “They died… So you would come.” She throws her head back like she is nearing some form of sexual climax before a pair of meaty hands clench down on Jacapo’s throat from behind him pulling his dying body up above the Marionette Killer as he squeezes the last bit of life from his throat with angry deep breaths. _"…And killing you…. Mmmm… served more than …Mmm one function for me."

In his last moments Jacapo hears the voice of Mori behind the mask of the Marionette Killer as she whispers “We’ll be together at last… I’ll have you all to myself.” His face twists into confused repulsion as the blood caked fingers of the killer come to her mask as she slides it off her face marring it with blood. As he blacks out he feels the terror of knowing he will know no afterlife…*

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Mountain and the Cog
Morrick reflects on his mission to Help Orianna

First rule of combat, hold your ground; plant your feet and yield nothing. That always seems like a crock of shit to me especially in the swamps of Ord and the ramble shackle nature of Five Fingers. Better to move, and swiftly as a Dwarf was able I always thought. Pay the gangs, avoid the back alleys, tie your pockets, and know who owns where your standing these were the rules I understood.

Morrick Kneeled down before Orianna helping loosen her armor “Fathers… they got us good.”

Then I met at man who had turned the tables on an egotist who had been bleeding a few fellow cardsharps like me for nearly a year. Cool, collected and suave I couldn’t help but be impressed seeing a man crafted out of my own moral code. That night of debauchery was one I’ll never forget; in a way it very well might have been my last hurrah, because I can’t see me returning to that life now.

Morrick pulls another flechette out from Orianna’s Side his fingers caked in blood. “You stay with me Damnit… keep them gems open for me aye?”

I watched closely the men that served under Captain Essex, most were hollow, many more grizzled than Ordic veterans who had skirmished against Khador. They had seen more than their fair share and they were barely enough to sail the ship when i came aboard. I had every inclination to flee the ship before she took off and the captain seemed to have made it very easy for me if i wanted to slip away I could have even with his Guard Dogs watching me.

Orianna winces out as Morrick pulled out the final razor-edged dart from her. Her body was tense and growling out her air to manage the pain. Morrick Hugged her close and brought his face to her ear. She clung to him instinctively trying to release tension into him instinctively. “Shhhh Shhhh Shhhh, Come on now it’s alright we’ll get you patched up…”

And then I met her, this morose, gorgeous rotund woman who wanted no part of me. I had studied faces fourteen year and her sad doe eyes had lost their sparkle and were puffy from crying. Her shoulders hung low waiting for the final blow to strike her down. What I saw had to have been my very definition of a sadist inside Five Fingers; someone naive enough to want happiness inside the dying morals of this city.

“Azz! Get over here on the double damnit She’s bleeding a lot!” The Gobber had his gun pointed at Jehremi Chaffer but tilted his head for just an instant at Morrick as he lowered the gun in an instant racing over to both the Dwarves before he rebuttals “So are you…” Morrick winced with a series of darts sticking out of his back still trickling with blood. “Her first…” Azz rose and eyebrow and knew better than to argue with Morrick with that look on his face.

I use to mock Chancellor Osnic, even told him once how a dwarf who plants his feet in Five Fingers is just going to be swallowed up by the mire of shit that this country is. But I get it now, That first drink Pebble and I shared and I sang to her…I saw that face go slack, her big beautiful eyes widen and her color flow into her cheeks. I fell for her in that moment, I had never found ‘bedrock’ before… I never wanted to let that feeling go.

Morrick’s body trembles as Azz works on sewing Orianna up and applying a few fresh bandages. With a low growl he says “Dwarf, if you are gonna be here you get to either bleed on me or hover over me… not both! Now lay down She should make it and you need to conserve blood!”

This city takes so much from us; that we forget what we even need and repress what we want knowing it would only be taken away. I convinced myself that it was better to move from one good thing to the next and never stop moving less the sink claim you. Orianna Ironfist made me stop… she made me care and I’ll hold that ground; I’ll plant my feet here and I’ll yield nothing to anyone but the one I choose; her..

Morrick leans backward his eyes fluttering as he forces himself to remain conscious despite his lack of blood. Orianna is giving Azz an impatient look trying to show the gobber just how bad Morrick looks who only smiles weakly back

“I’m fine pebble, let him finish; keep smiling.”

A firm hand plants on his shoulder as Morrick looks up to a heavily wounded Balthier. Nearly impossible to tell what is scars and cuts the brute looms down and smiles replying “When we first talked, I knew you’d do well on the ship I had no idea you’d do even more for Ori. You’ve come a long way for pressganger Morrick, has it been everything I promised?”

Morrick’s pale face grinned widely as he jabbed at the Ogrun’s sturdy knee “You sir… got a great poker-face. Ever considered going pro?”

Both the men share a deep laugh as Azz comes racing toward them in a flustered rage “What the hell are you both laughing about?! Who said you could? Those better not be belly laughs that’ll make more work for me! Gah! Stop it! I’m a doctor not a Priest!”

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No Stranger to Death

“Just let it go Kelley… you are no stranger to death.”

His eyes opened to the voice of from years ago. Nothing, his mind was playing tricks on him again. Captain Essex stared down at his mechanika right hand it was tarnished with faded blood that clung to the metal like mud. His gaze was faded and hallow as he traced a finger along the smudges watching bitch flake off into his finger tips. He responded to the figment of his mind.

" What’s left to let go…? My anger?"

He scrapped his finger nails against the metal trying to pick it clean and looking frustrated.

" I won’t, anger is all that is keeps me going now."

Essex heard the sound of a glass being poured but looked around the room at the carnage he caused in his stupor. The hint of Hoogah smoke could be smells but like the sound of a drink wasn’t there. The echoes of footsteps walked around him before a heavy sigh rolled out

" Of all the people command sticks me with it’s some twitchy hallucinating hot head who doesn’t even understand how to wage a proper war."

Essex heard the voice of the late Major Salvino Artuno of 2nd Company. And felt a firm hand plant on his shoulder and a gruff chuckle

“Relax kid, just another one of your fucking visions. Sheesh get your head outta your own ass cough i mean dreams.” Artuno stepped into view and lit up a cigar before plopping down in Kelley’s chair and kicking up his muddy boots onto the table with a thud smirking at his own gruff sense of humor.

Kelley’s eyes went back down to his hand as he picked at the smudges still

“Hey!” Bellowed Artuno which made Essex shoot up slightly at the tone his halucination took with him “I’m talking to ya Damnit! Pay attention and focus kid! Ya never did get the knack for that did ya!? Guhhh by Markus I’ll make a proper killer out of you yet…”

Kelley’s eyes looked around the room an he didn’t see any booze left in the room he worried that he infact might be dead “Ha, yeah right. You wish.” the Phantom said with a sly grin before blowing smoke at his face “Think it’s about time… you and I had a little chat kid.”

“But … your dead… aren’t you?” A rather unimpressed shrug rolled off the man as he took a long drag off his cigar “… Yep dead as it gets hot head.”

“Then… how? Am I -” Artuno slams his fist onto the table looming close and growls “Who the fuck cares kid?! Ya think I’m some sorta trick? I don’t give a shit what you think I’ve been dead three years now least ya could do is listen!”

Essex sat forward confused and concerned by all this as he looked his Major in the face “…Sir, I apologize.” Artuno nodded “Damn right you do ya little shit…” his toxic tone turned into a grumpy head shake.

“Kid, what the fuck is wrong with ya? Did ya fall down? maybe scrapped your knees? Wanna call it quits?” His tone was more than mocking of Kelley who narrowed his eyes. “You know damn well what’s wrong…”

“So fucking what… they died. Big fucking deal, this country ain’t got time for your shit get it together kid and Focus!” Artuno’s tone was rigid and demanding and Kelley shouted back. "It dosed work that way these days! I’m not some runt you can order around! And to hell with the country! Essex heart was racing as he shouted at nothing inside his cabin.

Artuno chewed his lip and grumbled like an old dog. “Listen here, you can’t be this way anymore kid. You’ve had your little vacation but you need to buckle down and get to work this country needs Captain Kelley Essex…”

Kelley punched his own bed as a support snapped in response “The hell it does! I saw why you, 2nd company, Toby and even Colin died that day! Because of this fuckin country because whenever anyone is given power in this country they turn out like McClay; power mad and willing to rob a man of any reason to fight … let alone live!”

Artuno’s voice was low and dissappointed “Damnit boy, I died full well knowing how much of a arsehut this country is. But just like me you don’t get the pleasure of saying no to it; because I made you into a warcaster like my teacher made me… To hell with with Admiralty. wage a war for all I care against even the King if it calls for it. But this is war and you were taught one thing above all else.”

Essex grew quite answering “Keep your life to save another; Save the people.”

Artuno took on last drag on his cigar before puffing out a final statement " Now harden up, put on that armor and get back out there.. remind death it will have to wait it’s turn kid no matter how underhanded it gets."

Essex looks to his duster hanging on a mannequin as he rises slowly reaching out for it.

“This is Immoren kid, you’ll never be rid of war. And in war, you can’t let yourself feel those losses too much depends on you; the one in the million; the warcaster to keep this country and her people safe. Do it however you want… and remember that no matter what they take from you in battle you can give back even more to the people. Now get your head in the game…”

Essex put on his duster and looked over to his chair which was empty as it had ever been a half burnt cigar smashed in his ashtray. Kelley rose an eyebrow and looked to his door finding his balance willing to stride back out into the world.

“…Where the fuck are we?”

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The Chains that Stay
Kelley fails to cope with his failures

The door to his quarters swings open, Kelley leans against the archway looked inside and not a soul was in sight. He slide off the threshold shutting the door behind him fumbling in the dark snatching a nearly full bottle of rum off his desk and immediately collapsing to the ground leaning against the wall. Without a thought he uncorks the bottle and chugs the spirits a third of the way down curling into a ball as he combs a hand through his hair pulling at it out of repression.

In the dark of his quarters he took another swig and then another again. He wiped his lips barely able to feel them while the fires in his stomach and throat danced reminding him he was still alive. His chest heaved as no sounds came out just restrained emotion as he pounded the bottle again. Every passing moment he wasn’t chugging his mind drifted into a surreal space of probability and fate tinged by a scarred past of memories. A groan escaped out of his lips followed by spit as Kelley loomed forward only to end on his side.

The sound of laughter, the warmth of a sunset, the softness of a kiss, the high pitch of his first gunshot, the loud roar of his first cannon, the rumble of Penny rising from the hold of this very ship to change his fate, the look in Bertram’s eye when he stared down the barrel of Foulwind, the groan of Lanin, the smell of the Major, the touch of Veronica, the glare of Gailsyn, the laugh of his uncle, the smile of his sister… the worry of his mother the silence of father, Lucan’s Promise. It all twisted and mingled into nothing short of a delirium tormenting. He dropped the bottle already down to a mere fifth of what was left. As it rolled he heard the voice of Lanin in the distance when he returned from The Mercy so long ago.

“So what do you plan to do Kel? I think after knowing it was the Navy who covered up these deals, it feels like a waste to return to service…”

Kelley’s eyes welled up as he talked to the visions in his own mind as if unable to do anything but replay them out as he remembered them “Aye, the king was generous to offer this but…” His vision replied with; “but what Kel?” Tears welled up in his eyes “Doleth traveled the seas looking for souls to help. Saving sailors from dangerous waters no matter the risk, and it felt like I was saved that day by her. I want to help everyone I can from them…” Lanin groaned at him and planted a hand on his shoulder which startled Kelley as he felt it. Kelley scrambled to sit up and failed as he turned to see a concerned Lidda McClay looking down at him.

Essex immediately looked away from her realizing he had been talking to himself as he pulled himself up to stand. “Kelley… i heard what happened.” Essex sniffed the air trying to sharpen his wit before raspily says “And what’s that then?” Lidda spoke softly and with uncertainty “About going after Chaffer a…” Essex immediately interrupts her “You mean getting a bunch of me crew killed, again. It’s enough I get it from Mr. Sweets … not you too.” She remains silent trying to not take the comment personally “How much of that did you drink?”

Essex looked to his mechanikal hand still gripping the bottle with it’s remnants. He let out a heavy sigh “…Go home Lidda…” She stood motionless behind him trying not to cry. Essex looked back to her and his anger flared. “I said go home!” He threw the bottle near her with wide eyes before shouting “Get outta my sight! Never wanted you here anyway!” Lidda shook frightful of Kelley as she held back a wavering voice “..W..Why are you doing this to yourself… to me?” Essex’s face twisted as he stormed over to her “Because this is who I bloody am McClay, a loose cannon. I get good folks killed just for me own agenda…” Lidda pushes against him “This is NOT who you are Kel, I know you! Please just talk to me!” Kelley struggled to gain control of her as her strong arms were more than worth to wrestle against him except for his mechanikal limb which swiftly pinned her against the wall long enough to open the door and push her out despite her shouts to stop. He slammed the door locking it and pressed his back against it struggling to control is breath which trembled at how he just acted.

Suddenly like a dam he broke; tears streamed down his face as Lanin’s voice spoke to him “Kelley, you aren’t going to be able to save everyone.” Kelley puts a hand to his face trying to stop the tears at he hears the explosion that claimed his life during the battle with the Red Revenge in the distance. “Besides Kel, It’ll be thankless and difficult the King already told you Ord will only patrol it’s boarders.” Kelley trembles holding himself after he finished his bottle remembering his last words. “People are scared Lanin, I’m scared too. We both know I shouldn’t be alive. Besides, it’s a perfect match; Ord repels the threats from within and I’ll save as many as I can with as many as are willing support be damned.”

Essex pulled out a small missive from his coat pocket unfolding it in complete grief. Wiping tears from his eyes he re-read it as it questioning it ever existed. His heart burned from the alcohol but more over he flared his teeth and tried to breath as though a collar choked his neck. In fine Ordic Naval stationary it read…

“You took my sister, I’ll take yours and much more Old Friend.”

Admiral Lucan McClay

Kelley crushed the paper in his hands with a mix of fury and sorrow. He breathed a wheezing gasp trying to decide between screaming or crying as he clawed at his wrists and neck whimpering out “They won’t come off… why won’t they cut?”

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