Worms: Apocalypse

Session 34: Teambuilding
In Which the Victors Mingle.

Ekaym drew the adventurers into their assigned chamber, and sat down on one of the bunks, facing them with an earnest expression upon his face. “My sister Lahaka disappeared here last year, not long after the previous Champion’s Games. I’ve been looking for her for months now, but I’ve hit a dead end. She was a traveling entertainer, a bright joy that brought happiness to cities throughout the world. It seems that her travels eventually brought her here, to the Free City, and more to the point, she caught Loris Raknian’s eye. I believe that they became lovers. What I do know is that she vanished the day after the Champion’s Games ended.

“I’ve paid for divination spells to learn more, but alas have learned little. And so I decided to come to the games themselves. I hoped that by entering some gladiators in the competition, I’d have a chance to explore the area, talk with Raknian, and maybe find out what happened to Lahaka. But so far, I’ve found nothing. Raknian’s nearly impossible to get to, and I’ve uncovered no clues in the outlying buildings. There are two places I’ve not been able to reach – his palace and the arena understructure.

“This is where you come in, my friends. If you can slip away from the Coenoby between battles and search the surrounding rooms for clues as to what happened to my sister, I’ll turn over all of the winnings from the games to you. What do you say?”

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Session 33: Round One
In Which the Games Begin.

“I… Uh…” Liberty tried.

Unfortunately, the guards came around to escort all the non-gladiators from the Arena. “We’ll speak more after the tournament,” promised Tirra. “Let your manager know about our arrangement, and I’ll collect your part from him.” She departed without another word, just as Ekaym returned to the table, with a curious glance for the departing elf.

“Well, then. I shall see you on the morrow after the first round when we collect our winnings, yes?” He smiled.

“Sure,” the sorcerer managed to say to Ekaym.

“That sounds about right. It seems there is one other appointment we have made for you as well,” said Xan taking Ekaym aside to let the others to their thoughts.

Drake grumbled, and Liberty gave him a puzzled look. He raised his eyebrows, some, then lifted his head to look back. They were unable to form any words for an uncomfortably long moment. Finally, she said, “And now I have to try to sleep.”

“Just think about torching our opponents tomorrow,” said Drake. “Have a warm drink to put you out. We’ve got a busy day.” He took a long swig off of his flask, then offered it to her. She absently took a pull and almost choked. But it seemed to snap her out of her fugue.

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Session 32: Into the Arena
In Which the Adventurers Change Vocation.

Eligos’s countenance turned dark. “I advise caution; Raknian is a powerful man and remains quite popular with the city government. Any direct confrontation would only reveal him to the extent of your current knowledge, and force him to cash in a few of the numerous favors the city government owes him. A wiser course of action might be to infiltrate the arena itself and find more concrete evidence of Raknian’s malfeasance. If you can find proof that he means ill will to the Free City itself, you will have no problems convincing the government to help. And if you can recover the Apostolic Scrolls and find out what Raknian intends to do with them while you’re at it, so much the better.”

“Raknian’s interest in the Apostolic Scrolls makes him important to our mission,” Liberty said to her fellows. Then she turned to Eligos. “Can you tell us anything more about those?”

Eligos nodded. “The Apostolic Scrolls are reputed to have been penned by Kyuss himself and detail the creation of the ulgurstasta – massive undead creatures capable of consuming the living and regurgitating them as undead. The Apostolic Scrolls are also said to contain rituals that allow an ulgurstasta to create even more powerful undead, spewing them out at a tremendous rate.

“That they are in town and that someone as important as Loris Raknian has purchased them is, to say the least, troubling. That he has also tried to have you killed further damns him – assuming you can produce sufficient proof of his culpability. As to why, perhaps he somehow learned of your actions in Diamond Lake and took matters into his own hands. Unless you have made enemies of more than just the Ebon Triad?”

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Session 31: Mastermind
In Which the Battle of Will Concludes.

Drake glanced over at his stunned companions as he turned, and seeing them struggle against their mental chains gave him pause. He couldn’t just walk away now! What was he doing? With a growl, the alchemist whirled back around, bomb in hand, and hurled it at the nearest octopin. As it crossed the threshold into the mind flayer’s massive chamber, he noticed a…diminishment of the heat waves emanating from the flying missile. His suspicions were confirmed a moment later when the flames washed harmlessly over the terrestrial arthropod. The alchemist looked over to Liberty and saw that she’d noticed as well the protective spells that must be tied to the chamber itself. “Well. That’s new,” he said as he readied his next extract.

Liberty gave herself over to the fire in her blood, and it burned away the lingering fugue that Zyrxog’s mental assault had laid upon her. Recognizing that fire was all but useless against the creatures so long as they remained within the sanctum, she evoked a foursome of magic missiles that streaked around her companions and slammed into the octopin Drake had tried to bomb. They impacted the beast with a satisfying staccato rhythm, and it squealed in protest. Then the creature and its partner advanced on Drake, tentacles leading.

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Session 30: Tentacles
In Which Aliens Attack.

Mom raged and whirled on the octopus-creature nearest Liberty, cutting into it deeply. Drake noticed something strange about the creatures’ gaze, and averted his eyes, aiming a firebomb at another of the beasts using his peripheral vision. He grinned humorlessly when the bomb exploded on-target, eliciting a squelching scream of pain. The otherworldly creature dropped off the wall and laid into the alchemist with a pair of long clawed tentacles. The hooks tore into Drakes flesh and then were rent out of him again most agonizingly.

Xan averted his gaze and advanced on the third monstrosity, but his clumsy stabs hit only wall. It struck back at him, grazing him with one of its wicked claws. Mom came under similar assault, and was blooded by his opponent. Liberty took a prudent step away from the nearby creature and blasted the already burned octopoid with a scorching ray. The second might also have hit, but she found aiming out of the corner of her eye to be a challenge.

Two more slashes of Mom’s greataxe killed the creature above him, and he had to leap out of the way to avoid having the corpse fall on top of him. Drake accidentally caught his opponent’s freakish eye and felt sluggish for a moment before his will asserted itself and shook off whatever effect accompanied the strange creature’s gaze. He snarled and tore into the burned beast with both claws before taking a bite out of its head. Whereupon it died. Xan’s struggles against the remaining beast were further complicated when he caught its gaze and found his thoughts muddled and his actions sluggish.

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Session 29: Zyrxog's Domain
In Which We Enter the Lair of the Beast.

“Okay. So,” said Liberty.

“Damned shriekers,” rumbled Drake.

“I’m guessing they are going to start screaming again if we get closer,” said Xan. Mom grunted in agreement.

Liberty nodded. “I’m sure they will. We’d better take them out.”

“So, let’s take them out from here,” said Xan, looking at the sorcerer and alchemist expectantly.

“Fire bomb?” she said to Drake.

“Yeah, I can torch whatever needs torching.”

Liberty moved to the side so Drake could get a line on the loud mushrooms. His eyebrows raised as he took in the fungus-covered chamber. “Yeah… So that’s not Beggar’s Gold,” he said of the yellow spores carpeting the chamber floor. “That foul yellow mold is just about a death trap. Best way through? Watch it burn.”

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Session 28: When the Pawn
In Which the Adventurers Hunt the Hunter.

“Does ‘cold forge’ mean anything to anyone?” asked Liberty. Mom grunted negatively, and the others shook their heads. “Any familiarity with the Free City’s sewers?” she followed up without much hope.

“Haven’t had the pleasure as of yet,” said Xan.

The sorcerer sighed then studied herself in the mirror for a moment. She tilted her head to one side as she considered the expertly crafted reflective surface, then her eyes widened. “This is enchanted. Once a day, the mirror can show the true form of a creature that is physically disguising itself. I don’t think it works on illusions, though…”

“Huh. I guess in their world they can never trust if anyone is who they appear to be,” said Xan. Mom grunted in amusement.

“I think it’d be worth about ten thousand gold if we could find a buyer. Can’t imagine it’d be a picnic hauling it out of here, though,” said Liberty, as she considered the mirror’s size. “It’s got to weigh at least two hundred pounds.”

“Definitely worth it,” said Xan. “I’m sure Mom or Drake can manage. Remember that strange pedestal we hauled out of the Whispering Cairn?”

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Session 27: Worst Face Forward
In Which the Sodden Hold is Purged.

When the adventurers arrived back at the Sodden Hold, the front doors were not locked, and pushing them open revealed that the front area looked exactly the way they had left it. The dead crates and barrel still lay where they’d fallen, their sappy blood congealed, for lack of a better term.

“How much of the searching did ‘I’ do when you came through here the first time?” Xan wanted to know.

Liberty shrugged. “Most of it, I suppose. It does explain a lot. The doppelganger let us walk right into that.” She pointed at the pit trap along the north wall that still gaped open.

“Hmm… Was he really that convincing? It feels…creepy to know that I can be impersonated.”

“I know I’m not the most perceptive knife in the drawer, but I couldn’t tell any difference. That gem he had must have helped a lot, though.”

“Well… Let’s start fresh here I guess and work our way deeper.”

“Right behind you.” Liberty glanced at Drake. “Well, behind the two of you.”

“Ugh, I’m ready to clean this place out,” said the alchemist. Mom grunted in agreement.

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Interlude: Tangled Up in Violet
In Which Liberty Announces Her Intentions.

Posted by Darth Krzysztof

25 Flocktime, 595 CY

Liberty climbed the creaking stairs to the Crooked House’s second floor and softly knocked on one of the doors. “Ilya? Ilya, it’s Liberty. May I come in, please?” After a moment, a key turned, and the door opened. Liberty entered and closed the door behind her before turning back to take in the sight of her.

To say that Ilya Starmane cleaned up well was an understatement. Her pale blond hair shone in daylight streaming from the open window. The simple white blouse, knee-length skirt, and sandals she wore seemed almost elegant against her fair skin. And when Ilya’s face broke into a genuine smile, Liberty nearly lost all ability to think.

If this is Ilya, she reminded herself. Don’t get sloppy. Not yet.

“Miss Liberty! I’m so relieved. I thought that, perhaps, the doppelgangers had gotten the better of you.” Ilya was not relieved enough to make a move toward her, though. Either doubts clawed at the elf, or this facedancer was as gifted an actor as the others Liberty had encountered.

“They nearly did. They played one of their tricks on us… a big one. I started questioning reality, sanity… everything that happened in the Sodden Hold.”

Ilya’s smile faltered, then vanished. “I see.” She took a chair next to a table, just large enough to support the plates left behind from breakfast. The elf’s hand was close to a table knife, if not too close. “Then you wonder if I am, indeed, Ilya Starmane. Or if the facedancers found me before you did, and I’m one of them, trying to lure you into another trap.”

“It’s possible, yes. It’s also possible that the Ilya Starmane I met was a doppelganger all along. They knew everything about us, you see. And it’d be just like someone who knows everything about me to mess with my head by sending a pretty elf my way.”

“You think I’m pretty?” Ilya blinked. Her features had a slightly boyish quality, the androgyny found in so many elves.

“I think Ilya is pretty.”

“I see.” The two words seemed suffused with the quality Liberty later came to think of as Elven Mystery.

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Session 26: Denouement
In Which Xan Discovers Whether He Can Come Home Again.

Liberty’s voice was quiet, but rising with anger. “Sabotaged it how?”

“And why?” added Mom softly.

“He didn’t exactly say,” said Xan. “All I know is that he caused the collapse intentionally, but it happened at the wrong time. No one was supposed to be in the mine.”

“Oh, Xan…” said Liberty sadly.

The planks beneath Drake splintered and cracked in his hands. “He…what?” he growled as he turned, murder in his eyes. All eyes turned toward him as he rose to a crouch with one hand still on the ground, his mutagen-created claws gouging the wood on the floor. “He caused this mess?” He shook with barely contained fury.

“Drake!” Mom shouted.

“Easy, Drake,” said Liberty.

The alchemist pointed at the cleric and shouted right back. “Shut it!” He entered the cell with Xan and Charles Quinn. The rogue looked up at him with sadness in his eyes, but he was obviously too weary to do anything more. Drake stopped a step away from them, looking between the two, fists clenched.

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