Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Chapter: Nemesis No More

Cast: Bansl, Galan, Tito and Toadface. Also, as NPC's: Aegir, Dr. Mörbius, Droctors Misterio and Toombs, Commander Spearhawk and Master Ludenius.

The following takes place between 28 Decanum and 3 Undecium, YE 1022.

Locked in a trance, in combat with the evil master-mind, Galan and Toadface makes a stand, all the while, Tito's soul, given over to his spirit-totem, stalks the labyrinth – the tide turns, van Zaar disappears again, and the survivors have to carry the lifeless bodies of two of the cabal to safety.

With Tito already cut down by the dark forces commanded by their nemesis Dr. Mörbius, and with van Zaar suddenly vanished from the mind-field, Galan and Toadface had to rethink their strategy; they tried to figure out the rules of the certamen. It had now become clear that it's fundamental precepts were based on Hermetic laws, but also that their enemy had carefully re-written the rituals governing the arcane contest. For one, they could be physically harmed, but they could also see parts of the information that poured into Deep Thought's chamber from the mother-ship and the surrounding area.

Dr. Mörbius taunted the heroes, letting them know that they were helpless before the might of his powers. He's even allowed himself the time-honoured maniacal laughter of the evil overlord. With the battle between wills raging back and forth, the outcome hung in the balance, but the two Masters had realized that the only thing that could save them was sheer magical might. They combined their strengths, pouring everything they had into Galan's next attack. The power of the blow overloaded their foe's neuromantic circuits, cutting his laughter short, and causing a violent back-surge that shut down the goethic calculators powering the machines of Deep Thought. The certamen was broken.

Toadface's mind was now thrown back into his body. The stasis field that trapped him had shut down, the engine-towers making unhappy sounds, and showers of sparks and plumes of oily smoke pouring into the chamber from everywhere. Dr. Mörbius had lost his advantage, and now he was nothing but a brain in a tank. A right solid pillar, constructed of the same unholy materials used in the sarcophagi that contained the Sirens, but a tank none the less.

When the certamen broke, Galan lost his connection to Toadface, and he now had to reassess the situation, stuck in the antechamber. Aegir was guarding the lifeless body of Tito, and van Zaar was nowhere to be seen. At least the Prince could inform him that the Draccian had set out on a spirit-walk, and as far as he knew he was somewhere within the labyrinth. The captain promptly set about locating his cabal-members, and re-establishing the Hive Mind.

Tito, now soul-riding Gaupa, his kin's ancient lynx-totem, found himself marvelling at the enormous power inherent in the spirit's manifestation. He could smell his enemies far away, and effortlessly stalk up on them. The first Hellghast he struck from behind, crippling it, and left it as he penetrated deeper into the sanctum.

Toadface, stalwart son of the primordial, was faced with an enemy that could not affect him in any way, at least not as things stood at that moment. Still, the enemy was shielded and surrounded by dark technology and evil craft, none of which made much sense to the magician. Racking his mind, he sought for a way to end the reign of Deep Thought once and for all. He scanned the area thoroughly, and realised that the one thing he did understand was electricity. And the chamber had plenty of it. Gripping the thickest cable he could find, he channelled the raw energy through his body, using his artifact-gauntlet to deliver the charge into the pillar of Dr. Mörbius. Sparks flew, evil lights flickered through the room, and then everything went dark.

The captain had now reached both Tito and Toadface, but he had also sensed the presence of Master Bansl. He had vanished when the cabal's first assault on the labyrinth had failed. Now he was there, but he could not be reached telepathically. Galan focussed his powers, scrying out the location of the missing Master. He found him in a brightly lit, and disturbingly clean room, submerged in a tub filled with some viscous liquid. White-clad scientists were cutting in his flesh, and wires were attached to his body.

Back in the central chamber, Toadface heard noises from beneath Dr. Mörbius's pillar. The sounds were unlike anything he'd ever heard before, but tapping into the collective knowledge of the Hive Mind, he realised that someone was trying to open a valve. Galan broke off his connection to Bansl, and managed to scry the area below the chamber. In a small room, crowded with pipes, gauges, metres and mechanical instruments, the minions of the enemy was indeed trying to evacuate the brain.

Tito, the lynx-spirit, soon located another Hellghast, but as he was preparing to ambush it, it managed to sneak up behind him. Still, despite being armed with a lance powered by eldritch energy, the half-demon was no match for the claws of the ancient totem. As the Hive Mind kept him informed of the other developments, Tito now retreated back to the antechamber, only pausing briefly on his way to dispatch the wounded Hellghast.

Time was running out. Aegir could inform the captain that he could hear enemies approaching, the Pius was soon to be under attack, and their nemesis was trying to escape. Acting quickly, Galan managed to teleport the cold and still body of Bansl into the antechamber. Toadface turned to the oldest and foulest spells he knew, focussing all his might into destroying what life was left in the nefarious brain. Still, the minions managed to open the valve, and flushing the contents of the tank into the room below, they hastily prepared to escape with their lord.

Toadface could no longer reach him with his magics, so it fell to Galan to make sure they succeeded in killing Deep Thought. He opened a tiny portal between the muzzle of his pistol and the brain, now smelling distinctly like rotting fish. Then he pulled the trigger. The bullet went straight through the reeking lump of cerebral tissue, leaving a hole big enough to poke a finger through. Dr. Mörbius was distinctly dead.

Now the cabal quickly prepared to leave, and they teleported back to the Pius before they were stormed by the Hellghasts closing in on them.

Aboard the Pius, the situation did not allow for dawdling. Deep in the Saragossa Dead-space, they were far from home, and the enemy was closing in on them. Van Zaar's Death-magic had not disguised the ship, and EXODUS I's massive cannons had been firing steadily for almost ten minutes. Countless enormous shells were approaching fast, like a swarm of evil-minded meteors. Scrying the caern they erected at the edge of the asteroid field revealed that the Thulists had positioned several Reavers, as well as some heavier ships, to block their escape.

While the captain hurried to make the ship ready for jump, Toadface healed Tito's wounds, then he turned to Bansl. His chest had been cut open, and the ribs were pried apart with some evil-looking instruments. What was worse was that the open cavity was still full of the ectoplasm the body had been submerged in. There were also thirteen bolts screwed into his cranium. As the Pius made a run for safety, the ship's healers – Toadface, Dr. Toombs, the old and quite mundane surgeon, and Dr. Misterio, the mad occultist – all gathered around the patient.

The Pius got out of Saragossa, and Bansl was sewn up and brought back to his senses. During the six days it took to get back to the moon, however, Bansl's behaviour caused some concern among the Masters. For days he did not leave his workshop, and when he did, he seemed sullen and somewhat dark. In the end, Tito approached him in, and through offering Bansl his grandfather's favourite soup, Tito managed to get him to open up somewhat. Bansl demanded to know why the other Masters were sneaking about, and insisted that there was nothing at all wrong with him. Despite some latent hostility, the soup brought the magicians a little closer. Still, Bansl seemed changed somehow.

Not everything was bleak. The crew had by now taken fondly to Gala, the space-whale Tito had snared earlier on the voyage. Now Commander Spearhawk suggested that they build a howdah, so that she could be ridden safely by members of the crew. He also suggested that they mount four of their cannon on the howdah, thus turning her into a proper war-beast. A flying one at that. This was quickly approved, and by the time Argos was in sight, the rig was completed.

As the Pius approached Argos, they decided that Göteshafen would be a good place to make landfall. This decision was in no small way influenced by Toadface, who, after Dr. Mörbius had been killed, had gotten a strong urge to procreate. This urge now drew him towards a certain wench he had had liaisons with the last time the cabal visited the Hermetic port. There were of course other arguments, not least that Toadface had an epiphany. He suddenly knew that if they went to Göteshafen, they would meet Blackstaff again. That decided the matter, and the course was set.

In Göteshafen, Master Vermis Ludenius received them with open arms in his castle, Götesborg, and spared no expense in making the heroes feel welcome. New and reports from the war was exchanged, and they all enjoyed themselves. Toadface was otherwise engaged. As midnight approached, the cabal gathered on top of the castle's Master's Tower, and lit a fire. Their gaze was drawn north, towards The Wild. Here they found The Second Witness, a.k.a. Gudmund Brotherbane, the wayward Eldren-turned-archmage-turned-god. They talked with him for a while before he walked away. He could not linger, for destiny weighs heavy on the shoulders of the gods.

Storyteller's note: I am of the school that says that true evil shoud at the very least die hard. It makes for bad stories if every evil mastermind can be killed right away. When it comes to the good doctor, I had that in mind, but I had already decided that unless things went pear-shaped, he was going down. Still, I was going to make the lads work for it. And they did. This is the third session in this particular chapter/adventure, and finally the bastard bought it. It felt quite good. Almost like the world got a little brighter.

As always, if you have any objections or if you feel I've forgotten anything, have at it.

[Picture source: Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience]

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