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Fiction Dead Water, Complete Five Part Story

Discussion in 'Fluff and Stories' started by Scalenex, Feb 2, 2015.

  1. Scalenex
    OldBlood

    Scalenex Keeper of the Indexes Staff Member

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    Most of my fluff pieces are tied in the same narrative and build on each other. Despite this I have done my best to make all my stories capable of standing alone. This one does not stand alone very well. This sequel is so closely tied to Legacies that reading this story will probably be unsatisfying or confusing (and spoil Legacies like crazy if you read this one first)

    To a lesser extant, this builds on Count Renliss' Journey to Lustria and the Fall of Turochlitan but all you really need from that is Renliss = scheming Lustrian vampire lord and Kayishen = Spiteful banshee well versed in Lizardmen culture

    I would like to thank Spawning of Bob for his help on this story. He has been helping me edit a lot of my pieces, but he went above and beyond to help me with this. Not only did he proof read this, but he came up with a number of the supporting story elements.

    Without further ado, please enjoy Dead Water.


    Part One: Reconnaissance


    Grand Commodore Harkon paced the deck aboard a beached vessel. The ship he was on was probably a very impressive vessel years ago, but the gaping hole in the hull revealed it would never sail again. Despite this, the ships rigging was set and a full contingent of crewmen stood completely silently and flawlessly at attention, the way only statues and the undead could pull off. The vampire turned to the nearest officer, a zombie distinguishable from his fellows by gold trim on his clothing and a less visible state of decay. His sword was even rust free, implying it was either magical or Harkon bothered to have it cleaned regularly.

    “Mr. Anders have the sentries detected anything?”

    The zombie stood silently. After a few moments, Luthor Harkon spoke again.

    “Very well, have the men keep searching.”

    He paced the deck some more.

    “Mr. Wilson, how fare our provisions?”

    The zombie stood silently. After about ten minutes, Harkon spoke again.

    “Very well, cut the grog rations by a quartile until we can restock the supplies.”

    He sharply turned to a rank and file zombie in the third row.

    “I heard that! Insubordination! Mr. Wilson, I want this man flogged a twenty times come sunset!”

    Huan-kai sat in a tree and continued to watch the odd Human vampire yell orders and reprimands at his nonresponsive crew. Chameleon Skinks can stand perfectly still for hours. Since becoming a vampire, he could stay perfectly still for days. Moving only to fend off the coconut crabs, which alone of all creatures in the animal kingdom seemed not to be repulsed by the undead and highly interested in eating his toes.

    As time wore on, Harkon’s one-sided conversations only got more confusing. He wondered if he was mistranslating the vampire’s Reikspiel words. Sometimes he talked about supplies the zombies weren’t using. Sometimes he talked about raising or lowering their pay. Huan-kai was only vaguely familiar with the Human concept of currency, but he was fairly certain that reanimated dead men do not normally get paid.

    Renliss could command his basest minions with his mind alone. Even Kayishen rarely needed to speak commands to could get modest numbers of undead to follow her lead (though she seemed to like speaking commands out of nostalgia for her breathing days). Huan-kai was just beginning to learn to command lesser undead, and he didn’t ever bother speaking to them. He didn’t like using Reikspiel if he could help it, and talking to zombies in Saurian seemed weird, or even blasphemous. He had enough experience with telepathy that issuing mental commands just seemed more natural though it made him feel a bit like a Slann. That both excited and disgusted him.

    It also seemed to be easier. No reason to talk to something without a true mind. These zombies were all mindless…or were they? Vampires only needed to speak to their sapient minions: other vampires, necromancers, some spirits, and some wights, yet Harkon insisted on having lengthy discussions with zombies which were barely sentient, much less possessing any semblance of will.

    The zombies were mostly Human with a few Elves and Ogres mixed in. They showed considerably variety in how they were dressed and their post-mortem state. Some seemed dried up like leather while others were completely bloated or waterlogged. The zombie ranks held every permutation in between. There was a relative lack of amputees for zombies. A few had peg legs or hook hands, but Harkon’s men looked a lot more together than Renliss’ men. There were also some wolf zombies…no dog zombies. Renliss had explained the difference between dogs and wolves when he commented on how similar dogs and huagerdons seemed to be. The dogs milled around the Humanoid crews while sniffing things and wagging their tails. The dogs acted closer to their original living selves than any undead Huan-kai had ever seen before.

    Huan-kai wondered if Harkon was a strong necromancer or just a stickler for complete zombies Even Renliss would abandon zombies mutilated beyond a certain point and Harkon could have simply set a stricter threshold. Then Huan-kai saw one of the sailor zombie’s arms fall off. Harkon ordered it beaten for its insubordination because of this. Then the mangled corpse pieces were tossed into the surf. Over the course of about twenty minutes the pieces came together again and the newly re-reanimated zombie joined a column patrolling the beach. Weird.

    The idea that hundreds of zombies could be sapient and telepathic was absurd, but Huan-kai had to know for certain. He reached out his mind to contact one of the first officers and nothing happened. When he first became a vampire, Huan-kai often had mishaps using his old spells and cantrips, but that awkwardness with spellcasting had gone away long ago, or so he thought. Reading minds was one of Huan-kai’s most intrinsic powers and his cantrip still fizzled. Glad Kayishen can’t see my failed attempt, I’d never hear the end of it. He tried reaching out once more. Again nothing happened, although this time he was pretty sure the spell worked. The zombie’s mind was simply not capable of forming coherent verbal thoughts.

    Huan-kai noticed his scales turning back to dark grey. He had lost his natural color change ability when he died, but as soon as he got a renewed grasp on his Shadow magic, he tirelessly worked on developing a camouflaging cantrip which he had been maintaining since he began his stakeout. Now even that simple magic was failing him too.

    Fortunately, it was a few hours till sunrise, so his dead gray skin still blended in reasonably well with his surroundings in the dark. Huan-kai still shivered nervously, a body reflex he rarely experienced when alive. One impulse from his living days that he had yet to lose was a strong desire to remain hidden at all times. If a Chameleon Skink finds himself in a situation where his camouflage doesn’t work the first instinct is to flee immediately. He tried to reactivate his color change cantrip. Again, nothing happened.

    Mystical senses are different from one caster to the next, Huan-kai usually felt mystic awareness tactilely as a second kind of moisture. As he understood it, the magic had gone dry around the strange vampire. Magic was second nature to him, so he felt even more exposed without his sorcery than he did without his concealment.

    Huan-kai tried to gracefully exit his tree, but he knocked a branch on the way down which made a fairly audible thunk on the ground. At least a hundred zombies snapped to attention and turned towards him as one.

    Mahrlect!

    Even a wet worker caste Skink should be able to quietly climb down a tree. Huan-kai’s senses were sharper and his body was much stronger and more resilient than before, but his new (old?) body felt clumsy now. Hopefully these zombies aren’t any faster than their landlocked cousins. He sprinted away from Harkon’s makeshift port. Huan-kai couldn’t manage an all-out sprint like he could while alive, but now he could run at a moderate pace for a very long time without tiring. As soon as he felt the magical dryness dissipate, he concentrated as hard as he could and was soon carried away in the dark talons of a Shadow construct Terradon.

    Once back at Renliss’ camp the various undead soldiers parted to make a path for him. Normally Renliss didn’t bother with things like that.

    Great, he’s impatient! I was the one crouched in a tree for three days fending off coconut crabs…

    Huan-kai gave a mental sigh and trudged forward (physical sighs went away long ago since he only needed to breathe to speak). Renliss looked at him expectantly.

    “Well? What have you learned?”
    “Lord Renlissss, I have learned that Luthor Harkon’ssss mental canopy is missing some leavesss.”
     
    Last edited: Feb 29, 2016
  2. Scalenex
    OldBlood

    Scalenex Keeper of the Indexes Staff Member

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    Dead Water: Part Two

    Part Two: Diplomacy


    A lone Human zombie trudged through the jungle undergrowth. Huan-kai followed behind it as far as he dared. Most animals give the undead a wide berth, but a lone zombie is still pretty vulnerable, and Huan-kai did not want it destroyed. Also, the range of Huan-kai’s control wasn’t great, so he had to stay close to maintain the connection.

    Huan-kai tried and failed to will away his mild headache. Controlling the zombie was taxing. When people talk about necromancers controlling the undead, they usually mean directing the undead instead. Haun-kai was actually controlling this one. He saw out of its eyes and directed its legs monotonous marching. Left leg, right leg, left leg, right leg. It was probably the most boring thing he did in either his life or unlife. Unfortunately if Huan-kai let his focus drift off too long, he’d lose track of where he was going and walk into a tree or fall down a ravine while the zombie plodded along in front of him.

    Why isn’t Renliss doing this instead of me?

    Renliss could control a zombie with a lot less mental energy than Huan-kai needed and he could do it at a much greater distance. He probably didn’t do it because Huan-kai was expendable. Everyone who wasn’t Renliss was expendable. This could have been a punishment assignment or a test of loyalty. In their last skirmish, a battle with some Human treasure seekers, Huan-kai was directing most of the zombies while Renliss directed the stronger troops. Huan-kai used the troops under his command a little too aggressively and a lot of them were destroyed beyond the ability to reanimate them. Huan-kai claimed it was an error of judgment, but he was being deliberately sloppy and Renliss wasn’t fooled.

    Briefly, Huan-kai pondered “accidentally” having his zombie walk off a cliff, and going back to Renliss ask for another one. Maybe Renliss would throw up his hands and make Kayishen do this mission instead. Maybe he would even do it himself since Kayishen had the diplomatic ability of a bull Stegadon during mating season.

    Unfortunately, Huan-kai knew that Renliss could control him outright, just like this zombie. That was the ultimate Ripperdactlyl hanging above him in the sky. Telepathy was the first magic Huan-kai every learned, so controlling Huan-kai was not easy. Still, when Huan-kai did something to spite his master, he paid dearly for it. Renliss paid too. Each time Renliss seized control, Huan-kai seemed to have more slightly mental fortitude than the last time. Renliss was usually so tired that Kayishen and Mordreck had to take over the Carnosaur’s share of the army whenever Huan-kai and Renliss had a telepathic “fight.”

    Still it took its toll on Huan-kai leaving him weak for days afterwards. His mental fights with Renliss felt disturbingly similar to the time when he was alive and Lord Merestar channeled several spells through him. Lately, Huan-kai found himself trying testing Renliss’ tolerance limits less and less. Am I getting more comfortable serving the Fallen? Am I getting more comfortable being Fallen? At the same time, Renliss seemed to give the Skink more leeway with small and mostly symbolic forms rebellion. Is he trusting me more? Surely not. The vampire Skink had no idea why he was reanimated at all. Why go through that much trouble to raise a minion that wants to kill you?

    He got surprising leeway after the last battle. Most Old World vampires tend to be cavalier with their non-elite minions, but Renliss is a stingy steward of his resources and will go the extra mile to get even a single extra undead solider. After the last battle, Huan-kai was so sloppy with his “dinner” and tore up the Humans he was feeding to the point where corpses couldn’t be reanimated. Huan-kai was eager to have some sustenance which didn’t come from the veins of the First Children of the Old Ones. Renliss vastly preferred Human blood as well, so maybe he approved of the enthusiastic feeding. He complains about the inferior taste of cold blood a lot. Huan-kai never let Renliss know his secret. Huan-kai preferred Human blood for a different reason. To him, cold blood tasted better. He hoped if he fed on Prodigals with extra vigor and less restraint that his tastes would change, but it had yet to work.

    Might as well finish this stupid assignment.

    The zombie stopped. Once Huan-kai caught up to it, he unwound the white flag from the stick he as carrying and handed it to the reanimated Human. The Skink looked at the moons and constellations in the sky, and marshaled as much power as he could. At Renliss’ direction, Huan-kai timed his arrival at Harkon’s camp for when the Winds of Magic were at a relative peak, so controlling the zombie should have been relatively easy, despite Harkon’s magic disruption. Unfortunately, marching the zombie into Harkon’s camp still felt like swimming upstream. Huan-kai settled into a tree and increased his focus.

    He hoped Harkon wouldn’t simply grab a free bonus zombie. It’s normally very hard for a necromancer to forcibly seize control of a minion from another necromancer, even if the would-be thief is more powerful than the first necromancer. Renliss called this the Principle of First Reanimation, but Harkon seemed to play by his own rules loosely controlling thousands of zombies in an area where Huan-kai struggled to control even one.

    The undead sailors adjusted ranks to make a clear path to the docked flagship. The flag bearing zombie shambled down the path. The crew lowered a gang plank allowing the new zombie aboard. Huan-kai didn’t know if his feelings were based on fear, loyalty, or morbid curiosity to see Harkon’s reaction, but he decided not to try to subvert this assignment.

    The zombie attempted to plant its flag in a knothole but Huan-kai misjudged the hole through the dead Human’s eyes and the flag fell. Oops, minor thing. Focus: here comes the hard part. The zombie knelt to the ground to pick up the flag, then it opened its mouth.

    “Lord Renlisss of the Von Carstein bloodline sendsss hisss regardsss to mighty Luthor Harkon of the Vampire Coast.”

    Harkon leapt up from his chair so fast, he reminded Huan-kai of a Huagerdon when he first smells the feeders coming. He did not bother to hide his grin (which is how Humans express happiness). He acted as if the zombie was the greatest thing he had ever seen.

    “Welcome ambassador of Lord Renliss! It has been many centuries since I was able to speak to one of the blood. What brings you to my humble port?”

    The eagerness bothered Huan-kai. Huan-kai thought opening a talk with this vampire should be much harder. Renliss sent a minion because vampires tend to be very wary of each other. Then it dawned on him. Harkon is lonely.

    Worse than directing his senses through a rotting corpse. Worse than fighting the anti-magic bubble, was relating Renliss’ script exactly as given.

    “Lord Renlisss wishes to ally our mighty forcessss, so that we can crush the foul Lizardmen.”

    Why do the Humans compare all races to themselves? Lizardmen, Beastmen, Ratmen.

    “I would be delighted to make him a captain in my fleet!”
    “Renlisss was thinking more along the linesss of a partnership.”

    Actually Renliss wanted to make Harkon a lieutenant, but Huan-kai talked him down to a partnership after relaying just how big Harkon’s crew was. Funny how both vampires automatically assume the other would automatically accept their command. Huan-kai wondered if the matching arrogance was a result of their vampirism, humanity, the Von Carstein bloodline, or a coincidence.

    Harkon jerked his neck then spoke in a slightly different voice. Much louder than before.

    “Unacceptable! I am far stronger. Renliss will serve me. The strongest rule. That is the Von Carstein way!”
    “How do you know you are stronger than sssomeone you haven’t met?”
    “I am Grand Commodore Harkon. My strength is comparable to that of a god!”
    His friendly air vanished in an instant. Humility is something that Humans can’t reanimate then…

    “Renlissss is being generousss offering an alliance. He hasss never done that before.”
    “Serving me as captain is generous! A quick death is generous!”

    Harkon drew his cutlass and chopped off the zombie’s head.

    Mahrlect that hurts!

    Huan-kai felt a sharp phantom pain in his neck, but the pain dissipated quickly. The massive headache that followed did not fade so quickly. Psychic feedback is the real reason necromancers rarely apt for direct control of their minions. He conjured a shadowy Terradon to fly him off but only made it about hundred yards when he lost focus and crashed.

    Owww, better go on foot

    After running all the way back to Renliss’ army, the skeletons and zombies did not respectfully part for him. Huan-kai muscled his way through the crowd. Renliss looked down on him disdainfully.

    “I presume from your extremely swift return that the diplomatic mission was not successful?”
    “Indeed Lord Renlisssss. Unlike other vampire Humanssss, Grand Admiral Harkon issss very arrogant. He will never ssserve another.”
    “I expected as much. We will force Harkon’s forces to join us, one way or the other.”
     
  3. Scalenex
    OldBlood

    Scalenex Keeper of the Indexes Staff Member

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    Dead Water: Part Three

    Part Three: Skirmish


    “The zombie sailorssss that I saw outnumbered our—I mean your—total forces by at leasssst two-to-one. There could have easily been more undead in the ship holdsss or even under the water. He could easily keep his ethereal minionssss hidden at most times like you do, though you should keep Kayishen hidden away far more often.”

    Kayishen let out a hiss that would have made any Lustrian python proud, but Huan-kai kept talking.

    “I saw fell bats sssleeping in the riggings, roughly as many as you control, lord.”

    Renliss looked unimpressed.

    “Do they have anything to rival our reanimated beasts?”
    “Nothing larger than ogresss that I could see, but what worries me is the gunssss. At least a quarter of the zombies were carrying handguns and many of the ships have cannonsss. The main ship has a very large cannon.”

    Renliss waved that off.

    “Without magical ammunition, it’s almost impossible to have non-sapient undead shoot accurately. One zombie gunner would take the concentration to control of a hundred conventional zombies. The guns are for show like his pretending to pay his troops.”
    “You said the Nehkharans use many archerssss.”
    “They have arrows specially blessed by their gods, Harkon couldn’t possibly have blessed bullets.”
    “Maybe, maybe not. Harkon doesn’t seem to follow the normal rulesss for magic. The guns are in too good repair to be just for Harkon’sss eccentricity.”

    Renliss paused a long time scratching his chin.

    “That is of no concern. We have a psychological advantage we can exploit.”
    “Because we are sane and he is not?”
    “No—well yes, but this is more than his quirks. He is too territorial. He dwells primarily on a wrecked ship for nostalgia and he patrols a stretch of water to plunder that almost no one sails on. If we fight him away from the coastline, his home turf, he will lose confidence. He will submit or face Final Death.”

    * * * * * * * * * *

    Huan-kai had a lot of new things to get used to after he died. He no longer needed to breathe except to speak or smell. He considered this a boon at first, until he realized that despite most of his muscles were stronger and more tireless than before his lungs had atrophied. Blowpipes were not a practical weapon anymore, so he was glad that he had cross-trained with javelins with the Sotek caste during his breathing days, not that he had a lot of opportunities to engage in hit-and-run ranged attacks in Renliss’ army.

    It had been a long time since he contemplated breathing or the lack thereof. Now that he was slowly wading along the bottom of the ocean, the weirdness hit him. Swimming underwater was not the same as swimming on the surface. Even with his vampiric strength and stamina continuing to shadow a moving boat was not easy. Maybe I should really Shadow the boat. Stupid pun aside, Huan-kai looked at the barnacles on the ship and fashioned a large shadow construct copy of one, then trailed a rope of solid darkness and hitched a ride. A lot easier than swimming.

    One of Kayishen’s spectral ex-body guards from her living days sank down into the water and headed towards Huan-kai, pointed at him, then ascended out of the water. The signal was easily noticeable from the faint glow the wraith projected in the water. Huan-kai resisted the impossible urge to take a deep breath and then extended his concentration above the water reaching out to one of the Fell Bats being directed by Kayishen. Kayishen relinquished her indirect control and Huan-kai adjusted to seeing and hearing as bats do. Seeing and hearing as undead mutated bats at least.

    It was jarring but Huan-kai had enough experience directing Shadow constructs that this was achievable even with the magical interference Harkon (unknowingly?) generated. If anything, direct control of undead was the one aspect of necromancy that came to Huan-kai naturally. Through the Fell Bat, he saw that the ship was out of sight of the nearest friendly vessels. Shortly thereafter, Fell Bats, zombified Terradons and pretty much every one of Renliss’ minions capable of prolonged hovering over water swooped in to attack. Some of the zombies fired handguns at them almost at random. One was lucky enough to put a hole in a Terradon’s wing causing it to lose altitude very slowly while Kayishen revealed herself and began screaming at various undead deck hands exchanging blows with the flyers. Huan-kai didn’t wait to see the Terradon crash into the water. Kayishen’s diversion wouldn’t last forever.

    Huan-kai relinquished control of his Fell Bat and marshaled all his inner strength to overcome Harkon’s magic dampening effect. As Renliss surmised it was reduced but not eliminated at this distance from Harkon. Huan-kai attempted to craft a giant shadowy sword but only managed to craft a triangular shiv that would have shamed an Orc weapon smith. It still got the job done, puncturing a jagged hole in the hull. Even that crude construct was draining enough that Huan-kai barely had the strength to move out of the way of the sinking ship.

    The former Chameleon Skink had little time to catch his breath, figuratively speaking. The next phase of Renliss’ plan was for Huan-kai to eliminate the ship’s whole allotment of zombie pirates. Renliss assured him that most Humans, even sailors, cannot swim and that zombies never swim. He also said that Zombies also don’t shoot guns, so Huan-kai refused to let his guard down. This was an experiment as much as anything.

    Zombies, like most corpses, tend to float in salt water. Fortunately, some were weighed down by gear they couldn’t or wouldn’t drop and most were pulled down by the ship. Given that sinking ship act like whirl pools, the Humans probably wouldn’t have escaped even if they were alive and knew how to swim.

    As slow as Huan-kai was underwater, the zombies were more impaired and could barely move let alone defend themselves, though they gave their level best to claw the reptilian vampire apart. Slowly and steadily the water around the wreckage was filled with suspended body parts attracting a huge slew of eels, crabs, and other bottom feeders.

    Kayishen herself floated down towards him when about half the zombies were accounted for. Huan-kai had no idea how incorporeal creatures handled the water, but the witch seemed to be moving okay. He opened his mouth to shout “you could be helping you know!” but only exhaled a bubble awkwardly. Kayishen laughed at this. Then laughed harder when she realized she could still talk where Huan-kai couldn’t

    Forgot you were underwater?"

    Huan-kai ignored her and kept attacking zombies trying to focus on the task at hand. They couldn’t use their swords and axes completely while submerged, but a few had serviceable short knives and one managed to draw a small amount of blood with a hooked hand.

    Oh my! That was clumsy! I thought Skinks were naturally aquatic."

    Must ignore her, do not react.

    He drowned out her taunts and kept slashing at zombies.

    Did you notice that you have an eel nibbling at your tail?"

    Huan-kai shook his tail and hit a fleshy living creature. This led to the witch giving a long tirade about how dull his senses have gotten post-mortem, made all the worse by the fact that it was true, at least for tactile senses. Huan-kai decided to internally ponder ways to destroy Kayishen. What kind of shadow construct he’d use, how to time the attack so Renliss didn’t have time to recall Kayishen’s spirit. That cheered him up as he was finishing up with the last of the zombies.

    Wait! Stop!"

    What now?

    Huan-kai tried for his best underwater glare.

    Our orders…"

    Renliss had wanted at least one zombie brought back “alive” and he had eviscerated all the zombies around him. Huan-kai sighed inwardly and swam to the surface towards the small number of floating reanimated corpses. Unfortunately, these zombies could actually swim and fight surprisingly decently on the surface of the water, so it took some effort than Huan-kai to disarm the “healthiest” looking zombie. Huan-kai conjured a simple shadow construct to harness it, then began towing it back. He pulled it underwater so he wouldn’t be spotted if Harkon sent other ships to investigate the sinking. It was slow working towing a struggling corpse across the bottom of the sea. Kayishen’s greatest regret from her lost life was the diminished power of her formerly enchanted voice, so one would think she would not like to hear herself talk. Unfortunately, she did not want to waste the opportunity of Huan-kai not being able to speak and heckled him the whole way back. When he finally exited the water, Huan-kai had come up with three highly detailed scenarios for destroying the banshee. Huan-kai didn’t bother talking back to Kayishen when they were hauling the zombie overland, which was just as well since Kayishen had begun to run out of fresh taunts. Renliss’ pet necromancer, Mordrek, was standing at the edge of Renliss’ camp.

    “Took you long enough.”

    A fine greeting to welcome back the conquering heroes. Huan-kai was far too tired and angry against Kayishen to waste ire against the stupid necromancer. Because of Harkon’s tendency to have lengthy conversations with his crew, Renliss wanted to be able to tell for sure if his minions bore any semblance of a personality. He also wanted to see how they were able to shoot guns and work rigging with what passes for amazing dexterity by zombie standards. Therefore, he needed to run tests on the zombie and when Renliss needs something done, he’ll make a minion do it immediately.

    Fortunately, the tedious mystical experiments on the zombie were to be performed by Mordreck. Renliss didn’t have patience time to do something so boring. He wanted to work on his literal pet project and was spending all his waking moments trying to create an “Abyssal Terror” from assorted corpse leftovers warped by Phidas the captured Mutalith.

    Huan-kai decided to name the creature Phidas to annoy Kayishen (since Phidas was one of the names of the false gods she once served as a priestess for). Renliss was so sick of hearing Kayishen prattle on about the “True Old Ones” that let the name stick.

    Huan-kai could not read human facial expressions particularly well, but he could tell Modrek gave was giving him a lot of dirty looks. He was jealous that the Lizardman upstart had usurped his master's favor.

    A very long time ago, Modrek had turned to necromancy merely to cheat his own death. Not having access to decent tomes from reputable sources, he sought out a vampire and found Renliss. Now the necromancer got to cheat death for the low, low price of being Renliss’ lackey for all eternity. Renliss either couldn’t or wouldn’t turn Modrek into a full vampire. It bothered Modrek immensely that Huan-kai, an enemy, received the “gift” of vampirism and that Renliss either couldn’t or wouldn’t give it to him. Modrek had certainly got a raw deal, but at the very least he could still eat food, not that he seemed to appreciate it.

    Huan-kai saw the sad Human’s mind. His will had more or less been hollowed out. He seemed to lack the capacity to begrudge Renliss’ treatment of him, but he was left enough sense of self to be able to hold a grudge against the vampire Skink.

    That’s fine.

    Huan-kai pitied him too much to be angry or threatened by Mordrek. Once he commented to Renliss that he was lucky to find a Human so obsessed with his own mortality that Renliss could ensnare him. Renliss assured him that seekers like that were so common that vampires usually simply exsanguinated the would-be seekers and only kept the best ones.

    That was probably the biggest culture shock about Humans. There are oddities in every group, so it’s not surprising that one or two Humans would have the unusual combination of being smart enough to master wizardry yet dumb enough to willingly seek out vampiric patrons. What was odd was that dozens of Humans every generation would seek that path. If Huan-kai had to sum up the Fourth Race in one word, he would say they are “contradictory.”

    The First Children of the Old Ones do not fear death like Humans. Sure, Skinks may not be as fearless as Sauri, but being skittish and cautious around potential dangers is not the same as fixating on one’s inevitable death like the way Humans seemed to do. At least that was Huan-kai’s initial thought on the subject. More and more, Huan-kai’s mind wandered to his own death “or Final Death” as Sylvanian vampires called it. He wasn’t sure if his feelings about his own Final Death were of fear or hope.

    Too tired to give Mordrek a second thought, Huan-kai finished his report to Renliss. Renliss acted like Harkon was dealt a major blow, but Huan-kai didn’t buy it. While Renliss had lost a smaller proportion of his total force than Harkon did, it took over a month of set up an ambush for a single ship. It would take thirty consecutive sorties like that to bring Harkon to heel. Renliss looked on the zombie “prisoner of war” as if it would solve all their problems. Humans tend to miss the jungle for the trees. In this case he was fixating on a single leaf. After dismissal, Huan-kai found a loamy patch of soil to dig a hole in. He crawled in and covered himself with loose soil and leaves hoping he’d get to sleep at least a week.
     
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2018
  4. Scalenex
    OldBlood

    Scalenex Keeper of the Indexes Staff Member

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    Re: Dead Water: Part Four

    Part Four: Challenge


    Vampires can go for long periods of time without sleep but when they do sleep, they sleep like…well dead people. Mordrek melodramatically called a vampire’s sleep “the little deaths.” He didn’t know if he slept twelve hours or twelve weeks but he woke up refreshed despite being poked with a stick by Mordreck earlier than he would have naturally woken up. Reflexively Huan-kai hissed threateningly at the necromancer upon waking but Mordreck was far too used to waking Lord Renliss that he didn’t even react to Huan-kai’s predatory display in the slightest.

    I bet he never pokes Renliss with a stick…

    “Lord Renliss wishes to brief you on your role in our final offensive against Grand Commodore Harkon.”

    Huan-kai looked up dramatically at the constellations.

    “Either you woke me up within a month of when I laid down or ten years have passssed. Please tell me you spent ten yearsss whittling down Harkon’s forces.”
    “It’s been nine days you smartass tadpole.”

    The last word was delivered in almost passable Saurian. Someone been spending his free time with Kayishen.

    I should ask Lord Renlisssss if foul smelling necromancers make good fertilizer.
    “What?”
    “I said, ‘by all means, Lord Renlissss must not be kept waiting.’”

    * * * * * * * * * *

    Huan-kai had woken up so refreshed because the Night of the Baleful Moon was nearing, called “Geheimnisnacht” in Reikspiel. Renliss was trying to see if Huan-kai was bothered that he was getting stronger on the day when the Slann were typically weakest. That hadn’t even crossed his mind. Huan-kai never felt particular close to the Slann. What bothered him was that Renliss acted like the Night of the Baleful Moon was a perfect time to attack Harkon. Huan-kai had spotted a flaw so obvious a moron could have seen it, possibly even Kayishen.

    “Undead are sssstronger on ‘Geheimnisnacht.’ Won’t that help Harkon too?”

    Renliss just smirked and mounted his new pet, the abyssal terror stitched together from several dead great beasts. As disgusting as the abomination was, Huan-kai was struck with fascination with how such an ungainly creature could fly while supporting a fully armed and armored Human vampire. I wonder what I should name it…

    Renliss prepared the battle lines while Huan-kai flew ahead riding a construct Terradon. The shadowy flyer carried a single zombie in his claws. Renliss’ plan seemed so ludicrous that Huan-kai couldn’t decide whether Renliss was trying to get him killed or if he had somehow contracted Harkon’s madness. He didn’t know which one to hope for.

    The sun set officially beginning the Night of the Baleful Moon. Huan-kai felt almost brimming with power. Almost as strong as when a Slann was channeling magic through him, only this time he was in control. The power was so intoxicating that for a moment Huan-kai understood why Renliss felt so confident about his chances. Don’t forget that Harkon is feeling this too, I must not buy into Renliss’ overconfidence.

    Huan-kai had always struggled to make up for the loss of his living chameleon skin, but on this night a cantrip of concealment was positively easy. He melded into the shadows without leaving so much as a Skink shaped outline. Controlling the zombie while maintaining full awareness of his own surroundings seemed as easy as hitting a tallisaurus in a pit trap.

    Experimentally, he had his zombie puppet pick up a glob of shadows with a simple cantrip and craft it into a knife. It worked. Huan-kai slightly felt better about Renliss’ plan. He could do this from a distance and minimize his risk—much like Slann with their vassals. He thought about the Nka-Lot, the Skink Priest who had been more or less lobotomized form serving a Slann’s arcane vassal too many times and immediately felt guilty. This is different. Because it’s a Human? No because it’s a dead Human. It has no thoughts or feelings.

    Then again, to a Slann, a Skink must seem like an ant.

    “Shut up, me!”

    Let’s start Renliss’ stupid plan.

    Hua-kai focused on the task at hand and directed his arcane vassal forward. His Human zombie puppet was actually a Tilean sailor that Renliss had slain long ago. It was hoped that a zombie sailor could blend in with the crowd. Hua-kai was not so sure. For starters, he could sense a clearly different aura from Harkon’s minions then from Renliss’. He could even sense a different aura when Mordreck or Kayishen were controlling a portion of Renliss’ minions. He figured his zombie would stand out like a Kroxigor amongst Skinks, but it did not seem to be an issue so far. Harkon had thousands of minions, so he couldn’t check each one. He was also very self-absorbed so wouldn’t be looking. The main concern were his wight lieutenants. They only had a tiny bit more working brain cells than the zombies, but Huan-kai didn’t know what their sensory abilities were like.

    Stupid puddle brained plan. So many things can go wrong.

    The zombie sailor blended in with Harkon’s mob following their actions vaguely, gradually trying to sneak up to Harkon’s flagship. The zombies seemed friskier than the other times Huan-kai had spied on them. Presumably they were enjoying the fresh Geheimnisnacht air. Renliss’ scheme seemed to be working as none of the undead pirates seemed to notice the “foreign” zombie in their midst, but now the plan was about to get more dangerous. Huan-kai had to creep closer to Harkon’s harbor in order to maintain control of his puppet as it approached the Grand Commodore. Cloaked in shadows or not, Huan-kai did not like to be this close without reinforcements. If his magic failed on him, he’d be very exposed to any of Harkon’s roving sentries.

    None of the wight-led patrol groups spotted Huan-kai and none of the massed undead seemed to notice or care that his puppet was boarding the beached flagship where Harkon held “court,” or whatever Humans call it. Huan-kai noticed that Harkon’s wights (who he gave a wide berth with both his own body and that of his puppet) seemed to be able to direct zombie mobs reasonably well, but Harkon treated his “first officers,” Mister Anders and Mister Wilson, with more deference despite the fact that they were mindless zombies.

    Now Renliss’ plan was about to get really dangerous. Through his puppet, Huan-kai reached out into Harkon’s mind. Entering a vampire lord’s mind is no mean feat, especially through a zombie conduit.

    “Mr. Wilson, it’s a special night tonight, but we don’t want the men to drink too much and get out of line. We don’t need more brawls like last year.”

    There was a pause. Harkon shook his head as if he were trying to get water out of his ear. Then resumed his conversation. Huan-kai was in, but he didn’t dare probe deeper than his surface thoughts. Amazingly, he heard a husky voice reply from a zombie’s unmoving lips.

    “Aye sir! I will make sure strict discipline is kept tonight.”

    Harkon left his ship and began moving amongst the land-based zombie mobs and visiting the non-wrecked ships in the harbor, having conversations with his mute men the whole way through. It was not too difficult for Huan-kai to have his puppet follow Harkon’s entourage. Huan-kai listened for hours. Amazingly each zombie had a slightly different voice in Harkon’s head, as if they were real living Humans. Huan-kai listened intently to pick up names, voices, and nautical jargon.

    Now the part where I die for Renliss. Better start with something along the lines of what Harkon expects.

    Hoping he didn’t mess up the Reikspiel, Huan-kai focused on Harkon’s imagined voice for his second officer and crafted new speech in Harkon’s mind.

    “Sir, there is a fight breaking out between the crews of the Saucy Mare and the Sodden Dwarf!”

    Harkon twitched. Amazingly, two of the zombie mobs immediately started wailing on each other. His delusions so strong that he subconsciously ordered his minions to carry out the scene in his mind. Between their rigor mortis and the brimming energies of the Night of the Baleful moon, the brawlers could barely hurt each other but nearly a dozen lost a limb and two or three were bashed into non-animateable mulch before Harkon’s first officers quickly restored order.

    Hooray! I’ve potentially exposed myself to eliminate two zombies. Time to double down on the stupid plan…

    Huan-kai set up two more similar instances until he thought Harkon was livid enough for the final push.

    “Mister Wilson! What is going on!”

    “Sir, the men are mutinying. They are saying Lord—I mean Admiral Renliss, would be a better leader than you!"

    From there it took little to goad Harkon into a hasty offensive. Huan-kai made sure one of the scouts’ voices gave an accurate location of Renliss’ forces but an inaccurate account of Renliss’ army’s numbers. The Grand Commodore marshaled his forces at once, barking orders at the zombie sailors who were instinctually following his wishes anyway.

    Renliss plan is actually working? I guess he knows his crazy vampires. Perhaps it takes one to know one

    The line was led by a small flock of Fell Bats with some of the undead dogs running close behind them, followed by the zombie sailors. As Huan-kai estimated, Harkon’s zombie soldiers outnumbered Renliss’ skeletons and zombies by about two-to-one though he lacked any large undead apart from some ogres and Renliss had many larger skeletons and zombies interspersed in his ranks. Most of the cannons were attached to the ships, but Harkon’s crew brought along four, including one very large cannon with a large honor guard.

    Harkon patted the huge gun affectionately, "Let the upstart hear your thunder, Queen Bess". Huan-Kai was curious to see if the weapon replied in Harkon's mind but it remained resolutely silent.

    Huan-kai expected that Harkon would have reinforcements not visible from his casual scouting, and Harkon did not disappoint. Hundreds of rats poured out of the ship holds in massive swarms. There were far fewer incorporeal troups than he would guessed though: only three spectral Human females. They looked a lot like Kayishen, with the same purplish glow that differentiated her from her melee oriented body guards and the non-sapient spirit swarms. Their ghostly forms were clearly soaked and their clothes were in tatters as if they died drowning and their spirits reflected their former bodies.

    Then came out what was likely to be the pride of Harkon’s force. Three giant crabs emerged from the most sargassum-filled part of the bay. They were easily the size of adult Stegadons. Huan-kai had only heard rumors about creatures like that, but had long figured the seas held more than the fair share of titanic monsters. They moved somewhat slowly and awkwardly as they scuttled sideways on land, but it was a safe bet their thick shells would be a hard to penetrate. The three waddling sea monsters interspersed themselves evenly among Harkon’s vast hordes.

    Huan-kai weighed his options. He wasn’t sure who would win the battle, but he was fairly certain this battle would not be a sufficient distraction to allow him to escape Renliss. Even if Harkon won, he doubted Renliss would meet his Final Death today. He sensed that Renliss as his vampiric sire would be able to track him with relative ease. Also, Renliss plan was working so far. Huan-kai’s curiosity bade him not to sit out this battle. He might as well see if he could continue messing with the lunatic vampire lord’s head. It might be good practice for later.
     
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2017
  5. Scalenex
    OldBlood

    Scalenex Keeper of the Indexes Staff Member

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    Dead Water: Part Five

    Part Five: War


    Huan-kai (almost literally) shadowed Harkon’s forces as they marched towards their foe. Renliss had chosen a location that would force Harkon to march through several large marshes but the pirate zombies had enough experience with shallow water that out of at least a thousand zombies, only two or three got stuck in the mire. Then they hit the pit and spike traps that Renliss made Mordreck hastily prepare. This did slightly better, but zombies aren’t slowed down nearly as much as the living by such trifles. One of the zombies curiously exploded in a gaseous cloud after getting stuck on a spike. After losing about two dozen zombies to those traps, Harkon ordered his giant crab monsters to take point and clear a path.

    After about an hour and half of marching, Harkon’s forces connected with Renliss’ forces. First to hit the lines were the rats. It was almost laughable how little Renliss’ zombies and skeletons reacted to being swarmed with disgusting vermin. To be fair, Renliss had summoned hundreds of bats from the jungles and they were also accomplishing next to nothing. Harkon’s powerful Fell Bats began aerial battles with Renliss flyers which also included many Fell Bats raised from Lustrian bats fed on vampiric blood in addition to a wide variety of reptilian and avian flyers. Both vampire lords’ Fell Bats looked the same to Haun-kai but the bats (and the other flyers) seemed to know who was on their side and who wasn’t.

    The dead Humanoids were easier to tell apart. Renliss forces held dirty orange banners and the pirates all had banners with variations of the skull and crossbones. Renliss’ forces included a vast menagerie of races of the world including non-traditional zombies such as Cold Ones and giant spiders while at least nine tenths of Harkon’s forces were Human.

    You haven’t seen clumsy fighting until you’ve seen two massive mobs of zombies have at each other. The pirate zombies seemed slightly more skillful than Renliss’ zombies, about at the same level as Renliss’ skeletons which isn’t saying a whole lot. Bodies piled up quite slowly as both sides had trouble hitting hard enough to down any enemy that doesn’t actually need most of their internal organs.

    One exception was that some of the bloated zombies on Harkon’s side would rush at a pack of the enemy and explode, releasing corrosive gasses. Apparently the zombie that exploded on the spike wasn’t unique. It probably would have been unspeakably devastating to living troops, but it was less effective against the unfeeling undead. At best, Harkon’s suicidal zombie grenades only seemed to take out three or four enemies per pop. Those at the center of the blast radius would be literally melted into puddles of goo, but the ones merely splashed seemed indifferent to having their post-necrotic flesh slowly sizzling away.

    Renliss’ most elite soldiers, the former Maylar Guard of the lost city of Turochlitan, attempted to fight their way towards the locations of Harkon’s shipwights which were actually bringing down a number of the enemy. Harkon only had about a half dozen wights under his command but they moved with a speed and agility not only outstripping most undead, but they outclassed most elite living soldiers as well. His second most elite soldiers, the ghoul-like Quatlixa, were faring very poorly. It had not escaped Harkon’s notice that these powerful soldiers were unarmored apart from patchy scales, so they attracted the lion’s share of the pirates’ mass shooting, so very few survived long enough to reach the enemy lines.

    With no battle cries or screams of the wounded or dying, Haun-kai assumed this battle would be fairly quiet. He was wrong. The Fell Bats and about half of the reanimated dinosaurs would still periodically roar. A lot of Harkon’s zombies were packing handguns. Their shooting was so inaccurate and their guns so prone to misfire that they barely did more damage to the other side than to themselves. That was assuming they could even fire at all. With how soggy the area was it was a miracle that any of them could keep their powder dry. Still nothing could dampen their enthusiasm for the guns. Earlier on his scouting mission, some of the zombies tried to shoot him underwater a few times before wising up and using the hand guns as clubs.

    The cannons were both noticeably louder and noticeably more accurate, but they had a slow start. Huan-kai thought Renliss was too hasty in choosing his battle site, but he had at least picked a clearing with a hill formation that forced the cannons to deploy much closer than normal, so they got fewer shots off before the main melee ensued. Queen Bess had managed to destroy a young bull Carnosaur zombie with a single blast and the smaller cannons had been doing a number on the reanimated Stegadon that served as a makeshift Black Coach for Renliss’ sire.

    Huan-kai wondered how Renliss would react to this. Living or dead, Humans are contradictory creatures. On one level Renliss desperately wanted to resurrect his old master, on the other level he clearly liked being in charge. He was not about to abandon his chances to revive his master at this stage though. Mordreck made his way towards the Black Coach Stegadon and seemed to be doing nothing but channeling necromantic magic into the beast and the soldiers around it. Good luck Human, if you don’t succeed I’m sure Renliss will perforate your neck.

    Heard above even the cannons and gunfire was the spectral witch. Kayishen seemed to be having a banshees’ duel with her three aquatic counterparts. The three drowned ghost women began with a brief vaguely pleasant dirge that might have mesmerized weak-willed mortals but did not work here since the only living creatures in the vicinity were a Mutalith and some mind-controlled bats. The three sirens quickly resorted to banshee wails which Kayishen joined in with gusto. Neither side seemed to be hurting the other but the sound was grating, even at a distance. Could she be doing this just to annoy me? No, she doesn’t even know I’m here.

    The zombified dinosaurs that had avoided cannon fire were taking out a fair number of zombified sailors. Renliss’ only living minion, his pet Mutalith, Phidas, was fighting one of the giant crabs in the northern flank of the battle. It was hard to tell who was winning since Phidas seemed too weak to penetrate the crab’s shell and the crab too slow to hit the Mutalith. The two giant combatants seemed to be surrounded by a growing bank of dark fog. The Mutalith was instinctually trying to mutate the foes around it, but Phidas’ natural warping power was reacting in the air with the anti-magic effect that Harkon and his minions radiated. The fact that the Mutalith was drawing in Harkon’s defenses was probably the sole reason why Mordreck was able to successfully heal so many fallen undead soldiers.

    Perhaps I can take advantage of the Mutalith’s power sink as well. Once assured none of Harkon’s minions were within fifty yards of him, Huan-kai released his shadowy spell of concealment. He pointed his palms downward to pull at the ambient mystical energy in the earth and marshalled his forces to summon a Pit of Shades to try to consume a squad of zombie ogres but only managed to summon a harmless miasma of dark smoke which dissipated in seconds. A seeming electric shock threw the Skink into the nearest tree. Uninjured except for his pride. He tried to summon a withering miasma on the ogres as they charged into a unit of Saurus and Orc skeletons, but that spell also came out as a feeble harmless mist. Nevermind magic then. I wonder where Renliss is?

    One might think Renliss would be searching out his rival, Harkon, but he only tended to seek out the face enemy leaders who are spellcasters. Harkon was definitely not a spell caster despite his innate ability to command undead. Once he ascertained that Harkon was unwilling to fire his cannons at the risk of hitting his own forces, Renliss spurred his Abyssal Steed into battle,landing on top of the giant crab on the southern flank of Harkon’s army. He was slowly hacking his way through the creatures thick shell with a flame wreathed obsidian sword that once belonged to a Saurus Scar Veteran.

    The battle line became jagged as Renliss forces advanced in some areas and were pushed back in others. Apart from the giant crabs and a few ogres, Harkon’s army lacked heavy hitters and his sailors were losing ground where ever they faced a unit of Renliss’ elites. With the numbers advantage and their slightly greater dexterity, Harkon’s men were slowly pushing back Renliss’ forces in every place that lacked reanimated dinosaurs or ethereal hosts for backup. Renliss’ spirit hosts were wracking up the highest count of casualties for outcast vampire side, well the landlubber outcast vampire’s side. They could barely hurt the pirates, but the zombies couldn’t hurt their spectral attackers at all. At least not until one of Harkon’s shipwights entered the fray and began discorporating the swarming specters with a magical saber.

    I suppose if I want Renliss to win, that’s where I should go.

    Huan-kai threw a javelin in to the block of zombie pirates, confident that he couldn’t miss with them so densely packed. Next, he drew his sword and began hacking his way towards the wight through a sea of zombies. I need to get the wight to focus on me. I’ve been in hiding, watching Harkon long enough; I can get this to work. Huan-kai verbalized and telepathically projected what he hoped was a suitably cheesy pirate challenge.

    “Aarrgh! Too sssscared to face me land lugger!”

    The shipwight made an inarticulate sound that was clearly expressed defiance, and the zombies created a path to let the wight reach the funny talking Skink. The wight pirate was fast and agile for a dead Human. Huan-kai wish he prepared the relatively simple Miasma of Xlanhapec that day, rather than the more temperamental Withering spell he couldn’t seem to summon the energy to cast. The Human struck so fast, Huan-kai was barely able to parry his opening attempt to impale his heart. A few more attacks and parries later, Huan-kai got his foe’s measure and was able to parry his attacks more easily. He tried a few attacks himself, but they were all deflected easily, forcing Huan-kai to change tactics. He focused primarily on defense while his attacks became seemingly sloppier, occasionally leading to him dismembering zombies that got too close to help the Spirit Hosts in their task. The number of zombies dwindled steadily. After several minutes of deadlocked dueling. The two undead lieutenants found themselves surrounded by a host of incorporeal spirits, all of which were on Renliss’ side. All the lesser undead pirates were dead and the backlash from so many of his allies falling pulled at the wight’s own reserve of animating energy and caused him to fall onto the moist ground, completely inert. Not one to take chances, Huan-kai chopped off his head to prevent him from rising again.

    “Aaaarren’t that sssmart are you?”

    His attempt at black humor was interrupted by another round of fresh banshee screams echoed across the battlefield and into his eardrums. Huan-kai felt a migraine coming on. Until now, he figured vampires couldn’t get migraines. He glanced over and saw that neither sides’ banshees seem to have hurt the other, but not for lack of trying. The combatants were surrounded by an oval shaped patch of gray dirt. All the ordinarily dense foliage was screamed into dust and blown away. By the Old Ones, just close into melee already!

    A brief, sharp, pitiful, unearthly, and polyphonic yelp was heard above the din of the banshee contest. Huan-kai turned and saw Phidas, careening in a blind panic followed by a thin trail of yellowish brown ichor. For all his size and unearthly powers, Phidas was somewhat skittish, almost like a Huagerdon hatchling of colossal size. Though Phidas had wounded the crab a couple times, when the crab finally connected a blow on him, it was too much for the Mutalith. Phidas trampled on several zombies of both sides in his mad dash for escape into the jungle. Some zombies that got spattered with his blood began growing spikes and tentacles in odd places. I hope Renliss makes Kayishen or Modrek bring him back. I don't want to grow an extra tail.

    As the spirits hosts near him regrouped in search of a new target, Haun-kai climbed a hill for a better view. Renliss had directed his bats to cease their useless harassment campaign against the zombies in order to provide air support for his heavier flyers. About three quarters of Renliss’ flyers seemed to have perished but all of Harkon’s flyers were out of commission, so Renliss had total air superiority. The remaining flyers were swooping to take out the crewmen of the smaller cannons, which freed up Mordreck to spend less energy babysitting Renliss’ sire and allowed him to reverse losses elsewhere. The various flyers all left the Queen Bess alone. Harkon was personally eviscerating any enemy that got near his baby, so Renliss opted not to needlessly throw away his flyers by sending them into the Grand Commodore’s blade.

    A tug of mystic energy forced Huan-kai to turn towards Kayishen, she summoned enough magic to successfully fire black bolts of magical energy out of her eyes. A spell Renliss called the Gaze of Nagash, named after some dead necromancer that Huan-kai wondered why modern vampires would bother to honor. Once struck by Kayishen’s spell, the sirens let loose pitiful whimpers augmented to an earsplitting volume the way only banshees can achieve. The wails quickly petered out as the spirits dissolved into the moist jungle air. She turned towards the crab that had driven off poor Phidas and screamed at the gargantuan crustacean until the shell shattered. At least there was only one banshee left to make that gods awful noise. Renliss had since dispatched his first giant crab and was now hacking his way through zombie ogres.

    With most of Harkon’s heavy hitters destroyed and with Renliss and Mordreck able to reanimate a portion of their own fallen warriors, the tide of battle was shifting against the zombie sailors—not that Renliss’ forces were unscathed. The Quatlixa were all slain and would be very difficult to restore as the Saurus Ghouls were not fully undead. The Maylar Guard cut down three wights but dozens of their members were piles of bones on the ground. The remnants of the unit were being crushed one at a time by the third giant crab.

    Huan-kai decided to set his sights for the third and final shelled leviathan. Maybe he wanted bragging rights for hitting a big game target. Maybe it was because the creature reminded him of the coconut crabs that tried to bite his toes. As he summoned the winds of magic into palms the magic dampening effect made it feel like he was swimming in tar, but the former Skink priest refused to take no for an answer. He willed a massive pit under the crustacean and saw it tumble into oblivion. When the pit closed it felt like even from a distance it was trying to pull Huan-kai in too. He fell to his knees from the magic backlash. Blood was coming out of his snout and ears.

    Huan-kai was in too much pain to focus on anyone else. He did not hear Kayishen’s uncharacteristically weak whimper as she sank into the swamp. He did not see Mordreck slump limply against the side of the zombie Stegadon he was trying to bolster, nor did he see Renliss slip out of his mount’s saddle and plummet to the ground.

    The defeated Harkon saw everything, but he knew the moment of weakness amongst the enemy wizards would not last. He seized his chance to withdraw when he still had a large portion of his army intact. The zombies marched away carrying many of their inert brethren with them. Harkon needed time to reanimate some of his losses, make contact with his patrolling ships, and hopefully schedule a rematch on some time other than Geheimnisnacht since the baleful magic winds seemed to be aiding the upstart Renliss more than himself.

    Renliss recovered from his fall fairly quickly and was on Huan-kai before the undead Chameleon Skink realized what happened. Kayishen was following behind, not bothering to hide her smirk.

    “You let Harkon get away!”
    “Me? What were you doing, you’re the commander!”
    “I was killing the enemy until your clumsy miscast cost us the battle.”
    “Cosssst us the battle? Harkon retreated didn’t he? I don’t know how the Fourth Race measures these things, but in Lustria we pronounce the army to take the field the winner!”
    “I could have killed him!”
    “You still can! Reanimate the dead and go after him, we know where he’sss going!”

    Renliss looked like he wanted to argue, but he couldn’t fault the logic. Once they were out of range of Harkon’s magic dampening effect it was fairly simple to raise most of the casualties that Harkon hadn’t carried away with him. The Maylar Guard was always especially easy to reanimate no matter how battered (not surprising as they were dust when Renliss found them). Renliss turned to Huan-kai.

    “You are going to take point, and you aren’t going to do any over the top magic spells!”
    “Fine!”

    Huan-kai marched to the front of the Maylar Guard.

    “March!”

    The Skink rounded on Renliss.

    “Do you want me on point or not?”

    Renliss waved his hand in contempt and the elite skeletons went slack. Huan-kai quickly took the reins and took place at the front of a marching column. Unfortunately, Renliss pointed for Kayishen to go with him. It was hard to tell which one of Renliss’ lieutenants was more upset by this.

    The foliage thinned near the coast, they were able to see brief glimpses of the distant retreating backs of Huan-kai’s sailors. By the time they caught up, most of the zombie pirates were on ships and preparing them for departure. Over a dozen were securing the Queen Bess on to Harkon’s largest seaworthy ship. The decks were covered with piles of dead zombie sailors that Harkon evacuated. While Harkon did not having the ability to restore scores of zombies at a time like Renliss, Harkon’s pirates were “waking up” and crawling out of the piles in ones and twos.

    Now, Renliss’ forces outnumbered Harkon’s about three-to-two but there was very little they could do to stop their enemies from merely sailing away. Dawn was minutes away and their energy boost from Geheimnisnacht would be gone. Huan-kai was about to order his temporary minions to what was a probably a futile charge when rapid movement on Harkon’s flagship made him pause.

    Harkon was surrounded by a ring of zombie sailors with their weapons pointed at him.

    What is he doing?"
    “Mahrlect, this is too weird for wordsss.”

    Across the deck an authoritative voice rung out.

    “You won’t get away with this mutiny Mr. Wilson.”
    There was a long pause punctuated only by the ambient jungle noises

    “I will NEVER call you Captain Wilson.”

    Several zombies pinned Harkon’s arms.

    Could Renliss have seized control of the crew?
    “No. Besides A small mob of zombies ssshould not be able to restrain a vampire lord even if he weren’t controlling them."
    You entered his mind earlier…"
    “Do you think if I had that kind of power, that you’d still be here talking to me—”
    Verminous newt! My mind is inpenetrab—"

    “You’ll regret this Wilson!”

    Huan-kai and Kayishen turned to see Harkon was chained to the Queen Bes. Loosely enough that anyone with a vampire’s strength should have been able to escape.

    “I will not give you the satisfaction of seeing me grovel before a lowborn petty officer such as yourself.”

    Another pause, then they pushed Old Bess and Harkon alike into water.

    If you can’t drown, Harkon can’t possibly drown…"
    “You are assssume Harkon is going to start making sense now?”

    A minute or two after Harkon sank out of sight, Huan-kai felt a pleasurable sensation as Harkon’s magical dampening effect was lifted. Then a magical shockwave burst across from where he fell into the water. Zombies on deck burst apart as if decades of decomposition asserted themselves all at once. A magical shockwave washed over all the nearby zombies obliterating them. Huan-kai and Kayishen turned to run, but the invisible wave hit them too.

    Huan-kai felt like he was on fire, Kayishen screamed out in pain, and all the Maylar Guard fell into an inert lumps of bones. Then the feeling was gone.

    Renliss and Mordreck caught up to them and were able to reanimate the elite skeletons. Whatever the after effects of Harkon’s seeming death were, the weakest undead were clearly hit the hardest. Huan-kai and Kayishen only felt a moment of pain. The Maylar Guard and undead dinosaurs went inert but were easily restored. A sizeable minority of Renliss’ lesser troops’ bodies were scattered beyond the ability to restore and the vast majority of Harkon’s forces were destroyed utterly.

    The Queen Bess was hauled of the shallows using the very chains which once restrained the Grand Commodore. Every mundane and magical means of search employed seemed to back up the notion that Harkon had turned to dust and been dispersed by the water.

    Renliss looked over the water skeptically.

    “Without a visible body, I’m not sure he met his Final Death.”
    “The backlassssh was the anti-magic disappearing, he must be dead. I was in hisss head. I think I understand what happened. His pride couldn’t handle being beaten but he was too much in love with immortality to kill himself, so his fractured mind filled in the gapsss”
    “Are you sure he’s gone completely?”
    “If Harkon were around I couldn’t do thisss—”

    Huan-kai raised his hands and spoke a quick incantation. The Queen Bess fell into a shadowy pit and off the face of the earth. Renliss turned, snarling, then he took an unnecessary breath and calmed himself.

    “No matter. I doubt we would have managed to operate it…”

    Huan-kai was confused and angry.

    “Why don’t you kill me?!?”
    “I like having someone to talk to.”
    “Talk to your zombiesss, Human!

    (He used the derogatory Saurian inflection for ignorant warm blood)

    “I’m not as far gone as Harkon.”

    Not yet, you’re not.

    For further support that Harkon was destroyed, none of Harkon’s intact fallen minions resisted their new master in the slightest. Over the next few weeks they returned to the site of the battle for any salvageable corpses or spirits. One shipwight was both intact and coherent enough to indicate to Renliss where Harkon’s hoard of treasure was buried. They were able to sail out and find three ships out at sea with completely dormant zombie crews that Renliss was able to requisition.

    Huan-kai decided to poke the Carnosaur with a stick a few more times.

    “So now that we have all these shipssss are you going to return back to Sylvania?”
    “Acquiring a ship was never a problem, I’ll leave Lustria when I’m ready.”
    “You are barely coming out of this with more minionsss than you started with. Was this worth it? What did you gain if not ships?”
    “I have struck a blow against the Slann and their lackeys.”
    “By conveniently clearing the Vampire Coassst. A feat the northern Temple Cities have been trying to do for centuriesss?”
    “Nonsense, after they realized what Harkon was doing, they left him alone.”
    “And what exactly was he doing besides babbling at zombiesss?”
    “He attacked ships bound for Lustria. Thinned out the herd of would-be invaders.”
    “I’m not buying it. Invaders have jusssst sailed around the Vampire Coast.”
    “But Harkon still caught a few bad navigators. Once the Old World realizes the Vampire Coast is no more, more looters will come. Regardless, even if the invaders lose, the Lizardmen will take some losses and I can reanimate the losers.”
    “I still think the First are getting the better of you from this transaction.”
    “Mark my words, Nothing good for the Lizardmen will come of this.”

    * * * * * * * * * *

    To enact their mightiest magical working, Slann must be fully awake and alert, but a hibernating Slann has more than enough residual focus to maintain a number of effects. Not viewing it as worth the trouble to eliminate Luthor Harkon, an alternate plan was enacted to place him in check. The last attack the First Children of the Old Ones attempted upon Harkon’s fleet was in fact a ruse to provide cover to allow the Slann to place on him the magical dampening effect to simultaneously cap his army at a manageable size while giving him a potent defense against the wizardry of Old World invaders to Lustria. This complex sorcery was maintained by none other than Xixlatel (Zee-slah-tell), the Second Generation Slann presiding over Xlanhuapec, the City of Mists.

    The ripples from the faltering spell that occurred upon Harkon’s death were felt by magically sensitive beings throughout Lustria. Since Xixlatel was most directly tied to the dampening effect, he felt the ripples most strongly and began to stir into wakefulness for the first time in centuries.
     
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2017
  6. Kcibrihp-Esurc
    Razordon

    Kcibrihp-Esurc Well-Known Member

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    Re: Dead Water: Part Five

    Woohoo! Keep it up!

    *Sobs* I'm no good at fluff pieces or painting...

    AND I'M OUT OF FLUFF PIECES AGAIN!!
     
  7. discomute
    Kroxigor

    discomute Well-Known Member

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    Another good story. I think the battle scenes in this one at the best you've written.
     
  8. spawning of Bob
    Skar-Veteran

    spawning of Bob Well-Known Member

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    Let me see. 5 main characters...All dead! Hooray!

    Wait - they were dead to start with. It's like "Weekend at Bernie's" with dinosaurs.

    Anyhow, it was worth the wait to find out what a dead lizard can do. I would struggle to choose between Legacies and Dead Water as a favourite.


    I don't want to seem impatient, but....

    What is next, oh great one?
     
  9. Scalenex
    OldBlood

    Scalenex Keeper of the Indexes Staff Member

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    Bob gave me a lot of help with the battle.

    To be fair I had one living character, "Phidas" the Mutalith and he lived. That's 100% survival rate for named characters. I feel dirty...

    Thanks, I was worried Dead Water wouldn't hold up to Legacies.

    Named characters will die! Oh you knew that already and you want me to be more specfic...

    Well I'm working on a short story for the Under Empire Contest this month.. The draft is about half finished. More L-O forumites should join their contests. Bob and I won separate contests. I bet discomutes villain-centric style would be well-received there.

    I'm working on a piece where I introduce a new unusual spawning in Klodorex while the Klodorex alliance is making a move to close off the Inner Sea from the Dark Elves while Chuqslatta steps up his interference.

    I'm working on a piece detailing a Witch Hunter trying to clean up the mess Adrienne left in Salzenmund with no reptiles in the story. That's scary, I'm not used to writing about humans.

    I'm also working on a non-continuity comedy piece.

    Whenever I get writer's block on one piece I switch pieces. It's a crapshoot which one will be finished first.
     
  10. spawning of Bob
    Skar-Veteran

    spawning of Bob Well-Known Member

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    Sorry kids! Uncle Scalenex meant to say "Mahrlecht-shoot".
     
  11. Rednax
    Cold One

    Rednax Active Member

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    Thumbs up Scalenex' your stories are almost as great as bacon!!!
     
  12. Scalenex
    OldBlood

    Scalenex Keeper of the Indexes Staff Member

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    Thanks Rednax! That's high praise indeed given your introduction thread.

    I'm working on more stuff but it's a slow process. There is a whole Lustriapedia full of good stuff that should be able to whet your appetite for literary bacon.
     
  13. Bowser
    Slann

    Bowser Third Spawning

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    I think I need to start a bring back Harkon thread! That guy was brilliant! Really amazing and fun story here! Good to see the best skink back in action!
     
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  14. Scalenex
    OldBlood

    Scalenex Keeper of the Indexes Staff Member

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    I do not intend to have Harkon return to Scalenex-verse, but I would be interested in what you (or anyone else) opted to do with Luthor Harkon.

    The Vampire Coast was a semi-official army in 6th edition.

    Basically Luthor Harkon got marooned off the coast of Lustria, opted to be a pirate and lost his mind (or lost his mind and opted to be a pirate). He cannot cast spells or perform any magic other than commanding his troops, but he radiates a sort of magic dampener. In game terms he got extra dispels

    He had zombie pirates, some with guns that they were wildly inaccurate with, some were bigger, he had swarms, aquatic banshees ("sireens" or some silly misspelling), giant undead crab monsters, and gas swollen zombies that exploded among a few other things.
     
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  15. Paradoxical Pacifism
    Ripperdactil

    Paradoxical Pacifism Well-Known Member

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    Cool piece! I read this days before that vampire coast trailer came out today for Total War Warhammer 2, so that was pretty kewl.

    lol, do you play Left 4 Dead? :p

    One negative thing about Chapter 5's battle scene, was that for the most part, Huan-Kai sat on the sidelines and watched the battle from the sidelines. Personally, i think it would've been better if he participated in the battle from the start, so that there's more room for character development. For the most part, i felt that Huan-Kai's character could've changed/developed more as a result of the battle (other characters too).

    Anyway, there was a lot of paragraphs that provided excellent characterization and inner-thoughts from the characters as well.

    I read New Alliances, Legacies, Orphaned Temple City, and Dead water as of now (chronologically).

    I think New Alliances is the best one so far.


    EDIT:

    One positive thing you did do with Chapter 5's battle scene, however, was that you made the setting affect how the battle played out. There's a couple of lines that nicely detailed the setting's effects on how the armies fought.

     
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2018
  16. Scalenex
    OldBlood

    Scalenex Keeper of the Indexes Staff Member

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    I had him sit back for two reasons.

    1) It was a cheap hack trick. When Huan-kai was hanging back watching the whole battle it provided a convenient means to have Huan-kai effectively narrate the whole battle without giving him omniscient powers.

    2) At best Huan-kai was indifferent to who won this battle. More likely he wanted to Renliss to lose.

    I didn't want him to start talking to himself like a Gollum/Smeagal dialogue, but his loyalties are now conflicted between his former Lizardmen masters, he is new Vampire master and his desire to live his own life by his own terms without any master at all.

    Maybe but this piece was intended to be all about Huan-kai. Renliss is my oldest character so he has already been developing slowly. Harkon is dead. Kayishen will never change and develop. She is emotionally frozen at the moment of her death.

    Mordrek is intelligent but his will his so weak and that he has been serving Renliss so long that he can no longer be anything other than a loyal servant of his master. Maybe if Renliss dies and Mordrek lives, he can grow and change, but his odds of somehow surviving something capable of destroying Renliss is negligible.

    I sort of made Modrek as a character just so Renliss has someone to talk to. That way Renliss can reveal his thoughts and exposition without monologing to himself.

    Though I suppose there is one thing I sort of started running with. For over a century he was Renliss' trusted right hand, now he is increasingly sidelined by those Lustrian upstarts Huan-kai and Kayishen. Mordrek could try to passive aggressively undermine either or both of them.
     
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  17. Scolenex
    Cold One

    Scolenex Well-Known Member

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    Use the normal quote procedure detailed here and add fourth step.

    4) Do not click on post reply. Copy (either right click copy or click "Control C" the quoted portion included the block in brackets that says
     
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