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 Post subject: The Cleric-Assassin
PostPosted: Thu Dec 28, 2017 6:10 pm 
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Joined: Mar 27, 2015
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Mockton clung to Hazjakoa's overgrown hilly eastern coast as did a gambler to the dregs of his purse. Amid the maze of cramped dun dwellings, temples, forges and bazaars the agents of Monster T, one of the many Hazjakoan underworld bosses that called themselves Ifriti, converged on the East Eberrai Trading Syndicate's shipyard. Monster T's agents were so bold as to don heavy furs, get juiced up on various performance enhancing tinctures, and brandish flint weapons. The blades were infused with magic-neutralizing plains-dust fresh from Armagg the Desert of End's Beginning. Monster T's decision to emulate the mythic Jackalhund had offended a random Hazjakoan Ifriti. The triggered Ifriti boss made it easy for word of Monster T's enterprise to reach the theocrats that controlled Hazjakoa.

And from the theocrats came the order: silence the apostate Monster T and bring him before the elders.

On orders from his superiors came an agent from Hazjakoa's Desert Reavers And Killer Espionagists - D.R.A.K.E. Vin the Looter, infiltrating the ranks of Monster T's thugs in his Jackalhund costume, to indirectly do the Ifrit's work in Mockton.

If only my old squad could see me now, Vin thought as he cut an East Eberrai Trading Syndicate agent's throat. He eased the corpse to the ground. Laying out plainclothes with the best of you. Vin proceeded with the mission. Unlike the stint with his last squad, he followed the orders given and left his doubts with the trail of the dead he left en-route to his target. I learned my lesson in the Chain-of-Fire mission; blood for Karkish, bread meat and beer on the table Vin thought, referencing the god-mer rumored to run D.R.A.K.E.

Vin scowled at his memories of the Chain-of-Fire and focused on the mission before him: A Syndicate ship, fresh from a voyage to the equatorial belt of islands called Chain-of-Fire, had uncovered an artifact called the Khasyphon that set the theocrats on edge. So naturally, the Ifriti saw the value in seizing the artifact before it - and the power given to it by the theocrats' holy fervor - passed beyond their grasp.

It'd be interesting to see where this trinket goes once it reaches the theocrats. Vin thought. People like the Ifriti didn't squeal for cheap - even if it gained them a private army like D.R.A.K.E. with which to seize more power in the Hazjakoan underworld. His grip on his flint ax, dripping blood, became white-knuckle as visions of devastation wrought by the Ifriti with their trinket danced through his head.

"Hey, you--"

Instinct guided Vin's ax into the bridge of the Jackalhund's nose; the scent of blood and promise of violence triggered something in Vin's muscles. Fighting against the struggling Jackalhund, Vin's ax split what needed splitting to send the Jackalhund's blood and soul to Karkish.

With the Jackalhund's death came a tidal receding of the performance-enhancing tincture's strength boost.

"Now!" an unfamiliar voice said.

Vin was aware of shapes flashing past, heading toward the shipyard. They weren't in Jackalhund attire. Clearly agents of some other Ifriti. From within the maze of shipping containers came the shouts of mages whose spells were useless against the heavy magic-resistant blades of Monster T's thugs. Out of the corner of his eye he thought he spied more Ifriti operatives navigating toward the East Eberrai Trading Syndicate ship; he heard the thump of bodies hitting the floor as the operatives eliminated their competition.

This is bad, very bad for... for what? Business or Mockton as a whole? Vin shuddered, recalling missions where D.R.A.K.E. had helped bring down those tyrants. Inhuman dark lords that delighted in crucifying babies, bathing in virgin blood...only to leave rebel and patriotist alike new rulers raised, broken, and reborn by the iron fist of the deposed tyrants. All worse than the lurid fantasies used to drum up an anthem of hate against the deposed. Same ****, different day for all involved, Vin told himself. The new tyrants always paid their dues. Too busy following the whims of paranoia to notice the D.R.A.K.E. agents slipping out quietly as they had come.

Vin started toward his mission objective, ready to end it. His axe's blade exploded, the magic-resistant shards of stone piercing him even as the force of the blast sent him flying into a stack of crates.

Ears ringing, body feeling as if it were on fire, Vin lay among the strewn crates. A man emerged from an empty warehouse near the Jackalhund corpse with the butterflied face. He moved, jerkily, his head twitching up and down slightly. The man dragged Vin, struggling into the empty warehouse.

Vin felt relief flushing through him. Or maybe that was him voiding himself.

Then Vin watched as the man's skin fell away. The ancient enemy of Vin's patron rose from the human costume's leathery husk. It stood three meters high, with all nine meters of its sinuous body balanced by a whiplike tail. A viperlike head turned this way and that as the viashino regarded Vin through slit pupils set in emerald eyes. The vivid green coloration, with its red and brown stripped patterns, reminded Vin of the foliage he'd seen in the Chain-of-Fire.

"K-Karkish," Vin wheezed, gasping to regain his breath from the impact of his body against the shipping crates. "Karkish you finned bastard come and get it." Vin's attempts at visualizing the manor of his mind's eye in which he kept his spells were useless. The viashino had stunned him good with that explosion.

"Yes, you were there. My adherents, the worthy that solved my puzzlebox..." the viashino said. "Slaughtered before they could reach the Khasyphon and their final prize."

I don't recall a puzzlebox...but adherents... Vin recalled the plainclothes he and the D.R.A.K.E. agents encountered in the jungles of the Chain of Fire. Looking utterly lost.

"Adherents that had mastered the elementals bound to the puzzlebox, so ripe and ready for transmogrification in the magic of the Khasyphon." the viashino punctuated its statement with a crack of its whiplike tail. "into glorious efreeti; without efreeti sparring partners, I'm good as dead." It stomped up to Vin, stuck its snout in his face.

Vin blinked as the viashino's coarse tongue slithered across his forehead.

"Mmm...mercurial as the sea. Same taste for carrion as the drakes." It pulled its neck back, twisted its head to regard Vin through each eye. "You've done my work here. Listen to the chaos rising from the ship, smell the threat of violence on the air." Its mandible lowered, revealing a mouth of needlelike fangs dripping venom. "Elementals will spring forth in a bloody tide...perhaps the Khasyphon was nothing more than a smokescreen for unsuspecting viashino. A crutch rather than a weapon. You've given me the tools I need to deal with your boss."

"B-boss?" Vin shook his head. The **** is going on?

"Yes, you will carry a message for me, my sea drake. To your boss. You will tell the Karkish that it is next. But first, you have work to do."

Vin felt white hot pain swallow him body and soul. A haze of cerulean filled his vision, hiding the viashino as it took his skin from him. He watched through the receding pain as its light bones collapsed inward, allowing the reptilian thing to slip into a suite of Vin-skin.

Vin looked down at his body and saw blue-green scabs spreading across exposed musculature.


The viashino, wearing Vin's skin, took him by the arm and dragged him through the shadows of the shipyard. To an old warped dock. It lifted him, looked him in the eye.

"Go on, my sea drake. Go to the Karkish with my message: it is next." A smile, too wide, crossed the viashino's Vin-face. "Your soul is mercurial as the sea. You will not enjoy what comes to consume Mockton. You have your payment for services rendered in my mercy and in this," the viashino flicked Vin's new scabrous skin.

Then the viashino flung Vin into the sea. As he sank beneath the waves, Vin turned his mind inward. At first the sea water stung his throat, nose, and lungs. Then it felt as natural as breathing the air above. Vin's legs propelled him back toward the surface.

He caught himself. Everything that had happened here had been born on that mission to the Chain-of-Fire. Then, how much worse will it be if I stick my nose in...and if Karkish got involved, it would be nothing short of a holy terror. Let the theocrats, the D.R.A.K.E. officers, and the Ifriti deal with the viashino; way beyond my paygrade. Vin kicked away, heading for one of the nearby islands rumored to hold the theocrats' harems.

The working girls will be downright worried about their masters, with all that's about to happen. Vin smiled. They'll need my comfort and reassurance, they will. Despite the fantasies blossoming in his mind's eye, Vin couldn't shake the feeling that the viashino was not his enemy. Rather, an ally against the Ifriti that got his or her hands on an eldritch artifact capable of turning down-on-their-luck bazaar workers, elders longing to regain the vitality of youth, and veterans that missed the glories and horrors of war, into an instant army of efreet.

The Man in Black fled across Manhattan, and the Gunslinger jumped off rooftops.

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