Reins of Darkness

Fa'Kseen's Ranting: The Dwarven Cairn Part 1 and 3/4

Imps are delicious!

To The High Council of Stewards and the Paragnostic Assembly,
From Fa-Kseen, High Quartermaster of the Council,
Concerning the continued exploits of Anansi Corps.

I will keep this brief, as the Chi-Julud is upon me and I cannot guarantee the veracity of any longer account that I might make.

First, let me offer my sincerest thanks to the council for honoring my requisition of the ship. Once my companions and I have dealt with The Devourer (more on that later in this missive) and discovered why that dragon tasted like Nash (more on this as well), we will be proceeding with our new mission.

Having completed the first course of my studies in the High Tower of Magery, all that now remains of Ancient Gresilia (I may speak more on this in a alternate missive, but I defer to Master Nash to fill you in on the relevant details), I went in search of my companions. As usual, they were not hard to find—I could taste their fearful sweating a mile away.

I discovered them holed up in an ancient dwarven cairn, the doors held tight, presumably against the onrushing army of orcs which arrived at roughly the same time as myself, though from a different vector. As you may see from the following account, I think they may have been better off dealing with the orcs head-on, but I digress…have I ever mentioned how delicious orc is, boiled in a sauce of mastodon cheese and elderberries?

As I said, I found my companions, or rather a small sub-set there-of, namely the sword-master Arithon, the thing that was once called Smash, and the new recruit, Zeruch, just inside the cairn. Smash was, as usual, sleeping on that very fine mat of his and unable to be awakened. I had no time to debrief as, shortly on entering the cairn, I heard a scream, not unlike that so often made by Master Nash, from down the nearest corridor. I rushed to investigate, certain that Nash must have discovered some wonderful new flavor, as is so often evidenced by his screaming.

Down the corridor I discovered a large dragon of strange mien, a species I was not familiar with, but, sadly, when I went to get a taste so that I might identify it, it vanished. Though its residues on the ground tasted quite a bit like Master Nash himself. Beside where the dragon was I found a door. A golden gate with three knobs.

The knobs spoke. Or at least, in my Chi-Julud addled state, I believed they spoke, and given that belief so often parallels reality in this land, I was forced to verify. For the record, the door-knobs did not taste of cotton candy, so I must assume that they were real, and did, in fact, speak.

They, the knobs, introduced themselves as Connor, Conway, and Conrad. They were most reluctant to open or to provide any useful information, so I was forced to interrogate them forcefully.

As I was gnawing upon Conrad, Arithon and his squire arrived. Their timing was quite convenient, for I seemed to have provoked Connor by my licking and the knob summoned forth a Marilith to do battle with us. We prevailed, I think. I must admit that I was rendered unconscious by the beast, unthinkable as such a thing is for one of our kind. When I awoke the demon was gone, so I must assume that Arithon’s valor availed us once again. Again, sad, for I did not get a single taste of the thing, and I can only assume that a six-armed snake-woman would be exactly as delicious as that stew I made on this Xa-Grolman’s Eve past, you know, the one with the six ladies arms and the snake…

The marilith gone, the doors opened with little further objection, though I gnawed on them a bit more just to be sure. Beyond the gate we encountered a strange blue mist and a man, old and gray, of undeterminate race, and calling himself November. Addressing him by my name of December, I took a taste and found him to be quite delicious, tasting of liquidambar and tannins, with the subtle aroma of a late-autumn forest. He gave us some keys and bid us follow…but I could not. It was here that I learned another great word of the True Speech of this land, a word of entering of great power. As you know the True Speech is hard to transcribe, but, best as I can attempt, the word sounds as “P-l-ee-s”. I was surprised that Arithon and Zeruch both knew the word well. I must inquire later how they learned of this magic.

The word being spoken, we proceeded up a new corridor. At the end we found an arch, exiting upon a forest, guarded by a door-knocker. The knocker itself was no challenge, but the small red monkey that held it bit off my tongue when I sought to taste it. Feeling a kindred spirit, I proceeded to reciprocate the imp’s gesture, taking it into my mouth and chewing until the friendly little creature gripped onto the bloodied stump of my tongue and would not let go. A great many doses of extract-of-mushroom, that most delicious of all seasonings, encouraged the imp to take up permanent residence in my mouth, where it now serves me in place of my tongue.

Past the arch we found a small cottage. My friends rushed to open the doors, compelled by some strange curiosity, or perhaps by the key-shaped amulets they now wore. Oh yes, did I mention they key-shaped amulets given us by November? I cannot remove mine, neither by tooth nor force. They bear some subtle magic related to the binding of spirits, and speak with the voice of Otiax, he who opens the way, but have no function that I can surmise. Useless junk I imagine. Still, Arithon and Zeruch rushed to open the doors.

Within I found a fabulous banquet, though I cannot for the life of me remember how it tastes, and another red monkey demanding that he was hungry. I crafted for him a feast greater than the banquet which was before him and we were well rewarded for our troubles. The small creature gifted me with a moat, a great trench of water that might be folded up so as to fit in one’s pocket. Oh, and I believe that there were other demons in the cottage, awakened by Arithon’s obsessive loosing of portals, though I also cannot recall what they tasted like, so I must assume that Arithon and Zeruch dispatched them by their own prowess without the need of my superior culinary skills. Arithon is becoming quite good with a knife, I must see that he is assigned more KP duty…he would be quite good at peeling turnips I imagine.

We took our rest and I awoke to find that the Chi-Julud had progressed almost to its utmost and that I was barely able to hold the solidity of my form. I quickly made pact with the Dog-God and recomposed myself before the others awakened. Shortly thereafter Ulfen arrived, another new recruit, calling himself The Lord hath made unto us a good point. Goldfinger (we called him simply Goodpoint, for his appellation seemed much too long for such a small creature), wearing the ceremonial feathered headdress of the Sarcosan pilgrims, and carrying a great eye, nearly a yard across and quite delicious looking, in tow.

Ulfen quickly drew our attention to the cottage’s well. A very large well, some 15 feet across, for such a small cottage. I quickly went down to investigate and found it to be quite cold. A perfect cold-storage facility for perishables I surmise, and I have duly noted its location for future use. It was inhabited by some strange icy creatures, though they yielded quickly to a few well-placed castings of Arcimander’s Magnificent All-encompassing Radial Inferno, which my allies insist on calling simply a “fireball”…clearly they have no respect for the intricacies of of the mystical culinary arts of the Ancient Gresilians. Of greater interest was the ice in the well. It had a strange flavor, tasting at once of both lime and salt, and made for some most delectable post-prandial refreshments, and was even better blended with mushroom juice for a post-post-prandial snack.

I emerged from the well to rejoin my companions as they entered the woods. The woods opened before us, reminding me of the infamous Quivering Forest near our fair city, though it was clearly something else. A few minutes into the forest I realized that our possessions were being preyed upon by some pixies. They were quickly dispatched using Fa’Kseen’s Most Excellent Prismatic Spray, a spell of my own devising.

We then came to a clearing, filled with great talking trees…clearly another manifestation of the Chi-Julud. The trees were decidedly unhelpful. They gave us some delicious berries, but insisted that they be eaten raw, as if we were some kind of savages incapable of cooking our food…almost as bad as elves these trees. They were, however, quite delicious, somewhat chewy in texture with the faint bitterness of elm and a sweet, minty aftertaste. They, however, took umbrage to the small taste I took, insisting that I should ASK them for a taste, as if they were somehow our equals. They even had the gaul to attack me.

While I dealt with the rude shrubberies, my companions took their leave. I caught up with them just as they finished off a similarly offensive topiary. They spoke with a strange woman who showed no gratitude for their burning down the tree to save her. The woman was nice enough to direct us to a magnificent castle, of a size typical of our own people, but scaled for the smaller humans. The castle was surrounded by a mote, which we summarily drained using the imp’s gift, allowing us to cross and making for a fantastic catch of many large bass, pike, and gar.

The keeper of the drawbridge politely allowed us entry and directed me to the castle’s very fine kitchens. My companions, delinquents that they are, wandered off to the explore the coronal chambers. I quickly set to work making my masterpiece—rotissierie broiled moat-bass ala vorp├ál! The beautiful princess to whom the castle belonged came in as I was completing my art, and we had a delightful meal together. She was able to tell me much of use, most specifically that the Devourer of Worlds, the great beast freed from beneath the city of Karse by the other members of Anansi Squad, was nearby, just beyond the castle. I had long hoped to trade recipes with that most excellent of eaters, so I called my companions together and we set off to meet the thing.

Oh! I almost forgot to mention that the princess’s ghastly younger sister had a HORSE! An actual, non-flying, non-horned, non-speaking, HORSE! Sadly I did not get to try any, but Arithon promissed me that once we had treated with the Devourer for the princesses, they would gladly give us the meat of the beast as reward for our diplomatic endeavors on their behalf.

Unfortunately, in the next clearing we encountered several large, rotting hands of an animate nature. Ulfen and Arithon devised a brilliant stratagem involving holding a stroke of lightning between the two of them to destroy the things, but Arithon fell in the battle. He could not be revived, so I performed the last rights for him, preparing him with a delicious mushroom and herb sauce. Sadly, Ulfen and the others refused to honor Arithon’s memory with me…I will never understand the rudeness of humans…even with the Chi-Julud, I at least can still show proper respect for the dead. Maybe another dose or two of the spark will improve their attitudes…

Hmmm…the hunger comes again…I must end this missive and break my fast. Perhaps I can convince the others to memorialize Arithon with me in this second round…


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