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The Pen is Mightier than the Sword
James Crow

Death of the Mighty Pen

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The naked mage grasped for his claw as they marched down the hall, but muttered something first.

 

"What was that?"

"Apologizing to Signe, wherever she may be." Tzimfemme quirked a grin. "We held a kaffeklatsch, the women of ÅoÅ, and divvied up the world into the types of men. You're her territory."

 

"Oh I see--I'M her territory?! No no nononono even if she had invaded the territory of Wyvern, which was just named after me, and didn't even stop at the tollbooths--"

 

Tzimfemme talked over his protests, "Deténte wasn't against the Decalogue. And why would we risk squabbling over our own guildmates? No, you had to be assigned with the rest. Young and frisky ones went to Signe and that was that--"

 

"--the concept of territories at war was a wasteful idea anyway," he added in spite of her, counting off the costs on the claws of his unclaimed hand, "but if people were willing to let so many acres of the wins get destroyed, I thought, why not skim some of that, they'd never miss it--"

 

"--the unprofitable, the untouchable, and the uninterested were and still are mine. Ha, unprofitable, maybe I should apply to Signe for restitution!--" Tzimfemme, not pausing either in speech or stride, snapped a portal of mana open through the dying air like a flipped pancake. It sizzled.

 

Wyvern stuck his snout into the portal like a striking snake and, between sentences, chomped the chocolate succubus figurine before it fell into the Pen, then licked his lips luxuriously. "--Signe is still delicious--"

 

"--because you are the walking definition of 'unprofitable', but no, what was once written cannot be un-writ, nor all your tears et cetera--" She shoved her hand into the portal and extracted what appeared to be a bent crowbar, but the second bend got jammed in the portal, and one arm's worth of leverage seemed not to be enough to pry it loose.

 

He hastened half a step ahead to avoid her elbow jabbing the air and failing to dislodge the flail, with the portal now being dragged through the air behind them. "--I'm not unprofitable! That's slanderous! You're friends with him aren't you? Tell him the profits might have been deferred somewhat but the mercenaries are bound to show up eventually, after all we still have their weapons--"

 

"That's what chafes me, absolutely chafes me, about the entire business--"

 

For all that they were ignoring each other, the possibility anyone else might have overheard the side-by-side monologues was even further from their minds.

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"- business?? I'll tell ya about business! I've been scheming a new full-proof model for Almost Dragonic Brand Chafe Stick™ ever since I crawled my way back up onto Mighty Pen bathroom porcelain, and-"

 

Wyvern's monologue is interrupted as he attempts to lick the remainder of the Signe chocolate from his claws, and somehow twists his tongue into a forked double-knot in the process. The almost dragon breaths a whimsical sigh over the all-too-familiar taste of cherry chocolate mixed with pheromonal herbs, and slowly works on getting his tongue loose as Tzim carries on in her rant about the finer points of the division of unprofitable riches.

 

"- and truly, had there been a clause concerning uncharted territories, perhaps-"

 

Wyvern gently uncoils his tongue and slides it back into his mouth, letting his wings rest calmly for a moment. He nods as Tzimfemme carries on, paying attention to only a fraction of her words but reveling in her familiar voice and aggressive tone. The overgrown lizard's hide is practically covered in torn photos of doctored Tzim sightings, like some kind of armor meant to scare away those with a common sense of decency, but the loss of his collection seems trivial compared to the actual presence of his long-lost guild mate and Archmage sex icon. He flashes an extra toothy grin and continues nodding until a strange crackling sound brings Tzimfemme's monologue to a halt as well.

 

"Great to see you too Tzim, s'been too long." Wyvern tilts his snout to the sky and sniffs at the air while Tzim grunts and continues to tug at her flail portal in vain. "Sssay, that's funny, it kinda smells like sulfur in here. Guess that's just what happens when ya bring up Signe's name, eh?"

 

Wyvern tosses his head back and lets out a guffaw, slapping his knee over how clever his own humor is just as a large of piece of burning wood falls from the ceiling and lands directly behind him. The overgrown lizard falls back and squeals, flapping his wings in uncontrollable fright and scrambling across the floor until he's safely positioned behind Tzimfemme.

 

"F-f-f-FIRE!!" Wyvern points several times at the burning wood, as if Tzimfemme weren't already well aware of it. "The Pen is burning! Quick, get one o'them 'Summon Troll Firefighter Squad' incantations or something!"

 

Little did Wyvern know that the busted toilet in Schecerazde's bathroom had turned into a leak of geyser-like proportions, and was already helping douse the flames that had engulfed the Mighty Pen.

Edited by Wyvern

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Between the competing forces of a malfunctioning portal and a Wyvern fleeing water, Tzimfemme was spun like a--

 

Oi, that wasn't water, that was fire!

 

--At any rate, a few braids flew out with centripetal force, and got singed for it. She dropped the flail altogether and it sank back into the dying portal.

 

"FIRE!""I know that, I see it!" Tzimfemme yelped. "Claws!"

 

"Do something!" Wyvern tried to shake her into action.

"Claws, in my shoulder, off, please!" She swiveled her head (more braids worked loose), homed in on a likely tapestry, and skittered sideways to it with a wince--Wyvern hadn't let go yet, and wasn't foregoing the use of his human shield either--ripped it down and flung it over the wood.

 

Wyvern let go then, out of sheer surprise. "That wasn't magical?""If I can't control a portal," sighed Tzimfemme, "no way can I cast a fire suppressant. Might as well bail toilet water over it. Say," a fragment of the previous conversation had finally broken through her preoccupation, "what was that about bathroom porcelain anyway?"

 

He shuddered.

 

"Oh you didn't," she said, but after several more uncomfortable seconds added, ". . .you did."

 

A hole, outlined in red, began to eat its way through the thrown tapestry.

 

". . .at least you're getting dry with all this fire around?" she ventured.

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This fire was eerily silent, the beams of the Banquet Hall too seasoned and warded to pop or snap like campfire wood. If it weren't for the faint birdlike stink in the air, and of course the flames, a person might fail to look up and notice the fire at all.

 

They stared upward for awhile, side by side, also in silence. More water dripped down Wyvern as he fidgeted; more dust fell from Tzimfemme as she crossed her arms.

 

"Well?" he finally burst out.

 

The naked mage cranked her gaze back to eye level, and shrugged. "Yep. It's still burning."

 

After several uncomfortable seconds, she amended that, "And it's out of reach.

 

"Nothing to do but work with what's within arm's reach."

 

And with that, she reeled him in. His tail had time to thump against the floor just once before he'd been collared, embraced, and released.

 

"Just messing with ya. C'mon, let's go find a stepladder."

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Funny thing about stepladders: they don't fit through doorways unless one turns them just so. Picture this from the outside, if you will; if one (or two) turn(s) the stepladders just so, but in the wrong way, they're not getting out of the storage closet either, what with there being a ladder jammed horizontally across the doorway.

 

The ladder was rattled against the wall, several times, in quick succession. The wall didn't budge. "It wasn't funny, you know. This isn't the place for just messing with people."

She harrumphed. "It wasn't intended to be funny. No nosebleed, no comic oversexualized reaction, no. . ."

"Satisfaction," Wyvern interjected.

 

"No blackmail material. Hang on." The visible section of ladder tilted downward on one side, then bobbed back up to level. "As unsatisfying as an Almost Dragonic product, which, by the way, is why no, I am not entrusting my life to a ladder I'd have to buy from you."

 

"I don't see why not, mine offers several times the reach and because I love the Banquet Hall so, I could offer some extremely attractive financing options." The ladder shifted several rungs to the right.

 

"No, Wyvern. And if you wanted the seductive embrace, go apply to Signe, that's the point." The ladder shot back to the left rather faster than it had moved before.

 

The uppermost upright of the ladder dropped away from the doorway. "Wait a minute, I've got it!" Soon the ladder was parallel to the ground, and jostling back and forth. "Ok, maybe not."

 

"Why not?" Tzimfemme's voice was suddenly quiet and well off of the topic of stepladders and liabilities.

 

"Because we're still trapped--"

"Not that." In the pause, one end of the ladder retreated from the doorway. "Why not pick someone and pair off? We all did."

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The sounds of skittering, heavy breathing and arguing could be heard from the distance.

 

*Skitter skitter skitter*

 

"Waaaaaaaaait!!"

 

The skittering got closer then, suddenly, a lanky looking man in coveralls crashed through a side door, a mop bucket following behind him.

 

"Wait! I've got this!"

 

Tzimfemme and Wyvern turned his direction and looked in surprise. They couldn't really figure it out who it was at first.

 

"I've got it, I've got it!"

 

"..."

 

"I so do, you overpowered rodent! Let me at it!"

 

"..."

 

"Fine, fine, you can help too, just hurrrreeeee!"

 

"Excuse us, do we know... Stick?" Tzimfemme asked. Yes, it was most certainly Stick. There was a grimy nametag on his coveralls that announced as much. Underneath his name was the word janitor, in quotation marks. "...what are you doing?"

 

"Why, I'm here to deal with the fire of course! Job's never done and all that." Mr.Bunny hopped out from behind the mop bucket and shrugged as best a rabbit can.

 

"..."

 

"Sorry, we're here to help. Did I overhear something about a stepladder? I think I can help. Observe." Snatching the water-filled mop bucket in one hand, and producing the bigpointystick from somewhere in his coveralls with the other, he gingerly stepped out the front door and around the stepladder. With a thrust he snapped one end of the BPS firmly into a softer spot of ground outside. Keeping his hand on the haft, he concentrated hard for a moment. The BPS started to glow, then grow. First taller, than wider. Once it was about a foot and a half wide, gaps started appearing at regular intervals, until it finally resembled a ladder. Being made out of wood, it seemed to attract all sorts of flame, but instead of catching fire it simply scored and burned in places. A few moments later, the affected burns would simply flake off and reveal unharmed wood underneath. Without hesitating, Stick climbed the ladder, trying to lose too much water as he made his way up. He shielded himself from the heat as best he could, since he didn't share his weapon's immunity to harm. Once close enough to the top, he hurled the water from his pail at the fire. It hissed at him in response, clearly upset and not overly impressed. Overall, it didn't seem to affect the blaze much at all. "Huh."

 

Stick slid down the bigpointyladder and shrugged, "Well, that's my plan. Anyone got any marshmallows?"

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The Professor trudged through a dry and withered land, the wind blowing bits of sand and dust everywhere. He was incredibly bored hot, and tired. In one hand he clutched a book and his jacket, and in the other he carried a covered birdcage, while a small black cat sat on his shoulder licking her already clean paws. The Professor had come through a strange unknown portal in one of the unclear realms and was trying to find some sort of life, or food, or even possibly a portal back into his own realm. But alas, all he could see in this barren waste was..."Wait, what's that?" On the edge of the horizon he saw a shape, a small dark smudgy shape but still definitely a shape! Hopeful, the Professor shook his hair out of his face, squinted against the increasingly strengthening wind and continued his trek a little less tiredly than before.

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In the four months that have passed, the fires that raged throughout the Mighty Pen have died out. Partly due to the efforts of the pennites, and partly due to the fact that no one fixed Scheherazade's broken toilet.

Scheherazade woke outside in a pile of leaves near the large oak tree in the courtyard. She had dozed off after helping raking them. “So,” started the short gnomish girl Minta “what gonna be for Halloween?” Scheherazade just shrugged as she stood and stretched. “I bet we could ,ahem, borrow some of the make-up from the girls at the Scarlett Pen. Scheherazade blushed a bit but nodded. “Okay I'll go get them.” As Minta ran off, with a sly glee in her step, Scheherazade thought about it and realized she hadn’t seen James in a while. 'He must still be in his room asleep,' she thought, 'I should go wake him.' And with an evil grin she was off.

As she went to the Tavern of the Quill she noticed everyone preparing for Halloween. Pumpkins littered the steps of many of the buildings, cobwebs hung from doorways, even the sheets hanging out to dry looked like ghost, and everywhere leaves of many colors fell. Making Scheherazade feel as if she where in a rainbow of autumn colors. And as she spun with glee in this rainbow she noticed Tzimfemme and Wyvern. “This is outrageous!” roared the almost dragon Wyvern, “Did you see how much this water bill is!”

“Well you did let the water run for four months and exactly twenty two days.....” responded the naked mage Tzimfemme.

“I knew you would agree with me,” said Wyvern, “and I am honored that you are so nice as to pay the bill.”

“......and six thousand milliseconds and......WHAT!”

“You said you would pay the bill and I side that was so kind.”

“I NEVER SAID SUCH A THING YOU STUPID WANNA-BE DRAGON!”

Scheherazade stopped paying attention to their banterings and wondered what Tzimfemme would wear for Halloween. Maybe should would go as the empress in her new clothing. Scheherazade giggled and continued on her way.

The Tavern was lively tonight. Newcomers told there tales as the others listened. Snypiuer was at the bar with his two friends Pith and Silvia, who had just came back from a mission across the sea to form an alliance. Mr. Moog played the old piano in the corner. Scheherazade went up to him with a smile and said, “Play it again Moog.”

“I don't know what your talking about,” responded Mr. Moog.

“You know the one.”

He let out a sigh, cracked his finger and started to tickle the ivories and sing, “I've got a lovely bunch of pumpkins, here they are sitting in a row....”

“Not that song silly,” she said laughing.

Mr. Moog just smiled as Snypiuer replied,” He is upstairs waiting for you.”

“Thank you!” And with that she ran up the stairs, not noticing that everyone in the tavern was watching her.

 

She got to James' door and opened it. “JAMES!” She cried out when she saw him. He was sitting on the foot of his bed looking down at the floor. “james?” she called out once more, noticing something was wrong. Slowly James rose from his bed, still looking down. Then she noticed an inhumanly evil grin spread across his face, as a black, shadowy cloak formed around him. “Your nOT JAMES!!” she yelled. Then shadows reached out the cloak for her. She ran to her room and made it to her bed as the shadows caught up with her. They started to choke her, gasping for breath she started to loose concusses.

Then she woke up........

 

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It was the smoke that was in her room choking her. It had all been a dream. The Mighty Pen was still ablaze, and her toilet wasn't fixed. She started to cry, then like magic, the fires started to vanish. 'Maybe', she thought,' It wasn't a dream but a vision.'

“It was a dream little girl,” came an unknown voice. Scheherazade looked for the source and saw the Cloaked Figure. “The fires are running away, they sense the evil that is coming.”

“James will stop it!” she shouted at the figure.

It just started to laugh. That fool,” it chuckled,” He is probably drowning in self pity and doubt. He is probably right know planning how to kill himself best.” Then continued to laugh.

“shut up,” she said as the figure laughed, “Shut up, just SHUT THE HELL UP!!!” The figure grew silent. “I'm going to find him and we will stop this threat like we did last time!” With that she stood and ran to the door.

As she reach the door the figure said,” And what if you can't find him?”

She stopped and without turning responded, “Then I will do it myself.” With that she left.

The figure stood alone in the room and said,” It will take more than just two of you to stop this new herald.” And with that he vanished, and the room was empty except for the few flames and cause of a raising water bill.

 

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On the other side of the Mighty Pen, along it's mighty walls, stood James. He stood in front of the Piazza of Portraits, looking at the unblinking eyes of his peers, holding a revolver in his hand. Slowly he rose the gun to the side of his head, closed his eyes then...came a voice. “”Going to do it this time,” it said.

James let out his breath and lowered his gun spinning on his heel to face the voice. “What the hell do you kno....” He stopped when he saw that there was no one there, only a mirror.

“I think I know it all,” said his reflection, “I know.” James took a step back in horror. “You lost your job, your dog is dieing, your friends won't leave you alone, you are a romantic with no one to love, and no matter how much you want to scream you can't. And when you do, no one hears. Is that it.” James turned his back the reflection. “You know what I think, that you don't want to do it. You will come up with an excuse, cause you are the damn Lord of Excuses. Well shut up, stop it, and look up.” James just stood there, duster blowing in the wind. “I SAID LOOK UP!” James obeyed, opening his lifeless eyes, and saw the faces of so many pennites, both old and new. Staring at him, judging him. He quickly looked back down. “James, james, james. They are not judging you, you have the same gift they do.” He looked back up and saw them, but this time saw the looking at him, kindly waiting for another tale. “Most people take drugs to see what you can, people dream they can create what you can, just by closing your eyes you can create worlds and living beings. You are, like all of them, a Pennite. So go and live a tale worth repeating, and put down that gun.” James let go of the gun and it hit the cobblestone street. “Good, now a new Herald of the Darkness is coming and Scheherazade is going to face it, on her own if she must.”

“She won't,” spoke James for the first time during this encounter.

James ran off without looking back. A storm once again raging in his eyes. So he never saw his reflection just standing in the mirror, smiling. Then a cloak appear around it as it stepped from the mirror. “All is going as planned,” it spoke. As it approached the gun it looked at it. “Such a babaric tool” With that the figure and the revolver, vanished.

 

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Outside the Mighty Pen, a mighty storm raged. And in a mighty bolt of lightning a large shadowy force stood ready for the war that was coming, at this forces head stood it's leader, the new Herald of the Darkness. Then as sudden as the apparitions appeared they where gone, engulfed into the storm once more. And then came the loud boom of thunder, as if a million creatures where laughing.

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After a while of searching for Scheherazade, James was on the wall looking into the storm. “JAMES!” Shouted a voice James remembered so well. He turned just as Scheherazade gave him the hug of a lifetime. “I thought I would never find you,” she said, trying to hold back tears.

“I know and I'm so sorry. It will never happen again,” James replied as he hugged her back.

 

Just then the storm hit and a loud clap of thunder shook the Mighty Pen. And from out side the gate a sickening voice could be heard. “trick or treat,” It oozed.

“Sorry your late, try again next year,” Shouted James as Scheherazade stuck out her tongue. They both grinned at each other, then a message appeared next to them. It read:

 

Dear Mr. Crow,

 

It has come to my attention that the plumbing needs to be fixed and I am enlisting you for the job. The plumbing is found just below the Tower, you won't miss it. Payment will await you on return, and as a bonus, a gift. A Portable Window, just throw on any surface and a window will appear, but a warning, if it is broken it will no longer operate and vanish for all time. Thank you, I know you will do your best.

 

Sincerely yours,

Wyvern, the Dragon

 

“Well this is odd,” said James, “But it looks as if the gate has a spell on it that prevents unwanted pest to enter. So what do we have to lose?” Scheherazade nodded, and they where off. No longer feeling that the Mighty Pen was in any danger. But as they left, the storm roared, with what sounded like laughter. And a voice once again oozed over the air, “All according to plan,” then more sickening laughter.

 

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As James and Scheherazade headed to the Tower, they saw a stairwell they had never seen before. So they decided to go up it.

 

(ooc: there adventure inside the Boaz Room here:http://patrickdurham.net/themightypen/index.php?/topic/17240-the-boaz-room/#entry133441)

 

They jumped out of the window and landed into a pile of oak leave, and as they layed there on their backs they saw a lone oak leaf go through the broken window, before the broken window vanished and was replaced by a stone wall. “Well that was a waste of the portable window,” sighed Scheherazade.

“Not at all,” replied James, “How many people can say the jumped out of a window, in a windowless room? So shall we continue.” James stood up and looked down at Scheherazade, who smile, nodded, and reached out her hand. As James took it he looked once more at the perfect face of the wall and thought, 'It worked. His stuff never works. Somethings not right here.'

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"Not a one," shrugged Tzimfemme. "I don't like 'em anyway. Too much goo and not enough chocolate." The words trailed away to a rude silence. Tzimfemme tried to course-correct. "Nice work with the stick, Stick." And marched face-first into a conversational wall. The silence which stretched out after that was the sort everyone wishes they could just get up and walk away from. The nekkid mage lacked the restraint that explained why not to do that--she'd lost that somewhere in the splitting of the quincunx. So she did just get up and walk away.

 

Odd things happened after that, somewhere. The pain of the shot which had murdered the maiden before the mage returned, reflected on the wrong side of the mirrors, and took words away. The light took fire again in blinding white everywhere except in the garden, and the dances of the gods slowed down to a flip-book. And Tzimfemme did not try to wrap these in words. The words were dancing up among the gods and she was low, very low. Alone. Only the two words that should have been chained together, low and alone, were not connected any more. They were two different pages of the flip-book now.

 

Everything was a new page now and surprise was a lost word. She existed and that was a sentence in itself.

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The Professor struggled to hold his footing on the sand as wind whipped around him, there was not even a fence post to grab hold of, despite the fact that his hands tightly clutched a book, and birdcage and his eyes were barred shut against the flying sand. A cat was yelling from inside the cage, but the professor could barely even hear her. Then suddenly, a stronger hand of wind tossed the professor up high in the air, his hat flew away and disappeared, while the birdcage and book dug little groves in his palms in their efforts to escape as well.

The Professor opened his eyes a crack, a mistake, instantly a horde of little sandy gnats stung his eyes forcing them completely open to drain out sandy tears. Through the battering clash of the storm the Professor could see a looming shape edging closer, then crash. Down through the roof along with quite a bit of debris the Professor fell. "Ouch." Struggling out from the pile, he looked around, dust everywhere, and little fires eating up the edges of crates, and old supplies of goodness knew what. The professor called his hat, which appeared quite happily and shook dirt out of it's corners against everything, including him. Sighing, the Professor dug a cleaning charm out of one of his pockets, tapped it a bit, and was relieved to see it's edges glow faintly. Then digging his birdcage and book out of the debris the professor tripped over to a little fire, removed a small black cat from the birdcage and placed it inside the flames. As he curled up beside the flames with his book, hat and birdcage, the professor smiled, and drifting off to sleep, he thought, "This place looks like fun..."

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The professor awoke slowly. He arose from a rosy glow into the sensations of a night slept on a wooden floor - that is, somewhat stiff. He stretched, yawned, and opened his eyes - and was startled to find that he was being watched.

 

The man was resting comfortably in a chair against one wall, but didn't look too comfortable, due to the entire left side of his body being horribly shrunken and scarred. He watched the Professor with his good eye. In his lap, uncharacteristically accepting strokes from a stranger, was Mara.

 

The Professor sat up in alarm, opened his mouth, then closed it. If the stranger was malevolent, he had already had ample opportunity to act.

 

"Good," said the stranger, "You are awake. My name is Grimmael. I am a caretaker of sorts here. I welcome you to the Keep of the Pen is Mightier than the Sword!"

 

The Professor gave Mara a stern expression, causing her to roll her eyes but then jump up and saunter over to him. Before he could decide what to reply to Grimmael, he threw him something, which the Professor caught. It was a key.

 

"We have made arrangements for you to stay in the west wing," said Grimmael. "Here is a key. Let us know when you are settled and if you require anything further." Grimmael grunted as he took to his feet.

 

Before he left, the disabled figure turned and said, "We are currently having a feast in the Boaz Room. You are invited. Dress is formal. you may arrive whenever you are ready." And with that he limped towards the door and exited the room.

 

The Professor sat mute for a moment, not sure what to think of the strange man who had just been there. What a strange place, he thought, feeling guilty for a moment about the damage from his entrance, but then he looked up and saw that the ceiling had been repaired while he slept, leaving no trace of his unorthodox entry. He looked at the key again. It had the number '47' stamped upon it. I guess we make for there, he thought, struggling to his feet.

 

http://patrickdurham.net/themightypen/index.php?/topic/17240-the-boaz-room/

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It took James and Scheherazade the better part of a day trying to find a secret entrance into the tower, and failing. “I give up,” sigh Scheherazade, “guess my toilet will never be fixed.” She then plopped herself down onto a nearby rock, and it did the most unrockly thing. It sank straight into the ground leaving Scheherazade with a shock expression and a secret door opening.

James and Scheherazade gazed blankly at the sudden opening. Then grinning at each other, they made a bee line towards the door. “STOP!” bellowed a familiar voice from the shadows. They did and greeted the Cloaked Figure as he stepped out of the opening with glares and curses. “Fools,” it started, “This is a trap. If you go in there, then the Mighty Pen will be destroyed!”

“And why should we trust you,” retorted Scheherazade, “You have made it clear that you aren't are friend and I want my toilet BACK! Come on James.”

With that she walked past the Shadow and James followed. And as the door shut behind them he hear the figure say, “By your hands.” And with that the light from outside all but vanished. The only light now came from the torch on the wall. He took it and continued down the spiral stairs with Scheherazade, thinking 'something smelled, and it wasn't that of a sewer.'

Outside the Cloaked figure let out a huge sigh and said to itself, “I am not going to spend my last hours alone, I'm going to a party.” And with that, it was gone.

 

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“WHOA!!” gasped Scheherazade as they got to the bottom floor, and saw the basement of the Tower. It looked like a normal sewer, a stone walkway on either side of a brown 'mystery' liquid. But it was HUGE! It stretched on for miles and miles. They made a turn here, a turn there, and on, and on, till they were at a dead end, and hopelessly lost. The water, and that term is being used very loosely, flowed under a grate that made up the entire floor of this room.

Well, I think were lost,” said James.

Thank you Mr. Points-out-the-obvi.......what's that,” she ended, pointing at a shadowy figure moving just out of the torchlight. Then a light bulb came on and her face contorted into anger as she marched towards the shadowy figure. “I'm going to give that cloaked pile of toilet flush a piece of my mind!” she roared.

James followed her trying to calm her down, but he gave up hope and followed. But as he drew closer he realize it wasn't their adversary, but something else, but what! Scheherazade got right next to it when James finally got a good view of the thing.

It had long, unkept white hair on a skin and bone frame. Its' finger and toe nails were long, jagged, and yellow. On its' wrist were blood stained, rusty shackles. As it moved its' head, James saw it s face and froze in terror. Its' eyes and mouth were sown shut! Reilization hit him like a ton of bricks, it was a Banned, a tratior of the Mighty Pen. Forbidden to ever say another idea or see anothers. That ment this was no sewer and in fact was the Dungeon! With a gasp of horror he threw the torch behind him and ran to Scheherazade.

He got to he just as the thing lunged at her. She jumped back and screamed. James grabbed her as the chains on the creatures wrist reach their limit. He quickly carried her to the center of the room, where the torch landed and held her close, “i..i..i...i want to g...g..g.go home,” she cried.

I promise, I'll get you out of here Scheherazade,” James said, comforting her. But over her sobs he heard more chains rattle, and the words of the Cloaked Figure echo in his head.

 

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Outside the gate of the Mighty Pen, a figure watched the scene that just played out, on a crystal ball. “There is always a backdoor,” oozed a sinister voice. Then laughter, laughter that drowned out the thunder of the storm.

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James and Scheherazade walked and walked, taking this turn and that. Finally, Scheherazade just fell to her knees, sobbing, “w...w...we're n..never g..going to g...g...get out of h...h...here.”

James stopped and gave out a long sigh. He spun on his heel walk over to Scheherazade, got down on a knee, put his hands on her shoulders and calmly said, “Look at me.” She slowly looked at him, tears pouring down like waterfalls from her emerald eyes. “We are heroes, you and I. And heroes don't die.”

She wiped her tears, gave a weak smile and repeated, “heroes don't die.”

James grinned then saw movement outside the circle of light they where in. It looked to be a large cat like creature, sporting wings. It just circled they, just out side the light. James kept an eye on it then heard a female voice say, “What is standing in the light, and taste good with ketchup?”

“I am allergic to ketchup,” replied James.

“WRONG,” roared the voice, as a blur streaked out of the shadows. “I am allergic to ketc......what?” It slid to a stop, a clawed paw inches from James' face. “How did yo.......”

“What is it,” interrupted Scheherazade.

James gave thing a quick look. Body of a cheetah, wings of a vulture, face of a beautiful woman with long blonde hair. “I believe,” he responded, “that it is a sub specie of sphinx. Plains region, I would guess.”

“Neat,” replied Scheherazade, “Can I keep it?”

“How did you...” tried the sphinx

“No,” replied James.

“But.....” Scheherazade pleaded, but James just shook his head.

“HOW DID YOU KNOW?!?” barked the sphinx.

James rose to his feet and replied, “It was an easy riddle. One could say childish almost.” Then he started to laugh thinking to himself, 'Like hell I'm gonna tell you it was just the truth.'

“Now what am I suppose to do?” puzzled the sphinx.

James and Scheherazade gave each other a sly look and wicked grins, and in unison said, “Show us the way out!”

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After awhile they made it to a door the sphinx opened and ran through it. They were greeted by fresh air, and the storm. James looked and realized they where outside the Mighty Pen, but that was okay, he could just open the gate. Then he heard Scheherazade scream. He spun around seeing figures obscured by the storm grabbing her. As he tried to go save her something hit him on the back of the head and he was out.

When he woke he was being held by some of the unknown, villainous, assailants. And in front of him he could see more of them inside the storm. “JAMES!” cried Scheherazade. He turned and saw that she was being held not but a few feet from him.

“It's gonna be okay Scheher.....” started James, then he was punched in the gut.

“Yes,” oozed a voice, “Lie to her. It makes it all the sweeter.”

James looked at the speaker and said, “It is not a li,......” He was cut off as the Figure that spoke drew a sword and gabbed it into James leg.

“Now open the door,” oozed the voice.

“N....” the figure twisted the blade.

“What was that?” oozed the voice.

“JAMES!” cried Scheherazade.

“NO!” James barked and looked the figure in the eyes.

The figure sighed, pulled out his sword, looked at one of figures holding James and nodded. James felt a sting in his neck then let out a howl of pain as his blood felt like they were on fire. “They call me the Butcher,” oozed the figure with the sword, “And you has just been injected with an alchemical poison, a virus.” He grabbed James by the throat and looked him right in his eyes. “First it will take your sight, then your voice. You will become just like one of the Banned. But,” he grinned, “with some added features. First you will develop painful, festering, sores. And the virus will spread to any that touch them. AND,” he drew James close to him, “There is no cure.” He let go of James and started to laugh. “There might be some doctors in the Pen that can save you,” the Butcher shrugged. “All you got to do is open the door.”

James tried to stand up, but felt the hands of his oppressors restrain him. “If I have to die to save the Mighty Pen, then so be it.”

The butcher sighed and shook his head, “I thought you would say that.” He drew closer to James and got his sword ready to stab. James closed his eyes, then heard the scream. The scream came from Scheherazade!!! James opened his eyes and saw the sword of the Butcher impaling Scheherazade through the belly. “Now tell me what I want to hear!” oozed the Butcher.

“Please sto...”started James.

The Butcher twisted the blade making Scheherazade scream again. “I couldn't hear you!”

“STO....”

Again the Butcher twisted the sword. “Still can't hear you!”

James tried to look away, but the figures holding him twisted his head and held open his eyes. “watch...watch...watch...” they repeated over and over. He watch her twist in pain as the Butcher repeated his question over and over.

After what seemed like eternity, the the sun came out and the Butcher and his army vanished. Scheherazade collapsed onto the ground. James hobbled over to her, and almost threw-up at the sight of the wound. She had a hole through her belly, and had gone pale. He started to cry then heard her weakly say, “h..e..r..o” He looked at her once more. He could see her fighting to stay awake, tears staining her cheeks.

He nodded, “that's right, heroes don't die. So hold on a bit longer.” He went to pick her up then saw his sores and stopped. He couldn't touch her, the virus would spread. So thinking quickly he removed his duster and wrapped her in it. He stood up, then fell right back down. He was weak from blood loss also. But he took a deep breath and stood up once more. This time he was able to hobble towards the gate.

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The gate was a large blur to James, noting that he was losing his vision. He pushed it open and went as fast as he could to find a doctor for Scheherazade. Behind him a figure appeared. “All according to plan,” oozed the voice that was lost in laughter that shook the Keep of the Mighty Pen like thunder.

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Looking at the still pictures while moving was not as good as sitting still and watching the dances of the gods. But sitting still among the still pictures was death. So Tzimfemme wandered. Her feet chose downhill paths.

 

"You have no hope of reincarnation." The cloaked figure kept step with her. She grunted acknowledgement and kept walking. "No power to bring others to reincarnation. No eyes to see. No ears to hear. No voice to speak.

 

"You did not cause anyone to raise a gun. I did." He held it out to her as he had held it out to him.

 

The naked mage did not turn to look at the revolver. She reached for it though. Took it. Sniffed it. Put in her mouth. And bit off a piece of the barrel. Chewed, swallowed. Spoke.

 

"I can eat gun too." And smiled. "My body will not die from it. Yours?"

 

The cloaked figure was not there to answer. She kept on munching. The bullets and chambers tasted peppery. The rest of it, salty.

 

"It is impossible to eat metal." Now the cloaked voice came from her other side. Tzimfemme walked on.

 

"And yet I have. That is a truth.

 

"You are trying to do the job that I have done." Tzimfemme thought for awhile after this. The cloaked figure spilled more threats, but she was not listening all that well. She was looking hard at him and at the still picture of his aura. And the threads. And turning them white, one by one.

 

"Here is my gift to you. You belong to James Crow and you have not seen the white light with him. I don't think you can. Ever. To do the job you wish to do, the light is necessary. It is that light that brings folk to reincarnation. This job cannot ignite it. This job can only lead the way to it.

 

Here is something which is not a gift." She opened her mouth and the gun poked out of it. Tzimfemme fished it out and handed it back to the cloaked figure.

 

After that she waded through sewers and slime. They coated her. The picture of a white aura and an opposing force faded. The new picture was a picture of sewers and red rune graffiti and an aura of welcome for Tzimfemme.

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James carries Scheherazade around the Pen, desperately searching for help. His condition worsening.

While a new group of shadowy figures stalk the Pen in search of prey. One is slowly sneaking up on the Professor as we speak.

And in the sewers stalks the Butcher, seeking to free the Banned so they can help destroy the Pen.

And from inside the Tavern of the Quill a mighty roar leaps out of Scheherazade's room.......*squeeeeeeeeeeek*

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James finally collapsed, his sight was almost completely gone, all things were now blurs. The sores had spread to all corners of his body...and I mean all. His voice was just that of a whisper, from the virus or scream for days, he didn't know. Scheherazade lay in his lap, lifeless...no she was still breathing! James didn't want to question his luck, for bad things come to those that do. The the Cloaked figure appeared. “not fair,” whispered James.


“I bring good news James, I can save you,” said the all to familiar voice.


save her,” he said, pointing to Scheherazade.


“I can only save one, and Fate has chosen her to die. I can't alter the choice of Lady Fate.” It almost seemed if the Cloaked figure regretted those last lines.


James look at the young girl in his hands and said, “give me the revolver.” He couldn't see the Figure well but from the hesitation knew it was confused. “you still have it, right....you know I can't see you.


“Yes I have it. Why do you need it now? I can save you!” boomed the cloaked figure.


Without taking his eyes off of Scheherazade, James replied, “i can't let her suffer. So please.” The Figure understood and handed James the revolver. “i'm so sorry Scheherazade.”


Then in the middle of the storm, a loud, sharp crack of unusual thunder, echoed through the Keep of the Mighty Pen. And for a moment, the storm stopped...as if it wanted all the Pen to hear the sound.....

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In the sewer the Butcher found the valve he had been looking for. With a grin he slowly turned it, and out poured a bright, pink ooze. Then a giant head appeared. The Butcher took a knee and in his voice oozed the words, “Command me, my Lord!”

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The storm picked back up, as a strange four legged figure, no bigger than Scheherazade, waddled up to a corspe. It recognised the lifless figure of James, holding a revolver and smiling. The figure let out a greeting, "squeek!" But got no response. That must mean only one thing....James is actually so sad that he is delusional and smiling. He needs cheering up! So the figure went in search of the Butterfly of Happiness!

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Brighid stumbled out of the stone archway and into a small courtyard just within the gate. Desperately she swept her eyes across the scene searching for friend or foe. Several feet away, James lay slumped in a pile on the ground, a small pool of blood seeping out from underneath and a gun in his hand.

 

"James! Are you okay? Speak to me!" she pleaded as she ran toward him, but there was no response. She knelt on the pavement and put her ear to his chest -- no discernible heartbeat. With trepidation, she ripped open his shirt which was covered in blood, but incredibly there was no wound. What was going on here? With much heaving and strain, Brighid managed to roll James onto his side, but when she pulled up the bloody shirt to expose his back, she discovered again that he was wound-free.

 

Her herbs would do no good against an invisible wound, and without knowing if James was truly dead or just mostly dead, the only thing Brighid could do was try to hide him from the shadow army and run for help.

 

Grabbing James underneath his arms, she tried to pull him toward the doorway, but he was too heavy for her to budge more than a few inches at a time. Reaching into her pouch, she withdrew a small smudge stick and ignited it with a few words. Three times she used the smoke to trace the Rune of Concealment over his prostrate form while reciting an incantation to keep him hidden from any with evil intentions. She would have to leave him where he had fallen and hope no one tripped over him!

 

"I need to get help, James,” she whispered in his ear. “I'm not sure if you can hear me or not, or if you're even alive. Stay here...I mean...don't move...uh...whatever! I'll be back with help as soon as I can."

 

Brighid sprinted toward the nearest entrance and silently petitioned her patron saint to help her find the Boaz Room without getting lost….

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Tzimfemme reached out and touched the wall where the runes would have been. The spectre which materialized from the wall was not a memory. Without a jaw to open, it had no way to bluff before it roared. Her hair flattened under the force of it. "I am a cleric of the Bloodsabers of the aqueducts," she replied. "Hail Bertoxxulous and let me pass." And it was written and it became real. The runes wrote themselves all along the sewer walls and the spectre faded away. For now it was a dangerous place for anyone who did not worship decay.

 

He was still kneeling when the runes wrote themselves around him and the wet avatar. "I thank you, my Lord!"

 

She continued on to the cells and their doors made of wax. It was ever a Pen touch. Write the right thing and walk out of your prison. In one cell the wall had been polished to use as a mirror and a weedy little man posed in front of it. In the next a man squatted by his bed and tore handfuls of straw out of the bunk and stuffed them into a life size lovely doll. Tzimfemme put her hands flat on that door and sighed but then passed on. By the third door she stopped. Inside this cell was a younger man, grown up now, but he had been a boy when he was shut in. She rubbed the wax and wore a hole through it. "I do not forget," she whispered.

 

"You know that I can write. Let me out." His voice was broken but then it always had been.

 

"That's what I do not forget. I was there in the chats and nobody could say you were not a writer there. Why didn't you go quiet when you had nothing to say? Why did you take other people's words? I miss you."

 

"You cloned me in the chats. You took all of me. How is that fair? Elder."

 

Tzimfemme was quiet for awhile.

 

The Butcher smiled as the map of the sewers entered his mind. The pool of blood. The great saber which hung above it. The binding stones chaining the spectres. The dead ends. The madmen. The cells.

 

She shuffled the pictures in her mind. Each picture took many minutes to build. Her feet were numb. But the right one was there at last. It was a picture of Tzimfemme with her hair wild and mad and pointing at the sky like the roof was not even there. Around the edge of the picture were enemies with weapons pointing at her. The broken angel in the cell was lying at her feet and holding out a massive feather to her. It was fresh from his wings. The point was still bloody. "You gave me everything. My slave, you said. I did not take. I did not want! I did not claim!" Her voice rose at the end. Hysteria.

 

"Tzimfemme--""I will not say your name!" She turned and fled. The wax softened and repaired itself.

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In a small corner of the Mighty Pen a portal opened up, bathing the surronding area in a crimson light. And from this portal a figure was thrown out. The portal started to close as the figure stood up and shouted, "How dare you kick me out of the underworld, you filthy half goat!" At those final words the portal vanished into nothing once more. "The least you could have done was given me some clothes." He was naked except for a watch on his left wrist that was ticking backwards. He let out a sigh and finished the conversation with himself saying, "I don't have much time. I need to find my corpse before it starts killing off those close to me." His eyes traveled to a time long ago, and he was off. Praying that no one would see him in his 'condition'.

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Across a bend careened crazy shadows, squirming from one side to the other in halting, regular steps, intruding in the dark, dank, fetid, cold, deathly still air. The sound of dripping and flow of waste water emptily filled the seemingly endless tunnels. Somewhere could be heard the insistent squeaking of an unseen mischief of rats. Finally the light pierced the corner, and it could be seen that it was Grimmael holding high an oil lantern, which shook as he moved forward with his strained gait, ponderously dragging his bad side along the narrow walkway next to the stream.He grunted with each step, his good eye staring intently into the darkness, his Cassock flaring unnaturally for his misshapen limbs, the large ring of iron keys on his hip jangling lightly. He had been walking for quite a while.He regretted having to leave Lady Brighid so abruptly, but it couldn't be helped. Over the years he had become complacent, even stagnant to a degree, as the Pen had slowly decayed around him. He had no powers, no ambition, no vision, no obvious talents, and he had receded as the Pen had receded - but then something had changed. He had no magic, but even he could sense the energies that had invaded of late. He knew something was happening, but he didn't know what - he only knew he needed to know.He had scoured the Pen looking for the source of the change. He couldn't quite put into words what that change was - he just knew something was up, and he knew he had to find the source, which had finally lead him down here, in the sewers of the Pen. He was aware of the storm howling outside, and felt oddly about that too, but he felt that wasn't a cause, per se, but a symptom...What was that?! He froze in mid-step. Grimmael had rather acute hearing, and he was certain he had heard... wailing? Arguing? He wasn't sure.Slowly he set the lamp upon the walkway, then leaned up to the slimy stone wall, slapping his ear right up against it, and he listened...Several long moments passed. Presently his good eye swiveled back to a side tunnel he had just passed. He straightened up, wiped the slime off his ear onto the shoulder of his oiled leather robe as he lifted the lamp and made back to the side tunnel, and down it.

Edited by The Portrait of Zool

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"I was waiting for something stupid to be done," echoed a confident voice all around the Butcher. Even as the villain knelt still in magic sigils, the subtle mocking tone reverberated again and again off of the cold walls.

 

"Who do you-" begins the demand, but the Butcher cuts himself short at the splash of water to his left. Even weightless feet still displace a liquid medium. He sneers at the space above the splash. "-think you're speaking to?" he finishes, his own cruel arrogance overpowering this new arrival's ego.

 

"Myself," answers the old Egyptian, even as he whips a wide copper mace out of his robes and lunges past the creature beside them.

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James stepped outside the entrance of the Boaz Room, cursing his luck. Then from a side street the Butcher stepped out. “Nothing changes,” oozed the Butcher. “You are one of us, and always will be. And you know what you must do.” With that said the figure stepped back into the shadow laughing. Soon it seemed as if the entire storm was laughing at James.


James looked at his watch and just smiled. Then talking to himself or perhaps the shadows, “All will go as planned. The price will be payed.” Then he waited, watching as time slowly slipped by. For a few seconds, two he counted, he wondered where his corpse was.

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The fight in the sewers went well for the old Egyptian. The Butcher was not like the villains of his past. And after a few swings, it fell, laughing. Then the old Egyptian heard footsteps coming up behind him. He turned to greet the new threat and saw a simple man. His shirt was torn and bloody, his eyes almost looked lifeless, and he had a strange zombie-like twitch. With a grin, and a twitch said, “You are still most mighty, old one. But this is no place for one as grand as you. Let me show you the way out.” With that the figure turned and started to walk down the passage he came from.


“Who are you?” boomed the old Egyptian.


The figure stopped, spunn on his heel and with a twitch said, “Silly me, I forgot.” With a twitch he took a bow and said with an evil grin, “Let me introduce myself, I'm James Crow.”

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