The girl was exhausted. She could not sleep. Each night, when she retired to bed and closed her eyes, the nightmares came. Sounds...outside her window. Scratching. Clawing. Sloshing mastication, the gnashing of teeth. She slept lightly. When the sounds came, she awoke with a start.
Nights stretched longer until they chased away the days. Every waking hour was inexplicable smothering darkness. Like everyone else in the city, her nerves were on edge. Once more, as was her routine, she kissed her sister on the cheek goodnight, ascended the stairs to her bedchamber, and prepared for sleep. Interiors felt airless and claustrophobic. The oil lamp at her bedside flickered as if also afraid. She sipped the dregs of her tea and climbed into bed. She pulled her quilt over her and blew out the light.
She lay in bed and looked up at the corners of the ceiling, searching for evil. Fatigue buried her in a blank unconsciousness. Until she heard the first scratch. A grunt. A sniffle. She shot straight up in bed. The room was dark, except for a pale line of moon peeking in from the drapes. Her eyes blindly groped the gloom. Her heart beat fast.
"It was only a dream," she said. Her voice sounded quiet, and tiny, and lost.
But then she heard it. Grunting and scratching. Two red pinpoints appeared outside, in the night, just above the windowsill. Then, two more, and these were joined by two more and then more others. She got out of bed and crept towards the window. She pulled back the drapes. They were all outside, staring at her. She tried to scream.
The next moment, they started slamming themselves against the window. The frame splintered. The glass broke with a crystalline shatter, flying into the room. Slimy rotten forearms shot forth. Hands reached in.
She screamed. Had she glanced down, she would have noticed the flames that licked the bottom of the drapes.
I am Network, Rat-of-the-Sewers, Lurker-in-the-Dark, Witness to the people and events of poor Ustalav. I have a story to tell. Not mine. But of brave adventurers thrown together by fate on this cursed of nights. When it all began. I, a nosferatu, was there, peering from storm drains of sewers, crouching behind barrels, watching from rooftops. I saw them come together. I followed them from the shadows. Outside the Great Hospital of Pharasma, which is where it all began.
Heavy rain. Unending. Like the night. It hasn't let up for weeks. The streets are flooded. Filth and disease wash down along the cobblestones. The wagons keep bringing new sick ones to the hospital. The one man met his acquaintances outside...they looked worried. They went into the hospital. But the others still wander the streets outside. Each secretive. Each anxious. Each digging in his head, intent and set to his own dark task.
I won't let them see me. They would be afraid, not understand. But I am interested in them, nonetheless. They all have eyes that pierce the darkness. They all look confident, like they can push it back.
Our Pharasma! If they don't, it will mean the end of us all.
I will use Network as the messageboard alias for DMing. He is always observing from a distance, and may occasionally provide "observational" commentary in the first person. But otherwise, I will use second-person/third-person and you can interact as normal for DM posts.
People think storms and rain are bad things. I like them 'cause... Well it was on a night like this that I was set free.
That doesn't mean bad things can't happen in the rain.
I feel like I'm being watched, the short hairs on the back of my neck... someone or some thing is watching me. I can't shake the feeling. They are good at staying hidden.
Tonight, the "psych" ward wins... definitely more interesting screaming. Sometimes the surgical wing is a close second place. But, on rainy nights the people that come in are more sick than hurt.
Perched amid lower battlements, I watch the comings and goings. The rain does not stop, maybe it never will. There is a break in the activity and I quickly walk along the roofline to where a narrow alley is created... and let myself drop twenty feet to the wet ground.
Moving with purpose, I arrive at the sewer drain. It's almost over flowing. My senses tell me someone was here, watching me. But, they're gone now. It's OK, I was just curious... besides, never liked sewers much.
I turn and walk around the hospital, the activity is back... I look for another perch. The night is young.
|Earl J V Caromarc|
As Earl Caromarc's coach approaches the hospital he feels his heart sink.
"I hate this place." he confides in his servant. "The screaming of the insane. The miasma of terror and dread that seems to suffuse every brick. I know the doctor seeks to cure his patients, but sometimes... sometimes I wonder about his insanity. How can any man be so surrounded by the misery of his fellow man, and still hold on to his own sanity."
"Or perhaps the doctor is simply a stronger man than I, or possessed of a dulled seventh sense. Who am I to judge a man who has given so much, sacrificed so much."
The servant turns and looks at Caromarc, then turns back
"You didn't hear about his son, then? Tragic story. It was all the talk of the town for some time. Really though, how could he..."
The carriage jolts to a halt outside the hospital, breaking Caromarc's train of thought. As his mind returns to his location, his heart sinks once more.
Well. If I can find and save even one inmate who is possessed, rather than mad, it will be worth my discomfort a hundred times.
A thin man stands at the edge of an alleyway, his face shrouded in shadow but for the dim ember of his cigarette. His eyes narrow as they find the Baron Volst striding toward the entrance to the hospital like some sort of evil peacock.
I'll get you yet, you bastard. You eluded me in Daggermark, dodged me again at Xer, but your devilry leaves an awful stink that can't be hidden.
|Sharmune, Radiant of the Night|
"Have you seen the older man resembiling myself," I clammer grasping a Draft of Darious, The First?
"Nay, he -is- Gone," I mutter.
"I live though him and the likewise, I am Darious, the second. If there was just a barkeep in this sad ward.... Perhaps there too would be cheer here," I rudely proclaim.
"I'd slaughter just about any beast for a mug of warm ale."
Dear Lord Ioun, let us remember thanks...
*Asterisk Spells: Spell slot used. Persistent Ant Haul Currently affects La Siréene.
Zero Level Spells: Create Water, Detect Magic, Guidance
First Level Spells: Charm Person, Ant Haul*, Entangle, Faerie Fire, Obscuring Mist, Longstrider
Second Level Spells: Persistent Charm Person, Barkskin, Spider Climb, Fog Cloud, Resist Energy, Soften Earth And Stone
Third Level Spells: Suggestion, Sleet Storm, Sky Swim, Stone Shape, Summon Nature's Ally III
La Siréene Dorée walks the black, drenched streets of Ustalav, holding a mere umbrella towards the mass of matter bombarding the ground. I have lost sight of him.
She had encountered some information- most of it dubious rumors, mind- that coneccted a man known as Caromarc, who she was currently lodging with, to several strange happenings. This had gotten her attention, and she had decided to investigate it, curious as she was in this new world and the oppertunities it offered.
But now, her target was nowhere to be found, lost in the unrelenting rain. The darkness itself was not a problem, but this limited vision range ciertanly was. Strangely enough, she smiles to herself.
Time to adobt a different perspective. Predictable circumstances, while somewhat boring, have their advantages.
Her smile broadening, the woman known as La Siréene casts her umbrella towards the ground, which disappears into thin air immediately afterwards. La Siréene closes her eyes and enjoys the rain against her face for a few moments before proceeding. She draws a heavy rod from her clothing, lifts it into the air, and lets it effect take place before whispering, "Sky Swim", casting her spell.
Then, her form ceases to be hers, and changes shape, so that Nameless may better adapt its body to the problem at hand.
|Merperson, Shape of Nameless|
Change completed, Nameless now half stands, half lies on the ground, with a large, scaly fin as her only support, deep blue fin shifting into dark skin and black hair, with white eyes lacking pupils.
Nameless chose to stay still and experience this new shape in fascination for some time. The powerful lower body, the scales and fin, how different the rain felt on this strange skin. then, eager to test out this form, this manifestation of Nameless slips into the air gracfully, just as she would in her natural element.
These eyes are not as good as Nameless is used to, but good enough to take advantage of this higher vantage point. From up here, she sights a crouching form, perching on a rooftop. As she raises further into the air, trying to remain unseen by being a dark shape against black night concealed by heavy rain, the shape leaps down an ally, out of sight. Curious.
What an interesting specimen. Can it truly have noticed me?
This manifestation of Nameless looks around, attempting to locate the curious shape, and does so, at the same time finding Caromarc, his coach, and the hospital Nameless was brought into existence, and the place where all it knew was brought to an end, the memories of which also find Nameless, none to gently.
my- Here lies, perhaps, the memory of the Original…
Lost in horrified recollection that has the momentum of a tidal wave, this manifestation Nameless can do little else than stay steady in the rain and simply watch as the scene unfolds underneath her.
Inside the hospital:
They cross the threshold. Once inside, Iozef and Amelie turn down a corridor to the left towards the Reaper's wing.
The accommodations are streaked with grime. Cots line both sides of the corridors throughout the building. They spill out of rooms into hallways and common areas not usually used to treat patients. Everywhere lay people who are bruised, emaciated, bandaged, and jaundiced. Some huddle in small lumps on their cots. Some wave bony fingers, trying to call the few harried attendants who care for them. There are buckets filled with mucus and blood. It is unclear which wing of the hospital is the Reaper's wing. It appears that Death stalks all of these halls.
There is a general moaning in the air that is maddening to the nerves. A surprisingly short distance into the hospital, but far enough that the entrance seems remote, the cousins stop at the cot of a elderly woman. Her face is deeply lined with wrinkles. She appears to be sleeping. Her eyes have dark circles. Her lips are drawn back from the teeth in a grim rictus. Her skin is an odd color, almost ashen, as if it was turning the color of coal.
She breathes imperceptibly. Her chest rises and falls under the dirty blanket that covers her. Iozef gently strokes her forehead, and Amelie looks like she is holding back tears.
"It is good you could come," she says to Ianez.
Iozef shakes his head grimly. He pulls Ianez aside. His voice is angry and strained. "There is something wrong here," he says. "This is not just age. I don't know what exactly. Perhaps you have seen a like malady in your travels."
It is late. Ianez and his cousins are alone on the ward, except for a lone nurse going bed to bed, ministering to the ill. The white of her robes throw off a glow. She looks almost ghostly, like a specter, or a floating blue candle.
The only other person is a distinguished-looking gentleman with a humanoid mechanical in tow, who strides by with a noble and confident gait.
Still feeling like I'm being watched. Looking up I see nothing. No one could be above, I feel silly.
What's that down there? A pin prick of light, an ember, the lit end of a cigarette. I see him now, vaguely familiar. But he's not watching me, interested in someone else. No time.
Caromarc entered with his machine-man. I leap to another ledge, closer, following. I catch glimpses through windows and slits in the stonework. I reach out with my senses, hearing footfalls and whispered conversation. Moving from handhold to foothold, I follow them but from the outside
I settle in, that old woman had visitors.
This place reminds me of years ago, the bad place. My gut says leave, but I stay. For Caromarc.
Inside the hospital:
Ianez holds his aunt's hand, whispering to her. The presence of the man and his mechanical follower registers only peripherally as he focuses on the woman; it also takes a moment for Iozef's question to register. "What? No. Plagues I've seen in plenty--Rahadoum was particularly bad on that account--but never anything like this."
Outside the hospital:
"Help! Help! Someone help! Please! Is there anyone out there who can help us? Please someone! Help!"
The sound seems to be coming from a narrow alley that runs along the west side of the hospital.
As Volst crosses the threshold, Blackacre throws down his cigarette, stamps it out, and moves swiftly for the door, keeping his distance.
Stealth check (if needed) to remain out of sight and out of mind: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (17) + 8 = 25
Let's see what sort of twisted business brings you here this night, Volst.
At the sound of plaintive cries from a nearby alley, Blackacre hesitates in the middle of the street, caught between his quarry and the plea for help. His obsession with Volst takes over, though, and he continues toward the hospital. His left hand finds an eyelash in his pocket, and with a word, he slips out of view and into the building.
Casting invisibility so as to avoid being spotted while tailing Volst in the building.
|Merperson, Shape of Nameless|
The manifestation of Nameless sees Caromarc enter the hospital, and sees the curious shape follow Caromarcs progress within the building from the outside. A realisation shakes her awake, quickly considering the implications.
My target may be this creature’s target as well. Hm. The bold move may be the right one, here. I should present myself.
The manifestation of Nameless cracks a dark smile as she starts her descent toward the rooftop to make her dramatic entrance, when she hears the scream. In a moment, she has decided to see what opportunity this will turn out to be, stops her descent before she is noticed, readies herself, and makes a quick dive, moving past just above the creature’s back and whispers, in her inhuman screech of a voice; “An individual cries out for help. Give it to him, Human.”, then swims away at top speed, before the creature can look around, and heads towards the shout, intent to scout out the danger.
As she moves gracefully through the air, she rises into the drenched night once more, trusting that no one in their right mind would turn their face towards such turbulent skies.
The cigarette-man... Caromarc is capable
Whirling to see what buzzed me, a flying fish? This place keeps getting stranger. But it had the right idea. Help those who need it.
No time to be careful, so I move towards the cry for help. I came within range so my eyes can clearly see. At the edge of the roofline, I look down.. piercing the darkness.
|Darious, The Second|
|Earl J V Caromarc|
Just inside the threshold Caromarc pauses.
This is a good excuse to go home. No physicians...
He looks outside, then turns around and continues through. He'd like to think he continues because of duty, or compassion. But part of him wonders if he would still be walking through this place were it a clear, dry night.
|Earl J V Caromarc|
The click-clack of the mechanical manservant's hard-soled shoes on the floor sounds like a metronome as they walk. Without concious thought Caromarc finds himself falling into the same rhythym, alternate soft sole and hard stick. His clever prosthetic exoskeleton adds soft creaking noises to the sound. With the thunder of rain on roof so loud and close the noises of the hospital fade into the white noise.
And the the Earl's knee trembles and he miss-steps a beat.
Surely it had been an echo that... no it had sounded before his step.
Caromarc looked into the porcelain mask of his manservant's visage
"Did you hear... never mind"
Shaking his head he resumes his walk, then pauses and turns back
"A little light?" he asks, holding out the end of his cane, which the manservant promptly illuminates.
Feeling cheered by the additional light, but sheepish to be afraid of the gloom, Caromarc continues on his way.
Inside the hospital:
"Don't trouble him," Amelie says. "He's probably visiting a loved one, just like us."
Iozef shoots her a look as if she was daft. He hesitates for a moment, then waves her away. "No, he must be a doctor."
The baron's manner is ostentatious. Yet, he is small and relatively unnoticeable amidst the throngs of suffering masses. He moves quickly from sickbed to sickbed. He yanks rotting incisors from mouths and clips toenails from patients too weak to resist. You see him mouthing words. The tune occasionally rises above the ambient noise.
"Take some bone,
Take some blood,
Just like necromancers should.
Deal an enervating strike,
That's what necromancers like."
There is a nurse at the far end of the hall who notices him. She looks annoyed.
Ianez quickly rises and joins his cousins. "Your pardon, sir. All this--" He gestures with one calloused hand, a sweep that takes in the vast panoply of sickness and suffering around them. "--has us at our wits' end. Is there anything you can do for her? We've seen no other doctors."
|Dr. Hareton Grey|
Outside the hospital:
His hair plastered slick upon his forehead, the man gestures wildly to his companion. He indicates to you deep gashes on her face, neck, arms, and torso. They are ragged, and lined with sickly green. Her fair pallor is rapidly turning a stark alabaster white.
The man speaks. It is hard for him to catch his breath. I am Dr. Hareton Grey, a chirurgeon at the hospital. This is Olivia. She is... His voice breaks. We are soon to be married. We were out walking....yes, I know it's an unusually late hour, but... He hyperventilates. I had business at the hospital and we came around... I was intending to show her...I told her it wasn't proper for a lady, but she insisted... His voice trails away for a moment. Then, horror rises in his eyes as he recollects what occurred to them moments before. He says, There were these...things...monsters...that leapt out of the shadows and attacked us! Please help me. She is grievously hurt. Please! You must help me get her inside the hospital at once!
You hear something moving behind rubbish bins a few yards away.
This manifestation of Nameless dives face first to the ground, but before landing, she twists in air as she changes shape, her dark scales and skin turning into a stylish black suit with a tie and a white shirt, black hair turning blond, umbrella apearing in her hand as she lands on her feet with flair. "'Ello. La Siréene Dorée, at your service." She gives a slight smile, then looks at the woman. "Oh, the poor thing... I'll carry her inside for you" La Siréene steps forward, carefully lifting the woman into her arms, still holding the umbrella, with a strenght quite strange for her thin build. "There's a healing wand in my belt puch, if you've got the gift for 'em. It should stop the bleeding."
There is a -4 penalty to all Perception checks made outdoors because of the rain.
|Dr. Hareton Grey|
You hear a deep resonant voice from above. A figure separates from the night to drop near you. Standing from a crouch, it is nearly human. Tall, brooding and wearing a dark cloak.
I think I can help her. But, I need to touch her, NOW!
The figure does not make any aggressive movements, but does reach a hand towards the unconscious woman even as she is cradled by the surprisingly strong, pretty girl.
Need to know who knows whom. Sleeping arrangements, etc...
The suspicious figure jumps from the rooftop and lands before La Siréene, who stands unflinchingly still, with unreadable expression. He came. Good. Maybe now I will have a chance to learn something about him.”That so? Convenient. Do so.” La Siréeyne exclaims shortly, with calm voice, stepping forward so he that may touch Olivia. She makes a nod of greeting as he does this. ”Name?” She asks.
It wasn't really clarified, so Nameless currently lodges alone, but would probably be happy to lodge with Caromarc later on. Nameless knows of Caromarc through rumor, but no one in the group personally. He does not have access the Originals memories, so no one there, either.
La Siréene makes an appreciative grunt."Not bad, Sandru. Now to get these two inside. Come, Hareton." She beckons the doctor to follow and, With that, La Siréene turns and walks to the hospitals entrance, being careful to hold Olive in a careful and steady grip, also checking to make sure Hareton keeps up.
I escort them to the hospital door, opening it.
There was a creature back there, behind the containers. Small, to the ground... Flashing eyes in the darkness. Woman more important. You take her, tell Caromarc. I wait outside.
Waiting for all to enter safely, I am gone.
|Darious, The Second|
|Earl J V Caromarc|
Inside the hospital
The Earl raises an eyebrow at being addressed in such a manner by a man he has never met and only just seen.
"Sir, my name is Caromarc, and I regret I must tell you I am not a physician. Still, I have some small education in matters of philosophy and have been fortuitously awarded the title of doctor vis-à-vis that discipline. If you can elucidate upon your request so as to provide symptoms I may yet be able to provide some small assistance."
Caromarc! he berates himself The man is obviously concerned - behave!
The creature known as Sandru escorts the creatures known as La Siréene, Hareton and Olive and opens the door for them."Thanks," La Siréene nods. When Sandru speaks, she just manages to stop herself from frowning. Tell Caromarc? But he can’t know of anything that connects me to… Ah.
As La Siréene walks into the hospital, folding her umbrella with one hand and letting it hang from her arm, she tries to not look around, but still sees the multiple corridors, all filled with cots for the sick and injured. She shivers for a moment, and then turns her head to Hareton. "So, where to for Olive?"
The trio facing Caromarc looks somewhat mismatched in clothing style; Ianez' garb contrasts with that of the others in that it's travel-stained and well worn. The Earl's reply, curiously, momentarily lifts Ianez' bleak expression. "A scholar, then? As am I, sir. Ianez Gastnicht, at your service. Perhaps once my aunt is out of danger we can compare notes; I had hoped to present on the results of my recent excavations on Kortos now that I've returned, but first things first. Iozef, Amelie--please describe the progression of disease to Master Caromarc."
Iozef sets his jaw grimly and relates the symptoms. The list is long and bewildering...painful swelling of the lymph nodes at first a red color, then turning black...fever...delirium...vomiting...muscular pains...coughing up blood...
"It started a couple of days ago," Iozef says. "And now all she does is sleep and won't be roused." Another soft whimper from Amelie.
As he concludes, Iozef leans over his mother, searching her eyes for signs of cognizance. There is an involuntary reflex; like a pod releasing spores, she parts her dried lips like a tear in parchment, and exhales directly into Iozef's face. The breath is a noxious billow of air, black and filled with particles like soot. He is shocked. He stumbles backwards and tries to wave the breath away from his face.
Ianez and Caromarc can make knowledge checks for history, local, or heal.
Blackacre moves quietly through the room.
So it's necromancy, is it, you little bastard? You won't be doing that for long.
He notes the family talking with the other noble who came in the door, and takes particular note of the construct serving the noble. Blackacre moves toward the nurse, looking for a convenient place to be once he becomes visible again.
|Dr. Hareton Grey|
Hareton points to direct Siréene. "Off to the left, several corridors down you will find the Reaper's ward," he says. "I shudder to think it, but the best course of action right now is to take her there. They will have staff and resources on hand to aid me, so that we can provide her the emergency care that she needs."
He turns to Sandru. "I appreciate your gesture to stand guard against those things, but right now I need your assistance. Come with me. We must dash to the surgical ward, where my offices are, and gather together some of my elixirs and surgical equipment. I can not carry it all by myself, and we don't have a second to lose!"
Outside the hospital:
@ Darious - Your inspection of the alley reveals that whatever monsters so viciously attacked Olivia have since departed. The creature making noise behind the bins was a black cat with tuxedo markings and a white spot on its nose. Having witnessed the recent events, it is terrified. It arches its back and hisses at you, its fur standing on end, and runs off into the night.
An attendant emerges from the hospital and beckons to you. "Sir! Sir! We're closing the doors for the night! It is late and dangerous in the streets. If you wish to accompany your friends, then you must come inside. Otherwise, you will be locked out for the night!" He runs back inside. The heavy doors of the hospital start creaking and begin to close.
"Got it. I’ll take Olive to Reapers as you go to the surgical ward." With this, La Siréene turns and walks down the corridor pointed out to her.
As a manifestation of Nameless, the effect of returning to the hospital is jarring. It is, in a way, what connected Nameless to the form Original, and had now become the only thing that manifested that connection. These emotions of unease... are they mine, or remnants of those Original had? ... No, that can't be. My will is my own. I have freed myself from the Original. I will not let its memory affect me.
As she reaches the Reapers ward, she looks for either an empty cot to place Olive, or a nurse, doctor or attendant for assistance.
|Nurse of Pharasma|
The nurse notices La Siréene enter with the limp woman in her arms. She gathers her linen skirts in a brisk manner and walks half the distance of the ward to greet the new arrivals. She indicates to La Siréene an empty bed. "Place her here, please," she says.
She now stands close to Baron Volst. She shoots him a look, and her eyes are daggers. Her voice trembles with barely controlled rage. "I know what you are doing, and I don't approve. As a nurse of this hospital and a cleric of Pharasma, I command you to take your leave at once."
Baron Volst sizes her up with his eyes. His lips curl in a sneer.
La Siréene gingerly places the woman on the bed, and then turns to the nurse. "Thank you. Doctor Hareton Grey is coming for her, currently in the surgical ward." Having planned to immediately head for Caromarc, she pauses for a moment, eyeing this confrontation between the nurse and the visitor, keeping a curious and watchful eye on the baron.
Coughing and wiping his face clean after stumbling backwards, Ianez muses, "That was certainly unpleasant. It puts me in mind of the Black Breath outbreak in Kavapesta, but that was almost 500 years ago. Ah, Aunt Therez! What has come out of the buried past to trouble you?"
The hiss of a sword drawn from its sheath rings out as a tall, wiry man with hard, intense eyes steps seemingly out of nowhere toward the Baron. His voice twists with a Galtish accent and booms with authority:
Baron Dragomir dan Volst! You are a practitioner of the foul art of necromancy, and for that you shall be judged. Drop what you have stolen from the sick, surrender now, and confess, or face the justice you deserve.
The bastard sword in his hand, and the fury etched into every muscle in his face leave no doubt as to the nature of the "justice" this man describes.
Intimidate, as may be appropriate:
1d20 + 11 ⇒ (16) + 11 = 27
Too much? Too early?
|Dr. Hareton Grey|
Hareton throws himself at the desk. He locates a black valise, opens it, and runs his fingers over the contents, quickly taking stock. You can see forceps, retractors, scalpels, needles, scopes, probes, tubes, and a drill. Additionally, he runs around the room and gathers splints, tourniquets, carbolic acid, chloroform, and cotton wool. Everything combined would be too much to carry, so he hands some of the items to you.
He stops and looks around for a moment. "Oh, we should also take these." He runs to the shelves filled with beakers. In his haste, he knocks one shelf free from its case. It falls and beakers roll across the countertop with a loud clink of glass. He loads the bottles into your arms.
They include -
10 infusions of Cure Light Wounds
6 infusions of Cure Medium Wounds
4 infusions of Cure Serious Wounds
1 infusion of Delay Poison
1 infusion of Remove Curse
Two additional items seem to suggest the young doctor has been branching out into unusual areas of practice.
1 infusion of Enlarge Person
1 infusion of Jump
Satisfied all is in order, Hareton leaves the office and runs back in the direction of the Reaper's wing.