The Storyboard of Ataniel Archives: The Shape of Things Part 2
Name: Evan Haag Plotline: At The Mithril Dagger Character(s): Akron, Flicker, Kevin, and Rhynwa Title of Post: So, What Brings You Around Here, Stranger?
Kevin watched with mild interest as Akron was escorted from the back room by Flicker. Rhynwa and Kayla came out a minute later, Kayla visibly less angry than she had sounded. The death priestess was chatting amiably with her, telling an anecdote about Luthien's kitchen habits, so Kevin figured that whatever happened in back wasn't business-threatening after all. With that reassurance, he turned to the newcomer, who had scrambled up onto a barstool, chicken still hanging from his mouth.
"So," said Kevin, in his practiced bartender voice, "what'll you have? First one's free, you know."
At the mention of the word 'free' the goblin's face broke out in a crooked grin, and the chicken fell into his hand as he spoke. "Now dat's more like it! Boyoboy, I been waitin' for my foist free drink as a hero. It's sorta, whatayacallit, a rite o'passage or somethin', idnit?" He started to climb onto the bar, intent on picking out his free drink, when Flicker calmly pulled him back onto his stool.
"Why don't you let Kevin get that for you?"
"Huh? Oh, sure, sorry 'bout dat. It's just dat dis bird is kinda tough; I need somethin' to wash that down." He looked at Kevin, waiting for a drink to magically appear. Kevin in turn scrutinized his customer, shrugged, and reached behind the bar for one of Jork's bottles. It wasn't the good stuff, and he wouldn't call it the bad stuff, but it was alcohol, and the goblin would probably appreciate it just as well as anything else. "Here you go, pal."
The goblin stared at the bottle, then looked around at the other (few) patrons. "Hey! Ain't I good enough for a glass, buddy? I'm a hero, too; I got rights and stuff!"
Kevin calmly put a small mug down in front of him, without a trace of surprise or annoyance. "Sorry about that, just had to grab a goblin mug, that's all." A quick glance at the faces of the other heroes in the bar showed a normal degree of curiousity, so he continued. "So, how'd you become a hero?"
The goblin finished chugging his Jork-rot special, and wiped his chin with the chicken. "Well, dat's easy. I didn't get burnt to a Goblin McNugget when dat psycho hit us during the Wackiness. I figure dat puts me solidly in the hero category; ya know, last survivor of my clan, doomed to never have a fambly, stuff like dat."
Flicker arched his eyebrow. "That's impressive. My friends and I tried to stop him, but we didn't get there in time. All we found were your tribesmen, dead. How did you survive when they didn't?"
The goblin considered him for a minute. "Dunno. I mean, I got hit wit' two or three of dem fireballs; kinda hurt a little, now dat you mention it. But all I lost was a coupla eyebrow hairs, my rat pie, and my entire frickin' tribe!!!" These last words were spoken standing on the stool, glaring at the elf-warrior in defiance, tiny purple veins standing up on Akron's forehead. "What, just because I got some magic armor, dat makes me a coward or somethin'? Ain't my fault I can't be burnt or froze or nothin'!"
Flicker raised his hands to calm the angry goblin. "Sorry, not what I meant to imply. I was just curious as to how you survived that attack." Rhynwa cleared her throat, diverting Akron's attention. "Whadda you want, top hat?" Rhynwa decided to ignore the goblin's anger, and said calmly, "You have magic armor? That's pretty cool. I'd love to hear how you got it."
Akron started to yell at her, too, but blinked a couple times as he realized that she wasn't insulting him. "Uh, you would? Sure, I suppose I could tell ya. It ain't nothin' spec'taclar like kickin' Wyvern's butt or savin' Neporris or anything like dat. I just traded a magic pencil for it at the Temple of the Holy Magic Item."
Name: Jonah Cohen Plotline: At the Mithril Dagger - but maybe not for long Character(s): as long as we don't call 'em "The 'Vorax Pack" Title of Post: Critical Hero Mass Reached... Commencing Crisis
"I'm sorry about your clan."
Akron turned around to see the tall, quiet man with the hangdog look sitting down the bar a ways. "A lot of my friends got killed in the riots in Neporris, too."
"Yeah, dat Madness sure was the suckfest. But thanks, mac. What's yer name?"
"Carter Edison. Howdy. So, your clan lived underground?"
"Dat's right." Carter nodded as though this made perfect sense. Which, of course, it did. Enigma had a short hero who lived underground, too. Akron the goblin looked a little odd (and what an accent!), but when glancing at the pictures hanging on the walls of the Mithril Dagger, he had noticed that some heroes were strange birds indeed.
It was at that moment that a new man entered the bar. He wore boots, overalls and a troubled expression. "Uh, excuse me? Am I in the right place? I think I need, uh, some heroes."
"You're in the right place indeed," Kayla said.
"Thank goodness," the man replied, wiping his brow. "I'm Joe, Joe Fish. I came down here from Netown looking for some help."
"Netown? Farming town about a day northeast of here?" Rhynwa asked.
"That's it, ma'am. Things are usually quiet back home, just the way we like it. But now, now there's trouble, and I don't rightly know what's going on or what we can do, but I think it might be really bad. So I came here to Lianth, thinking maybe somebody would know what to do, but when I asked a few folks, they... Well, they gave me this awful weird speech about how they'd only be hurting me if they helped. One varmit even called me an 'income-taker', whatever that means. Anyway, this Mr. Delaney fella suggested I come here."
"What exactly is your town's problem?" Heart asked.
"Well, it all started last week when that big flaming rock fell out of the sky and landed in Jeb's field...."
Name: Lora Redish Plotline: Things That Fall From The Sky And Go Thud Character(s): Flicker, Heart Title of Post: And so it begins...
"There's no shame in survival," Flicker said mildly, neither retreating from the goblin's anger nor returning any. "I'm glad to know someone made it out. By the time we got there, there wasn't much we could do."
"So a mage was throwing fireballs at you," said Heart, suddenly interested, "but because you were wearing magical armor, you weren't harmed?"
"Dat's what I just said, ain't it, Forehead?"
Heart jotted some notes, pleased with the implications of that, and then a local farmer burst into the bar begging for protection from some meteor that had flattened another farmer's cornfield. Heart was uninterested in that per se; geology was not her thing, and neither were Nylevian superstitions about celestial bodies. Still, to her disappointment, no great mages had taken it upon themselves to show up in the Mithril Dagger tonight, and Rhynwa the cleric might be her best chance at observing a high-level magic-user in action right now, confounding effects of the loss of her god or no. "I'll do what I can," she offered, looking to the priestess for confirmation. Heart wasn't all that familiar with agriculture, to be honest, but she had a good strong back and she figured she could always help the guy re-sow his corn, if that was what it came down to.
"I'm afraid I've got obligations here," said Flicker, "but I've yet to see the quest Rhynwa couldn't kick in the ass, really."
"I'm going to have to be party leader again, aren't I?" sighed Rhynwa, scritching her new aurumvorax behind the ears.
"The more things change," smiled Kayla, "the more they stay the same..."
Name: Alyssa Gulledge Plotline: Things That Fall From The Sky And Go Thud Character(s): Rhynwa, Heart, Carter, Akron, et al. Title of Post: It's gonna be a bumpy ride
"Okay. But I *have* learned a few things. Like planning. Kevin, would you be so kind as to pack up standard adventuring rations, etc. For...um..." Rhynwa looked around the room and pointed to Heart.
"I will be happy to accompany you." Rhynwa held up one finger.
She pointed to Carter Edison. "I *am* a hero, so I guess I have to."
"Yes, you do." She held up a second finger.
She pointed to Flicker, who shook his head no.
She pointed to Kayla with a little smile. Kayla's eyes went very wide, and she shook her head violently no.
Akron piped up "Hey Goth-Chick! Whadd' about ME?"
Rhynwa turned to face him. "I already ASSUMED that you'd be joining us, Short, Green and Ugly. Just hold your damn horses! I promise I won't ever ignore or discount you, but learn some patience and some manners or I will *shove* my scythe so deep up your..."
Akron quickly interrupted, holding up his hands defensively "Yeah, yeah. Fine. Pardon me Miss Cleric-Lady Rhynwa. Would you be sure to count me as part of this *fine* group of heroes?"
"When you put it like that, I would be very happy to include you. I also think I might laugh in your face for going WAY too far in the other direction." She turned back to Kevin. "That would be 4 adventuring kits please." She dropped several gold pieces on the counter. The aurumvorax in her arms began straining towards the bar, so she gave it a gold piece to chew on as if it were a snack.
"Well, Mr. Fish, you have a small but ...um...enthusiastic? eager? plucky?..." She looked around again and mumbled "Skilled?...Ah!" She turned to Joe and said "a small but BRAVE band of heroes to accompany you to your town. As soon as Kevin gets our kits ready we will be able to go. And while we are on the subject, what happened in Netown after the burning rock hit your neighbor's field?"
Name: Alyssa Gulledge Plotline: The Mithril Dagger: The Shape of Things Character(s): Joe Fish, Rhynwa Title of Post: The Shape of things to come
"So this is what happened. It was night and Jeb and me were testing his latest batch of hooch. We don't like doin it in front of the women folk on account of them hitting us if we drink licker. So's anyway, we was out behind the barn when we heard this whistling sorta sound. We looks up to see a burning sompthin, which is getting bigger and bigger. We were a might bit afraid I'll tell you what, but then we ain't heroes or nuthin. Anyway, this thing finally arcs out over the field and crashes down. Now we was thinking that it was mosterous-big, but when we got there it tweren't bigger'n my prize hog Harriet - although she did win the ribbon at the county fair on account of her being so big, so mebbe 800 pounds of pig.
"While we was standing there, the sucker cracked open, and this little blobby thing crawled out. Kinda brown at first, but as it oozed or squished or however you describe that kinda runnin, it turned green. Now we ain't talking transcendental or transilluminated or whatever you people call see-through. It looked solid - couldn't see a thing through it - and tthe was plenty of light from the burning crops... It squirmed into the woods, and we grabbed our lantern and tried to follow it. We needed proof we had seen it or the women would assume we'd been drinking - even though we was - and there'd be hell to pay. It was kinda funny-like cause it kept changing shape and color. So like it went over this big white rock, and it turned white, and it kinda got spiky and had flat sides and stuff, but when it hit the dirt, it went brown and flattened out and I swear it looked like it had twigs on it. So's we were following but it slipped into the crick and we couldn't see it no more.
"We went back to the field, and by that time there was a small crowd of our neighbors and wives and children, all wantin to know what happened and where in the heck we was at. So I said that Jeb and I was in bed like was supposed to be but we each heard a strange sound. When we followed it we ended up here in the field. Then we saw the rock fall out of the sky - they couldn't argue about that since it was plain as day in front of 'em - and that it broke open when we got over here. Then to cover Jeb and I, I said strange vapors had risen up, and made Jeb and I run into the woods. The wives looked us over, but they didn't fuss at us none cause the fire was beginning to be a problem.
"Anyways, this wouldn't normally be all that much trouble, but then the bad things started happening. First off, we noticed that all of the grazin animals - that's sheeps, cows, goats and hosses for you city folk - were looking funny. And funny is kinda hard to describe - but when they was in the fields, some of 'em looked a bit green, and some looked a bit furrier. Hard to describe. But then the kids - my little girl Amy, Ronnie and Brad - two of Jeb's boys, Birddie, who is from two farms over and MaryLou and her little brother Billy - all went swimming in the crick, but when they came home they was looking REAL funny. Their skin started trying to match the colors and textures of things. Amy was sitting on the wool blanket her Momma had made her, with a big white strip in the middle of the gray - cost her a pretty penny to get that white, white wool too I might add - but there was Amy, with a big white stripe running down the middle of her, and her skin was looking like the blanket. When I touched her, it was woolen too. I pulled her to me to hug her, mostly to comfort her but a bit of fear too - I told ya before I ain't no hero. Anyways, when I had my hands and face touching her, and Momma was patting her back, her skin kinda squirmed and became human again. But the moment she put on clothes, she was looking like them. Now all the townspeople are looking like that and the animals are getting lost in the fields.
"I was looking for one of my nanny goats, and couldn't find her - so's I sat down on this large rock to think where she might be hiding. I hear this muffled bleat, jump up, and there is a shifting shape trying to look like me - from having sat on it I guess - and trying to look like the rock it is till on, bleating piteously. I picked it up to carry it home, and it tried looking like a small version of me - but more like what a child would draw me as. I am the only one who hasn't gotten really bad, but there *is* a reason I am wearing sorta tan canvas..."
Rhynwa looked carefully at his skin seeing the warp and weft of fabric, and the strange even coloration one does not normally see in skin. "Wow. That is weird!"
He knocked back his drink. "Ah, blessed be the beer, the ale and the wine. Stuff of life. Well, if you're gonna help us before we lose everyone and everything in town, we best start now..."
Name: Jonah "frickin' computers" Cohen Plotline: The Shape of Things Character(s): Carter Edison, Rhynwa Title of Post: Deja Vu (fittingly, all over again): Secret Origin part 2
Carter listened intently to Joe's story. It was sounding a little bit familiar..
After the strange people called Enigma had left Neporris, things went back to their boring routine. It was several days before Carter discovered that his life had changed.
Mrs. O'Toole's wagon tipped over, pinning poor Billy Miles beneath it, gasping and moaning in pain. Two men were trying to pull the wagon upright, to no avail. Carter knew he wasn't particularly strong, but quickly tried to help the others lift the wagon. "I wish I was as strong as some of those heroes" he muttered. He'd have no trouble then.
With one mighty shove, Carter not only pulled the wagon up off of Billy, he flung it a good 30 feet, narrowly missing a very surprised Mrs. O'Toole. "How the heck did you do that?" asked one of the stunned farmers.
"I... I don't know!" Carter answered. "It wasn't even very difficult. Here," he said, extending a hand to Billy. He grasped Billy's hand, and heard the sickening crunch of bones shattering.
"Ahhh!!! You broke my hand!!!"
"Ah! Sorry! I didn't mean to!" Carter looked around, confused. Everyone was giving him the hairy eyeball. He ran. When he got home, he opened the door to his modest apartment - and knocked it clean off the hinges, sailing across the living room and shattering the window. The landlord was going to charge him an arm and a leg for that.
By the next morning, his superstrength had worn off, and he was glad to be free of the hero lifestyle. But destiny took a hand two days later. As he was walking home from work, he overheard a domestic dispute in progress. Some might have kept on walking, but Carter couldn't bring himself to turn away. "I oughta teach that guy a lesson," he said, but then recalled his mishaps with being super strong. Maybe something more subtle was called for here. He thought for a moment. "If I could turn invisible, that would be good." He felt a slight tingling and looked down at his hands. Nothing there.
Carter snuck into the house, pausing to wave at the drunken man, standing right in front of him. The bum didn't pause from berating his poor wife, and he definitely wasn't hammered enough to not notice someone right in front of him. Walking as quietly as he could manage, he picked up and iron skillet and brained the guy.
The man screamed. Then he looked up, saw the skillet floating in mid-air, screamed again and ran. "It's ok, ma'am, he's gone."
Now she was screaming. "Who said that?!?"
"It's ok, I'm right h--" Another scream. "I won't hurt y---"
"Ahhh! Don't kill me, ghosts!"
"I'm not a ghost. I'm just invisible." This did not seem to calm her. "Uh, look. You can, uh, you know. You can do better than some jerk who hits you."
"Please don't kill me, invisible ghosts!"
Making matters worse, it took 3 days for Carter to turn visible again. He spent sleepless nights, imagining what life would be like, unable to be seen. But while he did return to the realm of the see-able, this episode did cost him his job. It seemed that patrons at the hotel weren't comfortable about an invisible concierge.
He'd sworn off ever trying to use these strange abilities again, but it was not to be. One of the buildings damaged by the fight Enigma had been in was starting to collapse, trapping a construction worker inside. No one was sure how long it would hold.
"Gosh, what could help? Uh, maybe if I was really big and tough, like, unhurtable..." Then, Carter felt his body change again. He became, bystanders later told him, larger, his skin gray, his face squarish and blocky looking. He strode fearlessly into the building and brought the trapped man to safety (being careful this time to let the man climb into his massive arms and not actually grab him). It didn't even hurt when a cross beam fell on his head.
Unfortunately, when he got home, he crashed through the floor of his apartment - it seemed his new form weighed a lot. So in the few hours he had it, it moved him from jobless, to jobless and homeless.
Leading a normal life, he realized, was no longer an option. So he set out to find others fated to live the same heroic life, his own Enigma. Perhaps they could help him get a little better at it...
"I've, uh, seen something like what you're talking about, Mr. Fish."
"You have?" Everyone turned to him.
"Well, not precisely. I mean, no firey rocks falling from the sky, no people changing shapes. But it seems like everyone in your town is having troouble controlling their newfound shape-shifting. I, uh, kind of have that problem with some of my abilities, too."
"I think I've seen something like what you're talking about, Carter," Rhynwa said. "You have powers that can do lots of different things?"
"Trouble with controlling them?"
"Yeah," he admitted sheepishly.
"OK, sounds like random magic. I've seen it in action all too often. First, what you want to do is be careful where you point, in case you get a different power than what you expected---"
"Oh, I've always gotten the power I've tried to get. But it's still not easy to control. I guess that with great power comes not only great responsibility (of course) but also great challenges in being able to use it. I'm hoping it gets easier with practice."
Name: Alyssa Gulledge Plotline: The Shape of Things Character(s): Rhynwa, Akron, Heart, Carter, Joe Fish Title of Post: On the road again
Rhynwa sighed. Their first day on the road, and she wasn't sure they would make it to the town. Carter's constant depression and moping about his superpowers made her offer to send him to perfection several times; Akron's jibes made her TRY to send him to perfection several times; and Heart's constant questioning about magic made RHYNWA want to seek perfection several times. Oh, and Airhglen, the aurumvorax, kept trying to get into her change purse and eat their only cash. What was she doing wrong?
On the other hand, Akron was no worse than Tila (at least as far as the commentary went). Heart wasn't repeating questions, so once her curiosity was satisfied, she would relax. Airhglen was only a baby after all. And what was an adventure without psychodrama? Carter certainly fell into that niche. So maybe, thought Rhynwa, I am just not used to it ? it *has* been 7 years.
She looked over her group and thought: Maybe in the morning I will also remember how to be flexible and yielding. Hah! And maybe I'll wear a pastel pink dress and attend a high tea. Screw it ? they will have to get used to me, just like I will have to get used to them.
In the morning, the group continued their journey. Joe Fish recommended stopping through Bavter, another little farming village on the way.
"They got this tavern there, with the finest ale in Nylevia." and sub rosa to Carter "And some of the ripest serving wenches too."
Carter looked up hopefully, but then his face fell as he remembered how dangerous he could be, and he just slumped back down into his depressed shuffle.
As the group of heroes came to the first farmhouse on the outskirts, Joe yelled "Dang it! Look there! The dang whatever has done come down here too!" He was pointing into a filed with strange animals. They were very low to the ground, green and fuzzy. "That's whut happened to OUR cows. They was tryin to turn into GRASS. That ain't fuzz ? that's GRASS growin' out of them there backs. They's getting shorter and shorter, and soon you won't be able to see 'em. They'll just be done gone! Dang!"
The group walked over to the 'cows'. Akron reached out to poke one. It lifted it's flattened head, lowed at him and lumbered away.
"Ain't they supposed to tip over when you poke 'em, Rinnie?"
"I know nothing about cows, Ackie, other than they taste good when you cook them."
The bottom of the animals was brown and looked a little like dirt. Heart reached out with both hands to feel the 'grass' on the back of one of the beasts.
"Well, it feels like grass by texture, but it is warm like a cow's hide. Very interesting phenomenon." As she stood there, the 'grass' under her hands began changing shape and color, mimicking her skin texture and tone. Fascinated she remained in contact with the cow, as it's whole body began shifting around. She had to step around so of the slow contortions that it went through. It finally settled into a half and half shape. It looked like a very poor rendition of Heart on hands and knees, grazing, but all of the limbs looked like clumps of grass sprouting into a human-esque body.
Heart removed her hands, and the poor beast contorted again, regaining the mobile turf look. "I don't know what it is that is causing this morphing ability, but it seems to depend on contact."
Rhynwa looked off towards town "Lets go to the Inn. If there are people who are still able to talk we need to find out when this started happening to them too."