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Blog 206: To My Lovely Players

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Sooooo, both of my campaigns ended this winter due to a multitude of drops and me not being able to run recruitment right now with all my classes and midterms coming up. Whee. But, the Erebius basterds campaign continues on in spirit on Wattpad where I'm writing it out in novel form as Council of Thieves. (The PCs there are taken from the roster of Children of Westcrown.)

When we did the play in the campaign, my players didn't get to see all of it. But now I've written out the first few trials as Chapter 11, so I'm putting them here as well in case my lovely players would like to see that.

Note: Chelon is Mathal's (Math/Mathalen of the CoW) familiar and currently merged with her as per the merge with familiar spell.


Chapter 11: Curtains Up

Mathal and her inner turtle arrived at the Limehouse a quarter after dawn to find everyone and their setpieces outside of the theater. Millech loaded the setpieces into a donkey-led wagon while Nonon supervised. Vesta flitted from actor to fully costumed actor, hastily retouching their makeup. Ulvauno spotted Mathal first and his eyes narrowed under Vesta’s brush.

“Here comes the traitor. Congratulations, Drovalid. Neither I nor the entire legal system of Westcrown has ever been more inconvenienced in our entire lives.”

“I’m sorry--everyone, not just you.”

Tarvi shrugged in her impeccably cleaned prisoner’s shift.

“The show is going on and that’s all that really matters.”

“No. No!” said Ulvauno. “Once the morning heralds spread word of last night’s performance, we’ll cease to be actors. We’ll be a laughingstock!”

Everyone fell silent at the sudden break in character.

“They are rumors until confirmed,” said Nonon. “So. If you want to continue your thespian lives, make tonight’s live torture performance the greatest murderplay Westcrown has ever seen.”

“Huzzah!” said Calseinica, throwing her hands into the air.

Ulvauno’s painted mouth curved into its ghastly grin, aimed straight at Mathal. Vesta rolled her eyes as she gave his wig a final powdered dust. Millech helped the Asmodean cleric into the wagon. While Mathal and Delour waited to board, Delour whispered a nearly soundless ‘watch out’ over Mathal’s shoulder. Mathal never got the chance to ask for more information. Vesta immediately went to work on her costume, hair, and makeup.

Nonon paraded the others behind the wagon in a fully costumed procession, riding one of the donkeys herself. Everyone and their mother stopped and stared as they extraneously wound their way west. No one threw any flowers, but neither did they throw any more garden produce. It was well into mid-morning by the time that they reached the city ferry on the east bank of the River Adivian.

“That is why I refuse to walk,” said Delour.

The ferry brought them to the island at the heart of the river, Parego Regicona, manor district of the nobility. The Nightshade Theater overlooked the river from the top of a thirty-foot cliff. It had been constructed in the image of an iron and stone cathedral to a nameless evil deity. Inside, the soft lighting and thick red carpets only emphasized the leering faces and tormented souls that decorated the walls in murals and carvings.

“Cheery,” said Gorvio.

Nonon ignored him and led all the actors to the green room. The catering service had provided a buffet to fit the venue--mouth-wateringly fragrant and gravity-defying delicacies that would never survive a short jog in a backpack. Nonon shepherded everyone into a group circle before she lost anyone to the table.

“I’ll make this quick. Congratulations, my players. We’ve made it to our moment for crowning glory. For some of you, this may be your final performance. To all of you I say, thank you for your sacrifice on the altar of our finest of arts. We’ll run through in an hour. Until then, the table is yours.”

The actors attacked the buffet with the gusto of those who’d been locked in a theater for twelve hours without food because their only food source had been contaminated by a small flock of chickens.


The dark red enchanted curtains of the Nightshade rose like blood flowing upwards. Unlike at the Limehouse, the audience watched from the darkness in silent expectation. Their energy prickled Mathal’s skin and buzzed in her ears. Her mind went blank, but when she took the whip in her sweaty palms, her body remembered what to do. She broke every blood pack under Tarvi’s shift. Then she heaved and threw down the whip. With every other character remarking on her behavior, every member of the audience had honed their attention on the silent, traitorous executioner by the time the curtain flowed back down.

Ulvauno shoved her shoulder as he stalked to his position for the third scene.

Watch out, said Chelon.

“No, he did it on purpose,” she muttered under Delour’s aria.

I know.

The devil bailiff entered the courtroom bearing four vials and four thin, curved knives sharpened for surgical precision in the tentacles of his beard. He handed one of each to the three prisoners and Mathal.

“It is said,” Ulvauno barked over her shoulder, “that a liar’s pain is easy to bear, but pleasure steals truth from even the most well-tended fortress.”

He strode forward and grabbed the vial from her hand, which curled into a fist.

“Here before you are the Flukes of Asmodeus. Their bite is more pleasurable than the caress of a thousand succubi, which you’ve no doubt tasted, you treacherous, Abyss-loving fool. Their soul-shuddering wanderings end in your skull, where they plant their young who will consume and leave you an empty husk. Who shall be the first to die in ecstasy?”

The prisoners looked at each other in silence.

Mathal stepped forward. She should’ve had her vial, but Ulvauno had taken hers instead of Tarvi’s. She walked right up to him and snatched it back. She tossed the cork over her shoulder and brought the mouth of the vial down on her forearm. The fluke, a long, tape-thin rot grub, burrowed into her skin.

“What courage,” breathed Tarvi, a new line.

Tarvi grabbed Mathal’s arm and drew it toward her. She brandished her knife, the blade flashing between her horns, and brought it down with a practiced slash. The rot grub landed at the edge of the stage, flecking the audience with blood. They gasped but not in horror.
Tarvi dug her blade into the cork of her own vial and dug it out with a pop. She emptied the vial onto her shoulder.

Mathal secured Tarvi around the waist and dipped her at the front of the stage. She brought her own knife down and sliced the grub from Tarvi’s neck in a single stroke. It flew into the front row, eliciting a giddy scream.

“Oh, to be that fluke!” cried Calseinica.

Gorvio raised his shift over his knee and applied the fluke to the side of his thigh.

“Oh! It has been so long!”

Moris cut into him once and missed, wincing. He cut into him again.

“Sweet, aching ecstasy,” Gorvio hissed between his clenched teeth.

Tarvi and Mathal exchanged a look. Tarvi ran over and nudged Moris aside. She sliced the grub from Gorvio’s neck.

“Between you and a dream of three succubi is a hard choice, Larazod, but somehow your sweet countenance won out.”

“My turn, I suppose,” said Moris.

Mathal stood behind his shoulder as he applied the fluke. She cut it out immediately.

“Oh. Ah. I know not this feeling.”

Ulvauno stamped the grub to paste under his heel.

“Curse your persistence.”

He wiped the snarl off his face and smoothed down his wig.

“All lies eventually reveal their ugly fangs. I shall draw them as venom from a wound.”

The devil bailiff returned again for the next scene, this time bearing four crimson eggs in his beard. Tarvi held her egg up to the light.

“What means this strange egg?”

Ulvauno gave his ghastliest grin.

“The eggs burrow deep and hatch in your insides, churning your guts to paste. When these devils have been sated, they tear their way free as devil-lings bearing your own faces and filled with your every hate. Recant now or give birth and face to your abominations.”

“Do your worst!” shouted Calseinica from the stands.

Tarvi threw her head back and laughed to the heavens.

“I gulp this egg down before this court and our dark lord’s very eyes.”

Gorvio waved the bailiff over.

“Well. Give me mine. Not much good it shall avail you.”

“I like eggs,” said Moris, “red, white, or otherwise. Hand me mine! I’ll eat it raw!”

Mathal received hers last. She shrugged and popped the whole thing in with the rest of them to instant regret.

During rehearsals, they’d practiced this scene with deviled eggs. The crimson egg went down like a rock of ground eggshell and solid paprika. The four of them doubled over and vomited uncontrollably. The egg, having magically dissolved the instant it reached their gut, came up as a steaming, roiling mass of crimson ooze.

Yummy, Chelon blasphemed.

A faint red ring around an Asmodean pentagram shimmered in the pool of goo at Mathal’s feet. A wave of devil flesh gushed forth, six feet into the air. Amid the dripping fat wriggled half-formed limbs and a face of hollows.

Mathal’s nails tore through the devil like batter, its lardy clumps flinging out into the crowd. Gorvio bludgeoned his devil with a quarterstaff while Moris cut his into two oozing slabs, but without her magic, Tarvi’s dagger left only the shallowest cut on her devil. Its flesh folded over the wound. It reared up and clawed into her arm.

Before Mathal could reach her end of the line, four more pentacles shimmered in the ooze. Four more devils roiled up from the pools.
Mathal hastily bit back a curse and turned her back on her devil. Moris and Gorvio’s devils swiped at her as she charged at the two gouging through Tarvi’s unarmored shift. She ducked and rolled under their blobby limbs. When her feet touched down, she sprang at Tarvi’s first, nails ripping through tallow.

Together, Tarvi and Mathal drove their blade and claws into the second. Tarvi stepped away from the pool and patted down the blood and sweat with the end of her shift. Mathal stepped toward the pool. As a third devil surged up, she gouged her claws down. The lardy flesh piled up behind her nails and fell off in oozing clumps.

Moris and Gorvio stood back to back in a circle of three oozing devils. Tarvi jerked her chin at Mathal, her eyes on Moris. They ran, Tarvi upstage and Mathal down. Mathal sprang at the downmost devil with a wordless roar. She drove her nails through its middle, tearing into halves above and below her as her momentum carried her through.

Gorvio bludgeoned into the next devil’s head.

Without breaking speed, Mathal pivoted on her heel. She swung one claw with the full force of her turn into the devil’s neck. Its head tore from its body and spun into the squealing crowd with a lardy splatter. The body hit the stage behind her with a smack, fallen to its side. A second, final smack followed from upstage. Red tallow dripped down the length of Mathal’s arm.

The audience roared to the feet with thunderous applause. The curtain barely muffled their continuing ovations and only heightened their excitement.

Tarvi dropped onto Mathal with a weary hug.

“Thanks for saving my butt.”

You are a friend, said Chelon despite her inability to hear him.

The curtain rose with the spotlight on Ulvauno. The shadows deepened the furrows of his brow to twisting gashes.

“How can this be? Three trials broken, and still they prevail. Asmodeus...smiles upon them? Does the Dark Lord truly know of my compact with the Abyss?”

There were gasps from the audience.

“It cannot be, or I am utterly undone. True or nay, I must try to the last.”

He turned to the four on centerstage.

“Your vile benefactors have thus far warded off justice’s dark hand, but let us see if you hold steadfast before the promise of oblivion.”

“More?” groaned Gorvio. “My old heart gives out. Go on without me, master.”

He swooned into Tarvi’s arms.

“No foolish talk, old man. Haven’t you claimed immortality a thousand times to any bent ear?”

She set him back on his feet.

“Your task is not yet done.”

“You’re already looking more lively now,” said Moris.

From Tarvi’s other side, Mathal held out her hand. Tarvi grasped it.


Ulvauno rolled his eyes.

“How touching.”

“Nay!” cried Calseinica, “What shuddering courage.”

She and Ulvauno ran off the stage as the curtains along the back of the stage parted and flowed to either side. A thick cloud of brimstone rolled down across the stage. A squelching sound followed underfoot. Tarvi, Moris, and Gorvio gagged and sunk to their ankles in sulphur-belching swamp. But the quagmire went solid under Mathal’s soles.

The swampgrounds shook and stopped. Shook and stopped. Out from the thick brimstone fog lumbered two, ten-foot skeletons. The fog billowed through and out from the holes of their tusked, reptilian skulls. The quagmire sucked the bones of their toes down into its pungent slough.

Mathal grinned in her three-quarter turn. They were slow. She didn’t wait.

She launched up from the solid swamp and drove her nails into the thick bone of the nearest skeleton’s thigh. One heavy claw raked through the flimsy costume and into her back. She cried out. The second arm came down. Her nails stabbed into its bony palm. She twisted her grip and ripped the arm from its socket. It smacked and sunk into the quagmire.

The skeleton recoiled with a soundless roar, but the swamp held its feet fast. It tipped backward.

Mathal sprang off its thigh and buried her own claw into its jaw with a vicious uppercut. The bone shattered. Skeleton and dislocated skull broke the surface of the swamp with a mighty smack. The quagmire sucked the bones down.

The second skeleton backed the others to the edge of the stage. One claw came down over Tarvi, but Gorvio held it off with his staff, grunting with exertion. The second claw came down. Mathal’s nails caught it by the palm.

It screamed a silent roar into their faces, jaws rearing for a body-splitting bite.

“Kiyah!” Moris screamed back.

His curved sword snapped the upper and lower jaws in a single strike.

The necromantic magic animating the bones gushed out from the skeleton’s many wounds, blasting the four with the smell of the grave. The skeleton collapsed in a heap of bones that thunked into the swamp.

The four breathed hard. One by one, Tarvi, Gorvio, Moris, and Mathal turned back to the breathless audience.

The crowd went wild.

The four blood-soaked players couldn’t enjoy their ovations. Two trials remained.

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  1. mdh's Avatar
    What happened to the EB forum? Who was left and who was gone? I just got back from a device issue and web access issue but this past weekend the game forums were still there...