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Blog 224: Campaign Novelization

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This is my favoritely titled of all the chapters and was one of the most fun to write--Rizzardo, drunk Rizzardo. And he's not the only one not thinking straight. Mathal and Crosael are fairly out of it too, ahaha.

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Chapter 35: Plan Drunk, Heist Hungover

Mathal crawled out from chair city into bright, eye-stabbing light. She massaged her throbbing head with an incoherent grumble and continued to crawl on all fours up the curling staircase. Crosael and Rizzardo had fallen asleep over a chalk smear, Rizzardo spooning her brother. Mathal shook their ankles. Crosael woke with a wince and Rizzardo with a loud groan deep from the core.

Mathal and Crosael crawled off to set their spells for the day. Rizzardo went back to sleep for another hour.

There wasn’t a scrap of solid food in the guildhall, but the plumbing still worked and there were plenty of opened but unfinished bottles of alcohol. Mathal and Crosael had water for breakfast. Rizzardo grabbed a bottle for the road.

All three used their magic detection to stumble safely through Delvehaven’s lawn and out into the wide, overbright and overloud world. As Crosael led them over the bridge to the isle of the rich, his fingers twitched. He reached up to pull down the brim of a floppy hat long gone from his head. He muttered Aklo curses under his breath.

A pair of donkeys pulled a merchant cart past. In a single, fluid motion, Crosael snagged the end of a olive green cloth sheet from the back of the cart. Thankfully, there wasn’t a guard or Hellknight in sight, likely all paid off to act as personal guards to the Council nobles to stave off assassination while they negotiated for the position of lord-mayor.

As they walked and the cart wheeled away, it continued to unroll between them. Mathal snicked her nail through the taut sheet. He wrapped his end shawl-like over his head and shoulders. The cart’s end flapped into the mud, much to the amusement of two small children on the hands of their parent. She punched his cloaked shoulder.

“You can turn invisible.”

He cursed.

“You’re right.”

He vanished just as the merchant stopped the cart and climbed out to investigate the source of the children’s laughter.

“Follow the sound of my voice.”

“Who said that?” asked Rizzardo, squinting into the middle distance.

Mathal rubbed a temple and grabbed Rizzardo’s non-drinking hand. She pulled him in the direction of Crosael’s humming. Not four blocks into the island, her brother stopped and cursed again.

“What?”

“You’re vampires weren’t the ones at the crater, were they?”

“Yeah…”

“Chances are likely they’re allied with House Oberigo. We’re about to cross into their territory, and I really can’t be seen there.”

House Drovenge and House Oberigo were the two most powerful noble houses in the city, making Vassindio Drovenge and Eirtein Oberigo the top two candidates for Westcrown’s next lord-mayor. Oberigo’s vampires had murdered Moris and tried to murder Tarvi, however. By extension, Mathal was not a fan. She was, in fact, even more determined to steal from them both.

The further they walked through blocks, the more Hellknights and dottari they spotted in the street corners and the edges of intersections. Mathal pried the bottle out of Rizzardo’s hand and shoved it into his backpack.

“You know, in some places stealing is a punishable offense,” he slurred.

She said nothing. If she’d known he’d be so affected, she’d never have let him leave the guildhall. Better he didn’t realize the bottle was still on his person.

“There, Walcourt.”

Wrought iron and twisting creeper vines walled off an entire block from the cobblestone street. The narrow gaps offered a glimpse of stone building whose stout, two-story shape predated the gothic style favored by the royal house of Thrune. Bricks closed off every window, pocketing the gray, river stone walls with sightless red eyes. Green vines connected eye to eye like a net of veins.

With a group of dottari on their side of the street, they couldn’t stop walking within sight of the building. Mathal and Crosael ducked down the nearest alley and into its merciful shade. Rizzardo stopped to look for where they’d gotten to. They yanked him in after them, Crosael’s reappearing hand over his mouth.

“Sorry about this, Mathal, but I don’t have much invisibility left. I’m afraid I’m ditching this heist. Do you want me to take him with me?”

Mathal cursed.

“Rizzardo, can you--are you capable of backup right now?”

“Pfft, I was born ready.”

“Take him.”

“Rizzardo, I’m going to disappear. I need you to follow the sound of my voice, alright?”

“I see you loud and clear.”

“Good luck.”

“Same.”

Mathal waited for them to leave the alley before crouching low to the ground in the direction of Walcourt. At her current strength, each cast of her wall-passing jaunt would only last for a minute and twenty four seconds. She was two hundred and fifty feet away from the gate, as the crow flew. In reality, buildings, civilians, and the odd carriage all stood between her and Walcourt. She rubbed her pounding temple.

“Focus.”

Every ounce of weight vacuumed out of her body. Her head rushed toward the ground at the shock. Her invisible hands slipped through the pavement. She bit back a yelp as she nearly catapulted herself through the street into the sewers below. She could see the tunnels through the stone not thirty feet under the cobblestones.

“Woah,” she breathed soundlessly into the earth.

Mathal tilted back up to the surface. One minute and eighteen seconds remaining.

“Gotta go fast.”

Magic surged into the soles of her feet. Mathal held her nonexistent breath. She pushed off from the ground. Mathal launched head-first through the alley and into the wall. She screamed.

Her ethereal body ripped through wood, wall, stone, furniture. She passed through other bodies in a churning swirl of organs. She hurtled across the street and through Walcourt’s iron gate into vine-choked building itself, tumbling and rolling through the wall to a stop inside a dark, cramped room.

Mathal uncurled herself from her protective balling and floated slightly up through and off the floor. A wall of hats of hooks stretched out beside her. There was a farmer’s straw cover, a fisherman’s hat, a safari cap, a naval captain’s tricorn and more--twelve in all. She grabbed at a floppy, wide-brimmed hat, but her hand passed straight through.

Behind the wall of the walk-in closet was a small room with no apparent door. The room itself was empty except for an open shaft through the floor, which only made it emptier. Mathal crossed over and floated down through the shaft.

She followed the shaft over a seventy feet down into the earth and below the city sewers. An unlit hallway appeared at the gray edge of her ethereal vision. Heavy wooden doors lined the long stretch of walls with a metal ring of keys dangling from a hook to the south. Behind each door, a desiccated humanoid body dangled from shackles on the wall--except for one. The cell held a filthy, ragged-clothed half-elf, emaciated but breathing.

“Moris?”

Her focus shattered. The force of her own weight dropped back into her body and knocked her to the floor. Moris raised his head at the thunk, platinum-blond locks barely parting over his sunken face, uncomfortably and exactly like Arael’s.

“Mathal?” he rasped.

She leaped up and buried her prickling eyes into his bony shoulder. He’d lost so much weight that his arms stretched across the wall like the wings of a dissected bug in the Natural History Exhibit.

“Wait, wait.”

She burned through a wall-walking spell to grab the ring of keys. She unlocked the cell door and unlocked his manacles. He fell into her arms, shoulders shaking, and buried his eyes into her shoulder.

“You found me.”

Her throat closed up over her words. He was alive. That was good enough for now. Tarvi would be ecstatic.

Metal screeched on metal hinge behind them. Mathal whipped around, her witchlocks catching Moris behind her.

In the doorway of the cell, she saw herself--older, slimmer, and with streaks of white in her waist-length, seal brown hair. Her elder sibling’s witchlocks floated and splayed out weblike behind their narrowing hazel eyes.

“Silana--”

Silana screeched sharper than metal. Liquid black shadow gushed out between their fangs and imploded over their entire body, coating their witchlocks even as a spine of twenty-foot black tentacles erupted from their back.

“Web!”

Thick white strands exploded out at Silana. They jumped into a twist of whirling tentacles. The tentacles shot through the gaps in the web. They gripped and released even the tiniest cracks in the stone.

Silana flipped down to the cell floor. Their tentacles launched at Mathal and Moris in a wall of black spears.

Mathal’s witchlocks snagged Moris back to her. She turned her back to the spears and hexed herself. Moris screamed.

Fibers frayed. Bone snapped. They stitched and knit hard and strong as steel.

But Silana’s spears lanced between muscle and bone. Mathal roared. Whiteness exploded behind her eyes. She huffed and grunted and ground her teeth as the spears drilled through her back as fast as her body could repair.

“Eat.”

The earth came up hungry and grasping. For every quagmire wave, three black tentacles shot down. They deflected the earth against the scraping grit.

None of tentacles pulled out from inside her back. They wrapped around the continuous growths. Silana yanked skeleton and tendon.

Mathal flew out from the cell. She slammed against the opposite door. The heavy wood snapped under her back. Splinters sprayed straight into her muscles.

She couldn’t scream. She couldn’t breathe. She channeled every last ounce of strength into her hair and limbs. Witchlocks wrapped around the tentacles. She braced her feet and pushed.

Tentacles stretched taut between her hair and heels. Her claws ripped through the black shadows.

Tentacles snapped. Silana doubled over and screeched. Black spears shot from her back, two for every one wrecked. They tore through Mathal.

Pain exploded into a swallowing darkness. She blacked out before they finished impaling her half-formed body to the stone wall of the cell.

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