I hate to say it, but I think I’m almost getting used to the feeling of portals.
With a swirl of light and a whirlwind of cards we are dumped unceremoniously into a field full of sepia-toned grass under an overcast sky as cards scatter around us. In the distance I can make out the faded colors of a carnival tent and a battered sign for The Midnight Circus. It’s strange… but the place just feels… defeated. Can a place be resigned to its fate? I wonder.
In the meantime, Lenata and I decide it would be a good idea to pick up those cards. If they can open a portal into another realm, who knows what other uses they might be good for. Besides… I like the artwork on them.
The sounds of a struggle soon draw the attention of the others, however, as a small gnobby figure wearing an apron runs out of one of the tents, only to be assaulted by a group of crows dressed like clowns.
“Why don’t you all pick on someone who isn’t outnumbered, eh?” Ef Utan challenges as he throws a TK fist and feathers start to fly. Vedis eagerly leaps to his side and the two show the crows whatfor as I chuckle and finish picking up the cards.
“Help! Help! The Lord will me… it’s in the soup,” the strange creature cries as Word tries to question him. “We’ve got to get Melchot out of here!”
“We mean you no harm, gentle creature,” Word replies. “Tell us who you and your lord are.”
“I am Biovena the Chef!” the creature replies proudly. “Only chef amongst the Storykin! The Lord… he is Lord Sessarion, and he is a dragon of all colors and the leader of the conspirators. He has Melchot prisoner!”
“The conspirators?” Vedis prompts.
“The nine conspirators took away the Storyteller,” the cook replies as he looks at us cautiously. “There are 9 Realms for the 9 Conspirators.”
“I have an idea… let me attempt something and see if I can find a way out of this realm,” says Word as he steps back and floats in mid-air in a meditative stance. The stones embedded in his shell start to pulse when suddenly there is a flash of bright blue light… and he’s gone.
“What the… where did he go?” Ef Utan asks as he rubs his eyes.
“It looks like he was attempting to phase shift,” Vedis replies in concern," but I don’t know where he ended up."
Illustration by Syreene
Our theories will have to wait, however, as another flash of light appears and a now familiar swirling of wind shoots out of a portal to reveal a curious person dressed in a long coat and floppy hat. As the light of the dull sun glints off of the star-shaped medallion around his neck, I am reminded of that god Murlynd we encountered while visiting Aionius.
“Hey, nice clothes!” I say as I walk up to him nonchalantly and inspect his medallion. “This is cool… I’ve seen one of these before, although he was wearing it like a brooch. Really nice guy, in fact…”
“Pardon me, strange lady,” he replies as he takes a step back and his hand drifts to his hip in a familiar movement. I see… he’s got a gun too! “Who are you people?”
“We’re travellers such as yourself,” Lenata replies as we go through the round of introductions. “And you are?”
“I am Melchior Babel, ma’am,” he says as he tips his hat in Lenatas direction. “I paid a sorcerer for some quick transportation, yet I seem to have found myself here.”
“I’d ask for your money back if we can ever get out of here,” I snort.
“I really must get back to the soup before my Lord gets hungry!” Biovena whines as he reminds us what we were doing before all the teleportation whoo-hah.
“Not before you answer some of my questions too,” Melchior replies with a hard glint to his eyes. “Justice demands the truth, and the truth shall set you free.”
I take a step back and cross my arms in concern. Okay… he’s one of those religious warrior types. Good to know. Note to self… make sure he’s not looking when doing anything questionable.
Biovena cringes under Melchiors penetrating stare. “Lord Sessarian likes to eat real people… so he was real happy when the stranger appeared with the metal canister. Owl seemed to think it was real important, too!”
A metal canister… I wonder if Melchots brain is in there? If so.. who could the person be? Melchots other half? Or is it the Witchlight Marauder Key? Gods above… it would’ve been nice to have known what that was supposed to look like.
“And what about these conspirators?” Melchior prods as his hand drifts to his hip again.
Apparently that did it for Biovena, as he proceded to tell us what he knew of the conspirators:
- Bernaditi runs the Midnight Circus
- Brambleson runs The Briar
- The Barrow King runs the Mourning Choir
- Marselee the Weaver runs The Man-Molds
- The Shadow of Sonaree runs the Prophet’s Garden
- Ballomar runs the Sanguine Playhouse
- The Tic-Toc Man runs the Smith Caldera
- The Night Peddler runs the Trackless Dearth
- Sessarian the Patchwork Lord runs the Striding Fortress
Apparently the nine conspirators killed and ate Sonree the Bard, and divided her parts between them. In order for us to find the Striding Fortress and confront Sessarian, we will need at least 6 of the 9 tokens for them to lead the way to its latest location.
“So Bernaditi is here,” Vedis says as she looks to the circus signs. “What does he look like?”
“You can’t miss him… he’s the one with the crocodile head!” Biovena replies and then runs off. “I must finish the soup!”
“Well then,” says Lenata as she turns to our new guest, “worshippers of Murlynd are welcome if you wish to travel with us.”
“Yeah, like I said… he seemed like a really nice guy when I met him… didn’t really have a chance to talk much, though. Maybe you could tell me more about his ways, eh? I’m really fancy on those boomsticks he had…” I offer with a smile.
“Hold up… you say you’ve met him?” he asks with a raised brow.
“Yeah, on the Edge of Time…” Ef Utan replies.
“While visiting the Sapphire Mage that Star Archon sent us on a quest for…” Lenata continues.
“Before we went through the Plane of Time and got sent 15 years into the future smack-dab in the middle of the 2nd Inhuman War of all things,” Vedis finishes.
“It sounds like it would behoove me to travel with you after all,” Melchior offers in amazement. “I too would like to meet Murlynd if I could.”
“Stick with us then,” I say with a grin as I clap him on the shoulder. “Meeting deities seems to be our regular Thursday night thing these days.”