Chapter 2- The Waivering of the Thread + Spotify playlist
Here is the second chapter of Frontliners and a spotify playlist to make it better.
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Want better emersive expirence? play this playlist while you read. Songs are choosen based on average reading time and are thematically perfect. Now let’s move on to this weeks chapter of The Myth of Krisodoris, The Frontliners.
“So you want us to track down an escaped prisoner?” Octavius asked now surrounded by the rest of the party. “Not just any escaped prisoner, but Stoink Zebralis. She was a prisoner of war and is known for blasting things.” Sybil said.
“I know her. It was one of my contingents soldier who got her in.” Sir Reginald added. “And I ask you to bring her back again. Open in an enemy country, who knows where the next blast will happen.” the watch master added.
“That means every citizen of Lumise is at the risk of life?” Prima asked. “Positive.” the watch master clarified.
Durm scratched his clean shaved cheek and asked, “What do we get for it?”
“Service to the nation has no price,” Reginald said.
“No, No. He is correct commander, I need to pay you for your services.” The watch master strokes his moustache, adjusts his floppy hat, and tightens his scarf. “I believe 500 gold pieces per person shall be enough for this minor errand, I have asked you to run. I shall also give the Crowns Guard badges which symbolizes that you are here for official purpose, You can keep them after the mission.”
“Can you give me your hat once?” Ape asks. The watch master takes off his hat showing his brown hair which seems unaffected by his age. “There you go.” Ape carefully examines the hat and then says, “You have aged well, Sir, very very well. I hope my feathers stay young as I turn mid-century. And this cap, it's gorgeous, where did you get this?”
“The new market. It’s dirt cheap and yet.” The watch master replied blushing from the compliments he had just received.
“That’s so generous of you to tell me. Another favor to ask can you make our pay 5000gp per person?” Ape hopefully asked. “That would be out of my pocket. I cannot spend that much, no not a chance.” the watch master firmly said.
“Then can you at least increase it to 1000gp?” Ape slyly remarked. “I suppose I could be generous this time and yes, I will pay you 1000gp each, once you deliver my prisoner.” The watch master agreed, thrusting his hand forward for a shake to close the deal. Sir Reginald firmly shook hands.
The watch master handed an envelope to Durm and left the room. Durm neatly unsealed the envelope and pulled out five copper and gold inlaid badges with LE written in its centre. Inside was a note that read, “ Wearing these badges signifies your allegiance and the fact that you are working under the direct or indirect order of the Open Lord. No city official will restrict your actions in any way or means but remember with great power comes great responsibility.”
Everybody wore a badge at a visible location on their chest and checked out from the inn. Then they exited into the grand city, Lumise. It was the summer months and the sun was shining, drizzling its warm rays across the city. The air was filled with the appetizing smell of Spiced Honey Bread and Grilled meat. Summers in Lumise are quite comfortable, and it's a great time for citizens and visitors to congregate outside. The markets are busier than at any other time of year. Sometimes, though, warm air pushes up from the south and settles in the valleys north and east of the city. This air gets trapped, creating a hot spell that might last days or weeks, this is called Loo. That is the only time when activity in the city slows to a crawl since Lumisines are unaccustomed to such heat. However, our heroes cannot stop for enjoying the summer delight that is Lumise. They have to hold it for later as they have a dangerous prisoner to track. They track the Gearhole hills travelling next to the river Lumine. As they travel higher the city fades away and the only part of the city visible is the Skyplough, a massive tower dedicated to the gods housing the shrines of every god within it. The wilderness seems to increase and bushes grow denser. Prima was leading the party due to her prior experience of living in the forest for 17 years. Ape was enjoying himself eating different berries and mushrooms on the way, the last time he had such a feast was in a pirate ship. Sir Reginald and Octavius were however regretting their decision to not row across the river. Durm was busy drawing on a notepad, what seemed to be a sketch of botanical plants. By evening they had reached the prison. Now the sun had been replaced by the moon, and what was the sun’s heat was now replaced by the moon's cold. As they headed towards the gate, it became easy to see the metallic sheen of many tall steel plates affixed to the mountainside-the outer walls of Gearhole Prison. Moonlight and still-smouldering fires frame the billowing smoke that pours from a gaping cavity in the rock and metal, marking the violent escape route taken by the goliath prisoner and her accomplices. “You are not allowed to be here. If you move a single step further it would be my duty to fend you away by either wounding or killing.” The prison guard said.
“I am Commander Sir Reginald Stuart Lane of the house Amcathra. I along with my companions am here to investigate the breakout and escape of Stoink Zebralis, on the direct order of the Eastward watchmaster Sybil Slantongue and the indirect order of the Open Lord herself.” Sir Reginald said showing the badge the watch master had given. “I am sorry. Please enter Commander Reginald of the house Amcathra.” the guard apologized and opened the doors. “You are nobility?” Octavius demanded. “Not by birth. My second heir, my daughter Elenor married the third son of the duke of Amcathra. Since then she is the duchess of Susicath and I have the title Sir.” Sir Reginald explained as the party followed another prison guard till the sight of escape. “Elnor Ancathra-Lane, I think I know her. I supply grapes for her winery.” Durm added. “People, Look here,” Prima said getting all the attention towards a hole.
A ten-foot-wide hole edged with twisted steel and the jagged rock opened up above a pile of rubble. Beyond it lay a badly damaged stone prison cell, which was nothing more but a grey stone artlessly carved into a room housing an overturned bed charred on one side. A window on the left side of the room allowed the prisoner to see the freedom outside and served as both a soothing juice and burning acid. A mangled chamber pot is embedded in the right wall, where an elf in a long leather coat is pulling it from the stone. She pockets three charred pieces of paper from the brass pot before turning and acknowledging our hero's presence.
“So you are rival bounty hunters?” she asks, carelessly stalking her white hair. “Umm, no. We are on contract with the watch master. Of course, we didn’t know that he has also put roaches like you on this mission before accepting it, or else...” Prima was interrupted, “Or else you would have again run away back to your baby cradle and fear the name that is Yinra Emberwind.” the elf said. “There was a medical emergency!” Prima shouted. “Oh! Did I knock your socks off too hard? Or is my fear gone viral?” Yinra mocked. “Arrrrr! You guys have some history?” Ape asked moving between the arguing ladies. “Yes. Guys, Meet Yinra, part-time healer, part-time bounty hunter, full-time ass.”
“Don’t worry. I have got all the clues one could get here. Best of luck getting anything good, see you from the podium losers.” Yinra said. She then turned towards Ape and added, “And give me back the papers you took from my pocket. I have worse ways of telling you the same.”
Ape silently handed her the papers from his fanny pack. Yinra scorned and walked away. “Let’s leave. Yinra is probably right, maybe there is nothing to be gained here.” Prima scornfully said.
“I beg to differ.” Ape differed and walked towards the bed and looked at it thoughtfully. “Got anything birdie?” Prima mocked.
“Well, not much.” Ape said pulling out a fist-sized piece of blackened and sulphurous copper embedded in the overturned bed and a squirrel shaped iron robot embedded in the wall, broken beyond the point of functionality or repair. “Big deal. We know that things are broken in here. Tell me something I don’t know.” Prima shouted wildly. Durm indicated to her that again that's not how you talk in cities.
“Ok let me tell you what else we got. The escape was assisted by another person, perhaps someone with access to automatons and explosives. The hole was blasted from the inside using the squirrel automaton. However, it looks like our hidden genius didn’t realize the thickness of stone and had to punch open the wall using something with the fist slightly smaller than the hole, aka a copper-based human-controlled automaton which was that time still in work. We are looking for someone with experience in engineering and criminal history, maybe a war scientist who turned rogue.” Ape said.
“And you got all that from two pieces of rumble?” Sir Reginald asked.
“Ah-hay captain!” Ape enthusiastically said. “Commander.” Commander Lane corrected. “Now where do we go next?” Durm asked. “I have an old friend who might know something,” Octavius replied.
So it turned out that Octavius’s old friend lived on the other side of the city. The next day, our heroes, tired of yesterdays tracking decided to pay a few extra coins and travel by the Griffen cabs. Soaring past the outer walls of the city bought them back into the Gearhole Mountain range. After a small climb, the characters reached The Assembly Yard. Row after row of shaded construction bays and towers flanked by partially built catapults, heavy cannons, and other odd, experimental weaponry were encircled by metal fences. Following the directions, Octavius had to lead them towards high piles of metal sheetings and the sounds of continuous hammering.
“Cleff? Where are you?” Octavius calls. A middle-aged, amiable gnome walks out of the workshop and runs towards Octavius, and hugs him. “Octavius, Old friend; How is it all going? How come the old Gnome came to your mind?” Cleff asked. “Don’t ask. Since the all-father ripped the weave, I am still trying to reach my former glory. I have been recently hunting for some war criminal and therefore I need you to check these out for me.” Octavius told handing Cleff the copper shrapnel and the broken automaton.
Ape whispered in Octavius’s ear and said, “Don’t you think it is unsafe handing evidence to a friend who you haven’t seen in ears?”
“That’s a valid point, Parrot girl,” Cleff said. “However, other than just being Octo’s old friend, I am the main weapons and explosive’s designer for the military.”
“Thanks for your services, Sir.” Sir Reginald saluted.
“Same to you Commander.” Cleff wished back. “Now for your copper shrapnel, It was in a high powered automaton which may have broken down. The peculiar thing is that it has traces of unburnt gunpowder. Go to the Blaze ‘n’ Boom factory, the only legal producers of blasting powders in Lumisine, they are the ones who can test the powder for which days batch it was. As for the automaton, This resembles my Phat Ghus 2.0. However, This is not my craftmanship. As if someone stole the design from me and is using it, Stahly.”
“What does Stahly mean?” Prima asked.
“Oh, It's an inside joke. We had a classmate called Huron Stahlmast. Talented but impatient, Stahlmast was prone to copying the work of others and executing it poorly. That's why we call every 2nd-grade copy Stahly.” Octavius explained. “So is it your classmate who is doing this?” Prima asked.
“Not likely. I think after he was exiled after the great fire. Right?” Cleff confirmed.
“For all I know, that was the case,” Octavius confirmed. “So shall we go to this Blaze ‘n’ Boom if the childhood reunion is now over?” Prima taunted. Octavius and Cleff shook hands as Cleff left for his workshop and our heroes for the factory.
After a walk down the mountain, Our heroes re-entered the city and followed the city map to the Blaze ‘n’ Boom factory. It is a brown-and-red brick building that is larger than one would expect it to be, its black-iron roof stretches over its massive compound. The scent of sulfur and blasting powder, which is uncannily similar to that in the prison cell, is faint on the air here. As the heroes draw near, a guard approaches them with a suspicious look. “This is a military-grade production site. You are not allowed in here.” The halfling gurard says. “I am Commander Sir Reginald Stuart-Lane of House Amcathra on official purpose by the direct and indirect order of the Eatward Watchmaster Sybil Slantongue and the Open Lord of Lumise herself respectively.” Sir Reginald orderly said. “And you think I am a fool? Tomorrow another imposter will come and tell me that he is the son of the Open Lord. He will paint a fake official sign and expect me to allow him inside an official factory? Idiots who are also con men.” the guard angrily ranted. “But my fair lady, what if the man was telling the truth? What if the goliath standing in front of you is an actual commander here on official business. What if you decided to not let him in based on assumptions?” Ape sly-fully continued, “Your employer will be incredibly pissed off. He will lose the favour of multiple guilds, all thanks to you. Won’t that cause you to lose your job? Then isn’t allowing us inside aligned with your and your organizations best interests?”
“You raise a point worth noting parrot lady. Follow me.” the guard said opening the door and leading the heroes to the office of their head. “Okey guys, Let me talk to this person. CEO to CEO.” Durm suggested. “I’ll counter, we all walk in with you. You ask questions but we stand there for protection, Done shorty?” Prima asked. “We don’t call people that here. It’s called body shaming.” Ape explained.
“So I can’t call short people ‘shorty’ in cities? That's absurd.” Prima expressed. “Live with it. Now we have a CEO to talk to.” Octavius said ending the debate. A few moments later they were called into the office, there they were greeted by a brown bearded dwarf who was angry, very very angry. “So you are the pesky officials this time? I run a legal business and any blast happens and people come running to me as if I had personally supervised the blast. Who am I, God? What the Flumperskin can I do if one of the military people is a traitor? You know what, The open lord is scared of losing her seat and she is trying all these things to undermine the blame onto someone else.”
“Calm down, mister. Is it possible if some powder was smuggled out of the factory?” Durm asked. The dwarf remained silent as he stood upon a stool, opened an almirah and pulled out a fat book which he banged in front of Durm. “Here is the ledger. Check the entire thing, If you find a single gram of powder missing has my head. If a single gram is missing for the striking clocks of Benish, you can have my bearded head.” he shouted. Durm casually flipped the pages while the angry dwarf drank water to calm himself down. He then said, “Sorry for the rudeness. I am Salen BlazeBoom. It’s just that a lot is going on with me. Despite having the best security in the entire empire, We had the thieves guild test it. Of the 230 thieves, not even 1 could enter our premises. However, my best artisan and supplier Nima Cinred, a goblin, is missing. Ever since the jailbreak happened on the Night de Revolution; I was scared that maybe Nima isn’t truly sick. Maybe she has changed her loyalties. A few of her compatriots have tried to visit her, but she won't let anyone in. I am noticeably fearful over how bad this illness might be. Can you guys help me? Can you check on her once? Maybe she responds to you?”
“Ok, your ledgers are clean. Almost too clean but yes it shows no signs of unfair play.” Durm announced with a sense of finality. “We’ll check on her at once. Maybe she is our key to finding the escaped prisoner.” Prima said accepting the request. “I am eternally grateful to you. Just for accepting my plea, I will give you guys a pouch of blasting powder. It may help, either to find Nima or to catch the escaped prisoner.” Salen said handing our heroes a pouch of fresh blasting powder.
Travelling to the north of the city, where most workers reside, our heroes approach the humble abode that Salen BlazeBoom had directed them towards. The blue-painted wooden walls are streaked with dirt bought by the hot breeze. A clumsily painted sign hanging on the front door reads: "Contagious Sickness within. Do Not Disturb." Curtains at the windows all appear to be closed alongside the fact that the outer doorknob is dusty and has not been used for a few days, if not weeks.
Prima knocks loudly at the door and shouts, “Nima, you there we are here from Boom ‘n’ Blaze.”
“Guy-guys, I don’t wan-want you sick. Achoo! Go away. When-when I am well I’ll come back on my own. Aa-Achoo!” the voice behind the door nervously says. “Two things, The voice is nervous-and is definitely not a female gnome,” Durm says. “I don’t think so. What if she is actually sick?” Prima objects. “Thou shall not trouble a person sicketh, eleth the sickness shalet trouble you.” Sir Reginald said quoting the book of Forsetti.
“Guys, on second thought; I agree with Durm. She didn’t even touch the knob for support and was shaking almost as if there was an earthquake. What are the chances that two smaller creatures were standing on each other?” Ape argued. Suddenly a loud sound came from Durm’s side, He had shot an arrow straight through the lock. “Let's check on this sick goblin,” Durm shouted. The entire street gave him a strange stare, “I meant in a considerate way, not in the looks way.” Durm clarified, the street was still staring. “Official business guys official business. Nothing to see here.” Octavius defended as they all walked inside and closed the door. The interior of Nima Cinnarid's house is dark except for a guttering candle on the back table. “This is not a goblin smell. Almost kobaldish.” Prima said. “Oh! come on it is a sick goblin. The smell may have changed.” Sir Reginald said. “I don’t think..” Prima was interrupted with a primal guttering war cry like a pack of tiny craven reptile-humanoids attacked them, Kobolds. Just before the Kobolds could make their first attack Prima pulled out a Salmac leaf and whipped it in the air to create a scimitar, not a normal scimitar but a scimitar of flame. She then hit one jumping kobold with it creating Kobald fumes. However, She was unable to defend the other attacks which were all targeted upon Sir Reginald, due to his big build. Some were blocked by his armour, others by his shield, but as they say Pack Tactics are the best tactics. The attacks were enough to mortally wound the war veteran. Octavius telekinetically pulled back Sir Reginald to prevent further worsening of conditions. Ape then signalled Durm and stabbed one of the kobolds with his rapier, leaving it lifeless. Durm fired two arrows on two kobolds trying to surround him, both of them fell down as soon as the arrow touched them. Prima’s body glowed as the constellation of chalice got embedded upon her. She then said a word in an unknown tongue causing an angelic glow to surround Sir Reginald. He slowly woke up and roared revenge upon his wounders. Octavius opened his leather spellbook and closed his eyes, which when opened released three beams of magic that hit three kobolds, whose bodies flew across the room. The remaining five kobolds attacked the resurrected commander, but this time the commander was ready. He flung his two handaxes on two different kobolds, decapitating them. Their heads fell on the floor and rolled like a football covering the inner woodworks with blood. He grabbed another kobold with his bare hands choking it. Big mistake. The other two kobolds stopped in their tracks and stabbed themselves. “Run!” Octavius and commander Reginald together exclaimed as they both dived away. Ape followed their example like an obedient child. Durm and Prima also ran as fast as possible, but alas Prima’s bear fell out of her tracking bag. Durm ran back, “Stop. You’ll die. The bear can...” Prima was interrupted by a boom. The kobalds weren’t normal kobalds. They had bombs fitted within them. One by one they all blasted in a chain reaction. Durm was nowhere to be seen. As the blasts subsided, Ape and Prima ran into the zone to see a lifeless Durm, covered in kobold flesh and burnt blasting powder. Within his arms lied a bear who was unhurt.
Durm saw a tree, a tree larger than the largest he had seen before. Suddenly a rainbow bridge formed over him, he looked above and couldn’t see anything but a faint godly glow. The bridge sucked him upwards with a dizzying speed.
When his eyes opened, there was a half bear-half human standing towards him. Unlike other bears, he was twilight purple and emitted a starry glow. “Durm Dunerider, Welcome to Asguard. You have died a noble death protecting an animal in danger. However, you shall not be sent to the afterlife; for the bear you protected was not a normal bear. It was me, Ursa, the God of stars. I reward you with this clock.” the god said handing Durm a thick, dark black cloak. “What is this, Ursa?” Durm kindly asked.
“This is the clock of the bat. Created by me using the blood of Red Queen, the lady of vampires. The fabric was made from thousands of bat wings and all of this was imbued and purified by my divine magic. While wearing this cloak, you can hide in the darkness of night or the shadows of the day. In an area of darkness, you can grip the edges of the cloak with both hands and use it to fly at a speed matching the eagles. While wearing the cloak at night, you can transform into a bat. While you are in the form of the bat, you retain your mental prowess along with gaining the nimbleness of the bat. The clock cannot do it more than once per night. I am sure you will enjoy and appreciate it.” Ursa explained.
“Thanks a lot, Ursa. Can I ask why you were a bear, travelling with Prima?” Durm asked. “That shall be told to you by her. Know I shall return your soul to the mortal world. Your friends are waiting for you.” Ursa said. But before Durm would leave he added, “Durm, I also want to tell you one other thing. That is the nature of souls.”
“What?” Durm was surprised. “Every time someone is mortally wounded or declared dead; the thread connecting the soul with its mortal container, its destiny waivers. At one point, it snaps causing nothing short of Wish cast by an experienced caster to weave it back in. Today, by saving you, I have caused your thread to waiver more than what it otherwise would. If you are resurrected a few more times, It won’t be possible for me or any normal mortal to save you. Keep that in mind, going ahead.”
While on the other side of the spectrum, our heroes were trying everything to bring back their friends. Magical shocks, Mouth to Mouth, stuffing in his mouth his own magical berries; everything. Suddenly, Durm’s eyes opened. He looked at Prima and said, “Your bear, He saved me.”