OUR HEROES: Tira Wolfsdaughter Hank Woodman Haiku Odsdottir Gilead Persia


16. Annihilator 3: The Recovery   

The characters stand in amazement, all but Gilead, who has never met Scorch, and Hank, who is far across the hall by the tomb of the Red Archon. Scorch gives a signal and two other fighters enter the great mausoleum chamber. Tira's spirit sight quikly reveals that they have had their morphia and anima augmented. They will be fast and strong. Scorch says the penalty for entering the mausoleum is death. Gilead counters by saying that Scorch is obviously not supposed to be trespassing here either, to which the enforcer replies that he is already dead. What can they do to him? Cut off his head?

Battle quickly begins. Scorch's once legendary skill with a blade seems a little tarnished by his death and re-animation. Gilead quickly proves to be his superior. The two henchmen, Char, Haiku and Persia battle savagely. Tira uses her sight to guide them, warning them of subterfuge or surprise maneuvers. Peter Shroud stands on the sidelines, abjuring them to silence and peace. Finally, they pause. Entreaties for a parley seem to have swayed Scorch. Also, Persia has downed one of his henchmen. While they speak, Tira realizes that Scorch is hiding something. By gazing at the emotions of his psyche, she realizes that he is stalling. He wants to delay them.

They quickly realize that there is another player on the field. The golems are escorting a strange, sallow-faced man in odd rich robes toward the secret exit. They hail the man and realize that he is bearing the naked blade Annihilator. At this point, a demolishing blow from Gilead removes Scorch's sword arm at the shoulder. The smell of putrescence reveals his need for the masking cologne. The stranger sees the party as well and advances with the sword. Scorch has gone mad at this point and is attacking Gilead, who throws up a skillful defense.

The party is nervous about engaging the demonblade until they realize that the stranger is not so much engaging them as he is retreating from the drawing room. Yet another person enters the combat as Iron John strides into the room. The bladewielder rushes past the party with blinding speed, obviously enhanced, but a well placed leg sweep from Haiku sends him sprawling. The demon sword skitters across the flagstones, where it is retrieved by Hank. Persia and Char attack the stranger and stun him.

At this point Iron John takes in the scene in the chamber. He spies Annihilator in Hanks hands and rushes him with surprising speed. Hank attempts to reason with the manikin, but the iron one says that they are bearing a stolen blade in a forbidden place. He strikes at Hank with calm ruthlessness. Hank, though broken by Iron John's sword Crystalwind suddenly realizes that Annihilator confers swordsmanship. He swings the blade artfully and shatters three of Iron John's ribs. Tira, who has fruitlessly tried to open the front door, gambles that the metal man will chase whoever has the sword and runs past them, yelling to Hank to give her the blade. Hank is doubtful of the plan, but does so. Tira continues past, using all the running skill learned from the wolves of Ungava. Iron John glances at her, and delivers another blow to Hank, seemingly from pure spite. Hank's barrel chest shatters. Iron John then chases Tira.

Meanwhile the sallow-faced stranger has run toward the trapdoor to freedom. He pauses at the exit to yell a command to those in his service. “Lethe!” he shouts. Instantly, Scorch, the remaining henchman and Peter Shroud go limp and inactive. The stranger disappears down the shaft. Persia dives down after him, using her weight to knock him from the rungs to the passage below. She also falls, but is less hurt due to her incredible agility.

Tira is immediately after her, followed by Haiku, bearing Hank's still aware head, and Char, wounded but moving. Tira makes it to the bottom of the shaft, but Haiku and Char are struck by a plummeting body. Iron John has stepped into the shaft, trusting his heavy metal form to crush those below. The two squeeze tight to the side if the shaft and all are briefly entangled. The heroes right themselves first and follow Tira and Persia down the passage. They carry the body of the sword thief with them. Though some are wounded, they run with great effort as fast as they can through the passage.

Tira, bearing no burden other than the sword, reaches the far end well in advance of the others. While she waits for them to catch up, she feels an odd sensation from the sword. There is a strong psychometric image associated with it. She has no control over the feelings as she is swept in all her senses to another time and place...

If you are a Palyer Character in the Savage Earth and want to maintain a sense of mystery, do not read this link, otherwise to read Tira's vision, click here.

When the others catch up, they find the young adept looking extremely troubled. What she has seen in the sword has deeply disturbed her, but she will not tell the others. Persia and Hank remind Tira that Iron John is hot on their heels. They need to move and move fast. Tira says they need to take the sword directly to Ningan and no one else. Persia says there are no secret routes into the old circle from this side. They need advice and a safe place to discuss their next action. The cat girl uses her cast knowledge of the secret ways of the city to lead them towards the River Master's dock. By travelling under and over the ground, the elude the metal assassin.

Gilead has been left behind, of course. He elects not to follow the others, since Iron John lies between them. Besides, he is intrigued by what has been done to Scorch, Peter and the henchman. They appear to be totally insensible. They do not react when spoken to, but can be easily manipulated or made to walk. He takes them to the front door of the mausoleum and tries asking the doors to “open”. They are animated doors and do so upon the spoken command. He gazes across the water to the shore but has difficulty making out what individual people are doing in the crowd. He begins to remove the bodies from the sacred place. He quickly realizes that he is being observed. Cries of “blasphemer” and “tomb robber” are being hurled across the water. He continues with his task, since the barge is on the far shore. On his last trip, he is surprised to see the Bishop of Tallon flanked by three paladins. He tries to explain what has happened. The bishop listens to his story, but has him arrested anyway. A hood is thrown over his face and he is led onto the barge along with the mind-wiped henchman. A paladin quickly searches the mausoleum and reports to the Bishop that there has been fighting and bloodshed inside. Gilead is transported to the mainland and whisked away by coach. He is protected from the wrath of the crowd by the paladin guard.

Down by the ferry dock, Persia has successfully led the party to the Columbia. They hail Crockett and are allowed to board. Tira and Haiku are taken to be patched up and ship's carpenter Johnwayn is given the task of seeing to Hank. The captive is placed in irons. Once assured they are alone, Tira shows the sword to Crockett. She does not go into detail about her vision, but tells the River Master that the sword contains impressions that would be politically disastrous should they become general knowledge. She tells him that she must get the sword directly to the Archon. Crockett is intrigued, but will not touch the sword.

Once they are attended to, the party summons a coach and ride along with Crockett to the palace. Domo gives them some difficulties at the gate, claiming that Ningan is tired. But once they tell him what they bear, they are allowed entrance. Ningan greets them in his bed chamber. He is tired and weak, but as sharp and alert as ever. He listens to their story. He orders the captive to be placed in a deep pit under the palace.

He tells them that the man is most likely a master, probably a grandmaster, of the city of Mingatok. Mingatok the Wicked,City of Flesh is the farthest and strangest of the cities of the Merikian League. There they practice many forbidden arts, including the reanimation of dead bodies. Scorch is what the Mingatoki call a zombie. The code word “Lethe” that the man shouted was a command that shut down their psyches. What he was doing in the Mauosleum or why he took the sword is still a mystery.

Tira asks to speak to the Archon privately. Ningan, who realizes she has held the blade, agrees. Before leaving, Hank asks the Archon if he would speak to Iron John and ask him to please not kill them. Ningan agrees, though he admits the manikin can be creative in interpretation of orders. Hank also asks the aged ruler if he would tell him the name of his descendant, in case they should not meet again. Ningan tells him that there is a temple in Little Tallon dedicated to the disciple Patha. He should ask for Sister Winninpeg. Hank thanks him. Persia asks to have an audience after Tira. The Archon agrees, and they exit the chamber.

Tira tells her vision to Ningan. who listens and verifies all she has seen and heard. He tells her that she was right. Should the vision of the sword become known, it would destroy his authority as Archon. The political rivalry between the Hannonists and the Novyists would become deadlier. All that he has done during his reign would become suspect; the humanitarian reforms would be ignored. He also tells her that though she has returned the sword to him before any other adept could touch it, a powerful psychist could pluck the secret from her if she were to dwell upon it. She agrees to have the memory expunged from her psyche if the old man is up to the task.

Though Ningan confirms that his illness is fatal, he says he has the strength to comply. A few minutes later, and Tira can remember nothing other than that the sword agve her a disturbing image that the Archon has kindly removed.

Meanwhile, Gilead has been transported to an unknown location by Bishop Thane. He is whisked down into an underground chamber where the minister probes his psyche. After a long time, Thane says that Gilead's story is true. He orders the young man released. He apologizes for the treatment, but says that if he and his paladins had not taken him from the mausoleum in such a manner, he would surely have been torn apart by the crowd. He cautions Gilead about taking high matters into his own hands, and has a paladin escort him to the Hall of Art.

Here he awakens Farallon. The student-morphist is not surprised to hear that Tira is in trouble again, but agrees to help Gilead search for her. They start with the library, her usual haunt. There they find her. She has returned to the library after leaving the palace. They compare notes. Farallon says a few things which make Tira wonder if he ever picked up Annihilator. He denies doing so, but doubts remain.

Across the Old Circle, Haiku has borne Hank's head to Mistress Dakota. The bodiless manikin tells the Grandmaster of his near-fatal encounter with Iron John. Dakota tells him that together they can rebuild his body in a stronger, better engineered fashion. It will require waiting for special wood shipped in from Orodon, but it can be done.

Note; Persia's player had to leave before her interview with Ningan. This will be updated later.