Shadowrun - Earthdawn - Lliferock (23 page)

BOOK: Shadowrun - Earthdawn - Lliferock
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He wished for a reprieve from the pain.

It came to him a minute later. The sadness washed away This Book Belongs to: Andrew Tobin (black _ [email protected]) Liferock 

184


Jak Koke

like grime from his body; the pain vanished as he heard Sangolin’s beckoning. He rose to his feet and took the familiar steps towards his love; his sweet release. Nothing could be better; no moment more perfect than right now.

This Book Belongs to: Andrew Tobin (black _ [email protected])  Chapter Twenty-Six 

Pabl crouched behind an outcropping of rock and looked down into the clearing below. The image of the hollow resonated in his mind as he looked. The smoking cone of the volcano rose into the sky on his right, belching out soot and gurgling up a firefall of lava which flowed over the cliffs into the molten sea far below. It was similar to what he remembered from his dreams and visions of it, but different as well.

The flat space of the clearing below was surrounded on three sides by mountains. Mist drifted from away to the left, wafting up over the edge of the cliff ahead in tattered clouds.

High above, the noon sun shone hot and bright, only partially obscured by the drifts of steam. And as the mist crossed the blood-colored stone, passing through the rays of sunshine, fractured rainbows danced and fluttered in the tiny droplets which hung in the air.

“It’s hot here,” Jan said from where he hid on Pabl’s left. “Is this the place?”

“Yes,” Pabl replied, but he did not elaborate, for he was cap-tured by what he saw: obsidimen of various sizes and skin 185

Liferock 

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tones danced around a giant fire in the center of the wide hollow. All were naked except for red body paint, applied in irreg-ular stripes over their skin. There must be thirty or more, he thought. And they’re cooking meat!

A large, horned animal had been skinned and spitted, and one of the obsidiman turned it slowly over the huge fire. Even from so far away, the stench of burning flesh turned Pabl’s stomach. The meat looked to be burned to a black carbon, though Pabl had a hard time seeing all the details from this distance.

Drums beat deep and resonant, the sound throbbing through the stone and into Pabl’s bones. The drums called to him with their bass voices. Beckoning him to join the dance.

The undulating, rolling motion of the dance was unlike any obsidiman ritual or celebration Pabl had ever seen. It was a disjointed collage of expression, each obsidiman isolated from the others, held together only by the steady beat of the drums. The sight made Pabl uneasy.

So many lost brothers. All gathered together, yet still separate. Still alone.

Pabl took a deep breath and turned away from the hollow.

He sat with his back against the warm rock, and looked at Jan and Celagri. Jan stood on Pabl’s left, peering around the outcropping of stone to get a good look at Sangolin. Celagri hid in the shadows of boulders; she had been aloof and distant since Pabl had nearly succumbed to Sangolin’s call and attacked Jan.

It was ironic because ever since he had tied a thread to the pattern of his Mynbruje pendant, Pabl’s hallucinations had been weak and insubstantial. Much easier to ignore than before.

On the same day he had attacked Jan, Pabl and the others had run into a tribe of nomadic humans called Dinganni. The tribe had approached them warily, but offered fresh food and This Book Belongs to: Andrew Tobin (black _ [email protected]) Liferock 

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water after determining that Pabl and the others posed no threat. The Dinganni were sturdy and large for humans, with dark hair and keen brown eyes. They wore loose garments of tan cloth and finely worked leather.

Pabl had enjoyed the company of these humans; they lived by a strict code which Pabl understood instinctively. Mynbruje was strong in these people; they respected nature and each other. They were just, and honor flowed through their veins. Pabl had nearly forgotten about Sangolin for the two days that they had spent in the company of the Dinganni tribe.

He had been sad to leave them.

Jan had also enjoyed the time spent with the humans. At the campfire, Jan had told tales of their travels. He spun exaggerations of how Pabl had discovered the lost castle of Yon Fuiras, and told tales about how Celagri had saved them both from a company of bandits in the forests outside of Kratas. Jan relayed in embellished detail how Celagri had single-hand-edly seduced twelve of the dummies, persuading them that she would perform certain lewd acts in exchange for releasing Pabl and Jan.

Pabl had tried to contain his laughter during these stories, because although they were based on truth, they strayed too far to be believed. Celagri had merely sneaked into the bandits’ camp and cut the two of them loose. Still, the Dinganni seemed to relish Jan’s fictions, and it was largely to hear more that the human tribe had accompanied the three travelers across the narrow strip of desert to the edge of the mountains.

Only Celagri had seemed not to enjoy their time with the humans. She remained quiet, withdrawn except to provide reminders of their goal, of Pabl’s mission to find Reid Quo. She was worried that their encounter with the humans would delay them.

It had not slowed them down, however. The tribe had This Book Belongs to: Andrew Tobin (black _ [email protected]) Liferock 

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made good time across the desert, and had left the three of them at the edge of the barren mountains, wishing them good fortune. It had only taken them one more day to reach Sangolin.

Now, Jan moved away from the outcropping of rock.

“There seems to be only one path down,” he said. “But I don’t see any one on it.”

“I will have to go down there and look for Reid Quo,” Pabl said.

“Do you expect us to stay here?”

Celagri stepped out of the shadows. “No,” she said. “We all go. Or none.”

Jan turned to look at her. “What if they’re unfriendly, my dear elf? Maybe you haven’t been paying attention; they’re big and outnumber us ten to one.”

“At least,” she said. “But why have we come this far if we intended to let Pabl face this place alone?”

Jan didn’t have a response.

Pabl spoke up. “I cannot ask you to come,” he said. “No matter the consequences, I must confront Sangolin alone.”

Jan brushed his beard nervously. “You’re not here to confront Sangolin. Nothing in my contract says anything about Sangolin.”

“Contract?” Pabl was puzzled.

“Look, all I’m saying is this: Reid Quo is why you’re here.

Just bring him out and we’re done. There’s no need to be doing any extra confronting, if you know what I mean.”

Pabl sighed. “I hope it will be that easy,” he said. “But if Reid is tied to this place like the Council said he was, he won’t leave easily. He may not remember Tepuis Garen at all.”

“What will we do then?” Celagri asked.

“I’ll try to help him remember,” Pabl said. “He must remember because I don’t think I can take him back by force.”

Jan sighed, but said nothing.

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Celagri frowned.

“Of course,” Pabl continued, “there is a slight chance that Chaiel has already found Reid and is just waiting for us to show up so we can begin the journey back to Tepuis Garen.”

“And it might snow over Death’s Sea tomorrow,” Jan said.

Pabl frowned. “I was just trying to be optimistic,” he said.

“I’d like to try and take Chaiel back with us. Reid Quo is the first priority, but I don’t want to leave without Chaiel.”

Celagri stared at Pabl. “I have no love for Chaiel,” she said, “but I don’t want to see him enslaved to this Sangolin. If we can get him out, we will.”

“Fine,” Jan said, rocking from foot to foot. “I’m getting a bit anxious. Let’s do something, anyway.”

“Before we go down there, I’m going to take a look with astral sight,” Pabl said. “I want to see what I’m up against.”

“Take your time.”

Pabl slowed his breathing to bring calm. Then he focused on shifting his senses to perceive the astral. Brilliant reds and shiny blacks bombarded him. A rank odor of festering sores stung his nose, and he heard a deep hum, low and resonant, coming from down in the hollow.

He looked down the slope of the mountain, which appeared like red-brown glass in astral space. The level plateau below was corded with thick filaments, like a huge spider web, radiating out from the core. From Sangolin.

Very weird. Pabl had never seen anything like it. The filaments were opaque and knotted, completely unlike normal astral threads.

The rockfall itself was a dense pattern, looped and tangled elements which blocked Pabl’s apprehension of Sangolin’s astral imprint. The patterns of ancient wards against Horrors had been ingeniously formed within the knots and tangles. There were no Horrors here, that was clear. The power of Sangolin forced them away.

This Book Belongs to: Andrew Tobin (black _ [email protected]) Liferock 

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Pabl saw something moving below him, an undulating mass of independent patterns all connected to the center of the web by the filaments. The dancing obsidimen. They looked like marionettes suspended by the knotted red fibers which tied them to Sangolin.

The sight shocked Pabl; this was not how a natural liferock connected to its brotherhood.

Other threads became visible to him now. Almost imper-ceptible to his astral sight. Tiny silk-like strands everywhere, moving, searching. Several were attached to him already. And more followed, thicker, guided by the silky ones to stick to him. They tugged at his consciousness, enticing him to stand and move down the path towards the hollow. Toward Sangolin at the twisted center of the web.

Pabl panicked. Must get these things off. He reached into his memory and cast a simple spell.

A translucent shield appeared in astral space around Pabl, and some of Sangolin’s filaments bounced off of it. But many remained attached and struggled to hold onto Pabl. He cast the spell again.

Another astral shield appeared around Pabl. The filaments buckled and popped, releasing their hold on his pattern. Instinctively he jerked away, his body lurching back. He lost his balance and fell to the ground, crushing something soft underneath him.

“Ahh!” Jan screamed. “By Raggok!”

Pabl tried to focus on the physical plane, pushing up to a sitting position and shading his eyes against the sun. High mist and a black cloud of smoke from volcano on his left hung in a bright blue sky, as Pabl sucked in hot air that smell of decay and sulfur.

“Get off my leg!”

Pabl rolled to the side. “I’m sorry,” he said. “Are you all right?”

This Book Belongs to: Andrew Tobin (black _ [email protected]) Liferock 

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“No,” Jan said.

Pabl turned toward his friend. “Let me see.”

But Jan would not hold still. He stood and hopped around on his good leg, his jaw set in a grimace against the pain. He screamed curses for a few minutes, but Pabl could tell that his wounds weren’t severe. Jan just didn’t like pain.

When Jan finally allowed Pabl and Celagri to examine his leg, they discovered that his knee had been slightly injured, and he had sustained a bruise to the thigh. Nothing was broken, though he would be in pain for a few days.

Celagri laughed at him. “With such severe injuries,” she said, “I don’t know how you’ll go on living. We’ll just have to put you out of your misery right now.”

Jan glared at her. “Thank you for the compassionate words.”

Celagri smiled at him. “My pleasure.”

Jan ignored her this time. “Pabl,” he said, “what did you see.”

Pabl described the astral image of Sangolin, telling them of the multitude of threads, and how each obsidiman was bound to it. “It’s a perversion,” he said. “Nothing like a liferock.”

They sat in silence for a minute. Pabl could feel the delicate tug of Sangolin in his gut. So close now. So alluring. All he had to do was stand and walk down the path. In ten minutes he could merge with Sangolin. Then he would feel the rush and the satisfaction.

No. Mynbruje will help me. His hand clasped around his jade pendant and visions of Ganwetrammus flooded him.

“Are you all right, Pabl?” It was Jan’s voice.

Pabl looked up into Jan’s face. “Yeah,” he said. “I’m fine now, but I would like to prepare myself before confronting Sangolin. Maybe we should wait a while before going down.”

Just then an obsidiman appeared over the edge of the This Book Belongs to: Andrew Tobin (black _ [email protected]) Liferock 

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rock which surrounded their hiding place. His skin was glossy black, looking almost wet against the red stone as he approached. The paint which made the red strips over his lus-trous black skin was unlike any body paint Pabl had ever seen.

Not like the chalk paste used by the Garen Brotherhood, this paint was enamel, glossy and permanent.

Another obsidiman appeared behind him — emerald eyes and the same red enamel stripes, but underneath it was translucent skin of greenish hue. And another — high cresting forehead studded with warty gemstones. More and more approached; they kept coming until there were eight in all.

The obsidimen came closer, their eyes focused only on Pabl. They ignored Celagri and Jan. The glossy black obsidiman began a circle around Pabl which the others completed.

They did not speak to him, only gestured in the direction of Sangolin as if they knew why he had come, but could not understand his hesitation.

Pabl looked up at their massive bulk and their dead eyes, staring down at him. “Or maybe we’ll go down now,” he said.

This Book Belongs to: Andrew Tobin (black _ [email protected])  Chapter Twenty-Seven 

“Sarbeneck, sir?”

“Yes?”

“The dwarf from the village is here to see you again.”

BOOK: Shadowrun - Earthdawn - Lliferock
4.96Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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