The Laughing Lord

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Signal
The Laughing Lord

The Laughing Lord

Lalan'ay

(Baron Age Circa: Early Adult)

 

You see a posting on a local pub board, it reads as follows:

 

Baron Larenz von Schwarz III is seeking a companion to join him in an archaeological expedition into mysterious ancient ruins on the Black Brick Manor grounds.

 

Gold reward upon completion of the tasks required to map out the derelict site, and whatever treasures may be found within!

Only serious and skilled adventurers need apply. If you are selected, you will be contacted by one of my associates to grant access to the grounds.

Simply speak your name, your true intent, and the quest to the nearest looking glass, and my scribes will add you to the Quest list! Do you have what it takes?

Submitted by Signal on 

Wed, 10/17/2018 - 17:43

The calm temperament of the Lalan'ay weather was a refreshing reward compared to the harsh heat and dry winds of Kolshtak's desert. Having just returned from a brief training project in the sandy wastes, Xala was all to eager to accept a (in her mind) mundane assignment in a place that had actual trees. Trees! That being said, she couldn't help but admit she was excited to help on an historic expedition. Shayd had signed her up before her return home with the understanding that her small snake form would probably be useful in accessing small areas. What she didn't expect was to see a "call to the public" note on the local merc board. Xala snarled, slightly offended that she would be sent all this way only to have to still go through the motions. Still, she knew better than to argue or protest, especially when it came to Baron. She hadn't had the chance to work with him yet and didn't want to go ruining things now. 
With the excitement of the dig driving her, Xala scooted quickly through the merchants' booths with her small allowance. Her belly cried at her as she passed the butcher's booth...several times...but mirrors were considered in fashion in this area of the city so she knew to save her coin. 
With a small amount of luck and a moderate amount of flashing money, the demon finally cradled a rather ornate hand mirror in her hands. Not one for fashion or decor, Xala found herself surprised at how the shine of the metal around the looking glass tickled her fancy. Still, she was there on a mission. Excusing herself to an alley for privacy, Xala held the hand mirror to her face and cleared her throat. 
"Xala Raal, here to uncover history and her spoils, uh, for the Black Brick Manor grounds expedition for Baron Larenz von Schwerz---I MEAN, Schwarz. Baron Larenz von Schwarz the Third..." She cringed, embarassed. Sighing, Xala placed the mirror back in her travel satchel.

Submitted by Signal on 

Wed, 10/17/2018 - 18:02

A long shadow moved through the crowded bazaar, silent and effortlessly. It was drawn to the words spoken in contract with its master.
The bustling sounds died and the colors abandoned the normally vibrant townsfolk, leaving Xala cold and alone in the middle of the crowd.
The shadow congealed to form the silhouette of a tall, long-limbed, man. The only discernible features are those of his glowing eyes. It was impossible to see where his body and the air met. His voice was that of a deep resonance within the soul.
"Lady Raal, you have been chosen. Please make arrangements for expedition supplies, and wait outside of the city gates by midnight."
The message had been delivered. The contract was set.

Submitted by Signal on 

Wed, 10/17/2018 - 18:33

Xala's breath left her body before she noticed the crowd slow to a crawl and seem to fade from sight. Despite training with and hunting strange enigmas and creatures, it would be a lie to say it never surprised her when a supernatural situation happened. The instant chill gave her an angry shiver and she glared at the large and slender form before her. 
"No shit." she replied, under her foggy breath, to the figure's formidable words. Her bright eyes squinted in response and a hiss escaped her throat. More chores? Fine. Luckily she was trained to tour with minimal supplies. 
The remaining hours of the day passed as she gathered the supplies she assumed she needed. Shayd had packed her long night bag with a few essentials, but she knew she'd need extra rations to last the trip. Her final hours before midnight were spent exploring. Despite her dislike of people, Xala had to admit she enjoyed the watching. Humans and elves and other questionable species roamed the streets in the dark hours, drinking and singing and eating and dancing. 
Xala soon found herself at the gates as instructed, surprised at her excitement to embark.

Submitted by Signal on 

Wed, 10/17/2018 - 19:30

The soft rumble of a carriage emanated from a deep fog rolling in from the forest. As its lights grew brighter, it became apparent that it lacked both a driver and horse. It came to a stop in front of Xala and the door opened, beckoning her. She entered with her supplies and the door shut behind her. It lurched forward and her journey began. Into the fog and forest. The ride lasted all night, but the coach was comfortable and spacious, accommodating to her every need. It Stopped so smoothly that Xala did not notice her journey had ended until she saw the immense manor outside.
Black Brick Manor was a sprawling, twisted mass, of black clay and shingles. Turrets pierced the sky across the grounds, and halls connecting them in an unusual manner. The blue sky stood in stark contrast from the foreboding body of stone against it. The only light that seemed to touch it was that of the sunrise reflecting on the thousands of windows, sparkling like stars across a midnight sky. The entrance was through by a blood-red door, with runes engraved into the wood, stone, and wrought ironwork securing it all together. Gargoyles glared down onto the newcomer, judging her as she approached.
Before she could go any closer, a deep groan let loose from the door, and it slowly opened to reveal a man. Dressed in beige cotton and wool attire, akin to that of a commoner, worn boots on his feet and a bycocket on his head. With excitement in his eyes, he took a deep breath before exclaiming "WELCOME EVERY-" his cheery demeanor dropped upon seeing the turnout to his call to adventure, "one... well, that was not what I had expected."

Submitted by Signal on 

Sun, 10/21/2018 - 13:08

Xala grinned at the magical spectacle before her. The guy had style, that was obvious. When she stepped in, she marveled at the spacious and well decorated vehicle. Her eyes followed the beautifully ornate borders and art on the sides before falling on the bowl of complimentary chocolates near one of the arm rests. Yep. This was happening. 
Hoisting her gear into one of the corners of the carriage, Xala plopped down and kicked her feet up, enjoying the immense leg room available to her. As chocolate after chocolate piled into her mouth, she quirked an eyebrow at the area around her. It was big, yes. But...too big. Was this a carriage for a nobleman or an army?
Xala's eyes eventually closed, enjoying the gentle ride and the smooth sounds of the environment around her. When she awoke to her destination, she screwed her eyes shut and rubbed them. The demon exited the carriage with her gear and a full belly of sugar and blinked at the incredible building before her. It was beautiful and archaic. Marveling at the geometric structure, Xala haulted at the sound of the great door creaking painfully. 
After the man's introduction, Xala simply smirked and cocked her head. Had Shayd not even bothered to tell anyone he was sending someone? Really? Letting out a small sigh, she smiled professionally up at the figure before her, "Nice to meet you. I'm Xala. Master Shayd sent me. How shall I address you and how do we begin?"

Submitted by Signal on 

Sun, 10/21/2018 - 14:30

"Oh, YOU'RE the one Shayd sent? Wonderful! I'm Baron Larenz von Schwarz the Third, but as a pupil of Shayd's, you may call me Larenz. I apologize for the... um... lackluster crew. It would seem that my name carries an air of infamy with it. You accidentally wake ONE dragon which eats half of your expedition crew, and suddenly volunteers just... disappear!" His face fell in genuine astonishment to the prospect of people not wanting to risk their lives for the sake of adventure.
"First things first, I'll need to know what EXACTLY is your purpose here. Shayd insinuated that this is an 'educational field trip' but YOU need to know what you seek before entering. See those Gargoyles on the corners?" He asked, pointing to the stone figures whose gaze has not broken from Xala since she exited the wagon. "They know when a guest is dishonest or wishes to bring harm to someone under my care. I've read that being torn up by stones is one of the most excruciating ways to go."

Submitted by Signal on 

Mon, 10/22/2018 - 12:15

Xala nodded her head as the man spoke, respectfully. During his tirade of dragons and expedition crews, she maintained a calm and professional demeanor. Underneath, she was cackling. So...chances were, this wasn't going to be just some mundane errand after all. 
Her gaze focused on his face and then the stone gargoyles above as he continued with his brief interview. From the urgency in his voice, she understood he wasn't just trying to intimidate or antagonize her. She could certainly feel some pull from the building and the magic residing within. It was heavy with the Void's influence, for sure. 
She cleared her throat after a pause, gathering her thoughts, "I'm here to do a mission as I was instructed. However, to say I am not intrigued by the history of this house would be a lie..." she paused again, looking back up at the gargoyles staring down at her, "...I'm young and have a lot to learn about...the possible history and artifacts that link to the Void. I beg your passage into this educational journey." Xala cringed at her own cheesy formality, but hoped it was respectful enough for whatever entities resided in that stone. Her toxic eyes shifted back to Larenz, followed by a small smile and a slight shrug. 

Submitted by Signal on 

Mon, 10/22/2018 - 12:34

Larenz gazed deep into her eyes, studying her poise and taking in her formalities. The stone beasts loomed overhead, and he knew how fast and brutal their wrath would be should she lie to him on the steps of his sanctuary. The moment lingered. His heart raced, and he hoped the statues wouldn't snatch the poor girl's ribcage and grind it into a pulp in front of him.
Nothing.
"Well then! Let's get geared up! Garson will unload your belongings, and we can head to the equipment room."
A tall, gaunt and translucent old man appeared out of the corner of her sight and floated his way to the carriage. He had the air of death and snobbery about him, his nose pointed straight up the entire time he was handling her supplies. He passed by them and into the foyer, without even noticing her existence.
"After you." He smiled and gestured her through the opened door.

Submitted by Signal on 

Mon, 10/22/2018 - 12:53

Xala held her breath as the short time passed. What felt like hours was only seconds. Larenz's sudden cheery and excited voice snapped her attention back to reality and she suddenly remembered to breathe. She nodded politely at Garson as he passed her with zero attention. Fine, ya old fart...she thought, before picking up her personal bag and following Garson to the doorway, marveling at the sight of her physical items being carried by such an ethereal man. 
Pausing at the door way, Xala looked up at Larenz with a quirked grin, "Are all the residents here this friendly?" before following Garson to her designated area. 

Submitted by Signal on 

Mon, 10/22/2018 - 13:02

"He's been bound to the Manor for generations, long before I was ever born. The waitstaff swore their souls to eternal servitude to whoever owned the house centuries ago, when the builders first started construction. So... no, they're not ALL like that, but they lack the warmth of a loving body." A tinge of pain came out with that last part. He shook off the memories and closed the massive door behind them.
The Grand Foyer contains one of the most elaborate staircases to have ever been built. Banisters made of pure ebony wood and marble stairs, a crimson runner with pure gold trim runs down the steps to greet the guests. A massive clock oversees the entrance, which tells not just time, but all the facets of the passage of existence one could possibly need to know. Moon phases, the seasons according to contemporary AND ancient means, the tides, constellations and all their permutations, and others that no mortal has yet to decipher.
Larenz casually paid no mind to any of this grandeur, having every nook of that entrance committed to heart, but always forgetting how it impacts newcomers.

Submitted by Signal on 

Mon, 10/22/2018 - 13:14

As Larenz answered her question, Xala bit the side of her lip in embarassment. Off to a great start...making jokes about dead souls bound to servitude. Nice, Xala, real nice.
Eyes darting to and fro inside the manor, Xala's pace slowed as she started to absorb her surroundings. She stared at the architecture and the magnificent clock before finally stuttering, with a mix of aprehension and joy, "Larenz...sir. Um. How...how is this place...uh?" Xala found herself struggling to word her quesiton. She set her personal bag at her feet and stared hard at the clock.
"How does a place this old have a clock like that? I mean...this place is old...real old..." She considered for a moment that he had installed it himself, but even it looked as dated as the rest of the house. She had heard of his abilities to fluctuate with time, but never really considered them to be true. Her bewilderment began to give way to excitement. Just what the hell had she walked into?!

Submitted by Signal on 

Mon, 10/22/2018 - 20:39

"Oh, that old thing? For simplicity's sake, since we are on a bit of a schedule, let's just say it's the first clock. My great, great, great..." he began to mutter and count on his fingers, "5 times great uncle, twice removed, discovered it, and theorized this was what all time-telling devices are based off. As new methods of registering the passage of time are discovered, they're added to the complex mechanics of it."
He ascended the central staircase while he spoke, towards an ornate set of doors.
"Now the more important questions are: What sort of equipment did you bring and did you bring enough rope?"

Submitted by Signal on 

Sun, 10/28/2018 - 11:13

Xala looked back up at the clock with curiosity as he told her the origin, "So...you come from a long line of explorers and thinkers? That's fascinating." She absent-mindedly followed up up the central staircase, barely registering his question until she stopped and noticed his silence. 
"Huh? OH! Yes, Shayd packed me some essentials; a lantern, hand, elbow, and knee protection, a chisel and hammer, lots of rope, and a few tall candles for markers. When I was in town I picked up a handkerchief, an extra satchel, a few rags for dusting, and...lots of jerky." She nodded her head down the stairs, "Garson has my duffle with the rope. I didn't measure how much was there but it felt heavy. Can I ask? Is there anything in particular you are hoping to find here? Or is this just a general exploration?"

Submitted by Signal on 

Sun, 10/28/2018 - 11:56

He opened the grand main double doors... to an equipment room with a vast array of tools and devices, and ten-foot tall windows looking back over the sprawling structure... with the entrance visible in the distance.
"It's a fetch quest, really. There are some ruins on the edge of the premises that I've been studying for years, but there have been some... complications as of late that I need help with." He ushered her to follow as he replied. He began going through the room collecting various trinkets and baubles, then moved over to grab more traditional adventuring gear and stashing it in a simple rucksack. "I've been down in them many times, but the last time I ventured down, there was a different... vibe? Not a weird spiritual feeling, although I suspect that may be a problem now too, rather literal strange vibrations within the dead ruins. It was dead, and now... not. Hence why I would've preferred more than one extra set of hands, but since you were sent from Shayd, I think we'll be just fine."
He grinned towards her, realizing the irony of someone as well read as he using token famous last words for encouragement. He grabbed the Binding Dagger of Sh-Alk'd on the shelf nearest him just to be safe.

Submitted by Signal on 

Sun, 10/28/2018 - 12:06

Xala followed close behind as he continued his explanation on just what the hell they were doing there. So it wasn’t completed uncharted. She was slightly disappointed at first, hoping for the chance to explore untouched territory, but her disappointment vanished quickly at Larenz’s mention of the strange
A sly smile crept across her face, “Are you suggesting that something down there was resurrected? Do you think magic is involved?” Her skin grew tingly as her mind swam with the potential for combat. Xala took a few breaths and calmed herself. This was a professional job. No need for excitement. 

Submitted by Signal on 

Sun, 10/28/2018 - 12:32

"Undoubtedly. The... 'previous residents' of this manor had a tendency to associate themselves with some... uh... 'nefarious and dubious' organizations... dark rituals of the old gods and the like. I don't know what KIND though, and that worries me. "
He went back to the door they entered in from and opened it, to reveal a banquet hall with gold trim columns, the same tall, arched windows on one side, and a single mirror running the entire length on the other side. Tables piled with all manner of foods stretched across a beautifully ornate runner, and the aroma was simply intoxicating.
"Help yourself to what you want, we'll need all the energy we can get. I've only mapped out a small bit of the ruins, and I've been going there for years. There's no telling how much is yet to be explored." He grabbed a leg of roasted lamb that was cooking on a vertical spit over what seemed to be a wickless candle.

Submitted by Signal on 

Mon, 10/29/2018 - 19:09

Xala's eyes sparkled at the vision before her. The beautiful buffet caressed her senses and filled her brain with warm desire. Her jerky would serve its best purpose in her travel bag while they were out digging around. Zeroing in on the meat section, she paced back and forth like a hungry dog, struggling to decide where to begin. Xala pulled her gloves off and gently tucked them into her belt, snatching up a tender pork rib and taking a seat. 
As she ate...and ate...and ate...Xala's chewing began to slow as her mind wandered to Larenz's mention of what they might be dealing with. This could prove a problem. If there was indeed "nefarious and dubious" magical involvement, her control over her instincts could waver under its influence. She knew the man could protect himself from her if she lost it, but that couldn't be an option to begin with. She would need more to tide her over. 
Sheepishly, Xala pushed herself away from the table, wiping her greasy chin and mouth on a lovely, embroidered cloth, "Larenz, sir?" Xala gulped and thought a moment before straightening her stature and squaring her shoulders, regaining her professional demeanor, "Thank you for the meal. I'm sorry to trouble you with extra accommodations, but...do you have anything...fresh? In the kitchen? I think it would be necessary for my focus in this little adventure."

Submitted by Signal on 

Mon, 10/29/2018 - 19:23

"Oh! of course, better yet..." He went back to the door they came in from and opened to reveal the inside of a pantry full of fruits, vegetables, freshly butchered meat, and variety of rare and exotic grains and spices. "Whatever you need, the home can provide!"

Submitted by Signal on 

Mon, 10/29/2018 - 19:46

Sighing slightly with relief, Xala trotted after him offering gratitude with a few small bursts of "thank you sir". and "I really appreciate it"s. Damn, how many rooms does this door lead to? She asked herself before taking in the view. Her smile faded a little. 
Oh.
Oh no.
Shayd didn't tell him. HE DIDN'T TELL HIM?! 
Xala cleared her throat and nodded to him with another "thanks, I'll pack my bag for the road if you don't mind..." She started for a few plump fruits, her eyes darting to the cold chunks of meat swaying near eye level, "So, uh, Larenz, how does this door work? I mean, besides being on hinges and stuff, hehe...eh, I mean, the magic? How does it access different rooms and how do you decide where you are going each time?" Xala held her breath, waiting for his attention to turn to her question before she could quickly snatch a few of the red, gleaming meats off of the hooks. This was going to be a tricky endeavor. Maybe if she was lucky, she'd find a rat or two in the ruins. Xala gagged internally at the thought. No, this meat would do. It was most definitely as fresh as it gets without breathing. Her mouth instantly filled with drool. She swallowed it down and packed it all away, knowing she would just have to wait until she had privacy.

Submitted by Signal on 

Mon, 10/29/2018 - 20:39

"By all means, but I'm also planning on having a nice feast afterward to recover, assuming the worst, that is. So I'd hold off on the fresh meat until then." He said, noticing the swaying meat hooks. "As for the doors, they're all enchanted with runes that connect them to a central networked vortex that can figure out where you WANT to be within the manor, and make the appropriate connections. So by merely intending on where you wish to go, these doors will open you to there." He wiped his mouth and slung his sack over his shoulder. "I'm ready if you are, let's see what all this headache is about!"

Submitted by Signal on 

Mon, 10/29/2018 - 21:35

Xala's right eye twitched slightly but she held her curious grin and nodded as he continued to talk. He...wasn't.......looking away. Fucking hell man, look up at the ceiling or something! Damn! By the time he finished, she had probably four or five useless fruits packed into her bag. Cringing at the painful growl in her stomach, Xala bid a sad farewell to the fresh meats hanging so close to her maw. This was going to be a rough night. Cinching up her pack, Xala stepped back through the doorway and awaited her tour guide to begin. 

Submitted by Signal on 

Mon, 10/29/2018 - 22:44

Once she had stepped back through the door, he closed it behind her and opened it once again to reveal the exterior of the other side of the manor. Not too far was an excavation site with old digging and surveying equipment. They approached the dig site, the mid-afternoon heat reflecting off of the dry grass surrounding it. The hole leading to the caves below was extensive, stretching a hundred yards in diameter, and about forty feet deep. In the center was a large, stone obelisk with depictions of serpents, dragons, and various monsters.
"This place held was of utmost importance to many ancient civilizations. For as long as records show, there has always been some magical importance to this place. Which makes these ruins potentially volatile." 

Submitted by Signal on 

Thu, 11/01/2018 - 17:56

Focusing her mind on her current surroundings, Xala was able to silence her stomach's growling within no time. Something else tugged at her. Curiosity? The Void? She couldn't be sure, but this giant hole in the ground certainly had her attention. Her eyes widened with glee and wonder at the great stone obelisk, "What.....what is that?" Within moments she was overcome with feelings of infatuation and obsession. She wanted to touch it. She had to touch it. A sudden jolt of clarity shocked her senses back to reality and she haulted mid-step. Xala peered at her hands with distaste and confusion for a second and wiped them on her pants, "Let's not waste any time." Her words were quick and cold, "Whatever might still be lingering here could cause some serious trouble for us. Point they way, sir." Her hand swiftly lifted to her mouth to wipe away leftover drool. 

Submitted by Signal on 

Thu, 11/01/2018 - 21:01

Larenz secured two lines of rope to an anchor stone nearby and tossed the significant lengths of rope into the void. He showed Xala how to attach a curious mechanism to their belts and they began their descent. Total darkness surrounded them for several minutes. He pulled a Kinetic Stone out of his satchel, shook it to illuminate the two explorers and watched it fall until it was a pinprick in the dark nothingness that enveloped them. The clatter of the stone hitting a solid surface echoed into the abyss. "I keep forgetting how far down the landing is."
When they reached the glowing stone, he pulled out a torch and a tinderbox and lit it to find the large vat of oil that was shrouded in shadows. His flame touched the oil and it erupted with brilliant flare, nearly blinding the two as the flame danced across the ruins and igniting lamps along the path ahead of them.

Submitted by Signal on 

Mon, 11/05/2018 - 17:39

Latching the device to her belt, Xala followed her guide down into the deep...deep.......deeeeeep depths of the strange pit. When they landed, Xala squinted her eyes at the long lane of flaming lanterns before her, "Just how big is this place?" Picking up her bag and unhooking her rope, she proceeded down the illuminated path, gazing up at the vast walls and ceiling in wonder. Turning back she asked, "Are we expecting company any time soon? Or do you expect that poossibility to be further down the line?"

Submitted by Signal on 

Mon, 11/05/2018 - 22:38

"I've been exploring this place since I was a kid," He said, lighting a nearby torch that he had previously left there, "Many generations of my family and owners of this land have been exploring it, and have yet to completely plot it out. It's like an endless maze. I've managed to plot a decent bit and cobbled together even more from whatever records I could find in the Library. The problem area is surprisingly close to here. Like I mentioned before, I felt 'weird vibes' this way... and I'm beginning to suspect there may be Void magic involved."
They traversed through twisted catacombs and dark passageways, until finding a fairly untouched path which led them to a large opening, lit by the oil fires to reveal a massive stone door. Small deep cracks crawled up from the bottom of it, a breeze cutting through each of them. A stone pillar stands erect in the center with a dial of foreign symbols circulating around it. Surrounding it, were dozens of corpses. Not skeletons, but fresh corpses.
"Well... this is new. I prefer to find corpses which have gone through ALL of the stages of decay."

Submitted by Signal on 

Wed, 11/07/2018 - 19:28

Following close behind, the smell hit her before she laid eyes on them. Her right hand floated to the handle of her bladed whip as she glanced from body to body and to the walls around them. They were fresh, very fresh. The smell tugged at her belly but her survival instincts took control. Xala carefully approached the bodies and answered in a whisper, "Do you think this was due to some kind of ritual or something...or someone, else?"

Submitted by Signal on 

Wed, 11/07/2018 - 23:02

"I... have no idea... I'm not even sure how these many people could've gotten down here, let alone as to why." He looked at the stone and recognized is as a locking stone for the stone door. He stepped up to it, muttering algorithms that these sorts of locks used, hoping to crack the lock until it clicked into place. 
"Got it!"
The door didn't budge. He looked down at the configuration of the stone, and back to the door, then to the walls around the room. "Well, this is stupid! That should've worked!" He walked to the door and felt the cracks. He punched it in angered defeat and turned away. "Unless you know how to open an ancient Motzurellian Puzzle Lock, or can snake into the mechanics of this thing, I think we've hit a dead end."