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Author Topic: Wizards of London - open steamfantasy RP world  (Read 739 times)
Alexis Voltaire
Rogue Ætherlord
*
United States United States


Shàlle We Dànce?


« on: January 18, 2016, 09:27:57 am »

((This is meant as an informal open roleplay for a steampunk fantasy world where wizards and magic coexist with newfledged steam and electrical technology. I'm not taking any particular responsibility for this thread other than to post my own story wanderings, I won't be running an official plot, if someone else wishes to do so they can start an OOC and run a game in here themselves. I'm not sure when and if I'll be posting here again as my free time is very limited.))

---

The ghoul screamed and swiped at her with long curved claws, and then turned and ran down the fog dark streets of London's east side.

Madeline swept her robes behind her and followed at a run, staff in hand, hood flown back, boots clunking and sometimes slipping on the wet streets. The air grew colder and heavier, wetter. The ghoul was faster than she was, but not by much, and it didn't have far to run.

She reached the river's edge just in time to see the ghoul leap to the top of a wall, scream an insult or a taunt in a dirty high-pitched language (the only words she recognized translated roughly to 'bottom-eating human'. The ghoul leaped out into the dark, long gangly limbs splayed out from a squat body, splashed down and was gone.

Madeline ran to the wall and looked down to the spreading ripples on the surface of the river Thames. Did the ghoul know it was dealing with a Wizard? Probably, but she doubted it knew that she could follow it. A water escape was clever, it nullified tracking magic and only a very stupid man or woman would try to outswim a ghoul in the river Thames. But the ghoul hadn't planned on running from Madeline Lovejoy.

She turned and threw her staff, six feet of slim gnarled wood, straight up into the air like a spear, and screamed. "Transvarius!" There was a blink of lightning-light and a tiny clap of thunder, like a stretched gunshot, and the staff vanished from sight.

Then she climbed to the top of the short stone wall, closed her eyes for nearly half a minute, crouched, and threw herself out over the water.

Before she hit, there was a rippling of green-gold light, like the light at sunrise over a reeds and lilies in the eddy of a small quiet river.

What hit the water wasn't human. It was a fish, nearly seven feet from nose to tail. Long, lithe and powerful, as big around as a tree trunk, wrapped in hard scales of scattered green and gold. A maw nearly the breadth of its own body, lined with row on row of dagger teeth, designed to grab, to hold, to hunt.

Madeline flicked her pike body into a roll, and with a coil of scaled muscle and a boil of water she was gone. Gone down into the dark and depth of the Thames. Great black eyes could see little in the murky water, but she could scent the ghoul among the thousand other smells of the river. It smelled rank and rotten, of course, but that was hardly a unique scent in the water. No, the trail was that of the hot-edged scent akin to copper and iron, the scent of living meat. And the scent of fear.

It was a nasty business. The Thames was a filthy river, all but an open sewer at bad times of the year. A simple water charm supplied her bellowing gills with clean and clear water, surrounded her and protected her from the lingering toxins and illnesses that would otherwise seep in through the slime coat of her fish body. But she had to selectively drop the envelope of the spell, or move it back away from her nose, to follow the ghoul's scent. She did it in quick bursts, a scent now and again as her powerful tail beat the water with the slow and irrepressible stroke of an engine. The ghoul was fast and quiet, paddling the water with long claws and feet. It was better armed and probably stronger pound for pound. But it was a creature designed to walk on land and breathe air. It's strength and muscle and sinew weren't built for the water. She didn't fear an underwater ambush.

Scent, scent. A lingering trace of fresh meat, of living prey among sewage and rotting trash and rotting corpses. The pike didn't have a mammalian sense of nausea, but it felt an equally strong sort of revulsion to the water. She forced herself to keep scenting anyway, letting the clean water fall away every ten or twelve feet, and a taste of the raw Thames wash over her nose.

There! The scent fell away, perhaps some twenty minutes downriver. A ghoul could hold it's breath for that long, but more likely it had swum faster, and turned off to it's hidden lair in perhaps fifteen.

She circled slowly, carefully so as not to roil the water and confuse the trail. It was already falling away, swept and mixed by the sluggish flow of the water. But there it was, to the right and slightly down. It occurred to her that there were no natural or unnatural landmarks, no change in the taste (ugh!) or temperature of the water, no sound, no light or object to mark the way. And no magical signal or homing beacon would last long in the water. She had heard that ghouls could navigate with amazing accuracy by pure dead-reckoning (a useful skill for a tunneling creature) but it was still surprising.

She followed the trail arrow-straight to the bank, brushing past a piling, a sunken barge. Down to where an underwater wall of stones met the murk of the bottom, there was a gap, a tunnel entrance. She couldn't see it, but she could feel the turbulence in the water, the way it flowed and parted, to tell it was there.

And there she waited, restoring the water charm fully over her nose. The pike shivered in disgust, too much scenting, the filth had seeped into it's nose and soft tissues and the water charm no longer made the taste disappear completely.

She waited for several minutes, suspended and kept steady by a flick of fin and tail. There was no noise, no motion.

She entered the tunnel slowly and silently, with barely a ripple of movement. It was empty and smelled empty of living things. She moved steadily upward, finally sensing the surface above her. A quick circle showed a broad sort of grotto, perhaps fifteen feet oval, with no remarkable underwater features, save a scent of ghouls. Old and stale, but strong enough here to overpower even the other smells in the water.

She let her head rise just above the water, dark eyes and toothy jaw silently breaking the surface. The chamber above was empty, part stone, part masonry part claw-dug earth. It was barely lit by the pale blue-white luminescence of underlichen, a magical sort of weed that grew where magically inclined creatures made thier tunnels and nests and burrows. The tunnel continued upward from the chamber, leaving sheer walls on three sides and a shallow sloping beach at the far end.

She moved into the shallows with a powerful quiet stroke, and changed back to her human body there in a few inches of muddy water. It left her lying prone with her head above water, but otherwise soaked and filthy.

She rose, dizzy from the change, and squelched up the muddy bank to sit with her back to the wall. Not too long, not long enough to let things dry... She rose and spread her hands into a practiced poise, and muttered a small low chant. Water and mud rippled down her robes, crawling like a living thing, or mass of tiny living things. It was a modification of the water-envelope charm that had kept her from suffocating in the Thames, or more precisely, the original from which the former was derived - a cleaning spell. She hadn't fully cleaned her clothing though, there was no point in washing away all the scent of the river and mud. A scent of clean laundry would stand out down here like a beacon. "Let's see your grand adventure novels include that, Mr. Thalicon Stormheart. Ha." She breathed the "Ha." silently.

A wave of nausea rolled over her, heavy and strong as water. She doubled over and threw up. It tasted more horrible than normal, all the filth of the Thames the pike had swallowed mixed with a dodgy meat pie from several hours ago. She spat quietly several times, trying to be thankful that her body had been trained to get rid of toxins accumulated in shifted form.

She rose and faced the pale lichen-lit tunnel with a quietly dangerous expression, drew a short thick wand that appeared to be made of black glass from inside her robes, and walked upward into the half-dark.
« Last Edit: January 18, 2016, 10:58:52 am by Alexis Voltaire » Logged

~-- Purveyour of Useless Facts, Strange Advice, Plots --~
MWBailey
Rogue Ætherlord
*
United States United States


"This is the sort of thing no-one ever believes"

rtafStElmo
« Reply #1 on: March 04, 2016, 08:41:07 pm »

Not meaning to start another RP, unless people want to respond to this. It might be the next few minutes, or several days or weeks, before I add another installment.

This is not necessarily intended as a part of Miss Voltaire's Story, unless she decides to take it thus. It's just an idea that I've had for some time.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Older leaned over the rail of the aerial omnibus as it came in to dock at the station in Eastcheap..

"Mind th' portal sir!" the usher warned him, and he pulled his had back just in time to avoid being decapitated by the masonry that flashed past as the cable-drawn dirigible mass transport SHOOMPed into the manmade grotto.

"Gots ta watch it, sir, we can't lookout for you lot all th' toime!" the usher hurried off on other business. Horatio Older, Thaumic Matters Detective, attached to the Bow Street substation of the Metropolitan Police, nodded absently and silently breathed for the fellow to "sod off," as he flashed his badge at the debarkation usher (tickets were checked at both entering and exiting the omnibuses, to fight the latest rash of stowaway passengers).

HE stepped out of the gondola and into the usual riot of hawkers, street arabs and barbaric performers who purported to hail from every corner of the British Empire (manyby the Bow Street division, to keep himself and the Police Departmnent apprised of the general goings-on, and to be an on-point enforcer in case something untoward went on that one man could handle. Bigger concerns were usually handled by the Interdiction Squads. He dropped a penny piece into a cup belonging to a hurdy-gurdy player, who managed to tip his flat cap, tighten a string, check the change cup, and resume fingering the note tabs on the instrument all in one deft gesture. Older slipped his hand into the pocket of his black wool cloak, and readied his Sticker, a type of wand that resembled a flintlock pistol in its lines but was in fact hammerless and triggerless. Formed to fit the hand and be especially aimable, it was a standard sidearm for the Thaumic Matters detectives - and nigh unusable by anyone else.

The HurdyGurdist's gesture had been a signal, of course. He was not a policeman, nor an informant, but as was the case in policemen's beats the world over and in all time and space, certain citizens were in the habit of protecting their own and their demesne by cooperating with the Powers That Be. Old Harold had noticed the stink of something from the grate in the gutter to is left, and in the hand messaging used by the local street population, had informed Older of the situation. Older sent a missive via the Telepathic Exchange to Bow Street that he was descending into the sewers to deal with a suspected miscreant, possibly of magical origin. He tipped his bowler forward, and waved his left hand over a large rectangular iron plate in the sidewalk, and up rose a Street Elevator. He climbed aboard, waved his hand again, and the vehicle descended into the sidewalk again, the iron plate clanging shut after it...
« Last Edit: March 16, 2016, 03:57:07 pm by MWBailey » Logged

Walk softly and carry a big banjo...

""quid statis aspicientes in infernum"
Alexis Voltaire
Rogue Ætherlord
*
United States United States


Shàlle We Dànce?


« Reply #2 on: March 13, 2016, 11:23:33 am »

Madeline made her way quickly up the passage, following a faint indication from the short black wand in her hand. This particular tracking spell didn't pinpoint things like a compass, instead it followed the trail of the thing it was bound to, just as a hunter followed footprints.

Her boots squelched softly in the mud. In her mind she drew up an image, a living memory of what she'd bound the wand to. A ghoul, lean and filthy and half-mad with hunger. She'd found it eating... eating someone not more than a block from where she started to track the ghoul underwater. The first ghoul was nearly as dead as his victim, rotting headless in a midden heap in an alley. Just a sliver of his living image remained, and Madeline drew that up and around herself, drawing from the wand binding and her own magic, wrapping herself in a cloak of the almost-real, a glamour in the shape and scent and manner of the almost-dead ghoul. (Almost dead, but not quite. A murmur of movement against her side reminded her. And if that failed, if it died now, everything was lost.)

Not too far down the passage she encountered a ghoul, crouched in a dark place and guarding the entrance to the den. It sniffed at her, and growled. She felt the glamour sniff and shift of its own volition around her. Giving the right scent and motion to pass. The guard relaxed and stared behind her into the dark. Madeline moved quickly down the tunnel, before the guard noticed something was out of place. The glamour wasn't perfect, she didn't have that much magic to spend on it.

In an empty stretch of tunnel she paused and drew the sleeve back on her left forearm. Nine circles were inked on her skin in deep blue, five were filled, three were empty and one was a sharp crescent of blue, like a waning moon. Enough. It might be just enough.

She took a breath, forcing the fear and uncertainty into an iron box in the back of her mind. And walked down the pale-lit tunnel into the den.

A chamber like a great overturned bowl lay below her. Several ghouls lounged about, eating or sleeping in a sprawl of misshapen limbs. But there was something different about this ghoul's den.

The pack leader normally commanded a large space in the main den, a nest of bones and perhaps chosen mates and a brood of young. This was true here, but in place of the normal midden of inedible things, something like a chair had been constructed from the bones, bound together with tendons and twine and scraps of clothing.

A large, fiercely muscular ghoul sat perched atop it, feet pulled up under a belly rounded with meat.

Atop his head was a crown. It nestled down over the crown of his skull, supported by doglike ears. Wrought of electrum, a rough-beaten circle crowned with points like the tines of a stag, or teeth. Set in the center like a single eye was an ugly black stone.

A crown, old before the Normans, the Saxons, the Romans.

Madeline set her feet and released her hold on the disguise. She felt the living image of the near-dead ghoul slide down and away from her like an oily cloak.

The ghouls sniffed, and blinked, and stirred, and at once sprang up to a tense growl. But not attacking - yet. That was different as well, any intruder into a ordinary ghoul's den would have been torn to pieces without hesitation.

But it was only that, hesitation. She had precious few seconds to act. She spoke loud and without a sign of fear. "I seek parlay with you, King of the Low Places."

The crowned ghoul leered from his throne. His face was vaguely doglike, or hyena-like, with overlong canines that curved past his jaw. He tilted his head in an acknowledgement, an oddly human, highborn gesture.

"By what right do you speak here?" He spoke English, of a sort, in a voice like raw steaks falling down a staircase.

Madeline reached into her robes, into a lower pocket, fumbling with a cloth wrapping for several heartbeats, and drew out the bloody black heart of ghoul. She held it high. It still beat, three days after being cut from the chest of it's owner, with a slow and somehow hungry pulse, the valves throbbing and yawning like so many mouths.

"By right of the Hunt. I have hunted one of your own and claimed his heart and his voice amongst you."

Madeline's own heart surged, and her vision grew gray and red at the edges for a second. That ritual was old, almost as old as the crown, and largely forgotten. An ordinary ghoul in these days would not have honored it. A King of an old crown would know the rite without being told it, the knowledge older than recorded time would course through his mind and his veins like whiskey, like poison. But whether he would honor it was another matter.

The crowned ghoul tilted his head back and stared. The others snarled, salivating, thier claws twitching with the anticipation of a kill.

And then... and then...

"You will speak then. As long as the heart beats. When it dies, we will take yours in its place. You speak of... par-lay?"

"An alliance of the hunt. Between your people and myself, from now until the sun rises. And your word of safe passage among you and your kin from now until sunset tomorrow."

The crowned ghoul laughed, harsh and jagged as a back-alley knife. His breath hissed unpleasantly inward through his teeth. "And what makes you think we should truce to this?" The ghouls around him, his subjects, chuckled. They had relaxed, unbared their teeth and folded thier claws. There was a languid, amused air about them, like a court of lords and ladies silently mocking a poor-witted peasant pleading for a king's favor. It was deeply unsettling thing to witness.

Madeline stood firm. "Your people are hungry. I have seen them hunting and eating the fresh-dead in the open land above. This is not your way. Someone is taking your rightful meat, your rotting dead cold in the ground. It is a man, a necromancer. I know him, and I know where he has taken the thousand dead that should have been your meal." (Exaggeration, to some degree. The necromancer had taken closer to four hundred corpses, though that in itself was a veritable army. But the word 'thousand' had a special significance for ghouls, being a number higher than any of them could count.) "Ally with me, and I will take you to where he keeps these stolen dead. You can eat every one of them this night."

At this the ghouls let up an unearthly, shatteringly loud chorus of screams and growls and howls and undulating ecstasy-cries. They might be pretending at highborn lords and kings, but eating was ghouls truest and most primal joy. Offer them a chance at meat and they would claw through solid rock. Starve them first, and they would become mad, more than mad... Madeline took a step back without meaning to, faced with a chamber of dozens of hungry, hunger-mad wild beasts, each easily capable of tearing her apart in seconds.

The King of the Low places had not screamed or even moved, though a two-foot string of saliva had run down from one fang. He tilted his head and met her eyes, a knowing look. She had stepped back. She had shown weakness. He spoke and the ghouls hushed almost immediately. "A King would not sell his allegiance for so little." The ghouls around him whined and growled suddenly. "But a King without his subjects is no King at all. Very well, Fogwitch, you have your alliance."

"Wizard. I am a Wizard of the Stormhall Order." Madeline retorted. There was a fatal, brittle silence.

The King of the ghouls eyed her, and gave small nod. "Wizard." He conceded, slowly, lazily. "Where would you have us go?"
Logged
MWBailey
Rogue Ætherlord
*
United States United States


"This is the sort of thing no-one ever believes"

rtafStElmo
« Reply #3 on: March 16, 2016, 04:09:57 pm »

Older became aware of a surge of magic downstream and a couple of levels below the one he was on. It was a type that was apparently unrelated to his current concern, however. It seemed to be something to do with a reanimator's spell and a pact of some kind. It wold pay to fiong=d out exactly what was going on there, but the more immediate threat concerned an old nemesis of hos and one of the villain's creations. They had a particular stink, those reanimated corpses. The Corpse Doctor, as Villinger was called,brought recently dead people back to life, and used them for his own nefarious purposes - and then left them behind to die all over again.

Except that they all too frequently did not die, or not immediately, as Villinger claimed to intend. They lived on, and depending on the native intelligence of the reanimated individual, either became a kind of super-petty-criminal, or a pseudo-ghoul. The superthieves, as some alleged wag in the department had named them, kept themselves up to a modicum of cleanliness. The pseudoghouls, on the other hand, acted as ghouls did and tended to stink of their own stale sweat and smegma, as well as both their past and most recent kills and meals.

Such a beast, a pseudo ghoul, was what Older now had the responsibility to hunt and destroy.

"Never a dull day," he thought, a sneer of disgust at the stench of the miscreant's trail marring his usually calm features.
Logged
MWBailey
Rogue Ætherlord
*
United States United States


"This is the sort of thing no-one ever believes"

rtafStElmo
« Reply #4 on: March 19, 2016, 03:28:39 am »

As he trod the lefthanded of the two ledges that tended to run along either side of the underground sewer courses in this part of London, Older began to become aware of another odor. As a "Beat" wizard, he was accustomed to the role of Hunter, and had long trained himself in the art of recognizing and differentiating between different kinds of fragrances and odors, even in miasma-rich environments such as Londons all-too-overworked sewers. It was a skill set that had served him well in many cases, and had put him very nearly on Villinger's heels more thanonce. The villain had tried everything form masking douses to outright scent-bombing - but Older, priding himself of being more intelligent than a bloodhound or Tracking Ghoul, had evaded each with alacrity; there was a scent that humans exuded, he had learned, when they were lying or were about to try something underhanded. The average human would not notice it, but over the years he had not so much recognized it as run into  the stink consistently in certain situations several times, and had finally twigged to its meaning. That stench now drifted down the conduit along which he was r=progressing.

Urgency screamed at him to keep moving before the trail ran cold and the pseudo escaped to kill yet again. Experience, and the sense of self-preservation that had saved his life thousands of times made him pause, however, and raise the wand. "CONFLAGORUM!" he cried, and a coherent, focused blade of white hot flame shot from the tip, not simply flashing out in a straight line, but following the curve of the manmade grotto ahead, expanding to span the brick-lined tunnel from wall to curved and arched wall. "WARD!" he added, thrusting his other hand forward in a gesture that a later generation would equate with a certain oriental style of hand-to-hand combat. The backwash of the result of the firespell's effect on the flammable gas so common in the sewers was halted in its rush=sh back to Older and thrust forward; the nearly-feral scream of a pseudoghoul perishing in a flash of hellfire warred with the roar of the firestorm that raced down the corridor and began to feed on itself as it travelled; in the utter silence thatfollowed, noises of dismay and incredulity filtered down from above, and the voice of the Detective's nemesis howled form far ahead in the underground world, "DAMN YOU OLDER! WE WILL SEE YOU DEAD!" The shout was followed by curses and the sound of rapidly-diminishing running footsteps. The Detective stood still, cursing Villinger's expertise with protective shielding magic and downright aggravating tendency to just barely escape unscathed. "THAT WILL BE AN INTERESTING TIME!" he shot back. He wasn't sure, but he could have sworn he heard answering laughter from far up ahead; the sound seemed to be weirdly modulated, as if it filtered up or down from a side shaft or a tunnel on the level just below.

God's Teeth, Detective Older, did you have to turn the manholes into flame-fountains? it's not Guy Fawkes for a long time yet! The voice of an aerial patrol vessel's officer chided over the telepath link; the different branches of the Department each had their own undercurrent type of feelingl, sort of a mental odor-stamp, that made it plain who was saying what at whatever time.

How'd you lot figure out it was me?

You're the only Department operative at that level in this part o' London since sunup, the patrolman answered. There's some kind of deviltry going on three levels down, but nothing like your signature firestrike. Who else could it be? The Chief's going to go spare, y' know; this'll be the third sewer blast this month, it's like you lot and the sewer crowd're bound an' determined to turn 'yde park into a mutton roaster...""
« Last Edit: March 19, 2016, 03:49:20 am by MWBailey » Logged
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