October 19, 2012 04:59AM
The Gnoll King reclined lazily in his throne, one leg thrown carelessly over the arm of the ornate symbol of status, whilst his body stretched out horizontally across it, his elbow propped up on the opposing arm to support his head. Beneath his wide-brimmed hat, and behind the light haze of perpetual smoke that drifted upwards and away from his cigar, the Gnoll King’s yellow, iridescent eyes caught the glow of the magical lights that filled the Throne Room. The nobles continued their dining in earnest, voraciously consuming meals even as just a few kilometers away, their loyal scouts charged out to their untimely demise. Pepsi stood just a short distance off to the Gnoll King’s right, hunched over like the decrepit old beast that he was. Every now and then, a wizened and gnarled hand would gesture out at a certain Noble as Pepsi muttered updates from all corners of the Gnoll King’s kingdom directly into his ear. The Royal Court, empathetically attuned to their King as always, produced a melancholy tune that only added to the Gnoll King’s general sense of malaise. It couldn’t have been more than half an hour since he had dispatched Rachek and Griz, and in this brief interlude, he felt a mind-numbing sort of boredom that gnawed at his peace of mind just as efficiently as the canine jaws of his underlings gnawed at meat and bone. Trapped in his own thoughts, trying to form as many contingency plans as possible for the inevitable invasion of his Throne Room by the Interlopers. Idly, he wished for some sort of excitement or unforeseen event to take his mind off of the slow passage of time.
A particularly un-Gnoll-like growl echoed throughout the Throne Room’s walls and alcoves, followed promptly by a duet of heavy thuds which rang out over the din of the Throne Room; metal slamming into wood. The Gnoll King’s head snapped up quite suddenly, a brief look of chagrin passing over his features as he realized his wish had been granted. Out in the writhing mass of tables and feasting Gnolls, two felines in rather well-crafted armour built to suit their frames stood, trying, apparently, to look resplendent and intimidating. The Gnoll King couldn’t help but do a double take; had an armoured contingent of cats just dropped into a room full of canines? There had to be humour in that, somewhere, but the miasma of utter boredom still hung loosely around the King’s head, being battered away by the winds of curiosity with an admirable, albeit insufficient, enthusiasm. To the feline’s credit, they had indeed stunned the Nobles gathered around the table they had crash-landed on, and the Gnoll King felt an altogether uncharacteristic chuckle build up in his throat as he watched the Nobles’ expressions of shock and outrage at the interruption of their meal. The Nobles still didn’t understand that in probably an hour or two, there would be more than enough interruptions. One of the beasts dared to address him directly, without his permission, but so amused was the Gnoll King by the pure spectacle of the whole thing that he didn’t think twice about the breach of etiquette. The Royal Court stopped playing their instruments, waiting patiently for the speaking feline to finish her address. As if to give a split-second warning of what was to follow, the cellist pulled his bow slowly across the strings, rendering a rather ominous note that rose slowly from a sonorous bass to an unnerving tenor. As the note rose, so too, did the Gnoll King. Correcting his posture and standing up at a leisurely pace, the King kicked up his cane, catching it in one gloved hand. Perfectly in tune with the snap of a snare drum, the Gnoll King drove the pointed tip of the cane into the ground and reclined against it, raising the brim of his hat; partially revealing his face in the process. Unlike the other Gnolls, the King didn’t seem to have any fur at all, and bore all the hallmarks of being a standard human. Only the daemonic glow of his alien eyes gave any hint towards the contrary. Clearing his throat, the Gnoll King flicked the brim of his hat down and replied.
Never thought I’d see,
A group of pussies crash my pad.
I guess it’s fine by me,
Not feeling at all that bad.
Your kin trespassed here,
I’m sad to say,
And it ain’t what you wanna hear,
But she’s gotta stay.
Never planned on hurting the pussy,
But your friends just wanna barge in here,
And uh, that makes me fussy.
See, I’ve got a very special job,
And what a chore it’s been,
I gotta keep out the surface-slobs,
Or failing that, keep ‘em in.
I hope you won’t mind if I don’t stick around,
Gotta go over to the cells and have a quick chat,
Talk to these guards that I carved from the ground,
It’s been real fun, but ta-ta pussy cat.
The Gnoll King snapped his fingers abruptly, only the Royal Court daring to make any sound as the fearsome stone statues recessed in the Throne Room’s alcoves suddenly came to life and marched forward in perfect unison, cutting off the Throne, and with it, the Gnoll King. Their wickedly sharp stone spears clanging as the guards blockaded the space between their King and the two felines, the phalanx of statues made it clear that any attempts at pursuit would be met with a hard-fought battle. Waving politely to Thorn and Cinder as he quickly ran towards one of the back alcoves, the Gnoll King tipped his hat once more, and passed into a secret corridor of some kind; the very stone itself shifting to the side to let him through into the tunnel.
CharlotteCarrendar:- Of everything learnt, and what we ourselves hold dear, is of course, passed down through the generations and the teachings of the scholars. Wise men with long beards, making notes, writing down the histories of those that walked the planet before them. It seemed that Atriz was at a loss. Her master, having only taught her so much, and she knew nothing of the Kings of the world. She knew not of royalty that was actually the guardians of the planet. She knew of the guardians of the elements, and of the balance. But seemed that the Gnoll King was something entirely different from those. He was more than human, but a beast, and he loved, and fought, but for what and for who? Who was the other King, if there were two, and why has there been no songs sung or books of these kings? Why the secrecy? If her Master knew of the Kings, and their importance, why would he let one die? So many questions, the poor little cat’s head was spinning. Sighing at their predicament, and the sense of forboding about the Gnoll King facing off against Master Fung Le, Atriz settled on the floor, her tail wrapping around her small legs, as she bowed her head. Would they ever reach the summit? Was this the supreme test? Or had fate just dealt them another bad hand? <3>
Captain: Katerina had moved to one of the cell’s corners after her conversation with Atriz, and had remained there for quite some time, completely silent, eyes closed and body rigid. The nature of her meditations was not immediately apparent, but more than likely it was a way of dealing with the severe pain she was undoubtedly experiencing. Every now and then, the corner of her lip would curl upwards and her ears would twitch almost imperceptibly, presenting the only signs of life, save for the steady rise and fall of her chest, that Katerina was even still alive.
One of the chamber’s stone walls suddenly let out deep, tortured groaning sound as a rectangle of solid rock withdrew and slid away. From the other side of the new portal emanated a blinding light, no doubt amplified by the fact that the cell had barely been illuminated to begin with. The sound of hurried footsteps echoed across the cell walls as a figure passed through the doorway, his entrance punctuated by the screech of the stone door sealing itself shut again. In the low light, the Gnoll King produced a strange, alien sort of radiance. Even without the Royal Court in tow, the very air in the cell felt suddenly different, the flames flickering to an inaudible rhythm as he spoke.
“Hello again, my meddling friends,
Seems the other interlopers are right ’round the bend,
I’ve got a job to do down here,
Why do you all keep coming down to, uh, interfere?
I told the Kittens I’m not giving you back,
I don’t respond well to demands, as the leader of this pack.
So until the others get here and we have a parley,
Right here in this cell is where you’re gonna stay.”Charlotte C.: -Barely stirring, the cat’s tail gave a light flick. Atriz dozed, but there was no dreams, there was nothing but the colours that swirled in the mind, right before dropping off into the inky blackness. Tail curled tighter around her legs, and bound her so she appeared so much smaller. Ears lowered, no guessing that they would not be seen to for quite some time. The softness of her breath, from her pink nostrils, gently brushed her white fur, back and forth as she regulated her breathing. Darkness all around, the woman in such pain, rigid against the rock, meditating. But then, the sharp scraping, groaning of rock, not breaking apart, but with an unnatural force. The rock slid back, and the cat, Atriz’s ears pricked up, and soon her tail swung out and frizzed in a blink. Her back shot up, hair standing on end, hissing madly. Spit spit. Claws extended, like she was about to throw a fit. But it was no guard, or being made from stone. It was his Majesty, the Gnoll King. The one and only. If it had not been for the fact he was their captor, and holding the key to their release, she would have marvelled in his appearance. Not of this world, surely. And as Katerina had explained, he was half of the Legends of the Kings. “Katerina!”- the white cat screached, as the Gnoll King spoke in prose (sp) Words in rhythm, like he was putting on a private show. Each sentence, a cruel twist and taunt. He was not one to bargain with, and stated in a matter of fact way, he would not give them back. “You mad man…you..you crazy loon. The Masters come. You will see, I believe in them still. Your arrogance will be your undoing!” <3>
Captain: The light from the torches in the cell suddenly flared up, fully illuminating the Gnoll King for the first time for the entirety of Atriz’s visit. Clad in a masterfully crafted suit of black and crimson, his humanoid form considerably less exaggerated than that of the Gnolls, the King leaned casually on the head of an ornate cane that had been fashioned into the image of a clock. From beneath a wide-brimmed hat the same color as his cravat, a surprisingly human face met Atriz’ gaze, the skin dark and lined with odd scars and markings. From between his two lips hung a long, black cigar which gave off the faint smell of burning tobacco. Only his eyes betrayed the fact that he wasn’t human; glowing from the slight shadows cast by his hat, the iridescent yellow rings and canine irises, set on a black backdrop, emanated an almost tangible sense of power. His mouth twisted into a wicked smile as Atriz shouted defiantly back at him, and he began to speak, revealing two rows of sharpened, pearl-white teeth.
“I have no doubt, little pussy cat,
That the intruders will come,
Oh yes I’m counting on that.
If we can come to good terms,
Then away you will go,
However, if we can’t, you’ll be fed to the Wurms.”
Katerina stirred from her meditations, calmly rising up onto her feet with a slight wobble, still obviously weak beyond hope. Rubbing the swollen skin around her bound wound, the woman put one hand against the wall behind her to help steady herself, trying, and failing, to pass the move off as casual. Clearing her throat as she came back to herself, Katerina shook her head slightly and looked over at the Gnoll King. “So good of you to finally show up. I have to assume there’s been a commotion in the Throne Room? You wouldn’t have come here unless the situation outside was bad. Then again-” Katerina paused for a moment, looking back at the wall upon which her hand was planted, before turning back to regard the Gnoll King. “-it must be a bit worse than that.”
The Gnoll King scoffed at Katerina’s assertion, appearing to be entirely unconcerned with her accusations.
“You’re still alive, emissary?
I had hoped you’d have succumbed,
To that wicked wound you carry.
Here’s hoping the pain hasn’t numbed.
You still act like you’re in control,
But we both know the truth.
With pride you’re so full,
You’ve forgotten your couth.”Charlotte C.: -Oh those eyes, they stood out against the humanoid face. What he appeared to be and actually was, obviously he was closer to the gnolls then first thought. His air so dignified, but beneath it, the animal like qualities. How to compare, that nature, would be akin to a wolf. And how well Atriz knew that breed. Atriz kept up with the hair raising, not backing down. No matter how rude or confident he did appear. Yes, he held the aces in the deck for now, but lo, beware the joker. “Wurm food? Nyah… I am sure if you wished, you would have done so by now. What game is it you play for making us your prisoners? Look at Katerina, she is practically starved, skin and bone. Yet she is not begging, her heart is true…Nyah. And I have more respect for her than you.” -Glancing back at Katerina quickly, it was plain to see, that if she did not get attention soon, her injuries could do her in. Whipping her head back, facing the Gnoll King full on. “You like to see people and creatures suffer, its so obvious. No mercy do you show, but you damn well should…Nyah. She came down here on behalf of her Lord, and this is how you treat those of her standing? What manner of King are you? Or are you all a show? Do you even know what goes on above the rock?” <3>
Captain: Katerina regained a small portion of her strength and began to quietly shuffle across the cell, giving the Gnoll King a wide berth as she did so, working her way gradually towards Atriz. Coming to a halt a few inches to the feline’s right, Katerina placed her hand upon the nearest wall, closed her eyes for a second, and then pulled it away. She spoke to her fellow prisoner with a hushed voice, as if she were gathering up her strength for something. “Hush now, Atriz. The Gnoll King is foolish, but he is not unnecessarily cruel. He is keeping me weak to prevent me from escaping, which I would have otherwise been able to do easily by now. Your master’s meddling was foreseen, just as my capture was, and now the time has come for us to go, there’s still some work for us to do down here.”
The Gnoll King raised one eye, obviously sceptical of Katerina’s prediction.
“Your type are always so confident,
A side-effect, perhaps, of being heaven-sent,
But rest assured you’ll remain here,
Despite of those who draw near.
And you, ignorant little feline,
What beast are you to mock the divine?
My station has been set since before came down,
Your assertions mean nothing, and make you a clown.”
Katerina managed a smile, weak though it appeared, and tilted her head to one side at the Gnoll King’s assurances. “Will we? Tell me Gnoll King, you are more in-tune with the rocks than I. Don’t you feel it? Heading this way?”
The Gnoll King blinked, and suddenly bared his fangs, beginning to growl as his attention was drawn to the sudden rumble and shudder of the cell. His legs coiled up in preparation for a lunge, but instead of lurching towards the prisoners, he sprang backwards, towards the wall behind him, which began to shudder and part as the magical door started sliding open. The sound of the stone door opening was lost, however, beneath the sudden cacophany of noise as a Wurm cut through a large portion of the cell at high speeds, chewing through the rock in a frenzy as it sped towards some unseen point in the distance. Without missing a beat, Katerina cast off the facade of weakness she had been wearing and dropped into the half-tunnel the Wurm had carved, shouting up at Atriz as she began to jog into the darkness. “Hurry, Atriz! He will be on our trail in a moment, and we have little time to reach the Palace interior!”Charlotte C.: -Atriz was feisty, her nature came from an inner spirit, the sword girl who was her true form spoke out againest injustice. But her angered words would not earn respect, in fact he more or less called her a clown, as though lacking intellect. He had the upper hand, and though she was brave she knew she did not have the ability to fight him in this vessel. She was a cat, as simple as that. But Katerina was wiser and pulled quite the ploy. The officer seemed to know the mountain better than anyone in that room. Surprise Surprise, just after Katerina begged her to hush, the very walls of the cell came alive with the oncoming Wurms. It was true, the arrogance of the Gnoll King would have him bested, and his leaping backwards, magically going through the opening door, had him flee the very one that would release the cat and the woman from capitivity. Without a second to lose, a hole created as the wurm passed, and Katerina with renewed energy, that she stored deep within, leapt into the opening. Singing out for Atriz to hurry, the white cat did move, lickity split, diving through the hole and landing on all fours. How many lives does a cat truly have? For her tally just dropped, but she had more to spare. In darkness, she ran on after the Officer, the brave woman with one eye. The Gnoll King would be sure to have them strung up, if he caught them again. But one thing was for certain, this wasn’t the end….only the beginning. <3>
Roughly two minutes prior to Katerina and Atriz’s escape.
The Gnoll at first felt something between utter dread and martial pride as the vial struck its mark. He watched the wicked emerald droplets splatter over the Ogre-beast’s leathery wing as it tried to defend itself. It had been his last order, and, having executed it rather successfully, he felt he could now die in battle. The Gnoll knew it didn’t matter whether the vial had hit or missed; all that striking his target successfully meant was further inconvenience and danger for the invading force. At the same time, facing such awe-inspiring foes utterly terrified him. He had never seen anything of the sort in all his years serving under Rachek. They had cleared out the caverns of dreaded Giant Rock Spider colonies, quelled the Gatherer Rebellion, and even dealt with the odd influx of zombies on occasion. All of the moments in the Gnoll’s life that he had believed defined him as a warrior paled in comparison to what he witnessed now. He knew what it meant to be Legendary, and also resigned himself to the realization that he would never attain such a status. One of his brethren, bravely, and foolishly, engaged in melee with the Ogre-beast scored an astounding hit, driving his spear through the monstrosity’s wing, contaminating the Ogre’s blood with the fluid. For a moment, the Gnoll wished they were not forbidden from using the Wurm Ooze in combat. Pepsi had mandated that the ooze not be used in any honorable situation shortly after it had been discovered; a foe corrupted by such unthinking evil was not a foe worth fighting. Putting all such irrelevant thoughts out of his head, the Gnoll checked his gear, and realized, to his own quiet shame, that he was one of the last few Gnolls left, and also the furthest at the back. Charging forward, the Gnoll’s jaw opened wide in a ferocious battlecry; death was no longer part of the question, the only element left for him was Glory.
For three kilometers in every direction, the Wurms which usually tunneled quietly through the mountain suddenly froze, as if something had called them all to a halt; somewhere, someone had broken open a vial of extremely potent Wurm Phereomone. How the creatures communicated through the stone was a mystery, even to the likes of Pepsi, but such things did not matter that much when the unknown means of communication could be replicated through arcane rituals perfected by unrestricted decades of practice. The Wurm Phereomone, if deployed in the right manner, worked just as well as a mining tool as it did an offensive one; the liquid sang out through the stones, calling out to all the Wurms in an area directly proportionate to the amount of Pheremone released, and drew them to its location, creating massive caverns and, occasionally, bone-mulch and salsa where once there had been unwanted visitors. That the spear had pierced Valyn, and tainted his blood with the Pheremone, put him even further in danger than the others, as it was now him explicitly that the Wurms were tracking. As the massive beasts began their multi-directional charge towards the adventuring party, one unknowingly carved a pathway through a cell in the Gnoll King’s domain, giving Katerina and Atriz their path to freedom.