Writing on the Wall (Part 2)
(I can wise up, eventually. Part one: http://www.erfworld.com/blog/view/48101/writing-on-the-wall-part-1 )
My eyes open to mostly darkness, and my moustache half floating in a shallow pool. I move my eyes around. There's water everywhere that I can see...not far. I move my fingers, I move my toes. Fantastic. I'm not croaked.
I've recovered, though I -must- have incapacitated at least for a while. There's no telling how long that while is, so it's important I get my head back on straight. Adding insult, I'm still incapped in that my fine cap is gone, lost amongst the gobwins or somewhere in my fall. A pity, too, Tommy Shanter's caps are the peak of fashion in the city of Underf. A little voice shouts in my head, "More important things, Runin! Organize yourself!"
Right, right. Squeezing out my moustache and sitting up, I make a mental list. Not croaked, so there was water in here, and I splashed it out. No croaked gobwins, so they didn't follow me. No live gobwins, so they don't know of another way down here. No wounds. This provokes a feeling of dread...this means that I've been down here a full turn, and I was healed and cleansed at our new turn's start. Full move. This confirms it, I'm late. Dorves will croak that would not have.
I'm about to haul myself up and look for a hex exit when I remember the glance I got just before the big flop. Turning around, boots slapping wetly on the stones, it's still there, glowing faintly of its own luminescence. My breath catches...it's beautiful. The Glyph Hanger. I read about them when I was only some dozenturns old, poring through the library over the known artifacts and their usage, picking out my favorite from every few pages. The Hanger is dual discipline, Signamancy and Retconjuration, and as such has a great many fables about its employment and no actual history on record.
The haft is engraved with characters and symbols of what I can only imagine is Titanic origin, and the yellow golden hammerblock is capped on either end. The blunt striking surface should be a thick deadly crimson, but on this artifact, there's only a tiny sliver of pink, surrounded by studded silver. There is water dripping in my eyes, and I wipe it out to more closely examine my find. Reality asserts itself as my vision clears, and I note with disappointment that there actually isn't any of the Eraser left. The bare banded core makes a brutal weapon, but any Retconjuration is long spent.
The other side, however, is an ebon spike tapering from the block down to a point. This by itself should reduce my Juice consumption when inscribing signs and scrolls by nearly -half-, an incredible find. Thanking the Titans, I reach for the weapon, but a pair of eyes that I didn't see make me stop short. A creature fades into view, and it's another one from the fables. Shock stills my hand further...it's a Scribble-Not! A Signamancer's bane if there ever was one created. If it's hostile, I'm a croaked Dorf and we just haven't gotten there yet.
A few tense moments go by with us looking at each other, and a few more. All of a sudden, some letters pop up into the air. T-O-R-C-H, and with a poof of clouds, a big Powerball appears, hanging in the air, slowly rotating. A few features, freshly illuminated, demand my attention. Features, such as the horde of Scribble-Nots all staring down at me from the walls...the alcoves are laden with them, and they perch even atop the Powerball. I curse quietly. If a quarter of the stories are true, then I could croak in several creative ways at any time.
The fresco behind the Scribble-Nots catches my eye almost as much. As I turn towards it, the feral creatures seem to move away from it, revealing gibberish and childish drawings. I can tell that even in this dank and now water-logged area that it's made out of Drywall and the pictures are unspoiled. Channeling my senses into Signamancy, I look at the display with fresh eyes, and immediately it transforms! I silently congratulate myself as I mentally flit through the meanings.
Long ago, great gifts were given to the deserving of Erfworld. Kings and Overlords were made and destroyed by the power of these tokens. Some recipients used their boons wisely. Others did not.
A Signamancer of great renown was granted a Glyph Hanger as a test of her mettle. She was given warnings of responsibility and piety owed to her benefactors, and she learned of the power of Creation and Destruction within her gift. She became a tyrant, erasing all those she wished, for none save the Titans can stand against their own Discipline. But the Titans are just. As the creatures of the Erf lamented, words were exchanged in the City of Heroes. "Why did you even do that, Tommy?" And the Titan who gave the gift extended his hand, replying "I got this, don't worry. We're still testing it against Deletionism."
I'm shaken out of the tale that I'm witnessing, from sheer awe more than anything else. Too many revelations! Looking at the Glyph Hanger, and its guardians, I almost don't want it anymore. Almost. But my Dorven spirit kindles and with a resolute puff of my moustache, I force myself to look back at the fresco.
And from the hand of the Titan came Life, and Motion, to the memories of Erf that the Signamancer had Retconjured. These new creatures banded together, and descended upon the despot, assailing her with all manner of weapon and artifice. The Signamancer fought, but who can resist the will of the Titans? She fell, and was erased from the Scoreboard with her own Glyph Hanger.
Mark the words of warning, Signamancer, and heed them.
I nearly make a full stack of Crap Golems as the visions abruptly end.
As I wash my trousers in what is left of the pool, the Scribble-Nots don't budge. I need to get going, though. I have barely one extra hex worth of move to spare in getting to the Gobwin fortress, so I can't take detours. I have no weapon, either, so the half of me that's drooling over possessing a Glyph Hanger promptly beats the stuffing out of the half that doesn't want to touch such a dangerous artifact, and I gently take the great hammer from beneath the Scribble-Not perched upon it. It jumps off without complaint, still watching me like all of its brethren. With a swallow of saliva, I equip it, and start for the stairs up...which was the third thing that the Powerball is lighting up. Understandably, it hasn't been quite as important until now.
I get to the surface and frown immediately upon not seeing any gobwins. I'm pretty sure I know where they've headed, and it is essential that I get there, too. Time dilation means that the battle should still only be in its early stages once I arrive, but that is no excuse to dawdle. I make a beeline for the Fortress hex and break through their shabby Wall as immediately as I can once I cross the border.
It's a bit strange on the surface, when I think about Airspace. I know the rules for it, more or less, but there's no such zone in the strongholds beneath the mountain. I feel that the ability to go straight from Airspace to Tower is a little cheatsy. Right now, though, I would give my best MacGuffin for the ability to do that, instead of getting chased by -another pack of gobwins-. They seem to be spawning fresh ones every time I blink, and they want my head on a pike.
I lose a few Hits while running, but I finally find what I'm looking for, a corridor that leads close to the Tower zone. Puffing from the sprinting and my moustache in a sorry state, I pull off the Glyph Hanger and scratch 8 dark lines into the floor, as quick as I've ever made an octagon. The gobwins behind me are packed in like only gobwins can be, but as I slap my palm down into the octagon and dive for the other side, Juice flows! Joyously, it's just a smidgen of what it usually takes, and the frontmost gobwin gets slapped in the face by a forbidding STOP Sign. The sign deals no damage, more's the pity, but it acts like a small hex barrier and my pursuers are offturn. Triumphant, I have enough time for a smirk at the helpless gobwins before they start screeching in rage. I don't know if gobwins are capable of dealing Hits with their voices, but they're trying their hardest, so I leave, fast.
As I hustle the rest of the way to the Tower, I spot a full stack of Clubbers and their Caddy, locked in frenzied battle with a gobwinoid seven-stack. The Caddy is skillful and exchanging clubs as fast as they're called for, but they're still getting pressed back somehow! With a renewed sense of urgency, I breach the Tower and shout my presence. I don't have time to be a secret any longer. "COME AT ME, YA BOGGER'D WITCH, I'LL SMASH YA INTA MARMIED CRUMPS!" What I get for my efforts are more gobwins, what a surprise. Just a half stack, and I croak them all in short order, but they're disbanded -hard- to finish off. Much worse than normal gobwins. If the Glyph Hanger weren't an extraordinary weapon of it's own right, I feel like that might have gone very poorly.
Just a half stack, though. We must be doing well enough outside to demand their every unit, which makes things actually doable on my end. I'm racing as fast as Dorven feet can pound cobble, until I see a silver disk embedded in the door with a decapitated man's profile on it. This must be their headquarters. The door comes down with a slap of my hammer, and I step in, to a shrill laugh. "EEEE-heeheeheehee, so one got through, mhmmyeeesss." Before my eyes is a gobwin, larger than the others and with much better equipment. I guess they can come across Leadership every so often after all. The witch behind him, though, chills me to the bone.
It's a Green Witch. Not a Black, thank the Titans, but only Magnus could croak it, one on one. Certainly not me. She's got the Evil Eye, and her active hexes are buzzing around her. There's so many...no wonder my Dorven kindred outside are hard pressed! Strangely, this Witch has a single arm, tipped with a hand full of jagged nails that seep with whatever Poison special she's concocted. I'm certain it's unpleasant. The gobwin leader in front of me flexes.
"So, Deary, how would you like to get croaked today ?" Spoken like a sweet old matron. "I could poison you, or just take your heart out, or we can have little Gobfrey do it. Oh, and don't bother fighting. I put up a Flex Hex. And a Deflects Hex. And the Vex Hex." She cackled gleefully. "Oh, and for Gobfrey here, a special Rex Hex. So unless you can eat a nice Hex Mix like that...go ahead and croak, sweetie." I think it's a law of Erfworld, the more villianous you are, the longer you have to gloat. Even this gobwin has just been smirking at me, blocking the Witch's full vision while I put a risky casting into play.
We're taught to watch for Signs of suicide, that would croak you to cast if you're too low level. This would be one of them, but I can feel the Glyph Hanger softening the blow, supporting my Juice. I'm still drained to zero in half a breath, as the first three lines are drawn. The next two...with a wince, they come out of my remaining hits. This sign demands sacrifice in full. An ancient sign. The Elder Sign. The last line is drawn and my bones crackle with weakness as I'm drained, but...the Witch and her crony stop their gibbering laughter as the Elder Sign glows. The hex magic is drawn like one lodestone to another into the Sign, whirls around the symbol, and is greedily absorbed to fuel its further magic leeching. The Witch stutters as she tries to see what's going on, and gasps as she steps around the gobwin to see what is on the wall. Her face...I almost laugh. In fact, I would, if I weren't taking advantage of the distraction and their sudden weakness to drive the spike of the Glyph Hanger into Gobfrey's chest. He croaks instantly.
I know we've won, now. No more leadership bonus, and no more Witch Hexes to fortify the weak gobwin packs outside. We'll roll over them in minutes, but I'm the one standing in front of this incredibly angry Green Witch, alone. The thought of laughter stops entirely as her form contorts, the vile green body and claw growing into a sight that I wish I wasn't seeing. Green Witch Mean Time. This is bad.
She screams, and I -do- lose another hit, just from that. I have only enough time to put the Glyph Hanger in the way for a partial parry, it's not enough. The Witch swings her empty arm around and it bounds off of the flat head of the hammer before I feel her claws piercing my heart. We stand there, as I croak, except that I haven't. She doesn't have an arm. She doesn't have an arm? I look down, and so does she. I look up at her in confusion, she does too. I smash her face in with the hammer and level! She does not, and that's the end of that.
Going back out to the fight with my current hit point level is out of the question, even if it is a rout. I'm more than content to watch the proceedings from inside the Tower. Eventually the hex becomes uncontested, and Magnus and King Platto find me just a few minutes after I turn up an unremarkable little box. It's a clever hiding spot to put the Ring of Ballin into, so I suppose the Witch thought it up. After formally returning the Ring to my King, the rest of the turn is spent in triumphant celebration. The next is spent returning home for further festivities, where I am endlessly imposed upon to talk about my mission and my new Glyph Hanger.
It's only several turns later that I can return to my normal duties, which now include inscribing runes on the arms and armor of our leadership. Before now, this option has been a skosh too juice-intensive to be worthwhile, but the Titans have granted me this gift, and I'll be duggered if I don't use it. These mountains will be cleared of gobwins. The Deep Depths will be explored. The surface...let's not get ahead of ourselves. But right now, I'm happy, I'm sitting in a smithy, and I'm Runin Stones.
-edited 1 time by Tommy Titan