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Revision as of 01:02, 19 May 2020

Part of the Dissonance Theory Arc

Summary: Following a lead on a man who may have familiarity with the dark legends of Xicotl, Khitti and Brand take the Tranquility on a bizarre misadventure featuring talking animals and a Greydusk with... issues.


Khitti had been wondering the entire way from Cenril to Chartsend about whether or not this was a mistake. This whole situation with Giga Watt--or whatever his name was--seemed… too weird. Khitti’s got a sixth sense for this stuff. But, Khitti also needed to talk to -someone-, anyone, in Chartsend about finding an area in town to hold concerts for The Sound of Sirens. She couldn’t help fixate though on the dude’s description--the ‘oddly tall’ most of all. And he came from ‘the Void’? It all smelled of Shadow Plane stuff and Khitti would be incredibly surprised if it actually had nothing to do with it. That didn’t matter though. All that mattered was that Khitti’d brain was on overdrive, worrying about whether or not James Juniper would suddenly have acquired a ship and everything else needed for a cover story or if it was something worse--like one of the Umbrawisps, Amarrah and Facilier’s tribe. Khitti did not mention any of this to Brand, however, but it wouldn’t have taken much for him to realize that she was a wee bit on edge. They’d arrive in Chartsend finally, Khitti having given herself a few grey hairs along the way, and the redhead would be off to deal with her band business while Brand did… Brand stuff. Eventually, she’d return. And, eventually, she’d ask him if he figured out which ship was the weird dude’s and if Brand had even set eyes on him yet.

Brand was doing… Brand stuff. He’d fixed himself a cold glass of whiskey, pulled a chair up to the edge of the Tranquility’s deck, and was surveying the other ships in the harbor one by one, taking a drink every time he identified something that made the Tranquility better than the ship he was looking at. Sometimes it was over very quickly, as with the fishing dinghies and the small merchant’s ships. Other times, it took considerably longer. As Khitti returned, she’d find Brand scowling over the lip of his drink -- there was one particular ship with no obvious weaknesses. A ship he’d not seen before. A ship flying no Lithrydelian region’s colors, but some other flag entirely. From where he sat, it looked perfect. Damn them.

Lionel || On board the ship which Captain Brand of the Catalian vessel Tranquility had deemed prospectively perfect, a man dressed in heavy iron armor painted stark black twirled his red robe in the tropical wind as his boots struck the deck’s wooden planks with every step he took. His shipmates – simple soldiers, one and all – kept their eyes on anything else, anyone else, but him. Here was a captain whose very presence commanded authority, whose gravely voice passed through a filter in his helmet that amplified the tone into an almost metallic, skin-crawling pitch. The man stepped down from his ship and surveyed the docks, and as he did so, most of the nearby dockworkers quickly found other tasks to handle in places far from here. He seemed a known quantity. He wasn’t far from Brand, and he wouldn’t be far from Khitti upon her return. Once he was finished surveying the area, the man suddenly drew a greatsword from the sheath strapped to his back and spoke: “You tremble to gaze upon me. You know my name. I, Guys-It’s-Vaan Balls-Are, judgemaster-magistrate of the Void, have come for the one called Gilgamesh. One of you will tell me where he is, or else all of you will pay the price.”

Okay, so. This dude was definitely weird as frak, but Khitti was starting to doubt her paranoia. Then again, plenty in the Shadow Plane were quite the dramatic type (as if there weren’t a single soul like that in Lithrydel). A smirk formed as Khitti leaned over the port side of the ship somewhat to look at the great armored man, an arm propped up on the ship itself to rest her chin on,“I’m looking right at you, buddy, and I’m not trembling. Instead of threatening people, why not ask nicely? Regardless, I’m pretty sure at least half of these people aren’t gonna know or even give a single frak about what you’re saying. They’re here to make money and if you’re not offering it, they’re not listening. Just the way the world works, I’m afraid.” The redhead tried her best not to sound condescending, but it was really hard not to when someone with a stupidly large sword went and threatened people for no reason. “And also pretty sure that a ‘judgemaster-magistrate of the Void’ has no jurisdiction here. You certainly don’t look like you’re from the void anyway--and I would know, because I’m well acquainted with it.” If nothing else, perhaps Khitti’s attempt at talking the man’s ear off would baffle him into a stupor long enough for someone to push him into the sea.

Brand || Khitti talked, and Brand drained what was left of his drink -- which was quite a lot still, seeing as he’d poured himself a full pint. As it neared to empty, he peered at the strange ‘judgemaster-magistrate’ through the clear bottom. The distortions in the glass made the figure look rather… rotund. Apple-shaped. A hilariously bad shape for fighting with any kind of weapon, and especially so for that oversized sword of him. “Yeah,” Brand piped up, with a burp. “What she said.”

Lionel || The few remaining dockworkers – the proud and the stupid alike – watched with jaws agape as Khitti and Brand openly defied the fiendish Guys-It’s-Vaan Balls-Are. “We should get out of here,” one mumbled to another, and off they fled, shielding their eyes from the high-noon sun. “I ain’t dying like this,” another declared, and she promptly jumped into the water. “You dare mock me,” the judgemaster-magistrate snarled through his voice modulator. His eyes were concealed behind yellow orbs that shone like daggers, and those daggers were now positioned toward Khitti in particular. “You would sully me so? I am the very model of a Void judgemaster-magistrate.” Taking a single swift step, Balls-Are swung his greatsword forth threateningly – but he was interrupted by the flailing and sobbing of the female dockworker who had sent herself down into the water. “I can’t swim,” she squealed, her arms flapping not unlike the fins of a fresh-caught bass. “I scored a C+ in gymnastics,” she continued. “I thought that would be enough. It isn’t! Somebody help!” Balls-Are was, awkwardly enough, by far the closest person to this woman. “Son of a submariner.” The judgemaster-magistrate sighed so dramatically that his modulator almost made it seem like he was hyperventilating. He flicked a switch hidden upon the plate mail protecting his forearm and in a swoosh his entire suit of armor popped off of him and shrank into a compact metal box. All that was left was the man now – and the man was closer to a boy, dirty abs flushed with sunlight, blond hair tussled, and a face which could only be described as ‘somewhat dumb by design.’ He wore a sleeveless, mithril midriff and simple cotton pants, and he rubbed a finger over his nose as if to complete the image of idiocy. “I hate everything,” Guys-It’s-Vaan complained. “Literally, eff em el.” Without further ado, the lad hoisted himself into the water and rescued the woman, who had not seen the transformation, as she was too busy nearly drowning. When he scooped her up and brought her to shore, the woman looked at Guys-It’s-Vaan and smiled. “I could kiss you,” she said, “but I don’t think I will. But what of Balls-Are?” She looked around frantically, but was left behind by Guys-It’s-Vaan, who raised his arms in the air in a showing that he was unarmed as he approached Khitti and Brand. “This wasn’t supposed to happen. Who jumps into the water like that, anyway? Look, my cover is blown. Just… can you tell me if you’ve seen a bloke named Gilgamesh? I’ll pay.”

Khitti || Definitely -not- from the Shadow Plane, Khitti concluded to herself as she watched the strange display get even stranger. How odd that stranger things weren’t coming from that place for once! Khitti spared the woman--and Guys-It’s-Vaan for that matter--the fact that Balls-Are was literally the kid that saved her. “I don’t knooow,” she said, drawing out the last of her words a bit for dramatic flare, “You did just threaten literally everyone here. I could summon up the whole of the Warrior’s Guild to take you into custody.” Khitti appeared to think it over for a moment, then shrugged, “What exactly does this Gilgamesh look like exactly? Quite a lot of people in Lithrydel, even just in the area we’re from.” She side-eyed Brand momentarily, looking to him to decide whether or not to let this kid on board or to go down there with him--or to just leave his crazy ass down there and continue to shout at him from the ship.

“Yeah,” Brand piped up, with a burp. “What she said.” Wait, hadn’t he done this same thing just a moment ago? Oh well. It still applied. For someone as intent on being a leader as Brand was, he sure didn’t mind following Khitti’s lead whenever she was around. Just another of the many weird inconsistencies that made up Brand Herzegler. “Haven’t seen no Gaggle Mush around here, though we sure are looking, same as you. What business do you have with him?”

Lionel || Guys-It’s-Vaan’s lip twisted with uncertainty. The woman Khitti was threatening him with the powers of the Lithrydelian Warrior’s Guild! He’d never even heard of the place. “Hey, I still have my ship full of loyal men,” he countered. Surprising to himself most of all, his soldiers – who still seemed rather militant and sincere about the whole arrangement – looked down from the dock of his ship and nodded in the affirmative. “Huh,” the young man thought out loud. “I thought for sure that ridiculous costume was the only reason they cared.” He cleared his throat and mustered what little masculinity he could when next he spoke. “So no Gilgamesh, nor even a Gaggle Mush.” Guys-It’s-Vaan put a finger to his lip again contemplatively. “Well – wait, you say you’re looking for him as well? What are the odds? Maybe I don’t hate literally everything after all. Why, what does he look like?” Guys-It’s-Vaan paused and seemed to flinch. “Shucks. He’s tall – really tall. He wore red, right fellows?” His soldiers all nodded in agreement and one in particular proved far more helpful than their leader. “Roughly 274.32 centimeters, sire! 158 kilograms – perhaps even as high as 158.757, if you can believe it, sire! Four swords strapped to his back, all wildly separate in style, sire! Grey skin, rather dark to behold, sire, with dull brown eyes but a shock of red atop his head, sire!” Guys-It’s-Vaan blinked, turning his back to Khitti and Brand with astonishment. “Why, Larenzov Array-Bia, my good man, you’ve earned your keep and then some.” He tilted his head back to the Catalians. “He looks like that, I’d say. And I’m looking for him… because he owes me a great number of cattle.”

Khitti first smirked at Brand for his lovely input, and then at the kid, “No no. Continue to hate literally everything. It’s good. Gives you character. That’s how you become an adult.” And if Guys-It’s-Vaan showed any doubt? “It’s true! The two of us learned to hate literally everything at a very early age and we’re extremely successful, totally capable adults with two homes, lots of pets, a kid--the works!” That’s… kind of a lie--well, the extremely successful, totally capable part--but you know, the kid didn’t need to know that. Things were all fun and games for Khitti right now, until the kid’s crew gave the description of Gilgamesh. A frown pushed through her jokey demeanor, her line of sight shifting back to her husband, “Very tall… and grey-skinned? And he’s from the Void.” Today was one of those days where she wished her and Brand still had their psychic bloodlink. It would’ve been far easier for her to keep her thoughts and worries from surfacing if she could just tell them to Brand without actually speaking. Sure, maybe Gilgamesh was an extremely tall drow, but it was rather rare for any sort of elf to be that tall. Not so in the Shadow Plane, however. The description screamed Greydusk or Umbrawisp. “I see. Well. Maybe it would be better if we looked together then. I didn’t see anyone of the sort on my way back from dealing with some business here in town, but that doesn’t mean he’s not good at hiding,” she said, returning her attention back to the kid. “Something something ‘three pairs of eyes are better than one’.”

Brand || “Six eyes are four eyes better than two!” blurted out Brand, seeming almost proud of his inane observation. Clearly, the alcohol was beginning to hit his brain. He’d become something of a lightweight these days, between the busyness of commanding a ship and wanting to set a good example for Dominic. Still, he wasn’t so far gone that he couldn’t recognize that he’d been a bit silly. Clearing his throat, Brand continued, “anyway, I agree. We should all search and … probably go in a group, actually, rather than split up. You say he owes you cattle, but we don’t know what he’s willing to do in order to not pay you back.” Khitti’s glance was returned along with a raised eyebrow, as if to ask how much harm she thought a Greydusk or Umbrawisp could do here in Lithrydel.

Lionel || Vaan-Balls-Are had never before been given so real a talk in so short a time. His entire life changed in that sable moment. Khitti Herzegler had entered his life and shone a blacklight so dimly upon him that he would never again dare to hope in a better future, but instead, make the most misery out of every waking moment that he could. “Thank you,” he said, tearing up. His men aboard the vessel teared up, too, questioning their various faiths like citizenry summoned to Plato’s cave itself. Underneath that salient and sobering sun, the woman Khitti transformed into an idol, a goddess, a guidepost. At she and her undoubtedly fertile husband’s urging, they became as subjects to royalty, and both ships made significant headway at sea in record time. “These cattle,” Larenzov Array-Bia explained to Sundance the dwarf at one point during the voyage – Sundance had several potential wives at his feet before anchors were aweigh, praising his beard and girth alike, so he had freely elected to serve as the Tranquility’s ambassador aboard Vaan-Balls-Are’s ship – “are like family to us. They’re sacred. We don’t eat them. In fact, we have worshiped them for generations. Each of their offspring is given a religious title at birth. Of course, the leader of the pack is always known as Cattle One. But there’s also Now-Now, Brown Cow, Cattle Two, Big Bertha, Iron Bull, Cattle Three, Cattle Six, and honorary pig-cow Baconator. Did I forget anyone?” One of the other soldiers shook his head. “Not a one.” Sundance would have responded if he weren’t being treated to numerous picnic baskets filled not only with food but virility-enhancing herbs as well. “So why’s your boss a judge-and-jury or whatever?” he eventually asked. Vaan-Balls-Are hopped down from an upper portion of the deck and grinned ear-to-ear. “I dunno,” he answered tritely. And such was the way of things on this most peculiar voyage.

Isla Cowabunga

With time, the two ships would come upon an island. Eagle-eyed observers would quickly note that, based on visible landmass, it was possible that the island was shaped akin to a cow. It wasn’t a particularly large island, and as soon as both parties came to shore they would be greeted by bipedal raccoons aplenty. An entire tribe of them, in fact, all of whom offered tribute not only to Vaan-Balls-Are’s crew but to the Tranquility’s as well. One of them, an almost comically short one named Nooklet, attempted to place a tulip-laced wreath upon Khitti’s head before being punched flat unconscious by one of Vaan-Balls-Are’s crewmen, who tried to do the same thing himself. None of the other bipedal raccoons seemed to give a good goddamn what had happened to Nooklet. It was a kill-or-be-killed world here, and these were industrious, survivalist tanuki-folk. “Please tell us where last you saw Gigawatts or whatever,” Vaan-Balls-Are requested. “And answer any lingering questions my companions here from the Serenity – I think? – may have for you as well.”

Khitti wasn’t keen on being called ‘mistress’ by Quintessa Dragana. Sometime in the near future, she wouldn’t be too keen on being called ‘Mrs. Herzegler’ either. But, right now? If these dudes called her a goddess and decided to worship her and Brand? She’d own that s***. ‘Khitti the Murder Goddess, Mother of All Things Shadowy and Sweet’ had a nice ring to it. Until someone actually called her something along those lines though, the one title she might actually accept would have to lay dormant for quite some time. “Cattle. Right. As leader of the Devout’s Guild, I feel compelled to ask why you all worship cows? Our kid has similar ways, except with chickens.”

Khitti || They’d continue on their journey to the bovine-shaped island and Khitti was soon approached by -a lot- of raccoons. “Oh my god, Brand. They’re like the cats that fixed up your ship with those enchants.” You know the ones, Brand. From the big bad scary place that Khitti has taken great care not to mention yet. The ones that gave your ship all those nice speed boosts. “Wait… maybe not,” she said as one of Vaan-Balls-Are’s crew straight-up knocked out one of the poor little things and literally none of Nooklet’s kin cared. “What the hell. Don’t do that. I will take all of your flower crowns. And be nice! Or you’ll all get punched by -me-.” Khitti snatched up Nooklet’s tulip crown, put it on her head, and then righted the poor raccoon. “Please take all flower crowns for me and/or Brand and put them in a bag and on the ship. Thanks.” Khitti nodded matter-of-factly at her own orders, then returned her mind to the task at hand. “He means Gilgamesh. Supposedly very tall. Grey-skinned. Lots of weapons that I’m probably going to take. Apparently has a lot of cows.”

Brand || As the flower crowns were whisked away, Brand managed to snag a particularly manly-looking one and put it atop his head. Manly, yes, you read that right. He had picked one that said “I’ll kick your ass, and I’ll look fabulous while I do it.” Once he’d done that, he had to wade through a sea of raccoons before he could make it onshore. He’d motion for Khitti and Vaan-Balls-Are to follow (and to please not step on any of the wildlife, thanks). “So I guess we look for the cows, eh? Where we find cows, we find Goggle Match. Right?” Right.

Lionel || “I dunno,” Vaan-Balls-Are answered Khitti’s cow-worship inquiry. And that was that. The sailor who had knocked Nooklet out cold exhibited a deep sense of shame upon Khitti’s scolding which none of the other bipedal raccoons seemed interested in also exhibiting. As Nooklet awoke, he blinked his big, white eyes several times and then – and then… and then, he would attempt to follow close behind Khitti Herzegler for the remainder of her days. Meanwhile, the presumable leader of the bunch – you know him well – emerged from the crowd and a literal thought bubble manifest over his head for numerous seconds before he replied. “Grey-skinned, yes, yes. Lots of weapons that you’re probably going to take, yes, yes. Not sure about the cows, I thought they were Vaan-Balls-Are’s, yes. Perhaps my memory could be retrieved for a small loan of…?” He abruptly cut himself off once privileged to gaze upon the glamour of Brand Herzegler’s manliest-looking flower crown and subsequent verbal or nonverbal, narrator is unclear, threats of ass-kicking. He and every other bipedal raccoon then bowed deeply, heads toward the loamy soil beneath their paws. “Aha, yes, yes,” the leader known as Tom acquiesced. “No loans. Only information. You’ll find these forlorn cows that way.” He pointed a paw but maintained his subservient stance in the meanwhile. “By the curvature of Tom’s fur, I can safely predict a distance of 1.237 kilometers, sires,” Larenzov Array-Bia reported. “Give or take .028 kilometers, sires.” Tom glanced at Array-Bia studiously and then nodded with great haste. “Yes, yes. Whatever. We’ll be holding a special ceremony in honor of meeting our god,” Tom gestured specifically to Brand, “in front of the sewer this evening. All are welcome to attend.”

Whether or not savage sewage festivities were of any interest to Khitti or Brand, and no matter their response therein, eventually the party needed to make a move on. There were cows to be found – cows beyond a humid jungle filled with coconuts, cherries, pears, peaches, oranges, but absolutely zero apples. There were also tarantulas. It was up to the narrator’s fellow writers to decide if and how the tarantulas responded to the party’s presence. Sundance, for his part, simply sneezed. He was allergic to spiders, which was not something he’d ever willingly admit to Khitti. “Must be seasonal,” he excused himself, a number of wives giggling around him as if he had made the greatest joke in cosmic history. There were a few scattered old mines from old tanuki wars left throughout the jungle, but one of Vaan-Balls-Are’s crewmen was quick to prove that all but one of them were inert. “This last one, however,” she started to explain before being blown sky high in a fiery fit of manic screams. “Was an exception,” Larenzov Array-Bia gulped. Thankfully, Vaan-Balls-Are, Goddess Khitti, The Godbrand, Array-Bia, Sundance, Sundance’s ladies-in-waiting, a few remaining crewmen, and the little Nooklet following the team as closely as was allowed were soon exiting the jungle and found themselves upon a verdant plain with clear blue skies above, not unlike a 21st-century screensaver. There roamed the cattle, name-tagged one and all, and they were surrounded by… a purplish, magical vortex? “Whoa,” Vaan-Balls-Are said. “I dunno what that is but I think I hate it.” Khitti, however, ought to recognize it instantly, for it was steeped in the magics of the Shadow Plane.

Khitti || As Larenzov rattled off numbers, Khitti’s attention focused itself on the mention of a ceremony for Brand. “Oh my. Brand the Fire God. That’s pretty hot,” she said, batting her eyes at the Tranquility’s captain. “Make sure there’s lots of whiskey, Tom! We’ll be back for this ceremony.” And then, unfortunately, they’re whisked away away from their adoring fans. Very rude. “Aww, look at how furry all those spiders are. We should’ve brought Francis with us. He could’ve found another girlfriend to have ten thousand babies with.” This adventure proved to be far more distracting than Vaan-Balls-Are likely wanted because Khitti decided to stray from the group briefly to give a random tarantula a little scritch on its fuzzy head. It did nothing but blurble in response. Truly, she was the Mother of Spiders. And then they found that vortex and Khitti could not contain herself, yet again. “AHA. I frakking knew it!” She shadowstepped closer to the cows and the obvious Shadow Plane magic, studying it briefly before shrugging. “Well…” What more was there a shadow-manipulator do than try to manipulate the shadow magic in front of her? So. She did. Khitti tried to draw the magic to her, to shut down the vortex and free the delicious… I mean totally sacred cows.

Brand could only gape at the scene. “Holy cow….s. Holy cows. That’s a lot of cows.” A plentitude of cows. An abundance of cows. At least it wasn’t an abundance of… something else. Brand probably would have continued on with that line of thought, but he was interrupted with a blurble from behind him. He turned to see a pile of tarantulas big enough to rival the size of one of the cows. One tarantuala, near the top and front of the pile, seemed to be wearing a pompom on four of its eight legs and a party hat atop its head. “Oh,” said Brand, flummoxed. “Uh. If you’re looking for Tom’s ceremony, I don’t think that’s supposed to be until later.” The tarantula waved its pompoms wildly in response. “Er… okay. I guess we can party now?” Who could say -- maybe this tarantula party pile would somehow summon He Whose Name Cannot Be Pronounced.

Lionel || When Khitti drew the magic toward herself, the vortex popped like a can hit by one too many rocks and the smell of ozone filled the open air. The cows weren’t fazed in the least. “Now-now,” Vaan-Balls-Are started, bursting into happy tears. “Brown Cow. I hate everything, even you, but also I love you. I’ve missed you so.” The cows expressed their apparent gratitude by mooing. It seemed fitting. But the dark magic Khitti had seized succumbed a little too easily even to the grasp of someone so proficient as she. Sundance had readied his war ax, which sent shivers of sexualized energy through his flock of women, but it turned out he had no need for it – not yet, at least. The clear, blue skies bore a lovely breeze, and the grass growing on the perfectly green plains waved ever so slightly in response. It was idyllic. Until, of course, it wasn’t. Gone were the plains, replaced by thatched wood and iron to reinforce it. A bridge. Gone was the blue sky, replaced with a vivid red. And gone, one by one, were Vaan-Balls-Are’s crew as well. “What the heck?” Vaan-Balls-Are was understandably taken aback even as his arms and legs began to evaporate into nothingness. “According to my last, best guess,” Array-Bia hypothesized, “we were all an illusion, cruelly gifted with some semblance of intelligence so as to more deeply lament our swift and brutal ends.” Vaan-Balls-Are sighed. “I really do hate everything.” And then they were gone, each and every one of them, even fair Nooklet, save for Khitti, Brand, and Sundance. “Does this mean there’s no party later?” Sundance asked glumly.

Lionel || “There’s a party right here!” A ridiculously tall, grey-skinned man, dressed all in gauche red robes and with four swords upon his back, stood surrounded by mooing cows on a big bridge. “If by ‘party,’ you’re up for a beating!” He drew all four swords at once, which seemed rather a neat feat given he only had two arms; extra swords lay suspended in midair, tips pointed threateningly through the distance toward the Catalians. He was a Greydusk, and there was no mistaking it. “These cows are mine, and you’ll never take the ancient Xicotl-era artifacts that I stole from that stupid castle, either! They’re too nifty by far for the likes of you – they allow me to siphon more energy from the you’ve-probably-never-even-heard-of-it Void from whence I came!” The tall man giggled maniacally. “I can even create bozos like ‘judge-magisters’ who I pretend chase me away from places I’ve stolen from, which means no one else bothers chasing me, and everything I take is rightfully mine!” The swords floating in midair above the other swords, which he wielded in the more conventional fashion, suddenly flashed thick with Shadow Plane magic. “You were fortunate to have found a way to break my illusion and discover my top-secret hideaway, but lady, there is nothing you can do to stop me – Gilgamesh – from ruing your day like a bad loaf of rye!” The two swords flung through the air in a whoosh, twirling unnecessarily as they made their way for Brand’s and Sundance’s heads. Sundance was now thankful for his weapon, which he used to deflect one – but it burst with dark magic, magic which Khitti could probably do something about with relative ease despite all of Gilgamesh’s present boasting.

Khitti || Everyone… just sort of vanished and Gilgamesh spouted a stereotypical villainous monologue. Khitti stared. And stared some more. Even as he threw two swords at Brand and Sundance. “It would be nice if -one day-, when someone comes from the Shadow Plane that they’d actually be somewhat pleasant for once. There’s a lot I could learn from you all there if you’d stop trying to kill me for half a second. Do you even know who you’re talking to? Or is your brain as much of an illusion as those raccoons?” She sighed. It was a really big sigh. One that was obviously tired and begged for an answer to ‘when will I get a break?’. Sorry. Just as it had taken her away from the Catalians, the shadowstepping brought her right back to them, a hand reaching out towards the dark magic burst, the energy pulled to Khitti and shifted into shadowflame. “But, you’re clearly not nice. You’re a threat. And, I’m going to have to kill you. Be a dear and tell me how you got here and when?” This was followed up by Khitti throwing the ball right at Gilgamesh’s face. “And if you hurt them, you will not die quickly,” she said, offering the greydusk a sickeningly sweet smile, otherwise known at ‘The Look Of A Retail Peon’, as she conjured up more fire.

Brand || Wait, were all those people gone? Dammit, Brand was actually starting to enjoy their company a little. But before he could mourn the loss of any nonexistent companions, there was weaponry thrown his way. “Why is it,” he asked, simply sidestepping the sword, “that anytime we go somewhere interesting or meet someone neat, someone else has to try to murder us?” He really was kind of tired of the whole thing. It definitely wasn’t anything to do with the loss of his new ‘friends’ making him irritable. Not at all.

Lionel || Gilgamesh’s smirk turned ice cold when he realized at last what a fool he’d been. “You’re no lady, but a wolf!” He gasped melodramatically before bouncing out of the way of Khitti’s shadowflame like a gymnast confined to a pogo stick which was, in turn, teetering unnervingly on a big bridge. “You ask me – Gilgamesh! – an open-ended question, but in the same fell swoop you try to kill me! The nerve!” He didn’t seem to factor that he’d telekinetically thrown swords at Khitti’s companions just seconds prior. He bowed, and it was an oddly flawless little number, before clearing his throat and explaining. “Ahem. Since I’m going to kill you anyway, I may as well tell you how I got here, as well as when.” The red sky turned pale grey, and a simple settlement of Greydusks were conjured as illusion, overlaying the bridge. “We were a humble hunter-gathering tribe. I was the tall one.” He pointed for emphasis at an adolescent version of himself. “Then one day some schmuck came along and verily upset me.” A somewhat older Gilgamesh, though still a few years off from the Gilgamesh that the Catalians beheld now, could be seen crying and screaming and tossing swords every which way as the unmistakable visage of a three-years-past Kahran arrived with augmented orcs and slaughtered the tribe save Gilgamesh himself. The scene then flashed to Kahran’s dark fortress – a fortress that the Warrior’s Guild never did discover – where Gilgamesh was experimented-upon in brutal fashion. His screams filled the villain’s lair for weeks on-end before at last he was released. “I was supposed to be a powerful monster within that smarmy bad guy’s ranks, but then he went and got himself killed a few months ago, so I decided to dress like a clown and become a thief.” Somehow, Gilgamesh said those words so matter-of-factly that it seemed highly unlikely he was lying. “I’m a very good thief! Because of what the big, scary dude did to me, I can do all sorts of things that other Greydusks cannot! Like steal cows! And Xicotl-era artifacts which enhance my powers all-the-further!” The red sky and big bridge of reality returned. “And I found this island, I don’t know, like a month ago? Ish?” A simple addendum. “Anyway, I stole everything fair and square. But I don’t want to die. So, since I’m going to kill you anyway, if you’ll allow it, I will scamper for dear life and you can take my stuff.” He waited.

Khitti conjured up another ball of shadowfire and just as she’s getting ready to throw it, a record scratch in the form of Gilgamesh saying he was taken and experimented on stopped her from continuing her onslaught. “Wait what?” There was a definite war of “should I just kill him anyway?” vs “oh frak, he’s kinda like me” going on in her head and it showed as she watched the illusions. He was also very much like Jessamine and James Juniper, except not quite so hellbent on utter destruction, and so this new info gave Khitti way too much pause for her liking. Fireball still lit, she looked over her shoulder at Brand with the question “What do?” written all over her face. As she looked to her husband for guidance, a realization hit her: ‘oh god I think I might actually feel sympathy for this weirdo’. Ew. So gross. Khitti really needed to put a stop to that whole motherly urge to care about people who were just like her. Sadly, she might need to die again for that to happen. RIP

Brand is not very helpful. (When is he ever?) The look he gives to Khitti in return is something akin to "I dunno, he's your weirdo." Hers as in the Shadow Plane. Hers as in, 'if you want to adopt yet another weirdo, I'm not going to stop you, but he can't stay on the ship'. Hers as in... well, you get the point. Brand wasn't going to make the first move to kill or spare Gaggle Mush -- and that was probably for the best, anyway, because Brand was still feeling a little butthurt about The Party That Was Promised turning out to be nothing more but a very complex series of illusions.

Lionel || Gilgamesh’s jaw dropped, centimeter by centimeter, until it almost seemed downright dislodged. His legs were frozen in mid-sprint, though he hadn’t in truth gone a foot from the Tranquility away team. A thought bubble briefly appeared overhead, but it disappeared like so many illusions once the Greydusk realized he lacked any ideas. He stood staring, nearer to his cows, wondering what happened next. “Do you like my island?” he asked simply. “I shaped it like a cow so that I don’t forget where I put it. The sea is teeming with islands, and only one of them is mine. It’s all a bit confusing for a lad like me — born on land, and such.” Only after he was done speaking did his jaw unslack and his legs return to something vaguely akin to normalcy. The cows mooed, and then they mooed again for good measure. “Hey,” he continued. “Do you think it’s true what those artifacts I stole prattled on about? End of the world and all that jazz? I doubt it. Who would believe such cliches.” He chuckled, leisurely tending to his cows. Which he had also stolen. Fair and square. “Some of the stuff I stole actually speaks, can you believe it? Ancient recordings! I bet it’s worth a fortune. Tell you what: I’ll cut you a deal. I can give all that razzmatazz to you on one condition, and it’s a doozy, friends.” He grimaced in preparation for the grim news to come. “You have to take care of my cows. I fear they’re not safe here, on an island shaped like a cow. Someone will put two and two together, and then it will all be for naught. I’ll remember the island I used to have cows. That’s a bad ring.”

Thanks, Brand. Thanks so much. He’s promptly given a look of obvious internal screaming and ‘why are you like this?’ before Khitti turned around, eyeing Gilgamesh carefully. He spoke of his island and his cows with as much love and admiration as Khitti would speak about her baking or reading or stabbing someone in the face that -really- deserved it. It soon became clear to Khitti that there’d be no stabbing--or in this case, setting someone on fire. She let out a really dramatic groan. It was something akin to a death rattle, after the person dying took their last breath. She was dying again, this time on the inside. “Why don’t you… uhhhhh… come back… to the mainland… with your cows?” Khitti gave her offer painfully slow, the redhead scrutinizing every word, every letter that came out of her mouth. And she was so uncertain about it, that it was phrased like a question. -Someone- at Vigilanti Semper was going to kill her for doing this. It was inevitable. Even if it’s not Lionel’s doing. It couldn’t not happen. This was why Brand should not leave her to make decisions almost all the time. “You can take care of them at the Warrior’s Guild’s castle. There should be enough room for all of them. If I remember correctly, there’s even a small farming area that they’d fit right in with.” Khitti sighed heavily. It was done. The deed was done and the offer given and yet she didn’t feel any better. Maybe relief would come in time. “And maybe, while you’re there, we can talk more about the Shadow Plane and these talking objects of yours, because they sound a bit like something I’ve gotten in the past too. I’m uh…” Supposed to be the one saving it right now, but… I’m here dealing with your cows instead. Khitti elected to not say this, but eventually continued. “But, this can only happen under one condition: Brand gets his god party with the raccoons.”

Brand was standing there, head tilted and eyes glazed over, barely paying attention. Given a few moments, he might even fall asleep standing up. But wait! What was that? A literal exclamation point appeared above his head (courtesy of Gilgamesh, perhaps?) as he snapped back to attention. "Wait, what? Racoon god party? Yes please." He said 'please' like it had no vowels. "Yes to the being treated like a god and yes to the racoons and definitely yes to anything extra you wanna throw in."

Lionel || Gilgamesh might have given melodramatic pause to Khitti’s request if he weren’t by nature a creature of great haste who made up with spontaneity what he lacked in poise. “Abso,” he started, “frakking,” soon followed, “yes,” the word chimes like a bell. A literal bell — the chimes surrounded Khitti, Brand, and Sundance as their world went sideways, the forest behind them suddenly occupied. An entire village was here now — residential services at the center, a bar to its left, another bar to its right, a third bar behind it, and a pastry shop ahead of it. There was even a fourth bar hidden away inside a museum! In every bar, raccoon-people drank deeply from ceramic mugs with the faces of raccoon-people painted upon them. The freshly-paved streets were scene to the hustle and bustle of cat-people, and dog-people, and pig-people, and chicken-people who were hiding from the cat-people with visible, exaggeratory sweatdrops running down their feathers from cheek to wishbone. A clothing store owned and operated by hedgehog-people sprouted up near Khitti, and a sign crudely drawn upon the building’s eastern side promised that a hidden fifth bar could be found inside the tailors’ attic. Sundance’s wives quickly returned to him, and the dwarf made no effort at all to wrestle with the moral and ethical ramifications of accepting the advances of beings programmed to adore him.

It was around this time that Gilgamesh popped up not too far ahead of the Catalians in a luau shirt and matching shorts, a veritable rainbow of beads around his neck and stylish shades concealing his otherwise-eerie eyes. He held a margarita in each hand and sipped liberally from one or the other or on occasion both at once, and then he danced off into one of the bars, evading the horse-person who kept trying to call him “touchdown” along the way. The cows, whose new home at Vigilanti Semper would have to wait until festivities came to a close, decided like some kind of bovine collective consciousness to march into the village in perfect order, tapping their hoofs to the ground in tandem and mooing every 4.25 seconds without fail. (The return of Lorenzov Array-Bia confirmed this statistic in sharp refrain.) When would this party end? Whenever Brand decided he wanted it to end. Was this ever going to happen? “One thing’s for sure,” a rematerialized Vaan-Balls-Are stated as he rubbed his upper lip again. “I don’t hate this.” Template:PC:Lionel