PSMG: Three Season 3 Prologues

Carceri's Third Stop

The screams were like music to Xideous' ears.

The shator chewed his quill thoughtfully, savoring the noise of the Gatehouse barmies yelling and making a racket for no particular reason, before dipping the thing in ink and adding a few more words to the Book of Keeping.

Every word was considered carefully. His magnum opus deserved nothing less. His masterpiece, a comprehensive guide to summoning and controlling yugoloths, would rock the very foundations of Sigil - no, the multiverse! But one misplaced line could tarnish his work forever… fortunately, Xideous' writing was always superb.

He hummed a song to accompany the wailings of the barmy next door. The incoherent screaming was completely tuneless, but that was all right, because so was Xideous.

Eventually, Xideous became so engrossed in his work he didn't realise he had a visitor until she cleared her throat behind him.

He didn't whirl around. That wouldn't be stylish enough.

Behind him stood a girl about Oresta's age, wrapped in dark robes displaying the symbol of Carceri between far too many belts in places belts didn't normally go and a network of chains wrapped around her torso. Xideous recognised the outfit, as well as the girl with the white hair, elegant curved black horns and matching tattered dragon wings behind it. The candlelight really brought out the sickly green tinge; Xideous was impressed.

"Carceri," he said happily. "Or should I say Miss—"

"Carceri," Carceri-tan said forcefully. She was alone. Xideous wasn't sure if her gautiere servants could even leave Carceri.

"Very well." Xideous bowed theatrically. "What brings you to my humble lair, madam? You wish my assistance, I have no doubt. Many seek it, so few find it."

Carceri looked around, studying the shelves of bottles in Xideous' cell as if she knew their tarry contents were a legion of gehreleths at Xideous' beck and call. She probably did, really. She had a few extra "arms" rising from her back - more chains, gently curling in the air as though they had a life of their own. A couple ended in bear-trap mouths.

Xideous cleared his throat. "And what may I do for you?" he asked, hoping to get her attention back.

Carceri turned her gaze back to him.

"Chant, friend," she said simply.

Xideous raised an eyebrow. Then he decided the other eyebrow would be more dramatic and raised it instead.

"Well," he said, pulling himself up to his full height and puffing his chest out. "I am, of course, the premier expert on yugoloths and, dare I say, a sage of some renown on matters pertaining to Carceri and - indeed - the entire Lower Planes. What have you come seeking my particular expertise for? If it's something I can help with, and of course it will be…" Xideous paused dramatically, "I am sure my keen intellect will be up to the task."

"The Matroshka Keystone," Carceri said.

"Pike off, rust breath," Xideous replied immediately.

Carceri narrowed her eyes. "I'm being polite, you know."

"Then I suggest you learn some manners, madam."

Carceri said nothing.

Xideous towered over her. "I will say this only once…" Xideous paused dramatically, then continued. "You may have amassed enough power to overcome your jailers, you stag-turning berk, but you cannot hold a candle to my full might. Leave my sight, and never again return with a question such as this. Your threats mean nothing to me."

Carceri held up a piece of paper. "Who said anything about threatening?"

Xideous leaned forward.

Those letters…

Just reading the words filled Xideous' head with magic. Of course, as an expert on these matters, he immediately recognised the true name of a yugoloth. And not just any yugoloth…

Carceri had folded the paper into itself, covering half the name.

"Apomps had it at one point, didn't he?" Carceri said. "Now it's missing. The Great Prison is in danger. One name, one dark. No treachery. Deal?"

Xideous sat back, a smile spreading on his lips like ink in a fish tank.

"Deal." Xideous paused dramatically. "Go to the Temple of the Abyss. And don't ask where I heard this chant or who from."

Carceri flashed a draconic smile and held out the paper. Xideous took it, after a dramatic pause.

"Thank you!" Carceri said. "This is in our mutual interest, of course. If you'll excuse me, I need to make some new friends."

Carceri let herself out.

Xideous waited in case she came back (so he could pause dramatically, smile and say he knew she'd come back, of course), and turned back to his work when he didn't.

Another few words, and then the Book was put on hold while Xideous indulged his curiosity and studied the name.

Well, well, well. The genuine article. Carceri must be calling in a lot of favours. His information was accurate, of course - Xideous was never wrong. If it was in Sigil, and Carceri-tan after it, well…

Xideous allowed himself a little chuckle and, as the barmy next door began a fresh round of wailing, dipped his quill in the ink pot again.

The next few months were going to be hilarious.

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The Second Wave Begins

Wip Wildfang was, to be blunt about it, an ass.

The halfling came to Sigil by way of the Prime a few years back with some fellow adventurers, seeking fame and fortune, but soon latched onto a larger group which offered the power, authority and respect he secretly craved: the Harmonium.

Now the three-foot-tall halfling strode through the streets of the cage like a ten-foot giant, looking for berks breaking the law so he can chew them out or march them down to the Court. Well, he wasn't doing that right now, but he usually did. And he put up with even less than most Hardheads - unofficially, Wip had broken the record for most unnecessary beatings last year, and he would have had this year's prize in the bag already if the Harmonium gave out awards for that sort of thing, which they very emphatically didn't.

Off the job he was rude to his friends, claimed to hate nearly everything, refused to trust people and, on the sly, was one of many Hardheads who had secretly been scragging and roughing up Indeps simply because he didn't like them.

Of course, he also donated to charity, particularly the Harmonium fund for widows of guards, helped old ladies across the street, paid his taxes, occasionally let people off with only a warning, and had a passion for cultivating his beautiful garden of celestial flowers. He also liked paladins - specifically one paladin, Aribeth. It was a crush which would only ever play out in his head, but Wip liked it that way, because nobody could chew him out for his thoughts.

It wasn't a strange crush. He just appreciated her strong elven look, her flowing brown hair, her round, firm—

Wip kicked his imagination in the the teeth. Now wasn't the time.

Wip was guarding.

"Any anarchists yet?" he asked idly.

"No," Nicki snapped.

Roberta "Nicki" Nicker didn't like Wip. At all. She had joined the Harmonium because they had been her knight in shining armour, rescuing her from a life of drugs and self-destruction which would have killed her in Sylvania. They had brought harmony and purpose, and most importantly a sobriety to her life, and all she wanted was to help others on the path of redemption in the hopes of emulating her friend and hero, Aribeth. Off the record, of course, she still liked to party, but she stuck to sensible alcohol and never embarrassed Aribeth. She always took care to avoid offending her saviour.

She had been chosen to guard a very important object. She wasn't sure what it was, but she trusted Aribeth and the Harmonium by extension. She just wish she hadn't been partnered with Wip, who was basically exactly the sort of person she used to throw rocks at. Nicki usually let people off with a warning and didn't mind the Indeps; if she knew about Wip she'd break his face.

Wip took another slow drag on his dirty cigarette and stubbed it out on the ground. The Object had been uncovered in some old kip in the Lower Ward and was perfectly capable of, say, being picked up and carried to the Barracks without a fuss, but some high-up was nervous about carrying it through the streets until they brought something to hide it. Wip didn't ask questions. He was angling for a promotion. It was only a matter of time, really, but if he had a good enough record when it happened maybe he'd be promoted to a cushy job, like a guard captain in the Lady's Ward or even a spot on the team of Hardhead s who guarded Aribeth, or at least lingered within whistle range while she went to school.

She'd already rejected him on character grounds, but he didn't know that.

Wip looked around. The place was a small warehouse, really; one dark room filled the entire place, with a few windows up top to let the light in and keep the Lower Ward smog out. They were failing at both duties.

"What was here before, do you think?" he wondered, because asking your fellow guards questions is sometimes okay.

"I think it's an old Sinker warehouse, cutter," Nicki opined, kicking one of the remaining boxes. "You know… stuff. Most of the good stuff's probably been flogged for jink."

Wip nodded.

"Close," a female voice said behind them. "This is an old Sinker wizard's personal space. Your high-ups are looking for more information on their dealings in the Abyss."

Nicki whirled around, drawing her sword. Wip just blew his whistle.

FWEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE

Harmonium whistles like the one Wip carried were very special. He blew it a lot, because the halfling was guaranteed a half-dozen Hardheads to back him up whenever he did and also it was extremely irritating.

It irritated Nicki too, which is why she wasn't able to move fast enough when something leaped out of the shadows and kicked her in the stomach.

BOMF

"OOF!" Nicki gasped in pain and doubled up.

Wip spun around just in time to receive a foot to the face.

EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEBOMF

The black boot moved so fast it blurred. Wip's head snapped back and he crashed to the floor.

No time to think. Get your sword and get up, Wip.

He did. Being pint-sized didn't make him a terrible fighter, and the halfling made it back into the fight as Nicki blocked another kick with crossed arms and swung a punch. The shadowy thief grabbed her arm and headbutted her in the face. Nicki cried out and collapsed.

Wip lunged. He caught the girl halfway through her victory pose, slicing across her exposed thigh.

"Hey!" She fell backward. "Not cool!"

Wip stood his ground. "Do you know who I am?" he thundered.

He couldn't see her properly in this light, but he tried to memorise everything he could. Black boots, long black gloves, black - all right, screw it, he'd just knock her hat off and get a good look at her face after he put his sword through it.

"You're being surrounded as we speak," he spat. "Going to surrender?"

He saw a smirk under the hat. "You don't like theatrics, do you?"

But Wip was already charging.

"NOBODY crosses the Harmo"BOMF

The first boot sent Wip flying straight up into the air. The second boot hammered him as he fell and sent him into a pile of crates.

BOMF

The girl stepped over Nicki's crying body and snatched the Object up.

Victory pose. "Tra-la!"

Neither Hardhead congratulated her, for several reasons.

She frowned, but the Object tucked under her arm cheered her up. She opened it and checked the first few pages, just to be sure.

Well, well, well. The genuine article. The Harmonium had been very lucky to find it again, so long after losing it. Too bad she needed it more than they did.

Two down.

She allowed herself a little giggle and, when the half-dozen Harmonium guards arrived on the scene ten seconds later, was already gone.

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CMXCIX

The chalk scraped down the brick wall, adding another mark to the series.

It wasn't too hard to keep time here, once you got used to it - peak and antipeak happened as normal, and beyond that you just followed the meals. Three a day, every day.

Exact. Same. Time.

That was good, though. It kept his schedule in order. It was somewhere behind him, on the far wall:

8 AP to 8 BP: Sleep.
8 to 7 BP: Find breakfast. Eat breakfast.
7 to 5 BP: Calisthenics. It was important to keep fit.
5 BP to Peak: Search for hidden doors. He always marked where he had searched.
Peak to 1 AP: Lunch, usually by the entrance.
1 to 3 AP: Investigate the entrance to make sure no method of using it eluded him.
3 to 4 AP: Shouting apologies curses things at the Lady in the courtyard, depending on mood.
4 to 6 AP: Search for hidden doors. The morning's marks have vanished, so new ones must be made.
6 to 7 AP: Dinner in the courtyard.
7 to 8 AP: Post-dinner calisthenics, finding bedroom.

He didn't adhere to it every day, of course. He was only human. One month he spent hours a day staring at the sky, in case something appeared there. It never did. He also spent an inordinate amount of time attacking the statue in the courtyard in a rage, but that was technically on the schedule anyway, so he was fine with that.

Still, the schedule helped keep his mind calm, and gave him something to do. He had tried running around like a crazy fellow, and liberating as the lack of pants was, he had hit the blinds as far as making any meaningful progress went. So, back to the schedule it was.

Every mark he made on his searches disappeared within hours, but he could still mark the walls in the courtyard and the area he'd decided was his bedroom. There was always more fresh chalk, and he used as much of it as he could. Most of the maps had been brushed away, as he knew the lay of the place from memory now, but he re-drew them every once in a while just in case. The tallies took up a lot of the available space, and in fact would have become too much for the wall had he not begun counting the days by rubbing tally marks off. Other symbols along the wall's edge counted time in larger units - weeks, months, et cetera. Even that had become a little large, until he began using bigger units a while ago. Someone (okay, yes, him) had written "that is a sodding big number!!" above it, at some point.

What was Sigil like, these days? He wondered, sometimes. Probably a lot different, really. With almost fifty factions making a fuss about Sigil and jockeying for control of everything, things were going to give anyway. Hells, he was about to give them a push that would make a tanar'ri proud, until that fateful day months ago. For all he knew, there were only two factions with any real power and everyone voted for which one they'd like to control Sigil every few years, or something equally ridiculous. At the very least, he was certain his own faction had dissolved by now.

Oh, well. There'd always be room for him. If there wasn't, he'd bloody well make room.

7BP. Time for calisthenics. Today he would do them by the entrance, just in case.

He passed an entire wall of notes on his way out - what he remembered of Sigil, important things he might need to know once he found a way out of here. He'd even kept his list of enemies. There they were, down the wall, listed in order of whichever he hated the most this month: The Incanterium, the Communals, the Sodkillers, the Ochlocrats, the Transcendent Order, the Historians, the Zactars… How many of these had survived? He didn't know. It didn't matter, really.

When he got out of this maze he was going to kill someone.

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