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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Locke: Chapter One

Simon Locke took one last breath of fresh, clean air and a long look at the sun and clouds, and frowned. The arch before him would take him below, and to return to the surface without the Orb would be... failure. The guild did not tolerate failure, and they didn't care if your excuse for not eliminating the target was "he cannot die." A contract, once accepted, cannot be cancelled so long as the assassin and the target both live. This rule was sacrosanct, disobedience meant a long, slow, certain death. Facing the certainty of death at the hands of his brethren, the probable death in the labyrinth below was the best of two bad choices. His quarry, and the means to make sure that he stayed dead this time were through that arch.

Locke hestitated no longer, traveling here used up most of his food, and time was now the enemy. He'd have to scavenge for food and equipment, as the basic robes of a novice assasin and his enchanted blade were fine for city work, but not well suited to the task at hand. He crept silently through a twisting spiral of mortar and stone, and before long he found signs of passage through this place. A tightly rolled parchment lay hidden between cracks in the wall of the tunnel, and he stowed this in his pack for later. No telling if this was stowed here for later use, or left here to trap the unwary. He could hear breathing ahead, around the next corner.

Peeking around into a wider hallway, the assassin saw the minute form of a beast with vaguely humanoid proportions and canine features, laying on a pile of rags and filth. A noise like a kitten's purr, and the kobold's chest rising and falling slowly told him that it was asleep and unwary of the presence of an intruder. The enchanted assassin's dagger in his clenched fist, he quietly stepped closer, and closer, until he stood over the small creature. The beast's nose twitched an instant before Locke could strike, and its eyes snapped open as it woke, shrieking obscenities in its own tongue.

Instinctively, Locke rolled to the left just as the kobold reached into a sleeve and threw a pointed dart where he had been an instant before. He sensed an opening as the creature was surprised by the speed of his movements, and in an instant, it was over. Two quick slashes, one across the tiny chest, and another opening the throat, and it was over. First blood in his pursuit of the orb was drawn without a scratch on the young man's body. The smell of the creature's blood was pungent, almost plantlike and completely unlike the human blood he'd washed from his hands when he could do as he would.

In the area where the kobold had nested, and surrounding passages, he found several more parchments, as well as glass vials stoppered with cork, each containing liquid of different colors and consistencies. These all went into his pack for later testing, and he continued on, forward into the darkness. He stood still for a moment, listening. There was a sound here, so faint and constant as to be nearly undetectable in the background unless one held their breath. It was maddeningly at the edge of what even his ears could detect... a faint roar behind the quiet like a waterfall, that pulsed in a pattern too evenly to be coincidence. This place seemed alive, and Locke suddenly felt like he was being watched.

In a flash, he let the darkness of a nearby corner envelop him. His lungs burned as he struggled to keep the breath he'd been holding contained, and he waited. One, two, three. A sickly blue light pierced the darkness of the hallway, advancing toward his corner. Four, five, six. The cruelly twisted blade carried by small gnarled hands lit up the corner where he crept, the gleam of enchanted steel illuminating a face. Squat, with a severe overbite, beady eyes and a wide flat nose, the goblin stepped to within feet of where the human stood. Its eyes grew wide suddenly, and it leapt toward where the assassin lay in wait.

The sudden attack from the goblin caught Locke off guard a moment, he swung his dagger wildly over his assailant's head, and got a much closer look at the orc-made knife his opponent wielded than he'd have liked. Fortunately, his wild stumbling blow likely kept the goblin from plunging the knife into his neck, and the fight was joined in earnest. The goblin was a knife-fighter, and the human assassin knew the edge provided him from his magical assassin's weapon would do him no good, as that bluish tinge told him that his own blade's opposite number was similarly enchanted. They circled each other, making quick feints, each looking for an opening. Small cuts to exposed flesh opened in the small quiet moments of the fight, and they both bled.

He could smell the foul breath from behind teeth filed to points, hear each grunt of exertion as the goblin matched him for speed, and attacked with a ferocity which would be unusual in a human fighter. He had, however, one distinct advantage in this contest. Reach. He fell into a pattern with his foe, strike, block, dodge, step. He and the goblin stepped in synch for several seconds, and he didn't have to wait for an opening. The goblin lashed out, expecting another sidestep from the taller foe as he looked for a moment to press any advantage, and Locke stepped toward the blow, bringing his own dagger down in a vicious arc. The goblin gasped at the sudden strike, but only for an instant, before the human assassin buried the knife to the hilt in its chest. The blue light in the chamber flickered for several long seconds as the orcish knife skittered to the floor and spun on the stones before coming to rest.

The young human caught his breath and bound the shallow cuts on his hands, carefully stowing the weapon the goblin carried. It was unlikely to be superior to his own blade, but no sense in leaving it on the floor for the next creature capable of wielding it to use on him as he slept next. He took stock of his possessions, decided to leave the trial-and-error process of scroll and potion identification for later, and carefully moved on. He had a long way to go, and he'd barely gotten started. He still had a man to kill, and an artefact to acquire to make sure he stayed dead.

1 comment:

  1. There are a few things I know I can only get away with once, but are core elements to all games of Crawl. Random Scroll and potion identification, individual combats with low level enemies, etc. I won't have multi-paragraph combats for every single goblin, rat and kobold fight, but I wanted to set the stage with a few elements common specifically to the Dungeon Crawl experience.