Friday, March 10, 2017

The Imperium March: A Tale of Danger, Dungeons, and Dosh



(aka: What You Missed, Imperium Match Slot 2: Temple Run)
by Callahan "Sir Syruss" Marsden


Sir Grebinar & Sir Syruss,
Dragon Hunters, Investigators, Crime Stopping, Kung Foo masters and Security Squad Incorporated is what the glass door said...actually from my angle it was more like:

                                                                                       ssuryS riS & raniberG riS
dauqS ytiruceS dna sretsam ooF gnuK ,gnippotS emirC ,rotagitsevnI ,sretnuH nogarD

But, that’s not the point. It had been over 4 long years since I took that kid under my wing and man did we have a lot of adventures (See Grebinar and Syruss and the Case of the Missing Mummy) and even more yuks (See Grebinar and Syruss and the Case of Laughing Looney Barn). But ever since we became the world’s best D.I.C.K.S the cases have been getting weirder and weirder (See "While the Boys are Away their Items Will Play:” A tale of Ruffians and Robbery (The View from Valehaven and The Neden Kazoo) and G.O.F.E.R TWO: A Tale of Mystery and Malpractice (The View from Valehaven)). I always seem to have the need to sit in a darkened room with just one desk lamp dimly lit. There is always an abundance of cigar smoke filling the air despite the fact that no one is smoking. For whatever reason, all the color in the world fades from my eyes and I am always left narrating my thoughts in this dismal grey. But most annoying of all, there is always thunder crashing and clients entering your office two minutes before you’re about to punch out for the night to hit a well-deserved happy hour.

***CRACK KABOOM. Thunder and lightning strike out in the night. The lightning kills the power to the office while lighting it up for only a moment….. The noise fades and the light returns and there in the doorway a shadowy figure emerges****

“Excuse me. Are you one of the D.I.C.K.S I heard about?” a strange voice lingers in my doorway.

“What the hell did you just call…er, um, oh yeah, that’s me….. **whispers under his breath** "we need to change that title stupid Grebs…Hi, um what can I do for ya?” I asked this shrouded figure.

“I heard you and your partner are experts in navigating dangerous situations,” she said with passion, "and that you are expendable...” she said uttered with a smirk

“We have been known to tango with masters of the evil two step, been said we have gone fist-to-fist, toe-to-toe with the pugilists of punishment…been known to be expend - wait,  what was the last part you needed?” I inquired, as I got lost in a tangent.

“Never mind all that…… you sound perfect,” she quickly interrupted.

“Not to be nitpicky lady, but I very rarely get into business with shrouded figures and without negotiating terms…….rarely,” I stated. "So what’s your deal? You some sort of demon? Demigod out to pick on us mortals? Evil scientist luring us into a cave for experiments? I’m not judging I am just a straight shooter.”

“Listen, my name is Canary Cowl…I need your help…fine….” she started to say as she removed her face covering. She left her head covering on… Maybe she was still hiding something, maybe it was a bad hair day, maybe it had to do with her oddly garb-related name…maybe...

“Like I was saying. My name is…"***coughing cough coughedy cough*** she started to choke on the office smoke….”What the heck is with all this smoke?””

“I am still detecting that…..Let’s get back to your problem” I skirted the smoky question redirecting her to get to the heart of why she was here and why she was keeping me from happy hour.

She went on to tell me about these four artifacts that belong to gods and how in the hands of this Imperium it could be a real mess for the Realms…which I happen to have a few friends in so that wasn’t going to stand. Not on my watch. She made a compelling case about why I should help. It had everything: murdered scouting party, mysterious sounds, a creepy cave, magical artifacts, puzzles and riddles that could only be solved by my super brain plus a 300 Rowan up-front deposit….Yeah this case had everything.

With a firm handshake, I was on the job.

I couldn’t reach my partner Sir Grebs, he was busy heading up Neden’s National Lemonade Stand day festival with Priest Z, Sarix and Razmith (Lord Nymbous wanted him to raise funds for a new slip and slide). Blacky took our petitioners Zodiark, Cabby and Ditch all on an artifact-retrieval mission to recoup some of Lord Nymbous’s relics that were stolen from his museum….Now I would have to outsource some muscle on this one.

I reached out to some of my old colleagues who used to have a penchant for making undead dead and other things...well, dead as well I guess. I trusted them but also knew their help wouldn’t come cheap.
I sent a raven to Invictus praying to Dark RohdeOne it made it on time, which in retrospect may have been counterproductive... Having a best friend who is also a god should have its benefits……SHOULD.

The day had come, the hour was night…..well actually it was right about 4pm.

My usual crew was on hand to help me with this heist….er, I mean mission.

Jean Baptiste was there as our trapper, Sir Naj was our portal magic expert and lightning bolt back-up along with Dresden and D of Folkestone (no doubt we would shock the pants off any unsuspecting villains), then we had Rawlin and Siff working logistics and generally bothering Lord Nymbous who was on Rabble Rousing. We also had our petitioner, Gumbo, there as a pack mule, meat-shield, and emergency sacrifice should the need arise.

We hired some mercenaries that were new to the lands of Realms, at least new to me, or at least never bothered me enough for me to take notice. We had the durable Beloc, the Sturdy Ebony, the expendable Jericho. I do not know why but I knew these guys would come in handy.

My friends Eldritch, Vuel, and Randolph (hence forth referred to as Rudy and or Rutabaga) were there and ready to fight. Which was great because we entered the first room like a whirling tornado of flesh, with legs and arms and teeth swinging all over the place.

Then all of a sudden……

Nothing. Not a thing, like N O T H I N G kind of nothing. I have not seen anything this empty since Lord Nymbous’s plate at Nedengiving.

So, with that the first room went quick manly because we didn’t have anything to kill.

But, after going through room to room it was apparent that this place was really really quiet. No, it was TOO quiet. The kind of quiet that can only be found after hearing an awkward sentence and when you find yourself with a complete lack of words….that kind of quiet.

But like most dungeons, walk around long enough and you are sure to find something, usually a dead something….This time it was 5 DEAD SOMETHINGS.

We quickly removed all of their weapons, not knowing if they were friend or foe….. That and steel is expensive and they had some really nice stuff….What, don’t look at me like that, literally that is what dungeon crawling is, glorified grave robbing - you know it, I know it, our guide knows it so deal with it.

After we removed their weapons and scalped one of them we came to the conclusion we should try and figure out who exactly they were and why they were dead. Well, I wish all my mysteries wrapped up as fast as that one because the Canary Cowl knew exactly who these guys were..

“Stop, why are you - Greg….not Greg! Why is he scalped, those bastards!” she screamed as she walked in the room late to see Dresden and me scooping “Greg” into a bucket.

“Yeah someone….Probably the imperium jerks we were hired to handle” Dresden exclaimed. HERE

She was pretty broken up about her broken comrades but that did not deter her from leading us further into the cave, closer to our goal and deeper down the familiar road of trouble.

We entered this room with these weird pants and even weirder cave dwellers. The cave dwellers were these plant-like creatures presumably left there by Gia to protect her follower and her artifact. There were four strange potted plants that absorbed lightning like no plant should, resulting in the creatures around the plants to become enraged.  Once we killed all the plants, they would drop these strange magical vines. Rawlin, using his super observation skill, noticed a giant pattern on the floor. We noticed our guide had similar markings on her face so Rawlin and Gumbo killed her and attempted to match the pattern. After about 10 minutes of that not working, Rawlin came up with the idea to try matching the vines instead.

The color of the pattern started to glow with every additional vine added to match its design. Pretty soon our dim glow lighting the room was a vivid green glowing wonder to behold.

After the puzzle was complete, the room doors opened, we gained three treasure chests and proceeded along our way.

In the next room there was a bunch of things to slaughter, so my Invictus comrades did what they do best and mowed down these flying birds….that is, until we came up to a cliff. They are great at killing stuff on the ground and heck they even do a swell job of killing flying things that fly near the ground…but FLYING FLYING not so much….

We stood before a great marvel. This Dark chasm expanded as far as the eye could see, it was deep and dark like soul of Priest Z.

Before any of us could figure out how to cross the giant pit of gloom and doom, our fearless Lord Nymbous sprang into action. By that, I mean he jumped out over the pit, grabbed onto a giant flying bird and tried to complete the sacred Tsheylu. Unfortunately, the only thing this bird was looking to bond with was his beak in Lord Nymbous’s face. The Flying Foul Fowl pecked and clawed at Nymbous all the way to the bottom of the pit. I couldn’t make out much just a puff of smoke cloud and a faint sound of “I’m….I’m alright!!!”

Well we found these pillars that had these glowing magical small planks and as we completed a series of designs bridges would spring up from the chasm, allowing us to cross from platform to platform.

This would be easy I thought….This was not easy….

We started out this room with poor communication and building random bridges and disassembling them without warning. Which was hilarious at first watching the ground being removed from good old Sturdy Ebony, and the sound Beloc made as he hit the ground miles below was priceless. However, we were now wasting precious resources most likely needed for some epic big bad guy battle. This seems to happen whenever you have a mixture of personalities with no central command. When you have a lot of strong personalities you end up with a lot of people taking charge. When you have a lot of people taking charge you have a lot of people not following orders. When you have a lot of people not following orders you end up with a lot of dead friends on random pillars. When you have dead friends on random pillars your friends end up becoming giant bird food. Don’t have people become bird food. Assign one or two people to take charge.

After our smartest adventurers put their minds together, and by smartest I mean the last one standing and the two that could keep regenerating, they started to get the hang of the patterns and the bridges they produced. Once the bridges were up and all the dead were dragged to the correct side, Dresden used Neden’s magic bracelet to raise the dead adventurers so they could play in the next room.

The next room was a shocking development…We were in a room filled with water to our waistline and there were these lightning elementals and one big fin peeking out of the water occasionally.….”Damn dolphins,” I thought. They may be be a distraction with their cuteness and playful water games but the real concern I figured was the water + the elementals but to be sure I sent in good ‘ol reliably expendable Jericho.

“The water is warm,” Jericho informed us and with that said, Rawlin, Dresden, JB, and Vuel all started wading in the water…..LIGHTNING BOLT...a giant ball of lightning hit the water instantly making Adventurer Stew, to which Gumbo, our petitioner, immediately tried adding seasoning and different spices to the water…

“Now is not the time for stew, gumbo or other thick soups comprised of our friends,” Lord Nymbous scolded.

“Everyone out of the water when those balls are about to strike!!!” Eldritch commanded.

We did as he said and for the most part avoided another round of Hero Chowder.

JB was busy making friends with good ‘ol durable Beloc. They bonded earlier over some runes found in a chest. They were talking about what the runes could mean and how close they were to making a complete answer key and how smart they were and dumb we were for not handling it….That’s when the fin got close….Like real close.

JB had a smile on his face and a gleam in his eye that generally meant he was going to try a new jerky. If I could read his mind I bet it would have been something like “Dolphin...I wonder if it will be as good as the whale jerky, surely it needs to be better than the kraken jerky…..Oh MY GOD ALL THE BLOOD!!!!!!”

Yeah, that is when Jean Baptiste noticed, this massive great white shark with arms pulling ‘ol less than durable Beloc under the water. There was so much splashing and blood. Then a creepy calm...

Rudy and I jumped on the shark's back, stabbing it over and over with our swords. Problem was its hide was so thick we weren’t making any progress. The shark sent Rudabaga flying onto an island with Sir Naj. Just as the two were about to be hit with a ball of lightning Sir Naj blocked it with his sword, laminating it and charging it with lightning at the same time. Rudy quickly blocked the next lightning attack, then with both of their swords charged and ready to go they attempted another strike at the shark.
The only problem was I was still hanging on. I was attempting to break the Corsican Shark riding record set by a very handsome Captian Thomas  “2” Dice. It had to be like 10 minutes riding the back of that beast (actually more like 50.6 just shy of the record).

Rudy and Naj where now joined by D of Folkestone and Dresden who launched their lightning bolts at the same time as Naj and Rudy swung their lightning swords. Krack KABOOM all the lightning hit the shark at the same time; the shark began to seize and I could feel its body tightening. Unfortunately, I could also feel over 50,000 volts coursing through my body. It launched me clear to the other side of the cavern. The shark was dazed but not down. Vuel led a charge with Rawlin, Sturdy Ebony, the expendable Jericho and all whose swords were charged and ready to strike lightning justice on this sadistic shark (probably just a regular shark, they all seem kind of sadistic to me).

Their swords’ blows struck true one after the other overwhelming the shark in the water with pure electricity.

The beast was slain, and before I knew it being harvested by Jean Baptiste…”It’s not every day the Jerky Jerkies itself,” I heard him say.

The next dozen rooms were filled with Imperium troops planning to stop us at every turn. Despite their best efforts, coordinated strikes, traps set to snare, melt and utterly destroy us they could not slow us down. With Invictus flanking the ends, Neden bringing up the middle, and the mercenaries absorbing all the arrows there was not much that could stop us…..Slow us down sure, but stop us never.

At every turn there was treasure to be won, cursed artifacts to ignore, temptations to give in to and trouble looking to take us down….It was a regular day at the New Eden Casino….

Then we reached a room where the Imperium troops were determined to stop us. They were lined up doubled in force size and had us in a fantastic field position disadvantage. Invictus and I attempted to flank left but we were stopped dead in our tracks. Rawlin took the newer fighter right with Nymbous and were put down. Sir Naj and Dresden attempted to keep the middle at bay with projectile lightning but they too were overwhelmed.

Luckily, I had Billy the Magic Storm Trooper. He eventually raised me and I knew what needed to be done to save the day.

I ran into Sir Naj, who was trying to broker a deal to get the dead and leave, but that wouldn’t do on my watch. We had come too far, killed too much, watched the expendable Jericho blow up at every turn.. NO. There was no turning back now.

It was time for one man to throw down the gauntlet.

I centered myself in front of this massive line, stared their leader deep in his soul, threw my weapons on the ground and let the rhythm of my heart guide my feet. Before I knew, I was on my own swan lake, majestically and purposely moving through the air with beautiful precise movements. I never thought I would dance again before this day. I was sure a Guilty Evil witch had cursed my feet to have no rhythm, but I should have known dance moves such as mine could not be held back with mere magic.

The enemy army was captivated, their eyes followed my every movement, their hearts could feel the music and in my mind’s eye guiding me through my fantastically fresh footwork. Their leader was compelled to join me. Our eyes locked in the middle of that dance floor and he knew he had to battle me to save face in front of his troop. He tried to muster a two-step but his feet would not obey. He tried to give his troops a shimmy of any sort but his hips lied that day. He even tried to head nod but the only nodding he did was a recognition of defeat…I had won, my dancing saved the day. 

With one more fantastic triple pleat into a split the heavens themselves shook and the enemies were filled with this pure magic of dance and exploded in a fiery explosion of awesome emotion…..that or Naj raised everyone while they were distracted with my sick moves and they slaughtered the troops from behind... you decide. Their leader dropped one of the artifacts,  a large sword of death. We gave it to Vuel from Invictus for we knew he would be the best to wield it in the upcoming fights.

The next three rooms would prove most useful.

In the first of the three rooms, we met an Imperium archer who had the second artifact we needed. Some bow of the sea. With none of us who worshiped the sea or their mighty god Poseidon this bow became more of Lord Nymbous’s play thing, shooting arrows and having fun. Come to think of it maybe one of the new guys worshiped gods of the sea and now that I really think of it maybe we should have grabbed that item before fighting the shark guy….Maybe that ITEM LET US CONTROL THE SHARK GUY!!!!!!!!!! (I’ll need to research this bow further).

The second room had more Imperium Soldiers but these were the best of the best, or at least we were low on resources. The LT Imperium guy, Bob, had this cool single short that allowed you to be a master assassin. Sir Naj made short work of this guy by lightning bolting him in the back. He collected the assassin’s blade and went on a good old fashion murder spree. Killing all the Imperium soldiers as well as the poor less-than-durable Beloc, the not-so-Sturdy Ebony, and the becoming-increasingly-more-and-more-expendable Jericho.

Once again, JB was collecting meat for his jerky experiments. “Which ones are our friends again?” could be heard from behind.

The air was getting thin. Our Guide, the Canary Cowl, started breathing heavy. I assumed it was poison in the air and was glad we went spelunking with a seasoned Canary.

The last room showed Gia (or an avatar of hers rather) working with the Imperium forces. This won’t stand, we need her artifact to stop these evil forces. The Imperium had already made my to-kill list and we were paid to do a job and we pride ourselves on completion….Not necessarily quality but certainly completion.

Steel clashed, arrows flew, Vuel stabbed a guy with a Trident. Bodies piled up left and right but no matter how much headway we seemed to gain, Gia’s Avatar was there to raise her comrades.

I noticed four more rare plants in each corner; I knew this had to be the solution. Sir Naj got out his botanist kit in attempts to make serum out of their rare and endangered magical properties.

“How long do you need,” Lord Nymbous yelled to Naj

“45 more minutes and we should have one vial,” Naj answered

“You’re going to need to be quicker than that,” Vuel said as he murdered four opponents with his new battle sword of justice.

“Taking too long!” I screamed.

As I made that statement, I went around plucking the flowers out by the roots. Once the last flower was out of the ground Gia’s avatar let loose a mighty scream and collapsed due to the magical drain….that or the fifteen battle-hungry adventurers stabbing her with their swords…either one…

It was done. The final artifact, the staff of Gia, loosened from her grasp and was in my possession.

We showed Canary Cowl that we had all four artifacts and that they were indeed safe from the Imperium Menace.

Invictus took their battle murder sword home with them for safekeeping.

Lord Nymbous took the assassin's blade from Naj much to his dismay and promised to find a worshiper of the sea to whom they would hand off the Bow.

Me, I kept reputation as one of the world’s best D.I.C.K.S, an additional 200 Rowan on top of my retainer and this cool Staff of Gia…..

Now the staff is useless to an old Dark RohdeOne worshiper like myself. So I promised to give it to Gia’s most faithful follower.

Now only to figure out who that is……

I have an idea, next month at Neden BBQ and Games I will pass off the staff to the first ever Gia Limbo contest. May the most limber prevail….

Well that is it for this gumshoe. I am sure that making rare plants extinct and letting loose a cave shark will have no future consequences…..See you all in the funny pages true believers.

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