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  #101  
Old 11-05-2015, 10:49 AM
DarkAngel DarkAngel is offline

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Haste Dispatch #24

Greetings, loyal readers! November in November is back. Even better, I actually beat my deadline. What deadline, you ask? The opening of BlizzCon, of course! We will all have better things to do than sit around reading crappy fanfiction come tomorrow.

Speaking of BlizzCon, should any attendees happen to see a crazy Arab-Canadian hawking a crowdfunding project, I wrote his script. *modesty*

* * * * * * *
Personal log, November Terra:
I am no longer in Raven Court. I don?t know where I am, actually. I?m in a dark cave with lots of spiders. It?s a Battleground, so I?m back to fighting for nothing?which is almost a relief, in a way. As pointless as it is, it?s familiar. I can do this. Frankly, anything I can do to put Raven Court behind me is welcome. I should?ve left well enough alone.

There was one place in the Castle von Kerrigan I hadn?t been able to explore: the Forgotten Tower. Call me paranoid, but I never feel safe until I?ve fully cleared a place. The inability to do that bothered me. There simply were no entrances through the palace, nor from the outside. I checked every room that touched the east wall. Not one of them had a way through.

I was rapidly concluding the Countess had been accessing the tower by magic, which unsettled me even more. If there was magic here, it meant anything could come out of that tower at any time. Luckily, I did find the entrance. It was down in the cellar with the beverage barrels, a simple stone doorway with no markings or embellishments. I must?ve walked past it five times?and I never would?ve found it at all without my IR system. It?s dark down there.

The inside of the tower was much the same as the basement outside, except it was round. That?s how I knew I was in the right place. To my right, stone steps wound counterclockwise upward. The room was surprisingly empty, but I poked around anyway. You can?t be too careful.

Once I was satisfied I was alone, I started climbing. It took a full circuit around the perimeter to get above ground level, but things started to change from there. For one thing, there were small windows cut through the wall at regular intervals, letting in enough light that I didn?t need night vision any more. The other change was the smell. It got worse and worse the higher I got.

By the time I reached the first floor, the stench was indescribable. I can only compare it to a zerg hive after all the zerg are dead and the ?buildings? are collapsed and rotting. This was where the Countess had her bathtub. It was big enough to fully immerse an adult and caked with dried blood. A large screw-press stood above, presumably for filling it. Corpses, crushed beyond recognition, were piled in a heap nearby. If I had any question whether the Kerrigan in this universe was as evil as the Kerrigan in mine, this settled it. Valla?s stories were true?all of them.

Even worse, the tub, the press, and the corpses were covered with flies. Crows were tearing pieces from the dead and squabbling over them. Most people would lose their lunch coming anywhere near something like that, let alone knowing it was made of fellow humans. Good thing Ghosts are trained to handle anything.

I kept climbing. There were more rooms?rooms I can only guess were for the reanimation of dead bodies as Collectors. In one of them, a blood-stained doll lay discarded on the floor. Damn Kerrigan. In every universe.

At the very top of the tower was a single room, whose size made its emptiness seem somehow greater. The only thing in it was a single wooden chair set against the far wall. In a strange way, the sheer vacancy of the room made the simple chair seem like a throne. But that wasn?t what held my attention. I wasn?t alone. At the center of the circular room, an exceptionally large crow pecked at the floorboards. ?Shouldn?t you be downstairs with your buddies?? I asked.

I wasn?t expecting a response, but the crow looked up at me. It wasn?t afraid. In fact, it seemed to know me. That unnerved me enough to start taking aim. Big mistake. Before I even finished the motion, my rifle was torn from my hands by an unseen force. A blinding light enveloped the bird, almost making me regret my reflex to cloak?almost. I watched through invisible hands as the crow grew into a man.

He was tall, gaunt, and dressed in a brown robe. A wide mantle across his shoulders was fringed with black feathers. On his head sat a golden crown, which incorporated the head and wings of a dead crow. The effect was both stately and ludicrous. ?You have no need to hide from me, Nova. I?ve been watching you for some time.?

I considered my options. My rifle was being held against the wall high enough I?d have to jump to get it. And considering the creaks in the floor, my chances of getting over there without giving away my position were practically nil. That left my hands, which wouldn?t be much use against a teek.

He looked slowly around the room until he faced my direction. I felt a push against my chest. Not the iron grip of before, just a slight touch. ?Ah, there you are,? he said.

Once it was obvious he knew where I was, I adopted a different strategy. If I could keep him talking, he might let me close enough to snap his neck before he could react. It was a longshot, but also my best shot. I decloaked. ?You scared me there.?

?True,? he conceded, ?but a king can never be too careful about his security.? He was surprisingly gracious.

I started closer?nice and easy. ?A king? Who are you??
He looked scandalized. ?Isn?t it obvious? I am the Raven Lord, rightful ruler of Raven Court.?

?I thought Kerrigan??
?Was a usurper installed by my so-called benefactors,? he finished for me. ?In truth, I?ve come to thank you for removing her.?

?You?re welcome, then.? I paused. ?Benefactors??
He looked down. ?They duped me into making a pact long ago. Yes, I am immortal. Yes, I am powerful. But they took from me my kingdom, leaving my people to be slaughtered by that witch. This tower is all that remains of my once-proud citadel, its purpose forgotten by the inhabitants of the realm. Now, I exist only to cast curses and raise the dead, a king in name?a slave in fact.?

I almost smiled. I wasn?t going to have to kill him after all. ?Then it sounds to me like we?re on the same side here. How much do you know about them??

?Very little. I encountered them only as voices.?
?That?s more courtesy than they gave me. We?re all just toys to them.?

He grinned. ?Yet you don?t play by the rules?the toy that refuses to be played. I like that.?
I shrugged. ?Victory depends on using every possible advantage.?

?Well said. You have a heart after my own, Nova?a champion worthy of my gifts. Kneel.?

?What?? I protested. That invisible force pressed me to my knees. When I started to raise my arms to defend myself, they were pinned behind me. I could only sit there, helpless. ?Hey?? My jaw clamped shut too.

The Raven Lord advanced on me, conjuring a sword from nowhere. I tried to pull out of my bonds, even to roll over, but they held fast. Bird-head raised the blade and let it fall. I was so focused on my last-ditch attempt to pull free I almost didn?t notice the gentle tap on my shoulder. The flat of the blade touched one side, then the other. ?I pronounce you Dame November Terra, last knight of Raven Court and instrument of my vengeance. Arise.?

The force now lifted me back to my feet. He held out his hand to me, a hearthstone-sized pebble appearing from nothing. ?This stone will allow you to call forth my curse wherever you are, but remember that it will last only a short time.? I reached out and took it?against my own will. ?Now go, and bring my wrath to the far corners of the Nexus.?

I don?t know what he did, but it?s the most painless way I?ve ever died. At least, I assume he killed me, because the next thing I knew was falling through a Nexus tunnel. My fall ended against a hard metal plate?a very familiar one. ?Hail, Hero!? said an equally familiar voice. ?I am Uther the Lightbringer, and you have been chosen by the Nexus.? I cloaked exactly as before, but the old man didn?t skip a beat. ?The Nexus is a cosmic storm where worlds collide from across time, space and even dimension. You have been summoned here to be tested in the forge of combat, and to achieve great glory.?

By the time he got that far, I was already at the far end. I decloaked just short of the portal. ?Don?t worry, old man. I?ve been here before.?

He started talking again on the other side, but I wasn?t listening. I just slipped unseen past the minions and headed straight for where I knew Diablo was waiting. He wasn?t happy to see me. ?This realm and all the misbegotten souls within it are mine! Wait?I know you.?

?That?s right. I bet you also know how this ends.? The look on his face right before I let him have it was priceless.

?Use your hearthstone to join me,? Uther called. I stopped. I didn?t have a hearthstone. Did that mean I was stuck in the training scenario forever? I checked my pack. I did in fact have a hearthstone. It must?ve appeared like it did the first time?right beside the Raven Lord?s. I activated it and teleported in beside Uther.

?This is the Hall of Storms,? he said. ?Heroes are summoned here when a battle begins.?

?Yeah, I know. I?ve been summoned quite a few times.? I looked back into the swirling energy of the portal. Uther launched into his lecture about Battleground basics, but I didn?t care. My trip through the portal from the front porch had just given me an idea?one of those ?so crazy it just might work? ideas. See, when we arrive in a Battleground, we come out of the portal. What would happen if we went back in? What was the worst that could happen? That I end up starting this training crap all over again? It was a risk I was willing to take.

I smirked at the old man. ?Nice talking to you, but I?ve got better stuff to do.? I jumped in with both feet.

I fell?and then landed at another Hall of Storms. The place, though, was completely unknown to me. With all the piles of gold everywhere, I thought I?d discovered a lost and found of the Nexus; but then, other prisoners spawned in around me. This is a Battleground like every other, just not one I?ve seen before.

Looks like I?m going to play this by ear. A new Battleground means a new special power to dodge?and a new world if I can get outside. It?s pretty easy once you know how. I?m not doing that yet, though. There?s just so much to think about. For one thing, I?m not convinced working for the Raven Lord is a good thing. I don?t know what he wants, and I generally don?t take orders from people who wear birds on their heads. For another, Uther didn?t respond to a word I said. He just kept going like some kind of robot. What the hell is wrong with him? Something?s not right here. Nova out.

* * * * * * *
You can now say, "Nova is one hot dame." You're welcome.

Also, mods/heroesdata.stormmod/enus.stormdata/LocalizedData/ConversationStrings.txt is a very interesting read.
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  #102  
Old 11-06-2015, 05:27 PM
DarkAngel DarkAngel is offline

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I'm not sure whether to be angry or to apologize. Just days after posting the last Dispatch we found out:
  1. The Raven Lord is a Headless Horseman expy, not a Medivh expy.
  2. The battleground hosts are themselves the Nexus Lords.
C'est la vie, I guess.
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  #103  
Old 11-06-2015, 10:45 PM
HlaaluStyle HlaaluStyle is offline

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Quote:
Originally Posted by DarkAngel View Post
I'm not sure whether to be angry or to apologize. Just days after posting the last Dispatch we found out:
  1. The Raven Lord is a Headless Horseman expy, not a Medivh expy.
  2. The battleground hosts are themselves the Nexus Lords.
C'est la vie, I guess.
It's one of the pitfalls of fanfic. WoD made most of the stuff I wrote about Outland obsolete.

You might be able to work around the Medivh/Raven Lord issue by just having the Headless Horseman become Nova's sponsor. Frankly, Medivh already came across as pretty sinister--I don't blame Nova for not trusting him.

The battle against the Countess was well-done. Describing battles in Heroes of the Storm seems like it'd be pretty tough to do, since the various elements don't really gel together. You made it vivid and easy to follow (though I was a little confused in the opening salvos).

The question marks are distracting. Have you tried putting your work in a text edit program before copying it over? Em dashes and ellipses still won't appear properly on SoL, but it should solve the problem with quotation marks.

Also, congrats on getting the script done!
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  #104  
Old 11-08-2015, 03:24 PM
Cemotucu Cemotucu is offline

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Quote:
Originally Posted by DarkAngel View Post
I'm not sure whether to be angry or to apologize. Just days after posting the last Dispatch we found out:
  1. The Raven Lord is a Headless Horseman expy, not a Medivh expy.
  2. The battleground hosts are themselves the Nexus Lords.
C'est la vie, I guess.
As far as I understood from the panel, the Headless Horseman is a mob present in The Towers of Doom, not the Raven Lord.

In the other hand, I want to know more about the Grave Keeper.
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  #105  
Old 11-21-2015, 06:06 PM
DarkAngel DarkAngel is offline

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Quick update:
The next dispatch is under way, and even the Great November Outage of 2015 isn't going to stop it. In fact, I've set my wallpaper so that Nova will be giving me that smug, "come get some" look of hers every day for the rest of the month. Luxoria, ho! Even better, Abathur and the Lost Vikings will be making appearances.
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  #106  
Old 11-25-2015, 06:41 PM
DarkAngel DarkAngel is offline

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Panda Dispatch #25

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody! The next Dispatch is ready just in time for turkey day, and you can be thankful I took the time to remove all the special characters from the text (I hope).

* * * * * * *
Personal log, November Terra:
Things have been...changing in the Nexus. New places, new people. I'd wonder how long I was gone, but time has little meaning in the Battlegrounds. Hell, the only reason my clocks are up to 0200 is because I got out again. Unfortunately, I'm not alone.

It wasn't supposed to happen this way. Our team spawned in at the start like always, but there weren't many familiar faces. Even stranger, we weren't five, but seven. Out of those, Li Li was that only one I knew. She seems to have taken a liking to a hulking beetle-creature called Anub'arak. Abathur I'd fought against, but never with--not that being on his side made him any prettier.

And then there were three little men, who acted as a single unit--a highly dysfunctional one, I might add. "All right, here?s the plan," the red-haired one said. He seemed to be the leader. "There's three lanes and three of us. I'll take the beetle in the north lane. Olaf, you take the worm and the girl in the south lane. Baelog, you take the wench down the center."

"Got it," said the one without a beard. "Em, which way is north and which way is south, Erik?"

Little Red pointed. "North is that way. This is no time to start doubting my sense of direction." The fat one mumbled incomprehensible. "I heard that!"

"Speaking of which, you guys do realize we?re standing right here, right?" Li Li had my thoughts exactly, though I would've had some more choice words.

Abathur wasn't happy either. "Plan less than optimal. Suggest revision. Creature Abathur stay here."

And that was when the gates came down. Olaf picked up his shield and ran for the center lane, babbling more nonsense. "What?" Erik called after him. "No! You can't do that now!"

"I'm coming too!" Baelog added.

And so the three of them dashed off together, in complete ignorance of their own plan. Brilliant. Seriously, if these morons were marines assigned to my squadron, I'd send them to be resocced. It'd probably make them smarter.

I put up my cloak and headed to the south lane, figuring any intel I could get about this place would be a step in the right direction. Turns out my initial impression of being underground was correct. Solid stone walls surrounded to whole place. Well, not totally solid. There were gaps here and there, all protected by the usual invisible barrier. The south wall featured numerous side chambers, packed to the gills with treasure. It also appears there have been many who attempted to make off with those riches--none of whom survived. There may be just as many desiccated corpses down here as piles of gold.

Unfortunately, this was a Battleground, and that meant there were hostiles present. A creature was pushing up the lane, slaughtering the minions in his way. This was made easy by having his own squad of minions--on top of those spawned by his core. His bulk moved rather slowly on little crab legs, but he didn't need to be fast. His axe-wielding wolf-men did all his fighting for him.

I kept an eye on him, but didn't consider him a threat. I was cloaked, right? He wouldn't see me unless I chose to engage. Wrong. Crabby looked at me and conjured a big ball of fire in his hand. I had plenty of time to dodge, though I had to take a dive when his shot exploded on impact. My injuries--if any--were very light, but the shock of the blast was apparently enough to break my cloak.

I barely had time to get to my feet before his minions were on me. Considering they were melee combatants, I made sure the first one didn't get that far. There wasn't time to deal with the others. The damned things moved with unnatural speed. Running was not an option. My one and only chance was to get far enough away to cloak again, but they seemed very well-versed in how to prevent that.

Their master trundled closer. "You are not as invisible as you think, little girl. Azmodan does not have to see you to destroy you, for he is crafty enough to see your motion."

"He's also a terrible shot," I retorted.

"Then let?s see you dodge this." He fired some kind of red beam at me--and this time, he was very good at holding on target. Whatever he did, I could feel my energy draining away at a terrifying rate. Eventually, I just didn?t have enough to dodge the axes any more. The last thing I remember was him laughing as I was cleaved in two. Good thing death means nothing in the Battlegrounds.

When I respawned, I took the north lane. I needed to see the other wall--and get as far away from Azmodan as possible. What immediately caught my attention were the aqueducts. Wherever that water was going, it had to have a very big tunnel; and if that tunnel went outside, escape from the cave might not be impossible after all. Aside from that, though, the north wall was even more solid than the south, the main difference being that the piles of treasure were out in the open instead of hidden in side chambers.

As expected, I wasn?t alone. Anub'arak and Li Li were actively engaged with Arthas and Stitches. Iceheart went down at about the time I arrived, but the fight was far from over. Meat-pile grabbed the kid with his hook and pulled her close, a move I'd seen enough times to know what happened next. She was a goner--or so I thought. Before his cleaver could drop, the big beetle dove into the ground, tunneled forward with speed that any zerg would envy, and toppled Stitches. How you do that in a cave with a stone floor is beyond me.

Unfortunately, he wasn't in the best of shape after Arthas, and fell to meat-pile's next stroke. Any sane person would've used the second chance to retreat, but Li Li isn't exactly sane. She started using her martial arts moves on Stitches. Do I need to mention he's at least four times her size? Sometimes I think that kid has a deathwish. "You're going to pay for that, you big meanie! Oh, thanks, Abby!" she added to the symbiote floating over her head. It had just dropped Abathur's gooey armor shell.

I knew enough that the shell would get her though one, maybe two, more hits, but that still didn't change the outcome of this fight. I raised my rifle and scored the kill with a tight pattern in the head and chest. Now, normally, people are happy when you save their lives; but this is the Nexus, where it's illegal for normal things to happen. The moment her target dropped, Li Li came charging at me in anger. "What do you think you?re doing?!" she shouted.

"Saving your ass. We are on the same team."

She pouted. "All right, fine. But don't think I need protecting. I can take care of myself."

I gave her a skeptical look. She was being much more combative than I remembered. Then again, she'd changed her outfit, trading the pink robe for a uniform and the hooked staff for a butterfly net. How did she do that? "Taking care of yourself means having the maturity to admit when you're outmatched," I said evenly.

"Are you saying I need to grow up?!"

"Yes, I am. If you can't control your impulses, you'll be about as effective as our three little friends."

Li Li looked scandalized. "Erik, Olaf, and Baelog fight better than you think. They're a lot like dwarves, so don?t knock 'em."

I rolled my eyes. "Right."

"Because dwarves are, like, my second favorite race--after pandaren of course!" She adjusted her hat. "That?s why--"

"Golden Locks!" an all too familiar voice called. "You've been a very naughty girl! Uther is--"

She never finished because I blew the damned bug out of the sky in one, swift motion. It was the most satisfying kill I've had in a long time, and I made no attempt to hide it. I looked down at Li Li. "Anyway, you were saying?"

It took her a moment to recover. "That's how I became an archeologist. The dwarves are experts on that."

I started moving to a less exposed position, kicking a stray coin as I went. "There must be a lot for you to do down here, then."

The kid followed me. "You betchya! This tomb was built for the Spider Queen Neithis--but she's not all the way dead. If she can get enough power gems, she'll come back to life."

I paused. "Would that be good or bad?"

"Well, somebody thought she was great." She gestured at the piles of gold and jewels. "All I know is the gems are powering the spider minions. If we collect them, Neithis will send her webweavers against the other team."

"Webweavers, huh? That explains why all the treasure is still here." I froze. Something was wrong. My whole body went to instant red alert, and I only realized why after my cloaking field was fully engaged. It was a smell--a coppery, blood-like smell: terrazine.

Li Li didn?t know the danger. "Hey! I'm talking to you! Don't go disappearing on me!" Her ignorance was fatal. The shot rang out as soon as she spoke. I turned, careful not to disturb any debris on the ground. There was a Spectre standing boldly in the lane, long, blonde hair trailing from her mask. She held perfectly still, no doubt scanning for disturbances that might give away my position. I wasn't stupid enough to give her any. Still, I was effectively pinned down until I had cover for my exit.

That cover came, ironically enough, from the enemy. A low whooshing sound shook the tunnel, stopping at mid-lane. Then, a tank-sized creature descended from the ceiling on a silken thread. Part human and part spider, it marched forward until our towers opened up on it. Behind, the Spectre cloaked again, but I knew better than to think she was gone.

I used the commotion to make a break for it, heading back to base. The aqueduct was looking very, very inviting, and I took it. I pitched my hearthstone toward the core and climbed in. The water came up to my knees. It wasn't deep, but it had to be less than a degree above freezing. Even worse, it was virtually impossible to move without sound. That was bad in two ways. First, anyone could hear me leaving. Second, the sound of anyone following would be lost under my own steps.

But I'm a trained Ghost. I listened carefully for anything that didn?t fit, and stopped to make sure. It didn't take long. I barely out of sight from the base before I heard a second set of steps sloshing after me. I considered my options. Cloaking would be useless if my boots were leaving holes in the water, and the walls were too far apart to wedge myself higher. My best choice was to aim for surprise. I spun, bringing my rife to bear as fast as possible in the confined space.

I half-expected to find that goddamn Spectre on my tail. Instead, I found?Li Li. "Hey! Watch where you?re pointing that thing!" Her voice echoed against the walls.

"It?s not wise to sneak up on a Ghost," I retorted.

She shrugged. "I've met scarier people than you. When I saw what you did, I just had to come along. I've wanted to see Luxoria up close ever since I got here. This'll be, like, my greatest adventure ever."

I don?t think I'll ever understand Li Li. How can she have been through so much and still be so naive? Then again, any normal child would be reduced to tears after five minutes in the Nexus. Maybe there's something wrong with her. "All right, fine," I said. "Tag along. But if your furry ass gets in trouble, you?re on your own. Got it?"

"Same goes for you, Blondie." Coming from her, it was almost cute. Almost.

I scowled. Big mistake. She was calling me that every five seconds for the entire rest of the tunnel. I ordered her to stop. I threatened her. I even kicked her down in the water. And she still kept at it. Really, I think the only thing that'll ever shut that little twerp up is if somebody breaks her jaw--and even then, I wouldn't be surprised if she finds some way to continue her incessant chatter.

The one thing that brought silence to her lips was when we emerged from the tunnel to find the sky filled with stars. "Wow! It's so beautiful!"

I looked up. They are kind of pretty, I guess. I hadn't thought about them that way in years. Maybe that?s just the perils of living in an advanced society. Once you see something all the time, you don?t really notice it anymore.

However, our little moment got cut short when a red light flashed against the rocks around us. Somewhere far away, a battlecruiser-sized shape blotted out the stars. Red beams lanced down to the ground below, striking something. It's just too far away to see what. Two hours on, the light show continues.

Looking around with my equipment, we're at the base of a rocky hill, though still high enough to see sandy plains below. It looks like a desert, so Li Li's identification of Luxoria could be right. There are lights on the horizon to the west, which appears to be a walled city about two klicks away. I intend for that to be our destination.

Unfortunately, getting there will have to wait. Li Li is curled in a ball, shivering uncontrollably. She's still drenched from her dunking, and desert nights are cold. I can only imagine wet fur makes it worse. It's...almost painful to watch. I do have an emergency blanket in my survival kit, but I'll need that for me when the residual heat in the rocks wears off. Her first night outside the Battlegrounds could be her last.

Well, kid, you wanted an adventure. Looks like you're getting one. Nova out.

* * * * * * *
Funny thing, one of the reasons cited for making the Covert Ops mission pack is that Nova has a sense of humor. I hope it's wry sarcasm...
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  #107  
Old 11-29-2015, 01:29 AM
Malygos Malygos is offline

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Our first mirror match. They always make me look like a fool, especially as Nova when I blow my load on a holo decoy.

Does Li Li still have her hearthstone?
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  #108  
Old 11-29-2015, 11:22 AM
Arashi Arashi is offline

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i am the hearthstone. Now cower in fear as i unleash my army of legendary cards.
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  #109  
Old 11-29-2015, 05:15 PM
DarkAngel DarkAngel is offline

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Originally Posted by Malygos View Post
Does Li Li still have her hearthstone?
No. She happened to finish her death timer just in time to see what Nova did to escape. Pesky invisible barriers.

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i am the hearthstone. Now cower in fear as i unleash my army of legendary cards.
Sorry, you have to draw Elise, then draw the Map, and THEN draw the Golden Monkey.

Just so you know, I intend to get off one more Dispatch before ending November in November 2015 -- even if it's not November anymore. It seems like stuff always keeps happening in that month and I end up letting you down.

And NOBODY is anxious over whether or not Li Li survives the night? For shame! (Probably should've looked up progression of hypothermia and set the clock accordingly, though.)
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  #110  
Old 11-29-2015, 06:13 PM
HlaaluStyle HlaaluStyle is offline

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No. She happened to finish her death timer just in time to see what Nova did to escape. Pesky invisible barriers.


Sorry, you have to draw Elise, then draw the Map, and THEN draw the Golden Monkey.

Just so you know, I intend to get off one more Dispatch before ending November in November 2015 -- even if it's not November anymore. It seems like stuff always keeps happening in that month and I end up letting you down.

And NOBODY is anxious over whether or not Li Li survives the night? For shame! (Probably should've looked up progression of hypothermia and set the clock accordingly, though.)
I liked Nova's musings on Li Li--that there must be something wrong with the kid. Honestly, that's actually quite a reasonable thing to think. A child in that situation would probably get pretty twisted (assuming they weren't already). Hell, so would an adult.

Maybe the advantage of some kind of HotS/LoL deal is that it keeps all these dangerous super powered types off the streets. Instead of razing planets or kingdoms, they just blast each other and let regular folks get on with the business of living.

Forgive me if I'm missing something, but if Li Li dies, wouldn't she just respawn? Again, I'm not that familiar with the HotS rules. While it's painful to read about her predicament, it doesn't quite provoke that much anxiety simply because of the nature of things. I thought Nova might be developing a bit of fondness for Li Li, but I'm no longer so sure. At any rate, it'd take Nova a long while to get close to anyone, so that's not a problem.

I do think you should have spent a bit of time describing the battleground. While I got that it was underground, the details were pretty vague.
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Old 11-30-2015, 05:16 PM
Arashi Arashi is offline

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Old 11-30-2015, 06:01 PM
DarkAngel DarkAngel is offline

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I liked Nova's musings on Li Li--that there must be something wrong with the kid. Honestly, that's actually quite a reasonable thing to think. A child in that situation would probably get pretty twisted (assuming they weren't already). Hell, so would an adult.
Good point, but I'm actually ignoring that. Rather, Explorer Li Li is a slightly darker take on the character. Not too much, mind you -- she's still Li Li -- but she happens to be on the run from her past. Just like someone else...

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Maybe the advantage of some kind of HotS/LoL deal is that it keeps all these dangerous super powered types off the streets. Instead of razing planets or kingdoms, they just blast each other and let regular folks get on with the business of living.
Stay tuned for Dragon Spire.

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Forgive me if I'm missing something, but if Li Li dies, wouldn't she just respawn? Again, I'm not that familiar with the HotS rules. While it's painful to read about her predicament, it doesn't quite provoke that much anxiety simply because of the nature of things. I thought Nova might be developing a bit of fondness for Li Li, but I'm no longer so sure. At any rate, it'd take Nova a long while to get close to anyone, so that's not a problem.
Nova's attachments are very tricky. She can't really stop them from forming, but her response is to be resentful and nasty in hopes of pushing the other party away. In some ways, I'm glad I picked Nova as my protag for this. Trying to balance the four-fold nature I discovered in her is a real workout. Then again, lots of things I try to show end up not being as obvious as I thought.

My death system goes something like this: If you die with a hearthstone, you respawn at your team's hall of storms after a death timer (the game mechanic). If you die without one, you get kicked back to the "front porch" at the start of the tutorial. I will concede the "cliffhanger" isn't effective for anyone who knows me. I'm a "good" author. The only time I kill kids is for dark humor.

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I do think you should have spent a bit of time describing the battleground. While I got that it was underground, the details were pretty vague.
I'm not sure what you mean by this. The Tomb of the Spider Queen is a man-made cavern littered with big piles of treasure. Should I say it has three lanes with turn-in sites between them? EDIT: Ah! The spider architecture. And the gloomy mist.
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Old 12-01-2015, 04:45 PM
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Orb of Lightning Dispatch #26

With this Dispatch, November in November 2015 comes to its close. I had originally intended to get to the city, but there just isn't time. Besides, I know some of you would rather have shorter, more frequent updates anyway. While the flow is terrible on this, you're used to that by now. I can never seem to polish things very well. Plus, there are RL things piling up that need to get taken care of...
* * * * * * *

Personal log, November Terra:
Some people say morning brings clarity. I'm calling bullshit. I feel like I know less now than I did last night. Even my directions were off, it seems. Based on the sunrise, the direction I thought was west is actually north. I've reset my equipment accordingly. To make things even more confusing, the "battlecruiser" I saw last night is now west of the city instead of east, though its guns are now silent. It appears to be a city-sized slab of stone suspended in the air: the Sky Temple. This is Luxoria. No question.

Below my position, water pours out of the aqueducts. It heads toward the city, but it never gets there. It spreads out in a salt flat and evaporates. That's bad. A salt flat is probably the worst obstacle that could separate us from our destination. Once the sun comes up properly, it's going to pound on that like hell.

But that's still not the worst of my problems. That would be Li Li. I opened my eyes to find she'd crawled inside my blanket at some point overnight. Her ability to do that without waking me up unnerved me, though it may not be hard to do with someone huddled behind a rock. I actually hesitated to kick her out. She just looked so cute snuggled up against me like that. Biology has us all programmed to look out for kids, I guess. It means about as much as a resoc's false memories.

I stood up, deliberately letting her fall over in the process. I hadn't intended for her to hit her head on the rock, but it served her right. People who sneak up on Ghosts deserve whatever they get. She yelped in surprise and pain, then sat up, rubbing her head. I was almost surprised she didn't start crying. Instead, she gave me a death glare to match any drill instructor. "I guess that's one way to say 'good morning.' You're mean, you know that?"

"It comes from being grouchy," I shot back. "Waking up smelling like a wet hairball is my favorite way to start the day."

She crossed her arms. "You didn't exactly smell so good yourself, you know. I swear you fart every five minutes."
I gave her a glare of my own. "Excuse me?"

"Oh, you heard right. I bet your boyfriend only visits when he has to."

I scowled--and then remembered what that got me last time. This had to be nipped in the bud immediately. I picked her up by shirt and held her centimeters from my face. "Kid, I am this close to putting your head the rest of the way through that rock." For once, there was no more attitude in her eyes. Just pure, honest-to-goodness fear. Finally. "If you're going to tag along with me, we need to agree on some rules right now. We do not talk about my body, we do not talk about my past, and we most certainly don't talk about my love life. Got it?" She nodded, looking on the verge of tears for the first time I'd seen. It felt good--and it also hurt. Damn those puppy-dog eyes.

I only held her long enough to make my point. I had to look away the moment her feet were back on the ground. "I'm going up top to see if the situation's changed since last night. When I get back, we fill our canteens and make for that city."

She nodded meekly. I had turned away when she asked, "What city?"
I stopped. "The city I saw on my IR last night. It's over there." I pointed. When she perked up, I added, "You focus on getting ready to move."

"What about breakfast?"
"No time. We need to be back under shelter before the sun gets too high." I started up the rock face, then looked back at her to emphasize my point. "And remember, if you fall behind, I'm not coming back for you." I didn?t wait for a response.

Up top, I started thinking--and not in the good way. Li Li is a pain, and I wish she hadn't followed me out here. I almost hope I'll climb back down and find her gone. I also hope she's still there. It doesn't make any sense. Why can't there be a clear answer? Ghosts are supposed to keep all relationships strictly professional, but that doesn't work very well with kids. Guess I'll have to improvise--as usual.

Meanwhile, the sun's rising fast. I don't have time to waste on this. Nova out.

* * * * * * *
Congratulations, Nova. You are now an abusive parent.
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Old 12-01-2015, 10:10 PM
Arashi Arashi is offline

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Nova just mad for being on the receiving end of a SICK BURN.
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Old 12-17-2015, 08:41 PM
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Nova just mad for being on the receiving end of a SICK BURN.
And it burns because it's true!

Just to let any readers know what's going on, I got roped into doing something else for a while, so the chances of getting something off in December aren't looking good. Sorry.

However, while we're on the topic of Mal, there were some research questions I'd like to ask someone who knows this better than the wiki:
  • To what degree did Nova remember him during the Ghenna Station incident?
  • How can a Wrangler stand to be anywhere near a PI 10?

This may or may not have relevance going forward...
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Old 12-20-2015, 04:23 AM
C9H20 C9H20 is offline

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It's been awhile since I read that, but since no one else has come forward I'll try to remember.

-She did not remember him at all at first. But since they got together by the end anyway they (if I am not mistaken) had plans to stay together. I am not sure how they would accomplish that with the memory-wipe and all, I think the plan was to remember somehow but not sure how (50 first dates anyone? ).

-I think when Nova breaks her ghost conditioning after prolonged action or being pushed to it (like in Specters) she is kinda insecure since her trauma comes rushing back. Mal in contrast is quite stable emotionally, plus I think he is very giving as a person which confuses Nova, since she trust no one and eventually this combo wins her over.
If you meant how he measures up in badass units, less so, he is capable with weapons and brave but still pretty much a regular dude. He can operate some ghost-tech with his weaker PI though.

But again, it's been a long while so take that with a grain of salt.
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Old 12-20-2015, 07:53 PM
DarkAngel DarkAngel is offline

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@ Nonane: Thanks for the response. The first answer was sort of what I expected, so thanks for confirming. However, it brings up another question: Did Mal actively try to get Nova to remember him, or did she figure it out on her own? Either way, it's a good hook for an upcoming scene.

For the second question, perhaps I should be more direct about what I meant. If Mal detects other psychically active beings by getting a headache, and if Nova is the most powerful Ghost since Kerrigan, wouldn't it be painful for him to be around her? Your relationship is pretty much doomed from the beginning if it hurts to be near each other.
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Old 12-20-2015, 08:05 PM
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If he could somehow get a psi-screen, maybe it could work. There's a wrangler that used one.
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Old 12-25-2015, 06:41 PM
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For the second question, perhaps I should be more direct about what I meant. If Mal detects other psychically active beings by getting a headache, and if Nova is the most powerful Ghost since Kerrigan, wouldn't it be painful for him to be around her? Your relationship is pretty much doomed from the beginning if it hurts to be near each other.
I think painkillers help him, hopefully no terrible adverse effects with using those. Oh the things people do for love

As for if he tried to make her remember, I don't think he made great effort at it but I also don't think he hid the fact they knew each other. But again, this book was a while ago and kinda forgettable.

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If he could somehow get a psi-screen, maybe it could work. There's a wrangler that used one.
But doesn't prolonged use of it fry the brain, which is what happened to Nova's gang boss/captor and that guy from the Firstborn trilogy (Ethan Stewart).
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  #120  
Old 12-26-2015, 09:02 AM
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Thanks, team! You've been a big help. While it may be a while before the conversation about memory-wipes happens, it needs to be both correct and personal.
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Old 01-31-2016, 05:48 PM
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With only a few hours remaining in the month of January, I wanted to give notice that the next Dispatch is mostly written. Whether or not it will be completed by the end of this week (as I hope) remains to be seen. Please bear with me. Your patience, should anyone still be reading, is worthy of commendation. Thank you.
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Old 02-01-2016, 03:14 AM
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Well I am just glad it's still alive. I wanted to comment on the lack of updates but you do this for free on your own time so that would be a wee bit ungrateful
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Old 02-02-2016, 06:37 PM
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Map Dispatch #27

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Well I am just glad it's still alive. I wanted to comment on the lack of updates but you do this for free on your own time so that would be a wee bit ungrateful
Sorry. There's another project that's taking virtually of my time right now. Rest assured I intend to finish this, and the only things that are going to stop me are death and getting hired by Blizzard. Both of those are reasonably improbable, I think.

Anyway, this one took a while because it's so long (almost 3k words!). I hope you find it fun.
* * * * * * *

Personal log, November Terra:
I've now spent sixteen hours in Luxoria. I'm hiding in a filthy abandoned building and babysitting the galaxy's most annoying kid. In other words, it could be a hell of a lot worse. Today was not an easy one, but first days rarely are when you drop on a new planet with no mission briefing. I started by letting my unwanted companion know what to expect in no uncertain terms.

"Here's the sitrep, Hairball. Our target is two klicks west. That's two thousand meters of roasting hot salt. If we stop--for any reason--we die. There will be no lunch breaks, no water breaks, and no rest breaks. We keep putting one foot in front of the other until we get there. Is that clear?"

She nodded gravely, though I still don't think she understood. "Got it." She paused. "Does everything you do have to be painful?"

I stood up. "You followed me, kid. Actions have consequences."

"Oh, by the way," she shot back, "since you're such an expert on desert survival, what's your plan for dealing with the sun?" She tipped her pith helmet for emphasis.

I smiled. "My plan is for the sun to go right through me." I was almost surprised my vanishing act shut her up--but only for a while. As soon as we were down the hill, she was back to babbling again about what a great adventurer she was and how she traveled around with a bunch of archaeologists. She even claimed responsibility for discovering new ruins, but that was more by accidentally leading her team to the right place--which she did by wandering away.

Still, her stories gradually slowed down, and her voice kept lagging further and further behind me. Finally, with five hundred meters left to go, they stopped. The only sound was crunching feet. Blessed silence at last--and it felt wrong. It gnawed at me little by little until I had to do something. "Hey Hairball, you coming?" I called over my shoulder.

"Still...behind you...Blondie." She was puffing from exertion.

I guess I shouldn't blame her too much. The heat was starting to get to me too. Still, the only thing worse than slowing down was stopping. We had to keep moving at all costs. "Listen, Hairball, we?re going to that city. If I have to get you there by punting you, I will. I figure I can make about twenty meters per shot."

I could almost hear her scowl. "I know what you?re doing, Blondie. It's really another form of coddling me." The voice was steady, her resolve back. Her anger kept her going--exactly as intended. "Why does everybody think I need special treatment? It took me forever convince Adarrah to let me go see the Obelisk of the Stars. It's not like I was waltzing into the Vortex Pinnacle or something. Oh, no, there's too many pygmies. You'll wander away and get yourself killed. You know what? When the blighters came after me, I took 'em down. Five. Count 'em, five! I can take care of myself; I do not need...anyone's protection.?

She faltered again at the end of her rant, but I didn't care. We had a bigger problem--big enough that I was the one who stopped. "Shit," I said.

"What now? I thought we had to keep moving at all costs, Blondie."

I let my cloak drop and pointed at the depression in the ground in front of me. Actually, there were dozens--hundreds--of them scattered around us. That included behind because I'd been too busy gauging the hairball's status to scan much beyond my immediate footsteps. Why did she have to come with me again?

"This is a salt flat," I said simply.

She crunched closer. "So?"

"So, salt flats should be...flat. This ground has been disturbed--and these are zerg burrows if I've ever seen any." I gestured around to all of them. "Any second now, they'll pop out of the ground and tear us to shreds. Thanks for getting us both killed, Hairball."

She scowled. "It's my fault, huh? You're the one who led us out here, Blondie. If anyone--"

Right on cue, creatures began climbing out of the salt--but they weren't zerg. They were clawed, insectoid creatures, more like scantids than zerglings. I never expected Luxoria to have its own Scorpion Ravine, but that's what we were facing. Oh, and did I mention we were completely surrounded? Yeah.

The scorpion-things approached slowly, scanning for weak points. I did the same. "Li Li, try to grab their attention. I'll keep them off you as long as I can."

"And then what?" she asked suspiciously.

"I'll--I'll think of something. Just go. You're really good at being annoying."

She glared. "And you?re really good at being a selfish jerk. I hope they kill you slowly." Considering her words, she surprised me by doing as I'd told her. "All right you stupid invertebrates, you want some of this? Come get some!" It was actually Li Li who landed the first blow of the fight, a heavy thump with her insect net. It's almost funny now that I think about it.

I definitely wasn't laughing at the time. I leveled my rifle and cleaned off her back--while trying to watch my own. There had to be a way out of this. There were just too damned many of them. I'm a good shot, but I can only take out one target at a time. I needed to wipe the whole field--or at least weaken them so they weren't a threat. I needed...the Raven Lord's curse. How did I not think of that before?

Quickly, I reached in my pack. My hand closed around the stone. Now what? Bird-head gave me the rock, but he hadn't said a word about how to use it. It felt a lot like a hearthstone, but there was no way to be sure. Suddenly, Li Li screamed. Without my cover, she'd been taken down. One of the scorpions had her in its claws, stinger poised to strike. There could be no more hesitation. I closed my eyes and activated it, not knowing if it would work.

Somehow, darkness fell over the cloudless sky. Li Li wriggled free, leaving the stinger to jab at the ground. "Ha! Not so strong after all!" She expertly rolled, retrieving her net in one motion. The next few hits were crushing blows that left the monsters reeling--but more of them kept coming.

I smashed a few with the butt of my rifle, then made a break for the city gates. The Raven Lord said the curse wouldn't last long, and I wasn't taking chances. "This way, Hairball!"

"Right behind you, blondie!"

There wasn't time to check if her reply was true. I just ran like hell, crushing every bug in my way. The city wasn't far, but it took seemingly forever to cover the distance. 400 meters. 300. 250. That was when I happened to look up. We were heading for the city gates--which were closed. Of course they would be. There was effectively an army camped outside. And that left us running into a solid wall.

Still, it was too late choose another destination. I scanned to wall, hoping against hope. Maybe there would be something to climb on. Maybe the defenders' cover would be enough to fight off our attackers. Maybe. Maybe. 200 meters. 150. 100.

I don't believe in miracles, but I have to admit it felt like one when a motion caught my eye: a rope ladder dropped from the wall. I went for it with everything I had. I don't even remember reaching the bottom. One minute, I was running; the next, I was climbing for my life. Suddenly, the ladder shook, forcing me to stop to stay on. Somewhere above, whoever had thrown the lifeline was hauling it up again.

"Sorry, buggers. Looks like you can't touch this." I looked down. Li Li had gotten on below me. On the ground, the scorpion things could only clack their claws and brandish their stingers impotently. We were safe--or were we? I looked up. There was no sign of our rescuers except swarthy hands at regular intervals. When my head finally came over the parapet, those same hands roughly seized my wrists and jerked me up. They did not let go. Instead, a new pair of men began pulling the ropes. There were twenty-three of them, looking like minions from the Sky Temple except black instead of red or blue. Presiding over them, however, was a very different creature. It was humanoid, but with a dog-like head and floating in the air like some elder protoss. It was studying me intently. Even worse, I was feeling something from him I hadn?t felt in a very long time: psionic emanations.

I shrugged, deliberately swinging my arms a bit. My captors still didn't let go. They were strong, but not superhuman. They'd be no trouble at all for a Ghost. "What's going on here?" I demanded.

The dog-man started to say something, but Li Li's arrival distracted him. "Hey! Let go of me! Didn?t anybody tell you not to mess with a Stormstout?"

"No, I'm afraid not," he said coolly. "Now, who are you and what brings you to Amarnis?"

I mirrored his manner. "I might ask you the same question."

He increased his hovering height and floated over his subordinates' heads. "I am Atenhotep, captain of the guard. I do not take kindly to intruders in my city."

"Funny thing to say when you deliberately pull them inside."

"Li Li, no," I hissed. If Atenhotep was as powerful as he felt, pissing him off would be a very bad idea.

"Li Li. That's one name. How about you?" Something pressed against my mind. He was probing me.

Luckily--or not--Li Li diverted his attention before he could truly test my defenses. I'm not sure they would've held. "Her name is Nova," she said for me. "Be nice to her or she'll kick your ass."

If a dog can sneer, that's the look Hairball got for her trouble. "I can see why one shouldn't mess with a Stormstout. They have manners like wild dogs. Now, where did you come from and why are you here?"

I looked out over the adobe city below. It offered innumerable places to hide--if we could break out. "Isn't there somewhere we could cool off?"

He paused, considering. "There is, but not until you hand over your weapons."

I gave him my best death glare. "It'll take more than that to get a Ghost's weapon."

"Oh? Would this be enough?" And just like that, my rifle was in his hand. He didn't just pull it--he teleported it, without any fancy protoss crystals. What the hell? I don't think even the Queen of Blades can do that. Dog-breath was out of my league, no question. The only way I was going to take him was by surprise from long range--and now, I had no weapon.

"Hey! That?s not a weapon!" Li Li complained as her net appeared in his other hand.

"It is the way you use it."

"Not fair! Nova, teach him a lesson. Go!"

I looked at her. Our captor could almost certainly kill us with a thought, and she had no idea of the danger. "Li Li, it might be better if I do the talking here." She seethed, but remained silent. "You'll have to excuse my friend," I said evenly. "She can be...immature." I deliberately didn't check for a response on that one. "Since you did offer to get us out of the sun," I continued, "perhaps we could have a...civilized discussion." Amarnis looked anything but civilized to me, but diplomacy is all about lying to people. Plus, if our party was moving, there would be much better chance of breaking out--not that escape would be advisable with Dog-breath floating in the background.

Atenhotep looked at me very carefully, probing my mind again. He was obviously suspicious, but didn't get deep enough to read my intentions. I know what that feels like. "Very well, Nova. We shall speak in my office. Snemar, bring them."

The goons on either side jerked me forward. I didn't struggle. It was better for him to think me under his power. Dog-breath, though, stayed right where he was. "Not coming?" I asked.

"I must make account of this to my master. We shall speak when he has instructed me regarding you." With that, he floated away over the rooftops.

In his absence, the glorified minions hauled us to a narrow stairway running down the back side of the wall. It was designed to force people into single file, which meant I went down sideways. It was an awkward position, one that would've made it easy throw my minders off and break free. Li Li made eyes at me like she wanted to run for it, but I shook my head. We couldn't try anything until Dog-breath was a safe distance away. I counted off seconds, estimating his position based on his speed and direction. We were almost clear, but still not quite.

At the bottom of the steps, I took stock of the situation. Out of the twenty-plus guards who came to greet us, our escort party was just eight. Clearly, they had no idea how dangerous a disarmed Ghost can be. Most people don't--and they often pay the price for their ignorance. These fools certainly did.

We headed out into the city. I think a part of me was expecting to find the Sky Temple on the ground. The truth was far uglier. Amarnis was full of run-down, boarded-up buildings. Piles of garbage--and worse--were left in the street. Aside from our guards, the whole place seemed deserted. I wouldn't be surprised if the lack of water was the only thing keeping weeds from taking over. There were hints of paving stones poking out here and there, but the thick layer of dust on the ground made it impossible to tell for sure.

Finally, my countdown finished, which happened to coincide with a five-way intersection centered on a well. Perfect. I winked at Li Li. She nodded. What followed was a very short fight. Our minders had grown accustomed to little resistance, and surprise was a deadly enemy--exactly as intended. I focused on breaking fingers, noses, and feet, quick, easy things that would leave them in too much pain to make a serious pursuit. And yes, about half of them ended up dead anyway. Sometimes training takes over and you just can?t help yourself.

No doubt they now regretted leaving the bulk of their forces at the wall.

"Now what?" Li Li asked.

"Now," I said, "we hide until things cool off." I chose a street at random and ran. There was still no sign of other people, just endless closed doors and shutters. I took us just out of sight from the pile of bodies, then stopped at a particularly dilapidated storefront.

"You're not seriously stopping already, are you? That's just dumb."

I gripped the board across the front window. It gave way almost too easily. "Exactly. We'd be morons to hole up this close--so, as long as we leave an obvious exit trail, they won't even bother to search the building." Once open, I vaulted over the counter. I landed in a dark room--one that hadn't been inhabited for quite a while. That's not to say no one had been here. The dust on the floor might've given us away had it not been so well-trod already. Our footprints would just be more among many. Looking around, thieves had ransacked the place, with a few vandals joining the fun. My work was almost done for me. The only thing left to do was kick open the side door into the alley. "There. That should do it."

Li Li was unimpressed. "So where do we hide? I'm not seeing any good places."

I eyed the ladder in the corner. "We go up. Pull up the ladder. Anybody coming through won't even think of going upstairs because--how could we? No ladder."

"That's...actually kind of brilliant--for a blonde."

"I hear hairballs make great dustmops--and this place really needs one."

She cringed. "Um, right. Let's get up there, shall we?" She started toward the ladder.

"No. You stay here and keep a lookout. I'll go up and clear it."

Hairball gave me a withering look. "Why can't I go first? I'm the explorer."

"Because if there's someone up there waiting for us," I said coolly, "I'll be invisible. You won't."

That took some wind out of her bravado. She looked around innocently. "You know, this banged-up old shop is surprisingly homey."

I smirked and hopped on the ladder, careful not to leave marks at the bottom. It almost didn't hold. Luckily, I was on the third rung by the time the first finished breaking. I put up my cloak and climbed as quietly as possible.

I found myself in another darkened room--also in shambles. There was nothing here but more dust and broken furniture. I poked around a bit, just make sure, but still nothing. "It's okay to come up," I called. "Just don't leave any prints near the ladder. Got it?"

Li Li joined me, and we've been sitting here ever since. Well, I have. Hairball insists on "exploring" every nook and cranny and attempting to identify every object. She--oh, shit.

Judging by the sound, she just jumped down in the alley to have an argument with someone--always a good idea when you're trying to hide. If that kid just blew our cover, she's on her own. Nova out.


* * * * * * *
The original plan was for a separate Dispatch to feature a longer conversation with Atenhotep. However, I realized there would be little chance of escape if they actually made it that deep into his clutches. Thus, everything from the scorpid ambush to the hideout had to be done in one marathon chapter.

Something I'm finding is how juxtaposition of characters forces them into roles--and thus forces them to change. For example, Explorer Li Li's characterization as an unruly brat* forces Nova to be the mature one. She is thus unable to do her "I'm not afraid of you, go to hell" schtick that she might've done previously. Very interesting.

*This is in no way intended to defame Wanderer Li Li, who is headstrong and rambunctious but not overtly belligerent.
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  #124  
Old 02-03-2016, 12:33 PM
C9H20 C9H20 is offline

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Glad to hear this is still on track, not that I doubted the fact that you would continue eventually but the wait was quite torturous
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  #125  
Old 02-09-2016, 05:23 PM
DarkAngel DarkAngel is offline

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Shadow Orb Dispatch #28

Had some extra time and cranked this out in a mere two days. It may be rougher than usual, but it's still not bad for a first draft.

As you may have surmised from the questions I was asking, Nova's journey is about to get personal.
* * * * * * *

Personal log, November Terra:
Eighteen hours in Luxoria and I finally get some intel on what's going on around here. More on that in a moment. The three of us are holed up in the attic again, though my source says we should fear the neighbors more than the dragnet. Yes, three of us. Hairball picked up a local--a very interesting one, I might add. I've consented to let her stay with us in exchange for her information. She appears to have nowhere else to go, so betrayal seems unlikely--but you can never be too careful. I'm trusting her because there are just too many coincidences in her story to be lies.

Perhaps I should explain. I terminated recording of the last message when I heard Li Li confronting someone in the alley below. She'd apparently jumped out the window to get there--no small feat to land safely from this height. I'll give the kid credit. She can handle herself pretty well. She just needs to quit picking fights she can't win--like this one. Three large men were backing her out of the alley, which struck me as odd.

At first, I thought we'd been found, but these men weren't soldiers, just riff-raff. I can take care of that in my sleep. Li Li could take any of them too, by the look of things. All of them at once? Not so much. They were taking half-hearted swings at her, and she was dodging them like pro. It would probably take all of them to land one hit. Her key mistake was cutting off their escape. Normally, that is what you want to do. However, Hairball had inadvertently forced them to fight their way out--a fight that didn't need to happen.

I put down the ladder and made a silent, cloaked approach. "You think you're some kinda hero, kid?" one of the thugs said. "That's a very dangerous occupation around here."

"Not as dangerous as beating up people half your size," she retorted. "Now that I'm here, you?re gonna stop--or pay the price."

"That's a big threat from an overgrown doormat. Come to think of it, I could use a place to wipe my shoes."

"I'm a pandaren, you jerk! And you're about to learn--"

She didn't finish because I grabbed her and pulled her in through the side door. It was apparently enough to break my cloak, because the thugs just about shit a brick. That's generally the reaction of people who haven't seen it before. "Move along, gentlemen," I said evenly. "Beating on this hairball is my job."

They didn't need to be told twice. Path open, the thugs ran for the street. I looked down. "What. The hell. Were you thinking?"

"They were being mean to her! I--"

I cut her off. "I don't care if they were eating a baby. Survival is our prime concern--and thanks to you, the whole neighborhood knows we're here."

"But--"
"No buts. Get your furry ass back upstairs. Now."

She tried to twist out of my grip. "She's hurt! Are you really going to leave her?"

I sighed. "Kid, sacrifices have to be made. You can't have it both--" It was my turn not to finish. The conviction in her voice had made me look--and what I saw made me stop. There was a girl on the ground at the alley's dead end. She was starting to get up--and there was something about the way she moved. That was the first coincidence. "You go back upstairs. I will check her condition." The words came to me numbly. I had to find out.

I approached cautiously. The girl pulled herself up to a kneeling position, bruises blooming on her head and arms. There were tears streaming down her face, but she made a heroic effort to suppress the sobs. Eerily familiar. She lifted a wig of many braids and set it on a head bearing nothing but week-old fuzz.

"You all right?" I asked.
"You really...shouldn't...have done that." She managed to say.

I offered a hand up. "And why not?"
She took my hand. "Phagun...will have your heads."

Fagan. That was the second coincidence. The look she gave me as I pulled her up made my blood run cold. There was only one more test. "I think I can handle whatever he throws at me. Have a name?"

She shook her head.
"I just saved your life. You can at least tell me who you are."

She looked away.
I raised a hand as if to backhand her. She instantly cowered. "Tybi. Tybi Pterah."

Terra. My hand came down slowly. Tybi looked like she'd just said her first swear word. No doubt my face also had some expression I wouldn't want caught on camera. It didn't matter. I had my confirmation. The uncomfortable coincidences weren't going to stop. They would only continue. "I-- I think you'd better come with me. I'll keep you safe."

"Well that's quite a change of heart. Going soft all the sudden?"

I looked to my left. "I told you to go back upstairs. Don't you ev--" I stopped. Li Li was looking at me, but not looking at me. She was totally zoned out. I was feeling it too: a pressure against my mind. I immediately turned to Tybi. I didn't have to ask what she was doing. She was trying to project "fuzz" into our minds to cover her escape--exactly as I would've done. "Stop that," I ordered. "Now."

She looked up in surprise. "How are you doing that? It's like a wall."

I looked her right in the eye. "I can keep you out because I'm trained in this stuff, kid. You've got power, yes; but you don't have discipline."

Tybi looked away, wilting under my gaze. I knew that look. It brought back a lot of memories I'd rather forget--hell, I did forget. If she was me, there would be only one concern on her mind in this chapter of her life, one that'd make her very hard to persuade. Beside me, Li Li stirred. "Woah. Where were we?"

I did my best to suppress a smirk as thought occurred to me. "We were trying to convince Tybi here that we're not affiliated with any of the many people trying to enslave her. Haven't you been paying attention?"

"Uhh... Sure!" Just as I'd hoped, Hairball went to work on my other self. "No, really. We're just travelers passing through. Bet you haven't met a pandaren before."

Tybi offered a wan smile. "No, I suppose not. We don't see many straw-heads either." I bristled, which only seemed to amuse her more. What a brat.

Li Li giggled. "Oh, Nova's not just any straw-head. She's an invisible straw-head. You'd like her. She kicks almost as much ass as my uncle Chen!"

I could never have imagined myself laughing in the Gutter, but Tybi did. "Okay, I...could use some company. You're staying around here?"

"Until the guards come looking for us," I cut in.
Tybi shook her head. "Oh, no. The pharaoh's men never come here--especially not with the sun going down. We need everyone on the wall when the scorpids attack."

"Sounds like we have a lot to talk about, then." And we did, though I didn't press her too hard. I know myself. I won't get much out of her until I win her trust--and that's no small task. Maybe she'll be more forthcoming when she sees we're still here in the morning. Nova out.


* * * * * * *
In case you were wondering, "Tybi" was an Egyptian month roughly corresponding to November. But Dark! Tybi was the fifth month; Epiphi was the eleventh. True, but the Egyptians began their year with the sighting of Sirius in mid-July. As a result, the months were skewed compared to the modern calendar. (Plus, most of those months wouldn't make good names.)
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