Closed Dungeons and Dragons

Discussion in 'Role Playing Games' started by Kid Kidman, Oct 20, 2016.

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  1. Kid Kidman

    Kid Kidman V.I.L.E. Agent

    Messages:
    104
    Gender:
    Female
    Occupation:
    Thief, psychic, and Flag-tracker
    Location:
    Here and there
    Color #:
    323E4F
    PREVIOUSLY!

    Background!: Flag has turned back time, nuking the old line. From the ashes Kidman has reformed as Neb Ullys, and, after realizing her heavy exposure to Chernobyl's fallout has sentenced her to an early and painful death, has decided to seek a way to use her healing powers on herself, effectively making her immortal.

    En route to this she rejoins with her old partner Flag, who agrees to help her on her quest for mysterious reasons (or he's bored). The two steal a book necessary for Neb to build a thing to help with her thing, but it turns out the book was only the index to the real set of books, which is kept in the creepy library of a creepy castle owned by a creepy man named Bran Brychanson.

    Neb asks Joe to help put a tracker in the index book to send back to Bran, and, after warning him about the sheer creepiness of Bran, asks if he wants to come. He agrees, and so begins an epic adventure of:
     
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2016
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  2. Kid Kidman

    Kid Kidman V.I.L.E. Agent

    Messages:
    104
    Gender:
    Female
    Occupation:
    Thief, psychic, and Flag-tracker
    Location:
    Here and there
    Color #:
    323E4F
    Dungeons and Dragons! Part 1!
    By Joe, Neb, Flag, and Bran


    The forests of England have the legend of Robin Hood, and some would say King Arthur; the Land of Eire has its legends of Leprechauns and Scotland has Nessie. But what of Wales? Wales has dragons.

    The only hint such a creature would give of its presence is the gale that it leaves in the wake of its flight; a strong wind similar to that currently ripping through one such Welsh forest. This wind however, is not supernatural or mythical in origin; much rather, it is technological.

    Dark clouds swirled in the sky above the rocky mountains of Snowdonia. They slowly descended from their heights to consume the lush Welsh valleys below. Claps of thunder could be heard in the distance. The occasional flicker of light throughout the clouds warned of the storm to come. Both animal and man hid and readied themselves for the impending darkness, but some stayed. Some remained steadfast, facing whatever came their way. Like the ancient Celts of old before invading Romans, they waited.

    Gliding through the skies with grace and ease, a sleek craft circled the forest below it like an eagle sizing up prey. The futuristic vessel was outfitted with the latest in stealth technology and was designed to comfortably carry a quartet of thieves plus loot. A spiritual successor to The Raven, this particular bird was capable of flying faster and further than her forerunner; she also held far more secrets.


    ***


    Bran Brychanson stood silently on the stone steps that led up to his manor. His gaze was fixed upon a lone SUV which had only just emerged out from the tall green trees surrounding the mansion. A soft but, for now, steady rainfall splattered on its window as it came nearer before slipping to a halt. As soon as the tires stopped moving, a bald man swung one of the doors open and stepped out. He was heavy set and muscular, and a long scar traced through the skin on the right side of his square face. In his hand, a suitcase dangled. After a few quick strides, the man closed the distance between himself and the mansion. As he neared, Bran reached out for the suitcase and took it with a brisk movement while placing his other hand on the man’s shoulder. “Vladimir, come in, come in. Let’s get out of this blasted rain.”


    A trace of a smile flashed across the man’s face. “Yeah. Let’s.”


    The two made their way up the rest of the steps and pushed the large wooden doors open. A rush of heat met them as they crossed the threshold and entered into the large foyer of the mansion. Inside the dimly lighted room, the men walked past a set of spiraling staircases and took a right into a sizable sitting room. Moving towards the center, Bran placed the suitcase on a steady oak table and glanced over the leather workings of the container.


    “I hope the trip from the airport was enjoyable.”


    Vladimir slumped down in a nearby chair and reached for a bottle of wine from a rack in the corner of the room. “Not so. I hate traffic. And cars. And people. Especially people in cars.”


    A quiet chuckle came from Bran as he carefully opened the suitcase. “It was well worth it though, my friend.”


    Inside the velvet linings of the leather case, Bran’s gaze fell upon a single book. It was a simple, thin book. Dark red covers protected its unseen contents. Strange symbols were etched into the leather of the covers. Passing his hand over its rough edges, Bran picked it up and studied it more closely in the light. A slight smile spread across his face. It was what he had been searching for. The last piece to a puzzle.


    ***



    “What are the books for?” The question was not unexpected. Bran’s dining companion had been eyeing them with curiosity ever since she had arrived. Finishing the last bite of his entree and then pushing the plate away with satisfaction, Bran glanced into the inquisitive hazel eyes beside him. “They have many, many uses -- some rather useless -- but for me it’s a project, Felicity. Something I’ve been working on for a long while.”


    An amused smile hinted upon the woman’s relaxed face, and she placed a hand gently on his shoulder. “....and what are they for?”


    Bran chuckled softly and gestured over to the four books. “There is a legend within an old organization I used to belong to. The legend of The Lady of Bielsa. The story is long and you will probably find it boring, but I will give you the abridged version:


    This organization, The Nightingales, fought the things they believed evil in this world. At one point, they believed the fate of the entire human race rested upon destroying this one girl from Bielsa, Spain. Because of various things, they thought she was a monstrosity -- the heir of the devil -- and would bring destruction upon the planet. They hatched an elaborate plan and lured the girl from beautiful Bielsa to the depths of London, where they killed her with a magical runed blade in order to banish her soul to hell. Thus humanity was spared.”


    Bran stopped for a moment and took a sip from a crystal glass of dark wine in front of him. Felicity still sat quietly, leaning forward in silence while waiting for him to continue.


    “There were those who believed the girl lived on. Somewhere between this world and the next. A netherworld. She became princess of that lonely lost land and queen of the forgotten there...” Bran stood up and walked over to the books and softly drummed his figures upon the surface of the first. “Some now today believe she can be summoned back to this world with the right tools.”


    “You believe this?” Felicity’s voice came from his left as the woman moved to his side and also gazed at the books on the table before them.


    “I believe those without an open mind have already killed themselves, but enough with the books. We have a date at Galeri Caernarfon!” Scooping up the books and placing them into a wooden latched case, Bran leaned to place a soft kiss upon Felicity’s forehead. “I will return shortly. I must return these to their resting place, and then we will be on our way!”


    ***

    Joseph Kerr scanned the terrain carefully as he brought ‘Thalia’ to cruising speed. Flipping on the autopilot, the VILE Jester turned to the other other occupants of the jet.


    “Are we sure the book’s still there?”



    Flag glanced over Neb's screen and then back at the pilot. "That's what your tracker says."

    The "tracker" that Flag had been presented with was an origami drone comprised of some magnets and some plastic. When activated, it looked like a injured moth flitting about and was generally unimpressive until it demonstrated that it could carry a load twice it's weight - in this case, a tiny camera, a GPS locator, and a transmitter.

    It was larger than the medical prototypes that it had been based on and was a bit better equipped, but it still started off flat. This was important because Flag had to hide it under a faux endpaper in an expensive book and position it so that it slipped out as it folded into functionality.

    Shipping the book to their target hadn't been hard in the normal sense. They had taken it to a facility, paid for delivery, and watched it go. After tracking the progress, they discovered that it had been sent to an airport, where it sat for a while. Eventually the signal showed movement again and they followed it until it stopped at the coordinates they were now traversing to.


    Neb watched as the wind picked up. It had taken a while for the weather to turn in her favour, but the time waiting was put to good use. In the month that passed, the small woman had resumed her shut-in status, splitting her time between studying the scans of the index Flag had made for her and digging up what information she could on Min y Coed Manor. It was centuries old, (The Manor has also been in Bran’s family for centuries.) and of enough historical relevance that she’d been able to come by some rudimentary floor plans.

    After the book had been delivered, she’d charted its passage through the house as best she could, but there was still a decent amount of unknown. That bothered her. Bran and his dwelling were shrouded in unsettling rumours, and as the de facto team leader, her fellows’ welfare was her responsibility. She’d strove to arm her fellows with as much knowledge as she could come by, but it might not be enough.

    She felt Flag nudge her arm.


    "Ready?"


    “Not yet…,” she murmured as she concentrated on the weather beyond the drone, her finger resting on a remote switch. A week beforehand, they’d followed the tracer here to get a visual on their target. It was so isolated that it was fed by a single electrical line that led to a transformer further down the way. Plastic explosives were placed beneath it. Now she waited for something to blame its demise on.


    Suddenly lightning flashed nearby and she flicked the switch. Somewhere in the distance the rain lit up with burst of light, and what meager glow the castle had
    emitted flicked out. “Okay Joe, get us up there.”



    To be continued!
     
    Last edited: Oct 21, 2016
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  3. Kid Kidman

    Kid Kidman V.I.L.E. Agent

    Messages:
    104
    Gender:
    Female
    Occupation:
    Thief, psychic, and Flag-tracker
    Location:
    Here and there
    Color #:
    323E4F
    Dungeons and Dragons! Part 2!
    By Joe, Neb, Flag, and Bran

    With the rain beating down, Joseph Kerr stared solemnly at the northwest tower which the jet was now hovering just slightly above;


    With every flash of lightning, memories flashed through the Jester’s mind; gunshots, screams and the suffocating feeling of impending doom. Joe’s smile vanished into a grim line as he realized the significance behind the sudden nostalgia; before his eyes, the castle seemed to morph into the grotesque image of a nigh impregnable fortress bathed in danger and malice - Torun Zamok.


    For the unlucky few who had been through its fire, those two words evoked a profound sense of dread and respect; Kamchatka had been a massive turning point in the history of both VILE and ACME, burning its indelible mark on all involved.


    For Joe especially, it was a serious reminder that not every foe would play by their rules; if they were to survive future encounters, they had to adapt. To that end, he had added some extra skills to his repertoire, like piloting and self-defence; while he still stuck to his code of causing minimal harm, he had made the necessary adjustments to his arsenal specifically to counter foes that did not share his ethos.


    Something about the manor was giving him the same vibes as all those years ago in Russia.


    Giving his teammates a signal, he pulled on his mask and re-activated the autopilot program; they now had less than a minute to jump out before the jet would fly on its pre-programmed route to a hiding place in the forest. There was no turning back now.


    For once, Joe hoped his gut was wrong.



    * * *


    Joe wasn’t the only one feeling unwanted deja vu.


    Neb frowned at how aggravatingly similar it all was as she rappelled from the aircraft. Onto a watchtower. Again. ‘Damn watchtowers…’


    She’d missed the raid in Kamchatka this time around, having been so isolated during her dissemination of Flag’s journal that she’d failed to notice Carmen’s lack of contact, and while she’d had memories of the first timeline by then, it wasn’t until after the second raid that she’d realized what those those memories were.


    Since then she’d been able to restore the entire line of memory via meditation, and as she picked the wet metal lock to the trap door set into the watchtower’s stony roof, she couldn’t help but smirk at just how many damn watchtowers she’d ended up on since, as if time itself had a sense of humour.


    The lock finally popped open, and after checking for any security personnel, Neb ushered her fellows through the door to the winding spiral staircase within. The blown transformer had disabled the manor’s surveillance equipment, but only temporarily. The backup generator had already begun to rev to life beneath them, giving them only a tiny window to dash to the cellar door on the ground floor before the rest of the network came back online.



    * * *


    The halls of Min y Coed Manor always spooked Vladimir. Maybe it was something about the way the candles flickered in the darkness, creating ever fleeting patches of light. Maybe it was the unearthly silence which fell upon the mansion at night. The shadows seemed to conceal the myths of the past, vampires and banshees peeking out from the many nooks and crannies that spotted the manor. Vladimir had been a man to believe in only what he saw, but, even in his skepticism, he had always figured something else lived in the castle besides Bran and his handful of employees. This night was particularly quiet though. Bran had left for the evening with Felicity Churchill, leaving Vladimir and Bryn, Bran’s closest ally, to fend off the unseen creatures that haunted the night.


    After securing the premises, Vladimir had spent a few hours reading alone before getting up to make one last sweep of the manor, ensuring it was clean and kept for the new day. It was indeed to his satisfaction; so he made his way back to his room. Passing down the last hall before the employee quarters, Vladimir stopped for a moment near a set of stairs which led to the cellar below. The stone steps seemed like a sinister walkway for the darkness below. Two candles were all that held the shadows at bay. Shuddering, he continued on to his bed which lay a few rooms away. After quickly showering and brushing his teeth, Vladimir doused the lights and climbed into bed. Soon he was fast asleep, unaware of the three unwelcomed guests that had entered the manor.



    ***


    While the others saw a fortress in Russia, Flag saw a desert palace from another life altogether. He had spent a combined total of six months in Torun Zamok, and would not easily confuse its utilitarian interior with the Victorian luxuries that they passed by now. Instead, what flourishes he could see in the dark reminded him of the trappings of nobility that haunted him for the better part of his life.


    "Damned royals" he muttered under his breath.


    The northeastern tower of Min y Coed had an abandoned quality to it, despite being well maintained. They climbed down, level after level, and found nobody. Not a single soul to confront them and a silence so thick that it was palpable. Their presence seemed amplified, no matter how quietly they moved. A lack of time caused them to abandon some of their stealth (as it served them little good) and soon they were positioned in front of a stairwell marked only by two candles, burning low.


    The stairwell was considerably darker than the tower had been, but Flag could still see the faint outlines of the steps going down. Without saying a word, he volunteered to go first so that they could literally follow in his footsteps.



    Walking cautiously down the poorly lit stairwell, Joe did a quick mental checklist of his inventory. He had supplemented his usual array of gag grenades with a few new ones, fresh from the workbench at Stone Harbour; hopefully he wouldn’t need to use them.


    Stepping out of the stairwell cautiously, the trio surveyed the ground floor of the castle. It was as grandiose as they had first envisioned it to be, though the darkness seemed to lend it a sinister aura. It didn’t help that the beautifully furnished room was as lifeless as the towers above it, making the whole place feel more like an extravagant haunted house.


    A bolt of lightning flashed outside the large glass window, briefly illuminating the room whilst leaving the thieves hidden in the shadows. Upon consulting their scanner the Jester signaled ‘thumbs down’ to his comrades; their target wasn’t on this floor, it was somewhere deeper underground.



    “I was afraid of this…” Neb muttered as she followed followed Flag down.


    In the years leading up to this night, Min y Coed had reserved a dark little corner of her mind, at once a boon and a dread.


    Certainly the place had an allure; rich not only of common valuables, but of priceless artifacts, texts, and instruments of etheric science that could be found nowhere else. She’d felt tempted, even compelled to break in here so many times, but only a fool would rush to do so.


    One needn’t go far into their research of Brychanson before coming upon the rumours of what lay below his manor. Some said it was haunted, filled with vampires or demons, summoned by the man himself, while others spoke of winding tunnels laced with traps, or dungeons filled with the bones of all who had tried to steal from it, collected over its many centuries in existence.


    Neb did not want to go in the cellar.


    At first she’d assumed herself safe from it, for surely the man wouldn’t house an ancient book in a damp basement, but as she’d matched the beacon to the 3D map she’d constructed, her hopes had faded, and now as she descended into the darkness, they went out entirely.


    “We’re going to have to use night-vision from here on,” she said somberly as she flipped her goggles down. The area around them lit up in pale green to her eyes and she could see they were now in a hallway. To the right was an impressive blast door, but to her relief the tracker indicated their prize was the other way. She squinted at the metal door a moment longer, suspicious of its presence, then motioned for her team to follow her away from it, into what appeared to be a wine cellar.


    To be continued!
     
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  4. Kid Kidman

    Kid Kidman V.I.L.E. Agent

    Messages:
    104
    Gender:
    Female
    Occupation:
    Thief, psychic, and Flag-tracker
    Location:
    Here and there
    Color #:
    323E4F
    Dungeons and Dragons! Part 3!
    By Joe, Neb, Flag, and Bran

    Treading softly and carefully, the trio explored the array of kegs and barrels that filled the room. Along one of the walls, there were a few smaller shelves lined with bottles of fine wine, but not a single book in sight; not that Joe had expected to find the book here.

    Wine bottles could be stored in cool, dark, humidity controlled conditions that would also serve rare books well. Wine cellars on the other hand were notorious for the amount of yeast and mold in the air; two things that did not mix well with antique literature.

    Joseph also noted that whilst other areas in the castle had been renovated to include the addition of electric lighting, no such modifications could be found in the wine cellar. Instead of light switches, unlit candle lamps sat on tiny pedestals strategically positioned on various walls and pillars throughout the room.

    The most glaring omission though was the lack of a door in the room, save for the one by which they had entered; it was a dead end.

    Should have taken that left turn at Albuquerque, he joked silently to no one in particular.

    Amidst his silent mirth, Joe was suddenly struck by a crazy idea. Moving quickly, he climbed onto one of the kegs and took out a candle from its lamp. Repeating the action on a pedestal beside the entrance, Joe also found a box of matches

    Lighting the candle, Joe brought it with him as he re-examined any kegs located against a wall. After a while, the Jester reached a medium sized keg on the far side of the cellar.. Upon bringing the candle closer to the keg, the flame flickered for thirty seconds before being going out.

    Signalling his teammates, Joe reached forward and grabbed the spout of the keg in question; gently, the Jester twisted the spout as one would a door handle. To everyone’s surprise, the front of the keg swung open like an actual hinged door, revealing yet another dark tunnel.



    Neb put down the bottle of 1945 Chateau Mouton-Rothschild Jeroboam she was holding. It was apparently worth a lot of money to be set on a velvet pillow in a lit alcove all it’s own, but she couldn’t understand why anyone would want to drink something that was over 60 years old.

    ‘Must be another crazy rich person thing,’ she thought as she inspected the tunnel. She pointed the tracker into it, and sure enough the signal grew stronger. ‘This guy…’

    She reallllllllly didn’t want to go in first, but she was team leader, and as such it was her responsibility to go in and make sure it was safe for her fellows.

    She was also the shortest.

    With a deep sigh the woman crept through the hobbit-sized door to a platform with a door in it. She opened it cautiously to find a ladder leading further into the depths. There wasn’t anything else of note, so she gestured for the others, then eased her way down the ladder.



    There was a momentary standoff between Flag and the jester as they watched the runt of their party disappear through the hole in the barrel. Order of height might have played a subconscious part as he relinquished second place to Joe and followed him through the narrow passage. It wasn't a long tunnel by any stretch of the imagination, but he was thankful for the ladder and it's promise of vertical space.

    He got more than he had hoped for.

    The armory at the bottom of the ladder was massive for a weapons room. It was also very well organized, with heavy metal instruments of destruction and torture lining the walls in categories. Flag watched him companions gravitate towards their preferences and took pause at Neb eyeballing the swords, which was his specialty once upon a time.

    Not that he could fault her. The blades adorning the walls were as beautiful as they were deadly. Some of them were ceremonial, but to Flag's admiration, all of them would do well on the battlefield. If they would ever have such battlefields again.

    Earth favored death by distance and this medieval room would be liquidated by just one modern military strike. A fact that he found himself bitter over as he forwent lifting a khopesh in favor of taking a handful of metal bolts that were not dissimilar to the ones he had in the leather pouch at his hip. Small, and generally meant as parts for other things, they wouldn't be missed.

    As his eyes wandered the room, he spotted a door on the other side and frowned. A hidden armory with doors that went further usually meant danger beyond; often animal in nature.

    "Joe, what kind of bombs did you bring?"



    Had the question been asked by anyone else, the Jester would have replied ‘non-lethal ones’ in good humour. However, since it was Flag asking, Joseph paused to consider his answer, and more importantly, the ramifications of the question.

    It was a well-known fact among his peers (and respected adversaries) that Joseph preferred stealth and temporary incapacitation to the alternative, and his usual cache of weapons reflected that; smoke bombs, stink bombs, knock-out gas grenades and their itching powder-filled variant.

    Since VILE’s Russian expedition though, that cache had been steadily augmented to include a highly modified flashbangs, a hidden dagger and some newly developed taser grenades; the latter two he preferred never to have to use on another human being.

    The mace currently in his hands was a temporary addition liberated from the armory. The Jester favoured blunt weapons to swords or bows; quarterstaffs were taller than he was and too unruly to handle but maces were just right. Being used to wielding a weighted staff as part of his schtick, an iron flanged mace felt right at home in his grasp.

    Looking back at Flag, Joseph caught his gaze and immediately understood the context of concern; the underground passages of Min Y Coed had a somewhat nasty reputation, as did the manor’s owner. Thus far, the heist had been way too smooth; not even so much as a single alarm system had been encountered. They were due some trouble, and at least one of his silver-haired companions seemed to think it would be behind door number two; Joe was inclined to agree.

    “A good enough mix to incapacitate almost any living being.” came the measured response.


    ***

    Vladimir was woken violently from his dreams by a strong hand shaking his legs. The man shot up in bed and and stared at the intruder for a moment. The tall figure loomed over him almost menacingly, and for a second, Vlad’s reflexes urged him to reach for the handgun under his bed, but recognition began to slowly wash over him as a bit of light from the hallway outside his room flickered on the man’s familiar bearded face. “What the hell, Bryn?!”

    “Get up! We’re being attacked.”

    The last remnants of sleep vanished quickly. Vladimir clambered out of his sheets and began fumbling around for his jacket and pants. “Wha?”

    “There’s someone in the basement. We need to go. Now.” The man tossed an M4 on the bed along with a utility belt, containing extra magazines.

    Doing the last button on his jacket, Vladimir swung the belt around himself and clipped it in place. The M4 was hardly his weapon of choice, but, given the situation, Vlad picked it up without the slightest protest. “The basement?”

    “Let’s go. I sent out a message to the others, but we need to secure the manor.” Turning with haste, Bryn disappeared into the hallway, and Vladimir rushed to keep up with the welshman. After a couple turns, the two men quickly came to the stone steps which led below the mansion. Hurdling down them, they took a left as they entered the damp basement and made their way into the wine cellar. Vladimir was about to duck into the hidden casket, but Bryn grabbed him by his shoulder and held him back. “We don’t know what we’re up against. Let’s dig in here and wait for backup. There’ll be time for fighting later.”

    Vladimir reluctantly took a few steps back and nodded. Waiting while invaders tramped around the manor wasn’t his forte, but he saw the wisdom; so, leaning back against a wall, he checked his weapon and then waited. Waited for what, he knew not.


    To be continued!
     
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  5. Kid Kidman

    Kid Kidman V.I.L.E. Agent

    Messages:
    104
    Gender:
    Female
    Occupation:
    Thief, psychic, and Flag-tracker
    Location:
    Here and there
    Color #:
    323E4F
    Dungeons and Dragons! Part 4!
    By Joe, Neb, Flag, and Bran

    Neb paused in her selection of a weapon. She didn’t have formal training on any of them, as her style consisted mostly of sneak, disarm, and run away, but if Joe was taking a mace, she was going to take something too. Because it was cool. Ultimately she chose a ceremonially ornate, yet very functional short sword; a pointy stick she could hit people with, that paired nicely with a knife.

    Seeing that the others were set, the woman examined the door leading further into the labyrinth. Urgency pricked at the back of her neck, and while she couldn’t place why, she knew better than to question it.

    “Stand back, guys,” she whispered as she took a halberd from the wall and used it to push the door open. Then she waved it around in the opening, making sure to drag it along the ground for tripwires before she was satisfied it was safe. From there she led, forever holding the halberd ahead as a scout as the followed the ever-increasing beep of the tracer through the maze of tunnels.

    “I swear, it’s like a game of dungeons and dragons…” She muttered under her breath. The analogy worked, after all. She, loyal knight of the Red Queen, flanked by her Jester and her Wizard were infiltrating the lair of a man known as the Dragon for his Welsh heritage, a dragon who sat upon a huge store of wealth, part of which held the secret to immortality.


    ‘All that’s missing is an actual dungeon.’ Neb thought as she pushed open another door. Then she stopped. On the other side, slumped against the wall, were several, very-clearly human skeletons. The woman grit her teeth. ‘Thisssssss guyyyyyyyyyyyyyy.....’


    Flag was at the ready when Neb opened the door and he found himself somewhat disappointed when there was nothing of danger immediately beyond. After a short trek following the invisible trail laid out by a series of beeps, they came to a heavy purple curtain stretched across the tunnel.

    Following what had worked thus far, Neb poked under the curtain with her halberd and peeked under it. She muttered something about a dark spot on the ground and stood back up, waving them forward.

    Nothing happened when she pushed around the side of the curtain, but when Flag pushed it aside to follow, a faint whirring emitted somewhere above him, immediately followed by the loud slamming of a door behind them. This was followed by what felt like a rain of small rocks, but closer inspection showed that the floor was now covered by ball bearings covered in oil.



    Being the last one through the curtain, Joseph was best positioned to grab onto it the moment the trap had been sprung. Grabbing the curtain with his left hand, he extended out the mace with the other hand so that Flag, and by proxy Neb, could grab hold. The trio stood still, hand in hand in mace as they watched the metal marbles roll by them; silently, the jester begged the curtain not to give way.

    The sound of the rolling bearings echoed throughout the tunnel like thunder; there was then a short pause followed by the continued sound of the bearings apparently falling noisily into a pit. Amidst the ruckus, Joe picked out the sound of the bearings hitting something metallic when they fell. He whispered three words to his teammates, “Spiked pit ahead”.


    ***

    Vladimir didn’t know how much time had passed since he and Bryn had staked out in the wine cellar. Keeping his eyes on the barrels which lined the wall in front of them, he had rarely glanced away. While not anxious, not knowing what exactly was stalking the tunnels below them didn’t sit well with the man. With Bran in the lead, they had achieved many things and undertaking difficult operations. Brychanson always seemed to have a plan. He was so meticulous and purposeful in preparation that things more often than not went their way, but Bran wasn’t here and there hadn’t been any time to prepare for the intruders.

    “You guys need to relax.” The quiet voice came floating from behind him, and, quickly turning, Vladimir saw the familiar face of Caleigh, Bran’s mechanics expert. She had been hired a few years back after dropping out of university to take care of her now two year old son. Generally she worked short part time hours with Bran in his lab, but, on occasion, she would join the team for other operations.

    “You two look like the ghosts are after you.” Her brown hair was thrown back into a hurried ponytail, and a large backpack was slung over one shoulder. Vladimir had always viewed the woman as beautiful. Not in an obvious or forced way, but, rather, a simple beauty. The type of beauty that shone now even without the use of cosmetics or hours of preparation.

    “If you were alone in a mansion with Vlad and what could be monsters, you would be on edge too, you would.” Bryn stepped forward and nodded towards the young woman.


    “Monsters? Really? That’s what you could come up with?” Behind Caleigh two more men entered the room, each armed with L85s. Vladimir recognized them as Dafydd and Mehrdad, friends and occasional employees of Brychanson. The two of them took positions across from Vladimir, and Caleigh placed her backpack in the center of the room and knelt down. Undoing the clasps, the brunette began to scatter the contents across the stone floor. “Don’t worry guys; I have robots. Robots always make everything better.”

    Flipping a switch on three drones the size of a ruby ball, Caleigh reached for a laptop and set it on a nearby barrel. A few moments passed before the system sprung alive. Vladimir watched as her fingers flew across the keyboard. In a minute, the three drones rose slowly from the ground with a quiet hum and hovered in the center of the room. “You ready to see these ‘monsters’?”


    Before either Bryn or Vladimir had the chance to answer, the three drones shot through the hollow barrel and disappeared into the depths below. Vladimir let a smile creep onto half his face and checked his weapon again. They would soon know what they were up against, and then they would have the advantage.


    ***

    “Balls…” Neb swore under her breath as she surveyed the scene. It was an epitaph she used often, but now it was especially appropriate. “No one move.”

    Slowly she crouched, careful to keep her feet firmly planted on the stone so no bearing could come between them. With the backside of her sword she swept the ground until the majority of the ball bearings fell into the pit. Once enough were gone to satisfy, the woman rose and tossed both her weapons across the divide. Sure enough, the hallway echoed with the sound of metal and beads.

    Neb sighed. Then, with knife in hand, she hurled herself after them. Her feet found no purchase and she hit the ground hard, then gouged her blade between the flagstones to stop herself from skidding further.

    “God damn fuuking Bran!” The woman seethed into the darkness, then noisily shoved the rest of the bearings into the pit. There was no point in stealth now, only speed. She hastily picked herself up, recollected her weapons, and motioned for her fellows to follow.



    Careful of the oil on the floor, Flag launched himself head-first over the pit to tuck and roll on the other side. It wasn't a graceful act, but it worked.

    He heard Joe ready himself to follow suit, but there was something else as well. As he got up he realized the sound was getting louder and emanating from the direction in which they came. "What is that?"



    Being a tinkerer of sorts, Joe recognized the sound as being some sort of electrical hum, so whatever was coming was at the least mechanical or robotic in nature; whether or not it would be accompanied by an operator was impossible to tell.

    As the hum grew louder, Joe turned towards his comrades and ran forward, mimicking their leap across the pit. Like those before him, he failed to stick the landing but managed to roll to his feet relatively intact.

    The hum was now an irritating buzz; whatever was coming would soon be upon them.


    To be continued!
     
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  6. Kid Kidman

    Kid Kidman V.I.L.E. Agent

    Messages:
    104
    Gender:
    Female
    Occupation:
    Thief, psychic, and Flag-tracker
    Location:
    Here and there
    Color #:
    323E4F
    Dungeons and Dragons! Part 5!
    By Joe, Neb, Flag, and Bran

    After the drones had left the room, Caleigh quickly typed a few commands into the laptop and reached for a headset from her bag. Clipping it in place just above her ears, she pulled down a set of goggles which made up the majority of the piece. Darkness ensued as they covered her eyes. Tapping a button on the side of the device, Caleigh saw a flash of red. Soon the goggles sprung to life and the wine cellar once more met her eyes. Scooting up closely to the laptop, she straightened her posture and typed a few more commands across the keyboard.

    Activate Horus. As soon as the words were entered, Bryn, Vlad, and the rest vanished along with the room. For a moment there was nothing, then her mind began to spin. A euphoric tingling sense flooded across her head. Suddenly the dark tunnels below Min y Coed flickered into view. Caleigh had used the drones many times before, but, even so, she was fully never prepared for the experience. It was as if she had become the drones.

    They bobbed and weaved at her every unspoken thought. Her vision was no longer impeded by the limits of a screen. She could turn her head in any direction to immediately see what the drones captured through their night vision lenses. The feeling was surreal; it was like her mind, floating down the stone tunnel towards what lay ahead, was detached from her body.

    Urging the drones forward, she sped around a few sharp corners before coming abruptly to a heavy wooden door, blocking her advance. Stopping for a quick moment, Caleigh could hear the muffled voices of at least two people above of the buzz of the drones.

    Activate lasers. At her command, three beams of ice blue light shot out from the drones with an intense flash. For a few seconds, they wavered and sputtered but soon stabilized into short, steady beams about a foot and a half in length. Two of the drones moved closer to the door, their lasers cutting into the wood. They rotated quickly in a square like pattern, and a small plume of smoke slowly floated into the air from where the light burned away the door.

    After what seemed like twenty seconds, a chunk of the wood had been completely sliced away. The third drone shot forward, knocking through the newly formed hole. A dull crash echoed as the weakened wood gave away and fell against the force of the drone.

    It took a moment for Caleigh to spot the intruders, but, upon seeing the three figures on the other side of a… of a spiked pit, she immediately instructed the first drone to scan them for weapons and other devices while the second drone readied its countermeasures. Using the third, she flew forward to get a closer look.



    ***

    The trio of thieves never saw the carnage that was the fallen trap door on the other side of the pit; they had decided to head on, albeit cautiously. It hadn’t taken them long to realize that between Flag’s bolts and Joe’s grenades, fighting in an enclosed space might seriously backfire on them.

    Opting to find a place more conducive to dodging and escaping, the trio continued down the corridor until they reached an antique door, much like the one that had lead them out of the armory.

    Glancing at his teammates, the Jester stepped forward to open the door...only to find it locked.


    Of all the times for him to start actually locking a door!

    Grumbling under his breath, he signaled to his friends to hold whilst he placed the mace down and fished out his lock pick set. Praying that it wasn’t a dead bolt, Joseph deftly manipulated his tools, trying to get the lock to turn; all the while the trio were acutely aware that the humming sound was once again getting louder.

    After a tense 30 seconds, the lock turned. Breathing a sigh of relief, the Jester returned his tools to their place and picked up his mace. Giving Neb and Flag a nod, he pushed and the door opened slowly with an awful creak.

    Peeping into the room, Joseph was surprised to be greeted with his own reflection, several of them to be precise.

    Who puts a hall of mirrors in his cellar?



    The mirrors themselves were more like glass walls that extended all the way up to a ceiling that was also reflective. It was dizzying to look at and made looking up to trace out a path through the maze impossible.

    To make matters worse, there were clear glass panes that seemed to appear out of nowhere for them to plow into. It was after running into one of these for the second time that Flag found himself considering taking Joe's newly acquired mace to smash their way through. In fact, he didn't understand why they weren't already doing that.

    The incessant droning behind them (from what turned out to be actual drones) didn't help to improve his mood and in his frustration, he swung a low fist into the closest mirror.


    He hadn't actually expected this to yield any results and was surprised when the mirror moved. It had only moved a fraction of an inch but it was enough to warrant investigation.

    Some of the mirrors turned out to be heavy glass, mounted on steel slabs that were held up by a rod through the middle. They were positioned so that they would line up with the other walls, making multiple maze configurations possible.


    The only configuration that he cared about was the one that would allow him to shut those damned drones up. With the others ahead of him, he threw his weight against the wall and used it to seal up the pathway behind.

    Finally. Some quiet.



    Smirking at Flag’s antics, Joseph turned the next corner only to bump directly into another clear pane of glass; thankfully it didn’t shatter.

    The Jester was sorely tempted to use the mace in his hand to smash up all the mirrors but there were two main reasons that he was fighting against the urge:

    First, it was the VILE code of conduct to cause minimal damage during any heist or mission; they were highly trained retrieval experts, not vandals, and expected to behave as such. Damage of personal property was especially frowned upon in their craft - it showed a lack of class, respect and most importantly, skill; three essential traits for anyone proudly wearing the VILE colours.


    Second, was the matter of safety. Joseph was no stranger to alarms being triggered by breaking glass and was also acutely aware that the same trigger system can be used to trigger traps. He was in no mood to find out if there was a nastier trap hiding behind this one. Also, the Jester was fairly certain that thousands of shards of sharp, jagged glass were a pretty big safety hazard in their own right.

    As Flag rejoined them, Joe took out one of his smoke grenades and motioned for his teammates to stand back. Holding his breath, Joe set off the device and watched as black clouds smothered the room in darkness.


    It took what felt like three minutes before the smoke started to clear, leaving soot-stained mirrors and glass in its wake. Looking at the two directions in which the smoke was retreating, the team was able to identify one as being the way they came in, leaving the other as the potential exit.


    Except that the smoke didn’t seem to be going anywhere. Was this a dead end? Neb took out the tracker and waved it around until she got a bead on where it wanted her to go. Another mirror. Flag had just turned a mirror to trap the incoming bots in a reflective dead end that rendered their lasers fairly useless. Between that and the smoke, it was enough to buy them more time.

    ‘If that mirror could turn, then…’

    She put her weight against the mirror before her, and with some effort it turned as well, revealing yet another dark tunnel.


    To be continued!
     
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2016
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  7. Kid Kidman

    Kid Kidman V.I.L.E. Agent

    Messages:
    104
    Gender:
    Female
    Occupation:
    Thief, psychic, and Flag-tracker
    Location:
    Here and there
    Color #:
    323E4F
    Dungeons and Dragons! Part 6!
    By Joe, Neb, Flag, and Bran

    The large stone wall loomed as Caleigh glanced around for a way past. She had been right behind the three intruders, but then they were gone without a trace, without a clue. The tunnels were unfamiliar to her. Bran often descended into their depths, but, to her, they presented a mysterious and puzzling maze.

    Disengage. For a moment after the word passed through her mind, everything was dark. Reaching up, she undid the clips around her headset and tossed them off. The world twisted and turned. A feeling of nausea sunk in the pit of her stomach. She knew from past experiences that the feeling would be with her for a while. Rising to her feet, she took a few shaky steps forward.

    At once the dizziness rose up and spun her head, and she reached out for a nearby wall. Her breath rose and fell quickly within her body. Closing her eyes tight, she bowed her head and tried to concentrate on the cold wall beneath her fingers and the humid air entering her lungs.

    A minute or two passed before she noticed the urgent voices bouncing throughout the wine cellar. Turning, she raised her eyes to see Bryn, Vlad, and the others’ worried faces. Forcing a small smile, Caleigh staggered to one of the many barrels and lowered herself.

    “I’m fine. Don’t act like I was shot or something.”

    “What happened?”. Bryn was the first to take a step forward, a frown of concern across his face.

    “I lost them.” Letting her forehead drop, Caleigh rested it upon her hand and sighed. “They vanished. I don’t know…”

    “No matter. They won’t be retracing their steps.”

    Caleigh watched as Bryn paced back and forth a few times, all the while tapping at the handgun which rested in his holster. “I haven’t been able to get in touch with Bran.”

    He paused for a moment and then continued. “I don’t know the tunnels well enough. There might be another escape from them, but we must do our best. We’ll leave four here. The rest of us will be out on the grounds. We will find the intruders. Do not worry.”


    ***


    There was an acrid scent in the air that Flag initially blamed on Joe's smoke bomb, but it got stronger the more they pressed on. The association wasn't a mistake. The smells were similar.

    As they walked, the details on the wall started becoming more ornate. Faded shapes emerged to showcase grand murals depicting scenes unknown. Old images that survived the ages only because of the much cooler air in this part of the catacombs. The knowledge that they passed where the stories beginning should have been was tragic in a way.

    One section of wall showcased some nonsense involving snakes, growing in number until they amassed into the vague shape of a welsh dragon. The next panel showed the monster facing outward. It was also when the smell and imagery suddenly made sense.

    Flag barely managed to snatch Neb back in time as a huge blast of fire exploded across the hallway, emanating from the painting's mouth.



    Upon regrouping, the trio were dismayed to find that the outward facing dragon motif was repeated eight more times down the corridor, each one promising a fiery demise for its victim. An inspection of the floor yielded no clues except for a slight depression which may have once contained a pressure plate. The singular clue pointed the trio to the same conclusion - this trap wasn’t an ancient one, it was modern in nature.

    After a brief scan of the room, three sets of eyes simultaneously honed in on an innocuous looking box. The ‘box’ was mounted on the ceiling, positioned between the panel with the snakes and the dragon, conveniently hidden to the untrained eye.

    Testing out a theory, Joseph produced a regular playing card from his sleeve and expertly tossed it down the corridor. The card had scarcely flew toward the first dragon head before being engulfed in a torrent of flame.


    Sighing, the Jester turned to his teammates and realized that they had reached the same, unfortunate conclusion as he did; the ‘box’ was a highly sensitive motion sensor.


    ‘Yesssss, because we needed an actual dragon in the D&D motif.’ Neb thought flatly as fried bits of card fell to the floor. Then she looked behind her and listened. No drones. At least that was taken care of.

    “Maybe if we kill the box up there?” She asked aloud as she angled her halberd at it, but quickly pulled it back before it could catch fire. She doubted Joe’s smoke bomb could work, even if he threw it hard. The motion sensor was probably tougher than that.

    “Can you lightning it without him seeing?” Neb whispered to her alien compatriot.



    Flag glanced down at Neb and then at Joe before shrugging off her worries. He appreciated her concern, but at this point, anything he did could probably be explained away with a simple scientific excuse.

    He couldn't simply zap the box. The choice to make himself look more human had resulted in a decrease of the cells that generated electricity, so anything he could do was more limited to touch and ingenuity.

    Hence the bolts.

    He discovered that if he curled his hands while charging them, they generated a small magnetic field that could hold small metal objects such as pens, rings, or thin metal spikes. If he let go just right, he could shoot them a fair distance.

    Flag grabbed a bolt from the pouch at his hip and lined up a shot. A twitch of his fingers and it flew from his hands and hit the wall. He readjusted for the weight and tried again, this time embedding the spike directly into the motion sensor.

    He then waved a hand within the range that set the trap off prior. When it didn't activate, he waved them forward; shooting out the boxes for the adjacent traps along the way.



    “That’s one way to get a gun past security,” Neb said approvingly, impressed by Flag’s workaround. Something in the back of her mind waved its hands for attention, but it wasn’t an indication of danger so she left the message unread for now, opting instead to press on to the library. It couldn’t be far now, she reasoned. If this was as medieval fairy tale as it seemed, the number of traps was likely to be three.

    At last they came to a massive door. “This has to be it, because if this isn’t it….” the small woman muttered as she poked the door from afar with her halberd, daring it to try and fall on them or explode.


    To be continued!
     
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  8. Kid Kidman

    Kid Kidman V.I.L.E. Agent

    Messages:
    104
    Gender:
    Female
    Occupation:
    Thief, psychic, and Flag-tracker
    Location:
    Here and there
    Color #:
    323E4F
    Dungeons and Dragons! Part 7!
    By Joe, Neb, Flag, and Bran

    The door opened slowly to reveal a beautifully furnished library bathed in soft indirect lighting; a digital display on the left wall clearly displaying the humidity and temperature.

    Quickly ushering his teammates in, Joseph hastily closed the door behind them; prior experience had taught him that such rooms had alarms which would go off should the conditions fall out of optimum range.

    Scouring through the drawers of the large antique book table in the centre of the room, the Jester pulled out some special gloves and face masks before turning to his friends.



    Wearing gloves now seemed a bit late in the game, so Flag pocketed them when Joe handed them to him. Having his hands covered would be problematic if they ran into another unexpected situation, but he did heed the face mask in acknowledgement that Joe was likely to spring a surprise of his own.

    Somehow, Flag was more perplexed by the study than he had been the rest of the underground maze. He had expected something akin to a climate-controlled vault. A room where nice things could be kept nice, but oriented around function more than form. This was none of that and he couldn't begin to fathom why such a showroom would be so inaccessible.



    Neb had brought her own gloves, and she wasted no time in following the tracking device’s path to its conclusion, a large wooden pedestal near the back of the room between two small racks full of strangely runed swords. On the pedestal, a case, carved from soft maple, stood. Celtic knots curled around the case’s edges. On its lid, the image of a nightingale surrounded by circling words was engraved.

    We do what others can not.
    We do what others will not.
    We protect those who have no one.
    We fight those who would harm the innocent.
    We protect the world from itself.
    We control its people for the good of all.

    “Well that’s characteristically creepy…. ” she murmured as she opened the case. Inside were the long sought after books. She carefully placed the set in her reinforced backpack, then looked around. The room was full of wonderful things, and her bag still had room.


    Fuuk it, I earned it, she thought, and helped herself to a few more promising tomes.


    Whilst Kidman pocketed her prize, Joe inspected the mini-drone that had led them to it. Just like the tomes it had lay hidden in, it was in impeccable condition. Carefully placing the drone back into its protective holding box, the Jester looked around the room and was hit with an entirely unamusing observation.

    There were no visible doors leading onward, and with an unknown amount of security heading their way, the thieving trio were trapped.



    Like the jester, he had taken to searching the room. He spotted some alchemical charts and for the hell of it, corrected one. He then moved on, feeling for wind in case another opening did exist - much in the same fashion as the hall of mirrors.

    Flag had circled the room twice before he spotted the slight movements of the ostrich feather quill on the desk. Still unable to feel anything, he guessed and went to inspect the bookshelves behind the desk. The only evidence that anything was unusual about the left bookcase of the set was that it was missing a kick plate. This was an acceptable furniture flaw under normal circumstances, but not here.

    After a few minutes more inspection, Flag gave up trying to find a lever or switch and just pushed on the case. It moved. With more pressure, it slid backwards and then to the right; following a track that tucked it behind the set's center shelf.

    Snapping his fingers to catch the attention of the other, he pointed down the dark tunnel beyond.



    Neb entered cautiously, halberd still in hand, and she scraped it along the rough hewn walls as she went. Unlike the walled hallways before, this was a real cave, dug straight into the ground perhaps centuries ago. She could feel air at a distance, there was no doubt. The end was almost in sight.

    “Man, I am not cut out for this thief thing. I know I do it, but Imma be glad when I’m done,” she said to the men behind her.



    Such an incredulous statement would usually have prompted a swift reaction from the VILE Jester but the urgency of the situation left no room for philosophical arguments. They might have found a way out of the underground library but they were still very much rats in a trap.

    Whispering to his teammates, he warned them to move stealthily; “Caves echo. If there is someone or something waiting at the end, it would behoove us to keep our arrival unpredictable.”



    For the most part, Flag concurred with Joe's assessment with the cave. It made no sense for them to go through so much and then arrive in a place with no traps - unless one considered the possibility that they entered the maze backwards. He wanted to laugh at the notion as he thought it, but kept silent as advised.


    Neb slowed as she reached the literal light at the end of the tunnel. The air was humid and thick with the scent of moss and rain, and as she peeked out she could see they had arrived at a sort of clearing. Marked with headstones. Nice, she thought, then turned back to her fellows. “Joe, can you pass me that remote for the drone? I’m going to send out for it.”


    The device was handed over without much fuss as the jester was too preoccupied with the fact that they were standing in a graveyard.

    Cliche much? He chuckled to himself. Despite that, Joe’s right hand had unconsciously wrapped itself around a flashbang.



    ***

    The rain fell steadily, striking the rocks of the cliff above the graveyard. Upon hitting the hard jagged surface, the large drops burst into hundreds of smaller ones which flew back into the air, creating a thick layer of darting water just above the earth. All about and below, a consuming cloud of mist hung over the trees. With each passing moment, it descended, swallowing everything in its wispy clutches.

    Up among the rocks, Bran stood silently. His eyes slowly scanned the graveyard, watching for signs of movement. The falling rain poured off the long overcoat that covered his body. His brown curls were a mass of dripping water. In his hand, he clutched a dark wooden longbow. Across his back, a quiver hung. Two or three dozen arrows peaked out over the edge of its opening.

    Bran shifted his weight and squinted at the hazy entrance of the cave below. They would come from there, the intruders. He was sure of it. It was their only option, and he would be ready.


    A gust of wind ruffled his coat. This wasn’t how he had wanted to spend the early morning. The dozen or so messages from Bryn ruined what would have been the perfect evening with Felicity, but it didn’t matter now. He had come right away, not even pausing to contact Bryn and the rest. It was foolish. He knew that, but he couldn’t risk the intruders escaping. No. His home had been violated. His treasures disturbed. The thieves would pay.

    Out of the corner of his eye he saw it. A small figure creeping out from the cave’s deep shadows. For a moment, Bran just watched. The first figure was followed by a second, and then a third. Two of them slowly tiptoed their way into the clearing while the third hung back. When Bran was certain that no more were to follow, he jumped out from the rocks and down to a ledge which hung just over the cave. Stepping forward, he called out through the falling rain.


    “Did you find what you were looking for, thieves?”

    To be continued!
     
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  9. Kid Kidman

    Kid Kidman V.I.L.E. Agent

    Messages:
    104
    Gender:
    Female
    Occupation:
    Thief, psychic, and Flag-tracker
    Location:
    Here and there
    Color #:
    323E4F
    Dungeons and Dragons! Part 8!
    By Joe, Neb, Flag, and Bran

    Neb was startled to hear a voice above her head, and she fought the urge to hurl her halberd at it.

    “Aye, ye haliwr,” she shot back in the mash of the British accents she’d grown up with, with a few Welsh insults sprinkled in for good measure. “Won’t ‘av ha tae bowl through yer ffwcin funhoose ifn ye shared yer lot wi’ others.”

    No time for this crap, she thought as she activated the remote for the small craft they’d come in. Then she squinted at the man through the rain. He was carrying something, and it crossed her mind to take cover into the tunnel, but she doubted she could maintain the signal there, and if Bran’s cohorts managed to get in behind them, they were screwed.

    The woman quickly scanned the area for other options, then looked over her shoulder at her teammates. “Get behind the tombstones in case he’s packing heat. It’ll take a little for me to get the plane in, so Joe, you think you can chat him up while I do this?”



    Flag had allowed himself to fall back once they caught sight of the tunnels opening. Up to this point, any aggressive intelligence they encountered had followed them through the labyrinth - leaving the triggered traps to try and take care of them head on. Now that the traps were gone, he prepared to take on the deadly drones while Neb and Joe to saw to whatever lay ahead.

    It wasn't exactly a surprise when he heard a voice greet them from outside, but the vehement response from the runt was unexpected. As he caught up to his comrades, he leaned out to see what sparked her ire; shouldering the cave wall as he did so. "He's carrying a bow?" Flag pondered aloud, confused by the man's choice of weapon in this weather and era.



    From behind a weathered tombstone, Joe quickly surveyed his surroundings for good places to throw his voice towards; quickly settling on one tombstone at the back right, (conveniently away from any of his teammates), he chose his words and started.

    “Hey! I assume you’re the owner of the castle. I apologise for the intrusion, but we needed to borrow a couple of books. Speaking of which, we’re in the rain and you’re firing pointy arrows at us, I don’t think that’s good for the books; I have seen from the way you store them that you care a lot for these books. Maybe it’s best for their sakes that we talk this out peacefully and come to a compromise?”



    Bran took another step toward the edge of the ledge, pausing to send a long, flat stare in the direction of the shortest intruder as two of them scattered and slipped into the graveyard. After a moment, he loosened his grip on the bow and glanced at the tombstone behind which the second voice came.

    “A compromise? How can one come to a compromise with thieves?”



    On occasion, thought and instinct work separately from each other. Even as his mind processed the thought of dashing out into the graveyard, instinct pulled Flag back into the cave.

    It wasn't a flawed logic to hide behind the heavy tombstones. Had it been a gun, a crossbow, or any manner of automatically powered weapon, hiding from the line of sight could provide cover. However, the weapon belonging to the man on the ledge was a graceful dealer of death and a true archer would use an arrows rise and descent to reach behind such immovable shields.

    Flag cursed under his breath as he fished around in his satchel for the electrical wire that Neb had shoved in there once. Finding it, he began wrapping it tightly around the bolt he had in his hand as he inspected the caves entrance. As Joe's long-winded phrasing bought precious seconds, the alien found what he was looking for.

    The mouth of the cave had been carved with out with skill, but time required reinforcement. Reinforcement was often made of wood. Curling his fingers around the bolt, he repeated his earlier mimicry of a coil gun and shot the wrapped bolt into the bracer. He then shot another bolt into the ground, which he entwined in the wire as well. He uncoiled the remainder of the spool and wrapped the loose end around a third bolt, which he readied between his fingers.

    Once upon a time, he could manipulate the ions in the air around him using the electricity he generated. He lost that strength with the surgeries to look more human, but theoretically he still had the ability to attract a current from elsewhere. The situation and the storm outside provided the perfect opportunity to test this.

    As the rightful owner of the books made it clear that there would be no negotiations, Flag dashed out of the cave and shot the third bolt at Bran. It missed by a small margin but that didn't matter. The man wasn't his target.

    Flag let the wire run over the palm of his left hand. When he felt it go taught, he jumped a spark across it. This resulted in lightening jumping from the sky, down the wire, and into the dry-rotted reinforcement of the cave.

    The wood exploded and, even though it was expected, the jolt sent Flag backwards into the graveyard proper. There he joined the others in hiding behind a crypt. "Get that plane here now."



    It happened in an instant. The third thief darted from the cave. Before Bran could move, something buzzed by, inches from his face. Then the air exploded as a bolt of lightning flashed down from the sky. The ground shook beneath him, followed by hundreds of pops and groans. Bran struggled to keep upright. The world swayed around him. Then his footing crumbled away, and the ledge plummeted in pieces towards the earth.

    The cascade of tumbling rocks sucked Bran down in a whirlwind of mud, stone, and splintered wood. He fell heavily, striking one of the rocks with his side just above the lower ribs. For a moment, he lay there, bow tucked close to his body, as pain pulsed up into his shoulder, but a cracking sound snapped his mind into focus. Above, a large boulder, knocked free by the avalanche, rolled down towards him. Instantly, he sprang out of its way, toppling to the soft grass below. A loud crash rose above the falling rain as the boulder split into hundreds of fragments.


    Jumping to his feet, Bran reached back into his quiver. Through the fall, the arrows had flown from it and scattered across the ground, but three had survived. And he only needed three. Notching one, he stepped around the rocks and scanned for a target, but a shout from the edge of the forest across from the cave’s collapsed entrance broke his concentration. There, running into the clearing, was Caleigh. A pistol dangled from her right hand and a backpack hung over her shoulder.

    Seeing her, Bran hesitated for a moment before raising his bow and striding forward.

    “Stay there! These thieves are out for blood!”


    To be continued!
     
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  10. Kid Kidman

    Kid Kidman V.I.L.E. Agent

    Messages:
    104
    Gender:
    Female
    Occupation:
    Thief, psychic, and Flag-tracker
    Location:
    Here and there
    Color #:
    323E4F
    Dungeons and Dragons! Part 9!
    By Joe, Neb, Flag, and Bran

    “NO!!! No one’s out for blood! There’s been a misunderstanding!” Joe called out as he stood out into open view with his arms raised. Had Joe had his way, Flag would have remained hidden and he would have continued to negotiate. Unfortunately, the escalation of chaos and the arrival of a second shooter had necessitated the current gamble he was now taking.

    “My friend just saved your life. You were standing on high ground in a storm; a prime target for a lightning strike. My friend merely wanted to spook you away from a dangerous position but we didn’t expect the ground beneath you to give way. It’s not like WE could command lightning!”

    Briefly, Joe glanced at Flag, trying somehow to communicate to him to stand down before he triggered a bloodbath. Turning back toward the owner, Joe continued.

    “As I have previously, most distinguished owner of this fine mansion, we merely wish to borrow certain rare tomes for reference. My colleagues have an interest, much like yourself, in antique literature; one of them is even an expert at restoration work. We would most gladly return them at a later date and, if my colleague were so inclined to restore then, in better than prime condition, if you would kindly let us leave in peace.”



    “Get the plane in? What do you think I’m doing?” Neb had shot back at her cranky companion as he joined her in the graveyard. The weather was making it difficult to maneuver the light craft, and she’d decided to bring it around the back of the castle to hide it from Bran’s view.

    “Nice shot, by the way,” she added, just loud enough for Flag to hear. “Glad that wire came in handy.”

    She flipped her goggles back on. One eye watched the front mounted camera on the drone while the other watched the outside world through infrared. It was taking the bulk of her concentration to do to do the former, and she failed to notice that Joe was now out in the open until he started to speak. God dammit, Joe, she thought as Bran leveled his arrow at the jester.


    “Cool ya wak, Brychanson,” Neb shouted from behind her tombstone to distract him, her high voice adding a level of absurdity to her coarseness. “The man took ye off the ledge cos ‘e knows ye can curve an’ arrow o’er the stones at us from up thar, ye twll tin. An’ t’ lad standn’ o’re thar ain’t evun armed, fer fecks sake, so put off that bleedn’ bow a’for ye ‘urt someain, ye knowledge hoardn’ git.”


    Flag had merely nodded as the girl paid him a compliment, focusing instead on his current inventory. Clearing the fire traps in the maze and initiating the rock slide had dwindled his supply of stolen bolts quicker than he liked.

    This didn't stop him from readying one and crawling along the crypt to try and get a sight on the archer, who he was confident had survived the fall. What did stop him was Joe running out to confront the archer in full view.

    Flag answered the jester's glance to stand down with a glare of his own, but found himself having to honor the request because the man gave away his position. He was almost relieved when Neb started shouting again. Her vocalizations had the potential to distract, and he took the opportunity to change which memorial he would use as cover.



    Bran stepped closer, tightening the tips of his fingers over the bow’s string. His eyes darted between the thief that addressed him and Caleigh who still stood near the edge of the forest. The gun in her hand was pointed at the ground, somewhere between her and the intruders. She held it uncertainly, as if she couldn't’ decide to shoot the thieves right then and there or toss it away like a cancer or plague. Her appearance was unexpected, and, while it evened the table, it created a variable Bran had not foreseen. A variable that could be used against him.

    A gust of wind shook the nearby trees, tossing a cluster of soaked leaves into the air. They fell quickly to the ground, where they were crushed under black rubber sole of Bran’s boot as he took another stride forward.

    “All I hear are garbled sounds and empty words from you, thieves. Why don’t you step out from behind those gravestones? Stop the desecration of my ancestors’ tombs, and perhaps I will reconsider the decision that was forced upon me to skewer you like pigs.”


    The rain was letting up into a light drizzle as silence permeated the graveyard for a few moments as the Jester plotted his next move. His teammates clearly preferred to be antagonistic so diplomacy was a lost cause; yet his better sensibilities warned him that going on a full on offensive would only result in a pyrrhic victory. Suddenly another gust of wind shook the trees around them, and behind his mask Joe grinned.

    Bringing his hands down to cup his mouth, he called out to his teammates.


    “You know guys, I’ve been musing and I think he’s right. It is disrespectful to fight in a graveyard. Get up from wherever you are crouching and come out.”

    Placing his hands in his pockets as he finished, he gazed back to the bow wielder and ‘realized his mistake’.

    “Oops. Sorry. Force of habit.” he laughed as he raised his arms again; only this time he had slipped a couple of gag bombs into his sleeves.



    “Thieeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeevvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvessssssssssssss” Neb hissed under her breath, mimicking Bran as she concentrated on steering the plane behind the mansion. At least she was trying to, but the moment Joe stepped out from the safety of the tombstones, her focus split between fighting the urge to push him back into hiding and piloting their only means of escape.

    Her compromise had been to swear up a storm as cover so she could return to the plane. Surely Joe would remember that she’d told him Bran was crazy and return to safety, but when he bid they all come out instead, her concentration was split once again.

    This time she actually looked at her teammate to yell at him, but the words caught in her throat as she saw him dip into his pockets. In a fraction of a second her eyes darted to the man with the cocked bow and the nervous woman with the gun. Then she stopped thinking entirely.

    She didn’t remember screaming Joe’s name, nor lunging across the sodden graveyard to hurl herself into him and knock him back behind the mausoleum Flag hid behind. She didn’t even feel the arrow strike her in the shoulder and slam her tiny body into the ground. The controls for the light craft twisted from her hand, and the vessel, free of control, sailed towards her attacker.


    To be continued!
     
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  11. Kid Kidman

    Kid Kidman V.I.L.E. Agent

    Messages:
    104
    Gender:
    Female
    Occupation:
    Thief, psychic, and Flag-tracker
    Location:
    Here and there
    Color #:
    323E4F
    Dungeons and Dragons! Part 10!
    By Joe, Neb, Flag, and Bran

    Flag had regained his sight on the mansion's owner a breath too late to take out the man's hand; his invisible shot missing as he moved. He went to his pouch to grab another bolt but noticed the plane that the runt had so precariously positioned above them was sliding awkwardly sideways. Dashing back around the crypt he found out why.

    The handheld controller that she had been using had been thrown a short distance and had landed in the grass by his feet. Picking it up, he ran of to Joe and shoved it into his hands. "Get that thing back under control. I'll help her."


    Why did everything have to all go to hell so fast? Whatever happened to common sense and diplomacy?

    These would have been the thoughts running through Joe’s head but in the heat moment, all he could focus on doing was ducking back behind a tombstone and trying to work the remote.

    Thalia was too close to crashing for the hover function to save her; leaving Joseph Kerr struggling against the controls to try and get her airborne and rotated around with less speed. As he tried to swerve the plane away from the ground, he realized in horror that it was now on a direct path to the archer. Saying a silent prayer, Joe did what he could to force Thalia to swerve away and back into the air.

    The stealth plane narrowly missed drilling into the archer, slamming into him with its left wing instead.

    Joe breathed a sigh of relief, a few bruised ribs maybe but at least the archer’s alive…

    Ducking as a couple of bullets whizzed by his head, Joe continued to struggle with the remote and finally got Thalia back under control.

    ...better news, the old gal’s undamaged. I guess I can tell Sara that Thalia passed the durability test.


    Like most uncontrolled chaos, it happened in an instant. The smallest thief had shot up from behind one of the tombstones and rushed towards Bran and the more ‘diplomatic’ thief. Without time to think, Bran quickly drew and loosed an arrow. Its flight was true, and the metal arrowhead dug into the shoulder of the small thief, toppling her to the ground. Even before it struck the mark, Bran had notched a second. Scanning the graveyard for his next target, he took a step forward, but a sudden whooshing sound behind him caused him to whirl around.

    A large craft plummeted towards him out of the sky. His mind had no time to react. No time to process what it was or how to avoid it. Immediately a heavy force struck him in the side, and he was sent flying through the air.

    Bran crashed to the ground and skidded to a stop near the edge of the treeline. Pain pulsed through his body. His face throbbed. The smell and taste of dirt suffocated him. For a moment, he just lay there, his lungs heaving for air. Then gunshots rang out, and a single word flashed through his mind.

    Caleigh


    Adrenaline was a funny thing. While most senses were heightened, perception of pain was almost nullified and Neb was unaware that she’d been struck by an arrow until she saw the shaft.

    Fucking Bran. Whatever, it’s my left shoulder, she thought with a surreal sense of dislocation as she tried to reassess her surroundings. Her goggles had flown off on impact, rendering her nearly blind after watching a lit screen for so long, and at first she couldn’t tell where the closest shelter was until she heard Flag’s voice over the sound of gunshots. Standing in open fire was foolhardy, so she opted to crawl, but while her shot arm worked at first, it soon began to fail her.


    To be continued!
     
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  12. Kid Kidman

    Kid Kidman V.I.L.E. Agent

    Messages:
    104
    Gender:
    Female
    Occupation:
    Thief, psychic, and Flag-tracker
    Location:
    Here and there
    Color #:
    323E4F
    Dungeons and Dragons! Finale!
    By Joe, Neb, Flag, and Bran

    Joe had managed to get the plane to turn around and hover, ready to pick them up. By the looks of things, the archer had been temporarily incapacitated but the other shooter was firing erratically; panicked shooters usually miss but the Jester was well aware of the old saying about blind dogs and bones.

    Quickly surveying the position of his teammates, Joe weighed the escape options and went with the simplest one. Bringing the plane low enough to board, he ran in one direction to lure the shooter’s attention away.

    “Get her to the plane, now!” he yelled at Flag before tossing a flash grenade at the female shooter.



    Flag almost chastised the girl for putting pressure on her arm, but stopped himself as he noticed her falter. That didn't seem right.

    She had gotten close enough for him to catch her as Joe shouted for them to get on the plane. He didn't need to be told twice and ran up the ramp, half carrying, half dragging her with him.

    He didn't bother to signal Joe that they were onboard; assuming that the jester had been paying enough attention to the situation to know. Instead Flag sat her down and gruffly instructed her not to move so he could grab the aircraft's medical kit.



    Not moving was becoming less and less a problem for Neb. The paralysis that had started at the wound site was spreading, and she slumped against her teammate. “Flag... I can’t move. Am I bleeding out? I can’t...tell. Too...wet…” she asked, fighting to form the words as she lost control of the muscles in her face.


    Flag had not been sitting so when Neb started leaning against him he had to drop the first aid box and push her back up into her seat, using the harness to help hold her in place. This was awkward because he could only cover her uninjured shoulder and naturally she seemed to want to slide over the other way.

    Not wanting to waste anymore time, he finagled the loose shoulder strap under her arm and tied it to the one that worked. Then he grabbed the tiny pair of scissors from the box and cut away the sleeve to expose the wound.

    It was a mess. Outside of the fact that a smooth stick was deeply embedded in her arm, there was a sizable slice that looked not dissimilar to butchered meat. He shook his head at her question but pondered on her sudden paralysis, soon coming to the conclusion that the arrow must have been coated in some sort of poison. He vocalized this thought to her.

    Flag didn't say anything further as he to tending the wound; applying pressure while also attempting to use the medical tape to hold her arm in place. At some point he stole a glance towards the cockpit to see if the Jester had begun the process of getting them out of here.



    The blasts from the handgun shook Caleigh’s mind. Her thoughts scrambled. Her vision was a blur of darting figures and streaking rain. Through the haze, she caught glimpses of the intruders and continued to pull the trigger at the fleeting forms. She had to give Bran a chance to regain his feet. She had to give him cover.

    Glancing over at his motionless body, she bit her lip. Most people would be incapacitated, or worse, by the force which had sent him flying. Perhaps he was dead? No. It was Bran; he didn’t just die. He would get back up. She had to believe it.

    Suddenly the gun’s thunderous reports ceased and were replaced by a faint clicking instead. With a shrug, she flung it away and reached into her pocket, grasping a small, round metal disc. She was about to pull it out when the air around her exploded in a flash of blinding light. For a moment, her ears rang and her mind spun. As she stumbled forward, her foot caught on something, and she was thrown to the ground.



    No one said a word as the cockpit closed and the craft prepared to take off; the sounds of the occasional button press and throttle movement echoed amidst the tense silence. Out of the corner of his eye, the Jester could see both attackers getting up slowly; he hoped they weren’t too badly hurt. That had never been the plan as far as he was concerned.

    Thalia was virtually bulletproof and, to his knowledge, arrow proof; the safety of the crew was never in question once they had successfully re-boarded the craft. What was in question was the safety of their attackers; firing on the craft was futile and rushing it was reckless but he wouldn’t put it past their agitated foes - adrenaline overrides logic far too often.

    Sighing, Joseph Kerr pressed a button on the control panel prompting Thalia to release a smokescreen as she took off; only this smokescreen also contained trace amounts of sleeping agent - his own special blend. It was a calculated amount meant to merely knock out an average adult for a few minutes at most, allowing for a swift getaway.

    As Thalia rose and soared away into the Welsh sky, Joseph announced somewhat anti-climatically to his passengers, “Next stop, Stone Harbour!”



    Caleigh pushed herself up off the ground. Her head spun as she took a few stumbling steps forward. The air smelled of smoke and the remnants of something artificial and sweet. Wiping her eyes, she scanned the graveyard. They were gone. Whoever they were, they had vanished into the storm. She, Bryn, and even Bran himself had failed to stop them. Three thieves had entered. They had trampled through the mansion. They had stolen something! It was unheard of, but it had happened. And she had let it. She could have stopped them! She should have.

    With a huff, she kicked a small branch that barely poked through a patch of grass. It flew into the air and struck a nearby tree before thudding back to the ground. For a moment, she stood still. The forest in front of her blurred as her gaze wandered into the far off distance. What had the thieves been after? What had Bran been hiding? Why would they try to rob a fortress she had believed impenetrable? Why risk it?


    Slowly a dull ache began to pulse through her foot and up into her leg. The small branch, which probably wasn’t as small as she thought, had left its mark. With a sigh, she reached out and leaned against a tree. Carefully she lifted her foot up and drew a tiny circle in the air with her toe. The pain continued but, to her relief, was steady.

    “Are you hurt?”

    She turned around. A few paces from her, Bran stood. His coat was a mess of twigs and moss. Water dripped from his hair. In his hand, the pieces of a longbow dangled.

    With a smile, Caleigh shrugged.

    “Not really. Just had a little run in with a particularly nasty branch. But… I instigated it; so…”


    She watched as the cold steel expression faded from his face. His shoulders relaxed, and he flipped back a wad of hair from his eyes. For a moment, he didn’t look like the man she knew. The man she had first met at university. The steady, emotionless man whose suits were always spotless and pressed. Whose days were planned out from sunrise to far into the night. The man who always had an answer. Who was always a step ahead of everyone else.

    No. He looked dazed, lost even. His flailing hair made him seem more like a boy than a man. His usually stone eyes were soft and misty, beautiful even.

    Caleigh took a step toward him.
    “I’m… I’m sorry they escaped. It shouldn’t have happened.”

    He waved an arm through the air.
    “It doesn't matter. We are safe. You are safe. Possessions are fleeting and far, far from being worth a life...”

    His gaze met hers, and he placed a hand gently on her shoulder
    “...but I promise you. They won’t get away with this. I will track them down. Wherever they go, I will find them.”

    The end!?
     
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