Oct 31: Spirits are raised in Darkside
(Aaron) (Bambridge) (Darkside) (Francisco) (Jynx) (Necropolis) (Rephidim) (Spheres of Magic)
The Old City
The shadows of ring-light stretch out likefingers from the statuary and the broken stonework walls of theruined city, a place where only the brave or desperate eke out aliving. It lies southwest of the Bazaar and Darkside, and its quiettwilight-grey paths are made of cobblestones lying askew at oddangles, casting a multitude of tiny shadows. Several tents have beenpitched next to a cenotaph nearby, the empty tomb gaping at oneend where robbers broke it open; ancient writings no longerunderstood by modern people crawl along its sides, inscribed intoyellowing marble.

Tiny bird-sounds interrupt the low sounds of the wind and thefaraway city of Rephidim proper. Ash-gray, smoke-gray forms movethrough the graveyard, startling the animals nearby to silence withonly a brief rustling of the bushes. They do not file one by one; no,as if drawn by some mysterious magnet, they converge from allpoints of the compass toward the cenotaph at the center and thefallen slab into which have been carved numerous occult-seemingsigils.

Their leader is the first to reach the grassless circle that surroundsthe slab. He stands motionless and waits for the others. From hislong Cervani face, twin many-pronged horns sprout like deadlyspear-points held high; he wears a mantle of ash-gray that hangs justpast his ankles, the edges ragged. He says nothing.

Picking his waycarefully in the darkness, Aaron pulls his own cloak tighter aroundhimself. What luck! A midnight ritual performed by a secret society!Now, if he could just figure out WHICH secret society…

Some distanceaway, a clump of vegetation by an tomb grown over with vines andbushes shifts slightly. A pair of thin yellow crescents split thedarkness by a hairs-breadth, silently observing the scene.

The other robed figures walk slowly forward. One, marked by ashadow around his eyes and a ringed tail protruding from his mantle,fidgets in his place in the circle, looking over at the others. He leansforward to a long-muzzled Skreek next to him and whisperssomething.

One of the robed strangers shuffles in, a pair of bat-wings foldedagainst his back. Another has the tell-tale ringed tail of a Rath'anipoking out of the back. Yet another has the snout of a Skreek pokingout from under the hood. It's a fairly diverse gathering, at least. TheRath'ani nods to the Cervani, saying, "Evening, Artorius!" in aninappropriately cheery voice.

Aaron perks his ears out beyond his hood to try and hear thingsclearer.

Artorius, the leader so named, lifts his staff and jabs the tip at theother, too-familiar Rath'ani. "I am not Artorius tonight," he hisses.His gaze sweeps past the other cultists. "We are all none of us whowe were in the sun's warmth. We are transformed by the light ofthe Procession, the light of the dead that have gone before us andwill come after us."

The Rath'ani sucks in his breath with a hiss, and drops his muzzle,the shadows of his hood hiding his eyes again. "Of course… " hewhispers, chastened.

Aaron hmms quietly to himself while looking for a someplace to hidethat will still get him closer…

The leader continues, "Some of you are new to our gatherings. Youdo not understand truly what is at stake here." He walks around thecircle, pausing to turn a horrifically antlered stare into each of thegathered robed people's eyes. "You are all here to demonstrate yourworthiness to join, or continue to be within our society. We havemany more dread ceremonies than those that will be convokedtonight, but if you flinch before the blade now then you will never bea worthy member of our ranks. Is that understood?" He snaps thelast word off as if breaking it.

Another Rath'anicomes up, puffing, hauling a large, coarse sack over his shoulder,while a Jupani carries the other end. From the neck of the sackprotrude five fluffy, gray-furred tails.

Aaron blinks, and hunkers down a bit behind a tombstone, using hisblack ear to focus on the leader. This doesn't sound like anIlluminati initiation!

A chill breeze blows through the area, stirring up the ever-presentmists which stubbornly cling to the ground, and playing with theexposed fur of the fluffy tails.

The Cervani leader comes to stand before a gathering of threeKhattas and two poodles, who appear distinctly huddled in the palelight afforded by the Procession above. "You," he snaps. "Don'thuddle like Rughrats. You know your places, do you not? And whatis that you are… Hiding? A bag lunch perhaps?"

A ways away from theassembled group, a lone black Khatta sneakily searches around,grumbling and obviously annoyed, "Stupid little brat, if I get myhands on her, this time I'm gonna bolt her to the floor!"

Meanwhile, the Rath'ani and Jupani carrying the coarse sack heft itover to the middle of the gathering, and roughly deposit it on theground with a thud.

"You said a sacrific… " One of the grayrobed poodles nervouslyanswers. The group of five separate revealing a lumpy bag heldbetween them. The form inside wriggles and squirms, and the otherpoodle holding it has an embarrassed expression.

"I said that we were to have a sacrifice," the Cervani snapsimpatiently. "Not that *you* imbeciles were to bring one. Did it seeyour faces?"

Jynx loudly whispers, "Eve! Where are you? C'mon, let's get out ofhere!" ( This place gives me the heebie-jeebies… )

The pair of eyes in the shadows of the vine enshrouded tomb nearbywiden slightly. Just as abruptly, they disappear, and a pool of inkyblack begins quietly pouring across the grass from gravestone togravestone…

The small group of looks back and forth between themselves, thenshake their heads at the Cervani. "Uh, no sir, not really." The SiameseKattha answers.

Aaron twists his ears around at the sound of another whisper.Surely, this 'sacrifice' is rigged, as part of the initiation.

"Not really? Not really? When you attempt to raise the eidolon ofsomeone only a week dead and raise a Shade Arcanus by mistake,will they write on your gravestones, 'Not really'?" The Cervani snortswith disgust. "Keep your pathetic sacrifice out of the way and followmy orders – exactly to the letters. Is that understood?"

The Rath'ani and Jupani bringing in the sack back away from it, andlook to the Cervani as if for further direction – or approval.

Aaron turns his attention back to the gathering. Did he just hear theleader say they were going to raise the dead??

"Yes", "Yes sir", "Yes" The five of them all nod, bowing their heads.The poodle holding the bag puts it down beside a gravestone. "Here,Maklin, give me a hand with this stone." He waves to one of the otherKhattas, and the two move a block to anchor the sack down, resting itacross the neck.

Jynx stops, and perks his ears up as he hears voices ( Dagh, thisplace is haunted! Best to avoid who or whatever is makingthose noises… )

The mists clear enough so that the full circle of the strangely robedfigures can be seen. There are thirteen of them, including theCervani, two of the Rath'ani who seem to be making serious efforts toremain silent, two Skreeks, two of the poodles and the three felineswho were addressed, a Jupani whose quietness is chill as bone, anEeee wavering a little, and another Cervani with significantly smallerhorns. Artorius turns to the Jupani as he completes the circle, backat his own place. "It is good. Secure it to the altar and make readythe candles."

The Jupani inclines his head to the leader, and moves forward,loosening the drawstrings of the sack, and dragging out the contents – a prone, gray-furred fox in a very loudly-colored outfit, with fivetails … one who is currently trussed up with robe, and gagged.

The black Khatta sneaks around a bit more, trying to ignore thevoices which he thinks are just a product of his imagination. But,after all, he is feline, and you know what killed the cat! Hesneaks his way over, trying to stay inconspicuous to whoever isspeaking.

Aaron counts quickly. Thirteen… but is that significant? He'll have toreview his uncle's journal. And an Exile!!

The Jupani stoops down to pick up the fox, and, as he lifts it, theProcession-light glints a bit off of the fox's fur, showing just a tinge ofred to the grayness for a moment. Then, the fox is laid down on thealtar.

The Cervani leader continues, his eyes upon the newest recruits totheir circle, "Again we gather under the light of the Procession, wechosen of the Sixth Kadam, to join our strengths in the summoning… "He pauses as the other mages continue their preparations.

The Jupani continues at the altar, tying the five-tailed fox's limbsdown, until he is secured, spread-eagle, on the altar, his mouth stillgagged.

Jynx sneaks behind a rather large tombstone, and peers over to seethe goings on, "What on Sinai… ?"

Aaron nearly jumps to hear someone whisper so close by. How manywatchers ARE there out here? And what is the Sixth Kadam?

"We shall drain the blood of another victim tonight, as we have yearafter year, until enough power has been drawn to our ritual that thegate which has been held shut so long, has been opened!" His voicerises as the Cervani repeats a dearly held truth. "And once more anage of fire shall rule upon Rephidim and through this blessed island,the world itself."

{They aren't mystics, they're lunatics!} the Lapi realizes. Thisisn't going to be a staged sacrifice, but a real one!!

On the altar, the 5-tailed fox moans a little, starting to come around.

The Jupani looks at the fox, checks the restraints again, and the gag,then takes his place with the others.

Aaron chews on the tip of one ear, wondering what to do. He can'trun and get the Guard, it'll take too long…

Artorius thumps the fox upon his chest with the tip of his staff.From the other end, a crystalline thing sparkles, catching the light,many-faceted. If it were a gem, it would be worth a fantasticamount… "Silence! You have been chosen for a great honor,Nohbakim. Through your painful and protracted demise, our lordshall gain that much more toward his freedom."

The eyes watch again, this time from the rubble of a monument tosome forgotten soul on the edge of the candlelight. They track theleader, and particularly the now-moving 'victim'.

The fox grunts at being hit in the chest, still not quite conscious.

"Yea verily, though he was shut into the grounds here so manythousands of years ago, before even the coming of our ownnumbers," Artorius continues. "His legend has been translatedthrough the painstaking efforts of our best scholars. He is thebringer of fire to Sinai and the worker of miracles, he is the source ofmagic and the end of order! He is… " The Cervani's voice lowers as heprepares to utter the name.

Aaron frets. Thirteen to one… and one of those with wings. He can'toutrun an Eeee. The Lapi ideal of courage is to run and get help, nottake action yourself!

Over to the side, closer to the uninvited witnesses, the smaller sackwith the rock over its neck wriggles a bit. It's about the size of ayoung Bromthen forest-hog, perhaps. Or maybe about the size of aKhatta kitten. It wiggles a little more, and there's an ever-so-quiet,muffled sound from inside.

"Dagh. Dagh the undying, Dagh who is the first of the line of mages,Dagh who was… " The Cervani hisses, lost in the reverie of his ownrecitation. "Betrayed by his most trusted assistants, and sealed into atomb forever on this island that he raised from the bone ground. Hisgate will take many sacrifices to open."

The Cervani leader raises his voice in a shout. "But it will beopened!"

The Siamese Kattha who's markings give her the appearance of askull in the darkness gives a nervous glance at the first poodle. "Itsokay Perta." He replies, straightening a little. His bravado is spoiledthough, by his glance for the reassuring company of the other threethey arrived with.

Aaron stares wide-eyed! Dagh?? These guys are WAY beyond nuts!

The figure in the rubble starts to select a rock, but stops, spying thewriggling bag. He glances around for a bit, then begins creepingtoward it.

"Light the candles," Artorius orders. "Make ready with theinstruments."

The multi-tailed fox on the altar continues to moan every so often,but is moving around a little more now as well.

The wriggling bag keeps wriggling. No one seems to notice anyoneapproaching it.

"We have to go through with this." The poodle whispers to the othersnear him. "Light the candles Ergan, Jern." The other poodle andkhatta give a reluctant nod.

The wind hisses through the trees, as if some giant was drawingbreath… Or perhaps that is only imagination playing upon overly-tight stretched nerves.

The more experienced robed figures take out candles and beginpassing them around to the others.

A shadow on reptilian paws reaches the forgotten bag. "Hush, bestill… " it whispers to the squirming bag. "I'm not one of yourcaptors… "

Aaron's fur stands up on end (except that on his left ear, which lopsacross his face instead). Maybe he should just run? Running is good…

The skulker continues. "Do not make any noise, I'm going to open thebag. We'll get you away from these jackal-bitten madmen, but youhave to cooperate." Scaley paws ease the block on one edge, thencarefully set it back down on the grass.

The wriggling sack keeps on moving about, only pausing very brieflyat the sound of the voice, and then again at the removal of the block.The creature inside wriggles closer the neck of the sack, and a bit ofwhite fur can be seen poking out.

Jynx watches the scene intently, ( Sacrifice? Is it… EVE?! )

Artorius shrugs off his mantle… Revealing a robe of purest white!Even in the dim illumination of the Procession, it stands out. Theother robed figures follow suit one by one, taking their candles, eachwith a wavery dagger thrust into rope belts.

The black Khatta gets nervous and stands up a bit more to get abetter look at just who they have on the altar…

Aaron tenses. He has to do something soon…

A long black, bescaled nose greets the white one. "Guh… you'll standout like an eep bird in a monastary… " The figure thinks for amoment…

On the altar, the fox opens his eyes a little, and pulls pathetically atthe bonds, moaning through the gag.

Perta adjusts the rope belt on her white robe, her fingers rubbing atthe hilt of her dagger. She avoids looking at the sacrifice, even morewhen his eyes open, and she hears his worried moans.

Although he has good night vision, Jynx is at a bad angle to get agood look at all the action. As quiet as he can, he starts to sneak evencloser, making a wide arc around the group.

"Regnis yan malakchar chataris yan Dagh," Artorius sayssonorously. He strikes a light with some waxy-tipped wooden stick,and uses it to light his candle. The air becomes instantly chargedwith a certain silence, as if everything that were being said and donewas sucked into some bottomless void, never to return.

As the black cat skulks around, he eventually gets into position tosee, right behind a couple of the cultists, a sack with a bit of whitefur poking out.

The fox's vision comes back to him quickly, and he turns his head asmuch as he can to try and find out what is going on. He doesn't likewhat he sees, and pulls at the bonds more.

Aaron finds himself standing on top of the tombstone he was hidingbehind. How'd he get up there? There must be a Mind-Mageinfluencing him! Yeah, that's it…

Deciding on what he hopes is the best course, the shadowy reptileslips his cloak over his head, and presses it to the neck of the sack."Take this… it'll at least cover that blinding fur of yours… but we needto get you out of here… quietly… "

The white-furred creature wiggles some more out of the sack,making muffled sounds. A mouth can be seen … with a leathermuzzle binding it shut.

Grunting, the fox continues to pull at the ropes. He has a sense of dejavu about this whole situation, and really would rather be somewhereelse.

The cult leader turns to the mage on his left and lights the otherperson's candle. "Resharektos Dagh," he says to the Jupani. TheJupani nods and repeats the phrase while lighting his neighbor'scandle.

Jynx sets his gaze on the sack, away from the ritual. Looks like theygot the cat in the bag, so to speak, but who's that near her?

The reptile grunts as he sees more of his charge. Before he can cursehimself for not noticing the muzzle, he notices something evenharder to miss. A rabbit on one of the tombstones. ( Oh, for the loveof… well, a distraction's a distraction… ) He begins trying to undo themuzzle, hissing, "Hold still, squirming will only make it pull your fureven more… "

Aaron spots the black Khatta from his new vantage, and notices theother sack has mysteriously moved as well…

Another chill breeze blows through the open area, carrying on it afaint sound, as if the laughter of a girl … or maybe just a trick of thewind blowing between the cenotaphs and broken walls.

The leather muzzle comes free, and a white-furred face pushes out,with big liquid eyes, and large ears. It looks up at its rescuer andsays, "Dead?"

Aaron freezes in the wind, but manages to take a deep breath andraise his hands up to his mouth…

The neighbour lights the one beside him, repeating the chant, and thewords and light move around the circle. The first poodle doesn'thesitate, but the Siamese does. A stern glance makes her comply, andthe others follow suit, till all thirteen candles are burning, and Daghhas been called thirteen times.

"Not if I can help it, mammal… " hisses the black blotch. "Now shush,and put this cloak on… we need to think of some way you can getthrough the thicket without making any noise."

"Hey!!" the Lapi hears himself shouting. "Dagh is… uh… Dagh is aLOSER!!"

The creature says, in a louder voice, "DEAD?"

Jynx finally makes his way behind the kitten and the reptile, butmakes no move to betray his presence, yet.

As the black Khatta gets closer to the noisy creature, he can tell fromthe voice and the appearance that this is most CERTAINLY not Eve,now, white fur or no.

Meanwhile, the fox continues to struggle upon the altar, but is heldfast.

Artorius continues the chant. "Dagh frakshes yan hayak ta – What?" He turns his head to one side. "We are not alone here,brethren," he hisses in a lower voice. "You, you, and you! Go silencethe heretic." He picks up the pace again, speaking faster, hurryingthrough the phrases.

Aaron jeers again, a bit dizzy from adrenaline, "Yeah, a LOSER! Imean… he lost before, didn't he?!"

"Ggk! Quiet!" whispers the reptile fiercely. "You'll alert those would-be asylum patients!"

The big-eared, fluffy creature is quiet a moment, then makes a bigfangy grin, and cries out, "KILL!" It then bounds out of the sack!

Aaron hops up and down on the tombstone and makes raspberrynoises to try and disrupt the ritual.

Bambridge, his cover blown, shouts, "What in the thousand and onepits of … AGH!"

The other Cervani nods, stepping back from the slab and with a grimexpression drawing his dagger. His hooves clatter amongst thebroken gravestones and ancient roots as heads for the insolentvoices. "You will be silent." His eyes have a strange gleam in thedarkness.

Upon the altar, the multi-tailed fox stops his struggling, and strainsto try to see what all the commotion is that has started around him.

Jynx blinks rapidly, an annoying creature yes, but Eve, no. He quicklybacks away from the ritual ( Great, now what? )

Aaron's apparent boldness vanishes as he sees drawn daggers andangry faces. He falls back off of the tombstone and scrambles to getback to his feet.

The fuzzy white creature bounds at Bambridge, fangs bared, but thereptile manages to dive out of the way as deftly as he was able tosneak up there in the first place. The creature hits the ground … andkeeps bounding along … heading straight for Jynx! "KILL!"

The Cervani leader chants faster. "Resharektos Dagh! ResharektosDagh! Catachelpas en Kekulsis Atena me!" Even to those notattuned to the ways of magic can feel that something very far awayis turning its attention to this place.

Jynx's jaw drops and his eyes go wide. "Hey! No!" He does an aboutface and bolts as fast as possible, not liking the prospect of beingbitten very much.

Aaron bounds off into the darkness, thinking the fuff'nar isn't theonly one with killing on its mind.

The stag bears down on Aaron, and the rabbit knows by the light inhis eyes and the dagger glinting under the procession, that the deerhas the same thoughts as the Fuff'nar.

The black Khatta flees the bounding flurry of fur and fangs,unfortunately he does not see the open hatch that a five-tailedKitsune just happened to use to escape from the city's sewer systemsome time ago … and in he falls!

Aaron sprints in the direction (he hopes) of the Asylum. Thereshould be someone that will react to screaming in there!

Jynx AIIIEEEEES! Down the tubes he goes (Kinda the story of his life)

The fuzzy creature stops at the hatch, sniffing … then bounds backtoward the ceremonies, querying, "Dead?" in a loud voice.

An almost invisible blue light begins to creep over the surface of theslab on which the many-tailed fox has been bound. It feels… tingly.

Seeing it out of the corner of his eye, the kitsune resumes hisstruggling against the bonds with renewed vigor.

"Maklin, Ergan, get him!" The first poodle orders, pointing atBambridge. The Khatta and poodle drop their candles, breaking theirchant. The Skreek closest to them joins as well, making three knivesheld advancing against the chameleon.

The fuzzy critter bounds about, apparently oblivious to the fact thatthese cultists were responsible for its previous bondage. "Dead?" itasks.

Bambridge stops, half-way into a hiding spot when he notices thetwo cultists break away. "Oh, bloody hell! Umm… ummmmm… " Thelizard spies his previous fluffy antagonist. He points at the cultistgroup. "Much not dead! Kill!"

The Cervani leader breaks off his chant in mid-syllable, staringaghast at Maklin and Ergan. "You fools," he calls to them. "Don'tabandon your places without my specific orders! You're failures!You're going to *FLUNK!*"

Aaron suddenly stops short near a mausoleum, as the smell of freshcarrion and the sound of chewing penetrate his panic. Maybe thisisn't the best direction to run in afterall, so he turns left and runsTHAT way for awhile.

The fluffy critter looks at Bambridge, follows his finger, then squeals,"KILL! *RAWR!*" It pounces at the nearest cultist.

Bambridge doesn't wait to see who wins. Dashing madly into theshrubs again, he crashes through the foliage, nearly stumbling onpoorly maintained graves and headstones, around the circle towardthe leader's side.

A hapless raccoon is the target of the fuff'nar, and howls in pain asthe creature latches onto his leg. He most definitely will be flunking,the way he's breaking out of the circle and flailing about wildly.

The kitsune continues to struggle against the ropes helplessly – hecan see that blue glow better now, and that is worrying him a lot!

At Artorius' command, Maklin and Ergan return to the circle, lettingthe Chameleon escape. They retrieve their candles, and try to rejointhe chanting, despite the commotion.

The raccoon, flailing about, twirls toward the altar, and smashes intoit, knocking the breath out of himself as he falls over the altar andthe kitsune bound across it.

Aaron finds himself curving back towards the ritual… probablybecause it's the only source of light nearby. He hopes he's lost theCervani by now.

As said Chameleon hurries around the morbid blocks of granitemarking the graves, he can't help but think, "Here lies the WoodenShekel… ??? to 6997… " He begins paying more attention to stealthagain. "I think I must be behind the leader by now… "

The cult leader, Artorius, screams out orders that the other magesare too distracted to follow. And something begins to go wrong… The blue light pauses in its expansion, shifts colors slowly down,becoming violet, green, a faint gold, red, seething and coiling as ifabout to erupt.

Watching the glow, the fox observes the color changes, and idlythinks that combination would look good on a shirt. Dismissing it fornow, he continues to pull against the ropes.

There's a pinprick of pain in the kitsune's side, thanks to the tip ofthe ceremonial blade poking him there, from where it is stillstrapped to the raccoon cultist's side.

"Rrrrrrrr!" goes the fuff'nar, still latched firmly onto the Rath'ani'sleg.

There is the briefest of warnings, a small scattering of broken gravelthe second before the Cervani rises up directly in front of Aaron.

The fox winces at the stab of pain, and grunts through the gag whatcould quite possibly be obscenities directed at the raccoon.

A drop of blood wells down the side of the knife, from where it haspricked Francisco. A drop begins to work its way along the blade,collecting at the edge, suspended above the stone of the altar.

Aaron yaaass in panic, and tries to run right over the Cervani!

The kitsune looks over to the source of the pain in his side, and seesthe knife with the blood running down it. He whines, as if this wasn'tbad enough, now he has to go get a bloodstain in his zolk shirt.

The trickle of blood wells on the sharp edge of the blade, from whereit pokes the kitsune's arm, not all that far from the possibility that itcould have hit his face instead. He can see the blood gathering,expanding, about to drop onto the stone.

The raccoon falls away from the altar, still yowling, but the daggerremains behind. The fuff'nar continues making loud, unpleasantnoises, defying the Rath'ani's attempts to dislodge it.

The Cervani lurches back as the rabbit rushes him, surprised at thesuicidal tactic. Aaron's leap and run carries him up over the deer, butnot without mishap. He feels the knife sliding against the inside ofhis calf, cutting, before the rabbits weight on the deer's rack throwshim over backwards, giving him the chance to bound away.

Aaron kicks away from the Cervani, but rolls into the clearing beforehe can get back to his feet.

The kitsune watches the blood well on the knife more, and he tries toshake the knife loose by shaking his arm. *ow* Bad plan – that_hurts_!

In all of the fox's struggling … somehow the gag loosens from rubbingagainst the stone, enough that he could easily spit it out if he choseto. At just that moment, the blood drops from the blade …

The Cervani rolls to his feet, shaking his head and searching for thesmall Lapine.

At that very moment, Bambridge's long tongue shoots out to snag theCervani leader's staff, causing his concentration to be broken fatallyas he struggles to hold onto it. Falling red blood splatters into apuddle on the seething ruby surface of the stone slab…

Energy explodes outward, passing *through* the cultists and theinterlopers gathered here in the graveyard, and a thousand voiceserupt in soundless screams. Every cenotaph, every gravestone,every unmarked grave where some body was buried long ago, isnothing but moldering bones, suddenly manifests a glowing bluespark that look back upon the center like eyes. Voices speak withoutspeaking, demanding to know… Who calls? Who calls from thefarthest shore? Who summons we across the vastest sea? Speak!

Aaron pulls his ears down across his face and wishes he'd stayed inthe jungles. Civilization is just too dangerous!

The other cultists gasp and stagger back, at a loss for words. EvenArtorius has blanched, his staff still gripped in his hand, not noticingthe tongue stuck to it.

Perta screams! "No, its wrong! Not this, not this." She lunges forward,her own dagger in hand, aimed straight at Francisco, which shedirects at his bonds as she tries to cut him free in her panic.

Bambridge thinks, ( Well… if no-one else is going to reply… it mightas well be me! )

Artorius speaks. "We, the Sixth Kadam, ask for the Gate that – " Heyelps as the staff in his hand is pulled away by a force that appearsto him unseen. "What magic is this?!"

Shadows amass outside the gathering, and coalesce into translucentshapes. They look remotely humanoid, though their lower torsosdissolve into ribbon-like tatters, and their upper forms are remotelyskeletal, more as if they were pieced together from a multitude ofbones, crammed into space to suggest forms that would in the realworld be shaped by flesh. They watch with lifeless eyes theunfolding scene.

The blue spirit-lights stare down at the convocation, unblinking.Accusing.

The first poodle grabs at the Siamese's arm, pulling her back. As hedoes the raccoon rolling around and fighting the Fuff'nar jars againsther knife hand. The blade stabs into Francisco! He feels the blow, butnot a cut. The zolk resists the full strike of the knife. The kitsune isbruised, but unharmed.

One of the Rath'anis gasps. "Enny," he hisses to the Skreek nearby."Do you see what I see?"

The chameleon's hand rises to the catch the staff, twirling it deftlylike some grotesque majorette. Leaning it over one shoulder, hisstrained tongue now lying in the dust around his feet, the lizardthunders, "Ih ith I! I THUMMON THEE!"

Aaron gropes at his belt for his First Aid Kit… but he didn't wear ittonight. It's too late to convince himself that this is all a frazzle-leafinduced hallucination; you don't bleed in hallucinations. {Might aswell catch my breath and enjoy the show.}

Perta shakes off the poodle, "No Lang, its wrong." She pushes theother cultist off Francisco's arm, and slices the bonds. His hand isfreed. She drops the knife beside it, grabs the Rath'ani's, and goes forthe fox's ankles.

The lights somehow turn their attention toward Bambridge.Speak, they say without speaking. Speak. Blood hasbeen shed, Who goes there? The effect is as of a ghostlychorus, but even though the ground feels solid beneath, it feels as ifthey stand just over a void waiting to claim the lives of one unluckyperson… Or many.

Francisco reaches up with a hand to take the gag out of his mouth,then wincing as that's the stabbed arm, takes it out with the other."First you capture me, now you set me free?" he says. "Just what isgoing on here?"

There is another more mortal noise behind Aaron, and a loomingshadow.

Aaron risks a glance over his shoulder, afraid to take his eyes off thespectral display… and afraid not to.

Things… creak. Doors open, or perhaps, shut themselves, somewherein the graveyard.

Bambridge balls one paw into a fist, his other gripping the bejeweledstaff. "I am the Woogen Thekel… long have I wat-thed ovuh thithplathe, fuuh Darkthide ith my home." He points at the Cervani cultistleader. "Thethe, of a vile order, theek to dithturb thy reth fuh thiown thelfith purpotheses. They mutht be punithed… "

"Here is the sacrifice, here!" Lang shouts, unnerved by the ghostlyvoices, and moving to hold Francisco down.

Francisco double-takes. Captured. Freed. Now held down?

Aaron gets a very good view of the other Cervani cultist grabbinghim by the shoulders.

Aaron yelps and flails about!

The ghosts wail and shriek, leaving their tombstones and graves asthey float across the night air toward the strange gathering, as thecultists panic. Artorius yells to the others, "Run! Scatter! Forget thebunny, Mergansor, it's too late for that now!"

Twin blue lights float toward Francisco, seeming like mismatchedeyes in an invisible face…

Francisco decides that he's had enough of this slab, and rolls off it asthe lights head towards him.

Aaron blinks, "Hey, who are you calling a bunny, you walkingcoatrack!"

"Be grateful ve don't give you to the spirits." Mergansor grunts,dropping the Lapine and fleeing.

Bambridge raises the mysterious scepter, its green gem catching thelight of the Procession. "I thay, BANITH the Thixth Kadam, that youmay redoin yuh rightfuh platheth in retht eteuhnal!"

Aaron lands on his tail.

"Come ON!" Perta crouches beside Francisco, sawing through the lastrope around his wrist.

"Er, thanks… I think," says the kitsune, rubbing his freed wristslightly.

Cultists break and flee, Ergan, Jern and Maklin leave as a group,while the others scatter separately. Lang scrabbles for the discardeddagger on the slab, facing the approaching lights.

The lights swoop down upon Francisco, even though he has takenadvantage of the cover of the slab. And as they pass through him, itseems momentarily as if he is somewhere different, *someone*different. He stands in a finely appointed palace, two Savaniteskneeled next to him – her? As other servants tend to her hair, sheturns to the side and sees a poodle reflected in the mirror yetanother Savanite holds up for her grooming… The vision fades, andhe sees the ghost-lights vengefully chasing the Jupani!

The Siamese doesn't give the kitsune much more time to think, anddrags him by the arm between two gravestones, away from the altar.

Aaron silently wishes for Mergansor to get eaten by the Saboath'sdragon as he cowers from the various swooping lights and angryspecters.

The fox blinks, and shakes his head slightly, disorientated from… whatever just happened.

Artorius yells, "Curse you, whoever you are! Never rest easy again,my sendings will find you, wherever you go!" at the chameleon, as heruns, white robes flapping.

Six lights gather near Aaron, orbiting him as if pondering something…

Aaron pulls his ears down over his face again. If he doesn't seethem, they can't get him, right?

Bambridge stands impassively as he watches Artorius and thecultists flee. Throwing his tongue over his shoulder, he walks wearilyback over to where he freed the fanged creature to retrieve hiscloak.

The dark, semi-solid entities hovering along the edge of the clearingslowly move into action, and then into swifter movement. Tatters oftheir forms fluttering on ether behind them, they glide after thefleeing cultists – And whether it is with murderous intent or simplyto drive the intruders away, they do not volunteer.

Aaron risks a peek out from behind his left ear.

The ghost-lights flicker around Aaron, and then swoop off just assuddenly, with a passing touch. A feeling that says, That whichyou cannot see… The thought goes unfinished. The fallen candlessmoulder and then fizzle out as well… Leaving the graveyardilluminated, once again, only by the light of the Procession.

Lang stares venemously at the Chameleon sauntering around, but heis just a poodle. His courage fails him, and he staggers back from thelights, breaking into a run through the gravestones. He escapes fasterthan planned, dropping out of sight into a hole recently used byanother unlucky person here tonight.

Aaron shivers. A message from beyond the grave! Part of oneanyway…

There is a distant meaowl and yelp from beneath the ground.

Aaron looks around with both eyes now. "Is anyone out there still?"

There's a giggle from behind one of the cenotaphs. "Yes," comes ananswer. A feminine voice. Somewhere … over there. Maybe.

Aaron's ears turn back and forth. "Umm, are you alive?"

A head of a gray fox peers over the altar, still wondering what inInari's name is going on or has been going on.

Bambridge watches Lang join his cohorts, his slitted eyes trackinguntil the poodle disappears. After rustling around in the brush for afew moments, the lizard finds his cloak, and refastens it. With a lookof extreme disgust, he dusts his tongue off as best he can, andgingerly retracts it, making all sorts of faces as he does.

More laughter. "Are you, usagi?" the voice asks in return.

The Siamese Kattha abandons Francisco to his curiosity, and vanishesthrough the graveyard.

The Procession, formerly two matched daggers poking up from bothhorizons, has become a scimitar rising on one side, a knife sinkinginto the other. Ghost-lights dance through the mists.

Three hovering shadows glide across the broken monuments, andthen disappear behind a crumbling mausoleum.

Aaron blinks, still trying to locate the voice. "Umm, no, I'm Aaron… Idon't know any Usagi."

Bambridge steals back to the site of the unholy ceremony. His eyesrove the clearing, searching for something.

A dark stain on a symbols-marked slab draws Bambridge's attention – and something that glistens palely in the light.

From around the mausoleum, a figure sway-walks, dressed in akimono, holding a fan in one hand. Tresses of hair are tossed aboutas if by a strong wind, though the breeze is only intermittent. Sheseems to glide across the stones, her steps making no sound offootfall. She is visible to the Lapi, but she seems to be bearingtoward Francisco.

Bambridge shuffles over to the strange altar, eyeing the daggerwarily. Hesitantly, he reaches out to grasp it by the hilt.

Aaron's eyes go wide at the sight… and the only thing he can do isask, "Is there anybody ELSE out there??"

Francisco sees the figure and swallows, unsure whether to makehimself known to the rabbit, or hide under the alter from… he thinkshe knows who that is

The very familiar-looking (to Francisco, anyway) masked kitsunecontinues to glide toward the altar, the tips of four tails poking outfrom underneath the tattered folds of her kimono.

Bambridge studies the ornate weapon for a few seconds, then slips itinto his harness. With another cursory inspection of the site, theWooden Shekel decides he's had enough excitement for one night. Hehas thoughts to mull over, and items to appraise. Wrapping his cloakaround the staff to conceal it as best he can, the black lizard hurriesinto the thickets once more.

Aaron thinks, in a very detached part of his mind, that this ghost isat least a good looking one.

Deciding that the altar is not really going to hide him much, he standsup, backing away further from the approaching figure.

In some exotic language, the female apparition addresses Francisco inwhat sounds like a faintly amused, perhaps mocking voice.

Aaron's ears perk. A secret code perhaps?? Conspiracies layered onconspiracies, and even ghosts are involved!

A black splotch reaches the crumbling cemetery wall separating theOld City from Darkside. With little trouble, it finds a spot with a goodamount of handholds, oozes up the side, and is gone.

Francisco replies back to the kimono'd figure in a similar manner, atthe end pulling a very slight, but wary, grin. He then turns to lookover at the rabbit.

Aaron manages to wave weakly at the Exile.

Aaron asks the fox, "Is she a… friend of yours?"

Aaron knows, of course, that all Exiles know each other. How elsecould they coordinate for the eventual invasion?

The female fox laughs, covering her masked face with a flick of herfan, her tails swishing behind her. She turns partway, peering overthe fan at Aaron, and whispers something again in that strangelanguage.

The gray fox walks over to the rabbit, shrugging a little. "Notsomeone I would really call a friend, in fact, I don't know muchabout her at all," he offers to him.

Aaron says, "Oh. Are you going to kill me?"

Francisco turns back to the figure, says something back to her, andlooks away again.

"Me?" Francisco says, eyebrows raised a little in surprise. "Nope. Whyshould I?"

Aaron says, "Oh, no reason at all of course! Would you mind helpingme up then? I seem to have been stabbed in the leg."

The female kitsune sway-walks over to the altar, and reaches downwith one hand, touching a dark spot on the stone surface with onefinger. She then brings the finger back up to the mouth of her mask,and touches it.

The five-tailed fox nods, and offers the hand on his undamaged armto the rabbit.

Aaron smiles gratefully and stands up, favoring one leg.

Francisco helps him up, but feels a slight chill run through him fromsomewhere.

Aaron introduces himself, "I'm Aaron Lightfoot, by the way. I don'tsuppose you know what's going on here?"

"Francisco… as in San, and I was hoping you could tell me, actually,

A strong wind blows across the graveyard, stirring up dust, andknocking over a couple of the remaining (but dead) candles.

Aaron shivers at the wind… but at least it's blowing some of thesewer smell away.

Perhaps it has done more than that. There is no sign of the femalevulpine, or where she may have gone.

The lights of Rephidim proper glow dimly in the distance, showingthe way to the new city from the rubble of the old.

Aaron says, "Oh, I have my suspicions. But I think we should get outof here soon. I don't think this has gone unnoticed by the otherinhabitants of the cemetery, and I've seen enough for one night."

Nodding, Francisco agrees. "Yeah… I certainly didn't want to comeback to this place once. Now that I'm here again, that is doubly so."

Somewhere, as if echoing down a long tunnel, there can be heard ahigh-pitched voice, asking, "Dead?" "No! Go away!" "KILL!""*YELP!*" "*SPLOOSH!*"


GMed by Greywolf, John & Lynx

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Today is 5 days before Ring Day, Year 28 of the Reign of Archelaus the First (6127)