KYRIE WAS HERE
Fallagar shook his head. "Not right now." He looked away, like he was studying the cave ceiling.
Coda glared at all of them, but then her attention fixed on Terchi. The look on his face was odd to her. "Whut you starin' at, Dumbarse?!" Her eyes crossed, and then her face went as red as his. "And whut the 'ell is goin' on wiv yer trousers?!"
Nerwen stepped forward. She pulled a towel out of her pack. "You don't have much experience with male halflings, do you?"
"Whut, 'e never seen a gil before, 'as 'e?" Coda asked, pulling on the towel.
"Other than 'elpin' change 'is baby cousin Posey, I'd imagine not." Rishot said. "Terchi, you might want to pick your jaw off the floor. And do somethin' 'bout your nose." Even in the midst of this confusing situation, he was having trouble trying not to chuckle at his obviously embarrassed nephew.
"I take it pummeling is not in the cards today?" Styx asked.
"NO!!!" Terchi and Rishot both shouted.
"I can never tell with you demihumans." Styx shrugged. "Though I do feel validated--the 'Goblinchild' was, indeed, not a goblin."
"I'm standin' right 'ere, y'knows!!!" She snarled and started to stride toward the Archmage again. "Okay, I've cooled off a bits...but you an I still need to 'ave..." She stopped, and looked suddenly toward the exit to the cave.
"Something's coming." Nerwen said.
"Yes." Fallagar agreed.
"Fuckin' 'ell..." Coda snarled again. "The bugs know this place. Figures 'at sadistic wankbag G'Gat'd come lookin' for me." She turned and bolted to the other hole in the cave.
"Coda!" Terchi called.
"I ain't dealin' wiv 'at baldy turdeater wiv me knockers 'angin' out!" she shouted back.
"You okay, Terchi?" Rishot asked.
"Don't rightly know, Unk." Terchi shook his head. "One minute I fink I'm dealin' wiv a surly goblin, 'e next it's a 'obbit gil. An' she's still surly but she's also..." His face turned red again.
Only a few moment later, she reappeared, clad in a brick red tunic and trousers, though the wrappings were still on her wrists and feet. "Don't 'ave time to mud up again, so 'is'll 'ave to do." She looked around. "Now if only I 'ad somefin' to 'it the bastards wiv."
Nerwen unbuckled one of her two shortswords. "Use this."
"Are you sure that's a good idea?" Rishot asked.
"It's fine!" Terchi piped up. " 'E's...I mean, she's on our side now, right?"
Coda swung the sword. "Seems awful puny..."
"You have a lot to learn, Young One." Nerwen smirked, and cast a glance at Terchi. "It's not the size that's important, it's how you use it."
Terchi squeaked and turned bright red again.
Coda gave him a skunk eye.
Four of the kreen carried a chair; on it sat the Xorak.
"[This is the place, G'gat?]"
"[Yes, Great One.]" G'Gat answered. "[My mind magics are far inferior to your own, but I can sense the presence of the Goblinchild. Or, more accurately, the shackle I fit him with.]"
Xorak sighed. "[You're boring me, G'Gat.]"
G'Gat audibly gulped. "[Apologies...I will simply move to the part where I call him back to me.]"
With that, a glowing corona of blue-white light surrounded G'Gat's head. He gestured with one of his right arms. "[Goblinchild!!! Return to your Master!!!]"
Coda snarled. " 'E's 'ere, alright."
Terchi gasped as the shackle and chain he'd removed from Coda a short time before suddenly jumped off the floor, a halo of blue-white light playing around it. It flew toward the entrance to the cave.
"Some sort of psionic artifact." Nerwen surmised.
"Why you fink 'at arse felt safe frowin' me at you?" Coda noted. " 'E can jerk the fuckin' leash back even wivout 'oldin' it."
"Good fing I took it off y's, 'en." Terchi said.
She looked at him, just the hint of an approving grin. "Yeah."
"What 'appens when you don't return with the chain?" Rishot asked.
Coda snorted. "If e's smart 'e goes 'ome."
"And do you fink 'e's 'at smart?" Terchi asked.
Coda twirled the shortsword. "Fuck no."
Xorak laughed. "[I would say your Goblinchild seems to be short one Goblinchild.]"
G'Gat turned to his leader, a little scared. "[I never would have anticipated the Goblinchild releasing his shackle! He doesn't have the intelligence!]"
K'Kinb stepped to G'Gat's side. "[Perhaps the Defiler does. Or the elfling he fled with.]"
Xorak snapped his fingers. His porters put his chair down; he retrieved a staff from the side, made of wood and topped with a quartz gem.
"[I will show you, the Goblinchild, and the Defiler true power, gnat.]"
The Xorak held the staff aloft. A corona surrounded his head and the quartz gem, similar but far brighter than the one G'Gat had a moment before.
The Xorak began to sing.
"I 'ears it too!" Terchi said.
"It's..." Styx started to say, his face starting to look blissful.
"..."Bootiful!!!" Terchi finished, also starting to look zoned out.
"Oh...'ell..." Coda breathed, horrified recognition dawning on her. "It's 'im!"
"Who?" Rishot asked, nevertheless obviously starting to feel pretty groovy himself.
"Xorak!!!" Coda squeaked, her legs starting to move against her will.
And hers wasn't the only one.
He saw three halflings, a large goblin, and a robed humanoid of about elvish size. All but the robed one were clearly dazed.
G'Gat went up to one of the halflings, the light haired one, and hit it.
"[I gave you that skull to wear for a reason, Goblinchild! I told you I didn't want to see your hideous softskin face ever again!!!]" G'Gat snarled as he glowered over the fallen halfling.
"[The Defiler!]" K'Kinb shouted, pointing at the robed humanoid.
The kreen warriors surrounded the small group, but kept some distance.
"[The Defiler seems to be under my spell.]" Xorak noted.
"[Get up!!!]" G'Gat pulled Coda to her feet roughly. He held up the shackle in one of his other hands. "[You thought you could escape me?]"
"[This is your 'Goblinchild', G'Gat?]" Xorak snorted. "[What you have there is a halfling, a miniature elf creature.]"
"[I...er, didn't know that when I caught it, Great One. Goblinzzz and elflings are all just hideous creatures with soft skins and weird internal skeletons to me.]" G'Gat looked over the other two halflings. He grabbed Terchi. "[This is the one you left with?]" He looked back at Coda. "[Hm...Yes...I keep forgetting you're a breeder, even though you remind me of it by soaking your nest in blood every month.]"
K'Kinb was looking around. "[There was another with them...Nerwen Silverwood...I don't see her.]"
"[The elves have some resistance to the power of magics that compel them.]" Xorak replied. "[Keep watch--she won't be far.]"
G'Gat tousselled Terchi's hair. "Thizzz why you tried to ezzzcape? Thizzz elfling drone? Yezzz...maybe you could be of zzzome uzzze. If the hatchlingzzz are even half azzz zzztrong azzz their breeder..." He held up the shackle. "Want to be fit with one of thezzze, Drone? You may even have a good time until the Goblinchild ripzzz your head off and eatzzz it..."
Coda felt something welling inside her.
She barely understood what G'Gat was trying to insinuate...she just knew that he was threatening her with a return to the horrific life she'd just escaped. That hated shackle, symbol of her enslavement, was in his hand.
The being that had put that shackle on her was threatening the being that had taken it off of her. The weird, funny boy thing that made her feel something she couldn't quantify...an odd...yearning...
...Stronger than her hatred for G'Gat.
"...oh...'ells...no..." she snarled.
A yearning even stronger than the song of the Xorak.
Then a new sound filled the air.
Coda had heard such things before, the musical sounds of what Mum had called a "flute'.
But there was something more...violet sparkles filled the air...
The fog in her mind cleared. The song of Xorak faded away.
The yearning. The anger. The hatred.
All burned bright.
The macetail called to her.
And she embraced it willingly.
There was no pain in this howl. It was a howl of pure, indignant rage. And for some reason...it made him feel no fear.
The Goblinchild stood, surrounded by the reddish glow of the macetail. She held a short sword now soaked in the kreen's blood. The whites of her eyes were now jet black.
"[The Defiler!!!]" K'Kinb shouted, even as he moved to assist the maimed G'Gat. "[He is the one, Great Xorak!!!]"
The Xorak's eyes narrowed.
"A battle?!" Styx's eyes sparkled. "I sincerely hope so!!!"
Rishot shook his head. "That music...it's counteractin' the spell we were under...Terchi?"
Terchi looked around frantically. "Coda!!!"
" 'All you've done for me'?!" Coda snarled incredulously. "Makin' me a mud-soaked slave on a chain, killin' at your whim?! YOU FINK I SHOULD BE FUCKIN' T'ANKFUL FOR 'AT?!?!"
How K'Kinb managed to avoid the angry hobbit's lunge was something even he would wonder about.
"[Would you rather have died on your own?!]" K'Kinb managed to say, hoping to keep her attention on him. "[You were cowering in that hole, starving! G'Gat and I saved you from certain death! WE MADE YOU PART OF OUR CLUTCH!!!]"
Her reply was nothing but a furious howl.
Terchi crept closer to her. Wish I knew what the bugger was sayin'...
"There's so fuckin' many of 'em!" Rishot snarled, blasting a kreen with Snowdrop's frost shot. "We're gonna be overwhelmed!!!"
"What a glorious way to die, then!!!" Styx cried excitedly, smashing another kreen's head in. "May Maglubiyet smile at our efforts!!!"
"Dammit, Tsandric..." Nerwen breathed. "This isn't working!"
When the song of Xorak had washed over them, Nerwen had, indeed, been saved by her race's resistance to mind control magics. As powerful as the song was, Fallagar's parma magica--the magic shield created by the Order of Hermes' founder over a millenia ago--had proved more than sufficient to render him immune. Nerwen had hastily taken his cloak, saying that the Xorak expected the "Defiler" to appear--and give Fallagar time to prepare a countermeasure.
His own musical spell had cleared Rishot, Terchi, and Styx's minds from the Xorak's song, but it was taking a toll on him.
Pain wracked his body.
His hands convulsed, and he could no longer hold the flute.
He fell to one knee, coughing up blood, staining the ground next to a desert shrub.
But instead of a song, a simple, booming word:
Xorak stepped toward Fallagar. "You are not of the eladrin, or the elvezzz....you are a human."
Fallagar looked at Xorak. Blood was coming from one eye, but the other was resolved. "You are correct."
"Your kind has not been zzzeen much on our world zzzinzzze the War of the Godzzz. But more importantly...you are not a Defiler."
"What?!" K'Kinb asked incredulously. "He uzzzed the powerzzz of a Defiler againzzzt uzzz!!! A great crack of zzzound, like the monzzzoonzzz of the northlandzzz!!!"
"The power of a Defiler he may have..." Xorak noted. "But not the heart of one. Obzzzerve." He pointed at the shrub next to Fallagar.
"The powerzzz of Defilement zzzicken and rot all life near them. But the shrub is unblemished." He regarded the Archmage. "The blizzzters and woundzzz on hizzz body are obviouzzz. If hizzz power hazzz Defiled anyone, it izzz himzzzelf only. That izzz not the Defiler way--that izzz the way of the Prezzzerver."
"Tell me what bringzzz you to my landzzz, Prezzzerver." Xorak asked. "Or do you wish thizzz battle to continue?"
Fallagar stood up. "No." He looked to his comrades. "This battle is over."
Styx let out a weary sigh, and looked dejected. But he stood down as commanded.
So did the kreen.
Coda still glowered at G'Gat.
"Coda?" Terchi asked hesitantly.
She looked at Fallagar. In the fogs of battle, and dealing with Terchi and the others, she realized she had a question of her own. "Why...why ARE you 'ere?" She stepped away from G'Gat.
The Archmage held up the battered return stone. "We are here because of this."
"What izzz that?" Xorak asked.
Coda snarled. "It belongs to me!!!" She snatched it from Fallagar; he made no effort to stop her.
"An item of magic." Fallagar explained to Xorak. "One of the Grey Lord's scouts said it was dropped by a kreen a few days ago. You see, I created this item, Xorak, and I did not give it to any kreen or any elf. We have come to try and discover the whereabouts of its owner--a halfling named Kyrie Wheatberry."
The Xorak's eyes opened wider. "The Wheatberry?!"
K'Kinb looked really confused. He heard the wounded G'Gat utter a kreen curse word.
"[My Lord...I don't understand any of this!]" K'Kinb said. "[G'Gat took that cursed item from the Goblinchild!!!]"
Coda knelt on the ground, holding the stone. "Kyrie Wheatberry was my Mum, you arsewankin' puffclowns!!!" She convulsed, and surprised just about all of them as the black drained from her eyes...and they filled instead with tears. "It's all I 'ave left of 'er..."
Terchi sat beside her, confused for a moment. Even more that a little afraid. But his better nature won, and he put his arms around her in what he intended as a comforting manner.
"You are the Wheatberry'zzz hatchling?!" Xorak looked at G'Gat and K'Kinb angrily. "[Why didn't you tell me any of this, you simpering idiots?!]"
K'Kinb looked genuinely scared now. "[We...we didn't know, Great Xorak! I've never even heard of this 'Wheatberry'!!!]"
They all stood quietly for a few moments. Perhaps inevitably, the question on all of their minds was brooked by the only one who could.
"Coda...whut 'appened?" Terchi asked. "Whut 'appened to yer Mum?"
"SHE'S DEAD, DAMMIT!!!" Coda howled, not caring anymore about the tears streaming down her face.
Rishot felt his guts knot. That he'd feared this truth from the moment they learned that Kyrie was missing didn't make the confirmation any easier.
"Oh Godfuss..." Terchi breathed, feeling his eyes starting to mist as well.
Coda stood. "If you really want to know 'ere she is...I'll fuckin' show you..."
" 'Is used to be 'er room." Coda explained. "When she left me...nowhere else seemed right." She shook her head.
Rishot made a sign of prayer, and bowed his head. "Lady Avandra, may this weary traveler 'ave found eternal shelter under your boundless gaze."
"Coda...I..." Terchi started to say, before he saw the look in her eyes. Uh-oh...
He almost had to run after her as she strode back to the spring, where Styx and Fallagar were waiting.
Rishot and Terchi arrived just in time to see Coda punch the wizard in the gut, knocking him to the ground.
" 'ERE THE FUCK WAS YOU?!" she screamed.
Styx was ready to restrain her, or battle her, but the Archmage held up a hand.
"She raved again and again about 'ow awesome the 'Great Archmage' wuz, an' 'ow she looked forward to innerducing you one day! But where were you when she needed you?! A fuckin' silt spider stung her 'en she went to look for 'er fuckin' snozzberries, and all I could do was watch as she got sicker and sicker..."
She knelt, the tears flowing again. "She knew th' cure...but was too weak to make it...she told me 'ow...an' I tried...and when I gave it to 'er..." She slammed a fist into the ground, cracking it. "IT WAS TOO FUCKIN' LATE!!! OR WORSE..."
She slammed the ground again. "...Or worse, I fucked it up."
Fallagar sat impassive. Styx looked uncomfortable. Terchi was crying almost as hard as Coda was.
"An' 'en I was alone..." she shook her head. "But not for long. The fuckin' kreen found me. I woulda' been a goner..."
She stood up, not looking at them Terchi noticed she seemed to be a bit unsteady now, her words more slurred. " 'En th' macetail came t'me. I was strong now. But 'at also meant I was useful to th' bugs...just another fightin' slave...'eir 'Goblinchild'...an' I couldn't get away. 'At wankbag took Mum's stone...and th' song of the Xorak was stronger 'an even th' macetail."
She looked at Terchi, and for a second the anger seemed to melt somewhat. "Fank you, Terchi Bagwise, for doin' whut even th' macetail couldn't."
She snarled as she turned to the wizard again. "An' whut YOU couldn't!!! 'At was free years ago!!! T' 'ear Mum tell it, you could've blown away G'Gat an' even th' Xorak like farts in the wind!!! 'ERE WAS YOU?!?!"
"I didn't know, Coda Monkeyfang, and I should have." Fallagar finally said. "That is to my deep regret."
She took one more step, and then her knees buckled. "Whut..."
"I think, perhaps, after invoking your power twice in one day, you will do better after some sleep." Fallagar said softly, holding a hand to her forehead.
"Dammit, 'at does sound nice..." she admitted, as everything went dark around her, and she collapsed into Terchi's arms.
Styx created by OgreBBQ and Fritz Baugh, and any resemblance to a character created by Steven Moffat is a complete coincidence, you Rutan scum. "Maglubiyet" is a dark god from the World's Most Famous RPG; Avandra is a much nicer goddess from the same.
Advice on Coda and Terchi's accents provided by EGBFan.
Reference made to material from Ars Magica, created by Jonathan Tweet and Mark Rein•Hagen; now owned by Atlas Games save a few concepts owned by White Wolf Games.
Inspiration for the kreen race and their world came from the Dark Sun scenario created by Timothy B. Brown and Troy Demming for the World's Most Famous RPG . The Xorak is inspired by a character designed by Alex Toth for Hanna-Barbera as an alien warlord, later a band leader.