Nine Men Out

Sophie awakens face flat on the floor of observation with no idea how she got there or when she passed out.

Meanwhile, Mal and Hanos sit with the prisoners in the hanger bay. The inmates have few possessions but ask to bring them along. For the best interests of all involved, the prisoners are asked to reveal everything they are taking. Hanos locates a small box that radiates moderate divination. Hauser mentions it was found among the remains of a imprisoned priestess who looked like Celia, but who had red eyes instead of white.

Hanos contacts Xax, but Xax has his hands full with an audience of Sophie, Zyn, and Azura. Zyn pulls rank first and questions Xax about how long she was unconscious, revealing a nightmare she could not wake from. Something in the darkness kept her bound and trapped, piercing her fleshing and drawing her blood while asking her to talk without asking any questions. She remembers limbs, mouths, and a sticky pudding-like texture. She kept up her mental defense as best she could and, after a while, shut everything out but still couldn’t wake up till just then.

Azura refuses to talk to Xax while Sophie and Zyn are present. When Xax insists their conversation will be private, she storms off to Hanos. Xax goes out after Azura (leaving Zyn to let Sophie out of Xax’s warded cabin) to see what Hanos has found inside the box: a transparent orb containing a crystalline spider with a red mark on its abdomen. Azura advises Master Hanos the object could be cursed; Mal take possession of the orb while Xax settles accounts with Hanos concerning Azura.

In Hanos’s cabin, Xax inquirers about possible motives for the tattooed man, including cloning. Taking the opportunity, Azura reveals her cursed nature, the “false” image of a skeletal being with only blue eyeballs for flesh. Xax shows his nature to her as well, formally striking an understanding. Xax suggests that Hanos and Azura takes the “blades” out to another part of the prison to attempt to assess or destroy the orb.

Mal asks Xax to watch the prisoners. When asked why, Mal wants to examine the bodies in guard area with Celia, Xax tells him to do his duty instead. Miffed but still determined, Mal obeys until he can get a chance later.

Meanwhile, Hanos takes his group to Level Four. Inside a random cell with Azura holding a scroll (just in case) and the blades just outside, Hanos commands the orb as a would a crystal ball.When he tries to make an image of Thald appear, he surprisingly finds that it works! He then looks for Sterl, finding and image of him as well.

Taking a different approach, Hanos asks the orb a question directly. An entity identifies itself as “the Maker,” claiming to be capable of creating a world and that it “lives to serve.” As if to prove its loyalty,the image in the orb changes to a falcon symbol with red eyes. After withdrawing, Azura suggests not to use the orb and, in fact, to leave it behind. Unable to return to the hanger level, Hanos decides to check out the unexplored trash level…

Finally having a moment to himself, Xax meditates and updates the brothers. He discusses his ideas about cloning and transferring bodies. The brothers suggest having each examine one another instead of self since the experience was so similarly shared.

Sophie spends a while in forward observation, trying to figure out what happened to her. Detecting magic reveals nothing to her, so she goes to Zyn about her experience. With her permission, Sophie detects magic upon Zyn, finding a transmutation magic visible through the back of Zyn’s shirt. Upon investigation, Zyn has a complex tattoo of mystic origin across her upper back that was not there before her disappearance. Stripping to the waist, Sophie has the same markings on her back as well. Zyn calls in Xax, who in turn calls in both Celia and Mal (leaving Darger to guard the prisoners.) All of them have the same tattoo. Xax goes to look for Hanos…

Hanos, Azura, and Lochlan appear on trash level only to discover a shaft instead of a floor! The group falls ten feet into a gelatinous mass not dissimilar from the “nightmare” Zyn described, with limbs and mouths. Fortunately, the thing seems to be dormant but seems to be breathing. Hanos has Azura cast the spell on the scroll he gave her to create a sphere of force to protect them.

At that moment, Xax attempts to teleport using the pad device to Level Four, only to find Raylen waiting for Hanos (who never reappeared.) Thinking quickly, Xax assembles rescuers on Level Four before using his ectoplasmic form to seek out the trash level. Discovering what trouble Hanos and company are in, Xax works out a plan by scrawling instructions in slime on the sphere to Hanos. Azura drops the sphere as instructed, allowing Xax to teleport Azura and Lochlan to safety.

Upon returning to Hanos alone in on the trash level, Xax learns that his last teleport exhausted the charges on his amulet. Fortunately, Celia has no issue using her shadow walk to get Hanos out.

Making preparations to depart the next morning, Xax uses his abilities to determine truths and asks each of the nine inmates what their previous crimes were. Most seemed benign, but two stood out: one for cannibalism, the other for impersonating an elven officer. The Last Born discuss the fates of the two, granting either a quick death or imprisonment. The starved cannibal begs for release, which Mal obliges. The impersonator maintains his innocent to the last, opting for imprisonment once again, this time alone until his death…

CONTINUE READING WITH “Paradise Planet”

Session XP: 2125 per player

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About Kevin A. Ranson

Content Creator, Horror Writer, Film Critic. Heeding a macabre calling listening to "Mother Ghost Nursery Rhymes" in kindergarten, Kevin started writing in grade school and filled countless notebooks with story ideas while touring the Mediterranean in the US Navy. He is the author of The Spooky Chronicles and the vampire thriller series The Matriarch, creator/critic for MovieCrypt.com and "ghost writer" for horror host Grim D. Reaper. WEBFACEBOOKTWITTER
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