Exalted: Ghost of a Chance

Ghost of a Chance, Part 15

How much is it worth to you?

Faced with limited Resources (“Welcome to Corneria!” “I like puns!”), Pak San-Toki and Stalwart Second left the group to hunt down enough comestibles for the next two weeks for the twelve person crew. The fee they had paid to Shuko had been entirely funded by Jay’s gambling winnings since few of the group had a regular talent with which they made money and Toki, as a Lunar, was used to being self-sufficient. A few days later, with all the supplies ready, they waited only for confirmation that Whispers would accompany them.

Shade and Whispers were both released from their current responsibilities with the Guild and informed that they were to consider traveling to and socializing in Thorns to be their current – and only – mission. Until such time as they were to undertake this mission, their funds and other employment opportunities were to be curtailed. Shade was asked to keep a close eye on Whispers’ dealings while Whispers was cautioned to be sure she shared information with Shade. Clear that her position was somewhat tenuous and yet relieved to be free from the mountain of paperwork, Whispers left the inn with the rest of them at sundown to meet the helldiver known as Deacon.

Deacon appeared to them, a ragged ghost in a black-brimmed had and heavy boots and carrying a long, iron staff. With her Ghost-Seeing Blindfold, Whispers perceived him as the most powerful entity she’d ever encountered. She evaluated him as more powerful even than the nemissary that had been following Shade. All twelve travelers (eleven exalts and a horse, to be precise) were presented the same sales pitch. In exchange for a safe journey through the Labyrinth to Karuth Vlan, Deacon required each traveler to pay in one of three currencies: a possession, a pint of blood, or a night of passion. Whispers and Aruda, one of the Dragon-Blooded, gave a personal possession. Jay and Toki both proffered a night of passion, though Jay unsuccessfully tried to dictate the terms under which he’d pay and Toki also offered a pint of blood. The rest agreed to pay for their passage in blood offered willingly and only when asked.

With the payment settled, Deacon performed a ritual that transported the entire group to the Underworld location corresponding to the blind alley in which they met Deacon. Seven ghost porters whose faces had been moliated to close their mouths and enlarge their ears, eyes and nose waited there to hurriedly repack their gear. One of the porters identified the box Gaias carried with his brother’s remains inside. Deacon proclaimed it was dangerous to bring such a powerful fetter along with them and directed the porter to pack it with non-essential equipment in case the remains had to be left behind.

Demanding his blood payment from Toki, Deacon cast another ritual that caused the street to open into a steep ramp downward. Descending, they found themselves in the Labyrinth. The cave they were in was lit by a vegetable phosphorescence as well as by the magical materials each carried. Whispers Ghost-Seeing Blindfold registered the environment as nothing but blankness and so she removed it and stowed it with her other Artifact. Deacon led them through the cave, populated by bizzare looking and strangely attractive fungi, and listed for them his rules of operation. Among them were “Don’t touch anything,” and “If you get lost, stay put.” Beyond the cave, a howling wind whipped through the tunnels carrying ash and sand and scouring their skin. Deacon informed them that the bulk of their journey would be made through the Cavern of the Prophet.

The Cavern floor was covered with grey sand which blew through the air and obscured vision. The porters tied the travelers around the waists into groups in case of sinkholes. They passed tall, jagged pillars and occasionally the winds would die down for a few breaths before roaring back. After hours of walking, Deacon called a halt to rest and sleep saying that no one need keep watch since he and the porters had lost the mortal’s need for sleep. Upon waking, they saw that several pillars had grown up around their camp. Touching one cause it to explode and send shards of obsidian shrapnel and oozing pus into their group. They decided to remain encamped until Maya could finish using her healing Artifact to tend their wounds.

Hours of walking later brought them to a large hill made of ever shifting ash that Deacon proclaimed was the Prophet. Climbing up the hill, they saw that it was in fact a giant face made of ash that spoke in a strange language in long stanzas before pausing. At each pause, the winds died down only to pick back up with the prophet’s speech. The group left the prophet alone and continued on quickly after they rested. They would rest once more before reached the end of the cavern. The exit was much the same as the entrance, appearing as a tunnel in the rock face. Sand and ash blasted out of the tunnel at incredible speeds only pausing for a few seconds every couple of minutes. The porters tied them into smaller groups of five and each group ran into the tunnel during a lull in the wind. As each group rounded a corner to be safe from the wind, the porters with them urged them on further. Several minutes later the next group would make the run. The last group consisted of Whispers, Shade, Blood Moon (Shade’s barghest Familiar), Sana (a Dragon-Blooded student), and one porter. Shade tripped while running and the rest of the group dragged themselves to safety after experiencing several seconds of blasting wind and paused there to rest. A few minutes later, Deacon made the run through the tunnel and arrived to see them injured and alone. “Where is everyone else?” he asked.

To be continued…

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