The Blooded Company

The Returner

Uncle sat in his conference room with the three representatives of the Invincible Overlord’s religious will present. Good news, everyone, he began, “I believe I’ve found a way around this impasse.”

“Oh?” the cleric of Odin asked first.

“Yes, tell us what way you’ve thought of,” the second cleric, from the Hellbridge temple grumbled.

Uncle cracked a wide, denture filled smile as his liver spots shined in the light. “Well, your concern is that we are showing possibly heretical material over the palantirs, such as with the whole Zargon incident.” The weather still hadn’t stabilized to its normal routine, three days after. “So we shall do two things!”

“First,” Uncle continued, “we shall hire two announcers, one male and one female. The male one shall be someone with charisma and a soothing voice to help citizens either get excited or relax in the face of potentially bothersome material. He shall narrate the whole experience of watching the Blooded Company. The female shall have legs she can walk on, a nice voice, and fill out a sweater appropriately.”

The cleric of Odin cocked a brow. “How does that help prevent heresy?”

“Oh, it doesn’t,” Uncle replied, “but it will certainly drive up my viewership, and thus demand for advertisements.” He paused to clear his throat, then continued with: “As for reducing heresy, we will have a group of priests on hand at all times who can help edit material seen on the stream by introducing a 45 second delay. Shouldn’t be too bad.”

“And what shall we call this new body?” the Hellbridge priest grumbled.

“Since you will all share responsibility equally to prevent heresy, I propose the board of appointed priests be known as the Federated Clerics Commission, or FCC for short.”

“It is done,” the priests agreed.

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Mutants of the Roglaroon: Asteria

Asteria put her book down and rubbed her eyes. Everything had changed. A prophet, her? She lied her way through the application for this assignment, she had no people leading skills! Now she had to convince the Invincible Overlord to let Mycr’s people go?

The elf squared her shoulders – He chose her, maybe the Unknown One knew what He was doing. Perhaps starting small would help.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A sign, scratched and showing signs of frequent repainting, hung above the mangey goblin’s head. A few new words glowed slightly, with an almost holy light.

WE WILL DO ANYTHING FOR THE RIGHT REASON.
ANYTHING.

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Mutants of the Roglaroon

Dear Most Beneficent Tyrant, Whose Magnanimity Strides Hand in Hand With His Pomposity and Brutality, the Invincible Overlord:

We are pleased to report a tax burden to Your Most Invincible Highness. Our Client, the Dwarves of Thunderhold, contracted with us (through you) to recover their lost god-body of Emig XXV (the source of your state secret, the Autocannon). This action was to be completed at a total cost of 9,533 gold, 3 silver, and 1 copper, less 200 gold for expenses. Employees were paid 1,000 gold a person (after tax).

Enclosed is 2000 gold in tax paid to our benefactor, the Invincible Overlord.

Thank you.

-Uncle

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Departing Discussion

“So…”

“So.”

“You work for… the Leanansidhe…?”

“It’s not really a work relationship. It’s more… familial? No, that’s not right either, but it’s closer.”

“Right.”

[Remote data request logged. Accessing. 18296 hits found. Sorting according to relevance. Returning top 3 hits.]

Linos shifted as knowledge poured into his brain. “And the queen of Karn has a similar… relationship with her?”

“I assume so. Certainly, we both have a relationship with the Lady, but I can’t say that they’re exactly the same. We’re different people after all.”

[Remote data request logged as filter on previous request. 738 hits found. Sorting according to relevance. Returning top 3 hits.]

His face showed a faint hint of distaste. “Ah. Of course.”

“Don’t you have a similar arrangement with your… mentor?” Vivian grinned at him.

“What?”

“Come on. It’s obvious your powers aren’t natural. I mean, you’re an Amazon. Amazon men don’t normally go around breathing fire and lightning, because if they did, then Amazon women wouldn’t hold all that power over them that you’re constantly griping about.”

“Now look here! The repression of the matriarc…”

“Blah, blah, blah! I’ve heard that one already. We all have. More than once. I’m just saying that you’ve been marked by a Power much as I have, and there’s no point in denying it.”

Linos muttered something unheard. “Well, yes,” he answered.

“See!” Vivan beemed. “That wasn’t so hard.”

“Perhaps. You are persuasive.”

“It’s a gift.”

[Remote data request logged as filter on original request. 546 hits found. Sorting according to relevance. Returning top 3 hits.]

“Indeed.” Linos’s eyes narrowed. His fingers began tapping on each other.

“Oh stop that!” Vivian rolled her eyes and rose from her seat. “It looks like the captain is going to let us board now. Come on! I’ve never been on a ship before.”


The Great Wyrm examined the bank of crystals carefully. Runes glowed in the air just over their surface, cataloging the activity taking place within. The link seemed stable, secure, and efficient. He shifted, satisfied that the system was working as intended. The change he had wrought in the mortal’s mind and body had enabled his servant to take on and store—locally—a vast amount of data. However, the true achievement was harnessing the magic of this world to forge a link between that local cache and the crystals here, granting access to information that dwarfed anything else on the planet. Not that these crystals held that data. No, they were more of a proxy used to access something far, far greater…

If it worked out, and there were no deleterious side effects, then the Wyrm just might venture a connection himself. That was, after all, what he had been working towards all these centuries. While the possibilities were not exactly endless, there was more than sufficient potential residing in what amounted to a database whose size could be measured in…. googles.


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The Bride of Karn

From deep within a dank, moist den, where powerful magics and psionics were all that kept the waters from crushing a long lost keep, an aberrant being sat brooding in the dark. Tadpole-like larva slithered about his feet in the half inch of water. “Interesting,” the thing from the dark whispered in a slimy, coiled voice.

“When Caizel set foot in this world so close to my home, I felt it…” he continued in his slithering monologue, with naught but sea devils about to hear him. “The fact that she underestimated these little humans… and things… means they might be worth something. I bet they’d be delicious little things. Possibly even wonderful little reproductive runts.”

“Go, my sea devils. Bring me something to play with, before the beasts of chaos begin to overwhelm the she-devil’s old home.”

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The Steel Quarry

My Lady Seductress of the Lower Planes, I Bid You Greetings,

It seems we have had trouble at the Steel Quarry. Your enemies made a detour there and disrupted our supply lines within EMIG’s body. They prevented the catastrophic destruction we had hoped his wrath would bring, but… all is not lost! The fools still continue to walk into our trap in Karn and will make a fine red paste in your courts but soon.

-Malchazadaoria

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Linos and Vivian

Vivian let herself drop into the disturbed blankets of her bed, exhausted from the desperate fight and repeated wounds she had taken during the course of that combat. It was, for now, over—the enemy deceived and departed rather than defeated—and the others had gone to their own rooms for rest. She turned, raising herself to blow out the one remaining candle when…

“Dear child, do not rise on my account.”

The tall female figure lounged indolently on the padded lid of a chest set against the far wall of the small room. Her hair was dark red and arrayed in long, wild ringlets about her shoulders. It was cast back from her face, though, revealing sharp cheekbones and over-large eyes of icy blue. Her lips were twisted in a mischievous smirk to match the slightly mocking tone in her words. Her voice was surprisingly deep for one so feminine, although not so much as to be bizarre. Her lithe frame was clad in a forest-green gown embroidered with gold thread. Her head was cocked to one side as if listening, and her manner was slightly… distracted.

The preoccupied look vanished from her face, and the Leanansidhe rose, her dismissive gesture giving the lie to the implication of her mocking words. Vivian slumped back. Her visitor, however, did not approach, but instead glided over to where Vivian had faced the demon, reaching down to where the dwarves’ inept attempts at cleaning had missed a spot of Vivian’s blood. The Leanansidhe’s finger dipped down and rose again, stained crimson.

“Dear, sweet, sweet child,” she murmured. “So foolish to have been caught unawares, but wise in the use of the weapons you had. Do not presume that you’ve gained anything but a temporary respite.” Her lips closed over the tip of her finger, and the fey’s face melted in obvious pleasure. “You have attracted a most dangerous admirer. I could grow jealous.”

“We wouldn’t want that,” Vivian ventured.

“Indeed not,” the fey replied, now moving to where Vivian still lay. “I have given you a measure of power already. Now, dear child, receive another gift.” She bent, kissing Vivian’s brow with lips that burned cold. Vivian felt power run through her like a sudden chill wind. “And this time,” whispered the sidhe, “be better prepared.”

Then, she was gone.


WHAT? WHO? LINOS. THIS IS NOT THE APPOINTED HOUR.

There was the sense of a massive intellect rousing itself from… sleep?

“Master, I have much to report.”

THIS HAD BEST BE IMPORTANT.

“I believe so, Master.” Linos summarized the events of the evening.

HM. YOU DID WELL TO REPORT. THERE ARE POWERS MOVING AROUND YOU, AND THEY HAVE INTEREST IN THIS YOUNG WOMAN. FOR NOW, WATCH, OBSERVE, AND PROTECT THE WOMAN SO LONG AS THE COST IS NOT TOO GREAT.

AND LINOS

“Yes, Master?”

THAT THING YOU DO WITH YOUR FINGERS. YOU ARE NOT A REPUBLIC SERIAL VILLAIN. AND IT’S ANNOYING. STO

The “voice” suddenly ceased. ANOTHER IS HERE. SHE MAY BE ABLE TO LISTEN. REPORT AGAIN ACCORDING TO THE NORMAL SCHEDULE.

The sense of his Master vanished.

What in the Nine Hells was a… Republic Serial?

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Blood and Thunder

My Lady Seductress of the Lower Planes, I Big You Greetings,

Our subject is incubating on schedule. Soon the enth dimensional facet within Tsothogga’s Jewel will bear fruit and the mutant slaadi will be ready. I believe that once you have completed mining your weapons from the Steel Quarry and utilizing Emig XXV’s body for our own purposes, we shall have an army which even Kotestichi and Baphomet would shudder in terror of. Perhaps one even worthy of the ancient Markrab Empire.

Production will continue on schedule in Karn.

-Malchazadaoria

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Transformation

Linos again sits on the dirty floor of his room, legs crossed and eyes staring unfocussed at the wall. Slowly, slowly he blocks out all the distractions: the noise from downstairs, the drunken argument from the room next to his, the creaking of the roof in the slight breeze, the smell. Slowly, his mind concentrates on the cheap-looking locket he wears on a leather thong around his neck.

Then the connection is made.

A cold, massive intellect surrounds him, and a voice like thunder addresses him.

AH. MY SERVANT. REPORT.

“My Master, we sought an… item from worshipers of the Frog God:”

He sends a burst of images of the Frog God’s temple.

“It was procured on behalf of this woman:” Again the images flew through the aether.

FASCINATING. THAT ONE WAS MORE THAN SHE SEEMED. A PITY YOU DID NOT HAVE THE REQUISITE WIT TO SEE MORE THAN THE SURFACE, BUT IT SEEMS YOU HAVE BEEN EXERCISING YOUR MIND AS I COMMANDED.

“Obedience is life, Master.”

YES. IT IS. AND NOW, IT IS TIME I GRANT YOU FURTHER UNDERSTANDING.

“Yes, Master.”

PREPARE YOURSELF. I WILL GRANT YOU A CONNECTION TO A PORTION OF MY OWN KNOWLEDGE. YOU WILL FIND IT CONFUSING, EVEN PAINFUL AT FIRST. OVERCOME THIS.

“Yes, my Master. I hear and obey.”

Pain. Pain beyond belief that slowly, slowly recedes.

Linos smiles as he raises himself from the floor where he had collapsed. Everything was now… clear.

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The Frog God's Jewel

Dear Most Beneficent Tyrant, Whose Magnanimity Strides Hand in Hand With His Pomposity and Brutality, the Invincible Overlord:

We are pleased to report a tax burden to Your Most Invincible Highness. Our Client, Caizel of Pazunia, contracted with us to recover a jewel from the Mermist Swamps. This jewel was to be garnered at a total cost of 7,000 gold. Employees were paid 750 gold a person (after tax).

Enclosed is 1500 gold in tax paid to our benefactor, the Invincible Overlord.

Thank you.

-Uncle

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