Vol. 121: The Rescue of Braunon: Answers
The pain and fear racking Oslo's body caused him to break the psionic connection with his twin brother. It was just as well, because all of them connected to his vision upon the Acro were being consumed by fear themselves. More than this he was no longer invisible. He writhed in a ball near the cage of adventurers unable to concentrate on anything but despair.
But then he made eye contact with 2 elves in the cage near him. Something about this helped him focus somehow. It seemed it was having the same effect on the elves. The shock of being visible and the shock of seeing someone outside of their cell seemed to be novel enough to them all to give the mind some diversion.
One of the elves reached out to the vampire and touched him. Their minds connected. This was a Destiny Elf. A fellow psionic. A connection formed between them easily.
"Who are you?" the elf said in Oslo's mind. Oslo hesitated.
"I have come here looking for answers." Oslo finally responded. He was naturally distrusting and without the others aboard the Acro to support him he was unsure what he should say. Or not say...
"Answers?" the elf said with a slightly angry tone. But then he glanced toward one of the white Trementians. He then looked back at Oslo. "If you are discovered here you will never have answers. Let me shield your mind. When this session of torture is over return, and we will give you what answers we can." Their eyes locked in a way only two psionics can. After a brief moment Oslo nodded.
Instantly Oslo felt psionic power pouring into him. It wrapped around his mind and began to shield it. Soon he felt himself free to move again and he turned back on his invisibility. As he moved away from the cage slightly, he could hear the destiny elf is his mind, "And be sure that we will want answers as well." But with that the elves power seemed to be drained and Oslo watched him go fetal rocking in pain with the others. The Injured Swaft in the cage writhed as if being electrocuted. Blood and fog sputtered from her flailing body.
Oslo could feel his brother trying to reconnect with his mind. But Oslo waited. His mind was protected for the moment but what if this psionic shield failed. Would he fall under the Ghosli's mental despair again? Instead, he steeled himself and tried to wait it out. How long could this assault continue?
Quite a while it would seem. But after about 10 minutes Oslo could see the Ghosli themselves were starting to weaken. This attack against so many victims at once had to be draining. But it was also terrifyingly impressive. 2 of these spiked Ghosi could do this to such a large mass?! The ramifications were staggering.
But soon they did run out of power. The magical darkness subsided. But the shrieks continued. The Ghosi lowered their arms looking spent. Their entire bodies were covered in sweat. One of them leaned his hand onto a wall to steady himself. They were spent. Slowly they made their way back to the huge steel doors. They said nothing as they left. But what would they say? The cries of the victims filled the room and flooded out into the ship as the massive doors opened and shut for their exit.
By now Oslo could sense an almost panicked urgency in his brother's telepathic call. He finally relented to it. Norsan shouted at him in his mind.
"Finally! What the Oblivion happened in there?" Oslo could sense the worry in his brother's voice. Soon they were all reconnected through Raine. Oslo leaned back and allowed himself a sigh.
"It was... to much to explain at the moment. I’ll give you all a full report when I can." Oslo now looked toward the center cage. While the prisoners all around them continued to cry and scream they had all but composed themselves. Impressive Oslo thought to himself.
Those aboard the Acro seemed to be all trying to ask questions at once. Well, that and curse at Oslo for subjecting them to that terrible psionic backlash. But before any of them could speak they could hear Oslo being summoned.
"Vampire!" one of the warriors in the cage shouted. Oslo looked up at him slightly but showed no emotion. The warrior continued. "I have questions for you."
"WE have questions for you." the centaur said eyeing the warrior and standing erect. The warrior huffed slightly.
Oslo stood and moved toward the cage. Those aboard the Acro fell silent waiting to watch this interaction. But just as Oslo reached the cage one of the elves broke in.
"Kaylynn is dying!" the elf spoke in a high tone. Both elves now knelt over the Swaft's body, their hands glowing trying to mend the wounds, but it was beginning to look hopeless.
The others in the cage gathered around the Swaft's body. Most of them looked sullen. A warrior put her hand on the Destiny Elves' shoulder. "You did all you could." she said.
Rainie suddenly spoke up. "Oslo you can save her!" But Oslo made no move to do so. It was true he could but why should he bother. This Swaft was not part of the mission. Norsan actually laughed.
"Why give our blood freely when we make a fortune off it with the Bloodspring we sell?" Norsan said. The O-Boy triplets laughed as well.
Raine was furious but remained diplomatic. "We want answers from these people, right? Right now, they are our best shot at finding Braunon!" This gave the vampires pause. "Save the Swaft's life and they will be indebted to us."
This made vampire logic. So, Oslo sauntered up to the edge of the cage. "Bring the Swaft here." Oslo said to the caged adventurers.
"So you can have an easy meal?" one of the elves said angrily.
"If you want her to live bring her here. Now." Oslo said defiantly. "I would wager she only has moments left to live."
There was only a moment of hesitation as those in the cage exchanged looks, but then they moved her, quickly but gently, to the side of the cage. But even this moment sent a spray of blood and fog from the Swaft. Most of it splattered onto the Destiny Elf's face. What a waste Oslo thought to himself...
But as Oslo bent down to her, she stopped breathing. A huge cloud of fog and vapor went up from her mouth. "You are to late vampire." the other elf said falling back looking defeated. Olso simply glanced at her as he sliced his own finger open with a fingernail. A heavy drop of almost black-red blood hung from his finger.
"Not yet." Oslo said reaching down roughly opening her mouth. "She has only the look of death. But the spark of life still exists inside of her." With that Oslo allowed his blood to drip down into her mouth. A steady stream of it now filled her mouth.
"Come on Kaylynn! Live!" the centaur all but shouted leaning in close. Kaylynn's mouth was filled to spilling over with vampire blood. Oslo reached down and massaged her throat. She swallowed. There was silence. Even the wailing in the cells around them seemed to die down to a few paltry whimpers. Those in the cage around her held their breath.
A long moment passed. Then. The Swaft sat upright with a mighty gasp. She clutched her chest and fog poured from her mouth and wounds. They all watched as her wounds began stitching together. Those inside the cage were quite amazed. Oslo and Norsan shared a coy smile.
"You may find she's quite fascinated with vampires for the next few weeks." Oslo said dismissively licking his own finger sealing the wound. "But then again you all should be." Oslo chuckled. The vampires onboard the Acro laughed as well.
The centaur picked up Kaylynn and hugged her. "Hey!" she said loudly. "I'm only just healed!" But she already looked like a new Swaft. Well. Physically. She was still dirty and wearing bloody rags like many of them were.
"And now to questions Oslo said leaning against the cage smugly. He looked like a proud cat waiting for a treat. Nonetheless a dialogue began.
Over the next few hours questions and answer flew back and forth. Mostly with Oslo and those aboard the Acro asking the questions and those in the cage answering. It was in this way that they learned these bizarre white Trementians called themselves the Ghosli. They seemed to be willing slaves to the Xerxes. Specially designed to break the will of their prisoners. When asked how long they had been on this ship some asked for the Multiversal Standard Date. Some of them cursed when they heard. Some of these adventurers claimed they had been prisoner here for a year or more! Prisoners came and went. New Prisoners were placed here near the center of this room and as they were broken, they moved towards the outer edges. They seemed to make a prolonged stop once every month or so. This was a rough guess as they had no real way of gauging time. During these pauses most of the prisoners were taken off the ship. They never saw any return, then they would leave. And soon these cages would be full again.
But how were they getting these prisoners? The centaur and Swaft seemed to have an answer for this. They were leading an expedition to a nearly unknown universe. It was also very nearly consumed by Oblivion. Almost all the other ships had left making the jump to other universes escaping the Oblivion. Their group was to be the last to leave. But just as they did, this Trementian ship came out of nowhere. They caught us off guard by appearing disable on their approach. They said they were making an emergency landing. But what could they do? The Oblivion was so close the entire planet they were on was beginning to shake. Oblivion Wraiths began falling from the sky around them. How long could they wait?
As the Trementian ship landed roughly near them, those on the ground ran toward it hoping to render what aid they could. hey had been shouting on all hailing frequencies for the Trementians to immediately abandon ship and to board their ships for escape. They worried if they would be able to get them all on what scant transports they had left. This ship was quite large.
But that was soon not an issue. From all around the Trementian ship Ghosli in spiked gear flooded out of the ship. They unleashed waves of crippling fear onto all of those on the ground. Soon another wave of Ghosli emerged, bolstered by Xerxes. They quickly captured all those around the ship crippled by fear and despair. A few fought back but any who resisted were targeted directly. The full force of 3 or 4 of these spiked Ghosli were insurmountable. And just like that it was over. In under 10 minutes their entire expedition had been captured. As they were leaving, they destroyed the ships and anything else left below. There would be no survivors. They barely escaped themselves from what they could wager. As the centaur and Swaft were being drug aboard the ship they could see Oblivion Wraiths falling like rain all around them. As they were placed into cells bound and weak, they could feel the ship wrestling with the Crawl outside. They were sure they would be consumed by the Oblivion.
But then it was over. They were eventually placed in this center cell with these other adventurers. They had proven resistant to subjugation. Kaylynn tried to attack a Xerxes that strayed too close to the cell one day and got a slashing blow from one of its tentacles to her abdomen. She had been slowly dying for several weeks being kept alive only by the Elves healing magic and psionics.
The rest of them told similar stories of their capture. They always appeared in out of the way universes on the verge of total consumption by the Oblivion. The Trementians were one of the most peaceful and most trusted races in the Multiverse so their calls for distress put any they called upon a desire to help. And then upon landing they used their Blitz Krieg style attack and subdued anyone around.
The oddest part of these encounters was the sheer danger of it all. Each adventurer there told harrowing tales of being nearly captured by the Oblivion during their abduction. But when they discussed it, it did not seem so odd after all. The truth was if this was their M.O. for capturing prisoners they probably WERE losing ships to the Oblivion. But they would not care. It was well known that the Xerxes have zero fear of death. Exploding themselves to avoid capture without hesitation. And these Ghosli seemed to have no love of life either. They existed only to serve the Xerxes. Death was probably a release they longed for. The other part of this equation was that this was such a common scenario. The Oblivion remained the single most studied force in the multiverse. Every race had scientists, wizards, and more launching expeditions to study it at all times. It was extremely dangerous work but one of the few hopes left to people during the Panic was that one day, SOMEONE would figure out how to defeat the Oblivion. The chance to be that hero led many an adventurer to test their luck along the Crawl's writhing edge.
It was common practice to stagger the departure of ships as one left an almost fully consumed universe. This allowed experiments and test to be left until the absolute last second before leaving. Every last shred of data that could be collected was sought after, in the hopes that it would give that final clue on how to stop the Oblivion. They had no idea how vulnerable this made them to attack. These Ghosli would sweep in capturing a 100 or more new prisoners at a pluck. And when these prisoners didn’t return they would be mourned but simply be considered lost to the Oblivion. It was a dangerous game they played. There was no reason for any to question it further.
It still seemed astounding. But the utter recklessness of the Xerxes and Ghosi's attack, added to the extreme danger of studying the Oblivion at close range, produced the perfect storm of obfuscation. Aboard the Acro they all seemed stunned at the audacity of it. Even Raine was in disbelief. But it was the truth. And now they had to find a way to stop it.
About the Illustration: Here we have a Techno-Wizard with a Weird Magic Gun talking to a Robot god! And a cute honey bear and a demon!
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