Today’s Friday Fiction is a compilation of parts 1 thru 4 of the story so far for our adventurer Corso Blackfall as he tries to negotiate the complicated shadows in the city of Dagger Falls. The story is written by our own squishy human, Jeremy Tully, who looks to make Corso a regular fixture here on our website. Read on and catch up on what you’ve been missing!
“Corso”Parts 1 – 4, Written by Jeremy Tully
Corso’s index fingers twitched, ready to fire the pair of guns currently trained at the back of a guard’s head. “I hate this part,” he thought to himself. With every muscle in his body tensed Corso stood in a shrouded corner, back pressed against a wall.. waiting for a city guard to move on to another part of his patrol. As moments pass the tension only mounts, adding further worry to the already existent storm of shouts running rampant through the back of his brain.
“Why the heck isn’t he moving on? He’s going to end up being overdue for his next checkpoint.. which means trouble.” Every variable Corso went over in his mind just churned up further worry. “I swear, this is the last ‘easy contract’ that I take from those goblin pests.”
After what seemed like a swirling eternity the guard swiveled on his heels and started to march, continuing on with his patrol route. Corso breathed a sigh of relief as a few shreds of stress flaked off the mountain of tension still pressing down upon him. A few steps across the parapet has Corso standing just outside a thick framed window, the only barrier standing between him and his goal. He could hear the clicking crunch of guard boots on the stone walkway as they got farther and farther away. Another survey of his surroundings confirmed it: the coast was clear.
With a snap of his fingers, a bony impish creature standing was before Corso wrapping itself in leathery wings.
“Your command, master?” the creature quietly muttered.
“Scratch, always glad to see you,” responded Corso. “I need you to cover my back, as you always so expertly do. I trust your keen eyes do not mind keeping watch for me?”
“Never a bother, master. I am here to do your bidding.” Scratch stirred with eagerness as he whispered, almost brimming with excitement. Corso stops to ponder how, despite more than three years of training and field experience with the Arcanist Arts, he still gets slightly disconcerted by an imp’s willingness to please a master.
“Keep an eye peeled then please. A quick double tap on the window will be more than enough to signal me if you see anything.. then make yourself scarce. You aren’t here to fight, not this evening.” With a quick wave of his hands the lock for the window quietly clicks open, allowing the window to be silently opened. Bending over and side-stepping through, a dark room awaits him. Reaching his left hand into a jacket pocket, Corso produces a slender pair of wire-rimmed glasses that he unfolds and puts on. Immediately the darkness of the room is washed away, leaving the brilliant colors and textures of a government office to surround him.
“By the gods..”, Corso whispered in quiet amazement. “I need to remember to thank Reimana for making these spectacles. I suspect they will be getting a lot of use.”
The room he stood in was the mid-sized office of a corrupt city official, littered with elaborate furniture, imported decor appointing every available corner and surface of the room. The west wall was composed entirely of bookshelves crammed full of sleek leather bound tomes originating from all corners of the map. Any free inch of space not filled by a book instead was occupied by ceramic knickknacks from points unknown. The walls were just as ostentatious, holding everything from paintings to decorative tribal masks. But Corso wasn’t here for the decor, he had been hired to retrieve a particular log book being kept by this slime of an overseer to track the payoffs being received and distributed out through the ranks of corrupt city guards. A list of names that would be transformed into a hit list by Corso’s employers.
Footstep after silent footstep carried Corso across the center of the room and upto the vast carved oak desk that sat squat against the middle of the north wall. Getting close to the desk, he slides the wire-rim glasses down to the end of his nose, and concentrates.
As his physical eyes begin to close, his astral eyes slowly open. The world around him transforms from the substantial and mundane to the ethereal and transitory… the astral plane. Every real item in the room had a ghostly equivalent on the astral, appearing dull and lifeless in comparison to anything brilliantly glowing with the vibrant energies of life and magic.
“Hmm, interesting” Corso noted as he surveyed the room. A few of the trinkets on the bookshelves had a vibrant glow of magic to them, not so subtle sparkles and swirls that denoted their being imbued with active magic. “All well and good, but I’m not here for dust collectors. I need to find where he’s hiding that book or the twins will have my neck.”
A glance back to the squat oak desk makes a glowing sliver of shimmering energy the focus of his attention. The glowing sliver was emanating from beneath the bottom left drawer on the desk. Corso pulls the bottom drawer out completely and flips it over. There it was, a nice little hole in reality.. hidden on the bottom side of a drawer. Peering in through the opening, Corso could see a dimly lit pocket of existence… with a book floating within! Another astral peek reveals a spell bound across the opening. “Alarm. Damn! I remove the book from the pocket dimension, an alarm goes off. If I just take the giant heavy drawer with me it still goes off.”
A voice whispered in the back of Corso’s mind: “Master, a guard is due back around on his patrol in a matter of moments.”
“Understood Scratch. Things are about to get crazy so be ready for anything,” Corso communicated back to his imp minion.
Breathing deep, Corso readied himself. With lightning reflexes he darted his left hand into the dimensional opening, pulled the desired book out and immediately sunk it into a deep pocket inside is jacket. No sooner had Corso drop the heavy oak drawer then all of the lamps within the room light up. The wooden drawer hits the floor with a solid thud just as the sound of footsteps and shouts come from just beyond the door on the east wall of the room. As he began to move across the room, picking up speed as he headed for the open window, Corso drew both of his black powder pistols.
Three quick blasts of light and smoke fill the room, each bringing an angry orc guard in tow. With two guards flanking him and one now directly in front of him (blocking his open window exit), some quick thinking would need to be done. Thankfully a little advanced planning was done, putting more than a few tricks up Corso’s leather jacket sleeves.
Corso swivelled both of his guns, bringing them to bear on the guard directly in front of him. A quick pop from each gun is immediately followed by a deafening blast, the sound of two Thunderclap bullets striking an guard squarely in the chest.
The resulting thunderous explosion blows all of the office’s windows out, shooting the target guard out of the opening behind him like a gopher being fired from a catapult. Corso continued his charge diving head first out the window, into the waiting embrace of a twenty story fall into the shadowy depths of the city below. Corso spun his body around in mid-fall to look back behind him, seeing the menacing visage of the orc Tragonus leaning out of a devastated office window.
“I will get you, human!” screamed Tragonus. “If it’s the last thing I do in this life, I will pick my teeth with your BROKEN BONES!”
“Scratch, I need you!”
Corso was pacing a section of wooden floor in a dingy warehouse on the darker side of town in Dagger Falls. He wasn’t quite sure which would go first, the wooden floorboards or the soles of his leather boots. If the twins didn’t get here soon he’d end up finding out. The sound of a door knob clicking from the far side of the warehouse causes Corso to react, drawing his guns without thought. With both barrels aimed at the entry, he is ready to fire at a moment’s notice. The door opens slowly, with a small leathery green hand wrapping around the edge. “So help me Corso if you shoot me again, my brother and I will be very upset!”
“Thode, damn it what took you and Boog so long?”, asked Corso. “I’ve been waiting for over two hours!”
“We had to ditch a tail. I thought someone had started following us in the Market District and after that high profile stunt you pulled we couldn’t be too careful,” muttered Boog, trying to conceal his obvious frustration over the situation. They had paid for a quiet job, but instead a busy city street gets showered with breaking glass and falling bodies. Not exactly subtle by any stretch of the imagination.
Corso holsters his pistols slowly, keeping an eye on the door behind the twins as Thode closes it. “Well if you think we might have watchers, let’s get some privacy.” With the wave of a hand Corso throws up a magical barrier that lines every surface inside the room with a transparent blue glow. The wooden floor shimmers with the paper thin sheet of the mana that covers it, almost hiding the years of wear and tear. The door is slammed shut behind Thode by the magical barrier securing the room.
“Show off,” muttered Boog as he tries to hide his approval of Corso’s precautions.
“Let’s cut the small talk and get down to brass tacks,” said Corso. “There were security precautions in that office that you didn’t tell me about, not to mention the fact that they had a strike squad of city guards waiting to teleport. They got into that room far faster than they should have been able to… and let’s not even talk about the reinforcements that appeared on the outside ledge that I had to blast my way through. They…”
“They were expecting you,” interrupted Thode. “The contact that sold us the security information turned up dead just before midnight, right as you were busting your way out of a twenty story window. By the time we found this out, it was already too late to warn you.” As Thode spoke, his brother Boog paced the back of the room, his aura blasting a strong emotional combination of frustration and panic across the astral space that surrounded him.
“Contact dead? Who got to her?”
“Well from the combined look of fear and pain frozen on her face I would say it has to be the Inquisitors, and if that’s the case this means that the High Council is involved somehow. Those brain scramblers don’t get dispatched unless city security is perceived to be somehow threatened.”
Corso bristled, something was wrong and he could feel it. Closing his eyes, he focused on the magical barrier that currently enveloped he and his compatriots. Searching every inch of the magical surface… and there it was; a subtle push on the astral plane.
“West wall, someone is pushing the barrier,” Corso says calmly. As he opened his eyes he looks down to see both of his guns drawn, locked and loaded.
“Scratch, Crawl, I need you both here,” Corso thought to his imp minions. Immediately after that thought two quick blasts of smoke pop at the back of the room. Scratch and Crawl, both slender bony imps, stepped out from the smoke to stand at their master’s side.
“Gah!” Thode almost falls over reacting to the sounds of the imps’ sudden appearance. “Damn it, warn us first man!”
“Get ready, we have company coming. Someone is outside the west wall pushing the barrier. If they know I’ve cast the barrier, then it’s only a matter of time before reinforcements arrive,” explained Corso. “While I have a few tricks up my sleeves and the support of Scratch and Crawl, even I can’t hold off the Inquisitors.”
Crawl, a wingless Rattler Imp with wiry limbs and clawed fingers, quickly glanced at the west wall of the room, letting out a throaty hiss. “Master, they are here!”
“So help me Corso you’d better have some escape plan up your sleeve or we are going to be very underwhelmed,” hissed Boog while drawing a pair of well-worn short swords. An identical pair, with the blade of each one layered in crimson stains and blotches representative of their heavy use in combat. Boog’s brother Thode produced a weapon as well, pulling a medium length iron bat from a slender backpack.
“Relax gents,” boasted Corso, “after all you did pay for quality talent.”
Thode lets out a disbelieving snort, earning him quick glances of aggravation from both imps. Just moments after, a hissing noise starts to slowly fill the west side of the room… quickly earning the attention of everyone inside.
“What the heck is that noise ?”
“Acid if I had to guess,” replied Corso. “Unless I have overestimated Lieutenant Tragonus’s grudge-holding capabilities, he is standing just beyond that wall shouting at his underlings to work faster. Orcs can be so predictable sometimes.” At that moment the western barrier wall began to slowly buckle, sputtering a shower of energetic blue sparks across the imps. Beyond the translucent barrier a small hole could be seen appearing in the wood about three feet up the wall. Thick bubbling green acid immediately pours out of the ever expanding hole in the west wall, causing the barrier to further sputter and pop in an effort to express it’s distress.
“Crawl, Scratch.. can the both of you maintain the barrier while my associates and I make an escape?” Corso directed his question to both of his minions as a thought, getting a single quiet thought in response.
“Of course, master.”
Kneeling down, Corso waved his hands in unison across a section of the wooden floor in front of him. Boog and Thode both focused their attention on Corso’s actions, slightly perplexed by his seemingly composed nature. The section of flooring starts to warp and swirl, suddenly pulling away into nothingness with a ‘woosh’ followed by a sudden sharp pop that would normally bury any unprepared witness’s eardrums deep within their skulls.
Corso stood back up, now with his feet just barely hanging over the lip of a magical portal to… somewhere else. Somewhere far away from any angry orcs, hopefully.
“Gents,” Corso said, waving at the portal on the floor. “Our escape route awaits. At the rate my barrier is getting punished by the guards outside I heavily recommend we make a hasty departure.” No sooner had he finished his statement than Boog and Thode both leap feet first into the swirling portal entrance, putting great faith in Corso’s spell-casting talents in the process.
Glancing at both of his imp minions, Corso gets a knowing nod in return from them. The maintaining of the barrier guarding the room is passed to Crawl and Scratch, immediately after which Corso jumps through his portal and snaps it shut behind him.
Scratch waves a bony finger at Crawl, hissing out a command. “We have to give our master at least two minutes of cover, so the trail on his portal cannot be traced. No matter the cost, we must guard his retreat!”
The din of noise got louder and louder, expanding the hole in the western wall and exposing a contingent of guards standing just beyond it. The voice of an angry orc, embodying pure rage and contempt, bellows out from this new entry way and through the magical barrier.
“Corso Blackfall I will skin you alive if I get my hands on you!”
The barrier buckles and fails under duress, spitting out it’s last breath as a shower of sparks across the room. As guards begin to pour in through their newly created doorway, a gout of flames belches out from Crawl’s mouth. The first wave of guards immediately fall to the flames, their bodies creating a burning pile for each subsequent set of guards to hurdle in order to enter the warehouse. This tactic buys enough time for the minions to immediately depart, vanishing in a pair of smoke clouds as they jet across the astral to follow their master’s call.
A resounding thud denotes Corso, Boog and Thode all being unceremoniously dumped out of a magical portal into the middle the floor. A quick glance around by Corso immediately puts his mind at ease.
“Thank the gods. Right location.”
As the three individuals stood up to look around, they took in all the details of their surroundings. They found themselves in a dark wood panel room with a simple dirt floor, currently being lit by a single firefly lantern hanging from the middle of the ceiling. Piled high along every available inch of wall space were sealed wooden crates or burlap sacks, all marked with symbols from almost every language across the map. The room was cool and dry, with a slight smell of perfume piercing the otherwise slight musk permeating the air. The south corner of the room was punctuated by an open doorway that led into complete darkness beyond.
Out of the gloomy doorway came the sudden appearance of two glowing red eyes.. peering in at there interlopers within the room. Corso stepped in front of Boog and Thode, stretching his arms out wide in a show of respect.
“Reimana, I know you are supposed to be in the middle of communing with your animal totem but we need your help.”
A deep thunderous growl slowly crawled out from the doorway and wrapped itself around the legs of the interlopers, causing the dirt floor to shake slightly beneath their feat. Thode, with iron club in hand, slowly starts backing away from Corso and into the first available room corner he can find. A quick hiss from Thode causes his brother Boog to follow suite. The rumbling growl deepens sharply just as a massive shape of black fur and teeth lunges out of the doorway within the blink of an eye.
Before he can even breath Corso finds himself pinned to the floor by a female wood elf, trying her best to stifle an impending giggle fit. “CORSO!” squeals Reimana as her long dark hair was doing its best to choke Corso.
Corso was quite sure he heard (another) rib pop the moment he hit the floor, but he wasn’t about to give Reimana the pleasure of knowing that. “Get off me before you wrinkle my outfit!” The slender grace that was Reimana the Black Bear Shaman stands up, assisting Corso to his feet in the process. Corso, holding the left side of his rib cage, lets out a frustrated groan.
“I hate it when you do that!”
Boog and Thode, both in fight-ready stances, stood with their weapons drawn as an ever building look of confusion crawled across their faces. “What the HECK is going on here?!” Pointing a slender elven finger their direction, Reimana belted out an exclamation: “You two button your lips, this entire problem is most likely your fault!”
The tension in the room quickly built, suddenly being shattered by the loud ‘pop’ of an imp appearing from a puff of smoke in the middle of the room. Crawl emerges from smoke, with important news for his owner.
“Master, Tragonus has been detained, your trail has been successfully concealed. But there was another with him, the Inquisitor Ifdra.”