Tag Archives: Demaria

[SLACK ROLEPLAYING LOG] Diverted #demaria #storytelling #otherspace

Razorback steps out of a hover-vehicle and onto the pavement near the hub of the Demarian government. He looks around, rubbing his tongue against the roof of his mouth in disgust. He steps aside to allow the others to exit the vehicle, his ears cautiously sweeping the city noises for signs of danger.

Moments later, Colclough emerges from the vehicle to stand next to the significantly taller Demarian. He seems relatively untroubled as he taps a glowing blue node under his right ear, activating a shaded holographic lens across the upper half of his face. The display serves a dual purpose: protecting against the glare of Demaria’s twin suns and presenting Colclough with a cascade of vital data.

“Down this street,” the agent says, “and then the third left. We’re looking for Brownfoot’s Saucer in the western market district.”

Whiptail looks around in a bit of awe at the capitol city. “This place shore has grown up a bit.” he says. “Use’ta know it like the back of my paw, probably couldn’t even find the spaceport now.”

The Cliffwalker looks about him with a twinge of memory. “I know the feeling,” he mutters to Whiptail before he sets off down the indicated street. For whatever reason, he might seem to Whiptail to be more on edge than he was out in the wilderness.

That edginess might be justified by the handful of small drones skimming the edge of the market district as the busy afternoon crowds move to and fro. Particularly when cylinders affixed to the bellies of those drones give a soft hiss, releasing their contents in a fine, pine-scented mist that begins a descent toward the unsuspecting citizens below.

Whiptail twitches an ear as he hears the hiss, and looks towards the drones. “What in tarnation? That some new fangled, fancy schmancy city folk deal, sprayin’ air freshener in the market?” he says, looking totally bewildered.

Razorback looks over at Colclough, jerking his muzzle towards the tiny aircraft. “Yours?” he asks tersely, sniffing gently at the air.

“My what?” Colclough’s hearing isn’t quite as highly attuned as the Demarians. He follows Razorback’s snout-pointing. He adjusts the HUD implant via a subvocalized command, zooming in on one of the drones. “No. No ops planned in this area today. Certainly none that involve airborne deployment of…” His voice trails off as something flashes red in his sensor display. “Biological agent. Possibly viral. Unknown origin and lethality.” He activates his commlink: “Colclough to Catnip. Scramble an extraction craft to my location. Fast.” He scans the HUD, checks the wind drift speed. “Wear your hazmats.” He then looks at Razorback and Whiptail, saying, “Bad things afoot. How long can you hold your breath?”

Whiptail widens his eyes. “Ok… so it ain’t air freshener…” he says. “I kin hold mah breath for a while, but I ain’t gonna be able to do it forever.”

“Not much longer than you,” Razorback mutters to Colclough. He glances rapidly around him until he spots an office building with a helipad stories above the street. “There’s your extraction point,” he says, pointing up to it, “And your people must notify the local authorities, start an evacuation immediately.”

Not soon enough, it seems. As Colclough follows his Demarian companions toward the indicated office building, the first victims fall prey to the strange mist. A Demarian female coughs, sneezes, and her bright eyes fill with blood as she becomes enraged. She turns and lunges toward her mate, a male Demarian who *also* has become crazed and bloody-eyed, his jaws frothing. They tear at each other with fangs and claws. Blood splatters sandstone walls.

The violence continues to spread outward, as combatants sneeze and send infected droplets in all directions.

The Consortium Intelligence dropship settles onto the helipad, awaiting the arrival of Colclough, Razorback, and Whiptail.

“Whatever that stuff is, it’s makin’ ’em act like they bin possessed!” Whiptail says, running as fast as he can with what breath he has managed to pull in towards the dropship.

“Lock that door!” Razorback roars to the building receptionist as he races past the desk. A quick glance at the building’s directory points him to the stairs. If the door to the stairwell is locked, he merely tries to blast his weight through it.

Colclough is through the main door as the receptionist and a pair of security guards move to secure it. He turns to watch through the tinted glass wall as homicidal mayhem erupts on the outskirts of the Market District and begins to spread inevitably outward. He sees more drones whirring overhead and decides to stop gawking. He runs after Razorback and Whiptail as they ascend the stairs.

“I hope that there ship is fast, or we’re in fer ah heap o’ trouble!” Whiptail says as he climbs the stairs as fast as possible.

The Cliffwalker keeps glancing back at Colclough to check his progress, perhaps concerned that without him, none of them will leave the rooftop helipad. “One thing at a time, friend,” he calls to Whiptail as he glances at the nearest sign to ascertain what floor he has reached.

About the time they push through the door to the roof, far below the Demarians in particular can hear the shattering of glass and roars of intruders tearing into the lobby of the building.

Colclough’s HUD gets a message that reads: “LOCATION BREACH.” He motions to the waiting craft on the helipad and says, with overstated calm: “We should go.”

“Ya don’t have to tell me twice.” Whiptail says, darting into the dropship as fast as possible. “We better git this thing movin’, or we’re about to have a lot of company and they ain’t gonna be lookin’ to chew the fat with us!”

Razorback slams the door shut behind them once everyone has reached the pad before turning to board the craft himself. “This seems an unlikely coincidence,” he says to Colclough as they climb into the ship.

“The timing does seem rather suspect,” the CIS agent agrees as the dropship lurches from the helipad and arcs away from the building, above the violent chaos in the streets below.

The pilot, a Castori, burbles: “Weapons lock!”

Colclough catches a similar warning in his HUD, turns his attention to a rooftop about a half mile distant. “Evasive!” The Castori tries, and effectively dodges the first rocket-propelled grenade as it roars past the dropship.

But neither the Castori nor Colclough notice a shooter on a different building – a tower not far from the Alhira spaceport, wielding a shoulder-mounted plasma skylancer.

The beam pierces the dropship on a perpendicular, directly into the cockpit, setting the pilot ablaze. Despite his agonized screams, the pilot is still trying to navigate the dropship (poorly) when he slumps over dead from shock. Safety klaxons wail inside the dropship.

The ship starts a gradual descent, passing the outskirts of the city and easing out toward the dunes of the Sandmother.

Whiptail shields his eyes from the blast, but then training from times past kicks in, and he dives for the controls, trying to avoid the burning pilot as much as possible as he tries to wrangle the controls. “It ain’t no bumbler but I’m gonna do what I can to wrangle this thang!”

The Cliffwalker’s ears fold back into his mane as he braces himself in his seat. He marks the land as they pass, trying to keep their position in mind. “You might want to turn off your trackers,” he shouts to Colclough over the wind and fire.

The CIS agent almost doesn’t hear Razorback, so distracted is he by the task of trying frantically – and to no avail – to subvocalize commands across every known agency channel in the hopes of raising assistance. No response is forthcoming, which sparks some alarm in Colclough. When he finally registers what Razorback is saying, his first instinct is to say: “But if we turn off the trackers, no one can find us!” But then that alarm in his head grows a little louder, competing with the one blaring in the cockpit.

He deactivates the trackers in his implants, the green pulsing dot in his HUD goes to a steady, pale blue.

Of course, it all might be moot if the ship crashes and burns in the desert. He gives a nod to Razorback, glances toward Whiptail, genuflects for the first time in about 30 years, and finds a porthole to gaze out of for what might be his final seconds of life.

Whiptail works the control panel frantically, throwing switches as he maintains a grip on the controls. “Damn shot knocked the bumbler shit out of the stabilizers..” he grunts, fighting against the yoke which wants to go in any way other than that which Whiptail is trying to move it. He switches the descent thrusters to manual, and attempts to fire them as needed to maintain course as an augment to the damaged controls.

The Cliffwalker has by now strapped himself in as well as possible, bracing his body against what surfaces he can find. He watches the Sand Mother rushing towards them with a defiant glare. “Take me if you will,” he mutters quietly, “It is long past time.”

Colclough tilts his head as the dropship continues its unsteady descent, then turns his head toward the rear of the passenger cabin. Another quick twitch of his head brings the HUD back up. “Maybe,” he mutters aloud. Subvocally, he transmits: “Activate.”

The vessel’s engines suddenly go silent as the power is rerouted to what appears to be a hexagonal vortex of swirling blue energy.

“Not sure where that goes,” he admits to his fellow passengers, sliding out of his seat and into the aisle. “But it has to be better than what’s waiting in the desert. Or anywhere else on Demaria right now.”

With that, he passes through the portal with a hiss and a pop. The vortex swirls as the shuttle deepens its descent, threatening to spiral out of control.

Whiptail is taken aback at this turn of events, but he knows a useless situation when he sees it. Letting the yoke fall back to neutral, he heads for the vortex. “Without them engines, this thang is gonna fall faster than a freakin’ brick.” he says, looking back to the vortex. “Best take m’ chances in thar..” with that, he dives through the vortex.

The Cliffwalker just stares at the vortex for an excruciatingly long few seconds, almost as if contemplating just going down in the crash. “Sands,” he spits finally, then looks out the porthole at the approaching desert, “Another time, then.” And he jumps through.

[SLACK ROLEPLAYING LOG] Back to the Farm #storytelling #demaria #otherspace

As promised, a herd of bumblers comes rolling into the village of Fakalienstadt on the third day. Razorback dismounts as soon as he is in sight of Greenwater’s home, looking around carefully and scenting the air in search of a potential trap.

Whiptail follows along keeping the herd in check. As they reach the village, he brings his mount to a stop and surveys the village in a similar manner, his eyes looking for anything out of the ordinary.

Fluffpaw follows the herd from the rear, her namesaked fluffy paws looking a little droopy and dusty. Her ears flick back and forth anxiously, every now and then turning to look behind her but instead just urges the bumblers onward. Once they’re all milling around lazily, she slowly nudges her mount forward, toward the rest of the group.

Whitepelt tracks along a short time later, tossing one of his daggers skyward, catching it by the hilt, over and over. He has little to say.

Razorback approaches Greenwater’s home and gives the door a knock, his ears canted alertly forward.

The door opens just a crack. Greenwater peeks through. “Yes?”

“Mr. Greenwater…” Razorback says, gesturing behind him towards the bumblers, “Your herd…”

The farmer opens the door further, looking out at the bumblers munching on the dusty grass outside. He looks at Razorback, then at the other wranglers. His eyes return to the Cliffwalker. Tears glisten. “You saved my family. My village!” He looks at the ground. “I can never repay you.”

“Well, t’weren’t nothin'” Whiptail says. “Anythin’ to put that Coldstar in her place, I’m all fer it.”

Fluffpaw’s ears flick back and forth as she inches forward. “What’s gonna stop them from coming and taking the herd again as soon as we’re gone?” she wonders aloud.

Razorback still seems agitated and alert, his ears swiveling around. He nods in agreement with Whiptail. “Some of us could use a warm meal and a bath, most likely,” he says, “But nothing beyond that.” Glancing behind him, he turns towards Fluffpaw. “The original herd was sold to compensate for higher taxes from the Coldstars,” he says, “And if that continues and the underclassers do not push back, and the surrounding nobles do not aid them,” he glances over at Whitepelt, “this will all fail.” (edited)

Greenwater opens the door further to grant entrance to the group. “You are welcome in my home, of course.” He bobs his snout in the direction of a human male sitting on a hide-covered couch in the common room. The man wears a dark suit that seems untouched by so much as a grain of sand. “I think you know Mr. Colclough.”

The Consortium Intelligence agent nods at Razorback. “Indeed.”

Whiptail looks between the human and Razorback. “What in tarnation?” he says, his tail twitching a bit in anxiety. “Somethin’ goin’ on here I should be knowin’ about, young feller?” he says to Razorback.

Fluffpaw is last one in and so she’s trying to peer between the furry bodies of her comrades to see who is getting gestured to. And her gaze goes between Whiptail and Razorback, tail lashing anxiously based on the tones going around. “What’s wrong?” she queries of the older Demarian.

The Cliffwalker is taken aback by this, his eyes narrowing, somewhat. “So it would seem,” he says to Whiptail in Demarese, a faint hint of a growl in his voice. “Mr. Colclough,” he says, switching to his heavily accented Terran, “I feel now as though I should have expected you. What draws your attention to this small village.” He scents the air more carefully, searching the house for evidence of any further surprises.

Colclough gives the faintest of smiles to Razorback. “This small village may well be the epicenter of recent problems in this planet’s capital.” He looks toward Greenwater. “I have been associated with this fellow for some time. He has provided significant information about the activities of Lady Coldstar and her minions.”

Whiptail raises an eye ridge at this. “So… you sayin’ we’re all on the same side here?”

“Who are they?” Fluffpaw queries. “Are they going to hurt the herd?” She clearly has her priorities and they have very little to do with the people inside.

“Of course you have,” Razorback rumbles to Colclough, “Two of my comrades died fighting something you could have put a stop to at will.” He glances over at Whiptail with a nod. “Indeed. For the moment at least,” he says before turning back to Fluffpaw, “Mr. Colclough works for the Consortium Government. He likely has no interest in the herd.”

“True enough,” Colclough replies. “My interests are of the bigger-picture variety. Specifically, I have reason to believe that Lady Coldstar and her allies played some role in the recent plot against the Consortium president.”

“Say what now?” Whiptail says. “I thought we were jes gettin’ a herd, what’s this all about tha President?”

A low rumbling growl builds up in Fluffpaw’s chest. “Why would anyone care about your President here? All we cared about what finding the herd.” She pins her dark stare on the client. “Why would you get mixed up in things that don’t matter?”

“There is some sort of effort being made to destabilize relations between Demaria and the rest of the Consortium,” Razorback explains to the others, “Including a conspiracy to use a Demarian assassin to kill the President.”  He looks to Colclough, his ears tightening a bit. “Though what Coldstar has to do with that, I know not.”

“Her brother with the scar might’ve been able to tell us more,” Colclough replies. “He had some communication – encrypted, we’re still trying to break it – with the agent who assassinated our friend aboard Galactix. And funds from a Coldstar-owned offworld company may have been transferred to the agent’s family after her death. Hoping to confirm that soon.”

Whiptail listens to this, and his eyes narrow. “Sounds like Coldstar jes ain’t our problem…. that pile a’ bumbler shit is a bigger threat than even I figgered.”

“I do not believe the scarred one survived,” Razorback rumbles quietly, “Though I doubt this is new information to you.” He sighs, glancing out at the herd for a moment as his tail twitches faintly behind him. “I do not suppose you would be interested in helping me compensate my companions,” he says, gesturing towards the other Demarians in a way that includes the biker outside, “If what you aim to do will help rid these farmers of their oppressor, I will aid you. But I can ask no more of these folk than they have already given.”

The Consortium agent quietly studies the companions for a few moments before returning his attention to Razorback. “Up to them,” Colclough says. “If they’ve got an interest in working against Lady Coldstar, I can see that they’re paid.”

“Ye got my support, young’un.” Whiptail says. “It’s time ta clean house.”

“Indeed,” the Cliffwalker says in agreement with the wrangler before turning towards Colclough, “How can we be of service in this matter?”

“You won’t like it,” Colclough assures Razorback. A taut smile, then: “We need to return to Alhira. The inspector wants to follow up on that interview.” He regards the others, adding: “And, of course, Senator Sandwalker should meet you all.”

“Been quite a spell since I’ve been to tha big city.” Whiptail says. “Wonder how it all looks now.”

Razorback’s ears flatten at Colclough’s pronouncement, a faint growl of irritation escaping him. “You are correct,” he grumbles, “I do not like it.”

[SLACK ROLEPLAYING LOG] Tweed Valley Throwdown #rp-demaria #storytelling #OtherSpace

Razorback is hardly the most graceful of riders, but he manages to stay astride his Varas Lizard as he approaches the valley suggested by Fluffpaw the day before. He comes to the valley entrance and relaxes his gentle pull on the reins, allowing a pair of blinders to snap shut over the reptile’s eyes. His knowledge of the local area might be lesser than that of his companions, but his tracker’s sense of smell has revealed the presence of the herd long before he could see them.

The large bumbler herd is meandering ploddingly through the valley, flowing riverlike between the dune ridges on either side.

Whitepelt whirs along on an elegant silver and blue hoverbike, accompanied by a pair of gruff-looking bodyguards on their own cycles. One of the guards, a patch-eyed Demarian named Spotchaser, wears a rifle slung over his back. The other, a scarred Grimlahdi named Unthan, wears metal knuckle rings topped by sharp spikes.

They slow to a stop as they reach the overlook with the view of the herd in the valley.

“Here’s hoping the herd is cooperative,” Whitepelt says.

Whiptail rides the Varas Lizard like a seasoned pro, keeping the beast headed towards the valley. As he looks out at the bumbler herd, he takes off his hat and brushes off the dust from his jacket. “I ain’t had one be reasonable yet.” the old cat says. “Ya jes gotta turn ’em to your way ah thinkin’.”

Fluffpaw’s ears flick back and forth as she nudges her Lizard forward enough to get a good view of the herd. “How many did you need?” she queries, casting a glance in Razorback’s direction. Her whiskers twitch and the Cliffwalker and Whitepelt both get semi doubtful looks. “Have you ever herded before?”

“As many as possible,” Razorback rumbles, his ears canted forward as he watches the herd. “And … to a degree… I have driven bumblers before, but in hunting, not on a long trek. Do you think if I flush them out of the canyon from the other side, the five of you can continue guiding them to our destination?”

From a shadowed cave on a ridge about a half mile from where the wranglers led by Razorback are gathered to confer, a scar-snouted Demarian lowers his high-powered binoculars and looks toward his companions – a calico-patched Demarian and a human female with spiked blue hair and a heavy rifle cradled in her arms.

“Notify Lady Coldstar,” Scarsnout growls. “We’ve confirmed Greenwater’s saviors are on the move. Tell her…we’ll deal with them.”

“Ain’t gonna be a problem, least fer me.” Whiptail says, his paw idly fingering the rope coiled over his shoulder. “We just box ’em in, and keep ’em headed the way we want. So you flush ’em, we’ll wrangle ’em. Once you got ’em flushed, you’d best take up the rear and watch for stragglers.”

Fluffpaw gestures towards Whitepelt. “The bike will help spook ’em in the right direction,” she suggests. “If you both got started, we can then start to keep them boxed in until they run themselves out.”

“I think we can manage that,” the dark-furred noble responds with a purr. He bobs his snout to his companions, then nudges the accelerator as he arcs the hovercycle around.

The Cliffwalker nods quickly, then guides his mount towards the far end of the gorge. Once he arrives, he motions for the bikers to turn off their engines while he gets close enough to get the herd moving without stampeding them.  His ears swiveling about in a state of alert, and his nostrils reading the air, he makes his way silently though the scant desert brush as he approaches the bumblers.

Although the bikers comply, Scarsnout’s minions at the high ground are less cooperative. The calico-patched Demarian finishes assembling a shoulder-mounted plasma launcher, which he hefts and aims down into the gorge. He targets a rocky gully behind the lumbering bumblers. Pulls the trigger. With a WHOOMP! and a HISS!, the plasma torpedo descends into the gorge. That noise alone is enough to set off the bumblers. The ensuing blast leaves them confused in their panic, so that the herd scatters in mad clumps of stomping doom. Whitepelt cries out in alarm as his Grimlahdi companion and the hoverbike are trampled in the stampede.

Whiptail gets his lasso ready to start roping stragglers, but with the blast from the unwanted guests, and the sudden stampede, his mount rears in panic. It takes all his strength to hold on. “WHAT IN TARNATION!?!? WHOA THAR!!! WHOA!!!!” he hollers, trying to get the frightened reptile settled down.

Fluffpaw has trotted her mount off in preparation to take up the far side of the herd, staying upwind and away from anything that might spook them prematurely. The first sounds of the blasts and the herd swerving in directions not previously anticipated peace marks of panic on her feline face. Paws take up a much firmer hand on the reins, struggling to control the jittering, bucking, upset animal. It’s all she can do to yank it out of the way of the stampede and not share a fate similar to the unfortunate Grimlahdi. “Get around them on the outside, ” she cries loudly to her companions. “Get ’em together!”

Razorback’s ears snap towards the direction from which the “whoomp” sound comes and is already racing there quadripedally when the detonation occurs. Seeing a stray bunch of bumblers crossing his path, he looses a predatory roar at them to send them scurrying back towards the others as his nostrils follow the scent of the torpedo’s propellant.

Scarsnout watches through binoculars from the ridge as chaos unfolds below. He sees Razorback fixing on their location. Then he lowers the binoculars and nods to the human female. “Target incoming. Aim for the killshot.”

Whiptail finally manages to get his mount under some semblance of control. Once he’s assured himself its relatively calm, he gets his lasso ready once again, and throws a loop around the nearest bumbler that appears to be one of the lead ‘troublemakers’, hoping if he can get some of the leads settled down, the rest will follow suit.

Not exactly the gunslinging type, Fluffpaw keeps her head low and focuses on the herd, ears flicking back and forth wildly in distress. She veers her mount to intercede with a bumbler starting to swerve off, ready to take some of the herd with him. She bares her fangs and gets a menacing growl. Knowing what’s best for him, the bumbler rejoins the herd with an anxious rumble. It would prefer to not be lunch for a Demarian today. Her dark eyes scan the heads of bumblers to search for any more strays seeking to remove themselves from the pack.

Razorback finds the time to flick the switch on a little device at his belt before he begins to take the side of the gorge in a series of tremendous leap, his claws scrabbling across the rock as he launches himself upwards bit by bit. His ears and his nostrils still search out the as yet unseen foes.

The human female crouches so that she can use a small boulder as a mount for her rifle as she stares down the laser sight and pivots the barrel as she waits for the perfect shot at Razorback – the crosshairs lighting on the front of his head once or twice, but never quite locking on as he jumps to and fro. “C’mon,” she mutters. “Sit still a second.”

Whiptail notices that Razorback has taken off towards the ridge, but keeps a firm grip on the bumbler he has lassoed. “Give ’em hell!” he hollers as he works the bumbler to where he wants it to go.

Back and forth Fluffpaw sways with her mount, snapping and snarling as necessary to discourage strays from diverting from the main body and to keep them running straight. It’s hard though, with just one person covering a large side and the occasional bumbler does escape, swerving off and taking a friend or two with it. “Keep ’em running til they tire!” she shouts to Whiptail. She slows a little to approach the rear of the herd to keep better eyes on how they move, and where they’re all headed.

The Cliffwalker begins to zero in on the scent of the launcher, the shifting of clothing against stone, a muttered word. He bursts upwards over the boulder hiding his would-be sniper. His claws slip out, his jaw stretched wide, he looses a roar that echoes throughout the gorge as he descends towards the human female.

The woman’s finally got a lock on Razorback, cool and seemingly untroubled by the massive felinoid descending toward her as she’s about to squeeze off a blast into his face with the rifle. Unfortunately, the shot goes wild as the calico Demarian to her left gives a harsh jab with his rocket launcher to knock her onto the ground. Scarsnout, furious, pulls his own weapon – a plasma pistol – and aims it at the traitor, preparing to fire.

Whitepelt, meanwhile, is using his bike to help corral the panicked bumblers.

Whiptail tugs on his lassoed bumbler, trying to steer it and catch the attention of the rest of the herd, with the hopes that he can get them into a better position to get them stopped and rounded up.

The bumblers begin to tighten up under the pressure from three sides – Whiptail, Whitepelt and Fluffpaw. Skittish and stampeding, they cramp in on themselves, which causes them to start slowing down. From each side, some of the bumblers have made an escape into the brush but the majority have accepted their inevitable fate. Fluffpaw wilts slightly in the saddle as the initial round up so far seems to have been at least a semi success. The herd is still moving and so onward goes the youngest of the Demarian in the group.

Razorback doesn’t question the sudden intervention of the new “ally.” Not yet. He touches down on boulder the sniper had been using to brace her rifle, his legs coiled beneath him for barely a moment before they launch him swiftly forward towards Scarsnout.

The female sniper’s gun is about three feet away from her now. Raging, she scrambles for it. The turncoat Demarian, either oblivious to Scarsnout’s gun (or ignoring it), leaps to grab the woman’s leg in an effort to slow her progress.

Scarsnout, of course, cannot ignore the impending pounce of Razorback Cliffwalker. His fanged mouth falls open in frustrated dismay before he turns and bolts toward the cave in search of shelter.

Whiptail keeps working the lassoed bumbler to act as the guide of the herd, hoping that Razorback’s intervention has prevented any further projectiles from afar. “Derned idjits.. ” he mutters to himself.

Flick. Flick. Fluffpaw’s ears swivel back and forth, seeking out sounds that might be of use to them in the settling of the herd. Their pace is starting to slow now that the initial panic has worn off and the interest in moving is dwindling. Her own mount has slowed into sluggishness from the hard run and quick change movements. She looks to Whiptail for further direction.

Predatory instincts are fully engaged in Razorback as he leaves the turncoat to deal with the sniper. He pounces after the fleeing Scarsnout, trying to close the distance before the other Demarian can gain enough room to bring his pistol to bear. His ears remain canted forward however, testing the sound from the cave for evidence of ambush.

Scarsnout doesn’t waste the steps slowing to aim or fire at Razorback. Instead, he disappears into the shadows of the waiting cave ahead of his pursuer and is quickly gone down one of three divergent passages leading away from the entrance chamber.

Outside, the woman lunges for the rifle and almost grabs it, but the calico Demarian tugs her leg, thwarting her this time.

Down in the gorge, Whitepelt eases alongside the calming herd. He then looks toward the wreckage of his stampeded companions. “I should see to them,” he says, dismounting from the hoverbike.

“Let’s keep ’em rounded up, watch for stragglers.” Whiptail says. “Damned if I’m gonna let these varmints get loose again.”

Fluffpaw rubs a paw over her mount’s neck, a gentle encouragement to keep moving. She urges the animal back into a steady pace as she loops around the rear end of the herd.

The Cliffwalker scents the air ahead of him, barely pausing for more than a moment before taking off down one of the three passages, closing his eyes for an instant to help them acclimate to the darkness, while his ears also chase after sound of his quarry’s flight.

The sound of Scarsnout’s flight is obscured by a gurgling, burbling noise – water flowing in a cavern stream that parallels the passage Razorback follows, leading down deeper into the ridge.

Still following scent as well as possible, his eyes squeezing every possible available photon of light from the passage, Razorback continues to chase down his prey.

Back in the gorge, the herd seems managed. The sniper on the ridge draws a knife from a concealed pouch behind her neck and stabs the calico Demarian in the chest as he tries to pounce on her. He tumbles over onto his back, lung filling swiftly with his own blood, coughing violently and wincing at the pain. She picks up her rifle. He holds up a hand in vain. She squeezes the trigger. The blast scorches a hole through the Demarian’s palm before hitting him between the eyes.

She takes a few deep breaths, then looks down into the gorge at the relative tranquility. She considers the cave where Razorback chased Scarsnout. And then her gaze settles on the rocket launcher.

Razorback, completely unaware of these events, continues to give chase.

The herd has slowed from its panicked stampede and has more of an interest in returning to their grazing in a more tightly clumped group, making it far easier to start their moving up at a later point. Fluffpaw rides a circular loop around the perimeter, both checking for problems and cooling her mount down at the same time.

For a moment, the sniper woman aims the rocket launcher down into the gorge – targeted on Fluffpaw’s back. Then Whiptail’s chest. Then Whitepelt’s legs as he crouches next to one of his fallen comrades.

But finally she turns fully around to fire the rocket down the gullet of the cave passage, where it explodes: sealing both Razorback and Scarsnout inside.

The Cliffwalker hears the explosion and skitters to a halt for a second. Left in nearly complete darkness, he finds himself forced to depend only upon sense of smell to continue his pursuit, while looking ahead in the darkness for any evidence of a light being used by the other Demarian.

“Sands take that lunatic woman,” Scarsnout growls in the shadows. He stops just in time to hear a scattering of pebbles tumble over a ledge into a drop below – hard to say how far, but probably deep enough to hurt plenty. Possibly maim. Or kill. He presses his back against one of the side walls and listens for Razorback’s approach. He tries to keep silent. Maybe the interloper will just tumble into the abyss like a worrisome pebble.

In the gorge, Whitepelt peers up at the smoke coiling up from the ridge: “Our friend’s in some measure of trouble, I think.” He looks toward Whiptail and Fluffpaw, drawing his blades. “Coming along?”

The Cliffwalker, having slowed his progress, also hears the shuffling of gravel ahead of him. He sniffs the air carefully, stalking in the dark while his ears swivel about in search of his prey.

Whiptail narrows his eyes. “Sounds like th’ fats in’ the fire now.” he says, drawing his pulse pistol. “Reckon we oughta go check it out.”

The sniper, run out of rockets, tosses the launcher aside and retrieves her rifle from near the corpse of the fallen Demarian. “Time to act like a professional and deal with this problem once and for all,” she mutters. She kneels behind a boulder, aiming the barrel down into the gorge toward the chest of the approaching Whitepelt.

Inside the cave, Scarsnout hears movement in the darkness. “We should work out an accommodation, friend,” he growls.

Fluffpaw’s ears flicker with uncertainty. “Y-yes, we should go help,” she replies slowly. “We shouldn’t take the mounts too close though. They could get hurt.”

The Cliffwalker smiles silently in the black as his ears zero in on a voice. The muscles in his legs and arms coil beneath him, ready to pounce at the slightest confirmation of Scarsnout’s exact location as he stalks incrementally closer.

Whiptail kicks his mount in the sides, and gets it going at a good sprint towards the cliff. Once he gets a bit of distance from the herd, he draws a bead on where Razorback had headed, and catches a small glint of something in the rocks reflecting the desert sun. A quick series of shots are fired at that general location, the old cat knowing full well he won’t have much accuracy at this range.

Whitepelt flinches and ducks at the sound of gunfire from behind. He turns and nearly flings one of his knives at the source. Seeing it’s Whiptail, and noting that the Demarian is firing up toward the ridge, he decides instead to turn his attention toward the rocks above.

Up there, the sniper curses and ducks below the rim of the boulder while cradling the sniper rifle. Her cover blown, the enemy approaching at an advantage of numbers, she decides to cut her losses. She makes for a narrow mountain passage that leads off toward a promontory where her small runabout shuttle is parked.

In the cave, Scarsnout makes no effort to conceal his location. Instead, he says: “I know a way out.”

There’s a notable hesitation for Fluffpaw, paws clenching on the reins of her mount. Whiptail gets a good distance on her before she is pulled out of her freeze and nudges the lumbering beast forward. Her head ducks low to make her body as small as possible.

Without a word, the dark-furred hunter launches himself at the benighted vassal of Coldstar, tooth and claw stretched out to rend what flesh they can find purchase upon.

Scarsnout’s eyes bulge wide as the silent Razorback hurls himself into an attack. Clearly, he had expected an opportunity to negotiate. And, clearly, he had misinterpreted the conversational terrain. Now he only knows *one* way out. He struggles with Razorback and lets himself fall away from the ledge, gripping the thrashing attacker, into the waiting chasm.

Whiptail gets up to the ridge, and spots dust settling indicating recent movement. Following it, he gets on the sniper’s trail.

A mounted figure emerges from across the valley in the direction of Huntsekker.  Stubtail, out of pure grit or ignorance, risks skylining himself atop the ridge as he surveys the scene.  The lynx drives a wicked spur into his varas lizard’s flank and the beast snarls raw hatred as it hurtles down a narrow switchback to the valley floor below.

Whitepelt follows Whiptail along the path leading up to the ridge, clutching a knife in each hand. “Strategy?” he inquires.

Fluffpaw is not far behind Whiptail but she does not possess much in the way of weaponry. “Where did the big one go?” She asks meekly.

The Cliffwalker feels himself start to go over the ledge even as his teeth bite down where he judges Scarsnout’s throat to be. His right arm stretches out, claws grasping for some sort of purchase in the rock to stop or slow his descent.

Razorback’s fangs find their target, tearing into Scarsnout’s throat – the other’s pained outcry is drowned in gurgling blood as they fall away from the ledge – but no luck snagging at the rock before tumbling into the darkness below.

A shower of sun-bleached pebbles and red sand precedes Stubtail’s mad dash down.  His mount leaps that last six feet to the ground, staggers, then rights itself.   Before it can fully regain its footing a spur sinks into the beast’s opposite flank and it cries in furious shock, whipping its head around to snap at the cruel rider. Stubtail yanks the reins and the lizard’s snapping maw misses his throat by inches, “Hiyaaah!  Run you bastard!  RUN!”  With no other channel for its rage, the lizard surges ahead, kicking up a cloud of dust in its wake and rapidly closing on the stampeding bumblers.

Razor uses his tail and his legs to try and rotate his body so that he is less likely to end up underneath his falling companion, meanwhile keeping a solid grip on the throat of his victim.

“Not sure ma’am.” Whiptail says, following the trail. “But I have a feelin’ the varmint who was shootin’ at us is makin’ a break fer it.”

The two tumbling Demarians – one quite alive but the other well on his way out – splash into brackish water, about 20 feet deep, at the bottom of the chasm.

Meanwhile, the sniper woman scrambles into the cockpit of her small transport and revs up the engines to prepare for launch.

Fluffpaw’s ears flicker back and forth, even as she tests the air gently, seeking some sort of scent. She’s no fighter, but she tracks prey well. Stubtail gets a searing look. “Don’t you dare stampede that herd now that we got it settled,” she hisses loudly.

Pushing away from Scarsnout, Razorback flounders towards the chasm wall. He clings there for a moment to catch his breath while calculating the climb out.

As Whiptail rounds a corner, he sees the shuttle  beginning to start up. “Thar’s the varmint!” he hollers, raising his pulse pistol and starts firing towards the ship, aiming particularly at the engines themselves.

One of the transport’s exhaust nozzles flares as the blast from Whiptail’s gun ruptures a fuel line. An explosion booms down through the gorge, louder than it is destructive.

Below, the bumblers spook and scatter.

The sniper in the cockpit frowns as she assesses the damage. Relying only on atmospheric thrusters, she lifts off.

Deep within the ridge, Razorback will find the climb is long, arduous, and deadly. But he’ll also notice a narrow but passable gap in the rock that stretches above and below water level.

Stubtail casts Fluffpaw a withering glare.  “I know what I’m doing,” he says, just as the blast casts the herd scrambling into disarray.  The Demarian spits a curse and steers his mount to catch up with the nearest cluster of spooked bumblers.

Sighing, the Cliffwalker decides against scaling the chasm and begins to pull his way through the stale water down the passage.

Fluffpaw hisses angrily at Stubtail, tail lashing. It may not be his fault but she’s apparently blaming him. “Find the big one,” she says to Whiptail and Whitepelt before turning her mount to go after the newly spooked herd.

Whitepelt nods to Fluffpaw, then looks toward Whiptail. “I hope he wasn’t severely exploded.”

The sniper woman, meanwhile, jets away from the ridge – intent on returning to Lady Coldstar to report on how everything went awry, and probably to blame it all on the now MIA Scarsnout.

As Razorback proceeds down the narrow passage, he’ll eventually catch the scent of fresh air and notice light growing brighter. Daylight. A crack will deliver him back into the gorge, where a lazy bumbler chomps impassively on gray grass stalks.

Razorback pulls his sopping-wet self irritably into the comforting dryness of the desert. He pauses at the crevice opening to scent the air and satisfy himself that combat is still not ongoing. He moves off towards where Fluffpaw is located, following the sound of the herd.

Whiptail curses as he sees the sniper getting away. “That derned varmint will blab everythin’ to Coldstar, just you wait.” he says, shaking his head. Bringing around his mount, he goes down to help get the herd settled once again.

“I did not expect to be burying my friends today,” Whitepelt mutters as he returns to the site of their broken bodies.

“Newbies don’t belong on a drive,” Fluffpaw complains loudly to Whiptail. Her attention is on the herd, chasing it to try and slow it back down again, completely unaware of Razorback’s approach.

Stubtail misses the slight or chooses to ignore it, his focus firmly directed at a particularly plump bumbler several of the smaller beasts have taken to following in their mad scramble.

Like a big overzealous cattle dog, the Demarian’s mount nips at the large bumbler’s flanks, driving it and, by extension, its followers into a shallow arc toward Fluffpaw and Whiptail.

Razorback moves in, blocking the bumblers’ last avenue of escape. He immediately starts counting the heads of his companions, his ears folding tightly back as he spots the newcomer. His expression changes when he finds that two of Whitepelt’s friends are down. “Thank you for your assistance, sir,” he says to the newcomer, his brow furrowing with a healthy amount of suspicion, “And I would speak with you when there is a moment to be spared.” He begins to move towards the fallen bikers, though. “Can the two of you keep this lot together while I help our comrade bury his men?” he asks of Fluffpaw and Whiptail.

“We’ll keep ’em rounded up.” Whiptail says. “Though that varmit that whar shootin’ down at us got away in a shuttle, but their engines ain’t in workin’ order… flew off on thrusters only. Though ya can bet that bitch Coldstar is gonna know what went down soon enough. We’d best watch our tails.”

Whitepelt gnashes his fangs, resting against a twisted column of rock near the bodies of his companions. He looks toward Whiptail and replies: “Lady Coldstar better watch her *own* tail.”

[SLACK ROLEPLAYING LOG] #rp-demaria: Whitepelt

Having put out word of their mission to the tavernkeeper, Razorback rents a private room there and sets up shop, pulling out local maps of the desert and discussing a plan of action.

Whiptail looks over the maps, one paw against his chin as he studies them. He points to two different valleys. “This’d be a good place to start lookin’ to round ’em up.” he says. “Waterin’ holes are in these low areas and the bumbler’s crowd around ’em. Add the plants growin’ nearby and you have a bumbler paradise.”

A slender, dark-furred Demarian male slinks into the tavern. He’s clad in a blue satin vest and gray satin trousers that end at his knees. He wears a loop of silver atop his head, nestled between tufted ears. A coiled black leather whip dangles at his left side from a clasp on the hem of his trousers. On his right side is a sheath containing a long hunting knife with an ivory hilt.

He wanders up to the bartender and says, “I heard something about…a job.”

Fluffpaw hangs back from the majority of the back and forths, twitching her whiskers in an anxious habit. Stretching herself out as far as she can go to get a look at the maps while still keeping her distance, she shakes her head slowly. “You wouldn’t want that first valley,” she intones slowly. “It’s a good spot t’be sure, but there’s some rough footing going in and out of it, meaning that even if you found a herd, you  might do some damage to them when you’re driving them out and back to wherever you’re going.” She points to the second valley. “That one’s a little further out but it’s got nicer places where they could hide. It takes more to flush ’em out but worth it once you do.”

Outside the private room, the bartender points to the closed door of said room. “Through there, my Lord,” he says, bowing.

Razorback nods both of his comrades, considering their input carefully, as their knowledge of this part of the desert is greater than his. “Flushing them out will not be a problem,” the Cliffwalker replies with a nod, “But our time is short. We must leave early in the morning if we are to gather a herd and get it in on time.”

Whiptail nods to Fluffpaw. “Good point, missy. Pretty rough terrain through thar. Time’s wastin’, so this’n ought to be where we go.” he says, looking up to Razorback. “Suits me, feller. Not the first time I’ve been up at tha crack o’ dawn.”

The dark-furred stranger pushes his way through the doorway into the back room. “I do apologize for the intrusion, but word has reached my ears of a rather unique task that, needless to say, piqued my interest.” He rests a hand on the hilt of his dagger.

The Cliffwalker looks up for a moment, dipping his head politely while examining the stranger’s appearance and scent. “No apology necessary,” he replies, his ears canted forward attentively, “For we do indeed have a unique task before us, one which promises to be diverting if not particularly profitable. We seek able-bodied riders for a bumbler drive to a village in the Coldstar lands. Given the reception I had from Lady Coldstar’s overseer when last I was there, I should be surprised if our presence is entirely wanted.” He pauses a moment glancing at his new comrades before he continues, “I am called Razor. And you?”

“Whitepelt Landstrider,” the black-furred Demarian replies, tapping a finger against the bridge of his snout. “All funny looks are understandable. Either my parents suffered an egregious abundance of irony or I was shock white at birth and gradually turned black or it is a luxurious dye job born out of vanity. I lose track of which story I’ve stuck with over the years.”

As likely the smallest Demarian now in the room full of relative strangers, Fluffpaw backs up a few paces, her tail swaying slowly back and forth. She wedges herself closer to a corner where she can keep her gaze solidly on everyone else. “Do we have all the supplies we’ll be needing on the trail?” she pipes up. “It’s not the type of country you want to be unprepared in.”

“That’s one reason we’re here, ma’am.” Whiptail says, before looking to the arriving Landstrider, chuckling a bit. “I figger whatever yer story is, so long as you can swing a rope, you’re what we’re needin'”

Ears twitch atop Whitepelt’s dark head. “Sounds amusing.”

Razorback nods to the female Demarian quickly. “Arrangements have been made for mounts and supplies,” he says before turning towards the newcomer. “It may be. As mentioned, mounts and supplies will be provided. I can manage a nominal wage, but no more. We ride at first light. Are you willing?”

Fluffpaw’s head bobs up and down at the affirmation of being prepared to face the outdoors and she sinks down into silence, her ears flicking back and forth curiously in Whitepelt’s direction.

“Mounts?” Whitepelt makes a tsk-tsk sound. “I ride nothing conscious and living. But I have my own hover cycle.”

“As long as you understand that you are liable for any damage it sustains,” the Cliffwalker replies with a fangsome smile, “You are most welcome.”

Whitepelt considers the disclaimer. “Damage.” A grin splits his snout. “Now THAT sounds promising.”

“If things play out the way I’m thinkin’ they will, damage is gonna be the name of the game.” Whiptail says. “Preferrin’ it not be us, naturally.”

Use Slackpass to join the saga on our Slack site!