fog hung low over the motionless surface of the lake. The shore was
lined by the dark, almost black crowns of trees that had yet to fall
prey to fall’s kiss of death. The light in the forest was eerie; the
time somewhere between night and day, and the air cut into your skin
like icy needles. Despite your coat and leather gloves you felt like
you were freezing from the inside out.
didn’t blame the weather, though.
footsteps you had been following here from the car stopped, and you
looked up to find out the reason. Jimin had planted his heavy leather
boots close to the ledge in front of him, his dark gray woolen coat
stretching over his back when he leaned forward to assess the height.
nodded and started following him again, carefully walking along the
small slope that led down to the lake. The closer you got, the more
sounds arrived at your ear: the clicking of camera flashes, the
occasional order shouted over a few yards, interrupting the muffled
voices of people who probably wish they weren’t on shift this
About the size of a man with loose, dark gray skin coated in
pungent yellowish-brown oils, hellstoker devils – known as marnasoths – have a
fringe of bone that trails away into their spine beneath the upturned horns.
These devils bear the responsibility of keeping the fires of Hell roaring,
making oil from mortal flesh and stoking boilers and braziers. Hellstokers
rarely venture elsewhere under normal circumstances unless they’re “recruiting”
more sources of fuel, something that relies on force rather than guile given
their ogre-like intellects. These devils are also known to drag lemures into
their rendering vats when mortals are in short supply and have a tendency to
roam Hell to finish off any mortals left unattended and wounded, a nasty
surprise for a party that’s hold up in a seemingly safe place to rest.
Given their role in the infernal hierarchy, hellstokers are
a flexible tool for a GM. They’re the put-upon janitors and evil-minded petty
maintenance workers of Hell, seeing things and knowing secrets other devils
might assume they don’t, just like imps but without the reputation for cunning
and malicious advancement, and a hellstoker that’s smart enough to use that
information to its advantage could wield a surprising influence. They also
might have a curious relationship with light – these are devils who are there
to keep the boilers, braziers, and fires of the burning hells burning in the
first place. Maybe the marnasoths have some fascination with light, though
certainly none of its positive aspects, much like the lurkers in light. Or
maybe they loathe it, cultivating fires that consume light rather than spill it
out, radiating darkness and even a cold, frosty flame. Possibly such is the
nature of Hell that both exist.
For infernalists of a
mechanistic bent, hellstoker devils are a favorite choice to summon and
bind as minions. Relatively undemanding as devils go, marnasoths have a talent
for working with devilish steam engines and hellish contraptions. They’re not
inventive, of course, but their experience working Hell’s boilers and fires has
made them excellent and eager mechanics, settling into the task of keeping up
an infernal machine with little coaxing and less complaining. And less risk of
being spied on than trying to get an imp to help at that. That said, their
preference for starting fires can be a bit rough on the surroundings.
The pampered favorite
servant the dark naga Khalaso, the hellstoker devil Sidzon has the
important task of keeping braziers stoked for her cold-blooded mistress. The
devil has a gift with scents, maintaining a collection of odd and pungent oils
to liven Khalsao’s lair with olfactory delights, and a gift for explosives
(treat as an alchemist’s fire bomb 3/day). If intruders arrive, Sidzon has a
debilitating “perfume” that nauseates many humanoids, leaving her mistress and
the devil herself unruffled. Though her tiefling servants are equally unharmed,
they loathe the scent, and will often retreat on the merest pretense to avoid
Hoping to recover
records from an abandoned infernal temple, a party of adventurers finds
themselves confronted with the temple’s lone living intelligent inhabitant, a
foul-tempered, simple-minded hellstoker devil by the name of Suruloch. Before
he permits them access to the scriptorium, Suruloch requires a demonstration of
dark faith. Failure to comply – or
excessive delays, which he interprets as the same thing – result in Suruloch
trying to set the party ablaze, and a pair of burning skeletons crawl out of
the smoldering brazier the devil keeps lit to assist him.
- Tome of Horrors
trying to mix in some more ideas for how to directly use a monster in encounters. Let me know what you think! Also, given their
skill at finding mortals, it’s believable to give hellstokers the scent special
quality, although the oil they’re coated in might argue against it.
“Uncle Rwooster!” Nalla exclaimed as she ran to Rehvenge who had just walked through the mansions front door and into the colorful foyer, the Moors and Xhex coming right behind him. Rehvenge and his crew had been called over to meet with the King, and since he was headed to the mansion he had called ahead to let Bella know he was coming so they could spend a little time together before his meeting. Bella and Nalla had been waiting him in the foyer. Bella smiled as she looked her brother over, Rehv was dressed like he always was, high end suit, a pair of nine millimeters peeking out from under his sable coat and his red cane. Along with his trademark mohawk and amethyst eyes.
Rehv ignored the chuckles behind him, although he did give his sister a rueful look as he knelt down to lift Nalla into his arms, his cane clattering to the floor as he fitted her against his chest. She was in a little dark green sun dress that brought out her canary yellow eyes that were currently shining with love and laughter. Her blonde, brown and red curls pulled up high into a ponytail. Nalla really did look like the female version of her father, only softened with Bella’s elegant bone structure.
Bella smiled mischievously at her brother as she gave Xhex and the Moors a wave of greeting, which they returned.Rehvenge was surprised to see how dressed up Bella was. A sapphire cocktail dress that hugged her curves and a pair of black stilettos that easily topped her out at 6'5", her mahogany waves were pinned up high on her head, showcasing her swanlike throat. She was a knock out.
“Bock Bock” Nalla said in a giggle as she lifted her hand to pat the short mohawk that he usually sported. Rehvenge gave an exasperated sigh, but tilted his head down so the little girl could have better access to his hair.
April hates being out on the rooftops in the rain. The footing gets slippery and it makes her nervous, her hair gets wet and sticks to her face, and the rain doesn’t glide off her as easily as it does the turtles.
She refuses to admit to any discomfort, though. She had to use all her force of persuasion to get Leo to agree to her coming along in the first place. One breath of complaint from her could be all it takes to hear “well, why don’t you head home then” — never mind that Raph is already grousing enough for at least two people.
April blinks rain out of her eyes and resolves to shed her damp clothing and take a long, hot shower as soon as she gets home. Meanwhile, she keeps her mouth shut as she runs across the asphalt roof. Ahead of her, Mikey’s already cartwheeling his way across the next rooftop. Leo and Raph spring across the gap as she watches. She gauges the distance and adjusts her stride as she approaches the edge of the roof.
Her foot slips on the wet surface, and for a moment she’s windmilling her arms, trying frantically not to plunge over the four-story drop below.
Donnie’s hand clamps on her arm in a tight grip, keeping her up and balanced. April hadn’t even realized he was that close to her. All the breath whooshes out of her lungs as she steadies herself, her heart thundering like a jackhammer. She inhales deeply and looks up at him with a smile, more grateful than she can possibly say. There he goes saving her again, always in the right place at the right time.
Donnie smiles back, eyes warm and understanding. He holds on until she steps back from the ledge to try again, and then they make the jump together.
When it snows
The snow starts while Donnie’s out walking in the woods around the farmhouse. He turns around and heads back when the first drifting snowflakes turn into fat white clumps, but he’s been gone for nearly an hour already, so he has to deal with the snow for quite a while.
In the city, all but the heaviest snowstorms turn into grimy slush quickly. Here, the snow falls thick and quiet, the woods growing still around him. Donnie’s feet leave tracks as the snow collects on the ground, but that can hardly be helped. He’s more concerned with the cold, as the temperature seems to drop along with the snow. It’s pretty — soft white snow coating the ground, bending the tree branches — but it’s getting cold enough that he’s shivering by the time he’s halfway back.
He’s sure he’s not missing any landmarks in the snow, at least. Fairly sure. Donnie stops for a moment to get his bearings, and suddenly hears the most welcome sound in the world.
“Donnie!” April bursts through the trees in a whirl of color: her coat bright yellow, her hat and scarf and mittens striped blue and pink and green. “There you are! I was afraid you’d get lost in the snowstorm!”
“I don’t know if it’s really a storm,” Donnie says.
April scoffs. “It’s storm enough, and it’s getting cold— here—” She’s carrying a spare coat, dark gray with a furry collar, and she’s flinging it around his shoulders before he can say anything else. He shoves his arms into the sleeves, grateful, while April plops a purple knit hat on his head and loops a scarf around his neck. “You really shouldn’t have gone out with nothing.”
“It wasn’t that cold then,” Donnie says.
“Well, you feel cold.” April throws her arms around him, too, which feels nice: she’s warm, warm and soft in winter gear, and when he looks down he can see snowflakes catching on her eyelashes. “I’m glad I found you,” she says, muffled into his scarf.
“Me too,” Donnie says, hugging her back. “Me too.”
When it storms
The lightning flash is brilliant, right outside the window of April’s apartment, and the crack of thunder is immediate, no space between them at all. She and Donnie both jump and then blink in the sudden darkness as the power goes out.
“That must have been right on top of us,” April says, the afterimage of the lightning still flashing when she closes her eyes.
“It might actually have hit the building.” She can hear Donnie moving around, and a moment later a flashlight clicks on. “Sorry, April, looks like no movie night for us.”
“Too bad we don’t have a fireplace,” she says, thinking of the farmhouse and its semi-regular outages, which can sometimes turn into impromptu campfire nights.
Donnie laughs. “Yeah, no roasting marshmallows, either.” He sits down on the couch beside her. “What are we going to do with ourselves?”
She scoots close enough to lean into his side. “I bet we can come up with something,” she whispers, and kisses him.
Oh hell yeah man. He hates having his picture taken like that, knowing the entire point is for him to look attractive or appealing or not bad or whatever, he has such low self esteem. He doesnt think he’s ugly he just ‘knows’ he’s nothing special. He’s even said “It’s easy for you, cover boy of ‘Teen Weekly’” to adrien in animan. He compares himself to adrien on some level. I desperately want pictures of him being incredibly reluctant and literally only doing it to be a bro because adrien has to go god knows where, and just resigns himself to a horrible evening of looking bad in pictures. And his insecurities are confirmed as his pictures come out weird and awkward, but is bolstered when the photographer says he has ‘so much promise, you clearly have the face you just dont have the confidence.’ and like. he’s a professional, wouldnt he know? Like… maybe. So the photographer has an idea, and he pulls nino aside for a sec and starts talking to him, learning a little about him. he asks nino what his style is, whats his ideal look if he ‘thought’ he could pull it off. and Nino is like, well i dunno, and names a few things he always thought looked cool but could probably never look good in. The photographer immeditely looks through the fashion line and pulls out an outfit, and orders nino to change. And its something refined and elegant, as all GA outfits are, but way more up Nino’s alley then the stuffy preppy kid stuff he had on before. Like a dark gray coat and a scarf and better contrasting colors for him and all that, and he thought ‘hey these clothes are cool…’ and the photographer is encouraging him like “yes perfect! you look much more comfortable!” and Nino knows he’s got to pull this off to give adrien time, so he starts trying and the photographer is literally cheering, making a huge racket. Nino is all nervous as people start noticing him but he just keeps pushing forward, not noticing that Gabriel has appeared and is watching him, assuming the photographer was just giving Adrien a break and letting this new boy step in. He notices its Nino and is about to call for it to stop, but then he starts looking at the photos. And while originally the first ones looks HORRIBLE, the ones after the change in confidence… hm.
Jackson’s crying would attract walkers, he knew that. It echoed through the trees of the thick, snow laden forest but right now, he didn’t care. The nine year old was terribly thin, but well layered, with a dark blue coat, gray hat, scarf, mittens, everything he needed to be warm. But the woman he was crying over wasn’t as warmly dressed as him. Evidently, she gave him all the necessities they scavenged first, before herself.
His hair stuck out from under his hat in thick, limp locks that just barely curled. The color was a deep midnight black, contrasting brightly against his porcelain complexion. His puffy red eyes were blue, same as his mother’s, but his mother’s eyes were closed. Blood soaked her coat, bright crimson over her neck where the bite had ripped a chunk out of it, some of the blood streaked in her pale hair. She had bled to death just moments ago. The walker responsible had a screw driver stuck in it’s skull a few feet away.
He didn’t know his mother would turn, because she died before the bite could turn her. He didn’t know she would come back. Foolishly, he hugged her, burying his face against her chest and sobbing quietly, “Mama, wake up…” Any second, she could do just that, and he’d be her dinner.
He only lifted his head when he heard Kenny’s boots crunching in the snow, and scrambled over to the downed walker. Frantically, he pulled the screwdriver out with some effort and crawled back over to where his mother was, arming himself with it shakily, waiting for the source of the noise to show itself.
She was ripped from the hazy blankness of the Fade by a sharp, piercing cold pain in her leg.
Jerking awake her body contracted and she twisted her leg about as if to get away from whatever was trying to stab her. But moving it only made the sensation even more unbearable and her gasps and yelps filled her ears as she scrambled to sit up, hands tearing at sheets and covers to get to her leg.
Her sleepy eyes were wide and uncomprehending as she looked for a knife or a trap—
A hunting trap.
When her memories snapped into place Ellana heaved forward, hands gripping her knee as she bared the brunt of the pain. Her leg throbbed incessantly, reminding each and every nerve how broken they were.
Her eyes shut, but not before she caught the sight of the freshly bloodied bandages dripping bright red onto the bedroll beneath her.
She let the pain wash through her, holding her head in her hands and breathing sharply, waiting for it all to subside.
Having been yanked so quickly from sleep, Ellana slowly leaned back on the cot to fully take in her surroundings.
She found she didn’t remember much of where she was, the makeshift camp small but adequate. There was a campfire with its flames long gone, a folded pile of her shoes, armor and extra layers of her clothing, and her staff lay close enough to reach. There was no other bedroll laid out, but a few packs of supplies. Hers and Solas—
Her voice filled the air of the forest almost awkwardly in its isolation.
There was no reply in the early dew of the morning, the sun not yet broken through the gray sky. No Solas and no Hart either.