The carriage wheels squeaked on the dirt road as Toron looked out the window. He could see the large gates of Bakurados Bay in front of them as the ride pulled to a stop. Algor hopped out and started grabbing their packs from the back as he looked up at the massive wall surrounding the city before them. Finishing the last of his ale, Toron joined his companion as they marveled at the spires reaching towards the sky just beyond. The two Slimes had come to the Bay city to accept a shipment of weapons coming from Gato. With the threat of Master Boshak and Baron Drackholme’s combined forces threatening Jalldoon, the heroes would need the best weapons…and no weapon on the planet could compare to the nigh-unbreakable Gatonian Steel usually reserved exclusively for the catlike people of Gato. Fortunately for our heroes, Grar had pulled a few strings back home to secure an arsenal for the forces of good. Algor looked at Toron. “I’ve always loved Bakurados Bay, Tor” he said. ”Ever since my mother took me here years ago before Ikari was born. The pointed spires, the tropical plants…the lawlessness of the pirates and scoundrels–how could a young Slime NOT go wild with adventure!?” Algor’s mind wandered to his long-lost mother for a moment before being broken out of his reverie by Toron. “Your mother and her archaeological digs exposed you to a lot didn’t they, Al?” Now bereft of ale, the old Slime pulled out his personal flask and shook it before adding, “I sure hope there is some wine on that boat because my flask is nearly empty…and you know the only wine I drink is Gatonian!” With this Toron smiled and took a long swig.
The large gates creaked open to reveal a skinny human and two guards. Through a long, curled mustache, the man spoke, “Ahhh Prince Algor…His Majesty, Captain Zarharra, King of the Pirates, sends his apologies for not being here himself to greet you. One of his many wives is giving birth to his sixteenth child this morning, so you will understand his absence”. The man absentmindedly twirled his mustache around his finger as he spoke. Algor nodded, “The birth of a child is always cause for celebration, and for this we will excuse the Pirate King’s indiscretion in the face of the ancient laws of the Covenant of Crowns,” the Slime said with only a hint of sarcasm. “Yes, great Slime Prince, I have been authorized to give you whatever you need during your stay here in Bakurados Bay. I am the Royal Vizier, and I am at your disposal,” the man said as he led them into the city. As they made their way through the city towards the docks, they passed through the great bazaar and the smells of spices from the farthest reaches of Jalldoon assaulted the Slime’s. Fabrics, food items, and creatures not native to the Southwest region of the planet were everywhere, and among the stalls, you could find almost anything you wanted or needed. As they walked by one vendor, they could see him shooing some kids away, and as they looked around they could see other children speaking to merchants at other stalls in the bazaar. The Vizier turned to the Slimes, “As you can see, we have a growing problem with the poor here in Bakurados Bay ever since the fishing sector was closed down due to the indiscretions of the Fish Master.”
As they approached the docks, they saw the Hogashin Dock Master leaning on a barrel, smoking a pipe, and as they approached his snout recoiled at the Slimes. “Please, my friends, keep your distance. I never could stand the smell of Slimes” he said. Algor laughed. “Well please direct us to the ship from Gato, and our stink will bother you no more, sir” he said, stepping back from the Dock Master a few inches. At this, the Hogashin shook his head and frowned. “Conflicting reports are coming in about a terrible lightning storm or some sort of tidal wave at sea that has likely pushed your boat back by a few days, but we’ve heard nothing from the ship itself. There really is no way to know,” he said with a grunt. Algor looked at Toron, “I guess we’ve got a few days to kill in Bakurados Bay, eh bud?” he asked with a smile.
The Vizier set them up at one of the best inns in the city at no cost while they awaited their shipment’s arrival. Algor dropped his pack on the cushy bed. “Well Tor, I’m going to try my luck at the Pit, I think,” he said, grabbing his sword. Toron frowned, “Al, you’ve been doing an awful lot of…trying your luck…recently. Maybe we should use this time to take a break from killing?” the elder Slime suggested. Algor laughed, “come on Toron, we’ve got to stay fighting fit if we’re going to save the planet right? What’s a little bit of arena fighting gonna hurt?” he said as he walked out the door. Toron was concerned for his friend; since he’d returned from the Underworld, he had become increasingly violent and seemed to revel in death…both traits the prince hadn’t had before. He thought about the mission the Magi had sent him on to retrieve the artifacts that would somehow help remove this evil infecting the Prince, but for the moment, there wasn’t much the old Slime could do. So why not hit the taverns to sample the tastes of Bakurados Bay?
Toron was not disappointed in the delights of the Bay. At the first tavern he went to, he drained two flagons of fermented Crystal Cat Milk (an extremely rare treat, considering the ferocity of its source), as well as a snifter of Glowberry Brandy. Feeling the warm embrace of a nice buzz coming on, he decided to check out the next tavern in the plaza. As he made his way through the bustling streets of the city, he cut through a dark alley only to be surprised by the glowing specter of one of the Slime Elder Magi in his path. Toron hopped back. “By gods, you scared the Slime out of me,” he said to the shimmering projection of the Magi. The apparition replied, “My apologies, Sir Toron, but since you’re already alone in Bakurados Bay, we thought the moment opportune for you to secure another artifact that resides here in the city.” As the Magi spoke, a glowing map of the city appeared in before Toron. Close to the northern edge of the city, a large spire jutted above most of the buildings near it. The Magi spoke again, “here you will find an amulet, which has become the focus of a local human cult. This amulet will, in conjunction with the other artifacts, help us pull this evil infecting Prince Algor out of his body.” As he said this, the map twinkled out of existence leaving behind a faint glow in the air before dissipating fully. Toron looked at the Magi for a second, “Well…I may have imbibed a bit too much to retrieve anything from anyone tonight,” he said as he wobbled a bit from side to side. The Magi suggested he go home and get some rest, but the night was young. So under the guise of investigation, Toron decided to check a few more of the local taverns before heading back to the inn. Several taverns later, Toron had become quite a bit more drunk than he had been previously, but he hadn’t been able to learn anything new about these cultists or their operation here in Bakurados Bay. The old Slime decided he had the fortitude for one more drink before heading back to the Inn for the night.
Toron entered a tavern called Holly Hox’s Heaping Hopshack, and hopped up onto an empty stool at the bar. As the barkeep approached, Toron asked the large man what the specialty of the house was. “Well my friend,” the barkeep began, stroking his pointed goatee, “that would be the Para Bomb: we take a fermented Paraparadon egg, and we crack it into a flagon of Grogglin Ale. If I must say, it really hits the spot, sir.” With this, he winked his one eye. Toron smiled. “I’ll take two pal,” he said as he plunked a stack of gold down on the well-worn bar. As he sipped his brew, Toron looked around the busy tavern. Moments later, his dulled senses picked up on the word “cultists” from two talking fishermen at a table nearby. Toron smiled. He looked at the barkeep, “another round for those two on me,” he said plinking a few more gold coins down before heading over to the table. Pulling up a nearby chair, Toron greeted the fishermen. “Gentlemen, I couldn’t help overhearing a bit of your conversation. Next round’s on me if you wouldn’t mind sharing with an old, curious Slime,” he said as the waitress placed three ales on the table. One of the fishermen looked at Toron. “Buddy, if you’re buying rounds, I’ll tell you stories all night,” he chuckled, taking a sip from his new glass. Toron raised his drink to the men, “then please tell me about these cultists!” The fisherman started his story from the beginning.
“You see, I was in the old fishing sector. And ever since that drunken fool Fish Master crossed the Mad Butcher at the Festival of Lights last year–and paid for it with his life–we all been out of work! So I’m forced to scavenge the derelict buildings for scrap to sell…..anyways I’m in there, and I’d just gotten a pretty nice rod from under some debris when I hear a commotion. Wouldn’t you know it, I saw some of them Children of the Beetle cult members dragging a woman into the abandoned neighborhood. Now naturally, my friend, I’m not one to get involved in a fight with a bunch of those cult wackos, but the girl looked a lot like this local bar-rat you always see at the Parrot’s Beak over by the bazaar. Anyways, these hooded goons are dragging this poor girl to do only gods know what to her, and I’m cowering behind a crate, just hoping they don’t spot me…when suddenly this…this…daemon with huge horns bursts right through an old building with a blinding flash and terrible sound. This thing was huge…and it ripped those cultists apart with ease. I don’t know what happened after that as I took off and never looked back, but I saw that old drunk wobbling around the city the next day, so she must have escaped being devoured by that thing. Now…if you’d like to buy another round, I can tell you all about the time I ate boiled bomb bats?” Grinning, the fisherman winked at Toron after sipping the last of his ale. Toron waved over the barkeep and turned back to the fisherman, “my friend, I appreciate the offer, but I must be on my way…however here’s some gold. Buy as many rounds as you like, and may your luck change soon.” Toron hopped down from his chair and started making his way in the direction of the Parrot’s Beak Pub. If the old Slime had been just a bit less drunk, he may have noticed the two children sitting near the roaring fire of the tavern, listening intently to the story he had just heard himself.
Swaying his way through the streets that had gotten a bit less crowded with the advancing hour of the night, Toron found the Parrot’s Beak Pub and made his way inside. He sauntered his way up to the bar, made eye contact with the barkeep, and asked her if she knew of a regular who had recently spoken of cultists or some sort of great daemon. Before the barkeep could even answer, an obviously very-drunk woman approached the Slime. She looked at Toron with lusty, hooded eyes. “Cultists, you say? Cultists…yeah, I know all about those sons of bitches…but as for ‘daemons’, I got nothing for you, hun.” She ran her fingers through her long, dark hair before adding, “unless of course you mean the bronze god…clad in armor made of stars…” The woman trailed off as Toron smiled at his luck. “Please, madam, would you care to elaborate on what happened to you? I’ll buy you another round,” the Slime asked. The woman smiled back. “Hun, how about you come back to my place and we can talk about it on the way? I haven’t been too keen on walking around alone at night as of late” she said. Toron took her up on her offer and walked her out of the pub as she began her story.
“Well hun, I was making my way home late the night before last, and from a dark alley, four of those Children of the Ladybug or whatever they call themselves grabbed me. Now, love, I can normally take care of myself, you see, but four-on-one is a pretty tough match up for anyone…let alone when they’ve had a drinky-pooh or two. So these cult jerks start dragging me into the abandoned fishing sector despite my kicking and screaming the whole way. My head was spinning and before I knew it, I couldn’t see the lights of city anymore. I fought back, but these animals just kept trying to…reassure me. They told me what an honor it would be to be sacrificed to their gem or whatever. But the next thing I saw, hun, I will never forget as long as I live. Just as they dragged me towards some rundown building, the wall bursts out in a bright explosion, and standing there is this gleaming man with bronze skin and armor that twinkled like stars in the night sky. It felt like the light and heat of a sun burned from his chest. How could such a magnificent being NOT be a god!? I dropped to the ground and my head felt like it was swimming…but all I heard was the awful screams of those cultists. The next thing I knew, the god offered me his hand. I think I heard him say something about not being evil as he helped me up. He got no argument from me! But I was so shaken, I just hurried back to town, locked myself in my flat, and cried myself dry for the next day. I should have at least asked his name…” Toron chuckled. “Well hun, this is my place, if you’d like to come up for a nightcap,” she said, fishing her key out from inside her dress. Toron thought for a long moment, but decided better of following her upstairs. “No, madam, it would be dishonorable to take advantage of you in the state we’re both in, but please have a wonderful evening,” he said, kissing her hand.
The sun was almost up and Toron would need some rest before attempting to break into the cult’s base the next night, so he headed back to the inn. When he arrived, he discovered Algor asleep on his bed with two lovely lasses, a giant sack of gold on the night table, and the Prince’s sword coated in dried blood resting against the wall. Toron shook his head. “Well, he may be infected with evil, but at least Al is enjoying himself,” he said to no one in particular as he hopped up onto his own bed. As he lay there thinking, Toron wondered if this being he’d heard about was a terrible daemon, a star god, or something else entirely…but there were far more important things to worry about as far as he was concerned. That night, Toron’s sleep was fitful. The disturbing image of a towering man with great horns, reaching out to choke Toron, bothered him throughout the night.
The next morning Toron woke with his head pounding and his slime dry–an all too familiar feeling for the old Slime. “Only one cure: “hair of the dog,’” Toron said to himself as he looked around the room. Algor and the girls from last night had already left, and Toron was all alone as he limped out of bed. He made his way to the closest tavern and ordered up a Bloody Morgel to soothe the pain coursing through him. After a couple more drinks, he made his way back to the inn to get some more sleep. The sun had already set by the time he woke up, but there was still time to kill before he thought it was safe enough to sneak into the cultist’s stronghold, so he went out to get some dinner and enjoy the bazaar. A few hours later, when it was just after midnight, Toron left the jubilant city in the direction of the fishing sector. As he passed the Pit, he could hear the crowd chanting, “Algor! Algor! Algor!” Toron surmised that the evening’s contests were drawing to a close and that Al would once again have himself a successful night. As he crossed over into the abandoned part of the city, Toron wondered to himself what the Fish Master had done to anger the King of the Pirates…but knowing Abdul Zarharra like he did after years serving the Slime Kingdom, he knew it likely wasn’t anything that warranted the man’s death. The veteran Slime took care to be as stealthy as possible crossing through the fishing sector in case he ran afoul of this dangerous god or daemon he had heard tales of. As he approached the tower that had once been the Fish Master’s office, he saw two hooded figures guarding the door with spears. Not wanting to alert the cultists, Toron made his way to the rear of the tower. As he studied the outer wall, he pulled his suit in its small black box out of his pack. As he pushed the button on his remote, the suit flipped out of itself. Orange-colored metal glistening in the moonlight, and Toron took a moment to admire the new coat of paint he had applied to his pride and joy. Toron squished his way inside the suit, and finding a good grip, he started scaling the large sandstone tower.
The suit made climbing the tower a breeze, and soon, Toron was slipping over the railing of the balcony adorning the tower like a crown. As he snuck inside, he found himself in a large office that took up the top floor of the building. Toron was stunned for a moment when he saw a rough-hewn stone carving of a human skeleton just like the ones they had found at Hawkstorm Keep and in the tomb. An amulet dangled from this particular gruesome effigy’s hand. Toron was troubled by what he saw–the Magi had sent him after such artifacts, but had consistently failed to mention the skeleton idols three times in a row now. That was a question for later, however. He walked over to the statue, but as he reached for the amulet, all the torches in the room suddenly ignited at once and he heard the shuffling of cloaks behind him. He turned to see a group of armed cultists glaring at him as one stepped forward. “Infidel, you have chosen the wrong place to steal from this day…but have no fear, as your death will feed the divine scarab and your soul will forever live on in the belly of our god!” The leader rushed toward Toron, sword raised in the air. Toron’s considerable combat experience made his attacker look silly, as a blow crashed into the human’s face. Toron grabbed the leader’s sword as he crumpled to the floor. More cultists began pouring into the room. The brightly-armored Slime fought fiercely, but the horde seemed endless. On the edge of being overwhelmed, a sudden flash of light stunned Toron as the press of the attack immediately ceased. Only beginning to take in what had just happened, Toron was shocked to see the burned corpse of every cultist littering about the floor. The magic shockwave had dissipated and he looked up to see all three of the Slime Elder Magi concluding a terrible chant that sounded awful to Toron’s ears. Wasting no time, the center Magi began, “Toron, the Prince is in mortal danger. As we speak, he is stalked by a daemon. You must save Algor and secure the beast’s weapon, as it will be crucial in saving the Prince from the evil that infects him.” Toron gestured towards the incinerated bodies strewn about the room, “what abou–?” “The solids are not of your concern” the Magi on the left interjected. “Your responsibility is to the Prince. We will see to the artifact. Now, go.” Toron picked up the sword he’d been using and looked up at the Magi once more. “Okay…but later, we need to talk. I want answers before I continue running your errands,” he said before jumping over the edge of the balcony. As the Magi formed a circle around the skeleton idol, the gem embedded in the amulet began to glow from within. “Brothers, it would appear that the spells are working, and the items we seek are falling into our grasp, one by one.” As he spoke, the amulet began to float into the air before them. Another Magi continued, “and it even appears that the android trapped within this realm will come to serve our purposes.” “Aye, brother,” the last Magi responded, “Jalldoon will once again be safe.” In unison, the three Slime Elder Magi began chanting once more.
Toron landed on the ground with a dull thud as the suit easily absorbed the shock of the fall. As Toron stormed off in the direction of the docks, two small forms huddled near the base of the tower crept from the shadows. The pair looked up to see a third child appear on the roof of another derelict office across the street. A small object tossed from the top of the building landed on the ground near the two, and they immediately scurried over to examine it. One child picked up the stone–a piece of sea glass. “Green. That’s the signal!” The other seemed nervous and hesitated, “But we’re disobeying orders as it is.” The first remained resolute and shook his head. “We HAVE to tell her.” And with that, the pair sped off into the darkness of the fishing sector.
Toron was desperate to find any sign of Algor…or of battle. As he ran, his mind swam with distracting thoughts. Did Toron hear one of the Magi refer to the humans as “solids”?? He vaguely recalled the ugly, centuries-old slur for non-Slimes from a collection of the earliest records of dimensional rifts on Jalldoon. But more to the point, if the Magi were powerful enough to wipe out a whole room full of enemies, why weren’t they searching for the magical items themselves? And what about these skeleton idols and why do they keep showing up? Toron and Algor had accepted the existence of the legendary Magi; to them, the Magi were paragons of wisdom and justice. But something didn’t feel right. Toron resolved that once they were back at the Keep, he would begin researching these idols and magical items for himself…but for now, he needed to focus and locate Algor before anything terrible befell the prince. It was just after dawn, and as he rushed through the empty streets of the fishing sector, Toron almost ran into a human woman sprinting back towards town. As she sped by, she blurted out, “he’s killing the Slime…the beast is killing him! Run for your life!” Filled with as much dread as relief, Toron charged in the direction she had come from, as the sounds of combat in the distance grew louder…
Face down on the ground, Algor struggled to turn himself over as smoke rose from a vicious wound on the Slime Prince’s back. He dragged his sword towards him and tried to look back at whatever it was that had attacked him. In the blazing dawn light, all Algor could make out was the black silhouette of a staff-wielding humanoid with great horns. As the shadowy creature started to walk towards where he lay, its chest and the orb atop its staff began to glow as brightly as the sun behind it. “For the millions of innocent lives your evil has consumed…for the worlds you have yet to burn…NO MORE. Prepare for oblivion.” The mysterious warrior raised its staff, ready to deal the final blow…
Continued in part 2….
Story by Jesse Chagnon and Sanjeev Selvaraj