A Clever Zinger [Spoilers]

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ChrisDDickey
Posts: 843
Joined: Sun Nov 27, 2016 10:02 pm

A Clever Zinger [Spoilers]

Post by ChrisDDickey » Wed May 20, 2020 11:53 am

Cuso used his ivory story knife to smooth out a patch of sand and quickly sketch out a rough drawing of a strange looking flying creature, then looked at the faces of the children before him. Our people have always told stories of "Raven", "Fox", and "Orca", he said. Let me tell you a story you have never heard before. It is a story of "Zinger", who lives in the Gruv. Zinger is clever, and this is the story of how I first encountered him. 

I, along with some others, was called into the Fairaday Agency. Lord Carnavon and Bernhard, whom I have told you of before were there, but there was also a Methodist Priest by the name of Rowan. We were hired for a most exciting journey! They wanted us to go to the Gruv! They wanted us to escort a Dr Maadhini Vishwakarma to the All Saints workhouse and help her investigate a strange disease. They offered to pay us each 8 pounds per day, which was an absolute fortune back then, more than most people saw in a year. 

We immediately grabbed our stuff and met her at her hotel, then went as a group to the train station. The actual journey through the Rabbit Hole was bizarre. They inspected our documents several times. Once as we entered the fort, again as we entered the train station, again to get to the platform, and again as we took our seats! They had us strap ourselves to our seats very securely, the military steward gave us a brief lecture telling us to expect weird things. Then with a whistle and a roar the huge locomotive accelerated down the track at a frightful rate, apparently trying to get as much speed as possible before entering the wormhole itself. 

I can't adequately describe the passage itself. I felt very strange. I felt as if I was being stretched, then as if I became not solid, a sort of Smoke being inhaled. That is all I recall before passing out. I woke up to hear excited voices outside the train yelling that the train had picked up some "gremlins", and automatic weapon fire hitting the thickly armored train. (which greatly excited us passengers). I managed to unstrap myself and carry my trunk outside the train before I was violently sick, sticking my head under the train and vomiting upon the railbed. 

We went to the hotel that had been arranged for us. I had a few cups of tea and some aspirin in the cafe, then despite it being mid-afternoon, I excused myself and went up to my room and went to bed. I woke up in the middle of the night, still feeling very strange. I took a half a dose of Laudium and more aspirin and stayed in bed until sunup. I understand the others had a low-key evening in Fort Alice. At breakfast we were joined by one of the famous saurid natives of the Gruv. (cuso sketches a quick portrait in the sand) This was a plains saurid by the name of Sh'kem "Manyome" Raas. This was an Investigator of some sort and had been hired as a native guide. We spent the whole of that day on a train to All Saints workhouse. There were a few stops prior to the workhouse, but at that time the workhouse was the end of the passenger line. They were extending the railroad past it, but had not yet reached any additional settlement sites. 

I spent most of the day on the train in a fever stupor, taking little interest in the new world scrolling past the train window, with aches and pains in every joint of my body. It is amazing to me that it took me and everybody else so long to realize what was happening, especially on the whaler, I had nursed two people through looking-glass-fever before we crew of the whaler (isolated upon the sea as we were) had even heard of the malady. But it was not until we had alighted at All Saints, and it had become apparent that I had grown noticeably taller over the preceding 24 hours, that we figured out that I was transforming into the handsome elf you see before you. You kids may not realize this, but I used to be of fairly average looks for our people, which is to say that the white men considered me short and stocky. Before my Boojumization was complete I had grown to be fully 6 foot tall, which makes me very, very unusual for our people. Also, my eyes changed to this bright emerald green that allows me to see in the dark 

After supper we went straight to work upon our investigation. 

Every month for the last 8 months, a few dozen of the 3000 different people in All Saints had fallen ill. two or three die. The people who fell ill are always related in some way: Maybe they bunk together, or they are on the same work crew, or something like that, so they had all apparently caught the illness at the same time and place. But the groups were not related in any obvious way. The illness manifested as a mild flu, that gets steadily worse. The circumstances were weird (like much in the Gruv), and they had been totally unable to figure out why the disease only appeared once per month, and how it was spread.  We and the doctor we had brought (Dr Maadhini Vishwakarma - a woman from India) were to assist the resident doctor (Dr. Rajagopalan, also a woman from India) in figuring out the mystory. If the pattern was to hold, the next outbreak of the disease would occur in 2 or 3 days from when we arrived.

That night I collected all the data I could about recurring natural phenomenon. Plotted when in the last 8 months each of the moons and other visible bodies were full, new, half. When they were visible or occluded by other celestial bodies. When the sun or various other bodies were eclipsed, or eclipsing. I figured that if the sickness struck at the same time every month, then all I needed to do was to figure out what the Gruv calendar was based upon, and find out what natural phenomenon was occuring at about that time. Alas, it did not work. As you know children, we as a people have always counted time by days, moons, and seasons. As you know, the Americans for some reason do not base their measurement of months upon Moons. Well it turns out the calendar that the British used in the Gruv was even more silly. They took their own earth clocks and adjusted them for the Gruv. And they took their own Earth Calendar and modified that a bit to more or less fit the Gruv. After an evening of hard work, I determined that there was absolutely nothing natural to the Gruv that matched a cycle remotely like the British Calendar used in the Gruv. The Gruvian month (and therefor the outbreaks) did not fit any cycle of the moons or eclipses. 

I am tired now children, tomorrow I will tell you of the Winged Zinger with the Purple tentacle and the Winged Zinger chase. 500 ap

ChrisDDickey
Posts: 843
Joined: Sun Nov 27, 2016 10:02 pm

Re: A Clever Zinger [Spoilers]

Post by ChrisDDickey » Thu Jun 04, 2020 10:20 am

Old Cusa continues his story. 

The next day, while I continued my researches, the others chased a Winged Zinger that had attempted to feed upon one of them. A winged zinger is native to the Gruv, and is kind of a cross between a hummingbird and a dinosaur. is the size of a sparrow and feeds upon large creatures like a very large, slow, mosquito. They did much running and climbing as they chased the flying creature through the woods, and eventually caught it as it attempted to go into a burrow and managed to knock it out. They brought it back to the camp and we examined it, and then put it in a bird cage we borrowed from the camp veteranarian as it was starting to wake up. This type of Zinger was different from the more common zingers. It was larger than it's more common cousins, and had a purple throat. Most curiously of all, it had a second tail. A small tentacle like appendage that it could wrap around it's target so that it was much harder to shake off. As far as we could tell, the purple throated zinger was unknown of outside of this immediate area. 

I used Animal Talk upon the zinger, but it was pretty uninformative, it seemed pretty mindless, much more so than most earth birds. 

As I was talking to the zinger, one of my companions attempted to view it with astral sight. His vision flashed sharper momentarily, as it sometimes does, and he saw that this area apparently has frequent mystic tendrils that flash from one creature to another. He saw a tendral flash between a huge beast of burden, to a small chicken-like animal. 

We made inquiries with the people who had most recently been sick, and one had definitely been bitten by a purple throated zinger two days before he got sick, but they were sure that everybody had not been. We started to susspect that maybe one person gets bitten, but that the weird astral tendales flashing from one creature to another might have somehow infected the others. 

The next day, Carnavon and Bernhardt built an observation platform and put chicken wire over the suspected zinger nest. They had a short battle with a singer that got caught in their trap. The rest of us accompanied Verishkarma (who as a promethean weird scientist) to a nearby native village to talk to them. On the way there we saw three normal zingers, and decided to kill them. 

AP 350, 200, 200. 350. 200,  1300.   Journal 100. 

ChrisDDickey
Posts: 843
Joined: Sun Nov 27, 2016 10:02 pm

Re: A Clever Zinger [Spoilers]

Post by ChrisDDickey » Tue Jun 16, 2020 4:56 pm

Cusa continues his tale.

We arrived at the native village and exchanged trinkets with the head-woman. She told us about the area that All Saints had been built upon. Some of it we already knew, like that the hunting was poor, and that the natives considered it unlucky, but was eventually persuaded to give us more than just the generalizations, or as she called it, "the parts that even the warriors can understand". She told us that Shamen of their people had detected some sort of "Magical Tendrils", linked to life forces. These tendrils have been there for generations. The magical tendrils seem to wax and wane in power over a course of 30 days. She made an effort to explain how these tendrils affected living creatures, but was unable to make clear to us whether the hunting was poor because the tendrils killed the animal life, or drove it away, or some other effect. But she did make clear that the magical tendrils were almost certainly the root of our problem, but at that time I did not understand what that root was. 

She said that the purple throated zingers were also localized, but more recent. The magical effect had been there for generations uncounted, but the purple throated zingers had first been spotted within living memory, but well before All Saints was founded. She also shared with us her people's concerns that All Saints was cutting down too many trees too fast, and was upsetting the balance. The next day we walked back, arriving back at All Saints just before sunset. 

The next morning over breakfast we compared notes with the team members who stayed at All Saints. They had been examining a captured Zinger, and got an opinion that the purple throated zingers tentacle was a pure graspoing pod. It looks like the zinger was born with it and it grew, but it does  not look like anything that natural evolution granted it. It almost looks like somebody with the ability to edit a creature's natural features had spliced the tentacle into its basic life code. Bernhardt and Carnavon felt that the next step was to examine the inside of the Zinger hole that they had been observing. To that end we decided to borrow (or rent) the camp's best rat dog from the Vet. The dog was a terrier named Butch. 

Before we could head for the zinger hole we happened to notice Dr. Rajagopalan escorting 4 new patents into the infirmary. They were apparently the first of this month's batch of plague victims. None of them had been bitten by a Winged Zinger lately, but one of their work crew had been. We interviewed the bite victim, but she seemed fine. We then learned that both Nurse Fielding and Dr Maadhini Vishwakarma were missing. In Nurse Fielding's case it was highly unusual, since she was afraid of open spaces, and literally never left the infirmary building. While the others left in search of them, I volunteered to take over the nursing, and then searched the whole infirmary building. Nobody had seen Dr Vishwakarma all day, and while talking with the patients, I learned that Nurse Fieldings had not been seen since the night before either. The patents had been fed by the runner from the kitchen, but had not had their morning medicine. 

Once I had gotten all the nursing chores caught up with the patents, and gotten the 4 new patents settled in, I went to search the rest of the infirmary building, knowing that nurse Fielding at the least would have been unlikely to leave it voluntarily. I had checked the pharmacy closet and the store-room, and had just found the room that Nurse Fielding had converted into living quarters, when I felt the most agonizing pain in my shoulder that sent me screaming to my knees in agony. Twisting my head around I could see attached to my back a very large, purple throated winged zinger! I screamed for help, and tried to bash my back against anything solid, trying to knock the horrible thing off. Fortunately, the others heard my screams of agony and rushed in and knocked it off. They tried to capture or kill it, but it got away. They did notice that it is one that they had tangled with before, but managed to mark with a spot of black ink. I was in a very bad way, but Dr. Rajagopalan cleaned and bandaged my wound, and after some pain medicine, and a meal with plenty of liquids to compensate for my blood loss, I felt very much better. 

While I was being treated and refreshed, the others had found a tunnel that exited in Nurse Fieldings quarters. It looks as if the burrowing Zingers had tunneled under the floorboards, and then eaten through some rotten boards. Strangely the tunnel must have been there for several days, and it is inconceivable that nurse Fielding had not seen it. We prepared and headed into the hole. The tunnel sloped down for 10 or 12 feet before opening up into a natural cavern where we were no longer crawling single file. We all needed to climb a bit to get to opener ground, and despite my starting in the back, and waiting for slower climbers to catch up to me, I somehow was the very first person to stumble into the Zinger nest. 

A bizarre sight greeted my eyes in the dim light of a lantern one of the others that were suddenly behind me held. The cavern contained lots of zinger nesting places made of mud and twigs. A huge Zinger queen (Zinque) the size of a goat had its proboscis stuck into Nurse Fieldings shoulder and Nurse Fielding was petting the huge monstrosity!

Slimcreeper
Posts: 970
Joined: Mon Nov 28, 2016 11:44 pm

Re: A Clever Zinger [Spoilers]

Post by Slimcreeper » Tue Jun 16, 2020 9:49 pm

That sounds as weird as I had pictured it in my head. :D

ChrisDDickey
Posts: 843
Joined: Sun Nov 27, 2016 10:02 pm

Re: A Clever Zinger [Spoilers]

Post by ChrisDDickey » Mon Jul 13, 2020 10:58 am

Cusa concludes his tale

Not wishing to attract the attention of the Zingers, I waited quietly in the dark until Rowen and Lord Carnavon managed to climb out of the low passage behind us. As the lantern bearer got closer, I could make out more details of the space. We were still in a rough and natural limestone cavern with tree roots poking out from the ceiling, but in front of us a stone doorway had been carved out and beyond that a room. when we later examined the room it looked as if it had been carved out of the native stone. The walls were smooth and without tool marks. The room felt alien, with dimensions that seemed odd and unsuited for even the tallest troll. There was a stone table as high as my neck with it's legs growing out of the floor as if carved into place when they carved the walls of the room. Further on on the corner there was a sunken area that contained a large pool of water. 

Once the three of us were free of the place where we could only crawl, but before Bernhard could join us, two Zingers attacked. One wrapped it's purple tail around Carnavon's arm and stuck it's beak in and started feeding. I cast an Entangle spell which caused the roots poking through the ceiling to bind the zingers and keep them from moving. The huge zinger the size of a goat was feeding on Nurse Fieldings, who looked deathly  pale. I moved on into the stone room to attack the queen. I SHOULD have attacked physically, trying to knock the beak out of the nurse, instead I made the mistake of using a magical attack on the queen, which, while it hurt her and made her angry, did not disrupt her feeding. It was also about this time that I noticed that Dr. Vishwankarma was also in the room. She was slumped unmoving along one wall, with her eye's open but staring straight ahead unseeing. 

I was about to correct my earlier mistake and grab the things beak when nurse fielding collapsed and the queen withdrew her beak. I dragged nurse Fielding away and attempted to reviver her, but saw that she was beyond immediate, quick, help. None of the others had yet followed me into the stone room (they were still messing with the two zingers I had already entangled). Two more zingers had arisen out of their nests, and the queen was quite agitated and I was feeling quite alone. fortunately the others finally started forward and we quickly dealt with the Zingers. Once the queen was dead the others stopped acting quite so dangerously. 

I quickly moved to Dr. Vishwankarma, and determined that she was not dead, but was simply unresponsive. I waved a bottle of smelling salts under her nose and was relieved that she quickly revived. In the meantime, the reverend Rowen had cast a Heal spell upon Nurse Fielding. I guided the still confused Dr. over to Fielding, and between the three of us, we got her stabilized for the moment, but she desperately needed a blood transfusion. We managed to rig a drag stretcher so we could drag her through the tunnel. 

In the meantime, Lord Carnavon and Bernhard had examined the rest of the room. The pool had an ecosystem of fish, including some sort of large (1 foot across) sea anemone with clusters of purple tentacles similar to what the winged zingers that nest in this cave have. Lord Carnavon had to climb up on the over 5 foot high table to adequately examine a box that rested upon it. It was about the size of two bread boxes, and was doing something. It had gears and pistons that were spinning and pumping. Occasionally it made a grinding noise as if it was malfunctioning in some way. It gave off an even more alien vibe than the rest of the room. It looked as if it was not made by or for human or saurid hands, but something with truely alien joints. In the few jumbled minutes we were in the cave we did  not get any clear views of it with Astral Sight, but we all felt sure it was doing something mystic. We decided to carry it out of the cave with us. 

We got Nurse Fielding through the tunnel to the infirmary, where we arranged a blood transfusion as quickly as we could. We saved Fielding's life, but by the time we left we still had not determined how much long term damage she had suffered. After helping carry the box for a short while, the Reverend Rowen noticed that he had a lump behind his ear. I examined it and saw that he had a plant growing out of his scalp. I even identified it as being identical to a nearby potted plant within that very infirmary. We all agreed that we needed to get the box out of the camp as soon as possible. We encased the box in a metal strongbox and moved it outside the camp for the night. When next the train to Fort Alice came we loaded up, but arranged for the train to stop at the most deserted location the engineer could recall, and carried the box away from the tracks and hid it behind a rock. We painted the words "Danger" and "Poison" on it in every language we knew. At Fort Alice we reported the location to those people in charge of the artifact known as "the hat", and recommended extreme care be used in investigating "the box". 

We stayed in Fort Alice for a time to help found the Faraday expanded office. 

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