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Aug 11, 2020 2:47 PM
Abyssal Leo in Goodcheer
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Agonized Servitor of Deception and Fear Lionborn Ashenheart, Born Beneath the Stars of the Tainted Blood of the Tormented Messiah Falling Upon Virgin Snow, in Corruption's Unholy Name Reborn From Ignoble Death by the Grace of Wuxiao the Mistress of Shadow, Dark Servant of the Most Hateful and Glorious Neverborn, That He May Bring Misery to the Hearts of the Pathetic Multitudes of Humanity ("call me Lao", he says, and accepts the prickling feeling that is the disapproval of the Neverborn) has not been having a great day. Or week. Or... he's never actually had what could be called a "great" day, come to think of it. Certainly not since taking his Last Breath.

This day, then, is exceptional less in that it isn't great, and more in that it is very, very confusing.

He got lost wandering the Labyrinth, which isn't that confusing; it's in the name. But then he exited the Labyrinth, and finds himself now in... a field? And it doesn't seem like it's a field in the Shadowlands, because it's got living plants. And he can't hear Wuxiao's sickly-sweet voice, though he can still hear the Whispers of the Neverborn crawling in the back of his mind.

Lacking a better idea, Lao wanders some more.

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There are much fewer whispers here. Just the sound of the wind rustling through the corn. It's quiet, besides that. Sometimes it sounds like there are whispers, but it's just the wind.

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Fewer whispers are good. Probably.

Idly, he smells the air to see if there are any humans nearby. 

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There are a few humans nearby, maybe. The mild rotting smell makes it harder to be sure.

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Oh good. Love that.

He heads towards the humans, regardless. He's completely lost, and humans mean shelter. And food.

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He finds them. They're standing together in the field. A few of the teenagers are drinking and laughing. The rest aren't doing much at all. They span a range of ages. Some look like children, while others might be nearly adult.

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One of them turns to look at him.

"Hello."

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Lao inclines his head. "Hello. I'm afraid I've gotten rather lost; what is this place?"

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One of the children, quiet until now, laughs abruptly. She hasn't turned to face him.

"Don't worry about them. Some people don't know how to treat a guest. Where are you from? Maybe I can give you directions."

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"I'm from Lookshy," Lao lies. "But I've never seen plants like this. I might be farther out of my way than you think."

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“You’ve landed in Alcove Springs, friend.”

It’s hard to miss the smell, now. Some of these people are decomposing.

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Charming.

"Dare I ask how you do treat guests in Alcove Springs?"

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"That depends on the guest. It's a nice place to live for most people. As long as you're willing to lend a helping hand, we'll welcome you."

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Some of the others are glancing nervously his way. The rest continue drinking, and laughing, and whispering. It's a nice way to unwind after a long day, presumably, if you're a walking corpse.

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Lao smiles wide, still not showing his teeth. "Well, I'm a helpful person. What exactly needs doing?"

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"Serve food at next week's feast. It would be the neighborly thing to do."

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"I can do that," he says slowly. "It would certainly be neighborly. Is there somewhere for me to stay until then?"

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"We can find you somewhere to make your home."

He walks past Lao. Some of the others follow.

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Lao follows as well.

This guy's pretty clearly not another Abyssal, but he could still be a necromancer. Or the zombies could be unrelated, but Lao hasn't gotten this far in life by assuming people aren't malevolent zombie-summoning murderers. He doesn't let his guard down.

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If he’s a necromancer, his zombies certainly aren’t very loyal. Most of the people who follow him are the quieter ones, who aren’t quite right.

Not all of them look like corpses. None of them look human. He can see roots growing out of fingernails, hair with the wrong consistency, and blotches of skin that aren’t decaying, but don’t look healthy at all.

This neighborly stranger looks quite normal. Very fresh.

”Would you like to stay in the church? If not, there are many warm parishioners who’ll have you for a few nights, but it’s where I would put someone in need of aid.”

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The roots... some kind of elemental infection? Are they near the Pole of Wood? That'd explain the plants he's never seen.

"I've got no objection to the church. 'Warm' parishioners?"

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“I’m taking you to someone who can help you. He wants to help you. He’s a friendly guy.”

As they get further from the corn, the smell of rot fades away. Here, what Lao notices most is the heat. The sun shines above as though it’s any other day, but the air is warm and dry. He can see a farmhouse nearby, but his guide seems to be headed somewhere else.

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"Well, that's good. I like friendly."

(He doesn't, actually, but this is no time to start telling the truth.)

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Then they'll make it to this friendly guy's house. It's an ordinary enough home on the outside. A bit on the larger side, with a well-manicured lawn. The paint looks faded, but not quite peeling. His new friend rings the bell.

"Friend, we have a visitor!"

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His new friend's friend answers the door.

"You said you would- hello. Are you...new in town?"

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Lao makes sure not to step on the grass. Blighting this guy's lawn wouldn't be neighborly, he's pretty sure.

"I am, yes. Very new. Nice to meet you," he lies.

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