Description: Erron Black, The Outworld cowboy, has been tasked with delivering a package for the elusive sorcerer Shang Tsung. His journey takes him deep beneath the earth, to the heart of a dormant volcano, where a forgotten relic may hold the key to Outworld's triumph over Earthrealm's resistance.
A self-proclaimed relation to Kotal Kahn contacted Erron through the standard channels upon his arrival to Japan; a surprisingly thin robed figure with a silken voice. An incredible sum of money was given in raw diamonds and golden artifacts, for the seemingly simple task of taking a box to a particular area and setting it up. The only meaningful statement was that such directly worked towards Kotal's own agendas, if not why this intermediary was delivering the orders instead.
It is a surprisingly laborious process of actually getting to the stated area. It is far from civilization, upon an outlier island of moderate size. The box in question is seemingly made of smooth stone, engraved with countless lightly glowing runes and bindings of almost gossamer chains. There is no apparent lock or other area to open it beyond breaking... but a sense of great power thrums within, despite very obvious attempts to seal it away.
Too far for even a helicopter to assuage the journey, Erron must charter a boat to the island in question, trek through thick forests, and scale the edge of a dormant volcano before a small crack is found. It leads down, at first natural, but abruptly becoming sculpted stone with etched stairways. Dormant runes are upon the walls and ceiling, remarkably similar to those on the box being carried.
At the bottom, beneath the caldera of the sleeping volcano -- the area still warm from lava flows -- there is a great pair of double doors. A vaguely draconic looking symbol dominates the majority, although it seems incredibly ancient. The box vibrates intensely now, the runes beginning to seethe brightly like fire. The area glows with the wisps of escaping chi...
When you've been in this line of work for as long as Erron has, you tend to meet a lot of people. Faces fade, and names are lost to time. But rarely do you forget the man who granted you extended life.
Whether this latest job will directly help Kotal or not, Erron isn't entirely sure. But he is reasonably certain it won't actively hinder him, And the money is good. Thus, two and a half days later, the once Earthrealmer finds himself deep underground as he moves through the final leg of his arduous trip into Bum Fuck Japan.
Soft, greyish light reflects off of dark stone walls, glistening on imbedded patches of glossy black obsidian. Ahead, the broad corridor continues downward at a sharp angle, steep stone stairs spiraling out of sight. Behind and above is more of the same. The last half an hour has been not dissimilar to walking threw the bowels of a stone serpent, with the mercenary's scant watery light revealing the dormant symbols etched regularly into the walls and ceiling.
The light emanates from a pearly plum-sized pebble held calmly in Erron's left hand, his callused fingers curled about the stone in just such a way to direct most of the light forward in a broad beam. His right hand hovers at his side, fingers spread and ready to draw, though thus far the caverns have been quiet as a tomb. The only living thing here seems to be himself, the steady scrapes of his boots on the stone steps echoing throughout the tunnels.
But ahead, there is light.
"Well I'll be damned." The cowboy mutters, rounding the final bend and stepping out of the stairwell into a large, sweltering entry way. The open flows of lava at the edges of the room cast flickering orange light up the cavernous walls, providing enough illumination without his pebble to easily make out the carved dragon symbol before him.
Lifting his hat from his head, Black lets out a long, tired breath. His tangled brown hair is matted to his scalp, and sweat glistens on the scarred flesh of his arms. His annoyance is clear in the hard set of his dark blue eyes, but he is being paid good money to be here.
Cowboy up, Black.
Stepping forward toward the looming double doors, he reaches back behind him to the leather satchel that bumps against his back. Lifting the flap, he deposits his glowing light stone within, and carefully lifts free the vibrating stone box.
its seemingly ornamental chains rattle against the carved stone surface as he steps forward and extends his hand, attempting to press the glowing artifact against the center of the carved dragon. In the back of his mind, he can only wonder if the package is about to explode. But no, if his guess is right, this is a key.
As that thought flits through Black's awareness, he starts to put his hat back on, left arm still extended toward the door...
The air seems to hiss as the strange box is brought into the open air. The door's runes begin to glow, wisps of energy coalescing towards it from the sealing binding. Deep stone joints rumble, and with a great, rasping noise begin to push inwards of their own volition. Within is a great round area, easily a hundred yards in a circle; curving upwards into a dome. A half-dozen odd statues are present against the walls, nearly reaching the ceiling. Clad in robes, they hold long staffs with different ornamented tops, although the heads are too worn with time to make much out.
The entire floor is a similar draconic sigil, and within the middle there seems to be a pedestal. A metallic dragon, it's mouth open and recessed eyes blank.
The room has a strange feel to it, a familiar otherworldly nature that Erron has felt before. As if it's partially within this world, and partially not...
The odd dragon in the center, however, does not react to the sealed box in any manner. Presumably, now it must be opened...
Following the grinding doors into the large, circular room, the soles of Erron's worn old boots crunch over the sprawling dragon etched into the floor. It is not unlike that first time he stepped through a portal to Outworld, though now there is familiarity in the gut-churning sensation. After so much time spent in that other land, it is almost comforting to taste partial freedom from Earth's embrace.
The mercenary's tattered brown poncho flutters from his throat as he strides confidently forward. The fitful box is balanced carefully atop the spread fingers of his left hand, dark eyes scanning the statues warily from beneath the brim of his hat. But, as nothing has immediately animated to come forward and claim his soul, there is nothing for it but to continue.
stooping to slide a wicked bone-handled hunting knife from his right boot, he wedges the blade beneath one of the web-like chains and gives a violent twist. With a loud 'PING,' the chain parts, and he moves on to the next. Bracing the box in the crook of his arm, he bares down on it, keeping it secure and steady while he snaps the network of chains that have kept it bound.
From beneath his hard leather mask, Erron's breathing can be heard. it is slow and controlled, his attention focused but not overly afraid. This is dangerous. That much is clear to him. But he has lived a dangerous life, and always he has survived. All he has to do is finish this final task, and make it clear of the island.
Cowboy up, Black.
Standing not 5 feet in front of the gaping metal maw of the dragon, Erron twists the blade of his knife a final time to snap the last remaining chain. Dropping then to one knee, he tilts the lid of the stone container toward the roaring effigy before him, doing his level best to insure that whatever may come exploding out doesn't take any bits of him with it. Then, jamming the tip of his knife into the seem, he attempts to pry the container open, exposing its interior to the heated air of the ancient chamber.
There's a flash of mystical energy as the chains are severed, sorcerous pacts seeping into the air. Once the box is fully pulled open, the top erupts off. A crimson shard flies out, impacting the dragon's open mouth. Immediately it's eyes brightly glow, and surging power roars out from beneath. The entire sigil begins to glow, running up the walls to the ceiling, the eyes of those somber statues starting to shine as well.
And then, there is a torrent of green, horrific energy. A whirlwind of some necromantic power, intermingled with countless shapless souls, faces wrought in quiet howls. Erron would feel his very lifeforce be wrung away, shriveling, power leaving him, as the crystal continues to glow brighter.
Was this the long con? For his life to end in some fel ritual?
But no, suddenly there is an explosion of power, and there is a single speck of orange, off-color light in the air. The soulnado vanishes, with just that mote in the air.
It is almost the size of a basketball, sound of air whistling through, the familiar scent of a wasteland etching through. Outworld?
And then a great, booming voice. "What is this...? I cannot use a portal so small...!!"
AS the top flies free of the box, and glowing green souls begin to whirl into the air, Erron's immediate thought is that he has been had. His fingers fly from the side of the box, And as it begins to fall, he flings himself backward out of his crouch.
Sailing through the air, the outland mercenary can feel the life force being drained from his body. Invisible claws dig into his unnatural vitality,scraping deep furrows as they threaten to rip it from his body to feed the growing soulnado.
As if in slow motion, he draws his knees up defensively, knife raised and gun blurring from its holster to rest comfortably in his left hand. His short poncho flutters, coal-rimmed eyes narrowing against the lime green glare.
He might just escape. It will be close, but he can make it.
The soulnado vanishes as abruptly as it came, energy sucked away into the hovering magical focus. And in its place, there is a portal.
The familiar tang of dusty desert air filters through Erron's mask as his back impacts the ground. The entire incident took only fractions of moments, over before most people would have had time to react. And as a booming male voice echo's throughout the interior of the chamber, the mercenary is already kipping up effortlessly to his feet, soft sounds of rattling equipment sifting back through the portal.
"Shang Tsung sends his regards." Erron replies, his desert-dry baritone failing to reflect the pumping of his adrenalin-fueled heart. Moving slowly now, forcing his nerves to settle, the Outworld cowboy saunters forward to stand once more before the split between realms.
Casually, his left thumb spins the cylinder of his revolver, the mechanism whizzing through its rotations with a comforting 'hzzzzzzzzzzzzch.' Stopping the action with a quick click of the hammer, he then twirls the gun deftly around his scarred fingertips and drops it neatly into its holster. The knife, however, stays in his other hand, tilted away while his narrowed eyes peer through the opening from a short distance back. He wouldn't want anyone on the other side getting any ideas about dragging him through an opening that small.
"If you have any complaints," The mercenary drawls casually, voice muffled slightly by his mask, "Take them to him."
"Tch... so that peon refuses to show himself to me? It is no surprise, when his efforts prove so fruitless...!!" It seems that the unseen figure is right on the other side of the small speck of light that seems to be the portal.
"This is a gateway of the Elder Gods... the sanctions they have placed on me do not work here." Sensible, as otherwise like Shang Tsung or Erron himself it would be simple to traverse dimensions. "But in all his time in this realm, that fool never gathered enough energy in his shard to fully open the gate. No matter... I will not be barred!!"
Suddenly, two hands slip through the tiny speck and grasp either side. Thick, tanned digits grasp. And then the world seems to quiver. A great, horrendous roar as it starts to be yanked aside. The air shrieks, the ground rumbles, the air crackles and pops. Time and space itself seem to distort, as a great roaring shout bellows from the titanic man opposite.
Slowly, inch by inch, the portal seems to stretch. A view of Outworld is seen, and the great upper body of an absolutely muscular individual. One he knows by name -- Shao Kahn. His dull metal skull-like helmet stares at Erron, and the energy rushing forth from him seems infinite, making Shang Tsung feel a candle in the wind.
Sorcerous crackles of energy shore up from within Shao Kahn, as his tense, bulging muscles shudder and strain, having drawn the portal to almost six feet... the world then seems to fold inwards. For a split second everything is black, only a dot of light in the distance. The sound of a great collapse...
And then Erron is again in the gate room, with the sparking entrance to Outworld once more only a foot or so large.
"So the world cannot endure the strain... then it must be grown!! You, maggot! I have seen your soul. Bring word to Kotal Kahn... the plan to open the gateway has failed. Gather the agents that have been carefully inferred in Earthrealm. I shall grant Shang Tsung some new shards; and we will finish the portal, while I stabilize it from over here!!"
Though he had his suspicions as to the owner of that epic booming voice, having heard it raised many times in anger or triumph over the Outworld Arenas, Erron becomes certain when the emperor refers to Shang Tsung as a peon. There are not many beings that walk the wastes who would risk earning the ire of the vindictive sorcerer.
Taking a single step back, the mercenary eyes Shao Kahn's fingers as they grip the edge of reality, a faint grimace coming over his masked features when the massively powerful being begins to force his way through. Faint traces of fear skirt the edge of his mind as he attempts to comprehend the sheer magnitude of the Emperor's strength.
For a moment, he is eye to eye with the ruler of Outworld. His dark blue gaze locks on the skull mask, and he buries his trepidation, standing resolute in the face of death.
Everything goes dark, stretching off infinitely to a singular, glowing point.
Reality comes crashing back around the gunslinger with the force of a hammer blow. Rocking on his feet as if struck, the black and brown clad cowboy tightens the grip on his knife and gives his hatted head a slight shake.
There is nothing quite like knowing you still exist. Especially after your existence has been threatened.
Twirling the bone-handled hunting knife between his fingers, blade flashing in the shifting orange light, the mercenary briefly ponders his position. Could he ask for payment? Dare he try?
Of course he dares. That is not the issue. The issue is, would he work for Shao Kahn?
"I'll be meeting Kotal soon anyway. He'll get your message." Erron replies, his bland, drawling baritone holding nowhere near the amount of respect necessary for speaking to an emperor. He does not ask for payment, but the subtle jibe is there within his words. He works for Kotal, not for the god-like being trapped on the other side of the portal.
With his parting remark, the muscular merc turns with a soft rustle of cloth and begins to stroll lazily toward the yawning entrance of the chamber. His armored boots scuff quietly across the stone floor, stepping disinterestedly on the face of the sprawling dragon symbol below him. Soon enough, he has exited the portal room and is wandering across the lava-filled expanse of the outer chamber, mind already contemplating the many stone steps he is going to have to climb, followed by free scaling a cliff, hacking through a bug-infested jungle, and sailing the hell off of this god forsaken island.
Things like this are the reason he makes the big bucks.
"Tell Shang Tsung he shall get what he knows is coming once I am free... if he hoped to delay my ascendency, he will find himself sorely regretting this!!" As the other man moves to leave, past the great double doors the feel of otherworldly energy cuts off. With a grind of stone the doors begin to close once more; it will not be easy to trace this place again, without knowing precisely where it is.
"Know this, mortal. Shang Tsung gave you a taste of true power. And what sorcery he clings to, I gave him. ...If you wish for true power, beyond this world, beyond ALL worlds... then reconsider to who it is you kneel. For all shall -- the difference is whether you choose, or I force you!!"
And with a slow, hissing snap, the doors close. The sensation of Outworld vanishes, and as it does, the great magnitude of energy from the portal. Well... an easy enough job, isn't it? What's almost being drained to a husk and having your reality shattered?
Log created on 17:29:20 08/07/2016 by Erron Black, and last modified on 01:18:14 08/08/2016.