Let us now turn back to a time preceding Jinx\u2019s Vacation, to a point where she has not, as yet, completed her first mission. Just prior to this scene, Baalzephon refers Jinx to Furcas, a Grand Duke of Hell, in order that Jinx may study and learn such spells as are forbidden to all save the servants of the greater powers. The backdrop is actually a bit more convoluted, but all that the reader need know at this point is that Jinx means to petition Furcas for access to his necromantic library, officially known as The Necrology.
The Necrology turns out to be a vast structure built upon a foundation of charred bone. A rancid stench issues from the eight towers which take up positions at its feet, and upon its eight outer walls are cast the lords of death of the various pantheons, their coal black visages regal and supreme as though to either welcome them hither or pay homage to them en masse. A skeletal guard well over a thousand strong lay before the structure\u2019s inky entrance, lining the road two or three deep on both sides as it twists and turns up the steep embankment, the moans and muted whispers of unprocessed soul bricks echoing along the length of the concourse. Finally, some hundred feet from the entrance, a pit fiend emerges followed by six kere, their eyes dark and emotionless while his glint with a transfixed curiosity.
Jinx stops where she\u2019s at, looks at the pit fiend from her location, and states, \u201cA bit of distance between us to blurt out my business, but I am here with the approval of Baalzephon to converse with Furcas.\u201d
\u201cI am not interested in his appreciation, nor yours. If you value your hide, you will take me to him at once.\u201d
The pit fiend glares for a moment, as though deciding whether or not to take that sort of abuse from a mere female, particularly
his subordinates, and with an army of skeletal warriors at his back. Then again, he did sort of ask for it, and
supposing that Jinx were a direct servant of Baalzephon\u2019s, he\u2019d be taking a near-suicidal risk by striking her down.
\u201cFollow me,\u201d he finally states, turning around and letting the kere encircle her before proceeding.
Even as they approach the dark entrance, it is impossible to see beyond the portal\u2019s rim, and as he disappears within, only scant footsteps ahead, it is as though he has walked through an impenetrable shroud. Once inside, however, Jinx finds herself within a chamber of magical portals, many dozens of them scattered about as a fine grey mist swirls about, conveying
of etherealness, although from her studies she suspects that to be quite impossible.1 Through some of these portals she can see vast chambers full of books & scrolls. Others give passage to studies, many of which provide a view of the outside from several stories high. Still others are clouded by an opaque haze, as though the occupants of these rooms wish to have a little privacy. The Pit Fiend leads her through one of these latter portals, guiding her into a bare room with a large obsidian table and a distorted view of one of the flaming towers outside through a thick, marbled window. Jinx notices, however, that the kere did not follow.
The pit fiend turns around, seeming to appraise her with mischievous eyes now that he\u2019s got her alone.
Ethereal-1, the plane of ghosts and spirits that borders the mortal realms but which is blended into the fabric of the outer planes such that it cannot exist apart from them. However, she has not yet learned of the deep ethereal planes where some gods and their servants prefer to tread unbeknownst even to more common ethereal travelers.
\u201cFurcas will soon be here,\u201d he says. \u201cDo you have any last words you\u2019d like me to pass on to your master in case he doesn\u2019t take kindly to your intrusion?\u201d
\u201cYou have a sense of humor,\u201d Jinx says while polymorphing back into her true appearance2, \u201cit shows you have confidence\u2026that you\u2019ve worked for Furcas for quite some time,\u201d she continues as his visage alters slightly at the bewitching figure that now stands before him.
\u201cI have,\u201d he says in a careful manner, not sure if his eyes should be displaying such interest toward something that may be a gift to his master.
\u201cGood. You may as well see me for what I normally am, since I might, with Furcas\u2019 permission, be staying here for a\u2026spell. Your name, what is it?\u201d
Just then, one of the kere walk in. \u201cGordo, the master says he wishes to see this one immediately.\u201d3
The pit fiend glares at her for her impeccable timing, not that it really matters much. Then he motions for Jinx to follow, and two portals later she finds herself in a dining room, its walls exquisitely decorated with
comeliness of 22 at this point in the story, Jinx stands out in a crowd. Hence, being that she doesn\u2019t want to be seen on Dis, for fear of such sightings somehow working their way back to her mother, she is going most everywhere incognito via her ability to polymorph. Only now does she reveal her \u201ctrue\u201d self, and, needless to say, it is a sight that the pit fiend was not expecting.
powerful class of devil for comic relief. The truth is, if I\u2019d been playing him more convincingly, I\u2019d have had to play him more intelligently.
paintings and tapestries depicting scenes of necromantic ritual. Strangely enough, they all seem to be of various stages of the same necromantic ritual, the preparation of a live hobbit for some ghastly ordeal. The first shows the hobbit entering the room. The second shows him being gagged and tied on to a table (the table directly in front of her as chance would have it). The third shows the casting of some spell upon him by a diabolically handsome, long-horned devil, and the fourth shows the hobbit\u2019s belly being slit open, much to his personal discomfort. Finally, there is the scene before her, in the actual flesh as it were, the long-horned devil dining upon his furry-footed guest who is still writhing in horrible pain, trying to scream but unable, and strangely, unable to die as well.
\u201cLeave us,\u201d Furcas says to Gordo, smiling at Jinx as soon as the three (she, he, and their meal) are alone. \u201cBaalzephon mentioned that you might be arriving sooner or later. Personally, I don\u2019t understand what took you. One would think the acquisition of knowledge to be at the top of one\u2019s list of priorities, but then I suppose that the necessities of existence often interfere in that pursuit. Speaking of which, let me not be a rude host.\u201d
With a flick of his finger, a plate, fork, and knife appear on the table near where Jinx is presently standing, and the chair that rests there actually crawls out a good two or three feet to accommodate her should she decide to sit down.
\u201cThank you,\u201d Jinx says as she sits, \u201c\u2026the acquisition of knowledge is at the top of my list of priorities,\u201d Jinx says respectfully. \u201cHowever, the number of priorities on my list is quite daunting, but why complain to someone I\u2019ve never met? \u2026I shouldn\u2019t fuss on our first meeting\u2014\u201d
\u201cFuss away, my child, fuss away,\u201d he says delicately between bites, swallowing a succulent piece of breast meat before continuing \u201cThere is much to be learned from the gripes of others.\u201d
Jinx pauses a moment, takes the knife and fork, and proceeds to cut a nice piece from the hobbit\u2019s left bicep.
\u201c\u2026Loyalty to Mephisto,\u201d Jinx begins while looking at the ring she wears, \u201ccommanded by Adramelech,\u201d she continues while taking out her medallion4, \u201cassigned to Baalzephon \u2014who desires me to be a general,\u201d Jinx says with a chuckle, \u201cyet pulled to the path which you have chosen,\u201d Jinx says while lowering her polymorph still further to expose her veined skin.5
\u201c\u2026And what path is that?\u201d
\u201cYet you have blades at your sides.\u201d
\u201cYou have heard of necro-knights?\u201d
Jinx places the medallion beneath her armor again and then moves her ringed finger back below the table.
\u201cTrue, but I\u2019m not so limited. I have survived the quasi-negative planes, and in a few days my soul will enter the Plane of Death itself to withstand its assault or be devoured. If I survive, I shall be immune to it, but during this ordeal, I\u2019ll need somewhere safe to stay while I regain my health. I need someone who I can trust, who has an understanding of what may be required, and I need access to spells above the ninth circle; they hold no challenge for me any longer.\u201d
At this Furcas stops eating. \u201cIn all my time I have only known three necro-knights who could wield spells of the ninth circle. And now a specimen such as yourself comes before me.\u201d He begins cutting another morsel of meat from the tortured entree. \u201cNo challenge from the ninth circle? I thought the ninth was the extent of a necro-knight\u2019s abilities.\u201d
degree of oversight (scrying) on the part of Adramalech and his minions. Whether or not they can penetrate into the Necrology is unknown to Jinx, but as a matter of courtesy, she shows these items to Furcas to make him aware of the situation.
cobweb of black veins that run just beneath her skin. She wasn\u2019t always this way, but as her powers have been growing, these veins, which distribute negative energy throughout her body, have been growing as well. Their effect of her beauty, however, is a choice of the beholder, and for a devil such as Furcas, these veins would in no way detract.
\u201cI\u2019m not a necro-knight, although I can train them. However, that is the closest comparison I can make. \u2026I need training\u2014training from a true master. Nethrys used to be my master, but I believe I am surpassing him and need a stronger master to guide me henceforth. Your knowledge, your assistance, your library; I need guidance from one such as yourself.\u201d
Jinx sits for a moment, pondering the numerous definitions of \u201cprice\u201d that may be at work in Furcas\u2019 mind. \u201cIt would appear that everyone I encounter has a toll to extract from me. From everyone else I have expected it, for their goals are removed from mine. \u2026I was hoping that you would consider me an investment\u2014a set price a burden to our ligament. You will be encumbered for a while, as well as those who will assist, but you will gain knowledge through this union. Students who desire mastery certainly obey their master. Is that not payment enough?\u201d
\u201cNethrys came to me when I was ignorant. I never solicited him. I was in his plans since before my birth. His master instructed him to train me, so he did, never informing me of his impetus for doing so\u2026making it appear as if he owed it to me for imprisoning my father. I was naive then, but do not think I haven\u2019t paid him. He is alive now because he was my master\u2026flesh and bone\u2026free from torture on my command. I pay my debts, Furcas.\u201d
Furcas looks down at the hobbit, the poor creature still delirious from having his flesh carved from his bone as a repast for two plain-speaking devils.
\u201cWell, my friend,\u201d he murmurs, \u201cwhen I invited you to what I promised would be a delicious meal, I was not lying, was I. But now, I think you have heard far too much.\u201d
A small ice pick suddenly appears in his hand, Furcas using it to crack open the hobbit\u2019s skull.
\u201cHalfling brains are quite tasty when fresh,\u201d he smiles, continuing to chop away as the hobbit\u2019s eyes roll to the back of its head. He finally scoops out the entire organ, slicing it in half
\u201cI\u2019d prefer the side you prefer least; anything more might escalate the price beyond my reach.\u201d
\u201cOh, was that really necessary? Well, since I\u2019ve always prided myself on being a bit of a connoisseur of cranial cuisine, I will admit to you that when it comes to hobbit brains, I\u2019m personally fonder of the right half. That\u2019s the half that contains most of their imagination, you know. Here, try a bite, and see what you think.\u201d
Jinx accepts the offered fork, sniffing at it momentarily before accepting a small nibble of the hobbit\u2019s medula oblongata.
\u201cActually, there may be an explanation for that. You see, halflings basically do two things in life. Either they\u2019re eating or they\u2019re thinking about eating. Hence, their cranial matter contains all the nuances of their limitless appetites: most extraordinary creatures. Proof, I think, that it really is the little things in life, or rather the little people,\u201d he smiles, chomping down on some cerebral cortex. \u201cSpeaking of which,\u201d he wipes his lip, \u201cI\u2019m to understand that you like short men.\u201d6\u201cSize isn\u2019t everything,\u201d Jinx
responds while abandoning eating utensils for her fingers. Slowly she inserts her nails into her dinner, cutting and lifting with them for a moment, playing with the candy-sized, bloody hunk, lifting it above her nose slightly as her mouth escalates to hungrily follow it, a drop of blood falling early and landing on her chin; then her tongue, a mind of its own, playfully guiding the candy to her mouth, sucking the blood from the pours before biting down, and of course, licking her fingers clean for the finale, her mouth still elevated while doing so, the drop of cerebral blood still balanced on her chin\u2019s now
Jinx had prior to this scene where she found some old comrades, Duergar to be specific, being tortured in the bowels of Hell: proof positive that it really is a small multiverse. She rescued them, somewhat to the consternation of their captor, and now she has the reputation among those few who know of her as being a bit of a softy.
horizontal position. She does nothing with the drop on her chin, allowing it to run from her chin down her neck as she returns her gaze to his.7
\u201cDuergars burrow deep into the mountains of many planes. They encounter much that I never would, making them an excellent source of information. They are loyal, unlike the drow. I have spilled much of my own blood with them. Is it wrong that I should be amicable toward them?\u201d
Furcas blinks for a moment, still somewhat transfixed by the spectacle of his dinner companion\u2019s eating habits.
\u201cActually, I was simply wondering what about them so enticed your favor.\u201d8
\u201cIs there no loyalty in hell? You implied that I had a strange way of showing my appreciation to my former master, and I demonstrated that I did appreciate him\u2014before this conversation I may add. I am the Duergars\u2019 ally. They are mine. I\u2019ve retrieved a soul in Tartarus because of loyalty9; one awaits me on another plane, which I will attempt to retrieve as soon as feasible.\u201d Jinx looks at Furcas askance. \u201cIf you wish to appraise my ability to pay my debts, perhaps you should interview those I have fought with, pre-knowledge of my affiliation with Lolth and those affiliated with her. My head spins with this crap. My mother, Nethrys, my grandmother\u2026they never leveled with me. I\u2019ve been torn apart\u2026not physically\u2026my loyalty, my desire. My own family would have sold me for their benefit; Nethrys admitted as much. My confusion derives from your talk of price, from your inability to understand my emotional ties and obligations. It is easy to hurt me: lie to me or withhold the truth; hurt those I
my own meager abilities. It was supplied solely by Jinx\u2019s player, just to give you an idea of the sort of writing of which he is capable.
mention short men, and she goes off the deep end. I wonder if I have a diminution potion around here somewhere.\u201d
paragraph of my submission to A&E #299. This was also the character that \u201cMatt\u201d was given to play in A&E #305.
care for; assume that I am so shallow that I only see you as a tool to enhance my power. It isn\u2019t \u201cfavor\u201d as you put it; it\u2019s paying my debts. Setting a price confounds me, for I interpret it as a relationship that is solely based on payment\u2014a relationship where ties are cut upon completion. Some debts are so great that the need to quantify them\u2026\u201d Jinx stops, trying to regain her composure while leaning back in the chair, perhaps no longer able to stomach what lies before her.
\u201cMy dear girl,\u201d Furcas reaches for her hand, \u201cI\u2019m afraid that I\u2019ve gone and upset you. If it\u2019s simply loyalty that you seek, then it\u2019s loyalty you shall have, for I deal fairly with all those who deal fairly with me. Aside from hobbits, of course. They annoy me.\u201d10
Jinx chuckles a bit at his comic relief, understanding the need to be more constrained on a first visit, yet unable to deny that Furcas may appreciate her goals more than anyone she\u2019s met in hell. \u201cLoyalty isn\u2019t simple,\u201d she says between chuckles. \u201cMy first meeting with a devil demanded me to show my ability with a blade, my second my ability to withstand the continuous abuse and humiliation of a once powerful she- devil11, my third with items to follow and observe me, my fourth to be a gatherer of information at the risk of my very existence, my fifth with one who wanted to seduce me, my sixth,\u201d she says with a smile, \u201cwith opportunity\u2026my seventh with an open hand,\u201d she says with an optimistic yet not too overconfident tone. \u201cI\u2019m not sure what this means,\u201d she says while leaning forward and taking his hand, \u201cbut it feels right.\u201d
Furcas makes a thin smile, \u201cYou must be wary of your feelings, my dear, for they can betray you more despicably than even your worst enemy.\u201d
\u201cI assume you\u2019ve been betrayed by someone near and dear and that a bit of you died as a result of the betrayal; if not, you\u2019re throwing empty words at me, which I don\u2019t see as your nature.\u201d
His thin smile manages to prevail, but his eyes, for a moment, recall memories better forgotten. \u201cIt would
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