Thursday, May 29, 2014

A Dirty Penance

Strum and Grimalkin have more in common that most criminals that arrive at Branderscar. Both are half-elves. Each of them respect laws, honor, tradition, loyalty, and each equally love trying to bend such things to their advantage. 

Grimalkin's mind is a twisted one.
Grimalkin found himself in the depths of Branderscar through a slight lapse of mental judgement. During a sermon dedicated to Mitra and his ever shining love, he began having splitting pains through out his neck, back, and head. The agony was immense. This was no mere discomfort or ache Grimalkin had been

experiencing. What he was going through was a clear sign that he should not be here. A sign that blared through out his cortex
Something had to give.
burned images of Asmodeus into memory. While he has no particular degree of worshiping to Asmodeus it was clear there was a calling at hand. Throbbing with an unstoppable beat, Grimalkin's blood roiled and toiled through his veins.

"Praise be to Mitra the one and true father of us all!" Grimalkin recited in his cell to the only one who would listen. His audience being another half-elf named Strum and a couple rats.

Grimalkin continued "I just could not take it anymore. I don't know why I did what I did, it was so uncharacteristic of my being but I felt compelled, I felt that his pompous old wind bag was offending my inner soul and his wretched voice was like nails against a mirror."

He went on to describe how he remembered lunging at the preacher, the screams, some blood, and waking up to being branded. He wasn't even aware their was a trial. He didn't even get to defend himself.

Then there was Strum, a lowly (by Talingarde standards) assassin that botched a job out of his own accord. He claimed he is here to kill people not depose of bodies. Strum recalled the murderous act that he was called upon to fulfill. Called upon may be a poor choice of words, paid to do so would be better ones. In the realm of Talingarde murder is obviously not allowed. Killing for money makes the need for punishment that much greater.
Assassins come in all shapes.

Strum was sentenced to death for the murder of a noble, but to really make it stick, there were guards that were killed by a rival clan and they went ahead and pin those on him as well.  In Branderscar, the noble is enough, the rest is just gravy to the lawful good folk of Talingarde.

Upon getting into Branderscar cell block, he was shackled next to another half-elf known as Grimalkin. Strum listened to the tale Grimalkin retold.

“Oh, dearest,” proclaimed the unfamiliar woman. “I’m so relieved you’re alive!” She quickly turned to that bastard Tomas. “Could we please have a moment alone, good sir? For pity’s sake?”

He says he could see Tomas goes blank for a bit and then quickly agree with her. “Of course, my lady. For you,’ tis no problem.”

“Have you forgotten me, dearest?” the unexpected visitor said with a smirk, and she dropped her pretense of grief.

“Call me Tiadora. We possess a mutual friend who would like to meet you and your fellow cell-mates. Unfortunately, our friend is unwilling to visit you in your present rather shabby accommodations so it seems you must escape. Don’t be so dour. Just because it’s never been done before is no reason you can’t be the first."

“If you manage that, cross the moors on the outskirts of town. On the old Moor Road you’ll see a manor house with a single lantern burning in the second story. There our mutual friend waits. That is all I know. He did want me to give you this.”

He shows Strum the veil that she gave him and only said “Something to remember me by, dearest.”

Assuming her message delivered Grimalkin says she roseand the guards returned. Immediately, her demeanor
once more changed and she is again a perfect picture of grief. “No, I can’t bear to leave you!” She gave me a kiss on the cheek. The kiss was ice-cold and felt somehow alien and inhuman. Tomas shook his head. “I’m afraid it’s time, miss.” She looked deep in Tomas’ eyes and said, “Thank you for letting me say good-bye. There’s no need to search my dearest. You are such a good friend for letting me see my dearest one more time.”

“Such a good friend,” Grimalkin remembered Tomas repeating as if his voice was almost mechanical. Then the watch sergeant seemed to snap out of it and bowed politely. “A pleasure, madam,” She leaves unveiled. Her eyes meet the PCs one last time and she briefly gives them a wicked smile.

“Three days,” telepathically echoes in my mind. Grimalkin said and added “Don’t disappoint me, dearest”. 

The two didn't know what this veil did but they did experiment with it. Each of them noticed by pulling on the designs they came off. First they pulled off the gold bars and a bag of gold dropped at their feet, it attracted a guard and because all the coins scattered there was no time to stealth anything away except the veil. They didn't seem to mind, it was more than five months of pay all over the cell block. It was welcomed and no additional guards will called.

Grimalkin then took out the lock picking tools, got free with relative ease and released Strum. Each took a dagger from the veil, and also removed the bag and the holy symbol though, finding out afterwards that those those were of no use to them. It was a bit dark so they also took off the lantern for better hallway vision.  We tussled with some guards but it turned out to be futile. We were out matched. We saw they had longbows, long swords, armor, and shields. Our daggers were nothing compared to that. Luckily they didn't kill on us the spot, but we were knocked out and put back in the cell block.
Branderscar is a lonely place.
We  turned to our last resort which was to use the magic window and the rope. We climbed out the side of the jail cell wall and eventually ended up making ourway to the outer rim of the south west part of the prison walls. Here we found the Gardenrobe. The place where waste is dumped into the sea. We took our opportunity and went for it. With no gear at this time, we the swam through the rough ocean currents with out much trouble but was rather time consuming. We knew the prison would be on high alert at least for a few days. 
It's a hard knock life.

While we spent hours swimming and days hiding, with only minor crustaceans to feed on, and only salt water to drink, by the time we had made it to the start of the moor and began cross the swamp lands in the dead of night we were exhausted. We did manage to get the jump on a single guard who was presumably rushing for the additional protection.

With only a short bow, a leather-wrapped club to knock folks about, a long sword, a heavy steel shield, a quiver of arrows, and a chain shirt we ventured onward. Strum and Grimalkin have survival skills but they don't have long. 

Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Final Trek

3:00 A.M - Day 1, Desnus 25, 3042 AP (After Peace)

Finished with his ritual and equipped with his new zombie companion, Vix’thra arrives down stairs to an unearthly sight. Stryder is sitting in a pool of blood next to a pile of neatly stacked corpses and all their gear neatly stacked up. Vix’thra revives the rest of the party with channeled negative energy and the party scours the remaining rooms. 

Maldrake coup de grace three sleeping and drunk out of their mind guards in the barracks. Cleaned out their chests and the party took what they could from the storage facility. After finding a map of the prison in Blackerly’s office, they knew where all the guards are posted and their shifts.  We found it best to dress everyone up in guard uniforms and walk Stixx and Grumblejack out as prisoners. The password of the week is Hesterfield which was obtained from the chests in the barracks. 

Armed with little of weapons and armor, no spell book for Kallista and no Alchemist lab for Stixx we strolled up as a group to the second post and fed the barking dogs in their kennel doggy treats they also found in the barracks storage area. This kept them quite long enough to walk to the final post at the beginning of the prison. Those guards looked alarmed but with passwords in hand and guard uniforms on, they easily bluffed the late night guards into thinking their shifts were ending and they had to take these prisoners out to the nearest town for judgment. Because no new guards have arrived naturally the current post split up and went to check on the main compounds guards. 

It would be five minutes before they would know what had happened and it gave us ample time to run off into the foggy morning night air across the moor ahead instead of our mysterious guest waiting for us at a nearby manor. Travel is expected to be about an hour according to our map.
What is next?

Hell inside of Hell

1:00 A.M - Day 1, Desnus 25, 3042 AP (After Peace)

We’ve been waiting six hours now. Vix’thra was rabid that we use one of the guards for his sick and twisted purposes. We are all getting itchy. We’ve locked ourselves in the core cell block and positioned ourselves in the best way we can. 

A rustle of chain shirts and clanking swords is heard. Oh no, the change of guard. Vix’thra has two hours left of his ritual. We’ll have to handle this without him. 

“Where the hell are the 2nd shifters?” said one of the guards.

“You know where they are, probably drunk as skunks passed out in the cell block.” the other said.
Ritual complete.
We heard a knock at the door and they asked if we were ok, presumably referring to the previous guards. Since one of the previous shifts was a woman Kallista attempted to bluff them. 

“Oh nothing is wrong, we’ve just locked ourselves in and the keys don’t seem to be working from this side.” She said.

In the interrogation room Maldrake hid in the darkness with the door ajar. He unleashed a murderous command spell causing the guard with the horn to attempt and attack against the other and missed.  Luckily for Maldrake the guard on the receiving in passed it off as drunkenness and quickly forgot about it due to Kallista’s rouse. 

Kallista posing as the female guard bluffed the guards to stand back so we can try and open the door with a bit of force. Foolish as they were, the guards put away their weapons and the signal horn in preparation to help. 

Damn 'ittle 'uns.
Silently, Grumblejack is signaled to get ready to charge the door, Kallista is to his right wielding a long sword. Stixx readies himself to mix a bomb to throw. Maldrake has the other long sword and a sadistic smile indicating he is ready to let loose another vicious bite attack from the darkness in the outside chamber.  Stryder now equipped with a simple longbow stand at attention closer to the back cells with aim centered on the door. 

The door swung open and the shocked look in the dazed eyes of the guards is all we needed to know to make this another win for us. Or so we thought. Stryder began with an arrow to the shoulder of initial horn blower. Maldrake jumped from the door and landed a bite to the side of the same guard’s neck. To finish the job in swift fashion Grumblejack missed with a slam, but Kallisa ended him quickly with a magic missile. 

The final guard, clearly outnumbered withdrew from combat and rushed down stairs. Grumblejack and Kallista gave chase. Maldrake took a dangerous chance and jumped down the nearby active chimney.  Sadly for Maldrake his climb skills are not grand and he tumbled right into a pile of hot ashes to meet four lowly servants prepping food for the next shift.  

With horn in hand and signal being blown by this last runaway guard, we knew with in only minute reinforcements were bound to arrive. We thought this would be no problem unfortunately for us, the stairs end right outside of Sgt. Blackery’s quarters. Within 30 seconds he was up and out ready to go and cut Grumblejack off and two other guards at the far end of the Great Hallway had bows readied.  

Kallista in action.
Kallista enlarged herself to pair up with Grumblejack. The two guards in the hallway let loose two arrows into Grumblejack’s chest. He dropped briefly to one knee but reached to attack Tomas Blackerly and stuck him with an immense blow. Tomas however made a critical error and lost grips with his sword and instead struck his inner thigh causing a major bleed. Tomas returned with a sword thrust through the half-ogre’s shoulder dropping him to the floor.  

I want to where the horn as a hat.
Thanks to Maldrake’s daring move he entered the same hall way from another area and struck the runaway guard with another bite attack killing him instantly.  While Tomas was charging toward Kallista, Stixx and Styder were making their way down the stairs to the same hall way. Maldrake went after the guards with bows swinging his longsword at them with fury. 

Kallista first took to range combat with Tomas and missed twice. She switched to the long sword to take to melee. By this point Tomas was well ready to fight. They traded a couple blows.Stixx attempted another bomb launch but missed and did nothing. Tomas struck down the little goblin in one swift shunt of his sword. Unfortunetly for Tomas, Stryder is a keen shot and dropped him with a pinpoint shot through the neck.  Maldrake lunged at the closest bower and struck with a long sword and bite attack and dropped him fast. 

Stryder launched an arrow at the other and wounded him quite badly, and thus he began to run screaming in pain. Maldrake started to run after him.  Kallista who was badly injured began a full run as well. The runaway guard did manage to escape to the court yard where two more incoming guards were intercepting him as well as a guard dog. Kallista was the first to go against the guard dog in front. She missed and it finished her off with relative ease. 

 It was Stryder who barely was in range for his longbow put an arrow through the guard dog while Maldrake finished it off via flanking. The reinforcement guards closed in on Maldrake. Maldrake unleashed another thrust and bite and removed one of the newly arriving guards. 

Maldrake took an arrow to the back and a precise sword strike through the gut and he went down.  Stryder put an arrow through the skull of the runaway guard and the new guard was closing in on Stryder with a sword. Stryder shot, hit and the guard returned a blow to his rib cage. Stryder sidestepped and shot again, hit again. The guard took another swing and Stryder ducked and stepped back one final time. He was on death’s door, one more hit and he would have been down as well. In his favor, the arrow hit the guard in the side and down he went. 

Stryder, matted with blood from mane to tail, observed the carnage quietly. His newly found escapees were down. The hall way was soaked with blood. Tomas, five guards, and a dog were dead.  The servants stuck their heads out of the mess hall into the hall way to see this scene. Stryder looked at them with a blank stare. With bow already cocked and ready to fire, the servants as they did with Maldrake surrendered and begged for their life. 

Please have mercy!
I beg of you!
With no calculation or care, he shot and dropped the first one. The other servants pleaded for mercy and Stryder only saw them as obstacles to alert more guards and downed another. The third servant started to back away and Stryder dropped him. The fourth managed to run back to the kitchen. Stryder slowly followed and busted down kitchen door. Calmly raised his bow and struck down the helpless servant as he was praying in the back of the head. 

First Blood

9:00 P.M - Day 0, Desnus 24, 3042 AP (After Peace)

We’ve got through the worst of it. We’re not shackled any further. We have Grumblejack on our side, with a potion taken from the magical veil and strong encouragement from Kallista he’s ready to help.

Stixx lined up behind some cells to the right of the main door, ready to drop a bomb on the guard who pulls out his annoying signal horn. “I’ll be wearing that for a hat after this.” 
No great loss.
Stryder stood ready to charge at anyone coming through the door. Maldrake and Kallista readied themselves for battle and Grumblejack was waiting to make some noise to bring the guards in. The rest stood ready to cause some major pain. 

The guards as planned rushed in with their leather clubs ready to beat on our heads and feet. The first through the door had the club and a shield while the second had a club and the horn. It was clear from their shocked faces they were not ready for the destruction that ready to happen. Stixx tossed a bomb and struck the horn blower perfectly and we bashed against them like the water against the rocks below Branderscar. With only rusty manacles and a couple daggers we overcame what little resistant they put up. The horn blower tried hard to set off the alarm but with that slight lapse in combat judgment, Maldrake unleash a bite to his throat causing gout of blood from the horn instead of a robust signal. 

With those simpletons out of the way we waited. Vix’thra demanded we allow him to perform an 8 hour ritual on one of the corpses of the fallen guards for a zombie companion.  To best account for any interrupts we locked him in Grumblejack’s cell so he could fully concentrate. We then locked ourselves with in the core cell block and waited.

The Escape

We arrived shortly after sunset.

7:00 P.M - Day 0, Desnus 24, 3042 AP (After Peace) 

We five lowly inmates find our way from what could only be the lowliest of place in all of Talingarde: Branderscar Prison. After being chained together and hauled through the moors outside of the prison all day we arrived shortly around sunset to be branded with the iconic "F". Marked as forsaken for the rest of our lives we await only three days to escape or face certain death. We must escape.

A little cramped for our taste..
 We spent the first couple hours going over why were are here and what we can do to escape. It became rather apparent to Maldrake, the tiefling cleric of Szuriel and Vix'thra the aasimar cleric of Urgathoa that if this was going to work, it needed to be done once, right, and free of any mistakes. While Maldrake and Vix'thra began to formulating a plan, Vix'thra was pulled away for a private meeting with a mysterious guest we were not expecting.

Maldrake, Cleric of  Szuriel
Maldrake shared this story until Vix'thra returned. "As a man I jumped from town to town and in time found that I was more excepted when war was raging, my appearance was the least of their issues. I also found that money could be made from war. I would walk the field at night after the battles were over or on hold and collect the weapons and armor that could be cleaned and re-sold. I also found Szuriel and her love of war. You may know her by her other names: The horseman of War, Angel of Desolation or the seraph of devastation. When wars were not going on, I found ways to start them by turning brother against brother and getting a kings army to fight targets of my choice. Well here I am incarcerated for Sedition, I got the rumor mill going about an attack on the city, and how the King was not going to oppose the attack, he was going to let the city get sacked, but I guess I tried one to many times and King Markadian V was able to see thru my seditious act to get the people to push him to declare war on a nearby city. I have never met anyone that was such a goody-two-shoe."

The unexpected visitor, Tiadora.
Despite her underlying grief she was all business once the guards left her sight.  She had some powerful control over the Sgt Blackerly to allow such an intrusion at a high security prison.

To the untrained eye, it is a simple veil. To a curious Vix'thra and a savy Maldrake through magical prowess quickly saw this strange item's potential. Identifying it as a Veil of Useful Items, they knew exactly what to do.  A potion for half-ogre, lock picks for the goblin, daggers for Kallista and Maldrake, as well was a pouch with a day’s worth of chemicals.

This mysterious guest known only as Tiadora left Vix'thra with a cryptic message about meeting her master out past old moor road and that it was our challenge to escape. 

Vix'thra, Cleric of Urgathoa
Vix'thra returned shortly after to distrustful glances but redeemed his honor quite quickly after he revealed the hidden gem his strange guest granted him. He was rather eager to end the lives of the drunken guards to perform an extensive ritual for an undead servant. 

This is when we noticed the strange half-ogre Grumblejack in the cell next to us. He was beaten, bruised, bleeding and overall just in rough shape. He about lost his mind watching Maldrake cast a simple detect magic. He
huddled in the corner for half an hour. 

We removed the lock picking tools and tasked a quirky Goblin alchemist by the name of Stixx with the duty of freeing the rest. 
Stixx, Goblin Alchemist

Despite looking absolutely out to lunch, he removed our bonds with few mishaps and those that did happen we easily covered up with careful stealth.  

Kallista, Tiefling Magus
Kallista, our tiefling magus told the tale of her capture after dueling to death a dishonorable peon who instead of dying with dignity ran to the authorities. Talingarde has no time for dueling to death and thus sentenced her to beheading. She became instrumental in finding, no, rather forcing, an unlikely ally in the cell next to them with a half-orge named Grumblejack.  

Stryder, the quiet archer.
Staying quiet to himself there is Stryder, a catfolk fighter who has a preference for bows. His story was brief and to the point. “My name is Stryder and here is my story. When I was a kitten I was often bullied day in and day out. I've learned to wear homemade armor to soften the blows that the bullies kept on giving to me. As I grew, I found a life of solitude a better way to go. Supporting me was not easy so I started to fraud people out of their money until eventually I got too greedy and now my punishment is to work hard labor at the salt mines for a life time. I don’t plan on allowing that to happen. Let’s go.”