Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Nine Knots

7:00 P.M - Day 4, Desnus 29, 3042 AP (After Peace)

She seems more demented every time.
We had given Tiadora our list of needed equipment. It was a pitifully low amount of money. With seven of us we surely could be prepared for anything. Stixx and Kallista prepared themselves from their books and studies. Maldrake prayed as Urgoen prepared his eidolon.  Strumm, Grimalkin, and Stryder readied their weapons and armor. We waited for three days until we were given further instructions. We were called to see the master once more.

Thorn simply said, “Have you enjoyed your gifts? The iron circlets allow you to move amongst your enemies as one of them. The silver amulets will remind you of your true loyalties. And the other items – well, you need them now. “You have done well to escape from Branderscar and to accept my offer. However, you are still not ready for my service. Tiadora will lead you to the basement of this domicile. There you will find nine chambers each more dangerous than the last. Somewhere hidden within these chambers is a pendant of silver and sapphire. Recover the pendant and bring it to me. Let nothing and no one stand in your way.”

And so that was it. We were led to a ten foot wide archway that led down a ten foot wide stone stairway. The stair way descended down roughly fifteen feet. We timidly adventured forth into the first room of this strange dungeon.

Into the depths.
So as I scribe here, the set of stone stairs led down, through an archway and into an unfurnished chamber beyond. Inscribed upon the archway in the common tongue as a strange phrase:

“Deception is a tool. Self-deception is death. Deceive always thy enemy but never thyself.”

The room beyond was lit by a small oil lantern hanging from the center of the chamber. It seems simple enough to go through the doorway to our east directly opposite of the stairs we came down on. Grimalkin was ready and willing to show off his trap finding skills and wanted to check the only door in the room for traps and we didn't know if it was his skills that found it or his clumsiness but as soon as he stepped in front of the door a pit opened up.  Spiked trap was below the door.  Grimalkin and Maldrake went down and hurt themselves  but not fatally. After bringing him back up we saw carved upon the wall inside the pit near the bottom is the phrase:

“Thou wert deceived. Pain is thy reward.”

We pulled him out and left disabled the trap and replaced the plate so we could get through the door. We opened the door and nothing. A false wall is all that hid behind this door. Grimalkin went searching the rest of the room and didn't find anything unusual. Finally Maldrake, one of the wisest in the group along with Strumm also very perceptive located two secret doors. Paranoid as they should be, they searched for traps as well on the doors and nothing seemed out of place. Upon opening the north wall concealed a small niche. Inside that niche was a small pedestal that held a jewel that glowed with pale blue light. It was cold to the touch. There was another inscription:

“Thou hast seen through deception to uncover a useful tool.”

Grimalkin trying to find traps. 
After some crude appraising, we found this was a clever crafted bit of sealed quartz with a bit of alchemist ice trapped inside. We handed it to Styxx for safe keeping or throwing should we need it and began to check out the southern wall for traps. Again, we found nothing and gave it a try. We opened it up with an eerie scraping sound we looked down twenty foot long hallway.

7:30 P.M - Day 4, Desnus 29, 3042 AP (After Peace)

What could this be for?
We found that the short passage from the north ended in a wooden door with another inscription:

 “Following the herd is for fools. Fear not their icy derision. Instead, fear only thy Infernal Lord.”

 Inside the stone chamber, we found four doors – each facing a cardinal direction. The entire chamber was strangely cold. The ground was absolutely dirty and dusty and we could tell at least a dozen individuals have walked towards the southern and the eastern doors. No one seems to have approached the western door however. Same as before this room was also lit with a small oil lantern that hung from the ceiling. We remember this room because there was an unusual bit of frost over the oil lantern.

So, we got to it. We searched the doors. Grimalkin started with the eastern door and he discovered there was a javelin trap. So he decided to disable it and set it off. A javelin went through his shoulder and he reeled backwards.  Grimalkin made a comment about having. Grumblejack open the south door and begrudgingly that’s what he did.  Naturally, he took one to the lower leg and pulled it right out and said, “Toothpick.”

After opening both of the doors that had the traps we saw two inscriptions:

“Thou hast followed the herd.”

All we had remaining to explore was the western door and it was covered in a strange pulsating violet mold.  Naturally at this point, Grimalkin was determined to find more traps. He stepped to the door and before even getting to touch it, he was enveloped in a blue frost and was instantly knocked unconscious and was on the verge of dying.  That was all it took for us to back as far away from the door as we could.  Strumm and Kallista carefully studied the area for a few minutes.  We were very thankful that we had dungeoneering experts among us, for we could have all died.

Kallista spoke first, “It is a mold. Stay clear of it. Keep warmth away from it, and for Asmodeus sake keep your torches away from it.”

Strumm finished, “Cold. Kill it with cold. You magic users have any cold spells to use?”

We didn’t but we all turned to Styxx. Maldrake spoke, “Styxx, we could use your little arm now. How about it, can you hit that door from here?” Styxx pulled out the small crystal and let it fly. The crystal shattered over the door and frost from the device seem to strangle the mold causes it to die and flake off. After it did this it revealed yet another saying:

“Thou hast made thy own path.”

Grimalkin could not stay out of trouble.
Before we progressed we had to take some time to revive Grimalkin. We were on limited potions but we felt we should be able to get by.  After awakening we told Grimalkin about the mold and helped him to his feet. The door opened to the west only a bit and continued to the south and made a sharp turn back to the east and then to the northeast. It was darker but we had torches to light the way. Grumblejack refused to go in first. He said he felt like he was being used to set off traps and wouldn’t do it anymore.  As we approached another wooden door, we read the inscription aloud:

“Know your enemy. Shatter all that blinds you and then burn thy adversary to ashes.”

8:00 P.M - Day 4, Desnus 29, 3042 AP (After Peace)

We lined up with Grimalkin up front at the door, the party asked Grumblejack if he would open this door first for us if we checked for traps carefully and he agreed he would.  Maldrake and Kallista were behind Grimalkin and Styxx along with Stryder was a few steps behind Grumble jack. Strumm was just beside Grimalkin.  We checked for traps and after a few passes could not seem to detect a thing. So Grumblejack pushed open the door and
there was complete darkness. Torches didn’t light up the new room at all. Kallista, Grumblejack and Maldrake could see a globe of obsidian on a podium in the center of the room that radiated darkness.  Before they could even step foot in the door, Grumble jack was struck twice by gas like beings.

Deadly creatures.
There were small holes I recall about one inch in diameter in the floor at regular intervals. It was soon apparent what these were for. The beings went down into the holes and came back out at the back and hovered in the air. Maldrake quickly warned, “Vampiric Mists. Tread carefully.”

And so we tried.  Grumblejack went in followed by Maldrake and Kallista the only ones who could currently see into the room. That was all they were able to do before being struck again by painful bites to their necks and flew out of range again. Grumble jack lost his temper at this and shattered the podium allowed light from the torches to enter and causing the mists to reel in pain from the light. They did the only thing that was left to do, the mists turned to fight. The battle was short lived after the light came in however. Stryder and Strumm made quick work of the mists after Styxx did not want to harm us with one of his bombs. One mist was vanquished while the other went down into the holes and we never saw it again.

We located that there were two doors in this room – one leading north and one leading east. After fumbling around to open them we realized they are both barred. It was easy enough for the heavy bar to be removed in the adequate light. Grumblejack huffed and puffed to himself. He made it clear we were not going to use him to open trapped doors anymore and he considered this room to be trapped.  So we searched and searched and came up with nothing special about the doors to the north and the east. We decided to go north after healing those who had taken some minor damage.  The northern door opened at the end of the passage to another wooden door. Unsurprisingly the door was inscribed with yet another platitude:

“Cruelty is a tool not a pastime. Be ruthless to thy enemy but reward those who serve thee well.”

8:30 P.M - Day 4, Desnus 29, 3042 AP (After Peace)

There was only one thing in this room – a torturer’s rack. That cruel implement was functional and ready for use but was empty. Like the rooms before, the chamber was lit by an oil lantern that hung from the center of the room. It seemed like forever searching and searching.  Grimalkin searched the far west wall, north wall, east wall and he found nothing. Maldrake tried the same and nothing. We all tried finding anyway out of this place and there was nothing, just the torturing device. We touched it, checked it for traps and still nothing. We jolted it a bit and nothing. We went back to the walls and tapped on them and hit them and still nothing. No traps, no doors, absolutely nothing.  Finally we just gave up on it.

We didn't want to ask.
9:00 P.M - Day 4, Desnus 29, 3042 AP (After Peace)

We opened the western door then of the strange hole-filled room into a hall way back to the north again to a corner. Much like the previous hallway only our torches kept light going. We turned the corner and there was another wooded door. Just as doors in the past this too had a small message scribe into it:

“The chosen are revealed by their might. The weak deserve no sympathy.”

We lined up on the twenty foot long by ten foot wide corner passage. Grumble jack stayed in the back while Kallista, Maldrake, Grimalkin and Strumm were in front. Stryder and Styxx stayed further back around the corner and waited.  We checked for traps as usual and we had Kallista open the door with a flick of her wrist and magical words. The door flung open into a couple of mithral cobras coiled at the far back of the room. The oil lantern there had gleamed off their metallic scales.

We made it, but barely.
We were lucky enough to get a decent position before they could attack. Grimalkin and Strumm went in first, following by Maldrake and Kallista.  It was apparent that these cobras were not to be underestimated. Most of our weapons were borderline useless. That outer skin was durable as ever and we were worried for our lives. Grumble jack charged in to make room for Styder and Styxx to get some good shots off.  The first down was Strumm, he was cornered by one of the cobras and it quickly dispatched him. The other very nearly brought down Grimalkin and Kallista. Grumblejack crushed one of the snakes hard and drew the attention of both of them. He continued to take blows while Stryder landed hits with his arrows with absolute precision.  The fight lasted only a few minutes but Grumblejack took the brunt of the damage and it was obvious. He was in a bad way. We left him how he was because he said he could go on. We picked up the bodies of the snakes because they were made of pure mithral.  When Strumm was revived he chastised Maldrake for his cowardice as a cleric.

We looked at the door to the south and checked it as normal for traps. Nothing as we started to expect. We started to assume that the first traps were to weed out the weak. Naturally so we thought. As paths before we opened it to a hall way into another door and of course another inscription:

“Suffer not the fool. Stupidity is our faith’s cardinal sin.”

Grimalkin checked for traps and we didn't double check him. He seemed to be on a decent streak of finding traps. Beyond the door was a square chamber with a podium in its center. The chamber was lit only by a hanging oil lantern. Upon the podium was a pendant of silver -- a dragon with sapphire eyes. We looked at one another thinking this surely is it. Grimalkin stepped up once more to search for traps. He searched the podium and when he got near the stairs that led up to the east, he heard a loud metallic sound of a pin being removed from its socket. A spiked ball trap swung down and Grimalkin was able to move fast enough and missed taking quite a blow from the trap. Sadly, the podium was utterly destroyed along with the pendant. We all walk in, and go to check out the stairs.  Another quip:

“Only the foolish believe great deeds are so easy or so obvious.”

We picked up Grimalkin and he went back to searching for secret passages and found none. Kallista tried though she is nowhere near as perceptive as the rest of the group and found nothing amiss. Along the rest Maldrake, Strumm, Styxx, Stryder, all found nothing. Even Grumblejack took a shot and couldn’t find anything, though this was expected to be quite honest. Maldrake suggested we go back to the torture room once more and look for clues.  Grumblejack grumbled more at this waste of time.
Poor Grimalkin.

9:30 P.M - Day 4, Desnus 29, 3042 AP (After Peace)

We patched ourselves up and made our way back to the torture room. We spent nearly an hour here. We searched, poked, prodded, and searched, poked and prodded some more. Still we found nothing.  Grimalkin spoke up and said “I’ll get in the device!”

Foolishly he did just that, closed it on himself and damn near paid for it with his life. We got him out of the contraption and stabilized his bleeding though he was still under.  At this point Grumblejack snapped.
Here he comes.

With each “SEE” he slammed his fist down on the torturer’s rack. With each “LOOK”, he would pull it up from the ground to which it was bolted.  Kallista demanded for him to calm himself but it was no good. The tidal wave of absolute fury over came any sense of rationality.

They pushed him too far.
Grumblejack continued, “I WON’T STAY HAR NEE MORE. I ERRRR AM FREEEEE!!” and the word free, strained in his voice as he ripped the device from solid ground ripping up pieces of stone with it and toss it to the south west corner and it slammed against the wall with a hallow banging sound. Everyone was looking at Grumble Jack with dawning horror.  

But Maldrake and Strumm drew everyone’s attention by pointing to the corner.  “I think I heard a gasp.” Maldrake whispered.

Maldrake searched the wall and sure enough there was a secret door in the south west part of the room. We slammed it open and there was a cowering, brown-haired young man in there.  The lowly man says that he meant us no harm and wants to know how you got here. Strumm quickly lead the interrogation at this point.
“Why are you here and why are you hiding”, he probed.

The scared boy of a man simply replied, “I got lost down here with my master a few days ago and it is too dangerous to go on.”

“What do you know?  Tell us or we have ways of making you talk!” Strumm ordered.
Coward of Mitra

Without much delay he began to tell us about the cobras in the nearby room and that there is a secret passed on the west wall in the room with the podium. He began to recite even more secrets until Kallista got closer to better understand what was being said. Her pendant glittered under the light of the lantern and the torches. It was then we all realized that we still had these symbols as she was the only on displaying it.  This coward of man’s demeanor instantly changed.
Strumm means business

“You Heretic, I won’t aid you! You get that beast of a woman out of here or I am not saying a thing!”  The man said.

Kallista shrugged and said, “Kill him, what use is he to us. He devoted to Mitra. He doesn’t deserve to live. Don’t worry I’ll make it quick.” She began to draw her scimitar to strike and Strumm stopped her.

“No, how can you be so devoted to a god you were just told of? Just leave the room, he’ll talk to us” Strumm offered.

Kallista refused and threated again. Strumm instead tied the man up and brought him along back to the room guiding him ahead like a human trap detector. Kallista scoffed at this treatment and followed along.  We made our way through the room with podium, we easily found the secret wall and traveled down the dark hall way. The all way only went to the left and came to another door.

10:00 P.M - Day 4, Desnus 29, 3042 AP (After Peace)

The door we found had yet another message for our viewing pleasure:

“Secrecy is our greatest ally. Exposure brings death.”

With the door checked for traps we decided to enter. This room was completely dark, or it would have been except for our torches.  In the center of this stone chamber was a patch of bare earth surrounded by a two inch tall brick circle. There was a giant man-sized purple mushroom with a strange bulbous cap. The moment we opened the door it emitted a wail that echoed through the entire chamber for nearly two solid minutes. We slice it up and it stopped. However we could hear a tremendous banging against the far west door along with loud growing. The door was starting to give so we decided to leave this room, close the door and trek back to the only room we thought should be free of traps. We made a mad dash closing the entire set of doors in the process and took refuge in the torture room.  The screaming tapered off, waited another 30 minutes for any sign of activity and went to sleep.

6:30 A.M - Day 5, Desnus 29, 3042 AP (After Peace)

Styxx, Kallista, and Maldrake woke first. They prepared their spells and mutagens for the day. The rest awoke and donned their armor, strung their bows and we prepared for another brutal day. We ate iron rations and drank some water. We only had half a day remaining to find that pendant. We marched to the room with the strange mushroom and to our surprise the door to the west while cracked and budged out was not broken through.  We carefully listened and could hear slight scuffing, like feet dragging on a floor.  Strumm pulled out a dagger, ordered the prisoner to walk towards the door and so he did.  He stopped just before the door, torch in hand, and began to read another message aloud:

“Beware the fallen for they may rise once more to threaten you.”

The first thing Maldrake did was check the cobras and of course they were dead. He looked to Strumm, nodded, and so Strumm whipped the rope and the unnamed man proceeded to open the door. He opened up the door and four dead and rotting sailor-like men charged towards the unnamed man.

“Draug” Maldrake identified.

What have we gotten ourselves into?
The unnamed man was quickly slain.  Kallista began with a charge first following by Grimalkin and Maldrake. Strumm and Styrder fired arrows from afar. Styxx finally began dropping bombs now that he could easily hit only the baddies.  They struck down Kallista and Urgeon lost his eidolon and almost lost his own life until he decided to shoot a cross bow. Styxx put up a great fight but was charged by one of the remaining dead and was removed like a flea beneath the rusted great axe.   The rest of the party faired alright and destroyed the Draug.
Release us.

7:00 A.M - Day 5, Desnus 29, 3042 AP (After Peace)

Two down in a room with rotted coffins and resources almost completely expended and now with less than twelve hours left, the party is facing certain death by what is behind the next door or the fate of coming back to Thorn empty handed. Strumm made a point of it to search the dead as soon as possible for treasure. What a strange man.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Meeting the Master

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

We awoke from a grand sleep that will never be matched again. We slept like logs. We enjoyed our freedom. It was short lived however, Tiadora is here. We know why. We know it is that time.

She walked us with out Grumblejack to the Master's chamber. As the dark pine doors opened we saw him. Tiadora lead us to a beautifully appointed office richly decorated with dark wood and sumptuous brocade tapestry. Sitting in a leather high-backed chair we saw a devilishly handsome fellow whose smile we could never forget.
The Master

For the next few moments were were in awe as he spoke to us. 

“I believe you to be the first to ever escape from Branderscar Prison. Well done! Of course, you had help from the outside,” he said with that wicked smile.

“But enough with the pleasantries. You must be curious why I’ve helped you. Rest assured this is no random act of altruism. I have brought you here for a reason. My name is Cardinal Adrastus Thorn. I am the last high priest of Asmodeus left on the island of Talingarde. Once the
Prince of Nessus was rightly revered alongside the other great powers. Now, the king of Talingarde has become a puppet to Mitran fanatics who wish to destroy any religion that does not bow to their insipid sun god."

He stroked his small beard and continued on.

“For their blasphemy, I will see the same people who imprisoned and condemned you suffer. I understand what you went through for I have faced it myself.” 

With that, he pulled down the sleeve of his robe and reveals his own runic ‘F’ brand. 

“I am going to burn Talingarde to the ground and from the ashes I will build a new nation that knows its rightful master. I cannot do this alone. I seek servants worthy of our Infernal Father’s majesty. Have I found them in you?”

That is when he rose and we all twitched in surprise. He asked us “Join me! Serve me well in this holy endeavor and I will raise you up in the eyes of gods and men. I will make you princes and princesses of the new Talingarde. Today, swear fealty to me and to Asmodeus.

We didn't know what to expect. We saw him reach for a quill, a dagger, and piece of leather to write on. He presented us with the contract of the bounded.

The Contract

Only one of us dared speak up to what could only be described as a lunatic and that was Strumm to ask what was in it for him. Thorn only pointed him to the third loyalty and handed him the quill and the dagger.

Spend correctly.
One by one we slashed our palms and dripped the blood into the ink jar to which we signed the pact.  Once completed the Thorn spoke one last time.

“Well done. Your first command: prepare yourselves. Stay within the manor. You are still hunted by the Talirean soldiery. In three days we begin your training.”

Prepared ourselves we had. We used a small stipend of 200 gold pieces to ready our basic needs. We had no idea what to expect.

Finding the Manor

4:45 A.M - Day 1, Desnus 25, 3042 AP (After Peace)

After defeating that beast in the marsh we only had a brief moment for introductions. We met up with these other three forsaken known as Grimalkin, Strumm, and Urgoen. All we knew really at this point was that they hard a much harder time than we did of escaping. We could only assume that if a forsaken had escaped from Branderscar and they were in the moors, they were going to the manor.

Through careful and coordinated survival skills the moors proved no issue for us. We arrived at the manor with an hour of defeating that swamp beast.

Look for the single lantern in the upper story.

Like an angel or so you think.
We could see the large, imposing house sitting upon the top of a hill.  It was surrounded with barbed wire fencing and painted a dark green.  As Tiadora had informed us we saw a lone lantern burning in the upper story. We decided to enter and change our lives forever.

As we came to the door we were greeted by Tiadora once more but she was dressed in a beautiful white gown, a striking polar opposite from when she arrived at Branderscar.  She welcomed us in her sly and quite way and called forth slaves to help us get into clean clothes and gathering food and drink.

She led us to our room and provided us with special healing wine to cut into the last days worth of injuries. Some needed more than one swig to do the job.  Our rooms were immaculate and while modest in looks, appear to all of us as a stay fit for royalty after coming from Branderscar.  Regardless it was remarkable and well deserved.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Crossing the Moors

 3:30 A.M - Day 1, Desnus 25, 3042 AP (After Peace)

It didn't take long to find our way from Branderscar through the moor. We had a keen idea of where to be and where to go. Our survival skills were in top form this morning.

Never travel the moors at night.
We could barely see it by the moonlight on the large pool with in the lush wetlands. Through giant moldy oaks and brush that you could hide a hill giant behind we saw what looked like some horse or camel carrying someone on it's back and struggling across the water.

There was a sound. There was a struggle among the fog followed by a splash, grunt and gurgle. A giant frog, 10 or 12 feet in bulk lunged from under the cover of the moss covered water.  We had to make a choice and that choice was to kill this beast because it could turn on us next.

We made our way down to the pool. As we closed in, we noticed it recoil slightly as though struck by something though we could see this injured being not make a single move yet, he was caught totally off guard. We continued to close in. 
Who was the mysterious archer?

Stryder took a careful shot and even through the thick mists he landed a brutal shot. Grumblejack splashed in following soon by Maldrake and Kallista. Fear for his safety, Stixx stayed on shore as this water was coming up to the waist of the bigger folk. He need not drown after the day he has had.  While we all closed in on this beast from beyond the lagoon 

Vix'thra like a coward retreated yelling "I don't know what that woman expected but you are crazier than shit house rats if you think I'm going in there!"  And so he did, his lumbering animated dead following him away. 

Not much of a challenge.
Through the midnight glare a few us could see the "F" branded on his mans upper arm. A forsaken, another escapee of Branderscar! We readied out weapons for battle. As we did so this being noticed us but didn't seem to care and continued to fight for his life. Across the moor we discovered who struck first.  A pair of humanoids, possibly human or elf at the time it was too hard to tell had weapons ready. 

Needless to say the beast didn't put up much of a fight after all. We hamstring it's hind leg and broke one of it's front ones and while it could barley keep afloat Grumblejack slammed the frog to its death below the murky waters.

Careful studying of the area revealed tracks leading away from our main path. We thought maybe it could be a lair or lead us to more of them and if that be the case we moved on instead of venturing that way. Before we could do that we had to make sense of these new adventurers. 
Which path will lead to the manor we so seek?