Thursday, August 28, 2014

Dwarfing the Problem

3:30 A.M - Day 112, Rova  12, 3042 AP (After Peace)

Loose Ends

Sleep is still an afterthought. It is cold. It is damp. We meet up with Kargeld and his sole remaining crew member. Kargeld blocked us from getting on the ship at first. He stared us down with ferocious eyes. "You bastards tried to kill me and killed most of my crew. I don't know what you though you could pull but you can find your own ride"

Grumblejack grunted "I tired of red hairs belly aching. Time sleep." With that Grumblejack hopped on the boat from the dock. "You still liv'n, can't be killi'n if you be liv'n." 

Kargeld looked back to see Maldrake holding the clay seal Thorn gave to us. "Let us on this boat and take us to Aldencross or I break this seal and we see just how far you get with Thorn. You aren't the only one with orders. We've been running on practical no sleep since the last guard change so we got rusty. We apologize for your crew." Kargeld grumbled and let the party on the ship only partially believing Maldrake's excuse and letting us on board.  We moved onward through the foggy morning night. About 30 minutes later and far enough away from the bugbear camp that we could no longer tell where we here, there was a massive shunt to the boat. Kargeld yells out “Ice in the water! It’ll rip out our hull!”

Everyone but Kargeld, the crew member, Stryder, Urgoen and Kiliketz who was hanging out top the mast of the ship fell into the water. A surprise to us the water was not frigid in the least bit. It was cold of course but no way could their be ice.  Regardless Kargeld went along with his falsehood “Get them out! They'll freeze in that icy water!” We pulled everyone in rather easy. Kargeld still stood proud of his valiant efforts to save everyone.  When Kargeld walked over to Stixx to look as though he gave a shit, we learned later what he was actually doing was mocking us. Stixx later told us that Kargeld whispered to him "How do like my ship now?" smirked a shit eating grin and walked away. At this point Maldrake through clever telepathy with his familiar communicated to all of us to prepare yourselves because we are going to take Kargeld out before we get to the shore. 

4:00 A.M - Day 112, Rova  12, 3042 AP (After Peace)

We attacked. There wasn't much more too it, that stupid dwarf was still injured from our brawl and since no one liked the fat prick anyway no one helped him back to full heath. The fight was over in less than 30 seconds. Both of the men were dead and blood was everywhere. Grumblejack got hungry and began to feast on the dwarf and his human crew member. We shrugged and let him do his business. We took a calculated risk with this move. We had no navigator but with a combined effort and aiding Stryder who vastly had the superior survival skills directed us on the right course. 

We looted the ship completely of any valuables, grabbed our trade goods and Kiliketz steadied the rudder  as we turned it around to have it sail out to the middle of the lake.  Prior to this however we took out all goods below deck, anything that was particually dry, we splintered any crates they were in, and soaked them in some lantern oil we found below. We tired together all the rope we had and thankfully there was another one-hundred feet of rope below, it was ratty and on its last leg but good enough to tie around Urgeon to pull him to shore after he summoned a small fire elemental to start the blaze.  The ship went up with ease and sailed a few hundred more feet before going the sails went ablaze and stopped to finally burn to its end.

We liked it fine Kargeld.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Sakkarot and the Tail of Loose Ends

11:30 P.M - Day 111, Rova  11, 3042 AP (After Peace)

We arrived at last. 
After days of trying to get this ship though ice river waters to the south we make it to Lake Tarik. With only a few hundred more feet to go, Maldrake reminded all of us through his telepathy friend that we would be attempting to take out Kargeld very soon, possibly prior to delivering the shipment if possible. We pull into the dock and could see an immense number of bugbears gathering around campfires making loud and cheerful noises. However, waiting for us at the docks were four very angry looking bugbears ready to start some trouble.

Confused Bugbear
Drunk Bugbear
We didn't know if this was planned or if they were drunk or just what was going on but we thought it best not to murder the kin of the leader we are trying to deliver weaponry to. That of course didn't stop Kargeld and his crew. "Men! Take these ugly mugs out! They want a fight, we'll give them a fight!"

So as the crew offloaded onto the dock and began to scuff it out, we decided to use this as a chance to take out Kargeld. At first when Stryder nailed one of the crew, he was able to pawn it off as a miss and Kargeld kept on swinging, dropping down the one bugbear with an axe. Grumblejack meanwhile was not sure this was the right move to start attacking the bugbears so he grappled one and threw the hairy mongrel into the river.

Arrogant Bugbear
Pointless Bugbear
From there we could see a pack of six more bugbears starting to advance at the upper most part of the bank leading down to the place on the dock where we were scrapping. The rest of us starting to go ahead and waylay on the crew and Kargeld. Kargeld lost it, and began to rage. He cut down another bugbear. Kargeld took a shot from Stryder as Maldrake, Urgeon, and Kallista dispatched three of the crew with ease. Just as Kargeld was about to cut down Maldrake, a booming voice bellowed from the top of the docks.

“Who sent you?” Sakkarot demanded of us in unaccented common.

Kargeld was extremely quick to respond, "Thorn sent us you fool! Now help me kill these traitors, they are trying to kill my men and take your steel!"

"That is a lie" Maldrake bellowed. "The ship is extremely rocky and you were fighting on the dock. Next time have better tactical awareness!"

For once Kargeld didn't.
Maldrake lies yet again.
Sakkarot pondered on our stories, "You each seem to be telling the truth as far as I can tell. Right now, that is not important to me. “If it is Thorn who sends you, then you are welcome here.” He turned to the somewhat stunned throng of bugbears who were getting ready to storm the boat and eat us for dinner. “These humans are my guests. I will deal with anyone who harms them. They are our allies!”

He then turned to Kargeld and to Maldrake, "And so you are aware what is important to me, it is those weapons. If you disagree I can see what a few hundred of my men decide."

Stixx in a hurried nervous yell, "Grumblejack, you heard the man, help me unload some of these.  Before they could get to it, Sakkarot breaks up the hatch and grabs a crate for himself and opens it “Behold, they bring us steel!”.  

Sakkarot Fire-Axe demands order!

1:30 A.M - Day 112, Rova  12, 3042 AP (After Peace)

A Private Audience

We drank. We ate. We laughed. These hairy mongrels weren't so bad after all. Hell Kargeld wasn't so bad after all when you got a few ales into him. But soon enough Kargeld passed out and it was time to discuss the bugbears future. Now that most of the camp is down and out we could discuss things around the fire. 

Sakkarot spoke up, “You are traitors to your own kind. You must know that. When Balentyne falls and my horde pours through its shattered gates, we will slaughter the Talireans by the thousands. Yet I see no regret in your eyes. Tell me, how can this be?”

No one spoke. We were not expecting to be challenged. Urgeon stands and lifts his sleeve showing his forsaken brand. We ask him what business he has working with Thorn. He tells us that he too is part of the Knot– the Avernian Knot. “I am the only true member of the knot. The rest are only fools.”

We ask, if that is how you feel, why do you betray your kind in your heart? Sakkarot pulled aside his great breast-plate and revealed the holy symbol of Asmodeus burned into his chest. “We all have our scars. Interesting fact, Thorn used to be a Cardinal of Mitra."

We drank and ate a bit more, but it was clear that it was time to go on. Sakkarot has one last thing to say: “Tomorrow you must depart this camp. It will never be truly safe for you here. Over the next week, more tribes will rally to my banner. I will promise them blood and give them steel. Then at last I will be ready to march. A week after that – I will be poised to strike. I will move my horde to the valley just north of Balentyne. There we will wait for your signal. Fire this rocket into the air. Within the hour, we will attack. Make sure that the way is ready."

He paced over to a stew pot and took a spoonful and ripped off leg of a near by roasted boar. He drank the stew emptied the meat and took a large bite out of the boar.  After swallowing, he went on. “After we gather, my horde will be idle and start to grow
anxious. I can hold them together for another two weeks. After that, I expect desertions and squabbling. Get your work done before then. You have one month to infiltrate and destroy Balentyne.” Sakkarot then stared right into our eyes with cold calculation and handed us a carefully wrapped signal rocket. “Can you do this? In one month can you break the Watch Wall?”

We solemnly nodded and agreed that we could.  He grunted and nodded “Thorn has faith in you. If you weren’t his best, he wouldn’t have sent you. Do this and your names will be legend. Now go. Hail Asmodeus!”

Balentyne is soon, but first we must deal with Kargeld.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Frosthamar Part II

8:30 A.M - Day 108, Rova 8, 3042 AP (After Peace)

Seal Isle Continued

We arrived. Kargeld was all ready and willing to make some extra funds. That dwarf was like a madman.  Ordering people around, saying things like "We could take as many as four boats!"  We were not buying in. Sure, we could trust Kargeld. He wasn't stupid. He loved his money too much.  However, he was wasting our time. This ignorant dwarf doesn't know what Thorn is really like. We do.
Oh so cold.

A Bunyip takes a crew member's arm!
"Oh what is the problem now you yellow land bastards? Money is to be
made here! Fine, fine miss out if you want." Urgoen, Strumm, and Grimalkin did at the last minute decide to go with Kargeld to make sure nothing was up. Urgoen reported back that it was a short trip. There was a the boat was almost capsized by two
very aggressive bunyips. Strumm and Grimalkin fell into the frigid waters as did two of Kargeld's men. Sadly Strumm and Grimalkin were unable to last long enough to allow rescue. One of Kargeld's ship mates also perished, but not due to the freezing temperatures stunning you into oblivion no they lose an arm from a Bunyip attack, went into shock and then went under. The water in the area was almost to freezing. Urgoen barely made it out.

After returning we thought of commenting about the loss of three people for what at best will amount to 150 gold pieces, one skin for each body lost right? Urgoen remarked that he felt like the captain didn't try very hard to save anyone and that we should be mindful of his future actions.

7:00 P.M - Day 108, Rova 8, 3042 AP (After Peace)

The Whale Hunters

White Tusk
Half a day later we were spotted by another ship. It was clearly not a military ship like a few days back but never the less we were not looking for trouble. We thought it best see what they wanted. We responded to the hail and banked against their ship gently. The men were not exactly tribal, that would be a gross underestimation but rather they were wild. They were natural. We could easily tell they lived off the wilderness. Kargeld as usual had his axe at the ready.

They were whale hunters. This was apparent with just a small glace to the rest of their boat and the stacks of ivory and narwhal tusks. You should have seen them, eyes tracking our weapons like children following candy. The only had ivory and the narwhal tusks for trade. The leader White Tusk an ambitious young chief in his well spoken voice told us the ivory chunks were worth 20 gold pieces each. We took on as much as we could and as much as we could bare to hear Kargeld complain about. The boat was very close to the water line and we didn't want to sink.  We took on probably three or four thousand gold pieces worth of ivory. 

12:15 A.M - Day 109, Rova 9, 3042 AP (After Peace)

The Laughing Storm

Snow. Snow. It was snowing. Not near a blizzard but flurries thick enough and a wind chill hard enough to make it feel like it. We could hardly see anything. As much as Kargeld gave us grief the smug dwarf could move a ship. It wasn't as bad as it seemed. We were bunch up very close so heat was not in shortage. With out warning, we were attacked. From the left of the ship a blast of cold nailed a quarter of us. 

Four ice elementals spawned on board the ship and started to way lay us and so battle had begun. They were not much of a fight, we all took some scratched but over all we over powered them very easy. They were very small targets and could not take much of a hit, but the entire time we kept hearing taunts and getting hit with more ice blasts. 

"Oh heee heee! You can't see me!" the mystery voice taunted. We would down one elemental and hear another taunt, "Hey that was my brother's cousin!" And so on and so on.

Kiliketz, the great ice mephit?
Finally the voice showed itself and came down to deck level and started to fight us. Unfortunately for the voice, it landed next to Maldrake who at this point had enough. With Stryder and the crew fireing upon the voice, he went down to one knee very quickly and of course just as quickly the begging started.

"Alright, Alright, ALRIGHT, ALIRIGHT, already I get it, you can't take a joke come on now, chill out, why so cold? I can be useful, let me live, I can show you!" the voice said.

Maldrake quickly quashed this, "Why should we, you just tried to kill us?"

"My name is Kiliketz, the great ice mephit of the northern seas! No wonder you tried to kill me, you've never heard of me, how sad." Kiliketz slumped. "No matter, you didn't see me coming, I could be useful, you killed all my friends, so why I don't I start making some new ones. Obviously trying to kill you means they were a bad influence."

Maldrake gave his rebuttal, "You let my pet bite you, and the harmless disease will allow us to track you. You do this, and we can trust you." Kiliketz agreed joyfully. Kargeld grunted with disapproval. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Frosthamar Part I

10:30 P.M - Day 96, Arodus 29, 3042 AP (After Peace)

So that was it. We waved farewell to our master and confidant. The Frosthamar was a single-masted knarr with a square sail. Similar to a Viking longship but wider and with a deeper hull better suited to carry cargo. Loaded the Frosthamar was. Sitting heavy in the water, the ugly ship held twenty four tons of weaponry, arrows and shields emblazoned with a flaming axe. The captain was a grizzled north-man with a wiry beard, pale blonde hair and countless scars. His name was Kargeld Odenkirk and he was, as promised, a ruthless mercenary with little thought of anyone but himself. His crew consisted of a half dozen grim sailors who spoke little of the common Talirean tongue.
The Frosthamar

We met Kargeld and all he asked was “You will guard our boat all the way north, yes?” Maldrake nodded and sat down on a crate. We all loaded aboard and the ship started to make our way north. The air was musty and humid but crisp enough to sleep under the stars with out much grief. We had to sleep shoulder to shoulder with his crew and the cargo. Thankfully, Kargeld's crew took the first shift of what I assume will be many shifts to come.

10:30 A.M - Day 99, Arodus 31, 3042 AP (After Peace)

We traveled a day and half down the river Varnyn and out into the open ocean. It was a fairly boring few hours. We passed by countless farming communities and fishing villages. Kargeld would smile smugly and give a big ol' cheerful wave to everyone. Citing to us that "Wouldm't want'em getting suspicious eh?"

6:00 P.M - Day 103, Rova 3, 3042 AP (After Peace)

Three days have passed. We can see the bustling city of Daveryn to the west, we make small chat about it. Kargeld quickly quashes our small talk. “This is no pleasure cruise. Besides, I won’t get our cargo within a mile of a Talirean harbormaster.” Praise Asmodeus to give me the strength not to murder this pompous asshole. I cannot wait to watch his pitiful little ship burn and his ignorant crew get fed to the fresh water beast.

5:00 P.M - Day 104, Rova 4, 3042 AP (After Peace)

The Blade of St. Martius

The Blade of St. Martius
Not more than a day later, just when we were certain this trip could not get more boring the unexpected happened. Some action! We spotted a patrol ship coming from the west. Kargeld shouted “She’s seen us, sure as damnation. And there is no way the ‘Frosthamar’ will outrun her loaded like this. One look at our cargo and they’ll know us for exactly what we are – weapon smugglers.”

Maldrake, keeping his composure are the incompetence of this dwarf said "Be easy friend. Be soft. Lets not make a ruckus unless we need to. "

Kargeld, replied "What did ya have in mind?"
Strumm taking aim

Maldrake, "Leave that to me and Urgeon, you just have you men ready in case this goes south." Kargeld nodded. Maldrake and the rest of us Grumblejack excluded activated our circlets we had received before the Nine Knots. Since they are hats of disguise in magical properties, we made our selves look like knights similar to Sir Balin. We tied up Grumblejack so that it looked like he was a prisoner and positioned the rest of the crew around him. Kargeld stood at the front of the ship.

After about ten minutes the ship finally pulled aside The Frosthamar. The crew of this ship yell out “Heave to in the name of the king!” Heave we did. The captain of the patrol boat spoke "Who is the leader of this ship!"

Maldrake, seeing that Kargeld was seconds away from blowing our master plan said with a booming baritone of a voice, "Solider stand down! Do you know who you are addressing? Do you have any idea the kind of shit you and I both are going to get from the Watch Wall if we don't get this prisoner north!"

Captain Sambryl retorted, "I am Captain Sambryl and this is my ship The Blade of St. Martius. We are tasked solely with patrolling these waters and not one damn person from the Watch Wall has informed us of any prisoner transfer, explain yourself right now!"

Maldrake, "Classified."

Kargeld is itching for a fight
Captain Sambryl was so taken back by this he quite literally stepped back two steps. "What do you mean classified? Branderscar Prison is to the south, you are going north. This doesn't make sense!"

Urgeon stepped up and gently moved Maldrake aside, "Sir, if I may. Captain, you clearly have not been paying attention to your ravens.  There has already been at least 8 escapees in the last few months. We can't have that. Those drunkards down at Branderscar have sealed their fate. Those idiots allows 6 prisoners at once to get the best of them, this ogre is one of them."

Captain Sambryl pondered for a moment and said "Just doesn't make sense, we are suppose to be running the Watch Wall priorities."

Maldrake said, "Well, we have our orders like you have your orders. I imagine they didn't want to leave an opening for smugglers just to transport one stupid ogre to his death north."

Questioning further Captain Sambryl asked, "And these crates of arms and armor?"

Maldrake explained, "Bugbear invasion was rumored."

"Awful lot of weaponry for a rumor." Captain Sambryl interrogated.

Kallista and her blade
Maldrake sternly retorted, "Again, classified. I could get put in the stockades for telling you the kind of wood these crates are made of. Listen, do you question all your fellow officers this way? Look, we get it you have a job to do, great job. Maybe you'll get an accommodation some day. You know how this works, orders are orders and if you delay us any further I will be forced to inform your superiors when I get to the north. "

"Be on your way then, watch the northern seas, they are getting dangerous this time of year." warned Captain Sambryl. Captain Sambryl and his crew loaded up and the ship began to move away.

Kargeld sighed "That was close, I was ready to split the ugly mugs face with muh axe!"

Not much else happened after that until about a day and half later.

7:15 P.M - Day 106, Rova 6, 3042 AP (After Peace)

The Hope of the Haunted

One of the Mitra scum soliders
We were just getting ready for a shift change. We had just awoke so the crew of the ship could rest up. It was a good thing too. We got ambushed. Out of no where four or five it was hard to count with all the crates and action, water elemental attacked us.  That drew the focus of a few of us, but quickly Maldrake, Kallista, Grumblejack and Kargeld could see to the east five tritons.  Grumblejack quickly dove off into the water to swim after them. We focused on dispatching the elementals but not before Urgonen was pushed off the side. Stryder let loose arrows along with Strumm.  

Kallista and one of the triton began exchanged insults. It was apparent that this leader of the group was devoted to Mitra and Kallista's black blade urged her to slay him, it would be a great pleasure. She dove into the water, but it seemed like every time anyone tried to fight this being they would feel the urge to turn away, so we continued to beat down the small force until we closed in on the leader. 

It wasn't hard once Kargeld's crew could focus fire him down. In this creature's dying gargling voice we heard "The shining sun has seen the wickedness you hide in hearts. And thus it will be the son who brings your doom."

"Uh huh." Kallista mocked.  And that was it. Whatever the purpose of this suicide was, we couldn't figure it out. We regrouped and continued our shifts. It was over so fast it was all we could think to do.
And their worthless leader

8:00 A.M - Day 107, Rova 7, 3042 AP (After Peace)

Seal Isle

We had a good rest, the seas were calm and according to our map we should be nearing the shore with in another day. Or rather we should have. Kargeld dropped one hell of a bomb on us, “We are a little light on fresh water I think. We are passing Seal Isle and there is a stream that feeds into the bay there. We’ll take on water there. I’ll send a party to the shore. Of course, that means we’ll spend a day in some of the richest fur seal hunting grounds all along this coast. I’m thinking of organizing a hunting expedition. Interested?”

Maldrake and Urgoen were the only ones to speak out. It was nothing major but Kargeld was very adamant about going there. We were forced to go, we couldn't blow our cover. He seemed believable enough and Thorn did say he was getting to greedy for his own good. We thought it was a trap for certain but that was only our guts we had no real proof. We would have to see. 

Kargeld bellowed out, “This is my boat! I’m the captain! I say we need water so we get it!” Looks like we are on our way to make some extra funds at Seal Isle. Trip will probably take a few days. It is really out of our way. 
Club some seals make some cash

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Ceremony Before the Voyage

9:30 P.M - Day 96, Arodus 29, 3042 AP (After Peace)

What a glorious sight, praise be to Asmodeus!
We gathered for a feast. It was a lush feast. A feast for only the wealthiest of kings. Thorn announced each of us with the title "of the Nessian Knot". To end it all he summoned a barbed devil and we chose a slave.  The devil ravaged into the worthless being. Thorn cut the devil and with the blood we were given markings of on our foreheads. 

Thorn proclaimed, “The Nessian Knot is forged.” As he put down the dagger.

“Just in time,” Cardinal Thorn remarks. “My ship has arrived. On the river dock behind the manor under cover of darkness, a square-sailed long ship sails into the slip. It sits heavily in the water, laden with a substantial cargo."

We smiled at one another. Ready to be rid of this place and serve our master with our new found talents, traits, and powers.  

“Welcome, my children,” he said in a deep resonant voice that had an almost inhuman quality to it. “Training is at an end. You have proven yourself worthy. Now, it is time for you to use that training and take on your first mission." 

Our transportation awaits?
We began packing our belongings in our packs as Thorn continued.

“Your mission is war, my children. You will bring war to Talingarde."

“You have two objectives. First, you will see a shipment of munitions delivered to a bugbear chieftain named Sakkarot Fire-Axe. He makes his camp on the northern coast of Lake Tarik beyond the Watch Wall. With this shipment, the Fire-Axe will have resources enough to unite the barbarous humanoid tribes of the north and light the fire of war."

We nodded and continued loading our bags.

Thorn addresses us.
“Sitting on the dock as we speak is the longship Frosthamar captained by Kargeld Odenkirk. Tomorrow when the ship is resupplied it will be your transport. The captain is a ruthless mercenary and not to be trusted. He knows nothing of the specifics of our mission and you should keep it that way. He knows he is smuggling cargo to the north beyond the Watch Wall. That is all he need know."

Maldrake scoffs at the thought of working with a dwarf.

“Once the cargo is safely delivered, he will take you just sout
h across the lake under cover of darkness and land you near the town of Aldencross. There our contract with Captain Odenkirk will be concluded."

Stixx straps a couple torches to his back. Kallista admires her new blackblade.

“It is shame how greedy he has proven. I had hoped to let the captain serve me again but it seems he is too much of a liability. Kill him. Kill his crew. Burn his ship and leave no survivors. It is crucial that no one suspects our involvement and that loose ends are taken care of. Be sure to reclaim the coin I gave him. Best not to be wasteful. 

We chuckled to one another. Maldrake gleamed.

Kallista ponders.
“That done, you will begin your second task. We will do more still to aid our ally the Fire-axe. The bugbears are mighty warriors but poor siege engineers. You will infiltrate the tower Balentyne, keystone of the Watch Wall, kill its commander and open the gate for Sakkarot’s horde. 

Stixx did a cartwheel in excitment. Urgoen shifted. Grimalkin and Strumm looked about.

“Once the shaggy monstrosities pierce the Watch Wall, the bugbears will pillage and lay waste to the townships of the north and the local garrisons will have no choice but to meet the Fire-Axe in the open field. Sakkarot is the most brilliant, gifted and murderous bugbear of his generation. I expect these battles will go poorly for the knights and yeoman of fair Talingarde.

Stryder quietly prepared his quivers.

To my bounded!
Maldrake enjoys a break.
“Do all of this and then when your task is done, break this clay seal.” He hands them a delicately carved clay seal adorned with a tangled knot of thorns surrounding the holy symbol of Asmodeus. “I will have more instructions then. Succeed and I will see you rewarded handsomely. Fail or betray me and you will pray for the comfort of Hell before I am done with you."

Grumblejack scratched himself and munched some more. 

“The mission you start upon today is a holy mission. The people of Talingarde think they have seen the last of the mighty Asmodeus. Soon enough we will remind them that there is no escaping the grasp of Hell. Let us toast our success.” He pours one glass of deep red wine for each of the PCs and then finally pours one for himself. He raises the glass and offers a toast."

 “To war.”

Training the Bounded

5:00 P.M - Day 96, Arodus 29, 3042 AP (After Peace)

Less than four hours later we were called back to the chamber of the master. Thorn eyed us with a great admiration. His demeanor was nothing like that of earlier that afternoon. Thorn with his calm and collective voice told "Your training shall now begin. Go see Tiadora and you will return to me in three months.  Three months that I know will bring you close to Asmodeus and our ultimate plan for victory!"
Tiadora loves to teach

We trained for three months. Each week was something new for everyone of us. We learned how to do things we were never trained to do. We all learned how to try and disarm traps which through this process was a clever way to find out who could do it and who was posing.

We went through combat training, acrobatics, perception training. If the training was possible by an intelligent being we were put through. If we faltered in the least bit Tiadora gave us warnings by beating her slaves about. A few times we faltered enough to warrant punishment by her own hand. The depths of evil that flows within this mansion and its servants is far greater than Branderscar prison could have ever imagined containing. Whips and chains were used. Failure was not tolerated.
Page by page

This is all I have for this entry. Three months and this is all I could put to paper. That should give you constant reader a clear picture of how much time was allowed for us to "relax". My arms still hurt from the beatings.  

What I do know is that spring has ended and summer must be closing to an end.  It has to be soon. The heat is unbearable around here.  My sweat is staining these pages. Tonight we talk to Thorn again after three months of not seeing him. Even if we couldn't see him we felt him around. We are ready for whatever he throws at us now. It is obvious to us know that this was his intention all along.

Friday, August 8, 2014

A Scolding for the Ages

3:30 P.M - Day 5, Desnus 29, 3042 AP (After Peace)

With the fun over we leaned over that sorry excuse of a warrior. Each of us took turns checking him over and with final agreement that he indeed was dead.  However, Kallista surprised us all. She knelt before him and carefully began removing his armor. We were perplexed. After Kallista unlocked the neck piece for his plate suit and carefully handed the pendant that Thorn sent us after to Maldrake.  She looked us in the eyes and plunged into the knight's throat. Tearing at his neck in reckless gouges her teeth snagged on bits of flesh and muscle.

We picked up our goods and cleaned out what valuables were left to take.  We knew there was just over three and half hours left before our deadline. We reluctantly returned to the master.
How long has she been waiting to do that?
4:30 P.M - Day 5, Desnus 29, 3042 AP (After Peace)
You've returned. Do you have what I seek?

Admittedly we did a bit of procrastinating on returning to the master.  We were worried. We had a nervous tinge in our guts but we mustered the courage and returned to the top level of the mansion. We all walked three abreast down the long elegant hallway to the chamber of Thorn and there he was just sitting looking over his desk.  

Adrastus was just sitting in his study seeming as if he has moved not an inch from where he gave our orders at dusk yesterday. “You’ve returned. Do you have what I seek?” This was the first thing out of his mouth.  Maldrake handed over the pendant and stepped back. The high priest held the trinket and paused as if in deep contemplation. He watched the holy symbol glitter in the light. “A pretty enough thing, yes?” he mused. “This is a holy symbol of Mitra in particular the sort favored by the Knights of the Alerion. Perhaps you already knew that."

We all shifted slightly, not knowing what to expect next. 

Thorn began again. “Remember this symbol. This is the mark of those who destroyed our faith and sought to banish all traces of the worship of our Father from these shores. These, my friends, are your enemies.”

We risked our lives for a token?
Thorn tossed the holy symbol to Maldrake with little regard. Thorn only followed this ungrateful show of appreciation with, “Keep it. It may aid you in disguising yourself.” After Thorn said this he revealed a sickly smile. “You have done well.  Escaping from Branderscar, getting through my trial of the knots, and of course slaughtering Sir Balin." His words tapered off after this and he drifted away.  His demeanor had changed from that of admiration to disappointment to anger. For what seemed like hours he eyed all of us carefully and intently. We wanted to vomit and it was easy to tell this was how ever one felt.
We couldn't look away.

Thorn carried on. “A nervous silence loosens the tongue.”   Thorn then began to circle around all of us. “Yes, a series of great events were accomplished by your hands. But before I am confident that I should allow you to complete your training, I feel as though words need be said.”

Thorn makes a simple gesture ti Tiadora. "Leave us dear Tiadora.  This is a matter best left between the master, Asmodeus, and the newly bounded.” She nodded her head and simply walked out. Thorn whispered in a faint raspy tone “I know eve-ry-thing” and continued on pacing around. He said it just like that, taking clear pauses between each syllable.

Mitra scum.
When we didn't think our situation could get any more worrisome or sadistic, Thorn continued on. “With the exception of one, there has been a very close act of blasphemy against Asmodeus within the last 24 hours.  Perhaps you remember this man?” He then gestured to five slaves in his chamber and they scurried like lap dogs and picked up a beaten young man. He was naked and bruised.  He had carvings that resembled Infernal writing all over his body. His back had the symbol of Asmodeus charred into it. Where his manhood once existed, only a twisted barbed wire in the shape of the holy symbol of Asmodeus remained. As hard as it was to comprehend what we were seeing, it wasn't as hard as trying to look away from Thorn's display.
Thorn reminded, “You remember this man, I know. As I said, I know everything.” He paced around his chamber again.  From here, we can only transcript it. Thorn went on a scathing berate. It begins from here until the end of this entry.

“Before we get to him and your near blasphemy I was to discuss the bounds of your contract. I know you have upheld the Second Loyalty. You have brought me my pendant as I wished. This pleases me greatly. For it is a true sign, of things to come. So yes, the second loyalty, your loyalty to me, has been upheld.”

“The third loyalty has not faltered among any of you. You did not chastise your ogre friend when he recklessly destroyed that valuable obsidian orb. Nor, did you show anger towards the rather fool hardy antics of Grimalkin when he destroyed a fairly high priced piece of silver and gem when he set off a trap. You did none of these things and therefore you have remained true to this loyalty.”

“Many of you fell in the last twenty-four hours and despite this you stayed true to your bound and aided your companions so that you can rise to the challenge and complete the nine knots. By doing so you have upheld this fourth loyalty.”

“This brings me to the final loyalty. The first loyalty you have been bound to, and the weakness all seven of you have displayed. I shall go through them now, for to expose flaws allows strength to make headway.”

“You Stixx, your weakness comes from your need to be indecisive.   You withheld attacks against thine enemy so you would do no harm to others. Why?  Are you not all here for the same purpose: to fight in this crusade for the infernal father?  You all know the oath you took! This does not mean you get to act in the eyes of chaos, but you must show no mercy to your enemies! Even if showing no mercy means your companions must be born again through pain. Do not forget that while you may harm your friends your enemies won’t have anyone to save them when they fall, and you have one another. ”

“You Maldrake have a weakness that is not without irony. You are a cleric of Szuriel, god of war. Yet you kept reserved from going into battle because you are not made for it? How can I expect you to uphold your bounds to the first loyalty if you cannot uphold the bounds to the god you currently worship? If you cannot uphold the views of a weak god like Szuriel in the eyes of Asmodeus, how can I trust you? Be who you were born to be. Be who Szuriel wanted you to be. If you are going to be the champion of war for Asmodeus, then you act like it!

“Now we are on to you Grimalkin and your constant foolishness and stupidity. You waltzed around my nine knots acting as though you knew what you were doing. You put your companions at risk and for what? Was it your Pride? No, you are too foolish to know what pride is. If you want to survive, you need to have Asmodeus in your heart and mind, because some day your friends won’t be here to bring you back from the brink of your idiocy!”

“Stryder, your weakness is not a physical one. I am not sure it is a mental one. For one to have a mental weakness one must acknowledge that they have such a weakness and I am not so sure you do.  You have a way about you. It reminds me of the black dragons of old, so vile and ruthless. You take your shots with no regrets. However, you do so with no direction of the father. You are a sheep who one day may not have his mortal shepherds to guide him around. Let Asmodeus be your leader as he is the only true path to your victory!”

“Urgoen. You do not seem to care about Asmodeus at all. Not in the same sense that you care to worship someone else. No you are consumed with your petty abominations that you are losing sight of your tactfulness. This weakness will be the end of you. You cannot solely rely on a mere creation of energy to get by. You have your own arcana to use and when that cannot aid you; you seem to be above using these weapons given to you. Only when you are in dire straits did you see a need for them. I argue if you saw a need for them sooner, you wouldn’t be in dire straits! Change my Oread, for continuing as you are will be worse than your death.”

“Strumm, your weakness is as real as the gold you wish to possess. It is no secret that you have a weakness for material items. You pick up arrows to save a couple silver pieces. You readily strip the bodies of the long since dead and rotted in hopes for scraps. Even when faced with a contract signed in your own blood you had the audacity to ask what you get out of it! You are thinking like a petty mercenary. I did not choose a mercenary I chose an assassin. Choose Asmodeus and the rewards of your loyalty will out rank any stacks of gold you could hope to possess. "

“Now Kallista, my sweet vixen of hate, your weakness is you’re zealously.  You wanted this man dead and I know why. He’s weak. Being weak is unfortunate. It is not however punishable by death by the great Asmodeus now is it? If simply being weak were enough to invoke the wrath of the father, my hand would be forced to flay you all where you stand. Trust me friends, I could do it and not lose a bit of sleep over it. Recruits at this stage are silver for seven. Asmodeus does not want blind zealots, he wants acolytes of power.” 

He walked back to where the beaten man was now dragged next to his desk.

“Now look at this man. This man’s name is Squire Timeon of Balentyne and despite not knowing his name, you certainly remember him.  After your Ogre friend destroyed my torture device, he inadvertently found him. Here is what is interesting to me. This man, this squire of mitra, was perfectly willing to talk to all of you. He in fact had information that while useless to me, could have been vital to you.  This man had a defiance to speak with you further when he witnessed Kallista’s proud display of her father."

"Why is it, that in a fortress of solitude like mine, a place of refuge I have given to you, a place where I have fed you, gave you drink, gave you healing, gave you rest and respite, a place free from the oppressive ingrates of Taligarde and a place that I have taken great pains to keep of the utmost secrecy that in my secret nine knots of underground testing that the rest of you hide your symbols of the almighty infernal Asmodeus?” 

Then, with no warning, Thorn slammed his fist down on his desk and the entire room seemed to shake.

“That is a weakness, a weakness shown only by six of you. Kallista it warms my heart and clears my mind to see you display our father’s symbol with pride.”

“Now on to this man, this squire of Mitra, is weak and that is clear. While he has an unshakable determination to his worthless god that alone is not enough to warrant death. There are weak followers of all kinds of deities that can be turned. I’ve turned many in my day."

“This man refused to acknowledge something. He didn’t just refuse the second rate gods like Urgotha, or Zon-Kuthon , he refused Asmodeus. For that he certainly should die. However, Strumm allowed him to live and that’s ok. That’s fine. He had information, it wasn’t information I needed, but I can appreciate the need to extract information from someone even if they deserve to die. After all, cruelty is a tool not a pastime. Be ruthless to thy enemy but reward those who serve thee well.”  

Thorn then shivered as though he was controlling his anger and we suppose he was. Then he turned to Strumm.

“You kept this man alive for information and that is commendable. I have to then ask, if you were keeping a devoted worshiper of Mitra the sworn enemy of Asmodeus and a proclaimed and proved person who is in defiance of our infernal lord in my own home, alive for these reasons then WHY IS IT THAT I HAD TO REVIVE HIM!?!?! You let this peon die by the hands of undead that are just waiting to be released from their eternal living death! “

Thorn waved the beaten man away with the slaves and waived us away. 

"Leave me, I will call upon you when I am ready to decide if I should continue your training."

The Demise of Sir Balin

3:00 P.M - Day 5, Desnus 29, 3042 AP (After Peace)

We tread carefully, but readied to leave.
We raised our wounded and calculated the best possible out come. We knew we had already discovered eight of the nine rooms Thorn told us we would encounter. We rested for eight hours collected our thoughts and decided to move forward into the last room. It had crossed our minds to escape though death was certain if we chose that. Even with a good rest we still were beaten and bruised. Our resources were getting very thin. We were getting thin After spending another eight in the torture room, it was time to move on to the final chamber.

Above the door was yet one more inscription.

“Serve thy master well and be rewarded.”
We hoped this would be the last.

It was barred and locked. There was a key on a giant ring. After everything we have been through this seemed too easy. Stryder cold and calculating as he is, was getting impatient. Stixx searched for traps and found nothing. Stryder took the key and unlocked the door. He lifted the bar off the door, and kicked it right open. Awaiting beyond the door was a well suited knight bearing yellow and blue coat of arms. This man was in amazing condition and we could not figure out why he was here until we looked around his neck.  The pendant that Thorn sent us after was around his neck.  Maldrake quickly identified it as a Mitra holy symbol.

We lined up for an attack with Grumblejack stacked in the ten foot doorway. The knight was calm and simply asked us "Why are you down here and who sent you?"

Grumblejack was putting up with no shit today.
Urgoen stated only one word, "Asmodeus." That alone was all it took to set events into motion. With in seconds the battle escalated quickly. Grumblejack flex his arm towards the knight with the intent to flash his forsaken brand. Grimalkin and Strumm both agreed that this guy is part of the Knights of Alerion, the
Urgoen came packing with a pack.
group that is tasked with throwing us in prison. That about all the time we had to discuss any tactics before the knight charged Grumblejack.

With only a couple strikes the knight brought down Grumblejack who was already in a sorry state from the last sixteen hours of fun. He dropped like a sack of potatoes and from there events were concrete and in motion if there had been any doubts of this.  The knights eyes met with that of Kallista and he saw her outward display of Asmodeus and bellowed, “A Forsaken of Mitra!” he says if the mark is shown. “I know not what deviltry has allowed you to be free, but I swear by the Shining Lord that I will see this injustice righted! Mitra will protect and guide me!”
Grimalkin charges.

Stryder and Strum let loose volleys of arrows from the back pelting the fanatic knight.
Urgoen summoned forth a fiendish hound to attack the knight as Grimalkin began to setup for a flanking maneuver. Kallista cast a spell of acid in his direction and moved into place to attack the devoted knight of Mitra. She got one good strike off but was easily dispatched by the knight. The
The knight fell.
summoned hound took a few bits of flesh from the knights leg as Maldrake swung fast and hard with his weapon to deliver an unbelievable strike.  Grimalkin then manged a well timed strike with his long sword. Stixxs dropped an explosive right into the middle of fray slightly injuring Grimalkin and doing nothing to Kallista, while the Knight screamed in pain and uttered more useless threats. The knight missed an attack against Grimalkin allowing Maldrake to recharge the party through his evil channeled energy. This turned out to be futile as the knight simple struck down Grumblejack as the ogre's unyielding fist attempted to crush him. A cleave ended Kallista once more and left her almost in a state of complete death. It wasn't until Strumm and  Stryder landed perfect strikes and downed the zealous knight with two well places arrows through the man' weak spots in his armor.