Ongoing Games (In-Character)Play-by-post games are going on in this forum as we speak (well, read). All threads on this board are actual games, so please, only post on a thread if you are a player of that game.
I have decided that save for the initial character DMs, I am going to post the rest of the introductory information in a modular, spoiler-fied format. Hopefully this will make things easier to read as you can open things up and read at your leisure. Feel free to read as much of what is posted below as you like – just because it’s inside a spoiler doesn’t mean you can’t read it!
I would, however, encourage everyone to skim through the Rules and Character Status sections first before moving to individual DMs. Both of these sections provide crucial information regarding what your character can and can’t do at the moment. Happy Posting, and Welcome to Ironheart!
Introduction – As it turns out, the same introduction from the recruitment thread
The Baron of Gast was a particularly cruel man, made all the more so by his general intolerance and lack of humor. He was not without his pleasures, however, most of which involved inflicting pain on the weak and helpless. The nature of his desires thus mandated a constant supply of victims, which was difficult to maintain without eliciting the king’s attention.
King Tallond IV, the current ruler of the kingdom of Narle and the Baron’s liege lord, had developed a reputation as being somewhat of a do-gooder. Although loathe to directly interfere in any of his vassals’ affairs, he would certainly not look kindly on the Baron if his tastes continued to lead to the disappearance of his serfs. And there was very little the Baron could offer in order to convince the king to “look the other way”.
The Barony of Gast was a rather insignificant stretch of rocky highland positioned along the southern border that the human kingdom of Narle shared with the elves. Along the northern border of Gast the rocky highlands gave way to grassy foothills, allowing a pastoral existence for the serfs living there. Other than that, however, Gast’s sole remaining export was the meager amount of metal ore dragged from the mines dotting the mountains covering the rest of the Barony. The last and final resource the Baron had at his command could not be exported, for it was a place, not a thing: Ironheart.
Discovered several centuries ago, the ancient fortress was dubbed Ironheart by its human discoverers due to its rather unique nature: the fortress and its surrounding walls were made entirely out of hardened iron. A powerful aura of magic also surrounded the place, preventing any entrance or exit from the structure via magic. This, in addition to the fact that it was situated on top of a mountain with sheer cliffs falling away from the fortress on every side – the one winding path carved into a cliff face the only way up – made Ironheart the perfect unassailable fortress.
Since that time the fortress has remained in human hands, a powerful bargaining chip in negotiations with the elves. As a sign of good faith the king at the time of Ironheart’s discovery allowed the Barony of Gast to retain ownership of the structure rather than seize it as a national resource. No doubt the current King Tallond IV regretted his predecessor’s decision as possession of Ironheart gave the Baron of Gast a powerful bargaining chip against him. This was likely the only thing stopping the king from crushing the Baron out of hand, as rumors of his cruelty abounded throughout the kingdom. But it was not enough for the Baron’s behavior to be excused entirely, and the Baron knew that the king’s patience was beginning to wear thin.
Recognizing the need to soon develop an “appropriate” source for his victims, the Baron eventually determined that no one, not even the great King Tallond IV, really cared that much about what happened to criminals. Judged guilty by the courts or occasionally a noble, these pathetic souls were found deserving of punishment and imprisoned until it had been meted out, whether this was a specific act or the simple passage of time. Once found deserving of punishment, most criminals were forgotten about by the ones who had sent them there.
It was this quality that most interested the Baron, although the fact that criminals were often made of a bit sterner stuff than pathetic serfs also intrigued him. The fact that what the Baron intended to do to them was likely far beyond their intended punishment didn’t bother him, nor did the thought that some criminals might indeed be innocent of their crimes. Someone had deemed these hapless fools deserving of punishment and that is exactly what the Baron would provide. Once turned over to him, what that punishment turned out to be was no one’s concern but the Baron’s.
The very thought of having a nigh-endless supply of guilt-free victims excited the Baron immensely, and he immediately set to work establishing himself as the “Warden of Narle”. Unfortunately, his plans quickly hit a snag: there were no prisons in Gast, and thus no ready place to store those turned over to him for “punishment”. This might have brought about the end of the Baron’s plan altogether, as the construction of a suitable prison would have taken years, and the Baron certainly hadn’t the patience to wait that long.
But once again, the ancient fortress of Ironheart came to the evil man’s rescue. Beneath the iron structure lied a modest dungeon, with numerous tunnels stretching down into the mountain beneath that. It would therefore be a simple matter to convert some of those tunnels into additional cells, expanding the dungeon and converting a place designed to keep people out into a place that kept them in.
And so the Ironheart Fortress became the Ironheart Bastille, converted seemingly overnight as the first prisoners were locked into the dungeon and work began in the tunnels below. At first this change was kept secret, but as the dungeon cells began to swell with criminals and other “undesirables” from throughout Gast, it became harder to mask the ancient fortress’s newest function. Eventually the Baron went public, announcing his intentions and even offering room in his cells to neighboring provinces.
Surprisingly, a few nobles took the Baron up on his offer; their own prisons having been pressed to full capacity for some time. This bought the Baron a few allies, and it was whispered that he obtained still more when he discretely offered to house those secret prisoners that each noble had, but wished none to ever know about. It was these allies who gave the Baron enough support to force King Tallond IV to tolerate the Baron’s behavior for a bit longer.
But years passed, and perhaps distracted by other matters King Tallond IV never got around to dealing with the Baron. Soon after opening the doors of his prison to the outside world, the Baron realized that there were many who were willing to even pay to send their prisoners there. And thus the Barony’s new largest import also became its largest source of income: prisoners. These funds the Baron mostly returned to Ironheart in the way of further investment, keeping a small percentage to line his own pockets with. The prison below Ironheart grew ever larger and more oppressive, as its occupants began to come from further and further outside the Barony.
Today Ironheart is known across the continent as the final stop in a prisoner’s journey. Unless destined for a personal meeting with the Baron, who has only grown in cruelty and creativity with age, no prisoner ever exits its dark gates. Those sent to Ironheart are sent to die, or worse. Rumors now abound that the Baron has grown disappointed with the source of income from imprisoning other lords’ criminals. Seeking ever greater wealth, the Baron has now allowed sections of the prison to be rented out by darker powers, allowing them access to handfuls of prisoners for “experiments”, “rituals”, and other nefarious purposes.
The Warden of Ironheart, a man nearly capable of rivaling the Baron’s sadism and who has been the prison’s director for the past twenty years, has also recently started a number of programs designed to increase the prison’s income. While previously satisfied to lock the prisoners away and allow them to rot, a change has recently come over the Warden. Now, many unlucky prisoners are put to work: sent down to the mines below the prison levels or flung into the Arena to be torn apart by beasts to satisfy bloodthirsty spectators.
The mining initiative does not seem to be going quite as well as planned, however, as many prisoners say that they now only dig on the first few levels, with even the guards afraid to tred down into the deepest tunnel sections beneath Ironheart. The occasional missing guard seems to lend credence to the fear that something is living in the darkest tunnels beneath Ironheart, but no one seems to have any idea as to what that may be.
Despite these recent changes to the operation of Ironheart, it is still mainly a prison and place of suffering for those who have had the misfortune of being sent there. The days are mainly a monotony of boredom and fear, broken by occasional bouts of suffering as the guards pick out their latest victim. This is all about to change, however, because someone is about to accomplish the unthinkable, and Escape from Ironheart.
Locations – Aboveground Brief descriptions of known Ironheart locations aboveground
Ironheart – Overview
An impossibly ancient structure, the fortress known as Ironheart was discovered several centuries ago. Built into the peak of the largest mountain of the mountain range separating the Barony of Gast from Elven lands and made out of solid iron, the fortress has long been thought to be impregnable.
Settled on the summit of the mountain the black outer wall of Ironheart delineates the grounds for the rest of the complex; sheer cliffs that appear to have been artificially made falling away on every side. A narrow winding path leading up one cliffside to the main gate is the sole method of travel to the fortress, save for flight.
In addition to the fact that the entire structure is bizarrely fabricated out of iron, a powerful aura of magic permeates the place, suggesting that many powerful spells were used in its construction so long ago. This aura extends from the soaring top of the Central Tower to the inky catacombs stretching out below, and outwards from the fortress for about a mile. In addition to proving slightly unsettling to those who are magically inclined, this aura seems to have only one other major effect: prevention of all teleportation or similar travel magic within the area.
In the centuries since its discovery Ironheart has been used as a defensive fortification, staging area, and negotiation tool by the Barony of Gast. However, it has recently been converted from a fortress into a prison by the current Baron. Proving to be just as impossible to break out of as it had been to break into, Ironheart has quickly gained a reputation as the final stop in a criminal’s journey. Escape from Ironheart is said to be impossible, even for the most exotic and powerful inmates as the Baron continues to extend his clientele base across the continent.
Although the steady influx of prisoners has swelled the Baron’s coffers as disparate groups rent out space within the prison to store their prisoners or simply those they want to disappear, the political dynamics within the prison have shifted as a result of this. What was once a personal playground for the Baron and Ironheart’s sadistic guards has since evolved into a vicious cesspool of suffering and death: home to a host of horrors that claim the lives of inmates daily. Immoral arcane researchers, cultists, and far worse things now work in Ironheart with the guards, preying upon the hapless criminals sent to serve their sentences. And for all the criminals sent to Ironheart, the sentence is the same: life imprisonment. How long that sentence is in actuality depends largely on where within the prison an inmate is assigned.
Ironheart is located near the center of the Barony, which consists largely of the high mountain range separating the human Kingdom of Narle, of which the Barony of Gast is but a small part, from the elven lands to the south. As such all but a small strip of land to the north is anything but barren rocky highland, dotted by a few stands of hardy high-altitude pine. The highest parts of the mountain range, where Ironheart is located, are covered in a blanket of snow year-round with the winter snows being especially brutal. A number of small mining and hunting settlements are nestled in small valleys between the mountains all around the Barony, but since its conversion into a prison all settlements within a thirty mile radius of Ironheart have been evacuated and razed to the ground. As such, the only real shelter for several days’ travel in every direction is the occasional small cave, and the ancient fortress itself.
The top-most portion of the mountain Ironheart is located on consists of two hundred foot high cliffs, above which stretch the one hundred foot high walls of Ironheart’s Outer Wall. A single twenty-foot wide path has been chiseled into the face of one cliff, allowing access up from the bottom of the cliffs to Ironheart’s Main Gates. The bottom of this pathway is secured by a relatively modest gatehouse, housing only a few dozen bored guards at any one time. It is often viewed upon as a punishment to be assigned garrison duty within the gatehouse, and so some of the most lax and incompetent of Ironheart’s guards can be found here. Given the level of security within Ironheart proper, only the most paranoid officials are concerned about this state of affairs.
The Walls of Ironheart
Main Gates - Outer Wall
Although gates are generally thought of as one of the weakest points of any wall, the designers of Ironheart seemed determined to prove that theory wrong. As such, the main gateway for the outer wall of Ironheart is actually a walled-off pathway leading through the outer wall and a short distance beyond it. This pathway is blocked by a trio of portcullises, each controlled by a pair of fortified guardhouses, one on each side of the gateway. Supposedly, to open any of the three portcullises that close off entry into the rest of Ironheart, winches in both guardhouses on each side of a portcullis must be used to haul that gate up. This process must then be repeated at the next portcullis, and then the next, to allow individuals to pass from outside the fortress to Ironheart’s Inner Wall, and vice versa. Due to the fact that the Outer Wall is also the higher of the two (the battlements being roughly a hundred feet up from the ground), and hang over the two-hundred foot high cliffs, jumping off the wall is not an advisable means of escape.
Main Gates - Inner Wall
The second line of defense for Ironheart, the Inner Wall is surrounded by a wide, deep moat, with all manner of predatory and foul things swimming about in its waters. The one entry point here is a large drawbridge, which is raised and lowered from the two main guard towers. These two towers are the largest and strongest of the towers set along the Inner Wall, naturally, but the actual controls for lowering the drawbridge aren't here. Instead, two very thick, very strong adamantine chains lead from the two towers back into the nearby Central Tower, the command center for Ironheart. It is there that the actual winches for lowering the drawbridge are located, although if there were someway to cut the amazingly thick and strong chains holding the drawbridge, it might be possible to lower the drawbridge by force from the Inner Wall instead.
The Fortress Proper
The Fortress Proper – Overview
Behind the safety of its dual walls stands the real fortress of Ironheart, a massive chunk of assembled iron rising high into the sky. It is here that all business within the former fortress is conducted. Guard quarters, supply rooms, administrative offices, and everything else vital to running a prison is located aboveground within the fortress itself. There are a few minor research laboratories located within the smaller spires rising up from the fortress, but these are primarily owned by the Baron and tasked with discovering more effective and powerful means of magical restraint. All of the prisoners are stored underground beneath the fortress, with several access stairways leading down from the fortress’s basement.
The Ground Floor
The Fortress Proper – Ground Floor
The ground floor of the actual fortress fulfills a wide variety of purposes. In addition to housing the processing rooms for new inmates to Ironheart, the ground floor also holds the stables and kennels for the fortress’s ground-based animals, including a small storage area for those more exotic and dangerous creatures brought in for the Arena. The kitchen for the prison staff is also located here, along with a modest foundry, tannery, and rope walk. Several wide stairways provide access down into the basement, with heavy gates at the top of each that can be slammed shut and locked at a moment’s notice.
Ground Floor – Prisoner Processing Area
The prisoner processing rooms are likely the first thing a new prisoner sees after entering the fortress for the first (and final) time. Unless the prisoner is considered too dangerous or arrangements were made ahead of time, the new prisoner must go through here before being assigned to a cell.
The entire area is arranged like an assembly line, with each room fulfilling a specific purpose and each new inmate going through these rooms in order. Several side rooms are also present: places where the guards can drag a prisoner into for a “personal welcome”.
The first room consists of the guards thoroughly searching the new prisoners, confiscating any and all possessions that haven’t already been confiscated, including clothing. The guards then outfit the prisoner with a simple burlap tunic and set of breeches before marching them off to the next room.
This next room is the fitting room, where prisoners are placed into their mobile restraints. The number and type of restraint vary greatly, usually custom-tailored to what is known about the prisoner. Particularly dangerous or stubborn prisoners are often equipped with restraints designed to inhibit their capabilities, while non-threatening ones are simply equipped with some sort of hobble to keep them from running away.
The next room is the cell assignment room, where the various record keepers and administrators for the prison shift through mountains of paperwork to find an empty cell to stick the prisoner in. Like the personalized restraints, each prisoner is assigned to a cell based on the prisoner’s presumed capabilities and the sadistic whims of the administrator in charge of the prisoner’s case. Mere commoners and debtors are thrown into a cell on the first level of the prison, while murderers and hardened criminals often find themselves on the third and lowest level.
Once the prisoner has been assigned a cell, the next step is branding. This is perhaps the quickest step, as the prisoner is simply dragged into the room and strapped into one of the available chairs scattered about. The guards then use a modified branding iron to collect the red-hot iron numbers from the numerous nearby braziers, and press the now-numbered iron into the prisoner’s arm. The cell number is now permanently seared into the prisoner’s arm, and it is often this number that the guards use when addressing prisoners. This task complete, the guards now drag the prisoner into the final room of the processing area.
The final room is where the prisoners are kept until a patrol of guards arrives to escort the prisoner down to the cell levels. It is also commonly used by the guards to host an “official welcome” to Ironheart. This welcome varies depending on the whims and moods of the particular guards present, although it generally involves some variation of pain and suffering on the part of the prisoner. More than one prisoner has never even made it to the cells, too feeble to survive even the welcoming party to Ironheart.
Ground Floor – Stables/Kennels
The stable and kennel areas on the ground floor mainly house the horses and guard dogs occasionally used by the guards. Due to the fact that no prisoner has ever thus far gotten past the Inner Wall in an escape attempt, the need for tracking dogs and mounted guards has not presented itself.
Therefore, the stables are relatively small, capable of holding perhaps two dozen mounts at full capacity. Normally, a dozen of these are filled with riding horses, the rest being used to shelter the mules for the prisoner wagons that arrive daily.
The kennels are a bit larger, generally housing anywhere between two and three dozen guard dogs. The dogs are somewhat more useful to the guards, as they take great pleasure in using unfortunate prisoners to help ensure the dogs stay in shape.
Finally, the last section of this area houses the menagerie of dangerous and exotic beasts that have recently been imported to participate in the Arena. Unlike the horses and even the dogs, the beasts are rarely fed by the guards, ensuring that they are viciously hungry during their matches in the Arena against unlucky prisoners.
Ground Floor – Kitchen
The ground floor kitchen focuses solely on feeding the staff of Ironheart, allowing the meager kitchen located in the basement to deal with the needs of feeding all of Ironheart’s inmates. Attached to the kitchen is the mess hall, a large dining room equipped with long wooden tables where the majority of Ironheart’s guards eat. There is also a stairway leading down to the basement level where most of the food is stored.
Ground Floor – Foundry/Tannery/Rope Walk
Tasked with supplying Ironheart the basic materials needed for restraining and imprisoning its growing number of prisoners, the foundry, tannery, and rope walk are generally in continuous operation. However, these areas only provide the raw materials; it being the task of the workshops above to fashion the produced materials into the cell bars, shackles, straps, and various other implements used throughout the prison.
The Second Floor
The Fortress Proper – Second Floor
Located above the ground floor, the basement, and the prison levels, the second floor of Ironheart is where the transition from prisoner management to staff management begins. Here the largest sections by far are the Guard Barracks and General Staff Barracks, although there is also a modest Armory as well as a Wash Room. The stairways between this floor, the third floor, and the ground floor are all unblocked, allowing easy access up and down between the different floors. Although a few paranoid guards worry about prisoners easily charging up into the Barracks once past the numerous gates below, the simple fact is that only a particularly foolhardy prisoner would attempt to rush up the stairs from the Ground Floor and into one of the most guard-dense areas in the entire complex.
Second Floor – Guard Barracks
This is where most of Ironheart’s countless guards sleep. The area is set-up as a number of interconnecting rooms, each filled with bunkbeds stacked three high. Heavy chests set up at the foot of each bunkbed store the possessions of each guard that sleeps there, often little more than a change of clothing, a suit of chainmail, and a weapon or two. The beds are hot-bunked, meaning that as soon as the guards using the beds wake up, it’s likely that another group of guards is about to come off-shift to use the beds. There are three guard shifts at Ironheart, meaning that as many as three people use the same bed during any given 24-hour period. The life of a guard is thus generally uncomfortable and unpleasant, which leads most guards to take their frustrations out on the prisoners. Disputes between guards are fairly uncommon, however, as one punishment reserved by the Warden to enact at any time upon a guard is to strip him of his status and throw him into a cell with his now fellow prisoners. Such fallen guards rarely last long between guards that previously felt slighted and now have a chance for revenge, and the prisoners themselves.
Second Floor – General Staff Barracks
Located on the opposite side of the fortress from the guard barracks, the general staff barracks are arranged similarly, with a honeycomb of rooms containing bunkbeds stacked three high. Like the guards, the general staff also works and sleeps in three shifts, with the currently sleeping shift taking up the beds previously used by the just awakened shift. If anything, the general staff – that is, cooking, cleaning, stable tending, and any other jobs that don’t directly involve prisoners - are even more careful to behave themselves as the Warden generally views them as even more expendable than the guards, and thus does not hesitate to reassign them to the prison levels . . . permanently.
Second Floor – Armory
Almost all of the guards choose to store their weapons and armor close at hand, generally storing them in the chests at the foot of their beds while they sleep. For those few who do not, as well as to store any extra weapons and armor required for new recruits there is the Armory. Unlike the two barracks, the armory is actually one very large room, capable of storing all the various weapons and suits of armor safely. It is also quite clean and organized, a fact that Quartermaster Silas Tarn is very proud of and ensures with regular inspections. Entrance to the Armory is guarded by way of a much smaller attached room, which everyone must pass through in order to reach the Armory from the main hallway. A sealed shaft runs through the middle of the Armory, connecting the Foundries below to the Workshops above.
Second Floor – Wash Room
Tucked away in one corner of the second floor is the wash room, open to both guards and staff. A number of large fireplaces along the outskirts of the room allow for impressive amounts of water to be heated, which are then dumped into the shallow pool which adorns the center of the room. A number of smaller wash basins are also set up around the outskirts of the room for those that do not wish to use the community bath.
The Third Floor
The Fortress Proper – Third Floor
The third floor of Ironheart is also the top one, above which jut the towers, long iron talons clawing up into the sky. In addition to providing access stairways to each tower, the top floor of the fortress houses the various workshops, prisoner possession storage rooms or “treasuries” as they’ve since been dubbed, and finally a few sleeping quarters.
Third Floor – Workshops
A winding, confused mess of interconnected rooms, the area commonly referred to as the Workshops provide all of the manufactured goods that Ironheart needs to operate. Woodcarvers, blacksmiths, leatherworkers, and bowyers all work side by side here to ensure the guards can be provided with the tools required for their jobs. A large pulley-based elevator shaft eats up the middle of this winding maze of various small workshops, allowing fresh raw materials from the foundries on the first floor to be easily brought up for finishing work. In addition to crafting new equipment for the guards and new restraints for the prisoners, the workshops also do some repair work, although maintenance of the cells themselves is taken care of by a special subdivision of Ironheart’s guards.
Third Floor – Treasury
Dubbed the “Treasury” by Ironheart’s guards long ago, the name refers to several locked rooms which contain all the seized possessions of prisoners that appear to have some value. It is likely possible to find virtually anything somewhere within the Treasury, as personal weapons, armor, jewelry, and even sufficiently fancy clothing is kept stored away in one of the rooms. Thanks to Quartermaster Silas Tarn’s insistence on order, each of the separate rooms holds one variety of item, neatly stored in a series of chests: one room might contain only weapons, for example, while another would contain chests full of rings and other precious jewelry. Finding a specific item would be difficult were it not for the fact that the storage location of each item is also recorded in a logbook, in the event that a specific item needed to be retrieved for some reason. It has always been the case that whenever a possession is removed from the Treasury, it is to serve as a reward for an exemplary guard, rather than as a return to the item’s original owner.
Third Floor – Sleeping Quarters
The sleeping quarters for Ironheart’s administrators and workshop artisans are considerably better than those that are used for the guards or general staff. Although the beds are still hot-bunked out of necessity to keep Ironheart fully running at all times of the day, here they are single-stacked beds. Additionally, each person has their own chest, allowing for some minor personal possessions to be kept.
The Fortress Towers
The Fortress Towers – Overview
Stretching up into the sky above the fortress are the iron talons of Ironheart’s towers. Three smaller towers surround the largest which is simply called “The Central Tower”: Ironheart’s command center. These other three are collectively known as the Spires, and each tower has its own purpose separate from the management of the prison, which is the Central Tower’s objective. Long enclosed iron bridges stretch between each Spire and the Central Tower, allowing for easy travel from one to the other.
The Fortress Towers – Spire One: Key Storage
Far above the dark depths of the prison below, the first of the three Spires serves as storage for the keys to every lock in the entire prison. The location of every key is noted down carefully in one of a multitude of logbooks, and every time a key is removed or returned an entry is recorded. Most guards routinely carry no keys, particularly any involving those that would unlock prisoner restraints. Keys that open cell doors are a much more common sight, as patrols of guards regularly appear to remove a prisoner from a cell for mining, participation in the Arena, or simply to serve as entertainment either in the Torture Chambers or the Guard Barracks.
The more commonly used a key is, the closer to the base of the spire it is, the easier its location is to find in the logbooks usually, and the higher the likelihood that there have been several copies of said key made. Obviously, for the most dangerous prisoners who are seldom, if ever, interacted with the keys to their cells and restraints are stored in a dark corner at the top of the Spire, totally forgotten about.
The Fortress Towers – Spire Two: Flying Mount Stables
Although far rarer than the prison’s normal ground-based mounts, the Ironheart staff nonetheless maintains a few domesticated flying mounts. Griffons and wyverns can both be found here, stabled in separate levels of the spire in order to avoid any hostilities breaking out between the two different species. The rest of the spire is taken up by storage spaces for the specially-made saddles required to ride these beasts, the food necessary to feed them, and the few trainers and handlers that care for the beasts while their guard riders are elsewhere. Flying mounts are generally only given to the most elite among Ironheart’s guardsmen.
The Fortress Towers – Spire Three: Ironheart Research
While most experiments are conducted by the mad wizards and dark cultists that the Baron has allowed to inhabit the lowest levels of the prison, the third Spire is solely for the Baron’s personal use. And since the Baron is primarily interested in improving the efficiency of Ironheart, most research conducted in the Spire is tasked with finding more inescapable and efficient ways to contain prisoners. Although most of the research is directed towards the development of better and more powerful magical wards and bindings for the increasingly powerful beings begin incarcerated in Ironheart, some research is also being done to create better mundane restraints, and some has even been directed into the creation of more effective and space-efficient cells.
The Central Tower
The Fortress Towers - The Central Tower
The Central Tower is the administrative center for the entirety of Ironheart. The highest-level administrators work and sleep here, including Quartermaster Silas Tarn, the captain of the guards Logan Delran, and the Warden himself. The most elite of the guards also have their barracks here, positioned in between the rest of the prison and the administrators’ various offices. Due to the fact that the heavy chains for the Inner Wall’s drawbridge also lead here, it is likely that the winches used in lowering the drawbridge are also housed somewhere here, about halfway up the tower. Needless to say, few prisoners have ever set foot in here, and even fewer have ever returned. Unlike the rest of the aboveground fortress, the Central Tower has each entry point covered in a gated and heavily-guarded security checkpoint. Access to the Tower is strictly forbidden except for authorized personnel, and even the average guard must have a specific reason and properly-filled out paperwork as proof to be allowed inside. Failure to follow this proper procedure is considered an imprisonable offense by the Warden.
Locations – Underground A brief description of known locations beneath Ironheart
The Fortress Proper
The Fortress Proper – Overview
Behind the safety of its dual walls stands the real fortress of Ironheart, a massive chunk of assembled iron rising high into the sky. It is here that all business within the former fortress is conducted. Guard quarters, supply rooms, administrative offices, and everything else vital to running a prison is located aboveground within the fortress itself. There are a few minor research laboratories located within the smaller spires rising up from the fortress, but these are primarily owned by the Baron and tasked with discovering more effective and powerful means of magical restraint. All of the prisoners are stored underground beneath the fortress, with several access stairways leading down from the fortress’s basement.
The Fortress Proper – Basement
Serving as a barrier between the prisoner cells and the rest of the fortress, the basement provides only a few other functions. This function is fitting as this is also the place where the iron walls give way to stone, although there are several places where the massive iron pillars that stretch down into the mountain and serve to anchor Ironheart to the basement are visible.
There are several stairways leading down into the gloom of the first level of the prison cells, but all are heavily guarded. Significant guard stations are set up at the top of every flight of stairs, with heavy iron bar doors that can be slammed shut at a moment’s notice. Each guard station and thus, each set of stairs is also surrounded by an iron latticework cage, which can also be shut, locked, and barred from the outside, thus trapping any unfortunate guards in the cage with escaping prisoners who somehow managed to get past the first iron gate.
A large kitchen labors day and night to provide sufficient food for all of the prisoners, often little more than a thin gruel. A storage area is also present, housing all of the extra restraints produced by the workshops above. Finally, the most recent addition to the Basement is the Arena, where prisoners fight and die for the entertainment of visitors.
Basement – Kitchens
Several large rooms in the basement of Ironheart have been converted into kitchen areas as the guards struggle to meet the nutrition requirements of the fortress’s population of prisoners. Often the “food” prepared is little more than a thin gruel, but the food carts dispatched from the kitchens to wander the halls of Ironheart’s prison levels are a welcome sight nonetheless.
Basement – Restraint Storage
What extra supplies are produced by the workshops upstairs are stored here. Here in the basement, these supplies are solely restraints; the weapons and other goods being kept elsewhere, farther away from the prisoners. The location of the storage area also means that extra restraints are close at hand for the guards should a prisoner suddenly become difficult. Interestingly enough, the keys to all of these extra chains and shackles are not kept here, but instead are stored in the Key Room located within the Spires with the rest of the innumerable keys containing current prisoners’ restraints, cell doors, and the like.
Basement – The Arena
The newest addition to Ironheart, the Arena has been created for the sole purpose of entertainment, both for the guards and visitors who are willing to pay for a seat. Like the rest of Ironheart, the Arena operates more or less continuously on a 24-hour cycle, although there are usually several periods of downtime stretched throughout the day. These periods of downtime can last several minutes; just long enough for guards to drag the bodies out of the Arena, or several hours while things are set up for a large-scale match that features large bodies of participants or a particularly gimmicky scenario.
Although most often the matches consist of prisoner against prisoner bouts, often it is prisoners against monsters, or even occasionally the guards themselves. Typically the fights are to the death, and if the match involves guards against prisoners the guards are generally the only ones who walk out.
The entrances to the Arena on the basement level of Ironheart allow access to the spectator stands, where the crowd can watch in relative safety. With none of the participants ever armed with ranged weapons and a sheer stone wall ten feet high separating the spectators from the entry ring, it is highly unlikely that any spectators will ever come to harm. Still, several armed guards wander about through the seating, making sure that everyone feels safe enough to watch and enjoy the brutal deaths of dozens of prisoners every day.
The Cells – Overview
Stretching out beneath Ironheart in all directions including down, the cells are where virtually all prisoners of Ironheart are kept in various states of incarceration. Set up as a series of four levels currently, the Cells grow darker and more oppressive with each level down. They are also more secure, as each level lower is designed to contain worse and more dangerous criminals. Many rumors abound as to why there are only four levels, when there are certainly many more tunnels going even deeper into the mountain. For whatever reason, however, for the moment the guards seem content with just four levels, leaving the tunnels below empty except for the mining crews. Each of the four levels is constantly being expanded, and this seems to be doubly the case as of late as the mining crews have shifted to digging in the “safe” tunnels running parallel to the mountain rather than those that lead deeper into it.
The Cells – Floor One
The oldest holding area within Ironheart, likely created from the original dungeon located just beneath the basement. As such, it is also the closest holding area to the surface, and the largest due to the length of time that it has been here along with the near-constant adding-on of new cells as mining crews lengthen the "safe" tunnels immediately below the surface. Several stairways lead up into the basement of the fortress.
Unlike the rest of the cell levels, the first floor is brightly lit, the result of numerous ancient iron oil holders set into the walls. Undoubtedly a hold-over from the original dungeon of Ironheart, the design for the oil holders was copied and new ones were bolted into place as new sections were opened. Simply a repository for a fair amount of oil along with a wick, the oil holders can burn for almost an entire day before needing to be refilled. More for the guards’ benefit than the prisoners, the bright light on this floor allows rookie guards time to adapt to working underground and gain experience in patrolling the floor, on the lookout for any prisoner-initiated trouble.
Most of the weakest and least important prisoners are held here, usually nothing more than mere commoners that have in some way failed their serf duties. Due to their close location to the surface and relative unimportance, many prisoners disappear from this area, only to be found back in their cells later, beaten or stabbed to death. Particularly stubborn or hardy prisoners are often sent down one of the several dark stairways that lead further into the network of tunnels beneath Ironheart, either to spend the night in one of the lower level cells, or remain there forever.
Like the basement level above them, the top of each stairway leading down to the second level of cells is equipped with an iron grate that can be swung down and barred at the first sign of trouble. These stairways are generally guarded by at least a trio of guardsmen, ensuring that only a very organized and lucky band of prisoners could cut down all three before one of them slams and locks the grate shut in their faces as they attempt to boil up the stairs.
The Cells – Floor One: The Arena
Home to the newly founded Prisoner Gladiatorial games, the Arena was recently fashioned out of a large hollow area dug out from the walls of the basement and first floor of the cells, specifically for this purpose. At the end of one hallway on the first level of cells, a prisoner waiting area has been mined out, allowing for guards to temporarily restrain prisoners while they await their fate within the Arena itself. A simple blood-stained iron door set upon the opposite side of the room allows entry onto the Arena floor.
Surrounding the Arena floor and separated by a ten foot sheer wall are the Spectator Stands, where guards and bloodthirsty individuals with gold to spend can watch the proceedings. In the center of the Arena floor is a large pit, the bottom of which is about a similar distance below the main Arena Floor as the Spectator Stands are above. No fighting occurs on the Arena Floor, it being simply a place for the announcer to stand while introducing the next match and for the guards to equip the prisoners with any gear that the upcoming fight demands. Instead, all fighting occurs within the pit itself, with prisoners reaching the bottom by either climbing down a rope ladder that is immediately pulled back up after they let go, or by the much faster method of being thrown off the side by a guard.
Fortunately, being kicked into the Pit is rarely fatal, as the bottom is covered in a thick layer of rust-colored sand. With even the Arena operating throughout the day and night, numerous patches of the sand are slimy and sticky, quickly coating competitors’ legs in the mixture of blood and sand. Victorious competitors are lowered the rope ladder to return to the Arena Floor and from there back to the prisoner waiting area or their cell. Defeated competitors lie in the sand, adding their own blood to the mixture until guards come to drag them away through the gated tunnel that also leads out of the Pit.
This tunnel is also the entry point for any monsters used in the Arena, and as such it is often a few hours before a released monster can be sedated, carefully carried back through the tunnel to the elevator shaft that leads up to the Stables on the first floor, and the half-eaten corpses of the monster’s kills to be dragged out of the Arena by the same route.
The Cells – Floor Two
The second floor of the cells, this level is home to most of the petty and semi-dangerous criminals sent to Ironheart. There are more guards here on regular patrol, and several security hardpoints dot the layout of the place. At the center of each of these security stations there is often a stairway leading up or down, thus requiring an escaping prisoner to attempt to pass through at least one in order to leave Floor Two. With an average of a dozen guards per security checkpoint, the very idea of sneaking or hacking one's way through even one security checkpoint is a daunting task for the average prisoner.
Although much dimmer than the first floor, a few scattered oil holders burn, covering the entire floor in a dim illumination. More experienced guards patrol here, preparing themselves for the inky gloom of the third and fourth levels, which are pitch black save for the light the guards carry. Each security checkpoint is also brightly lit, making for shining beacons that stand out against the poor lighting elsewhere. The bright lights allow for the checkpoint guards to easily anyone approaching, thus ensuring that a prisoner will have to work a lot harder to pass themselves off as a guard even at a distance.
Interestingly enough, despite the somewhat hardened nature of the prisoners housed here, Floor Two is actually one of the safest places to be. This is due to the fact that it is far from the Guard Barracks above, as well as the area known only as "The Labs", rumored to be located close to the cells on the lowest level. The entrance to the Mines is also located here.
The Cells – Floor Two: Mine Entrance
Although a number of mining details operate throughout the tunnels beneath Ironheart, including the various cell levels, there are a few tunnel networks deeper yet that are considered the official mines. At the intersection between the long tunnels of the second cell floor and a long tunnel leading deeper down into the mountain, a supply station was set up.
Now separated from the rest of the second level of cells by an iron door and expanded into a large room, the Mine Entrance allows the guards a place to store the various tools necessary for mining. It is here that those prisoners assigned to mining report to first each day, chained together in short slave lines of six apiece and often overseen by groups of four or five guards, each armed with a whip in addition to his usual weapon. Each prisoner is given a dull shovel or pick, and then the slave chain is led off to its assigned position for the day. Some chains head back out into the prison levels, working on expanding one of the floors, but most head down the long tunnel that leads deep into the mountain, and the area commonly referred to as the Mines.
The Cells – Floor Three
The third floor of the prison cells is where the most dangerous and psychotic of prisoners are usually held. Occasionally a prisoner from the first or second floors can also be found down here, the result of a particularly cruel guard taking him/her down to “spend the night”. Most such prisoners are never the same after spending a night down in the damp air and inky blackness.
Unlike the two floors above, there is little to no light down here save what the patrolling guards carry. Also shining out in the darkness are the numerous guard posts scattered through the floor and clustered around each of the stairways. Even the light from these two sources is muted, however, the result of the guards using hooded lanterns for illumination instead of torches. This also allows the guards to use light as a weapon by suddenly flipping one of the lantern’s shutters all the way up, spotlighting an escaping prisoner and temporarily blinding him/her in the sudden bright light.
Many prisoners, if they aren't already crazy, quickly become so, thanks to the darkness and often oppressive silence. This silence is maintained by the guards deeming anyone who makes a lot of noise to be insane. Prisoners deemed insane by the guards are quickly shuttled off to the Torture Chambers for “treatment”, or occasionally even down to “The Labs” to serve as test subjects. Naturally, this silence also allows the guards to hear loose prisoners attempting to sneak up behind them, the guards’ senses honed from experience and the absence of any other noise save their own breathing. A series of thick iron doors at the far end of one tunnel away from the rest of the prison cells leads to the Torture Chambers, dampening any screams coming from that direction into silence.
The Cells – Floor Three: Torture Chambers
Sealed off from the rest of the third floor of cells by a series of thick iron doors with small rooms between them, Ironheart’s Torture Chambers ensures that prisoners inside are completely cut off from the rest of the world. Each prisoner is not alone in his/her suffering, however, as there is often another prisoner only a few feet away, enduring similar or even worse treatment.
Unlike the rest of the third floor of cells, the Torture Chambers are lit fairly well and are quite noisy. Given that the light comes mostly from braziers of coals waiting to be used in some manner and the noise mostly comes from agonized screams, most prisoners find that they actually prefer even the third cell level to this.
Due to the fact that this area is divided into a rather large number of individual rooms, connected to the others by open doorways, most refer to the area as the “Torture Chambers” rather than the “Torture Chamber”. The individual nature of the rooms allows a guard, or a small group of guards, to spend some “one-on-one” time with a single prisoner. Each room is generally equipped with one or more devices that allow the guards to inflict no small amount of pain on this prisoner, and between all of the rooms virtually anything a sadistic guard could think of to use is probably located somewhere.
Small holding cells located within the walls of each room also allow one or two prisoners to be stored within any given room. Some guards therefore take great pleasure in locating pairs or trios of prisoners that previously knew each other and dragging them all in here, forcing the others to watch with one of their fellows is brutally tortured. The rest are often then rotated in – the guards are always happy to ensure an equality of pain for all.
Interestingly enough, due to the nature of most of the devices located within the Torture Chamber, most prisoner restraints must be removed before the prisoner can be attached to the device. There are always several guards involved when a prisoner’s mobile restraints are removed, or the prisoner is removed from the device, so a prisoner’s freedom of movement rarely lasts more than a few seconds. Nonetheless, this does mean that most guards within the Torture Chambers are carrying keys to somebody’s restraints, sometimes several sets of such keys. Thus, it is possible for a prisoner to overpower a guard, taking the keys to his/her restraints from his unconscious body, and then free him/herself. The sounds of the struggle likely won’t even attract attention, although the open doorways and frequent foot traffic ensure that the results of a scuffle won’t remain secret for long.
For some, it would be even easier to wait for the guards to remove their restraints and attach them to a device first. Most devices are designed to only restrain the average prisoner during its operation, and thus lack the ability of some prisoners’ personal restraints to withstand their strength or other abilities. It is for this reason that none of the most powerful prisoners, usually those on the fourth level of cells, to ever be taken up to the Torture Chambers as the risk of their escape once free of their personal restraints is too great. Due to the fact that most prisoners on the fourth level are often primary test subjects, however, most guards are content in the knowledge that no one imprisoned in Ironheart ever escapes from agony for long.
The Cells – Floor Four
The bottom of the prison cell levels, only the most horrifically powerful prisoners are stored here. As such great strides have been taken by the guards to ensure that most of the inmates incarcerated in the cells down here never leave their cells, let alone the level itself. Unlike the neat and orderly rows of cells stretching out into the darkness, here the cells are arranged chaotically throughout a maze of twisting tunnels that loop up, down, around, and sometimes even directly back on themselves.
Thick doors made out of solid adamantite cover the doorways separating the tunnels from the cells themselves, thin peep slots set into each one at eye level to allow guards to peek into the cells. The guards never peek into a cell unless required, which usually means that the prisoner is about to be moved elsewhere, usually to The Labs. Most doors leading to occupied cells are also covered in a variety of magical runes, running the gauntlet from complex wards to simple sentences in ancient languages that basically mean “Don’t open this door, idiot!”
Each cell is customized to nullify an inmate’s unique abilities as fully as possible, and the mage staff at Ironheart works very hard to learn all about a prisoner before placing him/her in one of these rooms.
Generally, there aren’t even any guards patrolling the twisting tunnels of the fourth cell level, but rather only magical sensors that report on anything unusual appearing in the tunnels. Most doors are also equipped with a separate alarm that is triggered when the wards holding a door shut are tampered with. Any such alarm immediately triggers a response from the massive guard station set up at both ends of the single stairway leading up to the third level. Several teams of heavily armed and armored elite guards are dispatched from the station whenever an alarm is sounded, immediately heading to the source of the problem via several different pathways.
If any sign of trouble is actually detected by the teams, or any team fails to report back every five minutes via a communication crystal, the Warden is personally informed. The entirely of Ironheart then goes on high alert, each level of the prison is locked down, with the stairway gates only being opened to allow yet more guards to pour through into the lower levels until the problem is found and dealt with. Thus far, the Warden has never been alerted to a problem, as none of the prisoners stored down here have found a way yet to even break free of their restraints to get to the door, let alone attempt to open it.
It is rumored that at the bottom of one of the tunnels randomly spiraling down into darkness, there is another sealed adamantite door that leads not to another prisoner’s cell, but the area known only as “The Labs”.
The Cells – Fourth Floor: The Labs
Located behind a sealed adamantite door designed as yet another prison cell on the fourth level, the area known only as “The Labs” is a place that no prisoner has thus far ever, ever come back from. Rumors of all sorts of horrible experiments being conducted there circulate throughout Ironheart, making the threat of being sent there enough to pacify all but the most resolute of prisoners.
However, the guards rarely if ever carry out such a threat, instead sending the disobedient prisoner to the Torture Chambers. This is due to the fact that The Labs are not run by the Warden directly but instead by the various mad wizards and alchemists who rent out rooms within the Labs for study. Although these researchers will occasionally request an “average” prisoner to participate in some sort of experiment, by and large the researchers are most interested in those prisoners with very unusual abilities or that are powerful enough to warrant being kept in the fourth level.
Due to the fact that each section of the Labs is essentially rented out to a third-party, the design of the area is modular, a series of several interconnected rooms before a long corridor stretches out to lead into another one. Although one of these rooms is usually a cell that can be modified to contain a specific powerful prisoner, actual security within each separate lab is expected to be provided by the renting researcher. While this might elsewhere led to a substandard number and quality of guards, the explanations of the Warden as to what would happen to a researcher if even one of his/her test subjects manages to escape usually convinces the researcher to hire more than adequate security for managing the test subjects.
An additional step taken by the Warden is to carefully arrange each researcher’s lab within the overall structure so that the most dangerous test subjects are farthest away from the door leading out to the fourth cell level. Because the labs are all connected in a long line leading out from the fourth cell level, this means that the most dangerous test subjects will have to travel through all of the other labs before arriving at the door leading up. Despite what most of the researchers are paying him, the Warden cares about the lives of his own men far more than that of any researcher or the researcher’s private security.
The Darkest Depths
The Darkest Depths – Overview
Beneath even the fourth level of prison cells and The Labs lie the darkest bowels of Ironheart. Ancient tunnels as old as the fortress itself twist and turn, leading ever deeper into the darkness of the mountain. Unless on specific business, no guards remain in these tunnels for long, and it is common for those that tarry down here too long to never be seen again. Few know what truly goes on down here in these darkest depths of Ironheart, and perhaps not even the Warden knows everything.
The Darkest Depths – Ritual Chambers
Somewhere within The Labs, there is a stairway that leads even further down, into a network of tunnels that now serve the various dark cults that have also rented out space within Ironheart. Like the researchers above, the business of the cultists is their own, and security is provided by the cultists themselves.
All sorts of evil and blasphemous cults have settled down here, their members only occasionally coming up from their dark quarters to request and purchase prisoners for sacrifices and other hideous rituals. Much like The Labs, no prisoner has ever returned once the cultists took him/her down into the depths of their underground sanctuaries.
The Darkest Depths – Mines
On the second level of cells is the entrance to the mines. A long tunnel leads steeply downward to a level of tunnels below even the Ritual Chambers, expanding out into a large network of crudely hewn tunnels, the results of previous mining crews attempting to find significant mineral veins.
Unlike most of the mountains in Gast, the mountain beneath Ironheart is somewhat rich in minerals once one has gone deep enough. Most of the already exposed mineral viens have already been mined out, however, and so now most crews work on expanding the already existing tunnels, hoping to run into fresh mineral veins.
However, recently work has shifted to following the tunnels that run laterally through the mountain, rather than continuing to probe down the tunnels that lead ever deeper into the mountain. Rumors abound that these deeper pathways are “haunted”, home to horrors that even Ironheart’s guards don’t want to deal with. It is also suspected that the first several levels of the Mines will soon be converted into yet another living area: a fifth level of cells or space for yet another outside interest to come to Ironheart in order to pray on the unfortunate souls imprisoned there.
The Darkest Depths – Catacombs
Beneath even the mining tunnels lies the deepest tunnel network of Ironheart. Few prisoners have ever seen it, but many wild rumors abound as to what can be found down there. Believed to be even more haunted than the lower levels of the Mines, it is said that once long ago guards would take prisoners down here to mine.
Only instead of searching for mineral veins the guards would simply have the prisoners dig short side passages into the walls of the tunnels and crawl inside. The guards would then collapse the entrances to these side passages, leaving the unfortunate prisoners inside to be buried alive.
No one knows whether or not this story is true, but everyone refers to these lowest tunnels of all as “The Catacombs” for exactly that reason. No mining teams ever come down this far, the guards and their slave chain leaving as soon as the guards realized where they are. Regardless as to whether the stories are true or not, something does seem to have taken up residence down here, as the occasional slave chain with attending guards will disappear from the Mines, presumably dragged down here by whatever killed them.
Rules A short summation of what I expect
Ok, so obviously despite being freeform there needs to be a few simple rules so everyone can make sense of what’s going on.
1) Post Format
I don’t particularly care how you format your posts, provided they are legible. However, I would strongly encourage you to use the standard set up on these boards: normal text being actions, italics being thoughts, “quotations and color being used for speech”, etc. Obviously with so many players it will be difficult for each character to have their own unique color, so I will leave you to sort that out amongst yourselves in the OOC thread. However, I personally would not mind if two characters had the same/similar color text for speech, nor would I mind if you don’t use a color at all – just be sure to use quotation marks in that case so I know you’re talking instead of doing something.
Dorizzit brought this up in the recruitment thread, so I thought I should briefly address the matter. While I want to encourage creativity as much as possible, obviously I need to set limits on what is possible. My only real limits on what your characters can do is this: be reasonable.
We have a wide range of character types and abilities, and as such what might be a reasonable action for one might not be for another. As an example, a commoner with no prior training and shackled at the feet being able to run along the wall for several feet before jumping down onto a guard and snapping his neck is probably not reasonable. However, a ninja that is not encumbered by shackles probably would be able to run along the wall and land on the guard.
I understand that this makes for a fairly grey area, so I will try to nudge everyone along in the right direction towards my ideal as necessary. Sometimes this nudging will take the form of outright failure (with usually an explanation as to why your idea failed), sometimes success but with a price (like being injured), and sometimes you’ll just get away with it because your idea is so darn cool and original. :smallgrin:
If anyone still has any concerns about this, please feel free to PM me with additional questions or post in the OOC thread.
3) The DM is Final Adjudicator
This should go without saying, but for completeness I’ll list it here. I, as DM, have the final say regarding the outcome and consequences of your characters’ actions. If you feel that I’m being unfair towards your character, feel free to send me a PM so we can discuss it – I would rather that the OOC thread is not clogged up with disputes. That being said, I don’t think there should be many disputes if everyone is reasonable with their actions, and there should be no player vs. player incidents so any “yeah, he did that, but I did this” arguments should not occur.
4) Post Every Day, But Don’t Worry About It
I am going to try to DM this thing every day, or every other day should real life start interfering. When I DM I will write up outcomes for everyone who posted since my last DM – I will not wait for everyone to post (unless of course someone sends me a PM saying, “hey, I’m just about done with my post could you please wait?”). Other than the fact that you missed the DMing for the day, there are no penalties for posting late or not posting at all.
However, if you suddenly fall off the face of the earth and stop regularly posting in Ironheart without telling me ahead of time, I am going to assume that you have quit the thread. About a week or two after not posting anything, I will remove any characters that have quit the thread in a permanent and probably gruesome fashion unless they’re somehow important to the plot in which case I’ll NPC them until the plot reaches I point where I can kill said character in a permanent and probably gruesome fashion. Obviously, telling me you’re about to go on vacation or something is different and I’ll NPC/temporally-displace your character as needed.
Note that because some players might wind up on teams together, I will DM those players on a team as one unit. Thus, gnome_4ever & Engineer will get separate DMs when they’re apart, but when they’re on a mining detail together their will get a joint DM under “gnome_4ever/Engineer”. Only one player on a team needs to post for a fresh DM to be made, but obviously those other people on said team who didn’t post will end up NPC’d and do relatively nothing unless absolutely required. Of course, repeated incidents of this in a row with the same character will cause me to assume said character has quit the thread, and thus vulnerable to dying in a permanent and gruesome fashion.
5) No Player vs. Player
While I understand that your characters are all degenerate scum (), stabbing each other in the back while trying to escape from prison is just plain stupid. Feel free to argue, hate each other, avoid each other, refuse to cooperate, and/or go your separate ways once you’re free, but actually coming to blows is a no-no. I simply don’t have the patience to adjudicate a freeform player vs. player fight. That being said, a healthy dose of cooperation between characters, even if they dislike each other, is probably a good idea given your shared situation.
6) What You *Can* Do
Like my definition of god-modding, I suspect that this concept might take a bit of work for everyone to get used to and enjoy. As the DM, my job is to determine the final outcome and consequences of player actions. However, I am going to divide those player actions into two categories: combat and non-combat situations.
In non-combat situations, the players are trying to solve some sort of problem that generally does not involve something trying to directly kill them. This could be solving some sort of puzzle, escaping from their restraints, or even choosing which hallway at an intersection to go down. Here, because the player obviously doesn’t know what I’m intending the solution to be, I would prefer if the player just posts whatever their character is doing to solve the problem. I’ll then come in and post the outcome, whether the player’s actions succeed or fail, the consequences of this, and what is going to happen next. In combat situations, the players have a bit more leeway if they so choose.
Example: John Doe has just been DM’d saying that he’s come to a locked door.
John Doe: “I pound loudly on the door, shouting at anyone inside to open up, while disguising my voice to sound like a gruff guard.”
Me: “Sure enough, after a minute the door opens, and two guards are standing in the small room beyond the door. Unfortunately, though you may sound like a guard, you certainly don’t look like it, and they draw their weapons upon seeing you.
In combat situations, the players are fighting against or directly opposing one or more NPC denizens of Ironheart. Because the solution to direct combat against an NPC should be obvious (kill the duder, or run away if he’s too powerful), I will allow players to post a bit more. Instead of just post their actions, players can also post the desired outcomes of their actions as well. Of course, I will still have the final say whether players are ultimately successful, but this addition will hopefully allow players a wider range of creativity in combat and speed such things up. Note that some opponents will require more effort/more than one post to kill.
Also note that regeneration from wounds, either through healing magic or outright regeneration, is dependant on the source of the injury. Wounds that I give are permanent until I say so, but feel free to add to your list of actions that you’re drinking a healing potion, attempting to regenerate, whatever it is your character can do to recover from an injury. I will post whether such attempts are successful or not. For wounds that are self-inflicted, like the player posting as part of their combat outcome that they take a scratch along one arm, they can post recovering from said wound without having to wait for my approval, assuming of course that they have some reasonable method for recovery.
Example: John Doe has just encountered two guards in the room beyond a previously locked door.
John Doe: “As the guards draw their weapons, I draw my own: a crossbow that I had taken from a previously defeated guard. Raising the weapon to my shoulder, I take careful aim and fire at the guard nearest to me. The bolt flies true, striking the guard in the chest and sending him crashing to the floor, dead. As the second guard steps toward me I suddenly leap at him, bringing the butt of the crossbow up into his chin. The guard staggers back and drops to the floor, dazed. Before he can recover I step in close and deliver a hard kick to his jaw, knocking him out cold.”
Me: “Your surprise attack with the crossbow works, as the bolt hits the guard square in the chest and he falls to the ground, dead. The second guard is a bit more skillful a combatant, however, and he rolls with the blow as the butt of the crossbow impacts against his chin. He staggers back a step, then leaps forward, slashing at you with his sword. Luckily, the blow actually strikes the shaft of your appropriated crossbow, shattering it and ruining the weapon but otherwise leaving you unharmed.”
I hope that everyone can see what my intention with this is. If not, feel free to send me questions via PM or in the OOC thread. Go nuts, have fun with this, and don’t worry: if you get too crazy I’ll reel you back in.
7) Life Sucks, Then You Die
It is possible that various player characters will die. If this is for some bizarre plot situation or the character has been backed into an inescapable corner due to reasons not entirely self-inflicted, I will contact the player of that character and we will work something out (a new character, visitations from beyond the grave, resurrection later by an outside force, whatever).
If, however, the character dies from a severe lack of regular posting or because their most recent course of action was just plain stupid (such as charging into a room full of elite guards armed only with a rusty spoon), chances are good that the character is going to stay dead. If that character’s player is still interested in playing, then they are free to make a brand new character with which to escape with. Hopefully, this new character will have a better sense of judgment and/or more regular posting. :smallgrin: Players whose characters die for plot reasons also have this option if desired.
I think that about covers it. Additional rules may be added from time to time as new bridges are crossed, so check back every now and then!
Character Status – The summarized condition, location, and other information about your character. Will be updated frequently.
Example (player names, rather than character names, will be used here)
Name – Name of character, duh. Played by: – Name of the player currently playing this character Condition – Current injuries, if any Restraints – Current restraints that the character has to deal with. Stationary – Restraints that are immobile, and thus hold the character in one place: cell doors and the like Mobile – Restraints that move with the character, and thus restrict movement and their other capabilities: shackles and the like Location – Where the character currently is within Ironheart Equipment – What weapons and other gear, if any, the character currently possesses Allies – Friendly NPCs that are currently tagging along with the character, if any Personal Jailors - Enemy NPCs that are activately opposing your character. They want to personally see your character dead or imprisoned. Will periodically appear to try to accomplish just that.
Old Hands - Those escaping from Ironheart since the beginning
Name – Korram Alstan Played by: – Dorizzit Condition – Minor cuts and scrapes Restraints Stationary - None Mobile –
Cell number burned onto the inside of left forearm
Location – The Cells, Maximum Security Equipment –
Arm covering made from strips of restraint glove; suppresses fire-arm but can be removed at will
Name – Sohssal Played by: – Iethloc Condition – Minor cuts and scrapes Restraints Stationary - None Mobile –
Forced possession of body of a research assistant
Research assistant’s body is covered in runes similar to the inside of Sohssal’s cell, preventing him from leaving the body willingly
Arm of research assistant tattooed with Sohssal’s former cell number, Sohssal’s human body has had his cell number carved into the inside of his right forearm by a shard from a silver-framed mirror
Location – The Cells, Maximum Security Equipment – None Allies – Research Assistant, Omega Personal Jailors – The Three Sages
Name – Victor Ravenstein the Third Played by: – MrEdwardNigma Condition – 100%; No injuries Restraints Stationary – None Mobile –
Cell number burned onto the inside of right forearm
Location – Sanctuary of the Prophets Equipment – Fungus Torch, Small amount of fungus Allies – Cassandra the Monk, "Sara" Personal Jailors - None
Name – Akor/Incom “Pwenet” Morgan Played by: – Pwenet Condition – Kept alive by armor, missing arm & leg (replaced by armor) Restraints Stationary – None Mobile –
Former Cell Number (#1) seared into his arm via magic, seemingly impossible to regenerate
Location – The Catacombs Equipment –
Enchanted Suit of Dragon Armor, with Wrist Blades, Wings, and Wing-Mounted Bolt Throwers (10/10, 10/10)
Warhammer of Ross
Fiery Enchanted Adamantite Spear
Arguile's Repeating Crossbow, 15/15
Allies – None Personal Jailors – The Malevolent Seven
Name – Elkwin Holmanson Played by: – ubersquid Condition – 100%; No injuries Restraints Stationary – None Mobile –
Cell number burned into the inside of right forearm
Location – The Catacombs Equipment – Handaxe, Chain Shirt, Backpack full of supplies, Healing Potion, The Dawnblade Allies – Marv Personal Jailors - None
Name – Voth Played by: – Voth Condition – Minor burns on right hand, cut along right shoulder, cauterized crossbow wound in right thigh Restraints Stationary – None Mobile –
Cell number burned onto the inside of right forearm
Location – Spire Three: Ironheart Research Equipment – None Allies – Female Collaborator Personal Jailors - The Volesin Brothers, Shadow
Name – Umber Played by: – WhiteKnight777 Condition – 100%, No injuries Restraints Stationary – None Mobile –
Cell number burned into right forearm using magically-applied holy brand
Location – Sanctuary of the Prophets Equipment – Guard Short Sword Allies – Mellita the Vampire Personal Jailors – Paladin Alexander Ross, The Four Ancients
Fresh Meat - The newest additions to Escape from Ironheart
Name – Tare Played by: – OverWilliam Condition – Numerous bruises and cuts from repeated beatings, one eye swollen shut Restraints Stationary – None Mobile –
Cell Number burned onto inside of right forearm
Location – Another Plane Equipment – 1 Healing Potion, Daggers Allies – Teareal & Adamè Personal Jailors - The Hag
Name – Ander Windrivver Played by: – Baerdog7 Condition – Minor cuts and scrapes, Regenerating Restraints Stationary – None Mobile –
Cell number burned onto the inside of right forearm using unholy brand
Location – The Cells, 2nd Floor Equipment – None Allies – The Devil Personal Jailors - Brother Adamus Crane
Name – Askov Bailikson Played by: – Burrito Condition – Minor cuts and scrapes Restraints Stationary – None Mobile –
Cell number burned onto the inside of right forearm
Location – The Cells: Second Floor Equipment – Hand of Ghost Woman, Hairbrush of Ghost Woman, warhammer, faded Tabard, backpack, torches, & assorted traveling gear Allies – Tattoos Personal Jailors - None
Name – Pyrene the Temptress Played by: – Lonna Condition – Severe damage to one hand, Large chunk taken out of one thigh - cauterized Restraints Stationary – None Mobile –
Anti-magic collar locked around neck, delivers strong electircal shock upon detecting an attempt at spell-casting
Cell number burned onto the inside of right forearm
Location – The Main Tower Equipment – Crossbow, Daggers, Lantern, Formerly Nice Silk Dress Allies – Garthax? Personal Jailors - None
Name – Mar Played by: – The_Snark Condition – Whip gash across the back Restraints Stationary – None, given free reign of The Fortress Proper and The Cells: First Floor. Limited acces to The Spires & The Cells: Second Floor Mobile –
Bronze Bracelet locked around right wrist, identifying you as a collaborator
Bracelet contains several simple cantrips to allow tracking of you throughout Ironheart
Numerous inactive magical restraints you are not aware of, relics from when the guards were terrified: 1) you'd remember who and what you were 2) you would break free and reap bloody vegeneance on an incomprehensible scale
Cell number "2" burned onto the inside of right forearm
Location – Spire Three: Ironheart Research Equipment – None Allies – Julian Personal Jailors - "Daddy": Brother Corwin
The Graveyard - Where all PCs go when they die
Name – Amraf “Twister” Birsten
Condition – DEAD
Name – Lamont
Condition – DEAD
Name – Desot
Condition – DEAD
Name – Dima Vostrog
Condition – DEAD
Name – Val Mercer (aka "That guy")
Condition – DEAD
Name – Dwiggs
Condition – DEAD
Name - Kailess
Condition - DEAD
Name - Garm Ranah "Little Heap"
Condition - DEAD
Name - Cade
Condition - DEAD
Last edited by Inspectre : 08-07-2008 at 01:31 PM.
DMings – The moment you’ve all been waiting for, the actual starting DMings
It is April within the dark confines of Ironheart, and the grip of winter can be felt slowly loosening even in the dark depths below the fortress. Due to their position far underground, most of the cells have a coolness that remains fairly even throughout the year. Still, the icy grip of winter does occasionally penetrate down into the cells, weakening the many ill-equipped and unkempt prisoners stored beneath Ironheart, and finishing off those who can endure no more through illness. The guards are also more irritable during the winter, and more numerous as some guards find the cool darkness of the cells preferable to their frigid posts aboveground on the walls surrounding the fortress.
Even with its grip loosening though, winter continues to hang on as tenaciously as some prisoners cling to life, and the upper cells levels are filled with the dry coughing of sick prisoners. With time having no meaning down in the underground depths of the prison cells, no one knows if the sun is truly up or not. Nonetheless, it is “morning” for most inmates, as they awaken with rumbling stomachs, to await the coming of the food carts carrying the thin gruel that serves as breakfast, but also lunch & dinner in this place.
Today is shaping up to be an ordinary day, just yet another slow plodding day filled with boredom for most and sheer agony for a select few in the endless series of such days. However, unbeknownst to any of the prisoners, today is a special day, and events are about to be set in motion that will grant a select few the possibility of escape. But no one has ever escaped from Ironheart . . .
You were having your favorite dream again. You were back in the village where you and your “partner” had butchered dozens of innocent people. Only this time, instead of pathetic farmers you were killing guards, their agonized screams as you cut them apart sounding so similar to you own when they were the ones cutting, beating, and stabbing you. Music to your ears.
But like all such happy dreams, it didn’t last long. No, instead it was rudely interrupted by a boot to your ribs, jarring you from your slumber to full awareness with a loud gasp. Your vision was still black, the result of the iron visor locked in place over your eyes to prevent you from seeing anything, or rather, to prevent anyone from seeing what you had seen. Apparently the guards had gotten tired of finding themselves in the midst of a burning village every time they attempted to stare you down. Oh well, no matter – you still had your other senses about you.
Your skin tells you that you are still in a brightly lit room, the bright light stinging where it touches your exposed skin. Shadow was not happy at the moment, but there was certainly nothing you could do about it for now. Your ears tell you that there are no less than five separate sources of breathing throughout the room: four close-by with the fifth near to the heavy iron door to your “room”
Your new accommodations were certainly more impressive than your old ones, an old cell down on the second level that had been similarly brightly lit like your current room. You suspected that the guards would have rather placed you down on the third floor, but that would have required setting up bright lights down there, ruining the beautiful pitch-blackness that covered that entire floor. More like some sort of converted room than an actual cell, this new room was easily twice the size of your old cell. Of course, an iron collar attached to a short chain that was in turn anchored to a nearby wall preventing you from exploring much of the room itself, not that you would have gone far crawling about on the floor like an animal: once knocked down you found it quite hard to get back up onto your feet with your arms strapped across your chest like they were now.
You also suspected that your new accommodations, up in one of the Tower Spires of Ironheart, had quite a view – if it were not for the fact that you were currently blind, and there was probably no windows in this room anyway. Why else would the guards have set up so many lanterns about the room to light it, instead of simply allow natural sunlight to come in through the room’s window? Of course, it was possible that some of the more foolish guards thought that only artificial light, and not pure sunlight, kept you from transforming into an avatar of death. But many of the mages now doing research on you seemed to be fairly intelligent, and it seemed unlikely that they would believe such folly.
You had been brought up to the Spires four days, or at least sleep cycles, ago (time was always so annoying hard to keep track of in this place). Apparently the mages had recently developed a few new ways to restrain prisoners, and they had selected a more powerful prisoner, namely you, to test the limits of these restraints for them. You would have told them to test these restraints themselves after jumping off the top of the tower, but they didn’t give you any real choice in the matter. Similarly, simply lying limply within the restraints and not attempting to break free was also strongly discouraged by increasingly painful penalties that the mages assigned.
Even in this you might have persisted against, until the mages finally gave up on you in disgust and ordered you killed or returned you to your cell below Ironheart. But one thing did motive you to struggle against the restraints: except for your visor, all of your other restraints were removed during the experiments. Thus, all you had to do was break free just once, and you could run amok and kill everyone in the room before more guards were summoned to subdue you.
You know you could accomplish this, because the mages wanted you at your strongest, and so snuffed out all light but a few dim candles within the room, so that they and the guards could watch you struggle to get free. So far, even with Shadow’s power boosting your own, you had disappointingly failed to break free so far, but the mages were always trying new methods each day, and sooner or later one of these new methods would prove insufficient and then you would tear them apart.
“So, Prisoner #16,514, are you ready to try to escape from us once more?” A reedy voice asked from the door with a dry chuckle, the voice of the mage who was overseeing all of your tests.
The Cells – Floor One
A loud banging on the bars of your cell door jars you awake, and you curse inwardly as it takes you several seconds to awaken enough to open your eyes. Poor nutrition, illness, and age had all dulled your reflexes over the long years you had been here, and it had been years since you had held a blade in your hand. Sometimes you removed your small dull knife out from its hiding spot under the grate and attempted a few practices swings with it, but it just wasn’t the same. The cells was hardly big enough to hold you, let along practice sword techniques, and you could feel your blows getting feebler each time you tried to practice anyway. You were getting soft . . . soft, slow, and weak.
Had it really been years since your imprisonment here? Surely, it had to have been: you can dimly remember your first days here, back straight, eyes clear: confident in your ability to escape your cell and fight your way out of this cesspool. But the days dragged on, your golden opportunity never arrived, and finally the days began to blur into an endless monotony.
Some time ago, the guards had begun to drag prisoners out of their cells to put them to work digging in the mines. Craving any sort of exercise that might kept your body and wits sharp, or at least from dulling any further, you had gladly volunteered. Shortly thereafter, the guards had set up some sort of Arena, where prisoners actually got to fight.
You had never been the gladiatorial sort, although the chance to swing a blade again was a tempting offer nonetheless. However, you had already consigned yourself to mining details, and now there was no going back. Oh well, at least you were often in the slave chain as Amraf, the little fellow whose words may now be slurred by the metal bit shoved into his mouth, but are still full of the same light-hearted wit as ever. This was perhaps the one and only bright spot in your day, toiling down in the depths below Ironheart with your friend until you all collapsed from sheer exhaustion. You were slowly resigning yourself to the fact that this might be how the rest of your life went, you who had once charmed nobles and thumbed your nose at the law while it stared incomprehensively at your smuggled cargo.
Another loud bang from the cell door shakes you out of your reverie, and the guard out in the hallway beyond snarls, “Present your bowl for breakfast and make it snappy, Prisoner #15,355! You don’t want me coming in there to give you a taste of my club for breakfast instead!”
You were a victim of circumstance, you told yourself over and over again. The pigheaded guard wouldn’t listen to reason, and his overzealous friends had refused to let it slide when you had been forced to pound some sense into the man’s head with your own. Rotten ingrates, the lot of them, especially since more than one of them had been in that poor drunk’s position on more than one night, and you had provided them with a small back room to sleep it off in.
Once, you had even hidden a guard away for a day in the back tap room after he desperately begged you to let him stay when he realized that he was going to be reporting in late for morning roll-call. He had been one of the ones there that night to take you in, although at least the young lad had been sporting and kept the other guards from slapping you around too much when they brought you in.
But the magistrate had never really liked you, being a prissy snob who looked down his nose at honest working folk like you. That was fine, you didn’t like him much either, and you certainly didn’t like him at all after he took advantage of the situation and had you sent to Ironheart.
But oh well, life goes on. You may not have been in a worse situation in your whole life, but some previous days had been quite grim, and you had seen those through to watch the sun rise the next day. Somehow, you’d get through this nightmare as well. The idea of adding the tagline to your inn of being owned by the only man ever to escape from Ironheart also tickled your fancy, and you certainly had to survive long enough to see that.
So you tried to keep your hopes up through the cold nights and occasional beatings, and remained optimistic that someday your chance would arrive. You kept yourself in-shape for that inevitable day by volunteering to work on a mining crew: exceedingly hard work to be sure, but work that keep your muscles from completely wasting away. It also kept your mind occupied on a task other than counting the stones that made up the walls of your cell, which was a good way to go crazy fast.
You were already awake when the food cart came around: a small two-wheeled wagon that held a large iron tub of the thin gruel they called food around here, and escorted by no less than a dozen guards. Who the guards thought was going to try to steal the gruel, you had no idea, but there was always about a dozen walking down the hallway with the cart and the two general staffers who handle ladling the gruel out of the tub and into your wooden bowl.
“Morning, Prisoner #16,211! Ready to teach those rocks a lesson?” One of the staffers chirped at you as he filled your wooden bowl with a ladle of gruel, although his cheerful expression quickly turned somber at a glare from one of the nearby guards who had overheard him.
The Cells: Floor Two
Your teeth ached and you had a kink in your neck. These were the first messages your body sent to you as you slowly awoke, which were pretty much the same first messages your body always sent your brain when your first awoke. It was all the damnable bit’s fault. That, and the miserable iron necklace locked tight around your throat, pressing a warm gem the size of your thumb right up against your windpipe.
It was only warm now, but you knew that the instant it detected you attempting to summon magical power to create an illusion, it would flare to life, feeling as if it was searing your throat to the bone. You suspected that this sensation was actually an illusion, ironically enough, but the pain felt so real and your mind simply couldn’t ignore it for very long.
Still, you tried to practice a few of your simpler spells, stumbling over the words as the bit slurred your speech. You were growing used to the pain though, and perhaps someday you’d even manage to conjure up a pretty little illusion for yourself: a picture of someplace far, far away from here.
Part of you regretted ever coming to Narle, because if you hadn’t come you might never have gotten into this mess. No, you couldn’t have given up coming to Narle without giving up all of your greatest successes, from establishing yourself as the premiere illusionist within Narle’s capital city of Larrem, to taking over the thieves guild in one fell swoop, to standing on the cusp of bringing the entire royal family within your power.
The fact that you had nearly conquered an entire kingdom without even resorting to violence, really, that they could never take away from you nor matter how hard they tried to cover it up and lie to themselves. Of course, now you were stuck digging in the mines, struggling to keep up with the tall humans as they marched along down the tunnels with the guards strongly “encouraging” them all to move faster and work harder.
How you were expected to work harder when you were already always exhausted by the day’s end, you had no idea, but at least there was one bright spot. Your former smuggler friend Desot was usually in the same slave chain as you, and he helped you move the heavier rocks. Now and then the two of you would be placed right next to each other in the line of chained prisoners, and could share a few whispered sentences of conversation while you worked and the guards weren’t paying attention.
It seemed that today would be another such day, as a group of guards appeared at the entrance to your cell, escorting the food cart. “Prisoner #1,240 present your food bowl for breakfast.” But first, it was breakfast time.
Really, it was rather ironic. You had gotten sent to Ironheart for attempting to tunnel into the Baron’s treasury, and now he was wanting you to tunnel for him. Of course, your mining expertise was really being squandered, hooked up with a bunch of ignorant human and told to slam your pick against a granite wall until it gave way. And oh, how it gave way before you: you were probably one of the best miners this sorry lot had. You wouldn’t mind a chance to “mine” through some of the guards, either, but so far such an opportunity had failed to present itself.
It would though: you’d force Fate to give you a chance to escape this place and messily teach those arrogant guards a few things about mining, if you had too. For now though, you were content with mining your ways through the bowels of Ironheart, attempting to piece together a map of all the tunnels in your mind – a valuable tool when the time for escape came. And whatever wealth the Baron gained from your work, you’d be sure to take back plus a whole lot of interest when you got out of here too.
But before any of that, your stomach was telling you that you needed some food. Right on cue, the breakfast cart rolled up, the staffers already scooping up a ladle of the thin flavored water they called gruel to put in your bowl, while the guards looked around, quite bored with the whole process. One of the guards was apparently new, though, as he simply stared at you when you moved into the light to slide your bowl over to the cell door so the staffers could dump the gruel in.
“Hey!” The guard hissed, elbowing one of others in the back to get his attention. “Is this the dwarf you were telling me about? The unstoppable mining pick that goes straight through granite?”
“Yeah, that’s Prisoner #14,326. You’d have to see it to believe how fast it swings its pick, it’s like a fiend from the darkest depths of the earth!” The other guard mutters back, one of the guards who is frequently on your mining detail and has seen your handiwork first-hand.
The Cells – Floor Three
For a few minutes, you thought that the screams were actually part of your dream. The dream was a pleasant one, and the screams weren’t out of place so it took awhile for your mind to realize that you were, indeed, dreaming and that something noisy was going on out in the “real” world.
The dream was a distorted version of one of your memories: the capture and taming of a merchant’s vibrant young daughter. She had a particularly lovely scream, and had even been willing to scream on command later after you had giving her the priceless gift of eternal life. Well ok, eternal life was something a bit different in alchemical terms, since you had really just strangled the life out of her and then breathed life back into it through electrical current.
As a homunculus, the girl still had most of her memories and personality intact, making her quite high above a mere zombie, as your first projects had been. You had taken great pains to keep her essence intact during the process, something which you had been less careful about before, but had now wanted to conduct experiments to see if it made a difference.
It certainly had made a difference: with her mind mostly intact the girl was eventually able to override the obedience commands you had implanted in her brain. As a result after several years of living happily with her around as an assistant you awoke one night to find yourself and the rest of your laboratory on fire. The girl was also on fire, but unlike yourself was content to sit down in the flames and allow them to cleanse her of life. That had been the last time you had worried about keeping a person’s mind intact when making a homunculus.
But in any case, back to the matter at hand: the screaming that was going on outside your dream. This was quite odd, as generally the silence down here in the blackness of the third level was positively stifling: the guards very strongly discouraged anyone from making much noise at all. Figuring this was at least worth a look, you shook yourself out of the dream despite the fact that it was about to have a rather happier ending, and opened your eyes.
Again, you were surprised to find that instead of seeing nothing, you saw somewhat bright lantern light as several guards stood around just outside the cell across from yours. Blinking your eyes to clear them, you came to full awareness just in time to see a pair of black-robed and hooded figures drag a struggling female with long flaming red hair out into the hallway.
Although thin as a broom with her hands chained tightly behind her at the small of her back, her legs held together by several thick leather straps, and her feet chained together and connected to her bound wrists by a taut chain, she was still putting up a fairly entertaining fight. Finally managing to twist her head around enough, she manages to reach one of the robed figure’s hands and bite down hard on a finger, getting unceremoniously dumped onto the floor and backhanded across the face for her trouble.
“Put her in the wagon!” The hooded figure grunts, gesturing at the guards as he steps back to nurse his bleeding hand, clearly having had enough of this. Meanwhile, however, the other cowled figure was looking around, and in a potentially bad event for you, suddenly stopped to peer directly into your cell, his face completely hidden in the darkness of his cowl.
“You . . .” He hisses, raising a bony finger to point directly at you, even though you were not directly illuminated by the guards’ lanterns.
“Take this one as well! Quickly!” The figure hisses, motioning for the guards to open your cell.
Pain. It was your constant companion, your only companion in the utter blackness of your cell. And really, your cell was just the coffin you had been sealed and locked into, but judging by the sounds of a cell door scrapping open and your dim memories of being dragged down here, your coffin was located on the floor of a cell.
Not satisfied with this, the guards had also wrapped your body in cold iron, snapping several cuffs made out of the hated substance around your neck, waist, elbows, knees, wrists, and ankles. Still not satisfied, they had driven rods of the stuff through your body, twisting the rods around until they could use them to connect the bands around your body together into a web of metal.
Even if you were contained in your little full-body cell with full freedom to move about, you doubted that you would be able to move much, not with sliding the cold iron rods under your skin around, causing untold amounts of pain. Even the small movements you occasionally made within your coffin, even breathing, caused you pain as your skin pulled tight against the cold iron rods.
The fact that you had managed to retain your sanity after so long of this constant pain – days? Weeks? Years? Was quite an accomplishment. And every second you held on was one second longer that they didn’t win. You were not insane. You were not a mindless beast. And someday, someday you would be free of this endless torment. And then you would go find your sister, and reunite with the family you never had growing up.
You had experienced pain like this before, even far more excruciating pain than this. You had endured countless sessions of pain and humiliation at the hands of the mad wizards who had twisted you into what you were now, who had thought he could make you into a dimwitted beast that he could control. Well, you had showed him. Just like you were going to show these guards one day. They hadn’t won. You weren’t a beast. You weren’t insane. You were a person, an innocent boy who had done nothing to deserve this.
You suddenly realized that you were gritting your teeth and beginning to get worked up. Slowly, you took a few deep breaths, trying to calm yourself. Screaming and struggling at this point would do you no good, you had tried that already. The guards would come when you did that, scream, make a racket as you struggled wildly against your restraints. And then they would quiet you, jabbing the butt of a spear down into your coffin to rattle against the mask over your face, pour buckets of water down onto your face to drown you until you finally agreed to be quiet.
Presently, your cell door screeches open and you hear the quiet mumbles of Bart, the one staff member at Ironheart who had pity on you. Although it was still dark, you could hear him enter your cell and come to a stop next to the head of your coffin.
“Hey Lamont. It’s me, Bart. How are you doing today, son?” The old man whispered, keeping his voice as low as possible so the guards wouldn’t hear. The properties of your coffin amplified the sound of his voice, making his near-inaudible whisper as clear to you as if he was talking at a normal volume.
As the flames that consume your home leap higher into the midnight sky, you push yourself onwards. The entire town was burning now, the air thick with screams all around you as everyone you once knew died horribly. This was all your fault, and although you hadn’t started it, the violence that you had continued had finally came back full circle to bite you in the ass.
But although your side was slick with blood and you walked with the stagger of a dying man, the bulk of your punishment hadn’t fallen on you. No, the bulk of the price for your actions had fallen on the people you knew, people you had trusted, people you had loved.
With a growing sense of foreboding you walked numbly to the town square, already knowing in the back of your mind what you would find there. As you rounded the final corner, you saw exactly what you had expected to see. Experience had taught you what to expect, as this recurring nightmare visited you almost every night since being locked in Ironheart.
Cowering in the shadow of the fountain that marked the exact center of town was your daughter. As you moved into the town square to warn her, to yell at her to run, a guard appeared out of the darkness behind her. Your daughter’s attention suddenly shifting to you, her eyes widen in horror at the sight of your wounds. She doesn’t notice the guard at all as, grinning, he calmly walks up behind her, pulls out a dagger, and slits her throat. And then, with a loud scream from your lips, the scream that your daughter can no longer give voice to as her lifeblood runs down her slender neck to drip onto the cobblestones below, you awake from your nightmare into the very real one that is Ironheart.
The guards are aware of your involvement in a rebellion against their Baron, are aware of how long you managed to irritate him, slipping through his fingers to continue stinging his hand, never stopping no matter how futile your fight was against the giant. They were also aware of how you had given up when the Baron finally discovered who you really were, and sent his men to your home to hold your daughter and entire village against you.
But no matter what they did to you, nothing could change the fact that you had given up. You had allowed the Baron’s men to take you without a fight, and so you had saved your daughter and your entire village from destruction. In the end, everything else, even your vengeance against the Baron, was meaningless when weighed against that. And that was one thing the guards, even with all their mockery, their cruelty, and their petty little torments, could ever take away from you.
But oh, how they tried. The guards dragged you down into the Torture Chambers frequently, so much so that you were kept there almost as much as your normal cell on the third floor of Ironheart cells. And then when you were too broken to continue to resist, too weak to look into their narrowed eyes and laugh to yourself, they threw you back into your cell to rest up and recover. But they didn’t wait long before dragging you back in.
And now here you were again, locked up in the Torture Chambers for another day of brutal torture. Exhausted from pummeling your body, the guards had called it a night some time ago, throwing you into one of the holding cells before going off to sleep. But the rest of the Torture Chambers were still active, the screams of currently tortured inmates mixing in with the screams of those in your dreams.
Suddenly, movement at the entrance of the room catches your eye, and you look up to see the trio of guards who had tortured you last night enter, grinning widely.
“There’s our boy, right where we left him. So what’s it going to be today, hero? Another trip over the hot coals? I hear you like that, the fire, the burning. Even got one of your arms burnt up to a crisp, you couldn’t get enough of it.” The leader of the trio sneers, striding up to your small cell to glare down at you.
“Yeah, lots of fire boss. I bet he would love it if we set him on fire.” The second guard, little more than the first’s toadie, giggles as he comes to stand and pose beside the first.
You dream of endless plain, of the gloriously hot sun beating down upon your bare skin as you run towards the distant horizon, free, finally free at all. Beside you runs the tiger, the glorious and beautiful beast that once ran up and down your arm, but now was finally able to run free too. But the dream doesn’t last, as mere dreams rarely do, and you are awakened by a hard slap across your face.
“Wake up! It’s time for you to answer my question!” A gruff voice snarls, a heartbeat before a heavy boot is brought up into your stomach, throwing you back against the wall and driving all air from your lungs. Gasping and sputtering, you slump back to the ground of your tiny cell, shocked awake by the sudden brutality of your attack.
Looking wildly about for a minute, you see three guards standing at the entrance to your tiny holding cell, the lead one looming over you and tapping a club menacingly into his open palm. Slowly, the memories come back to you: of you refusing to work in the mines, of refusing to even fight in the Arena like an animal for others’ amusement. You may have gotten caught, and thrown in prison, but even with the iron-shod boot of a guard on your throat, you still could not abandon the thieves’ code of honor.
And so they had dragged you down here, to the Torture Chambers in the very belly of their prison, to beat and whip and cut you until you gave in to their demands. They would have to wait a very long time to get their way, and you would probably be dead long before that. Fortunately, death would be a kind of freedom for you, and your soul could run away from this place and into the afterlife content in the fact that you had kept your oath.
Still, life was preferable to death, and sooner or later the guards would get careless. And then you would unleash your gift upon them, introduce them to the real tiger, of which the tattoo running along your arm was only a feeble imitation of by your hand.
“Guess the answer is still no, huh?” The guard asked, squeezing his club with his free hand as it impacted against his open palm for a final time. “Oh well.” He shrugs, and then with a sudden motion steps into your cell and swings down, bringing his entire bulbous weight down behind his club as it cracks across your lower back. “That’s fine with us, we enjoy listening to you squeal!”
They were watching you. From every possible angle, at all times of the day. Those endless, tireless, reflections of yourself gazing back at you from every corner of your cell. Weak, old, feeble, with eyes that were beginning to dim and cloud over with age. That was you, as you had been in the final seconds of your old life, before your amazing transformation into your new life.
But now you were back, back as you had been, reformed into a feeble mortal man before the relentless gaze of your reflections from the mirrored walls of your cell. How you longed to dash forward and smash those mirrors, break them with a rock, or even your own body if you had to. The last time you had physically broken such a mirror with your hand it had cursed you with this strange vulnerability to them – you had no idea what a second such event would entail.
Even if it meant your own death, either from total disintegration of your mind and soul as the magic sustaining your immortal form gave out or simply bleeding to death, still held in mortal form by the other mirrored walls and ceiling as you lied amongst the blood-stained wreckage of one wall, you would do it. Smash the mirrored walls, fling yourself bodily against them until they finally cracked and shattered, broken by you, ground underfoot by you as things should be, an invulnerable being, an incorporeal god upon earth.
But no, the hated mirrors forced you to gaze upon your true form, upon the weakness your mind still clung to out of familiarity or some other perversity of the universe. Your skin actually burning as the magic sustaining your soul struggled against this self-inflicted curse you had accidentally inflicted upon yourself. And you could do nothing, chained prostrate upon the floor of your cell, forced to gaze up at all your naked reflections in a position of humility.
Sometimes you were able to sleep, an ancient practice you had done away with upon attaining immortality, but none was forced to re-adopt along with all your other human weaknesses and desires. Sometimes you were able to ignore the reflections, keep your head down while you thought about your unique condition. Could you really even die anymore, even while trapped in your human body? Could hunger, disease, the cold, still drag you before Death itself, or were these mere idle complaints of your mind as it pined for your old body, brought on by your sudden cursed transformation back into what seemed like your old human body? Most of the time, you neither slept not reflected, but instead simply lost control of yourself, screaming in impotent rage and slamming you head against the floor until you rendered yourself unconscious.
You were nothing but someone else’s toy now, taken out to be played with and poked and prodded, and then shoved back into your box, forgotten about until the next time. The very thought of it filled you with incomprehensible rage, and you considered telling your tormentors how you had done it: made yourself immortal, incorporeal. Better yet, you would break free of your cage and show them, grant them your elite status before stowing them away in an inescapable box as they had done to you, to be tormented by you for all time as retribution for what they had done!
The loud clunk of your prison cell door opening up startles you out of your scheming, and you look up. Although turned so that you were kneeling away from the door, you were able to catch the reflection in the mirror directly in front of you. Standing in the doorway, as expected, was him. Your personal jailor, the man who had willingly allowed himself to be turned into your host, your little mobile cell that allowed them to take you out of your cell to poke and prod at you, trying to figure out how to repeat what you did to yourself.
The bright light from the lab room beyond glinting off his bald, rune-tattooed head as he steps into the room, he smiles a predator’s grin. “Good morning, Sohssal. Ready for another exciting day of work?”
Blood. It is the source of all life and its currency. Without blood, Life finds itself unable to pay its debts to the grand debtor, Death, and so Death quickly comes to repossess its gift. To a greater or lesser extent, your people understood this, and thus were driven to collect as much of it as possible.
Even then, the grand debtor had still showed up to collect its final payment, because even for all their power, your people still had to contend with Fate, with Irony. And there was nothing that could be done to satisfy Fate, nothing that could be collected or offered up to it for appeasement. No, Fate came and took what it liked, often making you look like a fool in the process.
Your people are perhaps forgotten about Fate. Of course, when speaking of your people, you generally had to speak in the past sense, because as far as you knew they were all dead, their ashes scattered to the winds.
There were many vampires left in the dark corners of the world, of course, you were sure you were not the last of them around. But calling the degenerate filth that most vampires were one of your people as like calling a monkey human. Your people were the Lords of Blood, a race of only seven unique individuals who had sacrificed everything to cheat Death out of its payment.
Your people succeeded, to, for a time until Fate came to tip the scales. Fate turned your own people against you, some out of jealousy, some out of fear, and then Death came to collect your debts, plus interest.
You hadn’t come so far to be stopped by such petty things as Death and Fate, however, and had managed to escape where most of your brethren had not. Of the two others who had left your burning lands behind with you, you do not know what has become of them. Perhaps Death had finally caught up with them, too. Perhaps Death was about to catch up with you too. Actually, scratch that, Death had caught up with you – you were currently a pile of ashes sitting in an urn somewhere.
Still, you and the rest of your brethren had one final hand to play, one last trick that let you win back everything from Death. All it took was a single drop of blood to fall on your ashes, and you were back in the game. There didn’t seem to be any limit to how many times Death would fall for this trick, although Fate obviously had to play along with you to ensure a drop of blood actually did fall where and when you needed it.
And although you had been at last caught and caged, at least now you were sure to have a drop of blood when you needed it. Ok, scratch that – you had a drop of blood when they needed you. Some of the degenerate scum that cowered in the darkness, of what most people called a vampire, had managed to arrange for you to be captured and brought to them in the darkest bowels of the earth beneath Ironheart. They had hoped by questioning and studying you they would be able to gain your strengths and nullify their weaknesses.
But the one weakness they could never make go away was fear. They feared you, and so when they weren’t “requiring your services” they tore you apart and ground you back up into ash, awaiting the summons of a drop of blood in whatever sort of black limbo your soul was currently now in, and pondering just exactly how things go to be like this. Suddenly, you feel the call, the tug on your soul as a drop of blood fell on your ashes and your body reformed itself. It was time to live again.
Slowly, you become aware of your body again. Awakening from death was always a pain, and it often took awhile for your senses to come back to you, even back to normal human levels. Even in your dull, half-awake state, however, you can feel the burn of the accursed silver manacles and chains winking into existence around your still-forming body.
Slowly, as if shouted from far away, you begin to hear a voice address you.
“Lord Umber! Lord Umber, sir, can you hear me?”
While this voice certainly had an unexpected note of respect for once, it nonetheless clearly belonged to that of an idiot, quite unlike the normal idiots who greeted you normally upon waking.
The nightmare is back. Heat scorching your face, you stumble forward onto the path that leads up to a high pinnacle overlooking the entire world. You wish you could turn back, to curse, to scream, but your body is no longer your own as it marches up the pathway to the end, where two figures stand waiting.
You recognize the figures, of course, both of their faces forever burned into your mind: the Baron of Gast and his Baroness, your wife. Sitting at the Baron’s feet, the Baroness of Gast runs her hands lovingly up and down her husband’s legs, looking up longingly into his eyes. In return the Baron gently runs his fingers through her hair, exactly the same way you used to do, his face frozen in a vicious sneer that is altogether inappropriate for the situation, yet your mind evidently can’t imagine him looking any other way.
As you finally reach them, they both look up at you, their faces twisting up into exactly the same evil sneer the Baron had on his face a moment ago. Despite your every effort not to, you can feel the corners of you mouth move, and even without looking into a mirror you know that the same sneer is now plastering on your face.
“Welcome, my dear friend. You have done well! Tell me, have you ever met my wife?” The Baron suddenly asks you, looking back down at your former wife and offering her a hand. As the Baroness accepts the hand and is pulled up to her feet, you feel yourself answer.
For once, something goes according to plan as you intone, “Why, no my lord. I don’t know her at all.”
For a moment, an awkward silence hangs over the three of you, all looking at each other while still sneering evilly. But then the moment passes as the Baron laughs and claps his hands.
“No matter then! We have business to attend to, so let’s get on with it!”
You nod in reply, picking up the ludicrously ornate crown that has suddenly appeared on a small table next to you. As the Baron bows his head towards you, you gently set the crown onto his head, before dropping down on one knee before him.
“I now pronounce you, Lord of All You Survey.” You intone, lowering your head to stare at the Baron’s feet.
You hear the Baroness’s exclaim “Oh honey, it’s everything we’ve ever worked for!”
Whatever the Baron’s reply is, it is drowned out by a deafeningly loud roar that comes directly over your head. You manage to look up from the Baron’s boots just in time to see a massive but withered dragon flapping above the rules’ heads.
It grates out in your voice, “Thanks for the help! Couldn’t have done it without you!” Before with another loud roar, it opens its mouth wide, giving you a one second look at its approaching rows of teeth before it chomps down on you, picking you up off the ground and swallowing you whole. And then, finally, you wake up, the mocking laughter of the Baron, the Baroness, and even “Harvey” ringing in your ears.
Although you sometimes have a while after waking from this nightmare to lie on the floor of your cramped cell, trying to ponder this insane dream’s meaning, today you do not have such a luxury. Only moments after you wake from your recurring nightmare, there is a loud clunk from the door to your cell as the adamantite rods holding it into the door frame slide free. It seems that your torment for the day would be starting earlier than usual.
Victor snickered to himself. This goon actually thought he was scared of him. A trip out of his cell would be a blast, Victor suspected.
Who knew, maybe he'd even get a chance to get a hold of that needle he needed. It's all that stopped him from escaping right now. If he had a needle, he'd get out. Simple as that. Without one, things were risky.
For now, Victor decided to play along. He tried to look as scared as possible, and wilingly came along with the guards. No attacks, not even sinking his teeth into one of the guards' throats. He'd be good. For now.
Avatar by the illustrious Dr. Bath.
The essence of a riddle is that it states facts by means of a combination of impossibilities~Aristoteles
Lamont's magical gem was glowing, illuminating the coffin with a dim blue light, allowing bart to see the mask on which he poured the daily gruel.
"Bacon and eggs? why bart, you shouldn't have."
Jamming his face up against the slot in the coffin, lamont slurped desperately at the gruel, only to fall back against the further wall once he was fed. looking out at the old man, Lamont notices a dark bruise along the mans' forehead.
"Forgive my manners....i didn't ask what YOU wanted. Perhaps the heart of the man who did that to you? Give me a chance bart, just one opportunity, and i'll gut the one who did it. Next time you come to feed me, tell them i'm choking, or having a seizure. Think about it..." Lamont hisses softly as bart walks away, just before grunting in pain as the mystical backlash takes hold, and arcane lightning whites out the inside of the coffin. "THINK ABOUT IT" he shrieks, before slumping down again, burnt and exhausted.
It's getting worse, these bouts of magical overflow. I need to free myself and get rid of all this energy, even if for a moment.
Lamont grits his teeth again, and focuses on healing the burnt flesh and organs, and trying not to cry out loud as the cold iron makes the process hurt more than the original burning
Korram smiles grimly. "You think I'm a hero. HA! Heroes are the ones who win. Them and their little stories of freedom and hope. Yes, once I was a hero, but now I'm not. Don't worry. As soon as I get this glove off, I'll give you a...personal demonstration since you have been so hospitable to me. Also, the arm isn't burnt to a crisp. It's an area of mixture between my flesh and a spirit of fire." He stands, unmindful of the pain coming from dozens of half-healed wounds. "Oh yes, I forgot to thank you. Before, I had little tolerance for pain. Now it is much less effective...so go ahead, burn me, cut me, strike me down until I can stand no longer. I'll become more and more tolerant each time. It adds up." His calm was due to his little secret: the beginnings of a stretch in the leather of his glove, which he knew from past experience would lead to a tear eventually. And the smallest tear was all he needed...Soon...but for now, the pain. Always the pain.
Truly awesome Ark Tamaeus avatar by Bryn. Full size version here.
Dima screams freely. It doesn't matter much to him whether the guards get off on it or not. Why should he care what goes on in somebody else's mind? Besides, if he tried to hold back, then they'd go on to something worse until they broke him. And they would eventually break him, making it a loss on his part. As it is, Dima had decided long ago that his screams are just the sound of pain leaving the body - no shame in it.
He rolls into the fetal position, wraps his hands in chains and hides them between his legs, taking care not to be too obvious about it. The last thing he needs is for them to know that he was afraid of them targeting his fingers.
As always, he considers surrender. Lets the thoughts flow through him and out him. No shame in thinking about giving up either, he tells himself, so long as you don't really do it.
It's the natural thought to have under circumstances like this. But no - no, never. Not just because of the code anymore, but because if he gives up now, it will make all of his past suffering pointless. He needs to justify this pain.
Half-consciously, he hears the other guards and Korram Alstan. Oddly enough, the first thought that floats through his fevered, pain-wracked mind is what a sin it is to ruin good skin - good canvas - with a burn.
"Ready as always, Sir!" Elkwin replied in a soldierly fashion and added a hissed "Come on, sink it deep, lad." when the staffer dipped out the gruel. Of course, when a gruel was thin like that, the most nourishing bits where always down at the bottom of the pot.
Then he quickly retracted into the back of his cell. He already learned from that one time, when one of the guards "accidentally" stumbled over his bowl. No refills for accidents.
Poking around the bowl with a disgusted expression, Elkwin sighed and then started to eat hastily to finish before the guards would fetch him for todays mining duty.
Last edited by ubersquid : 01-14-2008 at 08:59 AM.
Umber blinked in the sudden rush of sensation, feeling his newly-regenerated nerves screaming with pain in ways that his once human body was not meant to cope with. Frankly, he'd always felt that whoever designed said body was working on a rush with second-rate tools and leftover pieces. There seemed to be so many things that went wrong with it, so many squishy bits that didn't seem to do anything. He should know, he'd seen pretty much all of those bits in a long and colorful career (Though, admittedly most of the colors were shades of red or pink.), including the ones you weren't supposed to see when a person was functioning normally. Of course, when Umber was done a person was lucky to be functioning at all. After a few moments, his basic faculties began to reassert themselves... his eyes snapped open, and he looked around, searching for his captors with the crimson eyes of an age-old predator... oh, but for one minute with them free of these chains. He knew things about pain that would make a demon whimper in fear. And he'd had lots of practice.
The words, however... the words were new. And the smell. That was new too. Usually it was condescenscion, or else the pathetic, wheedling demands of children wanting a sweet as they tried every little trick they knew to tease the formula out of him. Pah. As if they had the potency necessary to distill the Blood Elixir even if they knew how it was made. Not to mention that more than a few of the ingredients were probably extinct by this point. And even then, it had taken the Seven all combined to make it... And in imbibing it they had each lost something. In his case, it had been his sorcery... But, of course, it had been well worth it. And now these whimpering little pups wanted for free what he had given countless tears, blood, and souls to acquire? He thought not. They could practice their pathetic torturer's arts till the mountain crumbled down around them. He sneered as he sniffed at the air... no, this scent was different. It contained fear, yes, but not the same fear, and it was not this time masked behind a facade of arrogant disdain. A paper-thin mask to hide the terror and desire that lay behind. Slowly he turned his face towards the speaker, his eyes searching.
What do you want? Come to conduct your laughable inquisition on behalf of your swamp-leech masters? Tell them to...
His next words, frankly, were unprintable, but involved several extremely archaic insults in dead language that would make a sailor blush, and involved diverse subjects such as one's probable descendants and the suggestion that one's malformed face resulted from the family tree mixing with mountain goats at several points.
((Some questions I have:
Does my cell have rats, or any other critters, and ways for them to get in and out?
Does my cell have mold, moss, or anything of that nature? Sulphur on the wall would be cool too.
How high is my cell exactly, and how big?
What does the broth they feed us contain?
That is all for now))
Avatar by the illustrious Dr. Bath.
The essence of a riddle is that it states facts by means of a combination of impossibilities~Aristoteles
Amraf puts his bowl out, and waits for the guard to fill it before pulling the bowl in. He tries to eat it, spilling all over the place due to his bit. After that he tries to focuse on himself and feel some small amount of magical power as he waits for the guards to open his cell.
Looking down at his chained hands, Incom sighs to himself as bits and pieces of the nightmear fades away. Feeling his long ragged hair fall in front of his face around the leather half-mask that covers the left side of his face, he wonders once again how long he had been in this inferno.
”What's the matter child? Homesick? Lonely? Want some light?”
Ignoring Harvey, Incom looks towards the general direction of the door. The sounds of the rods sliding free fill and echo throughout the cell. Part of him wonders what is going to happen today, what horrors they will unleash upon him, trying to make him give in, to give up, to release 'Harvey' from his prison.
”Again with calling me 'Harvey'. After all of these years, why do you persist in calling me by that name”
'Harvey' is bored this day it seems, for he is asking that question yet again. A small part of Incom finds that amusing, and takes hope that since 'Harvey' can't find that tiny little secret, that there is hope.
Trapped in a dark rank pit, subjected to tortures beyond imagination, fused with a ancient evil creature that is slowly devouring him body and mind.
As the door starts to open they are greeted with maniacal laughter, that one could call insane.
__________________ My DM Reputation
Originally Posted by Inspectre
I'm good at making you fear the unknown. Pwenet is good at making you fear the known, which had been the unknown five minutes before he pushed you off screaming into the abyss.
Originally Posted by Kalirren
I'm feeling this real hard now.
Curse you, Pwenet. Curse you.... You had my hopes up there...
Desot smiled and opened the grate to the knife back into its safehole. At least I get this freedom. He lifted the small bowl over to the door and called out, sarcasm thick. "That you, Geoff? I know you wouldn't come in this early. Spoils your appetite." He slid the bowl out. "And besides, what's with this 15,355 stuff? You know I only answer to 'Your Greatness.'" Desot snickered a bit, and did his best to repress the cough. The cold was starting to get to him...
"No such thing as a good morning around here," Sohssal hisses in a raspy, worn voice. He struggled up from his sitting position, trying to take a more dignified stance, but still ends up only kneeling, whispering angrily to the chains. Another day in this place. There's nothing more I'd like to do than to break out and make their lives a lot worse... he thought angrily. Shifting uncomfortably, he found this chains as strong as ever. "If you insist. Unless today you feel like I should have a choice..." he spat, turning to sarcasm at the end. Not having much to do physically, Sohssal resorted to going over several satisfying methods of human evisceration in his head.
Order of the Pstick Avatar by Sneak
The guards laugh uneasily at your comment, apparently confident enough in their mages’ power to laugh, but surely uncomfortably aware that the mages sometimes did make deliberate miscalculations just to see what would happen. As the guards roughly hauled you up onto your feet and disconnected the collar from around your neck, you and Shadow silently agreed that today would be one of those days.
Without any further ado, the guards drag you along the familiar path up to your mage’s personal study. Out of your holding room, down a narrow hallway, up two flights of steps, down another hallway, and finally into the experiment room. There are numerous lit lanterns in here as well, their light stinging your skin. As the guards pull you through the semi-circle of them they’ve arranged around one wall, the heat wafting up from the nearest one caresses your skin. Soon enough though, their light would be snuffed out, and then you would be free to try to escape your restraints and snuff out the lives of everyone else in this room.
Pushing you up against the wall, all four guards cluster around you, holding you still while they start to remove your restraints. For a moment you are tempted to strike out while the guards are so close to you, their bodies blocking a majority of the lantern light from reaching you. But you realize that as soon as you would transform, the guards would simply back away, allowing the lantern light to once again weaken you before beating you into submission. You couldn’t afford to be injured at the moment, so you’d bide your time until the guards snuffed all the lanterns out, and then it would be too late, much too late for them to relight them all before you and Shadow tore them to pieces.
The guards undo the straps holding your arms in place, tossing them off into some far corner of the room, with your manacles soon off and joining them, cluttering loudly against the floor. As the guards go to remove the irons around your legs, the mage calls “Removing those or his visor won’t be necessary for this experiment. Use the thread on the table over there to tie him up.”
Grumbling, one of the guards leaves your side, while two others force your arms around behind your back and the fourth apparently just watches, idly tapping his club in his hand. A moment later the guard returns, and you hear a grunt of disgust as something wet, thin, and sticky starts being wrapped around your wrists.
“Ugh! This stuff is all sticky!” One guard whines as the thread is wrapped up around your arms and torso, and then down around your legs.
“Just shut up and use it. Good. Now push our friend against the wall and use the thread to pin him against it.” The mage snaps, watching the proceedings over by his desk, the pen plopping into the inkwell before scratching across the pages of his experiment journal.
Sure enough, the guards run the string back and forth across your chest and legs several times, and you find yourself held in place against the wall as the guards step back, wiping their hands on their uniforms.
“Alright. Now let’s see if you break free, Prisoner #16,514. Put out the lights.”
Sure enough, the tingling on your skin fades away as one by one the lanterns are put out, leaving only a few dim candles glowing on the mage’s desk to serve as light for them to see by.
Show Time. Shadow says in your mind simply, and then you can feel your form start to shift, growing much stronger as Shadow directly adds his strength to yours.
Fortunately, with your hands simply bound behind you, you do not cut yourself to ribbons as your hands shift to razor-sharp claws. However, with your hands bound behind you and yourself pinned to the wall by this strange string-like substance, you find it difficulty to position your new claws correctly to slice through the thread wrapped around your body.
The thread itself is also hard as steel despite its thinness, initially refusing to give way as you struggle against it. But gradually it loosens as you throw yourself against it, still holding you to the wall but not quite as tightly as it was doing a moment ago. You still find yourself unable to work your claws around to get at the thread binding your wrists, but in a sudden fit of inspiration refocus your efforts on cutting your legs free.
With only a few strands holding your legs captive, it’s a simple matter to squirm around until the tips of your claws brush against them. For a few seconds the strands resist even your razor-sharp claws, but ultimately give way and fly apart leaving your legs free. As you begin to implement the next step of your plan, you hear the mage shout, “Alright, I think that’s enough for this experiment. Guards, the lights!”
Lifting your legs up, you now use them to brace against the wall, pushing yourself forward, away from the wall with all your might. There is a loud tearing sound, and suddenly you fall to your knees as you break away from the wall. “Now, hurry!”
With your arms free from being pinned against the wall, you are now able to work your claws around, quickly cutting your wrists and arms free, standing back up with a grin as the remains of the string clings in tatters to you. “Oh ****!” The mage exclaims, and you hear a chair crash to the ground as he stumbles back away from you and towards the door.
From elsewhere in the room, you can hear other muttered curses and the rasp of flint against steel as each of the four guards attempts to light a lantern. You even hear a dull crash off to your right as in his haste the guard knocks his lantern over, spilling its contents out onto the floor.
Suddenly, a flash of pain erupts from your skin as one of the guards does manage to light one of the lanterns, catching you in its warm glow. For a moment Shadow pulls away, and you can feel him starting to retreat back inside you upon exposure to his bane. But then you focus your rage and grit your teeth, forcing him to stay, to continue lending his strength to you because this was the only chance you had at revenge, and you couldn’t do it without his help.
Your transformed body wavers for a moment, but then holds, although this might not remain the case for long if the other guards manage to get their lanterns lit.
(You are essentially in combat now. Three guards are kneeling down on the floor around you, each attempting to light a lantern. The fourth guard is meanwhile rising from the floor, and you can hear him chuckle as he draws his club and starts to approach. Meanwhile, the mage is attempting to flee the room until the guards have managed to beat you senseless again and it’s safe to come back.)
The Cells – Floor One
As you expected, the guard in question was Geoff, a young little snot of a guard who had made it his personal duty to see that you suffered greatly. Occasionally, you deliberated baited him, knowing that it could someday cause you to wind up in the Torture Chambers, but chances were good he would have to ignore most barbs on your part. You were needed down in the mines, so until he got permission to drag you down there you were by and large safe from too brutal a beating as you had work to do.
Still, the guard was not without his petty punishments, a fact which Geoff proved a few moments after you made the ‘Your Greatness” crack. Storming over to the door of your cell, he smacked the bowl of gruel out of the staffer’s hands just as he was handing it back through the bars to you. This resulted on the bowl flipping end over end, landing with a soft clatter face down against the stone floor and pouring the gruel out all over the floor.
“Whatever you’re called, you’re nothing more than a dog Prisoner #15,355. Time for you to act like it.”
The guard then stalked off, dragging the rest of the breakfast patrol along behind him and leaving you with the choice of going hungry or licking the thin gruel off the stone floor before it ran down into a crack.
Soon thereafter, the mining slave chain swung by for you. Dragging you out of your cell, the guards attached you to the head of the line by way of snapping a cuff of your right forearm that was attached to the slave chain. Looking like you would be the mining leader today, which was always a joy because you got the blame if something went wrong. And the guards always found something wrong.
Only one spot left, the slave chain moves on past your cell, going down to the second cell level via one of the heavily guarded stairways. Sure enough, you stopped by Amraf’s cell to pick the stocky guy up. The thought of your bad day so far moved to the back of your mind as you tried to think of some new joke to tell him while you toiled away down in the mines. Even with him being chained to the back of the line, the prisoners generally worked close enough together that it didn’t really matter where one was, everyone could still hear everyone else speaking.
At your suggestion, the staffer actually did do as you asked, dipping the ladle back into the tub and pulling up a fresh batch of gruel. This looked a bit darker than the previous ladleful, suggesting that indeed some of the oats of whatever grain they had mixed into the water was slowly settled on the bottom.
As the staffer went over to your cell door to hand you the bowl, one of the guards grabs his arm and stops him. Hocking loudly, the guard then spits into your bowl of gruel, smiling as he releases the staffer and allows him to give you your breakfast at last. Such childish cruelties were common here, you had learned.
But food was food, and as the cart rumbled off you ate what you could of it. Like most other prisoners here, you made sure there was just a little bit of the stuff left on the bottom of the bowl, hoping to entice a rat into your cell so you could maybe have some meat from a change. You weren’t quite sure if you could really eat a raw rat carcass, but then you’d never gotten a chance, having never even seen a rat down here yet. Evidently, even the rats had gotten smart about what was going on in Ironheart, and steered clear.
Sighing, you prop yourself up against the back wall of your cell and wait for the mining detail to come get you. Soon enough, a batch of guards appear at the entrance to your cell, a rapidly forming slave chain standing dejectedly in their midst. Opening your cell door, the guards quickly drag you out and attach you to the position just one step from the very front of the chain by way of locking a single cuff onto your right forearm.
With only one position filled, the slave chain moves out again, only this time heading directly for the stairway leading down to the second floor, rather than swinging around to pick out another prisoner to fill the final spot.
“Cheer up lads. Today you get a dwarf to be chain leader. And you had all better keep up with him, and you’ll get the whip! Ahahaah!” The leader of the quartet of guards explains, cracking his whip loudly through the air as if he needed to demonstrate what a whip was.
The Cells – Floor Two
Bart pours the gruel down into your mouth, although as usual a bit of it slips past and comes to rest along one side of your face. No matter, despite your best attempts to remain silent the mystical backlash would often tear a scream or two out of your lips, attracting the attention of guards who would only too happily pour a few buckets of water into your coffin to clean you up.
At your comments, Bart absent-mindly rubs the dark bruise along the top of his balding head. But he shakes his head vehemently. “No! No. You kill a guard and things will get much, much worse for you kid. Listen, I’ve been spreading word around that you’re a real animal, a killer without a soul. It’s got some of the guys talking, and I think the guards are going to come soon to make you fight in the Arena. You’ll probably die out there, but at least you’ll be able to get out of this awful thing for awhile. Go out fighting, instead of choking one day on your own vomit, that sort of thing. It’s the best I can do for you kid. I’m sorry.” With that, Bart turns away and is gone, not responding to your offer your help again with a scream as the backlash tears through you.
You were alone in the darkness again. Bart wanted you to fight in the Arena? Fight for the amusement of the guards and their guests, put on a good show, be one of their little animals that they set against each other to fight until death? It was hardly appealing to you, although the idea of getting out of your coffin, of being able to at least move again, now that was appealing to you. But would you be willing to become a beast again for that, to maim and kill in a mad fury before the other did that to you?
What seems like several hours pass, and then you hear the cell door unlock and scrape open again. “Prisoner #14911, I’ve heard a lot of rumors about you. I’ve come to see if these rumors are true.” A cold voice asks from the doorway, and then you hear footsteps echo until a unfamiliar face appears in the window of your coffin.
“Well, your condition certainly suggests that you would be a powerful competitor, but do you have the stomach for it? Would you put on a good show for us? Fight and kill until you could finally do it no more? Or would you be boring, simply meekly going to your death to the disappointment of our spectators? Hmmm?”
You make do as best you can, eating slowly and carefully to get as much of the food into your mouth and down your throat as possible, rather than splashing off the bit and down onto the floor and everywhere else. Breakfast accomplished, more or less, you sit back and wait for the guards to come take you away for mining.
As you wait, you attempt to practice summoning your magical power, just so you don’t forget how as you wait for the perfect opportunity to appear to get rid of these miserable restraints that kept you from doing what you did best. The gem on your collar grows hot at a few points, but generally leaves you be as you simply try to tap into the magical power deep within you.
Thankfully, you don’t have very long to wait until a slave chain of mining prisoners shows up. Sometimes you were one of the last prisoners to be picked up, and you spent several long hours just sitting in your cell, waiting.
The guards open your door and drag you out without much ceremony, attaching you to the back of the slave chain by snapping a single cuff leading away from the heavy connecting chain to your right arm. Great, you’re at the rear of the formation, which means all the guards lashes to get you to move faster will fall on your back, and even better, you get to stare at the rear of the guy in front of you the entire time.
Still, at least mining gives you something to do rather than just sit in your cell and brood about what you would do if you could use your magic. And hey, you can seen the back of Desot’s head when you exited your cell, so at least you’d be able to chat with him as usual while working.
Without another sound save for the metallic screech as your cell door was slammed shut, the slave chain moved off into the darkness, heading towards the entrance to the mines.
The Cells – Floor Three
Rats do exist in the dark bowels of Ironheart, although they are surprisingly rare because, hey, they’re a good source of protein! And even raw mangy rat flesh looks good when you’ve been slowly starving to death on the flavored water the guards have been giving you called “gruel”.
There is no complex plant life down in the cells area, although due to the dampness occasionally small patches of mold grow here and there. Most such patches are picked off and eaten by the more desperate prisoners, although this often turns out to be a bad idea because most of the molds growing down here are poisonous. There are much larger patches of such mold found down in the Mines, which suggests that the rare mold culture in the cells are from spores that float up or are carried back up to the cells by the prisoners.
The standard prisoner cell is 6’x6’x6’.
The broth is usually just water, with a small amount of oats and barley mixed in. It’s barely enough to keep you alive, and even then after several years on such fare most prisoners die from dietary complications or disease. Player characters are a surprisingly hardy lot though.
You can have either some sort of pet rat, or a fist-sized culture of mold in a dark corner of your cell, but not both (unless your elaborate escape plan mandates that you have both, in which case I might be willing to make arrangements. )
Still screaming, the woman struggles valiantly against her restraints, attempting to kick out feebly at the guards as they close in around her. As they drag her back up into an upright position to carry her over to the cart, currently out of your line of sight, she once again attempts to employ her teeth, and nearly succeeds on biting another hand, her jaw snapping shut just a second after the guard jerks his hand away.
Unlike the two dark-robed figures, none of the guards is willing to tolerate this, and the almost-biten guard’s club flashes down, striking the woman on the temple. She immediately goes limp, although judging by the lack of blood she is merely dazed, not dead as the guards bodily pick her up and throw her out of your sight to the left.
The madwoman taken care of, the guards turn to the black-robed figures. The leader of this band comes to join the black-robed figure who had pointed you out, and looks in. “Umm, that one. Yeah, we’ll be glad to get rid of him. Just need to go get his keys.” The leader motions to one of his guard lackeys, and the man picks up his lantern and speeds off into the darkness.
Hours seem to pass, with the guards standing idly around, occasionally peeping into cells near to your own and sneering at the inmates within. The black-robed figure meanwhile continues standing in front of your door, presumably staring at you from underneath his hood. It is likely only twenty minutes, if that, before a heavily breathing guard returns, holding up a ring of keys.
Without another word the leader gestures at your cell door, and the lackey opens it. Immediately he steps into the room, club drawn and eyeing you warily, another guard following in behind you. It is now quite crowded in your little cramped cell, but the guards don’t seem to notice as the lackey uses the remainder of the keys to unlock the chains holding you to the wall. This done, the lackey stows the keys temporarily on his belt along with his clubs, and together the two men drag you out in the hallway.
Having learned your lesson from watching the madwoman’s treatment, and because you were actually rather curious about what was going on, you allowed the guards to drag you out like a man-sized sack of potatoes without complaint. Just at the edge of the lantern light you were able to make out a small two-wheeled cart, the comatose body of the woman lying inside.
The rest of the guards now pitching in, they all work together to pick you up and carry you over to the cart, where you see the second black-robed figure is waiting. Head bowed, he is standing by the cart on the woman’s side, chanting something in a low voice, but he stops when he senses everyone’s approach.
Without ceremony, the guards dump you into the cart right next to the woman, pressed close together and face-to-face due to size constraints. The guards then wave a farewell to the two figures, who silently now move to the front of the cart. In the fleeing lantern light from the guards, you catch sight for an instant of two long wooden poles at the front. These nutjob cultists, or whatever they were, each picked up one of these poles, and then began to pull the cart forward into the darkness, beginning to chant softly as the cart rumbled along.
“Hey, you alright? What have they got on you for restraints?” A soft voice suddenly whispers in your ear, the person’s hot breath passing over one side of your face. Presumably, judging by the relative direction and gender of the voice, this is the madwoman speaking to you, and not one of the cultists or some sort of new delusional friend you invented just now.
Briefly taking stock of the situation, you note that although now free of the chains previously holding you against the wall of your cell, the leather sack that had been wrapped around you was still quite tight and capable of preventing most of your movements. And underneath that you still had those iron gauntlets locked around your hands, although that was only a small impediment, and actually an advantage should you choose to use your fists as a weapon now that you’ve thought about it.
“That’s a good lad. We’ll stomp all the fire out of you yet!” The leader exclaims with a grin, the other two hyenas behind him bursting into laughter.
“That’s pretty good, boss! Stomp out? Fire? And he’s got a fire thingy in his arm? Ouch!” One of the two toadies giggles, suddenly cut off in a grunt of pain as the leader jabs his club into the man’s sizable gut.
“Well, why don’t we show you some more of our hospitality. We might be no mages, but I’m willing to bet we can mix some fire together with the flesh of your own arm pretty well.” The leader says as he opens the cell door, allowing his two toadies to reach in and drag you out of your cell.
Together, the three of them manage to drag you out into the center of the room, where a number of red glowing braziers and a thick wooden table with a tangle of heavy leather straps awaits. As is the usual procedure, the guards remove the restraints around your wrist and ankles, dropping the chains and kicking them under the table while they bodily pick you up and slam you down onto the table. While the two toadies pin you down to the table, their leader uses the leather straps to secure you once more: arms held straight out above your head, legs strapped together at the foot of the table.
“There we go. All nice and comfy.” The leader says, leering down at you while his two men go and start shifting the hot irons inside of the braziers, making sure that they are all nice and hot. “And you’re right. This is starting to get boring, even for me. That’s why we’ve got a surprise for you, Mr. Hero. You may have developed a good tolerance for pain, but I’m willing to bet your daughter hasn’t.”
Grinning at your shock, the leader reaches down to grab a hold of your hair, forcing your head around to look into his smiling eyes as he continues. “Oh yes, we know all about her. And as it turns out, you can’t change the nature of your blood. Little tramp was picked up a week ago for stealing. When they found out who she was, they sent her here straight away. She’s up in Prisoner Processing on the ground floor now, but the boys up there should be done with her soon enough. And then she’s coming straight down here to join her daddy. So consider this just a warm-up for us, chump. We’ll be saving the best stuff for your daughter later today.”
Cackling maniacally, the guard realizes his grip on you and turns away, walking over to his toadies by the braziers to pick out an iron.
The guards all seem crest-fallen when you suddenly seem to give up, just screaming as loudly as possible after the first blow. “Aw, I didn’t hit him that hard. That’s no fun.” The guard who hit you grumbles, but still seizing a hold of you by the hair to drag you out of the cell.
“Quiet you, quiet! You’ll disturb the others!” The guards admonishes you, shaking your head this way and that by your hair, before letting go and dropping your head unceremoniously back down onto the floor.
“Come on, let’s get him up and hang him. We’ll let him stew a bit while we go play with some of the others who don’t scream on command yet.” One of the other guards comments, as they all drag you up onto your feet.
You already knew what they meant when they said “hang him”. In one corner of this room, away from the large rack that dominated the center of the room, was a simple loop made out of leather and hanging down from the ceiling. A rather simple device, the guards simply boosted a prisoner up the couple feet off the floor, slipped the leather loop over his/her neck, and then let go.
Gravity took care of the rest, the prisoner’s weight pulling him/her down towards the floor and tightening the loop around the neck. Of course, there was a safety clasp involved: the guards didn’t actually want their prisoners to be strangle to death: just flail about helplessly as they struggled to breathe properly. Naturally, a few prisoners died due to misjudgments on the guards’ part, but generally it was just a singularly unpleasant experience rather than a fatal one.
Reaching the loop, two of the guards boosting you up while the third slipped the loop down over your head and around your neck. “Don’t go anywhere now. We’ll be back soon enough.” The lead guard says, and then the two drop you, the loop instantly wrapping tight around your neck. The tips of your toes hang perhaps several inches off of the ground, and you try not to move more than necessary and keep your neck muscles tight: it seemed to help a bit. One of the guards grabs you and spins you around, the entire room rapidly passing through your sight over and over again as you twirl around, the pivoted anchor point for the leather loop keeping it from twisting up on you.
Then the guards leave you alone in the room, your only company the screams from other nearby rooms. This was rather uncommon, guards leaving prisoners completely alone in a room. Apparently some were afraid that the prisoners would somehow be able to escape, and thus cause trouble elsewhere in the area, leading to a general policy of at least one guard remaining in the room at all times a prisoners was out of the holding cells. But your guards had been growing increasingly bored of you as of late, having been ordered to torture you until you agreed to work, rather than them having picked you out themselves. Was this your moment to escape, finally? Granted, it hardly looked like it with you dangling from the ceiling by your neck, still in chains, but at least you could move about now, and there was no locked door holding you in.
Your walking cell laughed as he stepped further into the room, allowing a number of guards to enter into the room behind him, carrying the heavy cloths necessary to cover the walls and ceilings while the assistant bound your essence into his own body.
“I suppose I could beat you senseless first for a change of pace. It’s not like you do anything except maybe scream during all this anyway.” He sneered, coming to stand over you, clenching a fist but then relaxing it as one of the guards starts to approach.
“Hmph. I guess they don’t like the thought of you coming out the other side comatose. It’s fine, I won’t touch him!” The assistant snarls, gesturing at the approaching guard to continue with his work. Apparently satisfied, the guard turns away and moves over to one wall to help position a cloth.
Sitting down in a cross-legged position across from you, the assistant smiles. “I’ve been informed that the researchers think they’re nearing a breakthrough. Which means only a bit longer of this and we’ll both be free. I’ll be released from my imprisonment at Ironheart, and you’ll be dead. Would that make for a good morning for you?” The researcher says with a vicious smile, turning and nodding at the guards as they position the last cloth into place. “Ready.”
As the guards throw the last cloth up over the wall, your personal jailer reaches out, grabbing your throat with one hand while the other tips your chin up to look directly into his eyes. For a moment, you see only his piercing blue irises, but then you see your own reflection in them, and you bite back a scream as your body tears itself apart into incorporeal essence, which the man then inhales into his body with a deep gasp.
Suddenly, you find yourself looking out through eyes that reveal a different vantage point than the one you had seen previously, the iron chains used to hold you a moment ago clattering to the floor right in front of you. This suddenly swap of view points was disorienting for a few seconds, but you had gotten used to it, both during your time when you were able to move from place to place as you chose, and now when you were forced into another’s body.
Unfortunately, you seldom had control of this new body, except when you wrestling with the other presence you could now feel inside your head, tucked up against your mind. Or were you tucked up against his, since it was his body? In any case, you had little to no control over what was happening yet again, as the man stretches out face down on the floor, allowing the guards to chain him up like an animal just in case you did manage to one day wrest control of his own body away from him. As the guards drag “you” up onto “your” feet, the other presence pokes your mind.
So, what do you think they’ll do to you today? I’m personally hoping for forcing you into an object before setting it on fire again, exposing you to a mirror just before the whole thing collapses into ashes.
As your eyes gradually adjusted to the dim light provided within your cell by the lanterns being used by your captors, you realized several things about these new people.
First, there were seven of them, all heavily armed, and dressed head to toe in form-fitting black clothes with black cloaks, their faces concealed by strips of black cloth that covered their face from the nose down. Although usually heavily armed and numerous, your captors generally saw no reason to hide their faces from you. Afraid of you they were, but they did want you to know who you were dealing with. Perhaps it was some small matter of pride to some of them that they had actually been the ones to bring you down, to put you with all you strength into their power. Fools, all of them. Even if they didn’t die long before you did, sooner or later you would break free and hunt them down. You had seen their faces, and had committed them all to memory: there would be no escape for them.
Second, was the aura they each radiated. Fear, yes, but also awe and a strange sort of reverence. These were not the emotions of your captors, generally projecting a strong aura of fear tempered by arrogance.
Finally, they were all human. Humans didn’t overly surprise you much, because as it turned out only human blood was able to re-awaken you. Animal blood was not potent enough for whatever reason, and vampire blood too tainted by darkness to tear you fully out of death’s grasp. But the fact that it was only humans alone without a single vampire amongst them surprised you. Usually at least one of the degenerate filth was right there, badgering you with questions immediately upon awakening, no doubt fearful to keep you alive any longer than necessary.
Nonetheless, the lot of them undoubtedly wanted something from you, and the only reasonable group that could have sent them was your captors. So, you told them exactly what you thought, as usual. All of them stood, listening dutifully, like small children being told something important by their parent. None of them could possibly understand the full meaning of your insults, as you used a mixture of languages that had long since passed from the knowledge of all mortal men.
As he listened, the apparent leader of the group and the one who had awakened you wrapped a black strip of cloth cut from his cloak around the still-oozing cut in the palm of his hand, having already wiped the bloodstained knife off on his rapidly-ruining cloak and sheathed it in his belt. When you are finally finished with your insulting litany regarding their ancestry, the leader bows deeply.
“Lord Umber, we have been sent by our master to spirit you away from here. Not everyone wishes to see you pawed at by the degenerate filth.” At these last words the man winces, clearly uncomfortable with calling vampires degenerate filth. Which suggested a few distinct possibilities, the most likely one being that he was the servant of just such a degenerate vampire who thought himself better than what he really was.
“If you are strong enough to travel now, we shall carry you off into the tunnels below this place to make our escape. We managed to tunnel into this area but a short distance with great difficulty, as well as obtain the means necessary to open your cell door.”
Sure enough, the door leading outside of the room where your urn was usually kept was hanging wide open.
As the final rod pops out of its slot and the door swings open, you catch the final words of the conversation being carried out on the other side of the door.
“ . . . laughing again. Great, why don’t we get this guy a gag already?” A reedy voice moans, identified by you as that of Walters, one of the group of mercenary guards who usually dragged you to and from the ritual area where the dragon cultists toyed around with you. Called the Malevolent Seven, apparently by their own choice, the group of seven elite guards never really got involved with you beyond this. Occasionally, when you grew too wild for the dragon cultists to control, they were brought in to bring you down without serious harm, but these instances were few and far between. Therefore, these little morning strolls were generally the only contact you had with this lot of scum.
“Quiet.” Came a harsh voice, cutting Walters off. Ah, Arguile, the self-appointed leader of the bunch. It was he who had shot you with that crossbow the first time you brought free and ran amok. Since then, you had enough experience in dealing with him to know that he was the most cautious and cunning of the seven, and also a crack shot with his crossbow.
“Morning, prisoner prime. Ready to go see your little friends?” Jape, the wise-guy of the group grunted, taunting you with that little nickname the Malevolent Seven had come up with after learning you had actually somehow been the very first prisoner at Ironheart. That fact, you were sure, made it clear that you’d been here for a very long time, even if your memory of all the long years had started to blur together into one long endless stretch of torment and madness.
“I said, quiet! On your feet, Prime.” Arguile grunted, even he seemingly unable to resist taunting you as he gesturing for you to get to your feet with his crossbow. Unlike the cultists, who seemed to deliberate go out of their way to provoke you and then allow you to run amok once you broke free, the Malevolent Seven had no interest in being torn apart during one of your fits of rage. They were always very careful to keep their distance when escorting you to the cultists, and kept all of their crossbows pointed in your general direction at all times.
Even when they were called in, they generally waited until you had exhausted yourself against the other guards, cultists, and whatever else stood in your path of destruction before they moved in for the “killing blow”. Of course, such a blow never came, but oh how you longed for it. Thought your death would prevent finally getting revenge against the Baron and the one who had betrayed you the most, at least it would prevent Harvey from getting a new body.
Don’t be too sure about that. The dragon lord hissed from the dark corners of your mind. Perhaps I just need a body. Maybe when you die, my soul moves in to fill the void, and I get a free pass.
I didn't actually intend to kill EVERYONE. It just sort of happened.
Dwiggs moved slowly over to the door, passing his bowl out to recieve the slush of poor nutrients. He looked the new guard over. He didn't seem a bad fellow, at least, no worse than the worst in this place. He spoke as his eyes fell to the bowl.
"I may be able to dig better than any of the others here, but we'd all be able to do better if you fed us something apart from this sludge!!"
He turned to the guard he remembered better.
"But then, I've asked you the same thing as often as I can and we still seem to only have a limited menu. And again, It's DWIGGS. You may be on the good end of this, but there's no need to be rude!!"
If there was one thing Dwiggs enjoyed in this prison, apart from mining, it was small talk with the guards. Whilst some of them would as soon beat him as they would reply, it was still better than the dregdes of various societies who made up the prisons population.
You've just been Warshruck.
You there. Yes you, the person reading my signature. Go to this website. Do it now. It's a small roleplaying website which was first based on Warhammer, but now contains a hell of a lot of Homebrews. You should join them. Join them now.
The guards simply laugh at you, clearly none of them caring if you worked yourself to death in the mines or not. If you died due to poor nuitrition, what was it to them? There was always more prisoners coming in, and some of the old ones always had to die to make room.
"Heh. Maybe we'll have them start chopping up the dead prisoners and feeding them back to yah. How would you like that, dwarf? A little side of your fellow countrymen to go along with your gruel, perhaps?" One of the guards jested, although the staffers sniffed in disgust. Clearly, they had no desire to prepare cannibal means for any of the inmates. Given the state of most of the walking corpses that the guards called prisoners these days, you could hardly blame them.
Nonetheless, the guards then leave you to eat in piece, and you down the thin slop, wishing there at least was some more of it. Mining was hard work, and you were always hungry.
Soon enough, a slave chain came around, and attached you to the front of it. Oh goody, you got to be chain leader today, which meant you were the one that got whipped the most in an effort to drive everyone else in the chain along fast as you dragged them behind you. Pity for the guards that you generally already did drag the rest of your sorry lot of a mining crew along behind you most days.
Still, a familiar face shackled in line just behind you catches you attention as you are connected to the slave chain. The human was Elkwin, owner of a small tavern you visited a couple times on your way to the Baron's palace. Good food there, and even pretty decent ale by your standards, which as a dwarf was saying something! So, at the very least, you'd have some good company now while you worked, although how the easy-going innkeep had managed to get himself dragged off to this place, you had no idea.
I didn't actually intend to kill EVERYONE. It just sort of happened.
As Umber sees how events are resolving, his manner changes. Behind the silver muzzle, his mouth splits in a wide, predatory grin, and he has to stifle a soft chuckle... apparently some benefactor desires to use him for his or her own ends, and has sent minions to spirit him away to that end. Of course, it could be some sort of trap, but the situation is unlikely to get too much worse and, of course, this may be his last chance to escape for a very long time. His voice is now a low purr as he looks around at the clustered acolytes, regarding them with a bright, burning hunger behind his eyes. He managed to nod slightly despite the restraints, flexing his muscles within them... the silver burned where it touched his exposed flesh, but his strength would return... true, he was at a nadir of his powers at the moment, but with every fool he drained he would regain a little more of his strength... and oh how they would regret their arrogance, their stupidity... to think that they could chain a Lord of Blood like an animal... the very thought put the red rage up behind his eyes.. but he calmed himself once more, nodding at his "rescuers"
Ah, I see... mmm.. in that case, the situation is much different than I have imagined... yes, you've done very well indeed to get this far. Now let us escape with all due haste. I don't suppose you can remove these accursed chains? Mmm.. no matter. Just get me away from this place, and we'll see about them later... yes... and rest assured, once I am free, you will be rewarded most highly.. I will make sure of it.
Umber grinned again, and nodded, encouraging the group to make haste. It did not escape his notice, either, the number seven... it was a number of magic, true, but also one that held special significance... a coincidence, possibly... but then again, possibly not. He would just have to see.
I, on the other hand, hope to finally gain control of this body and kill all of you wretched fools, or worse... Sohssal replied mentally, his thoughts being like claws compared to his mobile cell's mental pokes. Once again, he struggled against his captor's body, just hoping to be able to make one attempt at escape, as that is all he would need, even if he didn't recover all of his power after taking control. So you mentioned that they were getting close to discovering my secrets, eh? Well, I certainly can't let that happen... he hissed mentally, renewing his normally-futile efforts.
Order of the Pstick Avatar by Sneak
You can have either some sort of pet rat, or a fist-sized culture of mold in a dark corner of your cell, but not both
I need neither, don't worry, I can escape without those things, they'd just be extra tools, that's all. As long as I can get back to my cell...
Victor looks at the woman lying beside him.
"Restraints?" he croaks, his voice not used to making conversation, "Plenty of those. Iron mittens, a bag. Nothing that could really stop me. But I don't think I mind this little trip. Need to wait until I get back to my cell"
He is silent for a while.
Then he asks her "So, what's your deal?"
Avatar by the illustrious Dr. Bath.
The essence of a riddle is that it states facts by means of a combination of impossibilities~Aristoteles
"HAHAHAHA!" cackles Voth, "Today is going to be very very fun."
Watch those lights! Kill those fools while they blunder with those lanterns.
I know, I know!
In a flurry of movement Voth, hearing the guards fumble with the lanterns rushes the nearest guard striking with his right claw at where he believes guards face is, racking across the guards vulnerable face. His left claw jabbed in towards the guards chest, easily piercing the chain mail, penetrating the guards chest.
"It has been sooo long since I had felt someones insides." Laughs Voth as he feels the now lifeless body slide off his claws and, with a sickening thud, collapses to the stone floor. "Now... Who's next?"
As Voth begins to turn towards his next target, he stumbles, and after a moment his claws begin to grow even longer. "Your Death Is Here Feeble Humans!" says Voth softly, just low enough that the guards could still hear.
Voth suddenly kicks the lifeless body at the mage scrambling to open get away. It impacts the mage with such force that he is flung against the wall with a loud *thud*. At the same time, Voth moves even faster than before bringing his claws diagonally down across one guards chest, tearing the flimsy chain mail into pieces. In a single deft movement, he brings a claw back around and decapitates the guard. Before the body has even hit the ground, Voth has moved on to his next victim. Voth moves slowly, deliberately taking his time. As he reaches the guard, he reaches down and grips the guards arm. Suddenly, he rips the arm off. Cackling with glee, basking the blood, he rips the guards limbs off, one after another.
The third guard, finally lighting his lantern, raises to his feet, wielding his club in one had and the lantern in the other. The light radiating out of the lantern, Voth begins to feel his claws receding, his speed dulling.
Crap. Stupid lantern, stupid light. You don't think you could stay here a tiny bit longer?
How is this MY fault? Your the idiot who took his time.
Finally noticing the approaching guard, Voth moves to the right, narrowly dodging a overhand strike from the guard.
How am I suppose to fight this guy if I can't see?
I don't know but how about you figure this out soon before the good 'professor' gets out from under that body?
If I get rid of that light, could you beat him?
Without a doubt, but how are you going to do that?
Not answering Voth turns to face the guard, using the smell of the burning oil and the shuffling of the guards feet.
I've only got one shot at this...
One shot at what? What in the 7 hells are you planning?
Suddenly, Voth bursts into action, diving straight at the guard, or rather the guards legs. As Voth impacts the guard, they both tumble to the ground. There is a loud *crack* as the lantern hits the ground and shatters. Once again the room is submerged into darkness.
"You almost had me there, too bad. Ah well, alls well that ends well!" Voth laughs as he begins to merge once more to finish off the guard.
After dealing with the last guard Voth walks over to the cowering mage, grabbing him by the collar Voth begins to speak.
"Where are the keys to this thing?" Voth demands, tapping on the metal helmet.
Lamont growls and bows his head, seeing the long hair he has grown in prison cover the eyehole of his mask. flipping it to the side, he looks at the figure, sizing him up. "Oh i could be your animal, make no mistake about that. The real question is, do you have the proper collar!" throwing his head back, lamont directs the magic coursing through his veins into his hair, hardening the ends into a bone-like structure, then whips his head forward, hissing as the spines clang against the coffin and flop down limply, the cold iron forcing them back into the form they were.
"Give me a free hand, or better yet, take this mask off....and you shall have your show." He says, shutting his eyelid and extinguishing the blue glow inside the coffin.
"I want the name of my opponent...I'll see you in the ring."
At first, Korram's only reaction is stunned silence. Then: "NOOOOOOOOOO!" He thought he had known fear when he had first come to Ironheart, with the merciless guards and the almost constant torture, and the knowledge that he would never return to his life as he had known it. That was nothing compared to what he felt now. He screams, crying out in rage and impotent fury, lashing futilely against his bonds. Little do the guards know that his ineffective lashing out actually had a purpose: he was rubbing the stretch against the rough leather restraints, trying to get it to tear, finally. Let the guards think what they want. They were all dead men, anyway.
Truly awesome Ark Tamaeus avatar by Bryn. Full size version here.
Dima's heart beats faster. He needs a plan. But first -
"Come out," he softly calls. He doesn't feel it, or see it, but he feels a low and heavy weight drop, almost inaudibly, by his side.
The tiger, without even being asked, bites through his strap. Dima falls to the ground. He buries his hands inside her thick pelt. The tiger licks his shaved skull - almost motherly.
"Poor girl," he whispers. "Must have been worse on you. Watching. We'll be free soon. Don't worry."
He pauses for a minute and thinks. He needs as many people free in as short a time as possible. Give the guards more to worry about than just him. He draws crude outlines in the dust with his heel, from which rises a swarm of rats, of snakes and spiders whose bite can paralyze and kill. Silently, they move towards the door, driven by his orders, impressions faint as genetic memory, images of straps to gnaw through, of guards to bite. It didn't matter who.
He draws few dogs, too. Some - whose bite can rend steel in twain - he sends out, to save others. The rest he keeps by his heel. (The tiger flicks her tail in irritation.) Although they're strong enough to tear out the throat of a guard, Dima knows they'll stay under his control. Dogs are like that.
As for the tiger, however. The tiger was a part of his flesh, and as such, is bonded to him. He can have her do something a little more complex.
He takes her jowls in his hands. "All right, my friend. Listen, what I want you to do is go find Korram Altsan. Do you know his scent, the sound of his voice? Kill whoever's guarding him. Chew through the straps. Let him free."
He gives her a pat on the head, and the tiger slinks off. He has faith in her - the Manslayer. But if anything happened to her incarnation now, he could always call her up again from his arm. Dima turns his attention to the blood on his body, to the dust on the walls.
He's going to need some firepower. Can he risk calling up something that he can't control?
Well, whatever. It wasn't like he had plans to stick around this level, anyway. Create a little pandemonium up here once the freed prisoners started running around, then find the people he had tattooed and call up their beasts.
He dips his thumb in his own blood - if they came from his own blood, he figures, they will not, at least, try to attack him - and paints the walls with all manner of forbidden creatures.
Don’t be too sure about that. The dragon lord hissed from the dark corners of your mind. Perhaps I just need a body. Maybe when you die, my soul moves in to fill the void, and I get a free pass.
Oh ho ho ho, if that was true, then why have your little friends not already have killed me, sent me to the great beyond. I know your dirty little secret, you need me to WILLINGLY give in and surrender, to break so completely. You may be ancient, but really, all of these years trapped in my puny skull, you should want to escape now! FLEE! RUNAWAY!
Laughing even more insanely as he stands up as he mentally taunts ‘Harvey’, Incom doubles over laughing all the more at the echoing silence within him, a tear leaving his eye as he sees one of the Malevolent Seven, Jape step into his cell. His mood instantly shifts and he starts screaming:
”My side your side my side your side! Give me my BREAKFAST!”
Gesturing as best as he can with his chains towards the entrance to the door and the interior of his cell, it is quite clear that Incom is missing bits and pieces of his mind, for he considers his cell his. Several of the Magnificent Seven chuckle at this display, for after all the years he has been here, they have seen most of his insanity. Jape looks at down at Incom and smiles as he swings with his armored hands, sending a bone-cracking sound echoing through the tiny cell, and a trail of blood as several of Incom’s teeth go flying from their mounts and a ragged tear in his flesh down to the bone appears. The leather mask covering half of his face nearly comes off, but the thin leather straps keep it in place, for now.
”Oh looo ou a atistic o woes at mea ou a ae a woan hay ow?”*
*Broken Jaw Translation: Oh look, you are a artist now. Does that mean you can make a woman happy now?
Needless to say the message is quite clear to Jape, for while Incom has been trapped here for…… how many years now? Five, nope they cut his hair then and Arguile was bragging about his kid just turning ten. Ten, nahhh they tore out his eye then as Jape stumbled with the knife, missing the eye several times as the odor of a strong drink emerged every time he breathed, complaining about the five year old brat of Arguile. Probably around fifteen years, yes, that’s it, fifteen years with the Magnificent Seven means that while they have tortured Incom greatly, he has heard many….. interesting stories and…. Deficiencies about the various members, namely Japes troubles…….. making a woman happy with him.
Incom’s reward for touching that sore spot, a swift kick in the gut followed by another powerful blow to his already mangled jaw. Falling to the ground he spits out even more blood, feeling his jaw twitch as the bone starts to regrow, the muscles pulling themselves taunt to guide the shape, the skin tingling as it regenerates over the wound and the painful sensation of new teeth growing to replace the old ones.
“Enough playing Jape. We have a schedule to keep today” speaks Arguile, his crossbow at the ready. Grunting slightly, Jape takes several steps back, the light from outside the cell giving him a more menacing figure as blood drops from his armored hand.
“Now, up Prime. Get stumbling” orders Arguile, gesturing slightly with his crossbow, but keeping the bolt in line with Incom should anything changed.
Despite his wounds now healing, Incom chuckles as he picks himself up.
Silly dragon, why would you put up with this fun and entertainment if you could simply tell them to slit my throat? And now that I have had my dose of poison, I want to have a tea, party, yes! A tea party with your minions. I want minions, can daddy dragon give me minions glad in pink and purple dresses dancing with cream pies?”
Breaking out into laughter, Incom emerges from his cell, none the worse for wear, except if one was to look closely several new scales have appeared on his cheek where it was split open. He looks up at Arguile, starring him in the eye, taking on a mock serious look before laughing.
”Which way oh great and power master? Which way shall I dance for thee?”
__________________ My DM Reputation
Originally Posted by Inspectre
I'm good at making you fear the unknown. Pwenet is good at making you fear the known, which had been the unknown five minutes before he pushed you off screaming into the abyss.
Originally Posted by Kalirren
I'm feeling this real hard now.
Curse you, Pwenet. Curse you.... You had my hopes up there...
Amfar gets on the slave train obediently and moves with the other slaves. As we walk I try to remember what comes next on our path to the mines, and to see how many guards there are what side routes etc.
Demot sighed and hung his head down. He wasn't going to starve today, at least, but there was another blow. As loud as the fastest whip and as painful as the most excruciating torture, they were breaking his soul. He had to do something or pretty soon he'd be reduced to nothing. While thoughts of grandeur and revenge flooded his sticken mind, he idly smiled and continued on. Today looks like it could be a good day.
Now free to wreck your vengeance at last, you rush over in the direction of the nearest guard, attracted by the sounds of flint scrapping against steel as the he tries to light the lantern. He is unfortunately, much too late as you reach him, skewering him on your claws before kicking his lifeless body at where you think the mage is. A loud crash and pained cry follows, suggesting that you hadn’t missed your mark.
The mage taken care of, you turn your attention back to dealing with the remaining guards. Just in time, as the soft footsteps of the approaching guard reach your ears. Imagining the guard’s club descending towards your head, you skip back a couple steps, a loud gust of air hitting your face just as you move: you had gotten out of the way just in time.
Now it was your turn, and you stepped in towards the guard again, slicing him to pieces and tearing off his head before he can pull back for another swing at you. This left two guards, one loudly cursing as he evidently drops the flint in his haste, it clattering onto the floor. Once more attracted by the noise, you knew exactly where he was, and you wasted no time in closing the distance.
Reaching down, you come into contact with a warm body, and knew then that this one was already dead as he screamed out in alarm and attempted to twist around to bring his club to bear. Catching his arm in mid-swing easily, you pull him all the way up onto his feet, and then twist and pull with all your strength, first dislocating the man’s arm at the shoulder, and then tearing it free from its socket altogether. Flinging the bloody limb off in a random direction, you grasp the guard’s other arm and repeat the procedure.
The guard’s screams are even louder now, and filled with pain and not just fear. This was even better than your dreams. Unfortunately, reality intruded as burning pain lanced through you: the last guard had managed to get his lantern lit. Worse yet, the clever fellow had though to bring the lantern along with him as he approached to beat you senseless. Two lanterns now lit in the room, Shadow leaves with a loud shriek inside your mind.
You deal with him, it’s too bright!
Relying on your still-acute hearing and quick reflexes, you manage to keep your distance from the guard, avoiding the first several blows from his club. But you can’t keep dodging forever, and with your feet still chained you couldn’t keep the distance open for much longer. Without Shadow’s help you were helpless: you needed to get rid of that light and transform again.
Suddenly, an idea occurs to you, and you act as if to dodge away again, but then instead throw yourself forward into the guard. With a loud grunt, the guard stumbles back from you, but you wrap your arms around him and push, driving you both to the ground. You land on top of the guard, and with a loud crash the lantern shatters. Unfortunately, instead of going out the suddenly exposed pool of oil comes into contact with the burning wick, and a bright pool of flame leaps up beside the two of you.
The two of you wrestle about on the floor for a few moments, the muscular guard clearly stronger than the malnourished human you. As the guard begins to gain the upper hand, you realize that the oil won’t burn for long, and so simply have to buy time. You also remember that the best way to put out a small fire like the oil fire was to smother it, so as the guard attempts to put you in a choke hold you twist in his grasp and roll over.
There is a brief sensation of intense heat, and then you are back on top of the guard, who in turn is on top of the still-burning patch of oil. He screams for a moment, but then is silenced by you as the last of the flames go out and you find yourself able to reassume demon form. Having no more time to play, you simply break the guard’s neck and push yourself back up onto your feet.
You wish a moment later than you hadn’t, as some bright bolt of energy slams into your chest, you and Shadow both screaming as you were flung back to the floor. Worse yet, for a moment you shift back into human form, Shadow once again cowering inside of you.
Some kind of light spell. This guy is getting annoying . . . and he’s also getting away.
Sure enough, you hear the mage dash over to where you remember the door being, hear something slam against the wall, and then receding footsteps.
Wait. The mage said that our guards wouldn’t have to remove all of our restraints. That implies that they could have removed them if they had so chose. Which means one of these bodies has a key ring on it. Then again, if that mage goes and gets help I’m not sure it’ll matter if we’re totally unchained. That light spell he had packed quite the wallop.
Seemingly impressed by your display, the man smiles coldly. “Very well then. I will send a team of guards to escort you up to the Arena shortly. I suggest that you behave yourself until you are actually in the Arena. And I’ll see what I can do about ensuring you have the capability of putting on a good show for the crowd.
The man then leaves, and you are alone once again. True to his word however, a team of guards appears soon after. They open up your coffin, hauling you up out of it and dumping you out onto the floor. Then, they expect you to walk. You hadn’t walked in quite awhile, having been stuck inside that coffin almost immediately after entry into Ironheart.
But you eventually manage to pull yourself up, greatly motivated by the guards’ curses and clubs. For a moment you consider showing them why you were put in your coffin to begin with, but remember your promise to the man and so behave yourself, walking stiffly out into the hallway, hissing with pain as the cold iron rods move and shift with your every step.
The guards lead you down the dim hallway, and up a set of stairs into a more brightly lit series of hallways: the first level of cells. Pushing you along now, demanding that you hurry up, the guards jab you in the back with their clubs. Still, you cooperate, willing your legs to move faster, despite the pain it caused. You could use the pain right now, it helped funnel your rage, made you eager to get turned loose to fight, and kill in front of those awaiting spectators. To let you become, just for a few moments when it was time, an animal.
Finally, you seem to reach your destination: a heavy iron door stands in front of you, two bored looking guards armed with crossbows standing watch beside it. One waves you and your escort through, while the one lifts an iron latch up and pushes the door open. Entering the room, you see that you won’t be alone in the Arena: numerous heavy wooden benches sit along either side of a central aisle running down the length of the room.
And sitting on those benches are several dozen prisoners, held into their seats by chains. Most look tired and worn, and more than one sports a nasty-looking injury on some part of their body. But none of the guards care about this injured ones, and even their fellows seem disinterested. Then again, from what you had heard of this place, prisoners often fought against each other; hard to care about an injury that the opposition has sustained.
As you are shoved inside the room, more than one turns to look at you with interest, clearly sizing you up. Even more look on with interest as one of the guards starts steering you towards a nearby empty bench, but is stopped by one of the others, one of the two that had been standing watch at the door.
“No. Bossman says the new guy is up next. Here, these are the keys that unlock all that stuff he’s got on him above the waist. Unchain him, and remove the rods you unlock. Bossman’s orders.”
He hands the lead guard of your escorts a ring of keys, and then slams the door shut behind you all. Shrugging, the lead guards looks at his team of four other men, and smiles. “Bossman’s orders.” He nods at you, and suddenly you are struck from behind as one of the other four slams his club into the back of your head.
You fall to the floor, barely managing to catch yourself with your hands, the impact jarring all of the rods in your arms and making you scream in agony. Before you can react to this sudden attack, all five of the guards are on top of you, holding you down.
“Alright, let’s get this animal loose!” The leader cries, going through the keys until he manages to find the key to unlock the manacle around your right wrist. Again, as the guards hold you down against the floor, you consider resisting, but see no point in struggling feebly against five people who seem interested in letting you go free. Except, of course, for your legs: evidently the Arena organizers still didn’t quite trust you enough to think that you wouldn’t try to make a break for it, transform your entire body into something small enough or fast enough to escape entirely.
Soon enough, the guards have managed to unlock the cold iron bands around your neck, elbows, and wrists, still leading your waist, knee, and ankle ones on. For a moment, they shrug and seem at a loss as to how to remove the cold iron rod from your upper body, now held in place only be your flesh.
But then the horrible idea comes to one of the guards. “Hey, let’s just rip them outta him!” So saying, he grabs the one of the two embedded in your back at one of the ends sticking out of your back, and simply pulls. You could not imagine a worse pain. Even all of the mad wizard’s torments were nothing compared to the sheer agony of this as the guard pulls and pulls on the cold iron rod until finally your skin rips apart, allowing it to leave your body.
A moment later, the idea that there could not be a worse pain than that was banished from your mind as the genius guard threw the first rod aside, and then they all grabbed a rod and pulled.
You can only imagine that you had passed out from the pain, for the next thing you know, you find yourself falling through the air. Limbs flailing, you open your eyes to find yourself heading down towards a sand-covered floor. You have just a moment to brace yourself before impact, your legs screaming as the impact jars the cold iron rods still in your legs.
But there is no pain anywhere else, except from the long ragged tears in your flesh, already slowly starting to automatically seal closed as your subconscious does that work for you.
The scent of blood filling your nostrils as you push yourself up, you wipe off the bloody sand that had been ground into your face. Looking around, you can see that you are trapped down in some sort of pit, the steer stone walls forming a rough circle all around you, the top edge of those walls ten feet above. Beyond those walls you could see the top few feet of another sheer wall, and then people, sitting up on wooden benches not entirely unlike that being used by the prisoners you had just seen as they awaited their fate. A moment later a loud voice assaults your ears.
“Ladies and gentlemen! We now proudly present to you our next match, with an untried combatant that is totally new to the Arena! We think, however, that you will very much enjoy this bout, as beast fights against beast! The Iron Shifter vs. The Chimera!”
The large iron grate at one end of the circle suddenly lifts up, and a massive creature straight from nightmare bounds out. A person’s first impression of the beast might be that it is simply a very large lion. But that impression would be oh so very wrong, as a long snake-like head rises up from behind that of the lion, fangs flashing as it belches a gout of flame. And as it turns to face you, you catch a glimpse of the third head, that of a goat, emerging from the body of the beast off to one side, just in front of its right forward shoulder.
As one, the three heads roar in unison, and then the beast leaps towards you. Although no longer able to actually fly as the guards had clipped the thing’s wings, thankfully, it was still able to produce mighty bounds with a powerful beat from them. Thus, it crosses half the distance between the two of you with just a single leap, and immediately takes to the air again, roaring once more as it starts its descent, aiming to land directly on top of you.
The Cells – Floor Three
With your superior vision, you are able to now see the woman’s face. At first, you had been blinded by the sudden bright lights of the guards’ lanterns, but now your nightvision was slowly returning. As such, you were now able to make out the woman’s face, who at least now showed no external signs of wild insanity. Her eyes were calm, her small mouth drawn up into a frown of concentration. Unable to see in the pitch blackness like yourself, and evidently these cultists for they carried no visible light, she squinted her eyes as she turned her head slightly, trying to zero in on your exact position through the sound of your voice.
Hearing this, she nods her head, nearly knocking foreheads with you through that motion. “Good.” She whispers, her voice now carrying a tone of urgency. “I don’t think we’re going back to our cells again: this is a one way trip. It was for the couple of people I noticed being taken from our area earlier this week – these guys grabbed them, and the people never came back.”
For a moment, she violently twists about, once again trying in vain to loosen her tight restraints. Relaxing again but her frown deepening, the woman continues. “That’s why I put up such a fight when I realized that they had come from me. Since I believe that time is of the essence, I won’t waste it by saying anything more than necessary. My hands are locked together behind me at the small of my back, the manacles fused together somehow: there’s no give when I try to move my hands apart. They’re held in place by a chain that’s attached to the manacles and is wrapped tightly around my waist. Five leather straps, two above the knee, three below pinion my legs together, with another set of fused shackles around my ankles. A short length of chain also connects the shackles around my feet to the ones around my wrists. As such, I’m going to be virtually useless to you right now but let me assure you that once I’m free I will be a very useful asset. But that’s getting ahead of ourselves: right now we need to get you free. Is there anything I can do, in my greatly diminished capacity, that would help?”
Suddenly, you start to feel useful begin to descend, the floor of the wagon starting to tilt downward as the two cultists lead the wagon down a steep ramp leading deeper into the blackness beneath Ironheart.
Struggling wildly, you attempt to free yourself through sheer force of will. Of course, you mad struggles also had another purpose: continue working on that stretch in the glove over your fire-arm, and turn that into a hole. You had worked hard over many, many days to come along as far as you had, and you lived in constant fear that the guards would one day notice the leather growing softer and looser in one spot. But still, you knew that you had a long way to go before that stretch turned into an actual tear that you could make use of. Desperation gave you the strength and hope that you would be able to do in a few seconds what should have taken several more weeks.
For once, luck seemed to be on your side, as your leather glove caught hold of a burr sticking up in the wood of the table. Getting a few splinters in your back was often par for the course when getting thrown onto and strapped down to these roughly-cut wooden tables, but for once it was working in your favor.
Suddenly, you feel a small pain in your arm as the tip of the wood burr pushes through, pressing into your skin enough to draw blood. Before your arm can ignite into flame once again and vaporize the small wooden splinter, you push with all your might to one side, ripping the burr across your skin and pulling the glove further open along the stretch.
Now exposed to open air, the minor scrape from the wood burr is the least of your pain as your arm fully ignites, the patchy skin that had been starting to form over your arm due to the suppressed flames burned off in an instant.
Attracted by the sudden flash as a small gout of flame shoots out of the crack in the leather glove, blackening the edges, the guards look at you with a mixture of horror and shock. But their surprise doesn’t last for long as the leader of the trio cries out, “Get him, get him! Knock him, pour some water on his arm, do something!”
Summoning the tiger from your arm, you share its predatory smile as it quickly bites through your strap and licks your face before turning to guard the door, awaiting further instructions. Working quickly in the dust scattered about on the floor, you quickly draw numerous shapes – the outlines of rats and venomous creatures – on the floor, aware that the guards could unexpectedly return at any moment. Your tiger could deal with them, you were sure of that, but that would raise the alarm, and your surprise would be ruined.
Finally satisfied with your small army of vermin, you sent them out into the rooms beyond yours, with orders to bite through straps and poison guards. After a moment you realize that there was no way for the venomous vermin to distinguish between the prisoners and the guards, and the crude drawings you had to make meant that they could not share in your intimate knowledge that let you tell the difference between the two. Still, most prisoners would hopefully be fine, if they did not swat at the snakes and spiders as they passed, moving on to the rooms beyond the ones in your immediate vicinity.
Almost immediately, you hear cries of alarm and short screams of pain, but also a few triumphant shouts and the sounds of a struggle in the two rooms immediately beyond yours. Meanwhile, you continued to build an army to protect yourself, drawing up a quartet of hounds next. Like the other drawings, you realized that these would also be unable to tell the difference between prisoners and guards, and thus would attack everyone they saw without question. Still, you could give them basic commands, and they won’t attack anyone you explicitly told them not too. For now, they would make a good group of bodyguards as you sent your most powerful servant and friend to find the other prisoners, Korram, who you thought might be most useful in helping you escape. You knew he was somewhere near, although not sure of which room, but undoubtedly your pet would find him for you.
Still unsatisfied with your growing army of creatures, you turn to the nearby wall, biting your thumb to let blood flow freely. Sweat begins to pour off your brow, you had to work quickly, but so quickly that you forgot a crucial detail, a detail that would cause the creature to come out deformed, wrong, and angry at its creator for such failure.
Knowing you needed your deadliest creations now, you started to paint with your own blood “forbidden” creatures: monsters and other things too ugly to be called animals. These were even more dangerous and required more exact detail, but were powerful enough to warrant the effort.
Suddenly, however, you hear a loud grunt from behind you, and a curse. “Ssooz iz yu!” A voice cries, its words slurred and slow to form. Turning in surprise, you look to see that it’s one of the guards who had been torturing you before, his face and hands swollen with poison. Shouting a battle cry that was more like a scream, the guard stumbles towards you. Your hounds react immediately to this oncoming threat, one of them leaping up to spring for the man’s throat.
The hound is successful, sinking its teeth into the man’s throat as it crashes into his chest, but the man spins as he goes down, striking a brazier full of coals and sending them scattering across the room. A few hit you, disrupting your concentration, and worse yet, a few more hit your drawing. The scorch marks left behind by the coals hitting the wall fill in the last lines needed to complete your painting, fill in the last lines wrong, and the creature that steps out from the wall is thus wrong as well.
Looking like the Minotaur you were attempting to draw, but missing a horn from its head and one hand twisted up into a balled claw, the minotaur snorts angrily. Before you can react, it notices the hounds, and stomps over towards them, lowering its head and charging to gore the one still standing over the body of the guard, ensuring he was dead by tearing apart his jugular. Distracted by its work, the hound doesn’t notice the attack until too late, and sails through the air to smash into the wall, immediately dissipating back into the dust from which it was created.
Snarling, the other three hounds leap to the attack against this newcomer, circling it like a pack of wolves and dancing it to slash at it before leaping back. As you push yourself up to watch, however, you realize that you still control the hounds . . . and the half-minotaur. But for how long would you be able to control this unstable design?
Renewed by the thought that these pathetic fools might be able to discover your secrets, which are worked so hard to develop in the first place, you tear into the other presence with wild abandon. Taken aback by your sudden assault, the assistant’s mind is surprised by the sheer viciousness of your mental attack.
As the two of you wrestled for control of the man’s body, currently on more or less equal footing for once, his body wildly convulses. The six guards who had entered the room with him and who were now approaching “you” from all sides were taken aback as “you” seemed to have a fit of seizure. One brave guard attempts to dive in anyway, covering the remaining ground between you in several quick strides. He bends down to try and snap a cuff onto your wrist, but you manage to grab control of your body’s legs for a moment, twisting around to send a good hard kick directly into the shocked guard’s nether regions. Crumpling in blind pain, the guard drops to the floor next to you and begins rolling around, almost exactly mimicking your movements as you and the assistant continue the mental battle.
“The . . . mirrors . . .” “You” grate out, the assistant’s last effort before you somehow manage to overcome him utterly, a feat you only rarely manage to do. Although not giving up, the research assistant’s mind was temporarily “pinned” by your own, allowing you to direct half your attention to threats external to your own. The five remaining guards, in this case, as they turn as one to start running back to the walls, attempting to pull the curtains away again and render you a helpless man once more. But they weren’t there yet.
Nodding in agreement, the leader motions for the others to pick you up, which they do with great haste, carrying you aloft on their shoulders. The little band quickly marches over to the door to your cell, careful not to dash your head against the doorway’s ceiling as you all exit out into the corridor.
Not being much to look at, you sigh and idly alternatively stare up at the ceiling a foot or so away from your nose, and the path that the acolytes were now carrying you down. Finally, up ahead you see a small tunnel joining with the main one, it’s crude rough edges indicating that the small tunnel was dug up to the wall from somewhere else, then your rescuers burst out through the wall into the main tunnel.
Arriving at the mouth to the tunnel, you note that in addition to apparently sloping steeply downward, the tunnel is also quite small: perhaps a little higher than what was necessary to let a man crawl through. Muttering in sudden realization that they couldn’t simply carry you out through the escape tunnel, the acolytes gently set you down while they debate amongst themselves how to take you down the tunnel safely without carrying you.
Unfortunately, it seems that your time has run out, as with a dry chuckle a man suddenly steps out into the light of the acolytes lanterns. A tall man with short-cropped blond hair and mismatched eyes, one icy blue and the other a dark red just shy of crimson, he carried a large warhammer loosely in his hands.
You recognized this man: Paladin Alexander Ross, a man who had been hired by your captors presumably to guard against you breaking free and taking revenge on them. Why he was working with the vampire filth when he was supposedly a “holy man”, you had no idea. You did know, however, that on those occasions when he had been tasked with grinding you back down into ash, he had done so with great gusto . . . and his heavy warhammer hurt.
“So, it be a jailbreak you lot are planning, eh? I thought I’d take a little stroll down to visit His Lordship and make sure everything was quiet, when what did I find but the door ajar, His Lordship’s urn smashed to pieces on the floor, but with no ashes to be found anywhere. My compliments on disabling the door’s magics: none of the alarm runes had been tripped.”
With a loud cry, one of the acolytes nearest to the paladin drew his dagger and leapt forward. With a snort of disgust, the paladin flicked his warhammer up, catching the man in mid-leap and slamming him against the wall. As he rebounded, the man fell to his knees on the floor, and before he could recover Alex had pulled his hammer back and let it fall for another swing. This time it caught the back of the man’s head, putting him face-first down on the floor before an instant later the warhammer broke through the back of his skull and continued on, smashing the acolyte’s head apart as if it were a mere ripe melon. Nonplussed, the paladin worked his weapon back out of the mess and back up onto his shoulder.
“Now then, you folks should know better than to go interrupt a man’s monologue like that. So let’s see, where was I . . .”
The paladin paused for a moment, and then shrugged. “Actually, I think I was done there. So, let’s have you pick up where your friend left off. From the top now, but with some more feeling. Make me feel like I’m doing more than crushing flies here.”
As one, four of the acolytes drew weapons and dashed towards the paladin. The leader and one other stayed back with you, watching the fight’s progress. It quickly became clear that it was not going to go well for your side.
“Hurry, get Lord Umber into the tunnel! He should slide the whole way down!” The leader hissed, coming to grab one side of you while the other acolyte bent to grab you from the opposite side.
“But, when he gets to the bottom, he’ll be going so fast. What if he is injured?” The other acolyte whined, stopping in his work to slide you into the mouth of the tunnel a moment to look over his shoulder at the battle against the paladin. As you all watched, another acolyte went flying back, crashing messily into the nearby tunnel wall to land in a crumpled broken heap. Only one acolyte now stood against the paladin.
“He’ll be fine. And I’m sure Lord Umber would prefer minor injury to recapture.” The head acolyte said, moving you the rest of the way into position, before turning his attention back to you. “Good luck, Lord Umber. The two of us shall remain behind to seal this entrance so this man cannot follow. I hope that you will give our master your finest compliments. Good bye.” With that, the two release you, and you go speeding down into darkness.
Down and down you slide, beginning to pick up quite a fair bit of speed in your descent. Finally, you shoot out of the tunnel into some sort of naturally formed room. Still moving with great speed, you barely have time to register that you’re on a collision course with a large rock: a stalactite rising up from the floor of the room. You hit the rock at an angle, your left leg slamming into it and snapping like a twig upon impact. Spinning around, you sail through the air, finally hitting the ground hard and sliding along until you crash to a stop against the wall.
For a moment, you are annoyed at this damage to your brand-new body, your left leg clearly broken as it sags at an unnatural angle: your chains preventing it from bending out away like the impact would have left it otherwise. You realize that you, of course, had other problems at the moment: you were alone in the depths of the mountain, and still helplessly chained.
You were about to start idly wondering how long it would be until your flesh shrived up from lack of blood and you entered a torpor-like state when the sound of soft laughter reached your ears. Twinkling like music, the laughter continues for a moment before coming to a stop as you hear footsteps approaching you.
Twisting around, you manage to see through the gloom a female figure confidently striding towards you. Tall and well-proportioned, the woman is clad in an elegant black dress with matching veil, a train of fabric gently swishing along the ground behind her. Coming to stand over you, the woman brushes a long strand of her black hair away from her face and greets you with a smile. Her unnaturally pale skin might suggest that she simply enjoyed living down here in the dark, but her lack of body heat or respiration revealed her true nature: vampire. Still, she wasn’t one of your captors: you hadn’t forgotten a single of their faces, and certainly none of them had been as pretty as this one’s.
“Well, I had been told you certainly enjoy making an entrance, Lord Umber, but I was certainly still most surprised by that one.” She says, a note of amusement still in her voice. But she quickly turns serious as she looks back at the tunnel you had just shot out of. “I take it then that you ran into trouble, and my servants are dead. A pity, they were most helpful. Still, I believe I can continue with the plan the rest of the way without their assistance. Now, to free you from those awfully tacky chains!”
Muttering arcane words of power, a bright glow suffuses the vampire’s hands, and a green ball of energy begins to grow between them. After a few moments of rapid growth, the ball begins to threaten to engulf her hands, but then with one last word she pulls her hand apart and ruptures the ball of energy. Ribbons of light stream outwards, flowing down to your chains and slamming into them.
At the point where the lowest loop of chain crosses around your ankles, the accursed silver chain suddenly shatters, leaving you a little bit freer, but hardly worth the wait. Sighing, the she-vamp mutters a curse in a dead language which you recognize.
“It would seem that the chains holding you prisoners are much more powerful than I had thought. This might take awhile . . . so please, if you have any questions that you wish to be answered while I work, ask away.” So saying, she begins to chant again, and another similar green ball of energy begins to grow.
At your taunts, you hear Harvey give a sort of mental sigh.
Why do I have to put up with this? I’ll be in the back until I’m needed.
This said, you feel the presence shift about a bit in your mind, no longer pressing quite so close up against your own. You knew from experience, however, the old dragon never slept, and was always quick to take over whatever new territory you left when you relaxed.
Meanwhile, the war outside of your head continued, although after Jape’s little assault the Malevolent Seven seemed content to hang back while you stumbled on ahead of them.
Coming out into the small ritual room where they left you to the tender mercies of your cultist keepers, the Malevolent Seven guided you over to the stone chair in the back of the room. Long gouges had been splintered into the stone all over: places where the chains holding you to the chair previously had been, torn free from the stone as you lost control and broke free to go on a rampage.
Cuso, the largest of the Seven, standing a full head above any of the others and supposedly part giant, wrestled you into the chair as he always did. Snapping the iron collar around your neck and the extra shackles onto your arms and legs, Cuso was quick to step back away from you once his task was finished. Although they had always been called the Malevolent Seven as a group, the membership had been forced to find a few new members over the years.
Their task done, the Malevolent Seven retreated into the darkness, as a single cultist emerged from a side room. Their numbers dwindling over the years, mostly in no small part thanks to you, the cultists had a tendency to only expose one of their number now to the daily danger of finally insulting and angering you enough to submit to Harvey long enough to tear them apart. As such the man was understandably nervous.
“Greetings, master. Well, of course, I meant the dragon lord and not you, whoever you were before your selection to be the host for our glorious lord.” Waving his hand dismissively, the cultist gulps nervously before continuing on.
“Since you so like puppet shows, we thought we would put one on for you today. Observe!”
The cultists stepped aside, as another three cultists entered the room, dragging three struggling prisoners into the room, sacks covering their head. More executions? Hadn’t they already done this, over and over before?
Forcing the three prisoners onto their knees, the cultists swiftly produced more rope to bind their legs, preventing them from rising and potentially getting away. The three cultists then beat a hasty retreat, removing the sacks from the three unfortunate peoples’ heads as they left. And . . . you had absolutely no idea who these people were.
Coughing loudly, apparently unsure what to do about your obvious confusion, the cultist thought a moment, and then explained. “Ah! You do not recognize these people. Well, you should know that these three are the remaining descendents of your friend, Bran! . . . You do remember him, don’t you? You were in the military together, defended the kingdom, all that? Well, these are the last of his line, so when they’re dead he’ll be dead too, not even a memory! Yeah, how do you like that?”
Although the three people were now terrified, looking wild-eyed at the cultists but unable to scream because of the rags tied across their mouths, you continued looking at the cultist with a surprisingly serene expression. This was the best they had?
Clearly shaken by your apparently unflappable calm, the cultist stood for a moment, again unsure what to do. But then, he seemed to remember his lines, and said, “Ah, but wait! There’s more. We knew just killing some people you never met wouldn’t affect you much, so we decided to throw some desecration into the mix. Behold, the next step of our plan!!”
Gesturing again, you look in the direction the cultist is pointing to see the same side door he had used suddenly open again. Led on leashes by three cultists, another three figures staggered in. But these figures were unbound, and there was clearly something wrong with them. They smelled of death, and it took only a moment’s examination to reveal that they were zombies. But who the zombies had been made out of was what shocked you. The kindly old priest who had married you, and your mother and father, their heads having been crudely stitched back onto the rest of their bodies.
“Ha ha! Yes! The descendents of your last friend are going to be killed by the zombified remains of those you once cared about the most! How does that feel, hmm? Doesn’t it just make you angry? Well, if you don’t do anything, you’re going to have to watch it! A ha ha!”
Gesturing, the cultist signaled for his three assistants to cut the zombies loose, who immediately began to stagger towards the cultist instead.
“Ack! Not me, stupid zombies! The other ones, the other ones!” Backing away from the zombies as they slowly approached, the cultist suddenly got the brilliant idea to run over behind the three struggling commoners, thus leading the zombies back in the right direction.
“Ha! Yes! Come, my undead children! This way!”
And so the zombies advanced towards the descendents of your friends, groaning and moaning as they went. As soon as the zombies were loose, the other three cultists disappeared, leaving you alone in the room with the zombies, this head cultist, the soon-to-be dead descendents . . . and Harvey.
Well, what’s going on here! Ooohhh . . . a good old-fashioned zombie feeding! Look at that old preacher go! I bid on him to get there first.
(1st team DM, yay!)
The guards lead your slave chain quickly to the mine entrance now that your little mining team is complete. As is to be expected with Ironheart, the room that served as entrance to the mines was sealed off from the rest by a heavy iron door, several displeased and heavily armed guards standing, well, guard in front of it. They wave you all through without comment, one removing the heavy latches that held the door shut – interestingly enough, only against those coming from the direction of the Mines – while another shoved the door open.
Going inside, you see the familiar sight of a large mostly empty room, a sharply-descending tunnel at one end. Several guards stand about around wooden tables, apparently trying to mark off the location of newly discovered mineral veins on crude hand-drawn maps. A large number of others, looking like regular guards rather than someone with a more important job than telling prisoners what to do, hand each of you shovels and picks from wooden racks containing dozens of the things as you walk past. (You can each choose to have a shovel or pick – it really doesn’t matter much).
It looks like you would be working down inside the Mines themselves today, as with a few cracks from their whips your four guards hustle your small slave chain over towards the tunnel leading further down into Ironheart’s belly, instead of back out the way you came to work on expanding one of the cell floors.
Down, down, down, you descend into the mountain, your way lit solely by the feeble light of the lanterns that two of the guards were carrying. Finally, the tunnel came to a stop, leveling out to end at a four-way intersection. Going right, the guards hustle you on down the tunnel, avoiding several large side tunnels until finally your little group breaks left, heads downwards again via a short descending tunnel, and then right again.
You are making good progress down this tunnel as well, when suddenly the guards’ light reveals a rather small side tunnel, much smaller than the one you were in presently and too small for the human members of your band to precede without stooping, as you were generally able to do.
“That’s strange. I don’t recall seeing that tunnel yesterday.” The head guard says, motioning for your group to stop.
“Maybe one of the work crews did it last night?” One of the other guards offers helpfully, before being thumped into the chest by the butt of another guard’s whip. “No you idiot, our teams don’t dig tunnels that small.”
Suddenly, the faintest sound echoes to your ears, coming from the side tunnel that wasn’t supposed to be there: a soft scrapping sound, followed by an even softer hiss.
Frowning, the leader waves you all back a few steps, leaving the tunnel entrance only half-bathed in light, at the edge of illumination from the two lanterns. Pointing at one of the other guards, the leader motions he forward silently, while simultaneously motioning the man to draw his weapon.
Nodding in reply, the guard stows his whip on his belt and pulls out his club. In his other hand, the guard takes the second lantern, shuttering it fully so that whatever was hiding in the side tunnel wouldn’t see him coming by the light from his lantern. Pressing himself up against the wall, the guard then slowly made his way down to the tunnel.
“Come out, little prisoner . . . nobody’s going to harm you.” You can hear the guard whisper faintly, the sound echoing back to your ears. “AHA! AAAAAAAHHHH!!!” Finally reaching the entrance, the guard flings himself away from the wall to stand directly in front of the tunnel, flipping the lantern’s shutter up with his club hand as he did so.
His triumphant shout suddenly turns into a scream as he apparently sees whatever was down the side tunnel, but all you see is a single slender long back leg flash out of the tunnel, skewering the guard in the shoulder. Flexing a split-second after impact, the leg jerks back into the tunnel, dragging the wounded guard in with it. Not quite tall enough to accommodate him standing up, the tunnel is more than high enough to let him pass through unimpeded.
Now from the tunnel way, you can hear another short scream echo up from the tunnel, cut off mid-way through. Then, a low scrapping sound as something heavy is dragged further down the tunnel, followed by silence.
For a moment, everyone simple stands there, shocked, they explodes into shouting. “By the goods did you see that!!? He was there, he was right there, then nothing!”
“Come on, sarge, let’s get the hells out of here!”
The other prisoners meanwhile, simply cower back and whimper in fear, their wills already have long since been totally broken by the stresses pressed upon them by this dark place. As such, when the sarge turns back to look at the slave chain, he notices Desot and Amraf, if a bit shaking, certainly not cowering like frightened animals.
“Alright, you two! Go down there, retrieve the lantern, and go check out that tunnel. The rest of us will wait up here for you.”
For a moment you both just stand there, shocked at what you were hearing as the sergeant unlocked you both from the rest of the slave chain. Was he insane?
Glaring at you, he proved it beyond a doubt as he opened his mouth again. “Yes, I mean now! You bring my man back alive, I’ll see to it that you get double rations.” Still, you stand there looking at him incredulously, until finally in an exasperated sigh, he brandishes his whip.
“You can either go down there, pick up that lantern, and climb down after whatever that thing was, or you can continue standing there will I whip you to death. Now hurry up and pick!”
Cracking his whip, the sergeant steps a foot or two back, clearing the way for you to walk past him to the side tunnel entrance, but also to give him enough room to employ his whip to maximum effectiveness in slicing you to the bone. At the entrance to the side tunnel, the lantern flickers, casting weird dancing shadows onto the sides of the side tunnel’s mouth.
I didn't actually intend to kill EVERYONE. It just sort of happened.