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 from Recruitment
In the Barony of Gast, the winds of change blow as winter gives way to spring. In the mountainous south of the Barony stands the ancient fortress of Ironheart, so-named for its construction out of solid iron. For the past forty years the current Baron of Gast has used Ironheart as an inescapable prison, cramming criminals and dissidents of all sorts from across the kingdom and even further abroad into the dark depths beneath. For the past forty years Ironheart has been a name associated with torment, death, and hopelessness. But on a day much like any other within Ironheart, all of that changed.
A terrible secret had been hidden deep within the mountain beneath Ironheart. Eons ago, the goddess Miriam had imprisoned the dark god Azguloth within the mountain. Ironheart had originally been constructed to ensure that the seal binding His prison was never tampered with. Unfortunately, the goddess’s plan failed when one of Ironheart’s guardians was corrupted. Now known as the Hierarch, this guardian sought tirelessly for a way to release the dark god upon the world once more.
After millennia of preparation and searching, the Hierarch was finally ready to enact his plan. And on that fateful day, the ritual to release Azguloth was conducted. The beginning of the ritual wrecked incredible havoc on the prison above, allowing a number of Ironheart’s prisoners to escape. A handful of those prisoners learned of the Hierarch’s intentions during the course of their escape, and together they destroyed the Hierarch. Exactly as the Baron of Gast had intended when he converted Ironheart into a prison.
Now the Hierarch is dead, but the seal over Azguloth’s prison has been greatly weakened in the process. The desperate elements of the Hierarch’s organization are already rushing to fill the power gap left in his wake. A number of prisoners both good and evil have escaped or otherwise been freed from Ironheart, fleeing into the surrounding countryside. And the Baron of Gast continues to enact his own mysterious plan.
In short, the status quo has been shattered, and the tangled strands of fate are about to drag the Barony of Gast, the Kingdom of Narle, and indeed the entire world and beyond into chaos.
I didn't actually intend to kill EVERYONE. It just sort of happened.
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.
This is a common freeform issue, 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 Regularly, But Don’t Worry About It
I am going to try to DM this thing roughly twice a week. 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 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. 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
In the previous thread, I had a strict no-no on Player vs. Player. Now that you are all out of the prison, it makes more sense that you would be willing to fight each other should it prove necessary. Adjudicating who wins in a fight between players is extremely obnoxious however, especially in freeform. So I’m not going to do it (). 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 still going to be frowned upon. That being said, some of you people are currently on different sides, or just don’t plain like each other. Screwing the other guy over in a more indirect way, depending on the situation may be acceptable (particularly if it gets an evil laugh from me ).
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!
I didn't actually intend to kill EVERYONE. It just sort of happened.
Character Status – The summarized condition, location, and other information about your character. Will be updated (in?)frequently. (Right now there’s nothing here because I’m lazy and still haven’t done it. Deal. )
I didn't actually intend to kill EVERYONE. It just sort of happened.
(And here we go, the first round of posting. As a note, I’m completely flipping temporal continuity the bird – y’all will be traveling at the speed of the plot and starting at different times and places. You can safely assume that likewise, you’ll wind up meeting each other at the same place and same time at the convenience of the plot. I’ll also be splitting people’s posts up this time into newcomers and old hands, just to avoid the whole length issue. Hopefully that won’t be necessarily in future DMs.)
Meanwhile . . .
Demetrius Gast, Baron of the province that bore the same name, idly gazed out upon his lands from the grand balcony of his estate. Nestled in the northern foothills of the Barony, the land surrounding the estate was one of the few areas of arable land within the Barony. And naturally, instead of putting it to good use Demetrius’s predecessors had squandered much of the Barony’s resources into turning it into a garden. The opulent estate was admittedly impressive and excellent for entertaining guests, but held little other value. It was not even particularly defensible, an insult given the abundant hilltops upon which to build to the south!
But, Demetrius mused, the Hierarch may have had a hand in that. Although he had been focused to the point of blind obsession, the Hierarch was not stupid. He did not allow his “allies” to ever grow so independent that they thought they could be free of his influence. The irony inherent in that was his coalition had been so dependent on his guidance that now with him gone, it would crumble virtually overnight. The less ambitious servants would likely wander aimlessly, drifting off into obscurity or finding themselves dragged down into the clashes between those more ambitious factions that would emerge from the wreckage, each vying for the Hierarch’s crown.
The only useful thing that will emerge from the conflict is chaos. Again thanks to the Hierarch, none of the groups are strong enough to emerge victorious from the carnage to come. And virtually all of the disparate groups hate each other, meaning there would be no new alliances. There could be no gain from participating in such a struggle - which was exactly why Demetrius was not going to participate. Let the others strangle themselves over a prize with no value. He had more important goals to accomplish, and so little time left in which to accomplish them.
With any luck his would-be enemies would be too busy battering themselves into the ground to interfere in his plans. But if they were not distracted by the maelstrom of conflict, they would soon learn Demetrius had teeth of his own, even if he rarely barred them in anything but a cruel smile.
On the horizon the approaching shape of the Gastly Truth, one of the many fangs in his maw, appeared to stir the Baron from his thoughts. On its triumphant return voyage from Ironheart, no doubt barring many useful gifts, among them two artifact swords and another archangel. The airship’s appearance was a signal to Demetrius that once again it was time to act.
Standing from his chair and stretching, Demetrius moved off the balcony into his estate. Beyond welcoming his children home, Demetrius also had several meetings to attend with his own would-be allies. The way ahead grew ever more treacherous, but in the distance immeasurable rewards gleamed. Time to take yet another bold step forward.
The Estate of Baron Demetrius Gast
As you are escorted into the noble estate of the Baron of Gast, your current employer, you are grudgingly impressive by the décor. The grounds outside are an immaculately maintained garden, with etched cobblestones paving the way up to the ornate oak doors leading into the manor itself.
Palaces such as this one were entirely beyond your peoples’ ken, though you had heard stories of them from human bards. Interestingly enough, those stories generally either involved said palaces being sacked by villains or being owed by villains. Whichever the Baron was, it didn’t matter: he had specifically requested your services, and had offered to pay exorbitant prices for your services.
As you are admitted into the entry hall, your armored feet clack hollowly on the marble floor. The finely dressed herald nods to you and moves across the cavernous hall towards the curving stairs leading up to a balcony. The two guards who had been accompanying you both remain behind, watching you carefully.
Idly you analyze your chances of killing them both while waiting for the Baron to appear. You decide that if it proved necessary you would likely be able to cut them both down with minimal injury to yourself, unless they were far more skilled than they appeared. But you had taken note of numerous guards stationed around the estate on your approach, including a few very bizarre armored figures that appeared to be roughly similar in shape to angels as told in various stories. That taken with the fact that many people were moving about the estate at a frantic pace that suggested your survival in fighting your way out beyond this room would be doubtful.
Fortunately, it is not long before the herald returns. “Presenting His Lordship, the Baron of Gast!”
A moment later another figure stepped out to join the herald on the balcony – the Baron of Gast. He did not look particularly impressive for a human – standard height, a bit on the thin side, black graying hair. As he began to move down the stairway to the floor, he began speaking, his authoritative voice echoing within the chamber.
“Ah, you must be Gazrul the Red. What a pleasure to make your acquaintance. You must be tired after your long journey. Do you require refreshments of any sort? We have all manner of drink and food here. It could be brought to you while we discuss business, and indeed we have much to discuss.”
By now the Baron has reached the floor and begun to cross it, his own footsteps faintly echoing across the floor. As he gets closer, you finally get a good look at his eyes, noting that unlike the rest of his rather unremarkable face, he has intense green eyes. Inside those eyes you catch a glimpse of something; something dark but carefully restrained and hidden behind his easy-going smile. It unnerves you, and to your own irritation you catch yourself looking away from the Baron’s gaze as he finally reaches you and gestures to a nearby door.
“I’m afraid the estate is quite busy at the moment preparing for my sons’ homecoming – I would have met with you sooner had I been able. However, through that door is a comfortable sitting room where we should not be disturbed.”
The Baron leads you on into the room beyond the door, which is indeed a well-furnished sitting room with a large window overlooking one of the side gardens: appropriately enough, a series of rose bushes fashioned into a hedge maze. As the Baron settles back into large padded chair on one side of a small dark wooden table, he gestures for you to be seated in the chair on the other side of the table.
In a surprising display of trust, after you are both seated the Baron dismisses the two guards and sends the herald off to acquire refreshments. You are now alone in the room with the Baron, save for the two empty suits of armor fashioned in the same bizarre angelic shape stationed at the two nearby corners of the room.
“So, I am sure that you have many questions, Gazrul. Seeing as how you are my guest, it would be remiss of me not to answer any questions you have before questioning you in turn. You are welcome to ask me anything you wish, although of course I would prefer for you to stick to professional, and not personal, questions.” The Baron flashes you a toothy smile that would have fit in well amongst any of your own people.
The City of Amaranth
The Scarlet Tankard
Through the rough cut glass of the tavern’s windows, you watch as the city begins to darken with the approach of nightfall. Business was always better at night, naturally, and so you and your modest staff were busily preparing for the evening’s guests. You were not so busy, however, that you didn’t notice the personification of trouble walk in through the door.
It wasn’t what the man looked like. The man’s short-cropped grey hair was largely covered by his wide-brimmed hat, and underneath his long dark brown cloak you caught a glimpse of a suit of leather armor festooned with a plethora of weapons. His face was perpetually drawn into a grim frown, slightly bending the long thin scar running from the right corner of his mouth all the way back to his ear. But you were used to adventurers and rough types coming in at all hours – you’ve had been out of business long ago if not for them and their employers.
It wasn’t what the man did. Upon entering the bar, the man stood rudely just inside the doorway, slowly scanning the entire room. His analysis of the room complete, the man briefly turned back to the door, gently pulling on it this way and that as if to test its strength. When he was finally satisfied with that, the man walked directly over to the bar, pushing past and outright ignoring the barmaid who had reflexively gone to guide him over to a table. Reaching the bar, he waves you over with a crooked finger.
It was the danger sense you had carefully honed over the years. It had jumped to full alert upon the man entering the bar, a worrying sign given the lingering sense of dread you had been feeling all day. Of course, your danger sense wasn’t always right either: last week you had been overcome by a paralyzing, unknown fear that had lasted for several days. Nothing had come of that, as it turned out, and eventually it faded away of its own accord. But now that sense was back.
From his position at the bar, the man continued to motion you over to him. It was clear he wanted something directly from you, and he had come here specifically for that purpose.
The City Gates
You had seen many things in your travels, and not just different magical traditions. Compared to some of those locales, and especially the capital, the city of Amaranth was nothing special. And yet you felt a shiver of anticipation crawl down your spine as you stand in front of the city’s gates.
Amaranth was a sizable trading hub near the southwest corner of the Barony. Compared to the rest of Gast, it was the center of commerce. Lucine had told you all manner of things were up for sale here, most importantly information. If anyone had heard of your sister, they would be here.
The small group of bored guards clustered about the gate idly wave you through along with the throng of people pushing forward around you to enter the city. The sun was beginning to set, making you wonder if it would be best to look for a place to spend the night first or start your investigation immediately.
You had never been to Gast before despite it technically being the gateway to the elvish lands. The elves were however isolationist, leaving it doubtful that you would be allowed in at all, let alone allowed to study their magical traditions as well. And so you had stayed away from the Barony, having heard unpleasant rumors about what went on there. But the summons from your sister had definitely come from somewhere in Gast, a most vexing situation given the unusual lack of precision in your divinations.
They had remained imprecise despite your best efforts, which left you with the sole recourse of investigating in person. You just hoped that you could find someone capable enough to help you, and friendly enough to be willing to do so.
As you move further down the main street leading deeper into the merchant district, you are stirred out of your thoughts by a cowled man carefully making his way against the crowd. He seems to be heading away from the merchant district and down towards a shadier part of town. What catches your eye the most, however, is the prominent embroidered hem of his cloak.
Stitched there are arcane symbols, which naturally attract your eye. You only have a few moments to observe the cloak before the man’s back is to you, but that is still enough. You recognize what symbols you were able to glimpse, having seem them a number of times before: necromancy.
The man was undoubtedly a member of some sort of undead cult, which likely meant trouble. You are so shocked at the unexpected sight that you momentarily stop, causing several people behind you to bump into you from behind. Angrily the people before you push on ahead, leaving you momentarily a stone in the river of people.
You are uncertain what you should do. You could try to follow him to see what he was up to, you could report the incident to the nearest guard, assuming you could find one sooner enough, or you could simply ignore him. Necromancers were obnoxiously common.
With your ponderous speed, you finally reach the edge of the forest and see the human city known as Amaranth a short distance away. The journey from the master’s mansion had been long – your master had preferred his solitude. But you were finally here, growing close indeed to your goal of the prison. It seemed likely that if your master had escaped, he would have come here first for supplies. And if not perhaps someone had seen your master elsewhere, giving you an idea where to go now – your master’s appearance was unique amongst his kind.
Likewise, your appearance was unique, and not easy to conceal. During your travel you had learned that your appearance created more questions from those you met than you were comfortable with answering, assuming they were civil at all instead of screaming ‘Monster” and then either fleeing or attacking you. Your master had warned you about the outside world, but you had never thought so many people could be so small-minded.
Not everyone had instantly reacted poorly however, and one had give you the massive cloak which you now worn around your shoulders, concealing most of your glittering bulk from view. You had brought along your feathered hat as well, which managed to conceal most of your head from sight.
The end result was that your concealed bulk was still eyebrow raising, but not instantly alarming the way it had been to the villagers of the first several hamlets you had passed through. Still, it seemed likely that you would need to travel into the city in order to locate information on your master. You had never seen so many people in one place before, many of them clustered about the gate as they awaited their turn to enter the city.
Night was beginning to fall, which was the cessation of activity for the day for a majority of humans and animals. You had no need for sleep, food, or even air, but you did require energy. Which was unfortunately another problem that you would likely have to solve within the city – acquiring energy.
You had enough within your battery to last for several more days, but after that you would be unable to continue. Without your master around to recharge you should that occur, you would be in grave danger indeed if your power supply dropped any lower. The sky had been clear for the past couple days, which meant you would need to use your draining rods, and soon. People tended to like that even less than your appearance, but perhaps in a place with so many people in it, no one would notice or mind.
In any event, continuing to stand here at the edge of the forest was good for gathering reconnaissance, but seemed unlikely to garner you anything more. Furthermore, as the people in front of the gate began to thin, it appeared as if those in authority there were preparing to close the gates for the night.
The Fortress Basement
It was quiet now. So quiet that even the voices seemed to have gone silent, waiting in quiet anticipation of what was to come. Before that there had been screams, most distant but some very close, and one right outside the door to your current residence. There had been unearthly shrieks as well, and various other sounds that it was best not to dwell upon.
You were safe for the moment here, inside a modestly-sized supply closet. No one had found you here, although that was hardly surprising given the carnage you had briefly seen outside and had heard going on since then. Real-life demons had come here to steal your soul away, and for many of your former prison fellows, the results had been most unpleasant.
After breaking out your cell, you had somehow stumbled your way out from the first level of cells up to the basement of Ironheart. From there you had found your way to the kitchens, and upon finding this supply closet immediately locked yourself in it until the awful sounds finally stopped.
You had no sense of time here in the lightless maw of Ironheart. Therefore you do not know exactly how long you have cowered here in the supply closet. It had to have been several days however, judging by your cycles of sleeping and eating. Now everything was silent, and you got the feeling that it was time to move on.
Of course, there was still all manner of foodstuffs here, and you wonder if you should take some of it with you for your trip. There wasn’t anything else here unfortunately, no clothing to replace your worn burlap rags or anything that could be used as a weapon for self-defense. But perhaps you shouldn’t take the time to blindly sort through the remaining supplies in the closet. Silence meant that the guards had restored order. And order meant undoubtedly that the guards were looking for you now. Any moment now they might kick open the door to your sanctuary, and drag you screaming back to your cell. You knew that this was your one chance for freedom.
It was fortunate you had earned the guards’ trust, at least as much as prisoners were trusted here in Ironheart. It had taken a while for you to earn a coveted collaborator positions, but it had been well worth the sacrifices you had needed to make over the years.
For one, the guards were generally easier on collaborators, mostly out of fear that any given collaborator may be an administrator’s pet. For another, other than the bronze circlet locked around your wrist and the bars of your cell, you were free. And finally, being a collaborator meant that you occasionally were let out of your cell to work in the kitchens.
This last thing was especially important, for you had been out of your cell when the demons had come. They were even more merciless than the guards, killing everyone they encountered. The walls of your cell would have been unable to protect you, you were sure of that.
Fortunately you had been in one of the small kitchens at the time, and had been able to hide. Eventually the danger from the demons had passed, although you were still stuck within Ironheart. But your luck had again held, as you were discovered not by an angry patrol of guards, but by your one ally amongst them.
He had led you out of the kitchens and hidden you on the second floor of the fortress itself, in one small room of the all but abandoned guard barracks. He had promised to get you out of here in return for your skills as a healer. How he had found out about your past skills you had no idea, but he seemed very motivated to acquire your help.
A gentle rapping at the door announced his return now before it swung open to reveal the clearly nervous guard. He didn’t even bother to look over his shoulder as he pulled the door shut behind him, but his voice was barely above a whisper even despite the lack of people who could overhear your conversation.
“Miss Roselin! Are you ready to depart!? I managed to acquire us a cart out of the inner wall of the fortress – only problem is, well – it’s full of corpses. But it is likely our only chance to get you out of here before the guards discover you. I hope this is acceptable.”
The Surrounding Mountains
You had to give it to Ironheart, life there had always been interesting. And considerably unpleasant, especially for an elf in the clutches of the racist guards. Your escape had been even more unusual. You had been “volunteered” for restraint research, which meant you had been spending most of your time recently in the Spires jutting up into the sky above Ironheart. The researchers there had all sorts of crazy ideas about how to improve Ironheart’s efficiency in storing helpless prisoners, and most of their methods were considerably unpleasant or at least painful.
You had been hanging upside down in close proximity with several other prisoners when the demons had barged in. They had made short work of the guards and then they had started on your fellow prisoners, taking their time with the butchering. That had proven to be their own undoing, as you had managed to snatch up one of the guards’ dropped weapons from the floor and then butchered the demons in turn.
From there it was a relatively simple matter to cut your way free, and from there slip away in the confusion over to the Stables Spire, which housed a majority of Ironheart’s flight-capable mounts. Guards were there in force, hastily preparing an escape for Ironheart’s administrators and other important staff.
Despite this you had manage to acquire a wyvern, flying it out of hanger while under heavy crossbow fire. You had then ridden the disobedient wyvern away from the fortress, forcing it to fly despite it not recognizing you as a valid rider. Unfortunately the beast was mortally wounded in flying through the chaotic battle raging in the skies above Ironheart, but you had managed to guide it down outside the walls before it finally breathed its last.
Shielding yourself from the cold as best you could with several appropriated cloaks, you had then stumbled off into the wilderness. You had escaped from Ironheart for the moment, but supposedly no one ever escaped from Ironheart.
This morning you had been awoken by proof that no one ever escaped from Ironheart for long: the sounding cries of hunting dogs. So, the surviving guards of Ironheart thought they could hunt you. Then again, they weren’t after just you.
Through a corpse of trees you had seen a group of guards mounted on horseback run down another wounded man dressed in the burlap rags of an Ironheart prisoner. The guards hadn’t even bothered to demand his surrender, instead shooting him in the back with crossbow bolts until he finally stopped running. Then a single guard guided his horse up to the prisoner and fired a final bolt into the back of the prisoner’s head.
Since then, that hunting party seemed to have picked up on your scent. There were a fair number of them, which prevented an open confrontation but that was alright. You were still armed, and knew a few things about how to discourage pursuers. All that was needed was for you to discover the perfect opportunity.
You had always led an alternating charmed and cursed life. Charm: acquiring the keys to your cell from the guard sent to take you down to another day in the brutal Mines. Curse: acquiring said keys from the corpse of the guard while a nearby demon was busy devouring the guard’s entrails. That little bastard had chased you for what felt like miles before finally getting snatched up in the jaws of an even larger demon. Thankfully, that one had failed to notice you as you hid in a dark corner and set to work picking the locks of your chains with a metal sliver taken from the key ring.
Charm: finding a handful of other prisoners who had also managed to escape from their cells, all of them close friends who had only recently been thrown into Ironheart together for a thievery job gone wrong. They had even quickly accepted you into their little group when they learned that you had once been a member of the thieves guild. Curse: all of your new friends were bumbling idiots who had never gotten invited into the thieves guild because of their incompetence.
Charm: you had managed to slip upstairs in the chaos, quickly finding yourself in the stables which had an abundance of horses already prepared for use, without even a single guard standing watch. Curse: as you were all getting mounted up, one of the lions that the guards had also been keeping for use in the arena managed to break out of its damaged cage, mauling one of your newfound associates. Together the lot of you had managed to drive the lion off and save the hapless prisoner’s life, although his grip on life was tenuous and his grip on consciousness even less so.
Charm: you had ridden out of Ironheart in style, the gates open either due to being forced or left open in the confusion. Curse: Many of the horses had been shot out from under you and the others as you fled, most due to lucky shots from guards who hadn’t even been aiming at you. There was only one horse left by the time you had gotten clear of the massive fortress, and that one was used to carry the unconscious member of your group.
Charm: You had traveled for two days through the cold, not knowing where you were going, and huddled together beneath the saddle blankets and around the remaining horse for warmth during the night. But although food was starting to become an issue, shelter for your third day beyond Ironheart’s walls would not be a problem.
In the lead, you had come over the crest of your most recent snow-covered hill, and nearly fallen and broken your neck as instead of a way down you stumbled onto the top of a cave’s yawning maw. After a cautious exploration, you had determined the cave to be abandoned for the moment, and you and your fellows had taken shelter inside the cave. What sort of curse nightfall was going to bring, you had no idea. Perhaps your bizarre seesaw of luck was finally going to quit, but you somehow doubted it.
Late in the night, you awake to hear Carl, the grievously wounded thief, calling your name. None of the others seemed to have heard his cries, all of them sound asleep, even the one guy that was *supposed* to be keeping watch.
I didn't actually intend to kill EVERYONE. It just sort of happened.
Being a free man again certainly was a strange experience. At first the sun’s rays had been almost painful on your pale skin, but you had endured far, far worse torments over the past eight years. Even now, nearly a week later, you still caught yourself looking up, marveling at the sky.
Yet still, there was a sadness in your heart despite the natural beauty around you. You had forsaken your chance at vengeance against the Baron in return for fulfilling your promise to Calcifer. Intellectually you knew it was better this way, for in the end your pursuit of that vengeance had ruined your life. It had cost you the opportunity to watch your daughter grow up, and now she was apparently stuck in the same sort of life you had never wanted for her.
Further souring your mood was the signpost positioned at the crossroads ahead. One sign pointed the way on towards the capital, where you had steadily been heading towards since leaving Ironheart. Others pointed the way to various other places you had no interest in, including towards the city of Amaranth, which was vaguely back the way you had come. One of the smaller signs, an old and rickety thing that clearly had not been maintained for several years, pointed out the rough dirt road leading to Callaway.
Callaway, your old home that you had sacrificed yourself to also save. You wondered if anyone there still remembered you, and had any news of your daughter. It would be nice to see her, the real her, before you returned to your imprisonment.
Assuming the village was the way you remembered it, it would be a day or two traveling along this dirt road that cut roughly through the forest before you arrived at Callaway. This made it somewhat out of your way, but the temptation to travel there was strong.
(You can continue pressing on to the capital, travel towards Callaway, or do something completely different.)
Traveling anywhere on foot was obnoxiously pedestrian and slow, but for the moment you had to save your strength. The final confrontation in Ironheart had left you even more depleted, and so you had to conserve your remaining magical reserves . . . for now.
Which meant walking, or as was more often in your case, floating along the ground or leaping from object to object. Even with this meager form of travel, you still could have been going much faster. However, you had to move slowly enough to allow Omega, and more specifically, the all-too-human acolyte, to keep up.
You had been quite surprised when the acolyte had requested to accompany you, but apparently the fool had nowhere else to go outside of Ironheart. And so he had offered his services to you, in return for a place to stay. Admittedly, the thought of having a willing body was intriguing, as well as having a corporeal assistant who wasn’t a half-human, half-demon construct whose loyalties weren’t certain now that you were both free of Ironheart. But the thought of coming up with some amusing and yet horribly painful way for him to die was also tempting.
“So, where exactly are we headed?” The acolyte called, looking around for you.
The acolyte’s question was a good one. Thanks to your restful travel on the road up to this point, you now felt strong enough to possibly attempt a teleportation back to your isolated laboratory, assuming it was still standing. Which, indeed, was the problem of teleporting there: taking yourself would be draining enough, but taking Omega and the acolyte as well would leave you all but unable to defend yourself upon reaching the other side should there be danger.
Another alternative was to continue along the road you were traveling down, which according to the signposts would eventually take you to the city of Amaranth. You had heard of the city before, and had even conducted business there on occasion. You knew you would be able to find almost anything you wished there in terms of supplies, although there was the question of payment. Although your group had been outfitted with modest supplies necessary for basic travel, none of you had anything else of value.
The Village Proper
The trek back to civilization from the frozen hell of Ironheart was surprisingly uneventful. The Baron’s men had done an excellent job mopping up the remaining demons, who were more interested in crawling back into the dark places from which they had come with the Hierarch’s failure to free their master. Any other prisoners who had found their own way out of Ironheart other than the Baron’s mercy were too busy escaping to harass their former cellmates. And surprisingly, even none of the Baron’s men came to harass you, although you still felt their presence.
On the road, Melcara confessed that the strange metallic angels amongst the Baron’s men were deeply unsettling to her for some indiscernible reason. You had only seen them accompanying the Baron’s sons and flying about Ironheart as you left the morning after your release, but you likewise shared Melcara’s feelings. There was something very wrong about them, but unfortunately whatever lay hidden behind those helmets would have to remain a secret for now. As your invisible devil “rescuer” incessantly pointed out, you had the more pressing matter of the Church’s corruption to address.
Unfortunately, your time inside of Ironheart had been protracted – a lot can change in fifteen years. And the revelation that the Hierarch had been at least partially responsible for the Church’s current state had left your mind reeling. You did not know what other surprises the corrupt Church members had waiting in the wings, and after two such unpleasant surprises (one leading to your imprisonment in Ironheart and the other nearly to your forced return to the afterlife), you were unwilling to recklessly press on without more information. This meant returning to the Heavens, both to deliver a report to the Valkyrie on the events within Ironheart and to acquire whatever new information the Valkyrie’s servants had acquired.
Returning to the Heavens was not especially difficult provided you could locate a church, although you were aware that time did flow differently in the afterlife. It would likely be several days of earth-time for your visit, even if it only seemed a few hours from your perspective. Of course, the whole plan was contingent on finding a church, which was impossible within the wilderness.
It has taken you a week since the events within Ironheart to move far enough down out of the mountains to arrive at a small mining town. Away from the icy peaks of the mountains, the town was beginning to break free from winter’s grasp, although the handful of people you saw walking the town’s dirt streets were nonetheless wrapped in heavy clothing.
The guards at Ironheart had provided you with sufficient supplies to make the journey, including clothing, although all that was available was guard uniforms. Such a thing was still far better than your torn burlap rags, and thankfully you would be able to wear the uniform underneath your armor so that only the village fool could not recognize your profession. Of course, your armor was likewise unmistakable, and while an Ironheart guard with a prisoner’s brand on his arm might look completely out of place in this sleepy town, a holy warrior of the Valkyrie would be unmistakable. If the Church had spies present, they would know exactly where you were.
(So yeah, which do you effectively have on the outside? Your super-holy paladin armor, or the uniform of an Ironheart guard. Obviously, your decision will effect how people will react to you, at least initially.)
Bundled up in a long guard’s cloak with only her face visible, Melcara raised a cloak-obscured finger to point at the stone building standing at the far end of the village, adorned with obvious symbols of the Holy Couple. “That appears to be a church. Where would you like us to wait for you? I . . . I do not think I would be welcome there.”
“Indeed. My apologies Lord General, but I do not believe I would be comfortable awaiting your return inside such a place either.”
Looking around, you can see a small inn set up at the near end of the main avenue running the length of the town, and the closest structure to you and the nearby crossroads. There are also a number of private residences, and what appears to be a blacksmith and stables within eyesight.
The Surrounding Forest
The heat of the flames wafting up from the inferno consuming the village does little to ease the chill you now felt as you ascended the slope. Unbidden, memories of a similar situation flood to the front of your mind: soaring over an immense city as the intense heat of fires raging unchecked wafts up to you, along with the panicked screams of the dying and the mad howls of demons. And in the distance, a lone figure standing at the center of it all.
The burns you had suffered earlier were already starting to fade – as always, you healed quickly. Too quickly for a normal human girl, but you knew that already. You didn’t know what you really were anymore, and for a fleeting instant you caught yourself desiring the simplicity of suffering under Daddy’s rule. But no, staying in that man’s intender care would have also denied you the joys you had experienced outside Ironheart’s walls.
As a reminder of this, your new bracelet jingles as its bits of slag and smoothed stones clatter together. A gift from your new family, intended as a replacement for the hard bronze bracelet that had encircled your wrist previously for as long as you can remember.
At last you arrive at the crest of the high cliff overlooking the burning village. And ahead of you in the distance is once again the lone figure, although this time he is not alone. Flanking him are two Hell Knights, their black armor looking especially menacing as they reflect the light of the fires below. Also present is a battered Julian, crumpled at the feet of one of the Hell Knights. Weakly he raises his head to look at you, his bloodied face a mask of fear and horror.
”No . . . Mar. RUN!”
Idly, one of the Hell Knights delivers a kick to Julian’s side, silencing him as he flops over onto his back with a pained grunt.
With the deliberate pace of one savoring the moment, the cowled figure turns away from the sight of the burning village towards you. Although concealed by the heavy robes he wore, the figure’s body was . . . strange. Twisted and deformed, it was clearly not in the shape of a human even covered by the thick layers of cloth. And a menacing aura of corruption surrounded the figure, making you feel uneasy and sick in his presence.
But despite every remaining sensible nerve in your body screaming at you to heed Julian’s advice, this time you can’t turn and run away. You feel as if you are affixed to the spot, and can only stand there as the figure gives a gurgling chuckle.
“It has been too long, Marisiel the Protector. Far too long since we last met. You have certainly changed. Well, I have too.”
Wrapped and gloved hand-sized appendages come up out of the robe’s folds, reaching up to pull the cowl back. And there, underneath the stars and above the flames, you see a familiar face, and one which you instinctively knew you had never wished to see again.
It was cold here. Shockingly cold, like the tubs of water Daddy occasionally had you dunked into when you were being punished. But the sudden cold also revitalized you, snapping you back into full consciousness from your slumber within seconds. What you saw upon opening your eyes was even more shocking than the cold, and infinitely more frightening.
You were lying on the floor of an impossibly massive room, its walls stretching beyond your ability to see. The floor was completely white, covered in a soft substance that crunched beneath you and was cold and wet to the touch. You think it was snow, but you had never seen so much of it, and never outside of when Daddy was using it to teach you a lesson. Was this perhaps where he kept it?
Looking around further, you find yourself surrounded by countless wooden pillars stretching upward and expanding outward towards the strange blue ceiling that is visible here and there beyond the scraggily tops of the pillars. As you watch, a glob of white slowly moves across the ceiling – more snow?
The cold air surrounding you bites in deeper, refocusing you on your current predicament instead of your strange surroundings. You hadn’t been made this cold in a long time, but even more frightful than that was the knowledge that there wouldn’t be anyone to stop it this time. You had to get yourself to a warm place, somewhere away from all this snow. But there was nowhere to go – the wooden pillars surrounded you in all directions, an indecipherable maze.
No, not indecipherable after all. Gradually your snow-covered surroundings begin to change. In your mind you see the tops of the wooden pillars covered in green leathery shapes, then multi-hued, and then gone again as snow returns. You suddenly recognize this place, and the realization frightens you. You are certain you have never seen this place – you’ve never been beyond your home in Ironheart before now. And yet the unshakable conviction that you’ve been here numerous times before remains.
But as you start shivering violently from the cold, you realize that now is not the time to worry about your false memories. You now knew that not far from here was a small village. The thought of encountering other people was even more frightening to you than the cold, but fortunately you wouldn’t have to deal with them for now. Between your current location and the village was a large barn . . . which was like a wooden house for animals?
Pushing yourself up to your already numb feet, you start walking in the direction of the barn. With unerring accuracy you pick your way through the maze of pillars, until at last they begin to thin out and you can see the barn ahead. But here your memories have failed you, for the barn is not the tall-standing structure you remember.
The top has partially collapsed, leaving a large hole down into the inside. Several other small sections are also missing, allowing you glimpses into the dark interior. It has clearly been abandoned for quite some time. This is both good and bad news for you. It is even more likely that no one will be around to threaten you, but the protection the structure offers from the cold has also been clearly compromised.
But hopefully some part of the barn’s interior would still be intact enough. Furthermore, the sight of the barn triggers another memory. You spent a great deal of time in that barn, climbing amongst the rafters and watching the oxen. Up at the top of the barn was your special place, a small hideout all your own where you kept your most prized possessions. The memory of what those possessions were eludes you however. Regardless, you are here now within sight of potential shelter, and your body warns you that you will not be able to stay out in the cold much longer.
The City of Amaranth
The City Gates
The small city of Amaranth was nothing special, for you had seen dozens of such sights in your millennia of existence, and many of them considerably more impressive. But Bran, such an inexperienced youth, he was gaping in awe at everything around you. It would be embarrassing were it not for the slight thrill of remembering your own awkward first experiences.
In any case, you had come to the city not on pleasure, but business. The ritual required for transferring Bran’s magical power over to you would require considerable components. And surprisingly enough, none of those components were of a grisly nature, save perhaps for a slight amount of blood from you and Bran to establish a ritual connection between you.
Of course, there was the difficulty of first finding the necessary components, and then acquiring them. The first part would likely not be too difficult in a city, but the second part might be a bit harder given your possessions amounted to little more than the clothes off your back. Of course, there were ways of getting others to give you what you required, although you were not certain Bran would agree with your alternative methods. He was still depressingly naïve despite his life experiences. Ah, the noble folly of youth.
Still, the question remained: where to go first?
The Surrounding Mountains
The coming of night brought an entirely new meaning to the word “cold” in your vocabulary. The chill cut through your thin clothing and sank down into your very bones, giving you the unpleasant sensation of freezing from the inside-out. The only good news was with your entire body numb, your leg was no longer hurting. It was small comfort to the remaining conscious part of your brain, which could do little more than maintain your balance as you stumbled on through the heavy snow.
In the crook of your arm Garthax shuddered and groaned, the cold an even greater agony to him than it was to you. Beside you the Countess shivered violently as she drove herself on with a relentless determination that was nonetheless beginning to falter.
Dimly you realized that you would all be dead soon, but your exhausted mind was unable to come up with any scheme to escape this fate. Nature was one of the few enemies you could not seduce or trick, and your luck seemed to have finally run out. You had not seen any signs of potential shelter, either natural or man-made. Just the cold mountain forest and snow extending out into the empty blackness surrounding you. You had nothing to start a fire with, even assuming you could somehow manage to generate a spark, and burning the forest down seemed unlikely to ensure anything but that you wouldn’t die from the cold.
Suddenly, the Countess trips on an upraised root hidden by the snow, and tumbles forward, dragging you down with her. The snow-covered ground is surprisingly soft, and doesn’t really feel cold at all to your numb skin. For a moment you consider simply lying down and taking a short nap – you were so tired. Surely you would be able to continue tomorrow morning much better off once the sun was up.
Then the vision of your younger sister, all alone, appears in your mind, and you angrily shove the thought aside. You could not die, and you would not rest, until you were reunited with her. Wearily you begin to push yourself back up on to your feet, but the Countess remains where she has fallen.
“I . . . I’m s-s-sorry, P-pyrene.” The Countess chatters quietly from the ground. “I c-c-c-can’t g-g-g-g-go on. A-at least . . . I . . . I d-die f-f-f-f-free.”
The Countess’s surrender to her fate drains your remaining strength away from you even more effectively than the cold, and you manage perhaps a step or two further before you fall back to the ground again, and find you lack the strength to rise. As the forest begins to grow even darker, and yet strangely warmer, your mind begins to play back through your life and all of the difficult choices you were forced to make. In the end, you are forced to conclude that you are exactly what everyone always said you were: a harlot, a criminal, and a murderer. Worst of all, you have failed everyone now, including yourself. But of all the things that could have went through your head in the instant before the light faded completely, your brain recognizes the faint sound of sleigh bells in the distance.
Much in the same way you slowly drifted off into oblivion, you gradually return to consciousness, only this time your mind is filled with images of Edward, Alphonse, the elite guards, and that noble whose blood you spilt in self-defense and whose name you could never remember. They all stared at you silently, their dead eyes boring into you with their faces pulled up into angry grimaces. But then the spectres fade as you snap fall into wakefulness, and realize that the world is nothing like the way you left it.
Your leg is starting to ache.
You are warm.
You are inside.
You are lying in a large comfortable bed, covered with several thick fur blankets.
The Countess is lying in the bed next to you (okay, not so different from previously)
Underneath the covers, you are naked. (very different!)
”Perched” in a large rocking chair in the far corner of the room is a very burly, barrel-chested old man with a flowing grayish-white beard, a heavy crossbow cradled in his lap. Curled up at his feet is an equally large dog, although it could easily be a wolf for all you know.
Meeting your eyes, the old man inclines his head forward slightly.
“My apologies miss.” He whispers. “I assure you, it was necessary to remove your damp clothes. As it was, it was a very near thing for the both of you. Now, I would appreciate it if you didn’t do anything rash. Your traveling companion appears to still be sleeping soundly, and I would prefer not to wake her. However, we also have some very important matters to discuss.”
The man raises a hand from the crossbow to his massive chest. “I am Klaus. And this is Rudolf, my loyal companion.”
The dolf raises its head just high enough to glimpse at you with one half-opened eye before returning to rest with a loud snort.
“Now then, if you please, would you mind doing the same? It would also help if you could include what the two of you were doing out there in the frigid cold completely unprepared. And, more importantly, why you have an Ironheart brand on your arm, and yet somehow here you are.”
Your journey to Ironheart had not been particularly strenuous, although you expected what was to follow would be a considerable challenge for your aching bones. Given the fact that you had a guard’s uniform in your possession, the initial infiltration would be easy once you got over the first wall and managed to mingle in with the other guards. Reaching the target and escaping following the assassination would be the tricky part.
Supposedly your target was a dangerous prisoner kept in the lower reaches of the prison. A holy man, he had already come back from the dead once, and your employers didn’t want him coming back again. So they had hired you to take care of him, although apparently they didn’t want anyone to know it was them who organized the assassination. Which meant once the Ironheart guards figured out that you didn’t belong, they were going to turn hostile.
Hopefully, that realization would be made only an instant before your knife was in their gut, and after you had isolated them so an alarm couldn’t be raised. Nothing you hadn’t done before, certainly, but Ironheart’s reputation as inescapable preceded it. If you could pull it off, it would be a fine end to your career as an assassin: you were starting to get too old for this. And if you didn’t, well, you should have been dead many times over by now.
Unfortunately, it seemed Fate loved to needlessly complicate things. As you crept out of the forest and Ironheart came into view, you could see something was obviously wrong. It looked like the fortress had been attacked: bodies were scattered everywhere, and only a handful of guards mounted the walls. From deeper inside the fortress, great greasy plumes of black smoke spun into the sky, likely from bonfires of corpses rather than leftovers from the battle.
You weren’t sure how to proceed now: depending on the situation inside, your target might even already be dead. You would have to gather more information somehow. Information, unfortunately, that would be almost impossible to gather from outside the prison.
Outside the Screaming Dark Estate
You and Limier made good time through the forest, although you were not sure how true that really was given the timeless nature of this dark place. It felt like you had moved quickly, however, and now you were crouching down at the outskirts of the forest. Before you rose the black stone walls of the Screaming Dark estate, Lord Vylethar’s home and the place you were about to risk your very soul trying to break into.
A low wind rushing through the ancient and chipped stonework, creating the soft sound of screaming and shrieking. At least, you hoped it was only the low wind that was responsible. Although from the top of the wall the guards were little more than the size of your hand, you could count numerous winged figures strutting about, occasionally cackling and leaping up into the air before settling back down.
“Does seem very welcoming, does it?” Limier quipped as the shadow that had been following you slipped down into a crouch beside you. “But there’s always a way inside. Incompetence or simple paranoia on the part of the owner often leaves a “secret” way out that works just as well for people wanting in. The front gate looks fairly secure however.” Limier notes, already beginning to shift through the underbrush in a path following the tree line. “Let’s go see if we can find it around the back, hmm?”
A few minutes later you were facing the left side of the estate, where the guards above seemed slightly less numerous but with an additional difficulty added: a moderately steep slope covered with dangerous looking brambles.
“Well, that’s a little better, depending on how nasty those plants are.” Limier remarked, still on the move around towards the back of the estate. “So, since we seem to have a few more minutes of calm before the storm, why don’t we pass it with conversation? I must admit I’m a little curious how you managed to wind up in Ironheart, Tare, and by extension, have the bad luck to fall in with Prince Teareal. Pick the wrong noble’s pockets?”
I didn't actually intend to kill EVERYONE. It just sort of happened.
Korram Alstan A man who has been completely defeated by his mortal enemy, physically, mentally, and spiritually
The motion of putting one foot in front of the other was what kept Korram going through the day, his atrophied muscles groaning in complaint as forced himself through every day. Dark, when it was impossible to travel, was just as bad, as he forced himself to go through an hour or two of retraining every night.
His motion was interrupted by a crossroads sign, containing directions for several cities.
Amaranth, a city with no meaning to him, but one mentioned by several of his fellow escapees.
The Capital, his goal and a place where Calcifer would finally get his long-awaited freedom.
Callaway. His home. His birthplace. His whole world, for twenty years of his life. His point of capture. His last distinct memory of the outside world before Ironheart.
Korram crosses his arms before the sign, his melancholy mood worsening by the second as he counts out the various ways in which his life was ruined by the Baron and, he is forced to admit, his own decisions. He ponders for a few seconds. Thinking...calculating...it wouldn't be that far out of his way...Why are you debating this? We should be heading for the capital!
Korram ignores the intruding voice of Calcifer in his head. Since his sacrifice for Calcifer's freedom, the elemental spirit had remained quiet, for the most part, but he still spoke up occasionally to insult or threaten his host, almost as if he was trying very hard to maintain his hatred of Korram.
Korram, after a brief debate, takes the left path, heading for Callaway. His path is clear to him; the first and last selfish decision he would make after his escape. Once he returned to Gast, he would have little hope for escape. This would be his last chance.
Stop it...Stop it...Go THAT way! No! We are not going a full day out of our way so that you can get all teary-eyed and stoic over your last visit to your hometown! Korram's silent plodding is his only answer to Calcifer's tantrum. GAH!!! I'll kill you!!!! Why don't you shut up and be quiet? You here me? I'll kill you! No, you won't. You can't kill me without dying yourself. You can't burn me, because I'm used to the pain and you'd just heal me right after. And you won't leave me burnt because that will slow my traveling speed significantly. You've waited sixteen years. A day or two won't matter.
Calcifer, understanding himself beaten, retreats to the dark recesses of Korram's mindscape, muttering something about "stupid apes." Meanwhile, Korram plods onwards.
Truly awesome Ark Tamaeus avatar by Bryn. Full size version here.
(Ander is wearing his super holy paladin armor, FYI.)
Ander shifts the corpse of Incom Morgan from one shoulder to the other as he looks over the small mining town. The corpse may be bulky and cumbersome, but at least it didn't stink. The preservation spell Ander had cast had seen to that. With a sigh, Ander looks first at Melcara and then to the possible location of his invisible devil stalker (whom Ander had started to call Peeping Tom, due to its continued reluctance to show itself or even disclose its real name).
"Melcara, I'd like you to come with me to the church. I don't like the idea of us getting to split up. Peeping Tom, you can fall into a basin of holy water for all I care."
With another sigh, Ander starts down the town's main street. The travel time had been good for him; it had allowed him time to sort out some of his thoughts. There was a lot for him to do now that he was finally free. First, though, he had to go to the town's small church and find out just how helpful it would be.
His pulse quickens as he enters the churchyard. It wasn't out of fear...more like trepidation at the prospect of having to possibly fight a member of the church. With a deep breath, he opens the door to the small parish and steps inside.
Save for the Eastern Desert, gnolls were not a common sight in the Kingdom of Narle. Oh, of course, there would be the occasional merchant or brigand or, like Gazrul, the odd mercenary or two. But most people, as he understood, had never actually seen a gnoll before, and knew little of them outside of what they'd been told by those who knew a guy who's best friend's cousin had been to the desert for one reason or another. And Gazrul, who's appearance was exotic even amongst his own people, had grown used to the stares and gawking and timidity of the humans who inhabited the lands he wandered.
Thus, Gazrul was mildly surprised by the Baron's reaction to him. He did not stare for even a second. He did not gawk at all. And timidity? The Baron seemed completely at ease; completely in control. Gazrul saluted when the Baron made his entry, but he didn't seem to make note other than a quick nod of acknowledgement.
As the Baron spoke to him, Gazrul couldn't help but notice how almost...ordinary the Baron seemed in most respects. He was of average height, reasonably fit, graying black hair. Well-kept, but by no means gaudy. The contrast to other nobility he had met created in Gazrul something akin to respect. Following the Baron into his sitting room, the gnoll couldn't help but be impressed by... well, everything: this client must be powerful indeed.
As they sat down on opposite ends of the sitting room table, Gazrul listened intently to the Baron's words. It was the least he could do, given the lord's hospitality (and it had only been a few minutes!). As the Baron finished, Gazrul dug through his satchel, before his clawed hands set down on the table the very letter with which the Baron had outlined the terms of their contract. The gnoll cleared his throat.
"Firstly, my lord, let me thank you for your hospitality. And, er...," he pauses as one of the servants closes the door. "for your trust in this matter."
But as you said, we ought to keep things towards business: I've read your letter several times and, to be honest, my liege, it is a bit vague. You say you require myself and my men for security and the recapture of escaped Ironheart prisoners: but together the Gazmelohk numbers nearly a thousand. For the sum you have offered, is guard duty not a bit...trivial?
And if it is not impolite, I ask: how is it that there was a mass prisoner escape from Ironheart, of all places? Even in the Eastern Desert there is talk of it being a great fortress of metal and stone. Completely inescapable."
The gnoll pauses for a moment, and continues, as just remembering something.
"And finally: if I may correct you, your lordship, Gazrul the Red is the name of my Ancestor, and the first of the Stars seen in the night sky. I myself am called Gazrul the Black.:
Pyrene remained still and quiet for a moment, her first instinctive thought evaluating how difficult it would be to seduce the elderly gentleman. He's probably not used to young women flirting with him, and he's seen what I have to offer. If I - The thought cut off abruptly as she remembered the dead and staring eyes of the last man she had seduced. He had also been the first man in years, she realized abruptly, who seemed to care about her wants as well as his own. Pulling her right arm from beneath the blanket, she stared at the brand, the concealing cream Edward had given her long since worn away.
"That is a very long story," she said at last, quietly so as not to wake the Countess. "The short version is, there was some sort of attack or uprising, and we escaped in the confusion. My name is- well, I've had alot of names. Most recently I've been going by Pyrene. The lady next to me is the Countess Amelia... something. I'm sure she can tell you when she wakes up. And- wait, where's Garthax? The imp that I was carrying, I have to find him!"
Pyrene began to struggle ineffectively with the blankets, her efforts complicated by the growing ache in her injured leg and her desire to keep from waking the Countess.
I started a blog! Beware of dragons, for you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup...
The Lord of Blood was back. It was a good feeling. He was lean and hungry - he'd taken only animals since his escape, both because there'd been little opportunity for anything more satisfying, and to avoid upsetting his young companion. But all that paled next to the fact of his freedom. Even though he was on serious business, he'd relished the journey here - walking under the moon and the stars once again, tasting the nightwind - Life was good, even after death. And now the city of Amranth stood before them, inviting in the twilight and redolent with the scents and sights and sounds of civilization, as old as Umber himself, and perhaps moreso. It was glorious - waking up again into the world, feeling the life-pulse of the city about him as they entered the gates... so much rich, heavy blood, grown fat and soft by the comforts found only behind the walls that kept the wild at bay. He longed for it. But that would have to wait.
Umber smiled as he watched Bran gawping in awe at the city. It wasn't a bad little town, Amaranth - he'd seen a lot of cities in his day, and to him it was just one more, but Bran was a country boy. And with good reason - Umber had never been too keen on letting the lad's bloodline out into the world without supervision, and the country bumpkin disguise was generally quite an effective one. Nevertheless, it meant that the lad was unprepared for the intricacies of city life. Luckily, however, Umber had been here before It had been awhile, a century, almost, but there was still a chance that the cache he'd left here remained. He'd chosen the spot with just such an eventuality in mind. He tapped Bran gently on the shoulder to get his attention - the boy was still looking around wide-eyed at all the joys of city life - and, Umber noticed with a small smile, especially at the small gaggle of lithe, painted ladies standing under a lavender-colored lantern by a discreet building set back from the road.
Perhaps later, my lad. Unfortunately, we don't possess the coin necessary for those or, indeed, any other purchases. Yet. However, I know where we might be able to acquire said coinage - to the graveyard. We should pay our respects at my tomb.
He knew they were tracking him and he needed to find river or some other way to disguise his scent, fast. Even as he searched he prepared himself for a fight. Picking up dagger size sticks as he went and using his sword to sharpen them into points. He hears the baying of dogs and the scream of a prisoner as the guards give the prisoner to the dogs as a meal. They're closer than before he thinks before quietly wispering, "Well, if they want me they'll have to sacrafice some of their guards to do so, but hope is not gone. I can survive this. I will return to you Vira." As he says the last part he stops for a second and looks at the sky through trees before moving on.
Hans von Ravenstein
The golem nodded.
"Yes, Scruff, that is Amaranth down there. That's where we are headed"
"I do not know. I hope he will be there. Then again, the master never was very enthusiastic about cities. He may well have picked up supplies and moved on. I can only hope our paths will cross"
"Yes, he would have to pass here, if he were headed home, but I can not wait. The pack is running very low, and I only have enough energy stored in the heart right now to last about a week or two. It was a long journey indeed, and I need to restock"
The golem looked down at his palms. In each of them there was a hole in the centre. Deep down the golem could see the gleaming of the metal spikes in what little sunlight the sun still offered at this time of day.
"I could. I could restock here. There are travellers that no-one would miss. But I may also head down to town. I'm sure I can purchase what simple components I need to restock the batteries. That is best for everyone"
The golem paused.
"Yes... I guess he may. In that case I will just have to return home after a couple of days. I left a note telling him where I went, should he get home sooner than me, so he should not have to worry"
The golem watched the dog stray off the road and pee on a tree. Hans smiled, as much as his face would allow it.
"C'mon, Scruff. We're headed to town. I'll buy you something to chew on, I'm sure the gold I took from the manor would allow it"
Hans headed to the city gates with Scruff at his side, attempting to enter without causing too much of a stir. He would head down to the nearest store selling alchemic ingredients, or if there was none any store that would have the things he needed, such as a smithy, an engravers, a printer or a textile manufacturer. All he needed were some simple acids and some metal plates to replenish the juice in his battery pack. Any store selling alchemic ingredients was also an ideal place to look for Victor, incidentally. Hans may also decide to stop by the butcher to buy Scruff something tasty.
Avatar by the illustrious Dr. Bath.
The essence of a riddle is that it states facts by means of a combination of impossibilities~Aristoteles
As Ruya entered the city of Amaranth, she looked about with curiosity. It was simply one trading city, much like any other, but somehow, in this land, her divinations simply continued to fail her. It was curious, and naturally, something so unusual had to be investigated. Not only for her own sake, but also her sister, who had clearly felt no recourse but to trigger the small gift she had given her those years ago. Even if it took her so long to travel the breadth of the entire kingdom to here, where her sister had vanished, she wouldn’t give up. Not so simply.
Suddenly, she froze, stunned. A tall man, perhaps a tinker by trade from his attire, ran into her, forcing her forward a step, but she paid it no heed as he grumbled and pushed around her. A cowled man, slipping out of the main crowd and down a back alley towards the slums, judging from his cloak a necromancer. She hesitated, uncertain. Her sister was here, somewhere, and needed her help. A necromancer was here, possibly a part of some undead cult. Were the two necessarily unrelated? There were too many possibilities, too many unknowns, but the possibility existed.
Deciding in an instant, she pushed forward, trying to keep the necromancer in sight while avoiding notice herself. As she began to reach the end of the crowd, she whispered a single word, “Veind.” The comfortable shroud of magic passed over her, rendering her effectively unnoticeable. Leaving the crowd behind, she took off after the necromancer.
Tare skidded to his halt a little less ceremoniously than he had planned on, but emerged from the sliding stop no worse for the wear. This place was big. Not just the fell castle that they were now sizing up, but the very sphere of existence that it inhabited; Tare would not put money down either way on the consideration that it might just be Infinite. He absently appraised the stone wall ahead of him, trying to take in the reality of the unreal circumstances he had somehow blundered into. Today had not been a good day. Tare felt at his chest; at least the aching had subsided a while ago (how long ago? No way to know). Hopefully that meant that his little-exercised reserve of spiritual energy was replenishing itself, but even so Tare was reluctant to draw on his talents again so soon; however, reminding himself of exactly what it was they were trying to do, he likely wouldn't have that much choice.
And what exactly were they trying to do? They were trying to bust INTO a secured fortress, in the middle of hell. Doesn't get much better than that. Tare smirked. That was ever his style; dare the impossible, cheat the unbeatable, 'preg the impregnable. Or something like that.
Limier seemed to reappear next to him, and he found he was getting used to the presence of his companion of bizarre necessity. Not comfortable with, per se, but used to. At the cloaked daggermaster's question, he smiled cheerily and replied, "Oh, I've been trying to get into Ironheart for years! I was so pleased that they finally accepted my application. Seems that not every petty thief can just waltz into Ironheart, and rightly so. Children don't seem to do well here." He rolled his eyes. "Well afterall, being the most prestigious Corrections Facility on the continent, maybe in the world, I should imagine they'd be picky." He closed one eye and tapped a pointer finger to his nose, but almost as soon as he did the smile faded. The second nature sign of 'total bull!!' between himself and the only other person who knew its meaning brought memories back exactly when he'd least expected them. He looked off into the distance and shook his head. "It was a Gimp job to begin with. Nobody could've pulled that, not the way they wanted it done, not with that many people. Not all at the same time. Well... maybe Ocean could've done it, but he's been retired for 11 years." Of course he and Limier both knew that in either of their line of work there was no retirement-- one simply 'disappears' one day, and somehow a chunk of your employer's monetary assets manages to 'disappear' at the same time, coincidentally just enough to comfortably live the rest of one's life in hiding. If you got caught, now or ever, then obviously you weren't good enough at this game to have tried to stop playing yet. Of course, you never get a second chance. "As for the elves... I guess that was their doing, having the quick thinking and incredible foresight to get beaten and stabbed near to death when a soft touch like me is around." He scoffed dryly, watching (very) carefully for any reaction from Limier at the mention of the stabbing. "If anything, they still owe me, not the other way around, but hey?" He shrugged. "Not like I've got anywhere more exciting to be." He motioned again at their surroundings.
"So tell me, why do you wear that mask? Were you burned by acid, or something like that?" Tare asked.
Deo Soli Sit Semper Gloria
Originally Posted by Innis Cabal
Its offical. Overwilliam is Duke Devlin.
Last edited by OverWilliam : 01-26-2009 at 03:16 PM.
The newly incorporeal demon walked out from a hill, not having stopped or turned when he walked towards it. He relished in his found-again ability to walk through solid objects. "It'll be too taxing to teleport into my lab from here, so we'll probably have to go to Amaranth to rest. There's the problem of money, though," he said. Now that he was free, he had to deal with the demonic urges once again. At least he managed to hide this struggle. But now his magic-detecting sense could work independent of his now non-existent nose. He could track the position of his trusty letter opener even as it followed right behind him in a sheathe of wind.
"It won't be hard for me to hide there, but we need to disguise you, Omega. I could cast an illusion on you, but we'd have to avoid other mages. I know from experience most of them have tricks to see past illusions," he said, his head effortlessly twisting around on his shoulders to look at Omega as he addressed her, then turned back to look where he was going. I should keep an eye on her now... he noted to himself.
Sohssal was woefully aware of his empty stomach, or rather, a deep hunger within. Being low on magical energy was not comfortable for a being that fed on it. Every now and then he siphoned off a little energy from the now-enchanted letter opener, which slowly absorbed the ambient magical energy. Sohssal himself couldn't draw on the ambient energy or generate his own; he could only take it from things that already have it. He longed for the magically-charged air of his old lab, and the short spires with bound, comatose elementals to provide him with much-needed energy.
Order of the Pstick Avatar by Sneak
Standing at the treeline of the forest Ardraket grunted slightly to himself and set the backpack of supplies down on the ground next to him. Cracking his back he watches the great plumes of smoke rise off in the distant prison. It was clear that the fortress has been attacked however what had attacked the prison was impossible to determine from this location.
Looking at the various bodies scattered over the plains he notices spots where there used to be bodies, however there are none now. Sniffing the air Ardraket grunts as he detects the slight scent of burning flesh. Clearly in an attempt to prevent the spread of diseases and the sheer number of casualties they were taking the drastic measure of burning the bodies.
With that mental conclusion Ardraket reaches into the backpack and pulls out the guard uniform he procured for this mission. Quickly dressing he looks at the hood included and puts it on. While at normal times it would look odd to have a mask on the smell of death would provide a understandable motive for having it on besides hiding his elderly face.
Dressed he puts the backpack back on and makes his way towards the closest bodies. Checking them over for any clues as to what happens he waits for another patrol of guards to come through on their rounds to collect the dead. He intention once they arrive to hook up with them and follow them into the prison itself.
__________________ 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...
The snow bit her feet cruelly as she walked. It was soft, most of the time, and yet walking on it hurt, which she couldn't quite understand. It wasn't just the cold; the soft white substance turned hard and sharp as she stepped on it, and the more she walked the worse it was. She wanted to stop walking, to just sit down or even crawl if she had to move; but when she did, the cold became ten times worse, and she found herself on her feet, clinging to the idea of an inside. It would be warm, and maybe it wouldn't even have any snow, and she wouldn't have to walk...
It had become almost real in her mind, a fixed image of comfort and warmth, by the time she saw it. It wasn't like she thought. But it was the same one; it had to be. Something had happened since she was last... here, or however she knew the place. She did know it, somehow.
Warm or not, it had to be better than out here. Mar made her way to the doorway, leaving red-stained footprints in the snow. The door was shut, but a few tugs shifted it, pushing enough snow out of the way that she could open it just enough to slip through. It made more noise than she really wanted in the still air, but she didn't care much about the noise by then. She just wanted inside.
There was snow on the inside, too, mostly piled where the hole in the ceiling was. She stepped around it, grateful for the hard-packed brown floor, and sat, grateful for once that she had wings—she could curl them around herself to keep warm.
Where is this? She... knew this place, somehow. The place outside was like something she'd only ever seen in dreams, with no walls to keep her from seeing how big it was. At the end of that dream, they'd taken her away from the open place and given her to Daddy. Was that right? Was that really her? Or was she just crazy, like he had said? It couldn't have been. Daddy was always there, always had been. Except now. He wasn't here to save her, and he probably wouldn't even if he found her...
She was still shivering when a piece of that warm memory came back to her. Yes—it had been up! She looks up at the wooden logs that ran under the roof. She'd liked to go on top of those and lie there, secret and safe, and she'd watch the animals. There weren't any animals to watch, not anymore; and with some of the roof gone, maybe it wasn't secret or safe, but... she found herself on her feet anyway, looking at the walls and trying to remember how she got up there. There were little wooden things in the building, like little cells that didn't go all the way up to the ceiling, and some of them were still up. Mar's hands found the old holds almost instinctively as she scrambled up on top of one of those. Grab there... and then reach up there... and then—
Slip! Almost; she grabbed onto the beam, wings beating instinctively around her until she stopped flailing. Maybe she should have just flown up here, but she didn't know if she could. Slowly, she pulled herself up, because that was better than letting herself fall, and she lay on top of the beams, wondering how she had used to enjoy this.
After a few minutes of lying flat and clinging, she noticed there were a lot more of the wooden things at one end of the barn, enough that she could lie on them without being afraid of falling, and at once the place became familiar to her: that was where she used to lie! And there was a little place, right inside the wall, where she would put things she liked. Just like she'd done back home, with pebbles, and little things the prisoners left behind, and other little things nobody else wanted. But there weren’t any prisoners here; what would she have kept? Were they still there?
Abbie turned to the door at the sound of the name. Miss Roselin, she was highly fond of it. She couldn't quite recall the face of the women who gave it as her name, it was a terribly long time ago..
She did however remember she came seeking herbs to kill a child in her womb. A whore she mused, or at least an unfaithful trollop, she could see little difference in it though. She was intending to leave that very night as it was, she traveled through several villages before finally settling down. She did give her a drug to do what she asked, of course it was a dangerous concoction. While Abbie didn't know for certain, she suspected that she would have died several weeks afterward, but only after violently ejecting the child. Abbie felt fully justified in her action, a child killer and an adulterer removed from the world. Miss Roselin, It was still a lovely name, she even gave it as her own when shipped to Ironheart.
Abbie nodded silently to her child, as she had come to see the guard. She gave him a grateful smile and stepped carefully over to the door where the man waited.
Last edited by Cpt. Soup : 01-26-2009 at 06:44 PM.
The Baron watches you carefully as you produce the letter and speak of its contents. At your mention of guard duty, however, the Baron chuckles. He holds up a hand as he squeezes the bridge of his nose with his other hand: a gesture you had learned was generally apologetic amongst the humans. Finally, the Baron regained his composure and looked back up at you.
“My apologies, Sir Gazrul. It is merely that, if you knew what I knew, you would not think the guard duty quite so “trivial”. But that is a point to be made after you have concluded. Please, continue.”
The Baron listens patiently as you finish, even nodding thoughtfully as you corrected him on your official title. Many nobles got angry upon being corrected, especially by someone they regarded as “inferior”. So far the Baron was unlike any noble you had ever seen.
“Well, allow me to begin by saying that yes, Ironheart is a most impressive fortress. And as a prison it was quite inescapable to a normal man. But normal men weren’t the only thing kept there. I’m afraid that perhaps the legend of Ironheart grew too great: the king and my fellow nobles put ever greater pressure on me to store increasingly abnormal and powerful forces there. Things they couldn’t or weren’t able to keep under control themselves, they handed over to me, all on the belief that Ironheart was inescapable, invincible. But there are limits to everything, and all of that dangerous power stored in one place finally proved too much. I also have reason to believe that outside forces were at work.”
The Baron sighed and shook his head.
“You see Gazrul, a man in my position tends to collect a lot of enemies, some insignificant, and some . . . not so. I have reason to believe that the prison break at Ironheart was merely the first step in a greater scheme against me by some as yet-unrevealed third party. I’m sure you can understand my desire then to increase my defenses as quickly as possible? And, while my men are adequate for the occasional bandit or peasant rebellion, they are not sufficient against such an enemy, or even one of the more powerful escapees seeking revenge against me personally.”
The Baron falls silent for a moment, frowning slightly before continuing.
“There is also another matter, one which requires . . . an experienced touch. My neighbor to the north, the County of Ashargrin, is undergoing a bit of an upheaval. The previous lord of the land recently died, leaving his only daughter in control. I’m afraid to say that she is mentally unwell, which is doubly unfortunate considering one of my sons is deeply in love with her. I had been looking forward to a marriage between them soon, not only for my son’s happiness but also because it would have solidified my already existing ties to the County into an alliance. Unfortunately, the new Countess has come under the paranoid delusion that I was responsible for her father’s death. She is convinced that I murdered him and plans to do the same to her, and that any means at her disposal is fair game to use in “self-defense”. Quite frankly I would have just laughed it off and quietly suggested to my son to find someone else, but he was insistent that some sort of foul play was at work: the Countess wasn’t herself. You know how youthful love is.”
The Baron laughs and shakes his head, and then quickly continues.
“In any case, I agreed with his assessment enough to enact a plan to determine the truth. We were able to convince the Countess to take a tour of our facilities at Ironheart. We have a number of exorcism specialists there, you see, and I had hoped they would be able to detect any demons or other malign forces at work on her mind. Unfortunately, her visit coincided with the prison break. I do not believe she died during the event as we did not find her body, but that is even more worrying. It means she is out there somewhere, probably with some dangerous and unstable former prisoner, and even more convinced in her belief that I am trying to kill her.”
The Baron leans forward, looking into your eyes intently. Again that feeling of unease returns as the weight of the Baron’s personality pushes down on you.
“I need someone capable of discretion and not directly associated with me to find her, Gazrul. I need it done quickly, and I need to done discretely. My enemies would love to be able to say that I endangered a noble’s life, even as they say in the same breath that Ironheart was supposed to be inescapable. That is your number one priority: recapturing the other escaped prisoners is also important but secondary. In fact the letter’s discussion of guard duty is largely a ruse to confuse any spies who somehow got a look at its contents. Of course, I would be happy to hire any remaining men that you do not require as bodyguards and garrison forces, as I suspect more attacks to follow, but right now that is an unknown quantity. The prisoners are likewise unknown as to their motivations, although at least their descriptions and abilities are largely known to me: I can provide you with some of that information on known escapees if you desire. What is a known quantity is the missing Countess, and how she grows more unstable and threatening the longer she is wandering off alone, convincing herself and others of her obsession.”
Finally, the Baron looks away, out the window at the beautiful hedge maze outside. “Whatever resources you require for this task will be provided to you. I have already taken the liberty of preparing cloaks and masks for your men to aid in their discretion: your people are an unusual sight outside of the desert, I’m afraid. Accomplish this task, and you may name your price. I think you will find that I am always reasonable, Gazrul, and that I reward my loyal followers quite handsomely.”
The Baron turns his attention back to you.
“Now, I am sure you have many questions. I do not have all the answers, but will do what I can.”
The Ruins of Callaway
Theme: Welcome Home by Coheed and Cambria (As usual with Coheed & Cambria, the lyrics are nonsense, but the music is spot on for a hero’s return to his home. )
Having won the brief argument with Calcifer, you set out down the road to Callaway. You spend that night in the forest, the rustle of the trees and various prowling animals startling you awake from time to time. Their intrusion is a welcome one, however, for you had grown far too used to the dead silence or anguished screams of Ironheart. You also have had frequent nightmares, both from your past scars within Ironheart and from your fear of what was to come.
Eventually however, the dawn came, and with it you arose. You allowed yourself to spend a brief time in mediation, slowly stretching and working out your weakened muscles, before finally setting out for Callaway once more.
You reached the clearing where the town stood just before midday, but even before you cleared the last corpse of trees you knew something was wrong. It was quiet, far too quiet for the small but bustling village that you had called home for so long. There wasn’t the sound of children playing, blacksmiths working at their craft, or traveling merchants hocking their wares. There was only dead silence.
You cleared the remaining distance at a run, but immediately wished you hadn’t when your breath was forced from your lungs in shock as surely as if someone had clotheslined you. Callaway was gone. Your village, your home, all that was left of it was a few burned skeletal buildings clawing at the sky.
This had not been done recently, and it had been done thoroughly. Many of the buildings had been burned, and then their wreckage pulled down to level with the ground. In the fields, nothing grew, even when the forest should have long ago reclaimed the small farming area: a sure sign that the earth had been salted. Even the well in the town center appeared to have been destroyed, leveled and then filled in with earth.
Set into the cleared ground were stones pulled from the buildings and well, arrayed in some sort of pattern. They stood sharply out against the scene of destruction, and it took your eyes only a moment to focus and identify the work as a whole: an inscription left behind by those who had done this: “Korram Alstan sends his regards.”
The world spins wildly for a moment, and then you find yourself kneeling on the hard dirt of the road, retching. The words were like a hammer in your mind, driving the point home through your heart. You had done this, not directly but just as surely.
You had started the rebellion against the Baron. You had convinced the others to fight with you. You had brought the Baron’s wrath down upon them. And when it mattered most you had failed them all, allowing yourself to be imprisoned. You had done it to spare your daughter, but perhaps in the end she had suffered a worse fate.
Another hard spike into your heart: you have never seen your daughter since being taken away. Or heard anything of her from those who could be trusted. What if your daughter was already truly dead? What if this was just some sick game the Baron was playing with your mind, leading you to believe that she was alive and had been following directly in your footsteps? Was that even a worse fate beyond what she must have suffered these past eight years, leading her to become a rebel, what she was going to suffer when the Baron eventually caught her as he caught you?
Ever the friend, Calcifer was quick to twist the knife.
Aren’t you so glad you came home Korram? Don’t you see now that your old life is gone? You have one purpose in life now: to fulfill your oath to release me, and then crawl back to the Baron and die. That’s what you want, isn’t it? That’s what you’ve always wanted, isn’t it? To die and be reunited with your wife.
On the Road
Mages could be an unnecessary risk – Omega began, but then abruptly she cut her mental words short. Already looking at her as you were in the middle of silently contemplating what her ultimate fate should be, you watch as her eyes go unfocused for a moment. But then the moment passes and her eyes regain their focus, as well as her words reappearing in your mind, continuing as if nothing had happened saved for a short gap.
- nonetheless, I trust your judgment. You may work whatever magic is necessary, and once we have arrived at Amaranth we shall acquire a small room where I can stay and remain out of sight while you and the acolyte collect the necessary components.
“Woah. Did you just hear, think, whatever – that Sohssal?” The acolyte interjected, looking at Omega in confusion.
What? I sensed nothing out of the ordinary.
“Your voice. It temporarily faded out just now, before coming back. And why do you always communicate telepathically, anyway?”
Omega shakes her head.
I did not notice any interruption in my communication. As for my preference to communicate telepathically, it is a forced preference. My so-called father and creator was looking to improve my vocal cords with the ability to generate sonic blasts. He removed sufficient pieces of my human body to render me mute while he prepared to implant their demonic counterparts. Unfortunately he was slain before he finished.
“Hmph. Another wonderful act by a crazy mage.”
My father was a scientist and a skilled surgeon, but he was no wizard. Madness may be an apt description however. In any case Sohssal, how do you intend to travel to Amaranth? Will we continue by foot or do you have some other means to convey us there?
You had a few “acquaintances” from Amaranth. You could probably teleport to one of their residences without draining yourself as seriously as a trip to your own lab. Although most of them probably wouldn’t be happy to see you, that was okay. You were hungry, and the best cure for that was devouring some poor mage’s prize possessions.
The Village Proper
Melcara looks down at the ground. “I don’t know . . . even being around you makes me uneasy Ander. You frighten me. You remind me of everything I have lost . . . and can never get back. I won’t be able to accompany you farther than the church in any case – the very air of the Heavens will sear my flesh, and render me powerless. No cloak will hide me from the watchful gaze of my former sisters, and I would be destroyed within moments of arrival. And I’m not sure how the local priest will tolerate having a strange cowled guard in his sanctuary – and I already know how he would react to a fallen angel.” Melcara glances up at you uneasily. “But if you insist, I guess I will accompany you.”
From behind you, the loud sound of angry sputtering can be heard. Then, Peeping Tom hisses in a low voice, “Never forgot who saved who, paladin. If it were not for me, and me alone, you would still be hanging from that symbol. The Hierarch would probably have succeeded, and then sacrificed your mewling soul to Azguloth Himself, or given you as a plaything to His Herald. You would be dead if my master hadn’t thought you would be a useful ally against the Church. So far, his assumption has proven incorrect – you haven’t done anything at all!”
“Quiet!” Melcara hissed as your trio approached the door to the church. A few of the townspeople had given you all intrigued looks as you proceeded through town, but none were brave enough to approach and demand answers from a paladin en route to a church.
Boldly despite the trepidation you felt at the possible confrontation to come, you pulled up the front door to the chapel and stepped inside. As you did so, a young man in priestly vestments kneeling at the front of the church turned to look over his shoulder at you.
Inside the small but sturdy stone building were several wooden pews and several large stone statues, as well as a large stained glass window near the front, typical of construction a number of decades ago. This was good, for it suggested that the church had been here awhile and had built up a good latent connection to the Heavens.
At the front of the room the young priest stood up, the multi-hued light from the stained glass playing over his head as he fully turned to face you. “Ah, welcome! A servant of the Valkyrie is always welcome here, but I don’t believe I have heard of any such servants traveling near here. Certainly you may pray and meditate here, although if you have any news of the Church from elsewhere I would be glad to hear of it. We don’t get many visitors here save for the local worshippers.”
The Surrounding Forest
Your whole body was cold, stiff, and aching by the time you managed to stumble into the old structure. Although cold and hard, the dirt floor inside didn’t hurt your feet nearly as much as the snow-covered ground outside. The cruel wind was no longer biting into you as cruelly as Daddy’s whips either, although it still howled outside and rattled against the wooden boards now surrounding you.
Plopping down in one dry corner of the room, you wrap your arms around your shivering torso, reflexively following that up with your wings a moment later. For once the frightening addition to your body was welcome, as the feathers were quite soft and thick, covering you far better and more effectively than the thin blankets Daddy had given you.
Gradually the cold began to fade from your body and your shivering slowed, although you were still too frightened to become drowsy. Gradually your fear turned to curiosity about your strange surroundings. The ground had been largely swept clean, save for a few bits of straw in the corners, and the walls were bare of anything that could identify this place’s purpose.
The cordoned-off areas looked vaguely like cells, which confused you: was this a prison then, and you were simply in some strange as-yet unseen area of Ironheart that you simply didn’t remember? You didn’t remember a lot of things, you sensed. It hurt to remember, especially when almost all of your memories were bad ones, of pain and shame. On a few morbid nights you had sat in your room and tried to remember, tried to think of your mother’s face, of the weird song you occasionally hummed to yourself when alone – Joseph had put words to it. Mostly all such thoughts did was drudge up more forgotten occasions of Daddy’s vicious “discipline” after you had “failed” him in some way. You often ended such nights by sobbing uncontrollably until you finally collapsed into sleep.
There was no time for such things now though, you knew that on some instinctual level. Besides which, most of your attention was now being taken up by a study of the partially-collapsed ceiling over your head. You had just gotten a sudden urge to climb up, just like you had used to . . .
A few moments of searching found you a way up, although at one point your grip slipped and you were left dangling several feet above the floor. Instinctually your wings flapped about, not directed enough to cause you to actually fly, but enough to hold you buoyant enough that you were able to eventually reestablish your grip and pull yourself the rest of the way up.
Now lying on a beam in one corner of the room, it occurs to you that near here was where “your” hidden stash was. Filled with odds and ends similar to your own cache back home in your room, but the details still eluded your mind. Your heart was starting to beat faster, in a reaction similar to fear but not quite: it was a different emotion but one you didn’t really have a name for.
With practiced ease that your fingers had but your mind lacked, you remove the second floorboard from the corner, twisting it out of place and then setting it aside to reveal what lie beneath. Although a few cobwebs had covered the sides, beneath them you could see a sizable wooden chest, scratched and battered but still possessing some ornate etchings.
Reaching in, you lift the chest out with a bit of effort – the chest was surprisingly heavy, and the bottom had become warped to the boards beneath it. Still, with a last gasp of effort you manage to pull the chest up onto the floor level with you. To your display, however, you discover the heavy brass padlock adorning its front – tarnished but still functional.
Your heart begins to sink when another memory bubbles to the surface – it was always like this. Reaching back into the hole where the chest had been, your fingers close around the small ornate key hidden beneath the chest itself, and with a little bit of effort you manage to wedge the key inside and turn the lock open.
Flipping the top of the chest back, you find a large assortment of strange objects.
The first is a large embroidered piece of cloth. On one side there is a golden shape (eagle) amidst a bright blue background, rays of yellow extending out from its ends (wingtips). The other has some sort of scroll, yellow writing against the scroll’s white, and the cloth’s normal bright blue background. The piece of cloth is square, and considerably large, almost large enough to be used as a blanket really. But that doesn’t seem to be it’s normal use, and the cloth strangely loops around on itself in one side, forming a narrow tunnel that allows you to slide part of it down around an outstretched finger, although you would need a very long finger indeed to have it extend all the way through the tunnel of cloth. Setting the cloth aside for you, you dig deeper.
Next you pull out a long string of glass beads, their blue exteriors twinkling coldly in the dim light of the barn. They were smooth and slightly cold to the touch, and although they were beautiful they weren’t terribly interesting. You set them aside and continue excavating.
To your shock, the next two things you pull out of the chest is a small coil of rope and a scaled-down, hand-sized replica of a crossbow, although there did not seem to be a bolt present. The sudden remainder of your life in Ironheart is almost too much and you violently toss the things away from you, both the rope and crossbow landing amongst the beads and cloth with a soft “whump”. For a moment, your heart races once away with fear instead of this strange new emotion, and you nearly throw everything back into the chest, toss the chest back where you found it, and leap back down to the floor to crawl into a dark corner to cower.
But something stops you, and with great hesitation you force your fear away and resume your survey of the chest’s contents. You find various other odds and ends at the bottom of the chest, various sparkly stones and smoothly polished pebbles. And at last, you come to the last item, a large curved object (seasheall) that is surprisingly heavy for its size. Instinctively, you have an urge to press the curved opening of the object up against your ear, and are rewarded with a strangely smoothing rushing sound.
(You are welcome to add anything else along similar lines to the chest’s contents. I think that’s more than enough for poor Mar to digest from the DM end for now. )
The City of Amaranth
The City Gates
Although you were unsure what following the apparent necromancer would gain you, after a moment’s thought you activated your invisibility rune and started after him. Keeping the tall man in sight was difficult in the crowd clustered about the gate, but became considerably easier once the two of you entered the nearby alleyways feeding directly into the slums.
Outside of the business district, the streets are largely empty: the locals who actually lived here having already retired for the evening. The man continues on at a leisurely pace, a determined stride of one who knows where he’s going, but not in any particular hurry. Risking moving up a bit closer to the man to ensure a more positive identification, you can now more fully read the incantations embroidered into his cloak.
They’re somewhat different than the typical wording scrawled into necromantic writings and appear to be based on an ancient language. The language was so ancient, in fact, that few actual texts still remain from that time period, and it is believed to have been one of the first human civilizations in the world. As such you have no former education into reading the language, magical or otherwise, but are able to make out enough words to garner its context. Some sort of beseechment to “The Ungod of Blood”.
Now close enough to read the text on his cloak, you also notice a large bulge protruding from beneath the cloak near the man’s belt: a large sack of some sort was hanging there. The man was also humming to himself, a pleasant enough ditty that stood out in sharp contrast to his manner of dress. Fortunately, despite your relative closeness and the man’s caution in looking behind him every so often, his eyes did not notice your veiled form.
At last the man arrives at his apparent destination, a dingy but large three-story building amid the squalor of the slums. Boldly, he marches directly up to the front door, knocking loudly and waiting to be let in. A moment later, the door is opened, and another cowled figure appears in the now open doorway, giving a hearty shout of recognition. The two embrace briefly for a backslapping session, and then the man is allowed inside and the door slams shut again, with loud conversation starting up inside.
(Tsk tsk. So now in addition to all his other crimes, Umber will soon be guilty of corrupting a minor. )
Bran reluctantly turns his gaze away from the ladies, nodding as he follows after you. You knew the way, even though its been a century since you were here last: cities were like that. Once built, they tended to grow bigger and bigger, but always in the same pattern that had been there since their founding. It was a simple matter then to navigate the busy streets into the quieter side streets of the slums, and from there into the empty street leading into the graveyard.
Here the graveyard resembled the city: long lines of small stone mausoleums stretching out to the distant wall in neatly ordered rows. At the far end of the graveyard was a large gate, leading out to the commoner portion of the graveyard just outside the city for those too poor to afford an expensive crypt for their family. Like the others, that gate was typically closed at night, but this was no concern of yours for you had been rich. Only the finest for your own “burial”, and so in one of the older corners of the graveyard stood your mausoleum, covered in ivy but otherwise still intact.
As you walk down the row leading to your mausoleum, you notice two things: there seem to be more people paying their respects tonight than usual, as you’ve glimpsed several cloaked figures moving about other rows already, and the gate leading down to the lower graveyard was still open despite the sun having set.
Bran also tugs at you arm, leaning in close to whisper, “I feel . . . sick here. There’s something wrong with the magic in this place. Can we not stay here long?”
Scruff (McGruff? ) pads after you with little more than a chuff of agreement, his tail wagging enthusiastically at the mention of dinner. Pressing forward out of the forest, you make it to the gates just as the last of the people pass through into the city and the guards outside begin to likewise file in. Although the guards look at you, a massive cloaked figure rushing forward a bit quizzically, they nonetheless sigh and wave you forward.
As the last person to slip into the city for the night, the streets in your immediate area are somewhat clear, giving you time to look around while the guards barricade the gates behind you. Judging by their actions and past experiences with walled towns, it seemed unlikely that you would be able to leave until morning.
This was not a particular problem, but it did mean that you would have to find a place to allow Scruff to rest for several hours, even if it were in an alleyway. Unlike you, he was unfortunately unable to continue without slumbering for a portion of the day. It was a design flaw that you knew the master had been working on fixing with his own creations, and had largely succeeded in even though he himself still occasionally needed sleep.
Likewise, it seemed the town would soon be closing up for the night as well, as its shopkeepers sought rest of their own. Fortunately the merchant area of town was nearby, and lights gleamed from within a number of their interiors yet.
Approaching a small cottage affair wedged in between two larger structures, and with the word, “Apothecary” emblazoned on a small sign hanging above its door, you decide here would be a good place to begin your search. Testing the door you find it unlocked, and with measured strength pull the door open to allow Scruff access, before following yourself. The door is narrow enough that you find yourself needing to twist your shoulders, but thankfully the inside of the shop is large enough that you do not need to contort your shape, your head just shy of touching the ceiling.
Behind a small counter in front of you an old man works at the dusty floor with a broom, accomplishing little but pushing the dust bunnies from one corner to another. He does not seem to notice you, but a short, loud bark from Scruff seems to catch his attention. Turning, you can see that the man appears to be nearing the end of his days, with his scraggily white hair and wizened face. An oversized pair of glasses perch on his ruddy nose.
“Eh? Did I just hear a dog? Oh!? A customer!” The man says, putting aside the broom and blinking at it in confusion a moment later after it falls to the floor. Shuffling up closer to the counter, the man looks at you with wavering, blinking eyes.
“Oh my. You’re certainly a big fellow, aren’t you? Well, you’ve come to the right shop, sir! Old Elrik’s been in the business of selling alchemical reagents for forty years! Of course, not that I have much to sell right now. Some other fellows came in earlier and bought out nearly my entire stock – can you believe it?”
The man gestures with a quivering hand behind him, and you can see that indeed the shelves lining the walls behind the counter mostly only possess dust.
“I have a few things left, odds and ends mostly, but probably nothing a magician like you would be interested in I’m afraid. Still, if you come back in a few days I’ll probably have restocked . . . that is, if I can remember where I get my supplies from.”
(If asked, the man does indeed have a few “useless” vials of acid, as well as some metal shavings. Actual metal plates will have to be sought at a blacksmith, which Old Elrick can provide you with directions to the nearest one, if only he can remember. )
The Fortress Basement
With you following closely behind, the man leads you carefully down from the guard barracks to the stables. There a large cart filled with a large tarp-covered mound awaited, along with its scraggly lion puller. At your obvious confusion as to why a large jungle cat was harnessed up to the cart instead of a draft animal such as a horse or mule, the guard smiled weakly and shrugged.
“The attack left us without a lot of animals, so we had to scrounge what we could from the Arena’s beasts. A lot of carts are being pulled by the surviving guards, so I guess we’re lucky in that regard. Just keep your distance from him and you’ll be fine.
The lion watches your roundabout approach with the lazy consideration of a waiting predator, but otherwise remains still as you reach the side of the cart. Now close to it you are struck by the overwhelming stench of carrion wafting up from inside. Making a face that was likely the result of a heroic attempt not to gag, the guard pulls part of the tarp aside and motions for you to climb inside.
“I’m sorry Roselin, but this is the only way. Just until we’re clear of the walls, then you can come out and we’ll abandon the cart and proceed on foot. There’s also some winter gear I hid underneath the tarp as well – some cloaks and the like. You could probably put them on now to help cover you up, so long as you can lie pretty still while doing so.”
The guard continues holding the tarp up with one hand, while he extends the other towards you as an offer to help you climb up over the side and down into the small hallow amongst the bodies where you would lie until the cart exited Ironheart’s walls. Or of course, you were discovered and the tarp was pulled away to reveal the faces of angry guards, who would nonetheless be grateful for the opportunity to vent their frustration after the madness of the past few days.
The Surrounding Mountains
As you readied yourself for battle, you looked up at the sky. There were a few hours of daylight remaining, and then you would be safe for another day. The guards had no desire to try and chase after prisoners during the cold black night, either retiring back to the prison or making camp. All you had to do, then, was evade pursuit for another few hours. That was going to be difficult however, for the baying of the hounds was growing very close indeed.
Looking around you notice a large oak tree nearby, its braches thrusting out in all directions. Several low-hanging branches meant that it would be easy to climb up to near the top: a good makeshift sniping position if you could find a solid branch to sit on to leave your hands free. The thick branches were also close enough to other trees that you could chance leaping from the oak to another nearby tree.
Of course, stopping here meant that the dogs would be coming right to you, and while climbing a tree would keep you momentarily safe from their jaws, their masters had crossbows of their own. And horses, which would be a lovely thing for you to acquire as having a mount would likely mean you no longer had anything to fear from the guards, being as fast as they were. But you were getting ahead of yourself. The current choice was to make your stand in the massive oak tree, or press on in the hopes of finding a better spot to elude, rather than confront, your pursuers.
Klaus listens calmly to your story, and his eyes go wide at the mention of the Countess’s name. “Countess Amelia Ashargrin. Huh, so that explains why she isn’t branded. But what was she doing in Ironheart?” Klaus mumbles, more for his own benefit than yours.
Beside you the Countess momentarily tosses and turns, perhaps provoked by your own movements, but definitely while in the grips of a nightmare. She murmurs something, but the words are incomprehensible save for one: “Cheran”. A moment later, the Countess relaxes again, and your conversation with Klaus continues.
The man shakes his head and frowns at you. “And what were you doing with an imp? A servant of the Hells is hardly reassuring company to hear about. But to answer your question, I don’t know what you are talking about miss. I searched the area quite thoroughly, but the two of you were the only ones I found.”
A moment later, Klaus receives his answer as a frenzied small shape detaches itself from the ceiling and turns visible as it attaches itself to his face. “Rawr! Die fat old man!” With a curse Klaus swats the creature with one hand, while ineffectively waving his crossbow around with the other. There is a loud twang a moment later, and a crossbow bolt is sticking out of the wall a few inches from your head. For his part, Rudolf leaps to his feet and begins to bark angrily, clearly unsure what else it can do for the moment.
At the sudden outburst of noise and confusion, the Countess bolts upright in bed with a scream, looking around terrified for a moment before her recognition comes into her eyes. “Pyrene . . . what –“ As if just thinking of something, the Countess peeks down beneath the covers, immediately beginning to turn a bright shade of crimson. “Oh dear.” The Countess pulls the blankets in even tighter around herself, and watches with you as the confrontation between Klaus and Garthax momentarily comes to an end.
Klaus finally manages to pry Garthax off of his face, throwing the imp into the air away from him with a grunt of revulsion. Rudolf leaps up to snatch the imp into his mouth, but Garthax recovers and swoops away at the last instant, zooming back up to the ceiling.
“You little . . . this is why I hate imps.” Klaus grunts, touching a hand to his bleeding cheek before reloading his crossbow. At this Garthax finally appears alarmed, and vanishes from sight again.
Looking over the bodies you can see that a majority of them belong to guards wearing the same uniform as you now did. Scattered liberally amongst the bodies were other . . . things, their range in variety a sharp contrast to the conformity of the guards. Finally, every now and then you catch sight of a half-naked body swathed in torn burlap rags, likely a former prisoner of Ironheart.
The dead demons had no possessions, predictable as they were apparently on a raid against the prison. The guards were issued with fairly standard gear, chainmail armor with crossbows and swords as weapons. You even find a few unused healing potions secreted away on a few of the guards’ bodies: those items sadly as useful to you as vials of water.
Eventually a half-empty cart pulled by several struggling guards appears over the crest of a nearby hill. The handful of guards not employed in dragging the cart are instead collecting bodies to throw into it, and one of these quickly notices you. After a grunted conversation between the dozen men, two of them detach from the group and saunter up to you.
“Hello – sir.” One of the two says, his grudging respect born out of the fact that your employers had procured the uniform of a sergeant, which would have allowed you even greater unquestioned freedom in Ironheart. Sadly, an elite’s uniform was unable to be acquired or you likely would have been above suspicion.
“We’ve been hard at work clearing the bodies, sir. But gods be damned, there’s a *lot* of them!” The other guard huffs, idly scratching at a scabbed-over gash stretching down the side of his neck.
“We got the last sector clear of bodies, so we decided to start on this one. We aren’t stepping on anyone’s toes by being here, are we? One wouldn’t think corpse gathering was glamorous work, but apparently some people are still touchy about their own responsibilities. I imagine no one wants to end up being the poor bastard to be elected to have the responsibility for this whole jammed-up mess thrust upon them.”
The two men look about the cold snow and corpse covered hillside, both suddenly growing quiet at the mention of what happened here, whatever that actually was. It certainly looked like some kind of demon incursion given the demon corpses intermingled with the guard bodies, but why would such creatures attack Ironheart, and in such great numbers?
Carl flails a hand out, catching your own arm in his grip. It is a surprisingly strong grip for a dying man as he pulls himself up to whisper into your ear.
“Listen Dattan, I know I’m not going to make it. I can feel it every time I take a breath. This is all my fault you know, I got everyone else into this. I found a treasure map, you see. Leads right to a cache of the great Bandit King himself. Only problem was, it was buried in the basement of a church. We’re not very good thieves Dattan, I know that, but you helped us escape. Now I’m asking you to do something more, and help my mates get the treasure. Tell them you can have my share, a double amount since I was the only one who knew where it was. Now you’ll know too, because if you agree I’ll tell you its exact location. But you must promise to split it with my mates, as was my agreement with them. Otherwise, the treasure’s location dies with me.”
Outside the Screaming Dark Estate
At your sarcasm, Limier merely sighs and pointedly ignores you, concealed face upturned towards the battlements of the manor on the side you were currently examining. As the two of you begin to make your way around the back, Limier nods at your real explanation.
“So you likely did anger royalty, of a sort. The Guild does prefer for all of its sanctioned jobs to go smoothly, unless someone on that job has given the Guild reason to want them dead. I wonder if it was you, or if you’re just the unlucky bastard that was put on the real target’s team by way of necessity so that person wouldn’t get suspicious. That would certainly seem to fit in with your always in the wrong place at the wrong time existence.”
Limier doesn’t seem to show any reaction at your mention of the elves’ torture, and this horrifies you for don’t think that the indifference is an act. Limier really did see the elves as just another job, and was completely emotionally detached from the suffering that had been heaped upon them. Perhaps you should have expected this given Limier’s career choice, but for some reason the thought that Limier felt nothing for the elves chilled you to the bone. So much so that you nearly missed Limier’s next statement, all but a confession.
“Take for example your apparent escape from the torture chambers. I was just on my way down to finish Prince Teareal’s lesson for the day when you apparently discovered them. To be honest, I’m surprised that Prince Teareal’s betrothed has survived this long. A lesser elf would have succumbed some time ago, but this time I really expected to find a corpse upon my return. You must have some skill as a healer, Tare – perhaps you should have taken up something other than thieving?”
Limier gives a short dry, muffled chuckle that sounds even colder with its softness.
“In any case, enough about you. I don’t usually talk about myself, but I suppose we are in special circumstances, so a little candor can’t hurt. In answer to your question, although I have suffered burns, beatings, stabbings, days of torture, attempted drownings, and falls from great heights, my face has remained largely intact. So I don’t wear this mask of sorts due to injury, but rather for the typical reason one endures wearing a mask. I prefer for my identity to remain a secret, as I have made my fair share of enemies over the years, and I even much prefer for my retirement to remain uneventful. Of course, much like Mr. Ocean, one in our line of work doesn’t always stay retired.”
Here, behind Limier’s practiced indifference, you do notice something: a certain hesitation that suggests important details are being left out. As if hurrying through the conversation, Limier presses on.
“Due to my reputation and lack of, well a face to locate, I only take on what jobs I want to take on. Unfortunately, even if I am immune to the guild’s “suggestions”, I still need to eat. My money was unexpectedly running low when the Baron of Gast contacted me through Guild channels, saying that he had a special job for me. In return for my simple expertise in dealing with Prince Teareal, the Baron was offering me more than enough money to permanently retire without any worries of running low on money this time.
So I took the job, and I applied my skills on both Prince Teareal and his betrothed as per the Baron’s request. You want to look at me like I’m a monster, that’s your problem, and it’s one I suggest you file somewhere nice and safe in the back of your head where you can forget about it. I have to admit that I like you Tare, but that won’t stop me from killing you if you try something stupid. Right now, we’re agreed on extracting Prince Teareal from the Screaming Dark Estate, and that’s all you need to focus on right now.”
I didn't actually intend to kill EVERYONE. It just sort of happened.
Ruya followed as carefully as she could, at first concerned with the possibility that the rune might not work perfectly or that he would have some enchantment to see through it. He glanced back occasionally, at one point looking not quite directly at where she stood, but if he perceived her at all, he gave no sign. Emboldened, and more than a little curious to find some sign of his cult's activities, she moved closer, catching glimpses of the writing on his cloak as it shifted and swayed. As she recognized it and its age, she almost stumbled over, so surprised and excited. One of the very first languages, this ancient tongue was closer to the earliest days of magic that most of what she had seen so far. Her lips moved as she mouthed the few words and phrases she could recognize, some sort of entreatment to an ungod.
Her sister still waited, she knew, but this was right here in front of her, a golden chance. There was no such thing as coincidences - her divinations had directed her to here, and here she had seen an unusual necromancer just as she came through the city gates. More than that, if these people were by some chance related to her sister's disappearance, her pursuit was justifiable, perfectly natural and proper for her. If they weren't, well, clearly this person had done some deal of research of his own into these ancient tongues to have written such a thing on his very robe. Unless, of course, he was just a poser who had caught it as a snippet from a real necromanc-He stopped suddenly, and she almost bumped into him. She spun away at the last second, trying to balance her travel bag and self on a single leg, and got herself under control as the door swung open to reveal another person in similar garb. She moved forward to enter, but between them the two blocked the door entirely, and she was unable to slip past at all as they reentered and slammed the door solidly shut in her face.
Taking a step back, she examined the building. It reached three stories, but she didn't consider her chances of climbing up all that good even under decent circumstances. Still, she could hear the two inside talking, and she slowly moved around the building from door to various windows, following the conversation as best she could. Of course, she realized suddenly, if they were some necromancer cult, they'd probably have carefully prepared at least one room within the house in order to practice without fear of anyone accidentally overhearing or otherwise stumbling into their work. So resolved, she began to study the windows she was passing closer, looking for one she could probably open without too much noise even as she kept an ear on the conversation.
He was right about the men, they were not thieves. They would make poor allies and his life would be so much easier without them.
But . . . treasure. Shiny shiny treasure. For a moment, a brief moment the idea of lieing crossed his mind, but he could not do that. Dattan was a thief, a scoundrel and worse . . . but to give his word to a dieing thief . . .
"I give my word that I will help your men find the trouble and give them their shares."
Annoying Gamer says - Hollywood is sooooooooo unoriginal. Hey, check out my dual wielding drow Drazzit!
Annoying Gamer says - My level 1 character's background is pretty complex. After fighting in the three great wars, he was forced to return home and kill an elder dragon single handily.
Garthax's sudden appearance, followed my the Countess's rapid return to wakefulness, left Pyrene too stunned and distracted to call Garthax off the attack before he turned invisible again. Clutching the blankets to her with one arm (it wouldn't be wise to upset the Countess), she sat up and waved the other arm to get their attention.
"Stop, stop! He saved our lives!" This ambiguous statement prompted nearly simultaneous exclamations of surprise and skepticism from the human and imp, so Pyrene hurried to explain, addressing Klaus first. "Garthax helped us escape. He turned the Countess invisible, and he helped us fight when all else failed. Garthax, we would have frozen to death if this man hadn't found us and brought us here. He's given us no reason to mistrust him."
"Sorry Klaus. Garthax sort of attached himself to me shortly before I met the Countess. The priests always said an imp would come for my soul one day," she added a touch sarcasticly.
I started a blog! Beware of dragons, for you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup...
Bran wasn't the only one to feel something in the air. Umber didn't have Bran's second sight, but his senses were far sharper than a normal human's particularly at night - and there was a thick, greasy tang in the air, like rancid oil coating everything. Given the setting - and all the cloaked figures moving around - he thought he could deduce the general source of thing. He patted Bran reassuringly on the shoulder, most gently. His voice was confident as he strode towards his tomb.
Certainly, lad... methinks there's something rotten in the city of Amaranth. We'll take care of our bussiness in this place and begone soon enough. Just stay behind me. And if things grow too foul for you to bear, erect an aura of life-magics around yourself - that should stifle the worst of the feelings. But try to avoid that, if you can... better that we not be noticed by who or whatever might be dwelling here.
Umber poked around the decorations of the mausoleum for a moment, and, after making sure no-one was looking, pressed a series of seemingly unrelated parts of the frescoes that decorated the tomb. The door swung inward- as they entered, Umber was careful to take the lead, and even more careful to check the path in front of them to make sure it had not been disturbed. He moved swiftly, silently as the door closed behind them - there was a mechanism that would allow him to re-open the door when they were done.
You may conjure a little light if you need, Bran. he said in a whisper, as he started forward, remembering the layout of the tomb - and the position of all the traps - most of them poison darts and other, similar deterrents that would have little effect on him. The crypt was nothing much - a long corridor, with the burial chamber at the end. The cache was secreted cleverly in several hidden spots around the chamber, along with several more traps. He just hoped it would be intact.
Korram wretches up the sparse trail food he had eaten before dry heaving for some time, vomiting up the occasional tiny morsel but hacking away for nearly ten minutes. He wipes his mouth, after which what little strength he had flees from his limbs, and his arms give way, and he collapses onto the pile of vomit and spittle. He just lays there for a minute, during which time Calcifer cruelly mocks him.
Aren’t you so glad you came home Korram? Don’t you see now that your old life is gone? Shut up. You have one purpose in life now: to fulfill your oath to release me, and then crawl back to the Baron and die. That’s what you want, isn’t it? Shut up! To die- Shut up! -and be reunited with your wife.
The silence of the ruined village is shattered by Korram's outraged shout. Tears begin to stream down his face, but then they're sizzling, and Korram's flesh is burning, burning like it never has before, and within seconds Calcifer's power is burning through him, and then he's releasing it. Out, down, and most of all up, Korram releases a titanic blast of flame from his body, burning the few remains of the village, scorching the rocks and scattering them from their malicious pattern, and shooting up a coloumn of flame that can be seen from miles around.
The tears have stopped. The rage and hatred are gone. The sorrow has been compartmentalized with all of the rest of the suffering, and pain of Korram's life, another item on the list of the Baron's crimes. He looks around at the burnt shell of his village. There is nothing left for him here. He continues on his journey.
Truly awesome Ark Tamaeus avatar by Bryn. Full size version here.
Ander allows himself a smile as he enters the Church. It felt good to be in a holy place again, he could feel the latent connection to the gods here. He slowly approaches the altar, his boots clanking on the stone floor, dust motes dancing, disturbed in the multicolored light. Despite the good feelings, however, Ander probes out with his senses, trying to detect any evil hidden within the church.
Good evening Father. Ander reaches the front of the church, laying Incom's corpse out on the altar. He kneels down next to the priest. I was actually hoping that you might have some news about the Church, he says with a chuckle. I have come from Ironheart.
He looks at the man, reading his face for any reaction to the mention of Ironheart. Please, I have been locked away for over fifteen years for a crime I didn't commit by people who found me inconvenient. If you can tell me what you know about any changes to the Church in that time, I will gladly tell you my own story.
The street thief shrugged, nonplussed. Though he didn't doubt that Limier could make good on his promise, it just wasn't scary anymore. Before, when he had known nothing about the hooded killer, the threat had been unpredictable and dangerous; now though, with Limier quite adeptly assuring beyond whisper of doubt that he was, in coldest fact, not a maniac prone to doing things because he liked to, it became just a simple exercise in not poking the assassin with any of the full gamut of figurative 'pointed sticks' trying to get a response. Tare wasn't the type that was afraid of heights just because he might fall. You're not a monster. He thought indifferently, picking his way around after the assassin. You're nothing so glamorous. You're just a tool with no soul. The knife feels nothing as it plunges into a defenseless elven woman's belly, neither do you feel anything when you put it there. A monster is to be feared. I do not fear you, Limier. His face as neutral as ever, he settled into one spot, examining the walls. You may 'like' me, but you've given me reason for only the opposite. I did not provoke those continued threats of violence, and neither were they necessary, or even helpful to you. In fact until that moment I'd conveniently forgotten that if we ever reach the end of all this you're going to have to do something about me, the perfect little loose end like your profession just loves leaving alive.
You are not going to use me and then throw me aside, Limier. He sighed.
"So tell me, right around the time the elves and I... left, there was some pretty bizarre stuff happening... For one this hag showed up and started eating people, I think that was its cabin back there. I remember feeling a really... weird... ..." He struggled for words, "...Heartbeat, I guess. Something. And that seemed to start all the rest of it off... What was that all about?" He frowned, more memories of demons and troubling senses of evil coming back without explanations to settle them back down.
Deo Soli Sit Semper Gloria
Originally Posted by Innis Cabal
Its offical. Overwilliam is Duke Devlin.
Last edited by OverWilliam : 01-30-2009 at 07:44 PM.
Eyeing the tree he stops. Hearing the dogs close behind him he looks at the tree and thinks They are close behind and they will soon catch up to me, but if I wait for them in the tree I might be able to either kill them or lower their numbers. Weiging the odds between running and staying he decides to stay. Immediatly he begins climbing the tree. He climbs the tree until he finds a spot to "snipe" from that can also allow him to get to another tree quickly. He then waits for the guards with his "homemade" daggers in his hands thinking Come and get me guards, come and get me.
"Whatever the reason behind the pause, it can be investigated after a recharge. As for traveling, I could simply teleport us there, but that would leave me quite drained. I'd rather we meet one of my...acquaintances for a recharge first. It won't be nearly as taxing, but whoever we choose, they won't be happy to see us," he explained. Omega did not seem like the type to lie to Sohssal, but some outside trouble did not worry him. It merely meant he had to keep his other eye peeled for trouble.
"And before I forget..." Sohssal said, then began forming arcane gestures once again. The area around his incorporeal hands seemed to pulsate with shifting colors, then they drained away from his hands and enveloped Omega, forming a shell of dim light over her. "You should be able to use your mental powers to shape an illusion for yourself. The illusion will be total, but I can't give you a voice, he said.
"Now, when we meet one of my old acquaintances, there will probably be a fight. As long as we focus more on defense, I should be able to get my fill of magical energy and then teleport us out of there. I know some tricks that should keep us from being tracked," Sohssal said as he gathered up the energy for the teleportation spell - a depressingly large majority of his current energy. Regardless, he began casting the spell, not stopping unless one of his companions had an objection. He definitely wouldn't choose to visit the most powerful acquaintance, but beyond that, he mostly just chose one at random.
Order of the Pstick Avatar by Sneak
Hans von Ravenstein
Hans slowly strode by the shelves filling every single wall in the apothecary, his every step sending dust down from the ceiling. Scruff had curdled up in a warm corner of the room and seemed to be taking a nap. The beast had gotten used to it's owner taking his time to do things. Elrik watched nervously, and seemed slightly confused at the sheer size of Hans. He couldn't quite put his finger on what was so peculiar about his latest customer.
Eventually Hans returned to the counter. He could have probably taken care of things much faster, but he never considered it prudent to be hasty. Besides, he had nowhere in specific to go. He was waiting, though he knew not where to wait, and for how long.
"I will take these" Hans said, indicating the small supply of acids and metal shaving he'd found in the shop, as well as several ingredients that could be employed to make an airborne sleeping potion, should he find himself in trouble. While Hans knew perfectly well how much money things were supposed to cost, he attached little value to the shiny pieces of gold he carried with him, and therefore paid double. Humans were not like this, he knew, and his master would have certainly advised against it, but money was a good incentive to get people to like you. Strange, that. Hans slowly pocketed the ingredients.
"You say men came in here earlier and bought up your stock? Could you describe these men, I believe one of them may be... a friend of mine"
Hans had wanted to say master, but he'd decided against it. There was no need to have the old man asking for explanations or to further complicate things. Elrik seemed perfectly content thinking of Hans as a somewhat large human.
Having gotten a description of the men, Hans decided that Elrik may simply have forgotten about his master. Victor was not an easy man to forget and tended to stick around in people's dreams for years, but if anyone could manage it, it would certainly be Elrik. Hans produced a sheet of parchment that had been carefully concealed in his clothes. The sheet was torn at the bottom and at the top, where once the words "WANTED" had stood, the precise amount of reward offered, a full listing of crimes and also a warning that this man was considered armed and very dangerous. Now all that was left was a portrait. Hans realised that the master may have significantly changed his features by now, but the general gist of it would still be there. An almost bad head, aged before it's time, deeply sunken eyes and a barely visible nose, and most noticable and permanent of all, a series of thick scars running across his head, as if it had been opened and then closed again.
After acquiring information about the men who had visited the shop, and potentially his master, Hans would ask for directions to both the blacksmith, where he needed to go, and the graveyard, which was the next likeliest place to find his master.
Avatar by the illustrious Dr. Bath.
The essence of a riddle is that it states facts by means of a combination of impossibilities~Aristoteles