Way of the Wicked

Escape or Die!
The party of lowlies and scum meet for the first time, but they are imprisoned in the dreaded Branderscar prison, do they have what it takes to escape?

Escape or Die! Part 1

Players: Cerberus, Woodchuck, Fulimar, Nobi, Malakai, Mishnarai

Everyone found themselves chained by the arms and by the feet, sitting in a dark cell, their forearms still burning from the brand of “F”, the marking of the forsaken. They received the brand upon coming to Branderscar from Sergeant Tomas, who took great joy in giving each of them the brand. In three days time, they will be judged for their evil crimes.

Cerberus and Nobi were caught in a fraud scheme involving one of the royal family and have been sentenced to hard labor in the salt mines. Fulimar stole an important religious artifact from the High Cathedral of Mitra, earning him the same sentence. Woodchuck was caught Grave robbing, and as the dead are sacred to the god Mitra, the sentence for him is death by beheading. Malakai was apprehended with a sacred symbol of Asmodeus upon his person, a crime of blasphemy, with only one outcome, death by burning! And finally Mishnarai, who burned down half of Matharyn will be burned herself.

Within hours of their arrival at the prison, the guards arrive at their cell and haul away Cerberus, as he has a “lovely” guest waiting for him. But not everything is as it seems as Cerberus quickly realizes that Sergeant Tomas appears to be charmed. He is then escorted into a private room where he is introduced to the lovely Tiadora, who tells him that her master wishes to meet with him and his “friends”. She gives him three days to escape or face their deaths, as she leaves, she wipes away a tear and hands him a white veil that she had been wearing across her face. Upon leaving, the guards drag Cerberus back to his cell and lock him back up, but forget to search him, leaving the veil still in his possession.

Upon closer inspection, Cerberus realizes that the veil has various symbols upon it, and by pulling on the symbols, it releases the item stored inside. Within the veil he finds: two daggers, a lantern, rope, masterwork thieves tools, an odd looking window, a potion, 100 gold pieces, and an unholy symbol of Asmodeus. He tosses the thieves tools to Nobi, who swiftly unlocks all of their shackles. Some noise is caused, but they successfully fool the guards into believing that they are still secured and shackled. Once they are all free from their bindings, they unlock the door to their cell and make ready their plan to escape.

More to come in Part 2!

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Escape or Die, Part 2
Free from their cells, will the prisoners come up with a plan to escape, or become locked up once again?

Escape or Die, Part 2

Players: Cerberus, Woodchuck, Fulimar, Nobi, Malakai, Mishnarai

Once out of their cell, Nobi and Cerberus investigate a large dark cell close to their own. Within it they find a rather drugged and angry Ogre who calls himself “Grumblejack”. Grumblejack offers to help the party “smash” the “little un’s” if they release him from his cell, an offer that the party is more than willing to accept.

Nobi and Woodchuck come up with a plan to ambush the guards from the guard post in the other room, using the daggers from the veil and chains from their cell as improvised weapons. They both take up positions around the door, and have the rest of the party make a lot of noise to draw the attention of the guards. The guards, drawn by the noise, run into the room, only to be stabbed and chocked to death by Nobi and Woodchuck. They take the armor and equipment from the dead guards and pass it out among the group and Nobi keeps the deck of cards that the guards were playing with. They also find small silver keys and are puzzled at them as they don’t seem to work on any of the locks found thus far.

Stalking quietly down to the main floor of Branderscar, Nobi listens at the door to hear guards posted on the other side, he estimates that there are two of them. Quickly coming up with a plan, he throws a card underneath the door, temporarily distracting the guards. As they investigate, the characters throw open the door and quickly ambush the guards. They begin checking the rest of the main floor, shocked to find most of it empty of guards or people. However they stumble across two servants working in the kitchen, who whimper and cower when they see the characters. Malakai and Nobi tie them up as Cerberus checks out another room, only to find the sleeping forms of three guards. As he tries to sneak away, he stumbles, rousing the attention of the sleeping men.

Faced with three men, Cerberus yells out for help and Nobi, Malakai and Fulimar run to his assistance. They subdue the guards and discover that the silver keys are for the guard’s personal lockers. Nobi begins to open the lockers, collecting random items of interest, including some delicious cookies, a few scattered coins, some dog cookies, and a journal containing this week’s password for getting through the guard posts, “Hesterfield”.

While this is happening, Woodchuck and Mishnarai begin investigating some of the other rooms. They find what appears to be an office and a rather large bedchamber, much larger than anything they have found so far. As they search the rooms, they find a strong lockbox that they are unable to open, but decide to take it with them. They also stumble upon a very secure door, but are able to bust it open, finding the prisons armory, complete with several different types of weapons, armor, and spare guard uniforms.

The group comes up with a plan to dress up as guards and sneak their way out, using the password to get them past the checkpoints. They begin to act on their plan, telling Grumblejack that they can’t smuggle him out and he is on his own, so he leaves to find his own path. The party begins to head out, and even though a few guards stop them to ask what they are doing, the party comes up with a quick story that they are heading to town to “celebrate” their new jobs as guards. Before they are questioned further, the guards are distracted to the east of the keep, as Grumblejack attempts to climb one of the walls and escape.

The party continues to head towards the gates that lead out to the bridge. They are met by four guards on duty who ask them what they are doing away from their posts. The party simply states that they are on their way to town to celebrate their initiation. The guards believe them and let them pass, telling them to have a good time.

As the walk across the bridge, they get to the last guard post and the guards ask them to state their business. The party again responds with their story, but one of the guards recognizes Fulimar as one of the prisoners. An alarm is sounded and one of the guards fires a ballista from the guard tower at the prisoners, but misses wide. Nobi and Woodchuck try to knock out Fulimar, pretending that they didn’t know he was with them, but Malakai and Cerberus begin to climb the portcullis gate, trying to get over the side. Abandoning their plan, the party decides to dive off the side of the bridge and try to swim to safety. Cerberus trips as he falls, and lands hardly enough that he is knocked out. He begins to drown, but is rescued by Woodchuck who drags him to shore, robs him of his gold, and forces a cure potion down his throat.

Malakai is not as lucky, as he is about to make his escape, he takes a ballista bolt to the chest and passes out from the hit. Fulimar and Mishnarai have already made their escape, but Nobi still remains on the bridge. Instead of helping Malakai, he saves himself and dives into the water. All hope seems lost for Malakai as the guards from the other outpost begin to approach and drag him back to prison. Just as all hope is about to become lost, Grumblejack appears from his failed attempt to escape. He smashes the “little ‘uns” and picks up Malakai’s unconscious body before diving into the water and swimming to shore.

Nobi begins to head out on his own while the rest wait for Grumblejack and Malakai to catch up. As they begin to run through the marshes, the start to hear the sounds of pursuit from the prison’s guards, intent to capture them once again. However, for the time being, they are safe…

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The Old Moors....of Death!
The party begins to tramp through the old moors surrounding the prison in an attempt to stay off the roads and avoid capture

The Old Moors…of Death!

Players: Cerberus, Woodchuck, Fulimar, Nobi, Malakai, Mishnarai

With the Branderscar Fuzz hot on their tail, the prisoners begin tramping through the Old Moors surrounding the prison in a vain attempt to stay off the roads and get to their destination without being re-captured. The party catches up with Nobi, who thinks he sees a large frog close by. However what he really sees is the rather larger carnivorous frog that the locals have been calling Lashtongue. Smelling fresh food, Lashtongue attacks to the exasperated sighs of the party, who just can’t seem to catch a break.

The party breaks into combat, but are surprised as the giant frog swallows Cerberus whole. They continue to attack the monster hoping to free their comrade, but Cerberus proves the victor as he burst from the stomach of Lashtongue, killing the creature as he does so.

Without breaking for a breather, the party continues in their flight, and within a few moments, they spot the Old Moor Road and the odd and neglected looking manor house, with the lantern burning in the upper window. All seems safe for once, or so they think…

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A Bit of Rest... The Conspiracy Begins..
Finally reaching their destination, the party is given some time to rest before meeting their benefactor, but once met, he promises them the world and all they have to do is pass a simple test...

A Bit of Rest…The Conspiracy Begins…

Players: Cerberus, Woodchuck, Fulimar, Nobi, Malakai,
Absent: Mishnarai
NPC: Grumblejack

Upon reaching the manor house, they are created by none other than Tiadora, only instead of being in her funeral gown as she was in Branderscar, she is now in a full length white gown, which almost gives her an angelic appearance, but the facade soon fades as she mocks Cerberus for being late.

She welcomes the guests and summons servants to attend to their needs, Fulimar notices that the servants are completely mindless. Malakai is healed and revived and the rest of the party is healed of their wounds. They are provided with the chance to bathe and don fresh clothing, as well as given a hot meal with fresh cool water.

Once refreshed, Tiadora gathers the party to meet the master, who introduces himself as Cardinal Thorne, the last remaining High Priest of Asmodeus. He offers them the chance to join his conspiracy to cause the downfall of Talingarde and forge a new country under the banner of the Infernal Lord Asmodeus. Thorne promises the group that power and riches will be theirs for the taking and will make them all Princes/Princess of the new Talingarde.

All the players agree and Thorne allows them to rest for three days before he will start their test. He allows them to equip themselves with anything that they wish, giving them each 200 gold to do so. While preparing and waiting for the test, the party is made aware of another recruited group called the White Ravens that will also be taking the test to be part of the conspiracy. Tiadora also visits each of them in turn over the course of the three days to make sure everything is taken care of.

Three days come and go, and the party begins the test. Grumblejack and Mishnarai will stay behind while Cerberus, Woodchuck, Fulimar, Nobi and Malakai perform the test. Cardinal Thorne tells them that their test will take place in the basement, among nine different rooms that will test them on each different aspect of their mission that is of utter importance. He also tells them that they must retrieve a pendant of silver and sapphires and that they have exactly one day to complete the trial. Tiadora escourts them down to the basement and shows them the entrance to the test. The players take one last moment to prepare and begin the test…

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The Test...
Time for the Ninth Knot to prove they have what it takes be part of the conspiracy to bring down Talingarde!

The Test…

Players: Cerberus, Woodchuck, Fulimar, Nobi, Malakai,
Absent: Mishnarai
NPC: Grumblejack

The party heads down to the basement to begin their test and comes upon the first door. Above the arch of the door, they read the following: “Deception is a tool. Self-deception is death. Deceive always thy enemy but never thyself.” Nobi checks for traps on the door, finds none and opens it. Once inside the 3×3 room, they notice a door to the east and nothing else. Nobi, suspicious from the words on the entrance, instantly checks the area around the exit door. His suspicions prove correct as he finds a pit trap in front of the door. He disables the trap door and unlocks the door; he finds a bare wall with the words “Thou wert deceived. Pain is thy reward.” The party beings to look for hidden doors and Nobi finds a small alcove on the north wall containing a small piece of quartz that is cold to the touch. Words are written on the alcolve that read “Thou hast seen through deception to uncover a useful tool.” He quickly palms it and Woodchuck notices it, but doesn’t say anything about the theft. The party continues searching and finds another door on the south. After checking it for traps, they open it and head down a small hallway to a second door.

Upon reaching the second door, they read “Following the herd is for fools. Fear not their icy derision. Instead, fear only thy Infernal Lord.” They open the door to find another 3×3 room, with three doors leading off in all directions. Nobi head to east door and checks it for traps; finding none he opens it and finds a dead end with the words “Thou hast followed the herd” written on the wall. He suddenly finds a javelin impaled in his gut from the trap that he missed. Pulling the javelin loose, the party begins to search the room in causion. Malakai notices the room is rather cold on the west side of the room and identifies the source from a well-known mold that he has encountered before. Cerberus uses one of his fire bolts on the mold and it doubles in size and spreads across the room. They then decide to use ice on the door and it kills away the mold. Finally dead, the party heads through the west door and they find the words “Thou hast made thy own path” written on the other side. They continue along down a long hallway that seems to wrap around their previous room before coming before another door.

Upon this third door, they read the words “Know your enemy. Shatter all that blinds you and then burn thy adversary to ashes.” printed above the door. Nobi checks the door for traps and opens it up. The room is completely dark and none of their torches appears to work. Cerberus casts light, and the pale light seems to puncture a bit of the room’s darkness. The party notices a large orb of obsidian upon a podium in the middle of the room as well as doors that lead off to the north and east. However before they have a chance to investigate the room further, something attacks Malakai, draining some of his blood. Woodchuck spots the thing as a cloud of red mist and notices that it came up from tiny holes in the floor. Cerberus grabs the orb and throws it to Nobi who places it in his bag and half the party heads through the north door, and the other half heads through the east door, trying to get away from the mist monster. However the vampire mist, intent on guarding its treasure, begins to attack Nobi. The party attacks the vampire mist, and Nobi tosses the orb to Malakai, who promptly defeats the mist before it can escape. Taking a quick breather, the party heads through the north door.

Upon reaching the fourth door, the words above the door read as ”Cruelty is a tool not a pastime. Be ruthless to thy enemy but reward those who serve thee well.” In this similar room, the party finds a well-oiled and maintained torture rack. They search the room for a few minutes, but are unable to find anything. At one point, Malakai swears that he hears sobbing, but is unable to pinpoint the location. The party decides to head through the darkness room to the other side to another fifth door that they have found.

At the fifth door, the inscription above the door reads “The chosen are revealed by their might. The weak deserve no sympathy.” Taking no chances, the party arms themselves as Nobi checks the door for traps. They throw the door open to find a similar room to the rest of the basement, but with two small piles of glittering metal on the floor. Approaching the piles, they instantly spring up into the shapes of cobras and attack the party. The party quickly learns that the cobras are incredibly tough to hit as their bodies are made from pure mithral. After several minutes, of evading the cobras, becoming poisoned by their bites and trying in vain to destroy them, Malakai and Fulimar finally smash them enough for them to stop working. Fulimar decides to pocket the mithral to sell or use later.

At the sixth door, the party reads the inscription which reads: “Suffer not the fool. Stupidity is our faith’s cardinal sin.” Nobi checks the door for any traps and opens it as he finds none. Upon entering this small room, the party finds a pendant of silver and sapphires upon a podium as well as a staircase that leads up. Nobi heads up the staircase and looks up just as a spiked ball comes crashing down, hitting both him, Cerberus and Malakai before hitting the podium and rolling to the far corner of the room. Slightly hurt, the trio decides to heal up a bit before leaving the basement. Malakai however remembers that Cardinal Thorne said there were nine tests, and so far they had only done six, meaning there should be three more. Fulimar checks the pendant and notices that the sapphires are fake, so the party splits up to find a secret door. Nobi finds one to the west and they head through, following the “L” shaped hallway to another door.

On the seventh door, the party reads the inscription above the door which reads: “Secrecy is our greatest ally. Exposure brings death.” Being extremely careful, Nobi informs everyone to be quiet with a note. He opens the door to find another dark room, but not magically dark. He spots a mushroom growing from a pile of dirt in the middle of the room. He heads over to the east side of the room, noticing another door. He makes sure to operate in full darkness and not making any sound as he carefully opens the door on the other side. He sneaks back to the group and informs them of what he saw. Malakai recognizes the mushroom from its description as a “Shrieker”, and any noise or light will cause it to utter an absolutely piercing sound. The party puts out their torches and lights and begin to sneak to the other side, with the exception of Cerberus and Malakai, who stay on the other side.

Once the other half of the party makes it across, Woodchuck examines the eighth door, the inscription reads as “Beware the fallen for they may rise once more to threaten you.” However his inspection is interrupted as Cerberus decides to attack the Shrieker as he doesn’t think Malakai or himself will be able to sneak by it in their noisy armor. As Cerberus attacks the mushroom, it begins to scream so loudly, that his ears begin to hurt. He quickly kills it, and the screaming still persists as the mushroom dies. Woodchuck turns around back to the door and notices that it has been opened by what appears to be four undead dressed as pirates. He quickly retreats back into the room with the mushroom, leaving Nobi in the hallway. Nobi attacks the undead pirates, but is quickly overwhelmed and passes out from their attacks. Cerberus, Nobi’s employer, rushes into the hallway to pull him out as Fulimar charges into the hallway. The undead pirates appear to be too much of a match for Fulimar and he is killed by their attacks. Cerberus and Woodchuck attempt to pull his body out of the hallway, and Cerberus attempts to keep the pirates busy, however his luck is even worse as he is literally hacked to pieces by their attacks. Grabbing what is left of Cerberus, Woodchuck slams the door shut in the shrieker room. He piles the bodies against the door as a makeshift blockade as Malakai jams his dagger into the door jam.

Their “lock” holds as they administer healing to Nobi and check over the bodies of the other two. Finding them dead, Woodchuck robs them of their equipment, gold and items. Before they continue, the party decides to regroup upstairs and bring down their friend the Grumblejack the Ogre and their sorcerer friend Mishnarai. They also ask the servants for as much holy water as they can purchase, and come head back downstairs after a few hours of rest, armed with a dozen vials of holy water.

When they get back to their makeshift locked door, they notice that it has stayed closed. They ready their holy water and pry open the door to find the undead pirates still waiting for them. Using their holy water and Mishnarai spells, they are able to push back and defeat the undead.

Coming upon the ninth and final door, the party reads the words “Serve thy master well and be rewarded.” They notice that this door is the first door they have encountered that is heavily fortified and locked. Nobi notices the key on the side of the door, but is hesitant to use it. He first tries to unlock the door with his thieves’ tools, but finds that he is unable to do so. He then takes the key and unlocks the door carefully. On the other side the party is quite shocked to find a knight of Mitra waiting there for them. Most of the party recognizes him as one of the members that arrested them and sent them to Branderscar. The knight instantly attacks them as he notices that Malakai is wearing an unholy symbol of Asmodeus around his neck. The party also notice that the night is wearing a pendant around his neck, a pendant of silver and sapphires.

Nobi pulls out the orb of obsidian, plunging the room in darkness. Woodchuck and Nobi begins to sneak around the knight to get behind him and they both attempt to steal the necklace. Nobi finally succeeds on his second attempt. Malakai, filled with rage at meeting the man who captured him, begins to attack him with Fury. The knight proves that he is quite protected with both his faith and his armor and proves to be a tough opponent. After a few minutes however, Nobi knocks him out cold and Malakai begins dragging him off to the fourth room to put him upon the rack. As they torture him, a secret door opens at the front of the room, revealing the knight’s squire, who pleads with the party to let his master go. Nobi knocks out the squire who they torture after the knight dies.

After taking they revenge and pain out on the knight and his squire, the party returns to Cardinal Thorne with the pendant. The Cardinal congratulates the remaining members of the Knot, but also says that no success is without sacrifice, referring to the deaths of Cerberus and Fulimar. The Cardinal already has two people to fill their spots, a trained cleric of Asmodeus and a personal acolyte of the Cardinal is assigned to the group, as well as well-trained ratfolk magus that is currently in indentured service to the Cardinal. Thorne tells them he will begin training them for their mission ahead…

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