The City of Lanterns

Across the Shadow Gap
A chain gang of prisoners bets their lives they can beat their sadistic jailer in a race across the Witchfire Wastes!

In the Prison Mines of Isger the Lictor of the Hellknight Order of the Brand has found a creative and entertaining method of disposing of troublesome inmates. Six of his worst troublemakers are given a simple choice, bet their lives in a race against a lone Hellknight across the twisted Plane of Shadows. Of course the race is fixed, the Hellknight is mounted and the prisoners bound in pairs by geased shackles must haul crates of lead glamoured to look like gold.

However the Chain gang had a few tricks up their sleeves and a little luck on their side! Before the race is even begun the quick fingered gnome Dafter managed to filch a Wand from one of his captors before stepping through the Shadow Gap. Cayden, one of the two fiendtouched cons wastes no time in navigating the Gloom’s imposing badlands and leads the Chain gang through the treacherous arroyos of Shadestone and Bonescrub. Their first hostile encounter is with the strange bounding twig-like creatures known as Tumble Weirds. Backtracking the Weirds leads them to a traveller who’s luck didn’t hold against the bloodthirsty plants. Scrounging the dead man’s gear however wins them a few potions, a finely crafed shortbow, and several arrows one of which bears an enchantment!

Their first days travel led them deeper into the hills following winding box canyons and hugging ridglines that dropped into darkness. At one point finding the path wiped out by landslide the tracker Cayden leads his companions on a crawl through a pit of vipers which he finds invulnerable to his field craft. Using her sorcerous talents Mreelana uses the lids from their precious cargo as a plow allowing the group to tumble and scramble past the umbral serpents and their poisoned tipped fangs! Fully engaged now in the labyrinth of the Wastes the Chaingang soon hear the shrill sing-song taunts of a trio of wretched goblins playing pinata with the twitching animated corpse of a hanged man!

“Sticks on bones makes it groan, swinging from the tree it moans. Swing and sway man decay, with it’s bones Goblins Play!”

The insane singing inspires the addled actor Lazarus to call out and entreat the cruel imps calling himself the Lord of the Mountain showing them the Fools gold he carried and promising a bar for safe passage past them. The greedy goblins balk at just one and sing out, “Give and Live, Take and Break. Goblin Shiv and Longshank Ache! You no Lord, stupid gourd. Only Witch may rule this Waste!!!” They accentuate the point with a poisoned cacti needle to Lazarus’ face. Two crazed goblins dance around the flailing zombie as the third in the tree branches spits tainted darts into the Chain gang. Rushing the goblins in pairs the rogues move to find flanks and the casters hurl gobs of acid and supernatural fear among the goblins! The sing song leader succumbs to the fear and snatching a gold bar flees up the canyon. Making short work of the remaining goblins and ending the unnatural misery of the hanged man the Chain gang find the zombie was some sort of masked entertainer judging by the clothing and gear found buried at the foot of the gnarled tree he hung himself from. A set of masterwork thieves tools, a wickedly serrated sabre, and some more potions add to their supplies.

Shortly after leaving the Chain gang make camp leaving Mreelana an alchemist by trade to identify the potions, poisons, and alchemical goodies liberated in their travels. The two tielfings speak among themselves being the only ones in the group to resist the compulsion of their bonds and attempt to convince the others to remove their chains unsuccessfully. Kalib, the warlock also tries to convince the others that their gold is worthless having detected the illusory dweomers on them. The actor Lazarus who saw through the ruse from the says nothing finding the deception and intrigue exciting. Still not trusting each other fully the pairs split the watches among the non spellcasters and spend a fitfull night of sleep on the hard ground.

As the second day of travel opened the weather seemed to take a turn for the worse and a fierce thunderstorm hit the wastes. Cayden immediately realized the danger of traversing the canyons during a downpour and urged his companions to scale to walls to higher ground. For some of the Chain gang finding draughts of spider walking moved them quickly above the raging flood waters. The thieving tengu Plek, the actor Lazarus, and the charlatan gnome Dafter were not as fortunate. The waters swept through the canyons plucking them from the walls and dashing them on the rocks. Only being chained to the powerful Cayden saved Plek from a final bird bath! However the dark frothing waters swept Dafter and Lazarus away from the rest of the Chain gang.

As the storm waters rise throughout the canyons Cayden must blaze a trail forward heedless of the lost duo and their crate of gold. Hours of climbing higher and higher into the hills to avoid the ominous flood waters Cayden and the remainder of the Chain gang stumble across the muddy tracks of a goblin band dragging heavy litters. The tracks run up a narrow cliffside to a small dank cave with a few sentries. Approaching in darkness, their everburning torches hidden away the Chain gang rushes forward into the cave only to find the goblins ready for them. In the first frantic moments of the raid the goblin pickets manage to sound carved whistles awakening an ancient guardian from it’s torpor… a toothless bat the size of a pony scampers into the cave from a narrow cleft in the wall. Plek and Cayden press the beast before it can enter the room proper and take wing suffering vicious crushing bites from the venerable Dire Bat. The goblins try to rally with the entrance of their guardian but as it’s put down they fall and cower before the spells and weapons of the intruders.

Searching the cave after the scrum the Chain gang find a greasy dire skunk pelt and a few minor healing draughts. Eerie cave paintings in phosphorescent colors show hulking wriggling beasts emerging from a great crack in the earth besieging a black city of twisted towers with dark dancers defending it. Several of the dancers nearest the beasts are stooped and bent with a green squiggle above their heads. The paintings continue into the narrow cleft in the wall leading to a natural stair delving deeper beneath the hill. Meanwhile in a deep cavern the half-elf Lazarus and the gnome Dafter awaken bound to stout poles their sodden clothes and gear stripped from them. Groggy and weakened the pair hear a shrill chant coming from a wizened goblin shaman and a hideous womanly form dancing wildly around them. Greasy white hair and oozing black pockmarked skin hang grotesquely from the gyrating crone. As they fade in and out of consciousness they are hoisted out of the low mud domed shamans sweat lodge and posted in the plaza of the goblin warren.

Creeping up the narrow stair the Chain gang can hear the goblin shamans ululating interrogation of their lost companions. Again they rush into the plaza drawing the goblin warriors towards the stair. Using the rush as a distraction Dafter slips the feeble bonds of the pole he’s tied to and disarms the surprised shaman of his club. Plek and Cayden swarm the tiny defenders with crushing mace blows and slashing dagger and thrusting beak. As more goblin warriors climb down into the plaza from the mud pueblos the unarmed shaman retreats to the rear of the plaza dangerously close to a yawning chasm. Seeing a juicy target stuttering out a charm of slumber and having learned to move together the warlock Kalib and Alchemist Mreelana rush at the shaman bowling him head over heels into the black pit killing the prayer on his cracked lips. As the gang frees him Lazarus tells them their Gold is within the domed structure behind him. They quickly drop in finding a trove of herbal poultices and alchemical goodies, as well as clay tablets written in alien sigils and a stone idol with a great jeweled eye. After quickly looting the sweat lodge the Chain gang moved unhindered through the cowering goblin villagers to the top of the wide chasm where a thick rope runs across the chasm to a lower cave where more goblins wait peppering the longshanks with poison needles and ready to hack the line. Seeing no way to fight their way across while shackled the tielfings convince Plek, a fledgling locksmith to use the thieves tools to pick the locks. Once freed and under the cover fire of Plek’s bow and Mreelana’s acid darts the warlock zips down the line followed by the tracker clearing the goblins from the vulnerable line and allowing their companions to follow. Clearing the lower caves the Chain gang escape the goblin cave system and emerge on the other side of the arroyos of anguish where they make a hasty camp and tend to their wounds.

The bulk of the third day of travel goes by quietly as they crossed a narrow salt flat. Eventually the Chain gang runs across a slow shallow creek and follow it until they reach an abandoned ranch house. From afar two pin points of light shine from the upper floor windows. crossing the creek the party approaches the ranch finding it ringed by a dilapidated barbed wire fence. A wide gate way stands open a wood plank sign swinging from the lintel. Spelled out in Elven script only Plek can make out the language which says Jawbone Creek Ranch. Crossing the threshold Lazarus is attacked by skeletons that rise from the tall scrub around the sagging house. Once the undead are dispatched the Chain gang explores the house finding not only a severed human arm with a glowing tattoo, but several minor Haunts including an exploding candle, fresh fruit with seeds of teeth and flesh of blood, and collapsing stairwell filled with webs. Behind the house several graves look to be freshly disturbed and the trail of a wheel barrel and booted humanoid tracks lead off and away. None of the Chain gang wish to stay in the haunted ranch and they push on to camp further along the wheel barrel track.

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A Bath Is a Bath

Mreelana awoke with a start as two armed guards marched past her small, grimy cell and down the hall into the darkness. A single lantern weakly cast light into the cell from a distance. She guessed that night blanketed the surface world, but she was beginning to lose track of the time that had passed since her capture.

Even so, Mreelana believed that her first week in the Prison Mines of Isger, hosted by the ever hostile Hellknight Order of the Brand, was almost over. The injuries she sustained at the hands of Paralictor Rourke, though still visible, were healing. The ones she had sustained over the past week had not.

Rourke had been mysteriously absent since he personally cast her battered and bruised body into the cell nearly a week ago. Her once beautiful long, deep green gown was now torn, tattered and caked with dirt. While most would find such a circumstance unpleasant, Mreelana welcomed the sqaulid conditions of her cell. The guards marveled as she wallowed in the dirt, seemingly bathing herself in its blackness.

Yet now even Mreelana desired a warm bath, as she had not been permitted to bathe since the beginning of her stay. Forced to labor sixteen hours a day in the vast kitchens and mess halls that fed Hellknights and prisoners alike, the grime she had acquired made her feel absolutely filthy.

Beyond her cell, the prison mines were nothing but unpleasant. Mreelana quickly learned that responses other than “yes, sir” or “no, sir” resulted in violence, though to utter those words caused her to bristle internally. Usually, she was fortunate, angering Hellknights who would merely smack her. Those without such a sense of chivalry thought nothing of punching a woman in the throat or breaking a wooden chair over her back. Of course, she knew full well that dumping a Hellknight’s first hot meal in a week into his lap, even after he fondles your breasts, often leads to retribution.

The pain and chastisement, however, failed to break Mreelana’s contemptuous spirit or stay her sharp tongue. Being held in an earthen womb and given the ability to feel the earth against her skin soothed and rejuvenated her. She also amused herself by convincingly blaming her domestic shortcomings on others, reveling in watching someone else suffer when the whip was meant for her back.

Suddenly, three rats dropped out of a hole in the ceiling at the corner of Mreelana’s cell. The ragtag band visited her often, stealing any scraps of food she left unprotected. She quickly scanned her cell for anything to throw at the rats as they skirted the shadows.

“Fucking RATS!,“ she bellowed. Failing to find a suitable projectile and irritated by her unwelcome guests, she scowled and pretended to throw an imaginary rock at the lead rat. To her great surprise, a small orb of acid sprung from her hand and struck it, scalding it to death. Its frightened companions hurriedly scaled the back wall and retreated through the hole in the ceiling.

Mreelana looked to her hand, then to the steaming rat carcass and finally back to her hand. It was at the moment that Mreelana, though still shocked at the event, sensed a new power coursing through her. She smiled deviously.

“Oh, Paralictor Rourke, you unfortunate bastard,” Mreelana cooed. “This does not bode well for you.”

At that moment, two Hellknights stomped down the hallway towards Mreelana’s cell. She swiftly kicked the rat carcass into a shadowy corner, dropped to the ground and feigned sleep just seconds before the Hellknights arrived.

“Wake up, love,” sneered one of the men, an older, grizzled Hellknight veteran. “Paralictor Rourke requests the pleasure of your company.”

“The Paralictor is not equipped for that pleasure anymore,” snapped Mreelana as she rose to her feet and icily studied the men.

“Maybe so,” answered the veteran with a devious smile of his own, “but we are. It’s time our little firebrand took her first bath. And the gracious Paralictor has ordered that my company gets to watch.”

The men laughed heartily, but Mreelana’s stomach churned and flames erupted in her emerald eyes. After a few moments, she composed herself, realizing that a bath was bath, spectators or no. She unlatched her gown and let it drop to the floor, revealing her long, lean naked body. Her smooth, milky white skin almost glowed as the Hellknights stood in awe of her flawless physical form.

“So be it,” Mreelana said calmly.

The list of unfortunate bastards was steadily growing.

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To good at his trade

It seems that Cayden is to good at his own trade. Hellknights seem to have a price on there head as well as the regular bounty that he had hunted but it seemed that to many had been brought to there seekers by Cayden and that is the reason he has ended up in jail. To spite his now captures Cayden likes to wait for the guards to come to feed him and then making sure that the guards do not leave as clean as they came. Cayden wants to make sure that every guard in the jail doesn’t want to bother him in fear of the foul waste that every one of them will be painted with every time they visit.

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A bird in hand.....
He wasn't bred in captivity

I don’t know what city Plek comes from, it doesn’t really matter. His father was a locksmith, and his Mom helped out in the shop. Plek had come of age, left the house and went out into the city. Plek made a modest living as a delivery boy/messenger (and supplimented his income with some minor larceny). One person he often ran errands for was a wizard. Plek was intrigued with all of the wiz’s magical and mechanical trinkets. One day he picked up a thingy that he shouldn’t have. It teleported him to Balefire. Not one to let his feathers get ruffled, Plek picked up where he left off. Doing odd jobs wherever he could find them, Plek started carving himself a living in the City of Lanterns, still adding to his wages and tips with some not-really-malicious thievery. Well, one failed stealth check later, here Plek is in jail. The sentence is grossly disproportionate to his crime (he was admiring a 5sp bauble of some kind), but his victim was a person with sway over the local constibulary.

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Hell Nights & Devil Days

Hell Nights & Devil Days By Lazarus Macabre

This comedic satire about the Hellknights and their lawful ways opened tonight at the Half Moon Theater. Written by and starring Lazarus Macabre. L.M. is new on scene and has from routine to great performances in his acting repute. It seems a slight mental volatility can have dramatic effects on his roles.

This was one of his better performances, drawing an ovation from the more liberal minded audience members. However, the Hellknights and Knight supporters in the crowd had something a little different to say. As L.M. exited the stage he was roughly taken into custody by the Hellknight authorities. I guess this truly was a “one night only” show.

Eiskel Sbert

at the theatere

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Prison Start

So its my understanding that we will begin play in a prison and have been there a few weeks. We each have also gotten into trouble during that short time. I think we should start with at least an encounters worth of XP. Its hard to swallow that we have no experience when we are captives and have gotten into trouble while locked up. I suggest that each of write up a small 1 page or so post of what landed us in the prison and what we have done to get into trouble that we are being taken before the warden. I think our DM should reward our stories with a small amount of xp. (im not suggesting that we are 1/2 to 2nd lvl or anything just a small something)

_GM’s note: Remember you are playing Anti-heroes and scoundrals, not the Villains. You don;’t have to be good, but I don’t want that to be an excuse to be the wickedest being in the multiverse!

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