The City of Lanterns

Just peck it.

“Thank you, thank you good Sir Tengu! You’ve saved my purse, and quite likely my life!”, huffed the fat merchant. With hands still trembling from his ordeal, the man fumbled with the clasp of his leather pouch. “Please accept this as a token of my gratitude!” The man pushed a noteworthy 10 plat and an impressive ruby brooch up towards Plek. Plek didn’t even hesitate. The weapons still in his hands, with the muggers’ blood still warm, cut a swift X-shaped double arc through the air. And through the merchant’s face and neck. Followed with a quick peck to the forehead for good measure, he was dead before he was able to be surprised, and his purse in Plek’s hands before his body flumped over to the ground. Plek walked away quickly, wondering what surprised him more: what he had just done, or the fact that he didn’t feel the slightest hint of remorse.

Just a few minutes earlier:

Libations were ample at the Purple Lantern, as they typically were. Plek and the gang were seated on and around the usual table. Mugs in various states of fill and balance covered most of the table’s surface. Lazarus was nowhere to be seen- he may or may not have accompanied the group… Plek was never quite sure. X was leaning back in her chair with her pipe, doing her best not to notice the wolf whistles and slightly less than appropirate comments coming from a nearby table. Cayden was drunk. Just sloppy drunk. Kalib had Hamish cornered and was reminging the Duergar for the nth time that day just how disappointing it was that we didn’t get to unleash chimeric Hell on the city. Hamish looked like he was listening, but that was another thing that Plek was never quite sure about. Plek decided that it was usually safe to assume that Hamish was not absorbing information. He wasn’t particularly tired, but Plek decided to call it a night, and said so. It was late by the common folk standards, but not by insert our party name here standards. So after the standard “going home to preen his bird-gina” jokes had run their course, Plek left Purple Lantern; skipping out on the bill. Heh heh heh. Oh hey- bill! Bird joke! Cutting through alleyways, Plek was making his way home when he happened across a routine mugging. A pair of Fetchling thieves had a well-fed, fancy-pants (literally!) merchant at knifepoint. Plek’s hands went instinctively to his daggers, even though the Tengu had no intention of intervening. He had only lifted his foot to stealth past when the merchant noticed him and squeaked out a “Help me!” The Fetchlings, who looked young and not very good at the whole robbing thing, turned on Plek at once, eyes all crazy with adreneline and worry and stuff. They rolled initiative and it was low. Plek had enough time to throw the merchant a look of sheer annoyance before sneak attacking the thieves. Well, he sneak attacked one of them, the other kind of ran into Plek’s other dagger- but the result was the same. They reduced to zero or less HP and fell over all bleeding and dying and things. “Thank you, thank you good Sir Tengu!....”, began the merchant.

This story was typed to commorate a slight shift in Plek’s alignment. He was Neutral, and now he’s… well, I’ll let you guess. FREE HINT: the new alignment ain’t lawful good. It rhymes with “Poo-trail Weeble”

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Dead Frogs Are Useless

X’erai-xereth – recently dubbed “X” [“ten”] by her new companions – slumped back against a scraggly marsh tree and slid to the ground. The muddy, swampy hot springs to the south of Precipice were simply miserable.

Desiring some comfort, she retrieved her gold-plated pipe from her backpack, filled it with pipe-weed and searched for the means to light it. She suddenly froze – her flint and steel were gone.

Uttering a string of curse words in Aklo, she looked to her right. She and her companions had just eliminated a village of Boggards, large disgusting toad-like creatures, and a dead one lay next to her.

“Got a light?” she inquired of it sarcastically. When it failed to respond, she kicked it. “Bastard . . . frog . . . with . . . no . . . .”

Stowing the pipe in her backpack, she pulled out her tasteless trail rations and began choking them down. X then refocused and gave thought to her future. Though she loved her step-father, Lord Gex, she knew Precipice could no longer be her home. Her evil step-sisters made life unbearable and her most recent visit to Precipice only stoked the mutual enmity between them.

At least now she was part of a group in which no one hated her – at least not yet. Fortunately, her deific patrons had guided her back to Balefire, a city which she had not visited in many months. It was for that reason she suspected her destiny was bound up with the City of Lanterns.

She also wondered about the Raven Queen of the Murder Court. It was the Queen who had hired the group to kill the Shadow Drake, the dead carcass of which lay several yards away. She would soon meet the Queen and ostensibly be knighted. Could that be her destiny?

“What do you think?” she asked of dead Boggard. When it again failed to answer, she chucked her rations at it and kicked it a second time. “You’re no help at all.”

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"Friends" In Low Places

“H-h-ow much f-farther,” muttered Hala, beginning to shake in anticipation. Mreelana carefully led the haggard drug addict deeper into the sewers, holding aloft her Everburning Torch. The stench grew, but so did Mreelana’s excitement.

“Not much farther, my dear,” cooed Mreelana to the wretched, emaciated woman. Mreelana had surveyed the dingy Shadow Serpent carefully, seeking out some expendable poor soul. Within seconds, she had found one, promising Hala the latest and greatest illicit drug in Balefire.

“Here we are,” declared Mreelana deviously, stopping at the end of the tunnel and pushing Hala out into a chamber housing a junction of sewer lines.

“Your tribute, Muck!” Mreelana called out. A large tentacled creature emerged from the shadows. With an evil, crooked smile, it growled in delight and grasped Hala with one of its tentacles. Hala screamed in terror and struggled to no avail. Muck the Mighty lifted Hala into the air and crushed her body, the snapping and cracking of her bones echoing throughout the chamber.

As Hala’s skin burst open, Muck emptied the contents of her body into his gaping maw. He then proceeded to stuff her lifeless form into his hideous mouth, chewing on it sloppily. After a great swallow, he smiled again.

“Spicy,” Muck purred in a contented tone. “Okay, lady. Muck help you across sewer.”

Muck offered a different, cleaner tentacle to Mreelana. She stepped on, gingerly holding onto it to balance herself as Muck ferried her to the other side of the putrid sewer line. Plek and Cayden were simply stunned, while even Kalib and Lazarus looked on in mild disbelief.

“Thank you, Muck,” Mreelana said, stepping onto the far ledge and feeling strangely exhilarated. Patting his tentacle gently, she smiled. “Until we meet again, Muck the Mighty,” she said with a slight head bow.

“Muck still hungry,” Muck grunted. “Lady bring more tribute next time.”

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In the Serpent's Coils
Even if you can avoid the serpents Fangs, it still may squeeze you in its Coils!

Returning to the Purple Lantern after a day of work or browsing in the Low Market, you’re stopped by Almarra Stonehammer the Innkeeper.

“Excuse me, master Ipswitch a parcel was left for you and your companions while you were out. They didn’t leave a name I’m afraid.”

The stout Dwarven woman hands you a thin box wrapped in dark linen cloth and tied with fine black cord. Unwrapping it you open the box to find a finely crafted wand wrapped in the molted skin of a serpent. It’s the wand Dafter stole from the Hellknight Signifiers before you crossed over into this land of eternal twilight…

Shaking his head in disbelief Kalib convinced the others they should probably check on Dafter’s whereabouts as he declined living in a decent neighborhood like Beacon Street and deigned to slum in the Darkflash District. Gathering equipment and the local hubbub on the Shadow Serpent Inn the group stuck out across Balefire’s center heading for the shadow plagued slums that bordered Nightcrawler Canyon.

No sooner than they crossed the Shadowalk than they noticed a tail. Two small rag covered humanoids slinked in, out, and between the squalid shanty town buildings trying to remain unnoticed to their quarry. Using the same advantage of the haphazard layout of the slums Kalib, Plek, and Cayden slipped behind shacks and lean-tos allowing Lazarus and Mreelana to draw the would be waylayers into an ambush. Lazarus stopped abruptly as the pair of dingy Dark folk stepped into the light forcing them to play their hands early. The two grungy thieves kept walking, feigning passing through only to sloppily attempt to nick Mreelana’s purse. His keen eyes peeled down a nocked arrow Plek let go a telling shot, followed by Caydens twin mace strikes as he bounded into the fray. Mreelana sizzled the interloper with ray of acid as Lazarus cheered them on! Kalib who had circled too far behind (slums are confusing places) charged in sinking his claws into the scorched Creeper causing it to explode in a burst of sickening light! Taken aback Plek reached for his eyes, squawking as shooting pain exploded in his visual cortex. The remaining Creeper tried to withdraw but Mreelana’s burst of arcane darts and Kalibs slicing claws caused a further explosion of sickly light.

Not far from the spot of their assault the PC’s come upon the Shadow Serpent, a small dive where camp followers and mule-skinners from the many caravans can stop for cheap swill. The place apparently served as a defacto headquarters for the haughty students of the Society of the Shadow Asp, a dark elven dueling school. Entering the bar they are approached by the proprietor a Lizard Folk who tells them that Dafter was dragged out of the place by four Dark Elves. Tracking their movement leads Cayden around back to a huge pile of garbage and a not so well hidden door watched over by some overly aggressive but soon dead dire rats.

The secret door opens up into a stair well leading down into a small shrine to a serpent faced demon. Another secret door in this shrine opens into the cisterns below the streets of Balefire. Stepping out into the chamber they find the slick walkways hold rings to thether gondolas meant to navigate the sewer. However a much more dangerous predator makes this cistern its home. Grumbling from the darkness a hulking mass of rubbery flesh calls out for Tribute. An immense otyugh calling itself Muck the Mighty tries to shake down the party for food in order to pass… (see next log for more on this scene)

After appeasing Muck (rather than fighting him) Cayden tracks the Dark elves to a ladder leading back up to the streets, but Plek’s sharp peepers spy yet another secret door leading straight into a marble lined arcade and ending in a plush drawing room inhabited by several Dark Elven dandies and a female who calls herself the First Coil. She chats aimably with Dafter and greets the group. Over offers of wine and some hors d’voeuvres she quickly but gently blackmails them into working for her Society. The group has received an invitation to a gala being held by the Court of the Raven Queen (Plek being a Tengu new to the city and unaffiliated with the court). The Coil asks the group to find a certain manual, a magic treatise on swordplay bound in snakeskin and bejeweled in amber. If they find it they merely need to slip a scroll into it’s pages. For this act they are offered the auspices of the Society and through it the Dark Elven Syndicate. In this the group reluctantly accepts, though the Dark Elven maestro’s tone is less than friendly.

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To Kill A Horse

Though it was a warm night on the Plane of Shadow, Mreelana shivered. She skulked just outside of the stable where Paralictor Rourk’s horse was housed. With a quick casting of Mage Hand, she opened the latch on the horse’s stall and then opened the gate. The horse, obviously well-trained, refused to leave its stall.

“Damned horse,” Mreelana said to herself. Cayden was somewhere inside the stable, but he had melded into the shadows and out of her sight. The horse however, must have detected Cayden, as it suddenly exited the stall and menacingly moved towards the rear of the stable.

Scanning the darkness for the Ranger, her eye caught a broken bale of hay. Casting Mage Hand yet again, she lifted a flake of it into the air before the horse. Moving the flake seductively, she attempted to lure the horse out of the stable. Unfortunately, the horse again refused to cooperate.

“_Fucking_ horse,” mumbled Mreelana under her breath. Though the stable boy was sleeping in the loft above, her frustration flared and she sent the flake careening into the horse’s face.

Her impatience was ill-advised. The horse wheeled around and moved to the door of the stable. Without leaving the structure, it reared up and smacked Mreelana in the face with a hoof. Mreelana’s head reeled as she tried to blink away the stars before her eyes.

When Mreelana’s vision finally cleared, the horse unexpectedly barreled out of the stable. As it hung a sharp left turn, Mreelana saw Cayden clinging to its back. Weary of the subtle approach, Mreelana loosed a magic missile from her fingertips. The missile flashed through the air, striking the horse in the rump.

Seconds later, Cayden leapt from the horse’s back as it turned and headed to the other side of town. Crashing violently through a fence, it disappeared into the village.

Mreelana hesitated for a few more seconds, then turned and charged to the main road passing through Quarry. She needed to kill that horse now. Rounding the corner and dashing out onto the road, Mreelana saw the horse cross the road far ahead of her. Undaunted, she charged on.

Outside of the village and away from the road, she halted where the horse had apparently crashed through the vegetation on the edge of a field. Yet beyond that point, she could she nothing.

Something ran up behind her. Spinning around quickly, she recognized Cayden’s dark, muscular form. He ran past her to the point where the horse had crashed into the field and scanned it briefly.

“Follow me,” he calmly ordered. Knowing that Cayden was her only hope of finding the horse, she obeyed. The Ranger swiftly tracked the horse to the middle of the field, where it stood defiantly. Cayden moved up to the horse and, with two quick strikes, ended the horse’s life.

“That was fun,” quipped Mreelana, trying to catch her breath. Cayden did not react to Mreelana but looked back towards the town.

“Guards,” Cayden said bluntly. He motioned for Mreelana to follow him, and again she obeyed. He carefully led her forward while at the same time hiding their tracks. Once they moved away from the guards, they both ran back to Quarry. While Cayden’s dark vision served him well, Mreelana stumbled awkwardly through the darkness. Twice she fell flat on her face, cursing each time.

The pair finally made it back into the village, concealed in an alley way. Now it was Mreelana’s turn to give orders.

“Feign an injury and let me do the talking,” Mreelana instructed. But Cayden waived her off.

“The stable body saw me,” he said. “I’m going to disappear for a while. I’ll meet up with you tomorrow just outside of town.”

Without another word, Cayden disappeared into the darkness. Mreelana stared intently at the space from which he vanished. For the briefest of moments, she had the desire to run after him.

Mreelana was abruptly snapped out of her reverie by the sound of heavy footfalls coming down the main road. A large mountain of a man, probably part of the town militia, ran towards her.

“Showtime,” Mreelana sighed, lowering herself to the ground. She laid down as if struck by the horse, lifted her hand to her blackened eye and forced out a few crocodile tears.

“Some one . . . please . . . help me,” she cried convincingly. The mountain of a man lumbered up to her, huffing and puffing and looking disappointingly stupid and ugly.

“Will we ever get to Balefire?” she thought.

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A Dog and Pony show
After being dogged across the desert, the chain gang confronts their oppressor and put his horse out to pasture...

As the Chain gangs journey enters it’s fourth endless night they leave the chalky playa known as the Bone meal Plain and reach the pebble strewn desert outback that marks the border of the Domain of Balefire. Barely halfway through their day the sharp ears of the charlatan Dafter hear the scuffling of something following them. Halting their march the gang turns to find a lone goblin rider atop a mongrel of a dog. The rider swathed in dun colored rages and bits of scrubby brush keeps his distance as the group spreads out. Kalib and Cayden both move to hide in the light scrub at the peripheries of the party’s lights trusting their demon-blooded sight in the gloom. Lazarus and Dafter turned to speak to the grubby little shadow but the rider just turned and padded off. For several minutes after the initial sighting the Chain gang kept their guard up waiting for more goblins to show up.

Their vigilance eventually paid off, but it wasn’t goblins that they encountered among the bone scrub and Black Cacti of the desert. More of the twiggy, thorned Tumble Weirds set upon them near a trickling stream bed leaving Kalib covered in bleeding gashes. Cutting the plant monsters down took only a few moments, but the freaking flora had taken it’s toll. With healing draughts dwindling and their supply of bandages and ointments diminished the Chain gang was attacked. A trio of goblin and the grubby tracker mounted on bat-faced goblin dogs had ridden ahead, encompassing the groups path. A hail of black, poisoned needless was followed by stone hatchets chopping and hacking. Plek Starlington and Cayden Shadowstep took the brunt of the initial assault as they moved into the trio of riders looking to flank one of them. Both Kalib and Mreelana quickly warded themselves in sorcery. Dafter and Lazarus the lone pair still chained together coordinated their movements to keep out of harms way, the thespian shouting rousing words of inspiration to his companions. Cayden and Plek quickly down the first rider only to see the camouflaged tracker break cover waving a massive bone poleaxe. The tiefling felt the choppers wicked bite first and nearly fell to his knees from the stroke. Plek scared off the pathetic excuse of a canine and rushed to help the wounded bounty hunter. Kalib waded up to the second rider and with his orange eyes flahsing willed his long nailed hands into twisted demonic claws and ripped the goblin from his seat. Glowing darts of mystic power stung and scorched the third goblin as Mreelana backed away from the fracas. The remaining goblin attempted to rally to the trackers position but another hail of force darts broke his withdraw. Circling the goblin tracker Plek and Cayden struck knocking him unconscious, only the straps of his saddle keeping him from the killing blow.

From High atop a nearby bluff a shrill cry and whip crack sounded the retreat though only two of the mangy goblin dogs and the dying tracker slumped in his saddle. The Chain fared little better with Kalib, Cayden, and Plek sporting grevious wounds. Taking one of the final healing draughts Cayden quickly finds the group a place to bed down and uses his meager skills to treat his companions injuries. Fatefully there was nothing in the darkness to disturb their much needed rest.

When Cayden roused the group to continue their journey it wasn’t long till they found themselves walking through an increasingly grassy landscape. Long blades of wide black grass tickled their fingertips as the Chain gang moved through the savannah. Still following the clear trail of the wheel barrel Cayden makes out the tracks of those pushing it. Three humanoids, one likely a half-orc from the deep wide prints in the tall grass and one wearing a long robe trailing in the dust. Eventually the track leads into away from the groups path off to a distant copse of trees and hillcock lit by a dim flickering violet glow. However despite the Actor’s manic eagerness to explore the site and his curiousity about who robbed the graves at the Jawbone Creek Ranch the rest of the Chain gang voted to continue towards Balefire. After all they had a race to win and a Hellknight to beat.

Slowly the terrain transitioned from open grassland to rows of tended scrubby hedges crisscrossing the fields between large earthen berms. Winding between the hedges the group is once more confronted by the growling of goblin dogs and the shrieks of a goblin warchanter. The goblin tracker, thought dead the day before rose from the bushes signaling the curs to attack. The desperate animals balked at rushing into danger again and the tracker gave up trying drawing out his deadly horsechopper. Mreelana ducked behind a hedge raising her defenses while Plek plunged into the slow moving waters of an irrigation canal crossing it to confront the spellcaster. Cayden drew his twin maces and charged the stalled goblin dogs as Plek dragged himself up the bank. Kalib called into being a spell of armoring and measured the distance across the canal The Warchanter started into a hex of slumber as the birdman and tielfing approached. The tracker seeing his leader threatened spurred his mount to leap across the canal hewing into Plek with a mighty chop and getting a satisfying squawk. Leaving Cayden to draw off the dogs Lazarus and Dafter moved up the banks of the canal opposite the tracker and warchanter beginning a rousing passage of verse and drawing weapons. Completing her hex of slumber the Warchanter aimed it amongst Cayden, Kalib, and Dafter but all three shook it off. Failing with her most powerful charm the warchanter began to boost her allies with a warbling marching song. Kalib leaped the span of the canal landing next to Plek and the tracker. Mreelana emerged from hiding and lobbed a ray of acid into one of the dogs as Cayden crushed the others mangy skull. The thespian Lazarus called out in the goblin tongue and delivered a crude joke he hoped the Warchanter would find amusing… and she did breaking into a horribly grotesque belly laugh. Kalib rushed up to the tracker drawing his attention away from Plek but failed to strike the wily goblin. Plek drops his bow and draws his dagger slicing at the tracker scoring a small hit. Cayden now finished with the dogs follows Plek and Kalibs lead and vaults the canal but lacking anyplace on the opposite bank to strike at the tracker he chooses to land amidst the sluggish stream crushing the goblins kneecap. The trackers dog best on three sides lashes out as the tracker swings at Kalib cutting the sorcerer deeply. Lazarus follows his first jiibe with a dirty limerick in goblin causeing the Warchanter to double over, her sinuses and face flush with mucus as she guffaws till she can’t breathe. As the tracker falls to another of Caydens blows Plek and Kalib fall back. Lazarus tries to befuddle the warchanter with a spell of dazing she shakes it off and falls backtrying to reach the cover of the darkness. Dafter wills a quartet of dancing lights into being ahead of the fleeing goblin illuminating her as a target for Mreelana’s final magic missile. Outnumbered and outmatched her skin scorched and her throat raw from laughter the warchanter spurs her mount to a full run and leaves the Chain gang far behind fearing what her mistress will do when she reports in.

Now truly beaten and bruised, their healing all but depleted the Chain gang crested an earthen berm and spies lights off in the distance. Five miles ahead a small village showed the warm glow of lanterns and torches heralding civilization’s treasures; hot meals, cold drinks, and warm beds! Their elation was short lived for as they scrambled down the berms and around the hedgerows the peal of hoofbeats sounded to their left. A lone armored horseman bearing a fiendish looking lantern raced along a raised highway towards the town. Paralictor Rourk, sadistic captain of the Iron Dragoons, and scarred victim of Mreelana’s acidic touch. Their nemesis was in sight and he would likely be stopping the night in the cozy town ahead. The group knew if they were to beat the Hellknight they had to slow him down. In their condition however a confrontation with the vicious warrior would likely prove fatal.

Approaching the village they were stopped at the covered bridge spanning the winding creek they’d been following. A trio of militia men stood post and ordered them to halt. “Ho travelers, state your names and business and be prepared to turn out your pockets.” Lazarus and Dafter took their que and wove a tapestry of lies and innuendo convincing the yokels that they had been seperated from their caravan and been attacked by a horseman. Their wounds and general state of uncleanliness drove the falacy home in the mind’s eye of the militia sargent. He directed them towards the Crooked House, the burgs only Inn and tavern, where they could find beds, a meal, and perhaps the village healer. He also informed them a lone horseman had ridden into town a few hours earlier.

The Crooked House lived up to it’s reputation as nary a corner, joint, or wall ran straight and level however the light from inside was warm and welcoming. Fearing the Paralictor was sitting in the common room Mreelana stood outside as the rest of the gang entered. She would certainly be recognized by the bastard Rourk and she didn’t want to tip him off so soon. Plek entered the establishment and took a seat amidst the stares of the locals. Dafter and Lazarus immediately began talking up the gnomish Innkeeper and the two tiefings secured rooms to which they retreated to. The Tengu sneak listened to the whispers around the room as he and his companions were scrutinized. The villagers were a mix of human, gnome, and dwarven laborers. Fine gray dust coated their boots and clothes pointing to the origin of the village’s name; Quarry. Ironically that’s exactly what they were, pursuing and being pursued they were likely just under the nose of the Hellknight but hadn’t yet spotted him. Lazarus and Dafter enquired about the Village and it’s happenings as they drank the Inns rather good ale. The Innkeeper Tarquin Shortstone XXIV was a boisterous host and source of information, though he balked at the mention of the rider that had recently come into his establishment. Exploiting their shared racial ties Dafter convinced the hesitant gnome to leak that the Hellknight was indeed in the very next room, speaking with the Village’s mayor about something very secretive.

As her companions spread out through the Inn, the Earth Sorceress made a quick circuit of the building seeking out the stables. She knew that Rourks mount was the easiest piece of the equation to eliminate for her and the others to win their little race. Having little experience with animals however she found herself extremely nervous around the perceptive beasts. She waited until the stable hand had crept up into his loft to find the Hellknights horse. Three animals were stabled in the 6 stalls. A dappled gray mare with a mane full of ribbons and a mule filled out the first of the stalls she checked. The final billet also held a riding horse but knowing nothing of horses Mreelana retured to the front of the Inn seeking out Cayden. The tieflings field craft had successfully gotten them this far and he had some knowledge of the strange plants and animals of the shadowed realm. Hopefully he had a way with domestic animals as well. The Sorceress discreetly hissed for the Bounty Hunter through the din of the crowd. The others were either eating or drinking, the remaining shackled pair still talking to the Innkeeper. Cayden noticed her beckoning finger and stepped out into the dim street. “Cayden I think that bastard Rourk’s horse is in the stables. We should set it loose.” Cayden merely nodded as he followed her around to the stables.

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Star Date 8675309

Being chained to Laz hasn’t been so bad. We’ve put on our first impromtu show. The crowd went nuts. I’s think that performing taint so bad ya know? Hopefully soon we get out of dees chains, starting to leave a mark. Lets see the upside to dees chains. I always has someone to help me fight. OK, nows the downside. Well we drown cause Laz can’t climb obviously. The old Hag did her coochie dance on us to brings us back. Me thinks having dees chains helps me move faster than the others. For biggens, they sure do walks slow. When we gets to Balefire and gets da chains off….I got a lot of drinking and revenging to do’s. This group ain’t too bad. The tielflings not so bad. One shoots good magic while the other (coughs) has an inner rage issue. (Coughs). The birdman Plek, he and I’s need to get sneaky sneaky when we settle. Seems like a good joe, or bird, or whatever. The girly Mree, nicey nice. She’s does da magic too. I see dis thing lasting a while.

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Freedom?

Well Im not convinced that freedom is the proper term for the situation I find myself in. Sure, I am out of the prison but this unfair “race” to banishment hardly seems like the life I wanted. This dark plane calls to my blood. I find myself needing the companions I was shackled too as we were escorted out of the prison. Cayden and I share a similar heritage as well as similar desire to keep that heritage out of sight and mind. Mreelana and I have similar talents, it will be interesting to see how her powers grow. I find myself remorseful of the way I treated her while we were shackled together. Plek was my freedom from Mreelana and that has to count for something. Lazerous and Dafter are either truely insane or just happy to be together. My mind isnt totally decided on those two yet. I had hoped that a night in a real bed would give a short reprieve from the constant assault of fear and violence I face in this strange plan. Awakened suddenly by the shouts of Lazerous that they were leaving I found myself forced to drink the curative potion I had managed to to keep from the others. Exhausted, wounded, and on the run again.

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Boys Will Be Boys

Mreelana’s weary body slumped to the ground, her form barely visible in the darkness of the Plane of Shadow. Battered, bruised, grimy and exhausted, she planted her everburning torch firmly into the earth beside her. It illuminated the area immediately around her but offered little comfort. She briefly examined the chain that hung from her wrist. Though she wondered why, she could not bear the thought of being without it.

It was the end of the third day since their audience with Lictor Ferrous Bane. The deal was simple: become de facto paymasters by hauling gold to the city of Balefire to compensate Bane’s minions. Should they arrive before Paralictor Rourk, their sentences would be converted to banishment and, more importantly, freedom, be it in a strange new world. Though Rourke was mounted, she and her ragtag band received a twelve-hour head start.

Of course, Mreelana knew better and maintained a healthy suspicion of Bane’s motives. Her suspicion was confirmed when she overheard two of her fellow prisoners discussing that the gold bars were not what they seemed. It did not bother Mreelana, as she was at least outside of the prison mines. She had no doubt that Bane’s treachery would rear its ugly head. She merely needed to be prepared to meet it.

Suddenly, Mrleena heard a crash in the dilapidated house behind her. The work of her new companions, no doubt. The ragtag band of prisoners had just defeated a throng of skeletons, and “the boys” were looting the dwelling, apparently known as the “Jawbone Creek Ranch“. Seconds later, she heard shouts and the crackle of burning wood.

“Maybe the prison wasn’t quite so bad,” Mreelana mused. Her companions had at least refrained from beating her senseless or molesting her.

Well, they had almost refrained from doing so. Kalib, the demonic tiefling sorcerer, had smacked her across the face and seemed to enjoy dragging her wherever he pleased. He was brash, violent and mean . . . qualities that Mreelana begrudgingly respected and fiercely hated. Regardless of his interpersonal skills, if he could be relied upon, his combat prowess and surging power could prove to be a tremendous asset.

Unfortunately, Mreelana had spent the first few days of their journey chained to Kalib. Only the skill of Plek Starlington, the bird-like Tengu, led to Mreelana’s freedom from Kalib. Ironically, the strangest looking of her new companions was seemingly the most normal. Plek kept to himself, though he obsessively horded shiny objects. Obsessive compulsive or no, he had proven himself valuable, and perhaps more importantly, stable.

Just as valuable and stable, and equally as quiet and reserved as the Tengu, was the tiefling ranger Cayden Shadowstep. Inexperienced but capable, he successfully guided the band through the harsh, unyielding landscape. His keen senses – and a potion of Spiderclimb – had saved Mreelana’s life.

The tieflings seemingly stuck together, though, as they advocated against strict adherence to Bane’s itinerary. Mreelana, conversely, had a compelling feeling that reaching Balefire posthaste was the prudent course.

An abrupt smack to the head broke Mreelena’s reverie. The devious little gnome, Dafter Milligan, thought it amusing to assault her with a disembodied arm. His tiny silhouette then raced back towards the now burning house.

The perpetually goofy yet good-spirited gnome was the most out of place in their dysfunctional family. Again, she saw value in his abilities, as he had deftly managed to relieve one of the prison guards of a magic wand at great risk of detection. She wondered if his recent death would exacerbate his eccentricity.

“Eccentricity,” laughed Mreelena. That should be Lazarus Macabre’s name. The psychotic half-elf thespian exuded chaos and insanity. Forever altering his appearance in bizarre ways, he was unstable and dangerous with a touch of genius bubbling just beneath the surface. Mreelana admired those qualities, but wondered if his eccentricity would be just as effective as rushing canyon water in leading to his death.

Kalib appeared out of the darkness and urged her sharply to get moving. Her male companions wanted to press on before camping for the night, and she agreed. Mreelana plucked the everburning torch from the ground, grasped a handful of earth for comfort and rose to her feet. She heard the ring of chain link on chain link, as well as the rushing water of the creek in the distance. If fate allowed, she would bathe in the creek tomorrow morning.

“My kingdom for the ability to bathe daily, “ she signed, following her companions off into the shadows.

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Act 1: Shadows Draw Near

“Sticks and bones she makes me groan, swinging like a tree it makes her moan. Swing and sway man in dismay, with his bone Goblins Play!”

Awakening to a foul, awful old hag pleasuring me, among other things was just another expected, unexpected event for the day. I fancied she at least earned that for draggin’ me soul back from the abyss. I guess when the fair prince tragically drowns in act 3 I’ll be first in for the part. And those goblins, curious little wretches! And they carry a catchy tune too!

“Mental thought; apparently lodging establishments in this uncheery corner of the multi-verse are far more rustic…”

I was able to locate a sword of decent quality. I’m sure it will spell “Curtains” for someone in this place before my scene is done. There was also a mask of interest. I have to admit things have been quite matchless since acquiring it. Oh, and these manacles. I have grown fond of these.

“Mental thought; even the flowers and fruit here are shit…”

Our final destination better have some elaborate offerings, or I do not think I can bear being here any longer. The darkness sticks to the skin and seeps into the soul.

“Mental thought; one could write the epic tragedy in this place…”

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