[This is a continuation of the story of my campaign’s first session. In the future I want to have one session=one post, but this one had a lot to cover. Hopefully entries will be more straightforward in the future. Here’s a link to the first part of this session for those just joining us!: https://idlemindsdevilscookbook.wordpress.com/2018/07/29/dungeon-delving-part-3-the-gang-gets-a-job/]
When we last left our band of burgeoning adventurers they had been ambushed while smuggling arcane paraphernalia out of the city, by none other than the Captain of the Northspire City Guard himself, a very large and angry man named Brand. One by one he cut down our heroes who then woke up a moment later in cuffs, in a prison wagon, without their gear. But they were alive, and boy was that unexpected.
Shortly after being captured, the gang is deposited in the basement of the Northspire Castle Dungeon, the center of a lot of unpleasant rumors about the disappearance of the magically affiliated and adjacent up and down the kingdom. Namely, especially for spellcasters Beleg, Eogred, and Magnys, the last place they’d want to be.
All is not lost, however dark and deep their prison may be, however impenetrable, because at least they have the dirty, old, tattered man wallowing in the corner of their cell to keep them company.
“They got you trying to escape the city?” He asks, speaking through cracked lips. “They got me in my shop, they came in the night. Rhai looks the man up and down and recognizes something in herself she didn’t have a lot of use for in the wilderness: pity.
She takes the time to talk to the man, who has overheard much in the darkness of the dungeon. He knows that the paranoia of the King against arcane practitioners of late and that the Queen is no longer residing within the city, saying she’s “gone to the country.” It’s unsure what is meant by that, aside from the fact that it is definitely a half-truth meant to cover something darker. What’s more, the King’s youngest son has recently been confined to his quarters with a mysterious illness, and hasn’t been seen by the public in weeks.
As the old man, weary from even such little exertion, sinks back into his corner of the cell, Magnys decides to direct his energies elsewhere. As a man with a long and storied past, he knows that where there is a jail cell there are bound to be rats, and well rats, he could work with rats…
Concentrating hard on his druidic…*ahem*… focus, Magnys reaches out into the darkness and calls any of his brother rats to him in their native tongue. The rats of Northspire however are dull and complacent, and cannot be roused to help even such a kindred spirit as Magnys, leaving the gang as stuck as ever.
While Magnana examines the strength of the lock, and Elessana that of the door, Beleg is the one to make the breakthrough that could lead to their liberation. Reaching out with his mind until his dark, wriggling thoughts brush against another living mind, Beleg calls out to one of the guards to abandon the game of cards they pass the time with at the end of the hall. Spooked, the guard follows the voice in his head back to the cell, where Beleg reacts quickly ensnaring his mind with an enchanting Charm spell.
“Heeeeey!” Beleg says to the guard, as one greeting either an old friend or a small child, “Buddy!” The guard smiles back vapidly, and Beleg knows that the spell has taken effect.
“Oh hey! It’s you! Man, how are you doing?” He asks. The rest of the gang watches on, silently taking bets on what the odds of this working are.
“Oh, you know, could be better. In a cell.” Beleg answers. “Maybe you could……… let us out?”
“Oh, of course, silly me!” The guard responds, fumbling for the keys.
“You’re too kind.” Beleg says as the door swings open. “And what was your name?”
“Aww buddy you should know, it’s me, Ferris!” Ferris ushers them out of the cell. Elessana stops on the threshold. She turns to their cellmate.
“You should come with us.” She offers her hand to help the man to his feet. He looks back up at her and wheezes;
“I fear I would merely slow you lot down. If you mean to make a go of it, I don’t want to be the reason you fail.”
“Nonsense,” Elessana insists, “you’ll die in here. Soon even, I’d wager.” He looks down at his hands.
“I think I’ve accepted that.” He answers. Suddenly, he feels himself being hoisted up by two halflings as Elessana and Rhai lift his frail frame from either side.
“Ooooh no you don’t.” Elessana says. “You are getting the hells out of here!”
“Oh. Hm. I don’t know if this is entirely advisable…” Ferris the charmed guard halfheartedly protests. “These are prisoners. I was set to guard them… I’m a guard, you know.”
“Don’t worry about them, they’re cool.” Beleg waves him off, dispelling his concerns immediately.
“Well, hehe, the more the merrier! You all are welcome by my house for Moon Day too, if you’re still in town!” Charmed Ferris is really too pure for this world.
(Embarrassingly, I don’t actually remember how they managed to finagle their way passed the second guard, and there’s nothing about it in my notes. Sorry if your immersion just went poof. For the fiction, let’s just say Ferris is a fast talker when properly motivated by powers beyond his ken).
Making their way cautiously out of the dungeon into the castle proper, Maghana is careful to scout ahead while Eogred keeps watch on their six. Elesanna and Rhai continues to support their new infirm compatriot. Luckily Ferris is careful to steer the party away from any of the other guard patrols to avoid any “misunderstandings.” Within the hour his helpful guidance leads them to find the holding cells where their gear is being kept. They recover their weapons, Beleg’s black book, a good amount of gold for their trouble, and two healing potions. Graciously, recognizing his need is greater than their own, Elessana offers one of them to their cellmate, who drinks deeply from the flask and some strength returns to his brittle limbs. He breathes deeply.
“You have no idea what that means to me.” He says, with new energy. Unfortunately, it is then that Ferris feels the grip of the dark power which holds him in sway loosen, and slip away. His face goes slack for a moment, then taut with anger.
“…Wait a second…?” He says, coming back to himself. “Hey! You lot! Back in your stinking cells!” Ferris turns his blade on the party and, presumably, rescinds their Moon Day invite. The gang turns tail and runs for it, knowing they have next to no chance of escaping the castle in a straight chase. They tear down increasingly ornate corridors as they make their way up into the castle, more and more jackbooted feet joining Ferris in the chase. Once, twice, they round a corner to see another patrol ahead of them, cornering quickly to get away.
Finally, they round a corner and see an entire patrol blocking their way. Their captain, brandishing a sword, charges the group down, ready to kill. Suddenly, a massive arm appears from around another corner, fist catching the charging guardsman in the jaw and throwing him from his feet into a heap on the floor. Out from the archway steps Brand, once more, having apparently saved the party from almost certain maiming.
“Idiot. His Majesty wanted a word with them personally.” He says in his low, calm growling voice. Turning to the party, the same flash of intense dislike behind his eyes as he regards them. “Ah good, you’ve already recovered your gear. That saves us the trip back down. I’d recommend you all come along quietly. The King will see you shortly.”
It is certainly a strange feeling for the party, going from the dingiest dungeon cell to the royal throne room so late into the night– or early in the morning, it is hard to tell in the autumnal half-light. All they know is that, upon seeing the king in person, he looks little like his portrait on the wall behind him– resplendent and clad in armor, decisive and strong. The man before them has dark circles under his eyes, beneath greasy wisps of whitened hair, a lank beard covering a somewhat weak chin. He wears a silk-embroidered bathrobe over his royal pajamas, and looks nothing more than one who is above all, tired.
“So, these are the ones Smythwick hired? We’ll see about his judgment. Unfortunately he is being taken out ‘to the country’, and will not be able to honor your agreement. I’d hoped we could speak in the morning, but the Captain has pointed out that this will go better in the night.” He speaks, and some of the strength with which he lead before the war seems to infuse his character through his voice. “Such is the way of this work.”
“What makes you think we’re doing anything for you?” Eogred challenges.
“Do you know who you’re speaking to!?” One of the royal guard barks.
“Oh, I know more than you’d think. I know your war isn’t going well. I can even see it in your face. You’re queen is gone ‘to the country,’ your son has vanished, and you’re losing it!” Eogred it seems, has some feelings to vent about the running of recent events. In one aspect he is correct however– the war is not going well. By all accounts it has gone on far longer than it had any right to. Dryllm has never held interest in a single raiding target this long, and Adrium’s clear advantages seemed to be crumbling before the might of their sheer unpredictability.
“Ah.” The King says, eyeing the cut-away patches on what was once Eogred’s uniform. “Then you already know something of why I’ve brought you here tonight. Good. I want this filth over as soon as possible.”
“You still haven’t answered his question.” Magnys pipes up. “What makes you think we’ll do anything for you?” The King arches an eyebrow at the druid.
“Because I am a King, and I offer you by royal decree, the closest thing you will ever know to freedom.” A beat of silence rests across the room, and the gang listens. “By royal decree, you are all of you banished from Northspire for conspiracy against the Crown. You will be allowed to leave, however, provided you do so in possession of a certain…package. You will deliver this package to a facility on the edge of the desert to the west, where it can be rendered harmless. If you stray from this course, and especially if you return to Northspire, I will see all of you hanged. Is that all perfectly clear?” He paces up and down before the group as he issues these bizarre marching orders, as if challenging them to choose death over his relatively light sentence.
“Good. Be gone, and good riddance to all of you.” He says, the lethargy creeping back into his demeanor as he leaves the room. Brand delegates a detachment of guards to escort them to the city gates, and another to acquire “the package.” Their cellmate sputters, and it seems Brand can tell the question on his mind. Grinning with wicked amusement, he tells the old man, “I guess you’re one of them now.” And he is marched out of the room with the rest of the party.
As they are lead roughly through the darkened back alleys of the capital they can hear the aftermath of their outing. Guard patrols are out and cracking down, doing their best to round up the remainder of Smythwick’s arcane sympathizers and other employees. Finally, they reach the gate. The guards, weapons drawn, command them to wait in silence.
They see the other guards coming down to meet them, no package in their arms, but instead a shorter, stumbling figure being escorted by the shoulders, tripping every few steps. A young boy, no older than fifteen, and blindfolded, is lead to meet them. His hands are unbound as they and the group are shoved through the city gates, the wilderness stretching between them and their destination. From the wall above comes the shouted command to march, another one calling, taunting, echoing the King’s sentiments. “And good riddance!”
Once finally out of sight from the guards, the boy stops and asks aloud; “H-hey. Can we take this thing off now?”
“It should be safe to.” Beleg says. He undoes the blindfold, and shows the boy to be exceptionally pale from nerves, and the cool of the night air. He looks at each of the party in turn.
“W-who are you?” He asks.
“We could ask the same of you.” Eogred answers.
“I’m… I’m Tomlain. Tomlain Erskander, Prince of Adrium. Or I guess… I guess I was.”