Since he seems to be having little effect with the guard, who is now surrounded and being talked to by the others, Blast backs off and steps over to the children, coiling his tail back beneath his coat just in case. He puts his hands on his knees and looks them in the eyes.
"Hey there. Nice trick back there, shutting that door just in time. Reminds me of when I was your age, I got into my share of trouble, got out in the nick of time. What'd you guys do to wind up here?"
If necessary, Diplomacy: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (5) + 3 = 8
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The guard looks slowly around himself in a daze; his searching eyes find only demons and witchs and warriors, all looking at him with no pity in their eyes. His shoulder start to shake as he begins to cry softly at his predicament. He drops his sword and fumbles his hands around as he begins to sob. His moving hand accidentally strikes the half-cloak around his neck, dark black and blood red with the symbol of the Empire. His fingers grasp it so tightly they grow white as he stops shuddering, and he looks up at the one who threatens him with her dagger. Slowly, his face uncontorts, assuming one of perfect malice tinged with pride. With a low growl, he thrusts his chest forwards onto the dagger, driving it deep into his collarbone as he falls to the floor. Akari steps back in surprise, but he makes a feeble gesture with his finger to draw her closer to him. She moves her ear close to him as he whispers his last words...
"Long Live the Chelaxian Empire, witch whores!" he breathes, spitting blood at Akari's face before his body finally grows still and his eyes lifeless.
The urchin with the scar who appears to be the leader turns to Blast and takes a small step back nervously. "Umm... some guy hired us to break into some priest's home, draw a few pictures of a circle-shaped thing with stars he had painted on the floor... only this big pointy-horned thing appeared and threw us all in a cage before the guards came." His eyes travel slowly along your tail. "Mister... are you going to help us?"
"I-I'd rather not see any more blood shed today," Mellany says quietly. She searches the fallen guard until she finds his key ring. "Let's get out of here before they bash the door down. First we have to get our small heroes loose from their chains." Mellany gives the nearest child a radiant smile and tousles his hair as she unlocks the shackles binding him to the chain.
As she frees the children Mellany turns to the cell at the south side of the room. "Don't worry, grandfather," she calls out. "We won't forget you. If you want out of here, you can take your chances with a bunch of abominations and plucky kids."
The blood that stained the man's face made him feel dirty. Not physically but on spiritual level as he cut down to men while escaping the prison. He drew his arm acros his face, smearing the blood as he tried to wipe it away. He took a knee and grabbed the dead guard's longsword before he kicked it across the floor to the group of prisoners. "We need to be as prepared as we can," Aleksandyr warned. He held the sword at his side, eyes darting between the door being threatened by the guards on the other side and the door which would lead to their salvation.
"Just knock that man out, there's no need killing him when its clear he's outnumbered," Aleksandyr spoke, disapproving of torture or murder on the guard.
He pushed his way forward, bumping shoulders to see the man for himself laying dead on the floor. His mouth was a hard line, his face impassive as he looked down on the man's pale flesh and blood stained armor. He shook his head and sighed, feeling guilty he couldn't spare this man's life like he hoped. Four dead men lay on the ground in their blood, two in which he had to kill with his own hands. "Fine, we should move on..."
There was a distant sound in his voice. "Take his sword at least," he said. Aleksandyr retrieved the keys and walked over to the jail cell with the man. He was about to unlock the cell when he asked, "Why are you here? What crime did the Chelish say you committed? I will not free a man that deserves to be here."
Sense Motive 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (13) + 6 = 19
I didn't realize I overlooked that.
The man sits quietly in his cell cross-legged, his eyes downcast. Wearily casting his gaze up to see the new arrivals, his face grows more alert as he realizes there are eight of you, and that you are helping the children. He gets to his feet, slow creaks coming from every join in his body. "I performed no crime other than to try to end the creators of the greatest crime in this past century... You… tell me… is it true? Were you prisoners? Did you escape? How?"
"Creators?" Aleksandyr questioned the man. He lowered his hands, prepared to unlock the cell.
"We were all imprisoned for reasons each our own, wrongful or right, I cannot say. I wouldn't say we have escaped, yet but it doesn't matter how. If you want out, tell me what you tried to end?"
"Just open the cell and let him decide his own fate," Pyrrius says before turning to the prisoner. "Pure luck old man. A foolish guard remained behind to taunt us and ended up slipping and cracking his skull. I hope to ride this wave of luck out of here before it runs out and I suggest you do the same."
As the human tells him of your escape, the old man's face grows alert as he focuses on you intensely. "A simple slip… coincidence, or possibly…" He shrugs to himself then looks at you again. "You don't have much time… the priest antechamber is on the other side of that door, and it is always protected by sixty men… you can't go back, it just leads to a huge labyrinth of well guarded cells. Tell me- this is important- have you any love for the empire who put you here? Are any of you Cheliax's men?"
Mellany looks at the children. "I'm sorry, boys. You're all hurting, but by the way you dealt with the door I guess you're strong enough that you don't need healing right now. Be brave a little longer and we'll tend to your hurts when we get out of here."
Mellany ponders the old man's questions carefully. "If only Cat were here," she says frowning. "He'd understand what I want to say. Do I love the Chelish empire? I grew up in Westcrown. The Chelish are my people, so I love them. But by 'the Empire' you mean what Abrogail and her like are doing to the Chelish."
Mellany stares long and hard at the guard that killed himself. She looks at the old prisoner and thinks for a few more heart beats. Her eyes locked on the prisoner's she says, "An empire that will twist loyalty and courage into hatred and contempt. An empire that demands giving your life so its priests can torture the small ones. That I hate."
Blast moves to the old man in his cell. "Cheliax's men?" he snorts. "This is what I got in Cheliax," he says, gesturing to his tail, "And this is what Cheliax gave me for it." He leans in and points at the large, nasty bruises on his face, then stands up again and turns to the side.
"Cheliax is a skítgat that's never treated me as anything but what it's filled with," Blast murmurs bitterly. "So, no, I'm not one of Cheliax's men. Even if I wanted to be, Chelaxians don't view my kind as men."
In the past, I have avoided politics. You don't usually get thrown in jail for singing love songs.
Taurven looks at the ragtag bunch of children. It may be time for me to start singing protest songs now.
A government that maims small children and calls it justice cannot be tolerated.
The nearest child looks up at the blonde woman with an expression of mild distaste and cynicism. "Don't patronize us, babe, day we let wounds these small stop us runnin' 's the day the guards'll catch us and throw us to the priests for demon-food..." The child looks around at her situation and her expression grows more uncomfortable and less disturbingly adult. "Well... you know what I mean... do YOU need some help, lady? Otto here spent a few day helpin' a healer-witch woman..."
The old man nods slowly. "That is good, that you have no allegiance to this place... no, I am no magician; the crime I speak of is here, all around you, this accursed empire." As he says the word he spits at the ground. He then takes a deep breath, and looks each of you in the eyes. "I believe I can offer you and these poor children a way to escape from here. But it will require something from you. A promise, a pledge, the taking of an oath."
After the child tells Mellany off, the witch starts laughing so hard she has a hard time standing up. "Babe, is it? He he he. You got me. I should've know better than talking all high and mighty like that. If I'd met a girl with your spunk back when I was running snatch and grabs, we'd own Westcrown by now. I'm Mellany and I think I can take care of this scratch later. For now the hurt will remind me not to wrestle with swordsmen."
"Hurry up and tell us about the oath, gramps," Mellany says to the old man. "Before the guards at the door remember where they left their axes."
Aromar looks up briefly from his crouching position over the guard that took his own life, and looks away. He listens to the words but does not respond. He surveys the room for anything of value - armor, a weapon, a helm perhaps - anything that would aid him in the next several minutes ... minutes he expects will prove to be an arduous trial by luck and circumstance.
Perception: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (20) + 5 = 25
In case its of any benefit and Aromar is able to make some connection out of the ramblings of the old man. Knowledge (local): 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (2) + 5 = 7
'Hmmm ... he thinks to himself, I have no idea what this nut is talking about.'
He's not ignoring the children, he just figures he's in a better position to help himself and others out if he has some type of tool to aid in the task. Place the oxygen mask on yourself before assisting others.
Aleksandyr was distrusting of prisoners in jail cells. Though some might say he was the pot calling the kettle black. He quirked his mouth and implored the old man to continue. "We don't have much time," he reiterated what Mellany said. He was sure the door would give way at any moment. He took a deep breath an eyed him, wondering what he was speaking of with oaths. "If you know how to escape, what will it take for us to learn your secret?"
"What is it that you want from us old man?" While they had little choice while stuck in here it would be good to know what they man wanted. If it was too horrible to execute they could always come back on their promise later. It wasn't something Alian enjoyed, but some times it simply was necessary.
"My name is Kamsen, and I am the last of the Eight." He expects and finds no recognition in your eyes at his words. "The Eight are a group formed from the grief of men. Eight people who swear to devote themselves to the undoing of the Empire of Cheliax and the horrors it creates. For five hundred years, a group of eight have fought against Cheliax, in battle and in diplomacy, in killing and in conniving. Eight from all backgrounds and races, all professions and callings, all with the knowledge of Cheliax's villany." His back grows straighter as he speaks, his voice booming with an echo of a pride long forgotten.
"For thirty years I and a group of the greatest men and women it was my privilege to know fought against the empire. But eventually, the minions of Cheliax killed my friends and captured me in this dungeon. In the long years since, the reason for keeping me has been forgotten, but I still remain, unable to fight, unable to die." He looks at each of you in turn. "For our oath, we rec eive powers from the human mages who created the group after a Chelaxian massacre of immense scale and depravity. Time has sadly diluted the powers of the Eight, but some vestiges still remain. The power to teleport, a degree of telepathic empathy with my comrades, and…" he gives a small smile.
"rarely, occasionally, sometimes… the favour of the subtle hand of Fate… From what you have described of your escape, and your disgust with the devilry of Cheliax, I believe that Fate has steered you here and given you this choice. If you are willing, I can use the last of my power to anoint you as the new Eight. You will gain powers, and can use them to escape from this place… but you must swear an oath before the men of old and the children of today, to uproot that which is the Chelaxian empire, to the best of your abilities, to the end of your days." The old man's hands clutch the bars of his cell, his fingers growing white as he stares down at the stone floor.
"The Empire has grown beyond imagining in the many years since the Eight were formed, and even more since I was captured and the Eight defeated. None will blame you should you fail." He looks up at you and there are tears in his solemn eyes. "But if you freely choose to take this duty, then you must swear to try. To attempt to work against the Empire, to strive to protect those who cannot protect themselves, as we once did… as I hope we will again, through you." Wiping his eyes, he crosses his arms and lowers his forehead. "What say you?"
The lock clicked as the key ring jingled in Aleksandyr's hands. The cell door was unlocked and he hung the ring from his belt, securing it where the leather looped and tucked under. Inclining his head, the knight was as impassive as he was when he looked upon the dead guard's pale corpse. "Your words are woven together with a sense of conviction, honesty and pride," he spoke, opening the door. "I cannot speak on behalf of the men and women who stand beside me, but to you I would make such a vow."
"That sounds like I was born to be a hero in one of Mama Becca's plays." There's a grin on Mellany's face, but she's standing straight and her eyes, which haven't left the old man's, look like she's deadly serious. "But from the banging on the door, it looks like I'll die fighting the empire one way or the other. Your way sounds like I can do some good before I go. I'm in."
Almost as soon as the old man began to speak, the cogs in Blast's mind started turning. The Eight? Never heard of them. But they're an elite secret group, so that makes sense. Taking down Cheliax... Special powers? Blast pauses for a moment, then shakes his head as Aleksandyr unlocks the door, not believing he has to think this over.
It's an Abyss of a lot better than rotting in here, and the Chelaxians already hate me. May even get grandfather off my back.
Blast steps forward, extending one hand to shake hands with the old man and help him out of the cell. "I'll take the oath," he says.
"Do we really have a choice with the alternative being being skewered at the ends of Chelish swords? I agree to your oath but know that my oath to the Grandmother will always supersede it." It felt weird to invoke her name without his trusty staff at hand, but it would have to do.
Time slows for a moment in Aromar's head, as he steps back from the scene in his own thoughts.
'What have you gotten youreself into now?'
A night or two in a cell wasn't anything new to him, he'd played fast and loose with the rules on many occasions, but the stakes here were clearly a lot higher than what he was used to. This was no drunk tank, he hadn't got caught cheating in a dice game, he hadn't been walked in on with the daughter of the local sheriff. This was serious. He'd always lead a carefree life, a day to day existence where he did what he wanted, when he wanted.
'So I have to swap these Chelaxian chains for those of the Eight? Great. If it would save my and the others' hides and those of the children I'd be willing to say anything.' though he really was unsure of what he might be signing up for. The words about the special powers didn't even register, strangely, the thought of a life with purpose, one with accountability threatened him.
'Look old man, I'm hardly in any kind of bargaining position here, count me in.'
Akari listens intently to he old man's offer.
"This seems like a great reward without much risk up front... Sounds risky... Well, if i hadent already chosen this path and the consequences a long time ago I'd think twice about it."
"I would be honored"
Akari approaches the old man
"But what is to become of you? There is so much you could teach us about the Chelish empire."
Akaris words begin to sound a bit desperate.
"I'm getting you out of here"
How binding can an oath taken under duress be? Taurven looks around at the others. None of us really knows the other. Some people will say anything to avoid an unpleasant end.
Taurven smiles apologetically. Not to imply that any of you would do so. It works both ways, of course. You all know nothing about me either.
Nor do we have time to find out. If we are to escape we need to do so soon.
Taurven's face grows grim and serious. I will, take your oath Kamsen.
I swear to take the cause of the eight and make it my own. Till we succeed or death takes me.
"Thank you, young man. I know you will do me and my old friends proud."
"We are born with two fates, young lady." Says the old man with a smile. "One thrust upon us, and one we must choose ourself. And to be a member of the Eight is a very noble fate."
The old man grips the tiefling's hand unflinchingly and solemnly nods at him.
"I am sorry that circumstances have forced you to choose between death and this oath, friend. But fear not. Fate would not guide you here today if you were a man unable to fulfil all his oaths." The old man reaches out and grasps his shoulder firmly. "Have faith."
"As you wish."
"The honour would be mine." He shakes his head sadly. "I cannot. A tongue shriller than all the music calls me. I have lived well, and my ghost shall rest easy."
The old man steps forward and claps you by the shoulders. "Have faith in fate, friend. His works are mysterious but they always have a thin thread of order spinning amongst them." He nods at you seriously as you swear. "You do honour to us."
"Oh, these words are far from meaningless, sirrah" the old man says with a grim smile. "You will learn to love this cause, sir. As I have come to."
The old man strides out of his cage, a new youth and vitality creeping into his creaking frame. "Oathsmen, form a circle, arms clasped upon each other's shoulders. Children, stand in the centre- we are going to get you to safety." He turns to the group. "I am going to perform the initiation and then trigger your abilities to teleport. But first, we need a location. Child, what is your name?"
"Bob, sir" the child with the scar speaks up. "Bob, I need a location in the city- somewhere hidden, preferably with no guards, but also an open space." The child thinks hard, then says with a quick grin "The Oaken Plaza! Nobody ever goes there!" The old man looks somewhat dubious. "Are you certain, child?" The kid smiles. "Did I mention it's right next to the animal market's dung dumping ground?" "Ahh..." says Kamsen with a slow blink. "Yes, that would explain it... can you describe it?" The child sketches out its dimensions, and Kamsen nods in thanks and returns him to the centre of the circle.
The old man joins you in the circle between Blast and Mellany. "Oathsmen... you will now speak the words of the oath of the Eight. As the link is forged, I will use some of the link's power to join my mind with yours and begin the teleportation, before I must break and leave you." The old man's expression grows sombre. "I leave to you my spirit and my duty. May any who wish to withdraw speak now, or forever hold your doubt."
Aromar, witnessing the man’s grace and a spirit that seems to run through and transcend him pauses, he stands and listens to his responses. Uncharacteristically, as if instructed by a higher calling, he reservedly steps forward and joins the circle.
Aleksandyr stepped next to Aromar, giving him a slow nod as he extened his arm to form the chain. Even the reluctant one gave into something bigger than himself with the same uncertain zeal that slowly took all of them. He took a deep breath and extended his arm to the next entrant in the chain. "Bless our souls," the knight spoke in a soft tone, more to himself than the others.
Blast is about to take Kamesen's weight and guide him out when the man begins walking easily himself. Only momentarily surprised, Blast listens to Kamsen's words. I love this oath already, he thinks. It gets me out of prison, and helps me take down this damned country while I'm at it!
Blast moves to join the others in the circle, and when the time comes, begins to speak the words, glancing at the others and his surroundings as he does so.
Akari moves into the circle and grasps Kamsen's hand firmly.
"I do have faith... I am prepared to join this fate, and accomplish my task" she thinks to herself
Akari looks around the circle slowly, trying to catch eye contact with each one of her unexpected allies, as they all would now share the same fate.
"Ready" she says
"I couldn't have envisioned a better consequence to setting fire to a Chelish logging camp"
If I have to be oath bound to a bunch of strangers, Mellany thinks. I could do far worse then these seven. In their own way, each of them has saved my life already.
"Father Kamsen," Mellany says quietly and clearly, "I'll do what I can to keep your cause and memory alive. אמן."
Taurven takes his place in the circle.
He grins. The birth of a legend, now, at this moment.
Bards shall sing of this moment for a thousand years. The first step on the road to a new Cheliax. A Cheliax that shall be a beacon of enlightenment, to rival even old Azlant.
Taurven pauses to take a breath, and notices Kamsen's look of impatience. The half-elf decides to cut his speech short...
The old man's eyes twinkle as tears rain down his cheek. As the circle is formed, a bright blue mark on his right arm forms and glows brightly beneath Blast's hand, shining through his fingers.
You feel the presence of a mind- dusty and ancient, yet with a long-forgotten power newly coursing through it. As the mind connects with yours, Kamsen speaks, the words springing to your lips in time with his own. As one, you speak the oath.
"From cruelty, we were born.
In fire, we are alive.
The devilry of Cheliax, we will end.
We are the Eight."
"They sow sorrow.
We will sow joy.
Their weapon is cruelty.
Kindness will be ours.
Demons will protect them.
The innocents will stand with us.
We are the Eight."
"Here and now, we are alive.
Here and now, we swear this oath.
Tomorrow, Cheliax will fear us.
Today, we rejoice as brethren.
Now and forever-"
"You are the Eight." The old, old man whispers quietly as the spark in his eyes glows bright as his tattoo, and in unison you respond-
"We are the Eight."
"We are the Eight."
"We are the Eight."
"We are the Eight."
"We are the Eight."
"We are the Eight."
"We are the Eight."
"We are the Eight."
With a bright flash, the same blue mark appears on all your right arms beneath the clasping fingers of your newfound brethren. The wide-eyed children look up at you all in awe as a new power, a new connection is forged between you all. "Here, watch, see, learn..." whispers Kamsen's voice in your mind as you watch him reach into a tiny dot of blue power and gently cradle a portion of it in his hand.
He breathes into the small pool, the blue power cascades over you, and as Kamsen steps out of the circle and it closes fully, you feel a tiny thread pulling the top of your head upwards, until with a jerk the room vanishes around you.
As you disappear, the old man collapses to the floor panting, the blue sheen from his eyes fading to grey with his tattoo. As his heartbeat slows he spreads out against the floor, his cold cheek against the even colder stone.
The pounding behind the door rises to a climax and it shatters into splinters, tens of guards now visible stand aside, as robed figures throw globes of fire into the room. The flames lick around Kamsen's old, withered body, and his lips contort into one small, final smile. "We are the Eight"... and light fills his eyes.
Mellany chants the oath. She doesn't know where the words came from or how she came to know them, but they are the only words, the only truth for this time and place. In time Mellany loses herself in the words and the rhythm, just like when she was a girl singing in the temple. Only now she's not expected to carry a tune, thank the Rose.
"We are the Eight"
She isn't aware of how often she's said it already, but this time, Mellany focuses her attention on the children standing in the circle formed by her new comrades. What did we call them in this oath? "The innocent?" They're good kids, but don't let them catch you calling them innocent or they'll laugh in your face. But it's not just these innocents we stand with, it's all of them.
"We are the Eight," Mellany says the eighth time and as she feels a tug like she's being lifted to the heavens she quietly adds, "And we stand for thousands."
Blast says the words with everyone else, but unlike those who form the oath boldly, he murmurs his. This softness of voice, however, is caused not by a lack of surety, but by simple anticipation, nervousness, quavering hope, and wonder. How do I know these... he thinks.
He gasps as he notices the mark appearing on his arm, and then again when Kamsen exits the circle. He's about to try and grab the old man when he feels the tug and restraint of both the heavenly force and his new comrades. No! We can't leave him here!
Then he hears Mellany's words as the room fades. Blast looks sideways at her for a moment, then closes his eyes, muttering, "We are the Eight, and we stand for all those who need us," through gritted teeth.
He stood resolute amongst the eight, his arms interlocked as he chanted alongside the others. "We are the Eight," the knight spoke, each iteration of the words stronger and louder than the last. "We are the Eight! And we stand for justice!" The world around him began to spin, the rush of ancient power surging through him causing him to become light headed. He felt a warmth on his arm as he became marked by fate itself. The room like it was spinning faster and he closed his eyes shut and breathed deeply, feeling stretched and pulled...
Aromar's eyes widen as he witnesses his arm begin to glow blue. At first in horror, then in fascination, then in a warm, confident calm as the exhilaration of the power washes over him.
As he begins to feel like he's being pulled away from this earth he speaks the words "We are the Eight, we stand when others are unable to stand up for themselves ... "
We are the eight. Such simple words, yet Taurven can feel their growing power.
We are the eight, we are the teachers of liberty.
We are going to need grass-roots support, or this can never succeed. Thinks Taurven as the room begins to fade.