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The Palace of the Vampire Queen, level 2
Day 13, Approximate time of day, 2:50 pm (turn, 90)
Stephanie steps into the room just before Hallister and Rownig can move close to the dwarven woman and begin examining the chains that bind her.
With a simple apology and a flip of her wrist, Stephanie summons a small globe of acid which hurls through the air toward the woman.
The acid strikes her hands, and slashes onto the bed. There is a sizzle, and a whiff of white smoke rises from the bed cloths, but the dwarven woman does not react to the acid at all, and the small amount that lands on the cuffs of her shackles disappears immediately.
The dwarven woman shrugs her shoulders and lets out a long heavy sigh.
Finally taking a deep breath she keeps her hands low and says, Well aren’t you just the cleverest of half dwarves there is. Now I suppose you expect me to fly into a fit of rage or do something else dramatic. I am sorry to disappoint you. I have no desire to pit my limited strength against a band such as you. You obviously outnumber me, and have managed to get this far through both the Vampire Queens minions as well as the forces of Omara. Do you really expect me to throw my life away trying to find out exactly what you are capable of doing? I hope you are smarter than that.
She walks to the center of the circle
I was not lying. I am a prisoner here, and Omara has bound me with a ritual that I know practically nothing about, and somehow it has robbed me of some of my memories, as well as my powers. I have no love for, or interest in seeing Porungul spared. You are welcome to press on, leave me as you found me, and treat with him, and see how that works out for you. But, I have no reason to tell you all my secrets. You cannot harm me, and I cannot harm you. However, if you free me, if you are willing to let me go, I can offer you two things. One of those things is my promise not to interfere with your plans, whatever they are, and leave this place. The second thing is a gift, a very special gift. Now don’t get me wrong. I mean to tell you that I am angry, very angry, and when and if I can be free of these bonds I will have my revenge, on someone to be sure. So I suppose you only need to ask yourself if you want me to remember you all as people who let a demon go free who never was intending to harm you, or if you are the sort of people who just can’t help but always tell yourself that you must do the right thing. If you are, you know, those kinds of people, then we are not going to get along well at all, not now, and probably not ever in the future.
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Stephanie winced as the sphere hit, looking away from the hiss of acid only to be greeted by eyes of something obviously not a mortal. She shivered once as the creature gave it her full attention.
What had mother said? To treat them with respect but understand their nature. One does not dine with an asp for it is their nature to bite as the scorpion does sting.
the pacing, the veiled threats. What does this looks like to you Stephaine?
After the creatures speech Stephanie nods and makes a point to ensure eye contact with the creature before speaking.
" The actions I took were not meant as insult Luelleschia, but it is the folly of many to not take the time to understand what it is they do. I apologizes for my act to reveal you but it is readily apparent that your words were made in falsehood as well. I had to ensure my allies were not walking into a trap."
With that she looks to the trapped being bindings and back to her companions. A predator in a trap, with ones it called prey drawing in one its wounded body is what I see here.
" I once asked my mother about demons, a particularly frightening dream had pushed me to such dark questions. She informed me that all outsiders were beings to be treated with respect and caution. Mortals fear them because to such creatures we are prey, souls to be shucked of our mortal coil. However to fear them for that is the same as blaming the asp or the scorpion for when it stings. It is their nature after all."
The little gnome seems obviously uncomfortable but seems to steel herself anyway.
" To be imprisoned is a cruelty regardless of the creature but you must understand that giving you freedom would bring us into conflict again. This company is comprised of great warriors and potent sages to solve a greater threat. Freeing you would inevitably mean you as your nature encourages and harm or corrupt the mortals of this place. We would inevitably feel responsible for this.
Can you truthfully say that your rage would be sated in slaying the one who bound you here?"
With that the noble gives the creature in front of her a sad smile.
" While I cannot offer free reign of the material plane to you I feel that I might be able to give another option. If you were summoned here with arcane prowess then eventually that power will expire. However the ritual remains active until such that the creature summoned and bound agrees to the terms such a ritual imposes, that or the casters magic expires. Would you be willing to complete it if the terms were to the effect of you being permitted to enact vengeance on Omara, then immediately leave the material plane?" The spell caster asks in a questioning manner to leave no interpretation that at this current moment she was looking to complete the effect, if it was even there.
Stephanie is suggesting this last portion based on the idea that this creature was summoned here with an effect similar to Planar binding, that has the creature return home after whatever action the summoner had them do is complete. The idea being that Omara must have summoned this demon and been unable to press it into service. Subverting that process and having it submit to another spellcaster is slightly outside the bounds of the rules of the spell but thematically cool and gives Stephanie an option to approach this diplomatically.
Secondly looking at the circle is there anything Stephanie can glean from it? The circle would be aligned to the sort of creature that is trapped in the circle and if Omara knew it might even have the creature true name written in it.
After screwing up her eyes hard to try to stay focused on the dwarfdevildemon's longwindy words, Mae loses interest soon after Stephanie launches into her reply, becomes sullen when she hears mention of Stephanie's mother, then promptly loses interest again at the mention of complex concepts and convoluted discussions of morality.
She fronts up to the demon.
"Well, I don't know about all that, but I know an Eye you would probably like to meet. I can fix it up if you like." she begins broadly.
"And I know about being angry, let me tell you. I'm pretty sure we could harm you as well. So just drop the powerful big bad...bad thing routine and listen up. Err."
Mae scrunches up her eyes again.
"Hang on. What was the secret gifty thing again?" she asks the party quietly, before turning back to the subject at hand.
"Well, whatever. We don't always have to do "the right thing". And if you want to be mean to someone else, elsewhere, then fine. I'd just like to be remembered as the princess that got the secret gifty gift. Deal?" Mae finishes with her trademark idiotic beam.
"I'm gettin' reeeal sick of havin' t' treat with monsters." Hal grumbed softly as the sisters started talking to the demon.
Says the Dwarf who only recently dismembered a few Hill Giants...
I know really long walls of text can be a bit overwhelming, but with this post we are just about done with explaining what is going on here
The Palace of the Vampire Queen, level 2, a strange set of locked rooms
Day 13, Approximate time of day, 2:50 pm (turn, 90)
Luelleschia waits patiently for Stephanie to finish, and when she is about to respond, Maelodakh interjects.
By the expression on Luellexhia’s face it is clear she is having trouble following Maelodakh’s train of thought. An eye is mentioned, and then Maelodakh asks about the gift.
It looks, for a moment, as if Luelleschia is having trouble remembering what she was going to say to Stephanie, then in a flash of insight, she remembers
Ah, yes, sorry too many questions coming at me at once. She points with one hand toward Stephanie, as the small gnome begins examining the circle inscribed on the floor. You seem to understand some of the ritual at work here, but not all of it. I won’t pretend I understand all of it myself, those of my kind are really, in many ways, not all to different from those of you who inhabit this plane, we are all searching for knowledge of one kind or another, pretending we know things when it suits us, or pretending we don’t know things if it protects us. So, let me see if I can tell you what I think is happening here, and why I think your suggestion won’t work.
First, as to my rage, you misjudge me, as is common of this plane. It isn’t rage that drives me. It is honor. I have my own life, my own needs, my own existence, and that freedom was taken away from me by someone who wants to use me as a pawn in her scheme. She has truly messed with the wrong demon. If, and this is a big if, everything goes exactly as Omara has planned, I imagine, I will fulfill my purpose, and then be banished back to my home plane for a period of time that she hopes will be so long that I find something that distracts me from my hurt at her hands. Why I am required to be bound to this room, with this chain, I don’t know. I was summoned by Omara, at this spot, so yes you will find my name inscribed in this circle, but I imagine it is protected from discovery, as it seems she put a great deal of time and planning into making sure that once she had me here, she could make her demand in confidence.
Porungul and I are to stand in for the bride and groom in a wedding ceremony. This ceremony is not Omara’s plan, but I understand it is the desire of someone known as the Vampire Queen, that is what Omara calls her. This ceremony is meant to end a long suffering curse. The Vampire Queen believes that Omara intends to supply two people who have had their souls replaced by the souls of two who died many hundreds of years ago. Naturally this will not be true, and Omara is counting on our nature to be a mask that hides the deception. Instead of the wedding succeeding as the Vampire Queen hopes it will, it will fail. Omara thinks this will weaken the Vampire Queen to the point that she can be subdued, with our help. And then, a soul will be summoned to be forced into the Vampire Queen’s body, the soul of the Drowned Maiden, the love of the dwarven god Mafolin. With the Drowned Maiden returned to this world, to a mortal life, Omara hopes to take control of Mafolin, and rule this world.
I have no idea how Omara has come up with these plans, the specific details, but she is so sure it will work exactly as she plans. She talks about it every time she passes this way. She is not taking any chances. The time when these rituals will need to be performed is near, and she has ensured that we are here, bound and ready, and our release is tied the rituals, she made sure of that. So I do not think there is any way you can release us, me, him, from our captivity unless you yourself intend to carry through with the same rituals.
Of course, should you destroy me, on this plane, or him, Porungul, her plans would most likely, maybe, be ruined. I do not know how long she had to prepare the rituals that bound us, but I feel that she will not have time to recreate them, and an opportunity will pass by. Maybe it will come again in another year, or ten, or maybe it is a hundred, that detail she has never divulged. If I could be free of these shackles, which themselves are heavily enchanted, and if this circle was destroyed, I would simply leave, but Omara will only need to speak her demand and I will have to appear and fulfill the terms of our agreement, not because I want to, as I really don’t have any interest in seeing this world destroyed anymore than you do, but because of the power of the spells that were cast to bind me in the first place.
Killing me won’t be hard, I won’t resist. Because I am not like you, I have no soul, I will be sent back to where I came from, but I cannot say for certain that her demand will not reach across the plannar boundaries and pull me back. No, there isn’t anything I can imagine that you can do, release me or destroy me, that is guaranteed to stop Omara’s plan. The only one who might know, is the oracle, and to get to her you need to get by Porungul.
I do not care if you leave me as you found me, and move forward, but he, I am told, is not like me, he is, well, a bit looser in the head, I suppose. If you do not feed him, he will fight you.
She turns to face Maelodakh
My gift is a blessing of physical power. I can see to it that whatever it is that you feel you lack, I can make stronger. Your prowess, your intellect, your health, your beauty, simply name the thing you want to see improved, and give me a kiss and you can have my gift. Of course, you’ll have to offer me something in return. Your friend has been very clear that I do not belong, well, unchecked, in your world, and I really do not want to be here, well, this particular here, and now, so I can promise you that if you can break this enchantment, stop the rituals, free me from my bondage, you can have my gift, and we will be bonded by it, but I will trouble you, and this place never again.
"Mel," Hal said quietly, sounding worried and a little sad. "Remember when we talked about that line you might end up crossing if you talked to the Eye? This is it. You accept a Demon's Gift, that's the line. It's a mark on your soul that will never come clean. You'll be a Diabolist. You'll be one of the thing's I'm sworn to destroy. Please don't do it."
At the temerity of the creature to mention of lacking anything Mae becomes a study in stone. Never mind the outlandish notion of a jumped up kiss and tell booth.
She listens to Hal's less than subtle murmured warning and nods almost imperceptibly.
"Understood Hal. I...understand." her eyes never leaving the strange being in the shape of a pitiable dwarfess.
A flash of fear passes Stephanie's face as Hallister speaks in his quiet manner. "Hallister! She'd never do that!"
Stephanie denies as she looks with worry between her sister and the demon.
"A-at least she'd never do so intentionally. After all Mae, you are perfect as you are. Right?" You are my sister after all
With that the gnome glances down at the binding runes and quickly starts scrutinizing them. Definitely not concerned about Maelodahk's response to her statement. Nope.
"Anyway! I'm going to see if there isn't something I can learn from this anyway. I have sources that might be illuminating when it comes to binding circles." The little noble states ominously as she puts down her pack and begins rooting through it, snapping a rather grim looking book open to several pages decked in runes. Tilting the object so its contents are not visible to the demon in front of her.
It would do no one any good to have an unkillable being gain the knowledge that the Eye is no longer a myth after all.
In the deepest corner of her backpack Stephaine still has the Books she received from our encounter with the eye. Much of it is treatises on darker magics but there is also much information on how the Eye was bound. It stands to reason that binding circles of that that potency are going to share common traits regardless of the creature it is designed to hold. Learning the Demon's true name would be useful (If only for insurance once the campaign ends.) More importantly would be getting a better idea to how this construction is made. It would be nice to know if succeeding in breaking it will just cause it to blow up or not. Nice as this particular Demon is being Stephanie has no reason to believe her statements even if lying would give the creature no discernible benefit.
Miagnik listened to everything the bound demon woman said. He glanced at Hal when he warned Maelodakh that he would try to kill her if she accepted the Demons kiss, and pleaded with her not to do it.
He had to admit to himself that he was intrigued about the possible gain of power, but did not like the binding that it promised.
When Stephanie defended her sibling and talked about the Magics in the circle, he had a strange thought. He looked first to Maelodakh, then the demon, and then to Stephanie.
"Agreed! Mae you're a hero and a princess! You don't need to make deals for questionable power. People worship and fear you already, whether its from your noble birthright or your own fearsome reputation.
I really don't understand everything about this magic circle business, it seems out of reach for me. But you are bound here in some way by the power of the circle, right? It helps to bind you to Omara. Destroying it and releasing you would hinder her plans but it might not be enough to stop her. Learning your true name would help hold more sway one right?
Stephanie, if you can figure out a way to rewrite the magic, maybe you can shift control away from Omara and to yourself. I mean the magic's all there right? Or if that doesn't work, then why don't we just make an even bigger circle and call you there with that one?! Normally the magic calls you to a certain location but you're bound here already, and since you're right in front of us it couldn't hurt to try, right?"
Miagnik was starting to grin, ear to ear as he spoke. The excitement in his voice was growing.
Stephanie nods as she reads her book sparing a flickering glance to Miagnik before returning her book and the rapidly filling scroll she was using to scratch notes.
"Well that could work, excepting for the fact that even the most basic magics of binding are categorically more potent than any spell I have ever fathomed casting on my own. If Omara is capable of casting bindings like this unaided then she could have completed her grab for power much faster than this, it makes me think that this is a ritual that was either already here or drawn by Omara to be charged with this places mystic energy. Such spells and rituals take a long time to achieve the effects they grant, I suppose I could try to replicate or modify the ritual but that is only going to work in certain circumstances. Rituals are tricky work and i'll need to find out precisely what I am dealing with before changing it lest i cause a cascading backflow of magic jamming the primary thaumaturgic channeling coeff-." Stephanie rattles off as she work, pausing to concentrate for a second on rewording.
"Let me rephrase. Rituals are highly complex mystic machinery like a tower clock or a vault door. Magic rituals just have a much higher chance or exploding or turning you into a sheep if you mess them up."
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Mae listens with growing excitement as first Miagnik has been showing he's paid attention to just how great and powerful Mae is, and then rattles off his plan for demonic domination. Trying not to show it, Mae settles herself.
Eyeing Hal carefully, she takes a fairly infamous stance then whispers to her sister.
"Actually Stephanie, if you are going to do this "wresting of power", best you put it under my command. Strictly on a deference to authority kind of protocol of course."
Hal raised his eyebrows as he realized that Mae wasn't trying to take control of the demon for herself. She was trying to make sure that Hal didn't have to kill Stephanie for trafficking with demons. He couldn't help but smile just a little.
He kept his thoughts to himself. He hated all this interaction with demons, but under the circumstances things were going well.
"Don't mess wit Mae's smarts...leave them be." The cleric grumbles.
know planes: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (4) + 4 = 8
know religion: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (12) + 7 = 19
Does any of the demon's story sound familiar to the dwarf?
Rownig will start o exam the circle looking for the name and the intertwining magics. "Perhaps I can break the circle." He is careful not to touch or cross the markings, he's just eyeballing them for now.
perception, traps: 1d20 + 12 ⇒ (6) + 12 = 18
He shakes his head back and forth, too many strange lines drawn for him to unravel.
I don't normally like to take 20 as I like the dice to roll.
Stephanie tries to look through the books she is carrying, examine the circle made upon the floor, and carry on a conversation with her friends all at the same time. She is a bit proud of herself as she realizes that she is succeeding at all these things at once, when she suddenly discovers a name scribed in common dwarven runes in one small part of the magic circle
Windel racks his brain trying to recall anything about the demon’s story that sounds familiar
When Stephanie finds the name, the demon is standing right next to her.
Are you surprised?
She walks away from Stephanie and sits back on the bed.
I know how it is with most of the people of your kind. This isn’t the first time some prime material plane being has tried to control me. I imagine my name is littered through your dark tomes. I’m tired of this. You must think that because you hear a story in a tavern, read a ancient stone’s warnings, or encounter some mad demonologist that every single one of some one hundred forty million different beings from my world are all exactly the same. Well, we are not, no more than every goblin is exactly like her, or every dwarf like him, she points at Maelodakh and Hallister.
Would I kill you without even caring about the consequences? Of course I would if it suited my purpose. Do I lie? When it suits me. Am I evil, as you and your kind are so want to categorize things? Naturally, I am if by evil you mean I think that your life is not worth a penny to me. But, make no mistake, my life means the world to me, just as yours does to you. And where I come from there are powerful princes, dukes, kings and queens, just like in your world, and they, the people in power where I come from, have their own plans, their own schemes, and do not often react kindly to people of your world when they upset those plans, and when they cannot take out their frustration on your kind, individuals like me, and Porungul will do.
This plan of Omara’s is going to fail. No I don’t know that for certain, and I cannot tell you how I know it, I just feel that it will. When I am returned to where I came from, I feel that my overlord will not look at my role in this debacle with pleasure. That is why I have decided that playing at the game for my own ends is not worth the effort. You know my real name. I have told it to you, and now you have found it. You cannot undo what Omara has done, as far as the circle is concerned. Like I said, your only choice now is to move forward, and hope that when you look back I might actually be smiling for a change, you know, in a , haha, good way, haha.
Huh. could have sworn I posted something yesterday. *shakes fist at the mighty forum beast* Bah.
Stephanie stands, vanishing the dust of the floor from herself with a cantrip and placing all the books back into the depths of her pack while her mind processed everything.
"Well, I did have to be certain." The gnome says looking in the direction of Luelleschia before turning to the rest of the group. Giving the creature an uneasy gesture of fear and minor sympathy at her joke.
It wasn't so long ago that I was bound down here. If only there was a way I could assure my allies that granting you mercy would not come back to bite us later.
"The binding that holds her here is a simple one inscribed into the floor. She could physically leave this place once we broke the circle, however from what I can gather on it the binding that encompasses her spirit that Omara wrought is fantastically more powerful. Without reality altering magic on the level of primal arcane loci we will not be able to break it. She states the truth about there being a high chance that Omara could summon her back if we were to kill her. Even if we were capable of breaking the binding I doubt the bargains we'd need to enter to obtain such a potency would be worth it." The eye is still down there after all
" As far as I can tell Luelleschia has yet to misinform on the nature of the bindings she is under."
"So what do we do with her now?"
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Miagnik listened to the talk of the magic's here requiring a great deal more power with a sense of growing helplessness at the current situation, and frustration at his own lack of power. Her offer of
Never strong enough.
"Well you're interesting for a demon. If sending you back or destroying the circle won't work, then I say we take her advice and move on. Let's leave her here for now. This Porungul, let's go deal with him." he turned to face the door but stopped and looked back at Luelleschia. "Assuming we survive, we'll get you out of this."
"Seems like we're down here to save everyone anyway." he muttered under his breath.
Startled by seeing the demon next to Stephanie. "You know...I think if I use one of me blades to scrap real hard, I think I can break this circle. It may help you, when they come back." he looks to Hal and Stephanie for some guidance. "You know any help we can git, could be useful."
So if the demon is standing next to Stephanie is, or standing just inside the circle?
"When I took my oaths, I was told that the longer I did my job the more I'd be forced to make choices that others would look at as wrong. That the things I would fight would make me as bad as they are in order to fight them. Nearly half my order ends up becoming the kinds of people that the rest of us have to put down. The ones that draw lines regarding things they won't do are the ones that fail. The ones who decide the ends justify the means become monsters. Seems like there's no way to win. I keep thinking, hoping, that maybe there's a third option. That maybe if I toss the coin long enough it will land on it's edge."
"This is why there are so many things I cannot compromise on. Once you start, it is impossible to know how far you'll end up falling."
"How many lives has this demon ruined? How many more will she ruin if she is freed? What are those lives worth against our mission? Will any of it matter if Omara is successful?"
"I just don't know anymore. You can't weigh morality in the face of the end of the world."
Hal took a deep breath looking like he was literally weighing the fate of the world. "If we get out of this alive, I'll take the blame. For this. For the Eye. For all the deals we've had to make to get this far. Maybe there's a way to set all this right. Or maybe I'll burn for it. Either way, doesn't matter now."
"Luelleschia, I know you'll try to worm your way out of the specifics of any deal we make with you, so here's what I want- Just a general agreement. You agree, contractually, that you will help us stop Omara, the the best of your abilities and whatever way you can without endangering our lives or our souls. Once Omara is dead and her plan stopped, the contract is over. You make that agreement, we'll free you."
"Do you agree?"
Rownig - I'm not sure I understand your question. Luelleschia is inside the circle, part of her, at least her feet, are always inside the circle. Stephanie could be inside or outside of the circle, that is up to her. When the two were talking, we can only say for certain that Lue was inside the circle
The Demon listens closely to Hallister's words. When he is finished, she moves to the center of the circle, and says
You want me to agree to help you stop Omara. Alright I will. I agree to help you, but I cannot help you to the best of my abilities, as I do not have access to those abilities at the moment. Omara's binding limits my power a great deal, but I'll do what I can, when I am asked. Asking me to agree that my helping you wont result in your deaths is a fool's errand. I cannot predict the future anymore than you can. I will promise not to set out to harm you, or your friends, but should the things you and I do result in catastrophe for all of us, well, holding that against me would just be petty don't you think. No, I agree to not try to harm you, but I do not agree to guarantee your safety. Once Omara is dead, I am free, no matter what agreement I make with you. For all I know there are those plotting here death even as we speak, and if she dies, I will know it, and I will be free. I have no interest in harming you, no interest in getting in your way. So, take my answer as a yes, I agree, and let's hope that we find a way to end Omara quickly, before any of us begins to wonder just what kind of agreement we've gotte4n ourselves into?
"Don't argue semantics with me, demon. If your powers are limited right now, then whatever you can do at the moment is the best of your ability right now. If that changes at some later point, then so do what qualifies as your best."
"Now, do we have your Contractual Oath?"
The dwarven woman sighs, and says,
yes, you have my word, and my oath.