|Jing the Evil GM|
The young lad's eyes open wider and he looks around almost as if getting a good look at his surrounding for the first time. He nods his promise as he looks from the beautiful woman in front of him, to the beautiful woman near him, then slowly to the rugged man he heard earlier. Finally, they move towards the large, rugged yet beautiful woman by the torture rack.
He inhales sharply and his eyes fill a bit with fear once again as they roam over the woman to the disfigured hands and back up to her eyes. He looks back at Ileosa for comfort and becomes emboldened again by her motherly aura.
But then, Kaellan's armor creaks and his eyes scan over to him. His eyes go wide once again and he clutches at something on his chest. His words raspy and quick "Lord above, Mitra's merciful hand..." you catch as he begins rattling off some prayer under his breath. His breathing coming fast and shallow.
Bluff: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (15) + 7 = 22
"Aaah, dear Kaellan." Ileosa muttered with a small sigh before she gently pulled Timeon to her. "I know how he looks young one, but eyes cannot tell you everything." She explained to him. "Kaellan is a warrior and when he was in battle once he was throw into the planes of Hell." Ileosa told him in a tone that wouldn't be out of place when telling a bedtime story. "His time within that plan tainted the way he looks, creeping into his very being. But he is still a loyal warrior young Timeon, do not cross him and you'll have nothing to fear." She smiled.
Godfrey stands listening the the back and forth with a fixed smile, though his eyes stare off at something out of sight. I do wonder what our would-be seductress is up to here. The boy is of little use and I'm no sadist to stretch him out simply for the fun of it. He eyes the squire up and down with a swordman's critical, curious if he might be of use later. Still, a Mitran zealot and likely not so easily swayed. I see no reason to open the eyes of those who insist on keeping them shut tight.
Godfrey is happy to watch and listen for now. He isn't one to want a squire in the traditional sense. Knowledge is to be hoarded, in his estimation, and a squire is a ward and trainee primarily. A lackey or three can be useful but only if they've skills worth noting.
Senara threads her arm through Kaellan's as the group leaves the torture chamber behind and brushes her hand across his armor-like physique in a consoling manner. Whatever Ileosa's endgame with the boy, the Lady did not appreciate the way the other woman spoke about her brother's condition, even if it was only to soothe Timeon's fears. When Senara looked at Kaellan, she didn't see someone who had been tainted by his time in Asmodeus's realm. If anything, his transformation only added to his glory in her eyes. A fact Senara assured Kaellan of both through their shared mental bond and her frequent stolen glances.
The noblewoman also doesn't appreciate being kept in the dismal cellar for any longer than she had to be. Patience had never been her forte, and thanks to her upbringing and having a cadre of servants always at her beck and call, it had never needed to be. But Senara supposes she can go along with Ileosa's ploy for at least a few minutes more before she'll insist the other woman continue her games with the boy upstairs.
Bluff: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (2) + 7 = 9
Looking to her allies Ileosa states to them "Let us go through the rest of this place." She told them "See what is at the end." Trying to hint to them that she wanted to show the young squire the knight's body.
Then, as carefully as possible and keeping Timeon close to her, they left the room to make their way back to the cell the knight had been in.
Bluff: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (14) + 7 = 21
When they came upon the final room, Ileosa let out a gasp and covered Timeon's eyes. However she had ensured it was just slow enough that the lad was able to see the state of Sir Balin. "I'm... so sorry Timeon..." Ileosa said to him.
|Jing the Evil GM|
The boy looked a bit confused at Ileosa's attempt at a hidden message to her allies. But while he did catch that she was trying to tell them something, he hadn't the foggiest idea what she had mentioned.
He cowered in the center of the group up until they made it towards the end. Seeing challenge after challenge having been defeated, he began to gather hope. Either the party with him had managed all this or Sir Balin himself had and that emboldened him towards seeing Sir Balin alive once more.
However, when Ileosa let out the gasp, his heart sank and the blood rushed from his face. He caught a brief glimpse of Sir Balin, stripped of his belongings and laying on his side in a pool of his own blood. His legs buckled and he dropped to his knees in grief.
He just sat there in shock of the sight and nearly catatonic.
Ella tires not to grunt in annoyance, and mostly succeeds. She trusts Ileosa can find a use of this whimpering boy, but she is hard pressed to guess what might be worth his sniveling tedium. Realizing the desire to run him through is growing by the second, she decides "I'll scout to make sure there is nothing more." and excuses herself and waits within earshot.
Ileosa knelt beside the squire once more and pulled him into a motherly embrace, "I am so sorry Timeon." She repeated as she ran her hand over the back of his head, more like she was caressing a pet than another humanoid being. "But you have us." She told him as she slowly tried to pull him up to his feet "Come with us, let us get you out of here young one." Ileosa said, pushing some of his hair out of his face. "You have so much potential."
Godfrey, at a loss as to Ileosa's intent, follows her and her new ward as they retrace their steps through the dungeon. More walking. I suppose if she can follow as we see to the last of the Lessons, I can indulge her bizarre whims with this boy. He watches dispassionately as the boy crumples in wordless horror at the sight of the knight's body. As Ileosa fawns over him, he finally gains a bit of insight into her actions. Ah, so she's looking to gain his loyalty. I'm not sure what good that is, but I'm hardly one to interfere when there's no cost to me. He stands what would be a respectful distance away from the grieving boy, even as he replays the fight with Sir Balin in his mind. He has to suppress a smile as he remembers the knight's surprised gasp as he was run through.
Bluff: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (17) + 6 = 23
|Jing the Evil GM|
"Let us get you out of here. Get you something that will help you sleep for a bit. A good rest is what you need." Ileosa said gently as she pulled the young man along to rejoin the group. "Let us try to get out of here. This young man needs rest." She told them.
|Jing the Evil GM|
The group having successfully completed the Nine Lessons to their satisfaction make their way back up to the exit. They are surprised to find it unlocked and unattended by Tiadora. Whether it was because her earlier comments were a farce used to toy with the team or perhaps they were being watch remains to be understood.
Given the lack of people anywhere near the "dungeon", Ileosa is able to take the boy up to her room and put him to rest. She finds a bottle at her bedside with a note carefully folded under it as well as a glass and a pitcher of water.
Yours Annoyedly, Tidadora.
Once the boy is stowed and the group gathers once more. They make their way down to the study. A quick look outside shows that it is still deep into the night, the group managed the lessons surprisingly quickly. If one were to estimate, it'd have taken around six hours as it's close to midnight or a little later.
In the study, they find their pleased looking "master", the Cardinal. He sits there reading a book but otherwise appears to haven't move an inch. Only the difference in pages of the book and the settling of logs show a difference in the room. He doesn't even look up from his book, but a pleased tone appears in his voice "You've returned...I trust you enjoyed the lessons?" he asked with curiosity.
The Cardinal holds up the trinket and pauses as if in deep contemplation. He watches as the holy symbol glitters in the light. "A pretty enough thing, eh?" he muses. "This is a of holy symbol of Mitra, in particular the sort favored by the Knights of the Alerion. But, perhaps you already knew that."
He turns towards the group and gingerly places it back in the exact spot the party placed it. "Remember this symbol. This is the mark of those who destroyed our faith and sought to banish all trace of the worship of our Father from these shores. These, my friends, are you enemies."
"Please, keep it. Perhaps one day it may aid you in disguising yourself, should you find the need."
He smiles "You have done surprisingly well. Escaping from Branderscar, Slaughtering Sir Balin...even finding yourself a toy from the clutches of those Mitran knights...yes, perhaps you are indeed worthy of being one of my Knots. Now, let us complete your training..." he said sitting forwards and steeping his fingers as he stares rather evilly at you all, a look in his eyes that he is going to enjoy the next few moons.
Silas disappears from your group. A small note of explanation shows that the Cardinal has decided his uses...belong elsewhere with another knot. The Cardinal handles most of your training, though Tiadora herself actually takes young Ileosa to her side and trains her personally and PASSIONATELY.
After reading the note left for her she placed it in her pocket and poured a glass of water and dropped in a couple of drops of the oil, mixing it together before she gave it to Timeon to drink. "To help you sleep." She explained. "It will give you dreamless rest."
Then she rejoined the others to speak to the Cardinal in giving him the pendant. When he told them they could keep it, Ileosa snatched it from the desk. Disguising herself was the norm for the young woman and she would gladly put the item to use. "I shall put it to good use I am sure." She said with a respectable nod.
The look in his eyes at the end of it however peeked an interest in the inquisitor that hadn't been reached in quite some time... She looked foreword to the new few moons.
In the study, Senara approaches the Master's desk with a self-satisfied smirk, Balin's pendant dangling from her fingertips. "I won't speak for the entire group, but I certainly found them to be informative," she answers while waiting for the Cardinal to acknowledge her offering. Senara waits until it becomes apparent that the Cardinal has no intention of pausing his reading just yet. I suppose we're still no better than servants in his eyes. Realizing her scheme to curry a bit of additional favor by delivering the Mitran symbol to him personally is for naught, Senara places the pendant on the desk with a quiet sigh and goes to rejoin the others.
Hands folded neatly in front of her, Senara listens attentively to the Cardinal's monologue. She tries to keep her face neutral when he mentions that the particular sort of symbol is favored by the Knights so as not to betray her ignorance of that fact, but the Lady can't keep her gaze from furtively glancing toward Godfrey at the revelation. Senara retrains her focus back on Thorn when he turns back to address them, accepting his instruction with a quiet nod. The noblewoman feels a small frission of fear at the anticipatory leer Cardinal Thorn gives her and her companions, but despite the man's ominous words, Senara finds herself looking forward to discovering what the High Priest has to teach her.
Ella listens quietly and patently during the Cardinal's speech, leaving the discussions to the others. She still does not like him, would feel better far away from him, but understands that is unlikely to ever happen. His evil stare is met with her own narrowing glare, not a challenge, for she isn't that stupid, but enough to make her feel a little better. A tiny rejection of her own fate so to say.
As soon as they are dismissed, she'll nod her goodnights to each of her companions and then leaves for something to eat, a bath, and some intricate dissection of a mechanical snake.
Godfrey is in a cheery mood as they emerge from the damp confines of the dungeon into the sumptuous quarters that formed Cardinal Thorne's manor. They had bested the challenges before them with relatively little damage to show for it. A knight of Mitra had died at his hand and he'd had a small taste of the vengeance that was justly his. I believe I've found a line of work I will not mind so much after all. For the favor of the First.
He replies to the Cardinal's inquiry, "Returned indeed. And returned wiser. They were informative, certainly." A smile, fierce and hawkish in the flickering light cast by the fireplace, breaks across Godfrey's lips, "And aside from informative, I for one found them gratifying. A taste of what is to come, perhaps." He watches the exchange of the pendant silently, a hand idly resting on the pommel of his sword. The sword that had sealed Sir Balin's fate and demonstrated their worth. He ignores the Cardinal's praise -certainly false- but finds himself ill at ease under the Asmodean priest's weighty glare. Feeling the sudden need to fill the silence, he quickly replies, "I look forward to absorbing all knowledge that you would offer, Cardinal Thorne. I think you will find me a diligent student."
|Jing the Evil GM|
The Cardinal looks up rather surprised. "I felt it was fitting? Did you not train most of your life as a hidden bride of Asmodeus first and then fail to become the secret bride of the current king? Perhaps it might be a bit humbling, but having a reminder with you of your failures can drive you far better than memories of your successes. May it also keep you remembering your Oath to Asmodeus above your own worldly desires." he offered. His words were not honeyed nor were they laced with venom.
He stared at her for a moment "Does that answer well enough?" he asked curiously.
"Now, about young Timeon... As Tidadora so kindly gave my the oil, I believe you have approved the keeping of my little pawn?"
|Jing the Evil GM|
The Cardinal raises a brow "Are you not an Arbiter of his will? Are you not a mediator of his contracts? There is no higher honor in Asmodeus's court. Don't think yourself of being the only bride, for he has many." he said waving off her correction.
He looked at her with a bit of a raised brow and dismissed it for now. That was a problem perhaps of another time. When she mentioned the young boy, he paused. "I do not know what ideas you have for the young boy. He is young, inexperienced, and showing of no real talent. He could be a liability...but I would not control the dalliances of my people so heavily. If that is what you want, then take it and control it. Don't make me have to clean up your mess though." he warned.
"In the future, I would ask that you look for more worthy and promising people to corrupt." he said showing still his confusion of what the boy was worth.
Ileosa straightened herself up slowly and gripped her hands together in front of her. "I tend to clean up my own messes, so I wouldn't worry about such a thing. [b]"And this little pawn is only the beginning, others will follow." She promised.
Ella finds a fair few books of interest...stuff on anatomy, stuff on medicine, and stuff on various herbs and the like (I believe you also found that interesting book back in the warden's collection). But after about a few weeks of snooping around and getting tired of tried tonwork out of a Fire pit and a stew pot out in the swamp behind the manor, Ella will stumble upon a small servant house like building with acrid smoke billowing out of it one afternoon. Presumably, her curiosity would peek at this and she would try and get a good look.
Normally she'd avoid people and places with it, but as this is the Cardinal's land and she has become increasingly frustrated at her lack of progress in learning, (and maybe a tad bored), she'll approach the house and knock.
Going up to the house and knocking of course produces the result you've come to expect having been living beside the Cardinal and his entourage, the door is opened by another addled servant that fails at being a good conversationalist. He of course bows upon seeing you and asks if there is anything perhaps he could help you with.
Ella being Ella, simply asks bluntly "What is that smell?"
The servants nods and simply turns and begins walking to the source. Perhaps he didn't know how best to answer the question but the door was left open and that seems about as much invitation to follow as what you can expect around this place.
Sighing, the large woman moves into the room and follows the man.
The servants quarters isn't anything impressive. Little better than slave quarters, the building is two stories with every room being big enough for a bed and a small dresser for each servant. The doors to every room are missing till you get to what should be the large communal kitchen. This room, you quickly begin to notice is the source of the smell. Most of what should be cabinets, stove space, and other typical accouterments of a kitchen have been rather hastily and haphazardly pitched out the back door where they were set back up again by the servants. Instead, you find a fully functioning Alchemy lab. Perhaps surprisingly you find the young Drow hard at work in the lab, putrid smoke billowing out of a cauldron while she wears heavy cloth over her face and smoke goggles over her eyes. The sound of the door opening is enough to cause one of her ears to twitch in recognition that someone is there. A loud irritated sigh comes from her mouth and a flask is sent whipping over her shoulder to hit close to the servant's head from where he opened the door.
Ella pushes past the nonverbal one, giving a hard stare at the woman she distrusts most in there enforced Knot. Too convenient a cleric on hand was, this one too ready to step over the body of one who helped her escape to gain acceptance by her master. Ella had put her distrust aside a bit in during lessons. But here... alone...
Her multicolored eyes brimmed violence at the elf. If a glare could growl... it would... um... get distracted by all things about the room apparently. Flasks, chemicals, smells and powers, and... she steps forward into the room. Confrontation momentarily forgotten... "What is this?"
Triss's spine stiffened like she had been caught with her hand in an offering box. She quickly got over it and turned about and tried to rub some of the soot off the googles before pulling them off and blinking at the harsh bright light. She finally recognized who had found her little "home away from home". She let out a loud woop of relief "Shuuuuu. Can't a gurl get some kind of warning, all these entranced pretty fools stumbling about you start to ignore footsteps. A simple knock or something other then a loud voice suddenly might be a great way to keep a gurl from blowing herself up." she said as she took off some thick gloves and threw them on the table. She tried to get a deep breath and coughed a bit before ushering Ella to follow her as she stepped outside. Once outside, Triss wiped away a bit of sweat from her forehead and pulled her hair back with a bit of leather. "That, in there, is my Alchemy station. I showed ya'll once before I knew a thing or two about poison right. Well, I also said I knew a thing or two about making it. Learned a bit from my mama before I done took off...and it's certainly a lot less conspicuous and cheaper at that to make it than to buy it. Whot chu want with me? I've gotten it quite clear from yah that you don't seem to like me much." she said crossing her arms and looking with a bit of suspicion at the lethal woman.
"I don't" Ella answered simply, not with malice at the moment, just bluntly telling the truth as she does at times. "In there, was that sulfur you were using to mix in with the reagents, is that what is producing the smell? Doesn't it react adversely with the heat?" glancing back, she obviously doesn't think her admission of dislike to be meaningful, expressing curiosity only in the face of questions.
Triss's nose wrinkled a bit at the description of the smell "Family recipe, it's that poison that knocks people out. The mushrooms and blood of a certain underground animal don't like heat that well but with a few emulsification ingredients and a bit of heat, they play well together...well if you define well as can drop a moose with a bit in the blood system."
Ella listens intently, nodding at the explanation. Then falls silent for a bit, the giant of a woman does something few would think she capable of, ask for help. "Can you teach me?" she looks down at the drow woman, realizing her own admission of dislike might impede acceptance, so she clarifies "I don't dislike. I distrust. You are his..." she stops, and sighs, clarifying again "We all are now. But the rest of us were prisoners of one kind or another. You were not, and provided as the replacement of one that was. Was there a fighter, a mage, and a... " what exactly is Ileosa? "... a temptress? One each to take the place of any who doubted?" it sounds ridiculous even to herself, but she is still angry at the fear she felt that night. A bit of it rising in her voice now, which she tries to control and probably fails at.
Triss waves her hand dismissively "I could care less if you like me, though trusting me...well I think it's in everyone's best interest to be trusted. Perhaps I should have shot one of the servants instead of Godfrey. Oh but they are so booooring to bother." she says whining a bit.
When she mentions the other members shared background she sighs. "Do not worry, I have suffered plenty for my horrid life. I have just as much reason to hate these Mitrans as you, particularly after they boarded my ship and cost me my cargo." she said annoyingly. "But, no to my knowledge there was no further 'reinforcements' to replace you." she stated. "Believe me, I would prefer to be enjoying my wine, having my slaves taking care of me till I am hired again with the privilege of moving his 'cargo'" she said looking almost wistfully towards to the manor.
"You are forced to work with us? As a punishment for losing your cargo?" Ella asks curious.
Triss laughed a bit "Oh no no, I'm poor cause I lost my cargo. I'm forced to work with you because I signed a similar contract originally for the purposes of secrecy. I was a bit foolish and didn't read the fine print which says he could force me to work with others if needed."
Ella grunted at that, remembering reading that thing many times over, sure it would bite her if she didn't memorize every syllable. "That I understand... alchemy... will you teach me some?" her voice no longer harsh, just curious.
Triss scratched her head "I can teach you some, there are of course books that can help as well...but I can tell you I specialize in poisons mostly. Beyond crafting alchemical items...the rest you'll have to figure out on your own." she said with a bow and flourish.
Ella nods her thanks, instead of bows and flourishes "That will be appreciated... and I will owe you." Ella is a firm believer in paying her debts. "Can I help with the moose dropper you are making?"
Triss pulls another large thick bit of cloth out of her trenchcoat and offers it to Ella before heading back inside and donning her own as well as her gloves.
The music starts as images show mixing chemicals, colorful explosions, creating life out of splicing rats with something found under Triss' boot, out of control expansion of that new life, an aborted throttling that will never be mentioned again and bonding over the near death of all living things. Ending in a slightly less hateful and distrusting relationship between the token non (born) humans in the knot.
It didn't take long after that for Ileosa to figure out what was going wrong. Or, what was going right. While this would be a joyous time Ileosa was no fool, her body would not be able to withstand the training she would have to go through. Not to mention she couldn't keep it hidden for long.
Thus one morning before training Ileosa sought out the Cardinal.
|Jing the Evil GM|
Ileosa managed to find the Cardinal early one morning, sitting in his study. The servants had already come and delivered him his morning's meal and it seemed a bit intel has made it's way into his hands as he reads perhaps a bit uninterested but still engrossed all the same. The sounds of ones boots upon the floor of the manor caused him to look up from his parchments and look towards the entrance. "Miss...Albus, what has you wasting your precious time away from Tiadora this morning? Perhaps she is not pushing you as hard as I had instructed her." he said, a small chuckle in his throat.
He rolled up his parchments and set them to the side before he picked up his silverware and motioned with his knife for her to sit before he began to began to lightly work upon his meal.
"Believe me, I would not be wasting such precious time for anything menial." Ileosa said as respectful as possible while she took a seat. "The training has been fruitful even if only a small amount but if results are being seen now that shows great promise." She told him in a small hope that it would make what would come next easier. "However, my first task has began to show... greater promise. The King's seed has quickened, within me grows the King's child."
The Cardinal paused in his eating for a few moments once she had finished bringing up her situation. He sat down his cutlery and looked at her. "Hmm...it seems my intel was perhaps not quite as complete as I had thought about your crime. You almost succeeded it seems, if only you had managed to stay hidden for a small time longer." he said thinking aloud.
He took a slow annoyed breath before staring at her for a moment longer. "This would certainly get in the way of you fulfilling your contract with me. I have need of agents that can be sent out in the field to set my plans in motion. This certainly is a problem..." he said as he ran a finger up and down the stylization of the silverware.
Ileosa's eyes narrowed a bit "Even if you had a complete intel it should not have mattered. I was found out, that would have been the end of it." She stated.
"Now as to our contract, I do not believe it will get in the way just delay it. It would only be in another few months that I wouldn't be able to be in the field."
The Cardinal's nicer demeanor slipped down a bit "I'm not in the business of accepting delays that can be helped..." he said rather coldly. He recovered from his irritated state well enough. He looked at Ileosa for a moment and smiled "Perhaps it's my old age, but I see a bit of my younger self in you. Perhaps a different singular goal in mind, but still a similarity can be seen." he said setting the utensils down. "I presume if you've come to me, then you've a request about your condition?" he asked curious.
"We both know the possibility of this child is too great to have it removed, if the child is a son we would control an heir to the kingdom. Quite a useful puppet. It is my duty to inform you of such a thing, and I will not lie, I was curious if there was a way to shorten the pregnancy so that I might be of use to you still. A spell or area of a plane where time passes faster." Ileosa answered with a shrug as her left hand gently ran over her lower stomach. "I am of course open to ideas. But I am keeping this baby." She declared.
The Cardinal paused for a bit as she spoke and thought for a while. He smiled a bit devilishly and perhaps showed too many teeth when he answered "I imagine most of the ways I know to shorten the pregnancy might be outside of your particular desires." he said, slightly hinting at some of the ways he could think of for shortening a pregnancy. He gave it some thought before answering further "You'll have to understand, my first desire is not to install a puppet as King. I cannot control the decisions of a young boy or man as fully as I can simply make the decisions myself. As much as I enjoy the use of magical forced servitude...it leaves a tale tell look about the individuals bewitched that most can recognize." he said further stating things.
"I will look into the magics that may be available divine or otherwise to keep your wish, but I will guarantee you nothing. Give me some time, I'll discuss things with my resources in my own downtime. I will call for you when I think of something or make a decision." he said with some thought. He gave a pause before looking up at her once more "Did you have anything else to ask of me?"
"I told you that I am keeping this child." Ileosa stated again as she crossed her arms and leaned forward. "A well trained puppet will hand you anything you ask for. Even a crown." Ileosa pointed out with a small grin of her own. "But the point being is you always need a back up plan, even if it is never used. Though I wouldn't need to tell you that would I?" She asked with a raised eyebrow and her grin still upon her face.
"Magic is the only other option left to us." Ileosa sighed with a small shrug as her hand gently glided over her stomach. "I have a feeling I'll enjoy being a mother, might even try for another when this is all over and we're victorious. After all, should you hold true to your promise I'll need a proper heir as much as you yourself will."
It is close to another month before the Cardinal finally summon's Ileosa back in to his study. However, even upon entering there was something very different about it this evening. The heat rolling out of the room upon opening the door couldn't come from any reasonable fire in a fireplace. It was almost inhumane to tolerate, but upon entering the Cardinal looked up and quickly cast a spell.
The Cardinal cast Endure Elements
With the spell cast, the heat of the room turned tolerable..barely. The Cardinal himself however looked nonplussed. With her ability to finally breathe easier, Ileosa could finally inspect the room. Beyond a small bit of haze due to some undetermined source of smoke, the acrid smell of sulfur and brimstone tainted the air. The Cardinal himself was actually standing instead of sitting to wait for her as he normally did. His own attention was pointed towards a rather bright corner and as Ileosa's eyes followed, she soon found the source of the smoke and light.
There standing in the corner, flaming flickering the interior of a circle of words of power written in Infernal and drawn in blood was a Beautiful woman. The Otherworldly beauty was draped in scarred armor and tattered robes, beautiful plumed black wings flared out from her back. She stood there, her black hair billowing off of her body, staring coldly at the Cardinal. Her eyes drew to you upon your inclusion and the stare turned from a cold and potentially deadly stare to a boiling one. She sneered and looked at the Cardinal before seeing the look in his eyes and she cooled to a low simmering anger in her eyes.
The Cardinal turned towards Ileosa finally "It took some time to find the appropriate agent once Tiadora and myself came up with a plan...I present to you Alecto, an Erinyes in Asmodues's domain. While she was not immediately appreciative of the summons or the potential contract, she seemed to warm up to it. he said letting out a small chuckle. He stifled it soon enough for even if he did hold the advantage, her anger was quite palpable. He smiled and proceeded further.
"With some careful consideration, we have come up with a solution. Alecto has volunteered to endure your pregnancy for you and potentially be nursemaid to the infant as well while you work as an Agent of the Knot. Of course, she would not do this without compensation...It was during our planning that a thought crossed my mind of your particular talents and recent acquisition. The Furies are perhaps...sadistic in a manner and enjoy certain activities very much. However, their own existence brings doubt upon them in the eyes of those who would bring them such pleasure. That is where you come in, you seem to have a knack for infiltrating the Mitran heart. It is this ability that she seeks, in exchange for carrying your...bundle of joy, she wishes for you to bring to her Devotees of Mitra. They must be willing and believing that you are heralding them to an Angel of Mitra. This belief will allow Alecto to twist, to manipulate, to torture, and eventually to reap their souls and present them to Hell cursing and agonzing to their fate." he said at some length, the tale bringing a very twisted smile to the face of the Erinyes.
"Of course, this is with your approval and compliance." he said as an afterthought.
"My my, Cardinal you have been busy and dutiful." Ileosa said with a smiled as she stepped up towards Alecto. "May I say it is a great pleasure to meet you Alecto, I am glad to hear that you agree with my way of working." She told the devil respectfully before turning to her questions "There are a few question I would like to ask before agreeing to this, I am sure you both understand. Mainly my worries are two fold. The child within me must remain human. Their father was human, I am human, and for the purposes I need them for this is the form they must maintain. Can you promise that the Plane of Hell and the nature of your own form will not transfer to my child?" Ileosa asked. "Secondly, is there a quota that I must have in an amount of time? If so what would you have it be? It cannot be too large else the work I am suppose to do as an Agent of the Knot will be compromised and make this whole point null and void."
Alecto sneers a bit at the questions, particularly the first. She seems to have taken some offense "It would be a boon for any mortal to be tainted by my blood. But, I was not a part of the making of the child. I will be carrying your womb and your child, it will not be tainted by my body or my home." she said spitefully.
The Cardinal coughed a bit and took over talking before the Erinyes could run her own blood hotter. "She has asked for nine souls, one for each month of a pregnancy as well as one for each month she must remain a nursemaid. However, she has also come to an understanding that it might be difficult to procure them on a month by month basis...so she has agreed that the terms are based on your lifetime. If you should die before finishing the contract, then she would take your soul and control of the child would belong to her." he said, the sound of his voice seeming to believe the terms to be rather agreeable to him.
"Oh I do not mean to imply that would be a bad thing." Ileosa clarified. "Tis just unlike the Cardinal and myself, the child's father is not of the same mind. I am sorry to say that I need him to be as accepting of the child as possible." She explained.
When the Cardinal brought up the price of what having Alecto carry the child was, she had to say it was rather reasonable. A soul for every month the she carries the child. "But the child has already been within me for at least two months, she would only need to carry them for seven. Once born we can have a mortal nursemaid as not to trouble Alecto with a mortal babe." Ileosa pointed out. "Wouldn't that mean that I would owe her seven souls not nine?"
The Cardinal looked back to the Erinyes and then back to Ileosa "Yes...I mentioned this to Alecto, however she wants to be paid for a full pregnancy. The length of time she must carry it isn't the issue. I believe she is perhaps merely setting an example for future agreements that regardless of length of time she must serve, that her even agreeing to do such things demands that she should be paid for the entire length of any act involved. Or perhaps she's just greedy. Still, seven or nine, it's not so much a difference in the long of it. There are far too many Mitrans out there for the extra two requested to put a dent in their numbers or the difficulty to find such victims." he said trying to keep the Devil from speaking and potentially complicating things with emotion.
Ileosa found that rather foolish, and obviously greedy. Wanting souls for doing nothing was to be expected of some after all. "Alright, nine it is. Now onto the statement of should my death occur. I understand that fact my soul would be taken for such a thing but I must ask, why do you wish for the child? What would you do with a mortal babe?" Ileosa asked curiously.
The Cardinal looked at Ileosa and then back at Alecto and bowed his head to her, showing that he'd not interrupt her this time. "I understand how influential the child's potential is...Should you die, I wish to bring the child up to fulfill your duty. He would be a great source for me and my sisters to indulge ourselves between missions." she said simply.
Ileosa smiled at Alecto before looking back to the Cardinal "I like her, she sees the use in this child." She told him before she looked back speaking straight to Alecto. "Very well, if this child turns out how we both hope it does, nothing is to be worried about. Though I must ask, if I die before the child is born and the child turns out not to be as useful as hoped, what will be done with them?"
Alecto stared at the woman "Gender matters not, men can be easily swayed by a beautiful face. She can still serve her purpose for me and my sisters." she said smiling wickedly.
The Cardinal looked at the two woman and smiled "It seems you two have reached an accord?" he said before he pulled out his contract materials and prepared to be the medium between the two. He let Ileosa's jibs at him slide off him as if he'd not heard them.
Ileosa grinned and nodded in agreement. She was liking this devil more and more. "Last thing to discuss was the words you used. You said that.. you'd be taking my womb? Does this mean during the time I will be... I am unsure how to put it... just have nothing there? Should I avoid using such things in my work because nothing will be there?" She asked. This was obviously more of just for clarification than objection.
The Cardinal looked up at Ileosa as he pulled things from his desk. He scratched his head as he tried to explain "Simply put, the organ will simply not be there. The space where it should be would be some false replica but inoperable. You shall not be able to conceive during the time till such child is born and returned to you."
"Ah, I understand now." Ileosa said with a smile and a nod. "That is useful, men are so easily fooled to get at such things." She stated with a small chuckle. "Shall we finish this up then?" Ileosa asked.
The Cardinal nodded and he walked over to the circle and cleared the anchoring seals that held the Devil in her place. Once she was freed, the heat began to dissipate a bit as her complete connect to her plane was severed. He laid the equipment upon the table and began to draw up the contract making sure the wording was to the liking of both Alecto and Ileosa. Once everything was complete and agreed upon, he held out the quill and the knife and bowls to catch their blood. Once the contract was signed by the both of them, the Cardinal left the room to give them some privacy and Tiadora soon took his place...
After about fifteen minutes, giving the ladies plenty of time to perform whatever magics are necessary for the finishing of the contract the Cardinal strode back into the room and looked at the signed contract. He nodded and made his way over to a small glass lidded chest before putting the contract into the case and locked the lock.
"I will see you soon." Ileosa told Tiadora, her way of saying she'd be at the training area in just a moment. After she left and the Cardinal returned Ileosa's stepped mirrored his so that when he turned around he came face to face with her. Not close enough to be threatening mind you, but enough to get a point across. Ileosa offered him an almost uncharacteristically kind smile as she said "Thank you."
The Cardinal turned around and paused. He raised a brow at Ileosa's almost demanding further audience approach. When she said thank you, he reached out and patted her on the shoulder before making his way past her to sit at his desk "Do not thank me, consider it...extending Asmodeus's will should somehow I perish and you live beyond my plan." he said simply. There was no emotion in the explanation, merely words conveying his reasoning for letting her continue her own scheme.
Ileosa smiled still and she moved over and gave the Cardinal a chaste peck upon the cheek. "It is good to see you thinking of the future beyond the one you want. Such skills are rare." She told him before she made her way to the door. "Good day to you Cardinal." Ileosa said respectfully as she left.
Godfrey proves true to his word. Under the merciless and relentless tutelage of Cardinal Thorn, the nobleman finds his mettle tested as it never has been before. Endless hours of study and fierce training with sword and axe and bow consume every waking hour. Born to the life of a nobleman, Godfrey finds that the steel of his spine bent near to its breaking point by the demands of his liege. But he endures. Like a sword heated and beaten and heated again he is forged anew into a weapon to be thrust into the heart of the insipid worshipers of Mitra.
Throughout his reforging, Godfrey can't help but feel that there is a secret that eludes him. A piece of knowledge that would driven him to fierce new heights locked away just out of sight. Battered and weary, with his mind in a fog, he fails to see the truth dangling out of reach even as he's tantalized by the power promised by something just out of sight. In a moment of rage, battered in mind and spirit, he finds himself raging in fury that the last piece of the puzzle will not fall into place. Geryon! Lord of Lies! I beseech you! I am on the path to complete this greatest work, but I know that there is more still that I can do. Knowledge that is rightfully mind but that is denied. Show me my path that I may prove myself worthy it. Help me, Great Serpent and Lord of the Fifth. Help me, my master.
The next day, when sparring, it was the shattering of his blade where the truth revealed itself to Godfrey. The Blade that had slain Sir Balin; the Blade that was a promise of divine retribution of the indignities cast upon him by his Mitran tormentors; and the Blade with which his dreams of power were to be hewn from the dying corpse of Talingarde; it shattered. Fury and numbness warred in Godfrey's mind as he surveyed the broken fragments of his sword. Gathering the broken fragments which seem to have been etched by acid despite being solid mere moments before, Godfrey marched to an audience with the Cardinal.
"Your Eminence, I come before you seeking knowledge and guidance. I am a man of many worlds, but preeminently I am a man of sword and sorcery." He stands from a deep bow, then gestures to the remnants of the sword laying before him. "I sought a sign from my patron and I believe He has answered. I can be more -much more- then a mere knight in your service. You have seen my skill at arms and my mastery of the arcane, but I feel out of the edge of my eye some fragment of magic overlooked that could make me a weapon unlike any other in your service. I would, given Your Eminence's approval, hunt down this elusive magic and bend it to my will. Geryon has seen fit to give me a sign and I would be a fool to ignore it. What say you, Cardinal?"
The Cardinal looks down upon the pieces of broken longsword and he picks up one of the larger pieces. "A pity, it was certainly well crafted. Perhaps it is for the best. A longsword can be a soldier's greatest ally...but it is perhaps a bit as the name suggests, too long. Tell me, who forged this blade?" He asked with curiosity.
A ghost of a smile grows on Godfrey’s lips and he replies, ”I’m afraid I wouldn’t know, Your Eminence. This blade was one I requisitioned when I began my service to you. I suspect that one of your servants -a slave perhaps- was responsible for its forging.”
The Cardinal nodded "A shame. I'm afraid I'm not inclined in the Arcane arts but I assume you have learned them much as a Priest learns their scriptures. You study them, you become intimately acquainted with the words, their meanings, even the feel and the smell of the book you hold becomes second nature to you. It becomes a part of you through hard work and diligent study." he started, musing a bit out loud.
He paused for a moment but began again "I imagine the same is said for your talent with weapons? You've trained and honed your abilities, hours upon hours, sacrificing your blood and sweat to the art. But how could something that someone else creates for you become an extension of you in so short of time? If you feel you are lacking and the weapons you receive are lacking...then there is only one thing to do." he offered, seeming as if he'd finished his thought.
Godfrey's brow furrows as he listens to the Cardinal musing. Hard work and study are certainly at the heart of my work. That does little enough without the right works to study and expand upon. He remains silent as he continues to listen. He nods his mute agreement, trying to avoid letting his irritation show. Yes, skill at arms is a matter of practice as well. What of it? As the Cardinal finishes speaking, Godfrey draws a deep breath as he considers his master's words. Nodding slowly, he finally replies in a thoughtful undertone, "A weapon of my own manufacture, imbued with all the powers that I -with the blessing of our Dark Lord- can bestow. A weapon born in my blood which will serve me and me alone. Such a weapon would be a great boon in my role, and I am nothing if not eager to serve." He frown, "I know nothing of smithery, but presumably you have some servant in mind to teach me the rudiments? For the rest of it, I'm afraid I've only the rudiments of what must be done. Perhaps there is a library to which -how to say this- less public then the others I've perused?"
The Cardinal nodded as he saw the young man come to a similar conclusion as to what the Cardinal himself had thought of. "Of course you would need a teacher and I'm afraid my own library holds little on the subject. However, it's not as simple as just plucking up or enlisting the nearest smith. Besides, one should be more selective when it comes to someone you would apprentice under." He said smiling perhaps a bit wickedly. He tapped his chin. "I will have a word with the young Drow, between her knowledge of her former homeland and the powers at my disposable....I think I can come up with a proper teacher. Though, please keep an open mind at what help does arrive." he said smiling. The Cardinal seemed to have come to an end of the line of conversation Godfrey had broached. He looked at the man expectantly "Hopefully, I should have your teacher within a day or two. Unless you had something else to discuss...then I suggest you get your rest as training shall still continue regardless of your readiness."
”A teacher? In a day or two? I shall be ready, your Eminence. I am wholly committed to our cause. Anything less, I suspect, would be-“ Godfrey pauses, obviously striving to find the right word, ”-unpleasant for me.”
It is late in the evening that one of the servants comes and wakes Godfrey from his sleep. Whatever dreams Godfrey might have been having were broken by the gentle but insistent shaking of his shoulder by one of the Cardinal’s slaves. Disoriented and still half asleep, he mutters in sleep deprived incoherence, ”Whozaat? Whut-chu-duun?” The slave’s reply, “You are to follow me, master, was entirely unsatisfactory to the groggy arcanist. It’s only after this scene continues to repeats for a few long moments that Godfrey finally is sufficiently awake to struggle out of the bed and into something resembling appropriate clothing. Glaring evilly at the servant, he sneers, ”Well lead on. And don’t think I won’t remember you… for later.” Buckling his sword to his waist, he motions for the cowering man to be on his way.
Led through the house, Godfrey is surprised to find that the servant is leading him back into the dank dungeon from which they had so recently emerged. His mood souring further, the muttered curses of the arcanist echo softly as they descend the twisting stone steps that lead to the dungeon. The servant leads him back into the dungeon's second room where the strange purple mold once was. What was once a barren room is now filled with a forge and all the needs for a smith to work. After looking around the room, Godfrey quickly finds Tiadora leaning against the wall in a corner and what looks like a greyed and twisted looking dwarf covered in tattered clothing and weapons. As they reach their apparent destination, Godfrey’s interest is sufficiently piqued that he neglects to cuff the passing slave’s head as he returns the way they came. Spotting Tiadora, he bows in a characteristically courtly fashion to the women. The sound of footsteps finally causes the "dwarf" to turn around.
It sneers at you, it's visage twisted beyond what Godfrey has ever seen of a Dwarf, even the ones that refuse to come from under the mountains. He stares at you with his one uncloudy eye and tilts his head. "Beskidt, beskidt barn i solen. Du tør vogte de sande dværge og tvinger mig til at undervise dette barn, denne skidt!" he spits out in Dwarven. Tiadora doesn't seem to understand or care what the man says. She instead turns to Godfrey once the bitter man quiets. "I am told...that this man is known in the underworld as one of the best smiths of his city by Triss...Personally, the only thing I think he is best known for is his stench. All the same, this is to become your teacher. He is of an ancient race, the Duergar. If legends were to be believed, they are in fact an offshoot of their overworld cousins that came once they reached for the stars." she says, her voice trailing off as she literally walks over mid explanation. Had it not been for the silence of the dungeon, the words may not have reached the young man's ears.
Dwarvish: Dirty, filthy child of the sun. You dare mock the true dwarves and force me to teach this child, this filth!
Before Godfrey, stands Thulgus Axehelm, Warpriest of Droskar. He snarls as he looks over Godfrey at great length "Menneskets beskidte søn, det er min ulykke at skulle uddanne dig i den ædle kunst." he says spitting on your boots. The Smith stands there in front of Godfrey as perhaps the filthiest, smelliest, ugliest creature the man has probably ever seen.
Dwarvish: Filthy son of Man, it is my misfortune to have to train you in the noblest of arts.
Unfortunately for Godfrey, his bow leaves him closer and directly facing the repulsive dwarf as it turns. His polite greeting emerges only as a strangled yelp, and he takes a few involuntary steps back as he takes in the monstrous visage before him. Anger surging and battling with his horror, he turns his eyes to Tiadora as she explains. A smith. And known to Triss. How delightful. Perhaps he’ll find a means to humiliate me as well. Knocking me out by hitting me over the head, perhaps?
Lost in his musing and trying his best to look everywhere his teacher isn’t, he doesn’t notice that Tiadora has made good her escape until she’s already well out of the room. Vexed by her disappearance, he reluctantly meets the gaze of the dwarf as he introduces himself. An involuntary snarl jerks free of his lips as the dwarf spits on his boots. He dares? This insect is consigned to the filth and squalor of this hellhole and he has the temerity to do that? No… this will not stand. Slipping a dagger free of its wrist-bound sheathe with a flick of his hand, he spins it into a backhand hold. Taking a step forward, he backhands the dwarf and menaces him with his dagger. In Dwarvish, he snarls through gritted teeth, ”Wormsøn, kender dit sted! Du er velsignet for at være i tjeneste for Asmodeus. Din kunst kan være ædle, men du er skidt, hvem jeg vil formindske viden fra, hvis jeg ønsker det. Lær mig, hvad jeg ville vide eller dø en dvælende død. Vælg hurtigt."
Dwarvish: Son of worms, know your place! You are blessed to be in the service of Asmodeus. Your art may be noble, but you are filth who I will grind the knowledge from if I so desire. Teach me what I would know or die a lingering death. Choose quickly.
Godfrey's surprise attack catches the Dwarf off guard and the vicious pommel blow tears a ragged, but shallow, gash upon his unarmored cheek. The two then begin to dance as the Duergar flies into a rage. He grabs his warhammer in both hands and steps up swinging at the young human connecting soundly. Godfrey holds no illusion that his "teacher" would be holding any of his punches as the pain of the strike ripples up his arm. Eschewing the non-lethal methods he had intended to use, he calls upon his innate reserves and imbues his dagger with his own arcane power. The now glowing dagger seems to rip into the tattered clothing covering the Smith, but finds that not all is what it seems. The blade skitters and shakes as it passes over a hard surface that couldn't possible be the Duergar's skin. Not even one as repulsive as this. He dances a few steps back and creates a magical shield over his body as he begins to circle warily. The smith moves forwards and swings wildly in his anger.
Godfrey manages to pull his head away from the attack but the action causes his concentration to fall and he feels his magics falter and the power of the spell he'd begun to chant leaches from him to dissipate into the air. Despite the setback, he steps inwards and swings scraping once again off armor he cannot see. The smith notices the smell of arcane energies discharged in the air and calls upon his own magical reserves. He grows larger and swings hard at the young man. The head of the warhammer connects with the magic protecting Godfrey's body but does not push through. Godfrey smirks and gathers his thoughts and manages a vicious stabbing strike at the Duergar's now exposed neck, the skin tingling with heat from the magical brand left behind. Feeling confident, he repositions and attacks again but finds armor plating where skin should be.
The now monstrously large dwarf steps back to aim his huge warhammer and slams the head into Godfrey's side getting past the magical shield and knocking some of the wind from him. Godfrey keeps his composure and summons lightning to his hand. The smell of ozone fills the air as tendrils of galvanic energy flicker around him. He reaches out but the blow he just received hurt him more than he though and his slashing attack misses feebly. He grits his teeth and transfers the power to his blade to swing again but he still hasn't fully recovered from the blow. Thulgus laughs mockingly at the young "boy" before him and steps back and to the side swinging. His blow misses as his confidence soars, while Godfrey's own pain keeps him focused. The young magus takes the time to recover from the last swing and stands up straight. He slices through the air almost catching the Smith off guard with his sparking dagger.
Thulgus snarls having assumed he had almost won the fight, he renews his concentration upon the opponent in front of his and swings. The young magus deftly dodges it before he uses the momentum to finally connect and released the pent up energy from his blade with a concussive blast. The electricity snaps and sparks through the Duergar's body and he stumbles back, catching himself on the wall. He looks up at the young man almost beaten before he smiles wickedly. The missing, yellowed, and jagged smile is not of a man proud of a potential student, but of a man who has an ace in his pocket. Divine energies gather in his hand and he slams it against his chest. The brief visage of Droskar's unholy symbol emblazons over stone plating as the power of the divine causes the illusion to fail briefly.
Wounds knit and blood is absorbed back into the skin of Thulgus Axehelm. Almost as if completely renewed, the Smith grabs his warhammer again in both hands and slams the head of it into the surprised Magus's side. The wind blown from his lungs and the feeling of cracking ribs.
Gasping at the shocking pain radiating out from his side, Godfrey takes a step back as he struggles to keep his feet. The fierce glow of the arcane energy in his dagger dissipates with a sharp crack and the lingering scent of ozone as he lets the dagger slip from his tingling fingers. Raising his hands, he bows his head once to the dwarf, wheezing, ”Det ser ud til at du har det bedste af mig, æret ældre. Jeg finder mig selv vildledt om hvem og hvad du er. Jeg ville stadig lære, hvis du ville undervise. Men selv ved jeg, at du virkelig er en mester i din kunst. Din rustning holdt imod de hårdeste af mine angreb. Jeg kan ikke tænke på noget højere komplement.” Grunting in pain as he straightens, he executes a courtly bow to the dwarf as he watches carefully for signs that the attack will resume.
Dwarvish: It would seem that you have the best of me, honored elder. I find myself mislead as to who and what you are. I would still learn, if you would teach. Now though, I know that you are truly a master of your art. Your armor held against the fiercest of my assaults. I can think of no higher complement.
The Smith's grip doesn't slacken as the magus's dagger falls to the floor. He stares him down looking almost on the verge of just killing the man where he stood despite the newfound manners the youth seemed to have. But, it seemed something at least held him back from it. He spit on the ground and swung the warhammer down to slam against the anvil in anger.
His voice expresses the anger still welling deep in his gut, "Tag ikke min undervisning til dig beskidt barn som accept. Du bruger en dolk godt nok til at stå op imod et svagt barn i en dværg. Men jeg vil lære, for det er i min bedste interesse. Jeg accepterer ikke fiasko, og du vil gøre som jeg siger uanset hvordan jeg siger det.
Hæv en hånd igen til mig, og jeg vil dræbe trods den trussel, der holdes over mit hoved. Kom nu, slikk dig sår ved amboltens varme. Jeg vil lære dig min kunst og vise dig teknikker selv dværgerne kunne aldrig forestille sig."
Dwarvish: Do not take my teaching you filthy child as acceptance. You wield a dagger well enough to stand up against a weak child of a Dwarf. But I will teach, for it is in my best interest. I will not accept failure and you will do as I say regardless of how I say it.
Raise a hand again to me and I'll kill despite the threat held above my head. Now come, lick you wounds by the heat of the anvil. I will teach you my art and show you techniques even the Dwarves could never imagine.
He leaves the warhammer where it fell on the anvil and soon the furnace is broiling almost to the point where it is painful to be in the room. Weeks go by, the Smith keeps Godfrey from the comforts of his usual trapping as he hammers in the teachings of his profession. He teaches him the ways to work with everything available, using magic to hold together ingredients like bone and even how to use blood to quench his work. It is here that Godfrey's own magics, knowledge, and devotion to his god that he begins to tap into something unique.
While Thulgus is surprised by the effects of the training, he seems more than capable to understand and help instruct what isn't intuitive for Godfrey as they begin crafting the young magus a new blade, a blade born of his convictions and of his own blood, sweat, and tears. The blade produced is black as night connected deeper than the magus had before to any blade. The instrument of death truly felt as if it were a proper extension of the man's own body.
Marveling at the product of his (and his mentor’s) handiwork, Godfrey smiles at the play of the light over the nearly pitch-black blade. Metallic shimmers run up the lightly curved blade as the arcanist turns it in his hand. Running a hand along the unsharpened back of the blade, Godfrey very nearly doesn’t need the formality of the spell he’d cast before to feel the power coursing through his weapon. Trying a few simple strokes and parries with the blade, he finds the sinister hum of the blade cutting through the air intoxicating. Satisfied with his trials, he admires the pommel that he had insisted on. A lifelong (for who truly lives before finding their calling?) devotee of Geryon, Godfrey takes solace in the fearsome serpent -mouth agape and fangs visible- whose head and body form the grip, cross-guards, and pommel of his weapon.
In the forging of the blade, the once silvery steel shards of his former blade had been consumed and no trace of that blade remained. The shining steel had been consumed and reborn again. Godfrey smiled as he remembers the shouts, screams, and gasps of pain that had accompanied the binding of the essence of his former blade to the new. Sir Balin’s last moment would live on in eternity, the same weapon he now held. And yet, despite it all, he still felt the blade was not quite complete. There was something missing. A vital piece was missing. It was a body without a soul.
|Jing the Evil GM|
There is an old saying whose origins have fallen from the grace of history, "No peace for the wicked." Most use the phrase to describe the horrors that await those who spend their lives serving those other than the ones who await in "heaven".
It seems that Cardinal Adrastus Thorn felt that the phrase had a different meaning and those who pledged themselves to the service of himself and his Lord could easily attest to the Cardinal's preference against idleness. The members have found their lives changed time and time again. A mere two and a half months ago, their lives were their own. They commited crimes, personal and with little true support.
Then their lives changed and their deaths quickly came to loom over their heads as men, like Sir Balin of Karfeld, captured and subdued them before dropping them off in Brandescar Prison. Pain, broiling hot and burning, awaited them there under the twisted gaze of Warden Richter and his corrupt Sergeant Blackerly. But fate intervened as a lovely woman walked into the prison turning eyes and men stupid with a simple wave of the hand.
Through the cunning planning of a man unknown, the Villains came together through various plans reborn and their fires of contempt rekindled against their oppressors. Sacrifices were made, fellow inmates were lost but soon the Knot was formed. They delved into the depths of the Manor of the man who orchestrated their release and forged their team to prove themselves. It was there that their talents shown and the Cardinal began to plan how to temper their 'steel'.
The Knot was proven but not prepared, at least in the eyes of the Cardinal. Thus they were torn away from each other and reformed and tempered into instruments of Asmodeus's will. Two months of isolation from their companions quickly flew by as individual training began with their "teachers". But that time has come to an end. Two and a Half short months and the men and women who were sentenced to death were hardly recognizable as the people they once were.
Thus, it was this fine morning that they were finally brought together once again. One by one, they were led into the study. Minutes went by as Ileosa was soon joined by Godfrey, then Ella, and finally Triss. But it was after about thirty minutes after they began to form that it was evident that one of their number was not returning. The Cardinal walked into the room and sat down at his desk.
He clapped his hands and a table was brought in along with chairs. Plates and silver soon followed, and finally food and wine. He motioned to those gathered to sit and waited for them to be served before finally speaking. "You have done well in these last two months. Your efforts have paid off...but I am sure you are wondering where you missing companion is. I am sad to announce that young Senara and her brother Kaellan will not be continuing their service. At least, for now that is." he said pausing slightly.
He continued after motioning for them to eat. "I am sure that you were perhaps aware that Kaellan was not what he once was anymore. Her efforts to return her brother's soul to his body brought...complications. A devil joined her brother's soul but that was perhaps to be expected given the magics at play. However, what was unexpected was the power of the devil. The pact that joined her brother's soul to his body also bound them to her and the strain it was taking upon her physical and spiritual being was taking a greater toll than it should have. Thus, she has been taken to have her body and soul nurtured back to health so that their pact can be reforged and they can return to their service under our Lord Asmodues' will." he said ending the tale.
He sat down and began to eat a little allowing them to converse between each other for a few moments or perhaps simply to allow him to eat himself for a bit so that his stomach was sated enough for him to continue. After several bites, he sat his silverware down and cleaned his mouth. "Do not worry, there were others I had taken into my care from the prisons. Of course, I had other plans for them...but I cannot afford much more time before my plans must unfold. So, I was forced to tap another resource to bring your Knot up to power." he said softly.
He motioned to the door off the kitchen and another slave came in this time with a rather...unkempt woman. The woman, if one could call the creature before them that, was gaunt, dark, and pixielike. Her clothing was mere scraps, her skin was rough, scarred, and covered in crawling insects. Despite her appearance, she neither reeked of death, disease, or filth. He motioned for her to halt a little ways away from both his desk and the table from which the others were eating.
"This...is your new ally.Her name is Coloua and she is a witch of death. She, like most of you, were captured and sentenced to death by the Mitrans who hold claim over these lands. She has lost many to their "light and justice" so she is a dedicated ally. She too was at the prison awaiting death like you, Ileosa and Ella, but thanks to your escape and the fallout that came with it...I was able to procure a few more useful pawns from their cells before the prison was purged of his guests." he said revealing a bit of news as to what had happened since their escape.
He continued "Do not take this morning as a sign that your training has ended. No, this is a celebration of your efforts thus far. You've proven individually as you proved together that you are meeting my expectations or even succeeding them. But now, it is time to make sure that this Knot cannot be undone. After this day, your training as a unit begins and in one month's time you will set out on your first mission, finally whole." he said finally seeming to come to the end of his speech and theatrics.
He stood up at this point and looked at them with a rare less wicked smile before he left the room for them to become acquainted to their new companion and perhaps share stories of what has been their lives these past few months.
Perhaps there is peace for the wicked...but it never lasts long.
The woman standing by the table is extremely gaunt, with pixie-like stature and dark grey, almost black, skin. She stands just under three feet tall and wears tattered peasant's clothes covered in patches, and where her skin shows you can see it is covered in ornate decorative scars and raised white dots. Despite her appearance she seems perfectly comfortable in the ornate dining room, not at all intimidated by her surroundings while she looks you all in the eyes with a confident and highly intelligent stare.
Coloua stands quietly appraising the trio sitting at the table. So these are going to be my new compatriots. Two that look like they belong with the worst of the scum, which should be useful if we need a public face, and the large woman seems ... interesting. There's some promise here, maybe they will fare better than my other clans. She waits patiently for the others to respond to the Cardinal's introduction.
Ella is dressed in browns and grays, well made and neat though functional without frills. Her breastplate on even at diner. Her black with white streaked hair has grown out, tied back in a knot. The rose and thorn iron circlet on her brow. A pair of safety goggles dangle around her neck, as well as her holy symbol. A wide variety of scents, from cloves to sulfur, seem to permeate her. Books and bottles peak out from a satchel on her side. And a cat, a dusty gray thing, sits on the table itself regally judging all who it gazes on, except the Cardinal.
Ella seems different... less angry. At least marginally.
When their host leaves, the large asks "What is a witch of death?" Ella's mismatched eyes and sharp claws suggest she may be the daughter of a hag, which might explain her blunt curiosity. Or it may just be attempting to understand what she brings to the table tactically.
"I am unsure why he gave me that title, I'm not sure what it means myself but I like it" Coloua smirks as she addresses Ella. "What I am is merely someone with an affinity for death and the pestilence that accompanies it. My studies in those areas have given me some ability with curses and necromancy, and my upbringing gave me a fondness for the shadows."
She walks over to the table but does not yet take a seat, waiting to see how the others react to her presence. "While we are asking questions, what should I call you all?"
Ella nods at the explanation, finding the answer informative. "Ella" she answers simply. After a sharp meow and a diverting of her mismatched eyes to the cat, "And Ash" she introduces him as well.
"Ella. And Ash." Coloua nods while looking at the cat, then makes a strange sound in her throat. A bulge appears on the front of her neck and slowly moves upwards, until a four inch centipede crawls swiftly out of her mouth and perches in her hair. "Mine doesn't have a name. He prefers it that way."
Ella leans down quickly, probably too quickly. But in interest, not threat. "A Scutigera Coleoptrata! And an enlarged one too. Could I-" a hiss and a scratch makes her stop. Narrowing her eyes at the own, jealous familiar, she leans back again. "He is a very handsome specimen, Coloua. Pardon me for my rudeness."
Ileosa gave a small chuckle at Ash's reaction to Coloua's own familiar. "It's adorable to see yours get so jealous Ella." She said before turning her attention to their new addition. "I am Iloesa Albus, an inquisitor of the First. My skills are best used for infiltration." She explained with a slight shrug.
"So, what did they get you on?" Ileosa asked with a grin.
"My real crime was just being different. The buffoons who follow Mitra don't seem to like anything that does not look like they do or whose habits they don't understand. I tried to find like minded people and teach them of the glory of the shadows and the grave as an alternative to their close minded religion, and the dogs called it heresy." Seeing that at least two of the three hadn't yet cast her off as being disgusting, or creepy, or any number of other things the big folk often called her, she finally felt comfortable enough to take a seat. "It was fun to watch myself being burned at the stake though. That made it all worth it"
"The Cardinal faked your death?" Ella asked as she stroked the chin of Ash, asking in her own way forgiveness. Looking up to Ileosa, she added "Did he do the same for us?"
Thrilled to be free of the tortuously hot confines of the dungeon forge in which he'd spent the last month and a half, Godfrey is practically skipping as he enters the study in which he was to meet with the Cardinal and the rest of his Knot. He nods a polite greeting to Ileosa as he finds her waiting, then to Ella when she arrives. Triss, however, earns a glare and a scowl. It's clear the magus blames her for the hideous teacher with whom he had been confined in hot, sweaty confines that had nearly driven him mad. Any further action Godfrey may wish to take to show his displeasure is preempted by the entrance of the Cardinal.
A surprise, that. They seemed hale and hearty last we saw them. Still, if the magic binding them is flawed in some way that would certainly explain the unexpected strain. Godfrey's thoughts turn over the technical details of Senara's condition, with no passing thought given to her well-being. The Cardinal's motions, and the introduction of the newcomer to the group, are met by a studiously neutral response by the magus.
A subtle, but sharp, intake of breath gives away the young nobleman's shock at the newcomer's appearance.
Bluff: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (18) + 6 = 24
Resisting the urge to pluck at his skin, Godfrey listens attentively to the Cardinal. 'A witch of death' is it? Intriguing... It is not particularly hard to read that some inner turmoil is being worked out as Godfrey stands stiffly at attention as the Cardinal leaves.
A man, standing with the haughty aloofness of a born courtier, dressed in a noble's finery, and with a hand idly running over the unusually grooved pommel of the blade buckled at his waist, gazes back with questioning eyes. His coal block hair outlines an angular face to which a smug smile seems to be permanently fixed. On his brow rests an iron circlet, formed of two intertwined snakes, which shimmers with an oddly green light despite clearly being made of iron.
Godfrey's eyes flicker from the the 'witch of death' to Ella's new pet. Ash, eh? That's new... and something else, though I can't put a finger on it. A sharp intake of breath and a grimace greet the emergence of Coloua's 'pet' from its hiding hole. Looking distinctly green, he motions to a slave and downs the glass of wine in record time. Motioning for a refill, he listens to the conversation as he waits for his gorge to settle. She says the right words, but when you have to worry about all sorts of creepy crawlies emerging as she does it.. Godfrey shudders involuntarily.
When there is a lull in the converation, Gofrey will interject, "And I am Godfrey Leither, formerly Lord Leitner, but the Mitrans have seen to the simplification of my titles. In time I hope to assist them in seeing the error of their ways. I am gratified to have another arcanist in our little company. We shall have to share notes, from time to time." Whatever his misgivings and personal qualms, Godfrey still manages the cool politeness of a noble speaking to an equal. He punctuates the end of his introduction with an elegant bow.
"I am willing to compare notes," Coloua gestures at the arthropod scuttling around in her hair "but I am unsure if you would truly be interested in utilizing the same methods I do."
Now that none of her new acquaintances have recoiled in fear or disgust, Coloua sits a little uncomfortably at the table. Ella seems a bit different. Perhaps hag blooded? The others are definitely human, but have admirably kept any distaste hidden, which is not at all normal. We may be forced together by circumstance but I wonder if there is more involved here...I will need to keep an eye on these people. Just because they signed a contract stating that they would deal with me 'honorably and fairly' doesn't protect me from the devious xenophobia these humans always seem to have when it comes to my kind. She picks at her food and watches the others carefully, while the centipede wanders down her face and disappears into her left nostril.
"Did our deaths get faked?" Ileosa asked curiously as she tapped her chin. "Well something had to of been done, else we wouldn't be much use as field agents. All would be looking for us after all." Ileosa mentioned with a smile shrug.
"Which brings me to my next question... when are we going into the field?"
"The Cardinal mentioned a month of training as a group before we go afield. I do not know what this training will entail." Although it will be useful to see what these people are capable of
Ella shrugs "I assume we will be summoned when they are ready to tell us. Til then..." she rises "... I have things to do." and leaves.
Coloua grabs one of the servants? slaves? empty husks? At least they listen and obey and directs it to show her where she will be staying now that she's part of the knot.
Unsurprisingly, her room is not with the other guest rooms but instead is in the servants' wing. Despite its location, it is filled with fine furniture and sumptuous decorations. Did he put me here so that I can have the quiet that I need, or to keep me away from the others? Or is it that he doesn't think I belong with the nice pretty humans? When the servant starts to draw her a bath, she finally loses her temper. "STOP THAT! I do not bathe. I have other means of keeping myself clean which work just fine. Get out of my sight before I teach you how it's done" The servant pauses as if confused by conflicting demands, but then quickly lowers its head and rushed out the door.
Coloua surveys the room and finally decides on a plan of action. She uses some pillows to simulate a small body in the bed, and then takes herself into a dark corner behind some of the furniture where she builds a nest out of blankets and hides herself. After a short nap with her centipede keeping watch, she awakens and stays in her nest. She busies herself with playing with her pet absentmindedly while she goes through her journal, studying and occasionally correcting her theories and notations of the past and recording her thoughts and observations of this strange new situation she finds herself in. She looks down at her friend and whispers "Let us see where this takes us. Once we better understand what is to come we can begin to prepare."
If anyone comes in to try and talk with me, I'm hiding in my fort. Stealth: 1d20 + 17 ⇒ (4) + 17 = 21
Godfrey, despite his best efforts, has a hard time drawing his eye's away from the clicking centipede that is winding its way through his new ally's hair. Pushing a half-eaten plate of food away, he motions to a servant and snaps as he points to his wineglass. Perhaps this is a form of test. The Cardinal's whims are nothing if not capricious at times. He waves jauntily as Ella leaves, but merely nods to Coloua as she leaves.
To Ileosa, "I think I will take my leave as well." He pats the pommel of the blade at his waist before he says, "I've completed most of my work on this blade, but something eludes me. I'd prefer to know what it is before this last month is up. Much research awaits. I'm sure you'll understand." Without waiting to see if she does, he departs for the solitude of his room and the books that await him there.
|Jing the Evil GM|
The group is given a day's rest to recuperate and to move about as you'd like. However, the next morning just as the Cardinal mentioned began a month long of grueling training. For the most part it consists of Combat based training, from which the Cardinal himself summons the enemies the group faces.
During such time, the Cardinal occasionally pulls away a member of the party for individual training. The person pulled away deals with a special creature summoned particular for them. Godfrey is placed with a Quickling. The Cardinal's instructions are for Godfrey to anticipate and strike before the Quickling can strike him. The drills are done over and over, each time Godfrey getting it wrong results in a sharp and painful stab. The Cardinal only proceeds to heal him upon the verge of unconsciousness, allowing the pain to help encourage him to succeed.
When Ella is pulled aside, she is forced to deal with locks, ledges, and other acts of dexterity all while wearing Full-Plate. The difficulties alone are her punishment and reward as time eats into her strength and stamina. The Cardinal only watches enough to make sure that the participants are doing as instructed, keeping most of his attention towards the group that are fighting against his summoned creatures.
When Coloua was brought to the side ring, she is met with a rather distrubing creature to deal with. This three headed hound has been stripped of all it's skin, leaving muscle and bone exposed. Coloua's instructions are simple, she simply has to grab the tail of the beast without it's heads being alerted. Of course, should she get caught he's quick to stop the beast from biting her with more than one of it's heads.
Ileosa's challenge is rather different, she's placed across the table from a rather curious little devil. It's mottled pink skin, clawed fingers, and green eyes stare in her direction and the two are indulged to play a game of Lie or Truth. Those little claws raking across Ileosa's hand every time she guesses wrong or is caught in a lie.
Days become weeks and weeks finally turn into a month as they play the Cardinals games and learn to work alongside each other. The fights are grueling, the mind games are challenging but each night the group is rewarded for their efforts with healing, a good meal, and a comfy bed. But it seems there was a method to the Cardinal's madness as by the end of the month, the four show great improvement in the fields he selected to personally train them in.
It is finally at this point after "suffering" for thirty days, that the group is brought back in front of the Cardinal once more, asked to be ready and able to leave the Manor the next day. However, the Cardinal doesn't dismiss them to rest just yet. In fact, he begins clapping and pronounces them a success. He motions for them to follow and they are brought into the dining hall where a splendid banquet of pure decadence has been prepared for them. But before he allows them to sit, he asks for them to choose a servant.
While they come to an agreement, a barbed devil is summoned forth and once the servant is presented, the devil gleefully rips the slave apart and feasts on the blood. The Cardinal, meanwhile takes a silver athame and cuts the thigh of the devil catching it's blood in a silver chalice. He walks up to each of the members of the group and carefully traces the unholy symbol of Asmodeus on their forehead with the mixture of devil's blood and the sacrifices. He then kisses the forehead of each of his comrades.
Once he makes his way to the head of the table once more, he raises his hands and loudly proclaims "Behold, the Nessian Knot is finally forged." he said gleefully and quickly motioned them all to sit and eat and talk as they see fit.
Ella understood the reasoning behind the training, so with singular focus strained to accomplish each task shoved in front of her. She didn't need pain as a punishment for failure. The failure alone was enough to dig into her, making her try harder and harder. Not that frustration didn't grow and need venting time and again. She spend many a bare knuckle brawling matches at night with GrumbleJack, taking his meaty fists as atonement. "What does the Cardinal have planned for you, do you know? Can you tell me if you do?" Ella asks after a session in Giant.
All the rest of her time is spent reading and experimenting, her new passion is knowledge of anatomy. Both as an extension of her interest in life and to further her own abilities to know best how to kill.
Battle with the others proved interesting. Once again her and Godfrey handled their front, while Ileosa and their new member weaved magic and chaos behind them. An effective team.
On the day of the ceremony, she is dressed again simply but neatly. Decked out in armor, circlet, and holy symbol, worn proudly. The Cardinal's kiss though... she stiffened as he neared, claws digging into the wood of her chair, fighting every instinct to gut the bastard who Controlled her. Ella doesn't like being touched, and likes the Cardinal even less. She might have accepted her god, but never this person.
Coloua cringes as the Cardinal kisses her, not used to being touched and not liking this man. Then, in an act that seems unusual for one of her quiet demeanor and small stature, steps forward and addresses the Cardinal in a clear confident voice.
"I do have a question, Master. In the compact that we all signed, the Third Loyalty is to our companions, specifically 'the other Bound who serve alongside' us. It is obvious to me that this includes at least the five of us standing here. Knowing that Hell prides itself on adhering to not just the intent but the word of its contracts, I request a clarification. I have met the four members of the Seventh Knot currently in residence but that is still only two Knots out of at least nine. If the concept of the Bound encompasses more than just us in the Nessian Knot, how are we to recognize who else is designated? Without having this knowledge we are potentially open to the actions of an imposter, or may find ourselves accidentally breaking this clause by hindering the actions of others who we did not realize were also categorized as Bound. Is there a means that you can provide us to identify these others in order to avoid these issues? If we are to be sent to the field soon this is an important issue that we need to resolve."
She meets his gaze calmly, subservient but imposing; she respectfully awaits his response while wondering if it will be an answer or a rebuke.
She then looks around at the rest of the group "I also have something I would speak with the Knot about in private, when there is a chance"
Ileosa was a but shocked when her personal task was simply lying. She felt it was a natural gift, but then again even talent can fail to skill if not properly worked. The one part that annoyed the young woman was the use of her magic after the personal sessions where over. Ileosa wouldn't dare let her hand scar. So she always kept a healing spell prepared to cast upon the wounds.
When they had finished and the Cardinal comes to each to mark and kiss them, Ileosa seems to treat it more as a communion. Her face is calm and she seems at peace even when the man kisses her forehead. Either the inquisitor is now a perfect actor, or she really has no qualms with the Cardinal's actions.
After taking her seat and listening to Coloua speak, Ileosa give a nod of agreement. "True, we ourselves have only met one other knot." Ileosa explained. "How are they doing by the way?" She asked the Cardinal.
"I almost forgot about them." Ella states at Ileosa's mention of the other knot. And nods to Coloua's request, as if to say whenever she wants.
A month and a half of hard labor under the ramrod tutelage of Forgemaster Thulgus had forged Godfrey into a warrior without peer. Or so he had thought. With his new blade in hand, he had anticipated unparalleled success after all traces of the softness of his upbringing were sweated away at bellows and while molten metal was battered. But a sword must have an edge, even if the strength of its core is unmatched. And so Godfrey found it for himself, to his chagrin and vexation. He had acquitted himself admirably in all the previous group combats against summoned foes. With sword and sorcery, he had proven that he was no soft noble but was truly a Knight of Asmodeus.
But the Cardinal, unburdened by ego in his evaluation, found a soft spot. And he made sure that it was poked and prodded and stabbed until it was raw and bloody and red. As a blade needs to be honed, Godfrey needed to be lighter on his feet and quicker to react. Hours and days of training bleed together in Godfrey's recollection of that last month of training. The infuriating quickling who danced in, stabbed, and danced out. Who was never precisely where the magus swung and who managed to also be wherever he didn't swing. Vile curses, taunts, and promises of bloody revenge went unheeded as the nimble little imp bled Godfrey like a stuck pig. Eventually, with perseverance and with firey rage as a motivator, Godfrey anticipated the cursed thing's movement and clove it in two. With his instincts finally honed to a razor edge, Godfrey's training was complete.
Godfrey listens to the Cardinal's praise on the day before their departure with a self-satisfied smirk. I may still sting from the barbs of a thousand of that thrice-damned rapier, I've proven myself worthy. What I've always known is now laid bare for all to witness. He chooses, without hesitation, the slave who'd had the misfortune to lead him into the dungeon without hesitation when instructed to choose. His oath to the slave fulfilled, he lets his mind wander until the it is his turn to receive the Cardinal's 'sacrament'. He suppresses a grimace of distaste as the still-warm blood is spread on his forehead. A kiss is it? To symbolize our bondage to Asmodeus perhaps? I gladly serve the Lord of the Ninth. And, of course, his servants at his dictate. From the Lord of Fifth to you, Cardinal Thorn.
Later as they sit around the table, Godfrey drinks deeply of the wine he'd grown fond of in his time at the estate. Savoring the velvety liquid, he listens with interest as Coloua begins her long-winded but thoroughly considered question. His eyes flicker away as her 'pet' peers from an ear where it had been hiding, antenna quivering. He drowns his disgust with a swallow of his wine, then turns his attention listen to the Cardinal's answer. "I did forget about them, having more important things to think about these last two months. I'm not ashamed to say that I do not miss them and their gross incivility."
No further questions for now.
I probably should have thrown this in before we started speaking to the Cardinal, as it is intended to be privately among the group members, so I'll just put it here in a timeless "At some point when the Cardinal is not in the room and it is just the five members of the Nessian Knot." (perhaps before the ceremony, or after he answers our questions)
Coloua looks around at the rest of the Nessian Knot and speaks slowly, carefully choosing her words.
"I am the newest member of this group, but we have spent some time working and training together. We understand at least some of what each other can do, but there is still much we do not know about each other."
She seems hesitant to continue, but makes herself keep talking. "I spent last night in study and reflection, and I have been come to some conclusions in regard to this situation. For the last 40 years I have been most effective when I was unknown. In fact, most times where I was a known factor did not go well. Due to this I am slow to trust and share with others. Despite this, we are contractually bound to support each other, so some level of trust is required. I would ask of you a favor."
"I am willing to share with you what I am. My talents, my abilities, and my skills are yours to know and utilize as needed. I am not yet ready to share who I am, but that may come with time. The favor that I ask is that you keep this between us. Many of my talents are not easily noticed or identified, even when I actively use them. Please do not speak with those outside our Knot of my activities, my actions, what I have done, or what I can do. Even when among 'allies' I would prefer to be an unknown factor so that I can continue to be efficient and effective as possible. You never know when one of our allies might turn on us, or when the Cardinal may ask us to turn on them." Upon finishing, she waits for any response, hoping she hasn't overstepped her bounds asking a favor of these people that she really doesn't know all that well.