Kuso. I guess it was too much to hope I’d never wake up in chains again. At least my comrades also seem to recognize that information, escape, and getting our gomi back are more important that whining about the situation.
Information: The man talking to the whinging frog down the hall confirmed that this fortress is controlled by Rezmir and the Cult. So, it’ll be just fine if we need to burn the whole gan ro place to the ground.
Escape: When they brought us the slop they call prison food, we were unchained to eat, but kept under watch. I wonder if I could jam up the locks at the next meal? The bearded wonder started working the brute force angle, and from the grunts in the next cell the others might be as well. Bruised himself up pretty bad, but I bet that won’t deter him. He can be damn single-minded.
Roscoe somehow got a hand free, but we learned that because Oberon decided to yell it to the heavens. Fei ren. Well-meaning, but still. We were just lucky the guard seems blind, because he ain’t deaf. The clatter a few minutes later brought him running back in, but Xander bought us some time with fog cover.
While the guards were running around like headless hens trying to get it together, I managed to wriggle one hand out of the shackle. Heh! Guess they aren’t as thorough as they’d like to think. After grabbing some dirt to screw up the locks and make them easier to break, I heard the dwarf rip the chains out of the wall, and he was nice enough to take advantage of that lock I jammed to get my other hand free. Based on the sounds from the next cell, the other boys were having some luck too, just in time for some guards to finally wander in. They stopped moving soon enough. The others I could hear seemed otherwise occupied, based on their girly screams. Thalia can be a tough jhut when she wants to be. Her fun bought time for the rest of the escape.
Kuso. Our gear wasn’t in the guard room of this hellhole. At least they couldn’t take all my spells, but it seems my focus bracelet is a weakness. I don’t like being dependent on possessions. I wonder if I can embed it into my skin…
We slaughtered some lizard-men in a forge downstairs, and one goja tried to beg for mercy. He told us our bags were in the “Master’s” room on the second floor, for study. I don’t like the sound of this “Master”. Studious, sadistic jiba wizard? Reminds me too much of the buso kisama. I thought Xander was going to chop the lizard to bits afterward, but the holy man won the coward some mercy, this time, and he ran off with his scaly tail between his legs.
Every way forward was packed with more lizardfolk and bullywugs, and no sneaking around could locate a clear path up to our gear.
Our lucky break came when a couple of guards came with the cook to deliver the next round of prison slop, and found us a lot closer, a lot less chained up, and a lot more armed and dangerous than they expected. The dwarf cook seemed quite willing to switch sides once his bodyguards were laying in their own blood. He brought us some Cult uniforms to smuggle us through, and took us to his storeroom to hide. In exchange for getting him out, he offered to give us directions around the place. Sweet deal for us, since it requires no real extra effort, especially once I informed him of the painful consequences of backstabbing us.
On a side note, I wonder if Xander’s beard would be as long as this guy’s if he could stop getting it cut or burned or mysteriously shedding. I get the feeling beard length is like a dick-measuring contest for dwarves, so he’s either very secure or damn good at hiding it.
After nightfall, we crept up the central staircase to the _jiba_’s quarters. Sure enough, our stuff was there by his desk, but before we could grab it Xander kicked in the door to the bedchamber, where movement could be heard. He charged in swinging, but he was ready for us, teme, s we didn’t get the drop on him like we wanted. It would have been so much easier if he slept. Gan ro elves. I blinded him, then ran to get my crystal. Oberon joined Xander right away, and Roscoe rushed in once he grabbed his shield. The “Master” may be a sadistic jiba, but he has as much trouble aiming blind as the rest of us, and had to stick to less focused shockwave spells. The frustration on his prissy face made my day! He wasn’t even able to kill unarmored prisoners before his throat met the business end of a scimitar.
He’d already managed to tamper with Roscoe’s holy gear – grudge against Bahamut and all – and put a chink in my crystal. Good thing he only had one day with our gomi. We did get a magic ring out of the deal, and some very cushy quarters to rest in that apparently his minions never disturb.
So much for the soldiers wetting themselves with fear before coming up here. We got to rest through the night, but were disturbed by a nervous guard asking if the “Master” was coming down. He went down fast, and Xander bought us some time from his buddies – who knew he spoke Elvish? I tried to use the time to get my cloak keyed into my magic, but somehow within 10 minutes the boys managed to melt a hole in the stone floor. I hear it was the dwarf.
Shockingly, the fire and noxious smoke alerted every guard and minion in the gan ro castle that something was up, and they started storming up. As soon as we took out the ones who came upstairs, Xander walked downstairs straight into a mess of bullywugs. Not that it mattered, since we had to bail to keep from breathing in the poison gas anyway.
I don’t even know how many slimy and scaly creatures we cut through – though I couldn’t seem to hit a gan ro thing! Just as we seemed to be getting to the last of them, there was an enormous crash as the wall behind me was blasted apart, and everything went black. I woke up with stone blocks weighing down my body, and an enormous lump on my head. Enormous lizards were advancing, and are clearly what threw a wall at me.
My comrades managed to pull me out of the rubble and take out the giant lizards, but the bullywug leader then chose to show himself. He’s the whinging croak I heard talking to the elf before, and he seemed to fancy himself a shaman of some sort. Shame he can back it up, I would have liked to see that slimy goja burn like his subjects in their little huts, but he stopped my fireball, then flung me backward with a shockwave, and it all went black again. Kuso!
I woke up yet again – apparently that buso kisama‘s painful lessons on life and death may have done some good after all, though I’d rather credit Salamander tenacity. Roscoe yelled something about the floor being lava, whatever that means, but from Thalia’s battle-laughter, the platinum glow, and froggy screams I figured out it was over shortly after.
We rested up in the storeroom, and then went to camp out in the blazing-hot forge to fix a shield. I was able to finally get that cloak attuned to me, and added some more tattoos – gods know I don’t want to lose those spells, and I almost did. Xander and Roscoe were both absorbed in the forge work. I’m not entirely sure what Oberon was doing, but it involved a lot of flexing and posing, along with some actual exercises. I’m just glad the buso kisama has left him relatively intact so far… Roscoe emerged with a shield and seems to feel more connected to his god, and Oberon’s shield got a shiny trident decoration. I guess Xander got to work in a sweaty forge, if that’s a treat for him.
In the absence of leadership, the lizardfolk and bullywugs turned the castle into a civil war, which saves us the trouble of killing them and lets us walk around free and clear, provided we wear the robes.
We still needed to find those barrels of gold, and the cook was able to tell us they haul the treasure downstairs to a portal of some sort. Who knows where it goes from there, but he said he could direct us to it. First though, no trip to a Cult castle is complete without a tour of the Dragon Lady’s chambers. Preferably ending with her death, if she’s around.
However, with all the kuso we’ve been through here, there is no way in the Nine Hells I’m going into a fight like that without all the power I can get. The day had finally come where I was desperate enough to grasp at the poisoned power the buso kisama led me to, and raise the undead. Which meant an uncomfortable conversation with the resident straight-laced cleric. I’ve convinced him I’m not evil for now, and I have my undead bodyguards, but I have a sinking feeling the conversation won’t be over for a long time.
I will NOT let myself become him! This power is a tool, which I will use to escape his grasp and rise above him, to a better life.
In the end, it didn’t really matter. Her Scaliness was not there, but she left behind an acid trap that I stupidly triggered. I’ll have to remember to double-check in the future, since I managed to live through it. Roscoe did get to take out his righteous fury on her private shrine, through. It gives me a strange pleasure to think that a small part of that fury was probably mine, not Tiamat’s. I live in the shades of grey that make holy types delightfully uncomfortable.
Time to find this portal and the gold, and make the gan ro Cult’s bad day even worse.