A Knot of Thorns - Crossing the Moors

The moors of Talingarde are dark, brackish salt marshes teaming with mosquitos and other buzzing pests.  But this is of little consequence to our group of sinners as the map stolen, but an hour ago from the ill-fated Branderskar prison warden Mathias Richter, exposes routes to the Old Moor Road avoiding patrols.  Unfortunately the chosen route did not anticipate crossing the path of the Giant Toad Lashtongue who fancied a quick meal.  The old toad stood no chance; even though it managed to surprise our party, the adventurers made quick work of him.

After escaping the prison, surviving the monstrous Lashtongue, and crossing the moors with guard patrols at their heels, finding the house on the Old Moor Road pales beside their other accomplishments.  As promised, a lonely lantern burns in the upper story. The place otherwise shows little sign of habitation. Old but well-appointed, the house is large, imposing and alone on its hill. Painted a dark green and surrounded by barbed wrought iron fencing, nothing about this place seems inviting or a sanctuary.

Meeting the master

At the door of the manor house, they are met by Tiadora still in the radiant green-eyed woman. The only difference is her dress.  She no longer looks like she is destined for a funeral. Instead she wears a diaphanous white gown that makes her look almost angelic.  When she speaks, any illusions about her angelic character are quickly dispelled.
Adrastus Thorn

"Dearest, you took long enough,” she says pitilessly. “We were beginning to wonder if you’d ever make it. Oh, and you brought friends. The master commands all of you to appear before him but before that, you must be made presentable. Slaves!” She claps her hands. A dozen young attractive men and women all wearing very traditional servant’s livery appear quickly, their heads bowed. “These people are our guests,” she commands imperiously. “See them to their rooms. I want them cleaned, dressed and refreshed. Quickly.” There is something in that
last word that sounds like a threat. Certainly the slaves take it that way, hustling to perform their duties.

The scoundrels are led up to their rooms. The accommodations are comfortable and the slaves are silent and efficient. There are fresh clothes perfectly sized to each character in their rooms and there is opportunity to wash up.

At last Tiadora leads them to a beautifully appointed office richly decorated with dark wood and sumptuous brocade tapestry.  Sitting in a leather high-backed chair is a devilishly handsome fellow who smiles as they enter. “I believe you to be the first to ever escape from Branderscar Prison. Well done! Of course, you had help from the outside,” he says with a wicked smile.

But enough with the pleasantries.  You must be curious why I’ve helped you. Rest assured this is no random act of altruism. I have brought you here for a reason. My name is Cardinal Adrastus Thorn. I am the last high priest of Asmodeus left on the island of Talingarde. Once the Prince of Nessus was rightly revered alongside the other great powers. Now, the king of Talingarde has become a puppet to Mitran fanatics who wish to destroy any religion that does not bow to their insipid sun god."

"For their blasphemy, I will see the same people who imprisoned and condemned you suffer. I understand what you went through for I have faced it myself.” With that, he pulls down the sleeve of his robe and reveals his own runic ‘F’ brand. “I am going to burn Talingarde to the ground and from the ashes I will build a new nation that knows its rightful master. I cannot do this alone. I seek servants worthy of our Infernal Father’s majesty. Have I found them in you?

He rises and his eyes flash with hellfire and divine purpose. “Join me! Serve me well in this holy endeavor and I will raise you up in the eyes of gods and men. I will make you princes of the new Talingarde. Today, swear fealty to me and to Asmodeus."

"Put aside forgiveness and I shall give you vengeance. Put aside mercy and be made powerful. Put aside peace and become my harbingers of war. What say you? Will you swear your allegiance or will you burn with the rest of the blind fools?"

When the player characters accept, Cardinal Thorn smiles. “Excellent. Let us make it official. Signing in blood is traditional.”  He brings out a quill, a silver ritual knife and two copies of a contract written on some unidentifiable leather and written in dark red ink – the Pact of Thorns. He lets the PCs keep one copy of the contract. The other, he takes.

"Well done. Your first command: prepare yourselves. Stay within the manor. You are still hunted by the Talirean soldiery. In three days we begin your training."

The Respite

The escapees are fed, fully rested, bathed and clothed in garments more befitting nobility than prisoners on the lam. For three days they live a life of luxury and ease in the manor house. Tiadora offers them each one of the slaves as a ‘companion’.   Each PC also receives a silver medallion and an iron circlet. The silver medallion is a holy symbol of Asmodeus.   The iron circlet is magical and functions as a hat of disguise.  

After the three days, the group are once again summoned by Cardinal Thorn:

"Have you enjoyed your gifts? The iron circlets allow you to move amongst your enemies as one of them. The silver amulets will remind you of your true loyalties. And the other items – well, you need them now."

"You have done well to escape from Branderscar and to accept my offer. However, you are still not ready for my service. Tiadora will lead you to the basement of this domicile. There you will find nine chambers each more dangerous than the last. Somewhere hidden within these chambers is a pendant of silver and sapphire. Recover the pendant and bring it to me. Let nothing and no one stand in your way."

He stands up and looks out of the manor house window across the grey moor. “It’s almost dusk. You have until dusk tomorrow to bring me my prize. Do not fail me.

Cardinal Thorn takes a seat at his desk. Tiadora arrives right on cue. “This way,” is all she says as she leads them to a set of stairs.  "Below you will find the Nine Lessons.” She leaves without any further explanation.

The Nine Lessons

A set of stone stairs leads down, through an archway and into an unfurnished chamber beyond. Inscribed upon the archway in the common tongue is: “Deception is a tool. Self-deception is death. Deceive always thy enemy but never thyself.”  The room beyond is lit by a small oil lantern hanging from the center of the chamber.  The first chamber, the chamber of deception, nearly takes the life of Shivers as he barely escapes the clutch of a well-positioned spike pit trap and learns a valuable lesson about the deceptions of the obvious.  

The following chamber of many paths meets the party with a quandary as an inscription above the door reads "Following the herd is for fools. Fear not their icy derision. Instead, fear only thy Infernal Lord."  The trapped doors and the tricky heat consuming mold teach our party about the foolish errand of following the herd.  

Further still, in the chamber of darkness, our wretches learn the values of knowing their enemy as they shatter the obsidian globe, ending the dark protection surrounding the vampiric mist plaguing this room.  Once exposed, the mist is quickly dispatched but not before dealing ability damage to the group of scoundrels.

GM Thoughts

The party is currently at level 2, standing in the 3rd chamber.  1 hour of time has passed since the beginning of their 24 hour task.  Lumond was hesitant to sign the contract from Adrastus even though it was in his best interest to do so (completely understandable from his characters' perspective).  Again, Shivers continues to leap before looking.  The rest of the party uses the clues found in the room to deduce some of the secrecy hidden within them.


Popular posts from this blog

A Knot of Thrones - Balentyne Reconnaissance

A Knot of Thrones - Arming the Bugbears

A Knot of Thrones - Burning Balentyne