The Pit

Traitors Banished
A devil's bargain accepted; a sentence carried out

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Three individuals with no connection to one another found themselves sharing the same cell in the King’s Dungeon.

Deenie, the halfling of Glorn, erstwhile governess to Elric’s lesser-known children, and owner of a terrible power.

Leif, a young elf who bore a human family name and studied the arcane in secret, in a book owned by a man he may never know…

Hurmanus, a warrior priest of the forbidden Gorumite sect, who dabbled in an even darker faith.

One cried misunderstanding, one said little, and the last muttered prayer.

Together they were approached by Lord Karradin, master of iron and steel, Knight Executioner, and one of the last truly powerful influences, other than Elric himself, within the Immortal Empire. He offered the three strangers a strange bargain: take an item with them into exile, deliver it to Narciss Illumin, and reap not only the rewards to surely be given them by Illumin himself, but also receive smuggled goods to take with them.*

Lacking bargaining power, or perhaps simply curious, Leif agreed to the bargain.

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The next morning, Lord Karradin himself delivered the verdict in front of a howling crowd. Within the royal amphitheater, the wealthy, and hangers-on, and those required by station or obligation watched as the three strangers faced the portal. It hovered before them, black as sin, shimmering in the autumn air.

Hurmanus strode boldly through the gate, surrounded by the power of his faith, head high. Deenie drew strength from her former wards, who watched silently from the stands. Leif hung onto his wits – he palmed their contraband, muttered a spell, and held his breath. One by one they entered.

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Into the Dark
Through the Fort; To the Narrows

The three strangers woke to a thin band of light cast by Leif’s magic, an inactive portal behind them, a completely blackened world in front, utterly unknown. Unknown, but not perhaps uninhabited: a monument directly in front of them bore an inscription for new arrivals:

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Welcome to the Pit
All is Not Yet Lost
Proceed to Fort Rebellion
Beware the Snatchers

Very quickly, Hurmanus caught the scent of blood in the air – fresh enough to raise his hackles. Deenie noticed old braziers in disarray. As their eyes adjusted to the gloom, they caught distant shadows – or imagination’s cruel tricks – dancing just beyond sight. With a sense of vertigo, they discovered that they stood atop the precipice of a small mountain, with rough-hewn steps leading downward, past the monument.

They had taken only a few steps down before they met their first denizen of The Pit. Tumbling and dashing down the hillside into the black, they escaped with minor bruises and made their way along a well-trod path toward this supposed fortress. The world streched into infinity to their left, and to their right lay a dim greenish cloud.

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Yet, it should not be said that the world lacked a certain bleak beauty.

Long before they reached the fort, the group decided to be on watch for an ambuscade. It was known to one of them that a bandit group had been exiled recently, and in a spectacularly bloody and daring fashion. Leif explained this, and advised caution.

They soon saw it: a monolithic structure that appeared to have been raised whole out of the ground, bearing great and sweeping beams of light, and well in advance of that structure, a much less impressive watchtower. The small watchtower was manned by an individual who claimed to represent lawful, sovereign forces, but the group was largely unconvinced. Nonetheless, they made their way to the fort.

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It was there that the facade dropped. Floodlights blinded the party, and chuckling silhouettes invited them in even as arms were raised against the party, leveled behind the turrets of the fort. Things appeared to be heading toward a quick and bloody end, when Deenie mentioned that she was a healer.

The tenor of the discussion quickly changed, and a mustachioed man identifying himself as Graves was lured outside by Hermanus. It appeared that an exchange of hostages might occur… and then everyone attacked one another instead. Hurmanus in particular distinguished himself as well, felling the leader with a single blow. All pretenses were discarded and the bandits attacked with what strength they had.

Eventually, in part due to a miracle performed by Deenie on one of their enemies, in part because the bandits were losing, the heir apparent to the bandits agreed to take their number and leave the fort in exchange for a ceasefire.

The party liberated the survivors of Fort Rebellion: a man also identifying himself (albeit more believably) as Lt. Graves, an old woman wearing plain grey robes, and two younger scribes. All four were in terrible shape, and not in much of a position to do anything other than to beg the party to traverse the Craggy Narrows and request reinforcements from The Sovereign. The party agreed – or at least appeared to.

Reasonably provisioned, Deenie, Hurmanus, and Leif headed to what they magnanimously termed the North, watching the distant edges of the cavern close in around them as they did so.

An opening in the wall the size of a manor house blew warm winds in their faces, and while their light did not shine far, what it did illuminate looked treacherous: a winding, narrow pathway surrounded on all sides by chasms, sinkholes, and steep hillsides, stretching into the dark.

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They might have begun to question their resolve, when they saw a sprinting figure with a faltering source of light surging toward them, two Snatchers in pursuit. A fierce melee ensued. The newcomer, covered in a fine layer of cavern dust and the markings of the Necromancers, wielded a trident with incredible skill, but without the aid of the party, he likely would have perished. The man, who called himself Brek, thanked them for their aid, and explained that the way ahead was blocked – likely, or so it seemed – by more of the same bandits that the group had so recently encountered.

Without much discussion or argument, Brek was accepted into their number. Although they knew little of him, and he displayed distrust of Leif’s magic, dark circumstances make for desperate allies, and he was good with a weapon.

After a short rest, aside from one minor inconvenience, the party was able to recover, and was ready to press on.

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A Heroic Entrance
The Palisade Retaken; The Grand Cavern Reached

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After resting and feasting on a slain Snatcher, the newly formed party resumed their trek through the Craggy Narrows. The journey was difficult. While Deenie made the most out of their meager stores and Leif thoughtfully lit the guiding braziers as they passed, Brek and Hermanus fared poorly as pathfinders. Leif was inadvertently led to a narrow crevice that sent him tumbling. While his erstwhile guides were quick to scoop him back up, the delay came poorly timed; their road was soon to be destroyed.

From the depths, a behemoth rose, and while it seemed to offer no direct threat, it moved implacably toward the raised pathway through the Narrows. The group acted quickly: they managed to outpace the creature, and when it shattered the path, they were already on the other side (except for Brek, who experienced a minor inconvenience.)

Soon, the party found the Palisade – the final barrier between them and the Grand Cavern. Brek’s belief that the Palisade was occupied by hostile forces was affirmed, and the group set about devising what might be charitably termed a plan.

While a hag sang from the parapets, Brek shimmied along the treacherous slopes of the Narrows to approach unseen. He was mostly successful – thanks in part to a timely spell of illusion woven by Leif.

By the time the bandits were aware that they had been breached, two of their number were dead, and the rest were scrambling to ready themselves. It was a short, bloody battle. The party suffered only nicks and scrapes – aside from Hurmanus, who, in the midst of a killing spree, was pierced by an envenomed needle.

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In the end, the hag and two fortunate bandits were left as prisoners, locked in a room from which there could be no escape, right?

Resources were liberated from the Palisade, and the party made their way into, for the first time in a long while, the light. A distant beacon glowed, casting a strong, ghostly white glow over the Grand Cavern.

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The party soon encountered a scout for the Sovereign, identifying himself as Griffith. Griffith expressed genuine shock and more than a bit of disbelief that the group had managed to break through the bandit lines, and (apparently) had liberated both Fort Rebellion and the Palisade as mere newcomers to The Pit. After confirming the truth of the matter, Griffith pledged his thanks and rode toward the light, advising the party to make for Fort Talia, and then The Citadel.

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The Butcher from Below
A City; A Murder; a Mob

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-The party necessarily made their way to Lower Iggy as Hurmanus finally succumbed to the poison wound he took during the Palisade battle.
-The city of Lower Iggy was large, cramped, and crooked. Thieves and hustlers were everywhere. It was a city built on greed and desperation. And a giant pillar.
-Soon after arriving, Deenie split off from the group and was found murdered shortly thereafter. The party found her corpse just as guards arrived.
-Narrowly avoiding being lynched, the party found themselves instead being interrogated. Apparently “The Butcher from Below” had been active for many cycles.
-Their interrogators seemed little more than hired thugs, in over their heads; they wore a symbol of a venomous snake on their breast, and claimed to serve the interests of the Latreus family, centered in Ignacious (evidently elsewhere.) The apparent leader of the guard spent a great deal of time, and a great deal of wine, learning the party’s story and sharing the city’s in return.
-Whether out of a sense of guilt, anger, or self-interest (a scant afternoon in Lower Iggy had cost the party one member and 45 coins), the group agreed to hunt down the Butcher.
-They made their way down below the Upper Crust, toward the cliffside neighborhoods, and down to the Hare-Lip, which served as a natural barrier between the extremely dangerous and unsanctioned Burrows, and the somewhat dangerous city proper.
-There they visited the Dark Tunnels restaurant and boarding house and met the proprietress, Isabella, as well as their contact for purposes of Butcher hunting, a woman named Catsparrow.
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-Leif took the time to feed the waif who’d brought them down to the Hare-Lip, making good on a tenuous bargain, and possibly making a friend.
-They witnessed their first cycle; the distant moonglow vanished, and for interminable hours, darkness reigned. The cacophonous city became silent.
-When “morning” arrived, a famished and renewed Hurmanus feasted with the rest of the group.
-They set about investigating, though no one seemed sure where to begin. Eventually, they tracked down a witness to the crime of Deenie’s murder, who was promptly murdered in front of the party by a strange monster. The party took wounds during the ensuing scuffle, but ultimately made short work of the creature.
-It was a rotting face, fused with two or three sharpened spinal cords. This sat poorly with Brek.
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-The party made their way back to the Upper Crust, their trophy in tow, intending to show it to the constable. The journey took several hours.
-Vimes was suitably impressed and disgusted by the sight, even chastened. He gave the group leave to investigate the Burrows, and “official documentation” allowing passage freely between the Burrows and city proper.
-At that moment came a cry from an exhausted Latreus thug, who barged in on the meeting. He delivered an urgent message: “The Burrow rats! They’re overrunning us! Something’s got them scared bad!”

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The Butcher from Below Pt 2
Sanguineous Secrets and Self-Interest

After receiving news that the Burrows Rats were trying to overrun the city proper, the party decided – reluctantly – to dive into the belly of the beast. Hurmanus seemed the most reluctant, wondering aloud what the group had to gain by taking such a dangerous diversion, when they already had so much to do. Leif seemed more interested, at least in the promise of a reward, and Brek was quietly curious about the origin of the undead menace. Catsparrow, new to the group, seemed to think that Leif had the right idea.

They made a brief stop at the Smelter’s guild, speaking with Wallace, a leader of some sort. Wallace curtly informed that for the good of the city, he would “detonate the Hare-Lip” at the end of the cycle, unless the Butcher were defeated.

And so it was in a conflicted state, and with a halting gait, that the party made their way downward, to the barricades on the Hare-Lip, into the Burrows.

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Not only did they negotiate their way through a dangerous barricade between nervous guards and desperate Burrows residents, but thanks to some judicious use of the mind-weakening Goldenroot salve, they also acquired the services of two city guards, Biggs and Porkins.

The Burrows themselves were labyrinthine and disorienting, difficult to traverse. The party encountered hunched figures in ones and twos, scurrying by.

Eventually, the party found themselves out in the open, and set upon by a group known as the Jagged Smiles, led by a poxy, scarred youth by the name of Smiley. Surprisingly, the party avoided violence, and intimidated their way past the street gang. They even managed to acquire some directions toward the supposed source of the undead scourge.

A rough slide down a tunnel, a tumble, and a dangerous skirmish later, the party found themselves on the literal precipice of a horrific sight.

Bodies, partial and whole, delivered to a giant pit by undead servants, and tossed in like so much fodder. Down below, an illuminated rope bridge suggested that the party reached their destination, for good or ill.

Like seasoned veterans, the group made their way down the side of the pit, toward the bridge. Leif took a moment to destroy an undead servant that had spotted them, thus preventing an alarm. Catsparrow spotted and disarmed (somewhat – with Leif’s help) a trapped, ironwork door.

And then, suddenly, even awkwardly, they stood face to face with the Butcher from Below, a short, older, unimpressive-looking man whose marred face betrayed his vocation.

A tremendous battle ensued. Even as the group charged the Butcher, monstrosities swarmed from all corners. The Butcher himself, pierced by magic, spear, sword, and arrow, fell into the maw of his own creation – a strange, unliving mouth rooted in the floor of the room. It enfolded the Butcher like an anemone, drawing him downward, and leaving the party to face the frenzied undead that remained.

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The party made a hasty search of the lair as they fled the growing menace, looting a chest that glowed with gold. They fled across the rope bridge, locking a door behind them, and bursting out through a shed: into – suddenly – the open air of the cliffside.

Their packs were heavy with looted coin, their weapons bloodied, their bodies sore. They were alive, the undead menace crashed against a locked door behind them, and they had perhaps half a cycle to end the Butcher’s reign before Wallace detonated the Hare-Lip, killing thousands in an attempt to save thousands more. The Latreus guards, high above, barricaded the Upper Crust.

Hurmanus wondered again whether this was their fight, their problem. And this time, the rest of the party was quicker to hear his side.

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Lower Iggy - Saved!
Climactic battle; Drunken celebration

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Dire circumstances set the stage for pragmatism, or heroism. Fortunately for thousands, the party chose the latter. After taking a moment to catch their breath, the group doubled back on their attackers, threw open the iron door, and faced the undead menace head-on.

It was a vicious battle. As Catsparrow snuck ahead, the rest of the group – including Biggs and Porkins – found themselves in melee with a motley collection of half-formed monstrosities. Hurmanus took several wounds and might have fallen to his death if not for the quick actions of Brek. Leif spent most of the battle unconscious, and Catsparrow’s deadly aim finished off the largest of the monstrosities.

Their attackers thwarted, the party charged back across the drawbridge and down a toothy tunnel, soon finding themselves at the base of a masterpiece of artifice: a gate, according to Brek, leading to the Land of the Dead. And standing beneath it, the Butcher.

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Leif – thankfully roused – found himself the subject of a wizard’s duel as the rest of the party dealt with an obscene fusion of dead Snatchers. A hail of missiles in the Butcher’s direction deflected off a shield. Hurmanus uttered a prayer, unleashing a swarm of tiny, biting insects against the Butcher, and allowing Leif to free himself from a tangle of magic.

Those few extra seconds were all they needed: Leif sent a stalactite hurtling down and shattered the Butcher’s shield. A split-second later, Brek’s trident skewered the Butcher, and the warrior hurled the old necromancer into the gate itself.

The gate sputtered and died, only to reignite, like a failing engine, long enough to spit forth the slim figure of a young woman, who rose to her feet and gave the party an imperious frown.

More accurately, she was halfway into doing this when her eyes fell upon Brek, and her lips drew back in a fanged snarl. Screaming a foreign name (“Thon,” to those interested), she hurled herself at him with incredible speed, and Brek – as much to his own surprise as anyone else’s – found himself matching her, blow for blow. A lucky strike lanced her through the arm, and a cloud of bats erupted from the wound, momentarily blinding the party, and allowing the vampire’s escape.

(Brek would later, in his cups, belatedly introduce the group to Vella, a woman with whom romantic complications evidently existed.)

A moment of silence fell. The group performed a search and began an exhausted ascent.

Slowly, it dawned on them exactly what had happened. As they left the Butcher’s lair and accumulated Burrows stragglers, then Cliffside followers, the notion grew. And when they reached the Upper Crust, where hundreds of pensive eyes watched their arrival, then simultaneously broke into cheer, it became undeniable: they were heroes.

A night of revelry, most of which cannot in good conscience be recorded, ensued.

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However, certain select snippets should be noted:

  • The group was approached by several dangerous-seeming and well-heeled gentlemen. Their leader identified himself as Lucius Latreus, thanked the group for saving the Latreus Ironworks Interest, and promised to repay the debt. The meeting carried an air of menace and the group discreetly disposed of the wine they were offered.
  • Catsparrow was gifted a strange creature in an iron cage, called a Beggarbug, by wealthy merchants. So pleased (or possibly shocked) was she by the gift, that she didn’t even try to pick their pockets.
  • Leif found himself performing experiments with the local flora, and emerged from a haze of smoke into a small apartment. The apartment contained a basalt mural, depicting a fanciful interpretation of their exile. The occupant (a half-elf named Berthold? an old gnome called Benson? hard to remember) showed Leif how to make use of a strange item in his possession.
  • Hurmanus drank deeply and fell deeply into slumber. He dreamed of cataclysms, and conflicted loyalties. He awoke forever changed.
  • Brek slept fitfully, remembering his past. He woke to sweat-stained linens, and the faint scent of lilies, feeling just slightly more drained than when he laid his head to rest.
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