Ascensions Gate

Ferdinand's Journal, Entry 1

Entry One

Today marked a completely new chapter in my life. So new and different that I figured I’d start keepin’ a journal for all my thoughts ‘n’ ruminations. I figure when I get old, I’ll enjoy looking back on all this.

7-30
I had found that my quality of life had been slowly deteriorating. With the Morlian occupation, it had got really hard to find a good time. Supplies were getting pretty low, and even the basics were costing more than they should. Being a Minotaur of dis’riminating tastes, I like the better things, and they’ve been more rare than a two-toed toad. Aside from that, the Morlians are bastards. Slavers, creeps, and tyrants, all of ’em.

So, I ended up making some friends. One is Rook. He’s a Nah-grim. He’s a good guy for what he is, and has shown little in the nasty tendencies of his people. On that note, I felt like we were born chums. He’s seen a lot of bad things, and could use some cheer in his life. He’s also a freedom fighter, so that’s good. He recruited me to the cause; seems like he’s one of the Flames of somethin’ or other and they’re the people that don’t like the Morlians kicking around town. He and his pals wanted to stop the execution of their lady friend Reesa. I ended up joining in.

Rook tasked me with getting a blade for Reesa to cast her spells through. We were going to save her using Rook’s shadowy powers. However, we wanted to prepare for the worst, and we wanted to make sure she’d have a weapon to fight with. I ended up going to Godfrey’s Emporium. He was a fine guy and responsive to our cause. He made me a dagger for Reesa and agreed to help make a distraction when we went to save her. Meeting him made me think that I should make sure to save some of the money I make adventuring for later in life. If there’s a later in life.

On the next day, our plans fell to shit. It all ended in a fracas. We saved the girl, but she didn’t seem to appreciate it all that much. I don’t even think she said thank you for the dagger I enchanted for her. I made sure to demand payment, ‘cause she just seemed ungrateful. Maybe she just doesn’t know how to let people in. I know I’m new to her, so I just chalked it up to unfamiliarity and a generally cold demeanor to handsome minotaurs.

She does seem to have a heart though. She and the Flames took in a bunch of orphans. They’re a rag-tag bunch. I bought them a load of cakes and treats. I hope they like me, that I’m not too scary for them. I also hope that my gift helped let Reesa know that I’m one of the good bulls.

I also met Dot. I think his name was Dot. He was an old friend of Reesa’s and he was a great help. He fought tirelessly against a Dire Tiger, and he burned the bodies after our fight to save Reesa from certain doom. Might I add that I don’t think Reesa appreciated my saving her half as much as she should. Again, I figure it’s just her trying to protect herself. Either that or she secretly lusts after me and is trying to push me away because she can’t handle the power of the bull.

Dot also burned down a warehouse we were supposed to burn down. It went well, but I didn’t have anything to do with it. I’m just glad that no one got hurt and we managed to get done what we needed to do.

Two Elves, Funco and Fulvum, I think that’s their names, they were undercover and had found some information and they were backstabbed and all sorts of terrible, nasty things happened. Fulvum was shot. She was knocking on death’s door, but I told her no one was home and saved her. She seemed to appreciate my help more than Reesa did. Even then, she wasn’t half as appreciative as I would have liked. Maybe minotaurs aren’t her kind of hero, but then again, maybe she just wanted to seem demure in front of her brother. I got to carry her for a while. When I couldn’t smell the whiskey on her, she smelled nice.

Funco helped Rook find the documents in the warehouse before Dot burned it down.

Now, I’m sitting in Reggie’s where this all began. I only have a few hundred gold left, but I’d like to get a few drinks and dances in before the night is through. However, I also need to buy some good food for the Flames of Vengence’s pantry. Now that I’m a member, neep broth won’t do.

Also, there’s the children to think of. If they don’t eat well, they won’t grow up able to become adventurers. They won’t be able to carry on the good fight. Everyone knows that you can’t fight the good fight without good food.

Impressions about the other characters:

Reesa Itonia seems a bit tightly wound. She takes life so seriously. She needs to dance once in her life. She needs to let herself enjoy life before she finds that she’s wasted it all on worrying. I understand her need to worry, but she needs to learn to have fun sometimes.

“Rook” Kazim-Draxhuld-Kilare is a dark spirit, but I feel he’s a kindred spirit. He seems to know that you can be cautious and still enjoy life. I feel that I can trust him, and plan on keeping close to him. If he escaped the party’s mass capture, he has good instincts.

Dot seems like a resourceful ally. His powers are kin to my own; I admire his devotion to Nash. My devotion to Drago is true, but it also seems to pale in comparisson to someone like Dot, who seems like a bit of a zealot.

The Marquis of Blades seems like a good leader, but I wonder if he’s a wise leader.

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Reesa - Execution Day

Everything had gone about as poorly as it could have, and basically exactly as Reesa had predicted. Xaing Hu had convinced everyone that it would be a wonderful idea to steal a Morlian airship from the docks next to their base and use it to bomb the other ships before crashing it into the base itself. The plan had been for everyone to bail out of the ship using the slowfall packs that were kept aboard. Reesa had repeatedly pointed out that the plan almost ensured that they would land inside the Morlian base, but no one had listened. The only part of the plan she had agreed with was the sabotage of the other ships. Rook had snuck aboard and poured sovereign glue into the engines of several before almost being caught. Since her protestations had gone unheeded, she had no choice but to go along when they went ahead with Xaing Hu’s plan. She couldn’t leave her friends to do this alone.
What none of them had counted on was that the leader of the invasion force, Luitenant Commander Madrigal Thax himself, would be on the docks with some sort of armor that enabled him to fly. He had soared into the sky after them and laid waste to the group, causing the ship to catch fire and spiral out of control. Everyone managed to leap off before it crashed; but, as Reesa had predicted, they all landed directly in the center of the Morlian stronghold. Everyone but her had been severely wounded (Haplo was near dead) and to prove his superiority, Madrigal Thax had given a speech about how they would be executed and then proceeded to shoot Xaing Hu,
Ramos and Krom. They survived the injuries and the whole group (minus Rook, who had disappeared somehow) was thrown in a cage to await the executions, which were to begin in five days.
The second morning they were in captivity, Reesa had been sitting in the cage, fuming about the mess that Xaing Hu had gotten them all into and futilely attempting to plan an escape, when one of the Morlian Lieutenants marched up with an aide and started staring at her. He pointed, his face twisted with disdain, “The dragon bitch. She’s seems the strongest and we can’t control her filthy magic. We’ll execute her today.” Then the just turned and stalked away.
For a moment, time seemed to freeze and all Reesa could hear was her own heartbeat. She felt a flood of emotion wash over her.
Concern What about the kids? Who would take care of them?
Anger The Morlians had no right to be here! They deserved nothing but bloody death for daring to invade Itony! Curse everyone for listening to Xaing Hu’s asinine plan! No one had heeded her warnings about the danger!
Fear That bastard Madrigal Thax had told them that they would be publicly drawn and quartered.
Confusion They were supposed to have five more days, and she had hoped the rest of the Flames of Vengeance would come to rescue them.
As she sat and tried to process what was happening, she was vaguely aware of her friends reacting to the news. Everything around her just seemed far away and muffled. She turned to Ramos, grabbing his arm forcefully and looking him straight in the face. “You need to take care of them.” It came out almost like a growl and she could feel that every muscle in her body was coiled like a spring. She was vaguely aware that she probably looked terrifying. “Those kids need you, and you have to promise me that you will get out of here and take care of them.”

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A notice posted 2 days after the attack on the Storm Raven command center.

The war criminal and half-blooded witch Reesa will be executed today at noon. Those not in attendance will be assumed to be terrorist sympathizers.
signed.
Your Benevolent Regent
Lieutenant Commander Madrigal Thax.

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Rook's Books 185
Ruminations on Revenge

It’s looking dark. I came back to our base of operations soley on my own. I had to tell the Marquis that I was the only one able to make a break for it, that all the rest had been either captured or worse. The plan was successful except that we let the druid drive the ship and that, quite literally, was our downfall.

I remember when I was younger, I would simply give up when things seemed overwhelming. I wouldn’t think that’s something you can outgrow, but it appears I have. If you tell me I can’t accomplish it, I’m gonna try that much harder. I owe it to these guys to succeed. They’ve put their trust in me, and that’s something that needs to be returned.

I’ve gathered some intel. It leads me to believe that they’re still alive but perhaps not in the best shape. If there’s one thing I know about Madrigal Thax is that he is a Class A Asshole. The kinda guy that’s gets his rocks off kicking puppies. I can only imagine the pleasure he’s taking in torturing The Flames. I’m gonna kill that sick fuck, just you watch.

I’ve got some days till their public execution, I just don’t plan on waiting to spring them until then. I need together the few resources we have and probably then some. I’m gonna have to get the word out I’m looking for a few good men… well, I guess just a few extra bodies anyway. Moral fiber not necessary. I’ve got to knock the heads of those twins together and get them on our fucking page. No more of this dividing our forces crap. We’ve got to go all in on this all the way or not at all. We owe it to the rest of the flames. We’re gonna get them out alive with the pieces we have left.

I’ve got this.

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Writen in burning pitch on main st. in occupied Itony

You know not who you conquered. We are coming for you Morlia.

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Reflections on heroics

What makes a hero? Ramos thought to himself. No doubt the specific traits were important if he was to have any hope of becoming one. Ramos reflected to himself, listing what he thought a hero must be: courageous, pure of intent and deed, steadfast in his convictions, sacrificing. Do I have those traits? Maybe, Ramos mused. He thought of his friends, truly they were heroic but were they heroes? They had done some questionable things on their quests, but they had done some great things. Ramos had been critical of himself recently, of his past. As he reflected, he saw that not everyone in his group had been a paragon of virtue and almost everyone had been victims of others. Haplo, Rook, Ghaul Thu…they had all been harmed in the past. These wounds shaped them in many ways, some of them had lasting and dark effects on them. These marks didn’t make them less heroic. Maybe another trait of a great hero was a flaw, something that they carried but wanted to change. Maybe there’s hope for me after all, Ramos thought with a smile.

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Into the darkness
Rook's Books184

I am at a loss. I don’t know what to do or think anymore. I was supposed to be the idiot, the reckless one. I can’t imagine what Vazra"Craht"Lazd was thinking, what she’s still thinking. She’s taken out Pawn and Bishop, not that they didn’t have it coming.

Fuck! She’s fucking insane! How could she become a Reclaimer?! I’m the fuckup! I’m the reject! I’m the one who makes the dumb bargain, who digs himself too deep cause I don’t have what it takes to conquer that kind of darkness. She did, though. She was better than me, smarter and better, and now more powerful than me. I don’t know what to do. She’s out to get everyone I know, I don’t think that I can hope to beat her, I can only hope that she’s insane enough where I can get away and I hopefully won’t be noticed. Me leaving the Flames I think would only worsen their chances. I’m not worried about dying, but I don’t want to be the cause of their deaths. My goal is to let her kill me first, then maybe, if I’m lucky she’ll forget about the rest.

Heh… if I’m lucky…

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Letter from Occupied Itoni

Ramos stared down at the blank page and sighed to himself. He needed to write to his cousin; no doubt she was concerned that there had been no word from him since he entered the city. He had arranged to have this letter leave the city and be brought to that small town where he sent his last letter. She would get it and be relieved. Looking down at the page, Ramos found he couldn’t write anything. There were too many questions, too many defeats. He had tried to avoid questions about Rook’s past, for as a man with a dark history Ramos understood keeping things from others. If the party knew half of what his family had done to the people of the Concordant…or if Reesa ever learned about Travys’s business with the children, Ramos believed that things would not go well. He reminded himself that that’s why he was doing this, to save his family’s name and restore their honor. Ramos paused. With the help of the Flames of Vengeance, maybe Ramos could break his brother’s hold on the Concordant.

But Rook, Rook was another concern. Evil adversaries from Rook’s past had almost killed them and the children. If it wasn’t for Ghaul Too, Ramos shuddered to think about what would have happened. And Ghaul Thu was feared dead. A high price to pay for one man’s secrets. How could he write about that?

And Kincaid, Kincaid was revealing to be less the loud mouthed braggart and more of a broken man. Could he have protected those children? Would Kincaid become a danger to them?

Had Rook?

Troubling thoughts. Ramos sighed. These thoughts had no place in a letter to home, at least not yet. Ramos smiled as he thought of home and Lucille. He then began to write.

“Dearest Lucille,

I am alive and well and the Flames of Vengeance strike against the Morlian forces! I write with great news! We have been able to save Reesa’s children! I am sorry that this letter has taken so long…"

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Training Session

“And you, Ramos, I have something to teach you,” the Marquis said with his grinning face. With that, he led Ramos to another room in the massive warehouse. Ramos kept his distance on the quick walk, for Marquis had all but said one day he would like the pleasure of taking Ramos’s life. Still, the eccentric Marquis of Blades had yet to depart from his benign nature.
The room was simple enough, but Ramos recognized it’s greater purpose immediately. It was a practice room, similar to the backroom places that Ramos’s brothers organized pit fits in the Concordant. This room didn’t have the ominous hallmarks of his brother’s dens, but Ramos reminded himself how quickly that could change with the Marquis of Blades. Once in the center of the room, the Marquis turned to Ramos.

“Lamont Sinclair was a great man,” he began, “and he accomplished many great deeds. But he was able to do so only with his sword. Perhaps he would have been the same hero if he was gifted with great magic or a superior wit, but fate gave him the skill to be the greatest swordsman the world has ever known.”

“You should have seen him, young Sinclair, in combat. Lamont was strong and fast, his accuracy matched only by his superb courage. He was the greatest in the world, in a time where his contemporaries were also fantastic heroes or villains. Indeed, most of them went on to become gods. But even amongst the gods Lamont stands true,” the Marquis paused for a moment and Ramos felt that he was remembering an old memory of a time when the gods walked the earth as mortals.

“The secret,” the Marquis continued," was not that Lamont was the strongest, or the fastest, or even the most skilled. It was that he perfectly blended the best qualities of battle and became a force of battle itself! No one could hit him without himself being rended by his blade. No one evade his attack without surrendering crucial footing," the Marquis paused again. This time he looked Ramos up and down.

“You are nothing like Lamont,” he said frankly, “your methods are the same boorish dance that I’ve seen for centuries. It lacks the finesse, the style and the skill. But I will teach you something, that will get you closer to being worthy of a Sinclair: The Marquis Reflexive Sidestep! Now, Ramos, attack me like your life depends on it!” The Marquis exclaimed with his face set to the grin. Ramos sighed, not quite sure about what to do, but followed the Marquis instructions and launched into an attack with his rapiers. As his blades cut through the air, he was sure that he would strike the Marquis’s metal body. Ramos was surprised as his blades cut through the air where the Marquis had been but a moment before, for the Marquis quickly shifted on a diagonal and appearing next to Ramos leaving only the grimy sweet smell of roses and oil behind. Puzzled, Ramos launched into a second attack while the Marquis chuckled deep behind his mask. The result was the same, leaving Ramos hacking at the air. The Marquis held up his hand and Ramos paused.

“Watch me, Ramos,” he said. The Marquis brought his rear foot behind his left forming a “T” and sprang forward on a diagonal line. “It’s all in the foot work. And it will allow you have your weapons on guard in a better position and give you superior balance. Now, you try,”
Ramos practiced for what must have been an hour. The step was bizarre to him, for Ramos had never been light on his feet. While he practiced, it felt frustratingly familiar to him, much like a favorite dance long forgotten. Finally, when his legs burned and he was out of breath the Marquis clapped. Ramos took several deep breaths while the Marquis watched.

“Now, Ramos, let’s see what you’ve learned,” the Marquis said as he drew his twin rapiers.

“What?” Ramos began to ask, but before he could finish the Marquis of Blades was on him. The Marquis blades whistled by Ramos’s mere inches from his throat and Ramos took a step backwards. The Marquis shook his head disapprovingly and pressed the assault. Ramos parried the strikes one after the other, not able to return a blow and stepping ever back. This is when he finally kills me, Ramos thought as his rear heel touched the wall. The Marquis lashed out with a final blow and Ramos closed his eyes. He was expecting the Marquis to run him through the heart, but it was clearer in the dark, slower. He clacked his heels together forming the ninety degree angle of the move and lunched on the diagonal. In the darkness he lashed out with his own blade and stopped it right just before the completion of its arc. He turned his head and opened his eyes. Much to Ramos’s surprise he was, in fact not, pinned to the wall and his own blade rested at the back of the Marquis metal neck. The Marquis nodded and sheathed his own weapons.

“I am impressed, Ramos, you have mastered the step. Almost showing off with your eyes closed. Perhaps there’s hope for you yet!” The Marquis said.

“Thank you,” Ramos said almost breathless. He then added, “…teacher”. The Marquis metal smile beamed for a moment than shifted to a smirking face.

“I wish I could take credit for what I’ve shown you, or your progress,” he said, “but it was taught to me by another. And that’s the reason it was familiar to you.” With that the Marquis left the room leaving Ramos in silence. Ramos stood there for a moment and looked down at his rapier that wore his family crest. With a sly smile, he followed the Marquis to the main chamber.
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Auris - Right place, right time...

The night was long. The plan was simple. Sneak the kids out of the house, through the sewers, to the hideout where they will be safe. Leave late at night to avoid the patrols… With the kids, safety is the primary concern.

Opening the door to the house revealed a patrol to be waiting for them. So much for the plan… Time to do what he does best.

Eyes burning, the outline of a halo forming around his head, Auris smiles as he begins his charge…

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