Ascensions Gate

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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Reesa - Back at Home

Reesa had been worried sick about “her” kids for days, but had tried not to show it. As soon as the group found the Marquis of Blades, she wanted to sprint to the house and check on them. Once the Marquis told them that Kincaid and Janos had gone to the house after the Morlian attack, she had felt hopeful.

As they had moved through the city, toward her house, Reesa felt like things might be okay… right up until they found 11 year old Nell being marched around by a Morlian patrol and some multi-legged draconic beast. It had twisted her gut back into knots and she had channeled that energy the best way she knew how, into combat. After they defeated the patrol she tried to speak to Nell, but the poor girl was in shock and couldn’t tell Reesa anything.

When the group finally got to the house it looked like it had caught fire and been boarded up. For the space of a breath, Reesa’s heart dropped and she felt like someone had stabbed her in the stomach. Then she realized that it would have been the perfect way to hide a house full of kids. After some knocking and whispering through the door, the group was let inside by a relieved Kincaid.

She had been so glad to see the kids that she had nearly burst into tears. After hugging each and every one of them, she found out from Kincaid that Janos was gravely ill and wounded, which was why they hadn’t moved the kid’s back to the Marquis’ stronghold. He had related his original plan to her and they had decided to move the kids at 4 AM, when the patrols would be few and far between.

Once a plan was in place, Reesa sat down with Melia to find out how all the kids were doing. The poor girl looked exhausted. Her normally crimson skin was ashen looking and there were dark purple circles under her eyes. Reesa had left her in charge and Kincaid had said she was the only one he allowed out of the house to raid for food and supplies.
“Have you gotten any rest lately?” Reesa asked her gently.

She shrugged and sighed. “I have been trying to make sure everyone is okay.”

Reesa felt proud of her and sad for her in the same moment. “I know, and you have done a great job. How have all the younger kids been doing? Have there been problems?”

“Well, Cerise, Ishi-Avox-Nia and Dorian are just terrified in general and haven’t really been talking to anyone. Grady, Lere, Nell, Torc, Nessina, Allina and Rey-Nassah all resisted Kincaid in the beginning, but after he screamed and ranted at them they backed off. Except for Nell, who got so upset that she ran away. I’m so glad you found her! Me, Siman, Selinia and Jamil have just been trying to keep everyone calm, safe and fed. It would be easier if Kincaid was really helping. At first I was really glad him and Janos were here. They helped us torch the front of the house and board it up. But, as Janos got sicker, Kincaid just got more frustrated and he started drinking a lot and just complaining about how we never listen to him. If you hadn’t shown up, I don’t know what we would have done. Especially since at least a couple of us had dads who drank and got angry. It is kinda scary for kids like Dorian and Nell to be around somebody like that again.”

Reesa’s face darkened and she tried to keep her voice calm. “Has he laid a hand on any of you?”

Melia shook her head. “He just yells and complains.” She paused for a minute and then just blurted out. “I’m really glad you came back and you aren’t dead.”

Reesa hugged her tightly and said “I was so worried and I came back as soon as I could. You know I would never leave you.”

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Painted next to a charred black corpse found in occuppied Itoni

Any soldiers looking to a good time? Meet here at Mid-Night.

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Letter to Home 6

Dearest Lucille,

I can only imagine what you’ve heard about Itoni and I apologize for not writing these past weeks, however for me it’s only been three days! Allow me to explain.

The new contract I spoke of in my last letter was a trap, set by the Morlian invaders of Itoni. We were lured to the Shadar-kia mercenary camp to do battle with them. The warriors, using foul magic, transported us to the haunted realm of the Shadowfell. The world there was much like our own, only a grim reflection inhabited by the dead and the hallow. A truly frightening place, and one that the only way out was through a magical ritual that the remaining Shadar-kia possessed. Realizing that someone in power, likely the Morlians, wanted us out of Itoni. Rushing through that dreaded realm, we found the Shadar-kia lair and began our assault. We fought many of the warriors and were able to overcome them, bringing us to the lair of another dragon. This creature was not as terrible as Karphaus the Black, but it was a strange breed of dragon from the Shadowfell known as a Shadow Dragon. The drake, known as Galthus, also had the ritual and would give it to us for a price. Unfortunately, as we were preparing to fight the creature before he began discussing terms, Rook remained invisible. The dragon became suspicious of our party as Rook was missing and attacked us. He used terrible, strength draining magic on us but we were able to overcome him. I do feel some regret over this, as this could have been avoided and the dragon, though evil, could bring no harm to our plane from the Shadowfell.

We encountered Gall-el, the leader of the Shadar-kia group, who agreed (with Reesa’s persuasion) to perform the ritual to return to Itoni. She betrayed her employer, explaining that the Morlians had indeed hired her to keep us from Itoni. She also revealed that the commander of the Morlian force was Lt. Commander Madrigal Thax, comrade to Sergeant Bromier who we were forced to slay months ago. It appears that Bromier’s warning about retribution was not a lie.

We returned to learn that time moved so slowly that over a month had past! Itoni’s defenses had fallen, but there was still a great deal of resistance from the nobles. I am eager to return to Itoni to turn the tide of battle away from the Morlians. Reesa, a native to this city, is charge of several children that are trapped in the city. She is certainly concerned for them and I do share her concern. After all what good is being a hero if you can’t save those truly in need? However, we cannot go rushing into another trap. We need resources, we need information, we need a plan. That’s what General Sinclair would have done. That’s what I’m advocating. We are currently in a small town outside of Itoni and will be leaving here this evening. It may be difficult for me to write in the city besieged. Please understand this and I will write you as soon as I am able.

Looking Home,

Ramos

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Out of the Shadowfell

Rook’s Books 183

I can’t tell you how glad I am to see the sun again. I don’t think the others felt the full weight of the Shadowfell, but then again none of them have had it talking to them. Sometimes it would just be a constant murmuring in the background, but other times it just screams for me to kill. I was just lucky enough that there’s nothing in the Shadowfell really deserving of life, couldn’t say I felt bad killing anything there. Maybe in the Shadowfell, there’s just nothing worth living for never having the chance to live.

That’s why I’m glad to be back, I don’t have to listen to some dark voices jabbering in the background. Even having green grass is a blessing. Fuck, I’d settle for brown rather than the gray of the Shadowfell. I’m not intent on ever going back, though Reesa seemed to be keen on the idea that that was our best way back into Itony. Itony, by the way, wasn’t the way we left it. It is now a city under siege. It’s a city I’m intent on taking back from the Morlians. They think they can fuck with us they have got themselves another thing coming.

The problem with having an army is that they’re pretty impotent without a head. Granted, these folks have got several heads, but keep cuttin’ and eventually they run out. Not much of a plan so far, but it’s a tried and true method, let’s face it, it’s gonna work.

I had scouted out a way into the city, the place had lacked proper perimeter patrol and that was how we lucked out. I mean, we really lucked out, watching the Flames of Vengeance lummox about in the dark was honestly a little embarrassing for me. I really picked out a good spot. Our first agenda was to find the Marquis, see if he was still holed up somewhere and we could perhaps rally up some more forces to aid the cause. The Marquis could apparently hold out so long, being in the shadowfell lost us precious weeks. The Marquis is a fucking crackpot by the way, he left us a duplicate of himself that only Ramos could listen to. Though, I guess you don’t get to be as powerful as the Marquis without being a fucking paranoid crackpot.

Reesa was hit hard with the invasion, I know she’s taking it pretty personal. Hard not to when you’ve got family in there. I know what it’s like to lose that, I can only imagine not knowing is worse. I’m willing to help her out if she’s willing to admit she could use the help. Got to stick together with what you’ve got, and I’ve been through a lot with these guys. Time to put on my shit eating grin

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