Ascensions Gate

Letter to home 7

Dearest Lucille,

Please forgive me for my silence; I have been unable to write until today. I hope my earlier letters this season reached you, but I doubt any letter would have been able to leave Itoni until last week. I am glad to report that I am alive and well and we have achieved victory in Itoni! We have been fighting bitterly for the past several weeks, with the occupying Morlians increasing their strangle hold on the city. The Flames of Vengeance continued to engage in numerous battles throughout Itoni, isolated skirmishes and sabotage. I will spare you the details, but I must confess to witnessing numerous atrocities on both sides. The Morlians were wicked, and it brought out the worst in everyone. I believe I have held true to my own convictions, but war is truly terrible.

We were captured in the middle of our resistance, and were to be executed! I was terrified that I would never get to write to you and almost gave into despair. But we were able to escape with none of our party meeting our end that day. It grieves me to say, however, that this was not true for the remainder of the battle. Ghaul Thu and Arius fell in the sewers of Itoni. We also lost our new minotaur companion. None of them would respond to our ritual to call them back from the realms of their gods. True death of heroes is a sad thing indeed.

We pressed on and were able to gather the forces of The Gears of War, lead by the legendary Seraphim. It was quite an experience to meet another one of the so called Chosen of the Gods. He was a frightening individual, but at least he was on our side. We paid for their services with a magitech Colossus we had recovered. I was reluctant to unleash such a terrible weapon on anyone, but it was the only way. Our final battle, we did our best to evacuate the city before the Gears attacks, but alas we were only able to spare a few hundred of the final assault. It was truly horrible, there’s a reason those machines were all destroyed! Worse still, devils had taken up residence in Itoni, profiting from the misery of war. We did our best to stop their wicked deals, but we were trapped by a cunning succubus and Haplo gave up his soul to save us. A heroic sacrifice, and a terrible one. There is hope however, we may be able to save his soul one day.

Finally, the Morlian forces were in rout and we faced Lord Commander Madregal Thax. This man had been the source of misery to the Scarlands with his campaign against Toros. He had given an order of no retreat and ordered his men to kill any Itonian they saw. Thax mocked our attempts to stop him and swore that he would bury us in the burning city! The fight against this man was terrible, he used advanced magitech weapons and abilities on us, frequently taking to the sky and shooting us. But he could not stand against us, and we defeated him. His crimes had been too great and no quarter was given. I have thought that Lamont Sinclair would have offered Thax a chance; I hope that I am still on my path. Thax would have spit that back in our face anyway.

With Thax defeated, the Morlians continued their retreat and escaped the city. They will not be returning. I regret that the city is all but destroyed and there are many dead. The Flames of Vengeance are currently aiding the city in rebuilding and tending to the injured. We have a great deal of work to do. If the city was in a better place I would send for you, but it is still a grim and dangerous place. I will continue to write to you as we rebuild. You can be a hero in peacetime as well as war.

I hope the West is treating you well. Please write to me as soon as you can.

Looking Home,

Ramos

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Rooks Books 203
Happy New Year

The city hasn’t been the same. Ever since the reclamation of Itoni the city is becoming more steeped in death… After all those deaths the veil between worlds has become thinner. Genocide is just the thing to do that, and there was no shortage of death on either side. A way was torn, but it hasn’t stopped. I’ve felt it, at night when I hunt, the hunger of the Shadowfell is pulsing into this world. Right now the tide has receded, I know it will return. The tide will come in and I don’t know what is going to wash up on shore. All I can do is prepare, prepare and make sure I do a better job of saving this city. Been keeping the lowlifes out of it as much as possible so those that do live here can thrive. Sometimes I feel like it’s the best I can do

Last time I’d come too close to death, I’d been gotten caught off guard. I can’t stand the feeling of those whispers. I can’t tell if it’s just my imagination or not anymore. I’d been close to the edge too often for my taste. Now I’ve got this arm as a reminder. It’s mine, but it’s just not mine. I can feel it, it’s a part of me, but it’s just not mine. So I’ve become an instrument, this life isn’t mine anymore. It belongs to those who’ve stood by me and to those that can’t stand on their own. I want to carve out the rot on this city so it can live. A lot of people don’t think things can be the way the used to be, I think it can. I’ve just gotta make it happen.

I’ve got to make it happen before I end up like Haplo. He’s my other reminder. He’s sold his soul, only not to the Shadowfell. I can’t help but think it’s gonna be worse for him. I almost did it. Let the bigger dog take the bone, see if I get split down the middle. Don’t know how many more times I can be split, I’m pretty broken as it is.

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Letter to Royalty

To my Commander and Sovereign

My Lord, I pray this letter finds you well. I am writing to tell you the status of the free city of Itony. By now I’m sure you have heard that nothing went as the Morlians expected. They could have never guessed that those foul scum known as “the Flames of Vengeance” would hire out the Gears of War and assault the city with a magitech colossus. The Storm Raven were routed but the late lieutenant commander Madrigal Thax did destroy much of the city on his way out. So now here we stand two months later. Repairs are being made in the city and people are returning. With the Flames being the cities heroes there has been an influx of despicable half-bloods. It repulses me to even be in this city anymore and I only tolerate it because you need me here. I will keep an eye on things in the city so as to keep you aware of potential threats to your glorious plans. I will keep the unclean nature of this city from me with the knowledge that you already have the crown and the boots are on their way here. I await your majestic rise to power and to the return of your fathers righteous path of our people.

Your faithful servant
“Shade”

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Fevered Dreams

The World is a white fire. My hand wouldn’t come up to block my eyes. The Blackness finally settles in as a muted world begins to fall away, I managed to grab bits of the world with my left hand. Breathing is hard, its seconds taking longer, but holding my grip helps.

A sense of a familiar taste, it is acidic and bitter sweet; I’m salivating. Someone in this World is dying, the death is elegant and potent. There are hands? Many or none, I’m not sure. They are trying to mute out an already dull world and I’m straining to listen to the words. There is a gold creature, it seems surprised, it’s still gold in a grey world. Then the rasping started loud and drowning, trying to wrest my grip.

NO.

The voices are familiar, they’re not comforting. Ice runs through my veins. They want to eat me, I know they want to eat me. I’m screaming and nothing’s coming out so I try to run but all I can do is hold my grip, nothing else is responding. There’s a face next to my head it’s been there the whole time. It’s trying to cajole me, Ice, trying to be friendly. I can just let go, then I can run and get this thing out of my face. I’ll drown, I’m still holding my breath. If I let go I can run.

NO.

I know what it’s doing it’s trying to make me let go. I can’t , I can never lessen my grip, never never never.

I can’t die. I can’t, I can’t die. I know where they want to take me. I know I know I know. The feline malevolence drifts from my ear to my shoulder caresses my neck with venomous ice. Pain. Finally Pain. It exists in this halfway place. It surges through my spine and I yell, but there’s no sound.

Surge of green. An ocean of it flashing around, its loudness subdued by my inattentive ears. Endless, unforgiving green. I only pay attention to the creature on my chest, it’s curled up, rumbling. Friendly, hungry eyes remain fixed on me, curiously attentive and patient. It is waiting for me to give in. I am the boat it is riding out on such a fibrous sea. Poison emanates from the vibrating vapors pouring off that horrid little creature, it’s demeanor unchanging. I’m aware of those hands again, clawing at my backside. I think they are hands. I think my eyes are bleeding. I haven’t let go, my left arm is entirely a cramp, rigid and solid. I don’t know if I could let go if I wanted to. I don’t. I know where they’re taking me. I can’t die. I can’t.

I can’t die.

They want me too badly.

The gold thing is there again, in my field of vision. There are many things in my vision now. I don’t understand. What did they do with the sea? It was dustier now than it was before, and more solid now. The light here burns my bleeding eyes, my throat raw even though I’m still not sure I was screaming. Are my eyes bleeding? They’re very hot. I can still smell that bittersweet aroma. I want to eat my own death, it hangs like a musk in the air. The gold thing is talking. It’s angry though. Does it know I am here?

Bleak. Dull. Grey.

I’ll stab that little bastard. I’ll keep those fucking eyes off of me. I can just get a better grip pull myself back. I can keep fighting. I can keep.

I can keep fighting

“No, no, it’s ok, you don’t need to.”

Ramos is there. Is he in the Ocean World? No, the ocean isn’t dusty here. There is no ocean anymore. It’s smaller, contained. A room. Very small, no there’s curtains. A cloth room. Heh.

“I’ll fight, I’m still good.” My tongue is funny. I can still taste my death. I wipe off my tongue.

They’re saying things but it’s still dull. I can move my arms now. I can feel my chest, there’s no cat there now. I can feel my ribs. My ribs…

Metal.

I can feel my metal ribs with my metal hand and I can feel that they’re both metal. How can I feel that? Dull aches are everywhere, I might be able to stand if I try. I don’t think I should yet though. Reesa is thinking about other things, I think she’s been watching me. Why can I feel my muscles in my metal arm? How did that get there? I think there was an explosion. I think I was in that explosion. Is this a hospital? How did we get to a hospital?

“What do you want to do with her?”

“What?” I feel thick.

“You didn’t want to…” Ramos was looking at me, concerned.

It settles in, “No! No. I was just going to let her go.” Don’t want the shadowfell to be mad at me, I’ll take one less person being mad at me.

Ramos looks relieved. She said something ominous I’m sure. I don’t care at this point. I want to know what happened to my arm. I think I should just be glad I’m still alive.

I just… can’t die…

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Defeat

Ramos stared at the cold stone floor of the cell. His chest hurt terribly; the blood-strained bandage tightly plugging the wound left after Thax’s shot. The weight of defeat, however, was much more painful to bare. Their plan, to destroy the Morlian fleet, had failed. Who’s fault was it? An easy answer was no one. There was no way to know that Thax would take the fight to them so quickly and violently. In such a situation, they had been completely at his mercy. Ramos clenched his teeth. Things would have been very different if I had been on the ground. It was also easy to blame Xaing Hu. Ramos had clearly stated that if the ship was to fall it needed to be directed towards the sea, a directive that the druid had ignored. The party was quick to blame him, but Ramos reflected that a druid was likely a poor candidate for pilot, particularly Xaing Hu due to his well known impulsiveness. The plan had mostly been Ramos’s idea, at least the elements of flying the airship. Ramos could have piloted the machine, in fact he may have been the best choice. But he let Xaing Hu take the reigns, perhaps out of battle lust to fire cannons on the Morlians that had hurt so many. This error in judgement led them to situation they were now in. They had been told that they would be executed within five days if the remainder of the Flames of Vengeance did not surrender. In Ramos’s mind, that meant they had plenty of time to escape.

And then they took Reesa.

It was sudden, days earlier than expected. He had never felt so powerless. Reesa, defiant to the end, had grabbed Ramos and told him that he had to promise to take care of her charges. As they pulled her away he promised he would protect them. He was glad they dragged her away quickly, otherwise she would have seen the grim look the crossed his face. With her gone, they were unlikely to escape. He wouldn’t be able to keep that promise.

Ramos shook his head violently. No! he thought. There was always a way for good to win. The story shouldn’t end like this. And if Ramos had anything to say about it, it wouldn’t end like this for the rest of them. Ramos sighed. I hope I can fulfill my vow

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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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