Adventures of the Cursed Eight: 1.1

First, a brief explanation. I am extraordinarily lucky to run a homebrew D&D 5e campaign for a wonderful group of players. We’ve now been playing for a year and as most of the people who play D&D are aware, each session has brought its wealth of crazy adventures, WTF moments and amazing memories.

The party has chosen to call themselves the Cursed Eight and they have kindly given me permission to write up some of their adventures and post them here for the world to see. A huge thank you to them and to Wizards of the Coast for giving us such an amazing game.

I will probably write more blog posts on the subject of D&D, but for now, let me take you to the continent of Dersorrah and the plains of Sheltoth…

Chapter 1. The tree of Gerotil

1.1 The rogue and the ranger

Deep beneath the mountain known as the Seat of Gerotil, in the lowest levels of the Keep of St. Vornias, the sound of footsteps bounced off the walls of the inner fortress’ jail.

In the farthest cell from the winding staircase, a figure stirred in the shadows, the dry straw rustling under booted feet. Slowly, the shade rose and made its way tentatively to the bars, its delicate hands resting on the cold metal. The flickering torchlight reached briefly beyond the deep hood to illuminate the features of the grimy prisoner: a patrician nose and high slanting eyebrows graced a noble visage, framed by long tresses of metallic rose hair, carefully tucked away beneath her dark leather cowl. A belt with many pouches was fastened to the prisoner’s waist; a practical addition to an already practical get-up that included leather breeches, strong boots and a jerkin. The clothes of a discreet traveler. The clothes of a thief.

Up until a three days before the Battle of the Crimson Plains, Shainarra Liadon had been one of the most successful burglars of Dereillon’s Thieves Guild. She had grown up in the Sacred City’s seedy lower quarter and being of elvenkind, she had soon been recruited by the most successful criminal organization in all of Syrros. She had stolen countless objects, separating hundreds of people from their most prized possessions without ever tripping a single alarm or trap. She was so good, that her fame was almost comparable to that of the Shadow-Foot, a thief that had reigned over Dereillon’s criminal Underworld in decades past.

Then, she had received the contract to steal the sacred Cup of the god Gerotil from his temple in St. Vornias. So, on the eve of battle, the stealthy elf had made her way undetected through the gates of the Keep. She had easily slipped past the restless Imperial Infantrymen and under cover of darkness had sneaked up the wide steps of the Temple. It had only taken a moment to pick the lock of the massive doors and quietly slip inside the ancient sanctum. As she made her way from shadow to shadow, a glint of gold had caught her eye; the Cup glistened invitingly a mere thirty feet from her on the altar at the end of the central nave.

Everything had gone downhill from there. Maybe it had been her enthusiasm, or maybe she had taken the job too lightly. Maybe the God of Life himself had decided to punish her for her attempted sacrilege. Eagerly, she had reached out to grasp the priceless artifact and something heavy had come swishing out of the shadows to smash into her head and send her into the realm of the unconscious.

When she had come to, she had found herself locked in chains and surrounded by guards. Under hysteric directions of the temple’s main priest – a neurotic old gnome- they had taken her to the dungeons and locked her up to await judgement at the hands of the Keep’s Supreme Commander: Major Thrall Zigarn, of his Excellency’s 3rd Imperial Infantry.

Since then she had languished in the cold and dark, as outside the battle had raged. At times, she had hoped against hope that the Draconic Council would prevail and that soon, kindly dragonborn would deliver her from her prison. But it was not to be. One day ago, she had heard the horns of victory call out from the towers and the sounds of celebration above. She was doomed.

The price for sacrilege was death by fire: the gods believed in purifying those who went against their rule. It also didn’t hurt that the condemned made for a good example. Agonizing screams made for a powerful dissuasive argument after all.

The steps grew louder and an instant later, five guards bearing the white seven-pointed star of the Empire marched down the stairs and stopped in front of her cell.

Behind them, limping slightly came Shrassk, the large misshapen keeper of the keys. The pale green dragonborn slowly lurched forward and producing a ring of keys, proceeded to unlock Shainarra’s cell.

“It’s time, pointy-ears. Time to burn.” The reptilian man growled softly with relish.

She didn’t answer, but paled visibly under her hood. As she stepped forward, one of the guards manacled her wrists to a chain, to prevent any possibility of escape.

“Now for the other one,” the sergeant said.

Three guards marched forward to a cell a little further along and waited for the limping lizard, who slowly hobbled forward and unlocked the iron door.

“In the name of Emperor Doriaq Detorak, I command you to step forward and come with us, criminal!” snapped one of the guards.

Silence greeted this shrill order, thus prompting the guard to march in angrily to seize the mutinous prisoner. A split second later and a loud CRACK rang out, as the guard came flying backwards and crumpled against the far wall, unconscious. Once his underlings had splashed his face with water he pulled himself upright and charged into the cell. This time, his comrades followed him in.

A minute later, the resisting prisoner was on her knees in the corridor, her hands locked behind her back, the three guards sporting a pair of black eyes and a dozen bruised ribs.

Shainarra stared at the other captive curiously.

The elf on the ground before her was of larger than she was and she wore the garb of nomad of the northern plains; leathers and furs mixed in a savage combination conceived to provide warmth and cover in the harsh wastes. She could tell that the dark-haired woman was very likely a ranger; her boots were worn and stained green from many days of wandering in the wilds. On the right shoulder of her long leather coat, she could just make out the groove that had probably been dug by a bowstring. At her side, she noticed an empty scabbard.

The ranger said nothing as she guards forced her to her feet and marched her up out of the inner Keep and into the sunlight alongside the rogue. As they came up blinking, the guards maneuvered them down a series of steps carved into the mountain towards the pathway that lead to the many buildings that littered the interior of the Keep. Overhead, Shainarra could make out the dark plumes of smoke still rising from the battlefield to the west, a dark reminder of the brutal war that was now being fought elsewhere in the Empire.

To take her mind off her impending doom, the pink-haired elf turned to her companion.

“I’m Shainarra, in for thievery,” she whispered “You?”

The plains-elf glanced at her but didn’t answer. Her gaze was solidly fixed on the far-away treetops south of the Keep.

As they descended bellow the walls and neared the Imperial Headquarters, the smells grew staler as smoke and refuse mixed together to create the stench of humanity.

“Civilization,” spat the ranger disdainfully.

“You want a name?” she growled looking squarely at the rogue. “Siloqui Nailo, of the Niloshi Tribe. I was hunting. They interrupted me. I punched them. Apparently, that’s frowned upon,” she said grinning. Shainarra chuckled. For the first time in over a week, she almost felt light-hearted.-

The story continues in The Adventures of the Cursed Eight 1.2

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