A Past Soon Forgotten

Awake

You awake to the thundering of voices coming from somewhere above you. Groggily, you attempt to raise your arms to your throbbing head, but something stops you. Peering through the darkness, you notice your hands are shackled to the ground. Fear grips you as you hear others groan about you in the darkness.

You lay back against the cold stone. Try as you might, you cannot remember how you got here. Your thoughts are fuzzy at best and are cut short as the creaking of a door in the distance draws your attention. At the end of what appears to be a corridor, you see a group of torch and spear wielding humanoids bearing towards you.

“All right maggots!” the largest one calls. “Welcome to the Coliseum. I’m the Pit Boss.” As the torch light plays across his face, he grins, creating a wicked combination of mirth and madness. “Can you hear them?” gesturing above himself. "They lust for your blood. They crave your fear. They yearn to see your skin grow pale and lifeless. Their hunger is only satiated when they see you bleed out.” He and the others cackle. “Ah, where are my manners? Raksha!” he waves to one of his thugs. “Go get our guests their… equipment.”

“Right away, boss!” he replies, running off back down the corridor.

“Now, maggots.” He turns back to you and the other shackled around you. “Normally your worthless carcasses are thrown out without so much as a tear, but the Guild has seen fit to keep tabs on all of you from now on.” He pulls out parchment and a quill. “Now, I need your name, race, and a description of your fighting expertise, if any, from each of you. You first, maggot,” pointing to you.

Caim, Arily, Cyred’anea, Emerick Arcflame, Derek Silverpalm, Gali Lighthammer, Vladimir the Young

In the meantime, Raksha and a few others return with your “equipment,” which is nothing more than padded armor and clubs.

Finished, the man rolls up the parchment and places it in his pack. “Don’t see why they bother with this,” he mutters under his breath. “All right boys, let’s bring ‘em up!”

The next few moments were a blur. Unshackled and reshackled to one of the other prisoners, the men haphazardly deposited the armor over your shoulders. Another man thrusts a club in your hand and shoves you down the corridor. As you are being herded down the corridor, you can hear the crowd growing ever louder. The Pit Boss calls for the group to halt several feet from the portcullis. You peer around one of the other prisoners and see what appears to be a hard dirt-sand mixture on the Coliseum floor. You also notice several cages in the center of the arena, but cannot make out what is in them.

The Pit Boss yells over tops the din outside, “Here’s your chance to make Amn happy! Now get on out there and get slaughtered!” With a nod from the Pit Boss, the other men menacingly wave their spears at you, urging you through the now open portcullis. Eager to avoid a spear in the ribs, you and the other prisoners clamber outside, unsteadily awaiting whatever fate these men have in store for you.

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First Blood

Moments after being herded onto the coloseum floor, the sound of growling drew the party’s attention. Panthers. The cages’ doors crashed open and the panthers bounded towards the party. The crowd shrieked. Several men with whips and spears followed behind the beasts, forcefully nudging the beasts whenever they altered their course.

The panthers closed in, encricling the party. One charged at Gali Lighthammer, slashing at his face. Attempting to dodge the blow, the claws instead came down on his shoulder, tearing it open. Shocked he watched the blood drip down, staining the sand a dark red. The panther again attempted to pounce on Gali, but a blow to its head from Derek Silverpalm abruptly stopped the beast in its tracks. The two looked at each other, nodded, and readied their weapons again.

Further along the battlefield, Vladimir the Young was faring no better. Accosted from two sides, the panthers slashed in unison. He parried a claw from one panther with a club, but the beast from behind bested his defense and struck him across his legs, bringing him to his knees. One of the handlers, whip raised, cracked it across Vlad’s chest, sending him reeling. With a flurry of blows, Caim leapt in front of Vlad’s injured body and battered the beasts with several solid blows. As the panthers backed off, the handler again raised his whip to strike at Caim. Swiftly, Caim sidestepped the whip, catching it in his hands. Dumbfounded, the handler loosed his grip just enough for Caim to rip it out of his hands. He quickly snapped it back in the handler’s face, felling him in a single hit.

Back to back, Emerick Arcflame and Arily, Cyred’anea jabbed at the prowling panthers. The beasts pounced and are both whacked squarely across their jaws. Neither of them attemptted to get up from the ground.

Another wave of panthers and handlers began to bear down on the party. As they approached, Vladimir motioned for his companions to move together. They consolidated just in time to brace themselves against the charging panthers. As the party protected each other’s flanks, the panthers had nowhere to go except into the sand, blood squirting from successive concussive blows. The handlers looked as if they might falter. Seeing their weakness, Derek called out “Now, charge!” The mass of bodies broke through the handlers’ whips and delt blow after blow upon them. Beaten and broken, they tried to crawl away.

“Enough!” bellowed a voice.

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Victory?

The cries from the crowd ceased immediatley. The only sounds the party could hear were the whimperings of the felled beasts and the heavy plate mail boots slowly thumping through the sand. For a few seconds, time stood still as the party watched this man, clad from head to foot in shimmering gold plate, striding across the arena. He reached above his shoulder, grabbing the sword on his back. “Shhhhhhhhnk,” the sound echoed in the silent theater as it was drawn from the scabbard on his back. He raised it towards the heavens and the crowd screamed in delight.

Suddenly, the arena began to shake once more, and out from the portcullis from behind the man jogged a platoon of soldiers, the Pit Boss and Raksha among them. They split into two columns as they passed the man and encircled the party, swords and spears aimed towards them menacingly. Everything was still once more.

The man languidly strolled towards the party and spoke loudly, so everyone in the arena could hear. “You bested some of the most well-trained gladiators in Amn, you, a bunch of slaves whose execution was to be appointed by the very same men you fell.” He stopped, and raised his arms to the crowd. “What say you Amn, shall they live to fight another day?”

The crowd erupted, shouting and applauding. “They seem to like your style, slaves. Very well. March these men off, Pit Boss, so that they may see another meal. We shall see how far they get.”

Minutes later, the party found themselves in a barracks of sorts. A guard described it as a “gladiator training school,” but it looked much more like a prison. The guard opened a few cell doors and herded the party into them. They had nothing more than a few cots, a dresser, and some pots for food and water. “Enjoy your stay,” he sneered.

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Breakout

As you looked out your barred window, you could just make out the sun setting over the horizon. The city’s towers casted long shadows across the streets and buildings as if expecting the inevitable darkness. Inaudible whispers from the guards carried down the hallway as they doused torches for the night. Footsteps in the hall became fewer and eventually ceased all together. Your senses strained to hear anything, see anything, but yor efforts were wasted on darkness and silence.

You awoke a few hours before dawn to the sound of metal striking metal. You heard shouting and hurried footsteps. You moved to the door and peered out through the small window. You saw a pair of guards running your way, hotly pursued by a group of hooded assailants. The guards fell feet from your cell, several arrows protruding from their backs. One of the hooded men bent down, rolled the guard onto his back and ripped a keyring from the dead guard’s belt.

“You were not meant to be slaves,” he called out in a hushed voice and began to unlock the cell doors. “Come with us. Quickly, we do not have much time.”

“There they are!” a voice from down the hall called. “The slaves are escaping! Get them!”

“Times up,” the hooded man said. He tossed the keys to another from his group to unlock the rest of the cells. The first man pointed to a group of slaves and yelled “Fight for your freedom! Fight for a chance at a true life!” He then pulled you and the rest of the party to the side. “You men are not to die here. These men will surely die, standing up against these guardsmen, but they will stall them long enough for us to escape. You must follow me, away from the action.”

Some slaves and a few of the hooded men engaged the large group of guards. You could see they stood no chance to the better equipped and more numerous guards. You looked back to the hooded man. “Now, this our only chance!” he exclaimed.

You, the rest of the party, and a few slaves followed the surviving hooded men out a cleverly disguised side door. You ran, crouching all the way, through alleyways and sidestreets. They were oddly devoid of life. After what seemed like an hour, the group halted on the edge of a small clearing, a dilapidated building in the middle. “This is it,” the man whispered.

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A Foreboding Feeling

The hooded man motioned to one of his men. The second man nodded and quickly advanced on the building. When he reached the door, he peered through a small opening. Moments later, it creaked open. He turned back to the group and waved them on. As you approached the house, you saw some of the hooded men usher the other slaves off around the side of the building. You bent down to enter the small doorway and when you straightened yourself, your jaw dropped. You saw a beautiful mansion laid out before you, many times larger than the outside appearance of the building would have suggested.

“Don’t be surprised,” the hooded man said, stepping in front of you. He bowed low. “You are in the headquarters of Freedom’s Legion. I am Krestes, and we are a group dedicated to the emancipation of Amn from the clutches of the evil Guildmaster Vichorn.”

The six of you looked between each other, bewildered. Derek exclaimed aloud, “What magic is this? It is impossible such a space could exist in the hovel that I saw.”

“Right you are, Derek Silverpalm,” the voice echoed in from another room. The body followed, tall, slender, and with brilliantly flowing robes. “My name is Raksha Belorin and I am the leader of Freedom’s Legion.” You recognized the name and his face as one the Coloseum guards. Seeing the puzzled looks on your faces, he explained, "I take on many roles in the city, for it is important a leader knows his people. I am fighter and a priest. I am a slaver and a slave. I am a follower and a leader.

“But you must be tired, my friends,” he went on. “Elkas, take these men to their chambers. All will be explained to you in the morning.”

Tired and confused, you followed Elkas up the stairs to lavishly decorated rooms. Even Vladimir remarked on the impressive collection of finery.

Unable to sleep, Gali Lighthammer paced to and fro in his room. After some time, he heard muffled voices from outside. He moved to the window in his room and looked for the source of the sound. He saw movement below. They were the hooded men that helped the party escape. He saw them moving something. Squinting his eyes, he tried to discern what it could be that these men were so engrossed in. And then it hit him: the other slaves. The hooded men were carrying large burlap sacks over their shoulders out of sight and seconds later… splash. They were getting rid of the bodies! Gali pounded his fist on the windowsill in anger. Those slaves were innocents!

“Is everything all right?” a voice called from behind him. Gali spun around. Krestes was in the doorway leaning against the wall, a hand on the hilt of his weapon. “You look… disturbed.”

Gali choked down his anger and motioned an “I’m fine” gesture.

“Good,” Krestes continued. He unsheathed his sword, pointing it at Gali. “We don’t like it when our guests aren’t feeling well.” Krestes smirked and then walked away.

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Hooked

In the following morning, the group was ushered down to a large dining room. Raksha was seated at the far end of a long table situated in the center of the room. He beckoned to the party to join him. “Come, break bread with me. We have much to discuss.”

Wary of the hospitality and motives of this stranger, the party complied, albeit cautiously.

“So,” he continued, grabbing a roll, “it is obvious that you gentlemen are not from around Amn, but this city requires a service from you.”

“Why should we help Amn?” Emerick blurted out, furious. “This dung heep of a city has been nothing but a pain in the horns for us!”

“Then help me,” Raksha countered, “and I will consider your debt to me repaid.” The group looked around at each other. Emerick was silent.

Vladimir scoffed. “What’s to stop us from just walking out right now?”

“I will pay you each 500 gold pieces and remove the pesky bounty that is no doubt on your heads already,” Raksha replied. “It is a simple mission, really. All I need is for you men to travel to Baldur’s Gate, acquire a package for me, and return here within a month. It takes about a fortnight to reach Baldur’s Gate, so you will have some leeway.”

After some debate, the party agreed. Caim offered, “We have many questions left unanswered, Raksha. What is this package? Where in Baldur’s Gate do we pick it up? What of supplies for the journey? We will accept, but we need more information.”

“As for supplies, I believe you will find what I have for you all most satisfying. My suboordinates will fill you in on the rest of those details.” Raksha got up and sighed happily. “Well, I think that is all for now. Speak to Krestes or Ameril about anything you need to know for the journey. You have two days to prepare.”

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Hooked II

“500 gold pieces each?” Emerick excalimed once Raksha had left the room. “You think if any of us dies, he’ll let someone else have his share?” Derek and Gali both glared at him. “What?” Emerick said, feigning hurt. “I’d kill him,” motioning toward Vladimir. Derek and Gali nodded in approval.

“Very funny indeed,” Vladimir retorted. “Especially when I’ll be spending your money to mount your horns on my wall.” Arily chuckled, but otherwise stayed silent.

“Brothers!” Caim got up anxiously. “Let us not squabble over some shiny metal! I would gladly lend you coin if you are in need of it. We must stand together, for we have a purpose now, brothers. Can’t you see? This man has created an army to destroy the evil in this city. We must help them in their endeavor.”

Emerick rolled his eyes. “And will you cleanse me too once you’re done beating on a couple of scumbag nobles and their petty turf wars? No, I think I’ll just collect my gold and sit the rest of this out.”

“It’s much more than just a couple of nancy nobles strutting their power,” Derek said. He looked at Gali who was nodding his head vigorously. “Gali says there is something truly evil afoot. He can feel it.”

“I’m afraid you’re right,” came a voice from behind them. The party turned around to see a tall female in bright white and gold robes, the symbol of Torm bold upon them.

“Have you been there… the whole time?” Emerick said, uneasily.

“Mostly, yes,” she replied. She shook her head at him. “But that is not important. My husband has not told you everything. The package you are to acquire is a bag of reagents used to destroy powerful undead creatures. In his attempt to cleanse the city of evil, he may have… awoken something…” she trailed off.

“A Revenant?” Derek asked.

“No, something far worse. This being is an ancient lich and if given time, it will raise all the graveyards in the region and there will be nothing we can do to stop the wave of living dead that would inevitably crash upon us. That is why we need you, a group of men that are strong enough to make the journey quickly, yet not connected to Freedom’s Legion.”

“Wouldn’t the affiliation with a group of travelers that helped bring about the demise of an ancient evil help your organization?” Emerick asked._

“The general populace does not yet know of how terrible the threat truly is and alerting them now could make them panic or riot and we wouldn’t…” she trailed off. “I’m sorry, I must go now.” She smiled halfheartedly. “Good luck on your travels,” she said and walkedout the room.

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Plea

“What was that about?” Vlad asked. “Does she think she can just up and leave like that?”

Gali got up and slammed his fist on the table, glaring at Vlad. “He says you ought to hold your tongue, boy,” Derek communicated. “They’ve saved our lives and been a gracious host to boot. We owe them civility at the very least.”

Vlad scoffed and glared back. “Lecture me again and just see what happens,” he responded venomously.

At that moment, a uniformed soldier enters. The tension dissapated as the party turned their gazes upon the new arrival “Excuse me sirs if I’m intruding…”

Caim got up and waved the comment away. “Not at all. What can we do for you?”

“Well you see, sirs… I… well I’m in a bit of a bind, you see…” he stumbled over his words.

“Come on, out with it,” Emerick shouted impatiently.

“It’s okay, if you are in need of assistance, we’re here to help,” Caim encouraged. “You’re the one that showed us to our rooms last night, am I right?”

“Yes, I am Sergeant Elkas Brevyre of Freedom’s Legion,” he said, slowly gaining confidence. “I’m hesitant to approach anyone about such matters, but Raksha trusts you, so I will, too. My father is an armorsmith and he and my sister sell their wares on a street not far off the square. Unfortuantely, the location is not as good as it used to be. There has been a gang roaming about, forcing shopkeepers to pay them for ‘protection’ and my family’s shop will be hit any day now. Alerting the City Watch could make these men lash out even harder and I can’t fight them off myself. I need a group like you to be in there when they come.”

“What’s in it for me?” asked Vlad and Emerick in unison. Elkas looked flabberghasted for a moment and then regained his composure.

“My father makes high quality armor. We’d be happy to give you some if you can stop this group of racketeers.”

Quiet up till this point, Arily finally raised her voice. “We are a large group. They will know they are being set up if we all go. I will stay and continue preperations for travel.”

“A fair point,” Derek agreed. He looked to Gali briefly. “Gali will stay as well.”

Caim approached Elkas. “Lead on, Sergeant, and we will follow.”

A wave of relief flowed visibly over Elkas. “Thank you so much. I have reason to believe they will show tomorrow. I will make preperations for the potential encounter.”

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Blooded

Dawn broke as the party broke their fast. Caim moved his food around his plate, deep in thought. Emerick and Vladimir traded insults across the table as they stuffed themselves full. Derek and Gali entered late, fresh from their morning prayers. Arily was nowhere to be seen, having come and gone, taking her plate of food with her.

“May Helm guide us,” Derek said as he and Gali took seats beside Caim. He looks at Caim, the latter listless. “Brother, our cause is righteous and yet you brood?”

“Tell me, Cleric,” Caim said, a hint of reproach in his voice. “What is so righteous in taking a life?”

“If we arrive with Elkas before these ruffians, it may never come to blows. Vladimir may be a scoundrel, but the lad has a silver tongue. We will give them the option to lay down their arms and forfeit,” Derek said, more to Vladimir than Caim. Vladimir looked up but made no move at a reply, preferring a sly smile in response. “If they do not yield, our job is to defend the weak and that is what I intend to do. Men who prey on the weak are evil and I will not let evil go unpunished.” Emerick snorted at the comment.

“Very well,” Caim responded. “Let’s get this over with.”

Elkas led them to the establishment through alleys and back streets. “You’re still wanted men, you know. Stay hidden and we shan’t have a problem.” He was wearing a mail hauberk, a broadsword at his hip and a large steel shield strapped on his back. He flexed his fingers when they arrived on the street of his father’s shop. “We can’t all go in at once. Vladimir and Caim, you go in first. We’ll follow shortly. Don’t do anything ridiculous, just pretend you’re there to buy something.”

Vladimir got up immediately and made for the door. Caim hesitated a moment and then followed. No more than a few minutes passed than a group of six men all wearing studded leather, red cloth, and weapons entered through the same door. They wore an emblem emblazoned high on their chest, but they were too far away for the party to discern what sort symbol it was.

Elkas gripped his sword. “We must go in and help them,” Elkas said at once. “My family, they could be dead in minutes.”

“And minutes we must wait,” Derek replied as calmly as possible. “If we go in now, they will know it’s a trap. It’ll be a bloodbath. Patience.”

The group heard a scream from within.

“Sister!” Elkas yelled, dashing toward the door.

“Stop, you fool!” Emerick called, chasing after him. But it was too late; Elkas barged through the door, shield in hand and his broadsword brandished menacingly. “Derek,” Emerick looked back at him.

“I know,” Derek said, unsheathing his weapon.

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Blooded II

By the time Derek and Emerick entered, weapons were drawn and readied all around. Vlad and Caim were backed into a corner by several of the men. One of the ruffians held a girl with one meaty paw; the other a dagger to her throat. Her eyes were wide with fear. By the look in Elkas’ eyes, Derek deduced this must be the boy’s sister.

“Stay where you are!” one of the men started, clearly the leader. “Move, and Grease here will gut her like a pig, mark my words.” He turned to Elkas’ father, an old and thin man. "Tell me, old man, what’s more important to you: gold or life?”

“P-p-please,” he begged, dropping to his knees, his arms outstretched, beseeching. “Don’t hurt her.”

“Then give me the gold, old man.”

“I-I don’t have it,” he said, terrified. “Not all of it, at least.”

“A pity. Grease,” he turned, calling to the man holding Elkas’ sister, “what do you want?”

“Oh, I’d been itchin’ for an ear, I have. Want the other, Arkady?” The woman moaned in dismay and Grease tightened his hold to shut her up.

“Don’t you touch her!” Elkas screamed.

“Or what?” Arkady mockingly called back. “You and your pretty band goin’ to fight us? We got you outnumbered and outmaneuvered. I suggest you all run along now before somebody gets hurt.”

“Not so,” Derek says, firm as stone. “Men, shield!” he called out as he raised his holy symbol high in the air. A bright light ripped through the room, blinding and disorienting anyone without the sense to cover their eyes. Several of the men fell to their knees, clutching their eyes and screaming. “Strike!” Derek yelled, as he brought his mace down onto the nearest foe. A sickening crunch made him smile grimly despite himself. Killing, even when righteous, was such a horrid ordeal.

Vlad and Caim bounded forward to meet the dazed men, slashing and thrusting furiously. Emerick flitted back and forth, jabbing with his short sword.

The man called Grease dropped his dagger and the girl broke away, running for the back of the little shop. Blind, Grease fell to all fours, fumbling to find his weapon. Elkas, rage pumping through his veins, roared and charged the helpless man. Grease probably didn’t feel a thing; the savage swing of the broadsword had cut him in two from neck to navel in a fraction of a second.

Alone in shielding his eyes from Derek’s spell, Arkady smacked the old man with the flat of his sword, sending the old man reeling across the floor. Turning quickly, his sword crossed with Derek’s mace, and then again with Emerick’s sword. He backed away, making for the door. He got no further than a few steps before Vlad’s rapier found the small of his back. He looks down, seeing the point protruding out in front of him. “So much for parley, eh?” Vlad whispers into Arkady’s ear as the bandit’s life trickled out onto the floor.

As the last body was silenced, Elkas rushed to embrace his father and sister. “Thank you,” the old man said to the group. “I am Teron Brevyre, Elkas’ father, and this is my daughter, Elenie. You have saved us. Is there any way I can repay you?”

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