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Grand Duke Agreas' Citadel

This was once a pleasant little peninsula with a prosperous town doing plentiful trade in both fishing, arable farming and livestock.  There are few signs remaining of this land's pleasant past: the ruined docks, and dead hedegrow marking the borders between identically devastated patches of land are pretty much it.  Now the land is dominated by the Citadel: an enormous fortress surrounded by a 40ft wall and rising dozens of storeys high.  At its highest point, a twisted metal spire stabs upwards into the sky.

There seems to be a high level of magic industrialisation here.  Within the walls are the smoking chineys of factories spewing out blood-red smoke which chokes the sky and removes all sign of night and day.  Whatever is manufactured within those walls, the results are not shared with the vast majority of the population who live in an enormous shanty town around the Citadel.

Agreas seems to be fond of the blood theme: everything is the colour of dried blood.


Kratos, then Jamin, Jonah and Greeny arrive on beach where soot has replaced the sand, and the sea looks oily and thick with the stuff.  Far out to sea, a large Man o'War can be seen.

The view from here is not very inspiring: shanty town leading up to an impenetrable wall, followed by the looming fortress.

Aurora appears behind them, stumbling a little, disoriented from her method of transportation.

Melantha and Tala bundle through a little after. Melantha looks at the monstrous structure and frowns.

Laume appears in a pop and a "...eeeeee"

She looks around. "Well this is cheery," she said and pulled open a small hole in the air. She didn't want to go in unprepared in case she couldn't get it open further in. Rummaging around inside she begins pulling out stuff; tools and little vials of wicked looking concoctions in her belt, a backpack on her back and a fishing hat on her head. All fairy sized. She pulls out a few more things and stuffs them in her pockets, and finally her all important scalpel, then lets the hole close back up with a snap. "Alright!"
The Bushranger

Quinn, appearing, looks to Aurora with concern. "Hey, you OK?" she akss, before looking around and frowning. "Ugh. This place is disgusting. I hate it already."

"I think it gets worse," Kratos says apologetically.  "This is the closest I could get us - we'll have to walk the rest of the way.  Can't risk any more teleportations without letting Agreas know we're here, and that's not the mission.  We'll want to find a quiet way in, try not to draw attention to ourselves."

"Well, maybe," Jonah begins.  "But if mum's cover was blown, she'd be in a cell, right? I know we just got here, and this is crazy," ((Couldn't resist, sorry Very Happy)) "But we could let ourselves get arrested.  Then we're in the cells, find mum, and bamf outta there."

"If her cover's been blown," Greeny points out.  "If she avoided the initial witch-hunt, she could be anywhere in there," he says, nodding his head towards the citadel.  "But I don't have a better plan.  So, we sneak in or get arrested?" he asks the group.

Aurora nods in response to Quinn's question. She remains silent for the most part however, waiting to see how the rest of the group weighs in on Greeny's question.

Melantha sneaks in behind Jonah and snakes her arms around her waist "I don't think that my pride would allow myself to be captured, even by intention." she rests her chin lightly on Jonah's shoulder.

"Oh, sounds like fun," the little fairy said cheerfully. "But we could make getting arrested our plan B. Why not try to get as far as we can without being caught, and if we're caught it's ... well, then it was plan B all along and we're like criminal masterminds." She rubbed her hands together, then added, "Do we know how to get out of prison, or will we just have to wing it when we get there?"
The Bushranger

"There's also the thing that we don't know if their jail cells are warded against teleportation," Quinn points out. "Or that we would be put in the same cell as her. Or even the same jail. I don't like this idea," she finishes, frowning.

"Sounds like we'd better find another way in," Kratos says.  "If we're really unlucky, we'll end up in the cells anyway."

"Besides the gates, aren't there any other ways in?" Greeny asks.  Kratos shakes his head.

"None of the paladins ever mentioned any other way in.  We'd best get as close as we can and see if anything jumps out at us.  And, uh, try not to rile up the locals.  Some of them hate Agreas, but a lot more worship him."

Kratos leads the group away from the beach and up into what passes for a town here.  The people here have next to nothing save for the clothes on their backs, but while some look desperate, or even ashamed, others look more defiant.

One thing is clear: the group stands out like neon.

The group reaches a wider part of the road, something like a village square.  From here, the road straight ahead is better paved and wider, leading straight up to the gates.  There is a strong and very unpleasant stench coming from not far away to the left, behind some of the hovels, and there is a narrow path splitting from the main road going to the right.

Kratos wrings his hands anxiously.

"If we get much closer to the gates, they'll see us," he says.  "Which way should we go?  The stinky road or the narrow road?"

The party could move on, or try asking someone in the square.

"Would they have any way to detect something incorporeal and invisible approaching the gate? Like true seeing or other spells?"
The Bushranger

"And what about teleportation?" Quinn adds. "Like, Dimension Door and stuff, to get closer even if inside is warded."

"Stinky but less visible is better that walking right up to the gate, isn't it?" the fairy suggested. "I can scout ahead if needed, I'm small and can hide easily."

"Teleportation's out, not least because that level of magic is going to alert Agreas to us being there. Sure, a load of his normal soldiers we could probably handle, but if he sets his generals on us, we'd be overwhelmed fast," Kratos says.  "As for incorporeal and invisible stuff, if we coulda done that rather than send people under cover, we would've done."

Melantha taps her chin "How often do people come in and out of the gate?"
The Bushranger

"Who said anything about magic?" Quinn huffs, tapping the side of her head. "Psion here."

"Officially, no one comes out of the gate.  Unofficially, we heard reports that small groups of five or so come out every night to take one of the citizens into the citadel," Kratos replies.  "Sounds very risky.  Even if they can't magically detect you, there are sentries all along the wall."

"What are you thinking, Mel?" Jonah asks.

Melantha is slightly unsure what to suggest, most of her infiltration in the past has relied on magic and most of the other methods might have been tried in the past "The is not the greatest plan ever, but what if some people made a huge distraction near here to draw the attention of the guards away from the gate and the rest of us sneak in while that's going on." because splitting up the party is a sure fire way to success.

Laume pulled a small book out from her backpack and flipped through its pages. "I could possibly turn all of you tiny too, then we could sneak up all ninja-like and maybe find some small drain in the wall, or some rat warrens under the city. There are bound to be rats in an ugly place like this. Maybe we could even dress as rats. No one suspects the rats."
The Bushranger

"...rats? Eeew." Quinn shivers, rubbing her arms as she cringes at the thought of having to work through as rodentia.

Kratos considers.

"We'd be very vulnerable, Laume.  I'm not sure I fancy being crushed underfoot, or eaten by a cat.  But Mel's plan, that could work!"

"I can do distractions," Jonah says.  "Big exploding magic things, that's my strength.  The rest of you should get ready to sneak in."

Kratos nods.
"We're not far off nightfall," he says.  We'd best get ready for the gates to open."

Melantha raises an eyebrow at Jonah "Are you going to stay outside?"

"Hey, that's sizeist! I've never been eaten by any cat, and I've seen some really big cats. And I've never been stepped on either. Just because you're small doesn't mean you're weak" the fairy huffed. She really liked her plan, it would be all sorts of fun. "But I guess blowing up stuff works too"

"That's the plan," Jonah says cheerfully, woefully unaware that plans are a bad idea in this world Very Happy.  "I'll *bamf* back to the beach as soon as I'm done."

Kratos winces.
"I used to be small," he says.  "And cats were terrifying."  He turns to Mel.  "I reckon if we hide in that alley there," he says, indicating one slightly further up the street.  "We'd be close enough to run in when the gates open."

Aurora finally decides to take this moment to finally pipe up, looking at Jonah.

"You shouldn't do it on your own. What if something goes wrong?"

Melantha bites her lip slightly, her plan did require someone to stay outside but she hoped it wouldn't be Jonah "Well, can you take something from me? It'll let me know if you're ok and, in case anything goes wrong, locate you."
The Bushranger

"Or I could stay with her," Quinn suggests. "And help with the distraction."

Jonah puts her hands on her hips.

"Firstly, there's no way in Heck, Hell or any other plane that I'd allow any of you to stay with me.  You're gonna need as many people as you've got to get in and out safely.  My job's the safest, when you think about it.  Kratos, can these guys *bamf*?"

"Don't think so."

"So I'll be fine.  Secondly, I want as many people focused on saving my mum.  I can look after myself."  She smiles at Mel.  "If it means you'll concentrate on the mission better, sure, I'll take it."

"She's right.  If we're detected, we'll need all the manpower we've got to be with us."

There appears to be a shift in activity at the gates.

"We don't have long.  Those gates are about to open.  Mel, where so you need the distraction?"

"Anywhere around here if it's loud and obvious enough to draw attention away from the gate for a time long enough so that we can get in safely." she returns the smile at Jonah and gives a necklace to her.
The Bushranger

Quinn pouts!
But doesn't argue. Just sighing.

...and eyeing the necklace sightly suspiciously.

(("Given, actually, with the best of intentions Razz  "))

Jonah smiles and puts the necklace around her neck.

"Be ready," she says, then jogs away to a hiding spot.

The gates begin to open and, as they do, a large fireball soars overhead and hits them, making them shake on their hinges.  The effect is rather like kicking an ants' nest; armoured soldiers let out cries of alarm and anger and begin pouring out of the gates, running in the direction of the fireball... just as another one comes hurtling through the sky and hits the back of the group of soldiers.  Spurred on, the soldiers race off out of sight while the suviving gate guards limp away to nurse their burns.

"Now!  Before they close the gates again!" Kratos yelps, before running through the gates, closely followed by Greeny and Jamin.
The Bushranger

(( :p ))

Quinn wastes no time, and rushes after Jamin with alacrity!

Aurora quickly scrambles after Quinn.

Melantha tries to get a good luck kiss in before Jonah darts off, if she can't she'll blow a kiss after her. As Kratos runs off she moves swiftly and silently after him, restraining herself from going incorporeal at this time as there is a slight possibility of it being picked up and she didn't want to sink the jail break before it's even started.

Laume cringed at all the fire and explosions, then hurriedly rushed after the others, looking over her shoulder in case more fire was incoming.

Inside the courtyard there is just one remaining guard, hurriedly turning a wheel to close the gates.  As the group runs in, the guard's eyes widen and she turns to flee.

It's no good though - one sharp lightning bolt from Kratos and the guard's out cold.

Before the group is the base of the huge tower, with enormous doors marking the entrance at the top of a light of steps.  Beside the steps are is a hefty barred gate set below ground level.  It can be reached by a few steps, and isn't guarded.

"If I was gonna guess, I'd say the cells are down there," Kratos says.  "There's bound to be guards in there.  Are we ready?"

Melantha ponders for a moment "I would say that this seems a bit too easy, but sure. I think we're strong enough to take on most of what they throw at us."
The Bushranger

((Gah, sorry for the delay))

Quinn winces a bit as the guard goes down!
"That was just a stun right?" she murmurs to Kratos, before nodding. "It is a bit easy so far, but I'm not going to look the gift shoggoth in the tentacles."

Aurora echoes Quinn's concern.

"He's going to be okay right?"

Kratos widens his eyes.

"Of course it was just a stun!  I'm a seer, not a killer!" he replies, getting increasingly flustered as Greeny starts laughing and Jamin giggles into her hand.  Kratos is not really a fighty type.

Greeny clears his throat.
"It might be easy because we're not hitting parts of the tower they care about," he says.  "I bet they save their efforts for guarding whatever's at the top of the tower.  Besides, you saw the folk who live around here: not exactly threatening."

"We should totally get going before they realise we're more threatening that the locals, then," Jamin says, opening the door to the cells and heading inside, the wolfish types following close behind.

For those who follow them in:
Ahead is a curving corridor which follows the footprint of the tower.  On both sides are barred gates to cells, containing one to three prisoners in each.  They vary in species, gender and age almost as much as residents of the Town, but there is one thing they all have in common: they are all in good health, except for the fact their hands and feet have been removed.

"Does anyone get the feeling they're being kept for meat?" Greeny asks.

"shutupshutupshutupshutup," Jamin replies hastily.

Unfortunately, the fact the group are not guards has caught the prisoners' attentions and they begin loudly begging to be freed.

This, of course, gets the attention of the guards.  Five of them come barrelling along the corridor, all of them wielding large, club-like weapons.

Jamin wishes she hadn't gone in first, and grabs hold of the first guard's arm, swinging from it with all her weight so he can't swing his club.  Greeny growls and gets ready to pounce, while the other four guards run straight past them to the rest of the group: two go after Mel (she looks the most threatening), and one each go after Aurora and Quinn.

They don't seem to have noticed Laume.

Aurora was already on edge with the whole amputated captives thing as they walked in, so when she sees someone running at violently waving a large club it's rather more than she can cope with, she panics and does the first thing that comes to mind. Spewing a line of fire at her would be attacker.

The guard's point of view is mostly true, even though Jamin could probably outgun Melantha in a straight fight the shadowcaster will be much quicker to go weapons free. Her clenched fists engulf in a shadowy flame and she sends two shadow bolts at the guards who are advancing towards her.

Laume veered away from the fire with a hiss and moved several feet further back they way they had come. Her eyes turned black while shadows and smoke rose up around her, taking shape with a chorus of demonic whispers. Tendrils and claws of black smoke billowed forth from the great ghostly apparition as it smiled a wide smile of nothing but teeth at the oncoming guards. It was a terrifying sight that should leave all but the bravest guards running for their mommies.
The Bushranger

Quinn, for her part, stands her ground as the guard rushes her, staring levelly at him. Her fists clenching as she concentrates, eyes locking with the guard's, as she calls upon her mental powers...

...and the guard just might feel the rather strong urge to lay down and take a nap, he's feeling sleepy, very very sleepy, and right here and now would be just wonderful on those nice mossy stones wouldn't it...

Aurora's fire strikes true, throwing the guard back with an angry shout, but he quickly gets back to his feet, only mildly sooty: looks like fire isn't going to be a qucikly way of disposing of these guards.  A couple of the prisoners who had been too close to the bars of their cells also get a bit singed - fortunately, not too badly - hence the reason for Jamin not using a big fireball.

Shadows are, however, somewhat more effective.  The guards are thrown back almost as far as Jamin and Greeny, but the bolts don't pierce, only push.  Like Aurora's guard, these two get back to their feet, a little more wobbly and wary than before.

As for Quinn's guard, he's really never encountered such non-aggressive magic before.  He sways visibly on his feet, then sits down on the ground, leans against the bars and goes to sleep.

Laume's spell is effective in making the recovering guards hastily reconsider charging back in that direction.  Instead, the guards Mel and Aurora had been fighting turn to flee.

"They'll bring a whole regiment down here if we let them get away!" Greeny warns.

Jamin's guard lets out a yelp and throws her against some of the cell bars before trying to stumble away.  He collapses after a few paces, clutching a gap in his armour where the handle of a dagger is jutting out.

As for Kratos, he had slipped past during the fighting and had started searching the cells.  He flattens himself against the bars as the three guards go charging towards him.

Melantha narrows her eyes, evidently there was some kind of magic suppression at work here. Seeing that from the sleeping guard non-lethal attacks work better she casts a spell so that the area around the fleeing guards is covered in shadows that attempt to root them in spot.

That done she rushes over to where Jamin is, she'll probably be fine (as she's a big girl after all) but she wanted to be sure.

((Clinging Shadows))
The Bushranger

Quinn, for her part, switches her target, calling on her manifesting powers to put a nice patch of grease on the ground in front of the charging guards!

The ghost thingy dissolves into a cloud of thick black smoke which races along under the ceiling towards the fleeing guards, hoping to blind them and making it hard to breathe

Fire is Aurora's only real draw card in a fight, well that and her horns. Everyone else seems to have this under control anyway so she just kind of watches.

((I dunno, Who - it would have been interesting writing about the effects clinging shadows AND suffocating ghosts AND grease AND fire would have had... Very Happy))

The multitude of spells hits the group of fleeing guards leaving them with absolutely no chance of escape.  First they are bound by the shdows and are stopped so suddenly they almost lose their balance, followed by the terrifying black smog which chokes them of breath and sends them into a panic which, when when combined with Quinn's grease spell, sends them tumbling comically to the floor.  With Laume's spell stealing them of air, they quickly black out.

Jamin's fine, just a little winded.  She calmly retreives her dagger, cleans it, and places it very carefully back into its sheathe.

Kratos, however, is looking concerned.

"I can't see her," he says anxiously. "I can't even smell her."  Greeny sniffs around intensely.

"If she's been down here, it was over a week ago.  There's no trace of her," he says glumly.

"Well what do we now?" Kratos asks.

At the cell nearest Aurora, someone starts trying to get her attention.

"Hey you!  Hey demon girl!  Hey!"

Melantha narrows her eyes at the 'demon' comment directed at her favourite barmaid, she'll have some words after as inflicting physical pain now might prevent any helpful hints that might be coming. She looks at the locks on the doors and how easily they could be taken apart.

Aurora's not sure she likes being called a demon but she walks towards the cell.

The Bushranger

Quinn, for her part, catches her breath, then walks over to stand behind Aurora, arms crossed.

Looks like she's nominated herself to play 'bad cop'.

...she'd really be better off letting Mel take the role...

The speaker is a bald-headed, dark-skinned man sat on the floor of the cell.  Like all the other prisoners, his arms and legs end in carefully bandaged stumps.

"Sounds like you're all looking for someone, and you're no friend of Agreas," the man says.  "I can help you.  I know most of this tower, both the layout and the people in it.  If you can get me out of here, I promise I'll be useful.  Name's Breach."

Melantha doesn't reply for the time being, better to let the 'good-guys' handle it for now. She inspects the doors for the type of material used and how tricky the lock would be to dismantle.

Aurora ponders for a second, trying to judge the sincerity of the man.

"Um...even if we did let you out, can you walk?"
The Bushranger

Quinn just narrows her eyes!

Breach raises his arm stumps helplessly.

"It's kinda why I need your help," he admits to Aurora.

"It's not a problem," Jamin says swiftly and Breach looks up at her quizzically.  "I've got a solution."  She turns to Mel.  "When Jonah pulls her little kidnapping stunts..." she hints.

"Sounds like we got a deal," Breach says cheerfully.  "So who're you looking for?"

"Libris.  Looks like me, but older, with red hair," Jamin says swiftly.  Breach frowns.

"I don't know anyone called Libris," he says.  Jamin cusses at the ceiling and is about to walk away when Breach continues.  "But there is a lady by that description.  You are not gonna find her down here, though.  You're looking for General Ava."  He looks nervous for a moment.  "The generals are at the top of the tower, guarding Agreas and his machine.  I can get you into the Generals' quarters and you should be able to find a key there, if not Ava herself.  So, you gonna open up the gate or what?"

The lock is uncomplicated; what really keeps the prisoners in place are their injuries.

Laume watches the prisoners curiously with a strange light in her eyes. "You know," she said to Breach, "if you wish, and I get out of this alive and all of course, and if we could find the right donors, I could give you new hands and feet sometime. Not quite your own, of course, unless they're sensible enough to have kept those preserved somewhere around here. Hey, do you think they do?" She lit up even further. Apparently the thought of preserved body parts excited her.

Melantha shrugs at Jamin "Little unconventional but it should work. But what he said about Libris is...troubling to say the least. But it's slightly better than nothing."

She looks at Breach with a smirk when he mentions the gate "Yes sir, Stumpy." Given that the lock's uncomplicated she judges that the entire gate should be too. She taps into the energy she has contained in her necklace (that she's 'borrowed' off other people) to make herself much stronger, much more than to rip a gate off it's hinges. Which she then attempts to do.

Breach looks at Laume sadly.

"They just chuck 'em in a pile to rot, but I appreciate the thought."

Jamin tilts her head from one side to the other in a 'yes it's concerning/ no it's not concerning' sort of way. After all, as Kratos has said, the paladins' orders were to infiltrate the citadel.

The gate is sturdily built, but no match for magically-amplified strength.  With a howl of warping metal, the gate is wrenched off the wall.  Jamin raises her hand towards Breach and the unfortunate prisoner is suddenly wrapped in belts from head to feet, much to his alarm - until he raises one arm and a couple of belts unravel slightly and flex like fingers.

"Nice, very nice," he says.

"Um, not to rain on anyone's parade," Kratos says anxiously. "But given the amount of magic we used in that battle, shouldn't there be more guards by now?"

"They'll know you're here all right, but they'll wait for us to move into the citadel so they can question the other prisoners. They'll want to know why we've come. The bulk of Agreas' security is a the top of the tower - the only things he cares about are himself and his machine.  But we should definitely get moving.  Are we done here?" he asks.

"Pretty much." Melantha speaks in a slightly louder tone for the other prisoners in the vicinity "I don't think the people down here would blab about what we're here for, they wouldn't want to make certain members of the party-" she at this point throws the gate down the passageway to make a clang "Upset. They wouldn't know what might happen to them later. And trust me, we'll know."

She dusts her hands off, walks back towards the party and as a final act speaks in a quiet, menacing tone by Breach's ear (hopefully out of Aurora's hearing range) "And if you ever mention the "D" word around her or I again you'll have a lot more to worry about than whatever we'll have to face up there, these are good people but my alignment is way far south of neutral. Do I make myself clear?"
The Bushranger

(Bah. Sorry for the long absence. v.v)

Quinn frowns as the person they're looking for is potentially identified as a 'general'...then frowns more as something occurs to her...

"Jamin!" the brunette hisses, motioning for the local member of the Fireball Twins to come within whisper range. "...these people. they do brainwashing?"

((I'd wait for at least one more person to post, but I'm not going to be unable to post for a few days))

Breach looks at Mel in genuinely innocent confusion.
"She's not a demon?  I just figured with the horns an' all..."  He shrugs creakily within his belt-body.

Jamin shakes her head, looking worriedly.
"They might do," she replies uneasily.  "But the whole point- OW!"  She nurses her hand as Greeny nips it.

"I'm guessing we've already said more than's wise down here," he says, and Breach nods at him in agreement.

"Follow me," Breach says, walking past cells with the eyes of the remaining prisoners watching him jeaolously.  It's fairly clear that they'll have no qualms over telling the guards everything later.

He opens a small side door by locating a mostly hidden switch in the wall.  He gives the group a curt nod, and walks inside, Kratos close behind.

Beyond the doorway is a narrow, spiral stairway.  There's only room for one person at time, but there are frequent mezzanines for people, particularly servants, to pass each other.  It's impossible to tell how high the staircase goes, though; it just keeps curving on... and on... and on...

"I might be sick in a minute," Greeny mutters.

Breach stops them about twelve floors up on a landing.

"Right, next floor up is the generals' quarters.  The generals are divided up into shifts of six: at any point, one shift will be guardian Agreas, one will be sleeping, one will be training and one will be eating.  First thing we need to find is a rota and work out where Ava's shift should be right now. If we all go blundering about up there, we're bound to get noticed.  I'd do it but they already know me - and not in a good way.  I suggest just one person goes through."

"Don't even think about it," Greeny growls at Jamin.

"Sorry kid, but you looking so much like Ava would definitely get you noticed.  Big green wolves are not exactly commonplace either.  Who's gonna do it?"

"People never appreciate the value of properly preserved body parts. They could have got a nice sum for those, even," Laume muttered before following up the long winding stairs.

"Oooh, ooh, pick me! I'm ever so small and good at sneaky business." The fairy grins and jumps up and down, waving her hand.
The Bushranger

Quinn frowns, shaking her head in distress, and follows the ways up the stairs. Looking not sick, but, instead, in awe at the magnificent curves and how it continues onwards and onwards...

"I'm a telepath. I should go," she speaks up when the question is put to who goes first. "...if I'm right about what I think is going on here, that might really help..."

Aurora follows quietly behind the group, listening to everyone but not really saying anything. Truth be told she feels a little out of her depth.

As they are walking out the prison cells, when seeing the envious looks Melantha decides to reinforce her earlier warning/threat "Just think of your families and what could happen to them if you don't keep stum." fight tyranny with tyranny.

She looks down at Tala (who's always been there, honest :p) "Stay." the wolf nods, becomes incorporeal and stays in the dungeon.


Up in the stairwell Melantha was going to put herself forwards, being a master of disguise and the willingness to use lethal force if remotely necessary, but a small individual might be better for this task. So instead she stays put and listens in to what is being said in the prison cell. And checks on Jonah's location.

"This might go quicker with two of you," Breach says thoughtfully.  "So, fairy, young lady," he says, indicating Laume and Quinn.  "You're up.  First rooms you'll encounter will be the bedchambers - behind each door could be a general so don't go knockin'.  There's usually a rota pinned up in that corridor, but if there's not, there's a bigger one on the way to dining hall.  The corridor just keeps on curving round - you'll get back here eventually," he says.  "Stay quiet and keep your heads down and no one should bother you."  He quietly opens the door so the pair can walk through.

Poor Aurora - at least this time the Jonahs haven't gotten her killed yet.

A little while after the group leaves the cells, three new people arrive.  Two are obviously guards, lightly armoured like those the party fought.  The third is very different: the third is clas in a red suit of armour with covers their entire person, showing no signs of who or what is within.  All the prisoners shrink away from the figure, trembling, and a few let out terrified shrieks as the red figure suddenly grabs one of them by the arm and dangles them in the air.

"SPEAK," the figure commands.  The terrified prisoner dutifully repeats everything he saw and heard - Mel might be scary, but the prisoners fear the red figure much more.  Unfortunately, the names Breach, Ava and Libris are all mentioned.  The prisoner begs for mercy, insisting that he's been useful he's loyal to the Grand Duke, and loyal to the generals-

But it's no use.  The red figure angrily snaps the prisoner's neck and carelessly tosses the body aside.  He marches away.

It's a mark of how much Mel did frighten the prisoners though that none of them mention Tala's presence.

As for Jonah, she's currently waiting at the beach where the party teleported in.  She's incredibly restless and bored, as one might expect of a young lady whose friends are facing greating peril to rescue her mother without her.

Melantha slightly winces "Damn it." she turns her head towards the group "And better hurry about it, we'll have some company real quick."

At least Jonah was safe, that's something she didn't have to be concerned about for the moment.

"A'ight," the fairy said and fluttered her wings. As she moved through the door she seemed to vanish against the walls, fading into the background. Only a very keen eye who knew what to look for would notice the little movements and shadows as she headed down the corridor.

Aurora turns to look back whence they came, she figures if someone tries to rus them a torrent of fire is a pretty good deterrent.

"Who's coming?"

"Guards. From interrogation of the prisoners they know why we're here, and from that they can deduce where we'll be. And due to the circumstances they'll be coming as quickly as possible. Obviously I didn't scare them enough." a pause "Aurora, how good are you at being stealthy?"

Back in the dungeons Tala tries to see if she can phase through the walls (in case it's being somehow prevented).
The Bushranger

Quinn nods to the suggestion, then turns and follows Laume. While reaching into her telepathic bag of tricks.

She's basically projecting a mental SEP field.
Those who see her will have a hard time mustering any gumption to do anything about it. 'She belongs here', 'not my problem' 'what girl?' are all likely reactions - not that she isn't being stealthy, anyway. Because she is.

It's quiet in the corridor Quinn and Laume enter.  There is a series of identical doors heading off the corridor at regular intervals, giving this part of the castle a dormitory feel. Sometimes, Laume and Quinn might even hear the occasional snore.

As Laume is flying along the wall, she'll encounter the spot on the wall where something used to be pinned up, but looks like it was snatched away in a hurry. A small fragment remains, but not enough to actually have any words on it.

Both Quinn and Laume will hear increasing sounds of people talking and dining up ahead, as though they're approaching a dining hall. They could continue towards the hall, or return to Breach.


Meanwhile, Kratos looks alarmed at the idea that the guards are on their trail, while Breach looks resigned.

"It was only a matter of time," the former prisoner says. "Getting in here is usually easier than getting out.  Ava's a General, though. If there's anyone who'll have a way for us to get out, it'll be her."

"They wouldn't try to fight us on these stairs," Greeny says. "At least, it's not what I would do. I'd herd the intruders to a point where I could surround them."


Unfortunately for Tala, there is something about these walls which means she can't phase through. Like many castle walls, these are made up of two skins of masonry, but whereas the middle is usuall filled with rubble, these have an energy which pulses like a heartbeat, and which starts to rapidly sap the energy of anything living who touches it.

There's now six guards at the entrance to the stairs Breach took the party through. They're not following the group, but they seem pretty intent that the party will not return this way.

Seeing no point in being deterred so easily, Laume continues onwards to the hall ahead.

"Um, not very. I mean, I don't, I haven't really tried, there's a vestige for being sneaky but that's not what I bound....sorry."

Aurora looks down, she's not a very good adventurer.

Melantha puts a hand on Aurora's shoulder "That's ok hun, watch these guy's backs while I take a gander down below." she fades into the shadows and goes back slowly down the stairs, stopping off at each mezzanine to carefully listen for people coming up the stairs. One person in fully clad armour must make a bit of noise.

Tala bites back a whine when the energy zaps her and retreats from it. She clears her head and slinks back the other way to where the party entered to see if that exit is guarded.
The Bushranger

Quinn follows Laume, careful with watching every step she takes, and listening intently to try and tell just how many voices she's hearing.

At the end of the corridor is an open doorway which leads to a walkway overlooking the Generals' dining hall.  It's not possible to see much from this angle, but from the level of noise there could be anywhere from five to fifteen Generals currently in the hall.  As well as chatter, there are grunts and the sounds of people in armour fighting.

There is a sheath of papers pinned up a short way along the walkway, but to reach them will require leaving the doorway.


Poor Tala.  That exit is also being guarded.  However, there's some noise at entrance to the servants' stairs which Breach used: there are servants delivering platters of food for the prisoners. In the hustle and bustle, Tala could probably slip thorough to the stairs if she so wished.


It's strangely quiet further down the stairs, marking a change from the noise of the Generals' quarters. As Mel listens at the door to the floor below, she hears someone clear their throat, as though there is someone stood just the other side of the door.


Breach watches Mel go and relaxes a bit, though he's still on edge.

"I'm guessing your friends didn't find the first rota," he says to Aurora.  "I hope they're doing okay.  So what's your plan with Ava? Are you looking to become a General yourself?"

"Is there some kind of mentoring scheme?" Jamin asks.  Breach raises his eyebrows.

"What? No! To become a General, you gotta kill a General.  Dead man's shoes and all that.  I thought maybe that's why you were here.  So why have you come?"

Aurora nods, that's totally something she can do! Anyone comes up those stairs is gonna get sooooo much fire.

Melantha retreats a bit back from the door, as much as she'd like to exact violence on someone now was not the time to do it, not before the other guys had the information they needed. So she waits and listens for any sounds of other people approaching.

Tala is sorta out of options so she tries to slip into the opening towards the stairs.
The Bushranger

Quinn frowns; she doubts she'll be able to Someone Else's Problem her way past fifteen generals who may or may not have psychics among them too.

She looks to Laume, and nods torwards the papers.
This looks like a job for fey!

Laume rubs her little hands together and grins. Let's hope none of these generals have freaky keen senses.

And off the fairy goes, keeping an eye on all the big ones as she sneaks close to the ground, blending in perfectly with the background and using furniture and even legs as extra cover. Like a tiny ghost. If she can just get close enough to read the thing ...

As Laume flies out along the walkway, she'll be able to see that there are 9 Generals in the room below her.  Each wear identical suits of armour which mask differences in height and shape - however, the four Generals currently sat around a table eating have their helmets off and are talking amiably to each other.  There are two women, one with closely-cropped dark hair, and the other with red, and two men, one with blond hair, and the other also a redhead.

At the other end of the hall are five fully-armoured Generals sparring against each other.  In the very middle of the hall is a runic circle, bearing some similarity to the circles used by the group to teleport to the beach.

There are two pieces of paper.  The first lists the names of the Generals in each shift.  Ava is listed under the second shift, along with four others.  The second piece of paper has a timetable for what each shift should currently be doing, and has the second shift currently due to be eating.

There's a sudden, bright flash from within the hall, and another General appears in the circle.  This one marches towards the four diners, and the change in them is stark: all four immediately get to their feet and stand ridigly to attention.  The newly arrived General sounds pretty annoyed, and barks out some orders to the diners in demonic.

The diners abandon their meals, take up their helmets, and then follow the new General through a highly ornate door near where the other Generals are sparring.


Tala is able to make it to the stairs unnoticed.  As she ascends, she will hear much the same as Mel did: there are groups of guards behind the doors, ready to storm the stairs.  The only question is why haven't they yet?


Greeny snorts at Breach.

"I think we'll keep our reasons to ourselves," he replies.

Tala continues to ascend to try to reach Melantha's position, the shadowcaster really should check back in with the others but she also wanted to keep an eye on the stairs.

Laume stays low, listening and watching. Demonic is one of the languages she is most familiar with, due to unfortunate circumstances.

Briefly she considers trying to follow them through the door, out of some sort of death wish maybe, or just immense curiosity ... but finally she decides she had better tell the others what she's found. Carefully she makes note of everything on the two lists, and makes her way back again.

Unofrtunately, it's impossible to tell what the General orders the others to do above the din of the people practising combat.
The Bushranger

Quinn waits quietly on Laume, then follows her back stealthily.

Alas, she knows no Demonic.

Laume sticks out her tongue at the departing generals and sneaks back to tell the others what she found.

In the essence of synchronicity Melantha sneaks up the stairs to also relay what she's found.

Jamin looks relieved to see Laume, Mel and Quinn back safely.

"So, where is she?" Jamin asks Laume and Quinn eagerly.

Greeny, meanwhile, wanders up to Mel.

"Is there trouble coming?" he asks.

"Yes and no. There's guards behind the doors down there, but they're waiting for something. I think we'd best pick up the pace."
The Bushranger

"There's a bunch of generals in the room upstairs, I think," Quinn says. "Laume saw more."

"Well, this Ava person is on second shift which should be eating right now, but I think I just saw them leave through some big door in the dining hall. This general appeared in a magic circle and dragged four of them away from their dinner, so that must have been second shift, right? There are five other generals in the dining hall, but they're sparring."

"That's... going to be a problem," Breach says.  "That door opens on to a ramp.  It spirals up a full turn and then spits you out into Agreas' throne room.  There'll already be another shift of generals up there.  Assuming Ava's who you think she is, and assuming she'd take your side in a fight, that's eleven generals and Agreas himself you'd be up against.  Take my advice - leave the tower while you ca- ack!"  With a loud creaking of leather, the suit of belts constricts around Breach, giving him a warning squeeze.

"Not an option.  How do we get to the throne room?" Jamin asks, eyes narrowed.  "Unless, of course, you'd like to become a smoothie."

It's clear from Breach's face he hadn't considered the dangers of stepping into a load of enchanted belts.

"That's the only door, I swear," he insists.  "Those generals aren't just going to let you walk through."

"They'll feel differently after a few fireballs.  Most people do," Jamin replies.  Breach shakes his head.

"The armour dampens magic - not completely, but enough that those generals won't be slowed down much by what you throw at them."  Breach looks desperately around for an idea.  "The armoury!  There'll probably be a spare suit or two there.  That could work!  With two pretend generals leading the way, the sparring ones won't question us.  That gets us to the throne room, and I won't be going in there with you.  I'll wait outside the doors to guide you back out of the tower if you survive.  Follow me."  He heads through the same door Quinn and Laume just exited from, the one which leads to the generals' dormitories.

Jamin follows close behind, glaring at Breach suspiciously.  Greeny is at the girl's side.  Kratos hesitates, checking something in a pouch on his belt, before following the others.

Melantha says dryly "You seem to know the interior of this secure building very well." she's feeling a sense of unease, every point since leaving the cells has been at this persons direction. She wasn't used to giving the lead to someone for this long, particularly a person who she hadn't met before.

((Very Happy))

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