- Grogon – 17th level Half-Orc Fighter
- Sun Tzu Lee – 17th Level Human Monk
- Wraith Headhunter – 17th level Human Rogue
- Abernacky – 17th level Dwarf Ranger
“At first, man was enslaved by the gods. But he broke their chains. Then he was enslaved by the kings. But he broke their chains. He was enslaved by his birth, by his kin, by his race. But he broke their chains. He declared to all his brothers that a man has rights which neither god nor king nor other men can take away from him, no matter what their number, for his is the right of man, and there is no right on earth above this right. And he stood on the threshold of freedom for which the blood of the centuries behind him had been spilled.”
Continued from: A Tale of Betrayal
The Cabal had been imprisoned for days, all alone. Each of them were unsure of the actual amount of time due to their treatment. None of them were provided the opportunity to see any of the other mercenaries. They were each confined to a dark fifteen foot deep pit sealed with a grate. And although they have received no food or water since their arrival, each have been given the constant and brutal attention of the Slave Lords. Each day at least one of them would take the time to gloat over them, leering down through the grate. Sometimes they would spit and other times urinate on them just to fully humiliate them.
Each day, the one called Eanwulf would come to collect them, one by one. The large man always wore a brown leather hood. He was stomp into the hallway above their pits accompanied by the Illithids. He would select one of the prisoners, and within moments their pit would be filled with sweet smelling green gas. Within moments, the prisoner would succumb and pass out. Even the Monk, Sun Tzu Lee, with his immunities to poison and disease was still affected although it took a few seconds more for that one to give in each time. After the prisoner was knocked out, the Illithids would levitate the prisoner out of the pit, and down the hallway to the South. Hours later the prisoner would return, unconscious and be tossed roughly back into the pit. Eanwulf would always kick the grate back into place, and remind them all in a gravely voice that they were slaves now. Not mercenaries. Not people. But Slaves.
When a prisoner would be led out of the pits, they would always wake up in the same place. It seemed to be a smithy room. It was dark. The only light was cast by a wide, stone bowl full of hot coals. The bowl sat on a low dais. Next to the dais was a massive iron anvil. Opposite the anvil was a large stone table covered with a set of bellows, several hammers, sets of tongs, and metal shafts. The room was always filled with a haze of reeking coal smoke. And always there were the Slave Lords.
The Slave Lords used that room to inflict inhuman and vicious beatings to each prisoner. Try as they might, they could not break free of the seemingly magical entrapment that held them stiff and unmoving during the torture. Their methods were varied, but each beating served the purpose to enforce that the prisoner was a slave. The intent was to break the body and the will. And finally when you were near death, one of the Illithids would come forward, and stare into your eyes, and lull you to sleep. It’s lullaby was an intense cone of force that made your eyes water while it felt like your brain slammed repeatedly against your skull until finally you would fade off into the darkness of unconsciousness again.
But there were times when the beatings would be replaced by sessions with just the Illithids. In those times the prisoner would be held enthralled while the Illithid would slowly, almost passionately, violate each prisoner’s skulls with it’s tentacles. First it would close in with its maw from behind, slowly suctioning to the skin. Then it would massage the victim’s face slowly, gently probing the eyes, ears, nose, and mouth. And then finally, the tentacles would slide slowly into the mouth and nose, searching out the tender flesh of the prisoner’s brain. Unable to move or even scream, the victim was only able to shout and scream in horror silently within his own thoughts.
Until one day, it all just stopped. Enwulf and his Mindflayer companions never arrived. You slowly recovered. Through a barrage of pain, each of the mercenaries finally came to their senses.
There was an explosion that rocked the ground and brought down debris from the ceiling. It was violent enough to wake them all up.
Abernacky awoke to find himself in the odd cylinder shaped oubliette. He investigated his surroundings by looking at the strange runes on the surface of the rock around him, but none of the writings made any sense to him. Grogon and Wraith did the same, but the runes made no sense to them either. At the same time, Sun Tzu Lee gazed around him and decided that despite his weakened state, he could make the vertical leap to the grate above. And so he did.
Another explosion shook the cells, and brought more debris from above. Dust hovered in the air.
While Grogon started to shout at his captors, he found a shard of stone and started to jam it into the side of the pit. In time, the half-orc thought, he might be able to make hand and foot holds to crawl out. Abernacky became frustrated and angry, and started to punch the wall of his pit. And up went Sun Tzu Lee, first grabbing the grate itself, then using his legs to brace his weight, and then shoving the grate up and out of the pit. The grate clattered and made a considerable amount of noise, but it was no worse than the caterwauling of the half-orc.
Another explosion. This time, further away. The ground shook a little, and kicked up some more dust.
With a sigh, he crawled out into the long hallway above. He saw that it was lit by flickering torches. He looked to the North and saw that the hallway ended in an ironbound door. To the South, the hallway extended for several tens of feet, the floor dotted with grates, and turned to disappear to the East. As he watched, he saw a pair of fingers grasp the grate not far from him.
He stepped over and saw the young rogue hanging below him. Without a word, the monk reached down and hefted the gate up to allow Wraith to climb out. He did the same for Grogon and Abernacky. But as they all emerged from their individual pits, they heard more explosions from somewhere far and above. The ground shook. Pebbles fell from the ceiling.
Sun Tzu checked the door to the North. He pushed his ear against the wooden door, and heard creaking on the other side. It sounded like a set of old wooden stairs creaking in an old abandoned house. Abernacky could smell smoke, and Grogon pointed to the floor where smoke was slowly seeping into the hallway from the other side.
The monk headed South down the hallway, and turned to the East to see another door. This one was wooden. Abernacky and Grogon followed. Wraith melted into the darkness of the hallway, hiding in the shadows. Sun Tzu kicked the door and knocked it off its hinges to show another hallway about twenty feet long which ended in a spiraling staircase that led up to the level above.
There in the hallway were the remains of fifteen to twenty humans, all dressed in the same dirty brown robes, torn limb from limb. It seemed that some violent behemoth had rampaged through them, literally sundering them to pieces as it went. All were dead, and had been dead for several hours by Wraith’s guess.
As they rushed up the stairs, another shockwave rocked the complex. They had to stop for a moment, and regain their balance before finishing their dash up the stairs. At the top of the stairway, they saw a door that was open. Beyond the door was a large room, and it was on fire. But there was another staircase there within the smoke and flame. They all exchanged glances, and then dashed into the inferno.