Sunday, January 29, 2012

Way of the Wicked Play Report: Session 1

Branderscar Prison is not considered the best (or worst if you are a criminal) prison in the world for its security, but rather for its efficiency in dealing with prisoners. No one is held in Branderscar for long. It has few cells and when those are full, the executioner comes, and a sentence to Branderscar Prison is a sentence of death.

Only the worst of the worst criminals end up in Branderscar...

To many, Lydia tops that list. At her trial this young girl, only 15 years old at the time, was convicted not of one murder, but of tens of thousands of murders. Even her prosecutor barely believed the tales of this child calling meteors, earthquakes, and colossal beasts from beyond space and time to crush entire cities. However, when her defense was eaten by a giant snake while trying to prove how little power she actually had, everyone was convinced.

Lydia, in addition to being the worst mass murderer in the history of Branderscar Prison, was also an exception. Two years have ticked by since her trial. Two years of sitting chained hand and foot to a wall. Two years of sitting in a pool of her own filth, as the terrified guards refused to approach her to clean her. Two years of getting a single spoon-full of gruel a day (the typical meal for a prisoner in Branderscar), and then only when a particularly brave or kindhearted guard was on duty. Two years of sitting in absolute darkness with no-one to speak with...

Except the rats...

Branderscar Prison had been filling slowly over those two years, but, with the purges of the previous decade, heretics, murderers, and witches were becoming ever harder to find in the fair land of Talingarde. While the prisoners trickled in over the two years, Lydia sat, and sat, and inevitably the rats came. They crawled on her while she slept. They nibbled at her fingers and toes. They talked to her...and she understood...

One rat, calling himself Asmodeus, made her a deal. All she had to do was escape and they would both have their vengeance. She never asked what the rat wanted vengeance for. She didn't care. After two years she could still feel the searing pain in her arm from where they had branded her. As long as she had her vengeance, she didn't care what the rat wanted...

Two years passed and Lydia found herself with a new cell-mate. Another girl her own age, red-eyed, dark of hair, and calling herself Talia. Talia talked a lot. She talked to Lydia, she talked to the roaches crawling on their cell floor, she talked to the flies buzzing around the heaps of feces left by Lydia, she talked to the fleas infesting them both...but she didn't talk to the rats. She did know the name Asmodeus though, and when Lydia began singing the songs that the rat had taught her Talia joined in.

Talia spoke about her family. How they worshiped an ancient god called Asmodeus. How the people of Talingarde turned from Asmodeus to the worship of Mitra. How the Mitrans hunted her family and other worshipers of Asmodeus, driving them underground or killing them outright, purging them from the land. Talia and her family were the last cell of the ancient religion left, she claimed. And, she claimed, they had been caught. The last remnants of her ancient religion and the last survivors of her family, herself included, were going to be burned publicly in a fortnight.

A few days after Talia arrived the two were joined by another girl, slightly older and strangely pale. No mass-murderer or heretic, the new girl, called Heather, was a pretty thing, quick and subtle. She claimed to be "in the slammer" for having seduced the son of a mayor, though the official charge was sedition and inciting riots. Regardless of the reason for her incarceration, the three girls hit it off surprisingly well, given their conditions. When a fourth cell-mate, a goblin said to have been caught eating a baby, joined them, they paid him little mind.

In four days the executioner would come. That is what the guards told Heather and the others when she was thrown in. Four days.

That night Lydia wept. She wept and she sang the song the rat had taught her. Talia joined in the singing. Heather joined as well...and rather than a prison cell, they found themselves chained to trees. Clean. Naked. Alone in a wooded grove with the light of the moon pouring down on them as they sang praises to Asmodeus. Three girls, three witches, a coven joined together...and their power was great.

When the singing stopped, the girls were back in their cell, but with a new understanding. Alone they were prisoners. Together, they would burn the world. But first they needed to escape...

The next day the guards came for Lydia. A dozen guards entered the cell and took the girl. For the first time in two years, Lydia saw the outside of her cell, though only briefly as she was led to an interrogation chamber. Within was an attractive middle-aged woman with the same platinum-blonde hair as Lydia, her features so similar that she could easily have been mistaken for Lydia's mother, her eyes red and wet from weeping. The guard captain bowed and deferred to the woman, who clearly had some power over him, and allowed her to be alone with Lydia.

With the guards gone the woman dropped all pretense of grief. "Call me Tiadora," she said. "We possess a mutual friend who would like to meet you and your fellow cell-mates. Unfortunately, our friend is unwilling to visit you in your present rather shabby accommodations so it seems you must escape. If you manage that, cross the moors on the outskirts of town. On the old Moor Road you’ll see a manor house with a single lantern burning in the second story. There our mutual friend waits. He did want me to give you this."

The guards returned and Lydia was led back to her cell with no answers given, though she clutched a lacy, white veil in her hand. Back amidst the rats and her chains, she examined the veil and found it to be enchanted, containing many useful items work in fine embroidery upon it.

This was their chance.

Mustering her strength, Talia worked a spell to coat Heather in slippery grease, allowing Heather to slip free of her manacles. Within the veil Heather found a set of lock picks, which she quickly used to free the others. Talia took another patch from the veil and created a window-like opening into an adjacent cell, this one housing a large, powerful ogre by the name of Grumblejack. Lydia healed the ogre while Heather went to work on the lock of his cell door.

But they were seen...

Spotted in her act of sabotage by a pair of guards, Heather stepped aside and allowed Grumblejack to pry the bars of the cell open as four more guards rounded the corner into the cell block, trumpeting an alarm. Talis attempted to stop the guards with a spell, but the strange magical emanations around Branderscar prison caused her magic to summon a rain of overripe fruit down around the heads of the prisoners. Lydia stepped forward and summoned a blast of chaotic force, knocking the guards down and entangling them in their own weapons, as Heather and Grumblejack pelted them with fruit.

Gyxx, their goblin cell mate, charged towards the guards but was met at the cell door by a pack of guard dogs and had his throat torn out. With his last wheezing breath the goblin pronounced a dying curse upon the dogs, melting the flesh from their bones and sending the guards fleeing, terrified.

Now free of their cell, the girls and the ogre worked quickly to free the other prisoners, snatching up keys dropped by the guards in the chaos or simply bashing down the doors of the other cells. As the prisoners shook off the aches of long days in shackles, the guards returned with reinforcements. Freed, the prisoners proved quite effective at once again routing the guards. Talia ignited the steps from the upper level in bursts of lightning and summoned boulders for the ogre to throw. Another prisoner called fire from the guards' lanterns, setting the corridor between them ablaze. Another grew to be of a size with the ogre and tore a prison door from its hinges to serve as a shield. Within moments twenty prisoners were free, armed with the leavings from the defeated guards, and considering how to proceed...

Then the fire came...