Monday, May 20, 2013

Home Sweet Home - The Asylum, Part One

Woo! More Dungeons and Dragons! Been quite busy this week, so this story is unfortunately a tiny bit truncated. But as we're doing a continuing dungeon at the moment, it shouldn't matter too much if I put some of the end of this one into the next one. Behold!

Jet-Ulfgar the shield-wielding dwarf, Mange the terrifying halfling, Lereahl Blackbranch the devious half-elf, Rathalohse the cheese-hoarding ranger and Dragonheart the kleptomaniac rogue were seated around a table in a run down and rather dingy pub by the name of  The Mug and Wand. A newcomer by the name of Mulch was among the companions. Her story was an uncomfortable one. The small gnome had apparently too much experience with strange magicks beyond the crystal gates of Lisseth. For one, she had originally been a ‘he’. Also, she was cursed forever more to be unable to wear pants.
Jet was happily quaffing ale when someone ran into his stool, knocking him forward and spilling the pale amber liquid all over the table. Red faced and angry, he got to his feet, ready to provide the offender with a free face rearrangement. Behind the angry dwarf was Wizard Wolfenight, resplendent in his red bathrobe and pointed hat. As usual, he bore a look of blissful confusion. Without realizing, the wizard sidestepped Jet’s furious swipes and plopped down at the table.
“Good news everyone!” he said with a lopsided grin.
Mange, Dragonheart and Mulch turned their attentions to the wizard. Rath was glad to have something to concentrate other than avoiding the coquettish looks being thrown his way by Lereahl. Jet just glared at the young wizard over the top of his nearly empty tankard.
“What news?” asked Rath.
Wolfenight looked puzzed for a second.
“News?” he replied.
“Yes, you just said you had news,” said Rath.
“Oh! That news. Did I say bad news? I meant good!” replied Wolfenight, clapping his hands. The others looked at one other apprehensively.
“Yes. Yes. News. I have heard that there is trouble on Asylum. They need some planeswalkers to come and help them out.”
“Asylum… Isn’t that that weird plane where every criminal in the universe eventually winds up?” asked Rath.
“Yeah, where you’re guaranteed to get stabbed or mugged at every street you pass through?” asked Lereahl, looking horrified.
“Where blood flows as regularly through the drains as the rains?” said Mulch.
“Oh, so you’ve been there?” asked Wolfenight, brightening.
A shiver seemed to pass around the table.
“No, we have not,” said Rath quietly.
Wolfenight shrugged and continued. “Well, apparently they’re having some trouble at the Asylum madhouse. Something peculiar is going on in there. Also, I need brains for a new spell,” he said. Wolfenight continued to beam around the table, oblivious to the looks of horror and uncertainty.
Jet, however, slammed down his tankard and belched loudly.
“Well, what are we waiting for? To Asylum!” he roared.

The first thing they saw when the white magic of the gates of Lisseth withdrew its tingling tendrils, was a wrinkled old woman.
“Good day dears!” she called, hobbling towards them. They had appeared on Asylum in a cobbled courtyard. On their left was a large building that looked like an inn. Next to it was an even bigger establishment from which could be heard the ruckus of a tavern. Further down appeared to be a general store, and to their right was a shadowy building from which wafted the heady scent of perfume mixed with undertones of sweat and tobacco. A brothel. The wrinkled old woman looked quite out of place among the Planeswalkers and the burly inhabitants of this world.
“And who are you supposed to be?” growled Jet, unsheathing his axe and pointing it at her.
“Madeline is my name, dearies,” she said without batting an eyelid. “You can stop pointing that thing at me too,” she said, placing an arthritic finger on the tip of the axe and tilting it down with a sharp look at Jet. The dwarf frowned and turned an unusual shade of red as he put the weapon away.
“As I was saying… Good day dearies, and welcome to Asylum. If you’re Planeswalkers come to help us with our little problem, you should probably visit the boss in the tavern over yonder for some directions. If not, well, good luck, because you’re stuck here now.”
“Wait. What? We’re stuck here?” asked Lereahl, aghast.
The old woman nodded sagely.
“Yup. Necessary precaution. The whole plane’s been locked down with some serious sorcery. We’ve had an infestation of some description over at the old madhouse. No one who goes in ever comes out. And then there are the screams…” Madeline shrugged.
Rath turned to hit Wolfenight, but he was already wandering towards the tavern. Lereahl, Mulch, Dragonheart and Jet grumbled and trailed after him. Rathalohse remained where he stood, arms folded resolutely.
“No. I am no longer participating in this folly. I’m going back to Planeswalker City.”
“Didn’t you hear the lady? We can’t. Plane’s locked down. No teleporting out,” said Mange.
Rath glared at him.
“Still not going.”
Mange looked slyly at the ranger and then kicked the backs of his knees. With an outraged cry, Rath fell to the ground. Mange darted forward and snatched up his cheese filled top hat.
“Not even if I have this?” he teased, holding the hat out as Rath pulled himself up and began brushing dust off his coat. Rath growled and chased after Mange as he sprinted for the tavern doors.

The group had left the tavern and set off in a westerly direction, following the instructions they’d been given by the two imposing men they’d met inside.
“Let me get this straight. Those guys said they’d help us get off Asylum if we promised to help rid this madhouse of its crazies?” asked Mange.
“Yep,” replied Lereahl.
“What about gold? Do we get some sort of reward?”
“But… We’re doing them a favour! They should be rewarding us!”
“I think getting off this horrid plane is a reward in itself,” replied Lerehal.
Mange grumbled and crossed his arms.
“So the madhouse is located in the western section of the city. That means we’re only crossing into one of the Families’ territories right?” asked a nervous Rath.
“Correct,” replied Wolfenight. He strode through the dark, dirty streets with an unusual purpose. Generally the wizard just wandered, ending up where he meant to go only by accident.
“And at the moment we are in neutral territory?”
“But not for long…” Rath said slowly as they came up to a crossroads where there stood four enormous burly men. The group stopped.
“Twenty gold to pass,” called the biggest one.
“We could just kill them,” said Mange, turning to the others.
“We could. There is only four of them. But then again, I think this is the border to the Grekkan family territory. Who knows what we could stir up if we attacked them-”
Lereahl’s voice was drowned out by Jet’s roar as he sprinted forwards, crashing into one of the men, smearing blood and guts all over the road with his heavy shield. The others simply stared in shock. Then there were shouts behind them.
“They killed him! Murder! Murder in the streets!”
More shouts joined these and the noise swelled. The planeswalkers turned to see people streaming out onto the cobbles. Most of them were carrying weapons. All of them looked angry.
“Uh…” said Jet, looking over his shoulder at the rapidly approaching riot.
“Run!” bellowed Mange.

Sprinting through Asylum was one of the scariest things the group had ever experienced. Out from every alley jumped a bandit or a thug, eager for gold and blood, snapping on their heels was a fifty foot deep screaming, rioting crowd, and around every bend and kink in the road was a new booby trap or pitfall.
Finally it seemed that they’d outrun the angry mob. The sound of pillaging and insurrection had died away, replaced by an eerie silence. The streets here seemed quite abandoned and nearly every building was a decrepit husk with broken windows and scorch marks. They continued along the road, the hair prickling on the backs of their necks. Further down there was a larger, more intact looking building. It looked to have been an old church of some description, for even thieves and criminals sometimes gathered in prayer, but was now dark and appeared lifeless. Someone had scrawled over the front doors a sinister looking symbol – a green scythe in a circle. Before anyone could stop him, Wolfenight had bound over to the doors, pushed one open and poked his head inside.
“Hello! Anybody home?”
The only reply was a strange sound. It was a rasping - the sound of something large, or many large somethings slithering over stone. Rath darted forwards, lifted the wizard bodily from the ground and carted him away from the doors. Mange paused right before he shut them. He seemed to be weighing up whether it would be worth it to venture inside and fight whatever now called the church home.
“We really shouldn’t,” said Lereahl, looking apprehensively at the dark sliver beyond the heavy wooden doors. “I think we should just get straight to this madhouse place.  The sooner we do, the sooner we can get the hell off this blasted plane.”
Mange didn’t seem convinced.
“Please can we just leave it alone?” Lereahl pouted, his eyes widening to their fullest.
Mange sighed and pulled the door firmly shut.
“Fine. But only because you’re the prettiest elf around,” Mange joked, bounding down the stairs to rejoin the group. Lereahl batted his eyelashes and pretended to preen at the compliment. At least Mange hoped it was pretend, but was very soon distracted as Jet who was at the front of the group turned and ran screaming back to them.
The dwarf had stepped on a pressure plate, activating a trap that had launched a glob of acid right into his precious red beard.

The madhouse was a chilling sight. It was three stories of grey stone and iron bars, looking eerily like a huge tombstone with windows. One corner of the building’s top floor had crumbled, leaving a gaping dark wound in the walls. The scariest part, however, were the knotted, stained sheets that hung from some of the windows. In a world full of psychopaths and insane criminals, this is where the worst of the worst – the crazies even crazies were afraid of – had been sent. And now they appeared to be loose and roaming free.
The spiked iron gates made a sound like a rat on a torture rack as they were pushed open. On the front steps right beside the huge black doors sat a grizzled man on a rocking chair. In his hands was an ancient, heavy, double barreled crossbow. He had only one tuft of grey hair sticking straight up on top of his head, and all of his remaining teeth seemed to be on the left of his bottom jaw. This was very evident for he smiled at the planeswalkers as they approached. One of his eyes pierced them as he spoke, but the other wandered off to their right.
“Greetin’s strangers!” he said cheerfully.
The group looked warily at each other, but approached the doors.
“Come t’ join our little convent?” the man asked with another grin.
“Uh…” said Jet. “One moment please?”
He turned to the others.
“Should we kill him?” he whispered.
“Definitely not. The last time you just killed someone here, we were nearly flattened by an angry mob,” hissed Lereahl.
“What if I break the door down then?” Jet asked.
Mulch shook her head.
“The fellow there seems friendly enough at the moment. I can only imagine he’d turn the tables on us if we were to start breaking things.”
“You’re right,” said Dragonheart. “But that still leaves the problem of how we’re supposed to get into this place?”
“Well, we could always just ask,” said Mange. He turned to the man in the rocking chair.
“You said something about joining your, uh, convent?” he asked.
The grizzled man nodded, smiling his gruesome half smile.
“Bes’ one around! We have so much fun. Games an’ sleepovers an’ blood sacrifices.” He nodded happily. Lereahl’s jaw dropped open slightly in horror. Mange pressed on.
“So, do you think we’re up to scratch to join this wonderful club?”
The old man looked them up and down.
“Some o’ ya are a bit short if ye’ ask me, but yep! Should do fine!”
“So, uh, can we go in then?” asked the tiny barbarian, just stopping himself from hitting the man. He didn't like being called short.
“Sure! Sure! I’ll take ye’ to th’ meeting hall. Ye’ can meet all the other members there.” He started to get up out of his chair, his knees creaking audibly.
“Oh, no, don’t worry about us. I’m sure we can find the meeting hall just fine,” said Mange, pushing the man gently back into his chair and patting him on the shoulder.
“Ye’ sure? It’s not too much for me t’ show ye’-”
“We’re sure. We really wouldn’t want to stop you from continuing your fine work out here,” said Mange. The others were standing behind him, nodding vigorously, just amazed that this seemed to be working. Generally the tiny barbarian scared the pants off whoever he was talking too. His level of crazy seemed to be on par with the amount of crazy already in Asylum and so he was not really that threatening anymore.
“Well, thank ye’ young ‘uns. Go in inside and enjoy. You’ll find the meet hall down the corridor, third door on your left.” He gave them one final, crooked smile as they pushed their way through the heavy doors.

The corridor beyond was dim, dusty and coated with dark red stains.
“I really don’t like it here,” whispered Rath.
Wolfenight however smiled as he strode towards the stairs.
“Ah… Home sweet home…” he muttered. Lereahl’s ears were the only ones sharp enough to pick his words up.
“Wait? What? Home… Home sweet home? You’ve been here before!?” he shouted. The half-elf accosted the bewildered wizard, grabbing him by the lapels and hauling him up.
“I… uh… What did I say?” asked Wolfenight, his toes dangling an inch from the ground.
“Have you been here before?” asked Lereahl.
“I… I have no memory of this place…?” said the wizard, very unconvincingly. Lereahl shook him.
“Okay! Okay! I, uh, sort of lived here at one point…”
The others were all staring at this point.
“Well. This actually explains a lot,” said Dragonheart, folding her arms.
“I lived here. I was taught magic here. My guess is that my old master continued teaching after I was, uh, released and that is where the, um, convent originated.”
“Crazy magic convent. Wait. Then this is a cult?”
“Essentially – yes.”
“And why did you want to come here again?”
Lereahl dropped the wizard and pinched the bridge of his nose, sighing deeply.
“I’m surrounded by idiots…”

Wolfenight hummed to himself as he relished in the feeling of being home again. He’d been many places, often at the speed of a thin man running away from a thick man who had some awkward questions about cards. It had been a good learning environment for a budding wizard.
After setting foot in his old abode, he’d felt a rush of nostalgia as he’d been picked up and bellowed at. This time was a little different in that he was sneaking in instead of out and it was a pretty elf-boy instead of a half-orc doing the bellowing. Wolfenight figured was on his way up in the world.
On the second floor, Jet had walked through a door and hit people, as was his habit, and the polygendered halfling had checked the pulse of one of the robed ‘volunteers’ and snapped his neck. Then the real magic had begun! Wolfenight had spent hours studying carpentry and culinary devices, and had eventually found a compromise between a saw and a can-opener. Thus, the skull  that he bent down to examine opened quite easily under his eager and soon bloody and brain-y hands. The moment was a little ruined by some of his comrades projectile vomiting but he figured that not even the sweetest moments when magic, science and tin-openers were in action could be perfect. Maybe they’d eaten some bad cheese? Perhaps he’d give Rathalohse some detect poison scrolls later.
The experiment only continued with the pleasant Jet-dwarf walking through another door. Wolfenight idly wondered how he did that without using a single spell or an inkling of magic. Nevertheless, the door was of no obstacle and Jet sent the volunteer holding it closed from the other side across the room, through the half-ruined wall and out of the building. This was very saddening to him as the blow and the fall would have certainly ruined the brain. What a waste of a perfectly good brain. Wolfenight was soon distracted though as more volunteers began to die with odd gurgles and shrieks at the assorted weaponry of his comrades. He hummed happily again reaching for his tools.
Wolfenight didn’t remember much of the rest of that skirmish. What he did recall was Mange playing torso-tennis, Jet-dwarf playing everyone-hug-me and the archers playing tag-the-dwarf. He briefly sat up and paid attention when a volunteer summoned a creature of darkness. The magic had the taste of his old master in it - but not quite. The disciple of another student of the Master, perhaps? Wolfenight vaguely tossed in a sleep spell and went back to the brains. There were so many and just what he needed.
The companions had left hurriedly after slaughtering the dark demon and burgling brains. There had been a lot of noise and the volunteers had sounded like they’d wanted to stop volunteering en masse. Wolfeight was quite dismayed at having to leave so soon. He’d only just returned home and there were still so many perfectly lovely brains to pick. But there was the fact that they were quite stuck on this plane until they had completed the task they’d been sent to do.

A week had passed on Asylum. Wolfenight had spent the time running back and forth between the brothel and the library. He’d rented room in the basement of the sweaty, perfumed, unusually dark building for the small price of some minor incantations that would keep the washing tubs moving. He’d also been banned immediately from casting incantations on the girls. So busy was his work, that he’d left a note with someone somewhere for Rath and Dragonheart to pick up his tools from the front desk and that he was not to be disturbed. His spell was working. All the pieces were fitting into place. All the brains were sizzling so nicely. It was going to be beautiful...

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