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Part 4: In the Flesh

Previously (Pt. 3) Home Next (Pt. 5)

Wandering in Prison.

Our adventurers have discovered a way into Wayward Prison, accessible only through the Shadow Plane. But what dangers await them inside?


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Shards of Reality.

It is a sad fact of tabletop role-playing that life sometimes takes players in different directions, fracturing groups that had stuck together through great adversity. But though the actors come and go, the story remains the same.

Our party have successfully passed their first test of the dangers of Wayward Prison. A few of the faces may now be different, and some of their shared history may be unfamiliar, but their ultimate quest and their drive to complete it is identical.  Our tale has “regenerated,” if you will, into a fresh but recognizable form.

We view the travelers and their story as through a fractured mirror.  But whether hailing from alternate universes, or simply memories better recalled, our adventurers still feel just as familiar and intrepid.

Regenerating the Party.

Players (new and old alike) are free to either keep their old characters, or roll new ones following the appropriate creation rules. Characters are now level 3 and can choose up to 2,700 gp of equipment from the sourcebooks (though these will only be available while they are on the Shadow Plane).

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>  Meet the new party!  <


Real Date: March 30, 2014

Game Date: 3rd of November, a.r. 231, early morning (Day 3)

Chapter 14: Shadow Solitary

Rina the dwarf and Joriah the elf carefully made their way to the top of the slimy braided hair rope. Their adventures together so far had been far from mundane–from awakening in execution chairs, to escaping the house of the young lady and her grandmother, to their meeting with Madame Guerre just hours before. In that short amount of time, they had both learned much about the other. To survive, they had had to learn how to trust and render help when it was needed the most.

But now, it seemed, the most difficult trials were ahead. The top of the rope ended on the other side of a large, faintly-contracting orifice–a suggestive opening into an unwelcoming room.

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Rina and Joriah squinted in the gloom.  Confirming an earlier suspicion, the mists that shrouded the general landscape of the Shadow Realm seemed absent when indoors.  Walls of veins, fat, and pulsing tissue now surrounded them. Arranged in a basic rectangular form, it appeared more that the flesh had grown up over the walls, instead of being the walls themselves. There were several raised ridges, suggesting cell walls had been intended but never finished.

Disturbingly, there seemed to be faces and bodies encased in the tissues of the wall, like bodies wrapped in veiny cocoons.  Their faces were frozen in fear, anguish, or anger.  Though they were immobile, their expressions changed whenever they were not being directly viewed.

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There still seemed to be a solid foundation somewhere, and a few stabs from Joriah’s rapier confirmed a stone surface perhaps half a foot beneath their feet.  Towards their right, three slits in the wall at eye level suggested an overgrown door. Rina decided to take a closer look.

It was at this point that the duo heard a rather disturbing, squelching noise from the walls around them.  Sliding down from a newly-opened cysts in the wall, two forms reared to their unsteady feet…one to the far left, and one nearest Rina’s door.  The one nearest Joriah was a bloated, plague-ridden corpse.  No intelligence shone in its eyes; only blind and unreasoning hatred flared there.

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Near Rina and the door, a different sort of creature shambled from the goo. Instead of a hulking mass, this one twitched and gibbered loudly to itself.

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Joriah tried to listen closely to the creature’s words, in case there were any helpful clues hidden there. However, an unreasoning lunacy had taken the creature’s addled mind–and the minds of anyone unlucky enough to listen. Joriah gradually became unaware of his surroundings as he concentrated on the confusing speech. [Nat. 1 vs. hypnotic effect, and player Marc’s first roll of the campaign!]

Nearest the muttering fiend, Rina swung with the sword in her right hand. It connected easily with the creature, who in turn reached out and grabbed Rina by the arm. Rina suddenly felt a sudden pain shooting through her temple, making it difficult to concentrate on things around her [wisdom damage]. Though the wounds she’d inflicted still remained, the creature suddenly drew itself up with a new-found strength.

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Across the room, Joriah stared blankly as the bloated corpse approached. It was not until he felt crusted claws raking through his flesh that he broke from his stupor. The corpse was a walking bundle of disease, and it was only through sheer luck that the rot did not take hold in his wounds.

Blows were traded in the two separate battles, and both ghosts quickly realized they were at a disadvantage. Despite several solid blows, Rina’s enemy continued to strengthen itself with its devastating touch attacks; and the dwarf’s headache was becoming almost unbearable. Joriah, on the other hand, was being battered by the tumorous limbs of the other. Though he continued to resist the disease, he was a wavering, bloody mess.

After hurried words, the two combatants carefully sidestepped around each other and traded opponents. Rina could resist physical attacks better, and the crazed zombie did not deal physical damage–a welcome change for staggering Joriah. The two stood back-to-back, ready to face their new opponents.

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The tactic worked well…at first. Rina began cutting her way through the thick fat of her enemy, and Joriah could fight without being downed on the next strike. However, it was when the dwarf struck one mighty blow that her enemy revealed a last, nasty surprise.  Its pulsating tumors suddenly engorged, and the wet skin stretched and split under sudden pressure.  Nearly without time to react, Rina and Joriah were blown backwards by a sudden sick, wet explosion.

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Though everyone avoided the full force of the blast, it proved to be the last straw for poor Joriah. The elf stumbled and collapsed to the floor, his wounds bleeding a heavy mist.

In response, Rina used her Blink Shirt (another soulmeld) to instantly travel to Joriah’s side. With a sudden flash of inspiration, she retrieved the tiny bottles of salt they’d found in the shadow kitchen. Realizing that the printed word “Cure” could mean more than one thing, she stuffed the contents of one into Joriah’s mouth. Luck was on their side, and he healed just enough to return to consciousness.

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Though it was now two-on-one in their favor, their final fight against the crazed zombie proved to be an incredible challenge. Both fighters were weak and staggering, and each touch by the creature only increased the hammering in their skulls. Additionally, by drawing strength from its opponents, the zombie appeared to be even stronger than when he had first appeared [temporary hit points].

Struggle as they did, the foe ultimately proved too much for our heroes. First Joriah collapsed again to the floor, clutching at his temple in agony, then Rina. The two passed into a final and tortured unconsciousness, the form of their assailant gibbering over their bodies.

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It was fortunate for our heroes that the creature could deal no physical damage. After eight hours of pained sleep, the two clawed their way back to consciousness–clutching their pained temples in agony, but at least still alive.  (Well, as alive as restless spirits can be.) The room was now empty; apparently, the creature had gotten bored and left sometime in the night.

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Rina quaffed a Potion of Lesser Restoration that Joriah had been saving, but it could only take the edge off her massive headache. Without medical or magical help, it might be days before the two’s senses returned to normal.

Together, using the still-restrained animated candlestick, the two began a more complete search of the fleshy room.

[DM’s Note: The above encounter used two CR 3 creatures–an Allip with Wisdom damage substituted instead of drain, and a Plague Walker from Monster Manual IV. Our two adventurers now both have a Wisdom score of 1, thanks to eight hours of rest.]


Chapter 15: A Bucket of Blood / Physical Solitary

Several items caught their immediate attention.  First, Rina noticed a light crossbow (along with several bolts) lodged in the fleshy mass which had spawned the second creature. As the two had been using only handmade slingshots and pebbles until now, the decent ranged weapon was a welcome sight. Rina shouldered it for later.

Next, Joriah took a closer look at an iron bucket resting near the orifice out of the room.

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It appeared serviceable, though rusty, and it left a depression in the fleshy floor when he pulled it free. He also noted a faint dripping sound coming from somewhere nearby, though he could not locate the source.

Rina used her makeshift torch to peer through the slits in the hidden door.  The hallway outside was difficult to see even with the light, but it seemed just as fleshy and overgrown as their room now.  Since they were not in their ghostly forms, Rina and Joriah could not simply breeze through the slit openings.  Instead, they decided to hack their way through the meat to get to the door itself.

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Using her sword, Rina began peeling layers of tissue from the door out of the cells. Even though were no organs or bones in the room of flesh, there still were plenty of veins and arteries.  Rina had to fight to keep her composure as she was sprayed periodically with blood.

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As the two watched the dark, glistening fluid glide down the walls, a sudden thought occurred to them. Blood was a liquid and could reflect light–a necessary component for portals to the physical realm. Using the bucket nearby, they collected perhaps a quarter-pail full.

Once the two had cleared enough of the door to see it, they found it had been corroded shut beyond hope. Weeks (months? years?) of tissue and bile had essentially fused it to the wall.

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This avenue being exhausted, the two began pacing around the room with the bucket of blood, hoping to see a flash of light that signaled a portal. After several minutes of this, they returned to the depression where the bucket had originally sat (and where, incidentally, the sound of dripping was loudest). Here, indeed, there was a flash of light–but it only showed when the bucket was about an inch off the floor.

“We need more blood!” Rina declared, and she hacked into the surrounding walls with abandon. After some trial and error, they were able to make a shiny and stable passage to the physical realm.

*          *          *

The portion of the prison our adventurers found themselves appeared to be a form of solitary confinement. Corresponding to the raised ridges they’d seen in the shadow realm, walls forming five cells surrounded them. There were no windows nor lights; those sent here required no such luxuries.

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The two found they’d exited via a mucky bucket, set next to an iron hatch on the floor. (The hatch likely led to the sewage pipe they’d seen from outside.) Water condensed slowly on the ceiling overhead and dripped into the bucket, explaining both the sound and the reflection they’d used.

Keeping in mind that the positions were mirrored between the physical and shadow realms, the two searched the cells around them. In the room corresponding to where the bloated corpse had spawned, they found a human skeleton curled in a fetal position.

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By the position of its limbs, it seemed the unlucky prisoner had died in some pain–perhaps a victim of disease.

In the opposite corner cell, where the maddened zombie had originated, they found another long-dead corpse. Unlike the first, however, this one had died of a cracked skull. It seemed this one had died smashing his head against the door to freedom.

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Both skeletons had rat droppings inside their rib cages, with tiny gnaw marks along their bones. There was at least one resident of the prison that appreciated free food.


Chapter 16: Lower-Level Cells

It was a simple-enough task for the spirits to slip through the three cracks in the door from solitary confinement, and the two found themselves in a new hallway of cells. These seemed to lead along the side of the cliff towards the main gate. The cells here were slightly-more comfortable than those of solitary–in that they had barred doors instead of solid iron, and that there were actual benches to sleep on and shallow pails for sewage. Though they were all empty, the presence of drying sludge in the pails suggested they’d been occupied until just recently.

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There were five cells along one wall, then a guard room. In the light of small gas-fed lamps, a guard lounged casually.

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It was now around eight in the morning (thanks to the two’s involuntary slumber). The prison was hardly the center of hustle and bustle on most days, and without prisoners, the morning was particularly quiet. Obviously bored, the guard absent-mindedly flipped a coin in the air, until a sloppy catch sent it skittering into the dark.

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On the far side of the guard room, at the line between light and darkness, the coin escaped the guard’s half-hearted glances. Shrugging to himself, the guard went back to his thoughts.

Not wishing to attract the guard’s attention just yet, the two misty ghosts decided to search the dark cells beside them. On the side of the wall of the cell nearest the guard post, a few crude runes had been scratched into the stone wall with a piece of bone.

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” ‘Left’? ” Joriah wondered out-loud. Already accustomed to bending his mind around the idea of a physical and mirroring shadow plane, he quickly thought of a few different ways to interpret the message. “Left” certainly seemed to make sense, although the context was still missing.

In the second cell leading from solitary, Rina noticed a deliberately-stacked pile of shale rocks.

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They looked as if they’d been placed to conceal something underneath, perhaps from the eyes of guards. However, in her present vaporous state, Rina had no way to shift or search the rocks further.

Lastly, the two encountered a small rat, scuttling from cell to cell via narrow spaces in the rock walls.

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Even in the dim light of the nearby guard station, Joriah and Rina could see the rat’s eyes were a deep but flat inky hue. Curious to the cause, Rina floated after the creature, which quickly squeaked in fright and began fleeing along the walls. A lucky touch by Rina made contact with the rat’s black eyes, and she suddenly felt herself pulled through into the nearby shadow realm.

What awaited her on the other side was certainly not another rat. A much larger and more ferocious creature glared at her with glowing eyes, before lunging at her.

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Chapter 17: Shadow Lower Cells

Back on the physical plane, Joriah watched as Rina’s form was suddenly drawn through the rodent’s corneas. He was particularly interested in what happened next, however–the rat abruptly halted its flight, reared up on tiny haunches, and made as if attacking an invisible enemy. Guessing that events were also unfolding on the shadow plane, Joriah reached for the rat’s eyes and made his own leap through.

Luckily for our protagonists, the shadow version of the rat was a poor fighter indeed. Despite three vicious lunges, the creature failed to make a single connection. Now with access to her meldshaped weapons, Rita in turn hit back with her Mask of the Chimera, and was able to down the creature in seconds.

The creature fell limply on its side, dead. (Somewhere else on the physical plane, and without fanfare, a small rodent did the same.)

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The two ghosts stepped closer to examine the creature’s glowing eyes. Of course, they were not actually sparkling with their own light–just as the rat’s eyes had shown the dark landscape of the shadow realm, the monster’s eyes were tiny windows back to the physical world.

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Satisfied that the physical realm still seemed quiet, Joriah and Rina turned to inspect the shadowy version. The cells were now on their right side, instead of their left; and their feet sank into a fleshy tissue covering all surfaces.

Wondering if the hidden area beneath the shale was accessible here, Rina immediately went to the the second cell. Luckily, the bars of the shadow cell doors had been eroded away by either bile or some other acidic substance. Inside, instead of piled rocks, Rina discovered a large metal chest, locked with three keyholes.

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Rina scratched her head over this development. The chest was large–nearly too large to move–but the two adventurers managed to drag it a distance of several feet across the floor. Then they returned to the physical realm to see if anything had changed. When the pile of shale rocks was disappointingly unaltered, the two returned to the shadow realm.

There they discovered the chest mysteriously resting back in its original spot.

“Blood pouring from walls, crazy rat monsters,” mused Rina, “and yet it’s a moving chest that creeps me out the most.”

From here, the two turned to the mysterious runes on the wall of the last cell room. As expected, the runes–now bloody gashes in the fleshy wall–now spelled out the message of “LEFT“.

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However, where a broken bone had once been, an ornate key now lay.

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Still unsure of what the “Left” message could mean, and indeed whether left-and-right corresponded here as they did on the physical realm, Joriah took out a piece of string and tied it to the key. “In case we find two more keys,” he explained.

The two were not prepared for what awaited them in the shadow guard room. Here, the flesh motif abruptly ended, leaving spaces of simple stonework ahead. A large, gargoyle-like face on one wall overlooked a thirty-foot stretch to a locked gate door.

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Directly underneath the face, more mysterious symbols could be seen.

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Unlike those in the previous cell, these were finely etched into the stonework by a master chiseler. Between the two of them, Rina and Joriah ran through all the possible ways these symbols could be interpreted, including forwards, backwards, upside-down, and even with relation to cardinal directions or time. Nothing struck them as obvious.

Eyeing the keyhole openly visible on the gated door, Rina fingered the newly-found key before sprinting  across the room. She didn’t trust the looming visage on the wall, and her fears were not unfounded. As soon as she stepped into the open, a concussive blast erupted from the open mouth.

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Though it nearly knocked Rina off-balance, she successfully made it to the far side of the room. To her chagrin, the key she held was far too big for the keyhole of the padlock on the gate. She took only a moment’s glance of the hallway past the door (more cells like the ones they’d left) before she dashed backwards to where Joriah crouched. She took a blast of electricity to her ribs, but she arrived little more than singed.

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There was no obvious place in the room to hide from the guarding gargoyle, and no reflective surface lay corresponding to where the coin lay on the physical plane. The adventurers wondered if they’d hit yet another dead end in their search, and they discussed their options. They finally decided on returning to the physical realm and attempting to either sneak past or distract the lone guard.

However, the situation in the physical prison had apparently evolved since their last visit. The post guard that had once lounged now stood at silent attention, listening to nearby conversations. From further down the hall, where the front gate and office likely sat, a voice of refined authority boomed.

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Someone had decided to pay the prison a visit–perhaps someone who would make matters complicated for our party.


As a result of this session, the following sourcebooks and info pages were unlocked or updated:

New:
Races of the Iqador Plane

 

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