In the sudden silence after the short but brutal dining room battle, Fitch's keen hearing picks up a whispered conversation from the next room. Two worried servants are discussing whether they should run to the guardhouse for the guards, or whether the noise was just a drunken brawl and they'll get in trouble for bothering them.
Fitch strides into the room and, brandishing a dagger that he has just carefully bloodied for dramatic effect, intimidates them into sitting down quietly and allowing them to be tied up. Questioning from Sam persuades them to spill their guts (metaphorically; perhaps surprisingly our heroes leave them tied up but otherwise unmolested). In between requests that they please not be killed, the servants tell them the rough layout of the area and approximate disposition of the guards, and the password to pass the gatehouse and bridge ("Hesterfield"). They also tell Sam that Blackerly is nearby, in his bedroom which can be reached via his office off the corridor, likely having a drunken nap before tonight's card game.
Sam is fired up to get revenge on the man who branded her and laughed. "Let's kill him while he's sleeping, it'll be easier!"
"Wait, let's rob these footlockers first!" comes the reply. The 12 footlockers yield the following:
potion of cure light wounds
silver holy symbol
bottle of whisky
a small supply of delicious cookies
A surprisingly well written love letter ending in
a proposal of marriage to someone named ‘Michelle’ and a sapphire engagement ring worth 100
A masterwork lute (worth 100 gp).
Ink, quill and a personal journal that reveals thisweek’s password “Hesterfeld” – the Warden’s
home town – and the details of Blackerly’s illicit gambling sessions including exactly when the
next game will be (later tonight)
A small coin pouch with 3gold in miscellaneous coinage.
A bottle of absolute rot gut without label worth 5 gp.
A collection of cheap, tawdry, crudely printed
books (the so-called “penny dreadfuls”) about
dashing heroes, daring do and amply bosomed
damsels prone to fainting and outdoor bathing
(no resale value) (Adelea guiltily sneaks these into her clothing without anyone seeing)
Using Adelea's cunning suggestion of greasing the hinges with fat from the kitchen, Fitch ghosts into the sergeant's office. Unfortunately, however, he makes a complete arse of quietly opening the connecting door to the sergeant's room, dropping his thieves tools with a loud jingle. “Oh for fuck's sake" mutters Sam to Adelea as the sergeant wakes up and looks around wildly, grabbing for his sword.
Creel is equally disdainful as Fitch steps forward to engage Blackerly, asking “sure you don't want to blow an alarm horn or something?”
The eagerly awaited battle with the hated sergeant proves to be something of a farce. Blackerley swings wildly and gets his sword stuck in the bedframe. With an angry ogre in front of him and an enemy on each side, Sam steps forward and intimidates him into surrender: “your only miniscule chance of survival is to do exactly as we say, drop your sword and on your knees”
Adelea tries to kill the helpless sergeant but makes a horrible botch of the swing, her sword missing entirely and clanging off the floor next to him. Making a successful bluff check she "styles it out" and pretends she was only trying to scare him. This works and he begs for his life.
The party proceeds to tie up Sergeant Blackerly and search his room, and then Sam asks Grumblejack “is that the guy who burned your arm? “- Yurr “would you like to pull his head off?” -Huhuh yerr “Go ahead and do that then”. Grumblejack flexes his mighty thews and pops the sergeant's head off. Adela comes back from the kitchen with a burning brand and expresses her disappointment that she cannot burn his eyes out now.
The party find 1245 GP in a chest in the room, plus some “medicine” which they realise is rotgut spiked with an excessive dose of sleeping herbs. They also find a map of the castle in the sergeants room. Adelea takes a masterwork longsword from Blackerley's body
Blackerly's keys allow access to a storeroom with some potentially useful items, and to the castle armoury. The party avail themselves of the contents, with grumblejack very pleased with his new “poky thing” (a glaive), Sam picking up a spear, and Zachariah Creel finding a heavy mace which gives him immense satisfaction as this is the favoured weapon of Asmodeus. Fitch picks up a rapier and swishes it around, while Adelea finds a shank made from a woman's metal comb in a pile of confiscated weapons, and realises that this is a weapon that might be hidden in her hairstyle.
Returning to the kitchen they find the tied up servants sitting quietly exactly where they were left, and once again refrain from murdering. Using the "medicine" from sergeant Blackerly's room they create some spiked meat for the dogs and head for the guardhouse, with Fitch using sleight of hand to surreptitiously drop drugged meat into the kennels in passing.
With Grumblejack bundled in the large servant's large green cloak and trying to look small, and the others dressed as guards, the absconding criminals successfully bluff their way past the guards at the guardhouse and at the gatehouse at the head of the bridge, pretending to be a party off to collect firewood, passing the gatehouse with a masterfully bored and long-suffering rendering of the password (Hesterfield). Sam's bluffing skills are on fire tonight, and the guards' perception is very much not. One of them warns Sam to "keep an eye out for… well, you know" but it is not clear what this might mean.
Unbelievably, they have escaped without the hue and cry going up.
The party decide to head for their mysterious benefactor's mansion to lie low and consider their next move. This involves crossing the moors at night, and while Adelea's survival skills allow the party to chart a direct course for their destination there is one complication. The moors at night are the haunt of the cunning and vicious giant toad, Lashtongue.
Surging out of one of the network of black pools and boggy channels on the darkened moor this cunning ambush predator achieves complete surprise. Picking on Fitch in preference to the chainmail wearing Adelea and Creel, or Grumblejack who seems like an overlarge mouthful, the huge amphibian brutally hurts Fitch with one enormous bite, and positions his unconscious victim in his enormous batrachian mouth in preparation for swallowing him whole.
Luckily for Fitch the rest of the party are not in the mood to let some humungous toad mess with them after their hard day escaping from prison. First Creel uses his new mace to channel a trickle of the power of his god, then Adelea wounds the monster with the masterwork sword she took from Blackerly's cooling body, before Grumblejack's brutal swing ends the amphibian's reign of terror. The unconscious form of Fitch tumbles out of its now gaping mouth, close to death and covered in frog spit. Creel manages to stabilise him however, and Grumblejack is happy to carry his unconscious form to their destination.
The party are met at the door by Tiadora who summons some curiously meek servants to show them to their rooms and see to their needs. Healing draughts are provided for the wounded, as well as food and water and fresh clothes.
Once they are rested, refreshed and restored to health they are finally introduced to Tiadora's mysterious patron.
“I believe you to be the first to ever escape from Branderscar
Prison. Well done! Of course, you had help from the outside,” he says with a wicked smile.
“But enough with the pleasantries. You must be curious why I’ve helped you. Rest assured this is no random act of altruism. I have brought you here for a reason. My name is Cardinal Adrastus Thorn. I am the last high priest of Asmodeus left on the island of Talingarde. Once the Prince of Nessus was rightly revered alongside the other great powers. Now, the king of Talingarde has become a
puppet to Mitran fanatics who wish to destroy any religion that does not bow to their insipid sun god.
“For their blasphemy, I will see the same people who imprisoned and condemned you suﬀer. I understand what you went through for I have faced it myself.” With that, he pulls down the sleeve of his robe and reveals his own runic ‘F’ brand. “I am going to burn Talingarde to the ground
and from the ashes I will build a new nation that knows its rightful master. I cannot do this alone. I seek servants worthy of our Infernal Father’s majesty. Have I found them in you?”
He rises and his eyes ﬂash with hellfire and divine purpose. “Join me! Serve me well in this holy endeavor and I will raise you up in the eyes of gods and men. I will make you princes of the new Talingarde. Today, swear fealty to me and to Asmodeus.
“Put aside forgiveness and I shall give you vengeance.
Put aside mercy and be made powerful. Put aside peace
and become my harbingers of war. What say you? Will
you swear your allegiance or will you burn with the rest of
the blind fools?”
They all agree to sign a pact in blood. Sam intends to break this as soon as convenient, and cheerfully levels to Creel that she will do so. However Creel, knowing his patron Asmodeus is a god of Law as well as Evil and loves deals that bind one party more than expected, suspects it will not be as easy as Samrael believes. On the other hand Asmodeus is a god of ambition also, and may be charmed by Sam's ambition to rise to godhood herself.
Cardinal Thorn takes one copy of the contract and leaves another with the party. It is written in red ink on an unknown leather. He tells them to stay within the manor and prepare themselves, as in three days their training will begin.
After they leave the presence of the cardinal a servant meekly asks them what equipment they might need, up to a value of 200GP. While they ponder this, the scene fades to black