Crimson Fist

The Collection
Session 1-3

The hapless guard led the adventurers through the gates and into the castle courtyard. The courtyard was open and uncluttered, its sole distinguishing feature being a wooden trapdoor embedded into the ground in the far corner. The guard moved straight to it, lifting the door and descending the first few steps. A torch on the wall lit the passage for a few feet, but the stairs descended into total darkness.

Without a word, the guard removed the torch from its sconce before continuing down the stairs, lighting the way for the others. The stairs went on for what must have been a hundred steps in a spiral before they saw another source of light illuminating the bottom. The staircase widened into a small antechamber, lit by its own torches, where two more guards stood watching the door. The walls on either side of the chamber were lined with cells, most of them empty.

“This is the castle dungeon,” explained the guard as if he were in the middle of a cheerful tour. “There’s two doors up ahead, past the cells. The one on the right goes to where we keep most of the devices, but guests aren’t allowed through the one on the left. Lord Iridel prefers that business regarding the dungeons be done in the dungeons, so if you’ll wait here I can go fetch him for you.” He turned to leave.

“Wait a moment,” said Lucian. “Could you perhaps show us the torture devices Iridel does have in here? You know, it would speed the deal up considerably if we knew what instruments he prefers, or what he already has and isn’t interested in purchasing.” The guard paused to think.

Diplomacy roll: 15
Sense Motive roll: 5

“Well, I guess it couldn’t hurt,” decided the guard. The other two in the room watched silently as the group was led further into the dungeon, where the guard took them into a large room filled to capacity with all manner of gruesome machines. Several of them were things that the mercenaries had only heard of in horror stories. They pretended to idly look around, inspecting the wares. [Nick], the druid, discretely reached out with his mind, searching for traces of magic. He walked up to the others and, facing away from the guard, muttered, “Nothing in here’s magic, but there’s something in that other room. Something in one of the cells, too.” They gave no reaction.

“Well, uh…I suppose I’ll go fetch Lord Iridel then,” announced the guard, moving back towards the staircase.

“Wait,” said Lucian, perhaps just a little too authoritative. “Before you go, could you tell us what exactly is in the other room?”

The guard scuffed his feet against the cold floor of the dungeon. “I’m really not supposed to talk about it,” he said apologetically. “It’s just where Iridel keeps his machines that are…you know…active. The one’s he’s usin’.”

“Well that’s what we should be inspecting!” Lucian said enthusiastically. “Look, if we could just take a peek in there, it’d be incredibly helpful.”

“I’m sorry sirs, but I can’t do that,” the guard said with more force behind his words. “I really can’t. Even if I wanted to, the captain’s the only one with the key, and he’s-”

“What’s this about the captain?” came a voice from the stairway. The guard jumped, spinning around into a clumsy salute. A man wearing similar armor to that of the guards strode in, carrying a torch of his own.

“Oh, uh, sir, these men were just…they’re torture salesmen,” the guard stuttered. “Err…salesmen of torture, uh, machines. They wanted to see the active ones…”

“Alright, alright, I’ll see to them,” the captain said with a wave of his hand. He then turned to the two guards at the door, speaking to them in a hushed tone. The party, beginning to feel uneasy, didn’t hear his words, but the guards nodded and swiftly made their way up the stairs. The captain turned back to the remaining guard. “Follow them,” he ordered. “They’ll explain.” The guard nodded and rushed off after the others.

“My apologies,” the captain said, addressing the mercenaries. “There’s something they have to deal with upstairs, nothing to be concerned about. However, I think it’s best that you do step into the inner chamber.” He stepped past them to the door on the left side of the room, removing his keyring and unlocking it. He pushed the door open, bidding the party to step into the large, well-lit room.

Someone swallowed hard.

No Solicitors
Session 1-2

The planks of the well-used carriage creaked as it bounced down the uneven cobblestone of the road into Lodenburg. The driver pulled back the reins, slowing the vehicle to a halt as soon as the front wheels were inside the town proper. The door swung open and out stepped a tall, slim figure- Lucian, cleric of Pelor.

He took a brief look around, taking in the sights. Lodenburg was a small town, not on any maps he had seen. Few people walked the streets, which was no surprise to Lucian since he had just seen what must have been half the population of the town, plowing the fields near the road. The most striking feature in sight was a low-set castle overlooking the town, though it wasn’t nearly as striking as it was probably intended to be.

The carriage continued to creak as the rest of its passengers piled out. Saul, a broad-shouldered human with a pair of matched longswords at his waist, walked up beside Lucian. Closely following him was Gorgalac, a brutish half-orc Saul had met long before recruitment to the Crimson Hand. Last was [placeholder for Nick’s inscrutable handwriting], a slender elf with a very noticable spear strapped to his back. He turned and nodded to the Syndicate driver when he was clear of the carriage, who immediately brought the horses around and set out away from the town.

Together the group surveyed the surrounding landscape. The castle was of particular interest to them, as it allegedly housed their objective. It was situated on a steep hill, the stone walls barely necessary because of the sheer natural drop on almost all sides.

After a few moments, Lucian broke the silence. “Front gate?” he proposed. The others nodded.

Two guards stood on alert in front of the castle gate. They eyed the group of armed mercenaries aproaching the castle suspiciously.

“You think it’s them?” one quietly asked the other. “Think they’d send scouts?”

“No, this ain’t anything Relos would pull, not now,” the other replied. “Just keep your wits about ye.”

The first guard cleared his throat when the group grew closer. “What’s your business here?” he demanded.

Lucian turned to the others, who quickly realized that they didn’t have anything resembling a plan. He nervously turned back to the guards, stammering, “Yes, we uh…we’re salesmen. We were looking to speak with Lord Iridel?”

The second guard squinted at them. “You’re awfully well armed for tradesmen,” he said. “Where’s your goods?”

“Well, you see, they’re not with us,” Lucian improvised. “We…had to come see if Iridel was interested in making a purchase, of course. No sense hauling our caravan into town if he isn’t buying!”

“What exactly are you selling?”

“Torture devices,” Lucian shot back. “We have a few very interesting pieces, and we heard about Iridel’s…erm…interest. In them.” He tried to pull out the most convincing smile he could.

DM Comment:
Bluff roll: 17.
Sense Motive roll: 3.

“Ah, well that makes sense then,” said the first guard. “I’m sure Iridel would be happy to speak with you lot. I’ll show you in meself.”

Lucian tried to suppress a smirk. This was too easy.

Assignment Zero
Session 1-1

Ander flipped through the small stack of papers in front of him. He was human, a bit on the shorter side but with a face that made a man think twice about pointing that out.

“You’re all new here,” he stated, addressing the group of mercenaries seated across from him. “And you’re green as grass, so the Hand wants to start you out easy. Each anomaly is ranked with a threat level based on how dangerous its innate powers are. There are three ranks, and you’re going up against the bottom: Safe-class. But just ‘cause it’s called Safe don’t mean it’s gonna be easy to get a hold of.”

He pushed the papers towards the party. The header of the front page read: Assignment: Anomaly 762. “You’re going to locate and retrieve an iron maiden.”

One of the elves, a cleric, looked up. “What, like the torture device?”

“Not quite. It only looks like an iron maiden. It’s an anomaly, so it doesn’t act like it should. We don’t know what it does, but we know what it doesn’t. Apparantly, its victims aren’t dying.” He paused to let it sink in. “The device is currently in the hands of Lord Iridel, a sadistic half-elf noble who runs a small town called Lodenburg in southern Galenwresh. The Northern Alliance tosses him the prisoners of war that they don’t care too much about. He purchased 673 about a week ago, and discovered its little quirk soon after. We need you to steal it and bring it to us before he does something truly stupid.”

“Steal it?” repeated an elf. “We’re the Syndicate, can’t we just requisition it or buy it off him or something?”

“It isn’t that simple,” Ander explained. “We work from the shadows. If we revealed ourselves to every peasant who finds a magic stick, we’d be exposed in no time. One of our agents has already tried to purchase it anonymously, but Iridel fancies himself as some kind of collector. He won’t budge. Especially now that he knows about 673’s irregularities; he probably considers it the pride of his collection. If the Syndicate can acquire an anomaly discretely, they do. When that’s impossible, they give to job to the Crimson Hand. That’s where you all come in.”

He leaned back in his chair. “That’s about all the information we have. You’re just Initiates, so you’ll get no other support from the Syndicate. Think of this as a trial. If the Hand is pleased with the outcome of this mission, you can move up to the interesting jobs. So good luck, and uh…” He gestured towards the three scrolls sitting on the table. “Don’t forget to write home.”

The Briefing

Ander stared at the four adventurers sitting at the other side of the table, sizing them up. A human, two elves, and a half-orc. He sighed. His last Seeker team was six-strong. Of course, the last time he saw his former team was when half of them were discovered thirty miles away from their objective. Their upper halves, to be specific.

He laid some papers on the table. “You’re almost finished with the paperwork,” he said with the dull tone of a man who had gone through this process a hundred times. “Just sign these and you’ll be ready for your first assignment.”

Confirmation of Syndicate Employment
Crimson Hand Division

Crimson hand small

___ I accept that by viewing this form, I have seen classified information and must either accept this position or willfully subject myself to immediate termination.

___ I have been informed of the dangers presented by assignment to the Crimson Hand, including (but not limited to) death by impalement, flame, drowning, acid, devouring, plague, poison, falling, crushing, decapitation, arcane powers, explosion, psionics, possession, electrocution, Syndicate termination, and/or cancer.

___ I understand that certain clandestine operations of the Syndicate, which may directly involve me, are of the utmost secrecy and must not be spread to public knowledge. I accept that the leaking of any information regarding the Syndicate and its existence will result in my immediate termination.

___ I understand that many Crimson Hand duties involve paranormal or supernatural artifacts. I will not interact with any such artifacts outside of specific mission parameters. Any unauthorized use of artifacts is grounds for immediate termination.

Signed: ______________________________________________

The mercenaries silently read through the document, each signing their name at the bottom. The half-orc watched the others uncomfortably, shifting in his seat. When he noticed them signing the papers, he drew some crude squiggles on his own sheet and handed it in. Ander looked at the brutish, lumbering barbarian for a moment. He decided not to question it.

“Very well then,” he said when they were finished. “You may now consider yourselves Initiates of the Crimson Hand. I have your first assignment here, but there are some things to go over first.” He cleared his throat to prepare for the speech. “The Crimson Hand is a branch of the Syndicate, which officially doesn’t exist. Because of this, you must be somewhat discrete in your actions.” He paused, staring at the half-orc for a moment. The human chuckled.

“You will act as a Seeker team. Seekers are tasked with securing anomalies that the Hand has deemed…problematic. You will be briefed with whatever intelligence our field agents have dug up on the target before we send you out. If the objective is an artifact, you are to retrieve it and bring it back here. In the case of other anomalous entities, you may be asked to neutralize it. Whatever the assignment, follow your orders.

“My name is Ander, and I will be your team’s handler. I’m your connection to the higher-ups in the Syndicate. I’ll give you your assignments, as well as any special equipment the Hand thinks you’ll need. Speaking of which…” He reached into his coat and took out three identical scrolls, setting them on the table. “These are your link back to me. Each one will establish a two-way telepathic connection from you to me for sixty seconds, no matter where you are. Use them to check in throughout your mission, and I’ll give you updated objectives and any other information that might help. You have to initiate the link, though, so don’t forget about them.”

The human raised his hand half-mockingly. “What’s the pay?”

“There is no pay. You’re doing the world a service!” Ander waited for a moment, looking at the group’s scowling faces. “Yeah, no one ever buys that. Well there’s no real pay. We don’t deal in gold. What you will get is a handful of reward vouchers. When you’re here at the stronghold, you can redeem those with the quartermaster. He’s got a pretty typical armory at his disposal, but he also keeps a stock of magic items, and sometimes we even get anomalous artifacts that the Hand says are okay to use. But none of that applies to you yet. You’re just Initiates. Once you complete your first assignment to prove yourselves, then you can see the armory.”

One of the elves spoke up. “Alright then,” he said. “Let’s get started.”

Ander drew a small stack of papers from his coat and smiled. “Let’s.”


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