The respite was short-lived. A flaming barrel was rolled down the stairway towards the prisoners. Irthir acted brashly, using magic to shatter the barrel as the elf shouted for him to halt, but it was too late. The contents of the barrel -- flammable oil -- erupted explosively and ignited, injuring much of the party in the process. This enraged Sklooh, who ran upstairs to confront the culprits, followed by Igan. After a short time in combat with the Vardan knights (who had been in the process of preparing more weaponized barrels) the barbarian realized that he was outmatched. He tapped out with Igan who summoned his war-spirits to assist in battle, but the soldiers still proved difficult. That is, until Irthir came forward to bewitch them by the power of his patron.

The fighting was resolved and another prisoner was taken. The elf, who had been trying to convince the group for a while now that they could escape (and kill the remaining soldiers) without further need of direct violence, began healing the injured by magic. Now, the Pillarmen had secured three decks of the ship, including the boiler room. The top deck, though, was blocked off and heavily defended by at least ten more knights and a Tribune, and there were no alternative exits due to the ships iron plating. For both probing and intimidation, Irthir destroyed the barricades and tossed the disembodied heads of all the crewmen onto the deck, but determined that leaving through those passages simply wasn't viable. They discussed the next course of action, but they were interrupted by loud booms and clangs. Evidently, the forces above had flagged down assistance from other Vardan military vessels and ordered the scuttling of the prison transport in an attempt to destroy the magicians below.

A GRIPPING TITLE GOES HERE

With a few sharp words by the elf, who had by now identified himself as Elohar and as being over 400 years old, he scolded that they must now resort to his original plan without the satisfaction of killing their enemies and with the expended effort of having had to heal the others and, now, avoid detection. He suggested that they blow the boiler to create an exit they could escape from underwater. He told the group that if they could find rope and tether themselves together, he, as well as Irthir and Sklooh, could pull the remaining five prisoners to safety through the ocean. He explained that he could give them the arcane ability to breath water for a day. Irthir, thinking that it was perhaps too cruel to leave their captured soldiers to drown, went to their cells and freed them. Having resigned to death and out of spite, both attempted to subdue and murder Irthir. Irthir regretted his decision, but nevertheless used magic to have them both destroyed.

The ship was rapidly taking on water from canon blasts. The Pillarmen loaded the boiler with coal and oil and anything else flammable. Elohar magically enhanced the flames, and Felrick closed the boiler door with magic. Deciding to quicken the process Fladneg sent a bolt of force energy hurdling towards the scalding metal, and the sudden compression at the front of the device caused the back of the boiler to rupture and explode, leaving a large hole out the back of the ship. A spell was cast allowing all present to breath underwater.

Elohar and the lizardmen submerged themselves and swam through the near-boiling water towards the open ocean, the elf taking the form of a Giant Octopus. Once out, it behooved them to swim low in the water, staying submerged as well as they could to avoid detection by the three Vardan Navy vessels involved in the scuttling of the sinking ship. Elohar knew that the boiler explosion would be suspicious, but it would still be plausible for Varda to count the escaped prisoners as deceased.

They swam on for two days, stopping periodically for Elohar to regain his strength. Regardless, by the time they reached shore, they were all severely exhausted. They all unbound themselves and congratulated each other on a job well-done: the first known surviving escapees of a Vardan detention vessel (though, if all went according to plan, no one would know of it except them). The Pillarmen extended an invitation to all involved to join their party, but the twins decided they'd be better off relying on each other -- the Pillarmen were too rash to associate with. Likewise, Fladneg wanted to keep a low profile now that he was an escaped convict, and the last way to do that would be to tag along with a band of highly skilled arcane practitioners hell-bent on overthrowing the monarchy. Felrick went off to seek fame and fortune elsewhere.

Irthir messaged Lena and discovered her predicament of being Artel's captive. The party petitioned Elohar as he rested to help them rescue Lena. He agreed reluctantly once he heard the description of their plight, her significance, and of the group's frequent interactions with god-entities. In speaking with the elf, they found out that he was captured due to leaving the forest seeking explanations for certain omens and visions he was happening. They found out that his people were the Moon Elves who had both made and abandoned Telor. Most of his people had been enslaved by Varda, and the location of any remaining elves (now an endangered species) was a closely guarded secret. He seemed to possess a great knowledge of the planes, gods, and of history. Upon finding a suitable location, they all bedded down to sleep as free men for the first time in months.

Session #37: Like Rats From a Sinking Ship

Sklooh recovered Igan's hammer and brought it back to the detention level, supplying the Cleric with the focus of his divine power. Sklooh was coaxed into remaining below deck for planning the rest of the escape now that the bottom deck was secured by the prisoners, the 2nd level was no-man's land, the third was in chaos due to Irthir's steady assault of demon entities, and the upper deck was controlled by Vardan military forces. The posse used the time for a much needed rest, gather resources such as armor and weapons, and as an opportunity to recover their strength. Mysterious banging, thudding, and chopping sounds could be heard above. A bit of stealthy eavesdropping revealed that the entrances to the top deck were being destroyed and sealed. They all returned to the bottom.