Campaign of the Month: November 2017

The Gaelean Chronicles: Heroes 4 Hire

Home at Half Point: Dead by Daylight, Part 2
Half Party Kill

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0300, Zol, 3 Milos, 3E1000

    The message sang forth clearly across the Earrings of Communication. “Heroes’ Haven is under attack.”

    Smedley “Deadly” Hampton was not yet asleep, and sprang to action in his room at the Onyx Fountain Inn in Anchorhead. He dressed, packed his things, checked out and rode out headed north toward home. Dajjal slept through this initial transmission, but later awoke to others, got the gist of what was happening from Naïlo Thia and then said he would work a teleport to Anchorhead at first opportunity… but he was out of pocket and unable to assist. He then went back to bed.

    Alton Beeblebrox, Thia and Thalolan heard the deep-throated howl of Potema in the distance, and knew that a form of cavalry was on the way. Beeblebrox rushed to Illyia Baham’s room, found him unconscious and dying in his bed, and force-fed him a Superior Potion of Healing to revive him from the brink. Illyia recovered quickly and donned his weapons and gear while Thia grabbed armor and weapons from the armory across the training room from Illyia’s hallway. They then tried to contact everyone on the Earrings… Smedley and Dajjal answered immediately, but an eerie silence followed. Illyia sent Nightshade to check on Alyn Quinn, Mahim “Mayhem” Dwalin and the other guildmembers in the second-floor barracks, and when she reported they all appeared to be alive and asleep in their beds, she also mentioned a yellowish haze filling the upper levels of the building that had the smell of cherry bark and almonds. Illyia siad he would get help, and then used his Ring of Dimension Door to teleport to the barracks and start shaking people awake. Once he had roused several of the guildmembers, he ordered them to get everyone up and ready to fight, send one to open the front door of the Haven for the approaching wolfpack, and then everyone attack the assassins on the third floor balcony.

    The team in the basement decided on a plan of action, and proceed back through the escape tunnels to approach Lt. Diplo Norixius’s room through the secret entrance. A peek through the concealed door sunk their hearts; the huge, blue dragonborn lay sideways across his bed unmoving, his warhammer resting on the floor and still in his hand. The group silently entered through the secret door, but as Thalolan crossed in front of the open door he saw an entire group of the similarly dressed assassins having a hushed discussion out in the balcony hall. The assassins rushed in and the Heroes rushed out, and a milieu sprang forth in the doorway where they met. Several of the eight killers hung back in the hall to pepper with crossbow bolts. Illyia used his ring again to teleport into Diplo’s room, where in the middle of the fight he rendered aid to Diplo’s unconscious form. Diplo grabbed his Tower Shield to provide some cover from the crossbows outside his door, Thia Wild Shaped into a Winter Wolf, Thalolan Wild Shaped into a Dire Wolf, and Diplo’s room instantly ran out of room due to all the fur, muscle and weapons flying around.

    The Heroes rallied with a vengeance, and the tide turned almost instantly against the assassins. They fell one by one, and when the quicker of the guildmembers joined the fight followed shortly by Potema and a pack of 25 timber wolves, it was over immediately.

    The doors to all of the founders’ rooms on the third floor hung open, and a deafening silence echoed forth from beyond them.

    A search was organized by the guildmembers, floor-by-floor and building-by-building while the remaining Heroes 4 Hire searched the other founders’ rooms on the third floor. Calyx Siannodel, Paladin of BelenusRyoun Rodri, Eldridge KnightKarraway, Cleric of Belenus… and lastly, Greves, Sergeant of the Eridani Infantry… lie dead in their beds, murdered in their sleep by poisoned blades.


0330, Zol, 3 Milos, 3E1000

    What will the Heroes 4 Hire do, now that half are dead? Is this the end of Lord Daemonne’s wrath? What is to be their fate?

    Tune in two weeks, on “TGC: Heroes 4 Hire!!

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Home at Half Point: Dead by Daylight, Part 1
The Beginning, or the End?

Mol, 2 Milos, 3E1000

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    The Heroes 4 Hire awoke to a beautiful spring day aside the White River, and found Half Point’s staff already buzzing with the day’s activities. Alton Beeblebrox spent the day teaching more martial arts in Training Room in the basement of the Heroes’ Haven guildhall, while Lt. Diplo Norixius shared his time between cooking in the kitchen and preaching in the Chapel. Alyn Quinn and Mahim “Mayhem” Dwalin met with the remaining Hereos… Illyia Baham, Naïlo Thia, Ryoun Rodri, Karraway, Greves and Calyx Siannodel… to report on business matters at Half Point and the Hardin Mine, the latter of which was of some concern to her due to their lack of communication in a significantly long time.

    South in Anchorhead, Smedley “Deadly” Hampton spent the day doing ‘odd jobs’ for the Suippes, and managing to stay out of sight of the authorities while doing so. In the late morning, Brancis Bowe pulled him aside and informed him that a Suippes branch in the far west of the Caledonia had received a request for an assassination contract on all ten of the founders of the Heroes 4 Hire, and that the Suippes had offered to take the contract for the other eight, but that two of the Heroes were ‘family’ and were therefore immune to Suippes targeting. When the Suippes refused to contract all ten, the requester rejected the idea and stormed out in a huff, saying, “The Suippes are not the only game in town.”

    Smedley thanked Brancis for the heads up that someone, presumably The Dark Priest, Lord Daemonne , was trying to put a hit on them all, and decided to write a letter disclosing this information to Illyia. Smedley put the letter in the post inside the hour, assured Illyia would get the warning the next day by noon. He then returned to his ‘odd jobs’.

    Meanwhile in Tingerhof, Allendretta’s Library divulged a few more things Dajjal didn’t know yet, including rumor of an ancient ritual being developed by an Etran researcher that sounded a lot like Slaggoth. He spent whatever time he could spare with Allendretta, enjoying the company of a fellow bookworm and arcanist.

    While Alyn and Mahim were discussing business matters with the residing founders, Thia and Thalolan invited Illyia and Alyn to a ‘friendly little dinner, just the four of us’… a prospect that brought an immediate blanch, then a blush, then a blanch again to Alyn’s face. Illyia, for the first time in the more than year he’d known her, saw something resembling attraction in the tall, lithe woman’s eye. She shakily agreed, and he did as well, bringing giggles of glee from the two forest elves. Thia and Thalolan rushed out to arrange everything, including conscripting Diplo, the guild cook and several of the waitstaff into their soiree.

    As sunset slowly descended onto Half Point, Illyia dressed in some of his finer haberdashery and met Thia, Thalolan and Alyn downstairs in the guildhall lobby. Alyn was dressed in a beautiful velvet dress of navy edged in gold lace, floor length and off the shoulder, and peeking from her bodice on a delicate silver chain was a small, silver charm of a crescent moon… a symbol Illyia recognized as that of the goddess, Sehannine Moonbow. The two elves led them out of the Heroes’ Haven and along the footpath into the stone druid circle in the center of the property, where they found a candlelit table had been appointed with the finest accoutrements and set for an exquisite but intimate meal for four. Aside the table, Diplo and the one of the waitstaff from the Blind Boggle Inn stood ready to serve and pristinely dressed, him in his white Chef’s Gear of Quality and her in her blue and white maidservants uniform.

    The foursome were seated and five delicious courses were served, and the evening was spent in pleasant conversation as the night sky deepened into ever darkening hues of indigo. The four barely noticed Diplo and his assistant had disappeared at some point after dessert was served, and the night breeze was warm and hinting at the soon approach of summer. The conversation turned to details of Alyn’s history, how she got started in the hospitality profession and what ultimately led her to taking the job as Half Point’s steward, and Illyia found her stories enthralling. At a moment, the two realized that they were alone, the two elves managing to somehow disappear into the evening without notice. It was getting rather late into the night, so Illyia escorted Alyn back to the Heroes’ Haven, up the colonnade to the second floor and the door of her room, and said goodnight with a gentle kiss.

    Once Alyn safely retired into her chamber, Illyia returned to his basement bedroom with an added spring in his step, excited at the prospect of this new romance. Little did he know or notice, that villainy was already afoot in the Heroes’ Haven.


0200, Zol, 3 Milos, 3E1000

    Illyia’s Noae Elithor was proceeding happily and deeply, when something moved in his room next to him. He brought his trance to an end as quickly as he could, but as he groggily awakened he saw a shadowy figure move with lightning speed and a flash of steel. He tried to roll out the bed to his left, but in his slumber he was too slow, and the felt anguish as two blades found their mark in his chest. He then noted a third sensation as the venom from the assassin’s poisoned weapons began to spread from his wounds, a burning sensation making ever more difficult to breath. He was far too familiar with this tactic, and had used it many times himself. He was, convinced, a dead man.

    As darkness closed in around him, the shadowy figure sat down on the bed beside him, rested his hand on Illyia’s chest for a moment, and then grabbed his chin to turn his head to face him. The man was dressed head to toe in black, and the his head was covered in a wrapping leaving only an eye slit exposing the almond shaped eyes of a person of Shou or Mulan descent.

    “That door was a pain in the ass. I expected the Arcane Lock. I thought the mechanical lock back up was a bit of overkill. I can’t believe I missed the needle trap…” He pulled his right glove of his hand, exposing a serious gouge in his middle finger, which he put in his mouth, sucked at and spat a wad of blood out onto the floor.

    “Drow poison? Really?” He leaned into the blanched, slack face, centered in Illyia’s last view. “No matter. Lord Daemonne says, ‘Goodbye’.”

    The shadowy figure stood and walked casually out Illyia’s door into the hallway beyond. And the universe went black.

    Meanwhile and elsewhere in the Heroes’ Haven, Beeblebrox awoke suddenly as a shadowy figure standing over top of his bed suddenly lashed out at him with twin shortswords. The nimble monk rolled off his bed in a flash, one of the attacks finding their mark in his back. He felt the surge of the poison from the blade, but his Stout heritage coupled with the constitution built from years of monk conditioning allowed him to resist its effects. He got a hand on the assailant, flipped him clean off his feet, jumped on top of the ninja’s chest to pin him to the ground, and proceed to pummel the assassin to death. He then slipped through his secret door and down the ladder to the Heroes’ Haven hidden escape tunnel system.

    Thia and Thalolan were snuggled together in their bed when the attack came, two shadowy figures flanking the bed and aiming for each of them. Thia rolled off the bed as Thalolan gave her a solid push, trying to keep her from the brunt of the blows. The ploy worked, mostly, as only one blade found its mark, the poison and the edge wounding but not killing her. Thalolan then rolled the opposite direction to no avail, and both of the assassin’s strikes struck home, leaving him sick and bleeding but on his feet… barely. Thia cast a Fog Cloud that filled her room while she and Thalolan dashed toward the secret door into her private room, and as she did she mentally commanded the illusory ceiling to generate a thunderstorm… completely harmless, but a hopeful distraction for the attackers who were already lost in the fog. To add to their problems, Thalolan cast Spike Growth as they crashed through the secret door and barred it behind them, filling the already fog-filled room with floor and walls of nothing but razor-sharp brambles.

    The two elves rushed down the escape ladder and along the hidden passage to the end, where a secret door and hidden peephole exited into the basement hallway heading towards Illyia’s room. They looked a moment before bursting into the hall, and saw another of the assassins walking across the basement training room toward the stair. He heard them and turned, a look of recognition on his face at seeing Thia, and moved towards them to attack. Thalolan Wild Shaped into a lion and pounced, tearing the ninja limb-from-limb. Thia mentally called Potema, ordered her to call the pack and come join the fight. A moment later, Beeblebrox burst from the secret door to the other set of escape tunnels and assisted the Thaloloan-the-lion in dispatching the assassin. Once the attacker was dead, he grabbed his Earring of Communication and transmitted, “Heroes’ Haven is under attack.”


0300, Zol, 3 Milos, 3E1000

    Will the Heroes 4 Hire survive the assassins’ attack on the Heroes’ Haven? What else does Lord Daemonne’s wrath have in store for them? What is the fate of the other residents of Half Point?

    Find out next week, on “TGC: Heroes 4 Hire!!

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Home at Half Point: Reset, Regroup, Recharge
"Did he get us up outta bed just to kill a spider?"

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1800, Sar, 28 Ayre, 3E1000

    The Heroes 4 Hire retired from their homecoming reverie to the comfort of their own rooms and beds for a well-earned night’s rest. As they slept, Illyia Baham snapped out of his Noae Elithor in the middle of the night to sound of the door to his room creaking open. The hallway beyond appeared empty, for a moment, and then slowly a large, dark arachnid leg extended into the room on the ceiling… followed by another. To Illyia’s dismay he saw a Giant Spider crawl past his door inverted, and shoot a blob of webbing at him as he began to move from his bed, sticking him fast. As the spider scuttled toward him, Illyia concentrated on the barracks located on the second floor of the Heroes’ Haven Guildhall and activated his custom Ring of Dimension Door, teleporting out of the webbing and finding himself standing amongst several dozen slumbering guild members.

    He woke three of the young adventurers from their rest, and commanded them to don their combat gear as quickly as possible and follow him. The blurry-eyed fighters complied and Illyia led the group to the hallway to his room in short order, his keen hearing picking up a whispered comment between two of his reinforcements, “I can’t believe we’re accompanying Illyia Baham on a mission!” Illyia grinned to himself, until they reached his room and found… nothing. No spider, no tracks and no trace, other than the blob of slack webbing encrusting Illyia’s bed and part of the wall. The earlier admiration turned into a different whisper, “Did he get us up outta bed just to kill a spider?”

    Illyia pointed out the web-blob, “GIANT! …Spider.” He then led a floor-by-floor search for the monstrosity, but found nothing.


0800, Sul, 1 Milos, 3E1000

    Smedley “Deadly” Hampton arose early, a bit before dawn, and departed on his horse south for the day-long ride to Anchorhead. The rest of the Heroes 4 Hire spent the day to their own devices and activities, enjoying some well-earned downtime at their comfortable estate. Illyia ran the Rogue’s Den obstacle course for the first time in over six months, and besides a few forgotten tricks and methods made it through it with a minimal of wear-and-tear. Lt. Diplo Norixius spend most of his day in the kitchen with the cooks and Alyn Quin, whom he discovered was a rather talented cook herself… not necessarily to the professional, signature chef level like himself, but the girl had a real knack for ‘down home country-style’ recipes that stick to your bones and everyone loves.

    Naïlo Thia and Erendriel Thalolan spent the entire day in each other’s company, hunting in the morning with Potema, shooting on the archery range around noon and obliviously nauseating everyone with their twitterpation all day long. Alton Beeblebrox taught a day-long hand-to-hand combat course for the guild newbies down in the training room (affectionately called the ‘Fight Pit’), which drew as many ‘not-so-new’ guild members as well. Bruises were earned, not to mention a few nosebleeds, but all in all no training dummies were hurt during the execution of the lesson.

    The rest of the staff went about their daily routine as usual. The E.Bay Trading Post bought and sold wares, the DVT branch downstairs banked and warehoused. The Blind Boggle Inn fed and housed its guests in style and comfort, the Forge forged and the Stables stabled. Diplo preached a little in the Chapel, and the Stonehenge-like stone circle stood quietly in the grove of trees central to the estate, a silent testament to all things druidic. And all of it under the watchful presence of The Happy Lady, proudly placed in the foyer of the Inn where she can greet every guest to Half Point, and work her magic on their spirits.

    Meanwhile, Dajjal spent the past several weeks since the team dropped him off in Tingerhof in Allendretta’s company and Library. There he researched a bevy of rituals and added them to his book. He dined with Allendretta often, and the two had long conversations over a myriad of subjects. Dajjal found Allendretta grew more comfortable with him over time, even so much so as to occasionally forget herself and smile.


1800, Sul, 1 Milos, 3E1000

    With their triumphant return to their homestead, how much time will the Heroes take for themselves? How long can they afford to leave Lord Daemonne’s plot unresolved? Where did that Giant Spider go?

    Tune in next week, on “TGC: Heroes 4 Hire!!

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Ruins of Sorrow: The Breland King
Come join in the eternal reverie!

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1500, Wir, 25 Febryan, 3E1000

    The Heroes 4 Hire watched the glowing, sparking barriers coalesce between the pillars, impeding access to the giant, blue crystalline structure beyond. Lt. Diplo Norixius, stepped forward and touched the barrier, receiving an instant shock but escaping unhurt due to his Blue Dragon heritage. After some discussion as to how to penetrate the barrier, or if they even should, Illyia Baham remembered that the aura he saw through the Gem of Seeing surrounding the statue of the unknown king downstairs in the shrine identically matched the blue electro-force barrier they faced now. The team divided in two, half proceeding to the shrine and half staying in the Library with the barrier.

    Once down in the shrine and in front of the statue, the team realized they, possibly, knew who this was. The statue with its crown and scepter, that decayed and necrotized before the eyes of Naïlo Thia, reminded them all of an old legend, well-known across all of Caledonia and based in the country of Breland:

    A king of Breland, powerful and popular, was overcome in his elder years by fear of death and obsessed over finding immortality. No one knows exactly what he did in his pursuit of his quest; some surmise he sold his soul to a devil, while others assumed that he, being an accomplished and renowned arcanist, dallied with powers best left alone. Either way, he transformed into something unnatural, and when his people shunned him for his hideousness and shrank from him in fear, his rage was unleashed upon them.
    When his anger subsided, the king saw what he had done to his own beloved people, and his sorrow and despair drove him mad. He fled his lands, never to be seen again.

    With the recognition of the Breland King, the half of the team in the shrine approached with caution and investigated the statue once more. They asked Erendriel Thalolan to cast Dispel Magic on the statue, and in a moment the aura was gone, as was the barriers. The team reunited in the Library, and Dajjal put a hand upon the crystal and was instantly gone. The team froze as they realized his disappearance, but Dajjal saw something much different.

    When he touched the crystal, the room instantly changed, and he was standing in a large octagonal foyer with a wide hallway proceeding out of it to the north. Torches and wall sconces began to light themselves in sequence down the hall, and he could see it opened into a much larger chamber beyond. The spaces were ornate, but dusty, as if untouched by the living in centuries. Suddenly feeling very much alone, he put his hand back on the crystal, and just as instantly was standing back in the Library surrounded by his friends.

    With the crystal basically understood, the team teleported through it to the octagonal foyer and proceeded up the hallway, stopping just short of the threshold to the larger chamber beyond. It was massive; dual lines of columns flanked the sides of a great open stone floor, stretching to the limits of sight to an ornately arched ceiling above. At the opposite end a great stone colonnade rose up to a second level above. Stone stairs flanked the entrance where they stood, leading up to catwalks along the outer walls that also led to the second level at the opposite end. And at the top of the grand colonnade sat a great stone throne, and on it a decaying skeleton, some rotting flesh still clinging to its bones under mouldering royal regalia. An ornate-but-tarnished crown rest askew on the back of its skull, and an equally tarnished scepter lay in the crook of its left elbow.

    The Heroes began to discuss, but Smedley “Deadly” Hampton acted first with his bow and bounced an arrow squarely off the skeletal skull from the hallway. The previously dark and lifeless chamber… slowly… rose back to consciousness. The skeletal figure sat up slowly, repositioned the crown properly on its head, placed its right elbow on its knee and its sceptered fist on its left hip, and stared down from its lofty throne.

    “And what do YOU want?” the Breland King asked incredulously, obviously unharmed by Smeldey’s barb. The floor at the base of the colonnade began to come alive with spectral shapes, formless at first but coalescing over time into shapes of people, dancing in an never-ending ball, aristocracy to be sure. Spectral men-at-arms stood sentry along the walls, seemingly unaware of the Heroes presence and barely watching the dancers.

    The Heroes apologized for the interruption, asked a few mundane questions and receive curt, clipped answers for their troubles. When they said they would leave, the Breland King invited them to come in and join his ball. At the sound of that prospect, the Heroes ran for the crystal to the sound of insane cackling, successfully teleporting back to the Library.

    The team took sometime shaking off the freezing cold that had gripped their very souls. They discussed the Dark Priest and what they should do next, and it was agreed upon that they would head south overland to the capital city of Bree to seek trainers to advance their skills. They also agreed to set up a daily task of Scrying on the Dark Priest, hopefully to ascertain his whereabouts and destination. Dajjal would stay behind at the ruins, to search and study in the Library, and stay well clear of the crystal.


0600, Zor, 26 Febryan, 3E1000

    The Heroes 4 Hire, minus Dajjal, set out and traveled five days south over the grasslands of central Breland. Once arrived in the capital, it took little time for them to find the appropriate training masters and begin their advancement training. After twenty long, grueling days of work and sweat and bruises, the team gathered their wagons and mounts and rode the five-day journey back the way they came, back to the Ruins of Sorrow.

    In their absence, Dajjal found much of worth in the library’s contents, but unfortunately most of it he already knew. However, he did decided to revisit the Breland King by himself, teleporting through the crystal and again staying well short of the threshold of main audience chamber. As if on cue, the Breland King sat up from his slumber on his throne. Dajjal asked him how he had found eternal life, and the King rebuked him, saying, “This is NOT life!! THISTHIS is eternal DEATH!” Unfazed, Dajjal asked more questions, and the Breland King baited him, hinting that he may know what Dajjal ultimately wants to know… and he can join his soiree, if he chooses, and see for himself.

    Dajjal changed subjects to the Dark Priest, and the Breland King admitted that ‘Lord Daemonne’ had visited with him regularly during his stays at the Ruins, that He-the-King-himself had advised the Dark Priest and originally steered him to the items and knowledge he sought. And, the Breland King knew what Lord Daemonne was after:

    “He seeks to return his daughter to life, his precious little girl that was tragically killed so long ago.” Dajjal asked why a more routine form of resurrection wasn’t used. “Oh, he’s tried them all, to be sure, Boy. But you see, therein lies the rub. The usual resurrections still cannot violate free will… the SOUL has to WANT to comeback. And apparently, she… does not!” The King let out a maniacally evil cackle, and Dajjal pressed for the solution this Lord Daemonne seeks.

    “Oh, this is the most precious of all. Tharizdun has spoken to him in his dreams, told him of a ritual that can force the soul back into the body, free will or not. It can wrench the soul out of the hands of the Sovereign Host themselves, and back into its corporeal form. Well,… into ‘A’ corporeal form anyway. But, its a fool’s errand, and he’s just the fool to trust what he’s been told by one of the Dark Eight… or by an old, dead King.”

    Dajjal asked about the ritual, and was provided a few details, but the most pivotal of the Breland King’s answers was the timing of the ritual. "Power of this magnitude is not normally available on the Prime Material. Only once in a millennium does a very narrow window open to perform such a rite. Your friend is on a stringent schedule, you see. He has to gather the items. He has to learn the incantations and the performance factors. He has to get the offering. And he has to perform it at EXACTLY the right moment. Only once in a millennium, Boy… " The King let the word hang in the silence for a moment.

    It suddenly dawned on Dajjal like a thunderbolt… something he has seen in many of his books and research and tomes, regarding a once-in-a-millennium moment where the powers of the entire cosmos become available to the proper arcanist. “You’re talking about the Great Conjunction!”

    The Breland King seemed amused, if such could be accomplished on the flesh-decayed face and empty eye-sockets, now filled with tiny, bluish points of light. “Yes, Young One! Yes, the one time in a millennium, when all the celestial bodies of Seles align… align in perfect alignment… the alignment of perfection! Of, PREDICTION! The alignment of POWER!!” The tiny points of light in the King’s sockets burned exceptionally bright for a moment, and then subsided back to their usual intensity.

    “When is it?” Dajjal queried, and the King made a gesture as if he rolled his eyes at Dajjal, although through empty sockets.

    “When does our calendar begin? When does the SELESIAN calendar begin? How do we mark time? WHAT YEAR IS IT?” the King demanded, almost standing up from his throne.

    “It is the 6th of Maros, 1000th year of the 3rd Era.” Dajjal kept his voice level and calm and respectful, recognizing the obvious threat.

    The Breland King sat back in his throne, looking irritated and frustrated that his ‘pupil’ is not following as quickly as he’d hoped. In a sardonic voice, the King said, “…and what DEFINES an era?”

    Dajjal felt a little thick as he verbally walked the mental path laid before him by the King. “A millennium is 1000 years.” The King rolled his head, and then nodded, waiting impatiently as his student made the connections. “The era is defined by the Great Conjunction. The new era starts at the end of the Conjunction!”

    The Breland King relaxed into his throne, now assured that his pupil has ‘gotten it’. “…And the calendar? The Date?”

    Dajjal was sure he had it, but he couldn’t help pause for a long time, recalculating to be sure. “The Great Conjunction will happen at the stroke of midnight on the divide between the 28th of Decia, 1000th year of the 3rd Era, and the 1st of Janos, 1st year of the 4th Era. The Dark Priest must perform Tharizdun’s ritual then to bring his daughter back.”

    There was not enough flesh left on the Breland King’s skull to form a smile, but the skull was grinning nonetheless… evil and unnerving.


Sar, 28 Maros, 3E1000

    The Hereos 4 Hire reunited at the Ruins of Sorrow early in the evening, and enthusiastically discussed what they should do next. With the new information Dajjal had collected from the Breland King, it was decided that the party would return to their home at Half Point in Eridae, for some well earned downtime and rest, while continuing the daily scrying and other investigative avenues to divine Lord Daemonne’s next or ultimate destination. They departed the very next morning, during the wane of the Vernal Equinox and rode southbound along the main rode to Ravenmere. There they purchased passage for themselves, their mounts and their wagons, sailing to Tingerhof in Gilder where they changed ships before continuing on. Dajjal remained behind in Tingerhof to visit Allendretta and her Library.

    The rest of the group continued on to Anchorhead, unloaded their wagons and mounts, and set out for the full-day’s ride to Half Point. Illyia sent Nightshade ahead to carry the message of their pending return, and as they approached their homestead they were greeted by their friends and staff, their guild members old and new as well as many of the guests at the Blind Boggle Inn, to an unusual amount of excitement and camaraderie. Alyn Quinn had personally cooked a “Welcome Home” dinner for the Heroes 4 Hire and had it waiting in the dining room of the Heroes Haven Guildhall, and the waitstaff ushered them there as quickly as they could hand off their mounts to the Stablemaster and their weapons and armor to the Smith.

    As the soiree wound down later in the evening, Alyn reported on the financials of the Heroes’ business ventures, recounting the considerable profits the entire operation has been enjoying, and that the morale of the staff has been extremely high. She also suggested a small across-the-board raise for all the staff for their hard work and obvious success. She also mentioned that there had not been word from the Hardby Mine operation in quite some time, and that she was a little concerned about the lack of regular communication.

    After six months of adventuring and travel across the continent, not to mention grueling combat, the evening finally drew to a close and the Heroes 4 Hire retired to a long night’s rest, finally back home in their own beds. The scrying had proved fruitful and revealed a visit to another enclave of the Cult of the Elder Eye followed by arrival at the Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun. The Dark Priest, Lord Daemonne, even with the Temple in his control, could wait.


1800, Sar, 28 Ayre, 3E1000

    With the Dark Priest, Lord Daemonne, firmly in control of the Temple of Tharizdun, what will the Heroes do next? Will they be able to gain the advantage on him and his cult’s renewed numbers? Can the information given to them by the Breland King be trusted?

    Find out next week, on “TGC: Heroes 4 Hire!!

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Pursuit of a Madman: The Ruins of Sorrow
The Breland King

1200, Wir, 25 Febryan, 3E1000

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    The Heroes 4 Hire stashed their wagons and mounts and headed up the hidden forest path to the ruins where the Cult of Elder Elemental Eye had just recently vacated. They paused in the shaded, foreground approach to the entryway and listened, hearing nothing coming from the ruins over the midday chirping of birds, rustling of wind and other sounds of the forest. Illyia Baham sent Nightshade in to reconnoiter the massive archway, where she peeked in the arrow slits and murder holes arranged along the 40’ deep entrance, finding nothing. Illyia proceeded into the entranceway checking for traps, and finding none issued the rest of the team in.

    The archway led to two great oaken doors, almost silver with age and banded in rusted iron. One hung slightly askew on its hinges, and the pair looked as if they had not been touched in millennia. Surprisingly though, when pushed open the doors swung easily and silently on their hinges, a careful attention to detail evident in their maintenance as to not diminish the facade. Beyond they found a 20’ square foyer, with dilapidated busts of stone flanking the walls and another set of double oaken door at the far end… these in perfect repair and free of defect. Beyond those doors, the party moved into a large, octagonal central chamber 40’ square, with hallways and doors departing in all cardinal direction. This room, too, was clean and in good repair. The hallway west was flanked by 3 pairs of full-size statues of various men of some unknown import, but the Heroes did not recognize.

    And so a methodical search began of the first floor of the keep, room by room, where they found various bedchambers, dining rooms, mess halls, barracks, a small library, closets and staircases going up to a second floor and down to a basement. They discovered the same thing in each room… that the furnishings and supplies and accoutrements had been removed, leaving the entire place feeling bare. They moved down a spiral staircase to the basement, where they found more statues standing guard at the entrance to a shrine. They opened the door and found the shrine empty of furniture, but unlike the rest of the structure there was easily an inch of dust covering the floor indicating easily a century from the last time someone set foot in it. 60’ at the opposite end, a two-step dais held a man-sized statue of an unknown king staring over the rectory, complete with crown and scepter.

    Naïlo Thia rushed in towards the statue, but when she reached the center of the shrine, a demon the team recognized as a Nycaloth appeared out of vapor in front of the statue and moved to attack. Seizing the initiative, the team rushed the demon, and quickly surrounded it dealing mountains of damage from blade, hammer, arrow and spell. The Nycaloth teleported from the swarm to where Thia was still standing, but she managed to sense its attack coming and ducked the swing of its greataxe. The party adjusted their attack, and a few seconds later the demon fell, bursting into a fiery plume until it was no more than a pile of ash.

    The team resumed searching the shrine, finding little of interest, save Thia who discovered that staring at the statue long enough produced a vision of the same king figure, suddenly aging at hyper-speed and turning into a skeletal zombification of his former self. A blink of the eye or looking away ended the vision. Illyia made a once-around-the-room with the Gem of Seeing, observing nothing out of place except that the statue was emanating a strange, blue aura riddled with lightning when viewed through the gem.

    The Heroes 4 Hire left the shrine and continued exploring the dungeons beneath the keep. They found a block of prison cells and a torture chamber that also had not been used in centuries. They turned north and found a crypt filled with sealed burial niches, and other than a cursory check through the area they left well enough alone. They turned west and entered an area of the basement that had obviously been well used, maintained and clean, but was otherwise bare as all the furniture and supplies had been removed. As far as the look of it, the chambers here were a kitchen, storeroom and barracks.

    Exhausting the basement level, they returned to the first floor, headed through the huge mess hall they had found in the north of the structure, passed through a set of double door that led to a small antechamber that opened into the bottom of a 50’ diameter tower, complete with stair spiraling the exterior wall and pillar support up the center. The antechamber housed another statue of the unknown king, but as the party passed it a spurt of flame from a trap sprung forth from the vicinity of the statue’s belt buckle and singed Thia and Illyia. It took Illyia about 30 seconds to disarm the trap, and the Heroes ascended to the second floor to continue exploring. There they found a balcony overlooking the mess hall below, and then down a hallway a set of servant’s quarters similarly cleaned out of any valuables.

    Lastly they came upon a great library, seemingly lost to time. Cobwebs and dust abounded among the bookshelves, although the dust betrayed that a few tomes had been taken. In the middle of the room, standing upon a stone plinth, was a great blue crystalline formation 3’ tall. The plinth was surrounded by four pillars, and between each of the pillars a wall of blue electricity and force, creating an impenetrable barrier to prevent access to the crystal. The team slowly gathered around the barrier, observing and pondering what to do next.


1500, Wir, 25 Febryan, 3E1000

    Will the Heroes 4 Hire be able to regain the Dark Priest’s trail now that he knows they are after him? What does the mad Breland King have to do with this? What secret of the giant crystal is the barrier protecting?

    Tune in next week, on “TGC: Heroes 4 Hire!!

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Battle in Breland: A Fine Line Between...
"I won't metagame! I promise!!" {flipping frantically through the PHB}

1200, Mol, 23 Febryan, 3E1000

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    With the ambush set and their quarry squarely in place, the first Fireball loosed from the Heroes 4 Hire’s hide and detonated on the lead wagon in the line, just short of reach of the nefarious Dark Priest. The wagon erupted into a ball of fiery destruction, incinerating the two drivers and horses instantly and throwing bits of debris and ejecta about widely. Smedley “Deadly” Hampton cast Silence upon the first cluster of cultists, which included the Dark Priest, in order to prevent him from casting spells once the cult recovered from the surprise of the ambush. Dajjal immediately brought his horse to a full gallop to close the distance from where he was safely shadowing the caravan.

    Rumblebelly charged forward to the edge of the treeline and roared, striking fear into the hearts of man and beast alike. Most of the mounted cultist lost control of their mounts, and Pandemonium ensued. Horses fled left and right, away from the grizzly’s challenge, with their riders hostage in the saddle and frantically trying to regain control. The horses of the third wagon in the line also succumbed to fear, and the wagon moved southwest across the grassy fields and away from the trail as Fireballs detonated the second and fourth wagons into flaming wreckage.

    Illyia Baham fired arrows at the Dark Priest from behind the invisibility provided by the Sword of Lyons, and Erendriel Thalolan cast Moonbeam and dropped it squarely on the cluster around the Dark Priest as well. Potema, with Naïlo Thia mounted upon her back, charged forward across the fields and ran down the fleeing (and last remaining) wagon, allowing Thia to gymnastically leap to the wagon and attack the drivers. Potema then killed the nearest horse pulling the wagon, and the collapsing beast immediately caused what could only be termed as a ‘high-speed wagon crash’. Thia again displayed her amazing forest-borne dexterity, leaping from the wrecking crash back to Potema, and once the wrecked wagon came to a stop, Potema killed the second horse as well. The crash killed one of the two drivers, but the other managed to tuck-and-roll his way in the grass to relative safety. One of the mounted cultists regained control of his horse, and came riding in to rescue his comrade from the wagon wreck, but Thalolan moved the Moonbeam upon them, killing both the wounded driver and the horse the other rode in on.

    As Dajjal continued to close on the routed caravan, one of the cultists on an out-of-control horse met him in the opposite direction, and Dajjal dispatched him with a few well-placed crossbow bolts. He let the horse continue with its dead rider flopping from the saddle, apparently entangled in the stirrups. He noted he saw another low-level underling, also without control of his mount, fleeing southeast across the plains, and out of range for Dajjal at the moment. He continued toward the main battle area.

    The Dark Priest finally regathered his wits after the surprise of the ambush, and rode his steed forward nearly 20 yards northwest to get out of the Silence effects, calling his men to follow suit as soon as he reached the edge of the spell. Four of his men followed suit, gathering around him in a tight cluster of men and horses. The Dark Priest the released the spellcasting he had held, and through a twisting swirl that seemed to compress the group through a singular hole in space and time itself, the group disappeared in an instant, horses and all.

    Potema attacked the surviving driver from the wrecked, third wagon, rag-dolling him to death like a chew toy. The last of the cult officers, the only one who did not teleport away with the Dark Priest due to his fleeing and out-of-control mount, wildly tried to regain control of his horse as it took him south from the battlefield at full speed. Nightshade followed on the wing, keeping Illyia informed as she flew. Illyia shot two full salvos of Magic Missile through Nightshade at the fleeing criminal, wounding him considerably before he figured out where the rounds were coming from and dispatching the raven with a well placed Guiding Bolt.

    Potema pounced on the last cultist, who lay pinned by his horse that was just killed by Thalolan’s Moonbeam. And just as quickly as it had started, the attack was over, and 34 cultists and 12 horses lie dead, scattered around the burning and wrecked husks of four wagons. The Dark Priest and five of the cult officers had escaped, as had a lone cultist atop an out-of-control horse. As the rage of battle quieted to the simple chirps of birds and slight rustling of wind, the Heroes chose a corpse that was less destroyed than the others, and had Karraway cast Speak with Dead upon it. They asked the animated corpse their five questions, but got little for it.

    The Heroes conferred and formulated a plan, deciding to go search the ruins the cult had just vacated in an attempt to reacquire the Dark Priest’s trail. They traveled the two day journey back to the ruins, spreading rumors of an attack on a caravan on the wagon trail as they passed through the village at the top of the main road. They parked their wagons and pack animals where Dajjal showed them the cult did, and then proceeded to the outskirts of the ruins proper.


1200, Wir, 25 Febryan, 3E1000

    To where did the Dark Priest teleport? Will they be able to regain his trail now that he knows they are after him? Can his mysterious plan be thwarted in time?

    Find out next week, on “TGC: Heroes 4 Hire!!

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Battle in Breland: Laying 'Bush
"That's like.... 12 Fireballs at our disposal!"

1800, Far, 13 Febryan, 3E1000

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    Dajjal maintained a vigil from his concealed observation position until well after midnight, before he began a sweep to reconnoiter the area around the ruins. Finding nothing out of the ordinary, he used Fly to alight atop the less-crumbled of the two watchtowers, listened for a few moments before sticking his head down the spiral stair accessing the tower top. There he saw a landing one floor down and a closed door, before the stair continued to spiral to the floors below. He snuck down to the landing, placed one of his Arcane Eye tokens associated with the Peering Mirror above the door, listened a moment to the sounds of sleeping people from the floors below, then stealthily ascended and returned to his observation blind.

    Meanwhile, Luna invisibly shadowed the Dark Priest as he organized activity amongst the Cult, until he retired for the evening. Then she explored the interior of the ruins, which remained mostly intact, and successfully mapped out the majority of it mentally. The next morning the Cult was extremely active with their lord the Dark Priest in charge, which looked to Luna and Dajjal like some sort of preparation activity.

    Several cultists were dispatched southward on horseback, and Dajjal left Luna to keep tabs on the Dark Priest while he followed the detachment from a stealthy distance. They rode south a day to the nearest village, where they split and half the contingent continued south. Dajjal stayed with the group in the first ville, where they purchased every available horse in the stables and two wagons. They then immediately gathered their purchases and returned north to the ruins, with Dajjal surreptitiously in tow. They stashed the wagons approximately half a mile short of the ruins, off the beaten path and expediently camouflaged, before bringing the gaggle of horses the rest of the way and corralling them in a paddock lashed together by their cult-mates in the meantime. A few days later, the other half of the group also returned with a small herd of horses bringing the count to 20 in the paddock, and Dajjal snuck back to where the wagons were hidden to find two more had been stashed there as well, bringing the total to four.


Wir, 18 Febryan, 3E1000

    The Cult was preparing to move a large force somewhere for something, that much was obvious. Heated discussions flew back and forth across the Earrings of Communication as the team continued it’s approach, still several days of travel away. Dajjal began working on producing several spell scrolls, as he clandestinely observed several days of preparations and loading of supplies and goods for a long travel by the Cult. To him, it appeared they were moving the whole operation out of the ruins to somewhere else.


Sar, 21 Febryan, 3E1000

    The Heroes 4 Hire had pulled within two days travel of the ruins, when the Cult completed it’s preparations and set out for parts unknown… 40 men now dressed in plain traveling leathers, the vestments of the Cult now well hidden… 20 horses either pulling wagons or bearing riders… four wagons brimming with supplies, furniture and materials. The gaggle pulled out of the ruins foregrounds slowly, plodded their way down the hidden path off the hill and out of the forest, a full day’s travel before coming to the nearest village and the main thoroughfare that followed the river south. Dajjal and Luna followed from concealment, and watch closely as the Dark Priest led his cult through the hamlet. At the south end of the ville, he guided the group off the main road and started down the wagon trail the forked off and curved to the west, out across the grassy plains along the south side of the forest, and toward the approaching Heroes.

    Once the direction of travel the cult was taking became clear, another heated discussion occurred across the Earrings, with the Team less than a day’s travel away from the approaching gaggle of cultists. An ambush tactic and location was hastily decided upon, and the Heroes quickly double timed their mounts and draft animals to get there, stash the wagons and animals a healthy distance away from the potential battle, and then arrange themselves in the tree line along the north side of the trail well before the arrival of the cult’s column of travelers. Dajjal sent Luna ahead, carrying several spell scroll containing Fireball, to fly at top speed past the column and deliver the scrolls to his compatriots at their hiding spot. Dajjal stayed in the treeline, following well behind the gaggle as not to be discovered, but close enough to be able to quickly attack when the time came.

    And so, the Heroes 4 Hire hid and Dajjal shadowed, until the group of cultists walked, rode and drove wagons up to the designated spot… the very spot the Heroes had designated for their ultimate doom.


1200, Mol, 23 Febryan, 3E1000

    What dangers await the Heroes 4 Hire on this long plunge into battle with the Dark Priest and his Cult? Will they be able to defeat him and thwart his grand scheme? Will they ever find out what it is?

    Tune in next week, on “TGC: Heroes 4 Hire!!

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Gilder to Breland: Shadowing Chaos
Tree Stride is not Transport Via Plants

1200, Far, 20 Janosh, 3E1000

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    Luna remained invisible as she tailed the Dark Priest back to his inn. Once in the privacy of his room, he spent several minutes donning and doffing the cap, recycling the illusory disguise over and over, obviously trying to ascertain why it suddenly failed in the Library. He eventually ceased, and sat on the edge of the bed for long moments lost in thought. He then took out his notebook, quickly flipping through several pages newly penned with scrawling notations.

    While Luna surveilled, Dajjal and Allendretta shared lunch and pleasant conversation at the kitchen table. Dajjal answered her questions about the Dark Priest and the Heroes 4 Hire’s experiences with him, surmised some possibilities as to his endgame, and in return asked her several related questions based on her obvious experience with ancient lore. They discussed the imprisonment of Tharizdun and the futility of the notion of a jailbreak from Pandemonium, and she dismissed outright the idea that THAT might be what the Dark Priest is ultimately seeking. Dajjal asked her about herself and her abilities with magic, and Allendretta’s guarded nature took over. She offered little more than cryptic hints, raising her sleeve to expose her forearm and showing him what he had earlier assumed were tattoos. Resembling such, he saw swirling bands of silver tracing up her arm back under the sleeve in what was a pattern of almost elvish design. She took his hand and guided his index finger over the ‘tattoo’, where he felt the streak of silver was frigidly cold and metallic, smooth when stroked in one direction and scaly when rubbed in the other.

    Allendretta asked the cook to leave the room, and with a raised eyebrow the red-haired lady complied. Allendretta offered a demonstration, her last cryptic hint, but warned that it would hurt a bit. Dajjal agreed and she took his hands across the table, one in each of hers with her elbows rested on the surface, and stared him in the eye. She glazed over and her irises disappeared, her eyes becoming silvery orbs like liquid mercury. The air around them instantly dropped dramatically in temperature, a hundred degrees at least, and fog condensed instantly right out of the air before rapidly freezing into tiny crystals of ice. Frost formed on the surfaces around them out to nearly 10 feet, and Dajjal could feel the burning, biting pangs of pain on his extremities and exposed skin, the hurt she had promised fulfilled. She held her demonstration for a few tens of seconds longer, and then released it, letting the warmth of the cozy kitchen rush back into the space around the table.

    As Dajjal shook off the extreme cold, Luna broke into his thoughts to inform him that the Dark Priest had sold his horse and was booking passage on a ship leaving tomorrow morning headed for Seggalion in the neighboring country of Florin. Dajjal commanded her to stick with him, and then used the Earring to communicate the new developments to the rest of the team. After a few moments heated discussion, he finally asked Allendretta for a highly experienced druid, to which she referred him to an acquaintance that lived in a woodland cottage a mile or so north of Tingerhof. Dajjal thanked her and departed the Library toward the druid’s house, stopping by the local DVT to grab a pile of coin to accompany him.

    Dajjal found the quaint cottage and met the druid, and amiable man in his late 50’s. He negotiated with the druid for the future casting of a Scry and several Transport Via Plants spells, in anticipation of a dire need to get the team rejoined very quickly from across the continent of Caledonia. He then returned to his room at the inn for a night’s rest after such a busy day.


Sar, 21 Janosh, 3E1000

    The next morning, the ship conveying the Dark Priest set sail for Seggalion, and Dajjal would spend the next ten days perusing titles in the Library and enjoying conversations with Allendretta and her staff. The villain landed in Seggalion just long enough to purchase passage aboard another vessel headed for Ravenmere, in the south of Breland. Luna was right with him and reporting back regularly, staying invisible for so long that the familiar was worried the effect would become permanent. Two days after the Dark Priest sailed for Ravenmere, the team arrived at the northwestern edge of the Silverwood Forest to await the Transport Via Plants Dajjal had arranged, once the Dark Priest’s destination became clear. They kept a comfortable distance back away from the forest’s edge, to respect the territory the tribe of wild elves had claimed on their first encounter.


Mol, 2 Febryan, 3E1000

    Two more days brought the Dark Priest to Ravenmere, situated in the northwestern corner of the three-way intersection of rivers known as the Suann Estuary. There Luna observed him purchase a horse and buy some basic supplies for a road trip, and then depart on the main road heading north along the river. Another hasty discussion over the earrings, and the team departed their campsite near the Silverwood and began an overland trip south into Jacari toward Breland. Dajjal gathered his things, settled up at the inn and headed to the druid he had contracted, stopping at Allendretta’s first to bid her farewell and again emphasize how much he appreciated her help. She told him to be cautious dealing with this Dark Priest, and that she would like it very much if he would come to visit her when this nasty business was settled.

    Dajjal amended the request of the druid to simply get him to as close to Ravenmere as possible. The druid said he could get him as far as Seggalion safely, as he was unfamiliar with anything farther west than Florin. A quick Transport Via Plants later, and Dajjal was booking passage from Seggalion to Ravenmere on the first available ship, literally boarding it minutes before it left port. Safely aboard for the four-day journey to Breland, he was situating his possessions in his cabin when he discovered a piece of parchment neatly folded and wax-sealed in the pocket of his cloak, the seal bearing the mark he had grown over the last days to recognize as the symbol of Allendretta’s Library. Unsure of when she could have slipped it in his pocket, he gently coaxed the seal open and read within.

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Dearest Dajjal,
    I thoroughly enjoyed meeting you and the time we spent together. So few understand what we endure as tieflings. It was a breath of fresh air to be able to share some time with someone who could relate.
    Please be careful in your endeavor to thwart your ‘Dark Priest’. Men who found cults are notoriously dangerous and cunning, and anyone this interested in rites and Tharizdun is doubly so. I require you to return and visit me again.
   
    Sincerely,
    Allendretta

    The “require” was scribed several times over the same spot, giving the otherwise beautiful penmanship an exceedingly boldface effect.


0600, Far, 6 Febryan, 3E1000

    The four-day journey couldn’t pass fast enough for Dajjal, even with the distraction of Allendretta’s note and her Houdini-like placement of it into his pocket. He got his horse and his gear off the ship as fast as he could once it was docked, and then departed Ravenmere up the northern road along the river. He pushed his mount hard in an attempt to make up for the four-day lead the Priest had on him. Eight days he pushed his horse to its limits, but the steadfast mount held through the abusive pace. The gamble paid off, and as Dajjal pulled within range to gain telepathic vision and hearing through his familiar, Luna, he eased up to match pace and not tip off his quarry.

    The Dark Priest rode through the last village at the end of the main road, and continued along the riverbank still following it northward where it entered into a forest as it climbed a hillside. Although there was no trail to be followed, the Priest seemed to be following an unseen path that he was obviously intimately familiar. They continued following the river upstream, up the wooded hillside, until he arrived just prior to dusk at a set of ancient stone ruins, lost to time and completely overgrown by the forest itself. Dajjal tied his horse up well off what he perceived to be the path and several hundred yards shy of the ruins, before he took an observation position out of sight from the ruins and their surrounds. Luna invisibly followed the villain into the ruins, where her telepathic link showed Dajjal a stronghold of cultists he recognized as the Cult of Evil Chaos… the cult he had briefly served almost two years ago. They had numbers… and they were referring to the Dark Priest as “Sire” and “Count”.

    Dajjal quietly relayed what he was seeing to the rest of the team, now passing through the heart of Jacari, and still an estimated ten days travel from where Dajjal estimated the ruins to be…

    Ten days.


1800, Far, 13 Febryan, 3E1000

    Will the team be able to rejoin with Dajjal at his hidden observation position before the Dark Priest moves again? What does he intend coming to this secret stronghold of the Cult of Evil Chaos? What will he do next?

    Find out next time, on “TGC: Heroes 4 Hire!!

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Intercept in Tingerhof: Allendretta's Library
"Shouldn't I be the one following him?"

0800, Zor, 19 Janosh, 3E1000

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    Master Kozar Ven used a Teleportation Circle to send Dajjal and his horse to the permanent circle in the compound of the Library of Allendretta, on a bluff overlooking the Gilderian coastal town of Tingerhof. Dajjal, leading the horse by the reins, stepped out of an intricately constructed stone outbuilding housing the circle, and was met by an ornately dressed tiefling woman…

…with her wand at the ready.

    Her skin was pale and freckled, her hair stark white and long, draping down her back from between two dark gray spiraling horns on her head. She was dressed in a sophisticated, high-collared dress as white as her hair, long sleeved and bespoke of culture and education. The wand stayed readied at her side, but she spoke directly, “Who are you and why are you here?”

    Dajjal quickly introduced himself, explained his relationship with Master Ven, and summarized his mission to Tingerhof without giving too many details. The tiefling woman introduced herself as Allendretta, owner and master of her grand library. She was flanked by a large man-at-arms reeking of competence and discipline, and introduced him as her bodyguard, Stagarm Woodash. She showed him around the grounds outside the towering spire, ornately gardened and with an impressive attention to detail. As they walked, she explained that her library was open to all students of magic, as long as they abide her rules: respect her library, her, the staff, and all books remain on the premises.

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    The Library sat upon a wooded, prominent hilltop overlooking Tingerhof proper, a steep, switchback footpath serving as its only approach. The spire itself rose skyward in squat, halfling architecture, the first four floors housing the Library proper, the basement and fifth floors housing Allendretta and her staff. The foyer opened to a huge colonnade staircase leading to the second level, railed balconies looking down from the upper floors. Bookshelves stuffed full ran floor to ceiling on each floor and reached from the circular exterior walls into the space like the spokes on a wagon wheel. The construction was marble and fine woods, all polished to a mirror finish. Plush carpeting and tapestries softened the interior spaces, giving the Library a warm and cozy feel, albeit decidedly academic.

    Dajjal thanked Allendretta for her time and the tour, and the departed out the wrought-iron gate and down the path into Tingerhof itself. He found an inn nearby and purchased a room, worked the innkeeper for any rumors or information regarding the Dark Priest, and then proceeded to wander the township from inn to tavern to market in a futile effort to find his quarry. Once he had given up, he returned and spent the rest of the day in the Library, searching and researching through stacks of tomes on ancient cultures, cults, rituals, and his own personal project, necromancy. As he worked his way through the list of interesting titles he compiled from her library catalogue, he discovered one title, Ancient Rites of Ancient Cults, was missing from its place on the shelf. A short search convinced him that it was not misplaced, and not currently being used by another student. Having completed his research for the day and concerned that particular book was missing, he took a moment to leave Allendretta a note:

Dearest Allendretta,
    Thank you for allowing me to utilize your library. As a fellow tiefling, I understand your hesitation to trust me; I may not be an “open book,” but I will reveal to you anything to do with my investigation here, so long as I can rely on your secrecy.
    Speaking of the investigation, in my first look at your marvelous library today, I noticed that one of your books are missing. I even took a look around to see if anyone may have taken it, but didn’t find it. And based on the rule of your library that no book shall leave I believe it my duty to notify you. Curious enough, the book in question is one that pertains to what I’ve been looking for, which gives me even more reason to tell you.
    I shall be back soon. I hope this book problem is nothing. Also I would love it if you joined me for tea tomorrow, to help break the tension a little.
   
    Dajjal

    Dajjal departed the Library and descended again into Tingerhof below, returning to the inn and settling down to a nice dinner. It wasn’t much more than an hour since his departure before he found his meal interrupted by Allendretta and her bodyguard, her posture belying frustration and impatience. “Which book?” she demanded.


1900, Zor, 19 Janosh, 3E1000

    Back to her Library, Dajjal assisted Allendretta and her staff in a systematic search, until the missing book was eventually found… conspicuously misfiled in a different section of the Library, as if to keep it from being taken by someone else. A short discussion ensued, and Dajjal showed Allendretta his Peering Mirror, asking for permission to use it to surveil the section in hopes of discovering the identity of the mischief maker. Allendretta agreed, and Dajjal placed one of the coordinating tokens on a wall, directly observing the misplaced book where it was shelved, before activating the token and turning it invisible. He showed Allendretta the mirror’s reception of the Arcane Eye token’s signal, arranged to meet her before the Library’s opening the next morning for breakfast, bid her a good evening, and departed to return to the inn for a night’s rest.


0500, Far, 20 Janosh, 3E1000

    The next morning, Dajjal hurried before sunrise up the twisting path to the wrought-iron gate, pulled the cord to the visitor’s bell and was let in by the butler, an older gentleman he had met the day before. He was escorted through the foyer and into the kitchen, where he found Allendretta sitting on a stool at the island counter, sipping tea and breakfasting on fruit and pastries, all the while chatting pleasantly with the cook. The cook was a plump and amiable human woman in her early forties, a swatch of ruddy hair peeking from beneath her chef’s hat that matched her pinkish complexion. She and Allendretta were chuckling as they shared her cooking, and they invited Dajjal to join them as he entered.

    Dajjal took the stool next to Allendretta and laid the Peering Mirror on the counter between them. Allendretta’s more reserved nature took over, and mood of the kitchen quieted from boisterous to friendly. The pastries were delicious and the tea was warm and inviting. They stayed there in the kitchen, enjoying the wares and the conversation for several hours, well past the opening of the Library for the day, until their vigil at the mirror finally produced a perpetrator.

    A sandy blonde youngster, maybe 20-something, that Dajjal had passed as he departed the Library the previous morning, still wearing the same cap, approached the bookshelf where the tome was stashed and removed it, unaware that he was being watched. He walked out of the field of view of the Peering Mirror’s token, but by then Allendretta and Dajjal had inconspicuously climbed the colonnade stair to the second floor and approached to within visual range. They nonchalantly shadowed the young man as he took the book to a study table, and took up a position on the other side of a bookshelf directly behind where he now sat. They watched as he opened a notebook and continued to scribe annotations he had obviously began the day before, reading and researching just like any other student.

    Allendretta questioned Dajjal, unsure that this was anything more nefarious than a student too lazy to return a book according to her system. Dajjal was suspicious but uncertain, so he asked if Allendretta could do something to break the metaphorical stalemate. She walked around the bookshelf examining its contents until she was standing about ten feet behind the student, surreptitiously drew her wand and made a slight flourish low near her waist, so that none but Dajjal would see. Suddenly, Dajjal felt as if he was struck blind in his mind’s eye, like he had lost touch with his patron and as if magic no longer existed in the world. Right before his eyes, however, the sandy blonde youth suddenly changed into the middle-aged Dark Priest, raven-haired and dark-eyed, and looking confused as to why his disguise disappeared. He looked around, concerned but as nonchalantly as possible, did not realize that Allendretta and an Anti-Magic Field was responsible, abandoned the tome, collected his notebook, removed the cap from his head and departed the Library as inconspicuously as possible.

    Allendretta returned to Dajjal on the other side of the bookshelf, surprised at the events that just unfolded. Dajjal thanked her for her help and prepared to shadow the Dark Priest, but was interrupted by a telepathic interjection from Luna, “Shouldn’t I be the one to follow him?” Her tone was sarcastic and patronizing as usual, but Dajjal agreed and sent her to follow the villain.

    Dajjal took out his own notebook and sat down with the tome for an extended period of time, taking copious notes over the remainder of the morning. He found the Dark Priest was researching detailed descriptions of rites associated with the Cults of The Chained God, a description of a central temple of worship and how to get into its Undercroft and ‘Black Cyst’, as well as another dog-eared page about a resurrection ritual that can bring the soul back against its will. When he felt he had exhausted the pertinent items, he joined Allendretta for lunch while Luna shadowed the Dark Priest.


1200, Far, 20 Janosh, 3E1000

    What will the Dark Priest do next now that his ruse has been discovered? Does he know that Dajjal is on his tail? Will Allendretta prove antagonist, or ally?

    Tune in next time, on “TGC: Heroes 4 Hire!!

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Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun: The Hidden Closet
"Everybody chill!"

Far, 6 Janosh, 3E1000

    The Heroes 4 Hire disassembled their base camp and moved their animals and wagons, supplies and equipment up the six-day trek along the perilous mountain trails crossing the Three Sisters to the Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun. Once there, they set up camp inside the upper level of the ziggurat, well out of sight from any avenue of approach. They laid traps and alarms along the main trail, the bridge and the ramp to the Temple, as well as the secret back entrance from the ashen glade that had facilitated the escape of Groorg The Cunning. They also set up a daily Scry to keep tabs on the “Dark Priest” and his approach.

    While waiting, the team began to search for the hidden closet mentioned in Slaggoth’s journal in earnest, which did not take them long. Dividing up and searching different rooms simultaneously, Erendriel Thalolan and Naïlo Thia quickly discovered that the two large rooms immediately north of the main staircases were a little off, dimensionally. In short, one of the two “identical” rooms was… short… by 5 feet of ‘missing space’. Searching both suspicious walls, they discovered a 2-1/2 foot section near the southern corner of the west wall in the eastern room that made a slightly different sound than the rest when the stone was rapped upon. A few moments’ examination and Illyia Baham surmised that two hands pushing in and down at shoulder height activated the trigger mechanism.

    The section of west wall, along with a corroborating section of floor, ceiling and conjoining south wall, rotated 90 o, Lazy Susan-style, carrying Illyia with the revolving door into the space beyond. He found himself in a 5′×20′ storage space filled with artworks and ornate furniture, all rotted away from the millennia in the dank and dark. Outside, the rest of the party watched as identical surfaces rotated back into position on their side of the revolving door, returning the section of walls, floor and ceiling to concealment. Smedley “Deadly” Hampton followed him in the same way he had observed, and Illyia observed the other side of the mechanism during its action and realized that there was yet another chamber beyond the wall to the south.

    The team cycled their way through the revolving secret door until they had gathered in the southern secret chamber, a 20’ square with doors on the left and right and a brass-rung ladder descending into a darkened shaft out of sight. Beyond the side doors, they found closets housing long robes of purple, made of a strange material, with the inverted double ziggurat embroidered into the chest. The robes were long enough to hang beyond the the length of the longest arm, and were affixed with a large pointed hood with eye slits that fully covered the head. Along with the robes, two iron thurbiles and four iron torches were accompanied by two iron containers, one filled with 18 black spheres of an unknown incense and the other with 24 black cones shaped to match a recess in the torches. They also found peepholes looking out into the main hallways as well as secret doors leading out into the rectory.

Black_Cyst_Robes.png

    They conferred with Slaggoth’s journal, which was notably problematic. Slaggoth, being a consummate researcher, wrote her journal in notations and bullet-reminders, not in an overly explanatory narrative format that would have been much more helpful. What they were able to glean were a few hints and notations: the chosen go south; oh, its a button; wail, time is imperative, 3h; gray mist needs incense; unbelievably cold; needle-rock everywhere; DO NOT TEAR THE ROBES! The party each donned a robe, loaded cones in the torches and spheres in the thurbiles, and descended 333 rungs down the 333’ to the Undertemple. The temperature in the Undertemple was significantly below freezing, however, the robes seemed to make the conditions bearable. The rung-ladder deposited them into a southerly corridor smoothly hewn out of the black stone, and they walked a short distance into a small, octagonal, four-way intersection of hallways.

    The Heroes compulsively looked up at the ceiling as it disappeared into a swirling purple vapor. Floating in the mist three sets of unfamiliar, black runes sequentially came into focus, but strangely they instantly understood them. “Those I find unfit I place on my Left,” read the first. “Those that succeed I place on my right,” said the second. “The Chosen may come before me,” scripted the last. Recognizing a reference from Slaggoth’s journal, namely that ‘the chosen go south’, the team proceeded down the southern corridor a short distance and into a large octagonal room, 40’ across and domed just as high. Carved in the center of each wall, except the north wall where the corridor entered, there was the same characteristic inverted double ziggurat. This time, though, there was a slight variation in it’s design, and the Heroes recognized that they had seen this symbol before. Deep in the mines of [[Danger at Darkshelf Quarry: Shock and Awe | Darkshelf Quarry]], the Heroes 4 Hire had discovered and fought an enclave of priests from the cult of the ‘Elder Eye’. Their worship centered around a great obsidian obelisk veined in the same mauve and purple, and affixed on each of the four sides with this same, inverted, double pyramid symbol but with the addition of a single eye staring from the symbol’s center. The motif of the dark stone veined with purple streaks that seem to shift and move when not directly observed, also was seen before… all the way back to the Shrine of Evil Chaos in the caves north of Hellespont.

    Revelations of connections aside, the party investigated the room further, finding nothing else of interest, and then returned to Slaggoth’s journal for potential clues. Thia decided to give “oh, it’s a button” a try, and reached over to one of the symbols on the wall and gave it a push. In the center of the room, a purple glow appeared and quickly grew to encompass a 10’ diameter circle, stayed for six seconds, and then winked out. A repeated push repeated the process. Illyia decided to test the purple glow by stepping into it while it remained, and was nearly frozen stiff for his troubles. Thalolan experimented by standing in the middle of the spot before someone pushed a symbol, and suffered the same result when the event was activated.

    Again the Heroes returned to Slaggoth’s journal to look for hints and clues. Previously, a crescent-shaped doodle with the word ‘wail’ carelessly scribbled underneath it in the margin of a page was thought to be a expedient sketch of a waning moon, and a reference to lupine howling. However, on closer examination, it was decided that the doodle could be a horn of some type, and the ‘wail’ scribbled underneath either a title or a suggested action. Either way, it became abundantly obvious they were missing a key to the puzzle… as well as clue, a very powerful clue, as to what the “Dark Priest” took off of Slaggoth’s mummy back in Rybalka. The team gave up on this particular endeavor, and returned to the surface to await their quarry.

    After a fortnight, the daily Scry paid off. During the ten minutes of observation, Lt. Diplo Norixius watched the “Dark Priest” ride into a town, a well-sized town, and approach the announcement board installed in the center of the square. From the items posted on the board, Diplo got a name… Tingerhof! Tingerhof was a coastal city in the country of Gilder, far in the south of the continent. The weeks and weeks of observation, thinking the “Dark Priest” was approaching the Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun, were for naught, it appeared. Since his last known location in St. Aurelius, near Five Rivers, the priest had turned south now that he was on the western side of Morytania, and the length of time they had observed nothing but grasslands and occasional forests now made sense. But why, when he went to all the trouble of finding out about the Temple and raiding Slaggoth’s research and artifacts, was he now diverting to a new city?

    And, they were now over a thousand miles away from him. The team had been keeping the rest of the Heroes 4 Hire, namely Dajjal, Calyx Siannodel and Greves, updated regularly via their Earrings of Communication, and it was Dajjal that came to their rescue. After a heated discussion of courses of action, it was agreed that Dajjal would get to Tingerhof as fast as he could and surreptitiously tail the “Dark Priest”, to keep tabs on his whereabouts and ascertain what he was up to.

    Dajjal grabbed his gear and went to see Master Kozar Ven. After describing his needs, Master Ven took the rest of the day to make some arrangements, and the next morning used a Teleportation Circle to send Dajjal and his horse to the permanent circle in the compound of the Library of Allendretta, on a bluff overlooking Tingerhof. Dajjal, leading the horse by the reins, stepped out of an intricately constructed stone outbuilding housing the circle, and was met by an ornately dressed tiefling woman…

…and her wand at the ready.


0800, Zor, 19 Janosh, 3E1000

    What motivation drove the “Dark Priest” to turn south and head to the port city of Tingerhof in the land of Gilder? What will Dajjal discover as he tails the villain? Where will the Heroes finally meet their target for an epic final showdown?

    Find out next time, on “TGC: Heroes 4 Hire!!

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