The Gaelean Chronicles: Heroes 4 Hire

BattleSystem: Something Different
Test Drive your very own Army!

A Note from DM Mike

    To all reading these words, Greetings!!

    Due to various competing scheduling conflicts, two-thirds of the players were not able to make Sunday’s regularly scheduled game. I had downloaded a copy of the mass-combat BattleSystem from Unearthed Arcana quite awhile ago and had been itching to give it a whirl. Ergo, those that could make it marshaled their armies and played a variation of a multi-point King-Of-The-Hill battle, red versus blue style!

    The battlefield was a simple layout, mostly so all the new users of BattleSystem could learn as they play… DM included. An impassable river bisected mid-field and spanned by two bridges equidistant near the edges of the map. Three ancient stone pillars, covered in glowing Elvish runes, were laid out on a massive triangle on each side of the river (six total)… nearly a hundred feet apart from each other and well away from the river and bridges. Otherwise, the terrain was clear grassland.

    Each runestone pillar was worth 3 points, while in the sole possession of one army. Possession was counted as one stand on or adjacent to the grid containing the runestone and uncontested by another army. To win, the first army to end the round with 10 or more points achieved tactical victory.

    In a little more than a seven minute battle, the blue army had tiny numerical advantage over the red army at 10 stands to 9 stands, but the red army moved quickly and captured five of the six runestone objectives to win the battle.



    See you in three weeks!!

Raid in Rybalka: Jira and The Spider King
Slaggoth's Tomb

0700, Mol, 2 Octos, 3E999

    The Heroes 4 Hire awoke to a magnificent breakfast table prepared for them by Alyn Quinn and the staff downstairs in the Heroes’ Haven, in anticipation of their departure on their next adventure. The team had decided to investigate the rumor of the dead wandering the swamplands surrounding the small village of Rybalka, in the northeastern part of Eridae. Outside, the smith had their armor, weapons and gear cleaned, sharpened, repaired and ready for action, while the stablemaster prepared the horses and wagon for the journey. The staff stocked the wagon well, and Potema and Rumblebelly patiently wandered the compound waiting to depart. The party: Dajjal, Smedley Hampton, Illyia Baham, Adept Karraway, Lieutenant Diplo Norixius, Naïlo Thia, Ryoun Rodri, Luna, Nightshade, Potema and Rumblebelly. Erendriel Thalolan accompanied them to guard the wagon, horses and campsites as they adventured.

Zol, 9 Octos, 3E999

    It was an eight-day wagon ride to get to the swampland fishing village of Rybalka. The Heroes made camp on the north edge of town the evening they arrived, and then explored the hamlet the next day. Dajjal found a small but fairly well appointed library, and struck up conversation with the librarian, Sarla Bun. Diplo spent the day cooking in the kitchens of first one inn (the Bugg Inn) and then the other (Rybalka Lodge), after having unintentionally insulted the cooking skills of the first, a pretty gnome lady named Jadyn Ivylock. He would later return with a peace offering of his own specialty dessert, which Jadyn begrudgingly accepted and forgave him. Illyia and Smedley worked the tavern locals for information, while Thia, Thalolan and Karraway walked out to the lumber mill to talk to the workers.

    On the way out to the mill, they passed a gaggle of children of various ages, seven to twelve, who abandoned their game of hide-and-seek to follow the strangers and their giant pet wolf… albeit at a distance. Thia and Karraway talked to the mill foreman and several of the workers about the rumors of the walking dead, and after gathering stories they headed back into town to find the others. Thia approached the throng of kids and chatted with them, allowing them to pet Potema with whom they were enamored. She noticed one particularly shy seven-year old girl in a dirty green dress and no shoes, with straight, raven black hair cut level at her shoulders. She did not speak, but stood at Potema’s ear whispering as she petted. She asked Potema if she could speak like the other animals, and Thia mentally prompted Potema to give the child a positive ‘woof’ in response. The children squealed excitedly, and the eldest thanked Thia for allowing them to pet Potema, and the group then ran off down the lane to resume their game. The young one with the raven black hair trailed behind her playmates, still fascinated with Potema.

    The Heroes gathered back at their camp that evening and shared notes of what they had uncovered. In short, there was a repeating story of folks seeing zombie-like corpses walking through the swamp, although rarely. The stories all described them as only being one or two in numbers, and all heading in the same direction as if traveling with a purpose. The zombies also paid no attention to the living or each other, just continuously shuffling in the same direction. And that direction was always, “…to the northwest of the village.”

Wir, 11 Octos, 3E999

    The next morning the Heroes 4 Hire headed northwest from their campsite on the north edge of Rybalka and out into the swamp. They traveled a few miles before Thia and Smedley noticed they had a shadow following them in the form of the raven-haired youngster in the green dress. Thia and Potema slowly started to hang back behind the group, and it became obvious the girl was following Potema. Thia had Potema stop and keep the girl’s attention, while Thia circled through the swamp behind the girl and said hello… which brought a squealing dash back towards town.

    As the party explored, they eventually spotted two walking corpses shuffling with a purpose toward a point in the distance to the northwest of town. They surreptitiously followed the zombies into a cave in a medium hill almost five miles from Rybalka. As they followed the zombies in, they smelled the odors of the den of a cave bear, and slowed to proceed more cautiously, but sent the raven familiars ahead to tail the corpses. They slipped past the branch of the cave with the bear, and proceeded through several chambers filled with stalactites, stalagmites, rocks, dirt, and one with a huge pile of bones. The ravens followed the zombies from a distance, trying to keep from being spotted, but as the passageway turned a sharp corner and opened into a gigantic chamber holding a chasm, the zombies were gone.

    The team rejoined on the ravens at the chasm, where they found an ancient rope-bridge that was remarkably well-maintained. As they were discussing the disappearing zombies, a breathy, otherworldly voice echoed to them from the darkness above, “Who has come to visit in my bedchamber?” They looked up, and a gargantuan spider, nearly 50’ long, climbed down into view. The spider had the head of a silvered axe sticking out of its carapace just behind its cluster of eyes, a memento of a bygone battle, which gave the appearance of a crown. Terrified of the possibility of fighting this behemoth, the Heroes engaged the giant spider in conversation and found over nearly half-an-hour of talking that he was actually quite friendly.

    The spider had been here for over a millennia, originally a normal-sized pet of the wizard, Slaggoth, an academic researcher of necromancy. After her internment, the latent power of her magic suffused her tomb and caused the spider to grow in size and intellect, until it eventually became self-aware and sentient. The magic also removed the spider’s need for sustenance as well as its hunger, so the beast stopped hunting as it continued to grow. The spider poured over Slaggoth’s tomes, and itself is now a repository of her research. It guards her tomb against those who would take her knowledge for themselves, convinced it would be for evil purposes, but will allow those who wish to respectfully tour her tomb passage. He stipulates that tourist may take one trinket as a souvenir, but all books and tomes must remain in the tomb.

    The giant spider also told them of the young girl from the village, Jira, who found her way into the caves and this chasm-chamber, and befriended him. She introduced herself, but when he said he had no name, she immediately named him Krekklefeets, The Spider King… the name for the sound his feet make of the rocky surface of the chasm cavern, and the title for the silvery axe that is his crown. When Krekklefeets described Jira, the party realized he was referring to the raven-haired seven-year-old who had been shadowing them. The Heroes thanked The Spider King and agreed to his conditions for access to the tomb, and then proceeded across the bridge. Except for Thia, who decided to remain with Krekklefeets and talk, while keeping Potema and Rumblebelly with her on this side of the chasm. During her conversations, Krekklefeets revealed that a dark stranger had visited several months ago that put The Spider King on edge, but he obeyed the rules so Krekklefeets allowed him access.

    The Heroes 4 Hire opened the doors to the tomb and went inside, wary of Krekklefeets warnings of traps set by those who originally built Slaggoth’s tomb to protect her valuable against graverobbers… a funny fact that Krekklefeets pointed out, that Slaggoth cared nothing for material wealth and would have objected to being buried with all her worldly possessions. Ergo, why he would let those that respectfully toured the tomb take any souvenir except books. They avoided several pitfalls, accidentally tripped one but managed to avoid any real damage. They found several antechambers, a prep room for internment, and a room with four people in glass containers in some form of suspended animation… who Krekklefeets guessed, when asked, would be Slaggoth’s female apprentice, Mertegram, and Slaggoth’s three (!!!) male consorts, Marco, Higgins and Ogam. Diplo smashed open one of the glass cases, waking the consort named Higgins to ask him some questions about Slaggoth and the tomb. Higgins, once roused beyond grogginess, was happy to answer the team’s questions as best he knew. He told them of Slaggoth’s ‘academic only’ interest in necromancy and that her laboratory and library lie in “The Horizontal Tower” she had constructed near his village high in the mountains of Etra, a country to the north of Eridae. He also agreed to show them the way to her tower, and they concluded he was over 1300 years old… but didn’t look a day over 30.

    Farther into the tomb complex, the Heroes 4 Hire came upon an octagonal room with identical mirrors on each of the eight walls. In the center, a small, circular stone dais raised one step up out of the floor, and was encircled on its edge by mystical runes carved into the stone. They closed the entrance door (in the north wall, which had the mirror on the back), and noticed the mirrors reflected everything in the room except them. Confident they were not all suddenly vampires, Illyia stepped up into the raised stone circle, and suddenly his reflection appeared in all eight mirrors… except, that each mirror showed him at a different stage of life. The west wall had him as a fetus, northwest a baby, north a young child, northeast an adolescent, east a young adult, southeast a middle aged Illyia, south an elderly elf and the southwest a rotting corpse. All the reflections moved as he did, true mirror reflections of Illyia’s movements.

    When he stepped off the stone circle, the reflections disappeared. When he returned, they returned. He noticed that two of his reflections were not perfect in their movements; the north (young child) and the southeast (middle aged) reflections would not exactly hold his gaze when he stared at them in the eyes. The team discussed several options to solve the puzzle, remembering what Krekklefeets had told them of Slaggoth’s love of puzzles and tests of character. Illyia, however, also remembered the riddle passed to them by the statue that Krekklefeets had directed them to before they entered the tomb:

“Turn not from your death; embrace it and you will have what you seek.”

    He turned to face the rotting corpse reflection of himself, held its gaze as he descended the stone circle and crossed to that mirror. The other seven reflections disappeared, but the rotting corpses remained, holding Illyia’s gaze and perfectly reflecting his movements. Illyia raised his arms to hug the corpse, but when his arms touched the mirror, the corpse disappeared. Across the room, on the southeast wall with the middle aged reflection that wouldn’t make eye contact, the mirror slid to the side and a latch popped open a secret door in the stone behind.

    The secret door led to the burial chamber of Slaggoth, a stone sarcophagus set on a two-step dais. The dais was beset on each side by three stone columns with statues of skeletons standing guard carved in the rock. The sarcophagus showed signs of tampering, scratch marks along the lid and sides like someone had slid it open with use of a crowbar. A quick search of the room revealed a secret door in the southwestern corner, but it took Illyia’s Wand of Opening to convince it to open for them. They opened the sarcophagus to investigate, and immediately the six stone skeletal statues sprang to life and attacked. Six on six, the Heroes manned up one-on-one with the Animated Statues, and quickly smashed them to bits without taking a hit.

    Inside the sarcophagus they found Slaggoth’s well-preserved mummified corpse. Underneath they found a hidden compartment that held her spellbook, filled with every necromancy spell known and a few unknown, as well as a switch that, when activated, unlatched the secret door Illyia had just forced open magically. Closer examination of the mummy found a delicate gold chain around her neck, outside of the wrapping, that had snapped when an unknown item was pulled from it.

    Inside the room beyond the next secret door had the remains of Slaggoth’s wealth: piles of coins of all denominations, gems, casks later identified as Elven Sun Wine, a cursed cloak of madness, a magic onyx ring, two magical staves, seven ornamental staves, a vase, a slightly magical statue of ‘happiness’, a Wand of Cold, some exquisite gowns, some exquisite furniture and a bejeweled skull. The room also housed twelve more of her tomes and journals of her research. The Heroes perused and identified everything, and then each chose a ‘non-book’ souvenir and departed, sure that the “Dark Priest” they sought had been there already, had taken something off the mummy, and was headed toward Slaggoth’s Horizontal Tower next… and had a four-to-six month head start.

1800, Wir, 11 Octos, 3E999

    What did the “Dark Priest” take from the Hidden Tomb of Slaggoth? What is his aim? And what dangers and discoveries await the Heroes 4 Hire at the Horizontal Tower?

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

Downtime: The Farmer's Daughter

1400, Zol, 17 Jo, 3E999

    With the Aerie of the Slave Lords and Suderham destroyed by volcanic eruption behind them, the Heroes 4 Hire and their refugees descended the twisting, narrow trail back into foreboding mists of the Drakansgreb Mountains and Morytania at large. The wagons and horses carried them all the three and a half day journey back to Highport, where Illyia Baham used his Sending Token to inform The Black Lagoon of their arrival. The ship docked and boarded them and the refugees, and then sailed the eight day trek back to Darkshelf.

Sar, 28 Jo, 3E999

    The Black Lagoon arrived in Darkshelf late in the evening, only to find the small hamlet in the midst of a thriving festival. As the Heroes disembarked with the refugees from the Aerie, they were met by Sergeant Garrett Dukrum and Lord Neistor who reminded them that it was, in fact, the first night of Midsummer’s Festival. Neistor took custody of the refugees, and the team plus the Lagoon Company checked into the Highmoor Inn. Tired from the long journey and harrowing experience, they ate, bathed and slept for the evening.

    The next morning, they met with Neistor in his offices, where they collected their fees from the contract and discussed the disposition of the refugees. Neistor took it upon himself to personally see to the repatriation and resettlement, as appropriate. Neistor conveyed His Majesty Aurelius von Heny’s, King of Valenar, personal gratitude for their actions destroying the Slave Lords’ network, and gave them a letter from the King extending an open invitation to visit the royal palace in the capital city of Regallis as his personal guests at their leisure. The Heroes 4 Hire spent the rest of the day enjoying the daytime festival activities on into the raucous nighttime party to conclude the second day of Midsummer’s.

    Late in the afternoon, Dajjal met a lovely young lady named Reshen Kihala who showed great interest in him. They spent several hours of the festival in a torrid, whirlwind romance; however, when her father, a farmer in Darkshelf named Turus, discovered them, he ran Dajjal off with threats of the town guard peppered with threats of physical violence. While Dajjal had thoroughly enjoyed the farmer’s daughter’s attention, he politely excused himself in an effort to avoid any confrontations in the village into which they had worked so hard to ingratiate themselves. As he walked away, he could hear the farmer reading his daughter the metaphorical riot act.

    Later in the evening during the festival’s revelry, Lt. Diplo Norixius also met a lovely young lady named Reshen Kihala who showed great interest in him. They spent several hours of the evening in a torrid, whirlwind romance; however, when her father, a farmer in Darkshelf named Turus, discovered them, he ran Diplo off with threats of the town guard peppered with threats of physical violence. While Diplo had thoroughly enjoyed the attentions of the farmer’s daughter, he politely excused himself in an effort to avoid any confrontations in the village into which they had worked so hard to ingratiate themselves. As he walked away, he could hear the farmer reading his daughter the metaphorical riot act.

    Meanwhile, the rest of the party… partied, blissfully unaware of the conquests of the Farmer’s Daughter, Reshen Kihala. Smedley Hampton got extremely drunk and disorderly, and the Darkshelf Guard moved in to arrest him. Lord Neistor intervened, and fined Smedley 10 gp on the spot to avoid putting a Hero in jail for night. The next morning, the team reboarded The Black Lagoon to sail the remaining two and a half days back to Anchorhead.

1200, Wir, 4 Hili, 3E999

    The Heroes 4 Hire arrived around noon. Illyia, Dajjal, Naïlo Thia, Smedley, Ryoun Rodri and Karraway rented rooms at the Onyx Fountain Inn for the length of their stay, and then those that were eligible informed their individual masters of their request for advancement training. Dajjal found Pelen Moran, the eccentric tinkerer in the Locksmith Square ward, and convinced him to train him in Alchemy. Diplo took the horse and the wagon back to Half Point, informed Erendriel Thalolan of Thia’s return to Anchorhead, and then continued on horseback the rest of the way to Hellespont to continue to train Cooking with Mrs. Greentree at the River Bend Inn. Alton Beeblebrox returned to working at Madame Woo’s House of Woo, immediately having his time completely consumed by the Lormarche’s wife, the voracious Madame’ Vedetta Newman.

    Thalolan and Potema joined Thia in Anchorhead the next day as she began training with a Great Druid from the Forum Arcanus.

Wir, 25 Hili, 3E999

    The three weeks of advancement training was complete, and most of the team returned to their new homestead at Half Point. Thia and Thalolan remained in Anchorhead researching demons with Emen Benniel at the Chapterhouse and at the Forum Arcanus. Ryoun temporarily went back to teaching at the Harbormaster’s House, and Dajjal continued learning Alchemy from Pelen Moran. Back in Half Point, Illyia taught Smedley the finer arts of using Thieves’ Tools, and Karraway and Calyx Siannodel spent their time tending to the new guild hall, trading post, inn and staff with Alyn Quinn. Greves and Beeblebrox prepared for a trip to inspect and take possession of the mine near Hardby, Valenar, the deed to which had been recovered from the corpse of the Slave Lord and Illusionist, Lamonsten.

Far, 27 Hili, 3E999

    Greves and Beeblebrox departed on horses for Valenar. They traveled overland first to the capital city of Regallis, where they spent a few days filing the deed and title change for the property with the Ministerial Staff of the Kingdom of Valenar. The faked signature of Lamonsten, forged by Illyia with ease, raised not an eyebrow, and the transaction was completed without a hitch. They next rode several days to get to Hardby, where they spent six days inspecting the Heroes 4 Hire’s new mine, and using Fimbric to ‘ring’ out new veins hiding in the otherwise nearly exhausted tunnels. Before they were done, they had discovered new veins of silver and platinum.

    The two appointed a temporary business manager for the mine, leaving word that they would send a permanent steward for the mining operation at a later date. They returned to Half Point overland and told the rest of the Company of the successes they had found on the trip. The entire round trip took a month, returning them home at the end of Aufgasta.

Far, 6 Simbre, 3E999

    The Heroes 4 Hire received a visitor in the form of Master Kozar Ven, from the Falconer’s Spire in Anchorhead. He rode up to Half Point to personally deliver the custom Earrings of Communication the team had commissioned more than nine months ago. Master Ven stayed the evening visiting with the Heroes, and then returned to Anchorhead the next morning.

Sar, 28 Simbre, 3E999

    In the three months since escaping the Slave Lords’ Aerie, several of the group were now equipped with new skills and abilities within their disciplines, some had achieved proficiency with a new set of tools, one gained new insight from exhaustive research and two others began their training in other sets of tools,. They had sold off a number of items they had recovered on their missions; the E-bay Trading Post was stocked fully, and it and the Blind Boggle Inn were regularly turning a tidy profit. The Company coffers were brimming with funds. The new guild formed by the Company was beginning to attract a lot of interest.

    During the months of training and other activities, the members also heard several rumors while staying in Achorhead:

  • The Lormarche’s wife is having a regular affair with an unknown lover.
  • The Darkmaiden’s Dance is looking to hire additional crew.
  • Master Ven and an unknown partner have commissioned a series of expeditions to a mysterious land described only in an old journal.
  • The Falconer’s Spire is trapped and warded against trespass and theft. No one has successfully penetrated Master Ven’s defenses… and lived.
  • The dead wander the swamplands surrounding the village of Rybalka.

    With the arrival of the Autumnal Equinox Festival, the Heroes 4 Hire gathered from all their various downtime ventures at Half Point to celebrate together, and begin the next adventure.

Sul, 1 Octos, 3E999

    What new adventure with the Heroes 4 Hire pursue next?

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

In the Dungeons of the Slave Lords: Eruption!!
"We had BETTER get our stuff back." ------ {DM Mike laughs maniacally}

0130, Far, 13 Jo, 3E999

    With the defeated Slave Lords looted and a short rest completed, Illyia Baham borrowed the Immovable 10’ Pole from Lt. Diplo Norixius and proceeded up the spiral staircase, where he found the door at the top that presumably led to the Slave Lord’s stronghold above. He slid the pole through handle and against the frame, activated it and effectively barred the door permanently. With their ‘rear’ effectively guarded, the party proceeded out the entrance hallway to the Slave Lords’ Throne Room, immediately catching themselves in the gas trap that had been prepared for their anticipated approach. Stone slabs slid down in front and behind the group, trapping them in an airtight section of hallway, shortly followed by a glass vial falling from a small chute and shattering at their feet. The enclosed space quickly filled with a sickly sweet smelling green gas, and the Heroes 4 Hire started dropping unconscious like proverbial flies.

    Naïlo Thia managed to catch and hold her breath before she got a lung full of the gas, ran over to the collapsing Illyia and pulled the Ring of Dimension Door from his finger. Having previously traveled with Illyia by way of the ring, she slipped it on, closed her eyes and concentrated on the hallway they were heading down, at least 20’ past the where the front stone slab slid down. In her head, the world seemed to pinch down, like a hyper-compressed sneeze, and then in an instant she was crouched on the floor of the hallway, exactly 20’ beyond the slab where she imagined. She looked around the hallway for a few moments near the slab, looking for any controls for the trap, and not finding any decided they were most likely on the other side in the Throne Room. She snuck her way down the tunnel to circle the long way around to the secret passage that led them to the Slave Lords, and it opened into a massive cavern that extended well out of the range of her Darkvision, filled with a vast lake and a small, sandy shoreline hugging the east wall heading south. Near the end of the passageway, she saw two large holes in the ground surrounded by slither-tracks in the sand, and out of one of them came a giant constrictor snake, apparently unaware she was there, heading for the water’s edge. She drew an Arrow of Slumber, fired and put the giant snake to sleep. The noise attracted the second out of the other hole, and she repeated the process to put it to sleep as well.

    Thia continued south along the shoreline, and entered an area where large quantities of seaweed-like aquatic vegetation had washed up on the sand. A large mound of the plants started slowly moving toward her, and she stopped and fired an arrow into it. The mound then stood up into a vaguely humanoid shape, and continued its slow progression toward her. Thia kept firing as she retreated until the Shambling Mound advanced to her, and then used her Twin Swords +1 to slice and dice the shambling mound to pieces. She climbed over its heap to the depression where it started and found its few treasures, namely a Potion of Greater Healing, which she took immediately to heal the damage taken from the shambling mound’s slam attacks, Gloves of Thievery and a Shortsword +2.

    At the southern end of the shoreline, nestled among various stalagmites, Thia found another well-engineered hallway and proceeded stealthily down it. The moisture from the great lake cavern continued down the hall, but eventually turned into a clear, viscous slime that she hadn’t seen before. It had a slightly acidic scent to her sensitive nose, developed through years of running with her wolf pack in the forests. The passage turn to the west and opened into a 20′×30′ room, the passage continuing on out the other end. Mysteriously, the trail of slime stopped abruptly 10’ into the chamber from her, and she noticed the dry floor beyond was discolored slightly compared to the rest of the stone around it. She used the point of her sword to tap along the area of discoloration, and discovered the 10′×20′ rectangle of floor in front of the opposite hall entrance was a tilt-floor trap, with the pivot point along the centerline so it could swing either way. When she pushed it open with her sword, it bounced several time off something squishy below, and after the third or fourth time the two Gelatinous Cubes decided they had had enough and began oozing out to attack. Thia immediately retreated back into the hallway whence she came, firing rapidly with her bow and giving ground to avoid the cubes closing with her. First one and then the other fell to her arrows before they could close the distance. In the pit below the floor where they were hiding, she found a Longsword +2, a suit of Chain Mail +1 and an Ioun Stone of Protection.

    She managed to stash the loot in the large chamber of her Quiver of Ehlonna, and continued on shortly coming out one of the doors in the minotaur’s lair, and as she crossed passed the minotaur’s dead corpse, she heard voices coming from down the hallway toward where the electrified door to the secret passage was. She snuck up to the corner and peered down, observing a large group of Suderham troops and a few individuals she assumed were some of the remaining Slave Lords, organizing security and discussing why they couldn’t get through the door to the stairs, the alarm alerting that the gas trap had been sprung, and what could be going on. While she was surreptitiously observing, a guard spotted her watching them, yelled an alarm, and several began to pursue. She retreated at full dash back the way she came, all the way to the great lake cavern and hid among the stalagmites at the southern shore.

    Thia waited what seemed like forever, and no one came. She eventually stuck her nose out, snuck back down the hall past the gelatinous cubes and into the minotaur lair. She heard little, but returned to the corner where she had earlier been spotted, to find that two guards were posted just outside the electrified door, warily engaged in quiet small talk as they stood sentry. She watched unnoticed for long minutes, until a larger group of troops led by a terrifying half-orc warrior came back out of the electrified door. The half-orc organized a search and ordered the group to split up and search the labrynth and the passages all the way back to the Throne Room, to find the female elf they saw earlier and capture her. Thia started at hearing this, ran back to the great lake chamber heading toward the hallway with the gas trap. As she ran up the shoreline, another large group of Suderham guard led by an all-too-capable-looking female Drow appeared out of the very passageway she was heading toward, held torches in front of the holes where the giant constrictor snakes lived, and began searching along the shoreline heading south… toward her.

    Both escape routes cut off, Thia returned to her hiding place among the stalagmites in a near panic. The half-orc and his search party came out of the southern passageway, and met with the Drow and her search party from the northern passageway. They talked a moment, about the female elf that had to be hiding nearby, and began searching around the stalagmites. Being closed in upon, Thia made a desperate dive into the lake, with the half-orc on her heels and diving in after her. He grappled her in the water and a struggle ensued, where he managed to smack her brutally in the temple with a blackjack. She stayed conscious and concentrated on the Slave Lords’ Throne Room, just in front of the passage where the gas trap was, and activated Illyia’s ring once more to Dimension Door right out of his grasp. The world seemed to squeeze in on her again, and a moment later she was standing in the exact spot she had seen in her mind, in the Throne Room 10’ in front of the passage to the gas trap. She also found herself standing in among a group of nearly 30 surprised Suderham guards, and male human wizard and an attractive female human rogue. Both Thia and the guards and Slave Lords looked at each other dumbfounded for a moment, and then the wizard yelled, “That’s her! Get Her!!” Thia attempted to run, but she quickly found herself grappled to the floor by overwhelming force and beaten unconscious.

Mol, 16 Jo, 3E999

    The next days were a blur of drug-induced sedation and brutality. The Heroes 4 Hire found themselves in prison cages in an unknown dungeon, naked except for a nasty, filthy loincloth barely capable of covering their genitalia. They were barely fed. They were beaten, drugged and interrogated. They were deliberately deprived of sleep and watched jealously to prevent praying or preparation of any magics. At the end of the third day of their incarceration, a tremor shook the dungeon, shortly after which the guards returned in force with the priest from the Temple of the Earth Dragon.

    “You have violated the sanctity of the Aerie and Suderham, and murdered several of the Nine. The Earth Dragon has spoken! He is hungry, and the time has come to feed you to him, as is our sacred custom. O Miscreants, now you shall pay for the havoc you have wrought and your crimes against our Lords! Guards, subdue them with the ‘Smoke of the Little Death’.” The priest and the guards then sealed the chamber behind them, a small opening in the door through which emerged a hose, spewing the green gas. In moments, the Heroes were again unconscious.

0900, Zol, 17 Jo, 3E999

    The Heroes 4 Hire awoke in total darkness. Those with Darkvision saw that all of them were present, still naked but for their loincloths, in a roughly 20’ natural cavern with four exits, whose ceiling was higher than could be discerned with sight. They took a few moments to check themselves for injuries, and other than some bumps and bruises from being tossed in wherever-they-were, they found none. Dajjal used Prestidigitation to provide some light for those who needed it, and Ryoun Rodri used his Weapon Bond skill to call his Rapier +1 and the Sword of Lyons to himself. Sitting on the floor of the cavern with them was a cloth scroll tube, which they opened and found a strange variety and selection of spell scrolls inside, 11 in total. Dajjal and Illyia summoned their familiars to them, and Illyia immediately sat down in the middle of the cavern and sent Nightshade successively down each corridor to reconnoiter the entire complex. Within a few minutes, Illyia had seen every nook and cranny and passage in the natural caves they now found themselves in, including three possible exits: a ‘bat cave’ across a large chasm, a rock chimney inhabited by a Giant Trapdoor Spider across a slightly smaller chasm, and a branch of the tunnels that descend beneath water that showed obvious wave-action, indicating a tube to the outside.

    The entire network of passages were natural rock crevices, barely 5’ wide and often stooped short. There were several chambers distributed throughout: a small lair of Kobolds, a huge village of Myconids, a pool with small shellfish and cave fish, clusters of huge mushrooms standing as tall as 9’ and thick as trees, a patch of roots from a tree above, an ancient Will-o’-Wisp, a vein of flint and a vein of coal, a colony of giant ants across another large chasm with a bridge made completely of dead ant-carcasses, some stalactites and stalagmites and some giant fire beetles. As Nightshade returned to the group, an intense but short-lived tremor rocked the cavern, dumping dust and a few pieces of rock down on the party. Sensing that time was of the utmost, Illyia recounted what he had seen via Nightshade and the team decided on grabbing the tree roots as makeshift rope and using the trapdoor spider’s rock chimney as their escape route.

    With tremors spurring them on, the party sprinted along the twisting tunnels and retrieved the tree roots, acquiring three 10’ pieces plenty thick and strong enough to hold the group. On their way by, Diplo picked up a femur bone from some large humanoid, perhaps an Ogre, that was lying on the passage floor, any flesh long since decayed away. They then ran back through the central chamber and out the other side, passing through the chamber with the clear pool and all the cave fish and mussels, turned right and continued as another tremor dumped more rock and dirt on them. They came to a tight switchback in the tunnel, widening slightly into a narrow chamber with some stalagmites. As they attempted to dash by, a Roper revealed itself and attacked them. An intense battle ensued, where the half-grown roper entangled half the party with its tendrils and began reeling them in, managing to bite Diplo and Illyia before the rest of the Heroes killed it. The team then took enough time to cut the roper up, harvesting six 20’ long tendrils that would make extremely strong ropes, as well as finding three large gems in its gizzard.

    Another tremor rocked the cavern as they sprinted to the chasm obstructing their path to the rock chimney. They quickly lashed something of a rope bridge, perhaps more like a rope ladder, and then used a Jump scroll to allow Diplo to leap to the other side of the 20’ wide chasm with one end. They held the ends fast, as the rest of the team crossed one at a time. Ryoun stayed last to hold the near end, and then held on to the contraption and swung down to the far wall of the chasm, mountain climber-style, to ascend the other side. They pulled up the rope ladder, and Illyia sent Nightshade up the rock chimney to the niche in the wall 60’ up where the giant trapdoor spider nested. Nightshade shapechanged back to her original form just below the niche, popped up and catching the spider by surprise, cast Sleep on it. The spider went slack, and the Heroes then proceeded to heave each other up into the rock chimney to make the 120’ climb straight vertically to the surface. Nightshade returned to her raven form as the last Hero was assisted by his comrades into the chimney by the rope ladder. Single file they climbed until they reached the underside of topsoil and plant roots, where Alton Beeblebrox (leading the way) took a few moments to figure out how the spider’s trapdoor flipped open. Another, biggest- and worst-yet tremor shook the Heroes 4 Hire violently, who clung to the plentiful climbing ledges within the rock chimney for dear life, and they thought they might be crushed within this throat of earth and stone. A furnace of heated air blasted up the chimney from below them along with the smell of phosphorous and sulfur, and the party began to scramble out the trapdoor above in full panic.

1300, Zol, 17 Jo, 3E999

    The Heroes 4 Hire emerged from the hole in the earth alive, but into a nightmarish scene of hellfire and destruction. They were partly up the slope of the mountain, maybe a third of the way to the top, but as they looked upslope, the top of the mountain was gone. A giant plume of ash spewed skyward, interrupted intermittently by belches of volcanic bombs ejecting from the summit caldera. The forest on the slopes above them were engulfed in a massive wildfire, heading towards them. Molten lava spewed from the top, flowing slowly down the sides in all directions. Yellow sulfurous gas flowed out of vents cracked in the rock around the base of the mountain, and flowed in a steady stream into the destroyed city of the Nine. Suderham lay in ruins from volcanic bombs landing on its walls and on the buildings within. The party sprinted towards the city’s destroyed southern wall, only to be repelled by the cloud of noxious gas filling the city. They could not enter, but they could see thousands, if not ten-thousand, dead within… some crushed by falling debris, some burned by falling magma bombs or the out-of-control fires that followed, but most choked to death by poisonous volcanic gases.

    They circled outside Suderham’s walls to the east, where they encountered a revolt of slaves who had captured a bevy of guards, overseers and slave merchants, and were having quite a party of sharpening stakes from a stack of logs and then bringing their captives forward one by one to be impaled upon them. The Heroes, still in nothing but loincloths, made their way by the crowd without attracting attention, being taken for fellow slaves. As they cleared the corner of the northern wall, they were greeted by a raging fire leaping from hovel to shanty out of control through Scumslum, running from the main gate of Suderham, but quickly spreading through the slums towards the docks. They hurried toward the docks as well, trying to stay ahead of the flames, when they were intercepted by a man dressed in the uniform of a Slave Lord Lieutenant, his weapon still sheathed at his belt but waving his empty hands above his head at them. As he approached, they recognized him as Kwon Phon To’s infiltrator, Selzen Murtano.

    When word hit the streets of Suderham of the Heroes 4 Hire’s capture, Selzen managed to steal a lieutenant’s uniform and gear to see if he could find the group. He joined the detail to take them up the mountain and dump them down the ‘well’ into the labyrinth, and managed to drop the case full of scrolls he had stolen from an office in the city, down the hole behind them in an effort to aid the Heroes when they awoke. They asked about the remaining Slave Lords, and he pointed at a private boat with a large green and blue dragon emblazoned on it being prepared for launch at the closest pier to them. “That’s their boat, the Water Dragon. And, that’s them aboard… along with some men-at-arms and some sergeants.”

    The Heroes 4 Hire rushed the pier, with Selzen Murtano bringing up the rear. There they found a throng of slaves and townspeople being held at bay on the pier by a banded-armor wearing Ogre wielding a greatsword, flanked by two sergeants from the Guard. Behind them, the male half-orc fighter/assassin that chased Thia, Theg Narlot, stood in reserve and commanded the defense. Beyond him, ten troopers were busy loading crates and equipment onto the boat. On board, the female Drow fighter/cleric, Edralve, as well as the male human illusionist, Lamonsten, and the beautiful female thief known as Slippery Ketta, were preparing the boat for launch. The party, still in loincloths, tried to blend in with the crowd and ease their way closer. Illyia used a Scroll of Invisibility as Beeblebrox dashed across to the side of the pier and leaped onto the bow of the boat. Diplo and Thia mounted his giant eagle Steed and took off toward the stern of the boat.

    The Slave Lords, showing wounds and fatigue from the ‘running gunfight’ they had endured the entire way to the docks, finally recognized them out of the crowd and commanded their troops to attack and kill them. Edralve moved toward the front of the boat as several of the troops engaged Beeblebrox in melee, and cast Silence on Dajjal, effectively putting the four Heroes still on the docks in silence. Slippery Ketta immediately dove overboard and disappeared under the water. Ryoun, Karraway, Smedley Hampton and Dajjal advanced on the defenders on the pier through the townspeople and slaves, while Diplo made a low swoop on the eagle over the deck, attacking Lamonsten as Thia jumped off to also attack the wizard. Lamonsten had barely time to react; he fell quickly to the onslaught by the eagle, Diplo and Thia. Thia was engaged by three more troops as she fought to get to the chest at the rear of the boat.

    Slippery Ketta suddenly appeared up out of the water on the far side of the boat, rushing up behind Thia and delivering a brutal sneak attack before she could react, and then dashing away and throwing herself back over the side into the water. Illyia, invisibly, moved through the melee to cross the gangway and onto the boat heading to the aft near Thia. Theg Narlot joined the ogre and the two sergeants with a handful of his troopers to engage that half of the Heroes and the townspeople, who after the first fatality fled. On the pier, a mighty brawl ensued, and the party quickly figured out that Dajjal was the center of the silence spell. Diplo circled the eagle around the boat, making repeated diving harassing attacks on the female Drow with his bone-greatclub and eagle’s talons. Edralve attempted to cast Blindness on Diplo, but he managed to resist the spell. Thia crossed to the chest and a trooper moved to pursue, but crossed in front of Illyia who promptly dispatched him with the Sword of Lyons. Thia found the chest locked, and pulled up on one carry handle to hear loose items clunk around inside. Another pair of troops descended on Thia, but she and Illyia quickly dispatched them.

    Her last spell slot expended, Edralve next attempted to use her innate Drow abilities to cast Levitate on Diplo, with the intent of raising him off his giant eagle steed to a height and dropping him to injury. Diplo’s enchanted Saddle of the Cavalier, still firmly strapped to the giant eagle, caused her spell to fail as Beeblebrox dispatched the three troops engaging him. Diplo attacked Edralve with his club as did his eagle with its claws, and finally managed to land a hit on the elusive Edralve. Her concentration broken, the Silence ended and Dajjal opened up with his Eldritch Blast to great effect. Smedley took Selzen’s longsword since he wasn’t using it, and Karrawya took Selzen’s crossbow. Diplo, the giant eagle and Beeblebrox triple teamed Edralve, but Slippery Ketta surfaced again on the pier and hit Ryoun with a vicious sneak attack before again diving into the water. On the pier the fight was intense, but eventually the troopers were eliminated, followed by their sergeants. Theg Narlot fell next, followed by the ogre, and shortly Slippery Ketta was alone. Her last attempt at a sneak attack was successfully landed on Karraway, but her escape came up short, leaving her on the dock surrounded by enemies. And her short life was quickly ended.

    With the destruction of the last four of the Slave Lords, the destruction of the network and the total destruction of their hidden island, the Heroes 4 Hire along with Selzen Murtano ushered the townspeople and ex-slaves from the pier onto the Water Dragon while Thia and Illyia opened the chest with a crowbar. Inside they found what was left of the riches of the Slave Lords: an assortment of jewels, jewelry and books, of every flavor for quick portability of great wealth. The two then jumped into the cargo hold below and quickly searched the few crates and boxes present, and found plenty of trade goods as well as all of their weapons, armor, equipment and gear. The Heroes stuffed the boat to the brim with escapees, and launched across the lake to the rim side docks nearly 2 miles away. There they found Kwon waiting with their horses among a few wagons abandoned by the guards and the merchants at the rim side docks, who had long since fled at the sight of an erupting volcano. They transloaded the loot and the refugees to the wagons, and begin the long descent down the mountain path from the crater lake and back into the mists of Morytania.

1400, Zol, 17 Jo, 3E999

    With the Slave Lords and their network utterly destroyed, what new adventures will the Heroes 4 Hire seek out next?

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

Assault on the Aerie of the Slave Lords: 5 of 9
Ajakstu, Brother Milerjoi, Feetla, Mordrammo and Nerelas

2200, Zor, 12 Jo, 3E999

    The Heroes 4 Hire awoke in the Sign of the White Knight Inn, and spent the day inconspicuously running a few errands around the City of the Nine, Suderham. Shortly after sunset, they suited up and went next door to the brothel, the Sign of the Rose, paid a small amount of hush money to the madame, and proceeded to the last room on the right to enter the abandoned sewers through the trap door under the bed. There, they traversed northward along a long passageway to the weirdly octagonal room with the statue reconnoitered by Nightshade the day prior.

    The team stacked up at the southern entrance to the room, observing the motionless statue. Illyia Baham entered the room, but as he did the statue turned around to face them, held up its hand in a “halt” fashion, and in a garbled voice said, “Flee now, or I shall breathe poison death upon you all!” The team held for a moment, with Illyia still in the room, but the statue did nothing further, so Lt. Diplo Norixius also entered the room to assist Illyia in searching for hidden portals. The two found a doorway concealed under a thin layer of limestone in the west wall, but as they did the ‘statue’ attacked. The party rushed the room to engage the ‘statue’, and as they closed the distance they could see that the ‘statue’ was in fact a Flesh Golem that had steel plates bolted through its skin, giving it a kind of makeshift plate armor. The Golem managed to land a slamming fist on Alton Beeblebrox, but otherwise the Heroes 4 Hire dispatched the creature with haste and ease.

    The group opened the concealed door and proceeded down the corridor beyond as it turned a corner to the south. Halfway down the following 100’ hall, a shallow pit trap opened under Illyia and Diplo, dropping them 7 feet onto a soft pile of sand. All the way at the north end of the hallway, a stone panel slid down and a 1-foot brass nozzle extended pointing at the party, and they began to hear a familiar whooshing sound, reminiscent of the Orcish Flame Cart they had acquired from the Slave Pits of the Undercity mission. Naïlo Thia, Beeblebrox and Ryoun Rodri leaped over the pit and sprinted down the hallway to the corner at the southern end, while Smedley Hampton, Dajjal and Karraway jumped down into the pit with Diplo and Illyia. A second later, a long spurt of flame shot from the nozzle down the hallway, reaching just beyond the pit and over the heads of the pit’s occupants, but also came up well short of the three at the hallway’s southern corner. The flame spurt eventually extinguished, and no more whooshing sounds were heard, so the team decided all was safe and extracted themselves out of the pit to continue on.

    The passageway led to a door, beyond which led to a 40′×40′ room with two doors in the corners, flanking a bulging chest along the southern wall. Diplo locked the 10’ Immovable Pole across the eastern door and stationed himself at the western door while Illyia checked the chest for traps. The rest of the party spread out around the room in preparation for ‘anything’. As Illyia searched, his hand became stuck to the chest, which then transformed into a killer Mimic and took a bite at him. The team piled onto the mimic, taking a few blows from its pseudopods before dispatching it in short order. They looted the body and then checked the door, discovering the east door was false.

    Proceeding out the western door, the party entered a long corridor that began to heat up the farther they continued. The temperature reached a point where it caused a measure of exhaustion as they were midspan of the hallway, when two secret doors, left and right of the passage, opened up and a pair of Hellhounds sprang to attack. In concert they exhaled a gout of fire into the party and then charged the front rank (Diplo and Illyia). The party swarmed them, and the hellhounds were destroyed, disappearing in a flash of smoke, flame and leaving only a pile of ash. They took the two spike-and-jewel encrusted collars, the only remains of any value, and turned the next corner back to the north when a giant crossbow bolts sailed at them from out of the darkness. They heard the sounds of heavy footfalls receding and then the slamming of a door.

    The team continued north, away from the heat, and came upon a closed door, beyond which led to a series of hallways and doors making a sort of labyrinth. Through passages and doors they searched, finding a metal one-way (from the other side) door with a strange inscription at one point, before coming across a large chamber complete with its own Minotaur. The minotaur fired another massive crossbow bolt at the party before engaging with its greataxe. A short melee ensued, before the Heroes ended the minotaur for good. After a quick looting of the body, they returned to the strange metal door and inscription.

    Illyia and Smedley recognized the script on the door as Thieves’ Cant, which read, “DANGER. NO ENTRY.” The party also noted that the floor, walls and ceiling in the 10’ square area immediately in front of the door was also made out of the same dull, tarnished metal. Smedley, Beeblebrox and Dajjal decided to attempt to find how to open the door, but the rest of the team backed well away from the metal area to watch what happened next. Beeblebrox gave the door a hard rap; the door and the rest of the metal area responded with a short, intense burst of electrical energy, shocking the three intrepid trap-testers. The other Heroes laughed at their slightly-smoking friends, and then approached to aid in the effort. Illyia stepped forward, pulled the Wand of Opening from his bag and tapped it lightly on the door. The door gently popped open from the other side, and Illyia spotted the thin, braided copper wire hidden behind a thin foil cover, running from the door and plates toward a small niche in the wall on the other side.

    Deciding they would come back to investigate that detail later, the party proceeded into a secret corridor that ran from the labyrinth north for several hundred feet, except for a short side passage that connected to the pit trap in the first hallway via a secret door in the pit they had missed altogether. The long secret passageway ended in what was obviously the back of another secret door, where the team chose to quietly take a short rest to prep for the next battle, whatever it may be.

0015, Far, 13 Jo, 3E999

    Once ready, the Heroes 4 Hire snapped the secret door open quickly in an attempt to catch whatever was on the other side by surprise. The ploy worked, as they stormed into a huge audience chamber with nine grand thrones arranged in a semi-circle facing away from them, catching five of the Slave Lords in the middle of some humorous conversation. Illyia, invisible by the Sword of Lyons equipped on his hip, dashed into the room and found an open angle at the Slave Lord seated all the way at the opposite end of the thrones. He fired a cross-court shot, striking the target critically in the head and killing him instantly, and that was the immediate end of Ajakstu the Wizard. The rest of the Heroes flooded into the chamber, picking their personal favorite Slave Lord and engaging.

    After several hits from archery and spells followed by a gap-closing charge, the surprised Slave Lords finally got their feet under them and reacted. Nerelas the Assassin gulped a Potion of Invisibility and disappeared. Thia sprinted to the foot of the iron staircase spiraling up through the ceiling to prevent that avenue of retreat. The remaining Heroes paired off with Slave lords one by one, with the majority ganging up on Mordrammo the High Priest of the Earth Dragon Temple. Brother Milerjoi came to his aid, knocking Beeblebrox prone and stunning him for several rounds. Feetla the Buccaneer also rushed to Mordrammo’s aid, knocking Ryoun unconscious and bleeding out. Mordrammo cast Mass Healing Word on his comrades, healing their wounds and keeping them fighting against the 2-to-1 odds.

    Illyia, still invisible himself, kept circling the room hugging the walls, pulled out the Gem of Seeing recovered earlier in the catacombs, and spotted the invisible Nerelas moving in behind Thia for a backstabbing assassination. Having one hand tied up with using the Gem of Seeing, he targeted the critically wounded Nerelas with a Magic Missile spell, killing him instantly. Thia was startled at seeing the three magical darts sail out of nowhere right at her and then a dead assassin drop out of the ether at her feet. Karraway cast Spirit Guardians and moved into the fray surrounding Mordrammo, Brother Milerjoi, Feetla, Ryoun, Beeblebrox, Smedley, Diplo and Dajjal, circling to get to the dying Ryoun. While the spell piled up the hurt on the three remaining Slave Lords, he managed to reach Ryoun and cast Cure Wounds on him, getting him back to his feet.

    The three remaining Slave Lords fought valiantly, but the overwhelming numbers first claimed Mordrammo, then Brother Milerjoi and finally, Feetla. The tough battle completed, the Heroes 4 Hire looted the bodies, searched the room and then hunkered down to take a short rest and recover.

0130, Far, 13 Jo, 3E999

    Where are the other four Slave Lords? And how will the Heroes 4 Hire find them to finish the job? What dangers lie in store for the party?

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

Assault on the Aerie of the Slave Lords: Suderham
Psst... you wanna see my Ivory Paladin?

1830, Wir, 11 Jo, 3E999

    With the remainder of their way to the island clear of obstacles, the Heroes 4 Hire took a short rest to heal some wounds and regain some abilities before opening the secret door and continuing up the Slave Lords’ escape tunnel. They hiked for several miles underground, up a long shallow sloping passageway occasionally dripping with moisture. The tunnel finally opened into the back of a large natural cave halfway up the slope of a giant, extinct volcano in the middle of the island known only as the Aerie.

    It was very late in the afternoon as the team stood on the rocky overlook in front of the cave mouth. They could survey the entire northeastern two-thirds of the island from here, including the massive walled city of Suderham. They took the rest of the afternoon to observe, taking note of the numbers and disposition of guards and patrols, both in the city and on the walls. The guards were well disciplined, plentiful in number, and misbehavior within the city was dealt with quickly and harshly. There was but one entrance to the city, the main gate on the north side, outside of which a slum of shanties and hovels sprawled to the docks, and the walls were surrounded by open farmland worked by peasants and slaves. The situation made the city impregnable. A subtler approach would be needed.

    As the sun was setting, the party descended from their overlook and circled eastward around the city and into the slums. While observing the crowds and the groups of slave merchants entering and exiting the city, a beggar approached the Heroes and quietly signaled for them to follow him. He led the party to a hovel where he introduced himself as Selzen Murtano, the master infiltrator employed by Kwon in Lord Neistor’s spy network. The hovel also held eight merchants, abducted and bound by Selzen for both intelligence and to procure their passes and clothing to get the team inside the main gate. The party donned the merchants’ fine robes over their armor and equipment, hoping to blend in with help from the darkness of the night, and took their passes. Selzen gave them further advice on the disposition of the city and the patrols, and told them of the rumor of a secret entrance to the Slave Lords’ chamber through an abandoned and sealed section of the city’s sewers. He then wished them luck and gave them one last bit of rumor he had come across but had not been able to run to ground as of yet, “Seek out the ivory paladin.”

    The Heroes entered through the main gate without incident, the hasty disguises and stolen paperwork sufficient to avoid suspicion from the sentries posted there. They divided up into four teams of two, split up the search duties around the city, and began their hunt for clues to the secret entrances to the abandoned sewers. Karraway and Ryoun Rodri first went to the inn in the run-down Thieves’ Quarter, the Sign of the White Knight, and purchased rooms for the entire party for the evening. Lt. Diplo Norixius and Alton Beeblebrox made some small talk with the fat, sweaty barkeep before heading to the Wealthy Quarter’s sole tavern, the Clever Cudgel. Naïlo Thia and Dajjal went to one of the many taverns in the Thieves’ Quarter known as the Fighting Man’s Haven, while Illyia Baham and Smedley Hampton went to check out the Thieves’ Guild.

    The Clever Cudgel proved to be a dry hole for information. Diplo and Beeblebrox headed next to the Wealthy Quarter’s house of ill repute, the Wild Cat, where they asked around a bit and again found no useful information. On their way out, however, they came upon five ruffians intent on giving them a hard time in the street. The two Heroes were having none of it, but when they turned away to depart down the street, one of the rakes grappled Diplo and the other four drew weapons to attack. Diplo broke the grapple and began punching the ruffian, and Beeblebrox dove into the other four and put his martial arts skills to good use. They beat the assailants down so quickly and thoroughly that the rakes fled, and the duo decided to let them go.

    Thia and Dajjal first talked to the cleric at the Temple of the Earth Dragon in the Official Quarter, accross the street from the moneychanger. He provided little useful information, but was more than happy to blather on about the beliefs of the Earth Dragon Cult. They then asked around the Fighting Man’s Haven in between songs and drinking, but found no usable information. As they were trying to depart, Thia caught the attention of Davis, the local tavern bully, and found herself forced to have another drink with him while Dajjal waited outside to avoid a fight. She managed to extract herself uneventfully, and the two of them went to the Waltzing Werebear tavern next door.

    Karraway and Ryoun talked to the barkeep in the Inn of the White Knight, and plied him with a couple of bribes. He gave them two rumors, "Not all who lie may be resting, " and, “learn from the knowledge that never dies.” Karraway then used Sending to share those two clues with the rest of the party. Thia and Dajjal received the message and then headed toward the Maps and Charts Library to follow the clue. Meanwhile, Illyia and Smedley found the Thieves’ Guild building deserted, chained shut and otherwise defunct by edict of the city constabulary. They then went into Denhow’s Pub ‘n’ Grub two doors down and asked around, finding nothing of use but also thwarting a pickpocket that had targeted them. The two then received the message from Karraway, and proceeded to one of the Thieves’ Quarter’s two houses of ill repute, the Sign of the Rose.

    Within the whorehouse, the madame told them to pick any of the doors lining the hallway, because her girls were all unoccupied at the moment. Smedley and Illyia went door to door, opening each one systematically and observing the contents and occupant within, then politely excusing themselves for another room. At the end of the hallway, Illyia opened a door to an unoccupied room, where he slipped in to search as Smedley kept the madame distracted with conversation. Within the room, Illyia quickly discovered a trap door in the floor hidden under the bed, which opened to a passageway that looked like the description of the abandoned sewer section for which they were searching. Illyia then used his Token of Sending to inform the rest of the party, and sent Nightshade in to investigate. She flew down a long corridor to the north, through a giant octagonal room with a statue in the middle and on through another passage to the north that then turned east. She then came upon a trap door in the ceiling, and she Polymorphed into a fly and squeezed through a crack. Above, the trap door was under a large carpet, but she was able to shinny out from under and found herself in the master bedroom of a residence elsewhere in Suderham.

    Illyia made some guesses to the whereabouts of the residence based on what he had seen through Nightshade’s eyes, and proceeded to the Wealthy Quarter to investigate and find his familiar. As the two approached up the main street, they came upon the fist fight Diplo and Beeblebrox were engaged in with the ruffians, and saw it just in time to witness the rakes flee. As the fleeing brigands ran by, both Illyia and Smedley managed to pickpocket a coin purse of two of the ruffians cleanly. They realized they were standing outside the abandoned residence where Nightshade was looking at them from a window, and the united teammates returned to the Inn of the White Knight to rendezvous with Thia and Dajjal returning from the Library.

    With the entrances to the rumored abandoned sewer section discovered, the Heroes 4 Hire went to their rooms in the Inn for a night’s long rest to prepare for their assault, planned for the following sunset.

2200, Wir, 11 Jo, 3E999

    What dangers await the Heroes 4 Hire in the sewers beneath the City of the Nine? Will they find the path to the final showdown with the Slave Lords? Or, are the Slave Lords alerted to their approach, and devising some clever ambush?

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

Assault on the Aerie of the Slave Lords: Wimpell Frump and Rusty
"I'm going to pull the rope."

1700, Wir, 11 Jo, 3E999

    The Heroes 4 Hire stacked up and filed through the opening behind the boulder that was concealing the exit, heading south out of the massive cavern that harbored the now-destroyed piercer colony. The hall was short; it opened into a large room after an extremely short distance, and there they found 5 gnolls and three worgs waiting for them. The Heroes were quick on the draw, and despite their preparation and forewarning from the sounds of the piercer cave, the team killed the worgs with arrows and bolts before the gnolls could react. The gnolls then returned fire with their bows, and a short archery duel ended with the death of the gnolls as well.

    The team exited a solitary door in the south wall, and continued navigating through a maze of passageways, eventually coming to a long, narrow and high room. At each end, stone steps descended into a pool of a white, viscous, bubbling liquid of unknown composition. Mid-span in the room, a sheet of blue fire arcing with bolts of electricity stretched from wall to wall, and the ceiling to the surface of the liquid. On their left, a 1’ wide stone bridge arched from one set of steps to the others at the far end, passing through the sheet of blue fire about 5’ above the surface of the liquid.

    Smedley Hampton dipped an arrow, point first, half way into the liquid. It was viscous and dried in about 30 seconds, leaving the front half of the arrow covered in a thin, white, rubbery sheet, with no other discernible effects. Alton Beeblebrox ran along the narrow bridge, touched the blue fire, got shocked and repulsed, but managed to keep his feet. Smedley then fired the arrow the distance of the room and through the sheet of blue flame, but could not see what became of it on the other side. Lt. Diplo Norixius followed Beeblebrox on the balance beam bridge, picked him up and reversed positions with him, and gave the same thing a try, with the same result… except his armor became magnetized temporarily with the jolt of energy.

    Illyia Baham invited Naïlo Thia to join him on the other side, to which she accepted, took his hand, and Illyia used his ring to Dimension Door the two of them across to the steps at the far end. There they found a hallway that continued to the east, as well as Smedley’s arrow. The front half, covered in the rubbery white substance was unharmed; the back, unprotected half was burned to a crisp. Having resolved the obstacle of the room, they relayed their discovery to the rest of the party, and Smedley jumped into the pool. He found that he was not buoyant in the substance, he could not see in it, but it did no detrimental effects to him either. He held his breath and started forward, the thick liquid slowing his movement considerably. The rest of the party followed his lead, jumping in to pass under the wall of blue flame under the surface of the liquid.

    As Smedley passed under the flame, he bumped into something in the liquid, hard and straight. Whatever it was, it floated away from him after he bumped it with his chest. He reached out, bumping it again with his hand and sending it floating away again, but managed to make a quick move and grab the item successfully. As he and his compatriots finished traversing the remaining distance under the liquid, he explored the shape of the item with his hands, and discovered it was the size, shape and heft of a shortsword in a scabbard. The party emerged from the pool to join Thia and Illyia, keeping vigil at the passageway. They cleared the liquid from their eyes and noses and mouths, waited for it to congeal and dry, and then took a few minutes to peel the rubbery film off themselves and their equipment. As Smedley peeled the film off the recovered shortsword, he discovered that underneath the weapon and sheath was invisible. He found the grip, drew the sword and the scabbard then appeared, but the weapon remained invisible. Illyia cast Identify, and the party rejoiced as they realized that they had found the legendary weapon known as the Sword of Lyons.

    The team continued exploring the winding maze, coming next on another door, beyond which they found a large, empty room with no exits and a thick rope hanging from the high ceiling in the center. Illyia stayed by the door, Smedley and Thia searched the walls and found the outline of a secret door of unknown operation in the opposite wall, and the remaining members gathered around the rope to investigate. Diplo decided to climb the rope, and as he pulled it gave way slightly with a mechanical click. The secret door swung open, and the floor in the entire room folded down and back against the walls. Thia and Smedley managed to jump through the secret door before falling, as did Illyia across the room at the entry door. Diplo, Karraway and Ryoun Rodri grabbed the rope and held on, but Dajjal and Beeblebrox fell about 10’ and landed in a pool of clear acid.

    The three Heroes hanging from the rope worked in concert to get the rope swinging, and found it was just long enough to deliver them to either the entry door or the secret door. The disembarked in the secret door with Smedley and Thia, while Beeblebrox and Dajjal scrambled to their feet and ran through the pool of weak acid to the secret door where their comrades helped them up. As they washed the acid from themselves and their gear, Illyia used his ring again to Dimension Door across the room and join them.

    Farther along the passage, they entered another large room with a strange stone statue of a cigar-shaped creature with six tentacles, a giant eye and a gaping, toothy maw, perched just in front of a 3’ diameter hole in the floor. As they moved in to investigate, the Storoper surprised them with tentacles snapping out to grab Thia and Illyia and start pulling them in toward the toothy maw. The party unloaded on the creature, hacking at the tentacles and shooting arrows into the stony carcass. A brutal fight ensued, Illyia being brought all the way to the mouth but denying a vicious bite with a timely application of a Shield spell. Tentacles flew in all directions, and no matter where the team moved or how many they cut off, they could neither get out of its range nor stop its ability to sprout more tentacles. Through sheer numbers and firepower, they put the freakish monstrosity down, jumped into the hole and followed another passage deeper into the caves.

    The route next led them to another empty room with a single door exiting on the opposite wall; however, this entire room was wood paneled with knotty pine. The door wouldn’t budge, but did not appear to be locked. Illyia and Diplo grabbed the portable ram from the Bag of Holding. As they smashed the door, it suddenly slid back on tracks against a set of long, thin spikes, pricking both Heroes and doling out a small modicum of poison damage. Beyond the false door trap they found a small distance to the real back wall, and a real door to exit. They followed the hallways until they finally came to a large, ornate door, under which Illyia observed a huge chamber beyond with his mirror, which was definitely occupied.

    He picked the lock, equipped the Sword of Lyons but did not draw it, instantaneously disappearing from sight where he stood. He then opened the door as subtly and quietly as possible. On the other side they found a massive chamber, 100’ wide and 130’ long, ceiling 40’ high, with four rows of running down the sides of the room. At the far end stood an ornate stone throne, flanked by six gnolls and six ghouls, and sitting on the throne was the gnoll god Yeenoghu. In the middle of the room, was a charging Anklysaurus. The occupants of the room were obviously not surprised at the party’s presence. Illyia invisibly circled the room to his left, hugging the wall and watching to see if anyone seemed to notice him. The rest of the Heroes 4 Hire rushed the room, taking cover behind the first row of columns. As the party engaged the dinosaur, they noticed their arrows seemed to disappear beneath the beast’s skin with a flash as they hit. Ryoun struck at it with his rapiers, and a strange tentacle-like appendage struck out from the visage of the anklysaurus’ shoulder and hit his left-hand rapier, causing it to rust immediately. As the party killed the beast, an illusory cover image winked out, and the saw the massive anklysaurus was actually a medium-sized Rust Monster.

    The Heroes fired a few rounds at Yeenoghu as they advanced another row of columns. The arrows and bolts stopped a few feet short of the throne, appearing to have struck some sort of invisible, solid plane and ricocheted. At the second row, they found five more gnolls hiding on the far side of the columns, and a short melee ended with those five gnolls dead.As Illyia made it far enough down the left wall to be even with the throne, the ghouls and gnolls around the throne charged the rest of the party, all seeming to not see him. The team began smashing the ghouls and gnolls one by one, each successfully landed hit dispelling the illusory creature. Yet, the illusionary enemies still were dealing damage when they hit, a fact inexplicable to the Heroes. Illyia saw his opportunity, being behind the enemy lines and with a clear shot at Yeenoghu. He launched an arrow at the gnoll-god, critically striking it in the head, but the illusion simply disappeared in a flash leaving wizened old man in its place, looking about wildly wondering from where the round just came.

    The old illusionist saw his illusory guard being dispelled right and left, and decided to flee. He ripped his hat off, cast Darkness upon it, and began moving toward the northeast corner of the room. The Heroes flooded that corner, positioning themselves around several expected escape routes both inside and outside the moving sphere of Darkness. Dajjal took a quick inventory of his comrades’ conditions and decided to throw a Fireball deep into the corner, catching only Diplo and Karraway in the blast, but killing Wimpell Frump, the illusionist, outright. With the Darkness gone, the team searched the room and the bodies, finding some coin, a secret door in the corner where Wimpell was moving, and a false panel in the throne that held a key to the secret door and a map to the city of Suderham, complete with a legend and names of buildings.

    With the remainder of the route clear to Suderham, the team sat down for a short rest before they opened the secret door and proceeded up the escape tunnel towards the Aerie.

1830, Wir, 11 Jo, 3E999

    What dangers await the Heroes 4 Hire on the island known only as, The Aerie? Will they be able to gain the advantage on the Slave Lords, or did someone from the Stockade or the Slave Pits escape and warn them of the strike team’s approach? Will eight Heroes be enough?

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

Assault on the Aerie of the Slave Lords: Tunnel Rats
Two toboggans to Gnollville

Wir, 4 Milos, 3E999

    With the construction of their base of operations now complete, the Heroes 4 Hire turned their attention to hiring staff to operate and maintain their new establishment. Illyia Baham, Naïlo Thia and Smedley Hampton arrived in Anchorhead the previous evening and spent the night at the Onyx Fountain Inn. When they arose in the morning, they talked at length with Zimen Rehler, gleaning a list of recommended Stewards from his experience and contacts. Illyia and Thia spent the rest of the day contacting and interviewing Zimen’s short list of potential hires, while Smedley went on his own to help fill in several of the other positions.

    By the end of the day, Illyia and Thia had decided and hired Alyn Quinn into the Steward position. Alyn was striking; her beauty only equaled by her pragmatic business savvy. She had come with top recommendations from both Zimen and her former employers. She was an impressive force of personality, much more than her tall, rail-thin frame belied. With Alyn’s help, the three Heroes spent the next five days filling out the rest of the positions on their staff.

Zol, 10 Milos, 3E999

    The trio returned with the homestead fully staffed, and joined the rest of the company in training and setting about duty assignments and expectations with their new hirelings. By the end of the day, they had their operations and delegations set, monies transferred into the DVT bank, instructions given and were prepared for a planned departure back to Darkshelf, Neistor and the final push to eradicate the Slave Lords. That evening, they threw a raucous grand opening party, complete with food, drink, gambling, music and excessive carousing.

    The next morning, Alton Beeblebrox, Dajjal, Smedley, Karraway, Illyia, Thia, Lt. Diplo Norixius and Ryoun Rodri loaded up the wagon and departed for the long ride to Darkshelf, leaving Potema and Rumblebelly in their comfortable dens at the homestead.

Wir, 25 Milos, 3E999

    The team’s journey to Darkshelf passed uneventfully, and they arrived late the previous evening at the Highmoor Inn. In the morning, they met with Lord Neistor and Kwon, a bit surprised to see their favorite pathfinder in town. Neistor and Kwon informed the team that some of the intelligence they had recovered from the Slavers’ Stockade was intentionally false; specifically, the map and location of the Slave Lords’ city of ‘Suderham’ were a complete fabrication. Kwon had backtracked to Fort Garsley where he found a scouting party, presumably sent from the Slave Lords, surveying the damage and situation at the Stockade. He followed the party when they departed, heading north out of the fort for a full day’s travel deeper into the Drakansgreb Mountains, where they left the main road and traveled across the rocky terrain for several hundred yards, before picking up another mountain trail well concealed from the main thoroughfare.

    Kwon shadowed the scouting party until they reached the top of the mountain, on the shore of a lake in the crater-summit of an extinct volcano. The summit rose above the ever-present mists of Morytania, and in the setting sun he saw an island at least a mile-and-a-half out from the shore, and the previously ‘missing’ city of Suderham. The scouting party boarded a ferry, and Kwon assessed the security around the boat launches to be excessively tight. He returned to Valenar and his network of professional spies, and sent in one of his best infiltrators, a master of disguise and languages named Selzen Murtano.

    In disguise, Selzen bluffed his way onto a boat with minimal effort, and shortly Kwon was receiving reports from the island known as The Aerie. After several weeks of clandestine observation and eavesdropping, Selzen reported rumor of another way onto the island… an ‘escape tunnel’ that emptied out into a complex of gnoll-caves set into the base of the mountain. Kwon then took to searching the mountain base, through cave after den after tunnel after hollow, until he had narrowed it down to a single location with four possible entrances.

    With the new intelligence confirmed and a way in, a new contract was agreed upon, with the destruction of the Slave Lords themselves being the ultimate objective. Selzen’s reports of the city were memorized, and Kwon said he would contact them somewhere in ‘Scum Slum’ between the city gates and the docks. The Black Lagoon was moored in the bay, already under contract with Lord Neistor for this mission. The team decided to delay a couple of days, waiting on a DVT shipment of items to arrive.

Sar, 28 Milos, 3E999

    The Heroes 4 Hire departed for the eight-day sail to Highport. When they arrived, the team purchased horses and departed up the northern road, four-days’ ride to the location of the caves reconnoitered by Kwon. It was late in the day on the Wir, the 11 th of Jo, when the team lashed their horses to a scraggly shell of a dead tree amongst the rocky hills, picked one of the four cave entrances, and began their exploration. The tunnel was natural stone and dirt, and led through several hundred feet of maze-like switchbacks, blind intersections and dead-end spurs before finally dumping out into a large, worked-stone chamber. There they found two 10-foot long, 2-foot wide pieces of nasty-smelling, bark-like rawhides that had deeps gouges on one side with traces of a salt-like, crystalline substance. Diplo tasted it, and discovered it was, in fact, salt.

    The team departed out the only other opening in the room, a professionally carved stone passage that twisted around several turns before finally heading due north down a long hallway ending in a large door. As the team cautiously approached the door, Illyia discovered a floor-pit trap with the 10-foot pole they kept for just such a purpose. He pushed on it hard enough, and the floor-lid snapped open, revealing a massive, mountain-like salt pile 15-feet below that led into a steeply descending salt-chute to the northeast. The team quickly jumped over the pit only to discover the door at the end of the hall was false, obviously designed to draw intruders across the pit trap.

    The Heroes hopped back across and, putting two-and-two together, returned to the big chamber and grabbed the large, rawhide toboggans. They used pitons and ropes to lower themselves gently onto the top of the salt pile, mounted the rawhides four-to-a-toboggan, and one after the other slid down the face of the salt-mountain into the chute. They slid several hundred feet through the chute, illuminated by phosphorescent lichen and mosses covering the rock. The chute dumped them out onto the floor of another large chamber, where they found ten gnolls waiting in a semi-circle in the middle of the room centered on the opening, aiming longbows at them.

    The Heroes jumped to their feet as the gnolls launched arrows at them, but managed to take only minor injuries. Half the team closed the distance to melee with the beasts, while the other half stayed back to fire spells and arrows. As resilient and vicious as gnolls can be, the Heroes 4 Hire still dispatched them with relative ease. surprise be damned. They searched the bodies and found a little coin, but also found a scroll case concealing a hand-scribbled map of the room, with an ‘X’ marking one of it’s six exits.

    The team followed the exit the map indicated, and it led several hundred more feet through twists and turns before it opened into a massive natural cavern, over 100’ across and 50’ high, filled with stalactites and stalagmites. There, 110’ directly across the cavern, was a large oaken door banded in iron. The party cautiously proceeded across the cavern, but as soon as they were nearly thirty feet in, a pair of Piercers dropped from the ceiling, one hitting Diplo in the shoulder and the other missing everyone completely. The group attacked the two they could see, except Thia who spotted movement on the ceiling among the stalactites, and started firing at anything she saw moving up there.

    Illyia and Smedley attempted to join in, firing above once Thia pointed out what to look for. As they killed one and then two, and Diplo, Dajjal, Beeblebrox, Karraway and Ryoun killed the two on the ground, the colony launched a mass attack on the whole party, eleven piercers at once dropping on the Heroes. Ryoun and Dajjal were seriously injured, but the rest managed to avoid getting impaled from above. Dajjal spotted mass movement on the ceiling farther ahead in the cavern, and let loose with a Fireball into the center of the colony. Seventeen more piercers dropped harmlessly from the ceiling in the middle of the cavern, dead from the explosion. Once the remaining monstrosities laying around them were destroyed, the Heroes watched for several minutes to ensure there were no more hiding among the stalactites.

    The door across the cavern… also proved to be false. However, from the reverse vantage point in front of the false door, they could now see another tunnel leading out of the massive cavern to the south, conveniently hidden from view elsewhere by a large boulder and stalagmite formation in front of it.

1700, Wir, 11 Jo, 3E999

    What other dangers await the Heroes as they penetrate the caves? What awaits them on the island known only as, The Aerie? Will they be able to gain the advantage on the Slave Lords, or did someone from the Stockade or the Slave Pits escape and warn them of the strike team’s approach?

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

Heroes 4 Hire: Reunion Tour
We finally got the band back together!!

1430, Zor, 5 Aufgasta, 3E998

    Lt. Diplo Norixius, Erendriel Thalolan, Potema and Diplo’s dire wolf mount stood in empathetic silence as Thia finished sawing Madcoil’s head from it’s body, her vengeance for the destruction of her wolf pack family finally wrought. It took a few minutes for her sobs and anger to subside, but before long she had regained her stoic composure, and Diplo had his friend back. The three turned to searching the area and the cave, looking for valuables lying in amongst the corpses.

    Within the cave, Diplo found the body of a merchant who had, unfortunately, gotten his wrist caught within the handle of a small, locked chest as he was being rended and thrashed to death by Madcoil. The arm, wrist and hand were broken in several places… basically little more than a sack of flesh than an appendage anymore… but had managed to remain trapped within the short, steel loop. He gently threaded the destroyed wrist and hand back out through the handle, freeing it from the small but densely packed chest. He examined and fiddled with the lock, searched the corpse of a key, but did not find one and eventually gave up trying to open it without some help back at Hellespont. Within another part of the cave, Thia found the corpse of a ranger, long dead and most of his gear slashed and mangled beyond use. She did, however, find a set of bracers of highly refined quality, as well as a quiver of incredibly intricate design, and she took both items for identification.

    The remainder of the search yielded little of value… a few inexpensive trinkets and personal effects. The three packed up what they had found, and set fire to the already putrefying corpse of Madcoil. Once they had destroyed the corpse by fire and the fire was out, Diplo resummoned his steed in its giant eagle form, took the chest and flew back to Hellespont. Thia and Thalolan mounted up on Potema and the dire wolf ran them swiftly back to Hellespont, half a day behind Diplo. Diplo had taken the chest to Master Brylen, who for his customary 5 gp fee Knock ’ed the lock open. Inside, he found 700 cp, 5,000 sp, 1,800 gp and 120 pp. When Thia and Thalolan returned, Thia also visited Master Brylen and paid him to Identify the bracers and the quiver for her. She had found Bracers of Archery and a Quiver of Ehlonna.

Far, 6 Aufgasta, 3E998

    The trio held a quiet celebration just among themselves for the victory over Madcoil, and the next morning Diplo mounted up and returned to Anchorhead to rejoin the core members of Heroes 4 Hire on their next adventure. The team would go on to begin their Danger at Darkshelf Quarry mission, but Thia remained in Hellespont with Thalolan and Potema, continuing her training with Father Tristan.

    The next two months would pass peacefully for Thia, learning from Tristan, enjoying her friends in the village, spending her free time getting to know Thalolan again and hunting with Potema. Thalolan was friendly but closely guarded, and she took things slowly as he recounted details of her earlier life for which she had no memory. A large weight had been lifted off her shoulders with the destruction of Madcoil, she for once in her life, she was feeling at peace and even… happy.

0600, Far, 6 Decia, 3E998

    The Sea Wyvern sailed into Anchorhead a little before dawn, returning the Heroes 4 Hire from Darkshelf and the end of the Secret of the Slavers’ Stockade mission. Thia had received a Sending from Illyia Baham a few days before and rode into town later that day to rejoin her comrades and partake in advancement training with the rest of them. They found Ryoun Rodri at the Harbormaster’s Office, still teaching a few days a week, and he introduced them to a potential new recruit, a friend he had made named Smedley Hampton. They also visited with Calyx Siannodel at the Temple of Belenus and inquired if she was ready to rejoin the group. Unfortunately she turned them down stating she had duties there that remained that she could not leave at the moment, but would find them when she was ready.

    Thia introduced everyone to Thalolan, and the entire party took their usual rooms at the Onyx Fountain Inn… everyone except Thia and Thalolan, who set up camp on the outskirts of the Tents of Rusheme’ to be near Potema and ease Thalolan’s discomfort with large crowds. Smedley also introduced the party to his Ranger Companion, a grizzly bear named Rumblebelly. Potema and Rumblebelly, after much sniffing and posturing, decided that they would not fight each other, but instead gave each other a wide berth. Everyone got meals and a good night’s rest, readying themselves for tomorrow’s training start.

Far, 27 Decia, 3E998

    After three weeks of advancement training with their respective training masters, Alton Beeblebrox, Dajjal, Diplo, Illyia and Thia were ready to put their new skills to use. As they returned to the Onyx Fountain Inn after graduation, Zimen Rehler greeted each of them as they passed the reception desk in the lobby and informed them they had a visitor awaiting them in the dining room. The Heroes reassembled after getting cleaned up in the dining room and met their visitor, a Herald of the Executor of Eridae. The party approached him with caution, unsure of why a messenger from the Eridani head of state would be seeking them. The Herald introduced himself, and informed the party that they were being invited at the Executor’s pleasure to a dinner in their honor in the capital city of Eridan, specifically for their exploits in the degradation of the slaving network based in the despoiled land of Morytania, their service to Eridae’s close ally of the Kingdom of Valenar, and the recovery of the captured slaves including the blonde, half-elven boy Cody. The team graciously accepted the invitation, worked out the details and schedule with the Herald, grabbed some dinner and went to bed.

    The next morning, they loaded up the wagon with everyone, including the Herald, and rode out toward Eridan. The nip in the air was sharp, and snow had fallen overnight, blanketing the normally bustling port town in a sheet of fluffy white. The road to Eridan was well traveled, and for the next four days the Heroes 4 Hire and their companion enjoyed easy travel and pleasant conversation.

Wir, 4 Janosh, 3E999

    The initial approach to the capitol was awe-striking; the Heroes stopped the wagon as they crested the last hill at the edge of the forest on the rim of the River Eridae basin. There before them, across nearly five miles of farmland speckled with snow, stood the gleaming city of Eridan. The city sat like a jewel at the mouth of the Eridae River Delta, sprawling across an insane area, the center built two levels high. Everywhere they looked they saw life… farmers working fields, wagons moving goods to market, shippers loading and unloading cargo at the docks. In an irregular pattern across the city, massively tall spires reached skyward, their tops emitting a faintly blue light. They marveled at the sight for a few moments, and then proceeded on towards the city leaving Potema and Rumblebelly to their own devices in the woods.

    The Herald directed them through the streets to a fancy hotel near the central district where the city’s second level rises over the old city. Once checked in, the Herald discussed Protocol with them at length, the etiquette of state-level interactions, the schedule and attendees for the next day’s dinner and the expectations. After that, the Heroes had the rest of the day to explore the capitol and go shop the seemingly endless wares available. They all made sure they had proper attire for the dinner, and enjoyed each others’ company.

Zor, 5 Janosh, 3E999

    The Heroes slept in late and ate a wonderful brunch, and were met outside by a fancy carriage provided by the Executor to take them to the dinner. They arrived at the Senate building in the early afternoon, and were treated to a personal tour of the amazing structure and the legislature it normally holds. At the appointed time, the Heroes 4 Hire were brought into the main Senatorial oratory, where long banquet tables and chairs had been set with the full regalia of the Republic. Within, they met:

  • Executor Galidor, the elven Executor of Eridae;
  • King Aurelius von Heny and his wife Queen Elin, the human Monarchy of Valenar;
  • Duke Gyles Arres von Heny and his son Cody von Heny, the King’s human brother and half-elven nephew;
  • Lord Neistor, Lord of Pelyra province in Valenar;
  • Ten Senators from the Senate of Eridae.

    After a delectable seven-course meal, the Heroes 4 Hire received accolades for the sacking of Fort Garsley and the destruction of the first three nodes of the slaver network operating out of Morytania, their uncovering of the Aerie of the Slave Lords, the rescuing of the captive slaves and most importantly, the return of Cody von Heny.

    Executor Galidor’s sister, an elf named Galiniel, married Duke Gylles Arres von Heny of Valenar, a human and thus linking the Valenari royal family to the current Executor of Eridae. The Duke and Dutchess had a son, the half-elven Cody, nephew to both the King and the Executor. The Dutchess Galiniel and Cody were vacationing on the island retreat of Haven when the yellow-sails attacked, and Galiniel was killed in the raid. Cody was ‘collected’, and he kept his identity secret to prevent any ransom demand or blackmail attempts.

    The King of Valenar and the Executor of Eridae both expressed their gratitude and indebtedness, and both agreed that an entitlement to a plot of land would be in order. The Heroes were grateful, and after a short discussion, a sizeable plot was picked out at the approximate halfway point along the road from Anchorhead to Hellespont along the White River. After the banquet festivities drew to a close, the Heroes remained in Eridan an additional five days to work out details of the the land deed and construction, as well as more shopping and sightseeing.

Mol, 16 Janosh, 3E999

    The Heroes 4 Hire traveled five days returning from the capitol and arriving at their newly titled and deeded plot of land. They met with their construction boss and his crew, finalized plans and details, and supervised the ground breaking for the buildings of their homestead. Thia had continued on to Hellespont to complete her training, skipping her weekend hunts with Potema in order to complete her goal sooner.

Zol, 3 Milos, 3E999

    The construction time over the last three months had gone well, with minimal setbacks. Thia had completed her training three days before and saw the new structures in person for the first time. But it was time for the ribbon cutting, and the Heroes 4 Hire stood before a gleaming new Trading Post, Guild Hall, and Tavern Inn. There was a forge, training areas and a small dock in the river as well. Stables were located near the roadside, and dens had been prepared for a wolf and a bear. The construction was mostly of the dense, slate gray river stone so prevalent in the area, but a few of the larger granite blocks had been brought in from their friends at the Darkshelf Quarry. Carlstar Wiorfether, now the staff engineer for the Darkshelf Quarry operation, had also visited early in the project to supervise an unusual amount of digging for three, mostly-above-ground structures. The remaining architecture was primarily timber, stone and stucco.


    With a new home and base of operations to work from, what missions will the Heroes 4 Hire take on next? Will they return to exploring the mysterious, disappearing Dread Isle? Will they return to act on the information Lord Neistor gathered against the Slave Lords? What is behind the downfall and horror of Morytania? And, where is the Dark Priest, and what is he up to?

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

Thia and Potema: Madcoil !!!
A Finger in your Mind's Eye

Wir, 4 Aufgasta, 3E998

    … “I’ll take you up on it.” He crutched his way over to her and smiled. He held up his index finger in a pointer fashion, making sure she saw it, and then touched the tip to the front of his staff near the top. A small, faintly yellow aura surrounded his hand for a moment, and a single, small bud emerged from the grain of the wood and bloomed into a small, white five-petal flower with a little pinkish-red in the center. He picked it and handed it to her between his finger and thumb, “Thank you again. My name is Erendriel…”

    No recognition of that name.


    “Th-thank you.” Thia took the flower. “I mean you’re welcome?” Thia smelled the flower before looking back at the elf trying her best to hold in all the questions running through her mind. “I’m Thia. This is Potema. Where did you say you are from?”

    Her name hit him like a lightning bolt. He froze there staring at her, his eyes rapidly tracing every feature of her face as if searching for an answer.

    “Naïlo Thia?” He was squinting at her skeptically.

    Thia looked at him slightly warily. “… Possibly?” She looked down. “I actually don’t know… I don’t really remember much before…”

    He grasped her shoulder with his one good hand, pushing her back gently but intently to get a really close, thorough look at her face in the sunlight, diffused under the canopy of the trees. His eyes darted around her features once again, almost desperately. A few moments passed, and he let go of her and rested back on his staff.

    His face could have been the boy from her dream, but older. His face was longer, his jaw and features sharper. His hair was no longer the platinum-saffron it once was, but had been replaced by a sandy blonde.

    “Before what?” he said shortly, still looking skeptical.

    “I got lost. Well really, I got found. By Lord Orias.”

    He looked puzzled. “I don’t know any ‘Lord Orias’. What do you mean, ‘you got found’?”

    Thia explained who Orias the Changing was and how he had saved her from the slavers who had originally abducted her. She told him about how Orias took care of her and protected her for the more than half-century he kept her in his hellish realm.

    Thalolan listened attentively as Thia recounted from the beginning of her memory, already in Orias’ captivity. He still seemed skeptical, but instead asked, “so how did you get away from a Devil Lord?”

    “I didn’t want to. I was stolen away from him. They came in the night and took us.”

    Thia retold Thalolan of her time in Orias the Changing’s care, how an erinyes took her from her gilded cage and returned her to the surface, left her in the wild to perish, and the wolf pack that happened across her and took her in. She told him of her time running with the pack, what she learned from them, and what they meant to her… the horror of when she returned from the hunt that fateful day and found the pack destroyed… how she wandered until she mustered enough courage to enter the outskirts of civilization and earn some pay… equip… and begin the hunt, her hunt.

    Thalolan listened intently, and sat quietly for uncomfortably long moments after she finished her tale. His eyes never left hers, always searching, always evaluating… until he finally said quietly, “Okay.”

    She wasn’t exactly sure of what he meant by that, but when she asked, he clarified, “Okay. Get your friend. Do whatever you need to prepare for the fight of your life. After I heal and rest, we’ll go after Madcoil.”

    Thia, Thalolan and Potema returned to the small campsite they had left a little more than an hour ago, and Thalolan laid down to rest. Thia left Potema to watch over him, her mind racing as to all the possibilities that have suddenly presented themselves before her. Is this really the boy from her dream? Does he believe her history? Does he still care for her?…

    …Is revenge for the destruction of her pack, her family, before her, ready for the taking?

    She continued past the edge of the treeline and across the northern farms into the township of Hellespont to fetch her friend and comrade, Lt. Diplo Norixius. His ‘extra firepower’ would be needed after all. She found him attending a small, impromptu ‘graduation ceremony’, put together by Jolene Hellen and Father Tristan, to celebrate Diplo’s completion of his advancement training as a Paladin of Bahamut. She quietly joined the back of the small gathering, clapped politely, and then pulled Diplo aside at the first opportunity.

    She summarized to Diplo the situation with Thalolan and their plan to go after this Madcoil. Diplo needed no convincing, almost hungry for a real fight after all this training and practice. They grabbed gear and supplies, and then returned across the farms and into the woods to Thalolan’s campsite. He was still resting when they got there, so they were careful not to disturb him. Diplo made a cursory look at his injuries from afar, made a wincing face at Thia silently, and she opened her eyes wide and raised her eyebrows in a silent, “I know, right?!?”

    Thalolan slept a few hours, awoke, and Thia introduced him and Diplo. They talked awhile, almost exclusively about Madcoil, until Thalolan decided it was time for another round of healing. He concentrated as before, muttered incantations, and the golden glow seeped up from the flora and ground cover around him, closing his wounds and mending his arm completely. Unfortunately, he was still missing his two fingers on his left hand.

    He held up at his three-digit hand to get a better look. “Well, this as good as I can do on my own. These will have to wait.”

    The three of them and Potema sat around the fire into the evening finalizing details of their plan and talking about the upcoming battle, until Thalolan, having spent all his magical reserves, returned to resting. Thia and Diplo talked awhile longer, and then each also caught some rest before their early departure to kill Madcoil.

0400, Zor, 5 Aufgasta, 3E998

    It was the wee hours of morning when the three hunters roused themselves from slumber, dismantled the campsite, and mounted up to travel north along the road to Southpaw. Diplo summoned his Paladin’s Steed, deciding on it taking the form of a Dire Wolf to match the speed of travel and stealthiness of Potema. They traveled throughout the morning, and arrived at the scene of the attack on the merchant caravan around mid-day.

    From there they turned east, following a long-gone trail of tracks familiar to both of the elves and Potema. Diplo rode behind in single-file, letting Potema carrying the two elves lead the way. They traveled for miles eastward, at least five, possibly ten, before Potema slowed to a crouching, cautious approach, and Thia and Thalolan slid off of her back. Diplo slowed his steed, but stayed mounted.

    They passed the site where Thia found Thalolan barely clinging to life, and continued their cautious, stealthy approach to the east. They traveled several hundred more yard through an ever-densening thicket, darker and darker until he donned his Goggles of Night to ensure he could see. The elves ahead of him stopped, pointing ahead at something and whispering to each other. His wolf padded silently a little closer, and he could see it too… a wooded hillside a couple hundred feet ahead, and at its base a large, natural cave-hollow, like a bear’s den.

1400, Zor, 5 Aufgasta, 3E998

    Thalolan peeled off to the left; Thia and Potema circled to the right. Diplo thought, “Good. Armor up the middle,” and slowly pressed his giant wolf forward, attempting to keep a coordinated movement with his two compatriots. Just as Jolene had taught… “Teamwork beats talent, every time.”

    As the team penetrated within the last 100 feet to the cave, they started experience an intense itching-burning sensation behind their eyes, painful and just short of debilitating. Thalolan climbed a tree roughly 50 feet outside the cave on Diplo’s left. Thia found a good firing position in a solid tree to Diplo’s right, and Potema took cover near its base in a good spot for an ambush. “Perfect,” Diplo thought, “Time to get it’s attention and keep it.”

    The grounds around the grove of trees surrounding Madcoil’s den were littered with the dead and rotting corpses of every sort of fauna that lives in the temperate evergreens of the Paw Ridge Range, and all of them were in varying states of decay… some were just skeletons at this point, some were putrefying, some were so freshly killed they were still bleeding. The three of them thought they were passing through an animal graveyard, until they realized that there were a few… very few, but a few… humanoids in the mix… mostly peasant farmers, shepherds and merchants, but it looked like a ranger or two as well.

    Diplo approached the cave. Suddenly, an unseen pulse of psychic energy washed over all of them, the three Heroes and the two wolves. Invisible daggers stabbed into their minds, red hot and searing, and hate and rage and fear followed with them. Thia had never experienced such pain and anguish, nor a torrent of emotions that weren’t hers flooding her mind. It hurt, and she couldn’t do anything but hold on to the tree in terror. Diplo spurred the wolf on into the cave, and in the dark he engaged Madcoil.

    The giant head and front paws of a great black cat, melded at mid-torso into the body of a giant, slithering black snake, covered in shimmering scales and hissing with a forked tongue. It was just as Thalolan had described, but up this close it was even bigger and more terrifying. Diplo lit up his warhammer, and started smashing the monstrosity. Madcoil clawed and bit at him, but found the paladin’s armor and shield difficult to penetrate. Having trouble making out the exact extents of where Madcoil began and ended, but with plenty of light to reference where Diplo was, Thalolan cast a Moonbeam just in front of Diplo, sizzling Madcoil under a great beam of radiant energy.

    Thia shortly recovered from the stunning effects of Madcoil’s psionic attack, and managed to fight through the pain and rain arrows into the cave around Diplo. Diplo and the wolf pulled back out of the cave mouth in a fighting withdrawal, trying to draw Madcoil out into the open. As he got out of the mouth itself, a sphere of Darkness also appeared just outside the cave mouth, and Diplo moved farther out to also escape the darkened area. Madcoil moved into the darkness, protruding only his head to claw and bite at Diplo again.

    Thalolan kept the Moonbeam moving with Madcoil, piling up the damage. Madcoil psionic blasted again, hurting the wolves but the Heroes managed to resist. Madcoil then projected a cone of Fear at two-thirds of the party, and Diplo’s dire wolf fled. Diplo slid off quickly as to not get carried away by the fleeing mount. Madcoil then turned it’s attention to Thalolan, and snake-coil extended itself up to nearly 30-feet tall to reach him near the top of a large tree. Thalolan leaped out of the tree attempting to land on Madcoil’s giant back, but slipped off and fell to the ground flat, earning some bumps and bruises along the way.

    Diplo continued smashing Madcoil with his warhammer, and Thalolan had lost concentration on the Moonbeam, losing the spell. He scrambled to his feet and cast Call Lightning. The Darkness had dispersed, but in the fray no one remembered when or how. Madcoil projected another cone of Fear, catching everyone but Thalolan, but only Potema was affected and fled. Thia rained in more shot into the giant, snake-like body of Madcoil, and Thalolan spiked a lightning bolt from the cloud he summoned into the tail area well away from Diplo.

    Madcoil was losing and losing quickly, and knew it. Madcoil let out one last, vicious psionic blast, and then fled to the north. As it retreated with surprising speed through the trees, Diplo quickly switched to the longbow he had brought with him, and as Thalolan and Thia peppered the fleeing Madcoil with arrows and lightning bolts, Diplo put the monster down… permanently.

    The two dire wolves returned in a few moments to the battlefield, but as Diplo and Thalolan approached Madcoil’s corpse, they pulled up short. Thia stomped up to Madcoil’s giant head with a viciousness in her gait that neither of them had seen before… it startled them to see such rage exuding from the normally stoic elven maiden. Thia climbed upon Madcoil’s spine, drew her longsword, and unceremoniously sawed Madcoil’s head off… uncleanly… unsurgically… and without mercy.

    Seeming to understand the emotion if not the reason, Diplo, Thalolan and the two dire wolves stood there in silent witness until she, through the rage and the tears, was done.



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