The Gaelean Chronicles: Heroes 4 Hire

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

1200, Far, 20 Janosh, 3E1000

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

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

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

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

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


Sar, 21 Janosh, 3E1000

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


Mol, 2 Febryan, 3E1000

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

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

Allendretta_02.png

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

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


0600, Far, 6 Febryan, 3E1000

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

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

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

    Ten days.


1800, Far, 13 Febryan, 3E1000

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

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

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

0800, Zor, 19 Janosh, 3E1000

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

…with her wand at the ready.

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

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

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

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

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

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


1900, Zor, 19 Janosh, 3E1000

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


0500, Far, 20 Janosh, 3E1000

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

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

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

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

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

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


1200, Far, 20 Janosh, 3E1000

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

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

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

Far, 6 Janosh, 3E1000

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…and her wand at the ready.


0800, Zor, 19 Janosh, 3E1000

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

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

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Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun: Crypt-ology
The last, Last Stand of Wongas, High Priest of the Temple

2300, Sul, 1 Janosh, 3E1000

    The Heroes 4 Hire continued their search of the dungeons beneath the Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun, exploring a series of dusty old crypts that apparently hadn’t been visited in eons. The first crypt they happened into had sealed niches in the four walls of the odd, parallelogram shaped chamber, each sealed with black bricks. Six great sarcophagi lined up in the center of the room in two rows of three, all made of the same black stone. Some glittered with gold, others platinum. Jewels winked and glistened from sculpted visages atop each sarcophagus, gem “eyes” of red, orange,yellow, green, blue and violet. At least a dozen other shapeless statues lined the walls of the place, human-sized forms of black stone, but without clearly defined limbs and with featureless heads.

    After taking in the scene for a moment in the low light of Karraway’s Light spell, Lt. Diplo Norixius took a step beyond the threshold into the chamber, only to be met with the floating, ethereal face of a spectral bulldog, peering at him sadly with glowing red eyes. He paused a moment, trying to discern what the sad bulldog was trying to convey, before taking another step into the crypt proper. The ethereal bulldog suddenly swelled to a large, demonic creature and attacked, catching the party by surprise. The nycaloth dove into the middle of the Heroes, attacking Karraway before teleporting to the other side of the chamber.

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    Smedley Hampton, Alton Beeblebrox and Illyia Baham rushed the fiend and engaged him in the middle of the sarcophagi, where it again teleported away to a point farther down the hallway that approached the crypt. While the rest of the group re-rushed to the nycaloth’s new position to fight, Smedley decided to start prying gems from the eye sockets of the visages while the distraction was underway, and pocket them as quickly as possible. The nycaloth again teleported to the middle of the party and the fight continued in the entrance threshold of the chamber.

    The fiend threw down a Darkness spell, and the Heroes were presented with another opportunity to, begrudgingly, practice their blind-fighting skills. Erendriel Thalolan Wild Shaped into a rhinoceros and charged out the entrance and down the hall, while Naïlo Thia rode upon his back looking for an opportunity to take a shot at the nycaloth. Diplo and Alton found a wall in the Darkness and used that to navigate their way through, looking for an edge or the fiend itself. Illyia and Ryoun Rodri found their way out of the dark into the hallway, where they set up ready to attack anything that came out after them. Thalolan and Thia turned around and charged through the black again into the chamber, hitting no one on their way by.

    The nycaloth guardian of the tomb found Karraway again and struck him down, just as Diplo and Beeblebrox found the fiend in the dark and returned the favor. The Darkness dissipated as the demon burned away to a pile of ash, and Diplo revived Karraway. Thia, Ryoun and Thalolan departed down the other branches of the entrance hallway to reconnoiter while the rest healed, investigated and looted the crypt the nycaloth was guarding. Down the other hallways they found other burial chambers, all with full, sealed niches and unguarded. The whole party regrouped once the first crypt was properly investigated, and they entered the last crypt in the series together.

    The last crypt had sealed, burial niches along three walls of the rectangle, but the west wall had a faded painting of an inverted, two-stepped pyramid of purple hue. On one side of it was a shrouded black figure, on the other a black, many-rayed sun. Both of the black figures were merely outlined with silvery paint, gray and lusterless with age. A lone bier stood in the center of the chamber with a coffer of black stone, and its lid was askew — something had disturbed it, recently from the tracks around it in the dust.

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    The Heroes cautiously moved to investigate the coffin, and were not surprised when a corpse-like entity jumped up and declared they would all die for disturbing his, Wongas the High Priest, final resting place. The party hit him quickly and with such damage that the corpse immediately fell back into his own coffin, apparently finally resting.

    They searched and found little of value, and them moved from the west wing of the dungeons to the east wing. There they searched several store rooms of rotting garbage, avoided a room with a few bones and nothing else apparent from the entrance way, and ended in a large chamber with a huge cistern of cool, clear water that descended out of sight. With the dungeons searched to their satisfaction, the team returned up the stairs to the lower level of the Temple proper.

    Back on the lower level, the Heroes made short work of quick exploration of the west side of the Temple, forgoing any thoroughness of search in the interest of merely getting the layout of the temple discovered and ensuring that they had, in fact, eliminated all the monsters and other potential adversaries. They found that they did, in fact, own the temple on all levels, and could take their time to give it a thorough and proper searching, all in hopes of finding the ‘hidden closet’ mentioned in Slaggoth’s journal and discovering what the ‘Dark Preist’ is actually after.

    The team split up, some returning to the encampment at the base of the Three Sisters and some staying to guard the Temple. The party broke the camp down and loaded everything back into the wagons, and then made the several day journey up the treacherous mountain path to bring all their equipment, supplies and companions up to the Temple complex.


Far, 6 Janosh, 3E1000

    Will the Heroes ever find the ‘hidden closet’ referenced in Slaggoth’s journal? And what will they discover within if they do? What will be the outcome of the final showdown once the Dark Priest arrives?

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

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Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun: Groorg the Cunning
"He's throwing rocks!!"

1110, Sul, 1 Janosh, 3E1000

    With no further sounds of approaching enemies, the Heroes 4 Hire began to search, loot and clean up the upper level of the Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun by dragging the piles of bodies outside and burning them in one gigantic pyre. They quickly questioned the captured norker witch-doctor once he had regained consciousness, gaining a small amount of intelligence about the lower levels, and then Alton Beeblebrox dispatched him with malicious aforethought. The team took quick inventory of their health, spells and abilities, and opted for a long rest before attempting to remove the hill giant corpses blocking the stairwells to the levels below.

2200, Sul, 1 Janosh, 3E1000

    Once rested, the Heroes attached a series of ropes to the dead hill giant blocking the eastern stairwell, and with great concerted effort managed to slide the giant up and out of the confined space, sliding him out into the middle of the basalt floor. They cautiously proceeded down the stair, slick with the blood and vitriol of the deceased denizens of the Temple. At the base of the curved stair, they found more of the same dull, dark gray basalt construction, carved into impressive columns and long halls of a massive cathedral. They explored room after room along long, wide halls, finding the quarters of the various occupants they had just slain earlier in the day. Most rooms were empty of anything noteworthy, just nasty bed chambers of trolls, gnolls, giants and norkers.

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    As they finished clear the east side of the lower floor, they came upon the bed chamber of the leader of the temple’s denizens, and along with it several chests of plunder the impromptu ‘tribe’ had collected over time. They looted the coffers, and discovered that they had recovered a respectable sum of coin, gems and trading bars, but that there also appeared to be a chest or two missing… based on the geometric shapes left bare in the surrounding dust and grime. They continued their search, and as the colonnade swung around from the eastern half to the western half of the lower level of the temple, they discovered the southern star leading to the dungeons below, that the witch-doctor had described.

    The party had yet to discover the “hidden closet” described in Slaggoth’s journal, but still abandoned their search and detoured down the stairs to the dungeons.

    They descended the long staircase several hundred feet into the dungeons that the witch-doctor had described as “none but Groorg the Cunning dared to step foot.” They first entered a 20′×20′, high ceiling chamber with a massive central pillar and 4 giants idols carved in relief into it… each of a different color and design and facing in one of the four cardinal directions. Illyia Baham cast Detect Magic, and the entire pillar radiated a strong source of uncategorized magic, as the entire temple proper radiated a very weak aura as well. The team decided to leave it well enough alone, quickly searched the attached storage rooms full of garbage and rotting foodstuffs through the doors of the same chamber, and then chose to proceed along the grand, colonnaded hall to the north.

    After fifty feet the hall opened up and divided east and west around a shrine in the form of an huge ovoid pillar spanning from floor to ceiling, more than 10’ thick and 20’ long. In the exact center of the east and west faces, in a carved, recessed alcove, stood a giant black statue of a shrouded, man-like figure holding a bowl in front of it. Water seeped down the faces of the figure, running drop by drop as if they were tears, coursing along the chest to a trough made by the arms, and then into the bowl, having left a slight deposit of reddish mineral over the years. The overflowing bowl steadily dripped into another bowl-shaped recess in a smaller, spherical with sun-ray shaped statue at the feet of the larger robed figure.

    Naïlo Thia stuck her hand in the water in the small bowl, and experienced a strange tingling sensation but experience no other apparent effects. Illyia then dipped a finger and tasted it, finding the same sensation and result. Thia then drank a good portion, again experiencing the tingling, and then the party lost any remaining interest in the shrine and moved on to the north. Nearly a hundred feet farther, they found a small v-shaped widening of the hall around an odd diamond-shaped pillar, each face having bold relief of a male figure. The two southward faces had the same man in cowled robes, but the two northward faces had the man in plate mail with a strange helm and a great halberd. They party studied the column for a moment and then continued north.

    Another fifty feet past the diamond-shaped pillar, the grand hall opened into a vast natural cavern, extending up and out well out of reach of Karraway’s Light spell. The stood for a moment in front of the opening a few feet into the cavern, discussing what to do next, when suddenly a boulder nearly three-feet diameter came sailing at them out of the darkness, narrowly missing Thia as she sidestepped at the last minute. A second boulder followed in rapid succession, skipping once off the floor before ringing off Lt. Diplo Norixius’ plate mail, knocking the wind out of him and felling him to one knee. The party scrambled and split, Thia and Illyia peeling off to the right along the wall, Erendriel Thalolan and Karraway to the left, while Beeblebrox, Ryoun Rodri, Diplo and Smedley Hampton charged up the middle in the direction of where the big rocks were coming from.

    Toward the middle of the chamber, the party discovered a huge mountain giant, throwing boulders at them from a pile heaped just beyond another statue of a figure in plate mail and a halberd. As they closed on him, the giant turned and retreated to the west at a dead sprint, and the Heroes pursued, assaulting him with a hail of arrows ,weapons and even fists, in an attempt to bring him down. Smedley used his enchanted gear to Haste himself well out in front of the giant and near the southwestern wall, and the giant reciprocated by drilling him with another boulder and knocking him unconscious. Karraway and Ryoun hurried over to Smedley to render aid, as the giant made a full ditch effort to outrun his pursuers down the tunnel at the far west end of the cavern.

    Even the extreme foot speed of Illyia proved not to be enough, and Groorg the Cunning successfully fled the escape tunnel out of the dungeons of the Temple, across an ash covered glade tucked in a pocket on the side of the western Sister, and over the side down a nearly invisible mountain path. The team regrouped, healed up and returned to continue exploring the dungeons. They found the area was seemingly, now, devoid of life, came across a small 4-cell prison block, empty of occupants and rotting and rusted. They continued down several corridors finding several old crypts filled with sarcophagi, and paused to debate whether to open and search them.


2300, Sul, 1 Janosh, 3E1000

    What other discoveries await the Heroes 4 Hire in the dungeons beneath the Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun? Will they ever find the ‘hidden closet’ referenced in Slaggoth’s journal? Can they discover what the Dark Priest seeks, before he arrives?

    Find out in four weeks, on “TGC: Heroes 4 Hire!!

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Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun: The Obsidian Ziggurat, Part 2
Giant Plugs.

1105, Sul, 1 Janosh, 3E1000

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    The Heroes 4 Hire reset their positions and waited for whatever reinforcement was coming up the stairs at them. Much to their chagrin, six trolls lumbered up the stairwells next, one of which was exceptionally large. They rushed headlong into a vicious melee, managing to knock Karraway unconscious with a powerful swipe. Lt. Diplo Norixius quickly revived him with an expedient Lay On Hands, while Smedley Hampton, Alton Beeblebrox, Ryoun Rodri, Erendriel Thalolan, Naïlo Thia and Illyia Baham provided covering actions.

    The trolls were brutal, but after defeat they were followed by wave after wave of norkers and ogres and gnolls. The Heroes endured the endless onslaught until the room and the stairwells were littered knee deep in corpses. In fact, both stairs were impassable due to the number of large corpses of trolls and ogres clogging them… that is, until something from below starting clearing the way by grabbing the limbs of these large corpses and pulling them with frightening speed out of the passageway. Make that “somethings”, because the clearing action was occurring in both stairwells, and the somethings were BIG.

    Once the stairs were cleared, the team witnessed a hill giant, one per side, squeezing their way through the stairwells, having to crawl up the stairs on hands and knees to negotiate the relatively cramped passages. The party engaged them in the face at point blank range, taking advantage of the giants’ restricted movement while in the passageways. Diplo and Ryoun were each grabbed by the giant in front of them and sort of shove-tossed, both landing on their butts about 10’-15’ back. The rest of the group, pairing off equally with the confined giants, poured out so much damage that the hill giants died still in the stairwells, effectively plugging them.

    With one of the most intense five-minute battles in their experience behind them, the Heroes 4 Hire took a quick inventory of their health and resources, and decided to take a rest in the now secured upper level of the Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun, before proceeding.


1110, Sul, 1 Janosh, 3E1000

    How are the Heroes 4 HIre going to get past the two hill giant corpses blocking the stairwells to the levels below? What horror await them when they do? And have they unwittingly helped the Dark Priest by clearing away the formidable defenses of the Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun?

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

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Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun: The Obsidian Ziggurat, Part 1
Norkers and Gnolls!

Sar, 28 Decia, 3E999

    The Heroes 4 Hire set up camp at the base of the middle of the Three Sisters, prepared dinner, and spent the first night if Midwinter’s Festival in quiet camaraderie huddling around a roaring fire to stave off the frigid northern air. They enjoyed watching the aurora dance across the night sky, issuing in the new year, until they finally set a watch and went to bed.


Sul, 1 Janosh, 3E1000

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    The rising sun rudely awoke the party, covered in a fine layer of the gray ash that dominated the plain around the Three Sisters. They rose, ate and equipped for a day of exploring the Lost Temple of Tharizdun. Lt. Diplo Norixius flew up on his giant eagle to the mountain tops and quickly found the two-stepped ziggurat described in Slaggoth’s journal. He spent some time reconnoitering the structure and its surrounds from the air, seeing no signs of life and relaying his discoveries back to the group via their communications earrings.

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    Atop an outcropping just below the peak on the northern side of the third, westernmost Sister, the temple’s exterior was a two-stepped pyramid constructed of basalt, its lower portion carved straight out of the dull, dark stone of the mountain itself. The strange, black building was huge; the upper story was about 80’ square and 40’ high. The lower floor, seeming to grow directly out of the mountain rock, was some 160’ square and likewise 40’ high. A narrow, treacherous trail lead in from the east, across the peaks of the other two Sisters, before hooking around the western Sister’s apex and approaching the structure south-to-north. The track led across a bridge also carved from the same stone and up a steep ramp to the upper story of the place.

    Diplo returned to the group at the base camp below, and after a short discussion the team decided the best way to approach the Temple was from the air. Diplo began ferrying his teammates one and two at a time, and after nearly two hours the entire party was assembled at the base of the long slope, ready for action. They proceeded up the ramp, taking note of how well the Temple had held up over the eons of abandonment. The ramp was flanked by low walls at the sides, widening from the 6’ wide bridge at the base to about 16’ wide at the top of the ramp, where they approached a great stone portal into the interior, recessed 20’ back into the sloping surface of the upper level of the ziggurat.

    Just inside the notch of the slope and at the top of the ramp, a 3’ high and wide wall of rough stones blocked the way. Some 15’ beyond was the gaping portal of the upper block. They stood there a moment, observing that the low wall was not of the same materials as the rest of the Temple, but instead was constructed from field stones gathered from the mountain surrounds. Standing in the near-noon day sun, they could not see inside the darkened opening to the upper block, and decided to hop across the wall and continue.

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    As they crossed the wall, a volley of arrows came flying at them from inside the darkened interior, hitting several. Some of the Heroes 4 Hire rushed into the interior, a few stayed at the wall to use it as cover, and a grand melee quickly developed inside the upper level of the Temple. Those of the party that rushed inside were quickly greeted by a large force of 12 gnolls and 28 Norkers (a distant cousin of goblins adapted to the high rocky existence of the mountains), and the fighting was fierce, albeit brief. Diplo and Illyia Baham were briefly caught under a net and swarmed, Ryoun Rodri used the Sword of Lyons to turn invisible and sneak attacked the enemy repeatedly. Smedley Hampton and Alton Beeblebrox piled into another swarm, while Naïlo Thia used the wall for cover and rained arrows into the fray. Erendriel Thalolan joined Beeblebrox and Smedley, firing up a Moonbeam while Karraway used a combination of Spirit Guardians, Guardian of Faith and Spiritual Weapon to stack up the damage on the groups of enemies.

    The engagement was over quickly, leaving the entire initial force on the upper level destroyed, and the party at about half strength. The interior was huge; the entire 80′×80′, 40’ high upper block was one huge room, with columns supporting the massive stone ceiling, and two sets of wide stairs leading down in the back, opposite to the entrance portal. The Heroes 4 Hire took a moment to catch their breath and take it all in, when their ears brought them another sound…

    …the sounds of approaching reinforcements, coming up from the stairs below.


1105, Sul, 1 Janosh, 3E1000

    What reinforcements will the stairs produce? Will the Heroes 4 Hire have the strength to continue? What does the Dark Priest want with the mysterious Lost Temple of Tharizdun?

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

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Pursuit of a Madman: The Ashen Wastes
Five Rivers, Three Sisters

1800, Zol, 17 Nove, 3E999

    With the image relayed to Dajjal back at Half Point, the Heroes 4 Hire returned to focusing on the journal they had risked so much to recover. Higgins, the former consort of Slaggoth recovered from suspended animation, assisted Ryoun Rodri and Illyia Baham decipher the text from Slaggoth’s ancient personal shorthand and transcribe it into Common. Late into the evening they worked, and after nearly four hours the journal revealed that Slaggoth had researched a lost temple to the Chained God, Tharizdun, complete with a map in the style of a pirate’s treasure map, where the directions are explicit, but the starting location is not specified other than with a cryptic hint.

    Thinking the map was useless without knowing the starting point, Erendriel Thalolan added that they were holding the physical proof that Forgotten Temple had, in fact, been mapped. Not picking up on his implication, the team watched as Thalolan cast Guiding Hand, asked for the Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun, and the spectral hand pointed west. Assuming the Dark Priest was enroute there and easily had a month head start, they discussed their possible courses of action over a map of Caledonia. Using a general azimuth from Oxfront provided by the Guiding Hand , they looked at possible mountainous areas that could match the description in Slaggoth’s journal, and decided that anything east of Morytania was out, because he’d be there already and the Crystal Ball showed he was still traveling. The group decided a ship was in order, and Higgins informed them the nearest port lie a day’s ride north to the small town of Jotunheim. The next morning, they packed up the wagon and made the trip.


Zor, 19 Nove, 3E999

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    In Jotunheim, the Heroes 4 Hire chartered a barque named The Northwind to convey them, their mounts and their equipment until dismissed. They departed northward across Lake Etra, sailing four days until they exited into the Barren Sea, where they again took a bearing from Thalolan’s Guiding Hand and was reassured that the Lost Temple lay west. During that leg of the voyage, Dajjal contacted them and told them that he and Emen Benniel were able to track down the tapestry design Lt. Diplo Norixius had passed to him three days prior. The design was the logo of The Dancing Stag, an inn in the Tracian city of St. Aurelius, on the western bank of the intersection of the Five Rivers.


Sar, 28 Nove, 3E999

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    Six more days of sailing brought The Northwind to the mouth of Five Rivers, where the Guiding Hand again directed them farther west. They sailed four more days westward until they reached the northeastern shores of Evendim, and the Guiding Hand again pointed west, but this time a little more south. Another conference over the map table and they concluded the start point to Slaggoth’s map must be concealed in the Silverwood, putting the Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun hidden in the mountain range that borders Evendim with the Ashen Wastes. The team was faced with a decision to either sail to the extreme north around the lobe of the continent housing the Ashen Wastes, betting that the Temple’s location lay farther beyond, or to proceed in overland in anticipation that it lay in the mountainous border they thought. After a long discussion, the party decided to sail up the inland waterway into and across Lake Evendim.


Mol, 9 Decia, 3E999

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    Once deep into Lake Evendim, the Guiding Hand again swung an azimuth back to the west-by-northwest, confirming their suspicions that The Forgotten Temple lay in the mountainous border of Evendim and the Ashen Wastes. Feeling happy in their choice of path to take, the Heroes had The Northwind put them, their mounts and their equipment ashore in the ancient ruins of Annuminas, the city of the long extinct Numinorians. There they camped the night in a dockside warehouse that was mostly intact, and departed northwesterly in the morning into the Silverwood forest along the bearing they had divined.

    Shortly into the first day inside the Silverwood, Nightshade spotted a group of humans stealthily shadowing the party at a cautious distance, carefully remaining concealed but unaware of the raven circling in the canopy overhead. The group were dressed typically of woodland rangers, and operated in a closely coordinated squad. Illyia borrowed the Sword of Lyons from Ryoun and activated it, disappearing instantly. He slipped off his horse and silently circled back behind the trailing group and invisibly watched them watching the Heroes. He noticed that these humans were exceptionally tall, towering an average of eight feet, and were a mix of roughly half-and-half men and women. The mysterious squad tailed them for nearly six days, never closing and never breaking concealment, until they finally turned around and returned the direction they came.


Zor, 19 Decia, 3E999

    The next morning when the Heroes 4 Hire awoke, they found a stranger standing at the northwestern edge of the small clearing they had set up as camp the night before. An elf of tall and lithe stature, clad in skins, furs and warpaint, stood comfortably leaning on a spear awaiting for the party to awaken. He addressed the group in Elvish, speaking plainly and clearly, but he held a gaze intently on only the elves in the group. He asked who they were and why they were here, and Illyia spoke for the group, answering his questions honestly. After a brief discussion, the stranger told them that his village’s totem might fit the description of the ‘start point’ mentioned in the text, but outsiders would not be allowed access across their borders. He also told them of an ancient village legend of a trek to the ‘Palace of the Whispered One’, along a route that leads northward from the village across the mountains to the great volcano, then turning westward to the eastern approach to a lonely cluster of mountains, and a treacherous path leading farther in.

    He directed them to turn either due north or due south, and two days travel would bring them to the edge of the Silverwood, and then they could circumvent the edge of the forest and their territory to get to their desired destination. The party thanked him for his assistance and heeded his directive, turning north until they reached the northern edge of the Silverwood, then following its edge back toward the west-northwest until it brought them to the mountainous border of the Ashen Wastes.


Wir, 25 Decia, 3E999

    The Guiding Hand had led them to the extreme west end of the mountain range that demarcated the border, where a river they were not familiar with flowed down from the foothills and headed west toward the sea. From there, the Guiding Hand was pointing northwest, and the Heroes concluded the Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun did not lie in the mountains of the border region, but actually among the distinguished trio of mountains in the extreme west of the Ashen Wastes famously known as the Three Sisters. The Three Sisters were not part of a range, but simply rose sharply and rocky out of the barren plain of ash and silt, towering to a height making them a prominent landmark visible for a hundred miles in all directions on a clear day.

    The Heroes crossed the border at the river and rode the four day journey across the ashen plain, straight as the Guiding Hand directed them, until they reached the base of the Three Sisters in the evening. There, against the sheer cliff-faced foot of the middle Sister, they camped for the night.


Sar, 28 Decia, 3E999

    What could the Dark Priest be after from the Lost Temple? Will it provide any new insights into the Dark Priest’s plans? What new adventures await the Heroes as they explore into the mysterious Lost Temple of Tharizdun?

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

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Mayhem in Mur Falls: The Horizontal Tower
Skogres!

1800, Wir, 11 Octos, 3E999

    The Heroes 4 Hire took their souvenirs and bade Krekklefeets goodbye, departed the tomb and its cave complex and returned to their campsite for the evening. Before turning in, Lt. Diplo Norixius used the Crystal Ball to Scry on the Dark priest, where he observed him rummaging through an ancient library in what appeared to be a horizontally cylindrical room. The next morning they packed up and departed for the eight-day journey back to Half Point.


Zor, 19 Octos, 3E999

    The Heroes arrived back at the Heroes’ Haven guild hall shortly before dinnertime, and were greeted happily by their staff and fellow founding members who had remained behind. The team got Higgins settled in a room at the company’s expense, and took the next four days attending to duties around Half Point before departing for the Horizontal Tower of Slaggoth the Necromancer. A return letter was awaiting Illyia Baham, answering several queries he had made on Naïlo Thia’s behalf in regards to the current disposition of the family Erendriel Thalolan had told her about but she had no recollection of herself.

    Illyia’s mother had quietly inquired for him when she received his letter, and had found out that the Naïlo family was still wealthy and prominent in the town of Naïlo Nalore deep in the Silverleaf forest in the west of Atryae. After her disappearance, her family searched for decades for her, and a substantial reward for information as to her whereabouts was still being offered. However, with absolutely no success of any kind, hope had been lost and she had been effectively given up for dead. With Illyia’s help, Thia crafted a letter to her parents, recounting what she knew of her past and her exploits since, from the point after the blank in her memory.


0600, Zol, 24 Octos, 3E999

    Alton Beeblebrox, Diplo, Illyia, Karraway, Thia, Ryoun Rodri and Smedley Hampton, accompanied by Thalolan, Higgins, Potema, Rumblebelly, Luna and Nightshade, left Half Point for the nearly three week wagon ride to Higgin’s ancestral home, the village of Mur Falls high in a mountain river-gorge and Slaggoth’s Horizontal Tower high above. The trek took them northward along the White River Road past Hellespont and Southpaw, the dwarven cities of Dhur Naal and Gorah Khar and eventually to the citadel along the northern border road known as Northern Watch. There the road crossed the border into the high, sandy plains nation of Gineon and eventually to the small crossroads town of Whitgrove, where they turned onto the road leading northesterly into the snowy, mountainous country of Etra. In the mid afternoon, they pulled the wagon into the river-fork town of Oxfront, deep in the heart of Etra’s central valley, stabled the horses and rented rooms in the inn for the night.

    Higgin’s was understandably excited about being back in his home country, although it had been more than a millennia since he was put to sleep. The party spent extra time and attention with him to assist in his transition into a new time as best they could. All in all he seemed to be handling things well; however, he was both eager and a little hesitant to see what his village looked like in modern day.

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Far, 13 Nove, 3E999

    The trail from Oxfront to Mur Falls was little more than a foot path into the rugged mountains, and with the cold and snow of a Nove-in-Etra winter upon them, the Heroes resigned to making the two-day hike on foot. They found a campsite that look like it was well used at the halfway point, and on the second day the trail began an ever-steepening climb up the rocky ledges of the eastern mountain range, following the path of a swiftly flowing river of whitewater, rapids and waterfalls. Late that afternoon, they came upon an escarpment carved into the very rock-face of the gorge itself, and within it carved out of the living stone the buildings of the tiny village of Mur Falls.

    The path forked in front of them; the left path leveling off and proceeding straight into the escarpment and the village, and the right steepening up the face of the mountain over top of the cavern and proceeding to the giant waterfall just under a mile farther upstream from the village. The village’s cavern was high up the face of the gorge, easily 150’ or more to the rocky riverbed below, and had an amazing vista of the head of the waterfall stretching nearly another 100’ above the level of the village. And there, a few dozen feet in front of the rushing water of the waterfall itself, stretching from one side of the gorge across several hundred feet of expanse to the other side, was the Horizontal Tower of Slaggoth the Necromancer.


1700, Sar, 14 Nove, 3E999

    The group stood at the fork for a few moments taking in the breathtaking view, but shortly realized that the village carved into the rock was quite devoid of life… no people, no smoke from cooking or hearth fires, no sounds other than the rushing roar of plunging water. Higgins was dumbstruck, and wandered into the village looking for signs of the its fate. The Heroes decided to split up, and Beeblebrox, Diplo, Thia and Smedley headed up the right-hand path towards the tower while the rest followed Higgins in to search the village. Inside, they found no sign of violence or disease or catastrophe, and eventually concluded that the village was probably abandoned for some unknown reason many centuries ago, regardless of the enduring nature of the houses carved from the stone cliff face.

    Meanwhile, up at the horizontal tower, Alton, Diplo, Thia and Smedley were greeted by an awe inspiring, although surprising, sight. A 40’-diameter cylindrical tower spanned the width of the gorge some 200’ long, oriented horizontally instead of vertically and supported by two massive buttresses carved out of the rock face of the cliffs themselves. The horizontal tower was roughly level with the top, plunging edge of the waterfall, and sat at least 50’ out into the gorge in front of it. Beneath the tower span was an ancient rope bridge crossing the gorge and connecting the winding foot trail through the mountains across the river. The tower was not in the repair they expected: nearly two-thirds of the tower’s outer wall had crumbled away over the centuries, and they could see three floors exposed inside, the middle and upper partially broken away as well. The bottom floor was also broken away on its edges, but still completely spanned the length of the tower and therefore the gorge, and was the more obvious way to safely cross the canyon.The far end wall was completely gone, and the end wall in front of them had stone steps rising to a single door before the wall abruptly ended in crumbling masonry at the level of the middle floor. They tried the door, found it unlocked, and went in to investigate.

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Meanwhile…

    Back in the village, Illyia had noticed a few skeletal remains scattered around the village proper, strange in that the buildings and courtyards were basically devoid of any remains. The skeletal remains were larger than normal humans, and after closer inspection he surmised they were the skeletons of ogres, dead at least two years. He quietly pointed it out to his companions, and together they began counting the number of sets of ogre bones they could find. Higgins continued his reverie, until a set of ogre bones stood up and made a move to attack him. He yelped and retreated, and the 3 Heroes moved in to engage the Skogre (Skeletal Ogre). Illyia grabbed Higgins and used Misty Step to teleport him out of danger and farther down the narrow passage between buildings. Ryoun used the Sword of Lyons to turn invisible and circle behind the Skogre while Karraway attempted to turn the undead. Karraway’s turning failed, and the Skogre dealt him two vicious blows with its greataxe, nearly killing him.

    Ryoun took a page out of Illyia’s book and tried a backstab on the Skogre, dealing some healthy damage, but Karraway cast Cure Wounds on himself and then Spiritual Weapon behind the Skogre to begin bashing it. While Illyia backed Higgin’s out of the alley and away from danger, he spotted a second Skogre round the opposite corner of the same building farther down the street to their right and hit it with a Witch Bolt. The first Skoger attacked Karraway again, reversing all the healing he had just done and putting him back on death’s doorstep. Again, Karraway cast Cure Wounds on himself, attacked with the Spiritual Weapon, and Ryoun stabbed it in the back. The Skogre missed two more attacks on the cleric before Ryoun finally put the undead down forever.

    The second Skogre closed the gap to Illyia as he commanded Higgin’s to run and find cover, shot it with Magic Missile,circled it and ran off down the pathway behind the Skogre. His kite-maneuver worked, and the Skogre turned with him and dashed to try to keep up with the agile elf. When it closed the gap again, Illyia repeated the maneuver, and the mounting damage of the Witch Bolt, Magic Missiles and weapons shortly destroyed the second Skogre as well.

Meanwhile, meanwhile…

    Up in the horizontal tower, the four Heroes found a variety of relics and rooms to be searched, but only made cursory checks while they were looking for the library Diplo had seen during the Scry. The furnishings were once lavish and comfortable, lost to the ages from rot and decay from exposure to the elements, thanks to the failed outer shell of the tower. Most rooms were caved in and a pile of rubble. Some were nearly untouched except for the rot of more than a 1000 years. On the second floor, at the end of a long hallway, they found a set of double doors in a mostly collapsed wall, exposed around its periphery to the open air by lack of tower shell. Beyond those double doors, they found the library Diplo had seen, only without walls or roof save the wall the doors were in. The floor extended 40’ from the doors in an ever-narrowing wedge shape, the missing portions long since fallen away with the crumbling of the stonework. The majority of the floor space was a mess of knocked over bookshelves and scroll cases, a few table littered with open books and at the far tip of the cantilevered floor… a writing desk and a book upon it.

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    Diplo and Smedley entered to search, sure that this is where they had seen the Dark Priest in the Scry. Thia went upstairs to the top floor, half again shorter than the middle due to the collapse, and stationed herself at the broken edge of the floor to observe Diplo and Smedley and the library from above. The two rummaged through the bookcases and scrolls and tomes laid open on the tables, obviously having been thoroughly searched and tossed by the Dark Priest. Their investigation eventually brought Diplo’s attention to the writing desk, and the closed book on it. The satin bookmark stitched into the leather binding, well rotted from the years of exposure, was inserted between pages in the middle of the book. Diplo carefully examined the book without touching it, trying to see if it was rigged in anyway. Not finding anything he carefully open the front over without moving the book, flipped the pages of notes and scrawling until he came to the bookmark, where he found the writings ended except for the thin remnant of a page that had been torn out and taken. He rummaged around until he found some charcoal-chalk, gently made a rubbing on the blank page, and deftly lifted the impression of the writing present on the removed page of the ancient journal.

    It was getting dark, and the rest of the team below in the village had reported the Skogre attack and that it had been handled, so the group up at the tower decided it was time to go, now that they found what they were looking for… although it would take a day or two to decipher the coded notations of Slaggoth’s millennia-and-a-half old journal. Thia and Smedley told Diplo to grab the book and “let’s go”, but when he did he saw the flash of a Glyph of Warding go off that was concealed on the desktop beneath the journal. Multiple streaks of blue arcane energy raced down the legs of the desk, along several of the cracks in the tile floor to suddenly disappear somewhere underneath the remains of the horizontal tower. Diplo yelled to run, and the three sprinted for the end of the tower they came in, safely still over the ledge of the cliff face. They heard and felt the multiple detonations explode from underneath the tower somewhere, and the Horizontal Tower of Slaggoth the Necromancer gave a frightening shutter, cracked, and began to crumble away from the middle both directions toward the ends.

    Thia, Smedley and Beeblebrox ran to the end of the middle and top floors and jumped out through the missing upper half of the end wall, managing to land with only minor bumps and bruises. But as Diplo raced along the full length of the middle floor, the tower and floor crumbled away behind his sprinting feet, overtook him, and he fell with it into the open space below. Diplo made a wild grab for a ledge, a piece of the tower, anything… but found nothing except the cruel acceleration of gravity. He quickly stowed the journal, retrieved his Immovable 10’ Pole, gripped it tightly and clicked the button… instantaneously stopping his descent in midair only a few stories down from where the tower had started. The rest of the party saw him now dangling like the “Hang in there, Kitty” poster, and moved quickly to render aid. The group that had been in the village had heard the explosions and rushed to the railing of the catwalks that were on the exterior of the escarpment, where they had a front row seat to watch the whole ordeal.

    Thia sent Potema down the trail to pick up Illyia, who was sprinting up the trail to get to the terraces where the abutments of the tower used to be. Potema met him half way and he rode the remainder to save his strength. Once there, he took off the majority of his gear, sighted in on his target and concentrated… and then activated his Ring of Dimension Door to teleport out to where Diplo hung, grabbed him in a full body hug, took one quick glance back at the ledge above where he started, concentrated and made another Dimension Door jump back to safety. The lithe elf and the burly dragonborn plopped onto their butts on the ground with a thud, none the worse for wear. With the journal recovered, the party dusted themselves off and made camp in the village for the night… after they tossed all the remaining ogre skeletons over the edge to the rushing river below.


1800, Zol, 17 Nove, 3E999

    The two day hike back down the mountain trail was uneventful, although frigid. Higgins returned with them to Oxfront, and as they rented rooms again at the inn and checked on the wagon and the team of horses, they discussed with him what he wanted to do. Higgins decided he would stay in Etra, for while his village was forever lost to antiquity and its fate could never be known to him, Etra was still his homeland. He thanked the Heroes 4 Hire for their help and hospitality, and the team decided to bequeath him 2000 gp from company funds as compensation for the difficult circumstances and emotional pain they had caused him.

    Before calling it a night, the Heroes decided that Diplo should try to Scry on the Dark Priest again with the Crystal Ball. He observed the Dark Priest in a room at a comfortable inn, and a tapestry with a distinctive logo was hung in the room. The banner was two tones of brown and trimmed in gold, with a golden caricature of a buck in some sort of a leaping movement. He contacted Dajjal, still back at Half Point, over the Earrings of Communication and described the tapestry to him, asking if he could talk to his academic contacts in Anchorhead and see if anyone knew to which Inn and where the logo belonged. Dajjal agreed and said he would get back to him when he had more information.

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Zol, 17 Nove, 3E999

    What new clues will the ancient journal reveal once it is decoded? Will it provide any new insights into the Dark Priest’s plans? Will the Heroes be able to catch up with him in time to foil his plots?

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

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BattleSystem: Something Different
Test Drive your very own Army!

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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.

CONGRATS JOSH AND ERIC!!

 


    See you in three weeks!!

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