The Gaelean Chronicles: Heroes 4 Hire

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.

    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”, so 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!!

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.


    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 approach 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.


    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!!

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.


    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!!

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

1105, Sul, 1 Janosh, 3E1000


    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!!

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


    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.



    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.


    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!!

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 Lost Temple had, in fact, been mapped. Not picking up on his implication, the team watched as Thalolan cast Guiding Hand, asked for the Lost 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


    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


    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 Lost 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


    Once deep into Lake Evendim, the Guiding Hand again swung an azimuth back to the west-by-northwest, confirming their suspicions that The Lost 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 Lost 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!!

Mayhem in Mur Falls: The Horizontal Tower

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 Näilo 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 Näilo family was still wealthy and prominent in the town of Näilo 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.


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.



    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.


    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.


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!!

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!!


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