1900, Sul, 15 Octos, 3E998
The Heroes 4 Hire took a few moments to take it all in. The six of them, aided by two raven familiars and their Shou pathfinder named Kwon, had successfully sacked a fortress. The odds against their success were staggering, but they had beat them and survived. Dajjal began the ritual to re-summon Luna. Illyia Baham, Lt. Diplo Norixius and Karraway returned to the specialists’ dormitories to collect them, and Greves and Alton Beeblebrox began the laborious task of taking inventory of the slaves in the pens. They emptied the cells and dorms as they went, assembling everyone into the huge mess hall so they could organize the recovery effort and inform all as to the plans and next-steps.
When they went back topside to collect Kwon and Malaric Wanderfoot, the party discovered that the two of them had come back inside the fort perimeter and done a bit of exploring, discovering a large stables with three large wagons, two carts, eleven medium horses, two light horses, six oxen and two stablehands… which Kwon quickly subdued and restrained, and Malaric was now nervously keeping watch over with the short sword he’d pilfered from the dead goblins as Kwon searched the stables. The team brought them all down to the mess hall with the rest of the rescued and captured, and after several hours the Heroes found their party had grown by the following:
- 112 Adult Slaves:
- 46 human males, 1 of which was a Barbarian, another was a Monk, and 2 others were offering rewards to be returned to their homelands;
- 30 human females, 2 of which were Barbarians;
- 10 elven males;
- 3 elven females, 1 of which was in her last trimester of pregnancy;
- 5 dwarven males;
- 1 dwarven female;
- 10 halfling males;
- 5 halfling females, 1 of which was deaf;
- 1 half-orc male;
- 1 gnome male, beaten to a pulp from a failed escape attempt and not ambulatory until Karraway healed him.
- 24 Child Slaves:
- 4 human males;
- 13 human females;
- 2 elven males;
- 3 elven females;
- 1 half-elven male, a blonde-haired adolescent shepherding the younger children;
- 1 halfling female.
- Malaric Wanderfoot, the halfling male rescued from the goblin and kobold fight pit;
- Estelrath Tancred, the slave merchant now manacled and in custody;
- 2 male half-orc stablehands, captured by Kwon and Malaric, manacled and in custody;
- Markessa’s Double;
- Markessa’s Bodyguard;
- Carlstar Wiorfether, the fortress engineer;
- the half-orc Smith;
- the Smith’s wife, an orc matron;
- “Cookie”, the old army veteran Cook, a human male.
One hundred and forty six people, plus Kwon and the six Heroes 4 Hire. The team became painfully aware of the logistical challenge facing them. First, The Black Lagoon, fine sloop that it was, would never hope to carry them all. Second, Highport was a three-day walk through the mysterious mists of the Morytanian countryside, and whatever dangers they conceal. Even with the wagons and carts carrying food, water and supplies, it would be a treacherous journey. And third, Blackthorn had stayed good to his word so far, but they knew they had no guarantee he wouldn’t run back to the Slave Lords and return with reinforcements. They needed help, and a lot of it.
The Heroes 4 Hire, plus Kwon, Malaric and Carlstar, gathered around a map while ‘Cookie’ prepared food for all. Kwon pointed out that while Highport was 3 days away walking down the road, going cross-country the border with Valenar was only about a day’s walk due east of Fort Garsley. He suggested that if the giant caravan of people could make it across the border, the situation would become a lot less problematic… they would have support available anywhere they found a village or town along the way, they would be out of the ‘hot zone’ of Morytania and they could then turn south and work their way to the Valenarian coast, all in relative safety. Plus, they might get intercepted by Valenarian authorities along the way, and the whole endeavor would be solved. The Bodyguard, who had been eavesdropping the conversation, questioned how one would know where east was in the mist, where obscured visibility made direction finding impossible. Carlstar piped up, dug around in his footlocker for his engineer’s tools, which included surveying equipment, and produced a rather high-quality compass.
And with that, a plan was formulated. Diplo, Dajjal and Illyia would stay behind and guard the fort and its loot. Greves would lead the massive caravan out of Morytania to the east into Valenar before turning south and proceeding to the coastal port town of Port Hedland. Beeblebrox, Karraway, Kwon, Carlstar, Malaric, the Bodyguard, the Double, the three Barbarians, the Monk, the Smith and even Cookie would provide security enroute. They would ensure everyone was armed and armored from the fort’s stocks, regardless of skill or experience, to give the appearance of an army on the move. The wagons and carts would be used solely for supplies, except for one cart set up as a mobile kitchen and the other cart as an ambulance. The last detail they needed was a ship… a much bigger ship than The Black Lagoon.
Illyia had a solution. He pulled a unique coin from his pocket, unlike any currency of any nation known on all of Gaelea. This token he had had Master Kozar Ven place a very simple but useful Sending enchantment on, and he activated it aimed at Lord Neistor of Pelyra. He sent the following:
“One hundred thirty six slaves going to Port Hedland. Send ship to Port Hedland to retrieve. Job is done. Info with Kwon. Update at dawn.”
…and he almost immediately received the following in return:
“Will send galleon to Port Hedland. Arrive two weeks. Looking for blonde half-elf boy. Extra reward.”
With the messages transmitted and received and a plan in place, the group took to making preparations for a morning departure, patched up wounds, ate dinner and then rested for the evening. The next morning, the wagons and carts were hitched up to oxen, loaded with supplies, the field mess and ambulance kit. The team then supervised not only the security detail arming and armoring up, but also ensured that every rescued slave of age was wearing armor and carrying weapons from the hobgoblin soldiers that had died defending the stockade. It was late morning before the caravan, looking more like an infantry battalion, rolled out of the stockade over the drawbridge, turned south to follow the road down out of the mountains, before turning east off the road and heading across open terrain towards Valenar.
1000, Mol, 16 Octos, 3E998
As soon as the caravan was away, the three remaining Heroes… Diplo, Dajjal and Illyia… closed the drawbridge, dropped the portcullises and locked the stockade down tight. They took a few hours to prop up the corpses of the soldiers on the walls, in an attempt to give the impression that the fort was still occupied and defended. Once their fake defenders were in place, the three took to searching the fort, the keep and the dungeons methodically, inventorying everything they found and moving it to a central location for ease of loading once their compatriots returned with more wagons after securing the rescuees.
Hours and hours they searched, looted and hauled plunder to their repository. They cleared the stockade and the keep of valuables, and began the same of the dungeons. When they were back in the specialist’s dormitories, they searched the room occupied, according to Carlstar, by “Blackthorn’s thugs”. There they found a secret door in the northern wall, and after a few minutes investigation discovered how to open it. As the door swung wide, a werewolf in hybrid form leaped from it and attacked… a werewolf they recognized from before, in the fight in the practice chamber. The trio piled into the lycanthrope full force, killing it quickly, but not before the second werewolf joined the fray from within the secret passageway beyond. As they were battling the second one, the door to the room opened behind them, and Blackthorn strode it.
“I thought we had an agreement. Why are we fighting?” he said with a smirk. Diplo and Illyia switched targets and moved to engage Blackthorn, while Dajjal finished off the second werewolf with a pair of Eldritch Blasts followed by a shot from his pistol crossbow. Blackthorn looked at Illyia and attempted a Charm Person spell, which failed, thanks to the Fey Ancestry of elves. Diplo and Illyia attacked, and Blackthorn performed a fighting withdrawal into the hallway, where a tackle from Diplo knocked him from his feet. While the two of them struggled prone on the hallway floor, Blackthorn suddenly flew with surprising speed across the floor and through the open door into his former quarters, carrying Diplo with him until the doorway, where he scraped Diplo off on the frame.
Blackthorn landed on his feet leaving Diplo laying outside the doorway, but Diplo spotted another secret door hanging open in the northern wall of Blackthorn’s quarters. He scrambled to his feet and dashed to the secret door to prevent escape, while Illyia and Dajjal rained arrows and bolts and spells in on Blackthorn. Blackthorn stepped to a side to get the right alignment, and cast a Cone of Cold, catching all three Heroes in the blast and freezing Illyia solid. Blackthorn then retreated down the hallway to the south. Dajjal ran to Illyia and cast Spare the Dying and then force-fed a Potion of Healing to bring Illyia back from the brink of death.
Diplo followed Blackthorn down the hall and attempted to tackle him again, but he saw it coming and sidestepped the grapple. He then retreated into the first dorm room, formerly occupied by Fyndax, Markessa’s assistant alchemist, and took up an ambush position just out of sight inside the doorway, obviously to cleave anyone who entered with his glaive. Diplo got to his feet as Dajjal and Illyia caught up, and Dajjal sprinted past the door to get to the other side, misjudging the reach of the glaive and taking a hit from Blackthorn as he passed. On the other side, Dajjal could see that Blackthorn had morphed into his giant form, and his glaive with him. The team circled the doorway to the south to shoot arrows at him, noticing that the secret door they discovered during their earlier search was still hanging open.
Blackthorn cast a Darkness spell in the doorway and hall, blinding everyone, and the trio opened up on him with their bows. They retreated farther south in the hallway to get out of the radius of the Darkness, firing approximately where they remembered the doorway being. This continued for several rounds without retort, until the Darkness abruptly ended without apparent reason. The three Heroes searched the alchemist’s room and the secret door and found no sign of Blackthorn, and then returned to his quarters and the secret door there, again finding no sign of Blackthorn. They investigated the passageway beyond the secret door, found that it connected to the other secret door in the werewolves’ quarters, and also found a 1′ × 1′ shaft leading horizontally back into the rock at least 20’ from the dead end wall near Blackthorn’s secret door. A small braided rope was dangling out of the shaft.
Illyia investigated for traps and then pulled the rope, drawing three tiny carts on rails resembling mining carts in a short train, which halted against a stop once they reached the near end of the shaft. Dajjal sent Luna in to investigate, and she found a 10′ × 10′ room a the other end, with no other apparent exits, filled with six large chests, two large coffers, a carved mahogany box, a fold-up cot in the corner, a barrel with a wineskin on top of it, and a small wooden table. The room otherwise appeared empty. Dajjal commanded Luna to return to her true form of an Imp, and see what was in the chests. As Luna struggled with the size of the first chest’s lid, Blackthorn reformed from his Gaseous Form into his physical one, and dispelled Luna with his glaive. Illyia called Nightshade next, had her turn Invisible, and then surveil Blackthorn inside his hole. She saw Blackthorn sitting down on the cot, open the barrel which was full of rations, get a bite to eat, sip from the wineskin and maintain vigil at the tiny entrance shaft. The Heroes decided they would take a short rest to regain some abilities and spell slots before going in after him.
Illyia opened up ‘round two’ by firing two sets of Magic Missile through Nightshade into Blackthorn, wounding him. With her Invisibility gone, Blackthorn dispelled Nightshade in a single stroke. Dajjal then sent two rounds of Fireball down the shaft into the enclosed room, and after the second one detonated Illyia used his ring to Misty Step into the room with Blackthorn. When he appeared, he pulled out Markessa’s Wand of Magic Missiles and unloaded all seven charges at once, riddling the mostly crispy Blackthorn with nine of the magical darts in rapid succession. Illyia followed up with a stab from his short sword, nearly killing him. To Illyia’s surprise and horror, he watched the shocked Blackthorn’s wounds begin to heal right before his eyes, and it was then that the Heroes realized that Blackthorn regenerates.
Having been pinned to the wall by the Magic Missiles and Illyia’s stab, Blackthorn retaliated with a viscious pair of glaive strikes, one of which critically wounded Illyia and brought him to the brink of death. Illyia considered using his ring again to Misty Step to safety, but chose to stay and fight Blackthorn to the death. He countered hard, catching the larger man off guard and unprepared for the ferocity of his attack. Illyia’s twin swords cut Blackthorn in half at the waist, ending the final battle of the Slaver’s Stockade, deep in the stone treasury. The two halves of Blackthorn’s corpse began to rapidly change, morphing into the upper and lower torso of a large Oni, also known as an Ogre Mage. The tiny room filled up and Illyia had to climb atop the corpse, as there was no floor space left to stand.
1500, Mol, 15 Octos, 3E998
With the final stand of Blackthorn, what will the treasury he died protecting ultimately yield? What adventures await the second half of the Heroes 4 Hire as they lead the caravan of the rescued and the captured out of Morytania? And, what does Lord Neistor want with the blonde headed half-elven boy?
Find out next week, on “TGC: Heroes 4 Hire!!”