1800, Sul, 15 Octos, 3E998
Frustrated by the second escape of the slippery Markessa, the Heroes 4 Hire surveyed the great cavern and its three tunnel exits, deciding to head back into the fort’s dungeons via the northern one. The didn’t have to proceed far before they ran into five hobgoblins and four bugbears, the remains of the slaver’s forces consisting of the overseers from the slave pens and the guards dismissed by Blackthorn. Obviously, someone had alerted them to the party’s presence and ordered them to attack, for they were armored, armed and prepared for a showdown in the hallway. Markessa, however, was not with them.
A brief ranged fight ensued, with the hobgoblins and bugbears getting the worst of it. They eventually decided to close the distance and charged, but that only accomplished their total destruction at the Heroes hands. The party took a quick inventory of their health and resources, decided to return to the ‘fake’ Markessa’s room and interrogate the double for information. The Double admitted that she was one of Markessa’s ‘more successful experiments’, surgically and magically altered to be Markessa’s exact duplicate. She was then subjected to torture and brainwashing techniques to make her completely obedient to Markessa’s orders.
The Markessa Double also told the party of a weak and ugly elven man that also had been a subject of Markessa’s experimentations. She had altered him into strength and great beauty, and then had Blackthorn train him extensively in combat so that he would serve as her personal bodyguard… and lover. However, Markessa’s brainwashing secretly backfired, because he not only fell in love with the Markessa Double instead of Markessa, he was also the only person who could tell them apart. Lastly, the Double begged the team to help her and her lover escape, to which the Heroes eagerly agreed. She couldn’t offer much else on Markessa or Blackthorn, but she did guarantee the party that Markessa would not have fled the slaving operation.
The Heroes released Markessa’s Double and followed her through the western secret door into the Bodyguard’s practice room, where she explained the situation to him and he eagerly agreed to help them fight against the evil Markessa, and then started donning his armor and collecting weapons. The team decided to bunker into the practice room and take a short rest to heal up some wounds and regain some abilities, but the rest was interrupted about 15 minutes later by three thugs accompanied by Blackthorn and Markessa entering the Double’s bedchamber looking for a fight. The Bodyguard told the Double to hide in his bedchamber until things were safe, and she left through the northern door into the hallway beyond.
Markessa threw a glass bottle into the short, narrow passageway between the bedchamber and the practice room where the party and their new cohort awaited. The glass immediately shattered and started billowing thick, noxious, gray smoke into the passage and into the rooms, and after the passage was completely obscured Markessa’s henchmen closed the secret door on their end to force the smoke completely into the practice room. As the smoke started to fill the practice room, Dajjal cast a Fireball through the smoky passageway, which immediately struck the closed door on the far end and detonated in everyone’s face. Once they all stopped-dropped-and-rolled themselves out, the party also closed the door on their end to reduce the propagation of the smoke into the practice room.
The Heroes waited a few moments until the smoke bomb smoked itself out and started to dissipate, and then opened the door to the passageway. Lt. Diplo Norixius, Greves and the Bodyguard posted up on the door from the secret passage, while Illyia Baham, Dajjal, Karraway and Alton Beeblebrox assembled in the back hallway beyond the northern door to guard their rear. Once their fighting lines were set, Greves proceeded into the narrow passageway and kicked open the secret door only to be greeted by 3 large dire wolves and Blackthorn, but no Markessa or thugs. One wolf lunged at his face and bit him, knocking him unconscious just inside the passage. The wolf then leaped through the still slightly smoky passage into the practice room and the fighting line.
Just then the passageway, Greves and the Double’s bedchamber disappeared into darkness, impenetrable even to Darkvision. Several tense moments passed as Diplo and the Bodyguard, with Beeblebrox’s assistance, fought the wolf, hitting it but causing little damage. Karraway also returned to assist, and cast a Dispel Magic through the passageway to a point five feet beyond the open secret door, effectively hitting the epicenter of the Darkness spell and dispelling it completely. Diplo then rushed in and performed a Lay On Hands on Greves to revive him to consciousness. The two then returned to the fight with the giant wolf in the practice room. The wolf stood up on its hind legs and morphed in some sort of hybrid wolf-man, clawing at Beeblebrox as a second wolf leaped through the passageway, and it was then that the party realized they were facing several werewolves.
Meanwhile, the rear guard watched around the corner where the back hallway turned south, keeping eye on the door at the extreme south end of the corridor. The door suddenly burst open and a large minotaur rushed through, with Markessa just behind it. Illyia screamed an alarm to his compatriots before he and Dajjal opened up on the minotaur with everything, and Karraway reversed course again to assist in the back hallway. The three Heroes unleashed on the minotaur, and with several critical hits, killed it before it could close the distance to attack. They then switch targets to Markessa and piled on ranged and spell attacks, until Illyia managed to snipe her dead with a incredible shot, snapping her head back with an arrow drilled into the center of her forehead.
The half of the party fighting the werewolves in the practice room managed to kill one of them, despite their resistance to damage from normal weaponry. Illyia and Karraway picked up Markessa’s corpse and carried it back to the practice room after Dajjal, who hurried back to join the fight. Once there, they yelled through the door to Blackthorn that they had successfully killed Markessa as promised, and asked if their agreement was still in effect. Blackthorn then commanded the werewolves to stand down, to which they retreated back to the Double’s bedchamber to join Blackthorn. Blackthorn then requested they show him the corpse, to which they came through the passageway and laid Markessa’s dead body, arrow still sticking out of her forehead, at Blackthorn’s feet. He examined her for a moment, and then asked to see the Double to ensure he wasn’t being swindled. The Heroes asked the Bodyguard to fetch her, which he did, and kept a very close guard on his girlfriend as she presented herself. Blackthorn inspected her a moment, and then asked the Bodyguard if she was in fact, Markessa’s Double. The Bodyguard confirmed the corpse as Markessa and the Double as the Double, and after a few moments reflection, Blackthorn stated, “Very well,” and departed. The two remaining wolves followed him out, transforming back into their human form as they left.
With their arrangement with Blackthorn apparently in tact, the Heroes 4 Hire took a few moments in the Double’s bedchamber to discuss what to do next. The Bodyguard and the Double began gathering their effects, while the team searched Markessa’s body, finding a Wand of Magic Missiles, a scimitar of unknown capabilities and her high quality studded leather armor.
1900, Sul, 15 Octos, 3E998
With Markessa dead and Blackthorn’s objective achieved, will he in fact leave Fort Garsley and the slaving network? How much loot will the Heroes find? And how are they going to get all these people out of Morytania alive?
Tune in next week, on “TGC: Heroes 4 Hire!!”