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SessionReport

Adventurers

Character Class Description
Derennan Dwarf level 3 A dwarf hailing from Western Wastes.
Llyfed Elf level 3 Thin and balding elf whom also happens to be Rashomon's friend.
Tarkus the Promising Cleric level 2 Follower of Bachontoi, God of Red Wisdom.
Oberon Fighter level 3 A tall, supple hunter adorned with bones and horns of his prey.
Nolmbork Dwarf level 2 Portly, bald, red bearded, with an epic nose. On a mission to have a drink in every settlement in Wilderlands.

Thawmist 16th, Airday

“Would you like to play with us?” a dwarven child-like voice asked Derennan.

“Yes, yes of course.” he answered.

The party of five has spent days carving their way out of a stone tomb they've willingly teleported in. Tarkus was coming down with fever, so Oberon stayed in the background to help him move about.

Now it was on Llyfed, Nolmbork, and Derennan to lead them out to safety.

But first, playing with ghosts of long dead children.

Derennan took dwarven and dragon toy, sat in the center of the room, and played out few scenarios. Audible gasps and cheers could be heard from the child.

Nolmbork and Llyfed used the opportunity to scan the square room. It was. They found closed stone doors to the north and west.

“Wooow, how long beard you have!” two more child-like voices, this time in Common, approached Nolmbork “Can we play with it?”

And so Nolmbork got many little braids on his beard.

Through mix of play and tender questioning, Derennan found out very little from the dead children except they were brought here long time ago and that they came from “deep deep” down below. Oh, and that horrible scream could be heard from north doors.

“We are looking for a way out. Would you like to come with us?” Derennan asked.

“Yes! Yes! But we must take our toys with us!”

And so Oberon carried a sack of silver toys in one hand, and stumbling Tarkus in the other.

Forcing west doors revealed another square chamber. Floor was lined with near-invisible grooves. They were few millimetres wide and criss-crossed the full width of their vision. The chamber smelt of burnt oil.

Llyfed stepped in first, followed by Nolmbork. Nothing happened. Torch was passed to the elf, revealing an archway to the north.

Llyfed stepped north, followed by Nolmbork. The whole chamber was sprayed with oil from above, setting them both on fire. Derennan's quick reaction saved Nolmbork from certain death. Llyfed endured, but was badly, badly burnt.

The party quickly moved on, hoping that the trap hadn't had the time to reset. They were right.

Long corridor led them into a massive square chamber. They bolted to the doors as soon as they could see them. This led them to a junction. Moving straight ahead down the winding corridor led them to doors opening into a circular chamber.

The chamber was well lit with six torches in sconces alongside west side. Stone doors were flanked with two banners sporting yellowish hyena-like head. Portcullis blocked exit to southeast.

“Come, look at this...”

Thick blueish mist rolled behind the portcullis. Shooting a lit arrow into it resulted with a gone arrow.

“Erm, kids, would you mind to take a look into the mist and let us know what is inside?”

Dwarven voice went first. It was gone for solid ten minutes. Then it suddenly erupted “This is so much fun! Wooooo!” other two voices joined it, and soon all three could be heard coming from within the mist. They were having the time of their unlife.

“What if they are playing with skeletons or something? That wouldn't be fun for us.”

“I think they are just finding the mist fun.”

“Let's go...”

The demihuman trio lifted the portcullis in unison, and the party moved forward. Portcullis slammed shut behind them. They huddled, as not to lose touch with any of them.

Mist had sweet cinnamony smell. It was so thick one couldn't see their own hand right in front of the eyes. Llyfed took the lead, keeping his hand on the wall.

Eventually they found the way out.

“Kids, are you coming?”

“Noooo! Can we stay here?”

“Ahm, sure?”

“Yay! Just our toys!”

Party pressed on, entering a sizeable circular chamber. This one was not lit at all. Sconces were empty. Five skeletons dressed in rotted garments and decayed armour were clustered along the east wall. Although their weapons rusted long time ago, the great number of silver coins in their sacks and backpacks was still intact.

An audible grunt followed by metal hitting the stone floor came from south.

Adventurers jumped to the sides, bracing themselves for whatever it is that was making noise. More grunts could be heard, and then south portcullis lifted as well.

Two bulky, ten feet tall beastmen came in. Each carried a large club, as well as a coin sack with a symbol of yellowish hyena-head. The bigger of the looked at this funny assortment of characters, laughed, and then demanded to know who they are. His request came out in broken Gnoll.

“We are mercenaries looking for a way out.”

“You? Mercenaries? Hahahah!” the beastmen laughed. “You are trespassing.” the laughter stopped. “Six hundred gold coins or your life!”

“Oh, we have prepared all this coin just for you!” Derennan pointed to assortment of sacks next to the skeletons. Then the demihuman trio quickly ran to bring them all to the feet of the two ogres.

“And all the coin you are carrying!”

“We gave you everything we have!”

“Elf, if I shake your dwarf friend and a single coin falls out of his pockets then I'll turn you into a steak tartare!”

“Look, all my pockets are empty!” Derennan demonstrated.

Satisfied with the tribute, the monsters left, heading into the chamber with mist.

“Hey, can you tell us what way is out?!” Llyfed yelled after them.

“Sure, just follow us!” the smaller of the two replied.

The party decided not to follow them, but instead head south through double set of portcullises.

Working their way through another square chamber, and two sets of doors, led them into a pentagonal chamber. The floor was caked with splatters of dried blood. All walls were lined with a clearly visible groove running the whole circumference of the chamber.

Stone slab “doors” were to the west and an archway to the south. There was a narrow blood-less path going through the middle of the chamber.

“Let's go, one by one.”

The party crossed the chamber without triggering whatever was the source of all the bloodshed. Now they found themselves in a hexagonal chamber dominated by a large, dark pit in the center of it.

There were four exits from this chamber: the north archway they came through, the west portcullis, the east doors, and south doors.

Adventurers choose west. This led them to a T-shaped junction splitting west and east. The former terminated with an iron gate preventing further advance. The latter led them down a winding corridor which turned out to be trapped. Derennan and Llyfed were hit with a hail of darts.

Enduring this trap too, the party pressed on until they ran into another stone slab “doors” without any handle or obvious opening mechanism. The followed the corridor opposite of it.

“Huh...”

At the end of the sixty feet corridor they found a wide stone tablet with four square protrusions on it. Each square had a different set of symbols on it. From left to right square:

⃤ ⛛ ⃤

◯ ⛛ ⃤

◯ ⛛ ◯

⃞ ◯ ◯

Going back to the doors revealed a set of three symbols above it:

⃤ ⛛ ⃤

Nolmbork went back to the tablet and pressed the square with matching symbols.

The stone slab slid open!

“You stay back, I'll check it first.” Derennan moved in.

It was a rectangular chamber some thirty by fifty feet. It was as plain as all they been through so far—with one small distinction. There was a writing desk with a matching chair in northwest corner.

SLAM!

The stone slab fell down, cutting him off from the rest of the party. Quick scan of the room revealed two skeleton in rotted bedroll in southeast corner and stone doors to the north.

Party outside ran to the stone table, only to find a completely different assortment of symbols:

◯ ⛛ ⃤

⃞ ◯ ◯

⃤ ⛛ ⃤

⃞ ⛛ ◯

“Check above the doors!”

Indeed, a different set of symbols were now above the stone slab:

⃞ ◯ ◯

Hitting the matching square opened the doors. Rest of the party ran into the chamber to join up with Derennan.

Searching the skeletons produced a locked spellbook and a ream of parchments.

SLAM!

Stone slab fell behind the party.

“Can you read the parchments?”

“Yes, they are in elven.”

The writings could be best described as diary entries which get increasingly desperate. They mention “ghastly undead crawling from the pit” preventing the author from leaving the chamber. There also mentions of “effective, pressure activated trap” in front of the doors preventing the monsters from getting in.

“We have to get out. Let's move.”

With Llyfed and Nolmbork badly wounded, Derennan took the lead. He opened the doors and then jumped as far as he could. No trap was activated. Then he strolled into the hexagonal chamber and was promptly surprised by two ghastly undead.

They dropped him in a single round. Rest of the party focused their missile attack on one of the undead, killing it in the process. The other fled through east doors.

“Quick, let's get Tarkus over the trap! He needs help!”

“Check on Derennan! Quick!”

Indeed, the dwarf was not dead but merely paralysed.

Llyfed and Nolmbork picked up stiff Derennan while Oberon helped Tarkus move quickly.

“Where to?!”

“North or east?!”

“Let a die decide!”

“East!”

...

The party burst into a dank corridor filled with ghastly undead.

Wounded and heavily encumbered they barely made it through the doors before undead horde caught up. Llyfed stepped in to protect his allies. Nolmbork was caught by one and nearly killed in the process. It was solely his dwarven constitution that kept him alive.

“Let me go...”

Tarkus gripped his improvised holy symbol and called on the God of Red Wisdom.

Bright crimson light flashed the chamber, forcing the undead to flee in terror.

Illustration by kickmaniac

Tarkus collapsed to his knees, completely expired.

Derennan still laid stiff.

Nolmbork was half-dead.

Only Llyfed and Oberon stood tall.

How the hell will they get out of here?

Discuss at Dragonsfoot forum.

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Adventurers

Character Class Description
Derennan Dwarf level 3 A dwarf hailing from Western Wastes.
Llyfed Elf level 3 Thin and balding elf whom also happens to be Rashomon's friend.
Tarkus the Promising Cleric level 2 Follower of Bachontoi, God of Red Wisdom.
Oberon Fighter level 3 A tall, supple hunter adorned with bones and horns of his prey.
Nolmbork Dwarf level 2 Portly, bald, red bearded, with an epic nose. On a mission to have a drink in every settlement in Wilderlands.

Thawmist 3rd, Earthday

“Let's inspect that pillar more closely...”

The party was in a most curious room. It was thirty by thirty feet, with low ceiling. A raised platform with unfamiliar symbols dominated half of the room. A two feet tall pillar was in the center of the chamber.

Upon the closer look the party could see it had a circular depression that would fit a spherical object. Around the hole was a ring with arrow-like pointer pointing towards north-east. Four symbols were etched on each cardinal direction:

“Let's return here later and bring the silver orb with us.”

Indeed, the party abandoned these two secret chambers and backtracked. This time they took the right door in the large chamber with pillars. This led them to another doors that were difficult to open.

After the dwarves failed to force them open, Oberon the Ranger came forth and burst through the doors straight into the jaws of a giant lizard. Nolmbork stunned himself in excitement, Derennan impaled the lizard, Llyfed cut off a chunk, and Oberon finished it off.

Illustrated by snoop

An alcove in the southeast corner had several incomplete skeletons, gnawed bones, and three sacks of coins totalling 300 gold coins and 300 silver coins.

Following a brief discussion, adventurers decided to head out, find a safe spot to hide their treasure, rest for the night, and return next morning. And so it was! Llyfed found a toppled tree and buried the sacks into the roots.

Thawmist 4th, Fireday

Party returned into the dungeon beneath the ruined tower. They went back into the corridor where stench of death was strong.

“Careful...”

Adventurers huddled in tight formation and bravely proceeded forth, into darkness, into stench. A little over a hundred feet later they found two T-shaped junctions.

The first led into another dark corridor. One the entrance to it was a familiar primitive banner with hyena-like head on it. The banner was all tattered and torn.

The second T-shaped junction was flanked with two tall plaques.

Llyfed the Linguist gingerly approached them.

There were over twenty lines of text, all different from each other. Those in Common, and Elvish said:

“Suicide Corridor”

Derennan and Nolmbork could read the same in Dwarvish and Gnomish.

Smell of death was most intense down that corridor.

The Company of Wise Adventurers decided not to explore this corridor.

They decided to continue down the long, dark corridor instead.

Another hundred feet later the reached a turn and doors completely different from all they've encountered so far in this dungeon.

To call them doors would be perhaps and overstatement. This was more of a framed stone slab without anything resembling a handle or keyhole.

Dwarves stepped in to investigate. Lo and behold, on the each side of the doors was a single depression four inches wide, eight inches tall, and two inches deep.

Derennan and Nolmbork nodded to each other and pressed a hand into the depression—simultaneously.

It worked!

The doors slid ajar, revealing another curious chamber.

A chest on top of stone plinth rested in the middle of the room. Another slab like doors were in northwest corner, and lowered portcullis blocked the exit in northeast corner.

Closer inspection of the chest revealed that it was in fact made of stone, not wood! The thing seemed either fused or chiseled straight out of the pillar.

On the front of it was a large, keyholeless, padlock. A grid and vertical lines next to it were etched onto the padlock:

“I'm stupefied.”

“Is this a riddle? A trap?”

”...”

“I know what this is.” Derennan announced.

“Nolmbork, poke the middle field with your spear.”

One dwarf obliged the other.

A cross hatch appeared on the middle field.

“Aha! Now touch the field on the first row and first column.”

Another cross-hatch pattern appeared.

“Now second row, second column...”

And Derennan continued giving orders, forming an X shaped pattern on the grind.

Once completed the padlock popped open, revealing a chest filled to the brim with silver coins and three exquisite necklaces.

“Are these magical?”

Tarkus the Experimenter tried on all three. Despite being covered in bling, he did not discover any additional powers.

“I think we should get out and back to Hara!”

“Yes!”

Encumbered by all the treasure, the party took twice as long to return to their current base of operations.

Thawmist 12th, Waterday

As promised, the adventurers had returned to the dungeon. Freshly recruited porter, Deidamamina, was carrying a bowling-ball sized silver orb.

Recent hiring spree by the Invincible Overlord has driven the wages of hired help into the stratosphere. Worse than that, Hara's general of forces has also been recruited, as well as two thirds of the fighting-fit population.

“Hara is understaffed. Forces of Chaos are mounting. Gnoll warbands, Altanian barbarians, internal strife. Ahyf will be sacked any day now. We should consider leaving Hara.” Derennan theorised.

“Should we move further north?” Oberon pondered.

“Nope, running is too easy.” Llyfed muttered.

“I think we should stick it out for a while but having an exit plan can't hurt.” Derennan concluded this train of rational thought.

The party returned to the secret chamber with low ceiling and hexagonal pillar.

They placed the orb inside the depression.

It fit like a glove.

Nothing happened.

“Try turning the ring.”

That worked.

They set the arrow pointing towards the X.

It lit up with dim light.

And so did all Xs on the rim of the platform.

One of them threw a portion of rations on the platform.

It disappeared.

“This is a teleporter.”

“Should we tie a rope around one of us and test it out?”

“What if it is a one way teleporter?”

“True.”

“All or nothing friends.”

Adventurers stepped next to the platform, forming a line.

Then they stepped on the platform, holding each other's hands.

And then they vanished.

Screams and shouts reverberated of the stone tomb walls as five adventurers fought for their lives.

An endless mass of giant rats was all over them.

They crawled; they gnawed; they sought orifices; they brought disease.

They bit and they scratched and they squirmed and they hissed and they squeaked.

The adventurers swung and stomped; cut and crushed; heaved and hulked.

There was nowhere to move.

There was nothing to do.

Nothing but to fight for their lives.

Illustration by kickmaniac

Adventurers stood victorious, sixty-four dead giant rats beneath their feet. None of them went unscathed.

Solid walls surrounded them. No doors, no embellishments that would indicate secret doors.

With all the time in the world, the party closely inspected all the walls.

Their tomb was L-shaped, with twenty feet extending to the left and right from the central ten-foot square.

Ceiling was twenty feet high, slightly arched and embellished. Each “square” had an extruded X pattern, with a different scene in each quadrant.

Derennan closely studied them. After some time he found that one pattern is repeated in all Xs, albeit in different place.

“It might be leading us towards something?”

Indeed, following the repeating scene led them to a wall portion that sounded hollow, compared to others.

Hours of inspection revealed no secret mechanisms.

“Anyone has a pickaxe? No? How about iron spikes and something blunt?”

With all the time in the world, the party took to breaking down the wall.

Nolmbork and Llyfed worked on it for eight hours straight.

Derennan worked for the next eight hours.

Tarkus and Oberon took the next shift.

Rations and light sources were rapidly depleted.

“From now on, only humans work in light.”

Nolmbork and Llyfed did another eight-hour shift.

Derennan followed.

Tarkus and Oberon did their best.

Cleric got progressively worse. At then end of this shift he went down with fever and tremors.

Nolmbork and Llyfed worked their third shift. With ill equipment the best they could hope if making a tight crawlspace.

Derennan achieved a major breakthrough, opening a hole into another dark chamber.

“Look!”

The cruelty of their desperate situation became apparent in few moments.

They chamber they've broken into was thirty by thirty feet, with same barren walls as the tomb they've just broken out.

No doors, nothing.

The ceiling was adorned with same X divisions, with the scene of dancing dead making a circular pattern round the chamber.

“Let's dance!”

And indeed, four desperate adventurers covered in sweat, gore, and festering wounds, danced their hearts out in a dark chamber deep, deep underground.

Tarkus sat in the corner, saving his strength for walking.

Nothing happened.

Adventurers' disappointment was palpable.

“Let's search all the doors...”

It's been several days since they teleported into the tomb.

Their rations were almost gone, and light sources were very few.

“Wall here is hollow!”

Pushing it revealed a secret corridor.

It led into a small chamber with stone desk on which an assortment of silver figurines of various animals and denizens of Wilderlands laid.

Child-like giggles could be heard coming from around the corner.

“This is not creepy at all...”

Without much other options, the party formed a tight formation and stepped out the the secret passageway and into the chamber whence the sound cometh from.

As soon as they entered the voices stopped and three figurines that were floating mid-air dropped to the ground.

“Hello good ghosts” Derennan spoke in Dwarvish “we are just seeking a way out and mean you no harm. Can you tell us the way out?”

“Oh, we gave up on finding the way out long time ago.” a child-like voice replied in Dwarvish.

“Would you like to play with us?” it asked.

Discuss at Dragonsfoot forum.

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Adventurers

Character Class Description
Derennan Dwarf level 3 A dwarf hailing from Western Wastes.
Nolmbork Dwarf level 2 Portly, bald, red bearded, with an epic nose. On a mission to have a drink in every settlement in Wilderlands.
Orist Elf level 1 A dangerous looking elf.
Llyfed Elf level 3 Thin and balding elf whom also happens to be Rashomon's friend.
Hagar the Hewer Dwarf level 1 Imagine Conan as dwarf.
Tarkus the Promising Cleric level 2 Follower of Bachontoi, God of Red Wisdom.
Beorg the Gravedigger Fighter level 1 Inspired to adventure after burying several adventurers.
Oberon Fighter level 3 A tall, supple hunter adorned with bones and horns of his prey.
Hedwig Hogwarts Elf level 2 An always alert owl masquerading as an elf.

Gloomfrost 17th–20th

With just a few days left before end of the year, adventurers decided to recuperate, plan, and make contacts with influential people in Hara.

There was great commotion in the streets—hawkers and emissaries of the Invincible Overlord himself were aggressively recruiting anyone whom can hold a sword or spear.

“Liberate Zothay!”

“Save Dearthwood!”

“Travel the Wilderlands!”

“Invincible Overlord wants YOU!”

They'd yell again and again and again. Every lowly commoner was offered a gold piece sign-up bonus, while experienced adventurers were offered up to a hundred gold pieces.

Local jeweller finally finished the gold necklace Derennan had commissioned. It was fine but nowhere near as fine as the jeweller said it would be. Either way, the party had another commission for him—a crown fit for a dim witted giant.

Derennan's plan of approaching the Imrael merchant family—oldest and most affluent in Hara—finally worked. He was joined by Nolmbork, Llyfed, Tarkus, and Oberon. Everybody tidied up, and strode up to Imrael's mansion overlooking the river.

Upon presenting their gift—a gold necklace with large amethyst—and request to Kennunn the Quiet, they were granted audience with Amulias Imrael himself.

The meeting was cordial, with the party offering their services. Amulias was professional and distant, for reasons Derennan discovered later. Cadmias the Wise, vizier of the Imrael family, was advocating against getting involved with the adventurers, for he had seen firsthand how incompetent they are.

“One of them wilfully took a blade named Doomed! And now he is dead!”

Llyfed rebuked him. Upon sharing they've been clearing up an old dungeon where a drug called Red Dragon was produced, Amulias said that Myrna Blaxter, the woman who sent them there, is a bit crazy. She's been talking about this for years, but no one ever found anything. He was surprised to learn there were beastmen there, though.

The party also learned that Invincible Overlord was not recruiting just commoners and freelancers. All affluent families must send their first-born as well. In addition, the rumour has it that Haermond II, Hara's castellan and general of forces, will take the offer as well.

If that is true, then one could reasonably expect a power vacuum that might lead to internal strife and unrest. Queen Earani Cor is primarily backed by Haermond II and Imrael family.

Upon leaving the mansion, Melell Imrael confided in Derennan that his father is distraught because his only living son—himself—is being sent to the City State of the Invincible Overlord.

“Please forgive my father. He is a good man, and would stand to benefit from your services. His bad mood is due to me leaving soon. Damell, my younger brother, died very young. Tibon, my older brother, went missing several years ago. He is only worried that I too will perish.”

“Tell me more about your missing brother. Maybe we could help.”

Derennan prodded.

“Truth to be told, I don't know that much. All I know is that he was supposed to be married to the daughter of another wealthy merchant. He went to their estate and never returned. My father sent several messengers, but none ever returned. Kennunn is the only one who came back alive and whatever he told my father was sufficient for him to stop looking.”

“Do you know where did your brother go missing? Maybe we could look into it?”

Melell promised that he'd investigate and let him know before he leaves Hara.

Party then spent two days tracking and snooping on the scribe's son which demonstrated symptoms of Red Dragon abuse: fiery belching. Besides being a loser and alcoholic who hung out with other do-no-gooders, the boy seemed innocent. Having run of patience, the party abducted the boy from his drinking place—an abandoned warehouse at the docks—and took him to their townhouse for gentle interrogation.

What they learned next shocked them.

Derennan let out a nervous laugh.

“Amazing.”

Boy has been belching like this ever since he was a little kid. He doesn't know why. And the best part? Myrna is his mother.

Adventurers discussed what the meaning of all of this could be. Is Myrna dealing Red Dragon herself? Is she just delusional? Was she taking drug whilst pregnant and now went mad with grief? Is the boy a polymorphed Red Dragon that is pulling their leg? Could the game be rigged so? Many, many ideas were discussed.

Ultimately, a decision has been made to return to the Den to get out Brent Goose. But for that they have to wait for the crown to be finished first. Hence they paid the jeweller for the rush order. The artisan promised them to be done by the end of Thawmist—the first month of the year.

Melell paid them a visit on the last day of the year.

“My father said that Kennunn will share all the details of Tibon's last known whereabouts if you prove yourself. We have reliable information about Klekless Racoba's hiding place. If you bring his head you will demonstrate your capabilities. Be warned though for he is not alone. Apparently he has a small, but loyal, force. Godspeed!”

And so did end the year of 4433.

Year's End

Everyone in Hara celebrated for five days straight, cleansing the last year whilst welcoming the next year. It is a well known fact that your annual fortunes are determined by this ritual. Everyone in Wilderlands recognises the cosmic importance of these five days.

Thawmist 3rd, Earthday

“Right there, that ruined stone tower.”

Whilst waiting for the crown to be finished, the party of Derennan, Nolmbork, Llyfed, Tarkus, and Oberon decided to return to the dungeon underneath the ruined tower south-west from Hara. The same one where they had found silver balls that made them rich.

In an hour and a half of delving they managed to trigger a dart trap that hit two of them, flee from a large snake, ignore secret doors, and find a corridor that reeks of death.

In the latter one they found a portion of the wall that had nine circles in a circle. One of them turned out to be a button which opens a passage nearby. It led into a thirty by thirty feet completely empty chamber with low ceiling.

After checking for traps the party crossed the room to the east, where another doors were. They opened into another similarly sized chamber. But this one was not barren.

A two feet tall pillar of hexagonal cross-section was in the middle of the room. On top of it was a round depression, matching the size of silver spheres they had found elsewhere in this dungeon.

In the south-east corner of the room was an elevated platform made from unknown material. Weird symbols were carved along the edges.

What will the party do next?

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Adventurers

Character Class Description
Derennan Dwarf level 3 A dwarf hailing from Western Wastes.
Rah Cleric level 2 A follower of Molna, God of Travellers, whom has an opinion about everything.
Nolmbork Dwarf level 2 Portly, bald, red bearded, with an epic nose. On a mission to have a drink in every settlement in Wilderlands.
Rashomon Elf level 2 A dangerous looking elf.
Llyfed Elf level 3 Thin and balding elf whom also happens to be Rashomon's friend.
Tarkus the Promising Cleric level 2 Follower of Bachontoi, God of Red Wisdom.
Brent Goose Cleric level 5 An eccentric, but charismatic, cleric seeking the Holy Bird. White robes and black cloak conceal his tall, frail and anemic frame. His eagle-like nose is exposed for all to see.
Oberon Fighter level 3 A tall, supple hunter adorned with bones and horns of his prey.

Gloomfrost 13th, Earthday, between midnight and sunrise

Rah crouched by the horses as three arrows landed next to him.

Following their encounter with hereto unknown orc horde, and subsequent slaughter of them, the party decided to back out of the dungeon and rest in a camp nearby. Alas, sometime during the night beastmen came out and managed to track the party down. Rashomon managed to spot them in time to alert everyone.

The camp was a simple affair. Three ten-feet tall rocks covered west and south sides, the wagon covered north side, and several trees provided cover to the east and north.

Derennan and Nolmbork were on the west rocks while Rashomon and Llyfed manned the south rock. Oberon watched guard from one of the north trees. Brent hid underneath the wagon.

Tarkus and Rah stood by the wagon, waiting. They opted not to light up any torches and rely on their demihuman friends to neutralize any threats.

Few more arrows flew in their direction, one killing a draft horse.

Silence.

Then that sound of someone—or something—trying to imitate a wolf howl.

Rashomon had enough of this nonsense. He slid down the rock and moved eastwards. Llyfed followed behind him.

“There!”

Lo and behold, several crouching humanoids just at the edge of elven infravision!

Few select insults later and several pig-faced orcs clashed against two heavily armed elves.

Nolmbork and Derennan remained vigilant, scanning for any new threats that might come from north, west, or south.

“Whoa!”

Rashomon stood his ground as several more orcs came charging out from southeast. He was outnumbered eight to one, but successfuly parried all incoming attacks. And more importantly, he prevented the orcs from storming the temple.

Suddenly a thunderous cacophony of howls, roars, and grunted erupted from southeast.

Derennan's vigilance paid off as he kept watch of the western flank.

Moonlight illuminated a frame of lumbering creature stepping on top of large tree stump some hundred feet away or so. The monster raised a giant club over its head and unleashed a roar so loud that would make any normal man shit himself.

Illustration by kickmaniac

But Derennan was no man. He braced himself as the monstrous hulk charged him, followed by several orcs.

“They are coming from the north as well!”

Oberon rained hells from the tree top; Nolmbork killed orcs left and right; Derennan duked it out with towering beastman; Rashomon and Llyfed held back a dozen or so orcs; Rah and Tarkus shot and hit whenever they could see something clearly enough; Brent cowered under the wagon.

But something had to give.

Something had to give eventually.

Hulking monster forced Derennan to retreat off the rock. The dwarf jumped off, and backed up, his left side protected by another rock, while wagon protected his right side.

Hulk's belly shimmered as the monster laughed, cheered on by orcs behind it. Derennan braced his polearm. Rah jumped in to help the dwarf.

Rashomon swung and swung. He was landing good blows, but none did as much damage as he expected. Llyfed shook his head at his friend and his determination to pick up a sword called “Doomed.” The curse was turning eerily prophetic.

“Perk up! We will wear them down!” Tarkus yelled while crushing yet another orc.

Several more orcs charged from the darkness, followed by several large, hyena headed monsters. These ones had polearms and large flails.

Rah's remains splattered Derennan. Cleric did not stand a chance against the hulking monster. He died a brutal, nasty death. Oberon screamed as beastmen penetrated him with polearms. The tree wasn't tall enough.

To make things even worse, new beastmen just kept showing up. Three tiger-faced beastmen scaled the south rock. They just stood there, towering over all. They put down some sacks, and took out something very, very familiar to adventurers.

Oil bombs.

“No!” Llyfed's voice cracked as Rashomon twitched, impaled by several polearms and hacked to death by thousand cuts.

Tarkus squeezed his holy symbol and mace. This man of Law will go down fighting.

Derennan on the other hand, was much more interested in survival. He turned around, and made a run for it in the northeast direction.

Alas, he did not get far before running into three more tiger-faced creatures.

The hulk flipped over the wagon, and roared as Brent soiled himself.

“Parley!”

Somebody yelled.

One of the tiger-faced monsters spoke. Terms were far from favourable.

Lay down your weapons and forfeit your lives.

Llyfed tried to negotiate.

His attempts were rebuffed with an offer to set him, and his friends, on fire.

Adventurers dropped their weapons.

Victorious beastmen stripped them off their weapons and valuables. Then they tied their hands, and dragged them back into the Den.

Orcs were forced to carry the corpses, while the hulk picked up two dead horses. Wagon was left behind.

The captives were insulted and spat on. They remained defiant. Those that live, live to return the favour.

They were led through familiar corridors. They passed by orcs scrubbing the floors and walls. It was obvious the they were at the bottom of the food chain.

Then they were dragged into the unknown: the stairs leading down they avoided several times.

Orcs did not go below, only hyena-headed and tiger-faced beastmen did, as well as the hulk. In the large, well lit chamber everyone went their own way. Tiger-faced monsters dragged the adventurers through unknown corridors until they dumped them in a filthy room with four corpses.

Two humans, one male dwarf, and one female elf. All corpses had significant signs of abuse, especially the dwarf. All had missing teeth and tongue.

Six survivors quickly took off their rope bindings.

“Well, does anyone need healing?” Tarkus offered.

“Yes, please...”

Scouring the room provided very little of use.

The party couldn't agree on the course of action. Do they try to break the doors and escape? Do they wait for someone to parley? Something else?

So naturally, they decided to take a nap.

Tarkus prayed.

“Attention, I hear heavy footsteps incoming!”

The doors swung open. Tiger-faced beastmen were back. They seemed wholly unfazed—disinterest even—in adventurers having freed their hands.

They pointed at Nolmbork and waved him to come out.

Llyfed tried to parley again. He got smacked for it. Nolmbork was escorted out, and the doors were once again locked shut.

“Where are they taking him?”

“No idea...”

They waited, and waited, and waited.

And waited, and waited.

And waited.

Doors swung open once more. Nolmbork was back, with a tint of hope on his face!

He met with an apparent master of this horde of beastmen, a giant with lisp. He explained that he bartered a deal for the party to be released if they bring back a gold crown befitting such a master. The only term was to leave “the fattest one behind.” Although being the skinniest, everyone quickly agreed to leave Brent Goose behind.

“Hey, we are still Lawful, we will come back for you. By the way, maybe you finally atone to Kadrim, heh?”

Three new corpses were impaled at the dungeon entrance:

Rashomon, Rah, and Rigby.

Five survivors reached Hara on Gloomfrost 16th.

Hungry, thirsty, and dirty.

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Adventurers

Character Class Description
Derennan Dwarf level 3 A dwarf hailing from Western Wastes.
Rah Cleric level 2 A follower of Molna, God of Travellers, whom has an opinion about everything.
Brent Goose Cleric level 5 An eccentric, but charismatic, cleric seeking the Holy Bird. White robes and black cloak conceal his tall, frail and anemic frame. His eagle-like nose is exposed for all to see.
Oberon Fighter level 3 A tall, supple hunter adorned with bones and horns of his prey.
Nolmbork Dwarf level 2 Portly, bald, red bearded, with an epic nose. On a mission to have a drink in every settlement in Wilderlands.
Rigby Thief level 2 A thief.
Rashomon Elf level 2 A dangerous looking elf.
Llyfed Elf level 3 Thin and balding elf whom also happens to be Rashomon's friend.

Gloomfrost 11th, Airday

A party of magnificent nine had arrived back at The Den just as night was about to fall. This time they took their wagon as well, dreaming of all the treasure they will haul out.

Dungeon entrance—a hole in the ground—was wide open. Next to it were three shabby-looking banners, sporting what could be described as hyena-like head.

“Hmmm, that wasn't here before.”

The party found a safe spot away from the entrance and camped the night. No fires, no singing. Brent was denied the opportunity to cook ham for the party. Demihumans took turns observing the whole. Sporadic grunts could be heard.

Gloomfrost 12th, Waterday

Following two hours of planning, the adventurers decided Derennan will stay in the camp with horses and wagon while others will descend into the dungeon to see what is going on.

Rashomon took the lead, while others formed a tight column behind him.

He descended carefully, step by step. Light could be seen at the foot of fifty foot descend into the Den. The party moved downwards and strode into the entrance chamber confidently.

Seven pig-faced orcs were scrubbing up the chamber with brooms and brushes. By the time they noticed Rashomon it was too late—he had already cast Sleep on them. Five closest to the elf fell down to the ground. Two yelled insults and drew their weapons.

Adventurers poured into the chamber. With Rah's torch it became obvious there were more orcs in there than was obvious at first.

Three more were in the north-west corner, holding chains attached to ten feet tall obese monstrosity.

Rashomon and Llyfed ran west to challenge them; Nolmbork went straight to cut off the orc in the middle of the chamber; the rest went for slumbering ones.

In the chaos one orc slipped past them and ran through north-west doors. Nolmbork was on a spree cleaving through orcs like they were butter.

Chained monster was let loose, and it immediately went for Llyfed. The more it missed the more frustrated it got. Rigby used the opportunity to sneak behind it, and drive his long-sword deep between the creature's two folds of fat.

The monster roared, turned around, and backhanded the thief with such might that he looked like a strawberry jam spread on dungeon floor. Oberon blinded the monster with an arrow, and Nolmbork finished what Rigby had begun.

Beast staggered backwards, and then fell on Rigby's remains, splattering what little remains of him were left.

“What should we do?”

“Maybe I should fetch Derennan?”

“No, that will take to long!”

“I loot the corpses!”

“Guys, last time we stayed behind for too long, we were jumped by another group of orcs.”

“Pass me some iron spikes so we at least block the doors.”

“What is happening here anyway?”

Pig-faced beastmen were dressed in tan leather jerkins. Most of them had garish yellow claw-mark patterns going across their armour, hands, and face.

Doors next to Rashomon and Llyfed flung open.

A column of dozen highly motivated orcs tried to force themselves into the chamber, but two elves kept them checked just long enough for everyone to form a bottleneck.

But Rashomon was no Llyfed. Especially after taking Doomed.

“You!” a human-sized orc dressed in chain-shirt, wielding large two-handed battle-axe, and adorned with wolf-skull helmet, stepped forth and assaulted the elves. Orcs rallied behind him and redoubled their efforts.

Alas, it was all for naught as adventurers held the line and dished out blows, stones, and arrows.

“Change me!”

“I will!”

Llyfed and Rashomon changed positions, giving the latter a chance to breath. The former had proven himself as valuable member of this party, next only to Nolmbork, by cleaving the orc chieftains skull in half. Well, both of them actually.

“Look! Behind!”

Two hyena-headed beastmen towered over surviving orcs. Both carried nasty looking polearms.

Orc grunted and yelped as they continued to fail to break through the adventurers' ranks. But when their morale broke it only got nastier for the hyenas did not let them pass.

Two orcs turned on their obstacles. One managed to slay the beastman, and ran deeper into the dungeon. The other was much less successful, and was rended limb by limb by the monster.

The sole survivor judged it'd be no match for the adventurers, so it too fled.

“Let's chase them!”

“Are you crazy?! We are getting out!”

By now everyone has been wounded at least several times. Rah healed whomever he could. Brent Goose spent time hiding and crying how weak and frail he is. Kadrim still refuses to grant him his supplications. Oberon was also unscathed, spending most of the time playing stealth archer.

Adventurers left the Den, and returned to camp where Derennan greeted them.

“Let's spend the night here and return next morning. We killed a great number of them.”

Gloomfrost 13th, Earthday

Adventurers made cold camp once again, and had demihumans rotate as dungeon entrance observers.

Rashomon spotted a dozen or so creatures pouring out of the dungeon. He laid low and observed them from afar.

Mass of creatures split into trios and each went their way. The moved slow and some looked like they were sniffing the surroundings.

Rashomon retreated back to the camp and informed his friends about imminent threat.

“We should hunt them down! Ambush them before they ambush us!”

“It is night. The moment we light up torches they will know where we are!”

“What if one of them howls?”

“Then let's meet them here!”

Their camp was flanked by three ten-feet tall rocks. Trees concealed other openings.

Derennan and Nolmbork scaled the west rocks; Rashomon and Llyfed scaled the south wall. Oberon climbed a tree, and Brent stood next to it. Rah went to calm the horses that begun stomping and neighing.

Three arrows landed by his feet.

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Adventurers

Character Class Description
Rashomon Elf level 2 A dangerous looking elf.
Llyfed Elf level 3 Thin and balding elf whom also happens to be Rashomon's friend.
Nolmbork Dwarf level 2 Portly, bald, red bearded, with an epic nose. On a mission to have a drink in every settlement in Wilderlands.
Orist Elf level 1 An elf.
Derennan Dwarf level 3 A dwarf hailing from Western Wastes.
Rah Cleric level 2 A follower of Molna, God of Travellers, whom has an opinion about everything.

Gloomfrost 4th, Fireday

“Cursed?! Of course it is cursed, the damned thing is called “Doomed!” What else would it be?! YOU KNEW THAT AND YOU TOOK IT ANYWAY?!”

Tangay's mocking tone still rang true in Rashomon's ears. To add insult to injury, the word has spread Hara like wildfire. Not only has the elf become laughingstock of everyone at the Wizards' Guild, but also of commoners as well. It seemed like everyone snickered and giggled at Rashomon.

Mavis the Magnificent, Poseidon's High Priestess, whom is capable of raising dead is most certainly capable of removing curses as well. Prayers to the God of Sea weren't sufficient—a donation of 4 500 gp is required as well.

So here he was, back at the den, with Llyfed, Nolmbork, Orist, Derennan, and Rah, newly recruited human cleric. They spotted a gang of dog-headed humanoids descending into the dungeon the night before.

Now it was their turn to go down.

Corpses from the entrance chamber were gone.

The party turned left, left at the junction, and then broke into the chamber they've been passing until now. Stench of death permeated the room. Six maggot-infested goblin corpses were strewn about the chamber. Party closed the doors and moved down the corridor, took another left turn, and through yet another doors.

“Huh?”

A twenty by twenty feet bare chamber with a plate-sized hole in the center and doors on the opposite side. Peeking through the doors revealed four large interlinked circles carved into the north wall. After deploying a number of safety precautions, the party traversed the room without any loss.

Now they entered into the many-doored chamber they've been to before—the one with a painting of robed man reading many books at once. Derennan ordered the painting to be wrapped and taken to identification in Hara.

Pushing on, adventurers found themselves in yet another long corridor. Darkness to the left, darkness to the right; left one seemed more attractive. Another t-shaped junction, splitting right and forward.

“Let's check doors to the right.”

They too were stuck; nothing that these strong folk couldn't get unstuck. But not before failing once first.

“Goblins!”

With neither side surprised, and both sides charging towards each other, they clashed in the middle of the chamber. A funny looking goblin with a green pointy hat, and amateurishly painted mail armour, stood in the center, barking some incomprehensible words and waving a rod-like object.

Nolmbork, in his great excitement to slay some goblins, had drawn the sword so quickly he nicked his own throat, nearly decapitating himself. Weren't it for Rah, the dwarf would've most certainly died there and then.

Illustrated by kickmaniac

Brutal skirmish did not last long. Rashomon had slain one, Nolmbork two after he had recovered, Llyfed one, and Derennan had beheaded the one with pointy hat. They left one alive for some interrogation.

This was a filthy chamber, with some pilled rocks in the corner pretending to be an altar to the goblins' god of hunt.

“What lies to the south, beyond the doors?!”

“To the west is our treasure room and to the south is death!”

“What do you mean?”

“There are a bunch of pools, and if you drink from any you dieee!”

“Open the doors for us!”

“Oh, are these mighty, heavily armoured and armed adventurers so cowardly to be afraid of opening the doors for themselves?”

They executed him after he opened the doors.

Orist noticed secret doors in the northwest portion of the chamber. Pushing them open revealed a room nearly twice as big compared to the one they were in.

Three large chests were lined by the north wall. Leftmost one was closed without obvious lock, middle one was smashed open, and the rightmost one was closed with a large padlock.

Careful inspection revealed very little. By now, the wise adventurers have learned better than to “just” open unlocked chests in the dungeon, even if they happen to be in a secret chamber. So one of them fetched the rod waved by the goblin shaman, and used it to open the chest.

Oh!

It was filled to the brim with orangish coins. A small coin pouch rested on top. In it—three small, shiny gems.

Investigating the chest on the right side had triggered the padlock. It shook and formed a mouth, which spoke with large, booming voice:

“What belongs to you, But is used more by thy friends?”

“Name!”

“Correct!” the padlock answered, laughing heartily. And then it popped open!

One of the elves gingerly opened the chest. It was lined with plush velvet. In the center was another box, small and elegant. Inside it were four vials with silver liquid. On each was a label in elven script but common tongue: “an open book,” ““a stylized shining sun, “a mouse,” and “a muscled man.”

Having plundered everything they could, the party moved further south. Short corridor terminated with another t-shaped junction. Light was shinning underneath doors to the south. Listening at the doors revealed nothing though.

Forcing the doors open did reveal a bit more though. Wide t-shaped chamber, illuminated by unknown sources, with eight small pools containing various coloured liquids.

Following brief exploration (without any licking, sipping, or drinking), the party had decided they've accumulated enough treasure to head back to Hara.

Being encumbered meant they were moving half their usual speed. Which meant it'd take them twice as long to reach Hara. But that also meant they have more time to count all their copper coins. All 1 573 copper coins.

Gloomfrost 9th, Fireday

Since they've returned, the party had taken all their suspicious liquids to the alchemist for identification. She was unhappy about their slow progress regarding the Red Dragon, but sold them her service nonetheless.

Llyfed took the goblin's steel rod to the Wizards' Guild for identification. Now he too was the laughingstock for thinking that a steel rod is magical.

“IT IS A ROD! A STEEL ROD! HAHAHAH–”

But Tangay's laughter was cut short as Derennan presented the recovered portrait.

“Wh-where did you find this?! Do you know who that is?! That's famous Sysgrin! You found it in a dungeon? He used to have a tower around here... Listen, listen! If you bring me his book I'll teach your friends any spell that I know!” He confirmed that Sysgrin had a penchant for riddles and traps.

Finally, Derennan checked on the gold necklace he had commissioned from the local jeweller. It was to be a gift for the Imrael family, the wealthiest and most influential family in Hara.

Few nights ago, whilst returning from the dungeon, they were awoken to sounds of battles. Or rather, sounds of screams and agony and wolf howls. They choose to ignore them and sleep on.

Today Derennan learnt that one of Imrael's caravans hadn't arrived.

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Adventurers

Character Class Description
Rashomon Elf level 2 A dangerous looking elf.
Llyfed Elf level 3 Thin and balding elf whom also happens to be Rashomon's friend.
Hagar the Hewer Dwarf level 1 Imagine Conan as dwarf.
Nolmbork Dwarf level 1 Portly, bald, red bearded, with an epic nose. On a mission to have a drink in every settlement in Wilderlands.
Orist Elf level 1 An elf.
Rangar the Bull Fighter level 1 Titanic, dark-skinned figure wearing bull-headed helmet and a harness with countless weapons strapped to it.
Shamar Fighter level 1 Tall and slender man with magnificent black mane and a fancy looking sword. Absolutely inept at fighting.

Coldrain 20th, Spiritday

“God damn it.” Tamren muttered.

Dear reader, this letter is intended for the named thereafter: Derennan the Dwarf, Hagar the Dwarf, Nolmbork the Dwarf, and Tamren the Helmeted. Please forward it to them at your earliest convenience.

If you are one of the named, then I have to inform you with heavy heart that a client has retained our services to ensure your untimely termination. Rest assured that that we will execute our clients' wishes regarding your passing in the finest details. We take pride in our professionalism and art.

With that being said, as mandated by the Queen, everyone must be given an opportunity to purchase their right to live. Therefore, I am delighted to invite you to bid for your life no later than ten days after delivery of this letter. Should you fail to appear, we will consider that as refusal of our offer.

With love, Zenon Coke Headmaster of the Assassins' Guild

Portraits of Nolmbork, Hagar, and Tamren have just been delivered to their house—together with the above letter. Few weeks ago Zarifa invited them all, alongside Derennan, to pose for a portrait to “award them for their bravery” in returning Barad's corpse.

Hagar's and Nolmbork's portraits accurately depicted their pensive poses with two small modifications. First, their eyes and lips were crossed out with red paint. Second, both were disemboweled, with spear stuck in their belly.

Tamren's portrait showed his stoic position accurately as well. Red frown was added to his helmet, as were three tiny eye drops next to each eye slit. There was a tight noose around his neck added as well.

“Saw this one coming.” Derennan muttered.

Shadowrath 5th, Spiritday

“We must head to the guild and get this sorted.”

Llyfed the Diplomat, Nolmbork and Ranger the Wounded and Bandaged, and Hagar the Framed spent the day negotiating terms in a stone windowless, building at the north side of Hara. Like them, so have I, the humble scribe, sworn to secrecy. What I can tell you though, is that they left the Assassins' Guild with certain ease to their gait. Soon they returned with sacks full of coin, and then they left with an even more bravado that the last time.

“What did he say? We are safe until end of Dewsnap next year?”

“So it sounded, yeah.”

Shadowrath 11th, Airday

The wounded rested until they were back into full fighting fit. New adventurer join the party as well: boisterous Shamar, accompanied by his two retainers Alf and Falf.

“We have been organising expeditions to the drug den. We are seeking evidence of a drug called the Red Dragon. So far we've been creamed a few times, but I have a feeling we are at the cusp of something great...”

And so a new expedition was formed: Rashomon, Hagar, Nolmbork, Orist, Rangar the Bull, Shamar and his two retainers.

The party reached den by end of Shadowrath 11th; they went down as night fell.

They went straight to their left, through the chamber with a mountain of rotting orc corpses, past the junction with stairs leading down, and right at the junction with a looong corridor leading north.

“Watch out!”

The passage suddenly turned cold and a number of incorporeal skeletal hands emerged from the walls. They tried to reach adventurers, but luckily missed. Well, mostly missed. Two grabbed Nolmbork and he dropped down to the ground as brick.

Illustrated by kickmaniac

Party retreated, dragging the fallen dwarf with them.

“He is still breathing!”

“What do we do now?”

“Slap him a bit!”

“It isn't helping!”

“Let's get out...”

Noticeably slower now that they were carrying a fully armoured dwarf, the party took nearly an hour to get out.

“Can you believe it? Can you hear him snore? Incredible!”

Indeed, Nolmbork seemed like he was having quite a pleasant dream.

With little left to do, the party found a safe spot some thirty minutes away from the den entrance and camped for the night.

Shadowrath 12th, Waterday

“Let's go different way this time!”

The party headed straight through the archway, then left at the junction into the large chamber with bunk beds and altar with three crossed swords, then left through the secret doors, past the junction and to doors reinforced with iron bars and thick bar running across it. There was a large padlock on the right hand side.

Ultimately the party decided to head south, through the chamber with hanging cages, and into the secret room with a burning torch in a single sconce. The large wolf they killed last time was still rotting here.

Everyone stood in the circle as one of the adventurers pulled on the torch. As before, two loud clangs could be heard and a large wolf materialised in the room. The creature was hacked to pieces before it could even react. Rashomon was the one whom had delivered the killing blow.

From that moment the party had spent nearly three hours discussing what to do next. They pulled on the torch many times—to no effect—tried getting it out of the sconce—to no effect—and exclaimed how flabbergasted they are—also to no effect.

Finally, Orist or Nolmbork spoke up and suggested the party checks the cage room. Maybe something moved there? Nothing. Maybe let's go check the locked doors then?

Lo and behold!

The bar and padlock were gone!

One of them pushed the doors open...

And a lavishly decorated room presented itself!

Sumptuous purple curtains lined all the walls. Large wooden chest with gilded elements stood on the plinth in the centre of the room. Fabulously looking suit of plate mail was propped in the north-west corner. Two crossed swords and a purple shield were hung on the north wall. A small round table with eighteen candles, few still burning, was in the south-east corner.

After making sure nothing was waiting in ambush for them (as well as precautionary shooting of curtains, just to check for yellow mould), the party threw themselves at the treasure with childlike glee.

Chest was indeed safe and untrapped. It was chock full of coins, as well as few shiny gems. Suit of armour was dwarven platemail of unknown origin, but obviously of the finest make. Two swords had unfamiliar writing on them. That was soon elucidate by a simple spell known as Read Languages. One was called “Lucky” the other “Doomed.” The shield had a barely visible dragon motif.

As the party was investigating the good, Rashomon stood guard at the south side of the room. It was him whom had noticed that candles were slowly going out, one by one.

“Folks, I think we should get out soon!”

Indeed everyone got out with the valuable as quickly as they could. Hagar and Rangar, being the strongest members, carried the chest. Rashomon quickly grabbed “Doomed,” arguing that it could be named so because it brings doom to others. As soon as he grabbed it he was hit with visions of doom and gloom and nearly lost all the will to live.

But it was not everyone who got out! Shamar stayed behind, together with Alf and Falf, to cut out as much of curtains as they could. They looked too valuable to leave behind!

“Last candle is to go out! Run!”

The trio carried seven heavy rolls of top quality cloth. Shamar was the last to charge out as doors slam shut behind him, an iron bar flew out of the wall, and padlock emerged from the bar itself, as sort of liquid iron, and locked itself with a loud clang.

“We are loaded! Straight to Hara!”

Heavily encumbered, the party had reached Hara four days later.

On their way they had counted 1 247 gold coins, 101 platinum coins, and three gems.

No amount of coins had brought any joy to Rashomon.

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Adventurers

Character Class Description
Rashomon Elf level 2 A dangerous looking elf.
Llyfed Elf level 3 Thin and balding elf whom also happens to be Rashomon's friend.
Tarkus the Promising Cleric level 1 Follower of Bachontoi, God of Red Wisdom.
Beorg the Gravedigger Fighter level 1 Inspired to adventure after burying several adventurers.
Bairstowbury the Chaotic Halfling level 1 Remarkably muscular for a halfling.
Galepurse the Hapless Cleric level 1 Woefully unsuited for life of adventuring but desperately needs coin to grow his following.

Coldrain 20th, Spiritday

“Drugs in Hara?! Not on our watch!”

Tarkus the Promising found another issue to fixate on—getting to the root of Red Dragon, a drug very few know anything about. He learned about it from his adventuring friends whom had told him everything about old drug den where it was found first.

Being the type of guy to cleanse first and ask questions later, he quickly mustered forces to head to the den on the first occasion. Veterans Rashomon and Llyfed were up to it. New recruit included Beorg the Gravedigger, Bairstowbury the Chaotic, and Galepurse the Hapless.

Bairstowbury the Chaotic and Galepurse the Hapless by IdleDoodler.

The party set out in the morning; they arrived by nightfall of the following day.

Shadowrath 1st, Airday

“Should we camp and wait for the morning?”

“No, let's head straight in!”

“What's the worst that could happen? Previous expeditions did the same as well—so they told us.”

Not one member of the party had been to this place; they had to work with information they've been given by other adventurers. Despite this handicap, they managed to find poorly concealed entrance. Down they went.

Bell shaped entrance chamber was just like described: smelly, littered with animal bones and carcasses. Two decaying pig-faced humanoids were propped on spears. Third laid slumped on the ground.

Moving straight, exploring sole corridor yet undisturbed by previous parties, they ran into four-way junction. Following the left hand path led them to closed doors. Forcing them open with ease led them into large, dust-caked chamber.

Three-story bunk beds were lined alongside all four walls. A footlocker rested at the base of each. A simple stone altar stood in the center of the room; on it a symbol with three crossed swords. Vertical one pointed with blade down, two crossed ones forming and X pointed up with blades. Around the altar were six round desks, around each were four simple chairs.

Chamber had solemn atmosphere to it; as if it was oblivious to all the changes and transformations that transpired in other parts of this place. Inspecting the ceiling yielded a surprising discovery: a huge circular symbol of three crossed swords, just like the one on altar.

Tarkus and Rashomon did their best to guess its provenance. The best as in staring intently and hoping to get some sort of divine revelation. Nothing of the kind came.

Convinced there must be something else of value here (else they just spent two hours on an empty room), the party scoured the walls. Lo and behold! Elves had found an door-shaped outline hidden behind one of the bunk-beds leaning against the west wall.

As it is to be expected, they proceeded to over-analyse the situation, gently prodding at the wall, then taking out a small hammer to tap it, then taking out iron spike to chisel the wall...

Bairstowbury had enough and went straight at the wall.

Illustration by IdleDoodler.

Success!

He pushed and wall rotated, opening up into a long corridor.

The party spiked the secret passageway open, and then rotated one of the bunk beds to create an improvised barrier.

Moving on they came to a T-shaped junction, took a turn to the left, came to the four-way junction, explored all directions, and decided to go for the doors on their right.

After a bit of forcing, they managed to break into a most surprising room. All the walls were covered with floor-to-ceiling tapestries depicting larger-than-life figure dressed in purple robe with pointy hat defeating hordes of enemies. The worst offender was tapestry straight across from them.

On it the mage-like figure was as huge as titan of legend. It held a sword in left hand and staff in right. Countless number of demonic corpses were piled beneath his sandaled feet. One of the demons was on its knees, apparently begging for life.

“Hohum, do you know whom this place belonged to? Who was the previous owner, before the drug things and so?” Galepurse asked.

No answer.

No one bothered to ask.

Ever.

Prodding all the tapestries was natural first step.

West one had some give. Pushing it indicated there was no hard surface behind it.

One of the elves lifted part o it in the southwest corner. Tarkus lit up the torch and bent, while Bairstowbury got down on his knees and peeked beyond.

Illustration by IdleDoodler.

All he could see is dark chamber with something white-silvery on the ground. Halfling tied end of the rope and threw it onto the marking on the ground. That disturbed the chalky marks, but nothing stuck to the rope.

“What now?”

As the party discussed their plan for ten or so minutes, Tarkus could spot a hoof appearing from darkness. It was attached to a bright red leg. Bent hook protruded from its knee. The hoof moved left and right, erasing parts of the white-silvery material.

Adventurers dropped the tapestry.

That didn't do anything to contain the monstrosity that charged through it, ripping it to shreds, and trampling several of the adventurers in the process.

A horse-shaped bright red monstrosity was now prancing between them. Hooks pointed from its knees, spikes dotted its spine, and countless razor-sharp teeth poked from its mouth. There were no obvious eyes on its bulbous head, except two pitch-black slits.

Illustration by IdleDoodler.

The monster thrashed around, surrounded, but with little success. Party quickly took it down through combination of magic missiles and cold, hard steel.

Smell of roasting ham filled the room once the creature had been slain. Inspecting the corpse revealed that it was burning out from the inside.

Party spent nearly and hour collecting silver shavings that once formed a circle on the ground beyond the tapestry. They collected them into makeshift sacks made from pieces of the tapestry.

Backtracking to t-shaped junction, they moved to explore further west. Two doors; one locked with large padlock and horizontal bar, one unlocked but stuck. The latter was chosen.

Another bewildering room!

This one was full of cages, big and small, hanging from the ceiling. Some were almost touching the floor, some were quite high up. The only clear path was forward.

“This is a trap, if I had seen any!”

Half an hour later the party had reached other side of the chamber, unharmed.

Another stuck doors that fell victim to impressive muscle of this indomitable bunch.

“Hey, look at this...”

One of the elves had spotted a sconce with a torch in it. On the sconce was a small, almost invisible symbol with three crossed swords. Everybody readied their weapons as the elf pulled on it...

Revealing an empty twenty by twenty chamber with a single burning torch resting in another sconce. The latter was in the middle of the north wall.

The party poured into the secret chamber and readied themselves once more.

Torch did not emanate any heat nor smell. It did provide light though. Elf pulled on it and two loud clangs could be heard. A large wolf appeared in the middle of the room.

Illustration by IdleDoodler.

It didn't even get the chance to growl! That's how quickly the party chopped it down, with Rashomon delivering the killing blow.

Recovering the magic torch proved to be a fruitless effort. The party opted to explore south, instead of north whenceforth the clanging sounds could be heard from. They found a closet with bunch of spades, few long corridors, a chamber with portrait of smug magic-user reading nine books at once, and that's it.

Running low on torches, they decided to retreat, and return some other day.

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Adventurers

Character Class Description
Rashomon Elf level 2 A dangerous looking elf.
Tarkus the Promising Cleric level 1 Follower of Bachontoi, God of Red Wisdom.
Rigby Thief level 2 A thief.
Orist Elf level 1 An elf.

Coldrain 2nd, Waterday

“The warlord has banned me from leaving Ahyf. He believes I am too valuable to perish sanctifying a long forgotten temple.” Camus, Ahyf's chief priest, shared with Tarkus and Rashomon.

“I promised Hist that I would see this through. If you are still up to it then we have to figure out a way to leave Ahyf unnoticed.”

“Your dedication is commendable. Here is the plan...”

Tarkus the Promising was set on finishing what he had started, even if it'd cost him his life. Most of the brave men he had ventured to the desecrated temple with had perished already. And of those that survived only Rashomon was still around. The duo recruited two capable looking individuals: Rigby the Thief and Orist the Elf.

Winter was gnawing on Barbarian Altanis. Long sleeves became a common sight. Days were shorter and nights were blacker. The latter played perfectly into the adventurers' plan: sneak out of Ahyf few hours before sunrise.

Coldrain 4th, Fireday

The party reached the base of desecrated temple around noon. It was eerily quiet. Not an animal in sight. Air was stale and motionless, as if time itself had stopped. Ghinarian Hills were hardly the highest in the region, but being near the summit one would still expect some wind.

The idol was as they left it last time: toppled and crumbled over the long stairs.

“Let's check the outbuildings first. We don't want anyone to surprise us!”

Both stone buildings were as they left them several weeks ago. Algon's mangled corpse was still splattered at the foot of cliff atop which the temple rests. Poor thief had slipped whilst trying to escape black reptilian monster and fell down to his doom.

“Weird. No sign of decay?”

Indeed, there were no maggots nor flies. Just a messed up corpse. The party carefully inspected the body, relieved it of all valuables, and then built a simple cairn. Tarkus said a few words to guide them into afterlife.

Both Rigby and Orist had noticed how unnaturally devoid of life this place is. No birds, no game, no sounds. Nothing.

“All is safe. Let's head into the temple.”

Barely suppressing their gags at the sight of two acid-melted acolytes, the party moved onwards to the temple doors.

This is where things were noticeably different. All the walls on the outside were marred with claw marks as well as small, irregularly shaped pits. As if something had been melting the stone.

Forcing their way in only unleashed a strong ammonia-like smell, making everyone cough and heave. In they went.

Insides were even worse than outsides. All the walls and the floor were clawed and eroded.

“OK...” Rashomon muttered, puzzingly.

The closer they got to the centre of the temple, the stronger did the smell get. It was in the center where they destroyed nightmare-inducing bull-god effigy. It was in the center where Camus and Tarkus tried to close the Sinkhole of Chaos before they were chased out by slithering monstrosity.

And it was the center where they had now found a pit so deep not even dangling torch could reveal the bottom.

“Camus, what is the meaning of this?”

“I... I don't know. I do not feel strong presence of Chaos like last time. I don't understand...”

“Will you complete the ritual?”

“Yes...”

Orist did double duty as guard and torchbearer to Camus and Tarkus. Rashomon and Rigby made few rounds through the temple. Besides signs of destruction they also found a palm-sized, black, glistening scale. The thief also found a secret compartment containing three vials, two with clear liquid, and one with chunky, brown liquid.

Noxious puffs and fumes emanating from the pit disturbed the ritual several times. Camus did wrap some clothing around his face, but alas, it did not help him too much. But that did not prevent the Ahyf elder to do what he had promised.

“Done. It is done.”

“Let's get out.”

The whole ceremony took so long it was pitch black outside. Unwilling to risk their torchlights spotted, the party waited until Rashomon's and Orist's eye acclimated to darkness. Then they headed to north-west stone house, the same one they hunkered down in on their last expedition to the temple.

With the doors and windows barred, the party briefly chatted before going to sleep.

“So, priest, what do you think of all this?”

“It's difficult to say. The ceremony is completed. I do not sense presence of Chaos. But that hole fills me with unease. If it were up to me, I'd demolish the whole place. Just bring down the temple so the rubble closes the hole and whatever might lurk at the bottom.”

“How could we do that?”

“Well, there are no siege weapons in Ahyf. There might be few in Hara, but I doubt they'd take them out all the way to here just to bring down some abandoned temple.”

“And this scale? Does it look familiar?”

“I don't know... You could probably ask around in Hara... Mavis, the High Priestess of Poseidon is known to have bested Chaos on many occasions. Maybe you could talk to her?”

“And these vials?”

“Well, the clear ones look like holy water. Shang-Ta seal confirms it. I'd be surprised if it were anything else. The brown one I have no idea.”

Coldrain 7th, Waterday

“Boys, you were good, but I don't want you to get into trouble. I should walk into Ahyf alone.”

“Nonsense! Nobody has seen Rigby and Orist with you before, they surely won't suspect anything! You three go first, and the Rashomon and I will come few hours later. No one had seen us leave together, why should they be suspicious?”

Indeed, the return plan worked well.

Guards were delighted to see Camus return. Briaron, Ahyf's warlord, was too busy with recent sighting of Skandink longships to go after Camus.

Adventurers bid farewell to Camus and fetched a barge to Hara.

Coldrain 8th, Earthday

Rashomon visited both Fighters' and Wizards' Guilds to pay his dues and learn latest rumours. Tarkus found new thing to focus on: Red Dragon. He learned from newly met friends Nolmbork and others about this dangerous drug wreaking havoc on the streets of Hara.

So he went to the natural place to ask about it—the citadel. He made friends with guards and as Cleric of Law was warmly welcomed. That is until he started repeatedly asking about this Red Dragon.

“What is that? There are no drugs in Hara.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes. There are no drugs in Hara.”

Guards forgave Tarkus despite being a stranger.

Rigby visited the Thieves' Guild to learn the terms. They were not favourable.

Orist spent days at the Dancing Wolf, hoping to pick up on any interesting rumours. He did witness a young man burping loudly. People around him would quickly leave and complain about burning stench coming from the man.

The elf followed the man to some house which turned out to be a scribe shop. He went in through the main doors, running into an elderly man sitting behind a pile of scrolls and books. With a little bit of charm and gentle prodding, he learned that burper is the scribe's son whom had fallen in with some bad company from northern Hara.

“Interesting.”

Interesting indeed.

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Events presented in this report happened at the same time as sessions 44, 45, and 46. We played them out via play-by-post.

Adventurers

Character Class Description
Gomm Thief level 4 Swarthy, good looking, dark-skinned thief. Sweet opium-like aroma is his fragrance of choice.
Basso Halfling level 1 A stable boy whom got tired of shovelling horse shit.
Flamthwynn Magic-User level 1 An older gentleman sporting fashionable dark blue robe with purplish overtones. Seeking arcane objects and offensive spell.
Oberon Fighter level 3 A tall, supple hunter adorned with bones and horns of his prey.
Eccy Throi Elf level 1 Wears a dark green cloak to hide his bulging muscles and crippling anxiety.
Barad the Bald Magic-User level 1 Bald, beardless, chinless, and lazy-eyed.

Thistleburn 5th, Spiritday, Late Afternoon

The day was coming to an end.

Rhovar, Rad, Amanka, Kuqhir, Neremyn, BuddyPuddingBottom, and whomever else went to cheer for the Skandink warrior at the Windgod Temple competition still haven't returned.

Nothing worrisome given that these competitions are known to last—especially when one accounts grand feast that follows.

Gomm is the only one who has returned, together with warhorse Umber Fury, to the Hydra Company headquarters.

At that time, the following characters could be found at Hydra's base of operations: Gomm, Basso, Flamthwynn, Oberon, Eccy Throi, Barad the Bald, Pinella, Herat, Paxton, and ten archer mercenaries.

In addition to them, there were also eight kids of varying age: Ithiel, Musemour, Govier, Wycliffe, Valnea, Eweora, Audrey, and Honeyie.

Here is where everyone was:

Ground floor

Oberon was training three archers in the main hall. Gomm recently arrived on Umber Fury, and was greeted by Basso whom had been tending to two draft horses. Paxton was lounging with them. It's a really hot day so they left the double doors open to let in some fresh air.

Eccy was studying in the small library in the west wing of the house. Little Govier was eavesdropping on the elf. He thought he went unnoticed. Eccy was always aware of him.

Ithiel was quietly playing cards with two archers standing guard in the lobby.

Naughty Eweora was once again going through the personal belongings of the Hydra Company officers'.

Second floor

Valnea was sitting on the deck overlooking the main hall. She was the oldest and smartest of the kids they've saved from monstrous slave-traders. Although initially interested in Kuqhir's teachings, recently she has shown much more liking for strategy and tactics.

Herat had once again caught Musemour and Wycliffe breaking into the vault. She is currently scolding them, threatening to dump them in the “Caves of Horrible Shroom!”

Audrey was silently gazing through the west window.

Barad and Flamthwynn were discussing arcane matters in the resting area. Honeyie was sleeping on the floor. He farted occasionally.

Cellar

Pinella has recently been spending a lot of time in the basement. She has been keeping something to herself.

“Well met, men of Hydra Company!”

A wiry, olive skinned man stopped by the Hydra Company's HQ entrance. He was sweaty, breathed heavily, and carried Rhovar's horned helmet under his left arm.

“I'm Thalysios, and I'm afraid that I'm bringing you bad news!”

“Rhovar and his friends were labelled heretics by the Windgod's High Priest. There was no trial or hearing given—only judgement!”

“Rhovar asked me to take his stuff and inform you as quickly as possible. I have no idea what you guys did, but leaving Antil might be a good idea.”

“Here, take the nordman's helmet. I'll take my leave now. Godspeed!”

Eccy, hearing what happened to Rhovar and the rest of the crew, stalked up to Thalysios and investigated the helmet. Alas, it truly was Rhovar’s.

“They threw him into a dark pit. Apparently some horrible horrors lurk there... Still, I have no doubt he will survive. I've seen him fight!”

“And where is this pit?!” Eccy demanded.

“Right in the middle of the temple. To be honest, I didn't even know it was there! The central ring rotates and then goes downwards.” the man took a pause to take in a big breath, and then continued “Friend, going there might not be the best idea. But if you insist, it might be wise to take off that Hydra Company armband...”

After hearing all this, Basso begun preparing the horses for departure. He also organised the crew to start packing valuables so he can evenly distribute the load between the animals. Paxton and Herat jumped to help him. Kids kept getting in way. Only Valnea understood what was happening.

Gomm rode Umber Fury around the dockland asking any ship crew he passed for passage on a boat for all the company. Two ships caught his attention. One seemed unmanned, sans the guards at the dock, while the other, shabbier looking one, had few figures lounging on the board.

An hour or so later, they managed to pack roughly one fifth of their total treasure from the vault.

Gomm found out one of the ship's would be willing to take them on for a “fair payment” and “appropriate services during the journey.” Their final destination is City State of the Invincible Overlord, but will stop at several places along the coast to restock and trade. Hara being one of them. Their planned departure is three days from now. Guards of the other ship didn't have any useful info.

Eccy approached the massive Windgod Temple. Large double doors open a little bit and an exquisitely dressed nobleman stormed out, followed by eight thuggish characters. As soon as he descended the stairs he was greeted by eight more, one of them bringing forth a majestic chestnut brown stallion.

The man jumped on the horse and condescendingly sneered at his men: “Pick up the pace! I want to reach them before Panthal's lapdogs! There is still one I have unfinished business with.” They completely ignored Eccy and briskly moved in the direction the elf came from.

Eccy stood at the bottom of staircase leading into the temple. The iron doors closed behind the man. There were roughly twenty acolytes outside, not counting a mass of people moving around.

The elf approached an acolyte and in a boastful voice said the following: “I have heard your god is a great god and that you who worship him value strength. Tell me, what does it take to join your ranks?”

“Shang Ta welcomes all, brother! Why don't you come back tomorrow at noon and I'll introduce you to my Brother who takes care of new followers like you?”

“I feel a calling. Is there no way to proceed today? Something calls me from within the temple to do battle and win glory! Is this not what Shang Ta demands?!”

“Your calling is strong! Might makes right! If you wait until nightfall I'm happy to walk you to my temple just a few streets away from here!”

“Your temple!? What's wrong with this temple here? I feel there is a great battle for me within those walls!”

“The Windgod Temple is closed to the public today. What's with the aggression, brother?'

“For what reason is it closed? What stands between me and glory?”

“It's a weekly match of champions. If you wish to participate you must compete for a full week in matches of your choice. The best fighters are then invited to challenge Brutus, the reigning champion.”

“Do you not see brother? This must be the fight to which I have been called! There is no time to lose, you must lead me to this Brutus!”

“Hmmm... How should I know if you are a worthy challenger? What deeds have you accomplished? What foes have you vanquished?”

Eccy brandished his serrated handaxe. “I have cut the scalp from many a man, and taken the head off beasts the likes of which I cannot describe! Do you stand between me and glory? My destiny lies beyond those doors!”

“Might makes right, brother. If you can submit 5 of us in a row I might let you in.”

Elf quickly took care of the first acolyte, but alas, the second one threw him off balance.

“I'm afraid you are not good enough to face Mr. Bumblebee.”

“Mr. Bumblebee, his name will remain etched into my mind as I train. Is there no other way to meet this man?”

“Probably, but I can't help you with that.”

Gomm managed to negotiate rather favourable terms: 450 gold coins for the whole company, and they set sail within two hours.

Another hour later, preparations for departure are in full swing.

Basso & Oberon were overseeing the packing process. Four mercenaries, Paxton, Herat, and Pinella were hard at work.

Barad was in the library checking if there was anything critical to pack. Flamthwynn was in the master bedroom. He packed all the potions and was now hiding under the bed, waiting for further instructions.

Gomm, whilst returning to the HQ, noticed four figures hugging the north side, and four hugging the west side. He also noticed a mounted figure with wand-like object in hand pointing at the direction of the Hydra Company building.

The thief promptly ripped his cloak, doused it in oil, tied to an arrow, lighted it, and shoot it through the upper floor widow on the west side of the building. Alas, he missed! His attempt was noticed by four figures on the west side!

Next he rode up to within 60ft and begun peppering the enemies with arrows and shouting as loud as he could “They're here, they're here, fly you fools!” His next arrow landed true, pinning one to the wall.

Gomm reared up on Umber fury and shouted out, “Dogs! You'll feel the barbed tongue of the hydra! Attackers! Attackers! Be on Guard” and then he loosed an arrow into another figure at the north side. This time it was a miss.

Mounted thief could see the north figure turn around right corner, out of sight. The mounted man was also now out his your sight. Two men by west wall charged him.

Others scaled the wall and reached the window Gomm had targeted mere seconds ago. As one smashes it a child-like scream could be heard. Another one reached in and then yanked his hand out, throwing a small girl to the ground.

Her scream was brief.

Her flight was done in a blink of an eye.

Valnea's life was gone before it begun proper.

Eweora screamed at the sight, bringing to everyone's attention that something was happening. Basso and Oberon caught glimpse of Herat running up the stairs. She turned red and yelled “NO!” like a wounded beast.

“Flamm, it's time to nut up!” Barad shouted. Flamthwynn was very content being under large, secure bed. “Well, I tried...” Barad exhaled and move to entrance chamber. He took command of nearby mercenaries and ordered the kids to get back and hide.

“Hold the doors!” he was preparing to cast Hold Portal. Mercs pressed just in time as someone tried to burst in.

Sounds of fighting were coming from top floor. Basso & Oberon heard heavy footsteps, yells, and metal clanging. And then they heard Herat's broken yelp “Sister!”

“We need help up here!” Paxton yelled.

“Die, knave!” Herat roared as she crushed the head of her sister's murderer.

Gomm was having trouble controlling his warhorse in melee, but so far no one managed to knock him down. And horse was doing fine on its own; what could few thugs do to it? Well, after it was slashed for the first time, Umber Fury decided it had enough—both of the inept rider as well as the attackers. First it threw Gomm of its back. Then it stomped the thugs into bloody mess.

Flamthwynn heard doors crack open. Then he saw unfamiliar boots snooping around the master bedroom. He held his breath.

Barad's spell went off, causing the enemies to hit the doors in vain and curse profusely. “Follow me to the center. We must gather everyone, head into the cellar and retreat into the sewers!”

Basso and Oberon finally reached the second deck only to see Herat fighting off three thugs. Pinella was lying in a pool of blood, and Paxton was lying next to hear. Musemour and Wycliffe, Valena's younger brothers were attacking one of the thugs. Wycliffe managed to drive a kitchen knife into the man's leg.

Unlike mercenaries, the kids didn't really follow Barad's commands. “Just pick them up and carry little brats!”

Herat fell to her knees, blood dripping from her cracked skull. Next blow dislocated her jaw, and she fell, lifeless, next to her sister.

At this moment, three men burst in through secondary entrance, encountering Barad and few mercenaries carrying children. One dressed in chain shirt asked:

“Is any of you Barad?”

“I'm a clerk for these folk, Reston, what are you doing here? We heard screams from upstairs.” Barad replied.

“We are here to kidnap a man named Barad and kill everyone else.”

“Well, then I am Barad, aren't I?”

Without missing a beat, the man standing next to the asking man stabbed Barad straight through the gut.

Barad went out how he'd always hoped: yelling at the children.

The man in chain went pale.

“You imbecile! We need him alive!” he grabbed twitching Barad and started dragging him out.

“Let him go!” “Scoundrels!” “Face your fate!”

Mercenaries rallied and hacked to death two thugs flanking the armoured man holding unconscious Barad.

Basso killed the thug whom had killed Herat. The surviving two pushed past the kids, going for Basso and Oberon respectively. Both thugs failed to strike the duo. The second one also fumbled, and in the process his bandanna slipped, blinding him.

As blindfolded thug stumbled, Musemour crouched behind his knees. The man stepped back, tripped over, and fell flat on his back. Wycliffe, struggling to lift Paxton's mace, just dropped it on the man's head. There he lied, dead in a pool of blood, just like the kids' innocence.

Basso killed the remaining thug on the second floor, and then called the children to stay close to him. Kids spat on the thugs' corpses and then ran up behind the halfling. Oberon checked on their fallen friends—Paxton was still alive but unconscious.

Flamthwynn, hiding under the bed, could see the unknown boots scuttle away, through doors leading to the kitchen.

Barad, in hazy confusion, could feel being slowly carried while familiar voices shouted from behind him. Mercenaries charged out, trying to rescue Barad. There they encountered three more thugs, one also in chain.

Basso ran down and reached the wide double doors used to roll out the wagon. There he could see five mercenaries fighting three attackers. One of the men in chain held Barad's limp body.

In distance he could see a mounted figure flanked by two armoured figures. The man on the horse had the evilest grin Basso has seen in life.

He took a shot.

And missed.

The man laughed.

In fact, as he leaned back to laugh he missed an arrow discharged by Gomm.

The man reined in his horse and waved the stick in his hand at Gomm—discharging a shining yellow orb, akin to small sun.

The orb flied right past Gomm, scorching some of his arm hair.

Mercenaries surrounded the thugs holding Barad and hacked them all down—but the man in chain shirt. Basso tried to hit the mounted man, but missed again.

“Your fate is sealed, knaves! I'll make sure to buy any survivors!” the man yells. Then turned around and galloped off southwards, in the direction of the Windgod Temple.

His two bodyguards ran after him, but are nowhere near as fast as his riding horse...

The polite man who stabbed Barad dropped his mace: “I yield! I'm naught but a muscle-for-hire, just like you.”

Hydra Company has successfully defended their HQ against unknown assailants.

Herat and Pinella, the sisters, have died protecting the children.

Valnea, the oldest and brightest, died from blunt force trauma after being yanked through the window.

Paxton was knocked unconscious, but is now fine. He tripped whilst fighting and knocked himself out.

Barad is now stable, after being magically healed by Paxton.

Four kids were nowhere to be found: Audrey, Ithiel, Govier, and Honeyie.

And they had one prisoner.

After checking that the assailants are gone, Flamthwynn emerged from his hiding spot to assess the situation. He offered to help find the kids or help the wounded. He is a coward, but not an evil one!

Oberon frisked the corpses, recovering 56 silver pieces, 11 daggers, 9 clubs, 2 long swords, and 2 maces.

“Gather your belonging and follow me! I shall wait not longer than ten minutes!” Gomm announced loudly.

Their captive introduced himself as Notred. ““Uh, Lord Warcrown doesn't really tolerate failure. May I join you as well?”

“Why did they want me young man?” Barad interrogated Notred.

“You probably know better than me. It isn't difficult to insult Lord Warcrown. I just know that we had the orders to get you alive.”

Gomm lead Basso, Flamthwynn, Barad, six kids, and five mercenaries towards the ship. The captain was surprised to see them return so quickly.

“I'll summon the crew once you pay. No horses. And what's with the kids?”

Gomm instructed the mercs to load the treasure, paid the captain, and then took the two draft horses and Umber fury around the dockland saying “For Sale, all offers considered. All offers considered folks, grab a good bargain on a genuine thoroughbred war horse and two draft horses. I have twenty minutes, any offers considered.”

“I will buy Umber Fury.” Eccy announced. He just caught up with the rest, having returned from the Windgod Temple. “I'll take Ithiel home.”

“You... buy him? Don't be ridiculous.” Gomm stared firmly at Eccy for a beat. Then he smirked. He patted the stallion's neck, and handed Eccy the reigns. “There will be no buying. He's yours. Ride safe. Ride fast.” Gomm thrust out his arm for a hand shake.

Eccy grabbed his hand and held it firmly. “We leave Rhovar and the rest to their deaths then? I can only hope they die with blood on their blades. Good luck in whatever land you find yourself in.”

“We weren't meant for this place, Eccy of the elves. Rhovar is Skandik, he will prevail, or, if he dies, then it will be glorious, and he will meet with his ancestors. The Gods of this land are fickle. Come with us aboard a ship and find finer pastures, of milk and honey. Raise the lad as your own. One day, you might discover you are happy.”

“I will meet my death here in this land. I know death now, and no longer fear it. I once was an elf, now I am something else. And besides, I made this child a promise. I know that were I to renege on it I would lose what is left of the elf that once was Eccy. Go well Gomm.” Eccy turned away, and helped Ithiel up onto Umber Fury.

Following the news of Hydra Company denounced as heretical association, and surviving the savage assault on their HQ, the Hydra Company had successfully boarded a ship destined for the City State of the Invincible Overlord. Eccy remained in Antil, his mind set on fulfilling a promise he had give to Ithiel.

The seamen slowly trickled in, protesting being called back so soon. Many reeked of alcohol and debauchery. Their protests were quickly crushed by the Captain's generous bribe of one gold coin to each.

It was a long, hot, and humid day. The ship lazily rolled out of the port, until making enough distance to drop down its sails and roll off into the Romillion Sea.

The Windgod Temple's massive frame loomed over the survivors; their former headquarters shrinking by the moment in its shadow.

Flamthwynn stood on the deck and looked overboard wistfully.

Gomm climbed to the crows nest for some brief respite. Up amongst the sails he can't keep Antil and its evils from his mind, so he takes his knives to a whetstone. With the scrape of steel on stone the blade gets a little sharper, and he begins to plan for the future.

Basso watched as Eccy rode off into the distance. He gives him a small wave, despite knowing very well that the elf won't be able to see it.

Oberon was resting on a rail by himself with his back facing the others. As people passed him, they left him alone allowing him peace to stare out into the ocean and be lost in his thoughts. In reality, Oberon has never been on a boat, let alone a ship, before and does not have his his sea legs. He was in pure agony, puking his brains out.

Eccy rode hard for Weststar, the place Ithiel called home. From there he will likely continue “adventuring” until he meets an untimely end.

And thus ends Hydra Company in Antil.

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