||Fighter level 3
||A generic Nordic guy.
||Thief level 4
||Swarthy, good looking, dark-skinned thief. Sweet opium-like aroma is his fragrance of choice.
|Kuqhir of the Wastes
||Magic-User level 2
||A thin, tall, dark skinned man with a magnificent beard that tickles his bellybutton. Dresses in silk robes and tightly folded turban embroidered with names of all known angels.
||Thief level 3
||A young, short and malnourished rogue.
||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.
||Cleric level 1
||Dour, glum, tight-lipped, and baggy-eyed cleric with a gravestone-shaped talisman. She reveres the Fallen One, a petty god of fallen warriors and unsung heroes.
||Fighter level 1
||A handsome 9th son of a noble who has read too many trashy fantasy books for his own good, and now thinks that bravery is not being scared of anything.
||Elf level 2
||Peppermint scented elf followed by jingles, on a quest for the perfect gift.
||Fighter level 3
||A tall, supple hunter adorned with bones and horns of his prey.
||Elf level 1
||A tall, pale, and lean scholar of languages with silver hair and a somewhat distant attitude.
Sunstrong 16th, Airday
Morjen. Liana. Yorlen. Meldorian. Warcrown. Kelman.
The names and associated faces were now just a groggy memory for Rhovar and Rad. But not for Barad. Oh no. He still remembers everything from the previous night.
“My dear friends, I bear gifts!”
It was Aergal Firebeard, a dwarf whose son the company had saved months ago.
“It takes time for mithril weapons to be forged, but they are the finest in all of Wilderlands!”
He brought them a mithril short sword, a mace, and a two-handed sword.
“Now, what is it I hear my friends? Is it true that you've been to Kelman's famous Rumble! Oh, don't hold me in dark; spill your beans at once!”
While Rhovar and Rad struggled to remember the details, Barad bluntly said:
“Sorry, but we have signed the Code of Secrecy. We are not allowed to speak of the night. We hope you understand.”
“I see, I see. Well, see you again in a few months. All of you are welcome to my manor at any time. Maybe visit once?”
“Hey, where is Eccy?” finally someone spoke up.
“Oh yeah, we received a letter from the Walled Bazaar. Apparently he made a huge mess there yesterday. Got into a fight and broke some noses, flipped few stands and what not. They subdued him and threw him into prison. They are asking for 1200 gold pieces to release him unharmed, plus 741 silver pieces for damage done.”
“He is a good elf. We will pay the ransom.”
“By the way, have we gotten any responders to our call for adventurers?”
Indeed, five individuals answered Hydra Company's call: fighter Richrad “The Treacherous” Feutrer, thief Watt “The Merciful” Coxeter, magic-user Arnbella Meale, cleric of luck Bowerroth, and cleric of the library Galiana “The Lily” Payne.
All were hired.
“Well met old friends!”
Yet another visitor came to the Hydra Company's headquarters.
This time it was Herat, a female warrior that was briefly with them during their time at the mushroom caves.
“You remember how I joined Sinai because he promised that he'd help me find my sister? Well, I have a very strong lead! But I need your help... Apparently, the she was a member of adventuring party that went to seek a crypt in the jungle just east of here. I even got a map—see? Would you be willing to head there with me?”
“And what is the pay?” Rad magnanimously asked.
Herat blushed. “I don't have anything to pay you, but if the rumours are true, the crypt she went seeking is full of ancient treasure. That should suffice, no?”
And so the company set out to prepare a new expedition.
Sunstrong 17th, Waterday
Oh how impressive they were!
A column with three marching abreast led by Rhovar mounted on glorious Umber Fury, the warhorse of mysteriously missing Sir Fondleroy.
Eccy, Zilar (a new guy who just joined the company), Neremyn, Amanka, Kuqhir, Barad, and BuddyPuddingBottom were joined by their retainers Galiana, Arnbella, Bowerroth, and Richrad.
The wizards actually rode in the VVagon pulled by two draft horses.
Finally, ten mercenaries armed with shortbows and daggers followed.
Herat was up front with Rhovar, since she had the map to her sister's supposed last location.
Just as they were leaving the Gates of Antil, Barad the Bald had caught glimpse of a familiar face. Although dressed in a simple clothing and without large grey robe, Barad was certain this was Meldorian the “Gargoyle” from the previous night's horror show.
The man looked nervous and was continuously looking over his shoulders. Somehow he failed to notice the impressive column of the Hydra Company.
“Rhovar! That's one of them!”
The Skandik warrior trodded to the unsuspecting man; towering over on him on Umber Fury; and demanded in booming voice he enters into their VVagon.
Meldorian was so shocked he went as pale as Kelman's albino servants. He couldn't form a single coherent sentence. He was pushed into the VVagon with little resistance.
“You'll go on a ride with us now. Don't you worry.” Barad consoled the man.
Meldorian sat in silence, shivering and trembling in anticipation.
“Some thugs are following us.” Rad announced.
Well, whomever they were, they were not brave enough to challenge the Hydra Company in the open.
“Kelman's spies, for sure.”
“W-w-where are you taking me?”
Meldorian finally spoke.
“Oh, that's no concern of yours. Relax.”
And little did they speak to the man until they were several hours away from Antil.
“Speak, fiend! You threw the dice as will, did you not!”
“Spare me! I did not want to play, but I value my life more than some beggars' and lepers'!”
“Have you not seen us walk out?!”
“To be honest, I expected you to show up on some of the planks as well! How could I know they'd really let you leave?”
“Where were you going now?”
“I was fleeing Antil, that's where I've been going! And you should too! Anyone who returns is a dead man.”
With a little helping of motivational intimidation, Meldorian revealed his plan was to surprise everyone with a Sleep spell, and then simply pick up all the valuable. He got cold feet as the night went on and simply gave up.
And somehow he managed to gather enough courage to insult Barad:
“Esteemed colleague, you asked me how do I remember the events from the last night. Any mage worth their salt would've recognised that “Code of Secrecy” was nothing but a simple curse for the feeble-minded.”
By now Rhovar had enough of the man.
“I'll cut off your tongue and chop off your hands!”
Eccy Throi supported that notion.
Others simply turned their heads away as Meldorian grovelled for mercy. But no matter how much he begged, Rhovar had made up his mind.
Seeing he has no other option, Meldorian fled for the jungle, running as fast as he could. He even left behind his haversack. Luckily for him, Rhovar and Eccy were to slow to catch up. Others did not try to prevent him from escaping.
“Bah. Herat, are we close yet?”
Sunstrong 18th, Earthday
“This must be it!”
After nearly twelve hours of jungle exploration, they had finally found the entrance into the crypt marked on Herat's map.
The following were to go in as the main party: Herat, Rhovar, Eccy, Zilar, Amanka, Rad, Neremyn, BuddyPuddingBottom, Kuqhir, Bowerroth, Galiana, and Arnbella. The rest formed a camp at the safest spot they could find.
The passage the have discovered at the back of a cave led them to another huge water-filled underground cavern opening up into the Romilion Sea some few hundred yards north.
A wooden bridge crossed the subterranean river flowing into the sea, leading to portal beside a twenty feet high tower. From where the stood, the party could infer that this was an underground dock of sorts.
Two more towers followed the first one, with a docking bay between each. The bays were at a lower level, with steps leading down into the water. Everything was littered with rubble and masonry. The steps, as well as part of the docks were also covered with wet green weed, slime, barnacles and sea snails.
The elves could hear a feint sound of rustling leaves.
Opposite of the second tower stood twenty feet tall and twenty feet wide double doors. They were arched and covered in carving of intertwined skeletons, culminating with a large carved flame at the top of the archway.
Four thick metal bars ran across the doors, with numerous chains and padlock shackling them to the doors. Rad couldn't resist the temptation, so he decided to try to pick one of the locks.
At the same time, the rest of the party searched the towers and docking bays, finding little of interest except a rotting barge with a skeleton and a rusted chest.
“Chest, you say! Now that's more my drift!”
Rad reached the barge without any delay.
“Hmm, yes, a chest.”
The skeleton crumbled into dust as soon as it was prodded.
As soon as he stepped into the barge, two lampreys lunged at him, surprising the young thief.
Buddy immediately shot down one, while the other was put to sleep by Kuqhir. Zilar ran down the slippery stairs just in time to embrace panicked Rad in his strong arms.
After everyone had calmed down, they recovered the rusty chest, finding an ornate golden goblet, a flask with liquid, blue gourd full of white sand, and a silver armband.
“Guys, there are another big ass doors here as well.”
Indeed, at the end of eastern portion of the docks stood fifteen feet wide and twenty feet tall opening. It was framed with skeletal borders surrounding a cascade of water. On the floor was a three feet wide groove.
The “doors” was in fact a thick slab of stone. It currently stood at some ten feet above ground.
Simultaneously, Neremyn had been exploring behind the metal bars blocking the large double doors they've previously encountered.
Beneath the lowest bar he found a concealed lever. Smart elf he is, he decided to use a ten foot pole to flip it.
The stone slab fell down with such force that it almost knocked Buddy on his bottom.
“Oh, I guess we now know what this lever does.”
Flipping it again resulted in the stonegates being open once more. They opened into a dark chamber.
“Light up. We are going in.”
The party entered into a large chamber with ceiling so high they had to shoot an arrow to see it. The marble floor in the center of the room was covered in mysterious symbols. On top of them two men laid solemnly. Both looked long dead.
“Uh, this looks worrying.”
Smaller double doors were to the north and south.
After carefully prodding and experimenting with the rune carved floor, the party had decided it's safe enough to be approached. Casting Read Languages, Neremyn was able to decipher part of the writing. In essence it spoke of faraway people whom established this as their final resting place. The High Priest and The Archmage were in charge of interment processions. And, perhaps most importantly to the party, everyone here is buried with all their worldly possessions.
“Shh! Noise behind northern doors!”
THUD. THUD. THUD.
It sounded like something hard was banging against another hard surface.
Thirsting for action, they party ordered themselves behind the doors. Rhovar and Zilar led the charge.
They burst into a chamber with several broken bunks and shredded mattresses, barrels, and few desks. In front of them a group of three men were using a bench as a battering ram against doors to the east.
“Look! They have hoods! And daggers! They must be the bad guys!”
The party immediately killed one, and beaten the other two senseless.
Alas, they failed to notice an elf hiding behind the barrels. The surprise weaved his hands and spoke few words, dropping everyone but insomniac Amanka.
He too was beaten senseless shortly thereafter.
A defiant shout came from behind the doors hooded men tried to break through.
“You will never get me alive!”
Illustrations by Idle Doodler.
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