The Morning After
The mercenaries ate breakfast at the inn and Katos met them there to lead them to Baron Timeon’s palace. The party passed a wide boulevard near the Golden Circle, where money and stolen goods often changed hands, loud trumpets brayed out, followed by an expectant murmur of the crowd, The Street cleared to make way for a procession. A large group of Ophirean cavalry pranced by, followed by numerous courtiers dressed in gaudy finery. Behind them rode General Iskandrian, a proud veteran with a shock of white hair belyied the strength still apparent in his bulged neck. This was the man who would determine the future of Ophir. Behind him, in a litter, rode King Valdric, a frail old man in obvious poor health. Across his lap laid a long gem-encrusted staff, the royal scepter of Ophir. Behind him rode another large unit of cavalry. They passed by.
Sandwiched between a temple to Mitra and a pottery shop, stood a small pretentious palace. Tastelessly brocaded columns ran across the front veranda. Wide marble steps decorated with poorly carved flowers led up to two huge bronze doors which bore the Timeon crest, two red wolves on a field of deep blue. The crest might have been impressive, except that the wolves were smiling rather than snarling. Katos mounted the steps and looked a little pale. "I wish Darios might have been here,” he whispered. "It will mean great grief he has been murdered. He was the Baron’s favorite”
Tullweim pounded on the door, and a thin, sour-aired chamberlain opened it and asked their business. The chamberlain, Vanemoth, was irritatingly condescending, even to Katos, and insisted that the Baron was too busy to be bothered with any military trifles that day. It appeared Katos had fallen out of favor. It was also obvious Vanemoth considered the mercenaries’ tattered clothing and foreign accents abominable and would rather not see them again. Lady Julia cursed him loudly. A threat from Tullweim and Cuana cowed the chamberlain and gained the party admittance.
The chamberlain disappeared up some ornate stairs. As they party waited, they looked about and noticed the palace’s garish decor. Flimsy furniture, pretty flowers, and second-rate tapestries abounded.
The mercenaries soon heard a shout from above and saw the chamberlain retreat down the hall backwards, he bowed as he went. A balding man in a silk robe approached, his stomach bulged, his pasty little legs popped in and out from beneath his brocaded gown. He was obviously drunk, “What is all this noise? I’ve told you, Vanemoth, never to disturb me while I’m researching! What do those stinking barbars want?”
Lady Julia laughed at the Baron’s appearance, which drew a deep scowl. Katos introduced the mercenaries, and recommended that the Baron hire them, Baron Timeon offered 2,000 sp a month for the entire troop. This was not enough for the mercenaries and a combination of Dhak’s serpentine tongue and Timeon’s drunkeness led to an agreement of 3,000 sp a month. Baron Timeon insisted that the Crimson Wolves live in the palace and stable their horses there, but they were to maintain a separate kitchen. He wanted none of their cooking odors to interfer with his own meals. The mercenaries were housed on the fourth floor. The Baron then drunkenly swaggered over to Tullweim and threw an arm around his shoulder. “My great ally,” he muttered confidentially, “Count Antimedes will be pleased that I have employed some more troops, particularly if he should decide to seize the throne. Not, of course, that he would ever dream of such a thing. The Count has no such desires. He is a noble man far above such petty politics. But be ready.”
The Baron thought momentarily, then instructed the adventurers they would be on an expedition first thing the next morning. The baron would also accompany them. They were to meet 20 mules and their drivers at the Carellan Stables, and would leave at dawn. The Baron gave them a letter which allowed them to bring their troops to the palace, where they were to be lodged, and take up their guard duties. Katos remained to speak with the Baron privately while the mercenaries went back out into the city.
As the party moved about the wide boulevards flanked by domes and towers ornamented with metal, they saw a multitude of voluminous hooded robes gathered around an auction block. On the block stood many male and female slaves, clothed only in simple loincloths. Some were sold for manual labor, others sold for their beauty and intimate talents. As the company passed by, they heard a scream from the block as a beautiful woman escaped the grasp of her slaver and ran toward the company, with 5 slavers on her heels. The slave girl begged Tullweim for release as she was dragged back to the block. Tullweim and Cuana approached the slave block and Tullweim offered to buy the woman from Urian the slaver, 70 sp exchanged hands. The woman was a pretty, young Ophirian named Accalia. The party continued towards the gate and picked up the cook Fabio on the way.
They showed the papers Baron Timeon provided to them to the gatekeepers and were allowed to don their armor and lead their troops to the Baron’s palace. Once there they set up a watch and prepared for the next day’s journey.
In the Wilderness
It was just past dawn, the air was chill. The adventurers’ horses’ breath showed like fog. The men had gathered outside the palace and awaited the Baron’s arrival. They waited longer than deemed necessary, but Baron Timeon finally approached, now agonizingly sober, he looked quite a different man, and said, “I do not yet trust you. I do not intend to tell you where we are headed until we have left ”/campaign/nemedian-chronicles/wikis/ianthe" class=“wiki-page-link”> Ianthe, and, in addition, I require hostages." A window high in the palace opened, Torali and Accalia stepped up to it, an unknown figure stood behind the two girls with a drawn sword. Tullweim and Lady Julia were furious, but Timeon also insisted that Julia remain behind as a hostage or Accalia and Torali would be immediately thrown from the window. Lady Julia agreed and went inside the palace. Baron Timeon promised they would be well cared for. Tullweim said if any of the ladies were harmed there would be hell to pay. The Baron nodded and responded in cold earnest that all he need do is withdraw his patronage and they would immediately be subject to arrest and impalement for bringing an armed force into Ianthe without noble patronage. Affairs were settled and the company moved on, sans the 15 mercenaries left behind to guard Timeon’s palace.
They rode up to the largest stables in Ianthe, which were smelled long before they came into sight. Twenty mules and their drivers waited, stamping to stay warm, they wondered where they were headed. All they knew was that they would venture beyond the safe confines of Ianthe out into the dangers of the open country. A few prayed for their safe return. They were brave men; not many others would dare to leave the city once safely inside. Baron Timeon waited while the mercenaries organized the caravan, then gave orders to leave Ianthe through the Gate of Gold and follow the road to Nemedia.
The company silently suffered Baron Timeon’s many complaints, especially unhappy to stomach Fabio’s meals again, though when meal time came he always ate voraciously. On the seventh night out of a 19 day journey an alarm was raised by the night watch. The company hastily donned armor and stood at the ready, tensely waited as a large group of people moved through the dark towards them. When the people emerged the mercenaries saw 60 refugees, filthy and near starvation. Tullweim and Cuana hunted in the night and caught a deer and rabbit for the refugees. They also parted with supplies they could do without. Finally, Cuana, felt a strong compassion for the group of women, children, elderly and half-starved men, gave them 100 sp with which to buy food and clothing when they reached the nearest city, which happened to be in Count Valentius’ domain.
On the 19th day of travel the Crimson Wolves and the caravan they protected arrived at their destination. The party looked around at the dusty warriors and men, the sweat covered animals wound through the foothills up into the mountains. It had been a long journey. The sun glared down and they wiped their brow. They rode over a crest, and suddenly the mines laid before them. They were in a valley which stunk with slag and debris. Ruined shacks served as barracks for the wretched prisoners sentenced to slave here for the rest of their short lives. A grim fortress of stone rose above them, and the entire valley was encircled by a wooden stockade, which guaranteed that none fled. Black holes of doom gaped in the mountainside, that lead down into the earth’s bowels. Baron Timeon rode over and greeted the fortress commander. Cuana could not see precisely what followed, but it appeared that various papers and a small bag that jingled exchanged hands. Timeon then motioned the company into the fortress, where the warehouse was.
Inside the warehouse were 40 casks to be loaded onto the mules. Cuana opened one and looked inside and found some crude ore that Xacksmith recognized as raw gold ore. After the mules were loaded, Timeon was eager to head back for Ianthe. The company left without incident.
The first full day on the journey back to Ianthe the caravan was attacked by 50 light cavalry. The battle was fiercely fought, Dhak’s unit was pushed back early and withdrew before Dhak returned with the magic of the Elephant Heart to curse his foes while the Nemedian Adventurers struck with their great swords. Xacksmith’s unit was almost completely wiped out. Cuana and Tullweim worked in tandem against the horsemen. Though the line was broken, 3 mule-drivers killed, and 8 Nemedian Adventurers would never adventure again, the raiders were pushed back. Cuana had captured one of the horsemen and asked who they worked for. The man was rightly afraid and begged for his life. He revealed that 6 nights prior a group of peasants had wandered into Valentius’ land with an uncommonly large amount of silver on them. They were robbed, questioned, and made slaves. Valentius then ordered the cavalry out to rob Timeon of his gold. Cuana swore vengeance and let the brigand go.