Campaign of the Month: March 2008
The Nemedian Chronicles
Reavers of Ophir 2
The party had traversed the crowded streets of Ianthe and questioned the inhabitants of the Old City district for a long, hard day. Tullweim, Cuana, Dhak, and Xacksmith needed a tall mug of ale. The group traveled across the emptied streets through the dim light to the Bull & Bear inn. Once there, they looked around for any familiar faces but found only 6 of the Gate of Avenrakash’s guards who gambled with 2 mercenaries, and the wench who had attempted to lighten Tullweim’s purse the parties’ first night in Ianthe. The party took a table and gruffly ordered ale from the wench, listened for any mention of the group in the inn, and heard only low grumbles from a couple of the guards. Tullweim bought the gate guards’ table a round as well. Dhak approached the guards about Galbro and got a racist remark for his troubles. Dhak turned away with a sneer on his face and was about to walk back to his table when one soldier told Dhak he’d heard of Galbro’s network of thieves. Dhak turned at the soldiers’ words and was told to search a certain sewer in Ianthe’s slums for a secret entrance to the Zingaran’s lair. Dhak sensed the guards’ true intent was not to aid but to have the party tromp though the cities sewers and provide the guards with a joke to tell in future nights. Dhak spoke to his comrades, they finished their ale and left the inn in a resentful mood.
The adventurers returned to Baron Timeon’s palace and met with Enaro, who informed them of the low level of the troops’ morale. Cuana attempted to rouse the companies’ spirits but could not find the right words. Tullweim then promised the troops they would win through this difficult time with their lives and plenty of silver to take home to Nemedia. A loud cheer rose in response and Tullweim turned to see Timeon’s chamberlain fast approaching down a corridor. Vanemoth informed the party the Baron was not happy that half his slaves had fled in the night from the display of mummery and sorcery Dhak had shown. Tullweim shot Dhak an annoyed look and had the chamberlain lead him to the Baron. Baron Timeon spat vitriol and bile at the adventurers for the loss of his slaves and swore that the cost of each one would come out of the mercenaries’ pay. Tullweim was able to calm the Baron down with assurances that no such thing would again occur and Dhak intimidated the Baron, who let them be for the moment.
Afterwards, Cuana walked rounds with the troops while Dhak checked out Timeon’s floor for any intruders. Tullweim and Xacksmith were headed towards their rooms on the 4th floor of the palace which served as a barracks for the Crimson Wolves and discovered the door to Enaro’s room was open. They had just seen Enaro downstairs and decided to investigate. Xacksmith stealthily opened the door and saw 3 thieves had torn the room apart in search for something. Xacksmith leapt over the bed and blocked access to the balcony before he challenged the thieves. One of the thieves bull rushed Xacksmith, but the Hyrkanian was able to stab him and push him back. Another of the thieves rushed Xacksmith and sent him off the balcony 4 floors to the ground. The last thief moved out to the balcony and climbed up to the roof. Tullweim entered the room and brought his sword down on one of the thieves who cried out in pain. The third thief flanked the Aesir and sent a blade deep into a chink in the barbarian’s armor. Tullweim became enraged, his eyes grew large and his great sword dealt death to the thief on the balcony. Meanwhile, Xacksmith stood up and rushed to warn the Crimson Wolves on the ground floor. Cuana, Xacksmith, Enaro and several Crimson Wolves hastily made their way up to the 4th floor. Dhak heard the noise from the 5th floor and moved out to a balcony. His keen eyes were not hindered much by the dark night sky, and he was able to see a shingle on the roof that betrayed the thieves path of escape. The other thief attempted to flee from Tullweim, but the barbarian swung his sword and cleaved the thieves’ skull in two. Cuana, Xacksmith, and Enaro arrived to find Tullweim covered in the blood of his foes. Cuana tended to Tullweim’s wounds and Dhak gave small aid to Xacksmith. Afterwards, Enaro was questioned as to what the thieves sought. The captain searched through the room and found that the urn the adventurers had left in his care was gone! The party realized, the “crucible” the thieves sought had been under their noses the entire time.
They now knew what was at stake. Tullweim, Cuana, and Xacksmith attempted to track the thief, a difficult task on the hard city streets of Ianthe in the dim light. It took several attempts from the three experienced woodsmen, but they eventually picked up the trail. Meanwhile, Dhak attempted a more mystical approach to their quarry. The Stygian had 2 Crimson Wolves bring Timeon’s servants to his quarters one at a time and drained them to fuel his mystical energy. The mercenaries refused to bring any more servants to Dhak after the first 2 had left a trail of drool as they were carried back to their rooms despite the Stygians assurances that the damage would not be permanent. Dhak then went down the hall and got a couple more mercenaries to grab more of Timeon’s servants. Once he was filled with mystical energy Dhak scryed through a mirror & discovered the thief’s hideout in the slums. Dhak attempted to convince Taras to travel with him but the Zamorian refused to leave his post in watch over Baron Timeon. Dhak then convinced Enaro to escort him through Ianthe’s cutthroat filled alleys. On the way to the thief’s hideout Dhak and Enaro found the rest of the party who had completely lost the thief’s trail. Tullweim sent Enaro back to Timeon’s palace and the three mercenaries followed Dhak into Ianthe’s slums.
They traveled to the thief’s hideout and Tullweim attempted to kick the door down but failed. Cuana stepped up and with his mighty thews knocked the door off its’ hinges. The scared thief held up his sword but knew he could not get through the 4 armed mercenaries who blocked the doorway and his only means of escape. When he stood down the mercenaries questioned the thief and he revealed that he and his fallen brethren did not take the urn. The adventurers demanded to know where Galbro was, but the thief didn’t know. He told them about the house on Wolves’ Row, where they were to leave the urn at midday the next day, if they’d found it. Cuana took a draught of the thief’s cheap liquor and Tullweim told the thief to leave Ianthe and never return or be put to the sword. Without hesitation the thief immediately stole away into the night.
When the adventurers returned to Timeon’s palace, Enaro informed them about 3 more mercenary desertions. Tullweim fixed Dhak with a heavy gaze but before he could speak Baron Timeon approached livid with rage. Quite drunk, the Baron screamed his displeasure about the accost of the few staff that remained. The baron was close to firing the mercenary company on the spot, but Tullweim was once again able to calm him down. After Baron Timeon left back to his chambers, Tullweim turned on Dhak and told the Stygian that he was now on his own. Should any further trouble be caused, Tullweim would not prevent any action Timeon took. That said, the group retired for the night and rested their troubled brows.
The next morning, as the party was prepared for the day, Vanemoth called them to breakfast with a begrudged manner. Timeon, Lady Julia and Torali were present in the dining hall. Timeon chided Vanemoth for his sub-standard meal and shot a rueful look at the mercenaries. He then asked for a progress report to which Tullweim related the information the group had gathered about Galbro and the house on Wolves’ Row that the party planned to visit at midday. Lady Julia urged caution and said Galbro was rumored to be a great necromancer and suggested they only go with a great force of their troops. Tullweim responded that he had faced many demons and unnatural foes in past adventures and was unconcerned about the Zingaran’s mummery.
Afterwards, the party traveled with 2 additional members of the Crimson Wolves to Ianthe’s market district, where they sought Urian the slaver. The slaver had previously been easy to find among his slaves, who he sold like cattle, on the auction block. But this day his stall was empty. When they inquired around the nearby shops they learned Urian had been murdered the day before, hung by his heels not far from his home with marks cut into his cheeks and forehead. With that avenue closed to them the party made its way to the house on Wolves’ Row. Just outside the market district the mercenaries were stopped by a tax collector with a group of the city watch who accompanied him. The collector demanded to see the mercenaries papers and asked for the taxes due. Cuana threatened the collector which set his guards on edge and the collector told Tullwiem to “silence his fool.” This insult boiled the Cimmerian’s blood and Cuana drove his blade deep into the royal collector’s gut. The guards drew their weapons and were about to arrest the angry barbarian when Tullweim kicked the bag of coins that had fallen from the tax collector’s person and convinced the soldiers to let Cuana go to keep their lives, take the coins and report that thieves killed him. That satisfied the guards as they apparently did not like the man anyhow and the party was sent on its way.
Halfway to the house on Wolves’ Row, Tullweim was wracked with pain. He tried to move forward but the pain was too great and he staggered along, knocked into patrons and carts before he hit the cobblestone and fell unconscious. The 2 Nemedian mercenaries who accompanied the party panicked at the sight and fled back to Timeon’s palace, fearful of whatever dark sorcery felled their leader. Xacksmith spotted a group of the city guard who fast approached, ready to arrest Tullweim as a drunk. When they arrived, Dhak successfully bluffed them, said he was Tullweim’s physician, and that the barbarian was ill. The members of the watch told the party to clear Tullweim off the street and to keep him away from Ianthe’s citizens. Cuana lifted Tullweim up and carried him on to their destination.
Tullweim was roused once the adventurers arrived at the house on Wolves’ Row. Xacksmith picked the lock to a door from an alley and once he entered he triggered a trap which caused bricks to fall on him, his quick reflexes led to only minor damage taken. Afterwards, the party moved carefully about the quiet house. The entire structure was thoroughly searched but in all the rooms except for one there was only dust that had laid undisturbed for months, if not years. They found a single room which had been recently swept clean. The only items of note in the room was a clean table and 2 stuffed hawks on a banister. Xacksmith’s keen eyes also found a secret door which led into a side alley. The party waited well past the noon hour, but nobody approached.
With no other leads, the adventurers decided to visit the late Urian’s house to see if anything could be learned. After an hour’s walk they stood before the slaver’s den. Guards with a seedy look surrounded the place and eyed the party suspiciously. Tullweim knocked on the massive oak door and a young girl, no more than fourteen opened it. The Nordheimer introduced himself and inquired as to the status of Urian’s slaves. The girl confessed that she did not know what would become of herself and the others that labored for so long under the slaver’s whip. Cuana mentioned Baron Timeon and his need for servants. The girl thought for a moment and said she would very much like to serve under a noble over another merchant who dealt in the sale of flesh. Tullweim asked about their quarry, the Zingaran, and the young girl did not recognize the name Galbro but replied, “There’s some funny doings at the Tovalis Mansion lately. It’s supposed to be empty but sometimes at night you can hear Zingaran music. Somebody’s holed up in there, you can be certain, but who it is, I don’t know.” The party exchanged looks among one another and bid the young girl better days ahead as they left the dead slaver’s home.
Day 3 continued
The adventurers concluded their discussion with the slave girl who until his death, belonged to Urian the slaver. The party was still hurt from wounds previously received and went to the merchant district in search of curatives. They did not have to travel far as Urian’s home was on the outskirts of the mercantile district and an hour’s worth of asking around led them to an apothecary. A plethora of herbs and poultice scents wafted around the mercenaries within the smoke-filled shop. Behind a counter stood a short, older Ophirean merchant. He eyed the foreigners warily and curtly asked what they wanted. When told of their desire for curatives, the merchant went behind a curtain and retrieved a clay jar which contained several doses of a poultice made from Acacia extract. The party haggled and was able to purchase several doses of the healing mixture. They left the shop and ducked behind a nearby alley, removing their armor to apply the poultice and immediately felt it’s effects.
Dhak mentioned his need of power to fuel his sorcery to the rest of the party and they agreed to aid him in harvesting the necessary mystical energy from whatever street folk they encountered. It was not difficult for the mercenaries to locate 2 unfortunates in an alley. Cuana and Tullweim each grabbed one of the vagrants, who kicked and fought helplessly within the barbarians’ vice-like grip while Dhak placed his hands firmly on their faces and drained them of their senses. After setting them back down, Cuana slipped a single silver into each vagrants’ tattered tunic. With Dhak flush with power the party made their way further into the slums towards the Tovalis mansion.
Suspicious eyes from passerbys followed the passage of the mercenaries as they arrived at their destination, the aged front of the Tovalis mansion. The mansions’ windows were boarded shut and a single weathered door sat solidly in its frame. The building appeared deserted, but a furtive movement behind one of the boarded windows on the second floor was noticed, betraying an occupant inside the fore-boding edifice. The adventurers assumed they had been spotted and moved further down the street, attempting to look like they were searching for another building. Dhak and Xacksmith left Cuana and Tullweim in the front of the building while the two lightly armored and stealthier companions made their way to the back.
The back of the dilapidated mansion overlooked a squalid alley full of refuse and vermin. The stench was unbearable. A small door was located in a one story addition to the main house. There was a stack of crates and debris in the corner. Xacksmith moved towards the back door and pulled out his trusty lock picks. He worked at the door and triggered a trap which caused a cloud of smoke to shoot out from the wall next to it. The Hyrkanian leapt backwards, narrowly avoiding the trap. Afterwards, the two adventurers stealthily made their way through a kitchen, where food was boiling on the pot. The room past that had been modified into a barracks like quarters with several bedrolls and cots throughout the room. Xacksmith listened at the door on the west wall and could hear at least 5 people conversing and shuffling about. Dhak suggested they continue south and went into another room whose original use had been abandoned for a sleeping quarters for several people. Dhak listened at the door to the north and heard a group of people beyond. Dhak and Xacksmith surmised that the north door led to the same room which Xacksmith had already heard voices come from.
Dhak and Xacksmith decided to leave the door with occupants behind it alone until they could get their companions inside the mansion. Xacksmith opened the door on the west wall and triggered another trap. A dart, gleaming with a coating of poison shot from a wall opposite the door the Hyrkanian had opened. Luckily, Xacksmiths’ leather armor prevented the point of the dart from piercing flesh. Xacksmith then opened the front door of the mansion wide, triggering another dust trap, which dispersed into the open street harmlessly. He saw Cuana and Tullweim and gave them a thumbs up signal. Both barbarians rushed into the building and Xacksmith pointed to the door where the Stygian had heard voices. Tullweim slammed his mighty thews against the door, burst it open, and surprised a group of 10 bandits in a banquet hall. The surprise did not stop the bandits for long as the leader ordered the thieves to action and they swarmed the Aesir, flanking him, their swords finding the chinks in his armor and biting deep into his flesh.
Cuana, Dhak, and Xacksmith went through the western door of the entry hall, triggering another poison dart trap that the Stygian nimbly avoided. They entered another room refurnished to be a sleeping quarters and Cuana knocked down the door which led to the banquet hall. Cuana and Xacksmith rushed into the room while Dhak spoke ancient words of power at one of the thieves. The unfortunate thief was struck by a tormenting pain that brought him to his knees, crying out in agony. Xacksmith feinted at one of the brigands and Cuana brought his sword down on the distracted thief, cleaving him in twain. In the same instant the Cimmerian unleashed a flurry of blows, stabbed his sword into the groin of a thief who jumped onto the table and cleaved the screaming head from the shoulders of the thief Dhak had ensorcelled.
Hemmed in on all sides but his back and bloodied from the multiple stabs the bandits had landed, Tullweim let his fury rise. Letting out a rage-fueled roar the Nordhiemer fought like a cornered lion, his opponents fell like lambs in a slaughter. The other adventurers came to his aid and used a combination of lethal strikes and the flats of their blades to bring the remaining 2 bandits into unconsciousness. Much of the wealth in the room had been destroyed, wild sword swings and fallen foes had demolished rare vases and figurines. Cuana, Dhak, and Tullweim tended to their wounds while Xacksmith explored the last room connected to the dining hall.
The door opened into a room which was elegant in the extreme, well-befitting the private chamber of a master thief. Like the rest of the mansion, there were many artistic items, including a bronze medallion with the grisly likeness of Al’Kiir upon it. Xacksmith’s keen eyes also saw a note written on vellum in a very fine, steady hand. The note said:
Actual wolves, stained red with the blood of others, will visit the house on Wolves’ Row today. Stay away.
Change is in the wind and even respected merchants are hung without fear in Ianthe. I strongly recommend you acquire the item tonight by whatever means you possess.
Xacksmith then thoroughly searched the room, uncovering a hidden compartment under the bed which contained a bag of 10 diamonds, an emerald ring, a gem-encrusted cup and 755 silver coins. Xacksmith pocketed some of the items and brought the rest, and the note, out to the banquet hall where Dhak and Tullweim were about to rouse their captives. The Hyrkanian informed the others about most of his findings and read the note to them. Cuana speculated that the ‘A’ signed in the letter could be Timeon’s ally Antimedes. Then Dhak roused the captives and questioned them about Galbro. They replied that they did not know where Galbro was, only that he had received distressing news and had taken 3 of his best with him to acquire the crucible they had been hired to steal. The thieves did not know who had hired Galbro. Dhak then asked about access to the second floor of the mansion, as the party had been in every room of the first floor and had seen no stairs. The thieves told him of a secret wall entrance in the south east room. With his questions answered, the Stygian drained and then sacrificed the two thieves, their blood-curdling cries echoed throughout the crumbling mansion. He used the potent energies harvested from Galbro’s men, the Elephant’s Heart, and the red bandana that had presumably belonged to the master thief to curse the man. Despite his efforts he sensed that the spell did not work as desired.
Meanwhile, Cuana, Tullweim and Xacksmith opened the catch to the secret entrance the thief had revealed and moved up the stairs to the 2nd floor. Cuana was in the lead and released a second catch opening the wall to a seemingly empty hallway. The Cimmerian moved into the hallway and 2 more thieves dropped down from the rafters above. Cuana was flanked and one of the brigands sunk his blade deep into the barbarians’ gut causing him to black out while the other thief closed and locked the wall entrance. Not knowing exactly what happened, but hearing the barbarian’s heavy fall onto the floor, Xacksmith worked furiously at unlocking the door. His efforts were not enough to bypass the complicated lock and Tullweim came up to try and break through the wall. After several attempts, the adventurers finally opened the wall and saw only Cuana, laying face-down in a pool of his own blood. Tullweim entered the hallway to give his ally aid while Xacksmith stayed in the stairwell. The 2 thieves once again dropped from the ceiling, but were not in a position to flank the Aesir. The battle was short, fierce, and bloody. Xacksmith was hurt badly by one of the thieves and Tullweim had taken a solid hit, but both foes were brought down. Tullweim looked to Xacksmith’s wounds while Dhak brought Cuana back from death’s maw. After sewing up their wounds, the mercenaries explored the 2nd floor of the mansion finding naught but rooms which had accumulated filth, debris, and mold from years of disuse. Afterwards the party decided to head out.
Night 3, To Catch a Thief
They walked back out to Ianthe’s streets and with scant daylight left, decided to head back to the mercantile district to purchase more healing salve. The merchant was eager to take the adventurer’s spoils in exchange for more Acacia salve. As he marveled at the diamonds presented to him he informed the party that he was running low on supplies should they need more, as they undoubtedly would. The party left, quickly coated their wounds with the salve and headed back to Timeon’s palace. Dhak stalled a bit and when the rest of the party was out of sight he located a prostitute. He convinced her to go into an alley with him, grabbed hold of her and gazed deep into her fear stricken eyes as he drained her for the mystical energy he had spent in his attempt to curse Galbro. After he was done he rushed forward to meet back up with the party at Baron Timeon’s palace.
Once at the palace, Enaro informed the group that there were 2 more deserters. Tullweim headed up to his room on the fourth floor while Cuana, Dhak, and Xacksmith stayed on the ground floor to discuss matters with Enaro and deal with morale. The party was surprised when Dhak sniffed the air, and said he smelled smoke. Cuana looked around and caught a whiff of the distinct smell of something burning as well. The Stygian quickly found a closed door which smoke seeped from behind. The door knob was hot to the touch. Cuana ran for a basin of water while Dhak opened the door, which sent billowed waves of smoke into his eyes. Dhak called out an alarm for water and several Crimson Wolves responded. The Wolves looked around them and through the windows Xacksmith caught a glimpse of furtive figures who stole through the shadows towards the palace wall. He shouted an alarm and went to meet the intruders. There were 3 brigands in leather armor, but not dressed like Galbro’s men. The Hyrkanian and 3 Crimson Wolves engaged the enemies, who fell back and unleashed stones from their slings. Dhak once again used the power of the Elephant’s Heart to attempt to curse Galbro. He gazed through the crimson jewel at the thief’s bandana and uttered ancient words of power. This time, the Stygian felt his great curse had succeeded, but at a high cost. Dhak felt his strength ebb from him and he had to lean on a wall to keep his legs steady.
On the 4th floor, Tullweim approached his room and noticed that the door was ajar. He threw the door open and saw the room had been ransacked and 4 thieves stood inside. 3 of the brigands were Ophirean and one was a Zingaran. A Zingaran with a familiar face, as Tullweim recognized the sly features of the man he’d seen at the Bull & Bear inn weeks ago, he uttered simply, “Galbro.” One of Galbro’s thugs had Accalia restrained and the Zingaran said, “Bring me the crucible.” Tullweim replied, “we don’t have it,” and began to draw his greatsword. Galbro held up his hands in a manner suggesting peace and then struck at the Nordheimer like a cobra. Two of the other thieves moved in to flank the barbarian and their blades bit deep. Tullweim reeled from the attacks, fell back through the doorway, and heard a woman’s scream from the floor above.
Night 3 continued
Galbro leveled a steely gaze at Tullweim and repeated his demand, “give me the crucible!” The Aesir’s barbarian instincts screamed at him to rush into the room sword swinging but Tullweim knew he couldn’t take all 4 thieves and live to tell the tale. The desperation in Galbro’s face was obvious to the barbarian so he took a step back and said, “I’ll take you to it.” The master thief nodded, “drop your sword.” The barbarian dropped his greatsword and 2 of the Ophirean thieves flanked Tullweim, followed by Galbro, who held his sword at the barbarian’s side. Tullweim told the Zingaran thief that the urn was downstairs. Galbro turned to the thief who restrained Accalia and said, “If you hear any struggle, kill the girl.” The young slave-girl gave a frightened look to Tullweim and the thief stifled her scream. Tullweim turned with a stern but resigned look on his face and led the 3 thieves to the stairs. When they reached the stairwell, Taras stood in the way. The Zamorian had traveled down from the floor above to investigate. Tullweim told him to return upstairs and the surprised Zamorian quickly nodded in assent.
Meanwhile, in the gardens below, Xacksmith and 3 Crimson Wolves squared off with 3 bandits, garbed differently than Galbro’s men. The brigands’ sling bullets bounced off the Wolves’ armor and they were able to close in on 2 of the intruders. The thieves both attempted to tumble out of reach and one was killed in the attempt. The other was knocked unconscious by the Hyrkanian, and the third scaled the wall and was over in seconds, he quickly vanished through the streets and alleyways before the slower mercenaries could give chase.
At the same moment, Cuana made his way up the stairs and was surprised to run into Tullweim surrounded by enemies, one of which he recognized from the Bull and Bear, and no resistance was apparent. The Cimmerian growled and reached for his sword when Tullweim ordered Cuana to back off. Cuana slowly moved back down the stairs and Galbro demanded he move 30 feet past the landing of the lower floor. Dhak’s keen ears had heard the Aesir’s order to Cuana just as Xacksmith re-entered the palace with his captive. The Stygian gave a knowing look to Xacksmith, told the Crimson Wolves that entered with him to stand ready and hid behind a divan with bow drawn. The Hyrkanian pressed up against the stairs so nobody who walked down would see him.
It did not take long for Tullweim, Galbro, and the thieves to reach the ground floor of Baron Timeon’s palace, with Cuana who moved down a flight above them silent as a panther. The Zingaran looked around at the armed mercenaries and suspected a trick and pressed his sword to Tullweim’s side. The Aesir barbarian responded, “1,000 silver to the man that gives me Galbro’s head!” Though the barbarian was able to step aside, Galbro and one of his best managed to find chinks in the barbarian’s armor where they drove steel deep into flesh. Xacksmith used the opportunity to surprise Galbro and deliver a fierce sneak attack. Cuana rushed down the steps with a scream of rage and leapt into the fray. Dhak fired his Stygian bow and hit his targets with keen precision. Tullweim drew his broadsword, that in the thieves hurried desperation to retrieve the urn had not been taken from him, and brought it down with such might that the blade shattered on the Zingaran. The 3 Nemedian Crimson Wolves engaged the intruders but one of the Wolves was quickly struck down by one of Galbro’s best. They knew they could not stand to the odds they faced so the Zingaran thief made a last stab at Tullweim and sunk the blade deep into the barbarian’s gut which caused him to fall. The next to fall were 2 of the thieves as Dhak ordered to take Galbro and his men alive and the warriors struck with the flats of their blades. The Stygian sunk 2 quickly shot arrows into Galbro. One arrow was stopped by the thief’s leather armor and knocked the wind out of the Zingaran, the other grazed the thief’s neck which caused him to succumb to the many blows he’d taken and fall unconscious.
The 2 Nemedian Crimson Wolves looked morosely at their fallen comrade and leader. Cuana tended to Tullweim’s dire wounds and it was but fate that the barbarian still lived. As Tullweim roused and was informed of the situation with 4 prisoners to question, the Aesir told Cuana to inform Baron Timeon that they had captured Katos’ murderer. Tullweim then rushed to his room on the 4th floor. There laid Accalia, her slender ivory throat slit and no sign of the last of Galbro’s thieves. Tullweim picked up his greatsword, swore and quickly went upstairs to investigate the scream he’d heard when first confronting Galbro. He looked in the doorway of Lady Julia’s room and saw that a struggle had taken place. Tullweim searched the room and found blood in a corner of the room. Written on the wall clumsily in the blood were the words “hawk” and “urn.” No other clues were found, so the barbarian returned downstairs where Cuana waited with an ecstatic Baron Timeon. The fat noble showered praise on the Aesir and told him to have his men take the 4 prisoners down to the cellars for interrogation.
The party accompanied Baron Timeon to the cellars where Galbro was the first to be revived and questioned. The Zingaran knew he was in a situation he could not win in, but yet may survive. The thief offered all he knew about his employer in exchange for his freedoom. Tullweim, his face conflicted with emotions of revenge and success in his task, agreed. Timeon was outraged, he picked up a loose shaft of iron and beat Galbro in a frenzy of anger until he was stopped by Tullweim. Afterwards, when Galbro’s most recent wounds were tended to, the thief told the adventurer’s of his meetings with a woman who wore a mask with 4 horns on it, 2 pointing upwards, 2 pointing down. She referred to Galbro and herself as servants to the Avatar, and that the thief would recognize missives from his employer by the signing of the letter ‘A’. The Zingaran also let known that the woman would sometimes send messages by bird and she seemed to have an unnatural control over them. Tullweim, true to his word, ordered Galbro be released. Cuana undid the thief’s restraints and led him to Timeon’s palace gate. As they walked, Galbro half-smiled and asked the Cimmerian, “Would you like to know how we got into your heavily guarded palace with such ease?” Cuana nodded and Galbro motioned his head up towards a balcony on the fifth floor of the palace and said, “I simply paid your thief more to look the other way than he was being paid to keep watch.” A shocked look came over Cuana’s face, he thanked the Zingaran for the information and received a nod as the master thief left into Ianthe’s darkened streets.
The Cimmerian looked up and called out to Taras for the Zamorian to come down to the entry hall. After having seen Cuana escort Galbro off the premises Taras was skeptical and asked what Galbro had told the barbarian. The Cimmerian said the Zingaran had merely stated he needed to flee the city quickly. Taras saw through Cuana’s clumsy lie, shook his head, turned, and scaled the wall to the roof of the palace. Cuana ran inside the palace and shouted out an alarm for everyone to quickly mobilize outside. When the Crimson Wolves had gathered in the gardens of Baron Timeon’s palace Cuana pointed to Taras on the roof. Cuana told the mercenaries to surround the building and make sure the Zamorian did not escape. The Cimmerian and Hyrkanian then ran to opposite ends of the palace and scaled the walls. Once the rooftop was reached, Cuana on one side, Xacksmith on the other and Taras in between, Tullweim shouted up for Taras to come down and they would discuss things. The Zamorian was fully aware of how discussions tended to go with the Aesir and refused, he brandished a blade to keep Cuana and Xacksmith away. The Cimmerian and Hyrkanian attempted to close in on the Zamorian, but the steepled rooftop proved difficult to move across. Both adventurers stumbled and slid down the slope but caught themselves at the edge of the roof. Taras attempted to stab at Cuana, but even as he hung by one hand the barbarian was able to dodge his thrust. Dhak drew a bead on the Zamorian and let an arrow fly which caught Taras in the side and caused him to fall from the roof’s edge. Alas, Taras died in Baron Timeon’s gardens. Afterwards, the Crimson Wolves had a funeral service for their fallen members and Accalia. Once finished the guards returned to their posts and the party retired for the night.
The last morning in the Baron’s palace
The early morning quiet was shattered by an ear-piercing woman’s scream. The Crimson Wolves grabbed their weapons and sped up the stairs to Baron Timeon’s room. On the floor was their noble patron, his eyes rolled back into his head, his face in a grimace of pain, his doxy shivered in the corner, barely wrapped in a sheet where she whimpered. Tullweim rolled the Baron on his back and questioned Timeon’s mistress. She replied that he had just got out of bed and had talked to her, he poured himself some wine as he did every morning and he ate when he suddenly fell to the floor, gagging, and shaking. Dhak looked the body over and determined there were no wounds. Tullweim nodded and said, “Poisoned.” The party looked about the room, the girl still whimpered into her hands, the Baron’s chamberlain looked ill at the sight of his dead master. Cuana suggested that Vanemoth would have had the chance to poison either Timeon’s fruit or his cup. The chamberlain bristled at the accusation and Tullweim stood over the man, a half-formed lie died on the servants lips. The Aesir demanded the truth and gestured at the Stygian and his means of uncovering what men would keep hidden. Vanemoth attempted a weak denial, but crumbled under the weight of the adventurer’s stares. The chamberlain said he had been paid more money than he had ever had in his lifetime, by a man wearing a black mask, to poison Baron Timeon. Tullweim grabbed the servant and demanded to know where the silver he’d been paid was to keep as evidence of his betrayal when a loud knock sounded on the palace doors. The party looked outside and saw a royal official with 8 armed members of the city-watch. Cuana turned to Tullweim and expressed his concern that the Crimson Wolves had been set up. Tullweim nodded, gave instructions to keep the chamberlain and Timeon’s doxy in the room with the Baron’s body and moved down the stairs to answer the door.
Once opened, the royal inquisitor introduced himself as Theteles and demanded to speak with either the lord of the palace or the commander of the mercenary company. Tullweim told Theteles that he was the commander of the company and the inquisitor produced papers which bore the seal of a magistrate with orders to arrest Cuana for the murder of an officer of the court. The Aesir told the inquisitor to wait in the entry hall and that he would fetch the Cimmerian. Dhak and Xacksmith remained in the entry hall with the on-duty Crimson Wolves, the tension hung thickly in the room. Tullweim reached Cuana in the Baron’s chambers and told him of the watch’s plans to arrest Cuana for killing the tax collector and said to flee. The Cimmerian replied that he would scale the city wall and be at the edge of the Sarellian forest where he would leave a mark on a tree and climbed out the balcony. Tullweim then grabbed Vanemoth and Timeon’s doxy. He told Vanemoth to retrieve the silver he’d been paid and then escorted both to the entry hall.
Meanwhile, Xacksmith made moves to leave the entry hall. Theteles stated that no one was to leave until the barbarian murderer had been presented. The Hyrkanian began to challenge the inquisitor when the door was knocked upon again. Dhak moved to open it and saw a beautiful red-locked noblewoman with an escort of 2 bodyguards. The lady introduced herself as Countess Synelle and told the Stygian she was there to see Baron Timeon. Dhak informed the Countess of the dire circumstances the company was in and beseeched her for aid as Tullweim returned with Vanemoth and Timeon’s mistress. Tullweim told Theteles about Vanemoth’s crime and presented the trembling chamberlain. The inquisitor listened intently and informed that he would take the murderer into custody, but there was still the matter of the Cimmerian. Tullweim said that he had fled some time during the night. Theteles was about to arrest the Aesir when Countess Synelle intervened. She stated that she was interested in hiring the mercenary company and would pay the taxes owed should they take her offer. The inquisitor was still intent on collecting the criminal when Synelle interjected with the fact that she was favored by General Iskandrian. The inquisitor relented, bowed and took a voucher from Synelle for the taxes, Vanemoth, the Baron’s doxy, and the blood money the servant had been paid. Countess Synelle turned to Tullweim and offered twice what the Baron had paid them. She said she was in need of more armed guards as the situation in Ophir was getting more dangerous by the day, when nobles are murdered in their bed chambers. Tullweim accepted and the lady ran her fingers through the barbarian’s hair, kissed him on the cheek and then slapped him for being too fresh. The Countess took her leave and informed the Crimson Wolves that a messenger would arrive later in the day with instructions.
A few hours later a messenger arrived with instructions for the mercenary company to re-locate at a house Countess Synelle owns on the Street of Crowns. The Crimson Wolves gathered their belongings and made to leave their home of the past long weeks. Tullweim tacked a note on the door of Timeon’s palace which said where the company would be in case Cuana returned. As the company traveled to their new home, the Aesir paid a young messenger to go to the Sarellian forest and tell the Cimmerian where they would be. The boy did not wish to leave the city but Tullweim offered enough silver to convince him. He then tore off his Crimson Wolf patch and gave it to the boy to give to Cuana. The messenger ran off and the company continued to the Street of Crowns.
The streets which led to the mercenaries new home were dirty, the paving cracked. The buildings were tottering, the inhabitants filthy. The adventurers could hear the troops begin to mutter, disdainful of whatever rat-hole they were being led to. Unfortunately, those mutterings foretold the future. The house was indeed dismal, in disrepair, full of birds, rats, and fleas. It was quite a change from the luxury of the Baron’s palace. Several of the men cursed under their breath. Tullweim called the troops attention and reminded them of the increased pay they would receive, but the demeanor of the mercenaries was still grim. Dhak then told the company to look at their colors and banner. They were the Crimson Wolves! They’d killed their enemies and slept on rocks while in the field. They were men and should carry themselves as such. The Stygian’s words inspired the company, enough to at least try the new accommodations.
Later, the messenger boy stood nervously at the edge of the Sarellian forest. He looked about him for the mercenary he was supposed to find and to watch for any bandits that preyed on passing travelers. The boy nearly screamed when a heavy hand was put on his shoulder. The boy stared up at the huge barbarian and stammered out, “are you Cuana of the Crimson Wolves?” The Cimmerian nodded in assent and the boy handed him Tullweim’s patch and relayed the commander’s message. Cuana thanked the boy and walked back to the city, reached the wall and easily scaled it. He returned to Timeon’s palace, found Tullweim’s note, and broke in and went to the Baron’s empty chambers. The barbarian thoroughly searched the room and discovered a secret panel with a small bag which held 16 diamonds. Cuana smiled and took his find with him to the house on the Street of Crowns.
The next morning several wagons arrived, full of gear for the Crimson Wolves. There were blankets, red wool cloaks, razors, mirrors, and good food. There was also one pair of high black Aquilonian boots for each member of the Free Company. The troops were appeased by these presents and along with them came slaves to clean the house.
Shortly thereafter, another slave arrived with a message from Countess Synelle, requesting that Tullweim go to her mansion. Cuana, Dhak and Xacksmith wondered if they should go as well and it was decided that they would all travel to see what the Countess had to say. The party ventured to the opposite side of Ianthe and walked through an area of the city full of gleaming palaces and exalted temples. Synelle’s servant who had accompanied the mercenaries pounded a ring on the gate and was met by a bearded, one-eyed soldier who eyed the sellswords suspiciously. Tullweim held out the note he’d been given and was told only he would be admitted.
The Aesir took in the sight of the Countess’ mansion as he moved through the gardens to the heavy front door. Once Tullweim entered the front hall he saw a broad-shouldered man with black hair and a proud nose lounging on a divan. The man sneered at the barbarian with a scathing remark to which Tullweim responded in kind. Affronted, the noble drew his sword and declared, “You must not know who I am, outlander. I am Lord Taramenon, and will not be spoken to in this manner without challenge.” Obviously skilled with a blade, the enraged noble landed two solid hits on the Nordheimer, but could not penetrate past the mercenaries’ armor. Tullweim lifted his greatsword in response but found both of his mighty swings easily parried by the noble. Before the fight could go further, Countess Synelle intervened and demanded an end to the swordplay. Taramenon sheathed his sword, bowed before the Countess and begged her pardon. Tullweim put his sword away as well and also offered his apologies. The Countess thanked the barbarian for arriving with haste and led him to her study where she asked him to sit, then pointedly said, “You torment me, you know that, don’t you?” She stood perplexed for a moment, then seemed to change her mind about something and suddenly became quite business-like. She called a servant in to fetch the Aesir’s companions and handed Tullweim half the company’s wages as promised.
Cuana, Dhak, and Xacksmith walked through the manor and passed Lord Taramenon on the way. The arrogant noble eyed the mercenaries with disdain but they paid him no heed. Once they entered Synelle’s chambers the Countess solicited their opinion about the feasibility of stealing the royal scepter from the ailing King Valdric. She had little to say except that she knew he always had it with him and that the King seldom ventured outside the Royal Palace. The surprised mercenaries inquired as to why the Countess wanted the scepter and she replied simply that it was the true symbol of Ophir. She informed the party that Count Valentius had the strongest claim to the throne but several of the nobles feared General Iskandrian would attempt a coup. If Valentius had the scepter the people of Ophir would recognize him as the ruler no matter what challenge the White Eagle of Ophir presented. Tullweim said the mercenaries were in the Countess’ employ and would do what she asked. Synelle smiled at the mercenaries and concluded the meeting.
The Death of the King
As the mercenaries made their way back to their headquarters on the Street of Crowns they heard muted horns sound dimly in the night air which echoed through Ianthe’s naked streets. King Valdric was dead. Mourning cloths of black and white were hung from shuttered windows. The public fountains were shrouded. Sprigs of sa’karian were nailed on every door, the plants’ black and white berries symbolized death and rebirth. The sound of wailing was everywhere. Whether the people cried for the King or for themselves was not known, but none could blame them if they cried for their own safety. War was inevitable now and would soon reach even Ianthe’s cobbled streets. Ophir faced hazardous times, hazardous even for a company of soldiers and cut-throats.
The party moved about the somber scene and quickly heard proclamations from the City Guard which paraded the streets:
General Iskandrian has declared martial law. Anyone seen on the streets is subject to arrest. The gates of Ianthe are sealed and cannot be opened by any except those bearing direct authorization from Iskandrian.
His majesty Eupherius II. formerly Iskandrian the Eagle, has mounted the golden throne, Pray for him his subjects and rejoice in his great name.
They also caught a few rumors among the dispersing crowds:
Count Valentius is the rightful heir to the throne, but he’s been kidnapped.
King Valdric’s body, crown and scepter, are supposed to lay in state for 10 days in the Throne Room. If Iskandrian has taken the throne, he’s broken the ancient law. But even if he dared take the crown, he’d never dare take the sacred scepter in violation of such an ancient decree.
The mercenaries quickened their pace due to the news and a block from their headquarters saw a shape fall from the roof and hang in front of their door. The shape swung in a disturbing manner, reminiscent of a worm on a hook. As they neared, they realized with horror the shape was that of a man hung upside down, the poor wretch had been skinned alive. Cuana and Tullweim lifted the man who gurgled and struggled painfully within their grasp. The Aesir cut the rope which held the man and he was quickly brought inside. Tullweim ordered Enaro to take a head count of the men to see if the bloody heap was one of the Crimson Wolves and laid the man on a blanket. Dhak tended to the man and found that his tongue and eyes had been gouged out and his ears shorn from his head. Cuana, Tullweim, and Xacksmith left the wretch in the Stygian’s care while they made their way to the roof of the building to search for any clue as to who had dropped the man. All they found on the roof in the darkness was a small pool of blood and a spear which had been thrust into the roof with the remainder of the rope the man had swung from. Cuana grabbed the spear in the hopes that the Stygian would be able to divine who was responsible for this atrocity and the three returned indoors.
Once inside they presented the spear to Dhak, who explained that he could not use it as a focus unless he already knew to whom it belonged. Enaro returned and reported that all the sellswords had been accounted for. The Stygian then revealed he knew the identity of the victim. Due to the size of the frame of the victim as well as the few characteristics not removed, Dhak said with certainty that the man who laid before them was none other than Galbro, the thief who had until recently hounded the party for the crucible of Al’Kiir. The party looked upon the wretch with pity, fully aware that by sending the thief out on his own with no coin or weapons and with a powerful curse upon his head he was likely easy pickings for his tormentor. Tullweim’s face hardened with resignation and with a quick thrust of his greatsword he put the Zingaran thief out of his misery.
That grisly work done, the party convened in a separate room to plan the theft of the Royal Scepter. With Martial Law in effect the mercenaries knew they would have to move like thieves across the city. With Galbro fresh on their minds, it was decided their best chance to move freely would be by rooftop so as to completely avoid the city watch. Tullweim then went to the nearby chimney, removed his armor, and rubbed soot and ash on his body which dulled his pale skin. The other sellswords followed his example and Cuana took Xacksmith’s rope and tied knots in intervals along its length. After the party was completely covered in soot they went to the rooftop and began the slow steady travel across the dark city. As they neared the palace walls the mercenaries saw a group of city guards who herded a group of people towards one of the jails. The adventurers waited for them to pass, then continued towards the palace.
At the palace, Cuana easily climbed up 40 feet and stooped between a gap in the crenelated wall. The Cimmerian could see the torches of patrolling guards all along the wall. Looking into the grounds themselves, Cuana saw a massive amount of troops gathered. It appeared as if they were preparing to move out soon, probably at first light. Knowing it would be difficult to get past such a large number of troops, the barbarian lowered the knotted rope to get his allies on the wall. He was surprised when he heard a voice which issued a challenge. Two guards quickly moved in to apprehend the intruder and called out to the watch in the nearby tower. A loud bell rang in the tower as an alarm to the rest of the soldiers. Cuana attempted to climb down the rope he had just lowered and heard the clang of sword on stone as one of the watchmen cut it. The barbarian plummeted 20 feet to the hard ground. The Cimmerian picked himself up and scrambled out of sight. The gate was opened and 20 men poured out searching for the intruder. The party scaled the wall of a nearby 3 story building and settled on the roof. The watchmen searched for hours but could not locate the party, which decided to settle for the night on the rooftop as they’d determined it too risky to attempt to steal away into the night.
Storming the Gate
The next morning the mercenaries awoke with backs aching and a chill in their bones to the sound of marching boots and hooves. When the party investigated, they witnessed a large mass of troops exiting the palace with King Eupherius at its head. He wore the crown of Ophir but did not carry the scepter. The troops were met by soldiers throughout the city, all headed to one of the 3 gates out of Ianthe. It seemed only a bare bones of troops had been left behind to defend the palace and indeed the entire city. The adventurers traveled through the alleys, passed closed shops, witnessed some looting on the way to their headquarters and avoided the few city watchmen they saw. Once they arrived they found a furtive man awaited them with an anonymous message.
Tullweim, Be at the Gate of Avanrakash at dusk, ready for action. If any should seek entrance, aid them by releasing the gate mechanism atop the right tower. Any who attack are our friends, but I think I know who you will thus greet. Afterwards, report quickly to me. Your Lady
The letter was accompanied by a delicate ring which Tullweim recognized as Countess Synelle’s. The mercenaries ate some of Fabio’s stew and Dhak slept until late afternoon. The party then moved towards the Gate of Avanrakash. More looting took place as they passed and the severely depleted city watch had their hands full which made movement about the alleys and streets a bit easier. However, when the party was nearly halfway to their destination they were spotted by 6 watchmen who ordered them to stop. Cuana and Tullweim stepped out of the alley as ordered, then insulted the watchmen. Weapons were drawn, steel rang, and blood was spilt. Dhak and Xacksmith stayed near the rear of the alley and engaged two of the watch who attempted to flank around the barbarians. Only one of the watchmen survived the encounter as he fled while his companions fell.
The mercenaries arrived at the Gate of Avanrakash at dusk. There they found 10 watchmen atop the gate wall which attempted to repel men-at-arms who scaled the wall from the outside. Xacksmith picked the lock to the tower door and the party moved in. Only two guards were at the gate mechanism atop the right tower. The party engaged the two guards, recognized them as the very same guards who had accused Xacksmith of cheating at dice, and had intentionally fed Dhak mis-information about Galbro. The guards were dispatched quickly, but not before they could call out for aid. Tullweim and Cuana held back the rest of the guards while Dhak and Xacksmith strained against the gate winch to move it mere inches. The gate’s door was moved a third of the way up when Dhak left his position to aid in the killing of the guards. Xacksmith was not strong enough to operate the winch himself and the gate crashed down. The Hyrkanian called for help and Cuana took up the burden next to Xacksmith. Even together they could not move the winch as the Cimmerian’s hands were covered in blood and he could not hold his grip. Cuana went back to dispatching guards and Xacksmith found a reserve of strength the Hyrkanian had never known he had as he strained against the winch and opened the gate. After which 20 men-at-arms with the colors of Count Valentius rushed inside with a great shout. The gate was then closed and Valentius’ men remained to guard it. They were grateful to Tullweim and company and thanked them for their aid. Tullweim then ordered his men to go to Countess Synelle’s mansion.
When they arrived at the mansion they found it well guarded by 50 cavalry, who barred their way and challenged them. Lord Taramenon soon appeared and disdainfully escorted the party inside to Synelle. Once they arrived, he sneered at them, “Barbars are good for something then, after all. They can be trained to open doors.” Synelle interrupted and said, ””Well done. We now hold all three gates in the city. They have been seized by Valentius’ and our own troops. Fool that Iskandrian was to trust me. Just because I am a woman, he felt safe allowing me troops within the city walls, thinking I would not know how to use them, treating them as if they were a woman’s baubles, nothing more. But you have shown him your might, Iskandrian’s army still holds the Royal Palace. Our army of nobles, led by Counts Clavanedes, has gathered in Asmark and is already pressing Iskandrian back. If he attempts to retreat into Ianthe, he will be surprised to find the gates held against him, trapped with his back against the walls. I want you soon to take your remaining troops plus 25 of my own cavalry and ride out to join the battle which is about to begin. However, first you must enter the Royal Palace, go to the Throne Room, take the royal scepter, and carry it into battle with you. It is a sign of the rightness of our cause. The spirit of Avanrakash still rests upon it, blessing it when used in purposes of right, cursing it when used for wrong. Which,” she adds, “is why Iskandrian was afraid to take it along.” Tullweim nodded, told the Lady her will would be done, and quickly led his men out of the mansion.