Conan Triumphant adventure completed


And it was a doozy. :D

Ran this adventure published by TSR for their stand alone Conan game converted to Mongoose 2e Conan and inspired by the Robert Jordan novel of the same name. After 11 6-hour sessions the adventure was wrapped up in a climactic battle between cultists, Nemedian Adventurers, and the avatar of a dark god. HP Total for all PCs at the end of last session: Cuana (Cimmerian Barbarian/Soldier) 14, Dhak (Stygian Scholar/Soldier) 1, Tullweim (Aesir Barbarian/Soldier) 0, Xacksmith (Hyrkanian Borderer/Thief) -5. Have to say it was one of the most fun adventures I've ever run. Lot of intrigue and combat with an entire country on the line (if not more). I've posted write-ups of each session starting here and finishing here.

Now I gotta figure out some way to top this for the next adventure. :)


The Kingdom of Ophir was the most ancient of kingdoms existing in the Hyborian Age, dating back to the time of sorcerous Acheron itself. It was a place of mystery and power, dark forests, haunted mountains, black crypts steeped in gloom, where horrors and treasures laid rotting beneath the soil.

Yet it was also a place of life, ruled by kings and feuding nobles, peopled by sturdy peasants and cunning city-folk, ravaged by bandits, defended by mercenaries and armies alike. It was a country isolated by its own stubbornness, suspicious of the world beyond, and lacking real allies. It was friendly to Aquilonia and Corinthia, distrustful of Nemedia and Koth, disdainful of Argos.

Ophir’s troubles were growing. Childless King Valdric was dying, his physicians had found no cure. He had faith in their powers to restore him and refused to name an heir, fearful that any heir might be eager to hasten the king’s departure. His nobles were sure that no cure would be found and that the country would soon be left without king or heir. They maneuvered for the throne, amassed private armies, plotted. No noble had yet dared to kill another, but the mercenaries had ridden past burnt villages and fields, past plundered warehouses, past murdered captains laying in stained fields while vultures circled overhead. The king’s army hid while bandits raided freely, and the Ophireans became refugees within their own land, fleeing to the safety of the cities.

It was through this land the Crimson Wolves journeyed for there were reports of good work for any who could swing a sword or cut a purse. The only catch was to avoid having their own purse or throat cut, for that is what the parties’ fellow freebooters were paid to do.

The mercenary company recently crossed the Nemedian border and traveled toward the Ophirean capital of Ianthe where, according to rumor, rich employment awaited them. The roads were thick with refugees, their carts piled high with the few humble goods which escaped flame and bandit.

Meeting in the Sarellian Forest

The 50 hardy Nemedian Adventurers traveling with the party were trained in war’s ways, and were a company the party could confidently lead into battle. But the parties’ silver was fast disappearing and the troop’s contract was nearly over. It was quite clear to Tullweim den Morder, leader of the Crimson Wolves, these were men who fought for coin, not honor or glory. According to their guide, the party was in the Sarellian Forest, a half-day’s ride northeast of Ianthe. As Tullweim, Cuana, Dhak, and Xacksmith mused over their nearly empty purse, the company rounded a bend in the forest-darkened road. Ahead they saw the remnants of a caravan, most of the travelers laid dead beneath the dark trees. Twenty horsed bandits were amusing themselves by taunting the four survivors who were still trying to fight. Two of the survivors looked to be from Argos, judging from their apparel. One was a blond-haired woman who, as the company watched, skewered a bandit on the end of a sword, then leapt astride his vacant horse. The fourth appeared to be a madman from Khitai, a berserk warrior frothing at the mouth. The bandits kept their distance from him.

As the company rode into sight, both the bandits and their victims paused briefly to stare at the men-at-arms with their crimson cloaks and banner. The bandits’ leader, a red-haired woman astride a swift eastern bay shouted, “Stay out of this Northman!” The shorter of the besieged Argosseans cried. “All my goods are yours if you save us!”

The company was spurred into action as the blond-haired woman shouted at them, “Be ye men or metal-trussed baboons?” Then, with a great shout, she charged into the bandits before her, followed by the berserk Khitain, Ten of the bandits released a volley of stones from their slings at the company while the rest skirmished with the blond woman and the Khitain without success. In fact, the Khitain bore enough wounds to down any two normal men. The blond woman’s valor was also unsurpassed. The tallest Argossean was knocked unconscious by a blow to the head.

The bandits fell back into the forest after the Crimson Wolves engaged them and the bandits saw they were hopelessly out-numbered, taking what little treasure they had gathered. Their woman leader shouted back as she vanished into the trees. “By Derketo’s brass thighs, you’ll live to regret meddling with the Red Hawk, northman! And so’ will you, yellow-haired bitch!”

The berserk Khitain turned and attacked Dhak despite his numerous wounds, thinking Dhak an enemy. The Khitain struck and missed Dhak with a furious blow that caused the Khitain’s sword to break. The berserk barbarian then grabbed among the spilled packs for the first thing which came to hand, a long, black metal urn with a neck slender enough to be grasped as a two-handed club. He then renewed his assault using the urn, the Khitain lifted the urn high over his head just as Dhak stabbed him in the gut causing him to drop the urn at Dhak’s feet.

The shorter, conscious Argossean thanked the mercenaries, apologizing for the madness of their Khitain friend. He introduced himself as Katos; his unconscious comrade was Darios. He offered the mercenaries all that remained of the goods in their caravan consisting of rare foods, wines, cloth, and ale. He even gave the adventurers the silver urn, a rare relic they bought from a Corinthian dealer in antiques.

Katos revived his comrade Darios, who expressed his gratitude as well, but he was disturbed when Katos told him he had given the mercenaries everything as a reward. They argued somewhat in their native tongue, with Darios eventually conceding and casted a sad glance at the wares. He then asked the sellswords to accompany them to Ianthe, saying, “There we have more treasure, coins more suitable to men such as yourselves. Also our lord, Baron Timeon, is in need of such excellent warriors. I’m sure he could be persuaded to take you into his service.”

The blond-haired woman was very upset by the death of the Khitain, but tried to hide the fact. She introduced herself as Lady Julia, an Ophirean noble, but without family or finance. She and the Khitain were traveling to Ianthe when she happened to join up with the caravan for mutual protection. She now thought she would have been safer without them. “True” said Katos kindly, “but we would have been dead without you. Thank you, noble lady, for your excellent aid. I am sorry your friend did not survive.” He then slipped a simple ring from his finger and gave it to her as the others watched. It was a huge ruby ring cut in the shape of a four-horned beast’s head similar to the one on his other hand.

The Gates of Ianthe

After some time, the company rode out of the forest. Several miles in front of them loomed a dark, gaunt, flat-topped hill. Dark clouds whisped over its severe slopes. Lady Julia gazed at it and said, “That is Tor Al’Kiir. Old wives say a god once made his abode there” Katos muttered, “Old wives oft speak idly.” The road to Ianthe circled the base of the hill, but soon the company crested over one of its flanks and saw the royal city of Ianthe spread out below their feet, the Red River flowing in the distance, sparkling red in the sun’s dying light.

Katos sighed in relief, then spoke to the party, “Welcome, strangers and friends, to our home. She is ancient, but her face is ever changing, A contradiction of the old and new.” He waved his hand over Ianthe. The city sprawled down to the river, its many gold domes and alabaster spires rising above red tile roofs and white walls obscured by a low cloud of thin smoke, surrounded by high granite walls, guarded by towers.

“The Old City wall still stands there in areas,” he pointed, “cutting across the city, offering a secondary, although crumbling, defense. There, near the river, is the Royal Palace, a fortress of might. It is written, ‘He who holds the sacred scepter, inspires the palace; he who inspires the palace, controls Ianthe; and he who controls Ianthe, rules Ophir; amen. It is in that palace and the barracks nearby that the mighty Ophirean army now lurks, awaiting General Iskandrian’s command. Beyond the city, there on the river’s south banks, lie the Tombs, a beauteous region of Stygian aspect which extends for miles.”

“There are three gates, each bound in iron. ‘Travelers entering from the south must pass through the Tombs, cross the Bridge of Skulls where the heads of the executed (which are many, for the King’s Justices are severe) are displayed, then pass through the River Gate. Those coming from the northeast enter the Gate of Gold and are soon lost amid the markets and palaces. We approach from the north and enter through the gate of mighty Avanrakash, may his bones lie undisturbed.”

“She is full of life, yet stinks of death. The placid fools within take no notice of the chaos besieging them. The fat merchants, bearded scholars, ragged peddlers, stinking beggars, and accursed footpads, all go about business in the usual way, as if nothing had changed. Yet the ladies and slaves, lordlings and harlots, tread carefully Ianthe’s paved streets, studiously ignoring her sewers’ fetid breath and greater ills as well.”

“Fear breeds fear, and Ianthe reeks of it.”

“You too will smell the tension. You will see that the fools zealously mind their own business, ignoring murder or kidnappings which cross their paths, each afterward swearing to the City Guard that he saw nothing, heard nothing, knows nothing, forgoing that his own life will be forfeit next. At night, the streets are deserted except for the cautious tread of the Night Watch and the multitude of thieves.”

Darios hissed painfully, with a sudden glance at the setting sun, “Speaking of night, we’d best make haste. The gates are barred at dusk. And though a bribe has been known to gain entrance then, more like it will gain naught but a shaft in the heart or a night’s stay in the graces of the Royal Torturer.”

Katos nodded, then turned a severe gaze on the party. “Be advised, foreigners such as we are never trusted in Ianthe, but especially in these times, We could all be cut down tomorrow in the middle of Emerald Square, and none would concern himself over the affair. We must be each others’ watch-guards and surety.” Katos then spurred down the hill toward the black gate of Avanrakash.

As the armed company approached the gate, a cry rang out, and the gate closed. The gate-sergeant called down to the travelers from his elevated perch on the wall, “Hail and halt. For whom does your banner fly?” Tullweim announced they were mercenaries in search of work. The sergeant replied “I cannot allow your troops passage into the city, by order of General Iskandrian. The General has proclaimed a new law. Only troops with a noble patron are allowed within Ianthe’s walls. Violators of the law will be impaled. Groups of more than 10 men may only move about the city with special permission issued by the palace. But few gain an audience to receive said permission. Those lacking permission are arrested for conspiracy against the crown and are imprisoned. Also, only on-duty soldiers may wear metal armor in the city. No one else may do so. Violators will have their left cheek branded.”

Since the Crimson Wolves had no noble patron and none of the gate guards were going to risk impalement, Tullweim would have to leave his troops encamped outside Ianthe. Katos and Darios wished to spend the night in Ianthe, and knew an excellent inn, The Bull and Bear. They said they were certain Baron Timeon would hire the Crimson Wolves if the Argosseans recommend them. Pay was likely to be 2,500-3,000 sp a month for the entire troop. Tullweim put Enaro in charge of the company and left all the goods from the caravan with them to use as they wished.

The gate guards allowed up to 10 of the travelers through the gate after they had removed their metal armor, but then locked it for the night, Tullweim, Cuana, Dhak, Xacksmith, a Zamorian thief called Taras, and 2 Nemedian Adventurers accompanied Lady Julia, Katos and Darios as they discussed arrangements to meet at Baron Timeon’s palace the next day.

The Sign of the Bull & Bear

The adventurers shouldered their way through the dispersing crowds to the Bull and Bear. It was an old inn leaning slightly against the neighboring buildings, like an old man threatening to collapse should his crutch be removed.

The tavern was crowded, full of noise, sweat, and the odor of some type of food assaulted the patrons’ nostrils. Several off-duty soldiers were starting a game of dice. A fat man argued with the innkeeper about the proper way to make beef stew. From the smell of the swill, it seemed the keeper could benefit from a few lessons. A rabbit-faced man was sitting deep in the shadows, eying the room over his mug. A well-dressed girl wore thick make-up and stood coyly in a corner, looking very shy. Katos and Darios excused themselves to a dark corner booth. It was plain they wanted no company. A serving wench swept over and asked if Tullweim and company wanted a room or anything else.

Tullweim took a seat at a table with Lady Julia, Cuana went to the bar as did Dhak, and Xacksmith was most interested in the soldiers’ dice game. Tullweim noticed the bashful girl and called her over to his table. She looked frightened and refused. Tullweim coaxed a bit and she said, “My name is Torali. My father’s estates were heavily indebted and were seized by his creditors. I have only just arrived in Ianthe and saw the lights of the inn. But I have no coin, and I’m afraid I will be put out into the street.” She was very afraid of the Nordheimer barbarian and really just a child. Lady Julia took a special interest in her and protected her from Tullweim’s clumsy advances. Julia was quite touched and offered to hire Torali as her maid. Torali accepted.

Cuana struck up a conversation with the man at the bar. The man introduced himself as Fabio, and was quite gregarious and free-speaking. He used to work for Baron Timeon as a cook, but had recently lost his job because his viands were considered too plain for his master’s palate, so they should suit a soldier’s taste quite well. Cuana questioned the cook about the Baron and Fabio replied, “The Baron is looking for some good troops. His last ones rode off to seek their fortune with Tiberio. Timeon is willing to pay 35 sp a head a month, bonuses to the commanders, so I say the ones who left are fools. Tiberio will give them naught but glory and death.” At this point Dhak interrupted the conversation and probed further to which the cook answered, “The Baron may be fat but don’t let his looks fool you. He’s no slouch. He’s set up an alliance with Count Antimedes, the biggest of the nobles and the king’s favorite. I heard it straight from the Baron’s curvaceous consort, so I know it’s true. Timeon and Count Valentius are worst of enemies, I gather the Baron insulted Valentius’ good friend, the Countess Synelle. If you’re thinking about working for Timeon, stay out of Valentius’ way.” Cuana candidly offered the cook a job with the Crimson Wolves and cleared it with Tullweim. Fabio asked for wages of 40 sp a month.

Meanwhile, Xacksmith joined the off-duty soldiers dice game. Xacksmith used his skills at sleight-of-hand to have the dice fall exactly how he wanted them to. As the Hyrkanian began to scrape the coins out of the winnings helmet, a soldier grabbed his hand. Another picked up the dice, peered at them, and said “These aren’t the same dice we began with. The dog is cheating!” The table was flipped over and the coins flew. Five soldiers dove at Xacksmith. The Hyrkanian thief leapt over the bar, one of the drunken soldiers pursued while the others blundered behind. While Xacksmith fled to the back of the bar, Dhak, with his Stygian suspicion struck the Crimson Wolves new cook. Cuana, pulled the cook back while Dhak struck again, Cuana responded with a fierce punch of his own to Dhak’s chin.

Through the chaos, Tullweim noticed the serving wench was helping herself to his coin purse while attempting a show of affection. The giant Aesir grabbed the wench to retrieve his hard-earned money and she bargained not to be struck with rumors of what she knew of events in Ianthe, “Well, there’ve been assassinations of various courtiers and kidnappings of nobles’ wives or children to insure the noble’s cooperation. The City Guard has been powerless to stop them and Iskandrian refuses to do anything. Even more frightening is the way so many of the city’s prettiest young women have been vanishing. One by one for the past several months. Ones like Torali there. No one knows what happens to them. Some say they’ve been sold as slaves into Stygia; others say they’ve been traded to Lunar Chanters for some hideous rite. They say that some of the tombs have been found open and the bodies missing. The Guards laugh it off as pranks by the fops, but I’ve heard there’s necromancy abroad again. When the king dies, which’ll be any day now, Count Antimedes is favored for the throne. He’ll seize it sure as my hair is black. But there are rumors of necromancy in the palace itself. Some say the king plans to rise from the dead and that’s why he hasn’t picked an heir. I pray to Mitra that it is not true!”

After the chaos, Tullweim had his men stood up in an intimidating manner and moved towards the soldiers. The soldiers demanded their money be returned to them. Tullweim decided it better to appease the soldiers then cause trouble before they had a patron and agreed, much to Xacksmith’s chagrin. The Argosseans Katos and Darios were spied receiving a note of some sort from the bartender. They argued a bit and then stood up to leave. Darios politely refused the adventurers offered company, saying that he and Katos would return within the hour. As they left the front door the man in the shadows stood up as well. Cuana stood in his way and wished him a good night. The man stared back at Cuana and quickly turned away continuing toward the door.

A moment later, a scream was heard outside. Tullweim, Cuana, Dhak, Xacksmith and Lady Julia rushed outside to see Katos fighting with a dark figure, Darios lying at their feet, another dark figure stood over his form. The two assassins tried to flee, Lady Julia caught and killed the one who was bending over Darios, then searched him immediately, finding nothing. The other fled down the nearby alleys. Darios was dead.

Tullweim asked Katos about the attack but he was unable to provide any information. He was now eager for the adventurers to protect him. He offered 500 sp for their protection. Katos took them to a secret room in The Serpentine slums, and asked them to carry Darios there, avoiding any people, especially the Night Watch. Katos attached great importance to Darios’ body and would not abandon it. Dhak stayed behind and broke a nearby lantern to use the flames as a scrying source on the assassin. Unfortunately he did not have the power to sustain the scrying for long.

Katos led the party up an alley filled with muck, rats, and slime. He then twisted the remains of a once elegant street-lantern hanging from a wall. A hidden door swung back, revealing stairs which led down into the ground. Lighting a lantern that rested inside the door, he led the way down into a dim, clean chamber, filled with odd bottles, bowls, and paraphernalia.

Katos took his dead friend’s hand and pulled an iron ring from the middle finger, and placed it on his own. It was a hideous thing, obviously quite ancient. It bore three eyes and four horns and seemed to match the huge ruby ring Katos wore on his left hand. He also removed Darios’ cloak, ripped out the lining, and removed a crumbling parchment. He then turned to Tullweim and said, “Since we found these rings and this scroll in the tombs of Garian, we have been pursued. We thought them but rare antiquities, but a message I have received tonight casts a new light on them. I know little, but what I know, I will tell. In ages long past, the Avatar of Al’Kiir, god of lust, pain, and death, dwelt upon Earth. His priestesses trafficked in human sacrifice of the most horrible kind. The fairest maidens were married to the god; the best warriors fought madly for his amusement. The people cried for release.”

“Eventually someone responded. The white sorcerer Avanrakash, last of his kind, formed the Circle of the Right-Hand Path and entered into a pact with Mitra. Avanrakash and his followers were jointly given enough power to destroy Al’Kiir, and they marched against him.”

“A great battle raged. Mountains were formed, rivers moved, deserts made, seas consumed. All died except Avanrakash, and he was mortally wounded. With his staff of power he drove Al’Kiir from the body he used on this plain—his avatar—and sealed him from the world. Avanrakash then presented his staff to the king of Ophir and disappeared into the mountains, presumably to die. Though none know his true end.”

Xacksmith asked about the crumbling parchment and Katos read it to the group, “Lo, call to the great god, entreating him, and set before the Image the succedaneum, the bridge between worlds, as a beacon to glorify the way of the god to thee.”

Katos wished to spend the night where he knew he was safe. He expressed a desire to have the party remain, but did not press them. Katos paid 500 sp to the group and was still willing to introduce them to Baron Timeon the next day. The party returned to the Bull & Bear and retired for the night.


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 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.


The Riders

Early, on the second day traveling back from the mines, Xacksmith scouted ahead of the caravan in the fog and saw a band of 10 riders who were trying to remain hidden traveling parallel to the caravan. Xacksmith reported his findings to Tullweim and company. Once the 10 riders realized they’d been spotted they withdrew into the forest. Later, at noon, the caravan stopped to rest and replenish. The 10 riders were again spotted. Dhak and Xacksmith stealthily moved towards the riders while Tullweim and Cuana got the caravan moving again. The Aesir and Cimmerian then trotted to the riders under the guise of parleying. The riders immediately fled and disappeared over a hillcrest.

Tullweim and Cuana chased after them, but lost sight of the riders. The two experienced trackers did see horse tracks leading down towards a small hut. An elderly woman was in front of the hut doing her washing in a brook. She seemed very old and a bit mad. The Aesir called out to the woman and noticed that she was blind, yet seemed to see them easily. Tullweim and Cuana coaxed some information out of the her, some of it quite startling. When asked about the riders, the old hag responded, “I saw no riders but sensed an unholy presence pass by this spot. The poor ground shook in her terror. Beware. Worry not yourselves with gold. The earth herself is in fear. The crucible which will forge him anew has been exhumed, lost from my care. For millenia I have watched it and now it is gone.” Dhak and Xacksmith caught up to Tullweim and Cuana in time to hear the old witch’s most shocking revelation, “With Al’Kiir’s return all hope will be gone. None can escape his will. He is impervious to puny weapons such as yours. Only the Staff of Avanrakash can destroy him. He is not far away. His purpose is at hand. At nights now I hear his servants calling him. They lacked yet the crucible, but now that it is in their hands the last rite will be performed and the earth doomed.” Dhak’s Stygian mind was quite intrigued by the old woman’s tale, and wished to spend more time discussing matters with her, but the rest of the party was eager to give chase to the riders. Dhak requested any aid the old hag could give, and she gave him 4 doses of a healing salve she had concocted.

The party followed the horse tracks into a small woods. They found a bind of 10 horsemen clothed in red and faces hidden by hoods. Steel sparked and blood was shed as the outnumbered party fought their foes on horseback. The riders’ tactics of spiritedly charging the party with ride-by attacks took its toll on even the heavily armored Tullweim. Xacksmith shot arrow after arrow into a single rider, who fled, near to gasping his final breath. Dhak threw his last orb of Acheronian demon-fire at a rider who wore a bronze charm around his neck and was startled to see the rider was not shaken by it. Cuana was quickly pressed by 3 of the riders and responded by striking a mighty blow which felled one rider and immediately cleaved another. In the end, 2 of the riders were taken prisoner and their leader felled. The leader’s body was examined, the hood removed and the party discovered a familiar face underneath. It was Darios, the dead Argossean! The old wounds from several days past were easily discernible on his body. How he came to be alive again sent a shudder down all but the Stygian’s spine.

The 2 prisoners were separated. Dhak and Xacksmith tied one up against a low, ruined wall, while Cuana roused the other prisoner and pressed his sword to the riders’ throat. The prisoners refused to talk at first, but both Cuana and Dhak quickly broke their resolve with threats of dismemberment and curses beyond the grave. The prisoners started with a hollow threat, “Al’Kiir will destroy you for meddling in his affairs,” but quickly offered relevant information when pressed about their purpose, “We were not here to slay the Baron or steal his gold, but to assure that he did not try to raise Al’Kiir on his own.” When questioned about the dead Argossean merchant the prisoners whispered, “Darios was a necromancer in league with Timeon. He sought to raise Al’Kiir. He who raises the lost god will gain more than the throne of Ophir.” The party left the prisoners in the woods, one still tied to a wall. Cuana lopped off Darios’ head at Dhak’s request and put it inside the hood that masked Darios’ identity. The party then returned to the caravan with 9 Hyborian warhorses and plans to turn some of their infantry into cavalry.

The rest of the days of journey were uneventful. Tullweim thought it best not to confront Baron Timeon with Darios’ resurrection and second death. On the 19th day of travel the Crimson Wolves reached Ianthe and found the Gate of Gold locked. The adventurers could not convince the gate sentries to open the way, even for Baron Timeon. The Baron was eager to enter the city and the caravan was moved to the Gate of Avenrakash, which was luckily open. The caravan then traveled through the crowded city streets to Baron Timeon’s palace.

Once there, the ore was unloaded into the cellars. Tullweim’s slave-girl Accalia, Torali, and Lady Julia greeted the adventurers. Lady Julia spoke disparagingly about Tullweim’s attachment to his slave while inquiring about their journey. Tullweim recounted the tale and Lady Julia made advances to the mighty Nordheimer, whispering in his ear to come to her bed-chambers that evening. The Baron thanked the adventurers for their service and disappeared into his rooms after shooing Cuana (who was attempting to follow the Baron) off. Katos greeted Baron Timeon and the Baron said, “Things went well enough. The fortress commander sold us a manuscript. It holds the ritual that will call him.” Katos quieted the Baron and closed the door to his room.

The adventurers split off to attend to personal matters. Xacksmith went into the city to purchase a steel cap and materials to use his bowyer talents and craft a more powerful Hyrkanian bow. Dhak sought information from the local temples concerning Al’Kiir, but received little useful information other than fearful rumors and old wives’ tales. Cuana and Dhak later went to the Bull & Bear tavern to sit on a proper chair and drink a frothy ale. Xacksmith returned to Baron Timeon’s at nightfall and Tullweim left his slave cold in his bed-chambers while he went to warm Lady Julia’s.

The Death of Katos

At midnight, a scream, coming from the direction of Baron Timeon’s room, rang out through the palace. Xacksmith stopped his work on his new bow and Tullweim ran out of Lady Julia’s room with nothing but his great sword. Lady Julia wrapped the sheets around her and followed the Aesir to Timeon’s room. Tullweim burst into the Baron’s room and found him quite frightened by the scream, though he tried to look brave in front of his lady companion. Lady Julia tried quite hard not to laugh. The Baron told them that the scream came from Katos’ room. Tullweim, Lady Julia, and Xacksmith rushed to the room and found it locked. Tullweim’s mighty thews easily kicked the door down. Katos laid dead in his bed, the murderer’s knife embedded in the mattress at his side. The room was a shambles. Every trunk had been hurriedly emptied. The linings of the draperies had been slashed open. A bare spot on the wall showed where something had been removed. Xacksmith and Tullweim rushed out to the balcony and found a red bandana of Zingaran make but saw nobody but the Crimson Wolves on-duty guards below. Xacksmith jumped to a nearby balcony, almost falling in the process, but caught himself on the balcony rail. Tullweim jumped to another balcony and they both climbed up to the roof. Xacksmith noticed a missing tile on the roof, but no tracks were found.

Tullweim and Xacksmith returned to Katos’ room and discovered that the merchant’s ruby ring was gone. A paler shape was outlined on a spot on the wall, similar to a man’s head surmounted by four horns. Many vials of noxious liquids and powders had been spilt and broken. Several black candles laid nearby. The knife in the mattress was removed and Tullweim recognized it as being from Kardava. The mattress where the knife had been embedded was cut open and an ancient manuscript was discovered within the flurry of feathers. Xacksmith pored over the manuscript and believed it to explain how to raise or destroy Al’Kiir. Lady Julia asked to look at it, but was unable to read it.

Baron Timeon was very upset by this incident and was close to firing the Crimson Wolves. The Baron gave Tullweim an ultimatum, find Katos’ killer within five days, or be removed from Timeon’s employ. Tullweim knew full well, if he were to lose the Baron’s contract, he would have to flee General Iskandrian’s army. A prospect he was not fond of since likely most if not all of the mercenaries under his command would be caught and executed.


The Search for the Assassin

Tullweim, Xacksmith, Lady Julia and three members of the Crimson Wolves stood in the room with Katos’ lifeless body. Several of Baron Timeon’s servants arrived to clean up the mess in the room and remove the body of the dead Argossean merchant but Tullweim wouldn’t allow it. The Aesir demanded that nothing in the room be touched until Cuana and Dhak had a chance to survey the scene. Tullweim posted 2 mercenaries at the door and put the rest on high alert. They were to sleep in shifts and patrol the grounds for the rest of the night. Tullweim wanted to post 2 guards at the Baron’s door, but the Baron refused to allow the guards within 30 feet of his door. Though he too was concerned for his safety, Timeon desired privacy even more, and insisted, quite importantly, that his friends in court would never allow him to be assassinated. After the Baron left, Tullweim ordered Taras to keep watch over Timeon’s balcony.

Lady Julia was rather bored by the mystery and would rather stay at the palace than get involved. The Nemedian troops were quite fretful and Lady Julia’s beautiful hand-maiden Torali added to their fear when she said “only a supernatural being could have penetrated into the heart of the palace.” Tullweim’s slave Accalia then ran up to Katos’ room to find the barbarian. She stopped in shock at Tullweim completely naked in the hallway with Lady Julia in a bed sheet at his side. The barbarian clumsily attempted to smooth the situation over while he walked with Accalia back to his room.

Once preparations were made and armor was donned, Tullweim decided to locate Cuana and Dhak. Cuana had left word that he would be at the Bull & Bear inn so the Aesir and Hyrkanian headed that way down Ianthe’s darkened streets. When they arrived at the inn, they found Cuana had purchased a large keg of ale for the troops. Tullweim pulled the group outside and explained their current predicament. Dhak was eager to have a look at the crime scene and Cuana and Tullweim carted the keg back to Baron Timeon’s palace. When they arrived they looked the scene over and all the clues found were made known to the Cimmerian and Stygian. It was decided they would need to question Baron Timeon and perhaps confront him with what they already suspected about his dealings with Al’Kiir.

Day 1

The next day the party rose early and checked the grounds. Katos’ body had been removed and the room cleaned. Tullweim gave Accalia some silver to go to the market district and buy something for herself to atone for the night before. Dhak also went to the market district to inquire about the knife that had ended Katos’ days. The Stygian noticed Accalia and grabbed her arm. She yelped with a start and met the Stygian’s imposing gaze with a coy smile. He asked what she was doing and she explained herself. Dhak caressed the girl’s cheek and bid her be on her way.

Cuana, Tullweim, and Xacksmith then arrived to the market and saw the Stygian and the slave-girl. Tullweim greeted Accalia and she showed off her purchases, then the party continued their inquiry, but did not get any useful information other than that the kingdom of Koth had attacked a border fortress.

The group decided to return to Timeon’s palace after mid-day and saw Enaro moving nervously about the grounds. When Tullweim approached Enaro, the Nemedian explained that he had noticed 3 Crimson Wolves missed the noon meal. Cuana asked around and found out that now that their contract was over and despite the fair pay, some of the men desired to go back to their lives in Nemedia, and away from the intrigue and murders in the Baron’s palace. Cuana said he could not blame them and informed Tullweim about the deserters. Tullweim and Cuana both addressed the troops to raise their morale. Dhak immediately moved out about the town, asked the city watch if they had seen the soldiers and learned they had left the Avanrakash gate early in the morning. Dhak informed the city watch that he wished to put bounties on the deserters heads.

The party then walked to Baron Timeon’s room to confront him about Darios’ and Katos’ murders. They arrived and saw Vanemoth carry Timeon’s first meal of the day to the Baron’s room. The Baron had opened the door and Tullweim interrupted and said they must speak immediately. The Baron sighed and told his chamberlain to take the tray to the dining room and Vanemoth shot an annoyed look at the mercenaries. Once in the dining room, the party confronted the Baron with what they knew. The Baron once again brushed aside Tullweim’s insistence on guards at Timeon’s door. Cuana asked about the riders with the red hoods they had encountered on the road back to Ianthe, and Timeon claimed complete ignorance of any knowledge about them. Cuana then pressed the Baron for information and mentioned Al’Kiir. The Baron replied that the Cimmerian’s primitive intellect could not comprehend the wills of gods and denied any sort of malicious activity. He then turned to Tullweim, quite furious that the day was fast passing and no new information had been discovered about Katos’ murderer or the items which had been stolen. The party left to discover what they could in the city with the clues they had.

The party explored the slums of Ianthe for rumors and people who might be able to lead them to information. This district reeked of poverty and neglect, and the buildings were in great danger of collapse. Many were already collapsed. Here were the desperate and poor, the resentful debtors, and the cunning thieves. Here it would be easy for bandit bands to hide from justice, sending their webs out across the city. Xacksmith spotted a couple of people in well-worn clothing who followed them when a pungent odor assaulted the groups nostrils. 7 haggard men approached, they held cups out in front of them and they pled for alms. “Please, a quarter silver. A copper. Anything. I’ve not had a scrap to eat in days.” “Please, please, my family is starving, my boy, my youngest is at death’s door.” Tullweim and Cuana gave them some silver and inquired about the bandana and knife. One of the beggars responded, “Well. I tell ‘ee, there’s only three groups of brigands in Ianthe smart enough, brave enough, or fool enough to commit murder in a noble’s own palace. One is Galbro, but he’s a bit of a fop. The other is Urian the slaver. And the third is the The Red Hawk, but she’s a woman so don’t really count no how, I’d put my money on Urian. He’s the only one with any real guts.”

Cuana gave the beggar more silver and the group went on its way and the party kept a wary eye out for the people who followed them. Once they caught sight of the pair the party went into an alleyway to try and lead their shadows into a trap. The pair of trailers apparently knew the alleys of the slums well as they attacked the group from connecting alleyways behind the party. The alley thieves attacked first and drew blood from Dhak and Cuana. Dhak quickly tossed Lotus smoke in front of the attackers, but managed to catch the party with it as well, the alley-rats and Cuana were out of commission for several seconds. Tullweim used this opportunity to hit both bandits with the flat of his blade and knocked them unconscious. Cuana asked Dhak to pour some of the strong ale he carried onto the alley-rats and the Cimmerian and Aesir carried the thugs as if they were drunk. They were stopped by the city watch, but their bluff worked and they were allowed to continue to the Baron’s palace.

Once at the palace, Dhak took one of the alley-rats up to his room while Tullweim took another to his. Tullweim called the mercenaries’ medic up to the room as well. When roused, the alley-rats spat at their captors and claimed they had followed the party in order to rob them. Unconvinced, Dhak issued threats of mystical death and damnation to intimidate the thief to talk. Tullweim used more barbaric measures. Blood-curdling screams rang out on the floor which acted as barracks for the mercenaries which woke several mercenaries from their sleep as Tullweim cut off a finger for every question he asked. When he had finished, the thief’s entire hand was lopped off. At the end of the gruesome interrogation, both Dhak and Tullweim had learned the thieves had been hired to get a “crucible” from the party and they learned the name of the man who had them followed, Galbro. The thieves did not know where Galbro could be located, but revealed a drop-off point in the slums for messages.

Tullweim let the thief that Dhak had interrogated go, but not before Dhak drained him to fuel his magical power. Dhak stole essence from the one-handed thief as well, and took the thief out into the entrance hall of Baron Timeon’s palace. There he gathered 10 Crimson Wolves and put on a horrific display. Dhak held the Elephant’s Heart out and murmured powerful words of dark sorcery. The large ruby in his hand glowed malignantly and the simple thief that stood in front of him shrank down to half his size. Their was an audible gasp of shock and horror at this display and Dhak announced that this would be the fate of any that would oppose the Crimson Wolves. Dhak then took the thief back to the slums to leave at Galbro’s drop-off point.

Day 2

The next day, the party learned 2 more mercenaries had deserted, whether out of fear or disgust was unknown. The party decided to gather information in the Old Town district of Ianthe. This district was one of the oldest in the city. Many of the buildings had stood for centuries. A few had collapsed. The remains of the old city wall still ran through the area. It was a poor area, but not poverty-stricken. Many beggars and common laborers surrounded the party, along with soldiers and stables. While they attempted to get further leads on Galbro, the party learned that a fire had destroyed large parts of Gurian’s Heart.

The mercenaries continued on their way and were privy to some information. One disgruntled Ophirean let his feelings for foreigners be known, “It’s foreigners like you what’s making all this trouble, But you’ll get your own. Soon the King’s dead and Iskandrian takes the throne, he’ll impale you mercenary swine, and scatter your ashes in the river.” It was not long after when the adventurers noticed they were being followed by a gang of five alley-rats.

The party continued through the old city streets when their path was barred by a funeral procession. A long line of mourners clogged the streets so no chariot, horse, or man could pass. Tullweim decided to try and cut through the dim alleys and that is when the alley-rats struck. The five rogues cut Dhak and Xacksmith deep. The Hyrkanian retreated behind Cuana and Tullweim. Dhak moved back and cursed one of the thugs. Cuana stepped up and killed two of the rogues with two vicious swings of his great sword. Tullweim’s blade cast a swath of death in front of him. Finally, only two rogues were left and knew they were beat, so they fled. Cuana gave chase, but his armor slowed him down and he did not know Ianthe’s streets and alleys as well as the thieves. The party was left with no one to question, and so set forth with their inquiries.

Several hours of questions to anyone who would talk to them gave little results. The sun was setting past the hills and the mercenaries went to one last hovel with a woman sweeping in front. When asked, the woman revealed, “I know something about Galbro. Used to be from Zingara. Always wears a big scarf tied around his left wrist for some strange reason, likes to collect antiques and weird stuff like that. Bit of a fop, but a good swordsman.”

It was little to go off of, but more information than they previously had.


Night 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.

Day 3

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.

Your patron,


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 Request

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.


Taking the Scepter

Cuana, Dhak, Tullweim, and Xacksmith managed to avoid the looters and few city watchmen who attempted desperately to maintain a semblance of order in the darkened streets of Ianthe. The mercenaries returned to their headquarters on the Street of Crowns, ate a quick meal of Fabio’s and went to the chimney where they removed their armor and covered themselves with soot and ash. Once their pale skins were sufficiently darkened, the sellswords moved about the cities’ labyrinthine alleyways towards the Royal Palace. Their movement was silent but for a single misstep by their Aesir leader, who knocked over a pile of refuse with a loud crash. Shortly thereafter, hushed voices and heavy footfalls were heard from the streets, headed towards the parties’ location. The watchmen shone a torch into the alley, barked out a challenge, but did not see anyone and deemed not to enter. They were putting their lives at risk just wandering the streets that night and did not wish to tempt fate further. One of the watchmen decided it had been a cat that made the noise and they backed out into the street to continue their patrol. After the watch were gone, the mercenaries stepped out of the shadows, sheathed their blades, and stole into the night towards the Palace.

Once the Palace walls were in sight the sellswords found the gates barred, the portcullis down. Amid the rising blood-red full moon they maneuvered to the rear face of the wall and Cuana quickly scaled the 40 feet to the top with Xacksmith’s silken rope over his shoulder. The Cimmerian crouched low, he could see the torch lights on the wall the guards carried in the distance, and in the nearest tower he heard two men make nervous conversation behind a closed door. The barbarian quickly uncoiled the silk rope, wrapped it hastily around a merlon, and threw it down to his companions below. Xacksmith grabbed the rope and climbed up, getting about halfway before the loose knot Cuana had tied came undone. The barbarian attempted to catch the rope before it fell but was not quick enough and the Hyrkanian plummeted 20 feet to the hard ground below. Xacksmith was agile enough to twist himself in mid-air and roll with the fall, and received little more than a few cuts and bruises. The Hyrkanian picked up the fallen rope, saw no cut on it, and looked up with an annoyed expression. Cuana could not quite make out his allies in the darkness but saw the rope Tullweim tossed back up and caught it. The Cimmerian wrapped the rope around a merlon but did not attempt to again tie it. Instead he held onto the rope and braced himself while his companions climbed up.

With everyone on the wall, the party looked for patrols below. None were seen and the Stygian speculated that perhaps bestial guardians hid in the shadows. The gates were well-guarded, and dim lights shone in the towers. The rest of the palace was black and appeared empty. The place smelt of fear, of men trapped and besieged within their own fortress, deserted by their commander. Iskandrian had taken nearly the entire garrison with him to crush the nobles. The sycophants which surrounded the king had vanished, fearful lest they be caught in the coming holocaust. The Throne Room’s gold dome glinted palely beneath the moon. Xacksmith saw a guard on the wall, near an opposite tower, who was about to turn to patrol the sellswords’ location and spurred the adventurers to action.

Dhak pushed a pouch into Cuana’s hands and instructed the Cimmerian to cast it into the nearby room, close the door, and take care not to breathe in the dust or risk succumbing to madness. The Stygian grabbed an arrow, slathered extract from the Upas tree he’d gathered months ago, and let it fly at the lone patrolmen. The arrow was stopped by the guards’ hauberk and he looked up to see Xacksmith let loose an arrow of his own and Tullweim charge the man-at-arms, ending his life with a thrust of the Aesir’s greatsword. At the same time the Cimmerian did as he was instructed and cast the grey lotus dust into the room with the 2 guards conversing. The guards coughed and gagged as the dust filled the room. A moment later, Cuana heard tittering laughter come from the room followed by a hate-filled roar and the sound of steel cleaving flesh over and over again. Meanwhile, the Aesir barbarian and Hyrkanian thief had dispatched the patrolmans’ partner inside the opposite tower as Dhak approached and urged the party to move down the stairs into the gardens below. Tullweim accompanied the Stygian while Xacksmith made his way to Cuana, just as the Cimmerian leapt over the side of the wall and climbed down. The Hyrkanian was about to descend as well when the nearby door opened and a wide-eyed, growling, blood-stained watchmen stood in the moonlight. The thief did not wish to cross swords with a man affected by lotus and jumped down to the gardens below, tumbled at the last second and added to the collection of bruises he’d acquired that night. The crazed guard stood on the edge of the wall with bloody sword raised and leapt down, howling like a beast the entire way. The weight of his armor caused the guard to hit the ground with a sickening thud, bones snapped and his life spilt out onto the cobblestone walkway.

Xacksmith joined up with Dhak and Tullweim but none saw any sign of Cuana. Separated from his allies the Cimmerian did not know they planned to meet up with him below and had moved further towards the golden dome of the Palace after he descended off the wall. As he moved through deep shadows next to an impressive keep, Cuana was startled by a metallic sound that broke the night’s stillness. The barbarian froze and looked about in anticipation of an attack. Not seeing anyone and with curiosity piqued, Cuana decided to round the corner. He explored a side of the keep he could see in the moonlight and found a barred window. Knowing he couldn’t breach the heavy iron bars he moved further along the keep to a shuttered window. He put his thews to use, ripped off one of the shutters and climbed into the keep. Inside, the Cimmerian found himself in a corridor with doors on either end and a single sconce with a lit torch, which he procured for his own use. Cuana tested one of the heavy doors and found it to be locked. The barbarian then went to the opposite door and easily opened it revealing an office of some sort. A single desk and several chairs furnished the scroll-lined room. The Cimmerian sifted through the papers on the desk and found a ledger with a list of names and dates. From other papers he gleaned that the office belonged to the Royal Torturer and the names in the ledger were people brought to the dungeons at the King’s pleasure. Only one name in the ledger was not crossed off, but the name ‘Agatho’ was unfamiliar to the barbarian. He searched for keys to the locked door when he heard heavy footfalls sound from an opposite door.

Meanwhile, Dhak, Tullweim, and Xacksmith approached the golden-domed Royal Palace where King Valdric was said to lay in state for 10 days. Unchallenged thus far as no alarm had yet been sounded and the majority of the remaining guards were on the walls or patrolled closer to the gate, the mercenaries scaled up 30 feet to a window in the Palace wall. Before them laid the splendor of the Ophirean throne room, one of the most opulent in the Hyborian realms. Tapestries hung from the walls to a height of 20 feet. Ornate scroll-work stretched up to the domed ceiling. The throne was of solid gold, carved with leopards and eagles. The beasts had ruby eyes and held emeralds in their talons and claws. On the throne laid the scepter, the Staff of Avanrakash, encrusted with rubies and emeralds. There were no guards to be seen, no sounds to be heard. King Valdric laid on a bier next to the throne. Tullweim and Xacksmith dropped to the tapestry 10 feet below and climbed down to the marble floor. Dhak had a bit more trouble as he lost his hold on the tapestry and slid down hard. Tullweim helped his Stygian ally up and they moved towards the scepter. Xacksmith was overcome by the wealth on the throne and attempted to pry precious stones loose as Dhak held out his hand, muttered ancient words which levitated the scepter to his hand. Unbeknown to the Stygian there were the thinnest of threads connecting the scepter to the throne which snapped upon the staff’s movement. This triggered a mechanical catch which opened up a door under the throne. 5 foot-long scorpions moved out of the darkness and scuttled menacingly towards the thieves.

Back in the keep, Cuana set the ledger and torch down on the desk and quickly moved to the side of the door just as it opened. A rotund man entered the room and gasped as his desk was quickly being alight with flames. Before he could act, the Cimmerian slashed the man across his back which staggered him to the floor. The Royal Torturer turned with a snarl on his face, uncoiled a whip at his side and expertly entangled Cuana’s legs with it. The smile on the fat man’s face quickly fell as he tried in vain to trip the barbarian. Cuana roared and swung his greatsword which split the torturer’s head like a ripe melon. The Cimmerian quickly searched the body and found a ring of keys, one of which he hoped would open the heavy door down the corridor. Then the barbarian tended to the fire which had quickly consumed the scrolls on the desk and had spread to those on the shelves. Cuana lifted the dead jailer and slammed him onto the desk which smothered most of the flame and filled the room with a foul shroud of smoke. The barbarian grabbed the barely lit torch, then stamped out the remaining scattered embers and moved out to the corridor. After several tries, he found the key which unlocked the door and entered the dark stairs down.

Beneath the golden dome of the Royal Palace, Dhak declared, “Black balls of Set!” and cast flame powder at the scorpions. The powder lit upon contact, the flames burned the scorpions and the fine rug underneath. Near death but enraged, the scorpions rushed towards the adventurers. Xacksmith, still in his reverie of the wealth in front of him barely noticed the vermin as one of the scorpions drove it’s stinger into his leg. Tullweim swung his sword and killed one of the creatures, but two more were upon him and one stung him as well. Dhak tried to keep his distance, but the many legs of the scorpion carried it within reach of the Stygian and he too suffered a poison-filled sting. Tullweim and Xacksmith’s fortitude was such that even though they felt the poison course through their veins they did not succumb to it. Dhak was not so lucky. His face lost it’s color as he felt some of his vigor leave him, though not enough to rob the Stygian of his life. The scorpions were not so fortunate as Tullweim and Xacksmith crushed those they faced. Dhak had another fate in mind for the creature which had struck him. He again muttered alien words and the animal writhed in agony, twitching painfully into unconsciousness. The Stygian then grabbed his cloak, carefully wrapped the creature in it, and secured it with a tight knot. With that threat dealt with the mercenaries were now free to deal with the next, the flames that had traveled across the rug and lit King Valdric’s corpse! Tullweim muttered that there would be hell to pay if those in power ever learned of the desecration they had caused while stamping out the fire with a torn tapestry. After the fire was put out and with scepter in hand Tullweim ordered Dhak and Xacksmith back out the window. There was a battle yet to be fought and they could not waste time. Dhak inquired about Cuana, to which Tullweim replied, “The Cimmerian’s either captured or already gone. Either way he can handle himself. Now move!”

The Cimmerian walked down the stairs and came to a dungeon. All manner of instruments of torture were spread throughout the catacombs. Some, the barbarian knew well, others he could only imagine the sort of pain meant to inflict. He then came to a row of cells. All were empty save one. In the occupied cell sat a man in tattered clothing. The man had a boyish face with fat lips and appeared to have seen at least 30 winters by Cuana’s reckoning. The barbarian called out to the man as he searched for a key that would open the cell. The man did not respond in the least. Cuana opened the cell door and entered, he grabbed the man and asked if he was Agatho. Still no acknowledgment but a blank stare. Cuana saw the man’s eyes were rolled up into his head, but appeared to have not suffered the hot poker or any other form of abuse. Knowing that time was being wasted in the cell and not wishing to linger any longer, the barbarian grabbed the wretch and slung him over his shoulder. He carried the prisoner out to the Palace Wall and climbed the stairs in the tower. The Cimmerian knew he would not be able to carry the man and climb down without aid, so he searched the two nearby towers for rope. He found a 10 foot length of rope in the alarm bells of both towers, the rest he improvised by tearing the tunics of the dead men-at-arms.

The Last Battle

Dhak, Tullweim, and Xacksmith returned to the Crimson Wolves headquarters and donned their armor. With the scepter in hand, the Aesir addressed the mercenaries and announced that they were to go to battle that night. The response was less than enthused as one of the Nemedian Adventurers declared the folly of following a barbarian with orders from a woman to meet a stronger force in the dead of night. Tullweim addressed the concerns, held the royal scepter aloft, and reminded the men of the silver their woman patron had paid as well as the glory they’d already found and that they were assured in the coming onslaught. The speech roused the men’s spirits and they mobilized for combat. Within a half hour they marched on the streets of Ianthe and traveled to the Gate of Avanrakash. As they arrived they met up with 50 cavalry that wore Countess Synelle’s colors and were ordered to join the company in battle. Together they rode out through the gate, Valentius’ men on the wall cheering them. They rode through the night, with scattered clouds above, and felt the spur of battle bite deep into their hearts. The old urge for combat rose. As they rode over a spur of the Tor, the fields beyond stretched into sight. Two armies waited for the clouds to clear the moon, unsure what the night’s fortunes would bring. The Crimson Wolves flashed by the outriders and saw Valentius’ and Clavanedes’ main body of troops. A thousand infantry, almost as many men-at-arms and cavalry stood ready for the order to ring doom throughout the valley.

After climbing down from the Palace Wall, Cuana made his way back to the house on the Street of Crowns. When he arrived he found the house completely empty. He set the prisoner down on a bed, donned his armor, mounted his horse and made his way to the Gate of Avanrakash. Once he arrived, Valentius’ men on the wall informed him of his companies’ earlier passage and they told him where on the field they could be found. The Cimmerians’ steed raced through the night, heedless of any dangers in his path. Cuana arrived at the crimson cloaked free company before the battle had yet been joined. He rode up to Tullweim as the Aesir received orders from one of Count Clavanedes messengers. The messenger told of a shortage of unit commanders as many had been assassinated in recent weeks and of Clavanades’ desire that Tullweim lead his troops in routing the enemy. The Crimson Wolves and Countess Synelle’s cavalry were on the right flank of Iskandrian’s army. Both sides faced each other across the field south of the Sarellian Forest. As soon as the light of the moon hit the field the battle was met.

Tullweim roared like a lion, held the royal scepter high over his head, which spurred the soldiers behind to charge. Iskandrian’s men were beset by cutthroats of renown in blazing, crimson cloaks. The Wolves’ banner inspired the soldiers around it and the two armies crashed upon each other like opposing waves in an ocean of blood and carnage. Iskandrian’s cavalry met the full force of the Crimson Wolves’ cavalry where men and horse alike fell by scores. Iskandrian’s archers harried the Crimson Wolves, opening up slight avenues for the royal cavalry to penetrate the line. Dhak distanced himself from the opposing cavalry and cast a great curse on them, causing horses to panic and swordsmen to miss. Cuana and Tullweim led their men straight into death’s maw without a care and hacked in twain all who stood against them. Xacksmith maneuvered to the edge of the forest trees for protection from the archers and then flanked the enemy, crushing them between an unrelenting swath of greatswords. The infantry of both sides then met, steel clanged on mail hauberk and bone. Death screams rang out through the night. The battle moved to it’s midpoint, with neither side having a decisive advantage, when chaos erupted.

Suddenly the ground shook beneath the combatants feet. The troops staggered drunkenly; horses stumbled and fell. Ghostly lights glowed high atop Tor Al’Kiir, and the moon shone blue. The fighting paused. Some of the troops on both sides were seized by terror, threw down their weapons, and ran away. The eerie sound of a supernatural horn-blast cleaved the silence. Slowly the battle began anew, but not with the same fervor of a moment before. Iskandrian’s men could not re-form their line with the great loss of men and courage which caused them to be bloodily routed from the field. Tullweim then took stock of the men left after the battle. Only 19 of the 50 men the company had come into Ianthe with remained and where triumph should have been on the survivors’ faces, there was only apprehension and fear. For atop the Tor flashed the witchlights, heralding menace and a great evil. The clouds gathered quickly together and a torrential rain began to pour down. Truly, the work that night was not yet finished.


To the Top

Tereus had been a noble’s military messenger through several border conflicts with Koth and had run missives between commanders of thousands, but never had he seen such conditions as that night. Count Clavanades’ messenger made his way through the fields of carnage and torrential rain. The ground still quivered from a tremor which seemed to radiate from Tor Al’Kiir. The effort to reach Tullweim, the barbarian commander of the Crimson Wolves, caused the Ophirian soldier to pant between words and raw fear masked his face at what he was told to ask. “Sir, <huff> Count Clavanades <huff> wants a report on the lights atop the Tor. <huff> Does the god of legend awake? <huff> Does doom approach?” The Aesir cast a grim look towards Tor Al’Kiir and told the messenger to tell the Count the Crimson Wolves would check it out. Tullweim then ordered Countess Synelle’s cavalry to escort the messenger and join Clavanades’ main column against General Iskandrian.

As the mercenary company made towards Tor Al’Kiir, Dhak heard a gurgling noise on the ground. Among the bodies of the dead he found one of the Ophirean soldiers pinned underneath his horse and drowning in a puddle of rain. The sorcerer grabbed the man’s hair and lifted his head out of the water. The fallen man-at-arms gasped for breath and panicked when lightning flashed and he saw the murderous intent in the Stygian’s eyes. Dhak spoke ancient words of dark aspect and pushed the soldiers’ neck into the edge of the his blade, which allowed him to harvest the man’s life for sorcerous power. The Stygian then dropped the man’s head back into the puddle which quickly grew darker as blood mixed with water.

As the Crimson Wolves approached Tor Al’Kiir, occasional ghostly lights were still seen at the top, but there were fewer of them among the crashes of lightning. The moon slipped behind racing black clouds, which plunged the company into oppressive gloom. The 23 mercenaries paused at the bottom of the Tor and knew no horses could ever make it up the steep slope. They dismounted knowing they must climb and searched for handholds among their sputtering torch light. Though the Tor was covered with ledges and bushes, the rain hindered the soldiers from making much progress. Only the Cimmerian Cuana had an easy go at it. He climbed up the 250 feet to the top and paused only to tie a 50 foot length of rope in intervals. Some close calls were had where a mercenary lost his grasp and dangled perilously for a moment but none of the Crimson Wolves fell. Finally, after much toil and effort the top of Tor Al’Kiir was reached.

The Crimson Wolves hid behind a lichen-encrusted block of stone, once the keystone in some monstrous arch. The rain came down in sheets but all else was still. Before the mercenaries laid ruins, roofless halls and decapitated columns mangled by black ivy. Among the columns were 20 black figures, manlike in form, six of which held torches around a fire that sputtered but somehow kept alight. Their hides shone metallically. Two curved horns shone from their heads, two more from their cheeks, which reminded the adventurers of Katos’ ring. Behind them gaped a dark set of stairs which led down into the earth. The sound of chanting reached up out of the dank hole, the hideous sounds of a language long dead drove obscenely into their minds. The horned figures whispered among themselves and took no heed of the Crimson Wolves.

The mercenaries planned to move about the perimeter and take the fight to their foes from 2 directions. They split into 2 groups and Dhak moved through an opening in a ruined wall. The Stygian felt the ground begin to give as he stepped and it was but for his quick reflexes that he did not stumble into a hidden pit 20 feet deep. The mercenaries moved out avoiding the concealed pits as they found them and were watched the entire time by the guards at the stairs. But the minions of Al’Kiir held their position until Dhak, Tullweim, and Xacksmith charged. Two of the Crimson Wolves as well as Cuana fell into a pit and almost died. About half of the horned minions moved forward to engage the mercenaries. Still weakened by poison, Dhak stayed at the back of the group and cast a spell of torment on one of Al’Kiir’s minions which caused him to hit the ground wailing. Several of the Crimson Wolves attacked the helpless opponent and ended his screams. Other Wolves coordinated their attacks, sundered the minions’ shields and sent their opponents to hell with a swing of their greatswords. Cuana and one of the two mercenaries that had fallen into the pits climbed back up. The rain continued to pound the combatants as if angry, screams rent the air as men from both sides were slain or maimed, allies fell into pits, the evil sound of the impassioned worshipers chants from below all began to meld into one red roar as Cuana went into a fighting madness and slashed at anything with four horns on its head. Finally, the combat ended with the Crimson Wolves victorious. Or so they thought.

The stairs before them were hoary with age and led down into vaults long unknown and better forgotten. The chanting in the earth’s bowels had grown louder and more frantic. A faint demonic piping and rolling beat reached them, more through the soles of their feet than through their ears. There was an urgency in the vibrations, something primeval. The Crimson Wolves felt compelled to move toward the source of the dark music, drawn into blackness. Though Cuana, Dhak, Tullweim, and Xacksmith fought the urge, dark thoughts and a mad rage came over many of the mercenaries. They looked upon their sword brothers with a mask of hatred on their faces and raised their weapons.


The Depths of Tor Al’Kiir

Lighting crashed and with maddened screams twelve of the remaining 22 Crimson Wolves turned on their sword brothers in the rain. The enraged mercenaries’ lust for blood and battle could not be calmed but Tullweim knew the loss of troops at such a critical time could not be afforded. The Aesir commander called out an order to those Wolves which had kept their sanity to strike with the flats of their blades and with a leaping charge Tullweim led the attack. Cuana let go of his own battle rage and quickly smashed the hilt of his greatsword onto the temple of a nearby berserker. Dhak again spoke words of power, but this time directed at an ensorcelled ally, and replaced screams of rage with wails of agony. Xacksmith was surrounded by the swords of former allies and deftly dodged their maddened attacks. Enaro, his feral eyes aglow, tripped several of the Wolves which allowed those that remained in control of their emotions to knock their crazed brethren out. After a few tense moments only those who controlled their senses remained standing.

The feverish pitch of dark chanting and frantic piping from below urged the mercenaries on. They knew they did not have the time to properly mend the many wounds they had suffered and quickly roused those Crimson Wolves who had been knocked unconscious. The sellswords then turned to the black opening into the ground. The stairs were rough, hewn out of the granite, lit by black iron cressets in the form of a four-horned demon head. Cuana and Tullweim were in the lead while the rest of the company trailed out into the rain. Four more guards, dressed identically to those encountered above, blocked the way. The fight was swift and brutal. Dhak mystically tormented one of the guards. Cuana quieted the anguished screams of one of the minions of Al’Kiir and cleaved into another. Tullweim brought another down with two strokes of his greatsword. The last did all he could to hold the entrance to no avail as the two barbarians mercilessly carved death into their foe.

The mercenaries moved through the granite tunnel which ended with a path to the left and a path to the right. The sellswords heard the chanting and piping come to them from the left and so decided to explore the right passage first. The passage led to a glistening cave full of dust and the debris of furnishings decayed for a millenia. It was apparent that there was once a purpose to the cave, but what that purpose was had long since been forgotten. There was another passage past this room which led to a cave which had been kept clean. Several wooden benches lined the walls. Clothing (some of it quite fine) was piled on the benches. There were several chests. Dhak and Xacksmith eagerly opened the chests but all except one were empty. The last chest held a complete suit of the demonic plate worn by the minions of Al’Kiir. The room was apparently their dressing room. The plate armor was too small for either of the barbarians and would hinder the Stygian’s and Hyrkanian’s movement so it was decided that Enaro should don it. At best he would be mistaken for one of the minions, at worst he would have better protection from enemy sword strokes.

The company moved towards the path they heard the chanting come from and came to another chamber with broken furniture. The path continued on past the room, but before the company exited, Xacksmith noticed something odd with one of the walls. He approached the wall and ran his hands along it. There was an almost imperceptible difference in the granite which suggested the wall could move. After a few moments of searching, the Hyrkanian discovered a catch and part of the wall opened, revealing a small, unlit passageway. Xacksmith moved to the end of the passageway and found a similar catch which opened the wall into another chamber. The sound of the piping was louder and while Xacksmith searched for another secret passage, Cuana and Dhak made sure there was nobody coming from the path. The Hyrkanian swore in frustration at not finding anything else and moved to the rest of the company. As they were about to trek into the hallway, Tullweim noticed a granite catch in a wall and announced it’s presence. Xacksmith pulled the catch and the wall opened as before. The company traveled through another small corridor which opened up into a larger passageway. From where the company stood they all knew they had arrived at the source of the chilling music.

Cuana, Dhak, Tullweim, and Xacksmith peeked their heads around the corner and observed the scene. At the far end of a great domed cavern, a large idol stood atop a low platform. Two tall wooden posts stood in the center of room, each toppped by a black demon head. Tied between them was the Countess Synelle. A guard captain stood near her. Two other guards played flutes, while 16 more pounded the floor with their scabbards. Lady Julia danced madly in front of the great shadowed idol, and sung voicelessly, re-enacting a ritual invented before time. Torali stood nearby Julia and awkwardly held worn pages which Julia referenced occasionally. Katos’ ancient silver urn stood at her feet, filed with flames. The idol was 10 feet high and shaped like a man, had four curving horns, three lidless eyes, and a broad lipless mouth with needle-like teeth. Thick arms ended in jagged claws. One hand held a wicked dagger, the other a metal whip. This statue was the source of almost painful hum piercing the sellswords’ heads. Behind the idol was a gaping pit filed with the red glow of distant flame.

Dhak and Xacksmith attempted to sneak past a group of Al’Kiir’s minions. Despite the soft footfalls and rythmic pounding of scabbards one of the guards heard the Hyrkanian. The guard turned and underneath his four-horned helm bellowed, “Intruders! Infidels!” Spurred on by the alarm, Cuana ordered several of the Crimson Wolves to follow him into the room. They were quickly met by 10 of the minions of Al’Kiir while the rest of the armored guards continued with the ceremony. Tullweim leapt into the fray with the rest of the Nemedian sellswords. Steel rang loudly in the cave and blood spurted amid death cries of cultist and mercenary.

Xacksmith moved behind an alcove. A single minion of Al’Kiir barred the Hyrkanian’s path. The two foes were poised to engage when a high-pitched painful sound reverberated from the idol, affecting Xacksmith, many of the Crimson Wolves, and some of Al’Kiir’s minions. The minion chuckled and advanced, his broadsword hacking mercilessly. It was all the Hyrkanian could do to defend himself from the onslaught of his gruesome assailant. Enaro entered the alcove and the cultist thought him a brother come to join in the battle. Feral eyes flashed beneath the horned helm when Enaro tripped the minion and struck as Dhak and a small group of Crimson Wolves closed in.

As mercenaries sundered shields, Cuana slashed and cleaved into the minions. Tullweim took the opportunity given by the ringing noise to push past the melee and rush to Countess Synelle. He was met by the cultists’ captain who taunted the Aesir, “You hulking fool. You thought too protect her, yet I brought her here. See if you can save your lady fair now!” The captain attacked with deadly skill but the Aesir’s armor prevented most of the force. Tullweim responded with brutal swings the cultist captain strained to parry. Dhak fired a poisoned arrow from his Stygian bow and struck a glancing blow to Julia. She managed to complete the last words of her ritual despite the poison weakening her.

The Avatar Awakes

All at once the ringing sound from the statue ceased. The idol began to move. A mad laugh echoed throughout the cavern chamber. Many of the warriors both Crimson Wolves and minions of Al’Kiir fell to the floor in abject terror. The avatar turned and seized Lady Julia. She screamed in panic and told the avatar that is was Synelle he wanted. The avatar then tossed Julia aside and seized the Countess, breaking her bonds. Tullweim moved past the guard captain, taking a swing from his foe as he rushed to Synelle’s aid. Dhak rushed towards the distracted captain and attempted to throw a pouch of tomb dust but the minion’s leader had the reflexes of a cat. He knocked the pouch out of the still poisoned Stygian’s hand and smirked, “Pathetic fool. You think to catch me unaware?” The guard captain slashed at Dhak but the Stygian reacted with a word and gesture that turned the blade away from his throat. Enraged, the captain swung again and his blade bit deep into Dhak’s unarmored side.

Near the entrance of the chamber the cultists mercilessly executed the helpless Wolves as Cuana dealt death in kind and cleaved into another. Across the way Enaro, and the Nemedian sellswords with him rushed to aid Dhak. They were met by the group of minions who were closer to the avatar. Enaro tripped a minion, immediately hit with his mace and 2 Crimson Wolves swung their greatswords into their prone enemy. Tullweim dropped his sword, drew the royal scepter of Ophir, and allowed his fury to rise as he charged the avatar with a powerful leap. The demon roared as the scepter twice cracked Al’Kiir’s hide and caused a foul ichor to spurt. At the avatar’s agony Xacksmith, the prone Crimson Wolves and minions shook their terror off. The Hyrkanian saw the battle and rapidly fired twice from his bow at the guard captain. The first shot bounced harmlessly off the captain’s breastplate, the other struck a glancing blow to his leg. The idol’s three eyes filled with hate and the avatar struck twice with its large black dagger at Tullweim. It then bit into the Aesir and rent the armor off his shoulder. Torali screamed and raced towards the chamber entrance. Dhak stepped away from the guard captain and with a steely gaze he uttered words of power, pushing himself beyond his limits. The guard captain fell to his knees screaming as if his flesh were being flayed from his body. One of the Crimson Wolves saw this and stepped to the captain delivering a coup de grace which separated head from shoulders. The four-horned helm rolled to Dhak’s feet but the mangled visor no longer hid the face of Lord Taramenon.

Cuana moved back into the chamber entrance and called the lone Nemedian sellsword to his side. Xacksmith dropped his bow, ran to a foe and feinted with his arming sword. Enaro tripped another enemy and the 2 Crimson Wolves at his side struck twice again. The poisoned, weakened sorcerer Dhak fixed his eye upon the cultist priestess and engaged her in a war of souls. Unfortunately Julia’s will was stronger and the Stygian felt the loss of acumen he had caused to so many others to fuel his sorcerous power. Tullweim reeled from the avatar’s powerful attack but still in a fighting madness he delivered two more furious attacks which sent another roar of pain and rage to echo throughout the chamber.

Al’Kiir sluggishly grappled the Aesir, wrapping him in tree-trunk sized metal arms and bit down again into the barbarian’s shoulder. Three minions near the chamber entrance advanced in formation on Cuana and struck with all their hate. The Cimmerian managed to parry several of the blows and swung his greatsword in response, splitting a cultists’ head like a ripe melon. He slashed again into the next closest minion but the cultists armor absorbed most of the blow. The cultist priestess chuckled at Dhak and exerted her will, again draining wisdom from the Stygian. Barely standing, Dhak kept Lady Julia engaged in the war of souls long enough for a mercenary to flank the priestess and send his greatsword through her gut. The sorceress sputtered her surprise in her last moment of life as she stared in disbelief at the blade which jutted from her belly, coated crimson by her blood. Xacksmith followed through with his feint and finessed past a minion’s armor. The Hyrkanian’s blade found purchase in the soft flesh of his foes neck. Enaro continued his brutal exchange with cultists that felled sellsword while Dhak attempted to feint an opponent. It was all Tullweim could do to keep the vice-like arm of the avatar from crushing him. But the Aesir managed to free an arm and sent the staff of Avanrakash straight down the maw of the four-horned horror.

A final throe of agony shook the avatar of Al’Kiir. With a scream of rage it dropped Countess Synelle and Tullweim. The scream pierced everyone in the chambers thoughts and drove all else from their minds. Dark ichor flowed from the gaping wound in the avatar’s neck where the point of the staff stuck out. The avatar clawed the air once more in agony when it finally fell. The body of Al’Kiir slowly hardened out from the wound, until it was frozen in place, statue-like once again. A mental scream from the avatar went on and on, vibrating in the deepest recesses of everyone’s mind. Suddenly they realized the ground was shaking from the fury of that scream. The fiery pit glowed white-hot. Huge stones began to fall from the cavern roof above. The earth lurched under foot.

Cuana reached out for Torali as Tullweim took up the Countess, protected her from falling debris and raced out of the crumbling chamber. Dhak called for aid as the sorcerer could barely stand and Xacksmith rushed him out with Enaro on their heels. The earth opened up and swallowed those who were transfixed by Al’Kiir’s mental scream including one of the two surviving Crimson Wolves. The passageway outside the chamber crumbled as well and all were struck by rubble. As they reached the surface the ancient columns and walls toppled about and crushed the remaining Nemedian Adventurer. A huge explosion hurtled man-sized chunks of granite into the sky. Tor Al’Kiir crumbled beneath their feet as they reached the edge and attempted to climb down. When they reached the bottom of the slope, the entire hilltop exploded. The shockwave knocked all to the ground, and a huge flame leapt 500 feet into the night sky. Several rocks hit those still conscious on the head, and all were taken by the dark.

After some time, the 5 mercenaries woke, still exhausted from the night’s trials. A red dawn crept out of the eastern sky. No one had yet dared venture abroad from the city and the sellswords were alone except for the 2 women at their side. They glanced up at the smoldering remains of Tor Al’Kiir. The top third of the hill had been vaporized. Nothing was left of its ruins but the huge boulders which dotted the field where the heroes of Ophir laid. Dhak tended to the Hyrkanian and stole Xacksmith from death’s grasp. Cuana and Tullweim first made sure Synelle and Torali were ok then the Cimmerian bandaged the Aesir’s wounds. After fifteen minutes the party took a deep breath and made their way to Ianthe’s gate.

The Heroes of Ophir

Count Clavanedes had the leaders of the King’s army imprisoned including Iskandrian, the White Eagle of Ophir. Countess Synelle expressed her concern that Valentius had not been present at the battle and feared he had indeed been taken by Iskandrian. Cuana remembered the man he’d rescued from the King’s dungeon and presented the wretch to Synelle. She was stunned that this was indeed the noble next in line as the ruler of Ianthe and the throne of Ophir. Dhak inspected the man and noted there was no mark on Valentius to account for his condition. The Stygian looked beneath the Count’s collar and found some kind of necklace which had had mystically robbed the Count of his senses. When the Stygian removed it the Count’s eyes immediately focused on his surroundings and he demanded to know what was going on. Cuana related his tale of rescuing Valentius from the dungeons and the events of the past night. With a look of gratitude on his face the Count thanked Cuana for his rescue.

Later that same day Valentius was presented to the people of Ianthe as the successor to the crown. A great ceremony was held to much applause as Countess Synelle was offered the queenship and honors were bestowed upon the mercenaries who had risked their lives for the country. Cuana, Dhak, Enaro, Tullweim, and Xacksmith were all made knights of the realm. The Cimmerian was given an exquisite Akbitanan greatsword by the king. Tullweim was presented with a fierce great helm decorated in the visage of a wolf by Queen Synelle. All five mercenaries were given 1,000 silver coins and a gem-encrusted Akbitanan broadsword or arming sword and the finest wool cloaks dyed with the deepest crimson. The Ophireans, both noble and common, cheered, gifted, and feted the sellswords as heroes for weeks. The feasts were elaborate affairs, the wine and ale were endless, and the women exceptionally appreciative of the heroes’ accomplishments. Little was said of the plot to summon Al’Kiir as nobody who knew of the events wanted the dark past to color the countries new era.