Great-grandchild of the sister's gibbon's friend of the nephew of the Campaign that Would Not Die, now in 3.25e
Møøse Trained By: Hugh Foster

A Nice Simple Commission

The Leaping Throne, Tzallis, Trakar Swamps, 2nd September 2100, afternoon



It was a cool, clear September day in the battered, wounded town of Tzallis as a very unlikely group of potential heroes gathered in the Leaping Throne tavern, near the jetty end of Tavern Street. The owner and barman Odimer was his usual jovial self, keeping the ale flowing for the as yet modest company. The magnificent buxom barmaid Nancy was cruising across the floor like a schooner under full sail, half-a-dozen ale jacks gripped in her muscular hands, her shoulders like a wrestler's.

The place was fairly quiet with a few locals in, drinking and eating. Sayroth, one of the town’s cobblers, was talking at a table to Stalis, the best Provisioner in town. Benmyr, Guildmaster of the two Boatwrights, sat alone looking weary.

The Throne was one of the two best taverns in town, and an intriguing offer of a paying job of benefit to the town had drawn the group to a corner table.

Baggy Sackdottir

In one of the far corners of the booth sat a towering woman with a distinct dash of orcish blood in her, her dark red hair done up in tight dreadlocks and mail armour sheathing her powerful form. A massive two-handed sword stood against the wall behind her, with a strange sigil of a star dangling from it, the design replicated on her armour and garments in different places. She occasionally cut suspicious glances at some of her companions, but seemed not find cause to follow them up. This was Baggy Sackdottir, paladin of Bahamut currently assigned to the Peloric temple here in Tzallis

Herb Bloodrage

Next to her was another half-orc, a shorter but equally hefty young man with pure white hair and a peculiar pale blue shade to his skin and an expression of amiable absent-mindedness on his face. Heavy scale armour covered him, and a smiliar massive sword, this one of ancient and unfamiliar make, stood next to him within easy reach. This was the improbably-named Herbert Bloodrage, one-time psychological interrogator and failed torturer's apprentice to the Thieves' Guild, now a warrior in training at the Mercenaries' Guild instead. He seemed to know Baggy and a couple of the others and had started telling a joke, but seemed to have got rather lost somewhere in the middle.


Next to him, leaning back into the shadowy corner, was a tall, slender elf, his lean features angled as he looked around, visible in the light that always falls on the elvish face. His eyes were blue, and his blonde hair had been shorn back to a mere fuzz. Leathers and worn clothes were all wilderness colours, for this was the traveller and scout Talian, a visitor from the loyalist elves of Lomegor who still held out against the Scorpion Empire and a member of the local Navigators' Guild. A tall elvish longbow jutted from his pack on the floor and a short sword rode one hip.


Sitting next to him and a contrast in height and width was a hill dwarf from Derran Howe, descendant of the dwarves who fled the Ndrall mountains in the wake of the disaster of the Ritual of Flaying, and almost half a world away from home. He also was armoured in overlapping scales, but clearly dwarf-forged and minutely detailed. The emblems of the dragon-god Bahamut were emblazoned on his armour and equipment in similar wise to Baggy's and the pair were clearly well acquainted. The presence of a traditional priest's mace next to him showed that he was a cleric of the Master of the North Wind, though.


Next to him, and attracting worried glances from most people in the tavern, was a slim human woman in plain, dark clothes. Her skin had the texture and pallor of the recently-dead, until she moved, and her eyes were dark and sunken. Her resemblance to a new-raised zombie was only spoiled by clear signs of respiration. Her relaxed air was at odds with the caution shown by most of her companions; she seemed to have no concern for possible dangers. A huge, dark raven with a malicious humour in its' eyes perched on the back of her chair, clearly enjoying a pickled olive he'd been given. Nazariel was an Aasimar sorcereress and sometime student at Tzallis' tiny mageguild; the raven's name was Spy.


Next to her was the Duskblade Zurran, also equipped with a two-handed sword, and a fellow mage-guild student. [More detail on Zurran is yet to come!]


Finally, a tall man with night-black hair and pale features sat near the doorway with his back to the partition. His eyes were unusual, yellow like a wolf's and with cat-slit vertical pupils. His hands as he picked at his meal were fast and deft and he seemed constantly poised to spring. Dark leathers and a voluminous cloak shrouded him, clearly designed to merge into the shadows, and a long plain sword hung at his hip. He too had a longbow and a remarkable number of arrows piled next to his chair, as well as a well-stuffed backpack with two big coils of rope hung on the outside. He seemed acquainted with Talian and Herb, as well as the warriors around the table. This was Baylock, guilded thief and rumoured to be demonblooded, as it was said the Lady of Chance had been in her mortal days.


Dalyn Sunlance

All seven of these people had been resident in Tzallis for some time, and all were in need of gainful employment (and, for the priest and paladin, a worthy quest). The job offer had brought them here to meet the town constable Roderic, but when he came in he was accompanied by two other people, one of whom raised eyebrows and in some cases people to their feet; the town Magistrate Dalyn Sunlance.

The post of Magistrate had evolved over the centuries of Tzallis' decline, until it was now more a hereditary village headman position. Dalyn was generally respected as a good ruler, managing to keep the trade flowing and the guilds - large and small - balanced, but both he and Roderic were aware that there were factions they could not challenge; the Thieves most of all.


Behind them was a weatherbeaten man in worn greens and browns; Viggo, a Ranger of the Navigators' Guild. Talian and he were acquainted and exchanged nods of greeting. He settled into a chair at one side, eyes on the door, as Roderic signalled Nancy to take an order for a round of drinks, handing her some coins as the seven requested their preferred refreshments.

Once everyone was settled, he cleared his throat and began. "Thank you all for coming," he said, "I hope these drinks are acceptable part payment for your time." Baggy glanced at her cup of water and lifted a dark eyebrow, saying nothing.

Up until now, (continued Dalyn) the balance of power in the regions around Tzallis – between the orcs at Arakhor to the East and the lizardmen from the swamps to the west - had been around even. However, in recent weeks, rumours had surfaced that the orcs were searching for some kind of magical item which could greatly tip the balance, apparently by allowing them to gain control of several currently hostile neighboring tribes.
Raids by both races were a constant problem; but a supremacy of one over the other would be far worse, probably disastrous for the shaky old town.

A priest had been paid to do a Divination, which suggested that the key to all this lay in the ancient elvish ruins of Morvramorn, located a hundred miles north of Tzallis – “on the hard”, as the local vernacular put it. The divination also focussed on the colour blue for some reason.  The mission’s objective was to locate, identify and obtain this item.

Dalyn explained that he did not want forces directly traceable to Tzallis involved in this operation (meaning Roderic’s guards or town mercs). Something like that might cause the orcs to drop their hostilities with the lizardmen and concentrate on an attack on the town. “You, on the other hand, are all ahem relatively unknown.” he said as tactfully as possible.

“The town merchantile guilds have put up some funds; they’re sick of having their caravans intercepted as it is. For the successful completion of this mission I am able to pay three hundred marks, in gold, or in Mageguild credit," by which he meant 300gp worth of enchantment on an item limited to the abilities of the Guild members "for each of you.” Talian immediately opened negotiations, for more payment, for an advance, and for any deceased members' shares to be spread amongst the survivors. After some haggling, Dalyn reluctantly put up enough from town funds for another hundred each, and fifty each advance for supplies if needed. As to shares, he shrugged and said it was really up to them; the payment was what it was.

"Really, if this thing's in an elvish ruin," said Talian with some intensity, "It belongs to the elves. It should go back to them." Nobody else supported this much, with some mutters of "it may be something else entirely"

"Viggo here, along with a fellow, has been within a mile or so of Mavramorn within the last month;" added Dalyn "they didn't notice any signs of movement there then, but the Divination was done after that. He can guide you to it." Viggo had with him some maps, rather old and clearly copies of copies, showing the location of the ancient elvish fortress.

"So do I take it you accept the job?" he asked. Someone piped up, "What if we happen to, urm, locate anything else of value in these ruins?" Dalyn shrugged. "That's up to you," he said unconcernedly. "It's not much," said Baylock. "It could be a lot," said Roderic. "For all we know, the ruins may be deserted and this blue - something - may just be waiting for you to stroll in and pick it up." A couple of people smiled a little cynically.

DM Note: Mudskippers are unique to Tzallis, a flat-bottomed boat like a large punt, with oars that can either row it through water or reverse to lug it across marsh normally impassible to true boats.

"I've hired two 'skippers to take you across to the hard," said Roderic. "They'll be waiting at the River Street jetty in the morning."

Pouch of Glod

Dalyn placed a small pouch on the table; "Fifty each," he said, "and I'll leave enough behind the bar to prevent you needing to buy your own drinks again tonight." He smiled around the group. "Good luck, ladies and gents," he said, and left, trailed by Roderic.

Tzallis, Trakar Swamps, 2nd September 2100, evening

The party spent the last of the day gathering supplies for the trip; extra trail rations, ammunition and - in Talian's case - lard and marbles from Algath the provisioner.

Baggy and Chambu spent some time in prayer and meditation, gathering their spiritual strength and asking for guidance.

Trakar Swamps, 3rd September 2100, morning

The Trakar Swamps credit

The next morning, they located the two sturdy boats at the jetty as promised, and boarded them, settling into place as the boatmen rowed them into the Gallowglass river and across. The Gallowglass didn't really have banks as such, just patches where the reeds faced from open water to marsh. Passing into this, the two boats headed eastwards towards the Hard.

Trakar Swamps, 4rd September 2100, mid-afternoon

The swamp was its usual smelly, mucky self, and strange patterns of muck formed hypnotic spirals around the oarlegs as the beetle-like mud-skippers skimmed lurchingly across the mud.

Towards the end of the second day in the swamp, as the companions were dozing in the boats and without any warning, the water swirled between them and a long green form reared up dripping before lashing out and sinking its' fangs into Chambu the dwarf. The boat occupants sprang into action.

Giant Marsh Snek

All four boatmen scrambled to get out of the way, one of them going face down in his bilges as Herb pushed past him, drawing his huge sword from his back scabbard. As he did so, Baylock nocked an arrow and, aiming well away from the head that loomed over Chambu's boat, planted an arrow into the snake's body.

Leaning past the cringing rowers, Talian stabbed upward at the viper's eyes, cutting a big gash in its neck. Raching forward, Baggy dragged Chambu back towards her, away from the snake - though it was easily big enough to reach anywhere on the boat. Sure enough, it struck again, but this time the strike bounced off the dwarf's armour.

Nazariel muttered the words of a spell and sent a Magic Missile across between the boats, blasting a hole in the snake as Baylock reached for another arrow and shot it again. Then Herb's ancient two-hander sliced across its neck, taking the head clean off and sending it flying up into the air.

Baylock reached out, trying to catch the head as it came down; but it had arced the other way and was heading for Baggy and Chambu. The dwarf reached out but was short of the mark as the head fell into the mire, following the corpse as it sank from sight.

Later that day, the boats grounded and the boatmen announced that his was as far as even'skippers could take them. Disembarking, the party squelched laboriously away from the swamp towards firmer ground.

North of the Denric Forest, Wastelands, 6th September 2100, morning

After some travel across increasingly solid ground, the party found themselves crossing an area of damp, rocky scrub when they encountered an increasing density of regular stones - the remains of a long-abandoned road. "What's this?" asked Nazariel. Viggo shrugged; while familiar with the wild, he was no lore-master. Zurran the duskblade spoke up; "I think this is the remains of one of the old Tellaran roads. Before the Elf Death, they cris-crossed the North." Viggo looked interested, then gestured along it. "I know it leads to our destination," he said, "so let's make use of it."


A few minutes later, Spy the Raven, scouting ahead, paused in the air, and Nazariel felt disquiet and some fear bubble up through his emotions. "There's something in those bushes ahead and left," she said, nodding in the direction. The others turned to look, and sure enough, something was moving through the undergrowth towards them, around a hundred feet away. Suddenly it burst out, bounding across the soggy turf towards them - some kind of huge cat, the size of a man or more - and as it did, something horrific happened.


The skin of its' face seemed to peel away, leaving the flesh and muscles of its' head uncovered as it gave voice to a hideous, descending, atonal scream that sent washes of fear rushing from the adrenals to the brains of all who heard it.

It was too much for Baylock, Herb and Zurran; their nerve broke and they turned and fled headlong, as did Spy who rapidly disappeared out of sight. Blinking at this abandonment and swallowing his own fear, Viggo drew a bead on the onrushing monster and winged it with an arrow, as did Talian. Nazariel prepared a spell, as Baggy stepped up next to her, sword hefted but not at all sure she wanted to end the life of an animal simply living its life. She roared and flourished the blade, trying to discourage it but to no apparent avail. As it bore down on her, she slammed a Magic Missile into its' side as arrows whistled past it, not slowing it at all. As it reached her and leaped, Baggy swung a mighty stroke with the flat of her greatsword, knocking it back onto its' haunches. Stunned, it began to sink down; and at that moment Nazariel darted forward and sliced her sickle neatly through its throat. In a gush of lifeblood, the creature died at her feet. "Krenshar," commented Viggo shortly; "normally hunt in packs..."

Baggy and Nazariel stared at each other. "We didn't have to kill it," said Baggy severely, "it was just an animal." Nazariel smiled slightly. "Death is not what most people consider it to be," she said rather dreamily, "not such a thing to be feared." Baggy glared at her for a while and then turned, realized the fled three were way away, and stalked off muttering.

Meanwhile, Baylock, Herb and Zurran were fleeing across the landscape and passing a cluster of rocks. As they did so, all three caught sight of movement behind them and it dawned on them that three more Krenshar had broken cover and were bearing down on them from behind. They were the flushed prey - and the hunters were closing in.

DM Note: a 20/20 from Loz here at the very start of the campaign.

Chambu clanked across the grass, trying to angle himself so that he could shoot at one of the new arrivals without hitting Talian - typical bloody elf - he grumbled internally. At that moment, the magically-induced terror suddenly broke, and the fleeing three were themselves again. Baylock flicked his fingers against a rock as he pounded past it, and a globe of utter Darkness enveloped him and a twenty-foot radius around him. Within it, hidden from view, he jinked left, sprinted on a bit and turned, bending his longbow. The Krenshar, bounding into the dark after him, had made a guess and turned for the edge of the effect on the right. As it emerged, Baylock shot an arrow into it.

Herbert and Zurran pivoted and each struck out with their big swords as the Krenshar ran up. Zurran's strike was pinpoint - in through one eye, killing the monster before it had a chance to blink. Herb hacked at his, dropping it after a couple of strikes, and between Zurran and Baylock, the last was dealt with as it began to think about running away. The party regathered, getting their breath back from what could have been a very effective ambush indeed.

Session Date: 25th August 2020; in Cyberspace!