The fellowship reformed
Derek Schiller sat in the rowdy common room of the Rat on a Stick doing his best to ignore the jostling from drunk patrons. By and large the drunkards were kobolds but occasionally there were larger more bizarre humanoids. Beside Derek sat the elf Yuriel whom he’d liberated from the kobolds slave pens. The two had survived the horrors of the dungeon for some time. Derek turned his attention from his oddly flavoursome fungus brew to the entrance where two heavily armoured warriors had recently arrived. It was his old comrades Frank and Wilhelm. Derek called them over to his table and the group shared information. Much to Derek’s surprise his friends had dispatched the burning skeleton he had hoped to slay in order to further boost his reputation and therefore his claim to the Schiller throne. Frank proudly wore the still burning skull on his shield, it had been serving him as a light source for some time. Old friendships were renewed and war stories swapped. They agreed to form a larger party and explore more of the lower levels of Stonehell.
“Your an elf right?” asked Wilhelm hopefully fumbling in his pack for a spell book.
“It’s the pointy ears that gives it away.” Yuriel responded.
“Here. We took all these books, wands and scrolls from mages stupid enough to think they could kill us.” The warrior handed over a pile of books and scrolls.
“That’s quiet the haul.” The elf maiden said . “It’ll take me some time to go through them but I thank you for this valuable gift.”
“It’s not a problem. I’m just glad we’ve finally got someone who can use all this wizard junk.”
A fistful of copper
Frank then became involved in a lengthy argument with the owner of the Rat on a Stick over the price of staying in the inn. They would need a room for some time as Wilhelm had fallen under a charm cast by Larchess the medusa. Frank hoped that a lengthy rest would soon set his companions mind at ease. The warrior argued his case with the tavern owner that he and his companion had done much for the kobold community in dealing with the Khan and in return they should receive free lodging. In the end he took his complaints to Trustee Sniv where his stance was vindicated and much copper was spared. Derek stood by despairingly as the warrior argued his case. The noble, to whom money had never been a problem, simply didn’t understand the fuss over a fistful of copper. With lodgings secured the band hunkered down in their private room admitting no one lest they be part of a medusa’s trap and only occasionally bringing out a full chamber pot of hideous odor. The food of the Rat on the Stick was playing havoc with Wilhelm’s digestive system. Eventually the charm passed and the group got down to business. Trustee Sniv provided them with a handful more slaves whom the group outfitted with the mail and weapons of prior hirelings who had died in battle. No one expected the new recruits to live long.
Lost dwarf adventurers
The band made their way to the elevator and descended to the fourth level. They moved swiftly through the abandoned ogre caves. Frank contemplated going after the harpoon spider that had almost slain Wilhelm but thought better of it. The mindless beast would have little use for treasure and that is what they were after. Exploring to the south the band found a number of detritus littered cells. The first they searched contained wandering beserkers who landed some solid blows before being dispatched. Further searching revealed another elevator leading deeper into Stonehell. The group left well enough alone. Oddly enough while exploring this level the hero’s stumbled across two separate bands of dwarves who claimed to be searching for gold, as all dwarves do. Kiel, their leader, explained how the two groups had lost track of each other while searching. Each group had been part of the same expedition. Unfortunately they had lost their map and knew very little about the dungeon. They were aware of a Temple of Pain that lay to the west and of a group known as the gentlemen ghouls who laird close at hand. The ghouls were said to be incredibly rich. Perhaps if the two groups joined together they could plunder their wealth? Frank had earlier discovered some veins of gold in the ogre lair and promised to lead the dwarves to that wealth if they joined the group for a while. The dwarves, Kiel, Durgin, Feely and Keely readily agreed.
An invitation to dinner and a botched recital
The party pondered their options. The Temple of Pain didn’t seem like an attractive option and with their numbers bolstered by dwarves and the prospect of excellent loot the gentlemen ghouls seemed a more lucrative prospect. Derek grew bored by the debate over the most sensible course of action and headed towards the ghouls halls, marked by a grand sign held by a skeleton announcing a welcome to all prospective dinner guests. Seeing the rogue head off the rest of the band soon followed. They set an ambush about the door. Derek knocked. After a moments the double doors opened partially and Derek was confronted by a gaunt yet refined looking individual resplendent in faded finery.
“Good evening to you Sir.” The ghoul spoke in a refined tone. “Are you inquiring as to dinner? If so you must know that we only accept the most cultured of guests. No boors you understand.”
“Why I am a gentleman of the courts of Tilea. I know much of poetry and fine literature.” Derek responded. Indeed he had spent time in the universities of Tilea at his father’s expense. Sadly he had spent most of his time drinking and missing classes.
“Then regale me with a poem, or a sonnet if you will so that I may best judge your credentials.”
Derek strained his memory for any poem yet only the crudest leapt to mind. He cursed his lack of schooling silently under his breath before using what he hoped would be a passable ditty about a man and his bucket. Needless to say it did not impress and was met with a sharp slap. The gentleman ghouls slap froze Derek’s muscles. The rogue was stricken with paralysis.
Trapped by lightning
While there had been no agreed signal to launch their ambush Derek being paralyzed seemed as good as any. The party raced out from their hiding spots hacking down the gentleman ghoul in the doorway. Pushing open the great double doors the group saw a cluster of ghouls and hounds at the end of a long hall. The lead ghoul began gesturing arcanely and the hero’s ducked for cover. A hireling was ordered to take a quick bowshot at the ghouls. This he did and paid the price as the ghouls sent forth a great blast of lightning which tore his head off. Blood splattered the group and Frank began to ponder how they were going to get out of this. The hero’s were wedged in small alcoves off the main ghoul hall. While this gave them cover any retreat would expose them to whatever magics the ghouls had at their disposal. That last lightning bolt did not instill Frank with a sense of hope.
“It seems there has been some misunderstanding.” The ghouls called out. “Turn and leave and all shall be well. You have our word as gentlemen.” So began a protracted discussion that led nowhere.
Derek, whom had recovered from his paralysis during the discussion, decided to take them up on the offer and retreated with Yuriel. Frank and Wilhelm and the remaining retainers would have none of it though. They hadn’t become rich and successful adventurers by running away. Frank began to fill the hall with water from his decanter of endless water hoping that the next lightning bolt would backfire and fry their foes. As Frank poured forth water Wilhelm doused the entrance doors with oil should they need a barrier of flame to hold back their ghoulish foe.
Fire and blood
As he retreated Derek noted a number of figures in adjoining tunnels accompanied by large rust red hounds with flames licking at their lips. The ghouls were moving to encircle his companions. This he could not allow and while not directly endangering himself he did manage to cry out a warning to his companions. Wilhelm lit the double doors aflame creating a barrier preventing additional gentlemen ghouls getting involved in the ensuing battle. The rest of the band moved to battle the flanking war party. The rust red hounds breathed great gouts of flame badly burning their dwarven ally Kiel and Frank. The battle was bloody and chaotic, first the dangerous hell hounds were neutralized then the ghouls worn down till the final one disappeared as if by magics. The flames about the double doors were beginning to burn low and the party decided discretion was the better part of valor and fled for the elevator leaving scores of dead hirelings on the field. Once they felt safe Frank showed their dwarven allies, all of whom had survived despite taking some serious hits, the vein of gold he had earlier found in the ogre’s lair. The dwarves parted company with the group there.
A job in town
The group headed back to Drellin’s Ferry to resupply. Their first stop was Tina the witches on the outskirts of town. Tina had supplied them with a number of extraordinarily handy potions and even brewed them some potent poison which had enabled them to obliterate the ogre’s camp in Stonehell. Unfortunately Tina had moved on. Frank had earlier speculated that with her new found wealth, thanks to the prices she had charged, Tina would retire and live a life of luxury. Perhaps she had. Grumbling and sorely disappointed the party moved on to the town proper. At the Bearded Goat tavern the group picked up a number of additional warriors. Wilhelm and his entourage went on to pick up a new grand pavilion. He had earlier commissioned one as his last had been destroyed when the gargoyles ate through their mule train back in Stonehell. While this happened Derek propped his feet up on the table and prepared to sample a fine red. There were perks to being the son of Gerhadt Schiller, lord of the domain, and fine wines from the barkeep was one of them.
“Excuse me Master Shiller.” A young messenger interrupted Derek just as he poured himself and Yuriel a glass. “The Burgomeister Markus would like a word with you. He needs assistance dealing with a monster that terrorizes the woods.”
“Tell Markus that I shall be along shortly. And here is a coin for your troubles.”
The trouble with Gnolls
The Burgomeister met the group in his office at his estate just outside the town itself. There he outlined the threat posed by a renegade gnoll who hunted humans for sport.
“Bring me the gnoll Greylock’s head and I shall reward you with a map to a dwarven treasure horde.”
“We need no reward.” Derek responded before receiving a nudge from Frank “But we shall accept your generosity none the less.”
The group set out for the adjoining forest. They had been given a vague area by the Burgomeister in which the Gnoll was said to hunt. A number of days of fruitless searching passed before one night there was a commotion. Wilhelm and Furgack were on watch when the ogre shamaness let out a howl of pain. An arrow from the darkness had lodged in her jaw. Wilhelm roused the camp who split up and began searching the woods. The gnoll foolishly attempted to fight the large band from the shadows but was spotted and beaten into submission. During the interrogation process Wilhelm admonished their captive. “Why would you throw you life away attacking a grand pavilion? Do you not know what it’s presence implies. Can you not see the implicit threat? You could fit dozens of men in there. Why would you attack dozens of men?” Greylock the gnoll capitulated and lead them to his lair. When asked if it was trapped he insisted it was not. They might have asked him if he had some pets or not but if so the gnoll was vague in his response.
Platinum, plot and a lion
A search of the gnoll’s cave revealed a secret alcove. Derek was quick to pilfer as much as he could from there, in particularly a stash of platinum coins. Wilhelm was content enough with the gnoll’s fine magic battle axe. While looting the band were met with a growl at the caves entrance. A great lion had raced to block their escape. It’s collar implied it was some sort of pet. Battle was joined and swiftly finished. The outnumbered lion was no match for the blades of the band. The hero’s were not happy at the gnoll not telling them about the lion and began torturing him. Greylock was resigned to his inevitable death. In a final act of defiance the gnoll sowed the seeds of doubt in the groups mind as he revealed a tale of treachery. It seems the gnoll had by chance met the Burgomeister Markus wandering alone in the woods. Rather than kill him, as Greylock was want to do, he spoke to the man. Markus offered the gnoll a great sum of coin to hunt and kill Gerhadt Schiller, Derek’s father and nominal ruler of Drellin’s Ferry as well as a number of other scattered settlements in the area. He had paid in platinum, the groups discovery of platinum lent some weight to the veracity of the tale. Wilhelm rewarded the gnoll’s tale with a quick death signaling Furack to smash the hyena-mans face in with her club. The end was swift and brutal. The group then pondered what to do with the information they had received. Markus seemed like a nice guy and he had certainly helped them out. Did they really want to get involved?