It is a stormy summer night as a raging thunderstorm darkens the skies, and heavy rain clatters upon the rooftops of Southern Cross. The border-town in Southern Nyr serves as a gateway into the Kingdom of Nyr from the southern realms. As such the town is built around its impressive garrison fortress, manned by both veteran soldiers and young green raw recruits. The vigilant soldiers manning Southern Cross’s turrets always keep an eye towards the east, where lies the Dark Elf Lands. Once a rogue drow colony, only orcs, kobolds, and brigands dwell there. Regardless of the absence of the hated ones, it still always remains a clear and present danger to the goodly aligned realms who seek peace and prosperity.
Just as one adventure ends, another is about to unfold…
WHISPER ENTERED into the bowels of the Sundered Sword Inn’s hazy commonroom, thankful for the usual hazy smog that lingered thickly in the air. You pulled your hood low over your head to avoid unwanted stares. From a single glance you devoured all the details and positions of the patronage, and none seemed out of place: mercs, prostitutes, professional gamblers, brigands, merchants, farmers, tradesmen, craftsmen, teamsters, and soldiers. They looked at you less than interested, their eyes only trying to determine A. if you were hiring, B. if you were worth the hassel of robbing and C. if you were exploitable in some other way.
For a solid week prior to the date of the secret meeting hosted by this Harkonnian sorceress you staked out the town. You learned that the thieves guild were cleverely embedded within the town watch, the silent legion. They were highly organized and quite conservative. They extorted protection services from local businesses, ensured timely shipments of deliveries from sea or by land didn’t fall prey to banditry, and were paid to harass and disrupt rival enterprise. Most of the Silent Legion also moonlit as nightly security guards for the numerous warehouses, protecting them from freelance thieves and rogue operatives who weren’t affilliated with their organization.
Lady Kyrillia is a beautiful smoldering woman of incredible looks, dark raven silk hair and a body most men would sell their souls for a night of worshipping at her temple. Beside her, an impressive looking fighter clad in fanciful armor, grim faced, ruggedly handsome tough and imposing looking. He’s a killer, he’s killed other warriors, he’s good at it and he obeys. He’s not smart in the scholarly sense but instinctually he’s like a cunning predator.
As you sat, you noted the others seated about the table:
A big bellied Elf with slanted eyes, a mustache and goatee and many rings on his fingers. His eyes radiated and exuded a familiar sense of deceptive cunning, not so dissimilar to your own. You’ve never seen a fat elf before now, and thats quite a feat considering you’ve journeyed with the biggest collection of sideshow freaks in a traveling circus. He was armed with only with a jewel encrusted dagger, and a pair of hand crossbows dangled at his side. He looked at you for a moment, speculatively as if wondering what use you might be and how to best to take advantage of that usefulness. He tweaked his mustache speculatively as if lost in some speculative reverie.
A pretty brown haired warrioress, clad in fanficul but light looking armor and possessing slate gray eyes. You note numerous weaponry upon her: spear, scimitar, some type of bladed boomerang (glaive), bola. On her head she wore a white gold helm with noseguard, fashioned after a hawk. She looked at you skeptically for a moment.
Another woman, dark brown hair and equally as attractive as the first woman. She wore black leather, and had a whip at her belt, an incredible amount of daggers and a hand crossbow. Across her back was a shortsword in its scabbard. Her eyes were haughty and defiant, unimpressed by you or surprised.
The next fellow was a man with dark brown hair, armored in simple chainmail and armed with a longsword, though you counted numerous throwing daggers strategically placed upon him that would impress most thieves. This man was a friend of scoundrels you might guess, though only a speculation. He seemed like a friendly bloke, and he greeted you in a way that was not over the top nor aloof, but just the right balance between. You could sense he’s been through some struggles, and you might peg him as being a Nyrian from this realm maybe a hardened northerner, or even from Jez’zur.
The last one was a hooded half-elf with two quivers full of elven arrows on his back, gloved hands, a black tunic and a single elvish blade at his hip. It was obvious he leaned more favorably on his elvish heritage than human. He eyed you briefly then lowered his head.
Lady Kyrillia beamed you a smile, saying ‘last but not least is Whisper who comes highly recommended by a trusted friend of mine. He will serve as your eyes and ears of this party, which in the past such expeditons have been thoroughly crushed by lack of a proper rogue in their midst. And Whisper allow me to introduce you:
This Elven mage is Valtor, a competent wizard and alchemist. He’s one of the best alchemists I’ve ever met, and I’ve known many. As well as a master of planning, treachery and strategies that are terrifying. Terrifyingly beautiful.
This lovely shieldmaiden is Kessa of Elsmyere, and she is quite skilled in use of those weapons she carries about her.
The woman next to her is Morga, a bounty huntress from Harkkonia. She specializes in retrieval of outlaws, escaped slaves, you name it and she’s also adept at stealth work. She will serve as a additional stealth specialist for this expedition.
Meet Storm, he’s a fighter from Impiltur. Much needed added muscle for this party. His blade is blessed by the God of Swords, and he wears dwarf-armor. You will find his dagger throwing ability nearly at your own level of expertise.
And last but not least, the half-elf Arbane Arrowind. An arcane archer, I’ve scoured the 13 kingdoms for such a rare find as he. His unique ability to lace arrows with spells is truly a gift from the Gods.
I present you with contracts to sign here and now. These contracts state the following:
You are not to for duration of this mission and all other tasks performed while in service of Lady Kyrillia to engage in evil practices against one another. You are expected to cooperate and perform as professional agents working together for successful completion of works delegated. Betrayals, purposeful disention, and disloyalty will be severely disciplined by the entirety of the entire group., compensation will be witheld forthwith upon such reported transgressions.
Use your particular talents for the whole of the group. Communicate effectively with one another, get past your personal differences and ego. Your very lives hang in one anothers hands. Your’e expected to work as a team, as a singular entity. As individuals you’re nothing to me but a parasite drawing good coin, but in cooperative interdependency you are a highly prized blunt instrument.
Your group must vote in majority upon major decisions that rise up during the mission. There are no single leaders unless you vote upon one, and that in itself will take a good amount of time.
For this first expedition, I will provide you each with a allowance of 65 gp spending cash, a line of credit up to 200 gp each of you at the market plaza, and 250 gp as a down payment, all of which will go to your next of kin or designated person upon your death, funeral costs will be derived from your early retainer fee. You will also have accomodations for 3 days and 2 nights in the Sundered Sword, including your meals. I have provided six average steeds, on loan from the garrison commander himself. Keep them well, any harm to them will be deducted from your share.
During the course of this mission you’re not to resort to heavy drinking, seduction, carnal relations, and prostitution of any sort. Additionally you’re not to needlessly murder any captives, prisoners or derelicts you cross paths with. Instead they should be captured and brought back alive for questioning. Additionally I have conscripted the services of two mercenaries who have met my high standard for this party’s success. They’re to guard your steeds, protect your persons whilst you sleep, assist with cooking duties, serve as sentinels and collect firewood or water when needed. They are impoverished mercenaries desperate for coin, and for their reward I have bought their families debts which I’ve reduced considerably. You’re to protect them as aptly as you can, they’re not as formidable or experienced as the majority of you. They’re good lads and are sharp eyed, sharp witted too.
The Elsmyrian interjected after she waved a dismissive hand toward a servant bringing her food and drink, ‘Lady Kyrillia, a question has rose in my mind. I am intimately familiar with the shadowed forest you call the Dark Elf Lands. When I was fourteen winters of age I journeyed there for a week with only my sword, dagger, and spear. It was a rite of passage for many of my ilk, a challenge by my people. It was difficult, but nothing too taxing. Some splintered bands of weak orcs, too stupid to fight in cooperation with one another, a brigand here and there, and no drow elves. My test was to find and kill a drow elf. I only encountered one, and it was a half-drow so it didn’t exactly count. Add to this the half-drow wasn’t even a bad soul, more of a misguided lost child. I went underground, delved deep until I found an infernal black elf, killed him and dragged his corpse back to the surface and from there, my homeland’
Lady Kyrillia: “What are you getting at, Kessa?”
Kessa: “that the dark elf woods and this isle of the dead, for such a mighty force as this is far too excessive for a simple capture of one mere cleric. I could go there myself, and bring this man back to you singlehandedly. Though it sounds much like a conceit, it is not. Any one of us here could do so, so could your bodyguard there. This implores the obvious question as to why’
The one named Storm interupted, he turned to her and spoke in a slight raspy voice that sounded controlled but intimidating in its quality ‘why do you ask, Elsmyrian? Ample coin for all, a good sized party, provisions and even magic to evade unwanted battle against orcs. We’ll bring this dog back to our generous benefactor and be compensated for a simple capture’
The elven mage had been analyzing the contract with narrowing slits for eyes, tweaking his goatee as he was contemplating events, ‘Uh, Lady Kyrillia an addendum to your contract. I would like to be able to keep any living creatures we come across as personal slaves. There’s no profit in finding and aiding such beings only to deliver them unto your hands. Besides, I somehow doubt the isle of the dead contains anything worthwhile as far as treasures go. Especially since you procured this thief here I’m certain we won’t outfox the fox. Less said fox will be receptive to sharing his rabbits before stuffing them into his own foxhole for the winter, hmmmm?” he looked at you with a disingenious smile.
Morga spoke up ‘Enough of this insipid banter. We’re all here, right now and professionals. We can work together or get the hell out, no queries or concerns. You, Elsmyrian leave your moral quandries back in the shieldlands. This is Nyr, things work differently in this place. We don’t care how tough or the opposite is, we have a duty and we perform it . Otherwise our good patron here can round up another slew of persons easily enough without trouble’ She then turned towards the hooded half-elf ‘well, you’ve been fairly silent up to now ‘Arbane’ what say you?’
The half-elf removed his bow and shot through a single hole in the wall sending two arrows through at a time. Both arrows thudded into the far wall of the adjacent room, and you saw trickles of blood flowing out of the area the arrows penetrated. Arbane didn’t make any explaination to his action, he merely said ‘The Elsmyrian speaks rightly, the Drow Woods are empty of threat, apart from roaming pockets of Kobold or Orcs that war against each other. The gate to deepearth had long ago been sealed, impossible to breach. The isle of the dead is another matter entirely, not many know of its ancient history. It may well be the source of befoulment for that district of the Black Woods. Empress Isiona has declared it her desire to have the isle investigated and purged, and this ensemble a well birthed move on your part Kyrillia. Since this mission furthers the desire of my lady, I will not accept coin as monetary reward but will gladly bequeath such to the orphanage in the outskirts of town, would you see to it mi’lady?”
‘But of course’ Kyrillia said.