13 Goons

Plans Gone Awry
Goodbye, Noble Josef

As the group makes their way out of the stinking swamp, they follow the river that should lead them straight to Axis. On the way, they spot a large pillar of black smoke coming from a nearby town. They approach the town warily, searching for any living creatures or signs as to what happened. However, it appears they are too late to help anyone. All the residents of Blackford lie dead in the streets, either burned alive or chopped up by crude weapons. Belkas identifies this to be the work of the Orc Lord, likely a band of his marauders, the likes of which have never been seen so close to Axis before.

No sooner do they step back on to the road than they find themselves surrounded by a group of the Emperor’s Dragon Knights, lead by Veraline. She is only too happy to arrest the group, as she has long known Josef and believes him to be the lowest of criminal scum. Accused of sacking the down of Blackford, the group is thrown in irons and taken to the dungeons of Axis to await their trial.

Luckily for them, the justice system moves swiftly in Axis. At dawn the next day, they are rudely awakened by guards and escorted to the arena. There they are given basic weaponry and explained the rules of the trial by combat. Two teams of suspected criminals will be placed in the battleground wherein they will fight according to the very strict rules of the arena. Since the people of Axis fancy themselves a dignified lot, any who break the rules of the arena will be executed on the spot. Otherwise, which ever team can kill or incapacitate the leader of the other will be judged innocent of their crimes.

The party, trusting in Josef’s plans to lead them through, enter the arena optimistic of their chances (especially since they are in fact innocent). At at first, everything seems to go well enough for them. The arena is heavily trapped, but after only a few mishaps, they manage to deduce some of the patterns and, after a spectacular lightning bolt from Sarik, gain the upper hand on their opponents. However, the battle swiftly changes course after the enemy leader, an enormous Dragonblood named Bathor wades into the fray. With just two swings of his mighty sword, he dispatches Belkas and surges towards Josef and Thog. Thog attempts to slow the brute down with his ice magic but is ultimately unable to stop his mad rampage. Bathor fells Thog with another two swings before giving his full attention to Josef.

Josef, back against the wall, decides to try one of his most daring plans. He tells Sarik to blast them both with her icy breath, trusting in his own reflexes to save him from the worst of it. Josef was never as fast as he thought he was. The blast catches him full on in the back, direly wounding him and barely harming Bathor. Kinich, in a last ditch attempt, rips one of the enormous saw blade traps from the arena itself and hurls it at the brute before he can finish off Josef. Josef was never as lucky as he thought he was, either. The saw flew wide over their head while Bathor’s sword swung true. Josef was knocked unconscious.

The verdict was given. Guilty. The party would be executed at dawn the next day for their crimes.

Locked in prison, the group deliberates how best to spend their last night in this world. Frustrated with himself for failing the party, Josef decides upon a course of action. One final plan to save his friends from their fate. First, Kinich bends the bars to their cell enough for Josef to sneak up to the armory where their equipment is kept. This he brings back to the cells, giving Belkas and Sarik their weapons back. Next, he has Kinich and Belkas beat the tar out of him. Sufficiently bruised, he then says one last goodbye to the group before caking the outer wall of the prison with the last of his explosives. This he detonates, creating a clean escape route and attracting the attention of all of the guards who come storming in to see a bloody and battered Josef lying in the corner of his cell; his friends gone without a trace.

Josef explains to the guards that the group left him for dead for his failures in the arena, using his explosives to create their escape route. The guards open the cell and chase out through the hole in the wall, scouring the streets for the escapees. However, said escapees had made their exit much earlier through the stinking sulfuric sewers of Axis to escape into the Azure Bay, using Josef as a distraction to buy them time.

With a final thanks and wish for luck, the remaining members strike out in search of a boat.

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Swamp Quests

After agreeing to take Thog with them to Santa Cora, they decide to use Malefagor to see if he can teleport them any closer to Santa Cora. As luck would have it, he does manage to get them somewhat closer. Unfortunately, that location is smack in the middle of the stinking swamps and marshes of the Knee Deep.

As they wander the swamp searching for a way out, they come across the hut of a swamp witch. Wisely deciding they don’t wish to anger the witch, they politely knock on the door and introduce themselves. She happily invites them in and introduces herself as Irim. She explains that she lives in the swamp because it provides her with the ingredients necessary for the various potions and formulas she brews. Kinich and Belkas perk up at this point, hoping that she might be able to cure the diseases they’ve been stricken with.

Irim says that she would be happy to help, but that they will need to gather a few ingredients for her. She asks them to collect a handful of a purple wildflower that grows nearby and the tail of a manticore, who has a cave to the north-east. The group readily agrees and heads out in search of pretty flowers.

Finding the flowers proves simple enough, but they find that a group of lizardmen have beaten them to it. Wishing to avoid conflict, Sarik manages to bond with the lizardmen over their lizard heritage. Explaining that the others are just her slaves, she asks if they would be willing to share the flowers with him. Us lizard-folk have to watch out for each other. The lizardmen are impressed by the slaves Sarik keeps and agree to part with some of the flowers. With the first half of their quest complete, they set off to fetch a manticore tail.

Outside its cave, the manticore is found sleeping peaceably. Fawkes and Belkas attempt to sneak up on the slumbering giant but are quite unsuccessful in the attempt. A pitched battle ensues, as is wont to happen, that ends with our heroes bloody but triumphant in the end.

Returning to Irim’s hut, they provide her with the requested ingredients. She then brews up two very effective and very vile potions, curing Belkas and Kinich of their ailments. With directions provided by Irim, they head towards Axis and the next leg of their journey.

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In Which They Find a Hat

Traveling deeper into the unknown, our party find themselves in the depths of hell itself after a rather abrupt transition from the dark cave they were just getting comfortable with. Upon crossing the threshold into this newly discovered miniature hellhole, they quickly realize two things. One, it’s rather hot in hell. Even more so than you’ve been lead to believe. Two, there was a large number of angry looking orcs all staring directly at them.

It appears the group had interrupted an important looking ritual involving a pool of blood, a dark and likely evil sorcerer, and a rumpled grey hat. Wait! A grey hat? That could only be the fabled magic hat they were sent to find. And the orcs were using it’s magic to spawn more of their kind, which was a blasphemy our heroes were not going to abide.

Charging valiantly into battle, the party quickly gains the upper hand on the newly risen orcs. It was only a matter of time before all the orcs were slain, most unceremoniously kicked into the molten lava. Triumphant, they stride forward to investigate the spoils of their victory, ensuring there are no latent traps guarding the hat (as all good adventurers do). Sarik, confident in his own importance to the universe, snatched up the hat and placed it upon his head.

“I am Malefagor, the All-Knowing” boomed a new voice in his head. “I will provide two services to whoever currently wears me. First, I can rescue you from nearly any calamity or predicament you find yourself in by teleporting you away. However, I have no control over our destination. Also, it takes great amounts of energy to perform this feat, so do not expect saving from every worry and trouble you get yourself into.”

“Second, each day, I shall offer the following bargain. Place me upon the head of a sentient being so that I may learn more about this world. If I find the new subject interesting, I will reward you by allowing you to ask me one to three questions answered from my vast sums of knowledge.”

Whilst Sarik ponders the implications of his new friend, a rather large demon crashes up from underneath the rocks they had been standing on. It seemed that the chief resident of this hellhole had returned and was not in the mood to entertain guests. And once again, our group flung themselves into battle to save themselves from being eaten by a very nasty monster. And what a battle it was! No mere skirmish, the group dig deep into their reserves as they find themselves beaten about by the demon. With the outcome looking grim and his allies on the brink of death, Sarik musters up one final bolt of lightning that just manages to lay the demon low.

As they catch their breath, Kinich and Belkas find themselves infected with demonic plagues. Kinich was the luckier of the pair, with only a filthy fever to worry about. Belkas, however, had come down with the Red Fever, a disease strong enough to cause hallucinations and confusion even in the midst of a pitched battle. The party quickly makes its way to the surface, lest any new demons swing by. Once clear of the cave, Kinich reaches out his senses, looking for any nearby source of divine energy, hoping to find a priest who could cure them of their diseases. As luck would have it, he detected a large source of the stuff only a few days travel south-west. Setting off into the desert, magical hat in tow, the group remains optimistic of their fortunes, as with all naive heroes. How could they know they would soon be faced with the wrath of an angry god, freed from his prison?

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Journey to the Spooky Cave

Nifzab explains to the group that he has misplaced his lucky magic hat and that he believes it is being held in a hellhole to the northwest of Haven. He warns the group that there will be many fearsome dangers and the very real possibility of death (or at least dismemberment), but if they can return his hat to him, they will be greatly rewarded. He sets them off with the general directions on how to reach the hellhole and a wish for good luck.

The group, for a lack of anything better to do, sets off to find the mystical and magical mousy grey hat. They march off along the road heading towards the hellhole, hoping that Nifzab had overestimated the danger in retrieving his hat. On the outskirts of town, they find a pack of kobolds attacking a traveling merchant. Charging valiantly into battle, they soon find that it was a cunning (for a kobold) trap set to lure in would-be heroes. An enormous mutant kobold bursts from the cart attempting to overwhelm the party with his sheer mass and ferocity. However, even an extra large kobold is no match for a true hero, and the band is soon dispatched. When our heroes attempt to check on the two humans lying in the dirt, they find these were just straw dummies also set as part of the trap. Why this band of kobolds would set a fake-merchant trap designed explicitly to lure in heroes and not just prey on actual merchants, the world will never know. It’s just the kobold’s way.

The party soon leaves the road to cross through part of the Dragon Wood. Here again they face many dangers, including a raging river and a very hungry, yet polite vampire (whom they introduce to the wonderful world of vegetarian eating). They then find themselves lost in the vast wood, only to happily stumble upon the entrance to an obviously evil cave that could only be the hellhole they were looking for. Such is the luck of a hero.

The opening of the cave is guarded by a golem with three riddles that must be answered to gain entrance. The first, “What is in the middle of nowhere?” is easily answered with, “The letter H”. The second, “What invention lets you look through a wall?” is answered even quicker by “A window”. However, the third proves much more difficult. “Why is an eagle liking a dining table?” Even the smartest of the party is stumped by this clever riddle, so as adventurers are wont to do, they resort to violence. Smashing their way past the golem and his skeleton friends, they enter the dark and spooky cave. It is pitch black.

Inside the cave, they slowly began to explore the winding tunnels. They first encounter some exploding beetles that prove more annoyance than serious threat to our band. Beyond that, the find a large room with a pile of humanoid remains in the center. As they cautiously explore the area, a magical darkness descends snuffing out what little light they had. An enormous cave ogre that was lying in wait springs his ambush, bashing away with his tree-trunk club. A pack of hook scuttlers descend from the ceiling and attempt to tear apart those separated from the larger group in the darkness. But again, the party proves more than a match for these simple creatures and slays them in record time. With the ogre dead, the magical darkness lifts, returning them to the still fairly dark darkness of the cave. Here they stop to catch their breath and gather themselves before venturing deeper into the unknown…

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Introductions Are In Order

You find yourself in a run down tavern at the center of a ramshackle town at the edge of the Dragon Wood. You’re not sure why you’ve been sent to a backwater pit like Haven, nor how the town got such an inappropriate name, but the money was good and the directions were clear. Twenty five gold pieces just to show up at this specific tavern on this specific night with more instructions (and payments) to follow. You guess your employer to be certifiably insane and his next instructions will probably be some combination of disturbing and deplorable, but it’s not like you made a commitment to follow through. The deal as struck has been fairly met.

You see a number of other strange individuals scattered around the room, none of whom look like locals, which surprises you not at all considering the quality of the meal you just ate. You have to imagine these are other fine upstanding persons paid by a mysterious madman in a grey robe to be here and wonder if they know any more about this strange situation. You lean back and sip at your ale (mostly water and donkey piss) to see just what your unnamed benefactor has in mind.

You have little time to contemplate all the many ways this could end in your grisly demise before an enormous crack of thunder shakes you from your thoughts. Before you have time to consider exactly what caused a lightning blast on a cloudless night, an disheveled old man in a grey robe bursts in through to the tavern, dripping wet.

“I knew this was a terrible idea, I just knew it. Now I’ve gone and lost them again and gods only know where it could have gotten off to now. I guess I’ll have to make due with what I’ve been given.”

The man is clearly in the middle of a conversation with himself over very important matters, but eventually realizes every eye in the room is on him. He shakes the water from his clothes and attempts to straighten the wrinkles in his robe, failing to notice the impossibility of the task. You imagine some of those creases to be older than you are.

“Well, I see you’re all here. Most of you, at least. Enough of you, as it were. Now, have you all introduced yourselves to one another like proper gentlemen? Because it looks like a room full of strangers to me, and that simply will not do. You cannot all go off on this fine quest perfect strangers, now can you? Allow me to start. My name is Fiz—no, wait, that’s not right. Hold on, let me think. Ah! Yes, I remember now, it’s Nifzab. Yes, that’s it, definitely.

I’ve brought you here for one very simple reason. I need capable adventuring folk to embark on a fearsome adventure over forest, field and plain to the very depths of hell itself to recover a very powerful and very important magical artifact. I do not exaggerate when I say the very fate of the world may lie in the balance and that you are the very last hope I have."

His tone is now deadly serious and there’s not a doubt in your mind this man believes every word he’s saying. You find yourself enraptured by his impassioned speech, amazed at the transformation from a doddering old man to this powerful presence. You even find yourself believing in the importance of this mission and wonder just what this mighty wizard asks of you.

“Gentleman, I need you to find my hat.”

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