The Scarred South

Expedition to the Smoking Mountains

Scouting volcanic mountains and hunting kobolds in Tymanther

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Delzimmer by night

Taking care of a few things before leaving for the Tymantherian front.

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Secrets of the tribes
Investigating a mysterious alliance between nomadic tribes
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Invasion: Ormpur
The return of the forces of Tiamat
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To Live and Die in Bloutar
Infiltration in the Border Kingdoms
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Operation Amphisbaena
The difficulties of catching a rebel leader
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Operation Bloodsword Part 3
A walk in the park

The two youngsters were playing in the street, throwing a ball near the cart of a street vendor, completely ignored by passerby. No one seemed to notice that the boys were acting as lookouts for the other kids lurking around; pickpockets for the organization known as “The Hoard”, an off-shoot of the rebellion working as procurers and messengers. The tallest boy, Ahmet, was spinning a tale for his friend Arawo, but the latter didn’t seem to believe him. Ahmet was getting frustrated and his voice was getting louder.

“Are you saying I’m a liar? I told you I went in the sewers…and I saw kobolds!”
“Ok Ok….but why would you go in the sewers? Yuck! No wonder why you stink so much….Besides, I heard the rumors about kobolds living under the city and serving the Great Red…It`s like draconic vermin anyways…Nothing to be afraid of….”
“Really? Well I saw them fight…It was awesome! One of them was a magician and they had control over some of the huge snakes that are supposed to live down there. Well its real, I saw them too, obeying the kobolds like the lizards we keep at the orphanage!”
Laughing, the unbeliever smirked at his friend: “Fighting what? Rats? Come on Ahmet, there’s nothing exceptional about that….”
Ahmet didn’t even let his friend finish and said, his tone getting angrier: “Moron, it wasn’t rats! I’m not sure who they were…It all happened underneath the Humble Bard…One of the caches…Four strangers, maybe they are some of the mercenaries- the Crimson Talons?- went down in the sewers, clearly searching for something. Maybe it was the cache or the kobolds, I don’t know but they suddenly noticed the kobolds and, strangely enough, when the strangers told them they were with the rebels, the little beasts started to attack, one sending sling bullets while the other, a magician, fired bolt of dazing light and ice. In a matter of seconds, the humans were joined by a fierce dwarf and a weird girl that looked like a genie. She just kept talking non-stop almost like a crazy person, except that she was trying to stop the fight. It was intense, especially with the sewer pipes sending blasts of water knocking down anyone standing in front of them.”
Maybe it was the details or the way Ahmet was telling the story but Arawo was now listening; now he believed. The teenager continued: “In the end, the elemental girl finally succeeded in stopping the fight, telling the kobolds that this was all a misunderstanding and that in reality the rebels were a common enemy.”
“Wait”, said Arawo, “kobolds are cousins to dragons, they cannot fight the rebellion!”
“The magician, his name was Speelock, said that the two of them had been thrown out of the tribe because they opposed the new leader and that they were seeking vengeance against their tribe and the ones manipulating them: the rebels. Everyone calmed down except the dwarf who must have really hated the smell of the sewers or something, cuz he ran back outside the second the fight had stopped. Meanwhile, genie girl was trying to settle a deal with Speelock, offering their help in their vendetta against their old tribe in exchange for information. I don’t know but it seemed the wizard understood that they wouldn’t get other help so he accepted and offered the contents of the cache to its new allies. From what I spotted, the chest had scrolls, a bottle, a brooch and some kind of carpet…well maybe more a battle standard. This last item seemed to provoke more reaction from the warriors. Once the cache was emptied, the two kobolds left through as small grate but not before the elemental requested the permission to pet one of the snakes! I almost laughed out loud when I heard that….I’m pretty sure I would have been in trouble if they had caught me….Fortunately enough they didn’t and, as they returned to the surface, I immediately reported to Grand Father Balteus.”
Hours later, in a dark room at the Orphanage, one small creature sat in a corner, meditating and offering prayers to the Dragon Queen while her servant, the one everyone in Ormpur knew as Grand Father Balteus, stood motionless, watching over her and waited for orders.
“Oh Mother of Avarice, your humble servant needs wisdom as one of her servants came with information about mercenaries asking questions and removing agents of our liberation army. From what my informants told me, they are members of the foreign legion led by the blasphemous infidel who killed your son Solonepsis. One of them, a grey-skinned human, was seen following one of my men, Farrouk the enforcer but never engaged him. What should I do with them? As you know, I’m not fond of violence…I prefer to guide and lead from the shadows like your green children. Yes! Thank you Blessed Mother of Dragons, I shall use the gifts you gave me to bring these new recruits of the Crimson Talons in your army… After all, sellswords know the gift of your avarice and we have wealth aplenty to lavish on them if they opt to fight on our side…I promise that in due time, your name will be ring through the halls of the palace once again!”
As the Ghostwise Halfling got up and ended her prayers, she turned to face her servant, the mind-controlled caretaker of the orphanage, and gave him strict orders to send to the children working for them. In truth, no one knew that Morgana of Tiamat was the real leader of the Hoard, Ormpur’s thieves’ guild. They all reported to Grand Father Balteus who in turn reported to the priestess.
“Have a small chest filled with gold and gems sent to the park. It will be hidden under a marble plate near the statues. I will send an invitation to our noisy friends to see if we can bribe them in joining us. Make sure to bring your axe just in case…”
As he left the room to ensure his mistress’ orders would be carried on properly, she summoned three earth elementals and ordered them to move to the park and stay hidden in case the negotiation would go awry. She didn’t like violence but also believed that the best way to end a fight rapidly was to be prepared and to have sufficient firepower. When she finally left, hours later, she was accompanied by her servant but also by a group composed of children from the orphanage and Halflings working for the Hoard. They would serve her, and thus the Mother of Avarice, well, whether as diversion, artillery or decoys.
I was one of the first to volunteer for the mission in the park and, being one of the stealthiest of the kids at the orphanage, Grand Father sent me to be his eyes, along with some of my friends, and then to assure the rear guard while he and his Halfling bodyguards, disguised as children boldly went out in the open to meet with the mercenaries. Hours before the meeting, I watched three of the Talons enter the park for reconnaissance, the three others certainly hidden somewhere near to act as backup. They sat next to the statues of the old Suikhs, clearly nervous and even threatening us as we moved closer to them, playing with a ball while taking mental notes about the foreigners. So aggressive they were! One of them, a tall man dressed in full plate pointed his crossbow at us and even pierced our ball, sending us away in rather violently. At that point, I was not certain the negotiations would go well but I trusted Grand Father’s wisdom and moved to my position in the trees.
When the old man arrived, he introduced himself and got straight to the point, offering his three interlocutors a chance to join the rebellion and to fight for the freedom of the people of Ormpur. He argued that, even though the Church of Tiamat was harsh, it was fair and almost no one in the city profited from the change of government. He also stated that the Askulder dynasty had lost his right to claim the throne since they had remained hidden while Suikh Alanasker protected the city from the Spellplague and the savage tribes of raiders. While the human who looked like a cleric and the elf asked questions and left the discussion open, the one wearing a full plate, probably some kind of knight, rejected the offer as he considered the use of children as bodyguards horrible! He didn’t understand that my friends were there of their own free will and that the streets of Ormpur requested strength and courage. And besides, he was pretty mean for a man so concerned with the welfare of children!
Anyways, since nothing seemed convincing enough to change his mind, not even the small chest filled with gold that was offered to the sellswords as an incentive to join our efforts, he would soon see how dedicated we were to Ormpur!
The knight’s aggressive tone and the fact that the two others seemed to be stalling the discussion led Grand Father to end them, calling upon his hidden elemental allies to attack from below. The element of surprise wasn’t as efficient as three other mercenaries came out of the bushes and engaged the summoned creatures. They also seemed to have noticed that some of Balteus’ escort were not children but Halflings, concentrating some of their attacks on the small snipers.
As the fight erupted near the statues, another started between our rear guard and the assassins sent by the treacherous foreigners. It proved that we were wrong to trust these guys and, knowing that my skills in combat were insufficient, I remained hidden, watching my Halfling friends, who acted as teachers and caretakers at the Orphanage and doubled as fierce bodyguard when needed, fall on both fronts, some coldly executed by the Talons’ snipers while their ground forces simply knocked them out, clearly hoping to discover some of the rebellion’s secrets through interrogation.
Quickly enough, only one of the Hin was left standing: Morgana, a cleric who provided advice to Grand Father and acted as the spiritual guide at the orphanage. Noticing that his closest friend was in danger, the old warrior rushed back to her defense, displaying powers I never saw him use before. Fighting side by side, the two parental figures of most of Ormpur’s orphans defended themselves admirably, only to be knocked down by a combination of attacks from the Gold Dwarf, the knight and the grey-skinned assassin. Angry, I revealed myself to the enemy, spitting vile insults at them. I was rapidly caught by the pale knight who threatened me with his sword, forcing me to surrender.
They later carried me to a cart filled with the unconscious bodies of my friends, clearly bringing us to the Crimson Talons encampment a few blocks from the park. Unable to restrain myself, I kept insulting them, calling them assassins and brutes. I said to them how noble I thought Balteus was, to fight for the people of Ormpur, to fight against a puppet state for the dwarves of the Rift. I must have said something really offensive because the “honorable” knight grabbed me and forced his dagger into my mouth, threatening to slice my tongue off I wouldn’t stop my ramblings. Exactly the kind of response I was expecting from a foreigner working for a dictator…Fortunately for my tongue, I was saved by the elemental girl, clearly the most diplomatic of the lot…
Deep under the former temple of Tiamat, now dedicated to Tempus the Foehammer stood a cellular block, formerly used to keep captives that were to be sacrificed to the civic goddess of Ormpur. It was now used by the temple’s occupants, the Crimson Talons, to hold captive members of the rebellion possessing important information. After a first meeting with the agents sent to debrief her, Morgana sat in a corner of her cell, in the dark and addressed prayers to her deity.
Mother of dragons, guide me through this ordeal. I was defeated in battle but my captors are ready to negotiate. I have a vast knowledge about the rebels and this knowledge might be the key to the return of your church in the City of Saffron. As a good wyrmkeeper, I requested three things from the mercenaries fighting for the infidel who stole your relics. First, to be freed and allowed to take over an empty mansion, close to the palace. This will become a chapel dedicated to your magnificence and, if everything works as planned, your faith will be authorized once again, bringing flocks of believers to my doors. My second request was to be given a seat on the Suikh’s council. The return of an old symbol could be seen as a gesture towards the citizens who doesn’t approve the changes made by the new king. Once at his side, I might be able to coax Askulder into returning to their old patron deity, after all they are the ones who named you as Ormpur’s civic deity centuries ago. Of course, my third request is the one that might not be granted: the return of your holy relics, stolen by the Phoenix of Ormpur, the general in charge of the Crimson Talons. I know that the woman will not relinquish the Bloody Bulwark and the Crownring of Tchazzar but we will have other opportunities to get them out of the infidel’s hands. So far, the young sellswords responsible for questioning me proved quite wise and promised to bring my requests to their superior officer. They were happy to consider that the civil war in Ormpur might be stopped through diplomacy and a show of leniency by the new Suikh. I hope these actions will make you proud of me, Queen of Greed and that in return, I will be rewarded with Power, Money and Strength…
In return, I offered information about someone I consider unworthy of your affections. Faustus Aveneil, the fat, greedy merchant who doesn’t even pay you proper respect. Living outside of town and leading the rebels from his ivory tower. With his capture or elimination, the rebels might fall but I promise that one way or another, your Church will rise from the ashes of Solonepsis.

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Operation Bloodsword Part 2
Gone Fishing

First mission report, Operation Bloodsword by Blue Ghost, Spymaster of the Crimson Talons

General, as requested we have started to gather information about the rebels in order to capture their leaders and end the threat to our employer’s rule. As the freedom fighters work in independent cells, I opted to send my men on the hunt for knowledgeable members of the rebellion who could lead us to the leadership group. In a group composed of devoted members of the Church of Tiamat, the Avaricious, I was pretty sure that we could find a few greedy or ambitious enough to sell us secrets. As expected, a few days after the start of Operation Bloodsword, I was able to reach an agreement with a young assassin, linked to a cell of field operatives, who was ready to sell us secrets about the rebellion in exchange for his release from prison. Once my agents successfully extracted him from the Dragon’s Den, Battlelord Katernin made quick work of a ritual to ensure his loyalty and said agents debriefed the assassin.
“Little Fish’s” interrogation shed some light on the resistance’s modus operandi and identified a tavern, “The Laughing Jackal”, as a meeting ground for the numerous cells forming the Ormpurian rebellion. The kid also pinpointed a weapon cache in the sewers, next to the Humble Bard and confirmed that a hit had been ordered on someone in High Command. I suggest we double the protection around you, Commander Tilden and the True Suikh. There is also the rumor that a military adviser was sent from the North to help the rebels. If it is true, we have to expect an increase in sabotage operations, in assassination attempts, and in attacks against any symbols of the new power in place. I have dispatched the same agents to capture Little Fish’s cell. Their orders are to eliminate the cells once all possible pertinent data has been obtained.

Second mission report, Operation Bloodsword by Blue Ghost, Spymaster of the Crimson Talons

August leader, you will find within these pages a precise description of the event leading to the capture and elimination of a rebel cell composed of assassins. The assassin responsible for the death of Lord Kintas Enkal was a member of this cell and his collaboration was key to the success of this mission. He revealed their hideout, located on the docks and some information about their leader, a warlock named Kaltis.
After a quick reconnaissance on the wharves, my Birdeyes prepared a plan that would take the enemy by surprise, and while took advantage of a trapdoor used to discard fish parts to infiltrate the small warehouse used as headquarters by the cell. While three of the operatives, Cotazym, Ashlan and Lucius, would enter the room by the trapdoor, evading the swarm of carnivorous fishes used to discourage infiltrators and dispose of bodies, the warriors of the group (Vondal and Tristan) would assault the front door, and Roe would cover them from afar. Unfortunately, as usual, the plan had a limited lifespan when faced with reality: while looking for hidden enemies, Vondal had missed the archer camouflaged on the roof and as Tristan moved towards the door, he was almost killed by the savage elf’s poisonous arrows. Meanwhile, inside the warehouse, the three members of the group who had successfully entered the building ended up engaged in a violent fight with the warlock and two assassins. It was hard at first to identify the leader but thanks to the information collected from our young collaborator, Ashlan finally pinpointed the warlock and focused her attentions on him. While the two identical assassins proved quite easy to neutralize, Kaltis and his wild elf acolyte gave a hard time to my operatives; Roe finally bringing down the arcanist and Vondal knocking the archer with his axes.
Their interrogation of this cell revealed the existence of weapon caches all around Ormpur, caches used by rebellion field operatives to pick up any equipment needed for a mission. It also shed light on how the leadership transferred their orders to the lower echelons: first, they are using old dwarven glyphs signifying “Greed” as a symbol, marking building as safe houses for the rebels. I immediately sent word on the street and my agents are locating and mapping all locations marked with such glyphs. We also learned that the caches were operated by a group called “The Hoard”, some sort of thieves’ guild that used to work as tax collectors for the beast that you brought down when we invaded the City of Saffron. It is plausible that some members of The Hoard are aware of their leader’s identity as they were linked in the past to the Church of Tiamat who is, from what I gathered, also behind the rebels. The prisoners were not really cooperative and a few examples were to be made. Vondal executed the wild elf while the rest of the group took turns to permanently silence the others. Only Kaltis proved to have decent information anyways and as a true patriot opposed to foreign intervention in his beloved city, he heavily resisted before the magic of Cotazym, the guile of Tristan and the intimidation skills of Roe broke him. We were also informed that a plot to kill your aide, Lady Knight Zara Sernet or a member of your group of advisors, was in the works and that everything needed to accomplish that mission was already in the cache located in the sewers beneath the Humble Bard. Hoping to find another lead towards the leadership cell, the Birdeyes fed the bodies to the fishes, not without displaying disgust and requesting permission to spare their next targets, arguing that diplomacy or bribes would be enough to steer them away from their rebellious friends.

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Operation Bloodsword Part 1
Prison Break

_Excerpt of The Governor’s Journal
9th day of Ches 1485
I woke to my captain of the guard bearing orders from his Majesty, Barakvar Askulder, the True Suikh. An important prisoner was on his way, the assassin of Kintas Enkal no less. The businessman was a representative of the Delzemaer consortium that had financed Askulder’s return to Ormpur, so I understood the Suikh’s orders not to treat the prisoner’s wounds and to prepare the courtyard for an execution at dawn. The rebels had embarrassed our new king by killing one of his strongest supporters. Anyone who was not expecting retaliation from the Suikh’s sellswords was a fool.
When “Little Fish”, as the teenaged murderer was known in the streets, was brought in, I made sure that he was locked in a cell, alone. The guards were instructed not to address him, or interact with him in any way, other than to ensure that he would not die from the injury to his feet. I was later informed that some of my men had accepted a bribe from Enkal’s assistant, a gnome named Gilchryst, to allow him and his thugs access to the assassin’s cell.
Soon after, the Dragon’s Den came was invaded by six skilled soldiers who were clearly working in concert, using guile and stealth, to easily breach the fortress walls. Two of them, a dwarf and a human, climbed over the wall surrounding the prison and escaped my men’s scrutiny. Another human and an elf came in through the front door requesting a meeting with me, using a claim of information about the prisoner as leverage. The last invaders probably used stealth and magic to penetrate the walls, likely entering the cell block through a barred window. I have concluded that the six attackers were not members of the rebellion; the rebels have tended to shy away from the use of non-lethal force. Besides which, if the rebels could make use of such impressive fighting skills and magical abilities… Well suffice to say that I am glad that they cannot. In a matter of minutes, the six infiltrators were gone as swiftly as they had arrived, leaving in their wake four incapacitated warriors, a soon to be enraged gnome arcanist, and an empty cell where my prisoner should have been.
The morning after the prisoner’s extraction, the harsh yet soothing flavour of my favorite tea was enhanced by the bittersweet sensation of watching the corrupted guards’ executions, I considered whether I could further delay my meeting with the True Suikh. While I was sure that he would appreciate the fact that having gone to all of the trouble of setting up the courtyard for an execution, I was loathed not to make use the executioner’s block, I had my doubts as to how far I could test his patience. Steadfast, but reluctant, I went to inform the True Suikh of the prisoner’s escape, knowing all too well that his Excellency would blame the rebels for its escape… Even now I remain unconvinced of the rescuers’ status as rebels; the level of skill displayed points to something else… Could this “Little Fish” have planned his escape and hired mercenaries to do the job? Or maybe rogue elements of the Crimson Talons, the foreign legion hired to wrest Ormpur from the claws of Tiamat’s church? But why would Talons even bother? They were paid directly from Solonepsis’ hoard! It is not my place to investigate but one thing is certain, I will need a new captain of the guard….
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Trial under the sun

Two hooded figures sat calmly in a dark room. Rich tapestries surround them, all but unseen in the dimness, muting all outside noise. For a few brief moments, the rustling of garments, and the subtle whisper of breath are the only sounds to be heard. Then, barely audible at first, a dull steady sound began to fill the room, and its source, a crystal ball that sat between the two figures, slowly displays a group of crodlus plodding through the sand under cover of darkness, ridden by Crimson Talon’s newest recuits.

“Good, the ritual worked."
The wizard did not acknowledge that the other man had spoken; it was quite obvious that the ritual had worked.
“Keep an eye on them, I want to see what they are doing…”
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The six recruits left Ormpur as discretely as they could given the bulk of their gear and of their drake-like mounts. The creatures, trained as mounts by the inhabitants of the City of Saffron, did not disappoint, easily crossing the vast crocus fields surrounding the city, and reaching the arid steppes of the Western Shaar at the end of two days of travel. The riders contemplated when and where to begin setting up camp that evening, unaware of the tiefling brigands moving out of the sand towards them. The ambush was led by a powerful hobgoblin warmage, who used force spells to inflict massive damage, and was bolstered by packs of vicious little drakes, who clawed and tore at the beleagered group. Taken completely unawares, the recruits were slow to rally at first, and by the time that they had regrouped, Lucius the Red had been incapacitated by the swarming drakes, leaving the group without a healer. Lucius’ fall gave the team much needed motivation to press that attack, with Cotazym and Ashlan quickly knocking out three of the tiefling ruffians. Choosing not to restrain the lethality of their blows, Roe, Vondal and Tristan made short work of their opponents, leaving a trail of corpses in their wake. The dispersal of a last swarm of drakes by means of a particularly flashy spell from the genasi swordmage marked the end of the battle.

While Cotazym did her best to help Lucius, the rest of the band tried to ply information from the surviving bandits, with some members trying to be diplomatic, and others preferring to go the route of out right intimidation. One of the tieflings categorically refused to help his captors, and to his dismay, one of his peers, more concerned about survival than loyalties, revealed that they were rebels of Ormpur tasked with gathering resources for the rebellion by harassing caravans and travelers. The recruits discovered that even though their leader had a military background, they themselves were but simple residents of the City of Saffron who were fighting against the usurper and the foreign occupation of their city in his name. The planetouched let slip some information about the modus operandi of the rebels and the name of one of their hideouts, the Laghing Jackal.

With their captive at the limit of what he was willing to betray to survive, Ashlan and Cotazym believed that he, and the surviving ruffians could be released, as they did not posed a sufficient threat to merit their deaths; Roe, Tristan and a recently awakened Lucius, disagreed, pressing for their captives’ executions. Lucius brought up that the tieflings had seen their faces, and knew about their main objective, making them liabilities. The group quickly decided that in keeping with the mission’s requirements for discretion, it would not be possible to let their captives live. Vondal, only wanting to leave the place, and get some rest, had been waiting for the group to reach a decision. His axes met with the skulls of the poor prisoners before they could draw breath to beg for their lives.
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The man seated next to the wizard smiled as he watched the dwarf end the life of the three bound prisoners. “Ruthless and focused on the mission, as we like them,” he said, raising his glass, as if to the toast to the kills, before taking a sip of a dark, richly colored red wine. He readjusted his feet on the small table to the left of the crystal ball, and returned his full attention to the scenes unfolding before him.
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The group left the next morning, and as they rode deeper into the Shaar, the dry, sun-bleached remnants of steppe grass slowly gave over to sand dunes and rocks. Besides the very occasional small lizard skittering across the hot sands, there was no obvious sign of life around, however, the desert provides for those who know how to see its bounties. Making use of her remarkable foraging skills, Cotazym was able to provide the group with fresh food in the form of lizards, scorpions and roots which allowed the sellswords to keep more of their rations for the inevitable emergencies that plague their new line of work.

On their fourth night in the Shaar, while the light of Selûne was hidden by clouds, an scaly humanoid emerged from the sand, grabbed Tristan and tried to pull him below ground. As it struggled and ultimately failed to drag Tristan away from the group, a motley crew deformed creatures burst forth from the sand and joined what was now a battle.
The dwarf ranger scanned the scene for a moment, and then strode towards the largest creature, flatly informing his fellows that the plaguechanged dwarves were indeed Anakore and Hejkins, nocturnal hunters and underdark aberrations. As the information registered with his newly awakened team mates, Vondal dispatched his chosen target with a furious series of blows, leaving a crushed and lacerated mass in a large pool of blood.

The recruits faced off against the three other creatures, and were surprised by the powerful electric abilities of the leader of the monstrosities. Tristan almost met his end when it used his telluric field on the opponents while they were close to one another, but the paladin avenged himself by killing the three hejkins while their chieftain was overcome with an illusion cast by the wizard. The chieftain quite literally tore himself to shreds trying to fend off the attack of imaginary creatures.

With all of the creatures dead, the group took some time to dress their wounds. It was during this brief downtime that Cotazym noticed something near the spot from where the Hejkin chieftain had appeared – a spear. Its haft covered in gold thread and plumes while its head was engraved with a lion. Appreciating the tactical advantage of fighting with the weapon, Lucius claimed it, and was pleasantly surprised to discover that it had magical properties.

After a night of rest, the soldiers returned to their crodlus and rode for another day, reaching an oasis that had been mentioned by their boss. They noticed that a large group of humans had settled around the oasis, and quickly scouted ahead to see with whom they would be dealing. The group was clearly made up of nomads from the honorable Lion Tribe, and the recruits decided to approach the tribesmen openly. They were rapidly surrounded by hunters armed with spears, but were not overly concerned given the nature of the Lion Tribe. After requesting a meeting with the leaders of the tribe, they were led to the middle of the camp and were offered food and milk. A few hours later, a guard came and led them to the biggest tent in the camp, a tent covered in ivory and in markings likely distinct to the Lion tribe. Inside stood the Lion’s two leaders: Adjola the chieftain and Ehiodze, the shaman.

Questioned about the events surrounding the theft of a box by gnolls, the host confirmed what the mercenaries had been told by their employer and provided details about the perpetrators. It was indeed gnolls, from the Hungry Fangs Tribe, that had raided the caravan owned by the “Merchants of Death”, a dishonorable company selling and designing weapons, and much hated by the Lions. Unfortunately, the incident happened in a zone considered taboo by the nomads and probably plaguechanged: the Black Oasis. The area was often used by the weapon dealers as a test site, and while Adjola offered to guide the Talons’ recruits to the zone, she refused to have any of the Lions accompany them into the Black Oasis, as they were forbidden to enter it by their traditions.

The shaman, who had remained silent during most of the discussion, whispered in his chieftain’s ear, his eyes locked on Lucius’ spear. Adjola asked the young soldiers where they had found the weapon, identifying it as Nguruma’s spear, an important weapon of the tribe which had been lost when one of their best hunters failed to return months ago. Realizing the importance of the spear, Lucius offered it to Ehiodze who in turn gave the group a long sword with a hilt made to resemble the wings of an eagle. The blade, a farbond spellblade, had been found on a dead body earlier that year, and since it was a weapon made specially for swordmages, Ashlan was the one to claim it.

The next morning, the sellswords left the oasis accompanied with a few hunters who guided them towards the taboo area that was about a day North of the tribe’s encampment. As the travelers grew closed to the Black Oasis, it became apparent why the nomads would not want to venture inside the zone: the ground looked as if it had been pulled out of the earth and used to erect an 80 feet wall around a section of the Shaar. The only access to the valley hidden behind that terrible wall were three fissures carved into its surface. Following the indications of their guides, the soldiers went inside one of the fissures, hoping that they might catch the gnolls and quickly finish their mission, but knowing that it would not be so easy.

It took them a little less than a day to pass through the breach, and were it not for a grove of spider cacti, they might have been made even better time. After destroying the dangerous plants from a distance, they approached the cacti only to find the body of a gnoll bearing the marks of the Hungry Fangs tribe. Having confirmed that they had chosen the right path, the group pressed on despite their exhaustion, advancing until finally rest could no longer be postponed. The next morning, Ashlan found tracks that confirmed the presence of a large group of gnolls with a caravan similar in size to the one carrying the mysterious box they were charged with bringing back. Later that day, another set of footprints were found, and the mercenaries quickly discovered that this new set, like the gnolls’ tracks, led to an abandoned trading post that seemed to be the spot chosen by the Hungry Fangs to negotiate the sale of the stolen crate. The camp was guarded by gnolls and by humans dressed as nomads; Vondal was able to identify the latter group as rebels from Ormpur. The tension between the two groups was palpable, even from distance, and it seemed deepened by the fact that most gnolls that were not on guard duty were participating in a ceremony that would end in human sacrifice and anthropophagy.

Eager and capable as individuals, but untested as a group, the sellswords went into action. They had evaluated the minutiae of their situation together before striking out on their own, with nary a plan among them. As a result, a number of them were spotted by guards, and their fervor very nearly cost them their mission. As they escaped in the desert, using a path showed by Cotazym, they stumbled upon a party of gnolls led by a priest of Yeenoghu, the Butcher King. The creatures were tough, well experienced fighting together, and put up more resistance than the thieves’ had anticipated. The violence of the pack’s hits almost brought down Tristan who was saved by Lucius and his experience as a combat medic while Vondal, Tristan and Ashlan were engaging the archers, spearmen and the shaman. The sellswords struggled with their foes who were magically kept from the brink of death just long enough to lay in a few more of their brutal attacks. Unfortunately, Cotazym own spells were ineffective against the devoted followers of the demon prince of savagery but in the end, using Lucius’ leadership and a team effort, the Crimson Talons’ new recruits prevailed, bringing down the pack and fleeing with the crate and a prisoner.

After a good night of sleep and some healing, courtesy of the Red Knight, they interrogated the gnoll and were able to confirm that the Hungry Fangs had stolen the mysterious box in order to sell it to rebels from Ormpur at a high price. The gnolls did not know what was inside the box, simply assuming for the most part that it was some kind of new weapon designed by The Branch, a company known to operate in the Shaar. The creature did not know who had given them the information about the caravan, or who had made contact with the rebels to invite them to purchase the weapon, but he supposed it was someone with an interest in seeing Ormpur fall back into the hands of the Church of Tiamat, maybe one of the cities in the Border Kingdoms. During the return trip to Ormpur, Cotazym identified the magical items found on the gnolls and was able to confirm that the box was indeed the one they seeked. The dryad wizard claimed the green robe of protection while Roe showed interest in the beautiful rapier with a basket hilt in the shape of the dragon with multiple heads. The assassin even admitted that the sword seemed familiar, bolstering the sense of “deja-vu” that he had had earlier in the mission.

Upon reaching the City of Saffron, the party met with Blue Ghost who immediately took possession of the crate and sent item well guarded.inside the city. He invited his soldiers to the ruins of the temple to Tiamat which served as the Talons’ main camp. The dilapidated mansewas already showing signs of being restored to its former glory, but this time, said glory would be that of Tempus the Foehammer, and of Red Knight, his daughter. The spymaster ordered them to bathe, rest and enjoy a good meal from the mess before joining him for a drink, and to sign of their contracts. Wasting no time, the sellswords quickly found themselves within a large tent filled with delicious food and drinks, listening to Sergeant Maerwatch give them the run down on the army’s main leaders, as well precious advice about who to contact if they ever needed something.

After an exquisite meal – although to be fair, anything would be exquisite after days eating lizards, scorpions and roots – the group visited Blue Ghost’s tent to sign a contract that seemed very straight forward and honest. Tristan insisted that a clause about his objection to killing children be included, something that their new superior officer accepted with a large, predatory smile, making clear to his newest recruits that when such tasks were required, he had others at his disposal. Once the six soldiers had signed the contracts, he offered them one last drink before sending them back to the barracks for a good night of sleep. They were officially members of the Crimson Talons serving as scouts and in special operations. A new mission would wait for them in the morning.
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The hooded figure got up as the crystal ball became blurry once again. “They are efficient when they finally manage to work together, but it always seems to be a matter of desperation rather than preparation. It would seem that this team requires a hotter fire in which to be forged. If our future operations to succeed they will need to be tempered. Let’s see what hunting vermin in the street of the city will do to improve their teamwork… If they are fortunate, the Red Lady will counsel them…”

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