Heroes for Hire

Further North, West looks much better.
Some days, it doesn't pay to do your job.
Capt. Kreiger is, on the one hand, a good commander in terms of logistics—The squad not only has a Shaman/medic assigned to it, but the ranks are filled out with one of them Mystic men and a Chop-chop trooper.

On the other hand, when it comes to R&R time, the man is a sadist. The new troops are fresh off the boat, and the rest of the squad has no sooner returned Sallo Prell’s schwag (For which Prell did not so much as offer thanks.) when Kreiger assigns the squad to a new task. The squad has merely one night to rest and drink (and wench) before leaving again.

The heir to House Sull, no doubt a soft, spoiled noble with no clue as to what it truly means to be a man, has ventured forth into the world to make his own destiny. Since book learning is no substitute for real life, the child has gotten himself lost, presumed alive. The squad’s job—find him

The FOB’s groan as the squad is ordered ship-bound across the North Sea can be heard for miles around. It’s a familiar vessel to the FOBs, and if they’d known they were being shipped out again so soon they never would have disembarked to begin with.

The north land is inhabited with people called “Vikings”; an improbable name without the simple charm of REAL names like “Pict” and “Drow” and “Eldarian.” Still, these “Vikings” seem to be a simple folk. Terrible clothing, preferring untreated animal hide that makes them all look like the squad Furry, and a reputation for rape and pillage that makes those in the nearby towns ignore basic fortifications (Any military man will tell you that choosing to not build fortifications in a high-conflict area is just asking for death, but what do farmers know?).

Following the known route of the missing brat takes the squad to a small mining town somewhere in the middle of nowhere… The squad’s irregular infiltrates the camp and brings back valuable information on the layout on contents of the mine buildings. In a hurry to be moving on, the squad splits into two; The Irregular, Mystic, and Shaman choosing to talk to the miners about the Brat; the Furry, Man-at-arms, and Chop-Chop staying behind to tend the squad wagons and mounts.

The Ranger, muttering darkly that the mining town should just be burnt to the ground, also stays behind.

A gold coin or two’s worth of drinks and food loosens the tounges of the miners but they have no tale to tell, telling the squad to wait for the return of the foreman. The Irregular decides to explore the actual mine itself…

The Irregular later claims to have been attacked by at least three assailants at the front of the mine, but all the watchers from the ridge where the rest of the squad was camped saw was the irregular go hurtling down the face of the cliff. Pointing and laughter had to wait though, as commotion from the road forced the rest of the squad into action.

An inbound caravan is under attack from the living dead and a large dog, and the squad is forced to render assistance—pulling the lone survivor down to the mining camp and barricading the gate against the oncoming hordes. Oddly enough, the Furry is scared of dogs.

By “gate” we mean saplings crudely lashed together into a barrier that stands a better than even chance of stopping a squirrel.

The miners, with the courage and zeal of men living on the frontier, lock themselves in hidey-holes, leaving the squad to defend their worthless hides.

The battle is joined: The Man-ar-Arms, Furry and Chop-Chop holding the gate with swords and axes, while the Mystic, still seeming feeling the rolling of the ocean under his feet after so many days at sea, peppers the fragile structure of the gate with his magic missles. The shaman stands ready to aid while the Irregular and ranger seek the tactical heights of the cliff.

The Irregular scrambles of the cliffside to assess the situation, but is horrified to discover that the defense lines are breached before the battle has truly begun. More of the shambling undead are emerging from the mouth of the mine. Desperate to inform his squadmates of the death lurking behind them the irregular-once more-tumbles down the cliff side, somehow managing to break several ribs in the process.

The “gate” is not long able to withstand the pounding from the ravening hordes of the undead, and collapses. Forced to fight on two fronts, the Man-at-Arms, and Furry ineffectually flail their weapons like drunken farmers at the country dance while Chop-Chop mows them down like a sober farmer at harvest. Mystic Man lights up the sky in a stunning display of poor marksmanship, while the Ranger and Irregular spend several minutes taking potshots at the foul zombies while dodging what seems to be a form of enchanted projectile vomit. The Shaman stands around doing little to help the fight other than healing the wounds of her stalwart compatriots, tho she will later claim that her invisible, imaginary teddy bear was responsible for single-handedly decimating the on-shambling foes.

As the fight continues, the Man-at-Arms and Furry start scoring hits, Chop-Chop continues funtioning as a two-armed whirlwind of decapitaion, and the Irregular manages to pull off a few sneaky-stabs. Mystic Man flames a few foes, and even the Shaman stops playing with her imaginary friend long enough to down a few fiends. The situation is heading towards being controlled. Meanwhile, the Ranger valiantly separates from the group, bravely placing himself alone, and in danger, to secure the equine transport of the squad for a strategic withdrawl. He pauses to prepare an incindiary surprise for the undead horde, and even manages to be clear-headed enough to sample the fuels available to verify the suitability of their use.

Which is why he alone witnesses the horror to be unleashed.

The shadows writhe, grow and consume the body of the caravan survivor, wrapping around him, transforming him into a Being of Darkness. The Being is obviously of some Demonic aspect at it begins reviving the undead from the scattered body parts around… The next few minutes are a fevered blur, but the bottom line is that the exhausted squad is able to overpower the Being with skill, luck and the incomparable teamwork that this squad is acclaimed for.

After the battle ends, the squad searches the mine… It is determined that this place fell to shadow some time before. The Miners were the slaves and underlings of the Being. A certain amount of schwag is recovered… a few gems, and old book and a few other items of indeterminate value.

No Brat.

Capt. Kreiger may wish to consider placing the Ranger in formal command of this unit. He seems to posses a preturnatural ability to sense the right course of action—-first finding a bandit horde to the north when all signs indicated that they had fled west, then suggesting burning the mining town to the ground when no sign of danger had presented itself. He alone identified the foul Being in charge of the undead, and without his actions we surely would have fallen in battle. This ranger obviously is a man of deep wisdom and tactical brilliance.

- Chronicles of an Underpaid Mercenary, Chapter 2
Bernards Personal Journal.

I have been trapped in this hell hole with this rabble now untold months. Somehow I’ve been mistaken for a “Ranger”, which is just my luck. I went for archery so I could avoid front line action like any sensible individual, but fate has managed to stick me with leading these mouth breathers, as if I know where the hell I’m going …I swear by the gods above that the hairy one thinks he’s a dog. He keeps peeing on things, and I caught him sniffing my rear on more than one occasion.

The assignment here was almost wrapped up, but naturally there was just “one more thing” to deal with, ..isn’t there always just one more thing. Our overfed and horrifyingly under bathed employer has sent us off to locate some misplace goods or some such. It was colder than a witches tit when we departed the city. I lead the party in what I was sure to be the wrong direction, only to stumble on the culprits camped in what may once have passed for a small tower of some purpose. If it weren’t for bad luck we would have not luck at all, which I would honestly prefer. Planning around an established level of incompetence is much more reliable.

Knowing all to well that Dog boy, Chop Chop, and Sir Sneaks Alot would be sure to rush in and bring down all hell on our heads, I addressed the problem with a two fold solution. Firstly, I put myself as far from the trinity of disaster as I reasonably could by acting as a “decoy” to “draw away the sentries” on the ground. Which actually worked in both regards, and to my surprise, my “Allies” took the opportunity to get the drop on them and speedily dispatch the goons.

Secondly, by placing myself at such a distance from the center of the action, it insured that I would be the last to enter the crumbling deathtrap excuse for a tower, which I assumed would dramatically reduce the likelihood of me encountering a direct engagement. Or at least safely resolve whether the rotten oak door was, as I had guessed on initial inspection, the single remaining load bearing structural element of that retched facade

Two my surprise, and I expect the towers as well, it didn’t collapse as the hairball smashed through the door and into the middle of what sounded like a room full of surprised rabid pigs. The gods only know how, but they overcame what must have been even less competent goons than themselves and cleared the ground floor rather quickly. Sneaky barely had time to ascend the exterior of the crumbling walls before he raced back down and joined Twiddle Dump and Twiddle Dumber, now doubt afraid he might miss something interesting. I waited for the their eviscerated, well deserving corpses to come rolling out the door at any moment, but they didn’t, so after a healthy wait, I entered to find them miraculously still breathing through their mouths, only louder than usual.

It became clear that there were still misfits of untold number and size on the next floor ..if you can call it a floor, sagging like a cows utter as it did. I suggested we simply withdraw and burn it to the ground, or even push it over, which would no doubt have been an easier solution than fighting, wounded, from a position of low ground against an un assessed and forewarned opposition. That logic was drowned out by the canines barking as it rushed up the ladder and burst on to the second floor pushing the rogue ahead of it. Dubious of this brilliant bit of battle tactics, I retreated to the exterior to assess other option short of burning down the tower with all in side. An option which I hadn’t completely eliminated at that point.

The twang of crossbows and corresponding yelps made it obvious that my cohorts were pinned down. Deciding that the least bad decision would be to enter and assess the situation, I scaled the ladder and was quickly pinned down by overwhelming fire power as well. I could have resolved then manner with a few well placed arrow shafts, but fate saw fit to smile on me yet again in the form of an arrow shaft that nearly fell me on the spot. For once Dog boy was of use, as he proceeded to go bat shit crazy and attack the remaining tenants with the zeal of dog licking its balls. And it apparently it worked, as the remaining poor bastard seemed to decide that being bitten by him was too great a disease risk, and fled the abode.

We did manage to acquire a good bit of coin for our effort, Sadly my “allies” couldn’t grasp the concept of selling off the recovered merchants loot. ..I really must get in the habit of using smaller words when communicating with them.

- Bernard

North by West...
Thought for the day - Rear guard is harder than Frontal Assault

A shipment of rare and raw materials in route to Prell has been hijacked and stolen, and the squad is sent to find and retrieve it.

Despite signs and eyewitness reports indicating that the shipment had been taken west, the squad’s ranger leads the party off to the north woods, where his instincts prove fortuitously correct—an abandoned tower is being used as a base by the bandit horde.

The squad’s ranger quickly devises a complicated decoy operation, and bravely volunteers to act as the bait. His forthright tactics are successful, and he manages to lure four guards away from the tower. Two of them are dishonorably dispatched from behind by the squad’s man-at-arms and irregular.

The irregular scales the heights of the tower to attempt to flank the bandit horde from above as the man-at-arms and furry breach the lower door. The irregular is shocked to find the bandit leader atop the tower, and more surprised to discover that the leader is a Gnoll. Unprepared to battle such a fierce monster alone, the panicked irregular hastily retreats, leaving behind valuable military-issue climbing gear. Meanwhile, below, the furry and the man-at-arm have managed, more thru luck than skill, to dispatch the berserker lieutenant of the bandit hordes, and several of his henchmen. Aided by the still-shaken irregular, the squadmen barely manage to hold their own against the three-to-one odds they face, only managing to turn the tide when the brave ranger, exhausted from his epic, marathon chase thru the woods, arrives to place a well aimed arrow fletching-deep into one of the nameless bandit swordsmen.

From there, the squad proceeds to the second floor of the tower where they encounter the remainder of the bandit horde… several archers, and swordsman, a spellcaster, a goblin chieften and, eventually, the Gnoll. The man-at-arms, furry and irregular are able to eliminate the threat there. The ranger, assisting until he sees his compatriots have the matter well in hand, retreats to secure the ground floor against any possible returning reinforcements the bandits might have. In the ranger’s absence, the other squad members are able to eliminate most of the bandit horde, unfortunately allowing the goblin chief to escape, and, embarrasingly, at cost of great personal injury to themselves.

Sallo Prell’s goods are recovered, yet, oddly enough, the bandit horde has no other loot, treasure, booty or schwag.

The squad returns to Prell’s to await their relief, eager to return to the main camp of The Shattered Tower where, perhaps, they can induct a cleric into their ranks.

- Chronicles of an Underpaid Mercenary, Chapter 1

And so it begins...
Thought for the day - The pointy end of the sword goes in the other person.

The party is a squad from a mercenary comapany known as The Shattered Tower. Their most recent assignment has seen them stationed at Arngrdfell, The nominal capital of the North. They have been contracted here as guards for an Imperial Merchant named Salo Prell. Several days ago word reached them to expect a relief squad and reassignment. Sometime within the next week the squad should be arriving, along with a Shattered Tower Captain by the name of Rommel Kreiger.

However, with the squad still under contract, Salo Prell intends to get his moneys worth, and has one final task for them before their reassignment…

- A Voice from On high…


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