Adventurers, while not common in Southold, are an accepted fact of life. In the annals of Southold there are many individuals and bands of heroes that performed great deeds; today's adventuring companies are merely an extension of that tradition. While it is true that the often individualistic nature of adventuring companies usually runs against the grain of feudal society, the nobles have found it convenient not to stifle such groups. Indeed, some nobles even act as patrons for adventuring companies, bringing them, to some degree, into the feudal realm of control. These groups can be quite useful as a small para-military force, capable of accomplishing things entire armies could not. Also, great deeds that help the nobles are usually rewarded with some formal recognition, award, or promotion by the nobility; again providing a feudalistic sanction for the company's actions. Titles of nobility are not unheard of rewards, as are charters for tracts of land. Adventurers tap an appreciation for the heroic that lies deep in the Southron peoples, and regardless of noble recognition, famous adventurers often become celebrated heroes among the general populace, much as the gladiators are heroes the barbaric arenas of Videssos.
Adventuring companies are centered in the cities, primarily the provincial capitals. The following is an incomplete list of the better known adventuring companies of the second decade of the Sixteenth Century. The base of operations, acknowledged leader (if any), major exploits, and current status are described. Note that all official adventuring companies must obtain a charter to legally operate in Southold.
Bad Company - This group is nominally based in Southold, but is actually a landless band that wanders the continent in search of adventure. Bad Company has been adventuring for at least several decades, and it is rumored that their members frequently partake in potions of longevity and the like. As a result, Bad Company is, no doubt, the most powerful adventuring group in Arik, let alone Southold. They pass through borders with impunity, for no government wants to incur their wrath. True, the resources of a powerful land turned against this group would defeat it, but this would represent a major expenditure of funds on the scale of a small war! Currently they operate on a totally mercenary basis, hiring out to the highest bidder, and generally avoiding political entanglement. In fact, they are utterly amoral. Bad Company consists of six humans, all advanced to the limits of their professions and possessing or having access to more magic than most duchies. Though most of the members are of Southron extraction, they generally do not adventure in Southold. There was, however, a rumor that they turned down an offer to work for Duke Aimar II in the Civil War. This desicion was not out of patriotism, but because the price was too low. Their latest exploit was the slaying of an ancient blue dragon and her clan. For those that know of such matters, it is rumored that the suzerain of blue dragons, the legendary Maldraedor, is said to be infuriated at this, and wishes the band slain--a deed easier said than done!
Black Widows - A company of drow adventurers that frequently operates on the surface. They commonly engage in assassination and theft, invariably working during the night, preferably when Selune is absent from the heavens. The number and identities are unknown, yet they are thought to have operated out of Erelhigh-Sinlu before it was destroyed by the Miscreants. The motives of this company are inscrutable; no one knows whether they work for some drow noble house or trading clan, or if they are independent. Indeed, the only reason for the name they have acquired is their practice of leaving a stuffed female black widow spider pinned to their victims.
Bywater Six - This company, started operating out of Bywater in 1504, based in Blaskor's Retreat, where they rented the damaged "Durjack Room.” They have travelled far, to Videssos and Thonia, or so rumors go, and are regarded as heroes in Bywater for stopping the Videssian Incursion of 1505, destroying Colstan Rhuul’s new Temple of Bane in Undermountain, and defeating Skarda’s assassination attempt on the King. The peak of their exploits was leading the Third Bywater Expeditionary Army in the Civil War to victory at Newbridge and Wyrm’s Gap in 1507-8, and ultimately deep into Balar to defeat Lord Edrin’s deathknight lieutenant, Lord Soth. While retired, they sometimes assemble to reminisce about old times. They consist of Baron Elrich, a stout knight-priest of Nuada, Elsinor, a stealthy half-elven ranger, Gunter, a fierce ex-gladiator swordsman, Liet, a powerful mage possessing an affinity with dragons, and the newcomer Calvin, an elven scout. Their sly halfling thief, Crash died in the Cruth, and their druid Talis retired to pursue the study of nature, now in Aztaltica. The Bywater Six was quite a politicized adventuring group, all of their number are Knights (or greater—Elrich is a Baron and Elsinor a Baronet) of Southold. Liet recently became an Archmage and set up a tower in Aztaltica to sell magic items and spells.
Circle - A group of rangers and druids based in Arden that range the continent, intervening wherever nature needs protecting. This group actually accepts nearly half its missions from Ranger Lord Dorian, who has used the Circle as a foreign policy tool for many years. Indeed, the Circle was founded nearly a hundred years ago, during the Cortalish Occupation. It was decided that the best young rangers and druids, Arden's finest, should assemble into this small unit. Membership has fluctuated; due to the nature of the missions the Circle attempts, many have died. Others have retired from its ranks, and gone on to hold positions of power and influence in Arden, the late Korwold, who acted as ambassador to the Galathiene, Lalym, who is in charge of initiating new druids, and Briadorn Half-Elven, who is ambassador to Southold and adviser to Dorian are such examples. Current membership includes the druids Mourntarn "the Master" Eimair, Deltra, Veshar, Orben, and Feldel, and the rangers Briadorn, Rathagol, Temis, Reptar, and Selvan. With the support of Arden, this company is usually well equipped. It is suspected this group has been operating in Silvania to harass the Cortals.
Conclave of Wizards - Though not really an “adventuring company,” the Conclave--Southold’s six most powerful archmages--ocassionally go on missions when the nation is threatened. The band meets ocassionally at the White Tower of Bigy of the Fist, the Conclave’s leader. Other members in order of power are: Gondal the Great head of Bywater’s College of War Wizardry; Zenjik Demonslayer based in Liveoak; Mekkarri the Magnificant, head of the Royal Academy; Amstard the Artificer based in the Forest of Arden; and Otliuke the Illustrious based in Athelred’s Tower. The Conclave was first to move against Vecna during the Great Disjunction, but were slain except Bigy, who escaped to another plane and communicated to the Intrepid Paragon to continue to fight. Bigby soon used wishes to bring back the rest of the Conclave, though in late 1511 the band again gathered to rescue Gondal, who had been kidnapped by Banite cleric Colstan Rhuul and his undead army. The Conclave has been divided over helping Southold directly in the war; with Gondal and Mekkarri offering direct aid, while Bigby provides only items, while Amstard and Otliuke believe it is a war of agression and none of their business. Even so, the Conclave stands ready to defend Southold from any great threat, and has on ocassion been one of King Edmund’s greatest, if unpredictable, assets.
The Daring Duo - This retired company consists of the flashy swordsman Retameron and his wife Halia, a sorcerer of some power. The two adventured for nearly sixteen years and now spend their middle years in retirement at Verge, Anorien. They have repeatedly served both the King and Duke Duncan. In fact, Retameron's tower (a motte and baily castle) serves as the fortress for the city, and he himself the mayor. Both adventurers were rescued in 1507 from by the Bywater Six after being imprisoned in the assassin Skarda’s mystical mirror.
Death's Head - A group of necromancers that recently attempted a coup attempt in Dunthrane. After failing in this endeavor, they were tracked down by Thingol and Company and are assumed slain. They were led by Nyeru Darkspring, and consisted of the drow Albion Aalkrost, Elock, Tracey Windstrider, Promiss Reynolds, and the famed necromancer-swordsman Red Morgan.
Deep Delvers - The Deep Delvers of Bywater, as this upstart company is called, is made of this the jaded young sons of several Anorien noble families. The Watch complained increasingly about "night stalking", thieving, vandalizing, and playing pranks at night, so these youths turned to Undermountain. They can often be seen at the Yawning Portal Inn, bragging about their last "delve" into the dungeon. The members must enter Undermountain, and come out with a tale and trophy of their exploits. Unlike most novice adventurers, these ones are, for the most part, rich, and most have access to magic items far beyond their station. This rich "brotherhood" has been around for several years now, and several of the original members have retired to more sedate pursuits, only to be replaced by new, eager would-be adventurers.
The Four - A highly mercenary adventuring band, this quartet was recently expelled from Dunthrane by the Captain-General of the Watch Sir Balto. This exile was imposed for their role in assassinating several minor nobles in succession (despite the fact that such assassinations were always at the behest of this or that rival noble). Active throughout the South, the Four is not welcome in Tara, the Cortalish Empire, or Hule (as all such groups are in that country) and maintains a low profile when travelling through those lands. The Four carefully plan their activities so as to slay any possible enemies or those who know too much about them (such as former employers), and are experts in unseen or "accidental" death. They are all Southron males and reputedly mix thievery with magic, especially illusion.
The Hunt - A recently formed band of adventurers based in Urml and active in Tara and Southold. The Hunt has grown rapidly from eight to fourteen members (rather large for an adventuring company), despite some early fatalities
suffered in a brutal fight with a caravan's large guard contingent. The Hunt has recently been active in the Wyrmsteeth, and, is already credited with slaying a adult red dragon. Its aims and character are unknown, as the Hunt seldom deals publicly for commissions and the like, existing (thus far) almost exclusively on the fruits of self-directed adventuring. The group's leader is Shasslan Timtrane, a strong fighter in her own right. No one knows whether this group is bent toward good, evil, or simply money, but it is known that a several clerics of Tempus, most notably Crommlar Muriel, are part of their number.
The Knights of the Lyre - A romantic, whimsical group of noble adventurers who worship Pholtus. They are all great performers, mostly bards, that champion artists throughout the city of Bywater. Javalar Roaringhorn leads the chapter, as he has for over 25 years. Note that this aging group has settled down, and is in quasi-retirement, though they remain one of the most powerful companies in Southold and usually sally forth about once a year. This band recently destroyed the drow occuping the Shrine of of Nevron in a spectacular fashion.
Intrepid Paragon/Miscreants - The Miscreants are a band of rather powerful adventurers nominally led by the Extremaduran rogue Hernando, a former member of the disbanded Reavers. Another ex-Reaver, Stonne, is one of the most skilled elven wizards outside the Galathiene. Greywolf is a stout dwarven cleric of Tyr, a moral challenge for this authority figure given the lack of morals among several of his comrades. Agrippa is a foul-mouthed, fire-eating mage who fled from his fellow cabalists in Videssos, only recently saved from his transformation into a vampire. The last of this company's three mages is Wildcard, from the hills of Irrudium who often acts as the conscience of the party. Kliff is the bold, straightforward barbarian from the Thonian tundra, who wields one of the most powerful blades in the realm, Immlingdrank the Defender. The itinerant human ranger Black Arrow, noted hunter of lycanthropes, occasionally reunites with his old comrades. (see entry for Black Arrow.) Lady Araselle of Hador left the group after accomplishing its initial quest and is now in Aztaltica. For a time the halfling swashbuckler Fharo, Baron Ryan Hamfast, joined, but tragically died, while Khoresh, a skilled human archer, remains a member. This group was formed in 1504 and, as the tales go, travelled far into the Underdark from an entrance tunnel in the Cruth. Little is known of what transpired there, but they went back and forth between there, Dunthrane, and the Galathiene for over a year. Finally, in 1506 they returned, claiming to have slain Lloth in her very lair, and witnessed the destruction of the legendary Drow city under the Cruth, Erelhei-Cinlu. The band also achieved a great personal quest by slaying Garth, a prince of werewolves. Afterwards the group renamed itself the Intrepid Paragon, and soon became ensnared in Vecna’s attempt at godhood. The band fought the archlich’s plot at every turn, from Rockhome to Alesia, to the Yazakh steppes and even to Vecna’s extraplanar prison, Citadel Cavitius. They eventually suceeded casting both Vecna, and their perrenial enemy Janus, another being seeking godhood, into an extraplanar abyss. This act ended Vecna’s Great Disjunction, and all were rewarded by the gods themselves for the act. While the Paragon is largely in retirement, they ocassionally reassemble, as they did recently to destroy Garth once and for all, in the service of Banite priest Colstan Rhuul.
This group was formed in 1504 and, as the tales go, travelled far into the Underdark from an entrance tunnel in the Cruth. Little is known of what transpired there, but they went back and forth between there, Dunthrane, and the Galathiene for over a year. Finally, in 1506 they returned, claiming to have slain Lloth in her very lair, and witnessed the destruction of the legendary Drow city under the Cruth, Erelhei-Cinlu. The band also achieved a great personal quest by slaying Garth, a prince of werewolves.
Afterwards the group renamed itself the Intrepid Paragon, and soon became ensnared in Vecna’s attempt at godhood. The band fought the archlich’s plot at every turn, from Rockhome to Alesia, to the Yazakh steppes and even to Vecna’s extraplanar prison, Citadel Cavitius. They eventually suceeded casting both Vecna, and their perrenial enemy Janus, another being seeking godhood, into an extraplanar abyss. This act ended Vecna’s Great Disjunction, and all were rewarded by the gods themselves for the act. While the Paragon is largely in retirement, they ocassionally reassemble, as they did recently to destroy Garth once and for all, in the service of Banite priest Colstan Rhuul.
Lucky Seven - This group of adventurers venerates Shinare, and generally wanders between Tara, Southold, and Hule, making their residence in Alcester. Their most prominent member is priest Elegul Another.
The Men of the Basilisk - An exclusive group of wealthy, powerful merchants who have a taste for adventure, this group is based in the trading city of Bristol. They operate largely in the intrigues of the provinces of Sylmarch, and Hadlech, as well as the Cortalish Empire, and the occasional Minoan city-state, preferring the dagger in the night to blades bared against the high sun. This group meets in large feasts at least once each winter, to hear common business and decide on their actions in the summer ahead. It is rumored they raided a Minoan arms caravan bound for Gos.
Reavers - An adventuring company that was based in Dunthrane for many years, until it disbanded in 1503. A number of famous adventurers served with the Reavers over their travels, but the Irrudian fighter named Korum seems to have led the group. Hernando and Stonne, detailed under the Miscreants, rounded out the nucleus of the group. Other prominent members include a human warrior named Lana, and a dwarven cleric named Garathorm. Korum returned to his native land and was slain in a coup attempt. Lana left after her crazed, drow-hating sister Ryssa. Garathorm made a shrine to Tyr in the Veronian Mountains, not far from Belegost. Hernando and Stonne went on the form the Miscreants. The Reavers were quite a famous group in Southold, and their name came to be synonymous with treasure-seeking and acting based on personal morals. Though very powerful at their height, this group never had any political aspirations or ties in Southold, and so remain as an example of rugged individualism and comradery.
Princethorpe Trio - A small circle of three friends, Patro, Paula, and Marion. They are fighter, mage, and cleric of Shinare, respectively. This group has adventured for over a decade together, and, in the last few years, has settled down; only sallying forth once or twice a year to pursue their adventuring careers. A recent accomplishment of theirs was the recovery of Blansk, a Princethorpe merchant kidnapped and taken north for ransom by the Masters of the Bountiful Hunt for an imagined offense to some petty Taran noble. The Hunters were slain by the Trio at Rockburgh-on-the-Marsh, in a fight that nearly cost Patro his life. They can usually be found at Patro's barony (he was granted a title of nobility for his resistance in Edrin's Reign of Terror), several leagues away from Princethorpe. The band has recently fought the drow in Alesia, but after the intial stage of the Drow Uprising, they returned to Princethorpe. They were active behind Cortal lines in Rostov, helping disrupt the dog soldiers’ retreat in the 1511 winter push through the Studentsia Mountains.
Swords of Montinelle - Based in Andeaver's provincial capital, this ragtag group of local toughs has done surprisingly well in a brief career of adventuring and plundering. They are led by Sir Cain, an powerful evil knight. To their credit includes an entire Huler caravan slaughtered (nearly causing a war with Hule in 1503) and the plundering of no less than six mages tombs in the southern Veronian Mountains, as well as isolated incidents of murder and theft. They firmly believe in Andeaver's welfare, and never rob anyone of their beloved province. They stood behind Duke Aimar II's quest to "rid Dunthrane of that timid boy, Edmund." During the Civil War, they were been blamed for infiltrating Dunthrane before the siege posed as mercenaries after the rout at Twin Pines and committing acts of terror. In 1507 the band was sent to Wyrm's Gap to raise an army from the humanoids in the nearby foothills. They allied themselves with a human dragon rider called "da boss" and lay siege to Wyrm's Gap. The Third Bywater Expedionary Army smashed through their defenses in the Pass itself; a battle immensely costly to both sides. They captured Gunter of the Bywater Six at that battle, and ransomed his body for several magic items. With the death of their former patron, the rebel Duke Aimar II, the band travelled abroad, offering their service to the highest bidder. They have avoided the Cortal War, as they would not want to fight Southolders from Andeaver. The band has reportedly been active in banditry in Tara.
Stalking Sword - This all-human, well-balanced adventuring party out of Aethelred's Town is led by a wizard, Arumhir. Three fighters, Findol, Gulth, Phaeren, a wizard, Thindrar, a thief, Rhandaun, and a priest of Mask, Phaeren round out the infamous company. The Stalking Sword is a company for hire, and is reputed to have done many distasteful jobs for the now-deceased Viscount Tenkrily of Aethelred's Town. They also have an insatiable lust for treasure, and are reputed to have stolen from several of highly-placed employers. Yet this adventuring company isn't truly evil, simply greedy. They were last seen in Wyrm's Gap, setting out for some independent treasure seeking in the Wyrmsteeth.
Thingol & Company - This, Southold's most famous adventuring company (though arguably not the best), is led by Thingol Half-Elven, the roguish son of Dorian, Ranger Lord of Arden. Following this stout ranger, who has acquired the nickname "the Phantom Archer" for his shimmering magical bow, are five companions: Gaheris, human Knight of Athelstan; Fingon, elvish sorcerer; Balin, dwarven scout; Norlan, priest of Tyr; and Celebimor, a Green Islander Druid. Their exploits are too long to list, but are best known for the Succession Crisis of 1502, when they rescued Prince Edmund from the clutches of Duke Aimar I, killing him in the process. However, Thingol, the group's leader, failed to best the treacherous Lord Edrin in a trial by combat, to his shame. The band fled Southold soon after, pursued by the Slayer's Brotherhood after slaying a number of their assassins. They were in exile for a year, though none know for certain what they did during this time (tales abound from a mission to save the fabled Tower of the Stars in Tara to fighting off a demonlord in the Green Isles and even travelling to another world.) Upon returning, this group hunted and slew the band of necromancers, Death's Head, that tried to kill the King in 1504. In the 1505, they mustered a small army and defeated Duke Aimar's northern army in the Civil War. Thingol was called again to act as the King's Champion against Lord Edrin at war’s end in 1508, this time winning. The band all have at least knighthoods, with Gaheris a Baron, and Thingol a Count; he has ocassionally been active leading the Fourth Royal Army in Sylvania, or operating behind the lines.
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