Being a true recording of the Silver Legion mercenary company’s exploits in the lost continent of Aztaltica, by Paymaster-Captain Hieronymous.
We pick up the story of the Silver Legion in the Fall of the 1511th year after the Cataclysm. Vecna’s Great Disjunction--his bid for godhood--had just been foiled by the adventurers of the Intrepid Paragon. Yet the bloody war between Southold and the Cortalish Empire continued unabated into its third year. The fighting between these two great powers is like none Arik has seen before, as mass levies of reinforcements plug gaps in the lines, and neither side seems able to win a decisive victory. Southold occupied a quarter of the Cortalish Empire, largely the portion formerly called Sylvania, whose inhabitants long viewed the Cortals as occupiers, and some of whom began to view the Southrons the same way.
One of the many units holding the Southron line was the famous mercenary Silver Legion, loosely dedicated to Nuada, god of just war. The vainglorious, but brilliant, General Morgan Cordell wanted a victory before the winter pause set in, to raise flagging morale. However, storming the well-defended Radzetsky Pass would be too bloody, so he sought other ways to breach the Studentsia Mountains blocking the advance—“if we can’t find a way, we’ll make one.” On the holiday of Higharvestide he assembled three junior officers: Lieutenant Gelben Fisk, the devout Southron Nuadan priest of the Templars of Saint Uther, Lieutenant Gilgareth Prindle, a veteran Southron soldier with many scouting talents; and Lieutenant Dmitry Vladimirovich, a Sylvanian wizard known for his fierce devotion to restoring to Sylvanian royalty to the lands liberated from the Cortals.
Chapter I. Clearing Passage Through Khundrakar
The trio of legionnaires was dispatched to forge a trail for the army to march through the mountains, to clear a path through the ancient dwarven halls of Khundrakar, former seat of Master Smith Durgeddin the Black, now rumored to be infested with orcs and other beasts. The Legion’s chief wizard and Cordell’s elven consort, Lady Ailea, gave them a wand of wall of stone, advising them to seal off any dangerous areas of the dungeon—particularly that allegedly inhabited by a dragon, so the army could march through. Cordell claimed that then, the Silver Legion would fall upon the forward elements of the Cortal 9th Army at Radzetsky Pass from both sides, winning a crushing victory. The trio of young lieutenants, having met only briefly before, set out, determined to prove their worthiness.
The three soon found the entrance to Khundrakar, high on a mountain face. While they managed to slay the orc guards outside, soon they were fired on via arrow slits, taking further fire as they struggled to push open the huge bronze doors. Within, the room was divided by a chasm spanned only by a flimsy rope bridge. Gilgareth leapt onto the structure, as arrows pelted him from the darkness on the far side. His fate hung in the balance as two orcs ran forward and cut the rope bridge, but he managed to grab hold of the ledge, leap up, and slay the pair. The legionnaires’ first battle had been harrowing, yet successful in breaching the outer defences.
They soon stumbled upon the lair of the orcs’ leader, a powerful warrior ogre named Great Ulfe. His strength was prodigious, and with three mighty swings of his enchanted greataxe, he slew Gelben, who remained true to his Nuadan faith, not recoiling from certain death. Dimity’s spells brought down the beast just as it prepared to finish off Gilgareth. Saddened, the group bore Gelben’s body back to the Legion, where Chaplain-Colonel Demetrious cast raise dead, generously taking only Great Ulfe’s magic greataxe and a small tithe in return.
In their second foray into Khundrakar, the trio cleared out more orcs and rescued some imprisoned villagers. The legionnaires saw a deep hole leading down, and believing it led to the Underdark, sealed it off with Lady Ailea’s loaned wand of wall of stone. However, after slaying the last orcs and a shaman, they realized it was the only continuation of the dungeon. After hours of chipping away, they broke through their own blockage and climbed down into natural caverns. Gil scouted ahead, his cloak of elvenkind garbing him in shadows. However, as he picked up a pouch of gold lying beside a dwarven skeleton, the jingling awoke a colony of stirges, bat-like bloodsuckers who swarmed over and nearly slew him before help arrived.
Further on, the band encountered some troglodytes and a black bear, which nearly felled Gelben a second time. After sleeping to recover spells and heal, the trio stumbled upon a dwarven burial chamber, which they left alone, and a troglodyte warren. The lieutenants managed to ambush the lizard-like creatures, but entombed the remainder behind a wall of stone when a shaman and giant lizard moved to enter the fray.
The band next encountered a skeleton covered in yellow mold holding a gleaming, magical bastard sword. They used a magical unseen servant to extricate it from the deadly spores. With Gil scouting ahead, the party traversed the rest of the cavern level. Following their orders, the trio used the wand to cast a wall of stone to seal the lower level.
Instead, they entered the final section of Khundrakar, the ancient dwarven foundry itself. After bypassing an elaborate statue trap, they stepped on an ancient magical alarm, which called out in dwarven that intruders were approaching. The party entered the dwarven great hall, and were soon accosted by a group of “dwarves” with whom they negotiated a truce. They were an adventuring party of perhaps a dozen dark dwarves—duergar. The lieutenants negotiated safe passage beyond the foundry, which the duergar were using to try to rediscover the lost smithing secrets of Durgeddin.
The band passed into the old living quarters of the dwarves, slaying many orcish and dwarven undead. Gelben managed to turn a restless allip—the wailing spirit of the dwarven high priest Arundil—and they later cornered the apparition. His room was one of the few unlooted by the orc invaders centuries ago, including Arundil’s magical mace which Gelben claimed. The legionnaires even entered an altar room where Durgeddin’s body lay, but it was guarded by an orcish wight and two ogre skeletons. After initially retreating, Gelben—no doubt pushed back by the tenet of his faith “Thou shalt not recoil from thine enemy”—returned. They swiftly slew the beast, and took Durgeddin’s remains for proper burial in his native Rockhome.
The band now located a tunnel exiting the other side of the mountains, as well as a deep sinkhole leading down. They led the assembled Silver Legion in single file through the cleared halls of Khundrakar. The only problem was in the last room, where the dragon could be heard roaring through a sinkhole, but there were no mishaps. The fiery cavalry Captain Romnor asked about the dragon, and several days later he returned with some of his comrades to slay it and claim its treasure, despite the trio’s plans to eventually do so themselves.
Chapter II. The First Battle of Radzetsky Pass
With that, the Silver Legion did a forced march to Radzetsky Pass from the west, catching Cortalish fortifications in the rear on the morning of 12 Marpenoth. The Legion left only Daggrande’s redoubtable dwarven crossbowmen behind to garrison the eastern part of the pass. The main army marched down the center of the pass from the west, with its light cavalry, the Silver Raiders, in a screen ahead, inflicting significant casualties. However, the enemy ballista took a heavy toll on Captain Romnor’s cavalry as they advanced—costly losses difficult to replace. The engagement soon turned into a classic turning battle, with the Legion’s heavy left wheeling around just as the Cortals’ heavy left wheeled on the opposite side. There was a moment’s pause as both cavalry units faced each other off, until both charged into melee. General Cordell was nearly slain, but managed to prevail in single combat with General von Manstein, swinging the tide of battle as most of the Cortals fled at the news of his death.
After the battle, Gelben, Gilgareth, and Dmitry caroused in Radzetsky’s liberated taverns, keen to begin training. On one night, they saw a Nuadan Inquisitor, Durmond by name, arresting a native Sylvanian woman, Petya Avramovich. The Inquisitor was taking her out of a Sylvanian tavern, while the patrons watched warily. Dmitry convinced the Inquisitor that she was a Sylvanian royalist, working for the return of King Marko, and not a Cortalish spy. She then went off to discuss issues in private. Upon Dmitry’s return, he claimed he might one day ask the aid of his comrades on a personal mission, to rescue his brother Andrei, imprisoned years ago in the most well-defended prison in the Empire, Granite Mountain. However, the time was not yet right, and would have to wait for more information gathering.
Chapter III. To Seize and Hold Black Tower Bridge
In a battle staff meeting on 14 Marpenoth 1511, General Cordell related how Southron supply lines had been mysteriously and simultaneously attacked by humanoids, which had seized several old towers that once guarded the borders between Southold’s then-warring duchies. Cordell was dispatching two other groups to clear other routes, but they must open the main supply route at Thirple’s Black Bridge, whose controlling tower had been taken over by a band of hobgoblins. Lieutenants Gilgareth and Dmitry were to be accompanied by Sergeant-Major, Garrant, one of the most respected and efficient enlisted soldiers of the Legion, in charge of training and discipline.
The three first scouted the area, talking to villagers in Thirple, then posing as travellers and passing through the hobgoblin gate to see how it was manned. The hobgoblins demanded Garrant pray to their heathen god Gruumsh, whereupon he “prayed Gruumsh got what he deserved.” They then prepared a ploy, posing as peasants in a cart, Dim casting knock to open the gate, and Garrant charged in swinging his massive greatsword. It actually worked; just. Garrant clove his way through ranks of the hobgoblins on the main stairs leading up, felling their leader and absorbing spell after spell from a shaman, until he could barely stand. Dim’s mystical color sprays dazzled the enemy, while Gil was able to tumble down to the basement to save three of the captured Southron guards, though three comrades had already been slain. Alas, the hobgoblin shaman escaped. The band feared she would bring reinforcements.
After securing the tower, they braced for defence, sending a single guard messenger to ask for aid, though he never returned. After barring the main gate, distributing crossbows throughout, pouring oil and setting traps, they awaited nightfall. The outlying torches went out one-by-one, as a pair of ogres and hobgoblins under a tower shield and carrying a battering ram came running across the bridge. It withstood ballista shot and oil, yet the ogres with the battering ram were stuck at the main gate, unable to burst through. Garrant, soldier that he was, directed defence, having the two remaining guards and his two legionnaire comrades call out positions throughout the battle. Gil had the hardest time of it on the roof, as swarms of hobgoblins climbed the walls and he was eventually forced to retreat, seriously wounded. Garrant plugged a gap in the ballista tower, despite the spells of a second shaman, he slew the attackers and barred the ballista tower door. Disaster almost struck when Dim and another guard had sleep cast upon them from outside, but when they didn’t call in, the others knew something was wrong, and woke them up. Finally, the ogres abandoned breaking down the door and joined the hobgoblins, clambering up and into the tower, and were slain one-by-one as they did so. The sergeant-major tried to take the last one alive, the enemy chieftain, but the creature betrayed his truce and was slain.
However, the band cured a single hobgoblin, and promised to spare its life if it revealed its lair. Its story corroborated that of the initial guards, that at least two humans had helped organize the humanoid raid--a power behind them--one cloaked and one who smelled of cheap perfume. Unfortunately, there was no other clue as to whom these traitors were, although it was assumed that they had incited the other goblinoid uprisings to disrupt lines of communication nearby. The band gave two finely crafted longswords that had belong to the ogres to the two seriously wounded guards as reward, then set off. They made a truce with the hobgoblin guards, allowing the women and children to escape into the night. Searching the lair revealed only some coins.
The following day, the Legion’s supply convoy was able to cross the bridge. Garrant, who had once been a recruiting sergeant, arranged for a meeting of all Thirple’s townspeople. Delivering a stirring speech focusing on the courage of the two local guards who helped defend Black Tower Bridge, he convinced 40 of the villagers to enlist in the Legion. In particular, the hulking, taciturn half-ogre barkeep Menigan enlisted, swiftly promoted to assume command of the troubled Dunthrane Halberdiers unit to which the Thirple recruits were assigned.
Chapter IV. The Second Battle for Radzetsky Pass
The Legion had less than a week to recover before it was hit by Cortalish reinforcements on 19 Marpenoth, but because Black Tower Bridge was open, at least it had supplies. This time, the Legion held the pass, and oriented the captured ballista and other defences toward the oncoming host. Despite Lieutenant Dmitry’s trained guidance, the ballista failed to find its mark, although the Silver Raiders harassed the enemy on horseback with a rain of arrows. The enemy advanced on the right behind some trees, and on the left masked by hills. However, their timing was off, and the left emerged just minutes before the right, only to flee amid concentrated missile fire. The right was harder to tame however, with cavalry slamming into the Silver Phalanx. Yet the phalanx held, allowing Romnor’s cavalry to charge into the fray and send the enemy cavalry in flight.
While General Cordell chased the Cortals to ground, a massive block of 300 Cortalish halberdiers reached the Legion’s center, mowing right through the Dunthrane Halberdiers. They then bore down on the weakened Silver Phalanx, and this time, the phalanx broke. Dmitry was slain and a treasured magical heirloom ring stolen, though Garrant, Gilgareth, and the Halberdiers’ newly recruited leader, the half-ogre Menigan, were only seriously wounded. General Cordell by now wheeled around and slew the remainder of the enemy, but it had been a costly day’s fighting. One good result from Dimity’s point of view was the Legion heeded his recommendation to ship the captured ballista battery back to Legion headquarters at Winterhaven, to make the machines mobile.
Chapter V. Onward to Tara
After the Nuadan celebration of Saint Uther’s Day on 31 Marpenoth, the traditional end to the campaigning season, Gelben, Dmitry, Gilgareth, and Sergeant-Major Garrant were invited to lunch with the Legion’s commanders. As other Southron units advanced through the breach at Radzetsky Pass, the Legion had some welcome weeks of quiet training as cold weather set in. General Cordell explained their next special mission:
“My legionaries, I have called you here for a special purpose. Despite our recent victory at Radzetsky Pass, our forces are being bled dry in this hellhole, while we’ve advanced a scant few miles in the past year. I may be a Southron and a patriot, but I can’t continue wasting the Legion here—there are causes where we can better help our country—not to mention our purses—which is why I’ve assembled you here today.
I know an old salt from the campaigning in the Civil War, Captain Garvyn, who knows the South Sea better than any. Garvyn’s no stranger to enchanted mysteries, beasts, and the like, having adventured for a time with the Intrepid Paragon who helped rid him of a curse. Plus he has a right old carrack, the Endurance by name. There are some bigger, but few better.
Garvyn recently came into the possession of an ancient Videssian scroll telling of the riches of a realm called “Aztaltica.” It is supposedly a huge land—at least half the size of all Arik--across the South Sea. It is a hot, jungle realm, where gold, exotic foods, and spices are plentiful. The scroll is a fragment reporting a shipment of gold from Aztaltica—which had been subjugated by the Videssian Empire and dubbed the province of Ultima Thule. It is dated fifty years before the Cataclysm, over fifteen centuries ago. Garvyn commissioned a researcher—Alchemist Quester Thews of the Dunthrane Arcane Academy—to peruse the capital’s libraries. Unfortunately there are very few Southron records prior to the Videssian Occupation of Southold which ended five hundred years ago, and no references to this “Aztaltica.”
Your mission is to gain more information about “Aztaltica,” if it even exists. I won’t send the men after a myth—I want proof the place exists. Several libraries and sages come to mind—the Videssian archives in Videssos City, impossible for us to access, the ancient Dragon Maldraedor of the Wyrmsteeth Mountains, the Dwarven archives of Rockhome, even the Vistani seer Raven the Bird-Sighted, in Liveoak. However, I want to begin with the Tower of the Stars in Tara. There Master Sage Shalfrey has what some call the most comprehensive library in all Arik, and charges exorbitant prices for research. I’m sending you with 3,000 nobles of Legion funds for payment, and will reward the one of you who most distinguishes himself with a captaincy. I needn’t remind you that discretion is key—if this gets out, there could be a flood of explorers and conquerors sailing south. Other than Shalfrey and his sages—whose silence is purchased with coin—no one else must know
More than Aztaltica’s existence, we need any information on how to breach the Hellstorm, the belt of continuous magical and mundane storms some thirty days south of Dunthrane. Many call it the end of the world, and believe to sail into it would mean falling off Grund and into Hell itself. The Videssian scroll makes no mention of it. For all I know, it didn’t exist then, a product of the Cataclysm, or perhaps the Videssians knew a secret way to survive its ravages.
If you can find evidence of this land’s existence, and find a way there, it will be ours for taking. We’ll all be very rich men—and of course, I’ll plant the standard of Nuada and Southold on any lands we might acquire...
Chapter VI. The Tower of the Stars
Lieutenants Gelben, Gilgareth, and Dmitry set off on a boat up the River Greyflood to Tarascon, Tara, where they continued on horseback. Several days’ ride from the tower, they encountered four dead bodies, covered by a shimmering web. The web sprung and attacked as they approached. When they tore it to shreds, memories of the dead--monks of the Order of the Heavens--sprung into the adventurers’ minds. The images had been released from the Memory Web which fed on such thoughts. There were many clues among the thoughts, mainly that the monks were on a mission from the Master Sage of the Tower of the Stars to ask another sage, Derwyth, about the Hellstorm--one of the questions General Cordell had relayed.
Taking a bestiary the monks were carrying as payment for this Derwyth, they were soon able to locate the valley called Cwn Cernat where the sage lived. It was a forested paradise, guarded by intelligent giant eagles, goats, tigers, and such. Within, the druidic half-elven sage Derwyth met them and meditated on their question. After taking the bestiary as payment and conducting some research, he concluded:
“I know of no way to breach the Hellstorm. However, the greatest of giant eagles who have made the flight to its periphery noted it appears to stretch hundreds of miles in an unbroken mass, blocking all southern travel. Within the area, there is darkness, gale force winds, typhoon-like waves, and fearsome bolts of arcane lightning. There are also magical creatures, principally of energy and lightening, prowling its depths. There may be an elemental portal involved, I simply don’t know. However, the Hellstorm does follow cyclical patterns, growing most fierce during the full moon, and ebbing and receding by several miles during the new moon.”
From here, the party continued toward the Tower of the Stars, passing through a reputedly orc-infested valley. They came to a huge, rough wooden dam, apparently made by giant beavers, and carefully bypassed it. They also reached a small Taran encampment, but managed to calm down the nervous hunters. In fact, the band decided to help the people by clearing out an orc band. They approached the cave and stealthily slew the guards. Gil sneaked within, but gave himself away tripping on a rock. Most of the onrushing orcs and an ogre were slain by a single lightning bolt from Dmitry, but some came out a side entrance and outflanked the band. After sustaining some wounds, the lieutenants of the Silver Legion prevailed, giving much of the copper treasure to the hunters.
The following night, the legionaries heard a wolf-like howling as they encamped. Just after midnight, the creature struck, on Gilgareth’s watch. The enchanted baying of the shadow mastiff sent Dmitry running off into the night in fear. Gelben faced off against a human shade, that of a monk in black robes. While the creatures of shadow were dispatched, it appeared they had attacked purposefully rather than a random ambush--clearly something to do with the Tower of the Stars.
On 21 Uktar 1511, three weeks after setting out, the band reached the Tower, ferried across the River Argonne by the monk Hadley. Hadley twice used the remark “Fair is the day,” and Gelben shrewdly recalled the memory from the web that the second part of this password was “but fairer the jewels of evening.” Hadley then related how Master Sage Shalfrey had been claimed dead of natural causes, and his Cortalish successor named Master Sage. The Tower of the Stars draws a single great sage from each of Arik’s four greatest realms--Southold, the Cortalish Empire, the Videssian Empire, and Tara--with the condition that the sage renounce all national ties and devote himself to the pursuit of knowledge. Hadley suspected the Cortal Vladimir still harbored connections to his native Gos, and had engineered a coup. Shalfrey had briefly communicated to Haldley telepathically after his supposed death, calling for help within the tower. Hadley had sent for aid from his order of monks, which might take a week to arrive, but the legionnaires promptly accepted the charge.
As they waited for the audience with the sages, the band made plans; they would attack the rebellious sages and their monk guards, but would wait until escorted into the inner tower, where the large dwarven garrison was not allowed. The legionnaires were escorted by a dozen dwarven guards into the large questioning chamber, which Hadley claimed was magic and sound proof. While Gelben manufactured an obscure question of heraldry, Gil gradually advanced in the room toward the curtain Hadley said the sage would hide behind. When told to stop advancing, he charged. Behind the curtain was the Taran sage Francois and two monk guardians. The monks’ blows stunned Gil, while the sage opened a secret door and ran down the stairs. As Gil and Gelben were engaged, Dmitry slipped by and chased the sage down. Luckily, he caught him just as he was opening the door. After being hit with a pair of magic missiles, Dmitry color sprayed the sage into unconsciousness. Gelben tried to convince his monk opponent to surrender, but he claimed he would fight to the death to uphold his oath. Gelben bandaged his wounds and bound the monk before proceeding. After some interrogation, Francois confessed to aiding Vladimir the Cortal attack Master Sage Shalfrey, and professed no fear as he believed he would be resurrected. Upon hearing the confession, Gilgareth ran the sage through with his rapier before Gelben could stop him, igniting a fierce argument over the morality of the act.
Gelben donned the sage robes, while Gil and Dmitry quickly shaved their heads and wore the monk robes. They continued through the lower level of the tower, generally not looting, but facing the odd gargoyle and trap. Finally they entered a small library with two sages, four monks guardians, and six scribes, all at work encased in magical silence. The band strode in purposefully, as if they belonged there, but were soon recognized, and melee began. One monk managed to corner and stun Dim. The enemy casters retreated outside another door and began raining spells within the silent room. The legionaries were seriously wounded, but pressed on, eventually reducing the various mirror images around the casters and beating them down. Once past their few spells, the casters themselves were weak--sages rather than battle wizards.
Romulus the Videssian sage died, but the band interrogated Armon the Southron at length. He claimed no knowledge of Vladimir the Cortal’s coup against Shalfrey. Yet the sage was loyal to his oaths, and the legionaries could not convince him they were not simple invaders. Tying him up, Gelben cast the last of his healing, and the band pressed on--there was no prospect of sleeping to recover spells until the Tower was clear.
The next room held a crevasse 30 feet wide with the Argonne flowing below; Gelben recalled a memory from Shalfrey’s slain monks imparted to him by the web “Have faith, and pass freely.” He removed his armor, and without any further testing or doubt, stepped out into the air, to the amazement of his comrades. He walked across the air to the other side, followed by the other two. Curious, Gilgareth threw a coin out and discovered the bridge was invisible.
lThe legionaries continued up a spiral staircase, entering into a room with three black-robed monks (like the shade monk who attacked them outside the Tower) and a black-robed sage. Vladimir the Cortal shouted, “foolish Southrons, do you think I would let a bunch of degenerates have the secret of Aztaltica--the riches shall go to the coffers of the mighty Cortalish Empire after you are silenced.” He turned invisible while his monks--more powerful than the others--advanced. The melee was fierce. Dmitry was stung by an imp, Vladimir’s demonic familiar, but managed to ward off its poison. Then Vladimir cast a fireball into the melee, knowing his monks would tumble out of the way. Gilgareth was repeatedly stunned by the monks, who rained blows onto him until he collapsed. The legionaries were on their last legs as Dmitry cast a critical lightning bolt which brought down three opponents, allowing Gelben to close with Vladimir. The agile caster prepared another fireball--one which would burn Dmitry and Gil beyond hope, but Gelben was able to interfere with him, ruining the spell. He tried a second spell, but beyond all luck that too failed, as Gelben’s enchanted mace brought the traitorous sage down
On Vladimir’s body, the band found a sealed, unsent letter addressed to the Cortalish Fire Wizards--it told of how Vladimir had intercepted news of this new continent of gold, and had decided to accelerate a long-planned coup in order to seize the information for the Empire. It described how he had moved against Shalfrey—co-opting some of his fellow sages, deceiving others, but that Shalfrey had escaped and barred himself beyond the Maze. With the letter as evidence, the band was able to convince the captured sage Armon the Southron they spoke the truth. Armon slew Vladimir and said that all the possessions of the slain traitor sages were forfeit to the legionaries.
After sleeping the night, Gil led the way into the Great Library. The legionaries first entered the Maze, where they were confronted by phantasmal killers of their deepest fears. Gil was chased by hordes of monks with their stunning blows, Dmitry saw his brother Alexei, who had betrayed his father, while Gelben heard lies that Saint Uther was actually corrupted by the demon Kahabros, rather than vanquishing him as is told in scripture. All steeled their wills and emerged unscathed into a library room with four exits. After going through several rooms, Gil deduced there was a magical trap--very difficult to disarm--on each door, varying from Blade Barriers, to Magic Missiles, to a Slay Living which Gil narrowly survived. Gelben deduced the library rooms were arranged in a set pattern of four rooms--magic, nature, arts/sciences, and history for each country of Arik. This set of four rooms covering each country was arranged as a map of Arik; i.e., the Cortalish Empire rooms were west of the Southold rooms. To Gil’s relief, the legionnaires found the exit in the Taran Magic room, matching their current geographical location.
Above was a great observatory with glassteel panes at the Tower’s summit. Shalfrey the Master Sage regarded them, thanking them for destroying Vladimir and his conspirators. Further, when he heard of their question of Aztaltica, he led them down through the Library to the southernmost walls in the Minos section; opening a secret door, he showed them a scant handful of scrolls and books regarding the lost Videssian province of Ultima Thule, known as Aztaltica. As per General Cordell’s request, he did the research and wrote out several scrolls for delivery to the Legion.
They told in snippets of letters and collected references how Ultima Thule was settled in the fifth year of Emperor Otho's Reign (year 202 Before the Cataclysm, BC). There had evidently been a great war of conquest, although this was not detailed in the references. There were apparently five ancient lizardmen cities which the Videssians conquered, one-by-one; Xahatec, Axlotl, Quetza, Xlanhuapec, and Zlatan. The Videssians also soon made slaves of the primitive human inhabitants, and sent ships laden with gold back to Videssos. Some 20,000 Videssian colonists were present at the province’s height. The last contact with Ultima Thule had been in the year of the Cataclysm, the third year of the reign of Emperor Serverus, after which the Oceanian Empire crumbled entirely, and even the Videssians were devastated. As the Cataclysm came so quickly and without warning, nothing was ever heard from the last Governor, Julius Augustulus, or the colonists ever again. In addition to relating these facts, Shalfrey told of reports of an ancient Videssian rutter—navigational charts detailing how to reach Aztaltica, currently in possession of the Southron archmage Zenjik, in Liveoak. Shalfrey also gave them a rough, ancient Videssian map of Ultima Thule made a century after its conquest, in the seventh year of Emperor Justinian (98 BC).
After the band gave Shalfrey a longevity potion found upon the conspirators--for he was aged and near natural death--Shalfrey offered to answer a single difficult sage question in future without his usual 3,000 noble minimum fee. As he turned to selecting new Cortalish and Videssian sages to replace the dead ones, the legionaries hurried back to the encampment at Radzetsky Pass. There, General Cordell decided to award promotion to Gelben Fisk for his leadership and exploits, raising him to Captain and giving him command of the heavy spearmen of the Silver Phalanx company.
Chapter VII. Pubs and Sewers
Over a month later, the Legion marched to its winter quarters at Winterhaven, just outside Dunthrane. Gilgareth, Dmitry, and Garrant set out for a night’s drinking in the capital in the days just before Yuletide to celebrate the end of a particularly long campaigning season. They started at the upmarket Lancers, then the Adventurers’ Bounty, and the Broken Cask, progressively moving toward seedier pubs as they neared the town’s dockyard quarter. Garrant thought he saw the same individual at two of the pubs, but he was not apparent at the last one, a rough dockside place called the Bleeding Orc. However, he insisted on elementary precautions when the three rented a room that night. Sure enough, Dmitry awoke to hear someone trying to open the window. He woke his comrades just as thieves came through the door and tried to open the windows. Gilgareth blocked the windows, Dmitry color sprayed several in the door into unconsciousness before Garrant could even reach them. However, the warrior was reluctant to pursue them outside bereft of armor, as two other assassins--one perhaps a caster--were waiting in the corridor outside. The City Watch soon arrived, and they passed on the details.
Garrant intimidated one of the surviving assassins, who claimed to have been hired by Terrell Darkmoor to kill them, but knew nothing else. Gilgareth said that a member of the Thieves Guild would know of the assassins, but could not come to a meeting with the thieves himself, not specifying why. After Garrant purchased a light chain shirt to sleep in, in case of future night ambushes, he and Dmitry met the thief as claimed at one of the town’s finer brothels, the Red Rose. He was hesitant at first, but disliked the idea of Terrell Darkmoor’s co-operation with Cortals, so he made some inquiries. He later revealed that this Terrell was not a Guild member, but had been seen frequenting the Adventurers’ Bounty tavern, meeting a suspected agent of the Cortals punctually just after the Temple of Tyr rung the bells at nine in the evening. However, the thief insisted that one of the Guild clerics, Kerrith of Pholtus, accompany them, as it was in the Guild’s interest these traitorous thieves be slain, lest they direct the Watch’s attention on the Guild.
The band first surveyed the tavern, and made arrangements with the bartender that the bouncers would not intervene, bluffing that since Cortal agents gathered there they would otherwise bring the Watch down on the establishment. The ambush laid, Terrell Darkmoor arrived and sat in the tavern, while Dmitry and Garrant took a second story room off a walkway overlooking the main floor. When two individuals and their four guards entered, Garrant—cloaked and only in his light armor, walked down the stairs. He avoided detection, but when Dmitry began casting Slow, the ambush was spotted.
Nonetheless, the two leaders were fatally hampered by the spell. The assassins instigated a general barroom brawl, but Garrant, greatsword held high, pushed through, cleaving one assassin in half before him. The legionnaires’ guild ally Kerrith was beset by three assassins and nearly slain, but Garrant easily knocked the two ringleaders unconscious with the flat of his blade, as Dim magic missiled a miscreant who tried to loot their bodies. As the Watch arrived, all was explained. The interrogation revealed a price had been put on the head of Dmitry, Gilgareth, and Gelben for slaying the Cortalish sage Vladimir in the Tower of the Stars. Before carting off to trial and likely execution, Terrell Darkmoor revealed there was a lair of coal goblins in the sewers which helped in several recent assassinations. Before heading down, Garrant claimed a magical protection ring from one of the assassins.
The three rested the night, and headed into the sewers. It was not difficult to find the lair. They gingerly felt their way in the first few feet of corridor, bypassing several traps, but soon came under arrow fire from within. The lair was a series of secret passageways, allowing the coal goblins to attack from behind. At one point, a shaman cast Hold Person on Garrant, paralyzing him, but seconds later Dim was able to release him with a Dispel Magic spell, perhaps saving all their lives. The hounds of the goblins were the most fearsome creatures, but all were soon dispatched with Garrant’s cleaving blade and Dmitry’s spells. A final wave of six enemies emerged from the last room, surrounding Garrant, but he methodically slew all in a matter of seconds. The lair cleared, the three headed to the surface, Kerrith departing to report to the Guild that the Cortal agents had been eradicated. Dmitry and Garrant went back to the Legion.
As the weeks passed, Legion headquarters at Winterhaven was beset with preparations. Amid the training of the next year's crop of legionnaires, General Cordell was preparing for his boldest stroke yet. Aztaltica beckoned…
Go to next section of the Log, Book I: Discovery