Confused by our state
We assault the grim tower
We are captured easily
entered the Umbraforge Tower.
The magic bronze key triggered heavy iron doors set in the
ceiling of secret tunnel to slowly fan open revealing a dimly lit library
beyond. Shades, dark on dark, the gray light issuing from globes set in the
walls, dark figures silhouetted by the globes moved within, other shapes paused from
their reading; the figures, Shadar-kai warriors stepped to block the entry of
the Brigade and taking arms attacked!
A full battle ensued traveling from the library to a great
hall … dark to darker, within the second chamber, a dark haunter similar in
size and appearance to Modra conversed with another pair of guards; the dark
one traveling in the company of a wraith. As the battle spilled into the hall
the dark haunter pulled a crystal skull from his robes which magically caused even
the dim light to fail bathing the chamber in complete darkness.
By this time the number of the guards had doubled but the
darkness worked to the party’s advantage as they were outnumbered. Even within
the darkness the fighting continue unabated and the party was split as the
battle raged on. The Shadar-kai were familiar with the lay-out of the tower and
moved smoothly through the darkness while the Brigade called out to each
striking at anything that was not one of them. The dark haunter escaped in the
darkness but not before Jimmy destroyed his wraith locating it by its foul
muttering alone. At the same time one of the Shadar-kai soldiers made his way
to the tower gate house and opening the door he summoned more of the Shadar-kai within,
four additional warriors and four Shadar-kai chainfighters joined the fray. As
the gate house doors opened dim light filled the great hall which was all the
light the Shadar-kai required.
Throwing himself in harms way Jerion tried to halt the
advancing Shadar-kai single-handedly but he was quickly overcome and fell in a
heap at their feet bleeding freely from a dozen wounds. Facing sure defeat the
other members of the Brigade started throwing down their weapons even as a
Shadar-kai runner appeared ordering the guards to take the invaders from
Before they could catch their breath, Shadar-kai guards
floated down through the hole in the ceiling of the great hall, fully half a
dozen, one, their leader, with two panthers, one at either side. The footsteps
of other guards could be heard racing through the tower heralding the arrival
of at least another dozen guards through the various doors of the great hall.
Their Captain, a grizzled veteran, with ritual scars standing out on his cheeks,
stepped forward, his panthers moving with him, teeth bared as they hissed.
“Stand down” the Captain shouted, “or your lives are forfeit!”
The situation being hopeless the Brigade complied and the
Captain, Thannu, advised the Brigade to pick-up their weapons and to tend with
their wounded while he appraised the damage wrought.
Jimmy raced to Jerion, relieved to find him unconscious but
still alive; Jimmy quickly revived Jerion healing his wounds. As Jerion
recovered his footing Thanna ordered the party into a lighter square in the
center of the great hall, the lift he called it stating, “Enter the lift, and
think up.” Doing so, the party found themselves rising magically to a second
level of the tower, some twenty feet above the main floor of the tower. Above
the 2nd floor opened to a dimly lit garden, a dark garden of trees
and other foliage. Instead of the green of health and luxurious, the leaves, stems, and flowers of
these plants a sickly shade of dark blue, gray, and black. Along the south wall
of this chamber another stone arch stood identical to the teleportation portals
the party had seen before.
Suddenly, the garden was illuminated by a pulse of white
light. The archway to the south flared as it revealed the black shrine, and a
familiar figure appeared stepping through the arch from the shrine to the
garden chamber, the veteran the Brigade had spoken to in the Happy Beggar only
now he was no longer stooped with the appearance of age and his scarred skin
turned gray with his approach.
The guard around
saluted the Shadar-kai lord who did not hide his surprise as he took in the
scene with a cold eye. “I am Sarshan. I assume someone has an explanation for
this intrusion?” Interrupting the Brigade the Captain approached whispering in
Sarshan’s ear. While he whispered, Sarshan looked upon the Brigade with wonder.
“You are, quite literally, the last people I ever expected
to see here. The charges leveled by my Captain, warrant torture and death.
However, he counted five Shadar-kai dead among the fallen so appear you owe me
five warriors and I am told that you had some part in thwarting a plot to
sabotage my foundry, and in the execution of the traitorous Modra. What might
you know of this?”
After receiving a curt but accurate account of the Brigades
travels and escapades since entering Umbraforge Sarshan continued, “As far as
you’ve managed to infiltrate my operations, I can only assume you know a little
of whom I am. My wealth and reputation turn largely on honor, obligation, and
secrecy. When I spoke to you of Modra, I hoped you would kill him and save me
the risk of more exposure than he had already caused. The fact that you
journeyed here to do the job is a surprise, but for your part in ending his
threat to me and whatever he meant to do in the foundry, I am in your debt.
However, you are more greatly in mine in the slaying of my guards. I offer a
bargain that balances the obligation for all of us. Join me.”
Asking for clarification, Bairdyn asked, “Surely, you don’t
mean for us to work for YOU!”
Reiterating Sarshan added, “Your skill at arms is clearly
first rate. I offer you a place to use and advance that skill. Moreover, I
offer you a place where you might live long enough to enjoy the fruits of your
bravery. In a month, or six, or a year, your world will be a place unfit for you
to live. Join me here instead.”
Jerion declared, “We will not aid you in an attack against
Responding Sarshan said, “Though I am nicely positioned to
take advantage of these things, I know relatively little of what is to happen,
it is not by my hand these things will occur. What I do know, I cannot share
for professional reasons, but trust me when I say that you do not want to know.
Name your choice, friends … We are all mercenaries, all of us, only a precious
few have honesty enough to admit it. Whether we sell ourselves for coin, for
honor, or ideals we all have a price whose continued payment leads us
inevitably to our end.”
Answering Jerion stated, “We will need to discuss your
“Rest for a time, weight your options, though in truth your
choice is simple. As evidence that you will be treated fairly I am paying you
your earnings … the treasure carried by those you have slain. What was theirs
is now yours. We will speak again when you have rested.”