(Winter, Oathday, 13th of Calistril, 4714)
It was a peculiar company that came together that winter in the Greenforest Inn. The weather cold and crisp, no wonder the strangers came. Yet was desperation for enough coin to keep in drink and warmth proved enough to settle on a desire to join forces and see what fortune was to be had?
Max, the Osiriani-Elf half-breed, dusky skinned, broad-brimmed hat, pistol at his side. He had traveled long before ending up in this wretched little town, with his mule his only companion ’till now.
“Black” Shirly Stone, cat-like Tiefling, ever twitching his tail, bow never out of reach. Ever hungry, ever bored, except when playing with his favorite snack, a jar full of mice.
Vatou, dark-skinned wanderer with burning eyes, rarely speaking, robes and staff hinting his calling. But the stranger was misleading, no more mage than man.
Vark Ironbreaker and Alkor, the half-orcs, so similar in arms and dress. Yet Alkor smiled, resting sword against shield, ready and patient for battles to come. Vark, greatsword across his knees, fez on his head, growled, impatient to serve his god Gorum with the blood and battles he so richly deserved.
Soyala Palln, a Sylph maiden, quietly watching, blending into the background. A face in the crowd, a shadow in the company, the calm voice in a cacophony of cutthroats.
Brimstone, another Tiefling, with sword at his belt and sparks in his hands. His horns mighty antlers above his brow, words were fire on his tongue
These were unlikely heroes, but hungry ones all the same.
Hearing word from Innkeeper Shandar Tulman that the Blue Basilisks, a local mercenary company, had posted a reward for the rescue (or proof of death) of lost adventurer Garhal Silvercrown. A quick jaunt in the face of the evening chill to read the bounty board outside the Basilisk’s barracks nearly results in a brawl between Brimstone (who’s baser nature cannot resist needling the mercenaries), Vark (who cannot back down from a battle), and those they would otherwise seek answers from. Still, Max and Soyala get the answers they need through diverse paths, and it is agreed they set out to Garhal’s last known location, the Accursed Halls, the following morning.
Except for a spat over one of the serving boys between a girl in her cups and his rough and tumble fiance, the night passes uneventfully for the new-formed band of fortune-seekers, and they travel with first light across town to the entrance known by many to be the first step for many an adventurer’s doom. Garhal was not the first to disappear in the catacombs beneath Thornkeep, though he was the only one to tell stories of a mysterious Goblin temple before his vanishing.
Though they have little desire to follow a similar fate, and attempt to examine the entrance hall with care, patience proves not to be Shirly’s strong-suit, and the archer slips down the stairs to everyone else’s aggravation or bemusement. He proves to pay for it though, as he is caught by surprise by three hungry centipedes of exceptional size while investigating the carcase of a pig staked out n the middle of the first chamber he finds. Though he takes a beating (and suffers from a touch of poison), the rest of the company races to his rescue and the vermin are soon dispatched. As the fight comes to a favorable resolution, however, Brimstone and Soyala slip ahead of the others just enough to take a peek at the next chamber. What they see chills them: a great hall, with an octagonal dais surrounded by eight great columns, each in turn entwined by a creature with the upper body of a woman, the lower half a snake, with six arms and in each hand a blade.
And they cannot quite tell – are they stone? Or are they beginning to writhe? To dance as they watch?