Dear Squire of Kryptgarten,
My name is Tamn, and, apparently I am now part of a massive conspiracy to raze and lay waste to the city of New Phlan, kill all its citizens, rape all its women (because, you know, orcs), and set up some mysterious, giant, flaming guy who scares the fuck out of Lord Noriss as the king of the northern Moonsea. So…yeah…need to find a new line of work soon…
Let me back up.
After collecting the loot from my friends—I use the term loosely here, they were just some guys I met after washing up on shore on Thorn Island, and I really only knew them for a few days, but they did cut me in on their reward for killing the undead on the island—Lord Noriss informed us that we had been hired to kidnap a local heiress. The next day though, as we were sneaking into New Phlan to do the job, we learned that said heiress had agreed to marry her would-be kidnapper and was no longer on the hit list. Fucking politics.
If I’m sounding a little cynical, its only because I find myself in completely ridiculous circumstances.
So, that job fell through, not that I really mind…kidnapping seldom turns out well, and capturing or imprisoning anyone doesn’t really sit well with me. We return to Lord Noriss and are informed that he got a new deal, from the local Thieves’ Guild, the very boringly named “Thieves of Phlan”. We don’t usually get along with the “Thieves’”, as they tend to operate pretty openly and also tend to be less racially inclusive. But, apparently they needed a huge distraction in a hurry, and knew Noriss was the only one who could provide.
So, late in the day, we lieutenants, and a handful of carefully picked orc grunts, snuck out with two goals…rouse some of the pro-Xvimlar orc gangs, make them think the hobgoblins from the old textile mill were out to kill them, then kill a hobgoblin and plant evidence to make it look like the orc gangs did it, to make the belief true.
Our first stop was a hobgoblin watch-post, near the old wizard’s tower, which they used for keeping tabs on the humans poking about the Slums—a bit of early warning in case the counctil tried to send troops to root them out of the old Textile factory where they lived. Hobos are pretty organized it seems, which was a good thing for making out plan work, no one would expect a small pack of hobos to act on their own without orders from the tribe.
We did that old-school, kicked in the door and killed the five of them. Lost a couple of orcs, but that’s how it goes. We left our dead (and a couple of spare Xvim symbols), then grabbed the hobos’ bodies, still armed and armored, and hauled them out with us. Had to make sure the bodies were in the right place, eh?
Our second stop was the small Xvimlar shrine in the Slums, where the orcs tended to do their sacrificing and what passes for planning on their part. One of our orc grunts went in and scouted, informing us that, as expected a pair of gang leaders were there finishing off some beggar-girl. Thing about orcs, they mean it when they threaten to fuck people to death, and don’t mind continuing well after the ‘to death’ part. There were quite a few guards in the atrium, he said—apparently the grunts don’t get to join in the “serious worship”.
We climbed up to the roof and dropped into the sanctuary through a hole right above the altar (for letting out the smoke when the burn sacrifices). We caught them by surprise, dropped on their heads and killed them, quietly, mid-necro-coitus. We snagged their swords, strange green-bladed things that marked them as Xvim-approved gang-leaders, then lowered in the hobgoblin corpses and Yuri artfully arranged them in a scene of carnage and temple desecration.
We then started making a racket, two of our orcs shouting in their language, and the rest of us yelling some choice epithets and insults in Hobgoblin that Isti taught us. Coffex and an orc upended the altar to block the door and slow the arrival of reinforcements, while we pantomimed the killing, clanking blades together and yelling. Isti then blew a hole in the back wall using some toy she had concocted and we booked it out of there, just ahead of the door and altar lurching aside to let the angered orc guards in.
We ran through the twisting alleys for close to a half-hour, set a few small hovels on fire for good measure, then snuck over to the old textile mill, the ruckus of anti-hobgoblin hysteria rising in the slums behind us. We dismissed all but two of our orc entourage, handed them the green Xvim-blades, and Isti used her magic to instill them with a recklessly-insane level of courage. We then bet them five-hundred crowns (he had seen the cash we got off my dead ‘friends’) that they could not kill the hobgoblin sentries by the gates and get away with it. Man are orcs stupid…
Coffex gave the orcs each one of his special ravager potions. The two orcs snuck, quite expertly for orcs, up to the gates, scaled the walls, and were quickly in a pitched and not at all quiet battle with the sentries. Yuri set off an alarm spell, made to sound like the hobgoblin warning gongs, and then we high-tailed it down the nearest well and back to the hideout.
The next morning agents from the Thieves’ Guild delivered a bag with one-hundred pounds of solid gold plates, cups, and similar objects to Lord Noriss. Huzzah!
We took a couple of weeks to relax and enjoy the spoils of that last job, Noriss even sent a couple of the boys up to the market to order two tuns of wine to celebrate. I was starting to get used to this bandit thing.
After a few days of R&R, Lord Noriss again called us into his private chambers. We learned that he had received a letter from the would-be kidnapper inviting him to a meeting organized by the would-be kidnappee. Yeah, that’s right, apparently the newly married couple were holding some kind of open-forum for criminals and violent gangs in the city who want more say in politics. In a week, Noriss said. Nice of him to invite us lieutenants.
We showed up in Podol Plaza, just north of the well where we had out hide-out (between the Textile Mill and the old noble’s district), to find a horde of nasties—ogres, gnolls, kobolds, bugbears, hobgoblins, even a few giants—plus representatives from the Kovel Mansion Thieves’ Guild (not the one that paid us to stage the orc-hobo fight—they were conspicuously missing), representatives from the temple of Xvim, and our benefactor and his didn’t-need-to-be-kidnapped wife.
There was much airing of grievances: Xvimlar accusing hobgoblins, hobgoblins accusing Xvimlar, hobgoblins complaining about some adventurers taking over one of their keeps, the kobold king complaining about tribute shipments from the east being cut-off…all that sort of thing. They all wanted to know why ‘The Boss’ hadn’t ordered an attack on the city in so long. I was curious about this ‘boss’, since it was clear that everyone was talking to and not about the two, surprisingly young, humans who were leading the meeting.
Yuri quietly asked Noriss if he knew anything about ‘the boss’, and the tough half-orc informed us that he had only seen the boss once, at a similar meeting just after the humans took over the docks a couple years ago and started their campaign to ‘civilize’ Phlan. He described ‘the boss’ as some kind of flame-shrouded giant or demon who was trying to build an army to once-and-for-all put the humans in their place.
The boy informed everyone that “Lord Maram”, who I can only assume is this boss, was disappointed by the infighting between the various tribes and gangs in Phlan, and was unlikely to order any significant action until the tribes could show a significant success in working together to put a stop to the encroachment of the human adventurers and settlers.
The girl then informed them that the council had raised some racist Hillsfarran jokers as “Squires of Kryptgarten”, naming them the first nobles of New Phlan and giving them the recently liberated hobgoblin keep north of town. The keep was, she said, poorly garrisoned and isolated, and, because of the nature of the trust the council had placed in these outsider, would make an excellent example.
The boy called out the kobold king, Greshlyrr, and the newly raised hobgoblin Chieftainess-cum-High-Priestess, Grishnak, and informed them that ‘The Boss’ wanted them, as the most organized tribes, to coordinate a full-scale assault on the keep. He then called our Lord Noriss, praising his success in evading the council’s agents, and gave him, and therefor us, command of the joint kobold-hobgoblin operation. He was even nice enough to point out a convenient secret entrance to the keep by means of a nearby crypt.
There was some arguing on the part of the kobold king and hobgoblin priestess, and some guy named Mace, who was apparently the high-priest of Xvim and angry that they were left out, but they eventually all agreed to follow Lord Noriss’s commands…just this once.
My name if Tamn. Until recently I was a slave. Then a hero. Then a bandit. Now lieutenant to an evil warlord, working for some even bigger-and-badder warlord, preparing to lead a legion of kobolds and hobogoblins to assault some gods-forsaken-keep in the wilderness as a precursor to the extermination of all humans north of the Moonsea.
I hope this letter finds you soon, so that you may prepare for our inevitable arrival.
~Tamn Footstooler, The Thrice-Betrayor