A month had passed since the party had taken control of their new keep, new furniture was arriving, and new Kobold servants were everywhere fixing things and maintaining the castle. The butler and his newfound minions were in the process of making the castle as self sufficient as possible, and as news and couriers began to arrive regularly, the butler decided it was time to take stock and prepare his new masters for the future. As such, a jobs board was prepared.
The butler sat the adventurers down and prepared to give them the news: despite their best efforts towards self sufficiency, for the foreseeable future, it was going to cost at least 20,000 gold a year to operate. That said, the butler showed he did have some ideas. As it happened, learning that the castle by the sea was occupied once more led news and allies to flow freely from all over sanguinous imperium along with many requests for aid. Caravans were being ambushed, bounties leveled, and leads uncovered.
The arrival of a new gift from Magnus made other jobs available too. Hunters guilds needed rare venoms, and very important deliveries needed to be made.
The party, unable to decide which job to take first, decided to take two at once. The first, investigate the mass theft of the regions slaves and inquire with lord Cothrop of Cothropton about five miles away. The second, deliver a strange box covered in abyssal runes to a Heironomous H. Topot about two days journey to the north in Sky town. So, the party took the box and prepared to depart on their journey.
The trip to Cothropton took very little time on horseback, though the road between Cothropton and the keep was not as worn as it once was. Cothropton was a sleepy little town with no walls, barely rising above the swamp, anchored between the sea where its fishing vessels darted here and there, and a massive manor house owned by Lord Cothrop himself.
The party was quickly shuffled from the manor yard and into a large open throne room containing the portly lord and about ten town guards. Lord Cothrop greeted them warmly and bade them listen to his story. A group of humans had been stealing all the kobold slaves for miles between the keep and the mages tower. They’d been bold, providing shelter and protection for them while their leader, Pol, masqueraded as some kind of messiah and spurred them to rebellion. Agriculture in the region was in shambles, and if these thieves weren’t stopped, every fief between Cothropton and the tower would starve.
It took moments for the party to realize Lord Cothrop was talking about them, even before Pol the kobold was mentioned. The party deliberated amongst themselves, then revealed that they were the humans Cothrop was talking about. Lord Cothrop was stunned, but Andrew and Ethan were hasty to point out that they were simply associates and not the agents of Pol. Lord Cothrop then challenged the party, saying they could avoid arrest if they returned the kobolds and brought him Pol’s head on a platter. The party countered, saying that if they killed Pol, Lord Cothrop wouldn’t be able to identify him. Lord Cothrop began to get angry, but before he could say much else, Mike stood and raised his pistol, unloading it into the unsuspecting Lord. The head guard, upon seeing the handheld object pointed at his lord, guessed it was a weapon of destruction and dove for the lord, screaming “he’s got a wand!” as he did so. The guard’s actions saved the lord at the expense of his own life, but it did not last for long. Between a mighty guyt-liquefying blast of sound from Lisa’s oboe, the quick shooting of Stephanie, and a well timed gut punch from Bryan, the guards in the room were wiped out before they could scream, except for one. Where had he gotten to?
Knowing this was their only opportunity, the party began to search and loot the room and the dead guards. Not much was found, until a false wall protected by a hidden lever revealed the treasury. 150,000 gold, all in massive chests waited, bathing the party in the light of their splendor. Now, how to transport it?
Shannon suggested a gateway, but her only available spell would only transport as much gold as someone could lift The party decided on a good old fashioned horse and cart, but in order to do that, they would need a distraction. Lisa and Hershel sprung to action, and with a little performance and concert, some obscuring mist fro Shannon, and lots of showmanship, they were able to draw the crowd aside while the other men loaded the gold.
Then, the town hall bell sounded warning. The last guard had reached the town hall and was ringing the massive bell to warn the town of danger. A little bit of quick thinking on Stephanie’s part silenced that problem, though. She darted into the street, took aim, and blasted the wooden beam supporting the bell to sawdust. Though the crashing bell barely missed a bystander, the loud gong and the sound of falling rubble attracted those who weren’t already spellbound by Lisa’s bard song. allowing Mike, Bryan, and Ethan to steal away with the goods. Andrew airwalked to safety, and when they were out of sight with the cart, the rest of the party broke loose and ran. They had escaped with 150,000 gold!
The first night back had everyone exhausted, so when Stephanie was awoken by the sound of whispers and bone scraping on rocks, it was no surprise to her that she could not get Mike to stir. Raising her light, Stephanie discovered to her shock that the sound was a very apologetic skeleton sneaking his way out of her room. Once the creature got the door open, it ran, and after it ran Gary, Stehpanie’s newly acquired kitten. Stephanie followed the kitten into the dungeon where she discovered Wormwood putting on a spare set of clothing. He informed her that he had been sent by Maximus the Dead to deliver a message of parlay. He would meet the party in a place that they chose in three weeks time. Stephanie returned to her room where she told Michael what had happened, but deigned not to give any of the others news of this strange visit and message just yet.
In the morning, Andrew sent his minion to pin a well written emancipation proclamation on the door to the town hall on behalf of Pol to cover their tracks, and the people of the town inexplicably began to see the light, turning from their old slave keeping ways. Couriers were sent from the lone guard to the keep to ask for parlay, but the group had already decided to go back to Cothropton with the entirety of Pol’s 350+ kobold army in tow. The guard met them at the gates, 25 able bodied men behind him. He demanded, strangely enough, that the party give him 30 gold for his trouble and left the town to them, saying Andrew;s words had turned the world upside down, and he hoped the kobolds burned and at the lot of those slave loving fools.
Having defeated the town’s defenses without even trying, the party set to arranging the town’s day to day. Hershel was named lord of the town, now called Burden, taxes were lowered, and new farming methods were devised to get everyone on the right track. Almost all of their money, minus a small 40,000 gold portion, to keep the keep running for two years, and a little extra, went back into the town to bolster the economy, buy food, placate the townsfolk, and bolster the town guard, who now had to defend against invasion by other lords as well as the usual horrors of the swamp.
So, having gained and lost a considerable sum so quickly, the party set forth to visit their next job, delivering a box they’d had on the back burner for several days, having Ethan’s men playing hot potato with it to keep the urge to open it at bay. On their way out, kobolds stopped them to show that they’d killed and subdued two strange little creatures, who Andrew discovered through ghostly communication were Dretches, out to steal the box for a Vrok. The party decided to set out post haste, but soon found themselves surrounded on all sides by these vicious chirping yelping little demons. Each yelp brought one more dretch into being, and each new being added a yelp to the cacophony of screams surrounding the party. Shannon blew some apart as they rode with a well placed fireball, and the group fled on horseback.
It wasn’t long after they lost them that the party realized the dretch were attracted to the box wherever they were. the woods filled with the sound of countless hordes of dretch converging on their position. Mike drew up a battle plan and set out physical traps with Hershel, Bryan, and Stephanie’s help. Shannon surrounded the traps with explosive runes, designed to kill if any of the dretch were to glance up at the trees where the party waited to strike.
The trap worked just as the party had hoped. Droves of dretches converged on the camp and the trapped box, getting stuck on vines and other traps, blown to pieces by explosive runes, and generally torn asunder, but more came, and with each passing second, the party realized they would be over run if they stayed. They waited for the next lull, and bolted for the horses.
Hours passed and horses exhausted, the party arrived at Skytown almost a day ahead of schedule. But where Skytown was supposed to be, there was instead a massive chain reaching up to the clouds. Ethan, still fresh from the fight, decided to climb the chain, while Mike found a sign that read “Ferry up at 12 and 6 AM and PM.” Knowing the dretch were at most a few hours behind, Stephanie asked Shannon to cast fly on her, and she heaved Hershel slowly into the air with her towards the end of the chain high above her.
Ethan, in the mean time, had scampered up the chain, fearless as a monkey, and was now face to face with a goblin behind a small portcullis. Ethan told the goblin of the dretch and their plight, and the goblin lowered the large basketlike ferry where the exhausted Stephanie dumped Hershel and descended, then reascended with the rest of the party. Before the ferry broke the cloud barrier, a little green and red form could be seen running out of the woods, where it released a disgruntled yelp.
Once the ferry docked, the party reunited with Ethan, and they were promptly surrounded by goblin guards. The goblins poked and prodded the adventurers, asking questions, when someone from the party mentioned the name Heironomous H. Topot. A massive hulk emerged from the mists and roared.
“You have my package!” A larger than life hippopotamus shaped man creature bellowed as he pushed past the confused goblins. the hippopotamus man, heretofore known as a Giff, shooed away the goblin guards and invited the party to his home. They were then taken out of the ferry station and into open air, where they saw why Skytown was called Skytown. Massive conglomerations of floating boulders, known as lodestones, were chained together to form the most confusing and dangerous looking landmass of cobbled together houses and shops possible. In between each were ropes, which slowly guided balloon speckled gondolas of all sizes between them. Only a few bridges, however, stood between the adventurers and the giff’s own massive balloon-suspended home.
Heironomous invited the party inside to see what he’d been working on while he got their money for them. Once inside, they were led to the garage, where three massive airships were anchored, each easily large enough to sport an entire seagoing crew. Then, the giff took the box and, after explaining it’s origins as a demon’s heart, shoved it into the back end of one of the airships. The propellers on it’s sides began to spin, and the giff had to quickly pull a lever before the ship broke it’s moorings and flew off.
“This,” he exclaimed, “is the next wave of transportation, and if you’re willing and able, you can have a 150,000 gold discount on the first one IF you let me keep the 100,000 gold I was going to reward you for the box. That would mean, of course, you could be the proud owner of one of these babies for as little as, say, 50,000 gold?”
The party was intrigued. They looked to their ledgers. 25,000 gold left.
Then the giff gingerly cleared his throat, saying softly “Of course, that’s just for this prototype. Wait until you see what else I have to offer!”