|These Guys - A Classic|
As they leave the smouldering Gazemoral, no longer welcome within its walls, the adventurers are followed by a robust, hairy child, likely with a bit of giant's blood, and wearing a warrior's full panoply, who seeks to avenge Gazemoral's deaths. Accepting the company of the child and its timorous servant, the adventurers head West along the old road, destroyed road to Illum Zugot, the very road they are paying to have rebuilt, in hopes of growing rich of tariffs. Singed Gazemoralian soldiers claimed the dragon had flown off down the road, and blamed the party for its presence, as they had recently slain another such creature in the wastes to the South.
Beni worried that the road builders, and his considerable investment in thier success, would soon be scorched to ashes by the vengeful wyrm. Ignoring three pillars of smoke to the North the adventurers find thier road workers in good spirits and neither the mercenaries hired to protect them or the surveyor designing the road report any difficulties. The road has yet to reach the ruins of an old watch tower that Beni plans to rebuild as the nucleus of a trade hamlet and base for toll collection, but the recovery of plundered paving stones from the ziggurat of the purple worm cult is going smoothly.
After leaving the road crew, still searching for the dragon, the adventurers head towards the mysterious smoke. From a low forested ridge the party looks down at the fires and witnesses many strange and incomprehensible things. A group of 10' long human headed and bodied serpentine creatures with red skin and orange scales the color of fire move large glowing crystal pillars from the hold of a small boat while three large fires burn in a triangle. Soon a man in a sand colored robe emerges from one of the fires accompanied by a small walking fire. The man converses with the snake creatures and then steps back into the fire. Not wanting to test the friendliness of these strange creatures, but curious the party continues on to see if the dragon they seek has ravaged Illum Zugot.
As the adventurous band nears the city of Illum Zugot, are halted by the sound of battle along the road. Charging up the roadside embankment and through the trees, the party some comes across a desperate fight. A patrol of Illum-Zugot's spearmen has been ambushed by bandits, twenty ragged men with good steel weapons and little else. The bandits are led by a huge bald man who restrains a wyvern, with a large iron chain and goads it forward. The giant man and the wyvern have done most of the killing, with the rest of the gang acting to pen the soldiers in and keep them from full retreat.
Without much of a pause to think the party attacks. Beni sends an arrow, poisoned with elf-shot deep into the giant man's back, but he does not collapse, even as the magical toxin bubbles and sizzles in the wound. Eayaria's magic ends the fight almost before it begins however, as in a gust of black smoke the majority of the bandits, including their leader collapse into a magical sleep. The wyvern, no longer goaded stops its advance and licks a spear wound in its flank. Taking heart from the collapse of their enemies, Illum Zugot's warriors surge forward and cut down the last of the bandits.
After the fight, the soldiers aid the party in tying up the bandits while Tarvis uses his divine power to speak to the wyvern and tries to heal and befriend the creature. Beni threatens and ultiamtely offers wine to the captured bandit leader, discovering that he is a mercenary, hired to distract Illum Zugot from the doings of a wizard in the North. Torklim the bald agrees to serve Karna for six months in exchange for his life, and leads the party to a meeting with the flame wizard.
A group of the adventurers' less skilled retainers goes with Torklin, impersonating bandits. Originally the party, especially Beni, wondered if it might be possible to befriend or make a deal with the wizard, but Torklin insists that attempting to convince the wizard to work with the party is liable to result in death. With Beni hiding in the trees behind the wizard's fire triangle and the other powerful party members crouching on the ridge, too gaudy with thier magical trinkets, demon forged weapons (which are mostly identical to regular weapons) and armor crafted from fel beasts to pass for bandits, Torklin leads Ginny Bo, Haxeth, Fiztwalter and Lau Taxan to the fires. After a brief conversation the fire warlock tells Torklin to continue raiding, this time to kill off more of Illum Zugot's soldiers, but seeming somewhat suspicious. Deciding that the time is right as soon as Torklin returns to the ridge, Beni lets off a perfectly aimed poison arrow. The shot never reaches the sorcerer and burns to ash as it approaches him. Beni fires another arrow, one of two remaining arrows of destruction, plundered from an evil tomb, but it also vanishes in a puff of sinister black flame. The party and retainers charge, with Lau Taxan invoking the Rattus Legatus, the Mother of Thousands sinister vizier spirit, to torment the wizard with the bit of spectral rats. Darullian flings a magical dagger (found beneath Pahvelorn) that eats flame, and it impacts on the wizard's invisible fire shield with a strange flash before imbedding itself in the warlock's shoulder.
The battle continues with the serpent men whipping thier tails, and flinging small balls of flame. Beni's tree is engulfed and the archer singed. The hairy child is set aflame by one of the smaller fire creatures and rolls on the ground painfully. Yet the adventurers are a dangerous group and even as the wizard levitates above the melee, Beni's third arrow finds him in the thigh. Eariyara unleashes a crackling purple bolt of lightning and sears some of the serpent creatures, which are hacked down by the party melee fighters. The floating wizard points to a fire and a huge elemental steps forth, but is almost immediately destroyed by Tarvis as he drives a demon trident into the fiery monster and unleashed the weapon's unwholesome power. It is Eariyara who ends that battle however, abruptly as she sends another purple arc of lighting, the incantation read from an ancient scroll, into the wizard, who convulses and then floats, dead, on the breeze. With their summoner gone the flame creatures retreat into the fires and disappear, leaving the party in possession of the battlefield.