The six ladies sat at a small table in the Laughing Goblin, the cheapest and rowdiest of the three inns in 'Civilized' Phlan. One was rich, local, and young. The other five were southern, slightly-less-young, well armed, and had been rich and lost it many times over. Which is to say, five were adventurers, and the sixth was the young noblewoman hiring them. The five called themselves the "Amazons" and had been operating in Phlan for some time, generally avoid council-jobs out of some strange dislike of taking jobs from men, but had a good reputation for success in their missions.
"Elissa, are you sure they will be gone?", Princess asked, addressing the sixth. The Amazons all had names like that--Princess, Hot Flanks, Battle Cry, Don't Fail, and Worthy of Armor--and never went by their actual names in public. A sensible option, given the number of mages, necromancers, and other spell-slingers in the town who might use one's true name to nefarious purposes.
"Councilwoman Bivant," Don't Fail corrected.
"Please, I am still just Elissa," the young noblewoman said. "I guarantee they will be out at the the indicated time. While I cannot speak for the kobolds or hobgoblins, the Council's spies inform me that the Bandit has accepted command of the attack and is sure to commit the majority of his men to the task."
"And we get to keep anything we find beneath the Well?" Princess asked again.
"No, not everything." Elissa Bivant shook her head. "Noriss the Grey has been stealing from the people of New Phlan for over a year. The Council has known for a long time that he has had a hideout beneath Kuto's Well, but have not posted any official warrant for his disposal. We can at least take back what has been stolen. Hopefully the bandit will be killed in his attempt on the keep...the Squire is most capable. If he should escape that encounter, I offer you an additional five thousand in gems for his, well-preserved and recognizable, head. As for the loot in his hideout, here are the terms. You may keep twenty per-cent of all coins and gems, the rest shall be returned to the city coffers and put in a fund to cover reparations to any surviving victims of the Bandit's attacks. Any trade goods, jewelry, and objects d'art shall be handed over to the city for possible return to their proper owners. Any weapons, arms, or items of a magical nature that you recover are yours to keep."
"So, five thousand up front, plus a share of the loot, plus another five thousand if the big man shows up and we take his head?" Battle Cry smiled broadly and gave Princess an affectionate noogie. "And you said we weren't getting paid enough..."
"Your terms are accepted, Councilwoman Bivant." Don't Fail extended a hand to Elissa. "Tomorrow night we shall descend into Kuto's Well and recover what we may for the people of New Phlan."
"Thank you all." Elissa accepted each of their hands, passed a purse full of gems to Don't Fail, then rose to leave.
"Wait," Worthy of Armor interjected, "what about the people at Kryptgarten? If you know about this attack and their plans, shouldn't we be doing something to help those settlers before they have a metric-fuckton of kobolds and hobgoblins land on them?"
"The Council does not have sufficient troops or resources to commit to the defense of the keep. In fact, knowing what we do of the forces arrayed against New Phlan, I am sure they would be quite overjoyed if we were to send a portion of our defenders to the keep and thus leave the city open to some simultaneous attack." Elissa shook her head. "I believe the Squire of Kryptgarten is aware of the impending attack. I trust the strength and ingenuity of the Squire and his friends. Even should they fail to defend the keep, the city has much to gain by allowing the attack to proceed..."
"Gain? Like what?" Hot Flanks quipped.
"From what I gather, the people of Kryptgarten have been the victims of at least two major outbreaks of plague in the month since they arrived here. Our monstrous foes will not take the keep without significant losses, and it is not unlikely that any survivors of their battle would carry the remnants of those plagues back to their lairs with them. Such substantial weakening of the kobold and hobgoblin forces might be just the thing to allow the Council to reclaim several more blocks of the old city..."
"At the cost of how many lives?" Worthy almost yelled.
Elissa stepped up and gave the paladin a sisterly hug, "I know the situation is not the best, but, even operating independently of the Council, I cannot send troops to Kryptgarten and risk an attack on the city itself. The attack is not to happen until tomorrow night. If you believe you can help the people of Kryptgarten somehow, while still carrying out the task for which you've been paid, you have my sincerest
Elissa bowed to the five ladies and turned, "I must return to my new husband before he wonders where I have been..."
"Pffffffff, husbands..." Hot Flanks scoffed. "Is a council seat really worth letting that boy own you?"
"It is a mutually agreeable arrangement."
"Ohhhhh." Hot Flanks smiled and made some lewd gestures. "Have fun then..."
Once Elissa left, Worthy of Armor addressed the others. "You know, if we make sure Noriss and his gang die at Kryptgarten, we could then loot the well at our leisure and without any interference."
Princess nodded, "We could set up near Kryptgarten and ambush Noriss on the way. Taking out the leader should help significantly in terms of breaking up the attack. And taking his head would double our reward."
"Ever the altruist..." Battle Cry said.
"Successfully ambushing a noted master of guerrilla tactics seems improbable." Don't Fail remarked. "Though, given that tendency of his gang, I doubt Noriss is the kind of lead an attack from the front. If we strike from behind once the battle has started, we may have a better chance of taking him by surprise, and sew much confusion in the ranks of the attackers."
"How many other adventurers do you think we can recruit for five thousand gold?" Battle Cry asked.
"Hey! A thousand of that is mine. I'm not giving up my share for some peasants!" Princess said.
"Okay...four thousand." Battle Cry twisted Princess into another headlock. "We'll get another five for Noriss's head, plus 20% of the loot from the well, which should be more than enough for most of us." The others nodded their assent.
"Okay, Let's head over to the Training Hall and see which of the available free-lances are willing to rush off and save Kryptgarten tomorrow," suggested Don't Fail.
"Alright..." pouted Princess. "But remember, we're not supposed to make it public that we know about the attack...and, especially, how we know about the attack. And definitely not that we're getting paid for Noriss's head or about the well job."
The five ladies walked towards the Public Training Hall. "We should be able to hire a ton of mercenaries for four G's." Hot Flanks remarked. "So what do we tell them they're being hired for?"
"Maybe the Kryptgarten hired us himself?" Princess suggested. "Something simple...like the Squire's outriders saw some kobolds on the march and he asked us to hire some additional security. We could even save a few coins and say that the Squire offered a bit up front, and payment for services rendered after. Kryptgarten would owe us that much right?"
"So we shell out standard guard rates per day, with the normal addendum for spellcasters and veterans, and let the Squire cover any hazard pay and additional payout from their inevitable participation in the battle?" Hot Flanks smiled. "I like that plan..." she looked meaningfully at Don't Fail and Worthy.
Worthy of Armor nodded, "As long as we can help those people, I can live with a bit of duplicity, but we pay triple caravan for those we hire, since we know that they will see action...against stiff odds."
"Triple caravan rate?!" Princesses eyes got wide. "Seriously?!"
"Yes. We do not know that this Squire has the funds to field an army, and I will not send men into significant and definite danger under false pretenses unless they are well compensated."
"Sold!" said Hot Flanks. Then, more quietly, to princess, "It's only for two days...and we'll still come out ahead over laying out the full four thousand."
"Can it, we're here." Chimed in Battle Cry,
It took several hours of the girls asking around as discreetly as possible, but they managed to round up twenty-three adventurers of varying levels of experience--including a few newly arrived on the last ship from Hillsfar who had not accepted the invitation to move to Kryptgarten--willing to join them as "supplemental guards" for Kyrptgarten Keep for *three times* the standard daily rate.
At which point I was forced to call a 30-minute break to roll up 23 characters in a hurry...
After a long day of recruiting every non-busy blade waver and spell slinger they could find at the Training Hall, the ladies retired to their lodgings, leaving orders with the recruits to assemble outside the Training Hall at noon the next day. Hot Flanks stayed behind to "get to know" a few of the recruits...
The ladies and their ragtag band of mercenaries assembled outside the Training Hall the next day, lining up just as they would for classes, then disbursing towards the Traitor's Gate. While certainly not inconspicuous, the group did not draw too-much unwanted attention--Battle Cry did shoot Elissa a sheepish grin and a shrug when the Councilwoman passed them with her husband on her arm on their way to the Council session.
Earlier that morning, Don't Fail had arranged for a pair of ox-pulled large wagons from Ernst's Livery, and arranged for a large load of foodstuffs to be collected at the Slums Market--giving the group the appearance of a well-guarded northbound trade caravan (rare, but not unheard of) to throw off any humanoid spies that might inform Noriss's gang of reinforcements arriving at Kryptgarten. The hired adventurers were told, semi-truthfully, that the goods were to resupply Kryptgarten in case of kobold attacks.
Worthy of Armor insisted on paying all the hirelings their first day's wages up-front, which they clearly appreciated. After everyone was assembled, paid, wagons appropriated, orders given, goods collected and loaded on the carts, and additional time intentionally wasted by Princess and Battle Cry, the large band of soldiers, thieves, and mages rolled out of town across the North-bridge about an hour before dusk.
As they left Phlan, Worthy of Armor argued quietly to her 'sisters' that they should be warning the gathered sellswords of the impending battle, rather than making a leisurely trek of the thing. The paladin was, of course, out-voted by the other members of the group, perhaps better for their plan and the interests of their client. The deliberate slowness of their preparations and journey served to put the hired help at ease and lead credence to the illusion of being hired as regular guards, despite the apparent agitation of some of the girls.
Once out of the city, they quickened their pace a bit, Don't Fail claiming that they'd like to reach the keep in time for a good night's rest. Along the way, they found more and more signs of a large force having marched in the same general direction as they were traveling. When a hired ranger pointed out what were unmistakably the tracks of a large number of kobolds heading towards the keep, the hirelings sped up on their own, everyone realistically worried that an attack might have come early.
When they rounded the edge of the forest, it became clear to the hirelings that not only was an attack in progress, but it was much larger than any of them expected--a full-on siege from a mixed army of kobolds, hobgoblins, and other things surrounding the keep. A single gray-clad rider was commanding the siege from the rear of the army, surrounded by an apparent honor-guard of orcs and lizardmen.
Just after they arrived, a band of kobolds rushed toward the gate, protected from arrow-fire from the walls by hobgoblins carrying tower shields, and breached the gate with a barrage of thunder and lightning.
One hired halfling turned and fled immediately. Don't Fail stood up on the front of the lead wagon and bellowed a command for the other "new recruits" to open fire. A barrage of spells, arrows, and crossbow bolts fell on the rear of the besieging army, announcing their presence. The next command to "CHARGE!" came from Worthy of Armor.
Don't Fail pulled the pin tying the yoke of oxen to the cart and stabbed one in the rump with her rapier, sending the beasts careening into the back of the army, followed by a score of sword, spear, axe, flail, and spell wielding maniacs.
The battle was bloody, fierce, and short. They could see something occurring at the front near the walls, but stopped caring once a force of fifty-odd orc, lizardman, kobold, and even human bandits were in their faces. The hired adventurers fought as adventurers, which is to say, they each fought individually with no real coordination or thought for the others, save for the occasional, typically unheeded, shouted suggestion or call for help.
Worthy of Armor led the charge for her sisters, dodging as many blows from allies as from their intended opponents, cleaving a path towards the bandit leader seated on his high horse, using her own horse, Mfara, as much as her blade to crush and beat aside assailants. Princess rode close on her heals on Kalýteri, unleashing a color spray to keep a pack of kobolds from encroaching on their left, as Battle Cry, seated behind her let loose with a cone of flame to their right.
By the time the two horses reached Noriss the Gray, half of their force of hired mercenaries lay dead, and the rest were routing against fierce opposition from the bandit forces. Hot Flanks cleared a path into the fray with a fireball from her enchanted club, as she, Don't Fail, and the last remaining mercenary, a girl name Elanna rushed to join the attack on Noriss.
The bandit leader, seeing the main force near the wall breaking, shouted a few more orders then turned to flee, only to find himself face to face with the six girls. Princess and Worthy traded a few sword blows with Noriss before Hot Flanks managed to hook and dismount the bandit with her polearm.
Noriss the Gray hit the ground, and quickly succumbed to a rain of blows from the girls.
Don't Fail pointed to the woods, where another large contingent of hobgoblin reinforcements were just arriving. "Grab him and let's get out of here..."
The other girls did not need any additional enticement. They threw the bandit leader's body over the back of Worthy of Armor's horse and high-tailed it back towards Phlan...