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(TFT) TFT: Thail Update 532.173

THAIL UPDATE 532.173 (late summer)

   Dramatis Personae:
HUMAR, bowmaster and leader of Humar's Hunters
ELVIK, master physician, ranger, and chemist
HOBEN, massive mage-warrior
KIRA, half-elven ranger
KIROK, elven weaponmaster and physician
KRISSI, raven-haired teenage warrior princess
SELENA, blond 10-year old warrior and scout
VAR, swordmaster and ex-pirate

   The next morning Humar is asleep in his barracks when he is awakened by a
messenger, who hands him a fancy-looking envelope, bows, and departs.  It is
an invitation from the Mayor of Saripa to attend a dinner party that night
at the Mayor's mansion; open to all of Humar's Hunters.  Humar gets dressed
and shows the invitation around to the others.
   That evening everyone shows up together at the mansion, located in the
middle of Saripa.  The snooty butler allows everyone in except for Var!
"Inappropriate attire for the Lord Mayor's presence, sir.  May I suggest you
change and come back."  Var tries to fast-talk his way past the butler, and
even tries to sneak in the back way through the kitchen, but to no avail.
So he rushes over to a clothing shop before it closes, buys some better
clothing, changes, and hurries back to the mansion.
   At the mansion everyone sits down to dinner, and the Mayor encourages
Humar and his band to tell the tale of how they vanquished the evil griefs
in their den.  They relate how they did so, and everyone enjoys dinner,
drink, and music.

   The next morning Humar is again awoken in his barracks bunk -- this time
by his commanding officer, Ticos Cay.  "Get dressed, Humar.  Got an easy
mission for you."
   An hour later Humar and the others gather around to hear details of the
mission.  On the western coast of Saripa lies the old abandoned Keep Kallar,
an artifact from a war 80 years ago.  They are to travel to it by ship,
garrison the keep, and hold it against any possible enemy attack.  They are
to stay there until relieved in about one month's time, at which time
they'll get some leave time before the next mission.
   The Hunters prepare for their journey, and at mid-afternoon all show up
at the city docks, where the sailing vessel /Red Shifter/ -- a medium-sized
fore-and-aft rigged cargo ship -- awaits their arrival.  Everyone helps load
the month's worth of provisions on board, and with a favorable wind they set

   /Red Shifter/ follows the coastline, sailing west for a few hours and
then turning north and continuing for a few days more.  They sight the Keep
Kallar, which -- as advertised -- looks abandoned through the navigator's
spyglass.  The ship pulls up to an old wharf which used to service the keep,
which lies 100 meters inland, and 50 meters beyond that lies a thick
treeline.  After tying up and testing the dock to see if it will hold the
weight, everyone assists in off-loading the horses, provisions, and personal
equipment, then the ship departs and the party walks the loaded horses up to
the keep.
   The group marches on a path which leads around the keep to the gate on
the landward side, where they notice the keep's portcullis is closed.  Just
then movement is seen at the top of the tower, and an arrow thunks into the
ground; barely missing Kirok.  After a quick discussion and another
near-miss arrow, Humar leads the Hunters away from the keep and further
inland to the relative safety of the woods.
   Speculation begins amongst the group on who could be up in the keep and
why they attacked.  Hoben creates a housefly and sends it to the top of the
structure.  Through its eyes he sees three orcs hiding at the top of the
keep, who all look shabbily dressed in some kind of identical tattered
uniforms.  One -- the obvious leader -- has no armor but does have a
crossbow and a sword.  One wears plate armor and has a tower shield, while
the third has half-plate armor, tower shield, and a single javelin.  Hoben
sends his fly through the rest of the tower but finds only rotten
furnishings.  The fly disappears, and the party discusses how to get the
orcs out of the tower.

   They suddenly hear a goblin shout from somewhere behind them: "Hail
brigands!  I am Grotag, and you are all covered by my crack snipers.  Drop
your weapons and surrender, or you'll be dead before you hit the ground."
Everyone looks in the forest, and a few people think they see a figure or
two hiding in the brush.  Three Hunters prepare to fire but they are
immediately hit by arrows.  Two of them fall down -- either dead or
unconscious -- but the third remains standing and apparently unhurt.
   Everyone takes cover, and the arrows stop flying.  Humar calls out and
attempts to negotiate.  "Who are you people?"
   The same Goblin voice calls out, "We are Grotag's Gougers, a mercenary
band.  I am Grotag.  What is your motley band, and who is your master?"
   "We are Humar's Hunters, a mercenary section under the employ of the
Kingdom of Naitri."
   "Well, what do you know . . .  so are we!  Don't shoot, I'm coming out!"
   After a moment, Grotag stands up from behind some brush about 25 meters
away.  Grotag is a big blue-skinned Goblin, wearing some kind of
nice-looking almost new military uniform.  He has a sword and knife at his
belt and a leather bow case and quiver on his back.  In his hands is one of
those newly-invented compound bows, but without an arrow.  Humar stands up,
and Grotag looks at him, then the goblin moves out of his hiding place and
extends his hand to shake as he approaches.  "Grotag at your service.  Glad
to meet you."
   Pleasantries are exchanged while Grotag puts his bow back in its case.
Then he says, "Excuse me a moment."  He does a 180, holds a finger high in
the air, circles it quickly overhead three times, then points at the ground
in front of him.  Several of the Hunters recognize this as the universal
military hand signal meaning ASSEMBLE HERE.  Six other Goblins stand up from
their hidden positions with bows and notched arrows in hand, put away their
arrows, and walk over and form a line behind Grotag.  They all wore the same
uniform as Grotag's, and were similarly equipped.
   It turns out that the two fallen Hunters are merely asleep and only
slightly injured, and Elvik takes care of their wounds.  The two parties
exchange identities, stories, and missions.  Humar explains their presence
here at Keep Kallar, then waited for Grotag's story.  "We are a
search-and-destroy unit out looking for Chanfee units and making skirmish
attacks against them.  Yesterday we came across a Naitri supply column which
had just been attacked by a band of orcish mercenaries.  The guards managed
to defeat the orc platoon but three of them got away.  We decided to go
after them and attempt capture to interrogate them for any military
information they might have.  We tracked them to that keep over there, and
we were just discussing the best way to go about besieging the tower.  Then
you guys came along.  We thought you were brigands or pirates from the way
you're armed and dressed . . ."  He jerked a thumb at Hoben.  ". . . except
for the big guy here, of course.
   "So you want the keep; we want the orcs.  Since we seem to have mutually
complementary missions, I suggest we team up to accomplish them both.
   Humar agreed at once, but Var was suspicious of the Gouger's intentions.
"How do we know we can trust you in this mission, or that what you say is
   Grotag said, "Because we are goblins.  We always keep our word and honor
our deals."  This seems to satisfy everyone.  Grotag invites Humar's men
back to his camp about a kilometer deeper into the woods for lunch and
strategy planning, and they all accept.

   Later that day, just before sundown, both bands of mercs put their plan
into action.  They move up to the keep but stay just out of accurate
crossbow range.  Hoben waggles his fingers, says a few words, and creates a
giant.  Hoben calls to it, "Hey stupid!  Run over to that keep over there
and raise the gate."  The giant shrugs, runs over to the portcullis and
grabs it, and raises it up all the way.  Then everyone else runs forward to
the gate while being attacked by orcish arrows, but none of them hit.
Inside they find a spiral staircase leading upwards, so they all go up.  On
the roof they find three orcs, who -- facing superior numbers -- immediately
lay down their weapons and surrender.
   The goblins take charge of the orcs.  Looking around the third floor,
Grotag chooses the room with the sturdiest door left and locks the orcs
inside without bothering to question them.  "Tomorrow we'll take them back
to base for a proper interrogation.  Humar, if it's alright with you my
goblins and I would like to stay in the keep tonight before heading back to
Saripa."  Humar agrees to the request.  Water is fetched, all the rations
they brought are moved into the keep, dinner is made, watches are set for
the night, and everyone spends the remainder of the day in pleasant
conversation, dinner, and storytelling.

   Later that night sometime before sunrise, Elvik and a skinny goblin are
on watch on the roof of the keep, talking quietly and enjoying the warm
starry night.  Just then both hear breaking glass below, as if someone had
dropped a drinking vessel.  As they get quiet and listen it happens again.
The goblin slowly unsheaths his sword and whispers, "Might be trouble, might
be nothing.  You check it out; I'll watch out from here."
   Elvik nods.  "Okay . . .  but I smell trouble."  He quietly readies his
shortbow, and cautiously advances down the stairs.
   On the third floor landing he looks around.  The common area is lit by a
single small torch.  Three goblins -- including Grotag -- walk into the
light from one of the adjoining bedrooms and point their swords at Elvik.
Grotag shouts, "You are my prisoner!  Drop your weapon and surrender!  You
will not be harmed."  Elvik looks around for possible escape, then feels the
point of a blade at his back.  The skinny goblin had moved down the stair
behind him.  "Drop the bow!"  The master physician reluctantly hands over
his weapon.
   Elvik is tied up and led into one of the third-floor rooms -- the one
next to where the orcs were supposedly still being held.  While waiting and
sitting on the floor he smells a familiar odor in the air -- possibly the
smell of sleeping potion.  One by one all of the Hunters are brought in in
an unconscious state, tied up with rope, and laid on the floor . . .  all
except Hoben, who is conspicuously absent.
   Elvik checks each person to make sure they are all still alive, and they
are.  "Where is Hoben?  What have you done with him?"
   A goblin answers, "Don't worry, he's safe with us."  He closes the door.
   No longer under close supervision from the goblins, Elvik works at his
bounds to free himself while assessing the situation.  The arrow slit in the
window is too narrow to squeeze through, and a 20 meter sheer drop lay
beyond it anyway.  The door to the "cell" is closed and probably locked.
Beyond are seven armed and hostile goblin captors, while they were unarmed.
Elvik didn't even have a small knife on him.  And Hoben is missing.

   By mid-morning all of the prisoners had woken up.  They did a quiet
strategy session to discuss how they could escape.  Kira listens at the
door.  Hearing only silence, she tries the doorknob and finds it unlocked.
Unfortunately the guard on the other side notices.
   "Hey!  Get away from that door!"  The goblin opens the door all the way
and pushes Kira back to her seat against the wall; then leaves the door open
and stays in the room to keep an eye on them all.
   Grotag and his Sargeant walk into the room.  "Okay I'm here to tell you
why you're all here, so listen up!  You are now prisoners of the Kingdom of
Gorra.  We will take you there, where you will become gladiators in the
arena.  Try to escape, or give me any trouble at all, and I'll slit your
   The party talks about this for a minute.  Then Kira pipes up, "/All/ of
us are going to be gladiators?  Even the women here?"
   "Yes, even the women.  No one is spared the arena until 10 laurels have
been won."
   "But what about Selena here?  She's only nine years old!"
   Grotag looks at Selena and at how small she is.  "Mmmm . . .  not a very
good candidate for the games.  Even human children do not deserve to die in
the arena.  Very well, she gets to go free.  Untie her!"  Another guard
enters the room, picks up Selena and carries her just outside the room and
unties her.  Grotag points down the stairs.  "You are free.  Leave now!"
   Kira gets worried.  "Wait a minute!  She'll never make it back to
civilization on foot and without a weapon to defend herself with!"  Grotag
grinds his teeth at this.
   "Alright!  I'll give her a horse and four day's food, but that's it.
Sargeant, see to it!"
   The Sargeant grabs Selena by the arm and hustles her downstairs and
outside.  The reins of Thunder -- Kira's horse -- are handed over to her,
and a saddlebag with four days of rations are attached to the saddle.
Selena mounts up, and a goblin wacks Thunder on the rump with the flat of
his sword.  Thunder takes off running into the woods, with Selena hanging on
for dear life.
   Watching her disappear, one goblin says, "Isn't the Lieutenant worried
that she'll make it home and bring back trouble?"
   The skinny one replies, "Nah . . .  she'll never make it."
   The goblins make preparations to travel.  The prisoners are all roped
together and led outside -- including the orcs.  A half hour later the
goblins and prisoners form a line and leave the keep behind and march along
the coast to the north.

   During their march, and later throughout their imprisonment, the party
realizes that they're being well cared for.  They are given plenty of food
to eat and water to drink.
   Around mid-day they come to an old broken-down pier jutting out into a
small inlet leading out into the ocean.  Parked at the pier is a good-sized
slave galley, complete with slaves at the oars.  The prisoners are led on
board and chained to the deck.  After an hour the command is given, the
drums begin, and everyone begins rowing.

   Seated all together, the party is able to quietly talk amongst themselves
over the next few days of rowing.  They try to work out an escape plan, but
the reality of their situation prevents them from coming up with a good one.
Elvik discovers a possible opportunity to escape, but he fears being thrown
overboard to the sharks if caught, so he keeps his plan to himself.

   One week's rowing later the slaver ship begins sighting other ship
traffic, then sights land, then a port city on the shoreline.  The ship
enters a large bay and ties up at an almost new-looking pier in a large city
. . .  apparently somewhere in the Kingdom of Gorra.  All of the prisoners
are chained together and offloaded, then marched down the streets of the
city towards an imposing coliseum-like structure.
   On the city streets all around them are mostly blue-skinned goblins, with
a smattering of other races.  The goblins run the range from rich nobility
down to no worse than reasonably well-off farmers, while all of the other
races make up the dregs of society: Beggars, cripples, and unskilled hard
laborers.  A few of the goblins they pass laugh and spit at the chained-up
prisoners, which Grotag and his crew don't lift a finger to stop.  They pass
a dirty bearded human man who is sitting in the dirt and begging for food.
He gets kicked by a passing goblin for his trouble.
   The prisoners are led into the coliseum and deep underground to two dark
holding cells, where their chains are removed.  The guards leave.  A few
minutes later a hobbit is lead into the same cell which the party occupies.
"Hey guys, it's me!"  It is Hobben's voice!
   Hoben tells everyone his short tale.  "I woke up to the sound of a gas
bomb breaking, then I fell right back to sleep!  The next thing I know I was
tied up and gagged on some boat with one of those goblins removing a ring
from my finger and all my stuff gone.  They carried me up to this place.  My
glamor spell dropped as soon as I went through that cell block door back
there, and only then did they remove the gag and chains.  I guess magic
isn't allowed here, huh?  Where are we anyway?  How long have I been out?"
The party fills him in on the time he had missed.

   About an hour's inspection of the cells reveals no obvious way to escape,
or bend the bars, or pick the locks in the cell doors, or any other way to
get out.  A big human in rags -- another gladiator -- watches them trying to
escape.  He opens up conversation, introduces himself, and fills them in on
the rules of the games:

   (The below text pulled directly from the adventure writeup.  Of course
the gladiator really says it in his own words.)

   Welcome to the Kingdom of Gorra, and congratulations!  The game is
simple.  You are now a gladiator.  Every fight you win gains you what we
call a "laurel."  Win ten laurels and you go free; fail and you die.  It's
that simple.
   Here are the rules you must follow, so listen up!  You'll only hear them

   You must obey the orders of all judges and guards.
   You may not fight other gladiators except in the arena.
   You must keep yourself and your cell clean at all times.
   You must not displease any judge or guard in any way.

   All infractions of the rules will result in severe punishment.

   The arena is always a fixed area -- a megamegahex.  This is a raised
stone platform four meters above the colloseum floor.  Around this is a
2MH-wide ring of empty ground enclosed by a 4m-tall wall.  Just within the
wall are stationed 60 hobgoblin guards with weapons drawn.  Beyond the
guards is a 4m tall smooth stone wall, above which are the Roman-style
audience stands, including the King's personal viewing box.
   All fights occur once a week on Saturday afternoon, and every gladiator
must participate in one fight per week.  Exception: Half of the time there
is an odd number of gladiators.  When this happens a drawing is held and the
winner gets to sit out that week's spectacle in the King's personal box,
followed by dinner with his majesty afterwards.
   Fighting is done in teams.  Each team consists of at least two gladiators
on each side, but no more than seven.  The number on both teams and the
gladiators who make up these teams are chosen randomly.  The gladiators do
not discover who their teammates are or who they will be fighting until just
before the fight.  Attacking your own teammates is acceptable, but only
during the fight.
   Attacking anyone but another gladiator is forbidden.
   Magic of any kind is strictly forbidden.
   Equipment: Each gladiator gets to wear any one normal (i.e. nonmagical
and not fine/very fine) suit of armor he chooses, gets one normal dagger,
and gets any two normal melee weapons of his choice.  A shield counts as a
weapon.  Teammates may trade weapons and shields freely just before and
during the fight, but not armor.
   Starting Positions: Each team starts in their own megahex start area on
opposite sides of the arena.  Gladiators may not leave this area before the
start of the fight.
   Each fight has a time limit: Five minutes (60 turns).  When time expires
a chime sounds.  If at this time each team has at least one member standing
then the guards will rush up and kill every gladiator.
   Victory Conditions: Knock out, kill, or force off the platform everyone
on the other team with at least one gladiator left standing on your own
   Each winner gets praise, glory, cheers from the crowd, one laurel, and
one heal potion (whether they need it or not).
   Losers who survive are booed and get thrown back in their cells, except
those who left the arena before the fight -- they get hacked to bits by the
   The judges reserve the right to rule anything that any gladiator does (or
fails to do) as an infraction of the rules, including anything which doesn't
follow the spirit of entertaining gladitorial combat or which annoys the
King or any two judges in consensus.
   Failure to obey any of these rules results in a two-on-one matchup -- two
randomly-chosen gladiators versus the offender, or something else equally
interesting and entertaining to the audience, as well as obnoxiously deadly
and unfair to the offender.  This deadliness increases with each additional

   (A jailkeeper comes in an hour later and pretty much says the same thing
and gives the same rules.)

Meanwhile . . .

   After a few minutes Selena eventually gains control of Thunder and slows
her down to a trot.  For three days she mostly follows the coast southwards,
trying to navigate her way back to Saripa.
   Following a deer track through the woods, her horse starts neighing and
acting nervous.  Off to the right, crashing through the brush, approaches a
fierce ogre, its claws extended!  The ogre charges towards Selena.
   Being so young, and not knowing the ways of the monsters in the
wilderness, Selena calls out, "Hey!  I want to be friends with you."  The
ogre ignores her, bares its fangs, and continues closer.
   "Hey, I just wanna talk to you!"  The ogre doesn't understand her
friendly greeting and is almost upon her, preparing to rip her to shreds.
   At the last moment, Selena spurs her horse with her heels and gallops
away from the ogre.  It gives chase, but quickly falls back in the distance.

   One day later Selena sights the landward walls of the capital city of
Saripa -- the outer walls which protect the farmland and inner city proper
from the depredations of the many monsters in the wilderness.  She rides up
to the gate and is challenged by a guard high up on the wall.  Scratched up
by vines, suffering from insect bites, starving, parched, and exhausted, she
falls from Thunder and goes unconscious.

Dave Seagraves
Seagraves Computers   dseagraves@austin.rr.com   1 (512) 255-2760
Taco Bell: The criminal organization of the fast food industry

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