By Jamey Martin
The House of Toil and Sweat
And so it was that Hector Sirus of Wheloon wandered into the city of Ordulin in the early spring of the year 1366 DR. While he had originally considered rejoining with the CoT through the Ordulin contact, he quickly reconsidered (for the time being, of course) when he came across a notice advertising a lucrative enterprise for courageous adventurers under the employ of the High House of the Wonderful Wheel.
Thus did Hector venture forth to the House of Gond and arrange an appointment for inclusion in this enterprise. In the process he ran into Corwin, who was himself applying for the same mission, though on behalf of the band, and with references from Hla'thair of Deneir. The roguish historian was more than happy to see Hector and to hear that he had ditched the CoT. He told him of their own travels across the south lands, how he and Harmoth had visited every pleasure house between Innarlith and the shores of Sembia, of Yolandra's romance with an Innarlithian nobleman. At length Corwin invited Hector to add his strength to theirs and thus approach the Artificers of Gond from an even greater vantage point, and so it was. And in the end, Corwin's band was chosen from amongst the other applicants to undertake the mission.
Meeting with the High Artificer Chansibral Thjestnal himself, the band learned that they would be traveling to the ruins of an old temple/prison/mining colony in the mountains north of Saerb in south-eastern Sembia. This temple came to be known as the House of Toil and Sweat. It was built atop a sheer, mineral rich outcropping of rock over 100' high in the year 1217 DR as a joint enterprise on behalf of the Church of Gond and the government of Sembia. Overseen primarily by the Church of Gond, the prison housed hardcore criminals who were forced to work hard labour in the mines beneath the temple and prison and treated brutally and without compassion for the sake of keeping the operation cost effective. And so for the next 65 years the House of Toil and Sweat grew in repute within the Sembian underworld as a hell on earth in which a man and his life might be lost and forgotten, never to see the light of day again. Then, in 1282 DR, something happened and all contact was lost with the colony. Both government patrols and adventuring bands hired by the Church rode out to the House of Toil and Sweat never to return. The last attempt was in 1303 DR, but with the failure of that expedition, the temple-prison began to pass into underworld legend. But while the folk had largely forgotten, and the government long since washed its hands of the matter, the Church of Gond did not forget. Thus was the band hired, to accompany the Artificer Hephistius of Gond to the House of Toil and Sweat, where they were to penetrate it's dismissal recesses, retrieve a number of Gondian artefacts, along any papers, notes or blueprints that might have survived, and return with them to Ordulin.
And so with the agreement made and contracts signed, the band hired what additional fools they could convince to accompany them upon this mission, while Hector himself, apprehensive of Tyros' continued abrasiveness towards him, hired his own personal bodyguard, a plump surly warrior of dark hair and disposition named Togar. Within the week the band was traveling down the Dawnpost Trail bound for Saerb and thence the House of Toil and Sweat.
Though their journey was not uneventful, the large band at last arrived at the old ruin all hale and whole. As they ventured into the area they found various desiccated skulls planted on pikes throughout that marked the area as the territory of one orc tribe or another, but the band paid this little head as they left a couple of warriors to guard the animals and equipment and penetrated the complex via a small marshy pond at it's southern base. The mines and prison were found to be filled with undead, while the temple itself had long become the home of a clan of gargoyles, but in the end the band overcame all adversity, collecting the necessary artefacts and finding much in the way of old documents.
As the band prepared to venture back out to their camp however, a large war band of orcii were spotted storming out of the northwest, and making much haste toward the House. Fearing that they could neither out-run the orcii with their bounty, nor face them in the open, the warriors devised a plan to hole up in the House of Toil and Sweat, and if they found entry as they themselves did, to attack in an orderly fashion with numerous fall back points.
It was not long at all before the orcii and their ogre companions found the entry point and began flooding into the lower reaches of the complex. As the fighting raged down below it came to pass that Hector decided to draw up the rope that led to the higher levels, and was caught doing so by Yolandra. Seeing no other reason for such an action other than betrayal, Yolandra launched a magical attack at Hector and a duel erupted. In the end, and with the help of Togar, Hector at last knocked Yolandra senseless and cast the wizardress down the mineshaft, to land dead at the feet of Corwin. He was the first of those to arrive at the fall back position, as the battle had began to turn against them. Corwin called to Hector, demanding to know the meaning of this, but then quickly ordered that the Wheloonian throw done the rope. When Hector refused and began to flee into the higher reaches, Corwin began to scale the shaft in pursuit. Reaching the top, Corwin found that Hector had taken the rope, and continued to give chase until he at last caught up to his former friend within the temple yard. Here Corwin was taken by surprised by Togar and quickly slain under Hector's order.
Thinking that surely the others must be slain, and that even now the orcii must be working their way up to the temple, Hector led Togar back down into the mines where he thought to use the mazelike tunnels to circumnavigate the orcii and escape with the Gondian documents; and thence return to Ordulin and collect the full fee. Yet, on the way down he heard the voice of Tyros calling out his name and uttering murderous intentions towards him, and so they quickly fled back to the upper levels, trying to bar the ex-Zhentilar's passage by collapsing some of the old portculli they had earlier propped open. In the end however, Tyros met them in the temple yard where he saw the corpse of Corwin. Within short order, Togar was slain, but as they fought Hector figured out the command word for an magical ebony fly he had found in the ruin, and used it's powers of flight to escape both Tyros and the orcii.
Thus did Hector make his way back to Ordulin where he presented the documents to Chansibral, who, though saddened to hear of the death of his companions, at the hands of a horde of orcii, was nevertheless pleased with the mages success. And so receiving the agreed upon pay, Hector took leave of the High House of the Wonderful Wheel.
Meanwhile, with the orcii making their way through the old temple-prison, Tyros stashed Corwin's corpse away good and well so that it might avoid defilement. He himself crept from hiding place to hiding place, always staying one step ahead of the brutes, until at long last, some two days later, he managed to escape with a couple of horses and Corwin's rotting corpse.
Making his way to Saerb, the ex-Zhentilar used the last of his wealth to purchase provisions, along with a good strip of canvas, and small pouch of special herbs, to bind his friends corpse tightly up with. When all was readied, he rode hard for "the Hub" (of Commerce, i.e.. Ordulin).
When he at last arrived, Tyros paid a brief visit to his new friend Barlow, owner of the Six Candles, where he stashed his gear and Corwin's corpse, before moving on to the High House of the Wonderful Wheel. Once there he quickly learned that Hector had since collected the mission pay, and was currently staying at the Lazy Hermit Inn. And the High Artificer was not unsympathetic to Tyros plight, saying that in his possession were certain scrolls that would enable him to restore life to his dead friends ... for an acceptable contribution of course.
With present business finished at the High House, Tyros stormed over to the Lazy Hermit Inn, in vendetta kinda mood, and caught Hector on his way out. After a litany of curses and threats that left Hector terrified, and some of the more modest citizens of the fair city running for the city watch, Tyros demanded not only the mission pay, but also all other wealth that the wizard might have. As Hector fumbled for his purse, Tyros was overcome with the desire to run the craven through anyway, and would have if Bry'th had not interceded between the two. Furthermore, Tyros noted that the both Airovistus and the swordswoman Glistra (who apparently had survived the displacer beast attack out on the Eastern Shaar), along with a dark heavily muscled warrior, also followed Bry'th out of the inn, while a troop of city watch was making their way up the street in response to the commotion.
Before they arrived Bry'th explained that Hector had told him all about the what went on in the House of Toil and Sweat, and that though Yolandra was a fellow worshipper of Tiamat she had misconstrued Hector's actions. According to Bry'th, the mage was merely safeguarding the line of retreat. And so, when the situation conspired to make it appear otherwise, and with everyone intent on killing the poor man, Hector did the only thing he could have ... he defended himself.
As the city watch approached and questioned into the meaning of the commotion, Bry'th turned to explain that it had all been a misunderstanding concerning a debt. He then urged Hector to pay Tyros his fair share of the money he owed, which the Wheloonian promptly did. Before they all went their separate ways, Tyros asked Bry'th about the money his operation owed him and his for the trip out to Unther, and the priest quickly and graciously produced a small pouch of a few small gems along with some gold and platinum coinage. Satisfied, Tyros glared at Hector, and bid Bry'th and the others farewell, before turning to leave. He was soon joined by the Gump-like Airovistus of Hlip.
And so it was that Tyros had Corwin restored to life. While the historian and adventurer regained his strength, both Tyros and Airovistus stole back to the House of Toil and Sweat where they collected the remains of Harmoth. Search as they might though, the corpse of Yolandra was nowhere to be found. And so, with Harmoth's corpse in tow, they made their way back to Ordulin and had their friend restored to life.
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