In an alternate reality, somewhere in the borderlands between the Guild Lands and a nation considered non-canonical by the Gods of other, more stable realities, Aivollé, there exists an abandoned fort just outside of a small border village called Jhorvan’s Rest. It lies among the pines of a forest that has no name, a forest where many an adventurer has lost their way. In this where and when, some adventurers never made it to the famed Guild of Heroes in the west, but stuck it out by doing contract jobs for a shiftier bounty hunter’s guild. Rumor has it that if one knew how to find them, there was no task too fearsome or mundane they wouldn’t undertake…for the right price. These are the stories of a band of adventurers known to their world as The One Shots, as told by their various contractors…
This excerpt was obtained from the personal journal of one Sir Arthur Silvereye, guild overseer of the Aivollian National Bounty Hunters League, former team leader of the adventuring bounty hunting group known as the ‘Expendables’
“Rumor and clamor about bumps in the dark and terrors in the night has been rampant ever since the god-damned civil war ended in this country about 12 years ago. Now we’ve reached some kind of tipping point again where the world feels it’s in need of heroes once more to set the minds of the public at ease. With the economy already in the privy, inflation climbs higher and higher as the country’s artificers/enchanters sell rings, weapons, and bobbles of minor magical power like hot-cakes to foreign markets, hoping to cash out while they can before our gold value plummets to rock bottom. Meanwhile, a laziness pervades the national and private security businesses in way of hiring new, trained recruits to deal with the country’s multitude of domestic magical, conspiratorial, and/or ‘monstrous’ problems. The bottom line is that we need adventurers to deal with the mess back home more than ever, but at this time everyone’s either settled down and deluded themselves into thinking that the world will handle itself now that the war and the madness before it is over, or have gone off to seek their thrills in other lands. Because of this, we’ve resorted to a desperate strategy: hiring foreign contract soldiers…
Jeeves, our loyal carriage operator, brought the first batch out to deal with what we assumed was only a rumor the other day. They included a conspiratorial martial-artist, a half-orc paladin of massive stature, a mute (or at least pretending to be mute) tiefling warlock, a bronze dragonborn sorcerer, and a mouse-folk elemental monk. They were tasked with investigating Darkvale’s new hospital for the mentally unstable. Previous reports were that after a troop of nomads visited the hospital it had gone silent for a week. The amateur bounty hunters managed to rescue one Johan Belgrave, a historian who helped us piece together what they found within the hospital. They also apprehended one Alecia Bartholomew, a warlock belonging to some kind of doomsday cult called the Smothering Darkness. From the information we gathered from her, Belgrave, the party themselves, and an eye-witness account from one Nick Lucky (a competitor bounty hunter who went in before them and found himself in a rather ironic situation given his namesake), I have pieced together what I believe represents an accurate account of what went on in the hospital:
The party approached from their drop-off point 1 mile away and entered the courtyard. For whatever reason, they were not quiet in their approach and alerted hostiles within the building. One of the hostile leaders fired a shot from a Deringer pistol at the party and missed. The party then fled to the cellar entrance and forcibly broke in. As far as evidence can tell, nothing significant was taken from the cellar room. The party exited out of the cellar where they were confronted by hostiles. These enemies were patients who were under the influence of mind-controlling magic and had also been physically distorted by magical experimentation conducted by cultists who had previously invaded the hospital posing as nomads in need of care. The party dispatched the hostiles blocking their route and investigated further, finding evidence in patient rooms of ritualistic magical experimentation conducted on the patients. The party advanced to the staircase of leading to the second floor and were confronted by a lunatic bard working for the cult. It was he who supposedly fired the pistol shot. According to accounts by Nick Lucky, whom the party met on the staircase to the second floor later, the group somehow managed to resolve the confrontation without resorting to violence, perhaps by beating the psychotic bard in some kind of game. They advanced to the staircase where they met Nick Lucky, who was healed of his serious injury that had prevented him from walking by the half-orc paladin. From there, evidence suggests they continued up to the third floor by climbing through a caved-in ceiling section in a patient’s room, which might have had something to do with a botched ritual. Finally, they somehow managed to disrupt Alecia Bartholomew’s ritual in such a way as to lead the mind-controlled patients to safety by a clever use of magic, and ultimately ended up confronting and incapacitating the witch, turning her in to the care of myself and my colleagues.
The party’s success provided invaluable information on the activities of this cult. From what we know from the information we’ve gathered from her, Alecia led an offshoot branch of this doomsday cult and was attempting to terrorize the nearby city of Darkvale with the mind-controlled patients. More information is still to come, which I shall include in my next entry. Ultimately, the party proved to be more than competent in accomplishing their contract mission. I may need to wait before rehiring them in the future though. I spoke with an acquaintance recently who had plans to contact them shortly after their mission…"
-Sir Arthur Silvereye, leader of the Aivollian National Bounty Hunters League.