Some might say that heroism arises from a sense of duty, that heroes are the people do the hard things so others don’t have to. Others say heroism is born from adversity and the hero is forged in the fires of loss and pain. There are even some who say that heroism is simply the nobly born acting as their birth dictates. Those things might even be true, but there is room in the world for more truth than society wants to face. One of those truths is that the seeds of heroism can be planted in empty wallets, fed with dark intentions, and watered with innocent blood. In the end history will, as it wont to do, gloss over the false starts, the vile deeds, and the dark events, and paint the victors in the veneer of beatification. Stories will be told of crusades against great evil, battles against overwhelming odds, and brilliant strategies that snatched victory from the claws of certain defeat. This is not that story. This is the story of four people whose only skill is murder.
No one set out that day with the intent of becoming a hero. Four near vagrants met at their favorite watering hole to peruse the bulletin board for any new leads. It had been two weeks since they had all come together and where money had run short desperation had grown large. Though they were loath to admit it, the time had come to do what passed for honest labor. With no prospects in the city the four decided to revisit an old rumor and investigate the old dwarven ruins to the north. This idea held merit because old ruins often held hidden wealth and the more well known the ruins are the more likely it would be that someone else would do the heavy dirty work of liberating that wealth. These tomb robbers, should they exist, would be met with swift justice and the world would be rid of such vile individuals while our four heroes financial woes would be alleviated. Should the worst case scenario actually come to pass and the group be required to actually sully their armor creeping through dusty halls they may still come away with some powerful old magics that could be put to use for less plebeian endeavors. Fate smiled upon our heroes that day and they did not make it to the ruins.
Three miles from the edge of the city the group came across an ethical dilemma, six men were accosting three wolves. The group was torn between watching the fight and killing the survivors, charging into the fight and hoping to take out both groups, or offering aid to the humans and then turning on them at an opportune moment. After brief threat assessment and discussion the group decided on the “approach and betray” method. It was well known that there was a bounty on bandits and with the road being such a dangerous place it was safer, and more profitable, to just assume that everyone was a bandit unless they were better armed than you. Two of the men were engaged with the wolves using swords while the other, smarter, four stood back with bows at the ready. The party approached slowly and attempted to parley were ignored twice. This lack of decorum was too much for Malleus to handle, so with a mighty battle cry he charged the four ambivalent bowmen. Our story might have taken a tragic turn ending with the mighty Malleus doing a passable impersonation of a quiver if not for the rather gruesome demise of one of the swordsmen. It turns out that, like many creatures, wolves do not appreciate having swords waved in their faces. It is also a fact that when wolves are unhappy with a situation they have very direct conflict resolution methods. In this case the wolf made his feelings known by ripping out the throat of the man who was menacing him. This also served to distract the bowman at just the right time to allow Malleus’ skin to remain whole and unblemished. In a show of solidarity with their teammate, the rest of the party lept into action. In Sturbin’s case this was literal as he jumped onto the shoulders of one of the bow man and promptly cut his head off. Liryl and the drow did not sit idly by. From the back ranks they commanded the fight and offered ranged support.
Without the support of his bowman the remaining swordsman was put into a bad position, this position only became worse with the loss of his forearm to a wolf’s jaws. Meanwhile back in the melee one of the bowman made the last mistake of his soon to be short life. One man displayed both supreme bravery and utter stupidity when he chose to stand his ground and take a shot at the ferocious frog who had just beheaded his comrade. His mistake was not in trying to kill the frog, that was a thought worthy of a super genius, his mistake was that he failed. Offended by such a poor show of hospitality Sturbin answered act with act and took the man’s leg off at the knee. Meanwhile Malleus, with small help from a wolf, finished off his manner less foe, in thanks for the wolf’s help Malleus gave it a quick death with one clean stroke. By this time Liryl and the drow were able to mobilize the hirelings to go forth and help finish off the remaining canines. Faced with such a dazzling display of destruction and given the option to surrender the remaining bowman threw down his weapon and surrendered.
Liryl came forward to question the gentlemen about their purposes on the road. As luck would have it they were admitted bandits. Unfortunately the man who surrendered was as thick as a brick and proved both intractable and immune to Liryl’s powers of persuasion; fortunately this immunity did not extend to axes or swords and, upon request, Sturbin and Malleus raced to see who would execute him first, Sturbin won by seconds. The remaining survivor proved to be far more useful and provided the party with directions to his camp, as a reward for his gracious aid Liryl requested he die swiftly. The bandits proved wealthier than they appeared and between the coin, gems, wolves, and bounties the party was far better off than they had begun. Te decision was quickly made to return to the city to cash in before setting out again for further business ventures.
Once again the group left the city, this time armed with the location of a potential goldmine in bandit bounties. After a few hours of travel the four wandered across an odd sight two heavily armored orcs doing battle with a confused bear while a robed gnome watched. The three potential bandits didn’t appear to notice the group, and with the bear as a distraction it seemed like the perfect chance to find some valuables lying around on the trail. Unfortunately events rapidly went from a money making opportunity to an opportunity to gather battle scars. As the group approached they spooked the bear, which freed up the two armed orcs and alerted the gnome to presence of the group approached from the rear. The party still felt reasonably confident that the orcs and gnome were bandits, mostly because they were outnumbered 6 to three, but that assumption was also quickly reversed when the gnome suddenly exploded into multiple fractured moving versions of himself. Faced with this new information about the strength of these three strangers they were upgraded from bandits to fellow travelers and Liryl and the drow decided to parley instead of attacking. After a brief, confusing, discussion it turned out that the three strangers were also bandit hunters. It was decided, with much hand waving and vagaries, that it would be better to just part ways peaceably and not share the location of the encampment with other travelers. Still wary of a potential ambush, the group continued on their way.
After a few more hours the group eventually reached the bandit’s encampment though, truth be told, it was less an encampment and more a small fortified town. Crestfallen to find that this would be no easy haul a debate sparked up about the merits of joining the well provisioned and fortified bandits but ultimately it was determined that both greed and ego would not facilitate easy entry into another command structure. Disappointed by the lack of further entrepreneurial opportunities the four, now heroes in truth for having rid the land of six other murderous vagrants, contented themselves with their earnings and retired to the city to replenish and re-plan for their eventual entry into the dwarves ruins.