The Bandits of Blackrock was a promotion that ran prior to the start of the Thunderstone Quest Kickstarter in 2017. The following is the fiction that was revealed during that promotion. There is no Quest like the Quests in the game; the Bandits appear in the Thunderstone Quest Rewards as extra monsters you can us in homebrew Quests of your own design.
The Bandits of Black Rock
By Brett Satkowiak
“Open the gates!” the call went out. What passed through them afterward shook the peace of Thunderstone Keep. His clothing gave him away as a merchant and a wealthy one at that, but he looked as if he’d just come home from the battlefront. One leg was visibly broken, the fabric around it torn and shredded. His shirt was stained red with two long slashes exposing deep bruises underneath. His hair and beard were matted with dried blood from a wound behind his temple. A number of women gasped and various men began to murmur their concern as two guards carried the broken man from the portcullis to a low wall near the gate.
“What’s all this about?” Rennard, the Elder of the Keep, shouted as he pushed his way through the crowd. “Dear heaven!” he whispered, before calling for water and ordering a bed be readied at the inn. He turned back to the newcomer. “Sir, these are worrisome wounds. You must tell us where they came from.”
The merchant drank furiously from the bucket drawn for him before spurting out, “Bandits! In the pass!” The noise in the crowd rose once more as Rennard raised a hand to stop it. The merchant winced in pain as he continued. “Our caravan was following the river toward the sea when we reached the Black Rocks and were attacked. A party of raiders, strong and fierce! They killed our guard and so many others!”
“How on earth did you escape?” Rennard prodded.
“My carriage was upended, leaving me unconscious for most of the battle. They must have passed over, thinking me dead. When I realized what had happened, I snuck away to the river and drifted at its mercy until I reached the ford. The road led me here.”
“Ease your mind, good sir. You are safe now. Please try to rest.”
“Thank you,” he sighed. “I only wish I could have done more for that poor girl.”
Rennard spun back on him once more. “Girl?”
“There was a maiden, from of the towns in the Vale. She traveled with us and kept to herself. Before my escape, I saw their leader, a man with dark robes and elven features, lead her away, as he ordered the others to burn the remains. I can only imagine what horrors she’s experiencing now.”
The elder asked the guards to deliver him to the inn before calling out to the crowds. “The Bandits of Black Rock have struck again! That pass is essential to our peace here, and furthermore, they have now captured a young woman. We will not leave her fate in their hands. I call for volunteers to free this woman and finally rout these marauders once and for all. So I ask … who will fight for us?”
By Brett Satkowiak
It is said that a great battle took place here in the foothills long ago, too long for even Queen Elethay to remember. A band of soldiers fleeing a murderous opponent hid in the crags here until they were discovered, resulting in the death of every single one of them. As the tale goes, their blood filled the valleys, seeping all the way down to the hills’ roots, giving the stones here their distinct black color.
Centuries later, a new hunt has begun here, guided by an unlikely figure.
“You’re sure you remember where these bandits hide,” the Stormhand said in his stern voice, his doubt evident.
“I ran with their leader for a while,” the Edlin replied as he walked along the road, scanning the hills that surrounded them. “Had a bit of a dark streak to him … too dark for me anyways. I’ve been gone from him for some time now, but he’s clearly still in the area. And I know the places he’s fond of, at least.”
The Stormhand snorted into his mustache. “Still can’t believe we’re trusting a thief. How do we know he’s not leading us into a trap?”
“We’ve been over that already,” the Gorlandor interjected. “Searching these hills could take weeks, and we don’t have much time if we’re to have any hope of helping that poor girl.”
The Stormhand was about to protest again when the Edlin’s hand shot up to bring the party to a halt. Weapons were drawn in anticipation as they all waited in silence. Then suddenly, the Edlin turned and pulled the Pylorian down as a silver arrow embedded itself into the rock where she stood a moment earlier.
“Ambush!” the Gorlandor hissed as he and the rest of the party sought shelter behind the great black stones that lined the path.
“It’s Amara,” the Edlin cursed, leaning his head out for another peak and retreating just as another arrow whizzed past. “I’d have thought she and her sister would have moved on by now too. She’s on top of the ridge over to the east. There’s no moving up the valley from this direction with her there. At least not without one of us getting killed.”
The party lay in wait for a moment longer, each of them tense as they thought of their next move.
“I can bring her down easily,” the Pylorian said. “If I can get close enough.”
“Didn’t you hear what I said? She’s got the entire path covered here. She’ll down you and the rest of us if we get any closer.”
“Is there a way around her?” the Gorlandor asked. “Maybe we can approach from the other direction.”
“It would take a day to circle far enough around. She’ll have alerted the others by then for sure. We’ll have to turn back unless you have some way of circling the ridge in plain sight without getting an arrow through your throat.”
A small cough reminded them of the Scathian’s presence in their midst. They all turned toward the young girl in slight confusion as she said with a unfitting cheeriness, “Perhaps I can help with that.”
Dark Fire Touch
By Brett Satkowiak
The air bends around itself as dark energies gathered, splitting space itself and creating a dark circle from which the two figures emerge. The Pylorian and the Scathian checked their surroundings cautiously to restablish their bearings from the journey through the portal. They found themselves in a small brush thicket atop some of the distinct black rock that has become their battlefield.
The rogue dismissed the dark opening with an absent wave, a faint pop the only sound as reality regained its composure. She stepped silently to the edge and glanced around the bush, spotting their prey instantly. The archer was where they’d seen her last, perched atop an outcropping with a view toward the entire valley below. Only now, they looked upon her from the rear as she laid siege to the rest of their party.
“Alright, I did my part,” the Scathian whispered, as she turned back to the Pylorian. “She’s all yours. What’s your plan?”
The woman moved closer to the edge of the thicket herself to take a peek. “I hoped we’d be closer,” she said with a grimace.
“And where would we hide then? This is clearly the safest spot.”
“I know, I know.” She took a deep breath to steel herself for the task ahead as she stepped out into the open. She took each step with purpose, her eyes darting back and forth between her target and the ground beneath her. Within a few moments, she was surprised to find herself just several feet away and still unnoticed. The time had come.
The Pylorian brought her hands together in front of her and risked closing her eyes for a moment to draw on the energies necessary for the task. As she reopened them, a black fire sparked from her palms to consume her hands to the wrist. She readied herself for the final advance, but she wouldn’t get the chance.
Magic of any sort is a disruption in the ways of this world and tends to get noticed in one way or another no matter how discreet. The sound of her palms moving together for that moment was enough to register in the trained ears of one like the bandit they faced. The hunter spun quickly and drew back her bow in one fluid motion, unleashing it into the short space between them. The Pylorian threw one hand in front of her by instinct as the darkness flared to incinerate the arrow in an instant. In the next moment, she lunged forward with the other hand, still alight, and cringed at the scream that erupted from her enemy’s lips as the flame surged across her body. Her flesh remained unharmed, as she screamed, as if the fire moved to burn her soul instead. The Pylorian pulled back her hand, the flame extinguished, as the archer collapsed to the ground unconscious and shivering.
“Wow,” the Scathian gasped, startling the Pylorian and bringing her back around to face him. The rogue looked at the body of their enemy on the black rocks and back to her. “You gotta teach me how to do that.”
By Brett Satkowiak
The air in the cave hung heavy as the party walked in silence. The periodic torches assured them that they were moving in the right direction. However, that brought little comfort when they considered the fact that they had only encountered one of the bandits thus far. Still they moved deeper and deeper into the earth.
The light increased up ahead, which was apparently cause for the Edlin to stop their descent. “There’s a series of rooms up ahead,” he turned to whisper. “If the girl’s still alive, she should be in one of them.”
The rest of the party offered various glances and nods of understanding to each other. The Scathian slipped past them all and skipped to the opening without the slightest sound and disappeared into the light. She returned a few minutes later to address her companions. “There’s a mountain of a man sleeping in a room off to the left … smells like an orc. The passage goes on about ten feet beyond that to a small cavern with another set of rooms. The girl is tied up in the first one on the right …” A few of them sighed their relief. “… but there’s someone else in there with her.” She leaned in a bit closer, with a slight gleam in her eye. “That room smells like magic. It was too dangerous to go any further.”
“Nicely done,” the Gorlandor nodded. “We’ve been lucky so far, but it won’t last forever. Still we may have enough left to get the girl out of harm’s way before engaging the rest of them. I say we let sleeping giants lie and see about taking down the wizard quietly and alone.” The rest of the group considered the plan for a moment before showing their consent with deep breaths and the readying of weapons.
They took turns moving along the passage, the snores of the orc in the other room drowning out what little noise their feet made on the earthen floor. They took positions around the entryway to the room to the right as the Edlin and Scathian slinked through, weapons drawn. The maiden was indeed there, sitting in a far corner, bound and gagged. Her hair was tangled a bit and her dress a bit dirty and tattered, but otherwise, she seemed unharmed. She sat up nervously, her eyes darting toward her captor, as she noticed her would-be rescuers. The Edlin held a finger to his lips to silence her as the Scathian raised her dagger and crept toward the wizard’s back as he pored over a book on the table in front of him.
Suddenly, there was a flash of energy and the rogue was sent careening through the air back out the entry and into the central cavern, crashing through a table and chairs in the process. The wizard spun around, his eyes emanating pure darkness. He shook his head and blinked the blackness from his eyes as if waking up from a long sleep. “What’s going on?” he shouted. “Who did –?” His eyes met with the Edlin’s in confusion until he followed the hero’s gaze toward his prisoner. “You!” he bellowed, reaching for his sword.
“So much for luck,” the Gorlandor growled as he prepared himself for the battle to come.
By Brett Satkowiak
The sounds of battle echoed through the caves. The Scathian’s attempt at defeating the bandit leader quietly had backfired, alerting the rest of the bandits to the trespass. The Gorlandor had tried to cut the orc off as he emerged from sleep. However, he’d underestimated the man’s muscle and was overpowered and pushed back down the passage from which they entered the caves, finding himself cut off from the rest of the party and on the defensive.
Immediately after the battle started, a tall woman resembling the archer they defeated earlier ran from one of the other rooms off the central cavern dressed in plates of silver armor. With a flick her arm, a long chain whipped forward into the space, catching them off-guard and slicing the Pylorian across her forearm as she raised it in defense.
The Stormhand tensed his body and hurled one of his axes through to air toward their opponent, but it was knocked to the side by the chain as the woman whipped it around her again in one fluid motion. He readied his second axe and prepared to charge her, but movement in the shadows to his right restrained him. He pulled backward just in time to dodge the small blade that whizzed across his face, slicing off a few hairs from his beard. The Stormhand turned in the direction of the attack to see another halfling step forward confidently, twirling an imaginary mustache between his fingers in mockery. The dwarf’s face reddened, as he watched the new attacker run behind his fellow bandit and further down the passage. Without a second thought, the Stormhand charged forward, diving and rolling past the whip’s lashes effortlessly and down the passage after the halfling.
The Pylorian began to ready a spell in retaliation, but was cut short by the lashing whip, forcing to expend her energy in defense instead. The woman kept the offensive up, occupying the Pylorian as she struggled to protect herself.
Meanwhile, the Edlin faced off against the bandit leader. The Edlin was clearly the more skilled swordsman, but the leader had picked up a few more tricks since their last meeting.
“I never figured you for the ‘damsel-in-distress’ type,” the leader said between attacks.
“Well, we’re both full of surprises, then aren’t we,” the Edlin shot back. “Murderers don’t usually give opportunities for rescues.” His rapier flashed several times in an arc as he pushed the leader back.
“What can I say? There was something about this one worth holding on to. I’d find a use for her somehow.” He shot his free hand forward to release a blast of magic that forced the Edlin back against the black rock wall. In the pause, he readied another spell, certain to be a finishing blow. But before he could finish, the Edlin regained his footing, stepped forward, and flung his rapier faster than he could have crossed the space himself. The leader’s breath was cut short as the blade plunged itself deep into his chest, piercing his heart right through.
By Brett Satkowiak
“You’re going to be alright,” the Edlin said as he knelt to ungag the girl and began to remove the ropes that bound her. “What’s your name?”
“Miricelle,” she replied, a trace of panic still in her voice. “Thank you.”
“No time for that, Miricelle. We need to hurry and get you away from here.” He pulled her to her feet and started for the door.
“Wait!” She resisted. “I need my book.”
The Edlin listened to the sounds of the battle in the adjoining rooms and hesitated. “A book? We can come back for it. Right now, we need to –”
“No! It’s all I have left. I can’t risk losing it.”
Edlin struggled for a moment before nodding for her to find it. As she did, he ran into the central room, where the female bandit had pinned the Pylorian into a corner with the lashes of her whip. The Pylorian had erected a magical shield, but he could tell it was weakening. Their opponent apparently didn’t know her leader had fallen yet, because she stood there with her back toward the Edlin confidently. He crossed the distance quickly, barely dodging the chain as it swung around between attacks, and slashed her clean across the back. She screamed in pain and dropped to the floor. He ran to help the Pylorian up as the two of them ran back to Miricelle. “What’s taking so long?” he cried.
“I can’t pick it up!” She was standing at the table over an old book that the bandit leader had been looking through when they’d first entered. Miricelle was pulling up on it with all her might, but it refused to budge.
“It’s a rooting spell,” the Pylorian explained. “I can break it, but it will take a moment.”
“More time we don’t have,” the Edlin sighed. The Pylorian set to work as the Edlin stood watch. He heard a deep yell echo through the passages and moved to investigate. He was barely able to pull himself back through the entryway before a large orc tumbled past him headfirst, pushed from behind by the Gorlandor who held before him a set of planks that used to be a connected to a bed. He’d caught the orc off-balance and ran him forward in a desperate charge as the bandit struggled with each forced step just to keep himself upright. Their journey ended when the orc ran headfirst into the wall of the cave, collapsing to the floor unconscious. The Gorlandor tossed the board aside and turned, breathing heavily. “Did you find the girl?” he said through a face smeared with sweat and blood.
“Yes,” the Edlin replied. “We’re just waiting on –”
“Got it!” the Pylorian exclaimed as she emerged from the room with Miricelle following close behind, the book held close to her chest.
“Good,” the Gorlandor said, moving now to pick up the unconscious body of the Scathian and hoist it over his shoulder. “Where’s the Stormhand?”
“I’m here,” a voice huffed from the passageway that led deeper into the caves. “Little worm got away from me, but we should be gone by the time he makes it back here.”
“Make haste for the Keep, then,” the Edlin said. “With their leader gone, the bandits will disband. They shouldn’t be a problem to anyone anymore.”
By Brett Satkowiak
The assistant hurried into the room. “The party has returned with the maiden, Elder. She is waiting to speak with you.”
“Send her in, of course,” Rennard said without looking up from his papers. He shuffled a few to the side, finishing his work before rising to greet his guest. The young woman entered the chamber, checking her surroundings cautiously. Her blond hair was disheveled and her dress torn in a few places, but other than that, she seemed mostly unharmed. “Come in, dear. It’s Miricelle, right? Please take a seat. You’ve been through quite the ordeal.” He motioned to a large chair by the hearth as she sat down, still staring around, clutching the old book she carried close to her chest.
“My thanks to you, sir,” Miricelle answered. “If you hadn’t sent for me, I fear my fate would have been much worse.”
“It was the same fear that left us no choice but to intervene.” Rennard took the chair opposite her before the fire. “Those brigands have plagued us long enough. Tell me, child … why on earth do you think they would have captured you of all people?”
“I can only imagine. I remember hearing the call that we were under attack. Our carriage was overturned, and the next thing I remember was watching as a monster with a large axe killed one of the men traveling with us. He turned on me to do the same, but their leader stopped him. He stole my book from me and examined it. Then he ordered the monster to take me with them as he walked away with the book. Everything went dark until I awoke in the cave.”
“You poor thing. I’m sorry to say it, but it seems that book saved your life. What is it?”
Miricelle laid the book in her lap and ran her fingers over its cover. “It’s nothing really … just a family heirloom.” A gentle wave of sorrow washed over her face and disappeared. “It’s all I have left of them. There was a fire last winter … I was the only survivor then too. When it was all over, this book is the only thing I could find still intact.” She looked back up to Rennard, water lining her eyes. “That’s why I was traveling, sir. I was hoping I might find work in the capitol.”
“Of course. I assure you, we’ll do everything to help once you regain your strength. Until then, you can rest safely here in the Keep.”
“Words cannot express my gratitude, sir. Thank you so very much. I’ll be sure to repay you as soon as –”
“Nonsense,” Rennard interrupted. “You are a guest here, not a debtor.” His eyes wandered down to the book in her lap. “Although, if it’s alright with you, I’d like a glance at a book surrounded by such events.”
Miricelle’s fingers tightened on the surface for a moment before handing the tome over to Rennard. The elder placed the book on his own lap to examine it. It seemed common enough, a bit worn from generations of handling. But as he thumbed through the pages, he noticed the words appeared to shift slightly with the angle of the paper, as if there were two writings, one hidden beneath the other. He opened his mind a bit, focusing on the pages until the hidden markings became clear, filling his eyes with darkness. He blinked it away with a gasp, closing the tome suddenly.
“Elder, is everything alright?” Miricelle asked.
Rennard turned to her with a start, examining the maiden intently. “Tell me, child.” He slowly moved out of his chair, his gaze locked upon Miricelle’s face. “Your eyes are quite striking. What color are they?”
Miricelle shifted in the chair, uncomfortable with the attention. “Sir, I couldn’t say. All my life, those around me could seldom put a name to it, and when they ventured a guess, it always contradicted another’s.”
“Could it be?” Rennard whispered, drawing closer still to her, his unflinching gaze trained upon her eyes. The flecks of color within shifted like the words on the pages of her book, moving ever so slightly from one shade to another. After a few moments he finally blinked, looking her up and down once more before sighing with relief, a triumphant smile appearing on his face. He moved quickly toward the door of his chambers, opening them and calling for the captains of the guard.