A Ruthless Frontier, ACT 1, COLD DAWN

A Ruthless Frontier, ACT 1

Herein lies the harrowing account of a simple group of commoners who rose during a savage time to become leaders amongst legions of soldiers.

 

 

Adventure 1, Session 1: From Farm to Fair

          Many set off on the caravan routes to the Fair, but none set off assured of safety. So, was your party established under Brunt Redwood and his local militia of “veterans”. Whether those claiming to have ever done what they said they had, or actually served as members of the King’s Shields, or Lights was unknown and definitely disregarded by most as lies from the old to the young. Nonetheless, a militia implies safety, if not actually granting it, and so you left to find what you had been looking for, and perhaps, like most others, just to kill the boredom of haystacks and spades.

          As the Sun’s morning rays struck the golden fields of wheat around you, you smiled.  The rumors of war and pestilence, and hard fought battles with giants, ogres, orcs and goblins, seemed like a Realm away.  The Fairgrounds would be teeming with the same vibrancy it always had, you just knew it.  You let your adventure begin…

The Road

          With little exception, your caravan encountered few hostilities.  Once, a fast moving Scouting party from the southern bases came by, blowing dust and pebbles in their wake. Another time, a beast of some unknown type seemed to stalk the tents at night, but was chased away by a scroll read by the local Soothsayer Barnard.  In fact, you could almost say the trip itself had been uneventful except for the PDAs being thrown around by Buttercup and her Wesley.  Ordinarily, Buttercup kept her emotions to herself under the hood so to speak.  It seemed like forever since her younger years when local rumor held she could predict the harvest or foretell an imminent death.  Now, however, she simply walked along beside the simple farmboy. Splendar performed in the evenings, adding a few coppers for his “Fair Purse”.  Of course, he always referred to it as a Cillandrial Shoulder Bag. It was, afterall, a gift.

          And then you came to the Fork.  Even the militia, trained to keep watch and lips sealed while on duty were talking and wondering about which caravans they’d meet this year. Would Billius be there to rendevous with his marvelous zoo? Billius, the King’s favorite purveyor of exotic beasts from both Inner and even the Outer Wilds. Or maybe the Bugbear Brothers? What you wouldn’t give to hear the crowd go wild again…

          But this year, something else entirely met your eyes.  A hulking mass,an ogre in fact, chained to a man, muscled and bearded. Arms outstretched, it squatted low in the mud, it’s arms held out wide, roaring a concoction of garbled words in the direction of your group. It’s mud splattered haunches were the size of oak branches. From behind him, the man with the chain was yelling frantically, “Squatch, quit it, would ya! It’s just more men and women! Quit it, Squatch!”

          “MORE MEN!! SQUATCH SEE MORE MEN, RHETT!!!!”

          “Yes, Squatch you big buffoon, it’s more MEN. Now, calm the Flame down!!!!”

          “SQUATCH WANT PLAY. (To your caravan, pulling against his chains so hard that Rhett’s feet dragged in the mud) SQUATCH STRONG. VERY STRONG. YOU WANT CHALLENGE!!!! CHALLENGE SQUATCH!!!!PLEASE!!!” 

          It took several minutes to properly calm Squatch down, and even more to settle down Brunt’s ragtag militia of “veterans”. But once it had, your eyes were met with a surprise that you only dreamed of seeing this early on your trip.

          A jolly old human man, none other than Jarvis the Brewmaster from the Eastern Foothills, began ordering around halflings dressed in Cillandrial custom.  Before long, they had set up nearly a dozen posts, three of which resembled the hoofed feet of, well, a pig.  In front, a large pink Snout with two floppy tent sewn ears and weathered black for the eyes.  “The Three Legged Pig, Home of the King’s Hobgoblin Ale” had opened for business, and it looked like you’d be getting first drafts!

A Good Brew Interrupted…

          Oh, it was worth every copper! The stories of Jarvis’s traveling tavern didn’t do justice to what the food and ale was doing to your taste buds. Buttercup and Wesley sang a warm folk song entitled “Jubilee of Love” which brought tears of nostalgia to many.  During the meal there was a slight commotion when riders on horseback entered the clearing bearing the King’s Banner.  Dismounting very worn horses, the Shields entered The Three Pigs with the sourest of Templars you have ever lain eyes on. His manners were soon as bad as his demeanor, ordering the waitresses about as though he owned them, but luckily he kept to himself in the corner before long. There, he began writing in some kind of journal or ledger with smooth, careful strokes.  Even the seriousness of the Shields and that prick of a Templar couldn’t dampen the mood, the minstrel or the meal.  And perhaps, your life would have stayed as simple as the night had felt up to that point, if not for what happened next.

          A few of the dogs had barked and an elf traveling from the East had heard something that made her ears pick up and set her food down. One of the Shield members had stopped mid-bite. 

“Darkness take you Jeson! I told you  the horses could have carried us through to 51. It isn’t that…”

“Quiet you fool…” whispers the cleric.  The other soldiers gave a quick look to the Templar.

In a much louder voice, “Man up.  Positions, Shields!!! His Majesty’s subjects may be in jeopardy. The Flame calls us to action.” With efficient speed, the newcomers had exited the tent and formed a battle line in front of the forest’s edge.

Following nearly every last soul in the tent outside, you watched the soldiers draw their weapons, the cleric standing behind them, rummaging through a bag in search of something. Holding torches aloft, the glow illuminated the trees at the edge of the clearing in which the caravan had encamped in.  Soon, you had heard it too.  Or rather felt it.  A sudden jarring, followed by a rumbling that made the ground feel briefly like standing on a bent board.  Then another. 

          Trees swayed. Something moved the upper branches aside, parting them as easily as you would the blades of wheat in the fields back home. Suddenly, a head emerged. Massive and deformed.  It’s grossly features like that of a man, only much, much larger.  It’s eyes were the size of water bucket bases. It’s mouth like that of the hole to a well.  Around it’s neck on a chain like that you’d tie the barn gates closed with hung the now lifeless heads of men, women and even children. The chain strewn through the sockets of each. As it lowered it’s face so near the men at arms that the heads around it’s neck dragged along the clearing’s grass, it roared at them, saliva spewing from it’s lips.

“Childchewer! Bloodbottler! We have the MEN!!!!!!MEN of GALLINE! AND HIM!!!” The giant looked back at what  you imagined was another one just a few paces away.  But before it had time to see it’s partner, the Shields let loose. “Volley!!!” Shouted the squad leader…..”Draw His Majesty’s Sword! Drive back the DARKened ones!”

The battle commenced. The Shields fought a furious battle. But in the end, their efforts began to fail, watching from your protected perch, you looked around. The men of the militia shook with fear, eyes wide told you there had never been a veteran of them at all.

And then it happened…

A massive club came down upon the Templar’s head.  Smashing his body to the ground, lifeless and mishapened. You watched as his bag spilled several contents, including a sphere, glowing with magical energy.

Within the same moment, another giant smashed the shield of one of the few remaining soldiers, and then brought it’s tremendous mace-like weapon across his body, imploding his skull within the helm.  The soldier’s sword fell and slid along the dew ladened grass, within arms’ reach of Angeles.

As the other giant pulled the club free from within it’s new home inside the Templar’s chest cavity, something incredible happened. A young woman from your caravan, Buttercup, crept from her hiding place and ran towards Splendar, the “magician”.  Running quickly to him, she whispered something.  Over the roar of the last two giants standing, you couldn’t make out what it was, but soon, “Splendar” was running through the legs of a dying giant leaning against a tree, and he was picking up the sphere! 

She did the same to Angeles and Argus, spurring them too to action!  Incredible it was to see these simple folk, ducking the colossal swings of the monstrous giants, pick up the swords and run underneath their legs in an effort to strike down the foes! 

But neither did the strikes work, nor the sphere strike it’s target at the giant’s manhood.  So, of course, they tried again!  As the giant took down the last, but one, of the Shields and turned on Angeles and Argus, they each struck a killing blow!  Argus severing the giants gutsack, spilling the innards like massive coils of rope. Down went the second.  Meanwhile, Splendar, his life in the hands of a skill roll, ran through the legs of the second giant and picking up the sphere, put some junk in the giant’s trunk.  As the two giants fell backwards, all the villagers watched as Splendar, Angeles and Argus walked away from the falling giants without looking at them. Why?

Because cool guys don’t look at explosions, or giant’s falling…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sqz5dbs5zmo

Behind the scenes: I was prepared to capture you, kill all the villagers, or chase you into the forest should the Lights have fallen before you were able to tackle the giants.  Justin’s Crit was the shit. Let the adventure begin

As Jarvis and the others come out of hiding, the last remaining Shield looks up from his kneeling position, clearly giving reverence to the Silver Flame for the victory.  Covered in blood, and badly wounded, he approaches his saviors.  “You.  You all may come from simple heritage, but that was a Kingly Act.  You are bold (to the brothers) and you deserve the weapons and trappings of the warriors you risked your life to protect. And you ( to Buttercup) whatever you said, was without parallel, the most inspiring thing I have ever seen on a field of battle.  Magician.  (to Splendar) We were charged to see this Member of the First Order to the Fair in all haste. His possessions are of no familiarity to me, and were not part of our charge to my knowledge.  So that I may not need to enter them at the Fair along with who knows what traces of ancient auras they may possess, they are yours to contend with.”

“If ever I can repay the favor for what you have done for me this night, you shall have my sword.”

THE JOURNAL-Ordinarily, I would make this information available only to the one who saw it, but in this case as it happened prior to the party establishing themselves I’m letting all read it for fairness.

Discovered within the texts found within the Templar’s bag you locate a journal of particular interest. Also, included is an intricately carved box. Inside is a metal and wooden instrument and a flask of what appears to be shavings of some form of metal.

          The journal reveals that the weapon in the possession of this cleric is of intense value to the  Ketian Leadership. Ironically, Ketians are written in quotations as though the writer does not fully understand or believe it is actually true.  Furthermore, it appears as though the giant attack at the Fork may have actually been  a Scouting party meant to kill or capture these particular Lights and return them to “The Twins” for interrogation. You also gather that there may be something else of value but that the secret is “safely hidden”.  Apparently, the cleric is to deliver the weapon and the “secret” to someone at the Fair, but they are never named. It also appears as though they may not know or be expecting the delivery in the first place. According to the journal, neither Jed or any of his Shields, knew this information and had been riding with the Cleric without knowledge of what he bore. This “secret” appears to be hidden among his materials, and it would seem that it is now in your possession.

Outpost 51

The next day brought rain and a gloomy grey fog, but nothing could dampen your mood with thoughts of the Fair, and what else might be in store.  As the caravan dropped lower and lower  into the northern border of the Canyon of the Iron Fang, you couldn’t believe the size of the IMPENETRABLE Mountains on the southern edge.  To think, right now, entire garrisons from the North were battling for the safety of these lands.  Your pride in country was suddenly interrupted however, when gazing around you, you realized that bodies of other giants, and more foul beasts were decomposing upon the grasslands at the lower canyon crags. It looks as though the War was closer than you thought.

While the horses and wagons rounded Borindin’s Bend, the massive walls of Outpost 51 came into view.  Known as The Silver Pillar by the locals, it’s gigantic façade brought awe to those who could only imagine the amount of time, and energy that would have been required to build it, obviously before the End Days.   The gates were open.  Horns blew, the horses seemed to spring towards them with anticipation. Ant sized parades of other caravans were converging on the structure deep below you from other routes winding and bending their way into the valley from side to side. Slowly, they crisscrossed towards Outpost 51. 

          Merchants staged along the way offered trinkets to ward off disease. Others dared to claim their pendants kept Ketians from finding you in the night.  Atop the battlements, as you came closer, stood the men-at-arms, Lighted Soldiers, reinforced all the way from Carr Perrin, Cellione, or maybe even Cillandar. None of them seemed to be the typical novices you had always seen before, men more interested in ale than service. These were different. These men were serious.  The Fair, would no doubt, have a very different mood this year.

A Tour of the Fair and the Night of the Light

Like all those who come to the Fair, the sights and sounds of The Arena, the Merchant’s Quarter, and the Central Plaza, occupied your full attention. Even the presence of so many Shields didn’t change the amazing feel of all there was to do and take in.

You briefly investigated the Arena, the beasts that were brought in for the King’s Challenges were first class. Rumor had it there was even a dragon!

You also met several merchants and others which are detailed in the Faces of A Ruthless Frontier…

You came to the Central Plaza in time to see the Dimming of Light, and Belloran’s Speech to begin the Night of Light, celebrating the beginning of the Fair’s festivities.

Of the many performances were various acts. One of your favorites would had to have been the Blink Dog act.  When one of them materialized next to you, you almost spilled your beer on a noble!

Afterwards, the lights were ceremoniously discharged and the real entertainment began. First was the official telling of the King’s rise to power. His battle with the Black Dragon Gulgol, and his father’s finding of the Silver Flame.

Next, came the Shielded Mothers.  The trappings of domesticity laid aside, as the actresses donned weapons and armor and drove back the Ketian shadows. 

But this time, the performances ended on a more somber note.  The candles’ flames were turned way up by Malorus with a simple flick of his fingers. As a member of the King’s Minstrels gave an official decree of Martial Law.  The mood was heavy as the plaza emptied, following the decree of a curfew for the first time in the Fair’s history to your knowledge.  Quietly, the masses filed out.  Tomorrow, many plans would be made, fortunes won and lost playing Spottle or among the contests and challenges that were the chief entertainment.

An Invitation from Jarvis and a Little Taste of Fame

 

After an eventful day and first evening of the Fair, you decided to head over to The Three Legged Pig to take Jarvis up on some of that offer of ale, eats and perhaps another cheer or two for your amazing deed against the giants.

You aren’t there long…when…

This is where we will begin next session…

A Ruthless Frontier

Session 2: ONE SHOT “Heroes, Indeed”

Players: Yaro, Justin, and Philip

Party: Argus and Angeles (Twin Brothers), Buttercup and her Wesley, and “The Drow” AKA The Amnesiac

Please Help Me!

          Having just returned from a tour of the Fair grounds, such as they are within the safe confines of the Keep, the party heads back to the Three Legged Pig, and some of Jarvis’s famous spirits.  A raucous cheer and plenty of celebration from the patrons erupts as Jarvis recounts what transpired at the fork.  Three giants has turned into six, and every stroke of the sword told in deliberate and methodical lore. It’s the stuff of legend no doubt.  Jarvis has just turned you all into some kind of Heroes.  In fact, the tale is so absorbing, that few seem to have even noticed  the Teller being taken from the common room.  You recall, that earlier that evening, his mention of the “Three” and of the “Betrayal” had only escaped his lips when a member of the First Order of the Flame promptly called several Shield patrons to attention and hastily and rather roughly you seem to think, removed him into the damp, bitter night.

          There was also Jed, and his brother Danny. The Eckert brothers.  Surrounded by other Shields of the Outer Core.  Looks like Jed is rather something more than a simple member of his majesty’s brigades, even a few senior rankers seem to hang on his words.  Jed, is clearly a natural leader, and quite charismatic for one so young you’d wager.

          But then there’s that constant tugging at your sleeve again. Well, so to speak.  It’s Henrik. Henrik Merriweather, and he desperately needs your help.

          “M’Lords….(his face exerts a subtle lack of patience, but underneath you seem to think, he’s much more desperate than he’s showing.  “Have you given thought to my offer?  I have here two golden statuettes, made of the finest Cillandrian craftsmanship. Rubies of dwarven make.  They are yours, and whatever else I have of value. Please, m’Lords. Won’t you help me find my daughter?”

          As Henrik recounts the morning’s events, you start to take in his demeanor.  He is scared no doubt, and something tells you he worries for his daughter. As he continues, you learn that the war has not brought fortune to him as he hoped it would. In fact, after his wife died, Henrik was unable to travel back to the dwarven stronghold in the Southern Passes.  He stayed here, working whenever he could, doing outpost masonry. His latest project is a well for a barracks area outside 51.  Working within an End Days structure, his daughter could not be left behind. He brought her along out of necessity. As he worked ceaselessly through the day, the rain built up, bringing soggy and miserable conditions to the well’s floor.  The water began to rise when suddenly a crevice opened. His daughter fell in and Henrik knew that without proper help he’d be unable to bring them both back up on the pulley. He needs your help. 

          And so the party steps out into the cold night air, Henrik’s mule and loaded wagon lead the way.  Lanterns and ropes seem hastily gathered under drapes of seal skin set atop the contraption.  Through the frigid night, you wonder, can there be any chance she might be found alive?

          The party passes the gate and receives a few cat calls for leaving at this time.  Warnings and commands as well.  As several frozen and wet miles pass under your boots, you arrive atop a hilly mound, ruins lining it, from what must obviously have been an End Days defensive position of some kind.  A central clearing, and in the middle, just as Henrik said, a vast well and it’s stone outer wall, with materials and bricks scattered as though work just stopped moments before.  Atop a center ladder which spans the well orifice, sits a large pulley system with a platform hanging underneath on chains.  

          The party became suspicious, and asked several questions of Henrik.  Still, something seemed amiss to the vampire brothers, and Angeles decided to stay aloft, working the winch.  Henrik, now looking glad to have help, came with the party at their request and thus was the platform lowered down and down into the vast hole (that’s what she said).

As the platform reached the bottom, two things happened simultaneously. First, Henrik ran off in the direction of a crevice yelling “I’m coming honey! Daddy’s here!” and Two, Angeles, from atop the winch began to realize he wasn’t alone. In fact, over  a dozen figures on horseback began to ride down from the ruins atop the clearing.  With great speed, they closed in!

SPRINGING INTO ACTION!

        Angeles scales down the rope at lightning speed, being a half-vampire, he most likely would make it look easy.  Once down, he lets the party know of the sabotage. Unfortunately, Henrik is nowhere to be seen.  Three paths lay before them.  To the left, the sounds of grinding metal and clicking, as though a great set of gears were turning.  To the right, the faint sounds of a moan. 

          As Buttercup brushes by the walls of the subterranean passage, she feels the dreaded feeling of cold fingertips on her skin.  To her horror, a partially skeletalized hand is indeed reaching out from the wall, the rest of it, it’s arm, or it’s host is buried in a thick and biological goo of some kind.  Large pustules in various sizes from that of a fist to that of a head are scattered on each wall, some extend outward, and others downward, as though they were deposited by something upside down on the ceiling.  As the party approaches the moaning, they realize that various other humanoids are partially visible through the viscous and semi-transparent slime.  The state of the decay is evidence that whatever has been lining the walls, ceiling and floor with the substance has been doing it for sometime. As Wesley leans in to inspect one of the sad figures trapped in it’s morbid exhibition, a pale but unmistakably elvish head rises from the muck many feet in the air… “Help me….friend…help me.”

          “What the Light! Who are you? How did you get here? What is this…this place. ?”

          “My name is….I do not know…I do …not….know….who I am…I only know of…the nightmares. The claws…oh, please, help me.”

          A sense of dread sets in, as the party realizes the danger confronting them.  Tearing the disgusting pieces of solidified ooze off of this pale elf, Buttercup heals him and the party backtracks only to discover their way out is now trapped by a massive portcullis.

          “The dwarf is dead…,” whispers Argus…”When I find him! Angeles, scout to the left…it’s the direction he fled…”

          “Brother, the left is closed off by another portcullis…wait…quiet…do you hear that?”

          “Someone down the chamber….Listen…”       

Narrative Interlude: A Meeting In the Darkness

From somewhere down the passageway, through tunnels unseen drifts the portions of a conversation. A conversation about the fate of the party!

“Blast you Merriweather.  We told you to stay aloft when bringing the meal!”

“I..I am sorry.  The two brothers caught wind of me. I had to improvise…”

“Well, luckily for you, you made it before the lock set into motion….Now, What manner of slave have you brought for us, here?” many voices laugh, as though this is a recurring question or joke you are unfamiliar with.

“M’Lord, I believe these adventurers revealed themselves, just as you said they would….”

“Heroes? Again? (more laughter) Like the others you have brought no doubt. I’ve told you before Merriweather,  if you continue to bring us “The Heroes” you will bring attention to yourself from the Dark Ones.   Your daughter’s sacrifice only goes so far. Is that what you want.”

“No…no m’Lord!”

“Good…”,.laughter from several voices.  ”Then, loose the beast. It’s feeding time and there are to be no more issues like we had with that dark elf…if you cannot use the medallion properly Merriweather, perhaps we can find someone else who can take care of our Awakoned One.  Would you like me to find someone to replace you, Merriweather?”

You hear sounds of shuffling.  As if someone is sliding to their knee over gravel or loose rocks. “Master, I will do as you ask.”

“And you will need to Merriweather.  The Harvest is coming.  The signs have begun, just as our Lords in Ket have said they would. Soon is the night of the Awakened Ones.  And  when the Spear fails, we will begin in earnest to find those we must.  If we perform well, we will be spared and given positions of honor in the darkness. If we cannot, well, you have heard the stories in our rituals.”

“Yes, m’Lord, I will not fail.”

“No, but surely, this time, you have. Look at them, Heroes indeed? Why would you ever think such a thing?  This lot is nothing but a meal for the quori.  They are not who we seek.  But, I’m curious. Why did you bring them?” more laughter, this time several voices sound in unison, all male, gravely and rough, human? You can’t be sure.…

A different voice, softer yet more sinister.  “Did one of them bear a mystical lanthorn too?” more laughter…

“No M’Lords, but, but there was an EVENT”.

“An Event? Tell me…”

“M’Lord, you told me if I heard of a sign of premonition or of great heroic action. Each of these were involved in one. But they were involved in one together. My source told me they did not know each other prior.”

“Did not know each other?”

“No, m’lord, they began their journey to the Fair from different hamlets in the North or West of the Great Rift!”  A long pause….

A fourth voice, very guttural… “And this event, it involved great heroic action.  Action which was spontaneous?”

“Yes, m’Lords. I am told that these peasants attacked a group of giant scouts, while armed Shields hid like rabbits.”

“Attacked? And defeated?  Pause…..”Was this the attack on the outskirts of 51 near the Northern Fork?” hmmmm….

“And did you gather all involved Henrik?”

“No, m’Lord. I mean, I wasn’t able to.  The magician and his assistant would not be tempted.”

“Magician? …new voice, high pitched…pause….”We must discuss this with the Dark Ones”.

“Yes, come Merriweather. Looks like you will finally get to meet our Masters. They will be anxious to hear what you know.”

“M’Lord..the Darkened Ones (long pause…) ….(nervous voice) of course….but what of these three?”

“They cannot escape, besides, I hear the beast stir now…if they are truly the Heroes we seek, then I suppose they won’t be eaten soon will they?” Hideous laughter….

The Battle with the Beast!

The party backtracks and begins to hear approaching squelching noises coming from the middle tunnel.  Within seconds, a hideous form comes into view.  The creature is unlike anything they have ever witnessed, it’s rotten, insectile body squeezes around the chamber easily, as it thrusts it’s gigantic claws again and again, ripping into flesh.  As only Argus and the Drow remain, Argus finally takes final aim with the weapon he found in the box.  It’s sulfuric stench permeates the chamber as the beast finally drops upon itself.  The force holding the party to the muck, suddenly relenting to their movements!

Escape!

As the party realizes that time may not be on their side, and not wanting to stick around to meet those who imprisoned them, they begin to look for a way out.  They soon find the edge of the lair, separated by a massive gate and portcullis system, no doubt to keep the quori imprisoned. 

“It’s a key lock Argus!” Angeles cries.  “And where’s the blasted key?” Angeles hangs his head, frustration clearly showing.

“My friends…there is….”, the Drow withdraws his hands from his robes, “a key in my pocket.” The plot thickens as the Drow inserts the key and the locking mechanism releases the gate.   

Several torches wind into a stairwell going up, and now visible is an open book, quill and ink bottle lying adjacent. In the book are hundreds of names, or desriptions of what is undoubtedly a long list of unfortunates who wound up as the quori’s dinner.  The last several lines are far more interesting.  Chiefly, your eyes find those that  belong to the party, your names clearly discernible. Next to each name is written “Hero?”.  Your attention spans above these names of Buttercup, Wesley, Argus and Angeles to the name of the Drow (and that name is? Haha). However, next to his name is written “traitor”. And finally you see the names written on the final two lines of the page “Splendar, the Magician” and “Sindy”.   

Running into the night upstairs, it becomes obvious that a crowd is conversing into the clearing from the ruins above. Wearing dark robes, and with the failing moonlight, you however still notice that many wear either the Orders emblems or those of the Shield or Lights companies. WHO ARE THESE BASTARDS, you think!  As they make their way down to where you are, you quietly slink off into the night, finding a streambed, you make your way hastily downhill towards Outpost 51. 

Within minutes, a horn sounds, faint but discernible nonetheless.  You hear the sounds of men at arms gathering, and several torches advancing on your position.  Moving stealthily though, you round the bend into the Outer Gate at 51, just in time to see the torches aren’t there anymore.  Either you outran your pursuers, or perhaps they pulled back. 

In either event, you welcome the Shield’s lecture as he tells you that next time, the gates won’t be opened for you this late again.  As he counts you at 5, he checks his list to compare it to the 5 that exited.

“Where’s your cart?” he asks…

“Oh, we’ll get it in the morning…”, you reply…

AWARDS AND XP: The Drow is wearing Leather Armor +1 (When you have amnesia, it’s like finding magical items all over again!) 14 Arrows +1 (four arrows are tipped with different points that appear of a different nature) A magical ring, unidentified. A magical cloak, unidentified. A medallion, unidentified. 2 potions of healing 4 gems each worth 300 gp. 2 bags of coins, total value 240 gp. We’ll discuss XP at the next session…

A RUTHLESS FRONTIER,   SESSION 3: The Enemy Shows Itself

Return from the Trap

 

Coming into Outpost 51’s Southern Gate, the party finds suddenly it has a few questions to answer to Brulen, the gate manager.  “What be that INFERNALLY DARKENED STENCH ON YE?”, he yells, “What the BLASTED NIGHT have the lot of you been doing out in this rain?” Luckily, the party is able to maintain a story without going into detail and they are let go without much bother, however, the party realizes later that details kept in a log book are more accurate than they thought!

It’s been a rough night and the party heads straight to The Three Legged Pig, for some R and R and also to rinse off the quori’s disgusting stench. Once back they find Sindy and Splendar, tired after performing for the masses.  Good news, their disappearing “Salami Trick” was the highlight of the festivities! Jed and Danny Echkert inform the group that Commander Tate would personally like to thank them for the efforts against the Giants. With the concerns of the cult and it’s mystery members, coupled with a possibility of a little notoriety, the party retires to it’s sleeping quarters among the tent cities sprung up during Fair time.…

After describing a horrific set of events, Fereday introduces himself to the duo, Splendar and Sindy. Fereday sighs relunctantly, “At least, I am in good company…”

“What do you mean?” asks Buttercup.

“You heard the Cultists.  The Heroes?  That’s you, obviously.  Something big is in the works around you. Whatever it is, you are right in the middle of it.”

And then to Splendar. “Magician you say? Have you any magics to bring back my memory, friend?” A subtle trace of anxiety evident on the Dark Elf, even with his attempt to hide it.

“Sorry friend, I’ve got nothing that can bring your memory back, nothing quite like that, yet at least…but I do have a pet, meet Floyd!”, After the explanations of how “Uncle Floyd” came to be among Splendars many acts and wonderments, he continues and muses “I knew that Dwarf wasn’t all he’s cracked up to be.”

“Yeah, sure,” says the lot of the party.

“Ok, well, maybe I didn’t see it coming. But Buttercup should have! Right?”, there’s no denying this from the group.  Buttercup’s oracle powers had been growing significantly since the attack with the giants, but it wasn’t a factor in determining Henrik Merriweather’s motives.

The group then shows Splendar several items they found among the quori’s victims.  A medallion seems to add a new dimension to Buttercup’s abilities, while a ring makes the brothers capable of seeing through the impenetrable!  Other items gleam in the lamp’s light and soon the party realizes they have amassed a small fortune!

“Whew, that’s a whole lot of Salami tricks,” Splendar chuckles…”but, what is this?”

Splendar discovers that the clasp binding the Clerics’ bag begins to glow with such a radiating light that the adventurers cover the many blankets in their sleeping quarters over it, to guard it from waking up others in surrounding quarters.”We don’t need any more attention now do we, friends?” whispers Fereday…  Splendar releases his spell, and pulls forth a piece of metal hidden within the clasp structure.  A semi-circular piece, with jagged edges on both sides as if it were part of a larger circle that had been broken.  The letters “AKE O” written largely on them.

A Morning of Discovery

 

With the unknown attention now drawn to them from the riders on horseback and possible cultists, the party is careful to keep watch in the night amongst the tented sleeping “dorms” of the Fair.  Once, and then twice, a female figure is seen lurking off somewhere, but every attempt by Angeles to follow it is met with failure.  Who is this person? 

What do they want? For now, the mystery waits.   

Later, while assembling in the TLG for breakfast, the party hears several rumors, chiefly of which are:

Darn those blasted First Orders, (shhh!!!) , burying the giant carcasses out there on these Light Forsaken plains is a stupid idea.  Dire Wolf almost took Helmsley yestermorn.  Maybe if they’d get those wizards off their duff, they could move some earth for us, instead leaving it to us without the slightest in magical labor.  But no, they need all those magicians for one retarded dragon that can’t even walk straight.

Two bar maids are whispering and talking about the Risen’ught.  They are concerned that their actions lately could bring attention to themselves during the night.  It would appear as though the Silver Flame has taken a particular notion with female behavior during this annual event. If the girls are to be believed, several women of ill repute have been taken away to a fate unknown.

The party overhears rumors about Belloran snooping his big nose into construction projects and being a busy body. Bishop Belloran is widely believed to meddle in the affairs of State as the Keeper of the Flame.

The Doomsday Brothers: A special shop dedicated to researching the arcane secrets of the End Days coming again has come to the Fair this year.  Normally a standing attraction in Cellione, sister city to Cillandar, the Doomsday Brothers Curio Shop and End Days Preparatory Academies promises to give you everything you need to survive the Dark Days ahead.

Disappearances: Many different investigations into disappearances are noticeable in this fair.  Signs and different posts indicate those looking for them, and those willing to pay for information regarding their return.  Most of the missing appear to be men, as is usually the case with would-be adventurous who do not return home anyway.

Called to the Tower

The group assembles early, placing on their growing arsenal. Argus is careful to stash his “Fire-arm” safely and secretly as he heeds the warning found within the Clerics journal.  Fereday dons the new arrows that he has acquired.  Jed and Danny lead them proudly to the Keep. This is clearly an honor for both of them. On the way, they see Squatch the Ogre already earning Rhett coin by challenging a man still hungover from the Fair’s evening drinking.  Across the multicolored patterns of hundreds and hundreds of tent tops, the party takes in  the enormous size of the Keep, surrounding it is  the incredibly vast and thick walls of Outpost 51 structured along the side of the vast hillside; it’s parapets and guard towers stationed with archers, and other wooden and metal apparatus you have yet to see in action. Beyond the glittering green and golden flags of Cillandar’s colors, the snow covered peaks of the Impenetrable Mountains, lying past the grassy hillsides of the colossal Southern Valley’s lower hillocks.

The Keep’s Tower Observatory, dead in the center of the impressive Keep, is a structure to behold.  Standing well over the outer walls in height, it is clearly the highest point in the Fortress as well as for many miles around the great rift valley that lies before and around it.    The party makes it’s way up the winding staircase greeted by guards, winded but at long last they’ve arrived.  Along the way, the pulley system used to maintain the items required from the Commander above is in obvious repair.  Finally, they arrive at the top, surprised by the lack of wind at this altitude, about them scurry several soldiers prepping  a large map, others writing scrolls.  Being in the Tower gives the impression of standing amongst the clouds, all around misty tendrils drift into the circular chamber from the wide and open architecture.  A large muscled and bearded human with a horned helmet greets them.  This is clearly Commander Tate, to his side is Captain Barackis, his most trusted aide. Glancing around the room, the party makes out several pieces of information from a Dwarven stronghold being sieged by the enemy to an unknown refugee’s location.  A large “G” on a wooden icon is placed somewhere South in the direction of a giant clear piece of transparent sheeting that has the name BORINDIN’S SPEAR written upon it in ink.  “I don’t give the Night for what Belloran wants us to investigate right now, we’ve got Him  out there and that is priority number…” Hearing your approach, he turns…

“So, at last we meet, my friends,” says Tate, still locking eyes on a section of the map in front of him, a Shield member moves several metal  figures across to him, but Tate shakes his head.  He looks up. “Yes, yes there you are. Commander Tate. Southern Forces Commmander for Our Lord, and Bringer of the Light, His Majesty, Borindin the WyrmSlayer.” He salutes you in traditional Cillandrial Fashion.

“I see, you have been busy,” he says with a dry smile. You can’t help but notice Tate takes in your recent scars still left over from the battle with the quori. “Captain Barackis and I wanted to thank you personally for your heroism at the Fork. It would seem as though destiny has perhaps found a calling for you as well….” The commander inspects the leather armor Fereday wears, his eyes catching the quality no doubt.

“You must tell us of the events of the Fork! Captain Barackis and I don’t get out to the Three Legged Pig much do we, Captain?”  Barackis, a well muscled younger man, who seems much older in the face than he should, nods, coming to walk over to the group.  

The party tells Barackis and Tate all about the giant attack, as the two soldiers listen. They ask questions at different periods, clearly concerned by something.

“And did you find any items of interest among the dead, by any chance?” Tate asks.  He seems to ask in passing, but Buttercup, wearing the medallion can clearly see he is in anticipation of an answer!  Luckily, Angeles and Argus pull off a radical skill check, and Commander Tate moves on in his questioning…

“Well, the Crown would like to reward you all by giving you honorary accommodations here in the Keep while at the Fair.  We also, Captain Barackis and I, wish to give you our Lighted  gratitude.  Should you decide to join our forces, we will outfit you from the finest armors and weaponry we keep in our smithys here. But, that perhaps is for later.  For now, I have just one more question for you?”

“Please, ask, m”Lord,” replies Buttercup.

“If you’ll humor me, friends, Just why did his majesty’s Light, a Mr. (Tate checks a journal handed to him now by Barackis) note in his nightly Gate Journal that “a party consisting of 5 included a  dwarf on the way out last night” at our Southern Gate, in the blinding sleet and rain no less, but upon return they had with them an elf, a pale, pale elf….”

At this, the party staggers a bit.  On the periphery, Buttercup can sense the other guards on the Observatory deck have come under the ready, even if on the outside they appear to not have noticed at all.  A still wind whips around the room, as Angeles, Splendar and the group decide to divulge the nightly events with the Cult, the quori and then they show Tate the cult’s log. Tate and Barackis move to a side table on the deck, each perusing the log, their eyes clearly landing on something of value, Barackis whispers to Tate “the Mothers warned us of this Commander…”

“Stop your foolishness Barackis, I told you we will not rely on myths and fables to fight this war! We will discuss this later and Damn the Hells I want a team of our best on this one. This time,  I want live bodies, Barackis…” Tate walks back over to you all, this time, hand on sword. Buttercup senses a change in his demeanor.  What does he intend to do?

 He motions for Fereday.

“We have had many reports of Ketian spies. The Lighted Kingdom of our Lord, and all within Cellinor, depend on the Southern Valley for it’s sustenance.  The Southern Valley’s very survival depends on this war. By extension,  all our lives are at stake as well as the goodness of this new land. M’Lord Belloran believes that the Darkness is but a figment of our imagination. That the lands around us move to take our lands with nothing so much as the combined leadership of a pack of wolves wishing to take down prey.  But I know better.  The enemy is well hidden, secretive and clever.  The Southern Spear and it’s reinforcements and re-supplies depend on our ability to communicate and keep the enemy in the Dark.  How have you come to be here elf? This I demand to know, and I’d like the answer immediately…”

A hush falls upon the deck as the other Shields turn toward Tate, hands ready at hilts.  This has obviously been planned, and it looks like Tate has made up his mind about Fereday after all.

But before Fereday can offer an explanation, a deafening Horn sounds from deep in the depths of the Keep.  It’s blast vibrates the various metal instruments on the tables. There are sounds of “Thwipppp” from the archers below and cries of soldiers now peering out, “INCOMING!”

A hideous wail blasts in through the decks from all directions.  “Skinwings!!!” growls Barackis to Tate, and to the few soldiers on deck, “Guard the Commander! Darkened Hells! That could only be…..you murderous bastard, come HADANI. It’s been too long!!!!!!” Barackis takes a stance as all around him forms and shapes approach in the air, hovering aloft, their flapping wings blowing back the pages and scrolls now scattered around the platform.

The terrible stench of death wafts in as giant winged creatures approach the deck on all sides.  Each bears a rider of nightmarish description. The creatures themselves are disgusting versions of something that should not be.  Each appears to be a created structure, skin, perhaps, stretched and sewn over a skeletal structure.  The bones, and skulls of other beings or beasts are somehow stitched or strapped within and without any form or regularity to design. Their forms revealed through gaps in the outer folds.  Where a head should be, a mass of skin stretches over some alien skull from a creature unlike any you can recognize, red lights emanate from underneath giving the beasts a mesmerizing stare.  Each stops just short of the openings along the Observation Deck’s outer wall, as a rider leaps into the chamber, crashing into the maps, tables and chairs.

Coming to it’s full height, one rider bears a hood over a skull which seems to hide a darkened form underneath. It’s armor completely made of some unidentifiable skeletal mass.  It pulls out a wicked blade, a cruel jagged edge pointed at the Commander.  “Commander Tate! I bring greetings from the Southern Lands” it hisses.  Two other figures bear multiple arms, their dark and black skin glistens over what can only be described as some bony or insectile like form underneath.  Each claw, except for those holding reigns bears a weapon, sharp and ragged, instruments of savage killing. Their faces a mass of jaw and teeth, smiling hideously with the thought of killing. 

Another creature bears the resemblance of a beautiful maid, feathered, yet at her approach, her features change. What once was beautiful, is now obscene and diseased.  Her gaping mouth pulls back to reveal a wicked tongue, a song of enchantment now pouring from her evil orifice.

Finally, a creature like nothing you have ever seen, bearing resemblance to an enormous mosquito, but with the facial features and look of intelligence as that of a human, flaps it’s way in.  A gigantic sword, blazing with some unknown magic comes straight for Barackis. The creature speaks in a way that makes your skin crawl, a sort of clicking in between words, it issues what must be alien words to it “Bar …ack…ISSSSSS….I told youssss I would come for yousssss!”

Battle in the Skies

The party is first attacked by a vicious harpy, who immediately begins a Song of Luring.  While floating off the parapets edge, she lures both the King’s Mage and one of Tate’s most trusted Shields off the side to their doom.  Luckily, the party quickly takes her out, her dying screech lost in the wind as her body falls to the Keep below.  But before long, it becomes clear what the attackers are after as the enemy begins to hack at Commander Tate. 

Buttercup uses her powers to shield the party, while Argus is careful to keep his firearm hidden.  Fereday drops many foes with his bow, their bodies tilting over the stone railings into the Keep below.

Meanwhile, the warrior insect man, whom Barackis has called Al Hadani, engages him, with a savage stroke.  He deals first blood. But Al Hadani, and Barackis, who obviously have some history in combat, enter a death match, and thankfully, Barackis gains the upper hand. 

“You’re ruthless days are at an end Hadani.  The King’s lands will spread into the Sea of Sands, and your tribes will burn in the Light of his Majesty!”

“You bloated worm,” Hadani gargles in his hideous version of Common. “Others will rise, the time of Ket has come.  You are the last to see the Darkening comes again, and with it your ENSLAVEMENT!”

“The only thing I see  today is your death!” yells Barackis, and with that, he sliced Hadani’s head clean off, the creature’s  giant sword falling in a heap with the rest of his body.

With Hadani dead, the remaining evil warriors make one last attempt to bring Tate down.  As he passes out from the onslaught, the party slashes at and hacks down the remaining foes just as each could have brought down the death blow on Tate.  Just then, Shields storm into the room having gotten there just moments too late to enter the battle themselves.

Tate waivers in and out of consciousness, but you remember seeing him lock eyes on you all.  As his eyes lose focus, he mouths “You just may be…Heroes…” and  then loses consciousness.

Great Sword +1 The design of this blade is quite extraordinary. It is of incredible craftsmanship and seems to have other qualities not yet determined.  The sword has an engraving on it’s side that you have yet to identify.  It’s previous owner, Al Hadani, the Thri-Kreen warrior, was said to have slain many a Shield member with it on the borders of Gallinor to the East, towards the Outer Wilds of the Sea of Sands.

Spell Book of a respectable mage in the Shield’s ranks.  5 first, 3 second, and 2 third spells to be chosen randomly in game. Hand Axe +1

The Circle of Trust

          Commander Tate is taken to the infirmary where Clerics of the Flame heal his wounds.  His first few orders involved calling the lot of you in to speak with him. Commander Tate’s demeanor towards you is clearly changed.  Especially Fereday, whose arrows during the battle, may have saved  the Commander’s life. 

          “I have a job for you, and since Barackis here deems it unwise for me to go myself given the latest….developments… I’m choosing to  trust you to go in my stead.  I’m going to ask you first if you’d like to serve the Crown, before I impart to you knowledge of the utmost secrecy. I have many other investigations of a less important nature that I can offer you in service for payment.  I must know now where your destiny, your loyalty and your path lies.”

          Accepting the offer to help the kingdom, but not wishing to receive the brand that binds them to the King, the party listens to the Commander as he sits up in bed.  Barackis and Tate seem more inclined to discuss things with the party. By his bedside, the party is made privy to information that Genoran, the King’s oldest son, has indeed come to 51 and left with the latest Re-supply wagon. This was not something Tate wished for, and he’s very unhappy about it.  It would seem as though Genoran wishes to earn respect amongst the troops, and that he had his father’s blessing.  Tate  has several dispatches as well as rations and such to resupply. He intends to send Danny, Jed  (as they know the area well) and some of his most loyal to chase up the Re-supply line to Genoran’s position. This information is made known to the party under penalty of death should the information leak.  The party has until tomorrow morn to leave at first daylight. Barackis promises the party that he will lead the assault on the ruins where they encountered the cultists himself.

Wesley is offered a job on the Dread Pirate.  The underwater contraption is designed by a group of gnomes out of Cellione.  It moves through the White River secretively bearing information for the war.  However, the gnomes within, which Tate refers to as “Hobbits” have lost the only person on the ship capable of reaching the upper knobs and gears, a certain self proclaimed “Pirate Roberts” who recently suffered a heart attack.    Wesley will now join the Dread Pirate’s Hobbits and take the place of the Dread’s Pirate Roberts.  Tate wants to know if Wesley is “left handed?” Perhaps, we’ll see him again someday, but for now, Buttercup and Wesley must part!

Events at the Fair

The party decides to join the throng of festival goers that night, keeping a low profile and looking for any of the figures that have shown themselves lurking around.   Although they often feel eyes on them, it’s hard to tell what is accidental and what is deliberate.  After all, word has gotten out of their deeds at the Fork.  Even several Shield members have acknowledged them with the King’s wave.  As they move through the crowds, a feeling of fear creeps in.  Could one of these patrons be a member of the Cult that kidnapped them? If so, no one is showing themselves just yet.

Fereday discovers the End Days Curio Shop and Apocalyptic Survival Academy, and makes a discovery.  He finds, amongst a wealth of Ketian protection devices and odd potions meant to keep Darkness from entering one’s soul, several antiques. One of them bears a circular design with the draconic symbols for “For the Sake of All”. Fereday’s eyes open wide.  “AKE O” on the clasp! Perhaps, it is part of a larger symbol! But what could this mean?  And why did the Cleric hide it?

Buttercup meanwhile passes the Arena once more on her way back to the sleeping quarters.  Once again, she sees the shadowy silhouette of the giant beast, the dragon, chained and guarded by the many mages surrounding it.  This time, however, the new medallion she has acquired gives her a strange feeling.  A sense of nostalgia overwhelms her, and a feeling of extreme sadness.  The oracle seems to not be the only one however.  A woman, clad in the sacred garments of the Silver Flame bears vigil near the dragon.  Her body resting in prayer outside the guardian circle entrapping the beast magically.

Angeles, Argus and Fereday decide to check on some arms and equipment suppliers when they pass a troubling scene.  A large scaled and reptilian creature is caged in an iron cell.  A raucous cheer comes from those stabbing it through the cell.  Apparently, this “Dragonman” was just found murdering a citizen at the Fair, and the Fair Militia is administering a back alley citizen’s justice.

“This traitorous beast works for the Enemy!” one yells, “His hands are covered with this dead soldier’s blood. He is red-handed!”.  You notice that the Dragonborn is near unconsciousness, blood oozing from his many wounds, he clearly can no longer speak for himself. Despite this, the attackers continue to stab him through the bars. His life is slipping away!

Before a wink of the eye, the party comes to his assistance! Buttercup heals him, while Angeles and Argus wade before the crowd alerting them to the fact that justice cannot be administered without consent of the proper authorities.  Fereday notices a note clutched in the creature’s hand.  As other soldiers arrive, the mystery is revealed.  This Dragonborn is an enlisted member of the Lights, but is unable to stay within the quarters of those in the Keep; he must, instead,  sleep amongst the peasants until called for.  While about the Fair he has come across a treacherous deed,  a plot to sabotage the pulley system to the Observation Deck!  But before he could give the information to the Commander, the militia caught him.

Before he and the adventurers part ways however, the Dragonman extends his claws in thanks.   “My name is Lakra Shar. Last of my kin to the East.  I have come here to prove my worth in combat for the good of this land.  If you are ever in need of assistance, I will come to your aide, Friends.”

The Ceremony of Light

 

As the Fairgoers stream into the Central Plaza, Belloran begins the ceremony dressed in the Silver Tunic of the Keeper of the Flame. His first order of business is to shame the despicable act of traitors within our midst.  Of  the attack on Commander Tate and of those who would INCITE panic about “Ketians” and “Darkness”.  He warns that these are the works of a few who would subvert the King’s vision of a Lighted Realm.

He further warns of the responsibilities of both men and women in this time of superstition.  The old ways brought destruction, the old ways of superstition and myth.

He then performs the Ritual of Light in which one man, recently killed during one of the Outposts many construction projects, is resurrected as a sign of the Light’s goodness and power. His family waits for him off to one side of the altar, crying with joy they rush to him as a robe is placed over his newly risen body.  Then, moving to the other side of the stage,  he condemns another to death, a man found guilty of murder, issuing the killing blow himself. The hushed crowd leaves with the knowledge that all things find swift death in the dark, alone.

Into the Impenetrable Mountains (that’s  what she said)

During the night, the party gears up and prepares itself as best they can.  This time, however, a strange note appears under their tent flap. It bears a single word “Merriweather”.  The party does not inspect the note further.

In the morning, the party assembles within the Keep, outfitted with the gear and other essentials. Danny and Jed approach the team on horseback.  Several other beasts common to these lands are loaded with gear and supplies. 

“Tis a simple errand, follow the map and deliver supplies, materials and these documents,” he hands you over sealed documents emblazoned with the King’s seal, magically held,” to his Majesty, Lord Genoran, the Prince.  Do not, under penalty of death, let these documents come under the possession of anyone but yourselves, nor divulge the location of his majesty to anyone.  Do not speak of your destination to anyone besides the Eckhert brothers, including those Shields in your party.”

“The path should be clear for you along the supply route. Do not deviate from it. Should you come under attack, it is of the utmost importance that you continue to your point of destination before returning back. 

May the Light guide you…”

 

 

A Ruthless Frontier   Session 4:  Into the Ice and Night

Leaving Outpost 51

Flags flutter from the parapets, and a feint trumpet envelopes the wind signaling your departure from the Fair, the Outpost, and from the last remnants of civilization in this wintry landscape. The grand Doors of the Outpost open with a strain and a creak of winching chain.  Through the ever widening gap, you see  an ocean of green, light shining on the swaying grass, specked with patches of leftover snow and the corpses from the last assault on the Outpost.  Crows and other nasty beasts roam the air and land around you, scavenging their bodies. Some of the largest as big as houses, their stench carried miles to you now.   Off to the left, a few disgruntled soldiers who were obviously chosen for the terrible duty of burying these foul orcs, goblins and giant men labor quietly.  You can only imagine what the smell must be like up close.

The valley is amazingly peaceful and yet altogether you have an unsettling feeling.  Waves of grass extend as far as the eye can see, a landscape that is swallowed by a mountain range extending from the distant East to the furthest West.  Large peaks frosted with white peak out from over what must be endless miles and miles of hills, hillocks, and who knows what else.   

According to your map, the supply trail navigated virtually a straight shot South.  However, to the East and West waterways and rivers seem to flow through less hilly areas.  Below an area marked secretively where the Southern Spear would most likely be found, is an area not marked at all. This is the Frozen Lands. The Lands of Ice and Night.  If you were back at the Three Legged Pig having a brew, it might be referred to in a hushed whisper as “The Land of Ket, of hell and damnation.”

But, your thoughts do not linger there. You have a job to do.  Danny and Jed double check and secure various straps on the beasts brought forth with the supplies.

There are horses, and others with strange tails and hulking masses you are not familiar with.  Their odor is unmistakably putrid and you were glad to see several Shields approach with familiar mounts, horses, for you to ride.  As you saunter out into the bitter landscape, your exhalations visible in the air, you overhear your comrades.

“At least we’ll be able to find them in a snowstorm if they get lost,” Splendar muses.

“Yeah,” remarks Fereday, “But, let’s just hope their nice little odor here doesn’t help anything else find them…” 

“Ready!!!!” calls Jed from the front.  He and Danny mount their horses, having walked them out as is custom with Soldiers. There’s also a man named  Hadrian, a Lighted Soldier who you’ve been told was selected for this assignment specifically by Tate. He mounts up as well.  He seems bitter and if your instincts are right, rather frightened.  Tate was often known to select those who do not perform their duties well for the more difficult assignments. Perhaps, Hadrian is on a learning curve.

Before long, the weather turns.  A bright and golden morning, unfortunately is now a wet and rather miserable afternoon.  Visibility becomes shrouded, making the unseen emptiness of the open spaces around you ominous.  Whisps of fog blow through with an occasional snow flurry as you make your way to the first checkpoint and you are greeted  by several bunkered Shields playing Spottle.  Others are stationed, as they should be, within the reinforced crags of their lookouts, their seriousness to task obvious on their faces as you approach.

Jed and Danny show the station the Letters of Transit from Tate. They offer you some food and a brief respite from the cruel wind, for which you gladly accept.  Tales of monsters and battles fill your ears as warm mugs fill your hands.  Every coin these men have earned is already spent, the full details of which are being told to you in the future tense, as you hear what each will do with their “War Earnings”. 

Assembling yourselves once more, you push on, as your times and various other essential bits are recorded in a log.  The journey begins to wind it’s way South, as the land rises.  Perhaps, it’s your imagination, but the cold begins to deepen. Into your bones. Green turns to white.  Solid rock to soft snow, the horses keep a steady pace up and up and up.

A Gigantic Ambush

Trekking through the icy canyons, the adventurers trail Danny and Jed, the twins, seemingly bent on making speedy time.  With each hour, snow falls and winds howl wetting nearly everything you carry.  Your feet freeze, and stopping to thaw them out is taking it’s toll on you, your party and the lame animals that are burdened with the gear and supplies that you’ve been tasked to deliver to Prince Genoran. But, you havn’t forgotten, that the most precious cargo of all, is the Letters of Intelligence that Commander Tate and Captain Barackis have entrusted to you.  “Guard them with your life”, he had said, his red splotched eyes searched yours for understanding.  “You are within the Flame of my trust now. There are some things larger than ourselves in this world.  It’s time for you to decide if your Light illuminates more than your life’s story…”

Day turns to night, and your first camp is filled with stories of a different kind, as Danny and Jed fill the tent with amazing tales of heroic deeds.  Battles fought by their Faithful Lord Borindin.  The Story of the Heroes of Light.  You’ve always loved that one.  Jed adds some really great elements you’ve never heard before that he says he heard from a Teller once near Carr Perrin.  How the Heroes fought the Ketians themselves in the very Castle Tower in the Heart of Cillandar itself, home to Lord Borindin.  Captivating storytelling even without a fire you think.  Danny is able to rouse even the sulky Hadrian with his story about how as a child, he traveled to Cillandar and saw the Battle of Heroes for himself.  “He was right there. Right there. King Borindin, sitting in front of us.Well, at least we could see him anyway! Genoran couldn’t have been older than a babe at the time, resting upon his father’s knee. Of course, that was the year that Mordenkai the Mage was defeated in the final round by the Elven Ranger Horush.   And now here we are, bringing that small babe supplies as he braves the cold to reinforce his Majesty’s Army!”

Watches are set, and although the land quakes with settling snow and cries are heard far off from some strange beast, your hidden shelter and lack of fire seems to give you a peaceful night’s sleep.

In the morning, the climb continues.  Slowly, the horses make their way up the mountainous trail, when Danny gives the signal to stop.  Looking out at a frozen creek, a body lies near the water, dressed in mail. But it’s the light shining off something far to the other side of the sloping hills that warn of danger. Fereday immediately climbs the hillside and discovers a hideous group of ogres and a Frost Giant lie in wait.  Looking off into the direction of the lights they had seen, he finds a pattern in their delivery.  Surprisingly, he discovers he can understand them. How? He knows not, but the message is clear “Attack now!” “Hells!”, Fereday groans. Carefully winding his way back down he warns the party, who spring into action, crawling up the hillside from a point where they can be out of reach of the terrible creatures.

BOOM!!!!!!

BOOOM!!!!!

Crumbles of snow begin to drift off the sides of the rocky ledge, and the teeth in your mouth begin to tremble as well. Something wicked this way comes.

“There are three of them! And they carry javelins! Hide. Hide!!!!!”

“Where in the Lights would you like me to hide!” moans Buttercup.

“They’re coming, quiet maiden…”, Angeles warns.  Placing a single finger to his lips, he straddles the rocky outcrop atop where he was perched. His brother, Argus, motions along the darkened path, snow flakes beginning to fall on his outstretched hands. 

Gigantic shapes begin to move through the precarious hillside.  

Shifting. Lumbering.  Angeles places a hand on his belt to steady the instruments he uses for his weapon from rattling.

Their bodies are covered in a foul woolly hair, grey and matted, the hair resembles the hue of snow mixed with the dirt after a near thaw.  They sniff and grunt, but move on.

And the party begins to sigh.  But, you’ve forgotten. Fereday said there were three…

BOOM!!!!

BOOOM!!!!!!! 

A third and colossal beasts moves through the darkened gap.  It is so large it must bend it’s head in order to clear a hanging outcrop of icy rocks. The creature looks like a thick, muscular human. It has frost-white skin and long, light blue hair that it wears braided. It wears a mass of metal that appears to be many suits of man sized armor strung together and carries a battle-axe larger than a grown man.  It’s intelligence is clear upon it’s brow. Appearing puzzled. It stops. 

And catching the slight hint of your trail up the slope, begins to turn it’s massive head towards you.   

“I …..seee……you…..manlings!” Lifting it’s axe, the party engages the beast in combat, as it’s allies return. 

Stay aloft here on the ledge,” yells Argus, “Below is our doom! We must keep the higher ground!”

For Cillandar!” yell Danny and Jed. “For our Lighted Lands!” 

As the frost giant lifts it’s great axe to cleave the brothers in two, it roars, a man’s voice with the power of a cyclone’s gale.  The battle rages.  The ogres below throw javelins the width of a wagon spoke, while Gorm, the frost giant, cleaves his axe again and again.  Without the aid of Buttercup, the party would have been lost for sure, as time after time, someone drops into unconsciousness.

Once the party gains the upper hand however, one of the ogres attempts to flee.  Gorm persuades it to return as he is finally struck down.

“Die, you bastard,” yells Fereday releasing another of his deadly arrows. 

As Gorm flails into the misty void, he curses you with his dying breath “My brothers will avenge me. Will rip the….” But the party would never know, watching Gorm slide down the snowy embankment, his body coming to rest finally, neck savagely crooked, eyes facing the sky, unblinking.  

And just in time, as Danny and Jed lay dying, Buttercup heals them of their tremendous wounds. 

With the giants dead, the party scavenges items, and sends a message “Successful Ambush”.  Searching the giants camp they discover…Boots of the Winterlands, Ring of Sustenance, Scroll of Shelter, 2 ingots of Adamantine (value 750 gp)

Many of the items are found within the ogres food bags.  Bags which bear the rotting remains of humanoids dismembered.  The frost giant, Gorm, also had many items in a bag on his person. Within part of Gorm’s armor lies a magical SHIELD +2.

XP GORM aka “Frosty” 6400 xp

XP Two Ogres 1600 xp

Which is Which?

The party realizes soon that staying is not an option.  Furthermore, it is now apparent that the supply line has been infiltrated.  Their mission is to inform Lord Genoran, and it has just become much more urgent.

Blast you Jed! The line is broken.  We must deliver the message to Genoran. Tate’s counting on us!”

Brother, I understand. But look at us, Hadrian is all but spent.  These adventurers have risked life and limb.  We must approach slowly. If we fail, there won’t be time for the follow up party to reach Genoran, “ Jed reasons.

Ok then.  But we must make time.  If the Enemy has penetrated this valley, other stations are at risk.  This Information must make it’s way to the Prince with all haste”.

“Making time serves both purposes friends,” Argus says. “Nightfall approaches, and the bitter winds here spell our doom if we don’t seek a heated shelter.  We cannot draw attention to ourselves with fire. We must arrive at the next station before we catch our death from the elements.”

The party moves along the mountain trail.  Sections of rock moved by the massive workforce of the Southern Spear’s recent activity clearly obviously in the way the trail is laid out, rocks strewn aside an area wide enough for horses and wagons to lumber through.  Hugging the hills as best they can, they quietly make time as the snow picks up, gusts bringing sheets of white powder coating everything in sight.

“That’s the entrance to Station 8,“ Danny points. “I remember the canyon now.  Just up ahead. We’ve made it Jed. Thank the Flame.” 

Wait!” Fereday warns.  “Something is wrong here.  I hear….”

Fereday drops low, and motions to the group to keep quiet.  With the quiet resolve you have been learning to read on each other’s faces, he begins to slink his way into the canyon, hugging the shadowed side of the wall. 

Once within, a sight to behold awaits him.  From a small mound of snow and earth, Fereday sees a scene of battle. 

A man dressed in magnificent mail stands in a battle stance, tired but determined, his back against the wall. He seems familiar. To either side is another warrior, a Lighted Shield, desperately fighting off several Worgs. Riders slink to the ground. Their movements bely a monstrous and inhuman movement, despite being the size and shape of humanoids.

All around the broken and what is left of the shattered station lie dead bodies of other Shielded troops, horses slain, the Prince’s flock of griffons lying still. Their once magnificent forms now motionless as well, covered in thick crimson splashes of blood. The group begins to circle around the finely clad figure.  Words spoken, but Fereday can’t make them out.

And then he doesn’t have to.

One of the largest of the Worgs turns towards him.  Signalling them off, the other Worgs turn too. Running straight for Fereday, alone in the canyon.

As Fereday runs back to the group, he yells “Worgs!!!!! They’re coming! Be ready!”

“Floyd. It’s time!” Splendar winds up the battle weasel as the creature  lurches forward towards the oncoming pack.

“To the Prince!” yell Danny and Jed.  “Secure the prince!” The brothers waste no time in moving towards their Lord, one singular mission clearly outlined on their face.  It’s then you realize how brave each brother is, and just what they would be willing to sacrifice .

The worgs attack, pushing the party back with their savage claws, they work in a combined pack, but slowly they are taken down one by one.

While the party is dealing with the Worgs, however, the Prince is having trouble.  Both soldiers have now been taken down, Genoran stands alone.

And then something even more sinister occurs.  Fereday watches in horror, as the shadowy figures that surround the Prince began to shine and translucate.  Their forms seem almost to move and sway. Soon, however, he realizes they are not moving, instead it is their bodies which are changing. Within just  a few moments, they’ve transformed into the identical figure as the Prince himself!

As the last of the Worgs are dropped, so is one of the figures resembling the Prince.  The others begin to surround it, as the adventurers come nearer.

Get back from him!” yells Danny.  “Stay back from the fallen man there or we’ll shoot whoever comes near.”

By the Light we’ll sort you out, you foul beasts!” Shouts Jed.

Just then, one of the figures grabs another, and places a dagger to it’s throat.  “Back off slaves! We will give you one chance. Heal the Prince’s mounts. You, Oracle of the North!  You are able. Heal the griffons here, and we will leave your Prince here.  Do not attempt to fool us! Or he dies!”

But, Buttercup, activates her magical medallion.  She learns that the figure with it’s dagger to it’s throat fears nothing, and this tells her all she needs to know.  “It’s a bluff!” yells Buttercup. “A bluff!”

And the party rushes into battle.  During the fight, one of the dobblegangers attempts to bearhug Argus and trade places with it, stabbing him in the gut. But Argus is able to overpower him, killing him with a powerful blow.  As the last of the dobblegangers nears death, Fereday comes into a patch of light momentarily to fire his bow.

“YOU? YOU ARE THE TRAITOR!!” It says.

“I AM NO TRAITOR, DAMN YOU!” roars Fereday.

Soon, the fight is over. Bloodied, bruised, and thoroughly exhausted, the party rushes to the Prince’s side. Buttercup’s gentle touch and healing power of the Flame, flows over him.

Genoran opens his eyes.  Taking into account all there is to see.

XP 4 Worgs  2400 xp XP 4 Dobblegangers 4500 xp XP 300 per character for creative scenarios to discover the proper Genoran, Items of magical value found on the dead soldiers… Leather armor +1, Chain armor +1, Dagger +1, Ring of Protection +1

 

Obey the King, or Obey the Prince?

“Which of you is branded? Reveal yourselves now, under penalty of Law in the Known Realm of My Father, Lord and Master of the Lighted Cellinor! Show yourselves to me now! Kendrick count the bodies, I only count 4 of our wing, something or someone has gotten away. Kendrick, blast you, where are you?!”  

Buttercup and Fereday step forward. Genoran looks at your faces and then to your brands.  “A dark elf no less”, he whispers….and then to Fereday…”And yet, Tate entrusted you to deliver these messages to me and the Tree of Light is here, here upon your flesh… Hold still, soldier of the Realm.

As the Prince extends his hands, warmth spreads into you.  It is only then that you realize that the Prince is a Cleric of the Flame himself. 

“And you, good maiden. What is your name?” 

“Buttercup, mLord!”  

“You were able to detect the intentions of those foul mimicking beasts.  How…but, how did you do this?”

“I have premonitions m’lord. I sometimes can see…what will come…”

For the first time since you’ve encountered him, Genoran seems to smile.  He sets his hand down upon a stump of rock, and slides into a crack in the rock, easing his legs into a resting position.  “Well, I’d keep that from Belloran if I were you my dear.” 

“And how many Lighted sets of twins are there in this army any way?” Out of nowhere, he begins to chuckle. First a little, and then with a hearty laugh. Genoran’s laughter is contagious, it’s obvious why the men of the Known Realm are want to emulate him.  “Angeles you say your name is? And what manner of weapon is this you use? May I see it please.”

“Certainly, mLord” Angeles hands the firearm to Genoran, who inspects it carefully, and yet it’s purpose still seems a mystery to him. “This is truly a unique weapon indeed. But, nothing like a steel blade I am sure.  Nonetheless, our smiths in Cillandar should see this.  My father spends nearly half his waking days finding artifacts of war from the Before Days.  Perhaps, I could arrange a meeting.”

“The King!?” Argus mouths.  Buttercup, and Splendar smile.  It seems like just yesterday they were riding on a wagon to the fair.  Simple farm hands. 

“Now, tell me brothers Jed, and Danny Eckhert.  What news do you bring me of Outpost 51.”

“My lord, we have these Letters of Intelligence for you. And we also have this.”  Danny produces a tube, sealed with the King’s seal. This tube, you had not seen, until now. 

“The King’s seal…” whispers Genoran.  “Darkened Night.  Father, let me fight!!!!” Genoran speaks not to you, but rather shouts into the hills beyond.  Angrily, he stands, twisting off the cap and breaking the seal, he pulls forth a piece of parchment, unrolling it, he begins to read. His face showing more anger with every line his eyes trace.

“The King, my father, wishes me to return with “ ALL HASTE” to 51, my tail between my legs, in order to secure my Royal Blood and arse.  And you, Jed and Danny Eckhert, brothers, and you, my fellow adventurers are tasked, unknowingly with doing this very thing, once this seal was broken.” 

“And yet…we now must come to a decision. For you, one that could carry the penalty of death.  The supply lines are broken.  Our intelligence combined with what you have seen means the Southern Spear will have been flanked on this side”. Genoran points to an area on the map from one of the Intelligence scrolls.  “Without this knowledge, the entire Southern Campaign could be walking into a trap! If the Spear fails, the Ketian armies could walk right up to the doors of our lower Outposts and the Southern Valley will have been lost.” 

It would seem as though we have a decision to make.

 “Will you aide me, friends.   

Or will you obey your King?”

TO BE CONTINUED… Congratulations on advancing to Level 3!

A Ruthless Frontier, Session 5: A Dangerous Decision

 

Angeles and Argus decide it is in their best interests not to follow the King here. In so doing, they decide to set out on their own over the Eastern Pass to Almagesh.  Luckily, two other brothers named ‘Banter’ are found among the wounded of the battle.

Genoran, Prince and First Son to the Throne of Cellinor, wasted no time, and began to move from body to body. Each time, he bent over, and said the Flame’s Embrace, committing each soul to the eternal Flame forever. As he moved between the corpses, his green and gold trimmed cloak flapped in the frosty mist.  It’s flowering tree, the mythical tree of Light from where all the  essence of the good races sprung, a sad contrast to the desolation of snow and sleet  clinging to the barren rock underneath it. It seemed apparent that the loss of these men, was profound and personal.

As he finished over each body, he looked even more forlorn. He brought a hand to his brow , rubbing his temple.  Scanning around him, it was obvious that he was looking for someone or somebody.  Not finding it, he hung his head low, with a sigh, and walked toward you.

 “You are brave then,” began Genoran, cleaning his hands of blood in the fresh snow, “brave indeed to have continued in search of me. I should be so important.” He seemed to chuckle slightly. Despite the cold and his bitter wounds, you could tell Genoran had a sense of humor about him. “Or, perhaps you are just foolish.  After all, here you are, in the middle of the Frozen South, and now committed to a deed which would bring you death by any Commander in our ranks.  I sense though Tate must have chosen you for a reason. Or perhaps, it was fate….“

For a moment, you see Genoran look off into the distance beyond.  Endless expanses of icy blue, deeply frozen cliffs and crags dot the landscape. The sense of isolation and foreboding was palpable.

In any event, we must be airborn, we have a Campaign to save, Heroes. Composed of fathers and sons, husbands and wives from our great cities and hamlets, they depend on us now and they are in great peril. There is no greater cause than this, not even my safety. The bastards who attempted to kill me, as well as assassinate Tate,  perhaps even try to take my place perhaps, they are in the very heart of the Ketian Leadership.  The Ketians crawl from the dark tonight. We must arrive before they do!” 

“Friends, this is no  recruit’s errand. The Spear was too offensive. I believe I can see that myself now.  We are in hostile lands, and night is approaching faster. Have you noticed it comes sooner? And there is less Moonlight here in the Frozen Lands from the Sister Moons.

“I fear perhaps, some myths regarding the demons in Ket, may yet be true. It is time for us to pull our forces back. My father will see this when I return and report.  We cannot win these lands, nor should our people die for them. This is a land of death, of endless cold.” As Genoran spoke, he waved his hand across the expanse of white, a disgusted look now upon his face. His earlier smirk, clearly gone.

Danny and Jed, search the wounded for items of need, we must fly with all haste.  Their souls have gone to be with our forefathers and those of the eternal Soul. Theie bodies are no more of use to them.”

“Of course!” replied Jed, quickly searching the deceased as respectfully as he seemed to know to do.

Danny and Jed, repacked equipment from the horses into the griffons and their mounted sacks.  As Buttercup healed them, each one came to in an aggravated state.  But Fereday and the Banter Brothers were able to calm them enough to tie ropes and harnesses back together. Winds whipped up and a more bitter chill set in, if that could even be possible. Genoran searched the dobbleganger corpses.  Finding little, he seemed displeased.

“My lord!” shouted Danny from past the the tower moments later, “One yet lives! Quickly, Splendar! We need you!”

The Survivor

Running to the cliff’s edge, you see a hand, icy blue, and blood streaked gripping the rocky outcrop below.

Splendar pulls something from his robes and whispers into the wind the words of magic.  Winds swirl, whipping around you. You get the feeling that something has awoken, like a group of town dogs around the butcher’s scraps. This  demon of the air moves around him as his hands direct it towards the unseen person dangling underneath the overhanging ledge.  A form begins to rise, a man, his greasy hair stained and caked with blood, over Cillandrial mail swirls the cloak of the 2nd Order, the green and gold, matching Genoran’s himself.  A Paladin of the Flame.

“Bring him to me!” commands Splendar.  His hands move in concert, directing the air demons, which hiss and cry, but obey his every word.  Lightly, the man is laid upon the snow.  Genoran and Buttercup rush to his side. 

“Blast you KENDRICK, you’re luckier than a goblin in an alehouse basement!” Buttercup and Genoran move their hands over his broken form, and soon the Knight’s eyes begin to open.

“My Prince.  This wasn’t quite the adventure you made it out to be…”, and he drifts back into unconsciousness, as Buttercup begins to heal his broken bones.

Riding Through the Frozen Wastes

The party is thus introduced to Kendrick, GriffonMaster and his Majesty’s Paladin of the Flame, in the 2nd Order.  Kendrick gets to work immediately preparing the wing for flight.  The griffons are healed as much as they can be due to the time constraints, and within a few minutes, bridles are fastened and tightened. The wing is ready for flight! 

“We stick to the tops of the Ice Sheet.  The deeper we delve into the Lands of Night, the colder the air masses are.  Above the Sheet we would be chilled to the bone and our flock might not be able to evade properly if we are set upon by the Enemy. Know now that we are told that once deeper into this cursed Winter, the Sisters will no longer shine on us as they do in our lands. We will be closer to true Dark.  These myths of truer darkness are fact, despite what you hear from Belloran in his sermons.” 

“Nonetheless, you all must understand we are not in for an evening fly.  The glaciers here are at times many leagues deep, and their walls are sheer solid ice, as hard as stone, breaking wing and shattering bone if an updraft catches us off guard. Below, the debris at the bottom presents landing hazards.  We should land only if under dire threat, and if so on my command.” 

“The creatures of these lands are not to be trifled with.  We will fly within the canyons.   I will guide the way, do not under any circumstance fly above the Ice Sheet.   You will expose us to the ….eyes…. of these Light Forsaken lands…” 

“M’ Lord Genoran, I am sorry, but I need you to be concealed. Your presence will signal to the Enemy that their sabotage was unsuccessful and make us an immediate target.  I will take lead.  Elf, I will need your eyes up here with me.” Pointing to Fereday, he swings his leg over the griffon’s torso, “May the Flame guide us this day and bring us to our Allies in time.” 

Company in the Skies

Wind whips and chill sets in as the silence of the flight continues on and on. Occasionally, the strange creatures upon which you sit call to one another. It seems at times as if they have their own language, cawing at one another when one gets too close, yipping when another breaks the pattern of their flight.

Below, the lands are unchanging.  Dense, dark snow, covering everything.  The canyons are dark with mystery, and above, the fading light seems to ooze instead of shine over the edges of the canyon walls. It’s hard to believe that the cliffs on either side of you are made entirely of solid water.

“Company!  We’ve got company!” Fereday warns…

Immediately Kendrick signals to Genoran, who signals to all of you.  Kendrick takes the lead and within seconds, he’s expertly brought his mount behind you. Peering back over you, a hint of movement appears.  Forms gliding along behind you!

“They are gaining!” Again warns Fereday, “They will be upon us.”

“Our best defense lies on the ice,” Bruce yells, “Kendrick, we must land to properly defend.” 

“Aye,” mouths Kendrick, and with a flick, he maneuvers his griffon to the ice. Behind you the wicked mouths gape open. Claws spring out, as several of the horse size beasts careen through the narrow width of the canyon. What foul reptiles are these? 

“CRIT BOX!!!!!,”  Roars Genoran.  “FORM THE BOX, PREVENT NO BACKSIDE ENTRY!” 

“For the King!” roars Kendrick taking a corner of the CRIT BOX. Jed and Danny follow, each expertly taking their corner of the BOX. The crit box, as all Lighted Members of his Majesty’s forces know, is a defensive position in which four corners are created. No enemy is allowed to enter, keeping allies facing out, without exposing their backsides.  What the heck did you think it was? 

Splendar and Buttercup dismount, as well as the Brothers.  Fereday takes a defensive position behind an icy rock pile. Kendrick shuffles the flock into position, and draws his weapon.   

“Come Demons!” 

Hurtling toward the ground the winged beasts land with a thunderous boom.  Ice and rock crackling underneath their feet.   

The battle is swift and fierce.  One by one the beasts are felled.  Fereday feels uneasy but can’t sort out why.  And then, as the last of the beasts are felled he has a…memory. 

It comes to him, although focused on the battle, he is so excited to have it that he allows it to consume him for a moment.  A small group of creatures down a hole, their mother hunted by he and another, a young girl. She seems familiar. The young escape from the hole, but seeing their mother killed by your arrows, they turn and protect their den. With ferocity they battle but their actions betray their immaturity. They fight to the death.  All killed, easily.  

“These foul beasts must have caught our scent,” calls Genoran, “Good work everyone. It would appear as though they were no match for our new friends. My….new friends…. We must mount up.  We cannot be delayed. Night will come upon us soon if we are not careful. It is hard to imagine how dark night will be in the Frozen Lands.

“My LORD!!!”, Fereday is running toward the party now, hands waving, “My LORD!!! These beasts are the YOUNG! We must be….” 

But Genoran isn’t looking at the elf. Nor is any of the other party members. They are staring into the canyon from which the beasts came.  The blue hazed ice ledges and fissures of solid ice mirroring each other on both sides, the serene snow covering the bottom.

Slowly, lazily, a shadow appears on the snow. It covers the bottom of the chasm, approaching the party. What evil is this?  You realize this shadow isn’t there of it’s own accord, and with a sense of dread you look up. 

The bearer of the shadow flies over you, it’s colossal wings outstretched, talons dangling below muscled limbs. You follow it overhead and beyond, watching it’s tail disappear over the top of the glacier.

“What?!!! What the LIGHT was THAT?!!!” Yells Buttercup. 

“It’s a LOUS Buttercup! LIZARD OF UNUSUAL SIZE, “ explains Splendar. 

“It’s THE ICE WYRM. COLD DEATH. It’s Eisrisen herself.” The prince stammers.  “ One of the Wyrms of the Southern Lands.  Her kind has been encountered by us, but never by a force this limited. Prepare yourself Heroes. She will not let us leave here unless we destroy her. This is not a dragon of legend. This is flesh and blood. This is tearing and icy breath. We must take her down with force or this canyon will mark our grave.” 

“CRIT BOX!!!” Shouts Kendrick.  

Commands are relayed and shouted. Buttercup covers the party with a  cloud and Fereday finds a perch to shoot from.  Jed and Danny guard the Prince.   

Hearts hammer in chests.  The ice creaks and cracks as sword grips tighten. All eyes are on the darkened passage ahead, the space between at the bottom of the chasm, the crack in the colossal ice.  And then you hear it. 

Creak…

Crack…. 

CRACK…. 

CRAAACK!!!!!!! 

A roar bellows out from the darkness, as two gleaming blue eyes peer from within it.   

From the depths of the darkness, one giant claw extends and moves forward out of the shadows on the icy wall, another follows and the beast’s entire form emerges. The collosal body of Eisreisen grips the edge of the icy cliff, she crawls out sideways at you.

White knuckles grip your sword as a sense of overpowering fear envelopes the canyon, creaking under the weight of the wyrm.  Around you, an arrow flies and the mage begins muttering. 

“The breath. Cover the Prince. Cover him with your very lives!” roars Kendrick.  “Behind shields and stones!”

Eisreisen’s  talons drag back across the ice, a fierce intake of air foreshadowing the destruction about to be unleashed.   Arrows pummel her and Danny and Jed rush to the attack.  Sadly, just as the brothers engage the dragon, she exhales her breath weapon and blows them down in a spray of icy vapor.  As you watch from behind your cover, you see their bloody forms fall to the snow covered bottom of the ravine.  Their faces twisted in agony, blue and unblinking.

And the battle rages on.

Eisreisen attacks indiscriminately, and manages to drop nearly all of the adventurers. Like a cat amongst a chicken coop, she moves over the ice delicately and rapidly, slashing with her tail, her claws appear to strike and then  freeze those who cannot get out of her way.  The fight is going poorly, and it appears that Eis will be the victor as she is accustomed to being. 

The mighty wyrm, moving from warrior to warrior reaches the back of the small alcove where Genoran has been pushed down, protected by his last two guards.  But, Genoran is not hiding anymore. He has stood fully.

“You clever bitch!!!!! My father once slew your kin!  Meet his son!!!!!!”

Genoran’s wintry garb is momentarily caught by the updraft whipping through the canyon, his sword aloft, he pushes past his guards, both slowly realizing what he is about to do.  With his men in tow, he rushes the white wyrm.  So caught off guard does the dragon seem to by this onslaught, that it doesn’t notice Bruce lunging from a perch nearby.  In his rage, he lurches outward and upward, and springs upon the monster’s back, axe swinging in a giant arc through the air!!

Bruce’s axe hits home! He lays a devastating blow, and the dragon, looking surprised, retreats. She stealthily climbs the icy walls and disappears over the ledge, her tail whipping over the top  Suddenly, the ravine is quiet, lest the driving wind echoing against the ice.

Kendrick rushes to the Prince. “My Lord, that is the bravest thing I have ever witnessed on the field of battle!”

“You lie Kendrick…and save the pleasantries, old friend .  The boys from 51! The Healer, Buttercup. The mage! To the fallen, friends.”

Within just a few moments, Genoran has brought each back to breathing life, the spiritual power of the Flame renewing the subtle breath that was nearly gone forever. Buttercup aids him as she recovers fully too.

“Is…is it gone…for good?” Fereday whispers.

“I do not know, Kendrick, check our mounts.  We are only a few leagues from the Spear, we should make haste now, while the wyrm has left.  We are in no condition to continue a fight. We can find shelter, healing and a great many swords with my father’s insignia on them.   Mount up, friends.”

The party quickly does as the Prince requests, Splendar takes only a few moments to take some of the pieces of the wyrmlings horns, perhaps as spell components you think.  Buttercup can’t seem to realize that just a couple of weeks ago she was milking cows on the family farm, and now here she was, a survivor, in the second battle in just two days alongside, the Prince of Cillandar himself!  Fereday is walking towards the griffon, bridled and waiting, when it suddenly goes berserk, throws off Danny into the snow, and backs away deep into the alcove of the ravine. The others do the same.  Just as you all turn around, a dark shape hurtles toward the ice, crashing into it with a sudden crunch.  From the canyon floor, ice begins to form and grow in a circular wall around the form, Eisreisen, has returned to finish the fight.

“Mage! Do you have something to thaw her out?” yells Kendrick, over the creaking and crunching of the ice.

“Splendar’s still got a couple of shows left, Griffon Master!” he shouts back and tendrils of flame begin to penetrate the icy exterior.

But the clever wyrm knew what it was doing, because somehow it was not in the tube of ice it had conjured and magicked.  Breaking through, the party began to hack at empty space, a hole below them.  Turning around, their tormentor appeared, claws outstretched, it inhaled.  This would be the end of the party, the Prince and all his would be heroes would be left forgotten in this icy chasm forever.

But just as the icy shards were forming in the monster’s throat, another shape, hurtled down from above. Behind the wyrm. It was Kendrick, Fereday saddled behind him, bow outstretched aloft on one of the few remaining griffons.  They had gone ahead to scout, and had decided to return from the South to make sure the villain had not double backed.

“Fereday, this is the shot! MAKE IT COUNT!!!!” As Fereday drew his bow, the dragon caught just the slightest motion, and turned in the direction of it’s new adversary. It’s spray missed all but one of Genoran’s Shields. He froze in place, and shattered into thousands of pieces all within a fraction of an instant.  Fereday’s arrow caught the beast in the lower jaw, just above the throat, as the griffon, expertly maneuvered by the griffon master, dove at top speed, it’s talons extended.  Eisreisen fell back, crushing one of Danny’s legs.  It flailed, but in so doing exposed it’s underbelly.  In almost a simultaneous effort, the collected heroes seemed to all have the same thought. They hacked in all the soft places, the dragon trying desperately to gain it’s perch and extend it’s wings for flight.

And in just an instant more, it’s efforts stopped. It’s tail crashed to the snow, and it’s neck lay back.

Eisreisen, the white wyrm, was dead.

Reward in the Snow

Buttercup remembered later that it was as if she had heard the wind for the first time. Suddenly, all around her a veil had been pulled back.  The colors of grey and white, blue and the clear sky just visible through the slits in the canyon above them all suddenly came back into view.

“Today will be sung about in my father’s Discussion Room, Lords of the Ice!” Genoran looks more like a cousin just finished helping you with the harvest you think, than a regal and stately Prince. With a smile, he lunges at you all, embracing you as if you were children.

“Prince, we must heal, and make all haste for Our Majesty’s Southern Spear.  I know we are injured friends, but the Lights depend on us.  We must deliver the information that the supply lines have been infiltrated.  I pray to the Flame we are not too late we can get to the general before the servants of Ket do!”

“As do I, but we have time for one such honor, Lord Kendrick.” Jed, secure the bridles, Leutenant,  assist my friend Jed here.  Buttercup, can you see what you can do about Danny’s leg there? I want this area marked so that we can later Bless this sacred ground on which a soldier of Cellinor fell.” Next, he leaned down next to Danny, whose  leg had been crushed below the knee when the dragon fell.  “This injury will not be in vain, son.  I swear it.”

“My Lord, my life is too small a price to keep your Lordship.”

“I know Danny, and that is why I will do this now…”

Nonchalantly, Genoran withdraws something green, trimmed in gold from a small pouch near his waist.  As the rest of the group pretends to prepare the griffons for flight, he asks Kendrick, Bruce, Splendar , Jed and Buttercup  to stand next to Danny, whose back rests against an icy boulder. Fereday continues to saddle the griffons the way Kendrick showed him.  Nonetheless, he stops, giving a sort of weird audience to the scene.

“You too Jed.” With tears clouding his eyes, Jed walks over, leans down and places a hand on his brother’s shoulder.

“In two days, I have witnessed acts of Honor and Deed, in defense of our Realm, in Defense of my life, first son to his Majesty, my Lord and Defender of Cellinor, Master of the Known Realm, Bringer of the Flame and Conqueror of the Great Wyrm Gulgol.”

“In reward of these deeds, I name each of you, Loyal to the Crown.”

He then places a sash around each of your waists.  The wind blowing through the chasm catches the ends, but nobody moves. 

Each of you, have just received the highest honor given to an unshielded citizen in the Celn Empire.

“Dark Elf, your people have ties to my Lord, but our treaties prevent me from so honoring you.  However, know that you have earned my respect. If I can help you discover what has happened to you, or your family, I pledge to use any and all resources at my disposal.”

“Thank you, my Lord” whispers Fereday, as he returns to the bridles. He strokes the griffons mane. Behind him, the adventurers cheer and clap, and pat each other on the back.  Genoran embraces each.

Congratulations. You’ve slain a dragon.  Killing a dragon= leveling up in my book.  You’ve all earned Level 4, and a pretty green sash, with a gilded tree on it.  Loyals to the Crown!

Adventure 1 COLD DAWN

Session 6: The Seige at Throndar

 

The Enema at the HOLE 

Winging their way across the endless ice, the party flies , any efforts to hear  their surroundings assaulted by the constant wailing of this frozen wind.  Ahead, the lands are dark. It is no longer your imagination that these southern lands are devoid of Light like the stories you have been told as a child.  Each of the party is doubled in their saddles. It surprises you how much weight these steeds can handle. Clearly, they are the very elite of the King’s Wing. Kendrick flies in the front, the Prince behind him, his head turns to and fro as he flies into and out of the wind currents that allow the griffons to glide.  He truly is a Griffon Master, you think. 

On the horizon, to your left, you begin to notice the slightest hint of movement.  Something the size of fleas and small flashes of light against the dark clouds and mirror of ice.  Hundreds, perhaps, thousands of forms.  It could only mean one thing.

“We are too late!” Genoran mouths back at you,

The enemy had found the General. 

Nearing the field of battle, Kendrick motions to a spot near the edge of a prominent outcropping in the glacier hidden from view of the sprawling forces. 

It takes a minute or two for all of the griffons to land.  You realize in a moment how close the battle is when you can hear cries below.  Cries of victory, cries of death, and cries of pain.  Kendrick obviously used the shadows of the glacier carefully to hide the flock from any eyes that might be near the battlefield.  On command, Kendrick orders the flock to lay down on their haunches, while the Prince dismounts and slowly crawls his way into a viewpoint at the crest of two ice sheets. 

What they saw below took several moments to fully understand.  First, the land had grown progressively darker since the battle with the White Wyrm.  Much of the land around them lay in serious and darkened shadow, the type that leaves a border on the rim of peaks, but leaves little else to be seen below.  Nonetheless, movement and torch light, perhaps also magical luminescence gave some indication of what was happening.  And this is what they saw: 

Two armies. The contestants from both were primarily engaged along the edge of a mighty glacier edge, perhaps 1000 feet high and just to the East of the view from the hidden party.  The landscape below spread out unevenly yet over a solid blue and even surface, as though a sea froze while chunks of ice were floating in it.  One army was clearly larger than the other, and carrying massive shapes amongst them, perhaps beasts of burden of some kind.  Other shapes seemed mechanical in nature, It seemed as though some might have been on sleds by their arrangement, pulled into position.  There were indeed giants of various description, as well as smaller forms that moved in ways a man would not.  In fact, in one place, clearly present was a form that seemed the very image of Gorm, the frost giant that the party had defeated in the ambush, leading what looked like some kind of dark humanoids down a snowy embankment, swords out stretched.   On the other side, there were figures, all man sized and much fewer in number. Some shambled in an odd way, as though they were trying to stand and fight, but were suffering from the effort. In the middle of the fighters, forming one giant Crit Box stood a lone banner.  An emerald green flag atop a length of pole barely visible in the darkened day. The flag moved side to side as if to spur on the remaining forces. It was apparent to all hiding atop the ridge that the first army was nearly overtaking the second.  They were about to be annihilated, to the last man.

Battle at the Glacier

“We cannot stand idly by and watch this happen.  My friends, I have asked too much of you already. I must leave you now, and I ask no more of you!” The Prince walked determinedly to his steed, fastening his under straps, his armor tightened up. 

“No M’ Lord! Do not forget, that your scroll was tampered with.  This is no ordinary accident.  This army below us has known our every move.  They can not take you sire!” Genoran clearly failed to listen, his every move seemed to show one mind set on assisting the failing warriors below. “Wait! Sire! Something happens below! Look!”

Something about the way Kendrick said it made Genoran bring a leg back over; he walked back briskly  the few steps and huddled down once more next to his former position.  In just a minute, the emerald green banner had moved closer to the glacier, the crit box was clearly making for the cliff face, perhaps to put their backs to a wall.  “Damn it Kendrick, I know. Duty….”

“No Prince! There.”

Pointing, Genoran’s finger traced  a blue circle of light, WITHIN the glacier.  It grew brighter and brighter, and now it was no trick of the eye.  The last of the General’s troops were definitely making for it.  But what was it? 

As if in answer, a bright glow shone from the circle, and the group soon realized that it wasn’t a circle at all, but rather, a tunnel! A tunnel that had just opened, miraculously, from INSIDE the glacier.  Several forms came forth from the tunnel, they seemed to be armed and were….waving? Yes, waving to the General’s forces!

But, it didn’t look like they would make it.  Just then, several winged creatures had just launched themselves from a perch on a ridge opposite your own. They bore riders, riders of billowing robes, making a beeline between the forces of Cellinor and the tunnelers.

On the opposite ridge, barely visible in the twilight, stood dark cloaked figures, watching the riders.  Something was ominous about them, as though they were surveying the battlefield from a safe distance, just as you were. 

Safe?

“Kendrick, it’s now or never! Join me, old friend! It may be folly to end our lives in this fight, but our forces below need time to retreat. We can give them that.  Loyals, fly home. Tell my father of this day, and deliver the news that his son rode in his honor! Tell him I apologize for my deceit; I only wished to prove myself as he had. Let’s ride, Griffon Master!”

With quickened step, Kendrick too ran towards his mount.  “Haw!!” roared the paladin as the griffon’s wings stretched out into the night sky.   

“Well, I suppose we ought to join them, eh Buttercup?” croaked Splendar. 

“Join them? But just last week I was Mrs. Southern Valley Butter Queen!”  Buttercup muttered. 

“Looks like a great fight.  I’d hate to miss it. Besides, how many farmers do you know ride into battle with the Prince?” Bruce said, a crooked smile beginning to crinkle the look of fear on all their faces. 

“I’d wager my former life wasn’t near as much fun as this,” Fereday called.  “It’s now or never!”

____________________________________________________________ 

General Tacitus dodged the blow of another brutal strike, a jagged weapon thrust through the boxed in infantry, it’s wielder’s fiery red eyes blazing just beyond the slits in his helm.  Above, more of the winged creatures, that had carried off so many of his men, came.  There seemed some commotion at the back of the box. Tacitus tried to turn to see, but another of the goblin warriors advanced on him, and he could not give the creature a lapse of judgment, not in his condition. Perhaps, they were breaking now.  It seemed a miracle of the Light that they had kept their ground for so long. To his left, he could barely make out through his peripheral vision an arm stained with blood lying by it’s owner’s side.  His lieutenant had but one hand left.  To his right, Johnos was fighting with three arrows piercing his armor.  He just hoped he didn’t live to see his men being made into these Darkened things.  All of his fears, all of his childhood stories came back to haunt him. The Myth of Ket was true.  The lords of ice and night had returned.

At least the banner still flew.  He thought he could die in the Dark, as long as the Gilded Tree flew above him.  

“INCOMING!!!” someone shouted. 

Above him, caught on a draft, something came for them;, it’s gross form a disgusting mockery of something capable of flight.  Parts of men, and beasts made up the body, and the thing itself lacked a head.  This would be his final view, a view of what he would be made into as others had apparently before as well. 

SCREECH!!!!!

Another form, lightning fast streaked across the sky, followed by another and another. The first struck the beast as it angled for him, smashing it into the glacier wall behind him.  The others also caught the winged beasts in flight and similarly flew them straight into the ice.  They had help. Help from the air! 

Kendrick and the Prince had flown directly into the nearest Wing, and striking it head first, only realized it bore a rider as they crashed to the ice.  Both creatures rolled up together and slid to a stop.  The rider was thrown free, it’s cloaked body lay on the ice, sprawled out. Little did the griffon master know though, that directly behind him flew the other Loyals.  Nearly simultaneously they struck the creatures, and smashed into the ice.  One of the griffons died on impact, the others injured in a way that  would keep them from the battle; their bodies had shielded the riders from certain death, but many wounds had been suffered in the fall. 

Gaining it’s bearings, each of the Loyals as the Prince had called them, looked around.  Bruce saw from his right the tunnel. The creatures standing before it had their hands outstretched and seemed to be muttering something. A strange light, or flame seemed to be melting or manipulating the ice. They were all female. And he could see now that they were dwarves.  In the middle were others. As soon as the Wings had been struck down the figures motioned to one another. Dwarves dressed in mail, magnificent mail, they began running toward the King’s men.  

Hammer’s and swords outstretched, yelping and hollering a fierce cry of battle.  They too appeared to be female! What was going on here?

The soldiers of the Realm were greatly confused. But it seemed obvious that the glowing light, widening tunnel, and figures rushing forth were there to aid them. They begin to slink back towards the tunnel, fighting the oncoming horde.  

Fereday and Bruce, who had come in on the same griffon, composed themselves and ran towards the tunnel too.  Splendar and Buttercup were in hot pursuit, but Splendar slowed to cast a spell, as he continued on, dozens of dark green creatures slid and slipped around behind him, writhing across the ice but unable to pursue!  And finally, the Prince and Kendrick ran straight for the crit box, calling for Tacitus, who in turn thought it was a figment of his imagination.  One by one, they entered the tunnel, fighting back goblins, and orcs and ogres.

Upon entering inside the colossal tube cut through the ice, the crit box broke up, and all of the soldiers turned outward fighting back the enemy chasing them inside. Some of the dwarves pulled back and others joined the ranks of Celns on the front, stepping backwards in unison while they struck outward at their foes. 

Bruce glanced backward and saw somewhere behind them the ice stopped. In it’s place seemed  a smaller tunnel inside this one, except of stone.  They were entering a rock, or mountain, inside the glacier.  The mages began chanting as the first of their brethren entered the hole. Immediately, the ice began to grow back in on itself.  On the far side of the tunnel, just at the entrance they had first entered, a darkened shape appeared.  Tacitus recognized it as the rider of the creature that had come for him.  Deliberately, it lowered it’s hood.   

Fereday could not believe his eyes.  Staring with his elvish vision past the orcs slashing, and ogres bashing, the ice closing in around them was his own face, the face from his dream.

“Brother,” she mouthed as he backed into the orifice, the ice creaking all around as the glacier froze back together.  Fereday stood transfixed on the point where his sister’s face was.  He seemed not to notice as massive sheets of ice melded back together, sealing this band of leftover warriors into something quiet, and dark, and wet.

A View Through

“My men! Do not ask me to stand by while my men are cut down! They will not be killed.” General Tacitus tore at the men holding him. The effort was futile. The darkness was complete and only the faintest of light shone through the ice from the other side.  Forms of hideous beasts moved around past the streaked and blurred light that barely emanated through the yards and yards of glacier.  The general stood with his hands against the ice. 

“My Lord, they are gone.  My Lord…”, a soldier called from somewhere behind you in the dark.

Another voice,“Quiet boy! What the general says is true. We saw them, saw them on the field of battle just now.  They were our men, but hideously transformed, their skin, their parts used.  It was as if they “powered” the creatures they were made of. We cannot stand idly by and allow this to happen.  Who are you? Free us. We will not cower here. Release us from this icy prison!” That voice. You’ve heard it before. So familiar, yet so difficult to remember. In another dark place.  You can’t quite place it! 

“And do you think you won’t cower there, Captain of Cellinor?” It was a woman’s voice. Rough yet definitely feminine. Coming from behind you and slightly below, like rock falling down a hill.  “You yourself will be dead before you can recognize the parts of your dead men. Or maybe not.  Maybe you will be kept “undead” as they are. ” 

“Who are you?” it was the Prince now, although in the dark with all that had occurred, you doubt  few would have known it but you.  Such was the last couple of days, that you would recognize the voice of the Prince of Cellinor, when his Loyal troops would not. 

A different voice this time, stronger than the other, unbelievably yet still that of a woman.  “Why Prince of the Celns.  We are…the Thronde.”   

“We are the Shielded Warriors of the Thronde. And we have sacrificed much for your Captain here to cower  in the dark.”

“Let us see if our sacrifice was worth it.” 

A Rest without Respite

You remember a terrible feeling of dread yet still of thrill, thrill to still be breathing, alive, as rough hands, through gauntlets, lead you farther and farther away from the barely visible light snaking through the ice of the glacier. As you leave the minor fragments of something visible, you can just make out a thudding noise from the same direction.  Something was trying to pound it’s way through the ice.  Something massive. Deeper and deeper in the dark, shields and plates of armor bump against you from the Shield Maidens of the Thronde.  The dark around you began to change.  It smelled earthy now.  You extend your hand and touch the rocky edge of a tunnel wall.  Sloping downward, your party and the countless other dwarves and survivors of the Spear make their way in single file. 

Throndar!  Could it be true? Could this be the ancient home of the Thronde Dwarves? Once believed to be the Capitol City of Dwarven Nobility in the Before Time? And what were they doing here? In the middle of a Light Forsaken glacier? 

Slowly the group begins to come to a stop, as ahead you hear the voices of the dwarves.  Several push past you to join the others ahead. “Wait here,” one tells you in rough common.  You hear sounds of clicking.  Metal on metal, stone on stone.  Sliding.  Creaking.  A waft of air drifts past you. Something has been opened.  “Quickly, inside! The Eastern Door has never been opened in our history.  We must inspect it’s seal before all of KET finds it’s way here. Hurry humans.  There are others within to consider. Our entire people.”  

Suddenly, a light envelopes you.  So bright in the darkened space that you are blinded.  As your eyes adjust you look around. There amongst the blood stained faces of Celn’s finest warriers stood Kendrick and the Prince, Buttercup, Fereday, Bruce and Splendar.  General Tacitus was bookended by his two captains.  Who immediately, along with the other Celn warriors left dropped to one knee when the Prince’s face came into view. “My Lord!” whispers Tacitus, “What in the name of the Holy Flame are you doing here?” 

“Sabotage dear General. Sabotage most foul I’m afraid.  For us all it would seem.  But, were it not for these good Dwarves, I fear we all would have succumbed to the enemy outside this stone. For that, at least we can all be thankful.” 

And surrounding all of you stood several dozen women, short and broad, many of whom were bearded, wearing plate and bearing tower shields with the emblem of a tree. The sign of Tree of Awakening was undeniable. Looking around you see a chamber of unparalled size. Surely, you have never seen anything like it.  It’s massive arched ceiling was unbelievably high, and a vast stone walkway extended outwards into an even larger chamber. About you, luminescence of somekind radiated from places arranged along the rocky walls.  You look back at the direction from which you have just come.  There, a colossal round portal is sliding back into place.  It’s hinges are the size of pillars.  With a thud, it closes.   

“Welcome to Throndar.”

Throndar

 

“Follow in my footsteps precisely,” barked the dwarvish Shield Maiden. Her words were clear, but only her silhouette was visible in the dim light.  “See to your wounded that they do the same. The way ahead is treacherous and trapped.  We have only entered the Outer Lock.”

“The outer lock? Of Throndar, the Ancient Palace of the Dwarves?” whispered Splendar. “Fereday, are we dreaming?”

“No Illusionist, I don’t dream, remember? Besides, I’m fairly certain that the nightmare is at our backs.  Keep moving, and do as she says!” replied the Dark Elf. 

Most of the company made rattling noises as they marched along, armor and weaponry clinking.  Somewhere, off in the distance, past the glow of the magiced gems ensconced in the wall, the sounds reverberated and returned and echoed off to unknown parts above and below.  They turned their backs to the portal and looked ahead. The space within the chamber was vast.  As they moved forward, each of the dwarves took a position in front of several of the Lighted and of the party as well.  Fereday followed one such group at the rear, his elvish eyes taking in a mighty view.  Past the dark shadows and past the glowing sconces, the cavern revealed itself.  A long, and narrow bridge of earth crossed a nearly endless cavern, which extended both upwards and downwards for unknown distances.  The dwarves were arranged in single file.  Carefully following the Leader, the Shield Maiden who seemed to be clearly in charge of the rescue and escape.

“Single FILE!” again grated the leader in broken Common. “Do not veer off!”

Bruce walked along, following the footsteps of one of the Dwarvish warriors.  He could smell her sweat and the blood which must have stained her clothes and armor in battle. It was coppery. But there was a faint trace of something else, spices of some kind. 

“This bridge is but one of many, human,” she said without glancing back. She was obviously concentrating on keeping a straight course.  “It can be easily collapsed in the event that Ketians find us, which appears likely now.” The glow of magical lighting in the form of gems guided your stroll across the bridge on either side. Off to the sides it was dark, deep and hollow.   

“Ketian?” Bruce asked.  

She did not answer, but instead plodded on. In front, someone had slowed. A groan. Perhaps one of the injured being helped along.  Eventually, everyone made it across.  It truly was a grand chamber.   

The dwarves led them all to a stairwell which then rose into a central cavern. At one end of which stood another giant portal, identical to the one they had previously entered. “This is the Inner Lock.  You are the first humans to set foot inside Throndar in our history since…. We will take you to the …

“I thank you! I can tell you have risked much in order to save our lives,” interrupted the Captain. It was Erillione the young but outspoken soldier whom had berated the dwarves earlier. The one with the familiar voice.  “I am sorry for my earlier rant.  We are in your debt.” 

“Your providence is a direct result of luck then Celn.  We did not expose our position to the Ketians because of you. We did it for them.”

Everyone glanced in the direction she pointed in, that of the party! Even the Prince stood open mouthed.  General Tacitus looked from Bruce, to Splendar, to Fereday and then to Buttercup. “Them?” 

“Me?” mumbled Buttercup.  “But, what have we got to do with anything?”

The leader stepped toward her. Her outstretched hand smoothed back a strand of Buttercup’s golden hair back behind her ear.  “We hope you’ve got quite a lot to do with things. For the Sake of us all.” Turning around, she made several motions at the portal’s center, and within a few moments, the sound of escaping air belched out, and the portal swung inward, slowly on grand hinges. Standing there, were the silhouettes of more dwarves, each carrying poleaxes.  These however were male, and Kendrick was fairly certain that their height was several inches less than the females that they had been fighting and traveling with.

The dwarf in the center stepped forward coming into view of the light gems on the nearest wall.  He declared something in dwarvish. He was not happy, and the way he pointed at their Leader made the party suspect that perhaps this “rescue mission” may have been without permission of some kind.

“Someone’s in trouble,” whispered Splendar.  Buttercup had to admit that this time, Splendar was probably right.

Nothing like Throndar could have been imagined in any of the Celns’ wildest imaginations.  In many stories, and in many a tale from the Town Teller, Throndar was made of gold, or diamond.  It hung perched precariously over a volcano inside a great cave, or deep in the world. Stone buildings carved from rock with rivers of liquid magma flowing in rivers around it.

But, the actual Throndar could not have been more different. As the party followed the men-at-arms through the “streets” and plazas of the underground city, they looked up and around at rough hewn rock and haphazard construction.  No dwarves would build like this except based on need.  It became obvious that this was no “Grand Palace”.  In fact, dwarven men, women and children waited at nearly every hallway and entrance looking disheveled and haggard. Each wore different expressions, some of fear, others of awe.  Their conditions and that of the surroundings gave away their truth.  This was not a Palace. This was a Keep. The Thronde were hiding, and life didn’t look easy. Cavern after cavern.  Until at last, the group, which grew to more than a couple hundred now, mostly armed soldiers, but others as well of every age, stopped at a giant set of metal doors.  On each was embedded a symbol of the Tree of Awakening, the same as that on the Shield of the dwarves which had saved them. However, this was different. Embedded on each corner was the likeness of a person.  And those etchings looked familiar. Impossibly familiar.

“ENTER! BRING THEM ALL TO ME!” Spoke a voluminous voice. It was the voice of command.  And the doors opened immediately. 

Hall of the Queen

The party, and the survivors of the Spear were led inside.  General Tacitus and his two captains slowed, as Genoran stepped forward.  Around them, assembled the dwarven women who had rescued them on the ice.  Now, in the flickering flames, it was apparent that several had been wounded.  One severely.  Her entire side was soaked with blood.  

At the end of the hall, past giant pillars of stone sat a large dwarven woman on a maginificent throne made of gold and studded with shining gems. Around her, sat other female dwarves and a couple of males.  All of them were clad in mail and were armed.  As the hall filled, the queen stood. A male attendant stood beside her rose and shouted, “All Hail for the Queen!”

“Prince of the Celns! It is an honor to have you among us. We did not expect you to be among those that were led inside.”

“Thank you, My Lady,” replied the Prince.

“Careful Sir.  I am no Lady.  I am Queen.  These are my people. It is an honor, but a most unwelcome one.  We have had a …breach in our command it would seem. Nonetheless, here you are.  You are the FIRST to grace our halls, the first from Cellinor that is.”

“Then, I am in your debt, Queen,” the Prince bowed.  His eyes never left the eyes of the Queen. 

The queen continued, “For many years have I watched the affairs of your father, and of your Nation.  The Celn Empire is an incredible achievement and would no doubt continue to grow and prosper if it were not for the coming Darkness.” 

“Darkness?  What do you mean, the Darkness comes? This myth has been told by my people for generations.” 

“It HAS come, Prince.  It is here.  At our doorstep I am afraid.” Several whispers arose from the guard surrounding them.  Others assembled that were obviously not of a military nature looked worried, concernedly talking with neighbors.  With a wave, the Queen silenced them. “The Darkening has come. The Ketians have risen from their tomb in the South!” Silence filled the great hall. An old man in the back of the chamber gasped uncontrollably, but quieted himself. “They will be here at our locks.  It is, as it always ever was my Brethren, inevitable!” 

“There have always been ruthless tribes and races in the South, we will continue to fight them off, as we have done for a century.” This time it was General Tacitus who spoke. He stepped forward and continued, “We thank you, Good Queen, for your intervention on our behalf.  But our warriors are out there.  As soon as we are reinforced, we will annihilate these interlopers, and seek revenge for what they did to our soldiers!”  

“You are…(an aid wearing robes whispered in her ear) General Tacitus, yes?  We have some business we should take care of first, I suppose.” 

“And what might that be?” replied Tacitus, who seemed to as a second thought to take a knee alongside his Majesty, a Celn rule of Court when others were speaking along with one of the Royals. Genoran seemed to know when to command and when to listen.  He stood aside and allowed the Queen to address his general.  

“General, you have a traitor among you!” Several gasps and voices rose from the surrounding audience.  The Queen silenced them with another wave. 

“A traitor? There are no traitors in the Light! Each of these warriors are my finest. Any one of which would lay their…” 

“Well, I must apologize human, if I disagree with your assessment of the loyalty of those who serve you. You see, your Captain there.  He has betrayed you.  And I would wager that he has betrayed you too, Prince.” 

All eyes turned toward the captain. Captain Erollione. The young Captain looked up at the Queen.  He began to speak, but Genoran cut him off. 

“Your evidence, Queen?” Genoran spoke matter of factly.

The Queen motioned to one of the Dwarves, a female, sitting behind her throne. She rose.  Buttercup immediately recognized her as one of the merchants at the Fair that had tried to speak with her.  “This man is in league with KET. He is one of the members of the Cult which imprisoned the Heroes.” Her voice rose authoritatively and resounded around the room.  She was clearly no merchant. “ We observed him in many occasions riding to the well where they kept their beast.  He was there the night the Heroes were left to fight the creature.   Our contacts at the Fair also believes he may have sabotaged the Prince’s gear. When the Prince of the Celns attempted to teleport back to Cillandar, he could not and was nearly taken away with an impostor in his stead. We tried to send a message to warn them, but it was too late. We believe he was instrumental in laying the trap that allowed the Ketians to invade and take 51 as well as, perhaps other atrocities against your Realm.” While she spoke, men at arms worked through the crowd and seized Erollione.  Despite his protestations he was led away.

Suddenly, it occurred to Bruce and his comrades why Erollione’s voice was so famililar! It was he who had spoken to the dwarf mason the night they had been “fed” to the beast.  Erollione was a traitor! And the Outpost had fallen? What would happen to those they knew at the Fair?

“What do you mean 51 has fallen?” the General roared. “No outpost has been lost since…”  

“Outpost 51 is no more, General. Your Captain sabotaged the gate mechanism.  I have it under good authority.  The Ketians have taken the Post and our attempting to seek the Heroes at 50, 52, and 49.  As you know, they were thwarted at Haven. Many have been killed. Erollione was a spy placed some time ago.  The Ketians have one goal.  They seek a group of people. The same we do. They seek the Heroes.”

It took a while for the truth to set in.  Genoran could be visibly seen with tears streaming down his eyes.  General Tacitus moved back to a kneeling position. He looked like he was unable to stand.  Anger washed over the faces of the surviving Celn soldiers. 

“What do you mean ‘seek the Heroes? Why would….”

The queen simply ignored the question.  “There was another there.  Prior to the battle. That one. The elf!  Dark Elves are in league with KET.  We have reason to believe he too is a spy.  I advise you to stand aside and let us take him. We will…interrogate him for you.” 

“No. No, Queen.  This elf, Lord Fereday here, is Loyal to me.  By the King, my Father, I swear it.  He will not be touched.  I personally, vouch for him.” 

“Then what was he doing there? In the beast’s cell?!” growled the queen.

“Isn’t it obvious? He was their prisoner!” This time it was Buttercup, “He does not remember. His mind has been ridden of memories. He has fought with us side by side, against beasts and even the Dragon! If you take him, you’ll have to take me too!”

“Dragon?!” said the  Queen standing up. She stepped away from her throne and came forward several steps down toward the Prince.

Genoran answered her. “Yes, good Queen.  I was ambushed en route to join with our forces here in the Southern Mountains.  During the melee, these adventurers came upon us while delivering supplies and subsequently saved my life.  They continued on with me in order to inform our Southern Troops, led here by General Tacitus.  On the way, a Dragon, Eisreisen herself, engaged us.  After a fierce battle, the wyrm was slain.” Splendar held up one of the fangs he removed from the body of the dragon for all to see.

The queen’s gaze fell upon the fang in Splendar’s hands. Her expression turned from one of mitigated awe to displeasure.  “Eisreisen? The Ice Wyrm?”

 “Yes, that is the name given to her by my people.”

 

“You did not slay Eisreisen, Prince.”  

The General stepped forward.  Anger covered his face. “We are at your mercy here, but no Celn will stand by and listen to you call our Prince a li….”

“It was not Eisreisen you slew, Prince of Cellinor!” roared the Queen. Clearly she was getting tired of being interrupted and she didn’t sound like she was used to it at all. 

“You slew her bastard kin.”  

The hall quieted.  The Celns seemed to take this into account.  “Still an incredible feat  Lord of the North.  And we should discuss it further, but now we must discuss those we have risked much for.  Your Heroes.” 

The queen shouted something in dwarven, and the warrior women took several paces back.  Several were led out by guardsmen, the ones with serious wounds were carried away.  The Leader stepped closer to the dais. She held her arms to each side and raised them.  Two male dwarves came forward from the side of the hall and clasped her in irons!

“You have doomed us.  The Beasts will be at the Outer Lock within days.  They will test the defenses and they will fail. The Counsel was clear.  These are the Heroes you bring me?! These are nothing more than common farmers!!!!” 

“These ARE the Heroes, my Queen! I witnessed the event myself. It is as it is written.  The battle, “He of Royal Blood”, the Elf! Surely the signs. You must know this to be true, My Queen!” 

“I know our laws are not to be broken.  The Seals protect your people, MY people.  You have risked all of our lives in deliberate opposition to the Word of the Counsel.  For that, I must sentence you and all who agreed to this treason to Death by Banishment.”

Guards stepped forward and one by one, clasped each Shield Maiden in irons. Willingly or perhaps resignedly, each held their hands aloft as the rings were locked around their wrists.  Being led away, the Leader couldn’t help but take a look back at Bruce, Buttercup, Splendar and Fereday.  She looked blankly. The party couldn’t tell if she was glad to have saved them, but she clearly knew her punishment for it. Kendrick watched her go.  As a paladin of the Order, he knew the price one sometimes paid for doing what the Flame commanded.    

All eyes turned back to the queen.

“We have much to do, and much to prepare for.  Our counsel must meet to decide what will be done.  Prince. You and your officers may rest in my Royal chambers.  The others will be placed in barracks with our soldiers.  As for you ‘Heroes’, you will sleep and meet before the counsel in half a cycle.  Elf. A guard will be placed with you at all times. If you put one pointy ear out of place, you will be run through. I will personally use your head as a beerbowl!” 

She then gave directions in Dwarvish to those filling the hall.  They left in a fashion mumbling and whispering to each other.  Most seemed fearful. Some were weeping. 

Kendrick noticed that all turned back at least once to look at the members of the party.

Heroes of the Light

From Bahald the Wise…of the Thronde 

My people tunnel. They dig. They live in the soil of the Earth.  We know what came before and we know what they did there in their garbage and filth laid down by the rock pressed upon them over time. We find the refuse of the land, while you seek the rocks that still stand one on top of the other. 

Deep, deep in the Earth, there are things found in the dirt by our workers that cannot be reproduced. They are of some magic we do not understand.  They are alien. Foreign.  Then, there is nothing. For many layers upon layers there is nothing. And finally, in the newest strata, there is Kasil.  But in the world’s soil, it is only an infant.

The world is old.  It is very old.  Much came before and much came before that.  Our recorded history is short, as is yours. It should not be. Why, we do not know.  For whatever reason, that which is in the layers of the world has been lost to us. To all of us.

The Ketians live deep.  They live very deep.  Much deeper than we live, or have ever delved although we have had interactions with their kin: goblins, orcs, gnolls and other more dangerous Ketkin.  Farther South, they tunnel more shallow.  There, we do not dare to dig, for we have found them too near the surface.

We, like you, do not know of what happened during the End Days precisely.   We do know that the Tree is perhaps a metaphor for the lost truth.  We do know that we were not babes in the woods left here in the forests to find our way.  We are the leftovers.  The leftovers of a grand event, the event that made the Ketians dig deep, and that let your Empire grow and thrive.

We also know that our grace has nearly come to an end. The Earth changes.  You feel it on the surface in the change of winds, the loss of the Sun’s heat. We feel it in the Earth. It is slowing. It’s heartbeat is changing. The Darkening comes.

Eh? What’s that?

Thronde, you say!  Thronde the Searcher! Thronde, our namesake! 

Yes, his story is the origin of our Hero mythos.  Although elements of it exist as they do in your Celn lands.  The story of Thronde is the reason we are here. 

Long ago, when the dwarves retook to the ground, they began to dig and tunnel.  We discovered the sewers and the pathways of Kasil. And we found something else.  We found the tunnels of Ket. The burrows of the Enemy had infiltrated and surrounded the great cities of the Before Times, and then had been abandoned.  One of our greatest engineers brought his people South to these mountains and began to tunnel. 

After many years, Thronde dug to the heart of the mountain and discovered the tunnels and chambers of the ancients that once lived there.  His clan dug and there they found the Sanctum. 

An impenetrable rock of seamless strength.  Thronde dug, seeking a portal inside, but never did he find one. 

But he found something else.

 

 

ACT II: Surrounded

MATERIALS FOR PLAYERS TO THIS THREAD

 

Background Information for new Players about Throndar and the Siege

 

There are many events, and possibilities that might have led you to the siege at Throndar.  Perhaps, you were a member of the Southern Spear, the campaign to raid the nearest of the Inpenetrable Peaks of the many orcs, goblins and giants which had been plaguing the Realm’s villagers and inhabitants for so long. Maybe, you’ve been brought here in an effort to resupply the army, or perhaps you’ve accompanied the Prince himself, and have been thrown into circumstances that you never would have expected to have happen to you. 

Maybe, you are an enemy combatant, captured. Or perhaps, you are one of the Throndor, the Dark Dwarves as they are known to outsiders.  Perhaps, the Revelation was something you agreed with, perhaps it wasn’t. 

You could be one of a few ever allowed to enter Throndar, from the various tribes across the Sea of Sands, never allowed to leave or return to your homeland.

However you came to Throndar, you have come at a time of incredible circumstance.  The army of Ket has come for the annihilation of Borindin’s most loyal troops.  And now that the Prince is here, for him as well.  But the dwarves have made one fatal error. For the Lords of Ket may have yet another reason to assault the ancient home of the Thronde.  And they won’t be leaving, without a miracle of some kind.  

You could find a way to leave.

Stay and protect the city.

Use the situation for your gain.

Or maybe, just maybe, you could find that miracle. 

 

Or not…

 

Either way, you are…Surrounded!

 

  1. Introductory Narrative: The Siege and the Sanctum

 

 

 

 

 

In progess….

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s