A Light in the Darkness Gazetteer, Part 2 of 4, Campaign Story Narrative Backgrounds

Chapter 12: Background Narratives and Informational Materials for Players by Thread

  1. A Crimson Shore

 

MATERIALS FOR PLAYERS TO THIS THREAD

A Crimson Shore, Background Information For ACT I

Welcome to the Crown’s Isles! A vast set of interconnected islands centered around one larger “jewel”, the Island of Xiladros.  Named for it’s resemblance to a Crown, these isles are an important part of the Known Realm and of the Celn Empire. The Crown gives shelter between the sister cities of Cellione and Cillandar, as well as a place for various markets to sell their sea wares.  Many of the inhabitants are native to the southern lands, and many native to Cellinor.  This makes the Crown a place of diversity but breeds superstition as many different races and cultures converge here.  Not much attention is paid to the Crown’s Isles as little seems to change from beyond the Great Western Sea. However, that is about to change. And with change comes to a new destiny for those willing to go after it.

            This is the situation your party finds itself in. You are essentially, in a moment before the storm, both literally and figuratively.  This moment has been outlined for you in “Dispatch to the Crown’s Isles”.  Somehow, each of you has come to the Ring of Islands just off the Coast of Cellinor Major,  for various reasons. Most of them will have related to trade, to seamanship of one kind or another. But, more nefarious things happen in the Isles and maybe you’ve been a part of them.  These isles are after all, teeming with those who have secrets to hide.  Just be careful to keep them to yourself, you wouldn’t want a High Inquisitor to begin an Investigation! Perhaps, you are  a Celn yourself, or perhaps a member of the southern tribes.   Regardless of your background, one thing that each of you has in common is that you have all shown interest in one day attempting what is known as the Great Odessey, the until now unsuccessful attempt to cross the Still Waters to the Unknown West, and return.  One such attempt is told in tales in local taverns. It is the Tale of the Sea Drake.

            Adventurers in the thread of A Crimson Shore, must be willing to explore a brave new world.  They may decide to work with the King perhaps as sworn SHIELD members, or decide to work without him.  They may find alliances abroad they wish to align themselves with, fight against, or battle for.  Many potential choices await them, with both adversaries and allies waiting to see where their ultimate motivations will lie.

            Please read the following brief narratives and determine how you came to the Crown, and came to be on the island of Xiladros.  If you are not a member of the Celn Nation, or a member of the Southern tribes, then you must have a really good reason why you are there. The more exotic your character, the rockier path you may have or simpler depending on how those in the Isles perceive you.  I advise you to read the Celn Gazetteer  prior to character creation.

            Good luck, and welcome to what hopefully will not be a too Crimson Shore!

The Six Gold Coins, A personalized introduction for Ben, Jesse, Tavish, David and Brittany

ACT 1 Intro, A Crimson Shore

“It was the best of times, but it was the poorest of times”. Pirate life seemed that way, especially out here in the Lightforsaken Crown Isles.  The old pirate’s saying couldn’t help but remind you of the Isles themselves.  To the North, the Isles harbored warm waters and humid climes, but the serpentine cluster of islands resembling a crown’s many gems, weaved south in the Great Sea down to Orstland, a frigid and white knuckled place to be in Winter. Then there was the company here, if you could call keeping one eye open while you slept and two eyes watching for drawn cutlasses while you were awake company. If you weren’t spilling your ale down the frontside of your favorite tavern wench, someone else was probably trying to spill your blood.

You can almost remember that night, the night the weather took a turn for the worse, but your station took a turn upwards. Well, that’s what you thought at first!

The drunken iron-runners and Orst shippers with their filthy guttural speech (so less civilized than the Celn tongue!) made the roars of the rising sea and whipping winds sound leagues away as evening turned to eve’ in the Mostly Orst Cantina; your home away from home out here in Xendros, a way point for nearly every conceivable walk of life imagined. First, there were the Celns of course, traders and adventurers, pirates and even an occasional lawman happened in some nights. Although this would give who was on the take away, that apparently didn’t matter out here to the Governor. After all, he was most likely on the take too!  You had your occasional half, minotaurs, and those bastard “dragonmen”.  Always itching for a fight so you had to think before reminding one they weren’t going to share a spot with you at the communal tables. Of course, as the name suggested, here too was the Orstmen from the South, pale and large, they just didn’t seem to fit in anywhere, even with their own kind.  Many said that they’re ancestors came from a grotesque breeding between orc, and man, or perhaps even giant as well.  Flame knew that there was enough of their kin further South.  Of course, other rumors abounded that they were in league with the Ketians, maybe even Ketians themselves! Whatever their history was, they were goliath men, with arms more robust than their brains.  They made great sailors and ships though.  And nary a Celn lad had learned to sail without their navigation methods and equipment.  Thankfully, the Two Kings Truce was still honored at this time with Orstland and their King.  Business was booming, especially for your kind, and you supposed you could look over their hideous smell for a few extra coins in your pockets.

Of course, you had all kinds of other drinkers here on a night like tonight, a night where the cold and the wind directed you to the light nearest the King’s Wharf.  Through the salty fog. To the sign that read “Mos TlyOrst Cantina”. Rumor had it that the first customer to try his ale became so enraged at it’s bad taste that he hacked the sign into pieces.  Hitchens, being the self-respecting, Cillandrial custom hating, pirate hoarding, ale selling innkeeper that he then was, killed the man on the spot and used his own limp hands to put it back together complete with hammer and nails.  It must have been harder’n it looks to use a dead man’s hands to nail a sign back together, because that’s the way it got redone, and to this day, that’s the way it’s been.

But no other customer was as interesting in the Mostly Orst, than the Halfling.  Between the Halfling guild and the Orst trade, any man or woman with a desire for profit could earn plenty, as long as they could stay alive to collect payment for services rendered. The Halfling was a big part of that trade, but that was another story.

On that night, it was more about WHO was in the bar, rather than what.  And who became mighty important to other stories as well its been said.  There was Boldore, a giant hulk of a brute. A fighter by trade, you reckoned he was still buying his armor one piece at a time. Must have cost a fortune too. Halflings, those little troublemakers, loved each other’s company though and on that night there were a few of them with their “full pints” as Hitchens liked to call ‘em. Two however, stood out.  One, a certain Roscoe Leegallows seemed more interested in something in his pack than his meal you recall, and another was a girl.  Portia Treeleaf, her name was.  She was showing off something to her Halfling pals, and you were just glad that whatever it was, it hadn’t been yours.  Had it?

Talk that night was typical. Tales of the Still Waters to the East where ships went but none returned.  Tales of the Southern Frozen Sea where ships’ Captains simply knew not to go and never dared unless the currents caught them, and stories about that weren’t told anywhere, because well, no one wanted to hear em.. Tales of fortunes made, and fortunes lost, all while the wind pounded the clapboard siding and the bells Dinged and Donged from the masts, while the ships in the wharf creaked back and forth in their moorings.

A man in Cillandrial garb sat nearest to the bard that night.  You hadn’t recognized him before, but when he walked in tonight you noticed he had a certain way about him.  He shook hands and greeted Hitchins in the Cillandrial fashion and took a seat by the fire, as if letting the bard know that he might begin. You caught the name, barely.  Canton it was.  Soft hands clasped his mug.  This was no commoner.

And the bard himself.  Well, well. Here was an interesting fellow.  You hadn’t heard this tale in a few years.  It was the Battle of Carr Alpha! The story of how Lord Commander Flemin saved the Cairn region from an invasion of Trebians, led by the actual princess of the cowardly northerners, along with the blighted creatures they had used to assault the castle. A decade of King’s time hadn’t diluted the memory of this incredible victory for the Realm.  After all, once Alpha had become established, it opened up the North didn’t it? Aye, it did! Alpha was said now to rival Cellione in it’s populace, spreading the Realm’s order and Flame’s law to the uncivilized in a huge region.  It was a terrific telling too. An easy one to tell on a night like this, as the Lords who once founded that valley had never been found in the dead or living what that survived the seige. Nevertheless, this bard was talented.  You wondered if the rumors were true, that he was INDEED related to the one and only Tuatha Ulreicht.  Now that must be a story!

Finally, of course, there had been Swanson. That rat scum.  If only Lady Fortune, (May the Flame protect you from the Fate of Greed)  had sent him to the loo in that instant!

That was the way things were that night, and then they changed, quickly! A march of steps up the planks, clinking of armor.  A hand grabbed you, and the voice, so steady, but insistent.

“Ever heard of the King’s Lady?” it said. But looking around, you couldn’t see anyone. You were about to answer the Greenie who would ask such a thing, when it spoke again. This time, you looked right in the direction of the voice, but couldn’t see a thing!

“Take a coin, lads, and know that the story is true!” said the voice  again.  Turning around, you looked again where someone should be but saw no one!  Then, on the table next to you appeared 6 gold coins.  Things happened so fast, but you remember that each coin had different numbers, and neither were identical except for a similar marking, the mark of Celline, the mark of the Queen!  But this mark had only ever been made once on a coin. And those coins were now lying at the bottom of the Orst Sea! How in the…?

Portia and Roscoe who had walked by just then grabbed one.  Boldore setting down another gallon of ale, saw one and scooped it up.  The bard thinking it was a tip snatched up two, but ol’ Swanson not seeing it in his tip jar, snatched one out of his hand. The pirate!  Finally, Canton, who had been about to leave, walked by at that instant and seeing one of the coins roll off the table, grabbed the last with interest.  Each of you holding a coin, turned to look at the others, and knowing that a Celn Fool and his Coin are soon parted, you immediately stuffed them in your pockets.

The rest was a blur to some extent. You remember the door being flung open, the words of magic read from a scroll by a man bearing the Tree of Awakening on mage’s robes, sounds of “Get down!” as crossbows pointed into the sitting area right in your direction.  The rage of the wind and pounding rain as lightning flashed in the doorway of the Morstly Orst.  You remember  a figure appearing behind you, a grissled old man, who shouldn’t have been there, the SHIELDs led by a member of the Order of Crimson walking briskly towards him, and you. The man’s final words to you spoken in haste but in a whisper, “The King’s Lady was not lost entirely. Her mighty treasure was salvaged. By me! Each coin gives a part of what you’ll need to find her.  Rescue me this night, and I’ll give you the last of what you’ll need! If I’m hung, the treasure will be lost forever!”

“Stand aside, scum! Lest you find yourself in league with a traitor to the Crown of Cellinor!” yelled the Flamist. “Carter Burke! You are hereby Inquisitioned and found guilty of crimes against the King and Realm!!! Step forward and speak no ill words of magic, placing hands behind your back, and imbibing no potion or curative!”

“Of course, my lads! Of course….” Said the man they called Burke as calmly as if he had been asked to step out of the loo.

Quickly, one of the Shields locked iron clasps around his wrists and jostling him this way and that they led him from the warmth of the bar into the dreary night. As they exited the Inquisitioner looked around the bar, to the crowd and finally towards you.  While watching you intently, he spoke to the innkeeper who was behind him.  “Hitchens, clean up this Ket Hole, before all these leeches of the Flames’ good order suffer a similar fate. Those who do not live in the Light, are not meant for it’s protection when the Darkness comes for them!” With that they went back into the night from which they came, the gilded Tree of Awakening of their shields placed over their backs the last image you saw  as they stepped out into the rain.

And that was the beginning of this life you had come to know.  The greatest treasure ever assembled in Celn modern times was to be your supposed reward for risking your life to save Burke, just hours before his public execution.  You still aren’t sure why the others did it.  But the coins were unmistakable. They had certainly come from the King’s Lady, the flag ship named after Borindin’s bride, killed by the Dragon Gulgol herself.  Years ago, when the nation was still new and fragile, Cellinor had loaded a treasure in her cargo to rival the greatest of Kasille, in order to secure a treaty with the Orst King.  However, when she went down in stormy seas, the Orsts accused the king and Nobility of Cillandar with treachery and deceit. How could the King prove the treasure was sent, if it was at the bottom of the Great Sea?? Although the war with Orst was brief, it cost many lives and the truce agreed to thereafter always felt like more of a stalemate than anything else.

There in the dying light of the fire of the Mostly Orst, you assembled and agreed to the deed.

Burke may have been rescued later that morn, while the darkness still held the Sun at bay, but he didn’t make it long.  In route from the prison, he gave his last dying breaths and there must have been honor among pirates, at least for Burke, because, as promised, in his hand you found his coin.  On it’s Queen Side, was written the starting coordinates for Xendros, the initial clue.

This would be it! You would all be rich.  That night, you took shelter in a sleazy town off the craggy shores of a fishing village on the Northern Side of the Isle.  There, you toasted your good fortune, and in the morning promised that the coins would be laid down by each member of this new fellowship, so that the treasure hunt could begin.  You were fairly certain that not a member fully trusted the other, but Burke had been clever.  He knew that one among six could never risk attacking the others, nor could any one of you find the treasure without the rest.

That night, you slept with a stomach full of stew and a head full of treasure, but alas! In the morning, Swanson was gone! He had taken his coin and his clue with him.  Although you searched and searched, you’ve never found anything that led you to him in person or where he had gone, except the occasional rumor here or there. But always, you are too late.  You still remain together, needing each other yet each keeping your coin out of view of the other, lest they’ll know your clue and won’t be in need of you anymore.  Thankfully, the storm covered much of your handiwork that night, and although you are wanted men and women, the Realm seems to have a hard time knowing who it wants for the successful prison break of Carter Burke, Traitor to the Realm.

 

You never thought you’d find Swanson again, until one day you heard of a job that sounded perfect.  Put food in your belly, ale in your parched throats, and maybe, just maybe help you put a dagger in Swanson’s gut.

The gold wasn’t going anywhere.

You just had to find it.

And to do that you needed to find Swanson and the last of the six gold coins….

 

The Tale of the Sea Drake

How Captain Hariklon’s Vessel Sailed West, and Possibly Returned.

Sorn Littleknot found himself one night, amongst the other men, all filthy from fish grime and raunchy, stupid and ignorant but for the most part hard working and trustworthy enough to do their share of the netting.  They sat atop the bow deck, in a soft and mild-mannered wind, and not a sight or sound among the waves. They were making good timing, returning to the Grand Harbor from a very successful catch.  Smiles were plentiful. The next year would be a good one, that is until they drank their coin away in Cillandar.

The crew of the Staunchion had just hauled in one of their last nettings, gutted and salted the load.  Stored below with the Captain, happy and drunk, no doubt dreaming of the coin he’d earn back.  Here he was, only several weeks now removed from seeing his new child, born whilst he was at sea.  

For some reason, as he looked around, he knew. Knew that tonight would be the one that Garolin, the old dwarf, most senior of the “working crew” as the Haulers liked to call themselves, would tell the Tale of the Sea Drake.  It was Sorn’s first voyage to sea.  He knew Garolin was said to have been involved in the Sea Drake somehow.  He wondered, how much the old dwarf had really been; he had never heard him mention it before. The telling of this tale, as with all good Celn tales needed a setting worthy of it’s inspiring power to send chills down a sailor’s spine.  It was said to only be told properly while at sea, and he knew Garolin was as superstitious as the rest of the Celns.  That old fool had kept them waiting purposefully for nearly 10 months. Patient bastard! Sorn was sure it would be tonight….

The wind lightly flapped the sails above, and every so often the clicking of metal on the boon was heard along with a gentle splash upon the oaken planks at the water line..  The boat listed side to side, and Garolin began…

“Captain Hariklon was a stout man. Brave in words and deeds.”

“So said the men who had sailed with him.”

“I know ….because I sailed with him.  Yes, that’s right laddies! Not much to look at now am I, but yours truly sailed with Hariklon himself! And I can tell you every word you’ve heard of the man’s character is true! Hariklon was tenacious! He was mean spirited. But, he was also brave as a trek to the Ketian Hells.  If he told you he’d do something , well shit lads, he did it.”

“And so, when word came to the docks that he was attempting to build a vessel that could sail West, nobody doubted him, and some even eagerly joined or attempted to; some just gave him coin, investing in the future riches he’d return with.  Well, when it came time to pick his crew, he had his pick of the lot too, he did.”

“Bet that’s why you didn’t go, eh Garolin!” smirked Troubidor.  Troubidor was an officer of the vessel, in charge mostly of overseeing the proper treatment of the ship, but he spent too much time with the Haulers and for that they nicknamed him Traitor.

“Ay, Traitor! They turned me down.  Turned me down because I had a wife and child though not on account of my tiller being too long like you’d have guessed, you arse!  None could go that were a father…”

Troubidor didn’t seem to see that coming, and had no reply.  Garolin went on.

“That is, until Hariklon  returned from the West one night. Of course, his men didn’t do much talking then. Mostly gnashing. Gnawing.  Biting. And ripping…”

“What do you mean, Garolin? The Sea Drake never returned!” This time it was Derg Moromit, a small, but hairy Halfling that did much of the tinkering on netting in the water.  “No craft has ever returned from the West!”

“Ah, yes, that’s right. The Sea Drake never returned.  The Inquisitors made sure it didn’t return officially. Boys, I tell a lot of tales, but this is the only one that could get me hung.  And that’s why I won’t mention again, and if anyone asks, it won’t be me you heard it from.”

“Sure, sure Garolin. Now we’re all spooked.  Great night for it too.”

 “Let  me ask you this Derg…how many of you remember the Great Fire of 65?

Nods all around. 

What do you remember about it, exactly?

Dispatch to The Crown’s Isles

 Introduction to A Crimson Shore, Level 0/1

 

“Xiladros? The inner-most of the Crown’s Isles?”

“Yes, m’lord. Xiladros.” Trunilus was aware that the King knew this Island as well as any other in his empire.  This was often how Lord Borindin responded to news he was not yet ready for. Obviously, Borindin would not take the news of the attack well.

“And how many of the First have been sunk?”

“M’lord. They’ve ALL been engaged and are reported to be at the bottom  of the Bay of Xiladra, Sire.  From what I gather of the surviving reports, but perhaps…”

“No,” sighed the king.  “No, Trunilus. The Men of the First do not abandon post! They do not taper off! They do not give half reports.  They are the Lights upon the Sea.  The First is gone. Gone, our finest and fastest from Cellione.” The King paced the room as he often did during these briefings. His ceremonial sword clinking at his side.  Borindin was known for hating to wear  this “trinket” as he called it. But such was the custom of the Nobility in Cillandar. And although King, even he was not above such Celn traditions, ‘Wyrm Slayer’ or not.

“And how many of these alien vessels were there Trunilus?”

“One, m’lord.”

The pacing stopped.  Trunilus knew that this last piece of information had not been delivered to his majesty yet.  He knew it would be one of his first questions and did not know how the king would take it.  Would he be glad for only one ship sailing from the unknown West or would it have been better to hear of many more needed to sink his entire fleet of swift, shallow keel ships?  He decided that hearing that only one unknown ship, capable of sinking an entire fleet of his majesty’s best  battle ships, was perhaps the worst news he could bring to the king. He braced himself.

“ONE! ONE SHIP DID THIS TO OUR FIRST??”

“MLord, that is the report I have Sire. All accounts sent to us through the mage report that the vessel bore a red flag emblazoned with a black ring.  The sides were armored in some strange fashion with metal, the bulwark was vast Sire. Unlike anything we have seen amongst the known realms, even on the Eastern Bays. We believe this ship may be from….the West.”

“The West?” Borindin’s eyes locked onto Trunilus. “What evidence do you have of this?”

“m’Lord, it was reported to have been sighted first on the outer rim of The Clasp. Several villages there are not heard from, our timetable tells us the ship came first from the Still Waters.”

 

“ONE SHIP! ONE SHIP from the West.  An alien to us? Even to the Lords of the Frozen Wastes! Crossing the Still Waters of the West, engaging us in combat, sinking Cellinian vessels without provocation?”

Here, at last, Trunilus was glad to take a step back.  Motioning to another man to step forward, Trunilus said, “mLord, that is not entirely true.  The initial reports you received may have been exaggerated between the sender and receiver.  “Ignotian was a Lighted Commander of Thirty Four just two summers since.  He is here to brief you with more up to date information, Sire.”

Ignotian was dressed in traditional Celline garb, not that of Cillandar.  Borindin had seen this man at some function or other, perhaps had even appointed him to his post.  As Ignotian approached he pulled back his tunic to reveal the Branded Tree required of Borindin’s most trusted forces.  Borindin nodded. “Tell me…” the King said simply.

“M’Lord, I will be brief.  Our most accurate investigations of those who witnessed the Sea Battle lead us to believe that the alien vessel may have damaged or destroyed several villages along the outer rim of The Clasp. However, the initial confrontation between our Lighted First and this craft may have been provoked by our own vessels.  Witnesses report that the Drake II was seen approaching the vessel, and may have fired a first volley.”

“How can this be!?? My decrees have been clear. Even the Nobles have sided with me in court! There is to be…”, Borindin’s eyes caught sight of Trunilus, as his fist slammed down on the wooden map table. Pegs and miniatures of various ships and forts went flying.  “WHO MANS THE HELM OF THE DRAKE II, TRUNILUS?”

Trunilus looked passively at the King, his lips quivered. “Sisipherus, Lord”.

“Darkness take him!!” roared the King! “That worm.  He was assigned to The Wheel during his last miscompliance!”

“Yes sire, that is true but some years ago The Inquisition deemed him a waste of military might and ended his punishment after four turns.  Belloran himself saw to his branding and vouched for him during the Ceremony of Light.  He was assigned to the First, and only recently took command when the Commander took ill with Sea Fever and died last Winter.

“Yes, now I remember…. That was the festival of the last Challenge.”

“Correct Sire.  It would appear then, as though Sisipherus fired an initial volley of fire pots along the port side of the vessel, presumably held at anchor along Xiladros’s southern coast.  We do not know what initial contact was made, but the exchange was quick, it could not have occurred more than a couple of minutes after the ship was within shot-put. Once the pots landed aboard the unknown vessel, bay doors of some unusual design opened all along, underneath the decks of the craft.  Large black tubes of some design protruded out.  Explosions broke holes into and tore into the Drake II.  Our secondary ships came into assist, but apparently the vessel was able to draw anchor, turn to Starboard and open bay doors on the opposite side, with the same magic, sinking all of the Drake’s support in one volley, Sire.”

“Light take us….” Borindin whispered…”And the vessel, Ignotian?”

“M’Lord, all reports suggest it was injured. A smoke emitted from it, and it was sighted pulling closer into Xiladros’s inner bay at a titled rudder lying low in the water, most likely for repairs.”

“Repairs you say? Then, there is a chance! A slight chance to stop it…”

“M’Lord?” Ignotian said, but Borindin was not talking to him.  Here, others rose.  A man in fine Cillandrial plate rose, quiet for the duration, this man had sat behind the chair of a giant wingback in front of the King’s Grand Fireplace.  Others were dressed in the Flame’s tunic and mage robes as well, he made an indication for Trunilus and Ignotian to take their leave. All was silent as the two commanders left the chamber.

Borindin turned to the man in fine plate mail. “Kruger?”

“Lord.  We knew it was but a time before the Sassers were able to sail past the Still Waters.  Clearly the time is at hand. You must direct resources to the West, away from your searches.  We cannot avoid the Darkening if we are invaded, Sire.”

“Kruger. We won’t need to defend Cillandar from the Sassers, if they don’t know they’ve made it here!  We must stop this vessel before it travels West. We will never have the man power to defend the Sister Cities from the Western Seas and we need all hands resisting the forces from the South right now on the Frontier.  If Sasser invades, we must pull inland.  There is no other plan.  The Carrs will have to hold if it comes to siege.  We cannot allow the Heroes to fail. This is the plan Kruger, we’ve discussed all this! ”

“Sire, we have been in many battles together.  You granted me my life in the Battle of Heroes.  I have branded myself and serve you wholly. I beg you to allow me to speak freely.”

“Go ahead, Lord Kruger.”

“M’Lord! This blasted search for the Heroes is MADNESS!  They do not exist Sire! They are but images on coins and tales for the young!  You will not hold the Darkness at bay by sending “your Lights” out to find these individuals anymore! You are stretching our resources too thin! We are at war with the Southern Lands. The Ketians infiltrate us not for the Heroes but to undermine our Kingdom. To remove you from power! You must listen to reason, Sire! We must prepare for war. It is coming.  Darkness comes with it. Help me prepare for it!”

“Kruger. It is of no consequence if you believe the Heroes will rise, or if the Ketians search for them. We must protect our borders so that we have the time we need.  We must prevent that ship from coming from whence it came. “

 “But sire, how do you suggest we attack this ship  with the simple forces we keep at Xiladros. The Second and Third are no match for the power we saw. Even though the ship is damaged! By what timeline do you think we could stop it? We do not have a portal in place in Xiladros, our nearest fleet is hundreds of leagues away.  The only manpower we have is Outpost 34.  The barbarians there do not care of the affairs of state, only your image on coin. By the time we launch an adequate response from Celline, the ship will be repaired, and beyond our sights, back from whence it came. It will give the news of what it has seen. An invasion will be imminent. We must begin the preparations for it.”

“You are thinking too large Kruger. I have told you these “resources” I invest in are just as valuable as mail, and steel and steed.  You under estimate the power of loyalty.  I dare say you are beginning to sound as beleaguered as Belloran!”

“We must simply divert a group that we can rely on to sabotage the vessel.  If we can keep the ship from leaving until we can send a force equipped with magi, we can then fully disable the craft and use it to our advantage. We can keep the Sassers in the Dark for now, and perhaps those aboard can give us valuable information we need as well.”

“But who would be willing to do such a mission M’Lord?”

“My contacts in 34 know of one such group, we are sending the dispatcher now…”

 

Introduction, A Crimson Shore ACT III

Found by your party in an as yet to be determined way….

Message to Governor Canton of the Royal Colony of New Cellinor:

His Majesty, Lord Borindin, Slayer of the Great Wyrm, Bringer of Light, and King and Lord of the Mighty Celn Empire bids you well among the strange isles of the Eastern Sea beyond the Still Waters.  It is well known to his Majesty the sacrifices you have made in order to carry on the work of the colony, to explore and report and to adapt to the demands of the colonial lifestyle you find yourselves in, especially among the dangers that dwell there.  

It is furthermore known that within your thriving colony, you have now turned both a profit and begun to establish a foothold among the natives that dwell there, and the monsters that roam the seas and islands.  His Majesty has been informed of the many dangers and perils it took for you, and your good sea-mates, Duchess Portia, and the Ordered Knight Fritz, now commander of his Majesty’s forces in the East to have made it past the Still Waters, Isles of Dread and to carve out the colony there. 

As you well know this venture is not simply a discovery expedition, or an enterprise to expand the wealth, but is a matter of the utmost urgency to the protection of the Crown and Realm and as such his Majesty himself will soon be sending an envoy, bearing the official seal and branded by the King, with certain secret affairs of Lord Duher, Commander Luger, and Ordered Officers Bearclaw and Flemin.

Although the magical correspondence afforded us is limited, we have understood your latest dispatch to include reports of both piracy against the crown by local natives as well as possible espionage among the inhabitants of the colony. Other reports of stranger beasts are as you know well documented throughout the wilds of our goodly realm in all areas, and as such, we bid you caution. As to the inhabitants in and outside the colony that may bid you harm, should you find and Inquisition said spies, it is ordered that you keep these criminals for the special envoy being dispatched.  More orders will be given at that time.

As briefed at your departure to the East, be wary of Sa’rasin exploration.  We know these usurpers to be well equipped, and should you encounter their ships, you are commanded to engage them until they are destroyed. Our previous reports that these isles first founded by the first expedition were unexplored by our Eastern enemies may have been inaccurate.  We recommend immediate palisade strengthening.

As always, should the colony fall into enemy hands, it is expected that you will honor the King with a complete destruction of these notes and decrees.  Nothing is more important than the protection of Celn interests on this good Lighted Earth.

Sincerely,

Lord Taryn, Duke of Carr Alpha and Senator of the Cillandrial Council

  1. A casket of the season’s best Dying God ale is en route along with the envoy and comes with his Majesty’s best wishes to your health.

 

The Many Faces of A CRIMSON SHORE

The Dread Pirate Roberts– The “DPR” is a pirate with a  mission.  He has his sights set not on infamy but of fortune.  Listen long enough, and he’ll tell you of his true love. He’s willing to let the adventurers into a deal for a share of the King’s Lady, but he’s got another plan to get rich. Will it get the party into trouble?

Fleet Commander Trunilan- Trunilan is commander of His Majesty’s Southern Fleet.  He sails aboard the flagship, The King’s Vengeance.  Trunilan is tasked with keeping the peace, and maintaining order in a very inhospitable realm.  Does he have other orders?

Edward Rooney-A merchant in a place where doing business isn’t easy, New Alpha. Rooney specializes in items hard to get. His prized possession is his cat, Primordia. Rumor has it that Primordia was once the personal property of Malorus the mage, a reknowned wizard in Cillandar. What Rooney wants, he gets. Does the party have something he wants?

Radagar Motzu-Rad is a prisoner aboard The Black Scream.  His story is found in A Crimson Shores’ thread.  Rad is a wizard, but that wasn’t his first calling. He’s a castaway from his own land.  But what he knows may just be able to help the party.

Elad-A prisoner  and slave of the Sasser Empire.  Elad was a simple villager/warrior of the Atah’uan.  At least he was, until the raid.  The last surviving member of his tribe, Elad watched them die a slow horrible death aboard the ill-fated ship he was found in.  Now, he has a rage within him so deep, it can be hard to control.

Jethro Q’Lamour- Known for such favorites as “Why Is that Tavern Eating My Friend?” and “The Ballad of My Loquatious Colleague”, Jethro was a bard of the Realm. Like his uncle, he too believed wading into battle was the way to make the best song.  Unfortunately, Jethro was killed on the beach by sahaugin during the salvage of The Black Scream.  Today, this isle is now known as “Song Island” and it is said that if one stands on the beach, he or she can actually hear the sounds of Jethro playing his lyre.

Canton- As Canton often says, “Nobles sometimes come in packages not recognizable as Cillandrial Fashion.”  A unique swordsman and wizard in his own right, Canton fights in the elvish fashion.  His swashbuckling ways are only matched by his love for Cillandar and for the Realm of Cellinor.  He’ll help any damsel in distress in any pirate town in the Crown’s Isle, but don’t let him hear ye talk ill of his homeland.

Schultar- A troubled past brought Schultar into the company of pirates.  Being a half-ogre already means that one is going to have an incredible background, but in this case, it gets better. Schultar was mentored by a member of the Order of Silver who had lost his way in the dogma of it all. In so doing, he past on a pure knowledge to Schultar, one that exists without the corruption of the church.  But now Schultar has met someone who has lost his faith.  What will Schultar believe now?

Roscoe Leegallows-Roscoe is a Halfling whose life, like the Crown Isles, seem to be engulfed by water.  Roscoe’s childhood brought him to a life of difficulty, until one such event with water changed everything. Constantly searching for stronger magic to feed from for his spells, Roscoe keeps his secrets and his backpack close at all times.

Portia Treeleaf-Portia has a “borrowing” problem. She’s aware of it, she just doesn’t understand why it’s a problem for anyone.  Portia is often called upon to investigate matters for the adventurers, that is, if she can be found.

MacGruber-An awkwardly jovial Orst trader, MacGruber has a knack for getting things and having them taken away. It seems like just when his “ship” has come in, it’s sailed again.  MacGruber was last seen sailing off the cliffs in the Hydra’s spine.

Mr. Joshua, Mr. Matthew-Two leading pirates of the Crimson  Fleet, these two cutthroats have both been slain by the party after two important runins.  Mr. Joshua led the assault of their caravan, before being strapped to the coach and plunging to his death. Mr. Matthew however led the attempted sabotage of the King’s Vengeance in order to start a war between Cellinor and Orstland.  Luckily however, the party was able to thwart this attack. What other members of the Crimson Fleet are out there, and what plans do they have for this group?

Swanson- A pirate who often traveled with them in their early days. Swanson is now on the lamb, but his whereabouts have been partially discovered.  He is the bearer of the last gold coin, and if the party can get to New Cellione in time, perhaps they can get it back and take the King’s Lady Treasure for themselves.

Chanku- An Orst captain who is not very happy with the DPR.  Chanku lost a lot of merchandise because of Robert’s mistake and he wants reimbursement, or Roberts’ head.

Calhoun-Known collectively on the Revenge as “Mother”, Calhoun has a tendency to get into business he shouldn’t. Whether this is good or bad for the party remains to be seen.

Inigo and Montoya-Often upset about their father dying, Inigo and Montoya are Roberts’ most loyal shipmates.

The Black Scream-An alien ship of unknown origin.  The Black Scream borders between myth and horrifying reality. Is it real, or just a story told in pirate bars?

The Revenge-Robert’s ship.

The King’s Vengeance-Flagship of his majesty’s southern fleet.  Trunilan’s ship.

The King’s Honor-The personal convoy ship of Lord Borindin himself.

The Skinny Wench- Aye, the Skinny Wench did you say? That ship belonged to the Admiral Benbow, that old bastard.  He was a Celn Captain turned pirate.  His ship was supposed to have been sunk by a Celn man-o-war last season. It’s a shame too because it was made in the fashion of a merchant’s trader ship, and could easily be converted back.  It would make a perfect pirate vessel, nearly unrecognizable with a pinch of disguise.   I don’t understand why it would be marked on this part of your map.  The battle should have taken place much farther south.  Unless….”

 

  1. A Ruthless Frontier

 

MATERIALS FOR PLAYERS TO THIS THREAD

A Ruthless Frontier: Background

It is a time of war for Cellinor and Lord Borindin.  An uprising among the giant tribes in the south has begun.  The giants are pushing into the fertile Southern Lands and bringing a host of other creatures with them, they have somehow formed alliances, although exactly what those are is still rather unknown to any in the top brass of Borindin’s Lighted Troops.  What is known is that treaties have been broken, and the so called “ambassadors” of various orc and goblin tribes have not been heard from. Cillandar seems to be taking the threats seriously, finally. Finally, Borindin seems to recognize the need to protect it’s citizenry as a top priority instead of scouring the land looking for links to the past.

Refugees have begun seeking help in different areas, more fortified than in other places.  Farmsteads have been lost. The Southern Valley is central to the survival of Celn lands, and to it’s capitol city Cillandar. The King has tolerated the Frontier skirmishes throughout the years, but now full scale war has been waged.  Rumors of martial law has been declared by those caravanning but none of them have come from calm voices.  It is a time of rumor, of fear of pestilence and ambition. War brings death, but it also brings fortunes to the bold.  To the foolish, war can be hell.

This is the moment you find yourselves in the Southern Lands, near the time of the Fair. A gathering each harvest where adventurers come to congregate, and where those peasants brave enough to risk can bring more to their lives than what planting food crops in fertile soil can.

Consideration for players: Players arrive at the annual Fair in the hopes of earning money that could earn them the required fee to Cillandar or Cellione in a caravan of merchants. However, I will allow any backgrounds that don’t make it too difficult to get the group “together”….

Please read the two event stories below.  Our adventure for this thread will begin on the way to the annual fair. Character creation will occur in game, so you won’t need to bring anything to the first game. Except dice of course. J T

KET, LAIR of the DAMNED

“Gather ‘round, gather round. Be you brave….Eh?  It’s time to tell the tale of KET, and of their Devil’s Lair.  The land of fire and ice,

….where your souls are taken and

….consumed to heat their furnaces.

…where the dead walk among the living,

…where the Light has no hold, where the Flame cannot cast it’s warm glow!

Know ye, of Ket? Know ye of the Land of the Damned?

Where man is nothing more than a slave, a pawn at the will of creatures who feed in the Dark, who wait, patiently to take back our lands, if we aren’t wary?

A silence occupies the room now, so constant it is that the storyteller waits a bit longer, as if he knew it would be this quiet, perhaps to give an air of melodrama to his introduction you think. Many ways is the intro given, but this one you think is fairly good.  The Storyteller is an elder human, he’s obviously come with a group headed to the Fair.  Waiting for the embers in the fire to die down, the ambience in the room is perfect.  Even the barkeeper, Jarvis, looks like he’s interested. His stage presence is good, perhaps he is from Cellione, or even Carr Perrin. 

There’s a good audience tonight and if the story is told well, The Teller will not make less than a handful of his Majesty’s coppers to buy his drink the next few nights. He might even earn one from you; coppers have a way of flying out of ones coin purse after the type of adventure you just returned from.

Seats settle in, drinks are set atop the bar, and bodies rotate to face the Storyteller, as the famous tale of Ket is told, as it appears, in the old style, the style of Gallinor’s early period.

Few forget their first telling.  You surely remember yours, heard perhaps before you should have. Even to this day, you can feel the fear in your belly, the trembling at sounds from under blankets in your bed on cold wintry nights in the Valleys.  You aren’t longing to hear it again, but the story has that effect on people. The tale is cautionary, it begs to be heard of it’s own accord. And so you listen, once more…

“Few have ever cared to consider where Ket is? Have you? Eh, have you, lad? (The teller points an elongated finger at a young wannabe adventurer dressed in his father’s leathers in the front.)  Clearly overpowered by the presence of so many eyes on him, the youth simply shakes his head.

Well, let me tell you the rumors I’ve heard in my travels….(the teller begins to drop his voice again, and uses hand gestures to illustrate)…some say that Ket lies far to the South, past the Frozen Mountains, the Impenetrable Mountains we call them here in the Valley, no?” Several heads nod… A cruel frozen land it is, devoid of life, except of course for that which does not need warmth to sustain it…(a log from the fire moves slightly, as a gnome in one of the tables closest to the hearth spills a bit of his ale.  Several of the tougher members of the audience make an attempt to tease him, but no one seems to laugh).

Others believe that Ket lies past the east, past the Sea of Sands. The tombs of our ancient lands make good sleeping quarters for the dark souls that return to bed in them during the Light of Day. Some have said, that Ket lies below us.  In deep, and dangerous tunnels and caves.  Those that explore the portals breaking the surface, are strangled, gripped by dark claws and dragged below only to scream for help in places where screams cannot be heard but by slithering, and creeping things.

Many, especially those among the elves and dwarves in the Inner Wilds to the North would have us believe that Ket is nowhere, that is, not a physical location.  One must be wary then, for if one’s actions are of evil intent, a doorway, a portal to Ket, is but a wrong moment away, as is a most foul, and ruthless death.

And we tell the children to behave in our lands, ‘or else the Ketians will get yooouuu!’ At this point, the teller mimics the sounds of a mother warning her child, perhaps from taking another bite of sugar cake or something.  A slight sound of laughter erupts at the teller’s joke, but only briefly.

And of course, how do the Ketians “get them”? Surprisingly, the teller looks around here in earnest. It appears as if he wants an audience member to actually answer this rhetorical question.

A dwarf sitting next to the gnome in the front, swallows his latest pull, and yells out “Because we didn’t do what our mamas told us, now did we lads!!?” Several smiles around, and the dwarf chuckles, but the storyteller never flinches.  Good, you think, yes, he is good.

“Sure, sure….but we all know that isn’t entirely true now don’t we? We all know of the Three…”

Silence.

“Of the betrayal…” 

Again, the speaker has gained nearly every last eye in the place. Even a cook from the back has come out to the bar.

“Well, well….then we have heard of the Three in this hamlet, haven’t we?  But, we do not speak of them, do we? (looks around) Yes, we do not. 

And we do not speak of them for the very fear of our own self-preservation.

Of the END TIME.

Of the END DAYS WAR, of our greatest betrayal.

The betrayal of man by the Gods!!

This time, there is not a single movement in the room.  Well, well, you think. This teller has some serious guts.  It isn’t every day a teller of any kind brings up The Three, and certainly not on a cold night, wintry and dark like this one.

And to call out the Gods, when any Flamist of the First Order could order a public hanging just for the mention of them!

This man either has a death wish, has smoked too much of the King’s Leaf, or perhaps needs more money than his apparel is showing. Either way, he’s got even your full attention now…

To be continued…

NEWS FROM CILLANDAR

“War!”

The word as well as the frozen wind blew in to the main hall in the outpost’s only tavern, The Broken Blacksmith.  Jarvis couldn’t contain himself any longer, it had been a long night, and few in the pub were behaving themselves.

“Close the Darkened door you fool!  I’ve got the last of my dry timber on the fire, and I plan on keeping the Flame going tonight, just like I’ve done with Rory’s wife these fine many years while he’s on caravan.” A hearty laugh and bellow or two from the regulars hunched over their brews, except of course from Rory himself, who appears to not have heard it at all.

“Borindin’s Beard! You lot just can’t open a door without letting the whole Ketian Night in with you!”

“Now quit it Jarvis! Don’t go scaring the young lads here t’night again.  There’s still a babe or two not done with Mama’s teet that’s a scared of that tale. Didn’t you see how Rory cried last night during the telling!” Murcuddy “The Ear” then gave his best bar cackle and slapped his meaty palms on the bar. Receiving tankard taps from his local buddies, he went quickly back to his small talk and drinking.  Jarvis leaned over the bar, slapped Murcuddy on the palm joyfully, and gave a yank of his “joke bell”. A light cheer went up, mostly from the cooks in the back.

A small gangly youth had come in from the cold, as his cloak came down, he looked around, his eyes wild. For a moment, your hand moves to your belt and hilt. You’ve seen these looks before, all in the Frontier have, many times. Gallinor’s borders were only expanded by the brave and wary.  But this time, your grasp loosened, the boy’s eyes turned from hysteria to joy.

“Didn’t you hear me Jarvis?!” cried the lad, “DIDN’T YOU HEAR ME, ALL OF YOU!?” This time, the boy stood, climbing atop a pub chair as Jarvis for all his might reached desperately to slap him down, his belly and the bar counter the only obstacles between throwing the boy back down.

“The CILLANDAR’s  caravan has arrived early for the Fair. His Majesty’s Page has just announced in the streets. It’s to be war with the giants and those blasted creatures of the southern lands.  They’re sending whole battalions here soon  to fight for us…with us!  Borindin has finally had enough with the raids from the South. We’ll have our revenge for a decade of murder!”

“IT’S TO BE WAR!!!!!!!!!!!”

A roar of cheering erupts in the Blacksmith’s hall.  There’s a brief pause while all seem to look to the brewmaster.  “Allright, allright!!!”  Jarvis smiles, “A round for the house! ON THE HOUSE!” Another cheer, and bellowing.  A drunken dwarf in the back actually pulled out his axe and attacked a table with it as if it were an enemy before falling over the hilt.  You didn’t miss the wry smile on Jarvis’s lips.  War was good for business. The last one moved him from destitute to bar owner. This one, might just give him his wish, a move to Cillandar, with his brewery business in tow. Judging by the immediate conversations springing up around the  Broken Blacksmith, others had plans in the works for sometime too.

As the tumultuous crowd around you escalates, you see the faces of young men, a few old, and it’s hard to find a one that isn’t cheering, throwing their tankard back in celebration, clapping the shoulders of their friends in pretend inspection of their sword arm. Declaring the number of orcs that will die upon their sword when they’ve been Lighted for battle themselves!  Coins were already being counted. Lord Borindin paid a handsome price for those who fought, and lived, in the last great Frontier War. It wasn’t hard to believe it would be the same with this one.  And perhaps, there might actually be a real victory this time. Perhaps, the Southern Valley might just find it’s peace to match it’s beauty.

As you are about to drain your glass, you look over and see Thule, the old man, sitting near the fire. His one leg resting itself on the hearth, as close as the fire would allow.  His other, rumored to have been taken by the club of an ogre in the ruthless lands in the lower hillocks, on a raid to secure the farmsteads in the valley that brought Cillandar it’s largest food crops.

Thule takes a puff of his pipe, his eyes look to be cast down, but you know from many nights of watching him drink, that he is still scanning the bar, always aware that Thule is. Many nights you’ve wondered, just what he would have been like in battle, just what he saw on those battles he must have fought in, down South, in the cold bitter hills where nothing’s green. Never once have you heard him brag, as the other old “veterans” of the Frontier Wars did.

A warm cheer erupts, slow at first, but then steady. A repetitive chant. “War. ..War……WAR…WAAAARRRRR!”

For a brief moment you join in, enthused helplessly by the commotion and inspiration of the crowd.  For a split second your eyes meet Thule’s.  His smile you decide isn’t one at all, but rather grimace.  His hand rests upon the stub of a leg long missing, and he begins to rub it methodically, as if searching for it.

Mouthing a few words, he turned back to the fire. As your stew arrives, you take just a moment to consider what he said. The words whispered aloud, meant for no one were somehow taken in by you nonetheless.  Old fool, it’s those ancient superstitutions that kept the outskirt valleys of Gallinor from truly establishing great cities like Cellione, or Carr Perrin.  Blind superstitution still babbling about the End Days coming once more.  Besides why would he even think such a thing, just your mind playing tricks on you from the stories told on cold nights like this, Thule must have been too sober during the Telling of the Ketian’s Lair last night. Light knows it scared everyone else half to death..

As your stew begins to warm you, and the celebration of the night continues, you know it was just your imagination that brought on the fear in Thule’s eyes.  Just childish fears…

 

The Faces of

A Ruthless Frontier

It’s a time of war for Cellinor, the struggling young realm named for the King’s dead bride to be.  Yet, even here in a Land of darkness, heroes arise. Some aspire to wield his majesty’s sword and become Lights in the Southern Campaign or on patrol in her “corona”. Others, make their livelihood, and possibly their Legend, in betwixt these Battles.  Here are some of the many faces of A Ruthless Frontier encountered so far…

THE PARTY

Splendar the Magnificent

A young man from an out of the way hamlet in the Southern Valley, Splendar has an act of “magic” which stuns audiences young and old, sometimes literally. Although he’s done some traveling before, he has a feeling this year’s fair is going to be a real doozy, especially during the War. However, everything for Splendar seems to be changing after his events with the giants.  Who knows what doors will open with the materials he has found on the dead Lighted Magician, and who knows what powers he will discover now that he has “touched the void”…

“Sin”dy, his gorgeous assistant

Little is known of Sindy right now except that her beauty is unparalled, except of course for Splendar’s himself. Wherever she goes she attracts attention, let’s just hope that it’s always the right kind

Buttercup and her Wesley

Buttercup was born far from shops and markets.  Her simple life was fulfilled by the love of her Wesley. But, events conspire sometimes to change us whether we wish them to or not. When Wesley decided to travel to the Fair this season, Buttercup warned against it, hearing of the news of the War to the South.  But then things took a turn for the strange.  Buttercup had always had a sort of premonition since she was younger, but suddenly her dreams and visions were becoming more clear.  A voice, female and powerful, became speaking to her, warning yet urging her to travel to the Fair.  But when the giants attacked, Buttercup realized that at least one of her premonitions was true.  Now if she can just figure out why she is destined to know about these strange fellow travelers and what her dreams mean…

Angeles and Argus, Twin Brothers

Some people have secrets, and then some people have secrets that they aren’t people.  Angeles and Argus fall into the latter category.  Early in life, a tragic and still mysterious attack ruined their childhood.  Now, the two half-vampire twins have decided that their lifestyles are better kept secret by traveling and staying on the go.  Their profile has always been to roam alone, just the two of them, but now their paths have been entwined with this “magician” and the girl with visions. How did she know what they would do? And now, where will their travels take them, in a land where martial law could mean their deaths…

THE NPCS

Fairmaster Lloyd Richardson

His Courtesy, Master Richardson, is a man of noble lineage. Coming during the Lighted Age in the Southern Valley, that’s saying something.  Master Richardson conducts the Fair and liaisons between his Majesty’s forces and the Fair merchants and event coordinators. His otherwise easy job is quite a bit more complicated this year as he must do all this within the confines of the ancient keep known as Outpost 51.

Jed and Danny Eckert

Jed was the last surviving Light during the battle with the Giants outside the Caravan’s trip to Outpost 51 and the Fair. He has made friends with Angeles and Argus as he believes the brothers have natural potential to be great warriors. Jed’s twin brother is Danny, who appears to have as much honor and potential in the King’s Campaign as his brother.

Rhett Spellsword and his pet, Squatch, the Ogre

Rhett is a gruff little Dwarf. Many rumors exist about where Squatch came from, but one thing is for sure, “Squatch Love Rhett!”  He’d love you too for the right price, but mostly Squatch challenges Fair goers at a game of strength that earns Rhett his livelihood.

“The Teller”

The party was in for a real treat the night The Teller told of the Three and the Ketian Lair.  Normally, these tales are kept to the way of the telling of yore, but this teller went a bit too far. He was subsequently dragged out by Members of the First Order of the Flame. His whereabouts are unknown.

Brunt Redwood

Brunt was  the caravan Leader for your hamlets to the Fair. It appears as though Brunt was not as rough and ready as you imagined. During the giant attack he hid along with his forces. Luckily, the giants were dispatched by the party, and he had opportunity to explain how he was guarding the women and children.

Aunt Floyd and Uncle Honeysuckle

The aunt and uncle of Splendar.  Their stories, I am sure, will be soon to be told in glorious detail.

Henri “Hank the Tank” Merriweather

A dwarven mason, Henri had fallen on hard times.  He had to finish a job and couldn’t arrange for his young daughter to be anywhere else. So, taking her to his jobsite she was trapped beyond the walled structure he was building.  Won’t you help him get her back?

Jarvis, Brewmaster and Proprietor of “The Three Legged Pig,  Home of Cellinor’s Finest “Hobgoblin Ale”

Jarvis was given the grandest cheer you had heard from anyone entering the Fair grounds. Apparently his Hobgoblin brew really is as good as it is cracked up to be.  His mobile brewery, The Three Legged Pig, is placed and set up in only a matter of minutes by his Halfling workers, giving the feel of home to many a weary traveler. 

Bishop Belloran

The Keeper of the Flame himself, Belloran is known to attend the Fair most years in the King’s Honor.  This year, he is rumored to be more than an honorary attendee and it is even said that Belloran may be giving orders during the Southern Spear Campaign into the giant and Lands of Ice to the South.  His religious zeal and divinity is matched only by his ruthless adherence to the strict rule of the Silver Flame, what Belloran calls the “Guiding Light” for all good folk in the land.

Malorus the King’s Mage

Little is known of Malorus. Lately, Malorus has been spending most of his time securing the magical beasts captured for this year’s opening ceremonies during the fair.  His many assistants usually earn a king’s ransom selling, appraising and identifying items during the fair, a moonlighting gig that Malorus is said to greatly encourage.

Jadus, Reverend Sister

No information as of Session 1.

Reverent Mother, Linta

No information as of Session 1.

OTHER TERMS:

Outpost “51”-One of the largest and most well fortified of the ancient sites Borindin personally chose to protect the Southern Valley. Outpost 51 represents a gateway to the Icy Lands to the South and is the rally point for retreat by the Southern Spear should the campaign go badly.

The Fair- The yearly event in the Southern Valley.  Where heroes become heroes and where ordinary folk make their living, or find their fortunes.

The Southern Valley- The large valley of exceptional soil where the major food crops of Cellinors citizens are grown.  The Southern Valley represents the bread basket without which, Cillandar, Cellione and the Lighted Realm itself would fall back into darkness. 

The SOUTHERN SPEAR-The King’s campaign to finally put an offensive into Giant Lands.  Little is known of the extent to which the Southern Spear has had success.  However, since the garrisons left, there have only been few attacks on the many Outposts on the Southern Valley’s Frontier. 

Lord Borindin-The King of Cellinor and Servant of the Light himself.  His story is told in your ALIND notebook.

Cellinor, Cillandar and Cellione- Cillandar and Cellione are the Sister Cities of Cellinor, the Lighted Realm.  Lands outside the realm’s border are either known as the Inner Wilds if inhabited by more civilized races like elves, dwarves of Halflings, or as OUTER WILDS if they represent unexplored areas.  Much rumor exists behind the borders of Cellinor.

KET and the INPENETRABLE PEAKS- A land of frost, death and much superstition, especially to those who live in view of it’s terrible peaks.  The stories of KET, of the THE THREE, and of the End Days are so intertwined, that one can barely speak of them without inciting panic among those listening.

Cellinor’s Martial Law-During the play of the Shielded Mothers, Bishop Belloran, announced the need to enact Martial Law.  All patrons, merchants or servants of the Fair are subject to search or seizure if they carry contraband deemed harmful to his majesty’s subjects. Furthermore, spies of the Ketian Leadership, or those deemed spies by either action or witness of action, may be hung, or burned until dead after a proper trial from a Member of the First Order of the Flame. As Belloran likes to say, “Those who walk within the Light, have no fear of the Darkness”.

 

  1. Into the Wild

 

Materials for Players to this Thread

Into the Wild Player Background

Do you have what it takes to brave the wilds? What about taming them?.  Do you have what it takes to establish yourselves as Lords?  The King’s Land Act and your recent Inheritance has placed you in a unique position.  Fortune, power and esteem await you in the wilds of the Kingdom. All you have to do is tame them enough to convince your serfs to work, labor and toil for you. Make smart decisions and keep the people in your service, and you can found a township, or perhaps more.

You have recently been given the rights to an abandoned keep on the frontier of a truly inhospitable yet rich and fertile land.  In order to gain access to the land, you must first clear the Keep and take it for yourselves.  But that won’t be easy, and neither will convincing farmers, their wives and their children to join you and make a new home for themselves. 

What awaits you?  A chance to create your own spot on the great Empire’s Map, a chance to construct your own Light in the Darkness.  But the Wilds are no easy place to gain a foothold and holding back the darkness during these times won’t be easy.  You’ll have your hands full with raids and other denizens of the wilderness, and the inner struggles of establishing your colony.  How resourceful can you be? You’ll find out when you head Into the Wild!

Players entering this thread can be of any motivation and should consider race, class and skills very carefully.  This thread is challenging both on the game mat as well as in roleplaying scenarios. 

The King’s Land Act of 87

This full text is given to you on scroll during your initial meeting.

In accordance with the laws and wishes of our Lord, Haidius Borindin, Slayer of the Wyrm and Bringer of Light, it is hereby decreed that the following rules, regulations and statements issued forth are to be deemed accurate and punishable when not adhered to by any citizen or other race which habitates or trespasses on the King’s Land. Furthermore, these 8 items collectively will be henceforth referred to as the “King’s Land Act” and will serve as an impartial document to be used during any Inquisition of the Order, if the need arises for one.

Item 1: It is hereby ordained that the King’s Land is any known land seized, settled or discovered whether held by known races, “wandering tribes and groups” or not, so long as this land is not categorized as land belonging to said groups with which a treaty of the Realm exists.  It is furthermore executed that any member of the Realm may seize land from any group or “wandering tribe” in the name of the King provided that that member adheres to both the Code and the Order’s decree for the treatment of “wandering tribes and groups” unless a treaty exists which allows this group or tribe to live and habitate on the land in question in a manner inconsistent with the Code and the Order.

Item 2: When any member of the Realm decides to claim a parcel of land and declare it as “King’s Land” that member must report the claim and pay taxes and compensation in accordance with the Land Tax Act to the nearest Dispatching Outpost within a full cycle after making a successful survey of the land to be claimed.  Both the survey and the claim should be on file and both must be within one full cycle of each other.

Item 3: Members of the Realm may use any and all Before Days structures to build on, around or take material from. However, all items of a magical nature are considered “property of the King” and must be given to the nearest Outpost for inspection. Failure to immediately have items inspected may lead to forfeiture of the Land’s claim.  If a member deems an area unsafe, that member should immediately report it to the nearest Dispatch and leave the area until it is deemed safe by Lighted Militia or SHIELD troops.

Item 4: Members who decide to settle land for which a claim exists may decide to recruit Celn citizens to work, farm, or industrialize the resources found there.  A “Plan of Settlement” should be reported to the nearest Dispatch Office and filed therein.  For colonies larger than 1,000 citizens, a meeting with the Land Accessor must be held in Cillandar.

Item 5: Citizens who chose to apply for a Plan of Settlement must commit to the safety and well-being of the Celn citizens that move there. The Lord(s) of this plan must see to the well-being, safety and education of these citizens as well as provide them a place of worship.  Whenever possible, citizens working on a Land Grant should have access to clean water and livestock, and must have a well maintained and fortified “Keep” for defense.  See the minimum requirements for Keep functioning in the appendix.

Item 6 In order to establish trade and provide cultural exchange with the intelligent beasts of the Wilds, a representative from the nearest Dispatch or Outpost should be present whenever treating with various groups or wandering tribes. Any grant which attempts or does in fact make treaties with tribes or groups without Celn representation from a Dispatch or Outpost is forfeit and those acting in these interests without advisement and representation of the Realm are subject to High Inquisition.

Item 7 Taxes are to be collected in the form of one copper for every Pockens ( A pockens is the financial compensation associated with the amount of wool it would take to make one regular sized shirt). A record of the Land Grant’s earnings should be kept on file with the local Outpost and proper taxes collected and kept current.  Failure to keep taxes collected and current will be grounds for termination of the claim.

Item 8: Should a disturbance in the Land Grant occur, the complete and irreversible forfeiture of the Land Grant will occur provided a High Inquisition has ordained the disturbance to be detrimental to the Kingdom. It is therefore recommended that Lords of their grant keep their citizens safe, secure and responsible.

The Inheritance

Each member of the party should submit a background about what they have been doing in a small frontier town known as Fort Ogre Head. Fort Ogre Head is a particularly run-of-the-mill Outpost set along the string of outposts along the Northern Cellinor coast.  These outposts protect the string of coastal cities on the King’s High Way. In particular, each of the party (being a zero level party member) has been working for Benedict Lemure. Benedict is a foul, and repulsive Half Orc that the Outpost’s director uses to “get the job done”. He has been in charge of fortifying defenses, scouring the land, and apparently has made a living off gambling and hustling the working class that keeps the Fort occupied and livable..

It just so happens that Benedict has just been found dead and unfortunately for you he still owes you a LOT of money.  In fact, he owes each of you for nearly a season’s sweat and toil, roughly the equivalent of your starting treasure.  Fort Ogre Head isn’t exactly paradise, and nearly all you’ve got left is the clothes on your back and the promise of payment. Now it looks like that payment is gone and with it your hopes of something better.

But it looks like you aren’t the only one who’s been lied to about payment.  It looks like there are quite a few others who have been owed coin, and some of them would seem to have the ear of the Captain of the Guard.  Outside the captain’s office this morning a large crowd forms, and nearly everyone is unhappy

“I’ll be taking a nap for a few minutes. When I awake I do not wish to hear anymore about helping any of you with gambling debts. In fact, anyone bringing a debt to my attention then will be subject to Inquisition for possible activities to the detriment of this fortress.  Sergeant, see to it that Benedict’s personal belongings are incinerated and clear his workroom.”  With a resigned nod and a wink to the Sergeant,  the Captain swiftly closes his chamber’s doors.

“You heard the captain,” the Sergeant barks, “get in there and incinerate those belongings.” Before you can whistle the tune of the Tale of Borindin, enlisted and officers alike have stormed Benedict’s personal quarters. It doesn’t take long.

As you watch, members and citizens of the Fort are walking out of the half-orc’s chambers carrying all manner of things. A dwarven engineer named Trelen, who helped fortify the outer wall of the Fort, is carrying out a dress with a flowery design. It’s a free for all.

After a few minutes, the line of people going in stops and the line of people coming out begins to dwindle. You begin to wonder why you stayed outside. It’s going to be a hard few months to make up for what Benedict took from you. 

You overhear one of the last of the looters tell another, “It’s slim pickings, lad.  Nothing left worth your time.”

But is there nothing left? With only the clothes on your back, you’ve got nothing to lose.

A Trip to the Armory

If you were to enter the Beard and Tail’s main chamber the afternoon before your departure, you would have seen Hockenbrecht and Calyssa  standing over an intricate map on a large table riddled with holes from dagger tips while Commander Luger is pointing at something.  As you approach, you here:

Hockenbrecht:  My Lord, surely you understand that even my new research does not allow me to predict what may lie ahead along the route.

Luger: Then what information do we have in our possession that can aid the mission, mage? By the light, your face looks as though you’ve aged several years, and your complexion is as pale as a carrion crawler. Have you nothing for me after locking yourself up in that study of yours the last two weeks?

Calyssa: We know the lands to the North and East are tropical, temperate and wild, at least below the Scorched Mountains.  My father’s expedition to find the pass of Kasille failed in it’s infancy the last time, but that was before we gained the tomes of Iggwilv and her notes regarding the temperate beasts and flora. Since then our garrison at the Northern Gate has had it’s hands full with the reptiles roaming there. But none of that is of matter since acquiring the research returned to us from the Loyals.

Luger: Speak plainly.

Hockenbrecht: What Calyssa means to say Luger is that with all due respect to the King’s earlier expedition, we now have a route and positions we believe can be checked in the passage to see if the travelers are following accurate directions.  The first being the Wings of Pelerus. However, many of these waypoints and locales we know only by name, not appearance.  We know not, for example, what the Wings of Pelerus refer to.

Luger: The party will have to be attentive I suppose…And what of the races therein?

Calyssa: Commander, we know little of the civilized races said to still inhabit that portion of the outer wilds. Some tomes speak of birdmen, lizardmen, or even dragonmen distant and possibly ancestral to those living amongst humans here in Cillandar. 

Luger: What assurances can you give me they will accept our king’s allegiance?

Hockenbrecht: M’lord I can give you none.

Luger: In that case, this mission will be considered “Dark Lantern” status.  I want you to share this information with those the king has chosen, but to none other.  I am far too be busy locating the whereabouts of Genoran to be of help in the send off, make sure that the party is properly equipped. If not branded, you will Calyssa, perform the secrecy ritual.

Calyssa: I will Luger.

Hockenbrecht: One last thing, Luger…

Luger: What is it?

Hockenbrecht: The Vault of Kasil was said to be inpenetrable.  It was constructed in the OPEN, in the middle of a large unfortified city.  Legend tells on scroll of heroes being challenged by the rulers of Kasil to attempt to infiltrate the vault.  None in the record ever did.  A guardian was believed to be kept there, within. Of such unfathomable power, that time itself could not prevent it from it’s task of protection.

Luger: Legends are sometimes what they appear to be, and sometimes not, my dear mage.

Calyssa:  Just make sure those chosen know what they are getting themselves into…

Luger: Calyssa, your oldest brother died in Tsocanth. Your second is lost after the King’s failed attempt to win the crowd during the Battle of Heroes. Do any of us know what your father is getting us into?

Calyssa: Just make sure Luger.

As Luger strides through the sunlit archway into the King’s Courtyard, Hockenbrecht tightens his grip on the table’s edge. “This is the adventure of a lifetime”, he whispers…

Calyssa: An adventure can only be called that, if one returns from it to continue their life…Good luck Lanterns, may you best the guardian, and return to tell your tale.

King’s Secret Dispatch

Greetings adventurers.  Luger tells me you have now been briefed on the expedition into the Northwestern Wilds. My best wishes for a safe and successful return.  Please remember to take my seal and offer it’s advocacy to those who will honor their allegiance to the Cillandrial Throne. Should you obtain news of information of Ketian penetration into these lands, it is your mission priority to return forthwith, rendezvous with the Northern gate’s command and belay the mission to Kasil.  If none is made aware to you, proceed on.  My apologies for not offering more reliable mounts but my winged are all in service locating Genoran, as priority status.

Calyssa tells me that the Treasure of Kasil is said to be a treasure older than any we’ve discovered thus far.  A treasure of more than enough power perhaps to aid us in our establishment of technological might.   Although you are within a secret, you remain

In the light,

Borindin

(follows is Borindin’s seal superimposing some of his many titles such as Slayer of the Wyrm, Light of the Grand Harbor, and Provider of the Cornucopia)

Attached is Calyssa’s map and a script to be given to civilized leadership within the outer wilds explaining Borindin’s “advocacy” offer.

The Many Faces of INTO THE WILD

Clyde and Melancholy

Clyde, the Proprietor of the Buccaneer’s Bodice is a typical barkeep. Hopes of taking his pub and self-claimed” famous moonshine “The Widow’s Tears” to Carr Thos are heard nightly. Unfortunately for Clyde, the real draw to his bar isn’t his liquor, or even his charm. It’s Melancholy, and a special creature he keeps which everyone calls Clyde’s Critter.

Njord

A dwarven mason that the party convinced to go with them into the well. Njord has turned out to be a rather helpful soul. Despite their “Inquisition”, Njord has expressed his trust in them. “I know a good bunch when I see one.”

Jeffer and Jill

A brother and sister whom Melissande has taken under her wing. Jeffer and Jill were kept safe by the Dark Lanterns during the party’s imprisonment.

Lt. Macavoy, AKA Ignotus, Disciple of the Flame

Just  a simple drunk?  Not so fast.  Macavoy is much more than meets the eye.  His Flask of Invisibility has proven quite useful, especially in helping to procure items from the Flame’s treasure chamber before the Ketians invade. Meanwhile, he was able to rescue the party, and has taken them to see Eminides, and to meet Tiresias himself.

Flemin

One of the commanders taken prisoner by the Immortal Orc and the Ketian forces.  Flemin is a man of few words, but noble deed.  Bearing the brand proudly, rumor has it that Flemin earned the right by saving the life of Borindin’s youngest son. One thing is for sure, Flemin seems destined for greatness.

Bear Claw

Flemin’s partner in crime.  Bear Claw may seem as though he doesn’t quite belong here. It is well known that Flemin himself is responsible for sparing his life during a brutal engagement in the Outer Wilds. Those who have seen him in combat know that he has willingly sacrificed himself on numerous occasions. He is now vouched for by many Shield members.

Crimson Flamist, Enlil

After witnessing the party in the opening bombardment, Enlil knew he could sabotage them and use them as a scapegoat.  However, he never imagined that Bellock would betray him.

Cardinal Bellock

Bellock is the minister of the truth, according to the Flame doctrine that is.  Recently ordained as the Cardinal of the Thor Valley, he has grown in power as he has become the administrator of it. Power has a tendency to corrupt though and Bellock has clearly lost his way.  Through notes you have found, it would seem as though Bellock himself intended to secure the land grant which you already have. He also has made it a personal mission to eradicate certain spies of Darkness and their ignorant notions.

Gingrich and his Newt

A rich Cillandrian noble in the wrong place at the wrong time, Gingrich (and his pet newt) narrowly escaped the initial night of terror. Perhaps, all that Cillandrial lifestyle has gone to his head. He seems quite frazzled by things, and the idea of another invasion is enough to make him sell out anyone, including you!

Roseanne’s BAR

The bar in which the more upscale members of the fort have been associating. Ie not you guys…

Captain Eminides

More than meets the eye, Eminides is more than just a fearless leader. He is a branded and personal friend to Lord Borindin himself.  It is well known that Eminides accompanied his majesty on several legendary trips in the Outer Wilds, thus opening up the land to Celn “advancement”. Eminides shares a secret with the party now. Not only does he know where Tiresias is, he has personally kept him hidden from the Order of Flame. Will he give the old sage over to the forces of Darkness? Doesn’t sound like Eminides at all, even if that means sacrificing men, women and children in the destruction. But why would someone so just act so carelessly? Just who is Tiresias anyway?

Icarus

Although the party has never met Icarus,  his name is familiar to them. Icarus was purported to be an acolyte to the Flame who was rejected by it’s Holy Light in Initiation.  He subsequently attacked leading members of the Order in Carr Thos, killing several. He was imprisoned in The Wheel indefinitely as punishment.  It is said that Bishop Belloran himself pardoned Icarus so that he would not be made a martyr for those who attempt to sabotage the flame.

Billingsweed, Royal Surveryor and Document Verifications

A gnome with a delicate persona, some would call it an inferiority complex, Billingsweed is in charge of…well, just paperwork. But, he takes his job seriously, and although might seem unimportant, understands the  “fine print” of what happens in Celn lands better than anyone.

Nee Ish   Nee Shen

Sster and brother.  Nee Ish, the sister, was murdered by the party while she raided the Fort at Haven during the original night of the siege.

Nee Shen is the Immortal Orc’s most powerful shaman.  Rumors abound in the Celn military, that Nee Shen’s power comes from his ability to interpret the Immortal Orc’s messages.

Nee Shen has now declared his undying, immortal if you will, commitment to destroying those who have killed his sister.

Indi Ilium

A famous trader and merchant. One of the few who have purportedly been to Almagesh and back with tales of what lies beyond the Sea of Sands to the East. Indi Ilium is a man with precious information on the frontier. Although whether he is alive or dead, no one knows.

Tiresias

Bellock wants him. The enemy wants him.  Eminides has protected him. Who is Tiresias? Perhaps, “who he is” is less important than what he knows, and how he knows it.  One thing is clear, before he even speaks, Tiresias is a man who seems more than a man.  He seems to suffer from a Most Interesting Man in the world syndrome, even though he is blind.  In your brief time with him, two things are becoming rather obvious. Tiresias is dying, and he doesn’t seem to care.

Jadus

A figure central to a cause known as the Dark Lanterns.  Jadus is simple, silent and untrusting. Her husband’s smithy, may be a front for something much more important.

In this scene at right, in a famous painting in the Temple Mount of the Flame in Grand Cillandar, women are depicted murdering their husbands on Riften Naght.  It is believed, that on these nights, women lose their divine goodness, and are ravaged by the darkness’s will.

It doesn’t seem as though Jadus gives a rat’s ass about this depiction, and at the timing of your meeting, she looks more than capable of taking up a sword in the defense of her cause.

Bolvist, the Warrior

When asked, he’ll tell you his name is Bolvist. Just Bolvist. He won’t tell much else, in large part because he doesn’t know. Bolvist jolted awake on the outskirts of Fort Ogrehead eight months ago, and variations of the same nightmare he experienced that night have plagued him since. 

During the day, Bolvist is a wary half-orc (half-orcs in Cellinor are either wary or short-lived). Those who see him suspect the worst, and truth be told his actions are rarely above board. Those few of his kind who “make it” into civilized society do so by being twice as good as everyone else.  Unfortunately for Bolvist, that just isn’t in his nature. With a low tolerance for formality and at times a prodigious lack of tact, he often  jumps headfirst into the holes others dig for him. He does his best to avoid confrontations with the pillars of the community, but when edged into a corner he is liable to take things from bad to worse.

His persona in the light, however, is very different from the person he is in dreams. Bolvist’s dreams are filled with images of terror and awe: Dark Gods beneath the earth, unspeakable rituals against mankind, the drowning of the light in permanent shadow. In his dreams he is both terrified and exulted by what he sees and the important role he seems to play. When he wakes, he is left cold by the horrors, but terrified that part of him wants to see them come to pass.

Bolvist has lived the last few days as he has all the previous: One day at a time, one step ahead of the darkness. But in the back room of Roseanne’s Bar, Bolvist was forced to confront in the waking hours the prospects he’s dreamed of for as long as he can remember. He now understands he needs to do two things: Fight every day to see the next, and unravel the truth of whatever part he has to play in the coming darkness.

Bolvist dreads that he will be faced with a momentous decision that could have a major impact on the fate of the peoples in the light, but he dreads more the fact that he doesn’t know how he will respond when it comes time to make that decision.

 

  1. His Majesty’s Service

 

Materials for New Players to this Thread

The banners that rest upon the parapet towers above you are caught in a high breeze, fluttering and flickering. They snap and curl back then loosely extend again.  Each gilded leaf and branch, painted among the emerald background of the canvases, gleam in the sun. Periodically, the Tree fully reveals itself, emphasized by the golden rays of sunshine from above. The city bustles with activity, as street vendors sell their wares, and illusionists entertain the various children in the streets lucky enough to spend a copper for amusement. A dwarf whose face is smeared with white makeup, wearing a ridiculous wig and cape dances on the corner of the Plaza of the Heroes, a sign which stands next to him declares the first performance of it’s kind at the Legerdemain Theater, for the “young, old, and with a promise to amuse any known race in Cillandar”.

Welcome to the Jewel of Light, Cillandar, capital city of the Celn Empire!  Cillandar is a thriving metropolis, not unlike Rome or Alexandria in it’s heyday, and there is great need of a variety of services from those that seek adventure.

Will you join the ranks of the branded? Serve the interests of your Lord, Master Borindin himself? Many a mystery awaits you in the environs near the city, and much more within the city itself.  Rumor has it that several large scale magic dealers have been hoarding wares, in defiance of the King’s mandate about magical arms and items.  Also, and despite the peace of recent times, many groups attempt to secure their fortunes through nefarious means; will you make it your work to stop them?

Other missions await you.  Other avenues of exploration.  The Shields are always looking for recruits.  Do you fashion yourself a soldier?  Interested in protecting, serving the Kingdom? Or do you see yourself at the bar, the King’s Chamber Pot perhaps, or the always seedy Rusty Sabre.  Let the adventure come to you. Is that your style?

And finally, the bells toll once again, for the Challenge of Champions has returned.  The bi-annual event of a lifetime for most bands of rugged explorers will be held in just a few months.  You could enter the event, you know.  If you can scrape up the gold that is, for the Challenge is only reserved for the best, and the best never accept watching the contest from the sidelines.   Fame, fortune and all that come with it are on the other side of that victory.  Many try, few actually make it.  Could you be one of them?

Commotion in the King’s Chamber Pot

“Your momma’s tit must have been as cold as a yeti’s dick!” roared the lanky man.

“And you must have found YOUR milk from a yeti’s dick, Hanilan!”

This fight was getting better and better. Tonight the bar was filled with both soldiers and the oddball adventuring company. Every race and walk of life was tilting back the King’s Ale.  And best of all, Hanilan was getting into another of his tizzies.  This time though he had picked on the wrong fella.  From the looks of him, he might have seen some time in the King’s Isles.  He looked seasoned, and weathered. All eyes were watching. Some laughing, but a few had put their beer down, leaving their hands loosely near their sword side, just in case things got out of hand.  It WAS the docks, after all.

You’d wager the man throwing out insults and near to reaching into his components pouch was not to be trifled with, but it seemed as if perhaps Hanilan had had just enough Ale not to figure that out.  Maybe, tonight was the night that Hanilan learned a lesson on manners after all. This is what happens, when the owner kept the curfew on the Spottle game. People get bored and they told stories that offended someone else.  When would they learn.

“I told you. These docks and the people who work here, live here, aren’t going to sit by you and your kind and hear your superstitious tripe about the Wilds, Outsider. You all know you ain’t never seen anything closer to the North than the end of that wall. And as for your Sand People, we’ve heard about them every night for the last season.”

“My tale is true.  As is all tales I tell.  They’re true when I told them in Xendros and their true in Cillandar.  I know you Cillandrians have your own tales, and us Inners have never questioned THEM.”

A young soldier, a SHIELD from his breastplate’s emblem, stood up.  His chair creaked upon the wooden floor of the inn.  “QUESTION THEM? Sir, pray tell in the name of our Lord and Majesty, what stories of this great city might have been questioned in the Inner Realms you’ve visited?”

“I don’t speak for others. But, it is well known that the tale of your King, is one of the greatest myths of the lands.”

“My king? My king is your king, sir.” At this, several others stood now, the bar had suddenly grown quiet.  “Pray speak of the myth of Our Lord, Borindin the Wyrm Slayer.”

The quiet settled in, and the man wiped sweat from his brow. It seemed only a few seconds away from an apology, and perhaps a quick exit into the cold night for the sullen man, the Outsider, one which would probably not return again. They never did.  Surely, this outsider wasn’t stupid enough to insult the King or deny the Tale of the Dragon amongst his Shields and Lights in the Dockside district. But then his friend stood up.

“Borindin and the dragon?  The fight with no witnesses! That’s what they call it in the north! You don’t need to doubt my friend’s story here, when you tell a tale like that to each other!”

This time, every emerald tunic was standing.  “You doubt MY Lord slew the Dragon Gulgol in the manner in which has been told?” said the same soldier.  He said each word slowly, deliberately.  Time seemed to stand still.  The inevitable just a breath away, and too late did most of the outsider’s colleagues realize that what was about to be spoken, was an idea central to the dignity of every Cillandrian.

“I don’t tell lies, lad.”

You couldn’t quite remember what happened, or how it happened for that manner.  Did the Outsider and his friends lift the table first? Was it the elf in the back that placed the Shielded in a sleeping trance? However, it began, it ended with two dead, and another without a sword arm.  By the time the Order arrived, the Chamber’s floors had been stained red and irons were being clinked on more than a dozen.

The stocks would be full that night.  And by the looks of it, the next several days.  Children would have a day with this lot, pelting them with stones and avoiding their reach.  Stocks and Run, the locals called it.

The Outsider would most likely never make it past the Inquisition.  Unless he had magical training, he’d fail the Loyalty Test.  Tonight would be a lesson told for several months, perhaps years.  It surprised you that it wasn’t better known to the few who still visited Cillandar without hearing it’s many tales.

No one insults the King. And only a fool with a death wish insults the King in the presence of his Loyal Subjects. Cillandar is the very beating heart of the man who loved and lost Cillande, the woman for whom this city is named.

Briefing in the Beard and Tail

“Quiet! I said quiet you lot!!” Darkness take you Billius! I told you no transfigurations in any part of the tower.  And you Halfling, stop sticking your dagger in the mortar!” Commander Gralf Luger swept past the few stragglers arriving late to the tower, his hurried gait slowing only for a moment.

“He’s branded, m’Lord!”

“I TOLD YOU, I DON’T CARE IF HE’S BRANDED TWICE.  Walk that damn  Outsider out of here! Mortar may not harm our Majesty, but it keeps us warmer when there aren’t holes between the bricks in the winter.  Now, sound the muster call.  I’ve got things to do today, and I don’t intend to spend all day with Borindin’s “Lights” trying to solve the mysteries of the Kasilians again.  I’m going to give the briefing as requested, and let this rabble out before the king’s silver ware starts vanishing….”

“Fellow Adventurers,” began Luger; he seemed to be well behaved tonight. There was virtually no notice of the usual annoyance he seemed to exude whenever he had to give the “Talk to the Lights”.  Whatever his mindset, the assembled mass looked composed of just about every walk of life imaginable.  Most appeared green. Some very green.   Swords and the typical adventuring supplies much too prominently displayed. Armor too well polished, too few dents and none from what a weapon would make.   Every so often however, a group or two appeared in the crowd, faces stern or subtle, just the slightest hint of readiness without the concern.  Those, you thought, those were the faces that had seen the Wilds, the creatures of the Before Times, and lived to tell their tales.

“For those of you who have been briefed before, Welcome Back. For those of you who have never been here, let me welcome you to the Tower Keep, or as we Branded like to call it, the Beard and the Tail.  In this chamber did our Lord, King of Cellinor slay the wicked wyrm Gulgol, secure the lands that have now been named for his beloved.

A hush fell as it always did. Luger continued.

“I have much to tell you, and you have much that you wish to do, and earn, of course.  Let me start by answering what is sure to be your first question.  What you have heard from the Town Crier is true.  The Lighted rate for magical wares, paper wares, and the Before Times Wares has increased.  In particular, we seek map wares. A premium will be paid for any such material proven to be of genuine truth.”

Luger paused while nods were exchanged and a few murmurs arose. An elf made a motion of rubbing two coins together to his comrades.  They smiled.

“A second reminder to you all that the Lands throughout Cellinor are subject to the laws of our Lord, and his Loyal Subject, the Keeper of the Flame, Bishop Belloran, host of the Inquisition.  Any activities of a nature involving murder, thievery or acts that are deemed detrimental to the Realm will be reviewed by the Inquisition and punished accordingly. Any magics used in concert with forces deemed of a Dark nature will be punished accordingly.  Any tie to races, or beings of a sinister nature will be met with a swift and public execution until you are dead and your soul obliviated.  Outside the Realm’s borders, in the Wilds, our Laws do not often see the Light of Day.  Those that venture into Darkness are often at the mercy of the Demons that dwell within it.  Do not expect assistance from his majesty’s forces should you find yourself in trouble there. For those of you willing to take on such adventure, this is nothing new.”

“But enough of that.  Let’s let the puppies trickle out with their tails between their legs and begin what you all came here for, eh lads?”

Laughter erupts but quickly settles down.  No one actually left though….that was a first.

“We have placed the locations of ruins we wish explored on the maps and scrolls given to you at the check-in.  New to this list are several areas in the Northern Gate region of the tropical lands.  Be advised that rumors of refugee races coming south from over the Dry Mountains may be true.  These refugees are hostile to our lands, and should not be engaged in the Wild.  If you learn of a group larger than 500 and seek out Outpost forces for Parlay, you will be compensated should treaties be signed.”

“Wyrm activity is always being told in tavern and bar. I’ve heard the stories myself and they sure do make for a great story.  We do not have any new reports of any dragons or their like, however, many beasts have been engaged in the Wilds within the past cycle.  We are, as always, interested in live beasts that can be domesticated or used for defense of the realm. A premium will be paid for winged beasts which may be used for mounting (obviously the crowd thought this rather funny, Luger simply waits for the snickering to stop).  If you encounter a creature which is unknown to our librarians, have your mage create a vivid illusion of it and bring a sample of it’s blood. If genuine, and viable to our wizards, you may be compensated.”

“The Southern Lands are currently involved in a mass conflict with beasts, giants and races of Night that dwell past the Orstfelders.  The King’s Spear has begun an offensive there and our information received thus far tells us the campaign goes well. New lands for our Realm, and revenge for the giant raids of last Spring.  Our treaty with the “Lords of the Winterlands” prohibits you from involving yourself unless you carry the King’s Banner.  Unless you wish to find your skin upon their floor, do not venture past our Southern Outposts. If you wish to aid this campaign, see your nearest recruiter.”

Maps and other essential items are made available to you at prices I am sure you will find satisfactory.  All of these will be reimbursed should you return with genuine completion of any of the tasks given to you by your recruiter.  If word of your assignment is given to any other party, it will be assumed that you are in league with those wishing to subvert our peace and prosperity. A warrant for you to be judged will be arranged and an Inquisition ordered upon your capture.

“Several missions are available for those of you who have proven your worth elsewhere. Be warned these are highly dangerous yet highly rewarded.  If you believe you have what it takes, please see one of my captains directly after the briefing.”

A Season of Change

Report of the Librarian, to his Royal Majesty, Haidius Borindin

My Lord,

          As per your request, our census machinations have been working to gather information about the land and sea.  The summary of this information is magically encoded in this scroll and available to you in it’s condensed form.  My staff remains ready for our next task regarding research of your prioritization. Until then, we will be hard at work amongst other interests to the Realm.

Begin report:

What first began as the rumor of farmers in the Southern Valley that the Sun is rising and falling farther and farther in the Eastern sky, appears to be  accurate.  Our astronomers are calculating that in just the last 4 years, a 2% gain towards the East is the appropriate alignment change. At night our visible constellations also show this 2% gain.  We have no explanation at this time for the change, but our wizards believe that by the year’s end, another 1% gain can be estimated.  This is alarming to the Southern Valley farmers as the winter sun is only several degrees more.  If the gain continues, in less than a generation, the Southern Valley will no longer be a viable place to grow warmer crops. 

As you know, Belloran continues to preach that the Ketians are but a myth and are not subverting the ways and means of our realm.  Alas, we continue to find evidence that the Dark races we encounter are better organized than they should be.  The engagement outside of Carr Theris recently has revealed a greater web of deceit.  The outlaw, Red Owl, was not found, and “The Sisters” appears in literature and periphernalia we have obtained from those slain.  Furthermore, it appears as though the groups responsible for invading our villages have purpose. They are obviously given information they themselves could not have known, and work in a unit that cannot be traced back to those responsible. I know your majesty does not believe in certain tales of old, but we continue to hear from the villains own mouths during Inquisition, that they seek certain individuals, targeted for murder.  The latest intrusion seems to have slaughtered an entire village to the North of Corners Keep, in order to commit a single 5 year old child to a certain death in flames. I urge you to take these reports seriously. Your majesty must stay protected at all times.

A Call to the Contest!

“Here Ye! Here Ye!” called the Crier.

“His Royal Majesty and our great Realm’s Lordly Nobility proudly proclaim that the festivities and preparations for the 18th Challenge of Champions….

have begun!!”

“Ok settle down, settle down, (the crier chuckles a bit as he steps higher onto your villages central podium), “the registration of Champions for this Challenge will be held on Summer Solstice Eve. All parties of 4-5 are invited to register. The usual fee of 1000 crowns will be used by the Challenge’s Master of Festivities for sights and wonders as you have never seen! Just imagine, winged demons from the Frozen Lands, spectacular magics, and I bring you news that will be sure to spread throughout your homes before the sun has risen.”

“Oh Blast you Crier! You say that every year!” Chortles a man near the front of those surrounding the podium.

“Not like this year, Henrikson! This year, I bring you something truly new.  For this year, your lord, His Majesty, Borindin himself, will enter the Challenge!”

What? Could it be? The crowd was stunned!

“You heard true my fellow Celns!  Lord Borindin will enter the Challenge himself, and what’s more, he intends to select his team AFTER registration!”

The crier continued on, telling of the many festival highlights, the parades and theatre events that the Nobility held generously for it’s citizens free of charge.  Of the many parties that had entered in previous contests, the many contestants well known and idolized that might be returning to the registration booth.  Assuring the villagers that what they had heard about Borindin was true, and how he had already begun training in order to help inspire his people in this time of limited peace.

Incredible you thought.  Just incredible.  The opportunity of a lifetime. Of many lifetimes perhaps.  The chance for even the most common of common men. Anyone in the realm to Prove themselves that they were cut from a different cloth.  For 1000 crowns, they could have a chance to become heroes. Known to every man, woman, child and race within the Flame’s embrace. 

This year’s Challenge would be the greatest ever held. 

 

  1. Heart of Darkness

 

Materials for New Players to this Thread

Background for Players

The Heart of Darkness path begins with the awakening of the party in dire circumstances. The party has been left for dead, and must seek a way to escape the hell in which they’ve found themselves. Players, must choose their tactics, gear and basic character elements during the initial Scene before character creation.  This singular act will then come to define the character they build within game. 

Once character creation is established, the party may choose a campaign category to establish a possible back story. This back story will then be woven into the events in the first adventure.

Nightmares and Memories

A narrative describing the nightmare scenes each party member has.  The entire party in this thread begins with amnesia and must figure out who they are, before those chasing them do. A description of these “nightmares” will be read to the party during the initial encounter.

A Cruel Awakening, Introductory Narrative

 

“Crunch….”

“Crunch…”

An ache.  A deep ache. Pain. Heat where it shouldn’t be.  Stiff. Why aren’t you moving?

 In your neck.

In your back. In your legs, Your arm turned strangely. Something feels swollen.

“Crunch….squish….drip…drip….”

What is that noise?  Is it dark or are your eyes still closed? Bringing the hand that doesn’t feel swollen to your face, you realize that indeed your eyes are open. It must be pitch black here.

But where the Light is here? And why does so much of you hurt? It feels like hundreds of tiny needles are poking at your skin from underneath, your head feels lower than the rest of your body, and your limbs feel twisted.  Numb. Moving them will take some doing.

“Crunch…”

That sound? It’s all around you. A crunching noise, but mixed with something else.  Something wet, something moist. 

Your other senses begin to interpret the surroundings, perhaps making up for the lack of light.  A smell, coppery, warm, dripping into your mouth. Blood.  Yes, the taste of blood.  You are injured then. But how badly. Your skin is beginning to tingle. The familiar sense of pins and needles are pricking all over you as you wiggle and squirm among the branches, the twisty and sharp branches poking into you from below. Branches?

“Where the Dark am I?”….a voice…from near you.  Someone else is here!  You try to speak, but the words are stuck in your throat.

At the sound of the voice, you hear movement, several directions from all around you creak and crack, and crunch.  And there’s another sound this time.  A soft rasping noise, like that of a hungry animal. 

“What! What is this? Where? What is …” but the voice is cut off this time and in it’s place is a blood curdling scream.  Something, some things have found the voice. Moving among the branches, you hear them pass you, and a sickening stench goes with them.  A smell of death. Nausea washes over you….

“Crunch… squish…drip….drip…..”…

By the light, you breathe. What hell have I awakened to?  As you struggle to control your fear and gain an understanding of what has happened, where you are, you feel around with the hand that is uninjured….the branches are oddly shaped, oddly formed…s long shaft, with a ball shaped ending.  This is no branch.

And instantly you  realize…they’re bones!! You are lying in a jumble of large bones, skulls and femurs clearly outlined by their shape.  And you aren’t alone. 

Whatever is in the dark will be coming for you soon.  And then you’ll be like the others in this place, unless….

Unless, you can somehow find a way to figure out where you are, why you are here, and how the Hells to escape!!

Welcome to the Heart of Darkness!

 

Writings from the Journal of Alorus Demartias, The Dragon…

“My power grows considerably with each passing day.  Changes that may be unnoticeable to the mere mortal being do not escape my attention.  I feel the rumblings and stirrings of the earth, I smell the lingering darkness in the morning.  The Darkening is approaching…”

 “Blood may be a carrier of the Flame but it is clear after much experimentation that it is not working to awaken the denizens of the End All War.  Although, through proper channeling and other systems I have been able to both change one form into another, and give spark to a living construct.  Blood, for now, seems to be the conduit for change on a different scope, but does not awaken the Flame.”

“The channeling of Benign Energy is still not available to me!!! I search continuously for a source of power Malignant in it’s stored form from the Battle Site to no avail.  For what good is the Fuel of Positive Essence all around me, if I can not use it to my advantage.  If I cannot access this power, than who can???”

“The Children are growing wearisome to me.  Their worship feeds me and grants me my immortality, but their servitude is not having the results I have intended.  Although I have only found several of the Flame Spheres the Ancients created, I know many more should be found within the battle-site.  But, how were they used? And HOW CAN IT AID ME in the DARKENING TO TAKE POWER from the HOPELESS???”

 

 

INTRO TO THE TOMB OF THE SEVEN LORDS…

Secret Dispatch:
To: His Grace, Cardinal Impatus
From: Priory of the Flame, Order of Iron, Lessina

My Lord,

As you know, the city of Lessina lies deep in the heart of
the former Trebian empire. As such, Lessina must and need
keep the cultural elements of the former empire in mind
throughout all dealings of the populace so as to keep the
peace during this time of righteous conversion to the
Flame’s gallant embrace of new souls. We also humbly await
our new Keeper and during this time, as Priory of the Iron
Order, it has fallen to me to humbly fulfill the safekeeping
of our grounds.

Therefore, it is with haste and utmost importance that I
send you this dispatch in regards to recent events here
within our city walls and ask for your lighted guidance so
that peace and tranquility will remain within our fine
northern city of Lessina.

A fortnight ago, during construction of a new Chapel of
Light, our workers uncovered a monumental structure buried
deep under the city.  It was, only by accident that this
structure was found as the area had already been built upon,
but our current Keeper of the Flame, his Grace Mordokos, may
the Light guide his Soul, deciding to expand the current
temple grounds sent workers to a new spot and thus a statue
of incredible size was unearthed.  The statue, bearing the
foul symbols of the Three, and those of the Four that the
Trebians once prayed to, were carved in hideous animal
motifs representing their savage and misguided faith,
possibly from the years before the Celn invasion and conquer
of this city.  It is well noted that the Trebians attempted
to hide vast amounts of scroll and objects from our
Simplification.  My Lords of the Silver Flame here often
tell of the building of our temple mount upon their very
spiritual center.  Regardless, when our

workers were asked to break down this statue and clear the
area, however, a chamber was unearthed bearing even more
foul elements.

Although the great simplification has cleared the foul
practices of the Trebians from our realm, we worried
mightily that this new unearthing might bring the unholy
from their hiding places and lead to societal imbalance once
more.  We were correct in assuming this.  For only several
days after this unearthing, one of our Iron Order spotted a
group of Trebians attempting to infiltrate the chamber for
some unknown yet surely vile purpose.

Although the Iron Order slew most of the trespassers, one
was kept and Inquisitioned and what was learned was enough
for me to warrant this dispatch to your grace. As you now
know, our Keeper, has recently taken ill most dreadful and
is currently incapacitated.  May the Light guide his soul
back to us or to the Flame’s embrace.  I am but his
simple assistant, and while a new keeper is selected among
the Order, I seek your most gracious guidance on what to
do.

During his inquisition, according to this foul
god-worshipper we caught and returned to the Light, the
“darkening” that the Trebians continue to believe in is
nigh, and the moons alignment has marked a time when the
chamber we unearthed, which he referred to as The Tomb of
the Seven Lords, no doubt in reference to their seven so
called gods, will open.   Should this come to pass,
according to the Trebian criminal we have in custody, the
tomb will open and issue forth demons kept in stasis for
some time.  Of course, we burned the ignorance from him,
and we all were saddened by the strength of his resolve to
this false tale. However, it was the fervor of his belief
that warranted our concern that others may attempt similar
feats of revolutionary and unlawful incursions.
Although those in the Light fear not these foul lies, we
want to secure this area so that there are no more problems
in our peaceful temple grounds, nor is there any unrighteous
martyrs climbing our walls searching for their delusional
false gods.

We therefore, humbly beg of your lordships’ guidance in
how to proceed so as to protect and secure Lessina’s
spiritual welfare.

In the Light
Priory  Leonatis of the Order of Iron, Lessina

 

Priory Leonatis
Under Punishment of Inquisition, Secret

 

Priory,

You have done well in order to secure information and the
site.  No doubt, this misguided affair will blow over in
time, however, cleansing the site will do much to illustrate
the might of our Flame and bring followers to it’s mighty
glow.

Although these false god-worshippers are often involved in
exasperated claims of the supernatural demons and beings
from the years before the Realm expanded to their region, we
have found several of these “tombs” to contain Trebian
guards and traps which could pose a problem or guide the
ignorant away from our righteous Flame.

Therefore, as our new Keeper is en route to you, appointed
by our Lord, I have sent 4 pairs of my finest guardians, 8
of the Iron Order which will handle the investigation of the
Trebian monument you unearthed as well as the chamber
beyond.

You may report to them all that you learn from henceforth
and assist them as they need in preparation to research and
investigate the so called tomb.

In the Light,

Impatus


An ALIND One Shot, Narrative Interlude

Wield the Right of Way

“My queen, he has come.”

“Send him to me,” replied the queen.

No sooner had the servant delivered the message, than a man dressed in glistening mail, holding a broadsword and accompanied by a contingent of look-alike soldiers, strode into the room. With purpose, the man, who removed his helm and whipped his long brown hair back from his face, fell to one knee, and took the queen’s hand.

“My queen, She has come.” To emphasize the announcement, the chamber shook with such force that mortar cracked in between some of the stones. The bowing man looked up and around at the others, whose expressions like his, looked both shocked and grave.  Most had drawn their swords, and here inside the queen’s dressing room, it seemed almost ridiculous.  It reminded Gidean of a play once the palace fool put on about a garment that caused a big war in the land.  A comedy that was. But this was no theatre.

“You must come with me, now, for your protection!” Gidean pulled the queen’s hand, who grudgingly followed him towards the chamber door. Gidean knew that this part of his mission would be the most important. The queen was like her husband.  Hot headed and strong willed.  She didn’t like to lose, and worse yet, was not keen on being told what to do.  And one must be careful, because the queen never forgot an injustice.  Ever.

She looked around as if she was forgetting something important. Even in this imminent danger, she was regal, Gidean thought.

“My husband, where is Lord…” The queen’s defiance was now tinged with worry.  All in court knew that unlike her father, the princess’ marriage was not one of politics.  Put simply, she had met her prince, and she had fallen in love.  Their wedding had been a blessing to the kingdom.  Unlike other royal unions, it was real and because of that, inspired it’s populace. That is, until the dragon came.

“The King is defending the Keep, he is…engaged. The beast has not come alone this time, m’Lady.

“Not alone?  But who has come with her?”

“My lady. It appears as if the dragon has amassed an…army.”

“An ARMY?? An army of what? From where? Gidean, what is this mad…” stammered the queen who stopped as if the shock of this statement was more than she could believe. But just at that moment, another tremor erupted around them as they were now moving through one of the palace passageways.  The bricks of carved designs all around them shook, the marblework cracked, and one section of the hall crumbled in a haze of dust. Great crevices snaked their way along the walls and floor.  The blast startled them all, and knocked one soldier to the ground.  Large stones piled on top of him, crushing the screams from his mouth.  His body lay still, arms and legs snapped in bent positions by the debris.

“NOW M’LADY!” Gidean’s face had become urgent and wide eyed.  More quakes around them blasted here or there and the soldiers, instinctively, moved into tighter formation. They were willing to give their lives for the queen, but each was driven by their mission. “MOVE! You men! The queen, move the queen to safety!”

Now in a full run, the soldiers, swords drawn held their shields in a way to protect their precious queen. They raced through the castle passageways, deeper and deeper in the keep, as dust and dirt from the giving stones above them fell in streams.  Gidean knew they were getting close. If they could make it to the treasure chamber, they had a chance.  They had planned for just such an attack as this, in fact, they had prepared for just this moment, and he knew that the dragon could not hold the keep indefinitely.

Onward he pulled his queen, onward the men followed. Gidean tried to remember the plan that he had reviewed so many times with the king.  Remember Gidean, to the chamber.  Make it there, and she will remain safe.  Until our troops from Tso Canth arrive.  Hasai will not be able to hold the keep, you will wait with her.  I will give you the time you need, and once I know she is there, will come with reinforcements. Do not fail me.

I will not, Sire.

The screams and yells were now audible. The fight was coming closer. They needed only to move to the next stairwell, descend and unlock the chamber.  “We’ll make it,” thought Gidean, and just then, from a side passage he saw a shadow of something that shouldn’t be.

“Halt,” he whispered harshly staying the others with his hand.  But it was too late, they were in full view of whatever was in the passageway’s shadow.  From the darkness beyond the light of the last torch, two sets of gleaming blue eyes appeared.  For a brief moment, they hovered in the air, and then grew larger as the forms they belonged to came into view of the flickering flames. Out of a nightmare, walked two impossible monsters.  Large reptilian faces, as if they were men and dragon mixed.  On their backs were folded wings like those of a bat, and each held a wicked sword.  In a guttural language, one spoke to the other.  And as the one advanced, the other fell back into the darkness.

“Defend the queen!” Gidean’s honor was unmatched among the guard and was none the different this eve. He flung himself into the beast, but it’s muscular arm simply swiped him aside.  One clawed hand grabbed the soldier’s throat and held him against the wall. It then slid him sideways near a lit torch in it’s sconce.  His ear’s flesh and his long curls began to sizzle and burn while he yelled. All the while the creature’s wicked sword slashed at the other soldiers who engaged it.

“Give me the keyssssss,” hissed the beast in a mockery of Common.  It’s snout full of sharp teeth was pressed against Gidean’s face, who could smell it’s coppery breath mixed with the smell of his flesh and hair, burning.

“Nevvvvver,” croaked Gidean. His face was enveloping in a fiery blaze and his eyes were bulging.

“My misssstreesssss will take the girl. Ssssheee comessssss…..”

With Gidean’s dying breath he yelled for the others to move the queen on.  He reached to draw a dagger from his boot, which was, like the rest of him, suspended above the ground.  But as his hand grazed the handle, the creature, watching the others move onto the stairwell, turned back in his direction.  It’s blue eyes gazed right at him, and Gidean saw that they were indeed the eyes of a reptile, of a snake. They were dragon’s eyes.  The eyes of the beast.  As the creature plunged his sword right through the noble soldier’s heart, Gidean knew only that he had failed his king. His eyes closed, and he knew no more. The creature came on towards them, while behind it Gidean’s body burned. The sword had been pushed so deep between the stones that he hung there, arms and legs limp, against the walls of the keep.

“MOVE!!!!” Shouted Gidean’s captain, and his men crab walked down the passage as fast as they could.

The others in the company wasted no time with the enemy coming on and they reached the stairwell quickly, stumbling upon the stones as swiftly as their feet would take them.  The soldiers in the rear spread out their shields, but it roared and slashed. They tried desperately to keep it at bay by slashing it with their swords.  The creature simply used it’s claws to swipe away the weapons and chased on. The yelling grew louder from all the different passageways above and they could now hear the distinctive sounds of battle. Men were dying.  But was the enemy? “We’re nearly there!  Open the Treasure Chamber!” screamed Gidean’s captain to one of his men. Producing a key, the man raced on in command. “Hurry, my queen, hurry!”

The Captain, like Gidean moments before, took the queen’s hand and ran on, while several other soldiers fell back. They would be the last defense. Or so he thought.

Their swords swung into action, as their comrades fell to the creature’s claws.  Luckily, one of them struck a mighty blow, and the beast fell.

Ahead, in the hallway, the captain knew his soldiers wouldn’t last long, but almost immediately a sound that was like sizzling meat tore through the halls and echoed in the chamber.

 “What the…?”

Rounding the final steps of the treasury stairwell, the Captain saw his guard in the torchlight, fumbling with the key.  He knew that the guard would be speaking the incantation that would peel the door away. Giving them only a few moments of time, it would seal itself off until another spoke them again. It was going to be close, but they would make it.  With the remaining guards, they could buy her the time she needed.  He had but a few paces left, and in the blink of an eye, he knew he would never make them.

It was the guard who was working the treasury’s door who first looked up, past him.  Back in the direction they’d come.  From behind, and above in the stairwell, where torchlight should be, was now darkness. But that was not all.  A dark, slick, and blue form like a wave of water rushed down towards them.  The form was fronted by a colossal mouth, with shimmering teeth and two eyes, like the smaller he had seen before, but vastly larger in size.  The dark blue scales rippling along it’s body scratched the stones of the chamber.  Through the darkness fell two gigantic legs, with claws that ripped the stones they fell upon.  The torchlight illuminated the full form of the beast they had trained for these many years. The beast that had terrorized them.  But nothing could have prepared them for this.

“Rear guarrrr……,” began the captain, but his words were never finished, for at that moment the air sizzled.  There was a metallic smell as when one enters a blacksmith’s shop, and something seemed to push him closer to the gaping maw that was outstretched not feet before him.  Raising his sword, the captain could perfectly see the dagger like teeth, the tongue whipping and in the very center, towards the back of it’s throat grew tendrils of sizzling energy. Like, tiny bolts of lightning they convulsed and centered and with a gush, they struck outward at him and several of his other guard, bolts of lightning stopping his heart, charring his flesh.  The captain died with his mouth open and an immense hole which burned outward right through the center of where his chest used to be. As the queen watched terrified, the burning fanned out to the rest of his body. In sickening speed, it blackened and flaked off of him like ashes from a fire. Behind were left  the white bones of what was only moments before the captain of the guard. The body of the captain fell over, and behind him, stood the queen in her dressing gown. Hair disheveled. Fear and defiance ablaze in her eyes. The queen looked upon the beast. The dragon moved the rest of it’s legs, wings and tail down from the stairwell, but kept it’s snout pointed at her.    With one strike it could bite her in two.  Never taking it’s plate sized eyes off the queen, it spoke not to her, but to the guard at the door, the only guard it had not destroyed.

“Pleasssssssseeee soldier of the keep, you musssttt  finisssshhh the incantation for meeee.  I would hate to leavvvee empty handed.”

The guard did not answer.  But nor did he finish the words.

“Your queen for a treassssssurry, young one. Sssspeak the wordssss, or I will kill her anyway, and peel the ssssskin from your body for ssssssport.”

Without looking up, trembling from the dragon fear. The guard rose and slowly turned his body from the dragon’s mouth until he was facing the treasury door once more.  His hands shook so violently that he inserted the keys, but his knees gave way and after completing the phrase, he fell aside as if struck on the head.

 “After you, my dearest queen.”

The queen backed toward the chamber door.  Her breath was caught in her throat, she could smell the same metallic stench, and a rushing of wind began to pull her towards the dragon as before.

For the tiniest of moments there was an awkward silence, while above them men screamed and metal upon metal rang out. The queen knew if she could just squeeze inside the chamber, she would be safe once it closed.  For this is exactly what the chamber had been created for.  As her husband had planned, she would then wait for him and for Tso Canth’s guard to arrive.  She could do this.  She could live. She could see her love once more. Around her, the Captain and his soldier’s bodies lay in piles of charred corpses. Their bodies were nothing more than skeletonized bits of blackened flesh lying on the chamber floor. For her they had died, she must live, if only to honor them.

“HASAI! By the Light, what have you done to her!!!!”

The dragon turned it’s head, roping it’s neck backwards above it’s body and in between it’s wings. The queen looked past the dragons’ body too and up the steps, where a man in a golden suit of mail stood.  It was the king!

And he was badly injured. His sword was held behind him in an odd way.  His other arm, his shield arm, was missing.  Below the elbow there was nothing.  Blood was caked and matted all over his armor, and as he took the first step of the descent, she knew he wouldn’t make it.  Behind him even as he came, were more of the dragon men, and with what was obvious his dying moments, he walked step by step while they clawed at him, and hacked at him with vicious and sharp weapons. His ineffectual sword thrusts just slid off their scales.

Everything happened in an instant.  The king toppled then and slid down the final steps coming to rest at the base of the stairs.  He tried to lift his head, but got only as far as turning it in the direction of his treasury door sliding open.  He yelled the name of his wife.  It went on until it became a long drawn out whimper.  Perhaps he was trying to will her to the door, perhaps he was trying to keep her alive by keeping her name upon his lips as long as he could.  Perhaps, it was the agony of his failure.

The queen cried out, bending over with horrible agony and as quickly as she could, turned and made a run for the door just as it was closing itself. She screamed with rage and sorrow, as behind her the dragon roared.  Pulling herself in with a tug of the treasury wall, she landed atop a pile of the kings coins.

The dragon sprang and threw it’s might against the chamber door, realizing it had been tricked, and would not be able to open the door with her inside.

“We’ve beaten you, worm! Crawl back to where you’ve squirmed from!!!!! I’ve lived, and Tso Canth will come for you! My vengeance will be upon you!”

The beast roared, and the queen, all tears and sweat and torn garments, laughed at the sound.  She had just witnessed her beloved’s death, and for that, there was only her life as victory, but it was hers. And it was his too.

The door was coming to the end of it’s motion. The anguish of the defeated dragon dying beyond the magical enclosure. And just when it had all but evaporated, a lone talon stuck itself in the last of the door’s closing gap.

The queen stared at the talon, and the breath stuck in her voice, the laughter dying in her throat.  Something began to push her from behind.  She realized then that it was the air, sucking out of the chamber through the small, miniscule gap where the talon was. Looking down, she saw, as if by some magic, some of the coins rising in the air, between them danced little bolts of energy.

“My life is my revenge,” she thought, “and somehow, my love, we will have our vengeance.”

 

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