Aftermath

Setting the stage
A brief history of recent Harad

The game centers around what was, until very recently, called the Empire of Harad. Roughly 70 year prior to our game, following a bloody coup, a federation of powers aligned themselves under a single ruler, Moraon ha-Rapha. While the Empire emerged in response to a threat from a common enemy, the leadership of ha-Rapha held the empire together for nearly 55 years.

The Empire covers half of the continent, encompassing vast tracks of arid wastelands, fertile farming pasture, tracks of mountains, and endless stretches of moors. Politically, the Empire was divided up into duchies under the control of persons close to the Emperor, and under the direct rule of the Emperor’s general, called the Pen-Cath, a man named ben-Ammon. Each duchy had political control over its own territory, usually maintained through relationships with cultural/racial powers.

Still, the Empire was ultimately a complex blend of interests, beliefs, and purposes, and despite ha-Rapha’s attempts to achieve peaceful coexistence between the various factions, control began to slip. These rifts became even more apparent when, in the 35th year of ha-Rapha’s reign, a religious faction in a neighboring un-allied territory razed an Imperial outpost. The dissenters were put down and the region brought under martial law, but unrest continued. The majority of Imperial attention was directed toward the war-torn region, and the defenses of the Empire were stretched thin.

Political turmoil began to foment in the capital, as new factions rose to power, and began to openly challenge the legitimacy of ha-Rapha’s claim to the throne and even of the Empire as a whole. In the midst of this political unrest, a large force of goblinoids calling themselves the Jyhad began striking the eastern settlements, spurred on by religio-racial claims to land they believed to have been stolen from their ancestors. Already stretched thin, the Empire scrambled to defend itself against these new invaders.

Meanwhile, in the midst of this new threat, the aged Pen-Cath passed away, leaving behind a power vacuum. With no one to control the duchies, the Empire began spiraling out of control. At the sudden death of the Emperor shortly after this, violence erupted in the capitol. The mobs were ultimately put down by an alliance of families with ties to ha-Rapha (related to the brother he over-threw to seize the throne decades before). With their new creations, men made of metal and given life through arcane energies, the Creliam family took control of the throne in the capitol city of Dun Fitheach.

At the same time, far in the southeast, a new danger struck, hard and fast. Announcing themselves as the Kingdom of Shadow, this massive horde of undead swept through the southeastern Empire, sweeping up everything in their wake. Their advance was halted by unexpected resistance at the Cuthbertite citadel at Wain’s Cotting, by the Imperial forces garrisoned in the capital of the Occupied Territories, Kittering, and by the combined forces of the elven Queen Anishara and the Imperial forces under the newly-appointed Pen-Cath Gage-Antreis ben-Rapha.

The defenses at Kittering held for nearly 3 months, but the vast and seemingly inexhaustible numbers of the Kingdom of Shadows held all relief at bay. And then the Taint erupted. It is still unknown what caused the walls of raw eldritch necrosis to spill out over the continent, but in the 5th month (the 3rd month of the siege at Kittering) in the 55th year of the reign of Emperor Moraon ha-Rapha, the fires spilled out over the world. Were it not for the mysterious arrival of the gift-bearers and the awakening of the Trees in Azd Gardt, Aneeli’el, Bayth Rapha, Wain’s Cotting, and Kittering, the Taint would have washed over the whole world. But as the Trees took root, they awakened the Lux Aeternum, and the Light held the darkness at bay.

But that was the end of the resistance. With battle-lines drawn and resources exhausted, the combatants withdrew leaving behind them an uneasy peace. MAP Kittering became a vassal of the Kingdom of Shadows, and the southeastern Empire, the regions now known as the Taint, were divided up amongst the royal family of the Kingdom of Shadows. Having been forced from their father’s holdings, those loyal to the fallen Emperor ben-Rapha withdrew to the lands surrounding Bayth Rapha, while an alliance formed between the dukes of Caer Arcadius and Caer Graevanus, still loyal to the Raphan family-line. The eastern empire lies firmly in the hold of the Iron Fist goblinoids. The elven and dwarven territories have returned to their former leadership. And the former capitol of Dun Fitheach along with the vast Harad Wastes lies firmly in the control of those families allied to House Creliam supported by their warforged minions.

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The Story We Find Ourselves In
Welcome to...

Our game begins in a small village on the border between the Raphan Empire and the Taint. The party is a collection of adventurers who have responded to a call for soldiers to serve the Baroness Deora. Since the division of the Taint by the Dread-Lord of the Kingdom of Shadow, the Family have been nothing if not contentious. Constantly trying to maneuver their way closer to the Throne, they engage in all manner of subterfuge and even open conflict with each other. The Baroness is currently in the midst of a land dispute with the neighboring province controlled by Faltak the Lame. She is hiring up hedge-knights and sell-swords, and your group has decided to take her up on the offer – the pay is good, the loot is better, and it offers up the chance to gain power, prestige, and knowledge.

In the Kingdom of Shadows, all beings are ultimately under the authority of the Tenebrous Throne and the Throne’s regents. However, aside from the dangers of living in the Taint, life generally went on as it has always done after the Dread-Lord took control. Crops are planted, businesses are conducted, worship is held, and festivals observed. The only true “citizens” of the Kingdom are those that have been elevated to citizenship, or “migrated”, but these are rare, and most towns and provinces are left to govern themselves, as long as they abide by the 5 central tenets of the Kingdom: 1) The practice of “turning” and the channeling of the Lux Aeternum are forbidden, as are the consecration of arms and of water. 2) The established annual hostages are delivered to the Regent. 3) That all arms are to be bound while in the townships of the Regent, and surrendered upon request of any Regents’ officers, nor may any arms be fitted with any form of Truedeath magic. 4) That the Trees are to be left untouched, neither watered nor molested, nor may any portion be carried or transported for any reason. 5) Obeisance must the offered at the arrival of the Dread-Lord. All who do not bow to the God-King of Night will pay the ultimate penalty.

Religion tends to be varied. While the Haradi worship of Yesuch’i, their monotheistic deity, is still the majority, there are temples and shrines to numerous faiths through the Kingdom, including St. Cuthbert, Corellon Larethian, and Pelor, as well as many more esoteric faiths, such as the worship of Boccob and Wee Jas and the increasingly prevalent Cult of the Morninglord.

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Aftermath Log 1

The party came to Oirin looking for a job. The heralds of Lady Deora claimed good pay for good fighters, and so the motley crew gathered in The Smoldering Ruins Inn. After a few good-natured games and far too many drinks, the characters finally met Sgt. Mahsal, recruiter for the Lady’s army. Having signed up to fight, the group settled back to wait for their orders to move.

They assembled the next afternoon in the town-square. The group now consisted of the migrated Sgt. Mahsal, his corporal (a half-drow named Charis), a rat-faced man named Cyric, and the burly simpleton Joss. The party then assembled and headed out toward the Lady’s seat of Nightfall.

Along the way the party got to know one another. Kiera, the half-elf ranger, spent her time in solitude and drink. Nuana Kornis, a hobber (half-hobgoblin) rogue, laughed and joked, though seemed somewhat naive. Ipster, the human rogue-pistoleer, played his cards close to the vest, as did the migrated swordsage, Mot. The enigmatic and stoic Anast, seemed more interested in swordplay than discussion, in distinction to the wordy antics of the human ranger Sullivan Keth. Yet despite their strange composition, friendships began to form around the campfires, as tales and ales ran their course.

When they had nearly reached their destination, they were shocked when a massive pit opened up in front of the wagon-team and the silence of the Taint erupted in a hail of musketfire. The team dived for cover as they were attacked by gunmen from all sides. Nuana Kornis drew her twin short-swords and charged up the hill toward the attackers to the right, while her companions tried to return fire from their covered positions. Soon the attackers began moving into melee position and the group moved to engage.

The attackers were well armed, but not well-trained, and apart from their gnoll captain, the ambush was quickly dispatched, leaving eight attackers dead, Mot badly wounded, and both Cyric and Joss dead in the road. After dealing with the corpses and retrieving their equipment, the group headed down the road again, bringing with it word of yet another attack and incursions by the forces of Faltak the Lame.

Within 24 hours, the group finally sighted the silhouette of Nightfall on the horizon…

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Aftermath Log 2

The party arrived in Nightfall, and began the task of acclimating to the new surroundings. This began, strangely, with an adjustment to the flow of life deep within the Realm. The party was surprised to learn that, though they had traveled a full day to reach the Lady’s holdings and were arriving well after sunset, the town of Nightfall was only just beginning to wake up. So as the party tried to find a place to bed down for the night, those around them were looking for breakfast and beginning their day’s work.

In an effort to force themselves into this new pace of life, some of the party tried to stave off sleep as long as possible. Anast set out looking for the grimy underbelly of the town, while others tried to stock up on supplies and provisions and pick up on the local gossip, and Kiera discover that even illicit goods were not able to escape the Taint.

The next evening, as the party began waking up they were given a task by Sgt. Mahsal. On the outskirts of the town was on old rundown house with a shady history. The property had been left alone, but after the disappearance of a notable merchant’s 6 year-old daughter, the Deorans were forced to take notice. The party was dispatched to the house to search for any sign of the little girl.

The house was in an extreme state of disrepair. After being abandoned by its previous own ten years earlier, the home had begun to fall apart. The ceiling had collapsed, taking part of the attic with it. As the party examined the grounds Anast was surprised when several large rats swarmed up out of a well. After dealing with the rats, the party headed into the dilapidated home.

While exploring the party found a thick layer of noxious mold and debris growing, owing to rotted food-stuffs and local wildlife that became trapped. They also found the area being guarded by several zombies intent on keeping the party out of the area. After dealing with the zombies, the party found several old and corroded bottles of wine near what appeared to be a rotted and collapsed trap door. Mot dropped through the door into a watery room below, but was unable to find any other way out of the room. However, when Kiera dropped into the waist-deep water, the party was surprised to find a large humanoid mass of bones, seething in the rank putrid water waiting for her.

After struggling to gain sure-footing in the soggy chamber, the party finally dispatched the bony beast and found a sealed door hidden in the stone walls. Upon opening the door and following a long passage-way the group found a ladder leading up into another dark room. Ipster volunteered to take a look in the room above and was shocked when he came face-to-face with a horrific undead visage. He reacted quickly, leveling his blunderbuss at the creature and firing a massive blast into the monster’s chest, then sliding down the ladder. Unfortunately the monster followed, and an overwhelming noxious stench filled the narrow passageway.

Ipster moved away from the ladder, while Anast moved forward to engage the creature. The ghast and the sword-sage traded blows before the monster fell to the party’s assaults. Moving into the room, the group discovered a treasure chamber, containing an eclectic collection of artifacts dating back before the Taint. This included a goblin’s club which had managed to retain its enhancement, several healing potions, gold pieces and three silver ingots and a jade and alabaster box, inlaid with white gold and mother of pearl, sealed with wax. They collected their items and were overwhelmed with all manner of question about the strange house. Why were these items left so carefully in this hidden chamber? Why were the zombies simply waiting for them to descend the basement steps before attacking? How had the ghast survived locked in this airtight chamber, without any source of food, for so long? And where was this little girl they had been looking for?

The final question was answered when, as they exited, the party took a few moments to search through the remains of the boneswarm in the watery room, and found a simple silver necklace with a very short chain. But upon examining the rest of the house, the party only found rotted floors and sinkholes, but no other clues as to the nature of this place.

They returned with other helpers from Sgt. Mahsal to retrieve the zombies and the ghast, taking them up to the Lady’s bailey for examination. Here they met a woman named Gamef, who seemed to slide through her own shadow as she walked. Gamef explained that the zombies were, in fact, creatures called Thrall, much more akin to flesh golems than to the feeding-dead. They were created by necromancers for simple tasks (like guarding) which they would attempt to complete until they were destroyed. As the light fell more fully over the body of the ghast, the party saw arcane sigils carved into the creature’s flesh. These, Gamef explained, were the marks of a creature called a spellstitched, an undead monster with arcance spells woven into its flesh during creation, giving it the ability to use arcane/divine magics. The Thrall and the Spellstitched ghast were surely creations of the house’s former owner, left to guard his treasures/secrets.

The party was left standing in the courtyard of the Lady’s bailey as the evening approached midnight…

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Aftermath Log 3

The party recovered from their wounds, resting up for their next assignment. During their downtime Ipster took the opportunity to get better acquainted with the locals in the barracks and met an interesting fellow named Zabyn, who catches Ipster’s eye because of his peculiar uniform. The gear looks like the equipment a cavalry soldier might wear: breastplate, high strong greaves, flexible helmet, but is struck by the fact that his armor is made from studded leather rather than steel and embossed with the Lady’s sigil. Unfortunately all his querries are able to unearth is that the fellow is rarely seen in the barracks, but generally well thought-of.

Nuana Kornis decides to have a look at the religious institutions of Nightfall and discovers a small Yesuchian community led by a wild-eyed old man. She is initially confused and off-put when the man uses abusive language about her family before turning her out as a heretic. It is only later, while conversing with Kiernan Longacre that she discovers that this strange wandering holyman is likely a Faziki hermit and evangelist, with wild notions about the Yesuchian faith and a temper to match his eccentric beliefs. Nuana and Sullivan Keth try to sit through a religious service given by the Faziki, but found themselves unable to either get into his good-graces or achieve anything more than a headache.

Fortunately they are not left in the company of the hermit for long, as Sgt. Mahsal brings orders to move out. The group are being sent on a border patrol and given the instructions to head south until they reach the Corthyn Morass (which he insists they will know when they see it). Then they are to head east along the northern boundary of the Morass, through the low hills until they reach the town of Gale. Once in Gale they are to collect themselves and head back to Nightfall. The trip is assumed to take between 2 and 3 weeks. Mahsal adds, cheerlessly, that they won’t look for the party to return for 2 weeks, and after 3 weeks will stop looking for them to return at all.

After gearing up the party begins traveling south. As they leave the town they hear Charis calling after them, wishing them good luck, and then telling them to keep their eyes open for the Aerie/Airy (though none of the party could hear the word clearly, and the group debated over whether it referred to a Faltaki military unit or to some monster of the Taint). After several days of marching they arrived at a vast expanse of water, stretching southward over the horizon. Though the water appears waste-deep at the highest points, the party is put off by the sight. Curious, Sullivan Keth tosses a stone into the water, and the party notices with surprise that the stone hits the water and slurps down into it, rather than splashing, as though the water itself was thick. Sully confirms this by scooping up a handful of the water – it feels and looks just like water, but thicker somehow like a clear slime or sludge. Assuming this to be the Corthyn Morass, the party stays well out of the water and begins heading east.

The party traveled for several more days, wandering through low scrub and into an area of low hills. Believing themselves to be near their destination of Gale, they tried to pick up the pace. And as they topped a tall hill, looking into the distance for sign of a town, they instead found themselves standing face-to-face with a party wearing Faltaki crests! As the Faltaki moved toward them, the party darted for cover.

The two groups faced each other from opposing hilltops and opened fire. While the party tried to keep their opponents’ heads down, Kiernan Longacre and Nuana Kornis tried to flank the opposition. The party soon realized, though, that these were not just thugs, but trained soldiers and that several were armed with muskets. The parties traded shots over the ravine as the air began to fill with acrid smoke, when finally Anast and Mot began a forward push up the opposite hillside. While Sullivan Keth covered them from above, Ipster rolled the log he’d been hiding behind down the hill and then rushed to find cover behind it, noticing, as he ran, a dark speck drifting toward them from the southeast, high in the air. At this point, Nuana Kornis and Kiernan Longacre rush in to engage their opponents, while Anast and Mot take heavy fire from the hillside above them. Mot leapt over one of the enemy barricades, sword held high, only to be struck hard by two musket balls and thrown to the ground, to the dismay of Anast and Ipster. However, the party watched in awe as she gathered up strength, as though drawing it from the ground itself, and surged back into combat.

The battle lasted a few moment longer, and the party whittled away at the remaining forces, pinning the last two musketeers in a narrow defensive position, when suddenly the dark shape in the sky manifested as a wyvern, swooping in to snatch away one of the defenders just as the party drove the last gunner into the ground. After dropping his quarry from an immense height, the wyvern swooped back to the ground, and a migrated soldier wearing the same sigiled leather gear as Ipster’s friend Zabyn slid off of the dragon’s back and introduced himself as Oni. He explained that he, Zabyn, and a third soldier make up the Lady’s Aerii. As he patroled the southeaster border he saw the gunfire and came to assist, having seen the group in the area. Before leaving to continue compassing the area for his reports, he told the party of a group of mounted soldiers he saw in the south, who seemed to be heading in the direction of Gale. After looting the bodies, the party headed out to try to beat the mounted unit to the Lady’s township.

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Aftermath Log 4

As they gathered up the leftover equipment following their shoot-out, the party noticed that the group of soldiers marauding for Faltak had left behind two large satchels. Upon opening the bags the group found themselves up to the elbows in large bundles of dried purple-grey leaves. Unable to identify the local flora, the party divvied up the loot and began heading east, hoping to reach the town of Gale before the mounted Faltaki raiders.

The group travelled the rest of the afternoon,and bedded down for the night, hoping to rest their weary wounded bodies. However, the group’s sleep was troubled and restless. During the night, all six of them found themselves in a lonely dreamscape. They looked out across a dry lake-bed, and watched as the full moon crested the horizon, its beams rippling over the cracked surface of the lake bed like sun dancing on the sea. They looked out and saw a single figure walking toward them across the lake-bed. He wore thread-bare clothes and carried nothing but a walking stick. He was followed, strangely, by a black cat. He looked at them through wild eyes hedged by his matted beard and hair, and then began speaking:

Fear not, my children, build the watchfires high,

Light burns in the darkness, glowing embers of hope,

A voice from the deep calls to the deep.

The sleeper must awaken- the fires must burn-

WAKE UP!”

The group found themselves all awake and staring at each other over the smoldering embers of the dead campfire. Each, in turn, felt as though something deep within them had woken up, as though they now found themselves able to drawn upon some hidden abilities – more ready to face what lay in store for them. So they gathered their gear and headed quickly for Gale.

In the middle of the afternoon, they crested a hillock from which they could see across the flatlands ahead of them. Miles in the distance they could just make out the outline of what must be Gale. However, closer and between themselves and the town they perceived a groups of riders moving north toward the town from the Morass. The group resolved to try to wedge themselves between the riders and Gale, and moved at a run in that direction. When they had gotten close enough to try to draw the riders’ ire, the group arranged themselves for a fight and Sully nocked a shaft and loosed it into the midst of the cavalry – to its intended effect.

The riders turned and bore down on the party. Those who could began hurling arrows and bullets toward the attackers, but as the riders gained ever more ground, the party braced itself for a fight. The cavalry charged into the midst of the party, attacking with their lances, and then withdrew, drawing sabers as they moved away. The party reacted quickly, moving in to counter. Nuana Kornis slid in behind one of the riders, already bristling with bolts and arrows from attack during the charge, and sent him into the next world with a flick of her blades. Kiera did not fair so well – already wounded badly from a lance-strike, she fell under the assault of the cavalry’s leader, taking a vicious saber blow to the head. Anast and Ipster moved to her aid, Ipster firing his pistols, and Anast unleashing an attack that left the leader’s mount on-fire and the the leader himself thrown to the ground.

The party then moved in on the remaining combatants, driving them down, and in the case of Mot using their abilities to drive the attackers from their saddles and into the dust. Shortly, the party was gathering their spoils and making their way into Gale and the sun began to set behind them.

Gale appeared to be a small town, hardly more than a cluster of shacks around a main through-way. However, the sounds of argument reached the ears of the party as they headed their horses into town. On the front porch of the local bar, the party saw a man dressed all in black, smoking an expensive cigar, harassing a young woman. The party, incensed by the display, moved to the young woman’s aid. A feral and unpleasant horned man stepped out from behind the pair and told the party to mind their own business. Sullivan Keth drew an arrow and told the two men to move away from the woman. With a sneer, the man in black said, “Alright then, kid. Just remember, you’ve chosen which side of the street you’re standing on,” and then he and the horned fellow back into the bar.

The young woman introduces herself as Ilsa laCarn, and thanked the party for assisting her. The man in black was a local bully and knave by the name of Suriel. She then invited the party back to her father’s place, certain that he too would like to thank them for their help. The party then met Ilsa’s father, Ben laCarn, a person Sully remembered from a long-past meeting. Ben invited to group to join them for supper and safe place to bed down for the night, the least he could do, he said, to repay them for their kindness.

Over dinner, the party learned the Suriel works for the local ‘big man’, known only as G. G, it seems, thinks he runs the town and does in fact own stake in most of the local businesses. Suriel, and his croney Cor, are the muscle behind G’s operation, and the whole thing is, from Ben’s perspective, “a very bad business”. The local gossip seems to center around the recent disappearance of the Nasiph Valien, the mayoral appointee to Gale. No one’s sure where he went, but he was seen leaving town two nights ago and never returned, despite open appointments during the following days. Ben also mentioned word that a person named Childe ben Yaza is supposed to have been kidnapped from a place he calls either Shantytown or the shanty town, but Ben only mentions in passing, and is reluctant to talk about the “shanty town” any further.

After dinner and a few drinks and laughs, the party headed for the barn for a well-deserved night’s rest, safe and secure indoors and in soft hay.

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Aftermath Log 5

After waking the next morning, several of the party decided to head into town to see what was to be had, leaving behind Kiernan and Anast to continue recovering from the wounds they had taken the previous evening. However, on their way into town, the party noticed some debris several hundred yards from the road. Upon investigating, they discovered an abandoned wagon containing a single dead body. After investigating the scene, the group saw not only that the driver of the cart was dead, but that he had been shot in the back and appeared to have been crying black oily tears sometime near his death. Judging by the quality of his cart and clothing, and by the signet ring bearing the Lady’s crest, the group was led to believe that they bad discovered the body of the missing Nasiph Valien. The tracks around the wagon seemed to suggest that several riders had been near the wagon, one of whom was smoking a chagah. They also came to believe that the nasiph may have had a passenger with him at the time of his death, but the only clue to the identity of the missing passenger was a knotted necklace lying in the dust with a strange circular pendant hanging from its center.

The party headed into town, but not before placing the signet ring on Mot’s finger, as she was the only known citizen eligible to serve as interim Nasiph. After talking to a few people in town the group headed for the office of the Saral, or sheriff, a man named Xern. Portly and aging, the party found the ex-adventurer asleep at his desk. They informed him of the death of the Nasiph, but despite his assurances to put his very best effort into his investigation the party couldn’t help but think that they had just interrupted him at the height of his constabulary prowess. Mot informed him that his position would now be the constable of Gale, his duties were to guard the jail-cell, and the title of sheriff was temporarily placed conferred to Nuana Kornis. The only useful information the sheriff was able to lend was that the necklace they had found was a rosary and the medallion the symbol of “the god those crazies out in Shantytown cling to”. The party decided to continue their investigations there.

The party reached the Shantytown to find a collection of tents and lean-tos sheltering 20-30 families. The most obvious adornment, though, was the large tree in the midst of the camp. What was once a century old oak had apparently been snapped in half about 10 feet off the ground, the top long-since vanished, and scorched black. Carved into the face of this tree trunk the party recognized the same symbol they had found on the knotted necklace. After asking around, the party discover that these families were among the flock of the former Yesuchian priest of Gale, the man now known as the Childe ben Yaza. ben Yaza converted from the Yesuchian faith to the cult of the Morninglord some time ago. Because of the Morninglord’s tenets, the Childe and his flock were unable to give obeissance to the standard of the Umbral Throne. Deora, being one of the more merciful Primogen, took away all of the lands and holdings, and banished them all to the area now called the Shantytown. Apparently there are shantytown’s like this spread throughout the Kingdom, and they survive on what they are able to gather/grow and on goods donated to them by unnamed benefactors.

The townsfolks informed the party that the Childe had disappeared two nights past, which was only discovered the next morning when he did not show up for morning prayers. No trace of his disappearance could be found. The group was concerned because if any of the banished cultists are found away from the Shantytown the entire town will be put to the sword. Armed with this information, the party decided to head back to the laCarn place, stopping off first at the old Nasiph’s office to see if they could find any leads there. On their way, they noticed a mounted observer watching them, who turned and road hard to the north when the party tried to hail him.

In the office, after long investigation, the group turned up an old military report, faded by age and water damage. It referred to a disappearance nearly 10 years prior. The only legible portion of the document contained what appeared to be a quotation from the Childe ben Yaza: ”...elves arrived here, sick and bleeding. We did what we could for them, but they died, sharing their last secrets with me.” Tucked into a portfolio on the Nasiph’s desk they also found a map of the area around Gale. The map had a red line drawn between Gale and the Shantytown, and a single name at the top: Saeran Fynn.

Armed with even more puzzling evidence and a name that none of the party knew, the group headed back to the laCarn place, as night closed in around them. When they asked laCarn about the name, the pieces began to fall into place. During the battles between the Kingdom and the Raphan armies, Primogen Aog captured an artifact called the Isbari Glaive. The Glaive belonged to the famous swordsman Isbari Kane, a treasured artifact of the Imperial Throne representing the office of Pen-Cath, the Sword of the Emperor. Proud of his trophy, Aog processed the artifact throughout the Realms, as a testament to the power of the Umbral Throne against all earthly rulers. However, as the artifact made its way through Lady Deora’s holdings, a famous outlaw-thief named Saeran Fynn, stole the Glaive and disappeared into the morass. The Kingdom searched for Fynn and his band for months, but after a final skirmish, the group and the treasure disappeared into the marshes forever.

The then came to this realization. For whatever reason, Nasiph Valien became convinced that the Childe ben Yaza knew where to find the Glaive. But someone else must have realized this as well, and killed the Nasiph to get the information from the Childe. The artifact itself could not only fetch a high price, but would be a powerful bargaining chip for favors from any of the Primogen (perhaps even the Umbral Throne itself) as well as from the Raphans. And the only person anywhere nearby who the party could imagine would have that kind of ambition was the enigmatic Mr. G.

The party geared up for a fight (leaving behind Kiera who was still recovering from the vicious saber-wound she took defending the town two days earlier), and headed back to the abandoned wagon to try to pick up a trail. Sullivan Keth was able to find a trail in the dust, and the party following the horse-sign back to G’s encampment.

At the compound the party decided to split up and attack the structure from 3 directions. Anast attempted to create a diversion by setting fire to the bunkhouse, while Sullivan Keth covered the courtyard from the loft of the barn. The rest of the group moved toward G’s house, hoping to find the Childe in the basement. The bunkhouse fire did the trick, but after searching the entire mansion, the group was only able to find a ledger of G’s local business ventures. Not having heard anything from the other two areas the group decided to investigate the one remaining building, the mill.

Joined by Anast, the group moved into the mill, and immediately encountered resistance. Moving as quickly as they could the group eliminated the guards, but not before an alarm was sounded. The group barricaded the main entrance, while Sully tried to distract the main group of hire-hands by launching an incendiary onto the mansion’s roof. This new fire drew most of the hands to try and save their employer’s home, while the party used a side exit. The group met little resistance, and cleared the compounds wall (after Anast lit a large pile of grain and oil on fire within the mill). Sully joined the group later, leaving behind his own blazing gift in the hay of the barn.

The group headed quickly to get the Childe back to the Shantytown. On the way, ben Yaza told them that he had indeed met the only two surviving members of Fynn’s band, and that they had died in his care after revealing the final resting place of the Isbari Glaive. After some discussion, the group determined to recover the item from its hide in the Morass to the south.

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Aftermath Log 6

The party headed into the Morass. After traveling for nearly 2 days, and fending off a very unpleasant late-night visit from a pack of dire rats, the party arrived at a small knoll with a deep-set burrow jutting out of the morass. To their minds this must be the Wyrm’s Rest ben Yaza spoke of. They cautiously approached the nest only to be attacked by a large black dragon lying hidden beside the cave. The beast fought ferociously, but fell to the party’s attacks. Within the burrow the party found, wrapped in oiled skins, the object they had been looking for: The [Isbari Glaive].

The Glaive, being a tool of mystic warriors, was given to Anast to carry and party headed back out of the Morass. As they slept, slinging themselves to saplings in a stand of trees, Kiera awoke to find a serpentine creature coiled around her legs. She was so startled by the surprise that she cried out, sending the creature bolting off into the marshes, carried along on two legs, to the surprise of the party. Though Kiera called after it, the shock having worn off, the nocturnal visitor disappeared into the Morass.

Later that day the party arrived at the Shantytown. They told ben Yaza of their discovery, and were told that Suriel had been asking after them around town, telling the townsfolk that he had something the party wanted, something he would be willing to trade for “something I want”. The party decided to first visit the laCarn place to see what Ben’s thoughts were on the subject, but they arrived finding the house is disarray, both Ben and Ilsa missing, and several horse-tracks leading away from the house to the east. Suriel had taken the laCarn’s.

Not willing to see anything happen to those who had been so kind to them, the party headed for G’s compound, and found Suriel, Cor, and their hired thugs waiting for them. As the party approached through the main gates they saw that the thugs had crossbows and muskets trained on them, while Cor and Suriel reclined against the main house. Through the open doors they could see the laCarns bound and gagged in the great room of G’s mansion. As the party drew nearer, Suriel tossed away his chagah and began addressing the party. Despite Suriel’s assurances that he only wanted the information given to them by ben Yaza (even over and against the treacherous suggestions of Cor), the party dispensed with talk and prepared to attack.

The fight was quick and brutal. Suriel attacked with the force of the shadows themselves, and Cor used his horns and fiery breath, but to no avail. Cor fell to the party’s attacks, as did the thugs in the courtyard. His defenses fallen, Suriel cloaked himself in darkness and escaped on a waiting horse at the rear of the compound, killing one of his own escaping hired-guns in the process. The party rescued the laCarns and headed back to town. In town they threw a massive party, using the leftover wine recovered from G’s ranch. The party began to disperse throughout the group. Sullivan Keth, badly injured by a spear thrust, lay recuperating at the laCarn Ranch, where Anast talked with laCarn about the realities of destiny and goodness. Kiera, unable to enjoy the festivities, went for a walk. While wandering through the hills around town, she noticed two heavily armored individuals riding quietly but purposefully southward, toward the Shantytown. Worried about reprisals from Suriel and Mr. G, she gathered the handful of party-memebers she could find in the festivities, and she, Mot, Ipster, and Nuana Kornis headed toward the Shantytown as quickly as they could.

They arrived at the Shantytown to find the two riders welcomed with open arms into the tent-city. The townsfolk were unloading what looked like food, seed, tools, and other provisions from the two men’s mounts and from a pack mule they had with them. Childe ben Yaza introduced the older man, dressed in plate mail adorned with sigils of St. Cyprian, to the party as Sir (Leorn Shard), and the younger as his associate, Ian Salzen. The party talked with (Leorn Shard) late into the night about the importance of being a light in the darkness, the tenets of the Order of Saint Cyprian, and (after they were joined by Anast) what to do with the Isbari Glaive. After the talks ended the party rested in the secure surroundings of the Shantytown, and they each dreamed again of the hoary man in the dry lake bed. When they woke the next morning to the sounds of singing around the sigiled tree, they found new abilities awakened in each of them.

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Aftermath Log 7
Fiend's Embrace 1 (the Hell House)

After resting and recuperating with the Outcasts, the group rose for its breakfast. They were greeted at their meal by Sir Laeorn. After rehashing some of the previous evening’s discussions, the knight began relating a tale to the group. Apparently an un-typed artifact lies hidden in the marshes south of Gale, somewhere in the bounderlands between the hold of Eoluk and Faltak, in a forgotten ruin called Coldstones Keep. The Order of St. Cyprian has recently been made aware of a private collector in the Kingdom who has hired a mercenary band called the Fingers of Iuz to travel into the marshes in search of the item. Laeorn and his squire were dispatched on a mission to retrieve the relic, or if necessary to intercept and capture it from the Fingers of Iuz. Under no circumstances is the item to fall into hands other than the Order. However, en route Sir Laeorn uncovered pressing business in the east that must be attended to immediately. He offers a commission and 2000 gold pieces to the group if they will be willing to travel into the marshes on his behalf and retrieve the item called the Fiend’s Embrace.

The group happily accepted the commission, and gathered together what supplies they could before heading into the swamps. The group, following a roughly sketched map and with the assistance of [Ian Salzen], traveled for several days and through several harrowing encounters with the denizens of the cursed swamp. One evening the group happened on what the map called “an abandoned hut”, only to find in it’s place a roadhouse inn. In front of the inn was a band of minstrel gypsies who told the group of a fascinating play they were preparing to tour the Kingdom with. The group was intrigued by the story of a vast city and an age-old tragedy within its walls, and several of the members were haunted by a white mask bearing a strange yellow sigil they saw hanging over the troupe’s caravan. Leaving the minstrels behind the group headed for the comfort of the inn, hoping to ease the burdens of their journey with a warm meal and a dry bed. However, the group discovered only too late that their meals were laced with a poison, and they awoke to find themselves locked in cages, bound and gagged.

The party did not have long to anticipate their fate. A burly woodsman entered the underground area in which they stayed, and began removing the group from their cages. Unwilling to accept their lot, the group fought back, and though the supernal assault of Ian was ineffective, Sully’s headbutt proved more than a match for the kidnapper. The two struggled and pummeled each other, as the attacker tried to drag Sully toward a pit in the far corner of the room. However, once at the end, Sully used his inertia to knock the attacker into the pit along with himself. Then he realized the purpose of the grapple, as the pit held an angry and hungry minotaur. Sully, still bound and gagged, lay still, while the woodsman tried to climb the steep walls of the pit, only to be impaled on the horns of the charging minotaur. Sully then leapt to action, doing his best to avoid the claws and horns of the attacker, while trying to loose the kidnapper’s weapons to free his bonds (erstwhile becoming aware of a clawing and scratching coming from the roof above them). He eventually freed his hands and tried to fend off the massive beast, but was gored nearly tot he point of death. Just then, the corner of the roof collapsed and a snarling pile of hair and mud leapt into the fray. The distraction bought sully enough time for a single strike, and and his own blade bit home into the chest of the beast, the newcomer jumped into the air sinking into fangs into the back of the cave-dweller’s neck. With a groan and a satisfying crunch of broken bones, the behemoth fell to earth, and Sully found himself face-to-face with a swamp hyena, which warily edged closer to him and then nuzzled him with it’s gore-stained maw.

The group used the turn of the tide to free themselves and explore they’re new surroundings, hoping to find their confiscated equipment. This they found with a little search, and horrors upon horrors beside. The family running the inn was using the cover to trap traveler’s like animals and kill them as trophies (and possibly for other more grizzly ends). Furious and determined, the group charged up the stairs into the common kitchen, and found the rest of the inn-keeper’s family in their living room. A battle ensued leaving the whole of the inn’s staff dead on the floor (though not before carving up the party as well). The group, true to form, left the loot lying on the floor of the debauched house and set the place ablaze, retreating to the now vacant gypsy campsite for sleep.

The group’s dream were troubled by and image of a long-dead and drowned city, it’s gates opening enough to pour a blinding golden light over them. The Wanderer spoke a single name, full of menace and haunting despair: Carcosa.

The group woke to find the campsite barren even of tracks of the gypsies, and a small ruined hut where there should have been the smoldering ruins of the now-vanished inn. Cautiously, they approached the in, fearful of what lay ahead of them.

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Aftermath Log 8
Fiend's Embrace 2

The party, after brief deliberation, headed up the small hillock to the house. As they drew closer they distinctly heard the sounds of a man singing to himself, very off-key. They called to the house, and were coldly greeted by a surly boorish looking swamp-dweller, who demanded that they get off his property. The party stood confused, until the man demanded they leave him alone again. In a fit of annoyance, Nuana threatened the man’s property, which threw him into a fit of rage, and he attacked the party. Using eldritch tendrils, Ian was able to root the man to the floor and give the party enough time to escape the raving madman and his greatsword. They continued their trek into the swamps.

After several more hostile encounters with the beasts and walking dead of the marshes (including a band of immensely inept gnolls), the party reached what Sir Laeorn’s map called the Potion Makers Hut . The group cautiously hailed the shack atop the ruins of a once-mighty tree, and were greeted with an invitation to climb the ladder. The group was then met by a hideous and scarred old crone, who vocal peculiarities caused both mirth and discomfort amongst the group. She disclaimed any knowledge of other groups passing through the area, but gave directions to the Keep, and offered anything in her stores for purchase. Nuana picked up some alchemical stakes, and Sully purchased similar arrows to be picked up at a later date. But, ill-at-ease by the crone’s appearance, manners, and collection of “ingredients”, the group chose to find lodging elsewhere and continue their journey.

Shortly before dusk the next evening, the group came upon the Keep, a ruined fortress sinking into the morass. After cautiously making entrance, the group ran afoul of an aquatic troll, or scrag, in the Keep’s courtyard. They explored the first floor of the castle, disposing of it’s new residents when necessary (though this unfortunately included driving off the now-familiar visage of the serpentine creature they now associate with Kiera. Descending into the bowels of the place, they found themselves in a flooded basement, and almost immediately fighting for their lives against a massive tentacled bulbous caterpillar. The carrion crawler did its best, but finally succumbed to the assaults of the party. The party then discovered the flooding in this area was intentional, the water trapped by a make-shift dam.

After breaking the dam the group split in half to see what lay beneath the now-drained waters – and both groups came face to face with another scrag. The battle was short and bloody, leaving several party members, especially Anast, gored and torn, and the two trolls dead on the floor, unable to regenerate outside of their water – and from one of these corpses the party retrieved a hideous cloak, made from scaled hide, and bound with a red-silver clasp in the shape of a clawed six-fingered hand. As the rest of the group recovered and reloaded, Ian carefully bound the cloak up and hide it away in his pack. However as the smoke cleared Sully noticed his new companion, Kresh, acting strangely, as though disturbed by something up the stairs tot he first floor. The group tried to proceed up the stairs, but were met with an explosive trap laid for them.

Searching the first floor for signs of the trapsetter, Kiera noticed, through the cracked main doors, persons moving in the courtyard. The party soon realized they were about to walk into an ambush, likely laid for them by the group they had been sent to intercept. The party decided to try a two-pronged attack, hoping to lure the enemy into error. The ranged fighters moved to the second-floor balcony and the fighters remained hidden in the first-floor entryway. As the fighting began, the group found themselves well-matched by the Fingers of Iuz. One of the mercenaries, hoping to flank the fighters on the roof, bolted through the entryway and was cut down before he reached the hallway. The fighters then poured into the courtyard, and the melee began. Sully, from the balcony took aim at what he perceived to be a caster, and buried an arrow deep in her chest. She responded by hurling a heavy steel rod through the air at him. When it made contact, Sully fell to the ground in a screaming heap of agony, blood running from his eyes and ears and beneath his nails.

The party responded quickly, moving to down the resistance on the ground, while the ranged fighters, with Sully still writhing in screaming agony, struggled to suppress the projectiles falling into the courtyard from the battlements. However, as the combatants fell, the tide of the battle began to shift, and soon all of the Fingers of Iuz lay dead in the courtyard of Cold Stones Keep. Mot took one look at the rod laying next to Sully, who was now sitting against the battlements, exhausted and nursing the torn nails on his left hand, and before snatching it up and flinging it, with a roar, high into the air over the wall and deep into the Morass. She later explained that the item was a piece of a torture pole that the caster had turned into a weapon, a painful memory to her of her own unwilling crucimigration. The party further explored the ruins to discover that as they explored the basement, the Fingers of Iuz had been upstairs, trying to retrieve what they had found wrapped around the neck of the troll. The party decided to bed down in the ruins, as the only dry land to be seen, before leaving the next day, on the skiffs the Fingers had used to gain speedy passage through the Corthyn Morass.

However, their sleep was plagued by fell dreams...

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