Darkest Waters

The Search Commences
Our heroes set out to find the missing apprentice.

After meeting with Rathlaris, and unexpectedly delivering his lost chest of ritual components (thereby gaining a measure of his trust), our heroes proceeded to tell him Jalenna’s apparent disappearance. While reclusive and paranoid, the old wizard clearly has a soft spot for his youthful apprentice, and exhorts our heroes to take up the search for her in earnest. He offers them a small sum of gold to carry a letter to a ranger named Karipur. This ranger, he says, knows the Churnwash better than anyone. If Jalenna has been seen along the river, he will know. He further promises them a larger sum of gold if their action result in the young woman’s safe return. Scir haggled with the wizard as some length, asking that the man keep his gold and accept the old enchanted sword they’d found. Instead, the Dragonborn reasoned, the wizard could confer a minor enchantment on one item for each member of the group. At last, the wizard agreed.

Their business in Samurth concluded, our heroes bargained for a ride back up river. Moving against the mighty Churnwash is always harder, and their strong backs were most welcome to assist. As such, passage costs them nothing but some sweat and blisters. Upon reaching Karipur’s farm, they plunge into the shallows of the river, wading through icy waters to shore. The farm is large and well tended, equally divided between the raising of beasts and the tending of crops. Directed by farmhands, our heroes find Karipur near the main house, chopping firewood. After reading Rathlaris’ letter, he immediately sets about preparing to accompany teh adventurers. While they dry their gear, soaked by the river, beside his comfortable hearth, the ranger delegates the running of his farm to his foreman, and assembles a travel pack.

He does not have any news of young Jalenna, but surmises that she may have wandered into the Tanglewood along Dogtree Brook. She was often seen there, collecting herbs for her master, and could have gotten lost. The next morning, after a hearty breakfast in the bunkhouse, Karipur and our heroes set off. They take a skiff across the Churnwash and then begin hiking along the brook. Towards the evening, they abruptly come upon a gray wolf who does not take flight at seeing them. Karipur bids them hold and wait. Moments later, an Eladrin woman of feral appearance steps from the underbrush. Her hair is wild and unkempt, and her bare feet are dirty. The smells of earth, leaves, and wolves. Despite the clear fact that her only hygiene is bathing in streams, she is not unattractive. Karipur introduces our heroes to Arriane, a druid, and the source of local legends about a wild “wolf-woman”. She speaks only a little of the Common tongue, and mostly converses with Karipur in some Fey-touched gibberish none of the adventurers know (though it shares some similarities with Elven, at a root level).

Through the translation of Karipur, she tells our heroes that she has seen and heard nothing of Jalenna. However, she agrees that she and her wolves, two of whom are present, will join in searching for Jalenna if the adventurers will aid her in solving an immediate problem. It is revealed that she observed a young farm boy change into a bear the previous day. Obviously distraught and confused by the state of affairs, the young werebear had stumbled into the Thornwood. Arriane tried to approach and help, but the bear fled, perhaps in part because of the stories about a wolf-woman and her dangerous disposition. Arriane needs assistance in subduing the frightened werebear so she can teach him to resume his human form. After some discussion and debate, our heroes agree. The hour is by then late, and they all set to making camp.

A fire is built, bedrolls laid out, and watches assigned. As always, Cuts takes a hand in every watch. The construct needs no sleep. It is a matter of note, that Arriane treats the Warforged as a person, unlike everyone else they have encountered in Farandale thus far. It stands out only by its rarity. The druid eschews a bedroll, instead curling up into a pile with her two wolves to trance (traveling with Ezio, our heroes have learned that Eladrin do not actually sleep). Once or twice, Nithauk, who has been fascinated with the woman, gets too close, drawing a warning snarl from a wolf. Other than that, all is quiet. That is, until the middle of the night. Those on the middle watch are alerted when one of Arriane’s wolves begins to growl. Hearing a sound, Scir stands to investigate, only to be struck by arrows from the darkness.

The adventurers leap to arms, even as a mix of goblins rush into their clearing. The battle is fierce, and many of our heroes suffer injuries. In the end, however, they emerge victorious. Arriane and her wolves chase down those goblins who try and flee, so that none survive the fight. Alar begins committing the slain to the earth, as is his fashion, though eventually the druidess convinces them that the bodies can be left for the animals. The goblins’ possessions are searched, and some oddities noted. For one, all the goblins exude a scent of rotting fish, which is most strange. For another, their clan symbol is unknown to Karipur or Arriane, despite the two having a great deal of knowledge about Farandale’s wilderness.

The leader of their number carried a shield without the clan symbol, a splashed claw mark made with animal (one hopes) blood. The leader’s shield is not of goblin make at all, but instead an old dwarven style of shield, and of good quality. Also of note were swords carried by two of the stronger goblins. Made of a silvered alloy, and also of dwarven design, they appear to be crafted specifically to hunt lycanthropes. All of the goblins carried coin, and Nithauk notes that they coin is very different from any they have seen circulating in Farandale. Compared to the coin they were paid by Rathlaris, for example, these are of archaic design and extremely worn.

With the goblin threat eliminated, our heroes finish out the night without incident. Rising in the morning, they eat a light meal and prepare to track down the frightened werebear. Some of them still grumble that this is distracting them from finding Jalenna, while others ponder how many days the girl has now been missing. Four nights, five days, since she was discovered missing… suspicions of foul play are expressed with more certainty now, along with concerns about the girl’s welfare as the days creep by. As the mystery takes on new and ominous dimensions in their mind, they set out with Arriane. Hopefully, the werebear issue will be quickly solved.

Reaching New Lands
The adventures begin anew.

With their prisoners (Brance and Flith) in tow, our heroes press on into the new lands they have found. Open plains and dense forests give way to cultivated land. To the north, a forest the prisoners refer to as Larchwood. To the south, open land and a distant hint of marshland. Behind them, the faded caravan trail, and a half week back, the Vast itself. Ahead, the road becomes ever more traveled. Farmers and hunters use it, in addition to the odd caravan here and there. A half day’s walk finds our heroes at a very old stone bridge. Brance refers to the small waterway as Cutter Brook, while Flith confirms that this bridge is where the small bandit group hides out. Alar and Ezio work their way down the bank of the brook to investigate. The water is flowing at its maximum, as it is still early spring. Six feet wide, a couple feet deep, and very cold. Alar easily vaults across the brook. Ezio investigates the near side, while Alar checks the far side.

The bridge has stood for decades, digging away at the earth and stone. What the water has not carved, demi-human hands have, and there are shallow caves on both sides of the brook. The bandits have made a lair in these caves. Alar and Ezio find filthy bedrolls, the remnants of old fires, and a few crude weapons. Ezio finds a hand keg with the remnants of a once-passable ale, now spoiled. Alar finds a battered chest. It has been struck, cut, and scraped, but remains locked. Using bits of refuse from the cave floor, the elf tries to pick the lock, but finds it resists his attempt. Eventually, he calls for assistance in moving it, and they bring the chest up onto the bridge. A few of them try their hand at opening the lock. Kane detects some enchantment on it, and even tries to defeat the lock with magic. All attempts fail.

Brance and Flith admit that the bandits stole the chest almost three years ago, and could open it. It foiled their best skill with thieving tools, and was too well made to bash open. They were nervous of its contents, and decided not to burn it. So it has sat in the corner of the hideout for some time, and they had all come to be superstitious of it. They even hid its existence from Jorlanis when the man recruited them. Their unspoken attachment to the chest was something they never questioned, simply leaving it beneath some sleeping furs in the corner of the cave.

Scir hefts the chest into his shoulder easily, and they resume their eastward march. Soon, they pass farmers on the road, and see men working the fields to both the north and south. Near sundown, they see a wide river ahead, and notice that the road turns to run parallel to it. Across the water, a deep set of ruts run almost perfectly straight north. When questioned, the bandits refer to it as the Ore Slue, and explain that wagons from the mines in the north come here to load barges with iron. The river itself is wide and swollen with spring run-off. Near town, the bandits explain, there is a ford across the Churnwash. Even a strong swimmer would be risking death to try and cross here.

They press on until night falls, making camp and setting watches. The bandits are pressed into sharing watch, and do so without complaint. They seem truly cowed, making no attempt to withhold information or escape. The night passes without incident, and by the following midday our heroes find themselves at a crossroads just south of the ford. The road runs off to the south, to a farming hamlet called Holtan. Across the ford is a bustling town, the farming and mining community of Tilburne. A large manor stands on its western edge, and a small stone temple stands to the north. Atop the temple, a banner bearing the symbol of Erathis whips about in the breeze.

Our heroes split up to gather information on this town. Ezio, Kane, Mikal, and Nithauk head for what is obviously a tavern. The signboard hanging above the door is crude, a bit of dull gray metal hammered into a soft wood. It forms the profile of a crown. They press into the dimly lit taproom, finding a table in the corner. Ezio approaches the barman, while the others sit. Kane notices Mikal watching a dice game in progress at one of the tables, and convinces the bard to step back outside. Ezio learns little from the taciturn barman, until he buys an ale, after which the man becomes talkative. He learns that the tavern is called The Silvered Crown. The old dwarf with the battle axe in the corner is named Old Grizz. The town constable is a ranger named Garyth. The town is the property of Sir Damien Catharn, who has iron mines to the north, in the Lansryde Hills. The mayor of the town is the miller Haldar. Kane uses his warlock magic to enter the tavern undetected, but then knocks over a tankard as he sits down at the wobbly table. No one seems to notice.

Meanwhile, Scir, Alar, and Cuts take the prisoner’s through town to the home of the ranger Garyth. Based on what the bandits said, the man is a stickler for the law. They find the man to be an aging but still capable ranger, and a skilled carpenter as well. His crippled leg doesn’t stop him from crafting, and his two hammerhead mastiffs help him keep an eye on things. He tells our heroes that he is indeed the constable, and takes custody of the prisoners. He’ll need a day or two to get a hearing in front of Sir Catharn, and tells Scir he’ll be needed to testify. The dragonborn agrees, and the group sets about wandering town, rejoining their companions and comparing notes. They want to have the chest and the longsword looked at, and the only mage in town turns out to be an apprentice named Jalenna. She is the miller’s daughter, and apprenticed to a wizard who lives downriver. The miller is a ruddy-faced, white-haired man of jovial disposition. He tells them Jalenna takes a room at the inn, and is betrothed to the younger son of the innkeeper. They proceed to the Baron of Mutton, only to learn that Jalenna has not been seen all day. While her room shows no sign of struggle, her bag of ritual components is under the bed.

After questioning everyone, they decide to visit the girl’s master in Samurth. They trade some manual labor on the docks for passage on a barge, finding themselves in Samurth the following evening. They stay in the only inn the small village has to offer, a flea-infested dive with awful food and watery ale. In fact, the only thing that makes the inn bearable is the trio of truly gorgeous tavern maids. The following day, they present themselves at the tower of the wizard Rathlaris. The find the man to be reclusive, diminutive, and quite old. Never the less, he is pleased to see them. Or more accurately, the chest Scir is carrying. He claims it is his, lost for three years now. Our heroes haggle with the man for a reward, and eventually turn over the chest for a pile of coin. With that settled, they question Rathlaris about Jalenna. It becomes obvious he dotes on the girl in a grandfatherly way, and is quite alarmed that she is missing. He offers them a reward to assist in looking for her, along with a letter of introduction to Kariper, a ranger who lives between Tilburne and Samurth.

As a last bit of haggling, our heroes trade the mysterious longsword to Rathlaris. They offer the blade and their services in searching for Jalenna, in return for minor enchantments for everyone in the group. The wizard agrees and bids them farewell.

Bandits on the Road
A chance encounter?

The Vast falls away behind our heroes, as they wander through new lands. After some days of walking, Alar catches sight of some figures in the distance. The group moves to investigate, and finds what seems to be a group of farmers. The four men are wearing clothing of a foreign style, and when they speak their Common is heavily accented. They carry heavy packs with bundles of farm tools and rations. They do not react as Arkandians when confronted with the fearsome Scir, odd Cuts, or alien Ezio… but they do act wary.

This act turns to hostility when archers fire into their midst. The “farmers” move as if they are going to help, only to turn on our heroes with surprise attacks. Dropping their guise as humble peasants, they turn out to be thugs and bandits. Their strategy seems to be the capture of Kane. The bandits are swiftly defeated, with their leader killed, one archer routed, and two survivors captured. The captives divulge what they know readily, intimidated by some and encouraged by others. Mikal easily sways them to speak, while looming Nithauk and scowling Scir keep them docile.

They learn that the bandit leader was not of their usual number, but a man named Jorlanis who had papers for the arrest of a fugitive. This document turns out to be a forgery. The men are petty thugs, bearing faded criminal brands. They were paid by Jorlanis in gold, to assist in capturing the “fugitive”. While the men are being interrogated, Alar buries the bodies of the slain. The possessions of the fallen are retained. Among them is an ornate longsword of antique style and superior craftsmanship. The rest of the gear is mundane: armor, swords, a net, the forged document, and some gold. And the battered old farm tools, of course.

The Haul
The bandit leader (Jorlanis) had a very nice longsword, which Nithauk is currently hanging onto.

He also had an official looking document, a semi-skilled forgery. It is a warrant for the arrest of a fugitive, but it has been doctored so Jorlanis could pick any target he wished. It would not fool a trained magistrate, but to the uneducated it looks quite convincing.

He was wearing leather armor, which was good quality and well cared for. In addition to his longsword, he had a sap, a leather pouch filled with sand and meant for knocking someone out. Finally, he had 30 gold coins, about 10 in his belt pouch and the rest hidden under his armor.

The other slain thug had a club and a weighted net. He was wearing heavy leather armor, in poor repair.

The slain archer had a longsword and a longbow with a quiver of 30 arrows. He was wearing leather armor. His gear was all in shoddy repair, though the bow has at least been cared for.

The archer and the thug had 4 gold coins and 12 silver coins, hidden under their armor.

The two captives both had long swords and leather armor, with a backup club. None of their gear is in good repair. Both also had 4 gold and 12 silver coins.

Finally, the group had an assortment of battered farm tools, like pitchforks, shovels, and rakes. They had a week’s worth of food and a few days of water for each, and bedrolls for each.

Traveling the Vast
Wherein the adventurers depart.

Crossing the Vast sucked. More to follow.

Meeting on the Frontier
A blog for your campaign

In Arkandia, as it is across most of the northern reaches of the Nomenark, winter means deep snow and bitter cold. Not so much, perhaps, as one finds in the barbarian lands even further north, but enough that traveling is nigh impossible. Without both magic and a highly skilled guide, travel is suicide. So it is that the population of towns swell in the harvest months. Trackers, hunters, wanderers, adventurers, and other less virtuous social outcasts come in from the fringes of civilization to huddle near tavern fires and fill the common rooms of hostels.

One such town sits perched on the far eastern reaches of the kingdom, the fortress town of Pirkandon. The last bastion of military strength before one finds themselves wandering the Anthalp Vast, the town is a beacon of sorts. High and sturdy walls, watch towers, and great gates that can withhold monstrous sieges. Though there are farms and homes scattered outside the walls, the town is built so that all nearby citizens can survive for a month or more within its fortifications. Almost half the town’s population is soldiery. A full half the townsfolk are farmers, hunters, and craftsmen. The remaining handful are adventurers and outcasts, perhaps some of them even hiding from criminal backgrounds. A great many Duanthians live here, on the fringes of society. This close to the Vast, any hand willing to aid in the town’s defense is welcome, even if it belongs to some exotic creature. It is in Pirkandon that our unlikely band of adventurers find themselves as winter creeps over the land. They are a disparate band, having little in common with one another or the townsfolk.

The wildling elf Alar, seemingly more at home in the deep forest or untamed wilderness than a shuttered tavern. He moves with the stealth of a rogue, and one is certain he could sneak up on the most skittish woodland creature to touch its flank. Perhaps it is this preference to walk unheard and unseen that makes the elf such a nocturnal being. For Alar noticeably avoids the townsfolk and city streets during the daylight hours. The alert observer notices that he is less than fairly treated by other elves in Pirkandon, though he looks like any other Green elf.

The human warlock, Kane Raziel, who seems alone even in the center of a crowd. Almost gloved, always isolated and brooding, he is the slowest to join their circle. When his skin shows, one sees many scars, where old cuts and long-healed breaks have left a brutal tapestry on him. His gaunt build, and these scars, speak to a life that has known few creature comforts, which probably accounts for his reserved nature.

The eladrin Ezio, cleric of Kord, who stumbled into town from the Vast as summer waned, nearly dead. He does not speak of why he was in the Vast, or how many went with him. Only one was with him when they came to Pirkandon, a Red elf who succumbed to some plant toxin shortly after arriving. It is a testament to the healing gifts of whatever Saint the cleric follows that he survived. Despite his membership in the most influential religion in Arkandia, his Eladrin race makes him an outcast.

Mikal, dressed in ragged cast-offs, who yet manages to fill a room with his presence just by entering. Skilled at music, and even more so at oration, the bard can arrange the mood of a room like a gifted composer. People are instruments to be tuned and harmonized, and the winter passes pleasantly in his company. And yet, all is not well for him. He has poor luck with money, but cannot resist a good dice game. For all his artistic gifts, he remains poor more often then not.

Despite his size and exotic appearance, the goliath Nithauk can choose to be unnoticed with the ease only a rogue could manage. His predilection for suddenly looming over people who moments before had not been aware he was present does nothing to ease the prejudice of the townsfolk. Until he fell in with the adventurers he now travels with, his only companion was even more an outcast than he. A living construct built centuries ago for a long-forgotten war.

Cuts spent decades with no purpose, no real awareness of himself or the passage of time. Led from an abandoned cellar and dusted off, put to work as a machine for menial labor. He was without ambition or motivation. A fellow laborer, the goliath rogue who talked too him instead of about him, changed all this. Now Cuts has a sense that there is more, and he pursues it. Along with Nithauk, he casts his lot in with adventurers in the border fortress town.

The last of the unlikely allies is another outcast, at least among the xenophobic townsfolk. Walking upright as a human, almost as big as a goliath, and bearing the blood of dragons in his veins, Content Not Found: pc-scir is a bogeyman to the people of Pirkandon. They recoil from his reptilian features and imposing bulk, unaware that he, like most dragonborn in Arkandia, values honor and virtue. Whatever past he is leaving, he readily joins the adventurers as they plan for the spring thaw.

Where to go. Some of them open up about their past, while some hold their own council, but there is one thing they all agree on. All of them have reason to put distance between themselves and the life they have known. A distance of leagues, and of years. They are done here. It is no longer home, whatever their reasons for feeling this way. In the grip of this awareness, and with the kind of resolve that comes from desperation, they hatch a truly insane scheme. They will cross the Anthalp Vast. Even Ezio, himself nearly killed by a simply foray into its dangers, embraces the idea. It grows from a random suggestion to an all-consuming quest, and by the spring thaw they are almost excited. When the city gates open to travelers, they fills packs with supplies and set forth for parts unknown.


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