Shaintar - A legend begins

DEADLY ASPIRATIONS - part II
No running in the Halls

The Rangers approach Castle Darrow and still see some signs of assault from the War of Betrayal. The baileys walls are still blackened from the arcane lightning used to repel the flame blooded invaders. At the main gates stands an the imposing figure of the Duke of Sarsden, his Grace Jonas Harrington. He is a tall and solidly built man with grizzled hair and beard, and sharp black eyes. He looks like an old soldier but his gives off an aura of quiet confidence with an underying current of worry and concern. he greets them warmly and introduces his family to them all.

Once they have been assigned rooms and cleaned themselves up, they are to attend the banquet in their honor.

They are seated with some of Lord Jonas’ most trusted knights; There is Sir Marlon, who is an older knight, with a broken nose & missing teeth. He is one of the Lord’s oldest knights, he likes to laugh and drink, and fight but also has a good singing voice as they discover during the evening festivities.

Sir Bayard is a large bear of a man, tall and dark complexion, permanent scowl makes him look angry all the time but is very gentle.

Sir Garland who is just as handsome as Sir Colwyn, but dark brown hair and eyes and a trim beard. He plays the lute and loves to dance.

Sir Devlin, the newest to knighthood, young, impetuous, passionnate. During the evening Toji notices that Sir Devlin dotes and hovers over Lady Helen, the Lord’s eldest daughter.

Baroness Celestine Tothale and the young Baron Rismak Glantri are also honored guests present during the evening.

Baroness Celestine Tothale agrees to dance with Vandien during the evening. He uses the opportunity to ask her about the various lords that oppose His Grace’s bid for kingship and her own alliance with Jonas. After her husband’s death, both Lords Evor & Trebalt tried to force her to ally with them, but Lord Jonas kindness and ability to protect her, convinced her to ally with him.

During the meal and the entertainment some of the Rangers notice that Lord Glantri keeps glancing rather suspiciously at them. And when Vandien tries to approach him to begin a conversation, he replies in a condescending tone and then cuts it short and leaves the Hall under pretense of security concerns he must look into.

Vanessa is busy being entertained by both Sir Colwyn and Sir Garland. Malen and Toji are left largely to their own devices as most of the guests find them rather bizarre. This allows them to look around without being rude to anyone talking to them. Toji is the one to notice the extra attention that Sir Devlin gives to Lady Helen. Toji tells Vandien what he saw to confirm if he understood the strange human behaviour. So Vandien decides to let Lord Jonas know about his knights possible interest. His grace doesn’t seem sure what to do with this information, in addition to all his other worries. He simply thanks the Ranger and announces that he and his wife Lady Viviana, will retire for the evening.

At one point during the evening, Malen decides to go to his room and meditate and shapeshift into a barn owl and fly around the country side and insure that no armed forces are nearby. He spots nothing and returns to his room.

Once the evening’s revelry is pretty much over, the staff have begun cleaning up and Vandien orders Malen and Toji to patrol the castle along with him. They will split up to cover more ground. Vanessa though, seems to be busy in her quarters with someone and closes the door in her brother’s face.

After about an hour of patroling, Vandien notices that one guard went by a hall way a bit too soon after the previous one. By the time he realizes this, the guard has disspaeared but left a spear where it shouldn’t be. He get lucky, tracking his footsteps by the mud he left from outdoors. They are heading towards the royal apartments!

Vandien spot a legitimate guard and orders him to find Malen and Toji. He then rushes to the Duke’s chambers, swords in hand. Toji comes out of hiding when Vandien approaches and tells him he saw someone dressed as a guard but looked suspicious. They both rush up the tower stairs.

Meanwhile, the guard that Vandien ordered to get help, finds Malen and tells him to hurry to the Duke’s chambers. Malen tells this guard to raise the alarm and he himself runs to his friends’ aid.

As Vandien and Toji approach the top of the stairs, a grizzly sight bounces down the steps to greet them, a guard’s head, still in the helmet. They grimly climb the the remaining steps and see the headless corpse and three of the Duke’s guards fighting about half a dozen dark clad figures in the hall just outside the Lord’s chamber.

Toji leaps over the corpse and eviscarates one of the intruders handily. One of the intruders at the end of the hall starts waving his hands and speaking in a strange tongue, symbols of blue-white light appears around him and he throws dust onto them and they change into three wicked arrows. Damn! A sorcerer!. One of missiles hits a guard and blows his chest away, the second missile hits Toji in his side and spins him a little, while the third one just misses Vandien and makes a small crater in the wall behind him. Then Vandien joins in and beheads another thug near Toji.

The intruder next to the sorcerer, stuns a guardsman, while Toji aims his bow at the spell slinger, but the target is warded because his arrows miss their mark. Then Vandien runs towards thos two remaining assassins in order to engage them.

The sorcerer then begins casting another spell with green floating runes with tendrils reaching to the ground and then all across the floor and begin wrapping themselves around his foes. Both Vandien and the stunned guard are completely immobilized. The other assassin simply smirks at Vandien and casually walks to the doors of the Duke’s room saying «Your effort have all been for naught Ranger. The Duke will die tonight!» then shuts the doors.

But luckily Toji is only partially hampered which allows him to more carefully aim and incapacitate the sorcerer this ending the entangling spell. Vandien sheds the last of the arcane energies and rushes over to the doors, stuggles to open them (a chair was hastily pushed against them). He sees Duke jonas in his nightshirt, wielding a shortword and a wooden stool keeping the assassin at bay and away from his wife. he already was a cut on his arm. Vandien quickly yanks the rug under the thug’s feet, seriously hampering him.

Malen finally arrives up the stairs and he and Toji rush to the doorway, where the little goblin scout’s arrow enters the assassin’s skull, thus ending the threat to the Duke.

Malen heals Toji, then makes sure the sorcerer is stable and securely tied up. The Duke orders his men and staff to clean up the mess and double the guard.

While the Duke writes letters of condolences to the family of those who died in his service, the Rangers begin to interrogate the sorcerer. He has a strange tattoo on his face that Malen recognize as a sign that he was trained in the Malakar Dominion. After a few hour he refers to his employer as the «the one who would take flight from a fiedl of white, if confronted». A hint that perhaps Duke Evor was behind this plot. But since they only have one man’s vague admission, no official accusation can be brought to bear. Besides, right now they are all independent lords, but once he is recognized as King he will be able to act more thorougly.

The next day, as the entire castle residents are a buzz with the previous night’s activities, the Duke calls the Rangers into his study, where he thanks them officially and sincerely for their valiant defense.

He gives Vandien the sword, Longfang. To Malen goes the suit of leather armor named the Hunter’s Hide and promises to Toji, a special item that his alchemist-retainer is still in the process of crafting, the Little giant’s Belt.

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DEADLY ASPIRATIONS - part I
Long live the King

Once they return to Kythros, Sgt-Major Mindril chews them out for being a day late, but after their de-briefing, he relents and simply gives them a mataphofical slap on the wrist. Then he tells them to clean up and come back to his office later that day, for a special assignement.

When they return, they see a handsome knight sitting in Mindril’s office, wearing quality chain hauberk, boots, cloak, tabard, sword, etc (his coat of arms: A bull, argent on a field of green under a sun gold). His blond hair comes down almost to his shoulders and he smiles as he sees the Rangers enter. He stands when Vanessa approaches and kisses her hand. Mindril intoduces Sir Colwyn Barrington.

Sir Colwyn Barrington (and his squire Loic), has been sent to Kythros in order to request of Sgt-Major Mindril, to have this specific Ranger team act as an escort to his Lord as he travels to Galea.

The Duke of Sarsden, his Grace Jonas Harrington, has heard of the Heroes’ exploits concerning the apparent haunting of the Gatherleigh Manor house, the rescue of Master Matteus Gilbert, and he liked what he heard. He investigated a little further and discovered their rescue of the other Rangers and the mysterious cargo, and their defense of the small village of Esouro against a spectre’s forces. He gives them a brief summary of his mission and the duties the Rangers are tasked with, once this is done, Sir Colwyn asks for them to join him at the south gate as soon as they are ready. They also get to meet the knight’s squire, Loic.

The trip thru the country side is quiet & uneventful and they get to see the patchwork of farmers’ fields. Sir Colwyn transmits more detailed information about his Lord’s bid to become king, about his rivals, as well as his allies.

The Duchy of Sarsden is situated between Telok, Four Corners, Middleton & Tarry. The Duke wishes to claim the title of King of Sarsden, in order to stabilize the area. He has supporters, and thus enough political clout, but also has some detractors. He still feels that he must petition the High Council of Galea for recognition & approval. With their blessing, he will sway some of his rivals, or at the very least impress on them his legitimacy.

Once they enter the borders of the duchy, no incidents occur until they arrive in the small town of Hallin, where they meet Master Peter, the King’s Chamberlain. He’s a tall thin man of middle years, of dark brown hair, some grey at the temples and a bald spot. He’s a bit nervous being out of the castle. he has a tendency to fiddle with his signet ring.

He relates the recent events, where a messenger pigeon was found dead with a note «Do not rise above your station!», then one of the King’s favorite hunting dogs was killed with another note «Be satisfied with what you have!». The King is worried, not just for himself and his family, but also for all those around him that support him.

Once out of the village, they are surrounded by a ragged mix of thugs and farmer boys armed with pitchforks and clubs, and yelling «No kings here!». They don’t seem intimidated by the Rangers and seem to concentrate their anger on Master Peter, who cowers a bit behind Sir Colwyn.

Vanessa looses patience and launches a few arrows at the thugs, killing one outright and staggering two others. This definetly convinces the rabble to disband and retreat. Questioning one of the thugs on who hired them doesn’t reveal much. Someone in dark clothing, paid them to cause trouble here.

Nothing troubles them on the remainder of their journey, and they see Castle Darrow, his Grace’s keep and summer home.

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Fighting the Tide
Something fishy this way comes.

The Rangers find themselves in a room similar to the one they left, but a large part of the wall to their left has collapsed and now opens up on a very large underground lake. No other light is present in the Hall, only some sunlight can be seen way across the lake. They also smell the saltiness of sea water. They are just along a coastline.

And once the portal closes, they are thrown into darkness…. Lucily, everyone can see in dim light, even Vandien and Vanessa due to their Darksight goggles.

They start inspecting their surroundings. An island in the middle of the lake is home to a settlement of fish-like men (thinks Murlocs from WoW) and they spotted the bright light of the portal’s activation, and once they spot strange beings stepping thru, they immiediatly believe it to be a scouting party for an invasion and quickly mount an attack, Over a hundred of the creatures start swimming towards the Rangers.

They only have a few moments to prepare. There are many stones they can use as a makeshift barricade and they all lend a hand to move them quickly into place. Weapons are readied and Vanessa and Toji even launch a few of their special returning arrows, at extreme range, but it doesn’t make much of a dent. The creatures simply dive deeper and spead out to avoid the missiles. The rangers save their strength and wait for their enemies to come to them.

Malen and Neala begins searching for the symbols to active the portal again, and Toji, Vanessa and Vandien will try to keep the creatures at bay. Arrows and spears are exchanged until the enemy reaches melee range. Vandien drops the bow and draws his swords.

He spins and leaps left and right, chopping, slashing and piercing his enemies, while Toji and Vanessa launch missile after missile into their ranks, covering areas Vandien isn’t. The druid and sorceress frantically search for the proper glyphs, while dodging the stray spear. The bobbing light form Neala’s spell, and the slime covered wall not making their search any easier.

At one point a large bluish fish-creature leaps from the dark waters and onto a rocky portrusion and begins ranting in his native blubery language threats, instead of casting his spells.

Shortly after, Malen and Neala are sure they found all five symbols to open the gate and they begins the combination.

At one point, the creatures rush the makeshift barricade the the heroes left but this is a feint, and 3 of them leap over the right side to attack the caster as they approach. Only minor scratches are inflicted and then Toji drops his bow to slice and push the ugly, smelly beings away.

Once the combination is completed, the portal starts its’ activation sequence, the rnages prepare to make take their leave. At the last possible moment they all move back towards the well and the portal creates a «whoosh» and what looks like a horizontal geyser of arcane power washes over a dozen creatures that rushed towards our heroes, and they, the creatures simply are destroyed. The rest of the fish-men stunned by the power, thus allowing the Rangers time to go thru the portal. Vandien covers the rear and only a few spears are thrown, but miss their mark.

As soon as Vandien is thru, Malen hurries to close the portal, with Neala’s assistance.

Lord Keletheryl and his sons are still there and help them up. He tells them they were worried about them when one of the stones (one of the two that looked identical) didn’t react like the others. But it did allow him to trace it properly when it flashed the full shape.

Once again they say their goodbyes and when they re-activate the portal with the other symbol, the Rangers find themselves in the Hall they actually intended.

They meet up with their three younger Rangers in Berell Town, gather up their horses and return to Kythros.

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Chasing down leads
The Halls of the Well

After their harrowing fight with hobgoblins at the old ruins of Stormwall, near Silvergate and their return to Kythros, the Rangers are given light duties and some R&R.

They decide to indulge in a little luxury and stay at an upscale inn and paticipate in some live entertainment at a local pub. Vandien invited Neala to join them and Malen invited Jenna. The music was lively and the drink plentiful.

At one point in the evening a well-dressed knight entered and seemed to recognize Vanessa and manages to weave thru the crowd to her table and starts to chat her up about on a mission from his Lord to meet them, but that there is no urgency yet and it can wait a little while..

And still later, Markus, the twin’s friend from Erimar also shows up and chats with Vandien. They exchange stories and when Vandien lets slip the name Olin Sinta, Markus looks a bit puzzled and they blurts out «Hey! That spells Nilo Atnis backwards. I’d heard that name back in Erimar when we rescued those elven nobles from Shaka’Nor, but you guys said it didn’t mean anything»

After a night of revelry and some more carnal pleasures for some of our heroes, they meet up for a late breakfast and discuss what they discovered. They want to travel to Landra’Feya quickly but there are no magics within easy reach for them, until Vanessa remembers the Hall of the Well near Berell Town. But since they hadn’t found any more information about the symbols on the Hall’s walls, they had forgotten it, until now. While discussing it with Neala she decides to try and help and with Vanessa’s assistance in the Ranger’s Library-Archive they manage to find some texts pertaining to these symbols and Halls. By collating all the information, they guess that there could be 5 such Halls of the Well, but not their exact location. Neala needs to investigate the walls of the hall herself in case something was missed. So the following day they all pack up and head towards Berell town. The trip is uneventful but pleasant and after a quick meal at the tavern, they then head out to the old elven ruins in the wooded hills and the entrance to the Hall of the Well.

Malen shows everyone how to open the door to the «temple» and then they climb down the stairs to the room where the Well and the portals are.

The Hall is long and rectangular, about 20 by 60 feet. The far end is semi-circular and that is where the Well is situated, and it glows with a peaceful blue light. Near the entrance, on the walls to the left and right are shallow alcoves with statues of armoured soldiers.Both Vanessa and Neala, along with Malen start discussing the details of the room (the mosaics, the symbols, etc.). They take notes and eventually Neala is faily sure that four sybols are required and that four specific symbols seem to refer to Landra’Feya.

They try the combination out and watch as the statue moves into the alcove, thru the stone and then a bright light pulses and when it dims down a faint silver glow comes from the alcove and it looks like shimmering pool of water, only upright. It works and after about 5 minutes it flashes again and ends.

On the second try, they agree to toss something thru. Toji runs up to get a decent log from outside and ties a rope around it. Once reactivated, Toji throws the log in and when they try to pull it back, the rope is simply cut where it emerged from the portal surface. Now they know its a one way trip once activated.

Neala insures that she knows what symbols might be required to return to their starting point. And then they decide to activate it a third time and all step thru.

They emerge into a room very similar to the one that just left, and find the log with a bit of rope tied to it on the floor, a few feet away. The only major difference is the warm yellow glow emanating from the well, instead of a blue radiance.

They investigate the room, take notes on the various symbols, the mosaic and the well itself. The water of this well seems to increase the subject’s health and vigor. For how long? No one knows yet.

As they explore the small underground complex they are attacked by one creature that looked like a sarcophagus but had tentacles and a huge eye, as well as a swarm of small bat-like beings with hooks. These were dispatched fairly quickly and they even found some gold, silver and precious stones in the guts of the mimic creature.

The rest of the rooms didn’t have much of interest nor held any threat. Eventually they discovered what looks to be the exit. Neala bagan examining the walls in this tunnel more closely, and the Rangers helped as well. Toji noticed that of all the various symbols, only three were similar.

At the egress door, Vandien inspected the area and found the way to neutralize the trap that would drop a heavy stone from the ceiling. They then proceeded outdoors, into the cooler air of the northern forest of Landra’Feya. They are in a deep, dry gulley with roots sticking out and large trees overhead, that would make it very difficult to find the doorway. They spend some getting their bearings and head north-north east.

After some time, they pick a spot to rest and that is when a elven sentry appears before them and asks them their business and how they got here, so deep into the forest without them (the sentries/scouts) knowing about it.

The rangers tell them of their travel and the reason of their visit. Once they hear Lord Adamar Keletheryl’s name, a scout is dispatched to the capital with a message to Lord Keletheryl and the rest of the sentries escort the Rangers to meet their friend.

A message is returned to the patrol leader letting them know that Lord Adamar Keletheryl and his sons Seiveril and Joridyn were out hunting and will meet them at an outpost nearby.

After a warm hug of greeting from Vanessa and introductions all around, they begin speaking of their true purpose in the elven forest-nation, and if they have ever heard of the name Nilo Atnis, Olin Sinta, or Thenmar Lavanchy. Lord Keletheryl admits to remembering Nilo Atnis and of being approached by two humans named Aldus and Kyrana Lavanchy, twins pretending to be Grey Rangers. These two fabricated a story about needing their help for their secret resistance movement against the Prelacy of Camon. Healing was needed first, then martial assistance later. Ladies Ariawyn and Kali are skilled healers with kind hearts, and both insisted to lend aid, so Lord Keletheryl went with them. Seiveril and Joridyn were to join them later but the Lavanchy twins never returned to smuggle them into the Prelacy.

The two elven lads went to Erimar to search for clues but did not dare approach the Rangers, and eventually met up Vandien and Vanessa. After hearing of their dilemma, these twins decided to help as best they could. They enlisted the help of their good friend Markus and a few others to travel into Shaya’Nor. They managed to find the three missing elves and smuggle them back out.

Lord Keletheryl did discover that the Lavanchy family had allied itself via marriage to the De’Lears, one of the most powerful families in Shaya’Nor. He also heard Aldus refer to his elder brother Thenmar a few times and another brother, Laonux spoke of Nilo Atnis as being the same person.

Lord Keletheryl promises to seek out more information about this family and also about these Halls of the Well and pass on this knowledge to them. He also wants to see this Hall and calls up some large stags as mounts to carry them quickly to it’s location.

When they enter the hallways, the elves walk slowly, gazing at all the details around them, the bas-reliefs, the mosaics, frescoes and statuary. And when they all get to the Hall of the Well, they stand in awe at the beauty of it all, despite the lack of care.

Meanwhile, Malen and Neala confer about which symbols to use. Two of them are worn and look very much alike and even with Lord Keletheryl’s aid, they still aren’t sure which is which. ‘’So the only way to know for sure is to try’’ says Malen. They enter the combination and Lord Keletheryl says he will remains behind for a while to make sure all goes well on this end and in case the Rangers need to come back. He also gives them a finely engraved wooden plaque, about hand sized. This will identify them as friends and allies of the Keletheryl family, and any sentries will let them by more easily.

Then the Rangers step into the portal, hoping to arrive at the Hall of Berell Town.

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A Darkness comes to Stormwall
Remembering old friends of Silver Gate

A darkness comes to Stormwall

When the Rangers return to Kythros, finally, a letter is waiting for Malen from the small town of Silver Gate. Father Sorrin, a priest of the Light, has sad news for his adoptive family.

(When Malen’s ship sank, after sailing away from Korindia, he washed up ashore near Silver Gate (between the cities of Coastline and Haven). He was found by the Feldorp kids, Curtis, Lester and Clarissa who then got their father Brellin. Malen was brought back to their home and his wife, Priscilla, took care of him until a group of Rangers arrived and their healer alleviated his more serious wounds.)

Ranger Malen of Korindia,

It is my sad duty to inform you that a dear friend of ours has passed away in a most tragic fashion.

Brellin Feldorp, as well as his charming wife Priscilla, and their three children, Clarissa, Curtis and Lester where brutally murdered recently. On the 8th of Thunder Hawk to be precise.

I cannot bring myself to describe the gruesome details here, but I strongly urge you to come to Silver Gate as soon as possible to both pay your respects and help us find the culprits to this heinous crime and prevent any more such attacks from happening.

Please hurry.

Humbly yours,
Father Sorrin
The Church of Light.

So Sgt-Major Mindril sends them off to Silver Gate, with official messenger packets to deliver along the way. The trip is uneventful and passes quickly.

«Silver Gate is a much smaller village than the name would suggest. It was founded over a hundred years ago and named for the silver mine it was built around. Within five short years the mine dried up and the few settlers that stayed on became wheat farmers. They have managed to make a decent living in the wheat trade over the years as they are close enough to the city of Coastline to harvest the goods and take them directly to the goods market and sell the product themselves. Cutting a middle man out means a third more profit going back the farmers of Silver Gate.»

Once they get to the town, they are greeted by Father Sorrin, He tells them of how and where the Feldorp family died. Malen goes to pay his respects at their grave while Vandien asks around the town. It’s easy to get people to talk as they want to help and stop these attacks. What they discover is that a band of creatures kills with claws and blades, and that big orc-like creatures have been seen north of town near the ruins of Stormwall

«Stormwall Keep was built over six hundred years ago as a safe haven for the coastal towns between Coastline to Haven. It was meant to give the people a safe place to fall back to if their cities were ever overrun by pirates or if they needed to weather a fierce storm hitting the bay. Over the many years and wars Stormwall Keep has been sacked by raiders and beaten down by the sands of time. Now the ruined Keep stands as a sad reminder of an age long ago.»

After investigating the old Feldorp family home and spending the night, they retrieve their horses and head towards the ruins. When they get close to their destination, they dismount and approach the castle remains. The weather is geting cloudy and rain begins to fall making it difficult to see things far away.

They see many hobgoblins clearing the rubble for some unknown purpose. They also spot a larger hobgoblin speaking to a black robed man-like figure. That’s when the arrows and spells fly. Once the initial surprise is over, the creatures rush over to the heroes’ location and the black figure hides. Three black creatures appear atop the tower ruins soon after, armed with bows, who try to slay the rangers despite the rain.

Malen’s spells of frost bolts take out quite a few, as well as Vanessa’s arrows. Toji covers Malen of course, while Vandien starts cutting thru the creatures. Once the large hobgoblin leader is within their midst, the heroes find it is a most fearsome foe, difficult to wound and potentially deadly with his black iron great axe. Malen’s gifts increases his allies fighting prowess, with both swords and bows, after seeing how tough these creatures are once corrupted.

Eventually our heroes slay all the lesser creatures and bring low their leader. They heal Omark who took a vicious hit, then tied up the hobgoblin leader.

A quick investigation of the ruins reveals there are tunnels underneath and this is where they find Horak, a battered and bruised troll, who was the next to be corrupted and turned into a Troll according to him. He is very grateful and, when asked he says he knows only that they mentioned Olin Sinta (which means Secret Knowledge, in the elven tongue) and that he seems to be the one responsible for capturing some of his brethren from a small nearby goblinesh gather (The Wind-Howlers).

Horak offers a promise of help if ever these Rangers need assistance in the future. The Wind-Howlers, Horak’s gather, are a small gather of goblinesh that used to be in the northern mountains in the Kal-A-Nar empire but refused to side with Ceyrana’s worshippers.

When they, the leaders of the Wind-howlers, hear that the Rangers stopped the necromancer’s plans, they promise to be more vigilant and to help protect the nearby communities, in exchange of other goods and services. The people of Silvergate are the first to accept this agreement, which encourages a few other small communities to do the same.

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Shedding light upon the Rotten Apples

While the Heroes were in Silvergate, Sgt Major Mindril will have interrogated the prisoners from Homestead and read all the reports of their exploits.

Master Harrick McCormick has always been kept in the dark as much as possible. All he knows is that he was contacted by agents of someone named Olin Sinta. He never saw them nor met them face to face.

Agrom «Scarhead», now dishonourably discharged, had regular contact with the Lavanchy twins and that they were waiting for their other sibling, Laonux (caravan leader). He was expecting to get a little revenge on his superiors and then a position of power back in Shaya’Nor.

Kyrana Lavanchy is somewhat distraught not knowing of her brother Aldus’ fate. Tia thought it was a good idea to keep his death a secret for now. And in the Heroes’ absence, Mindril had her thoroughly interrogated and she revealed the following information:
1- Olin Sinta is her elder brother’s alias.
2- His name is Thenmar Lavanchy, a minor branch of the De’Lears family
3- They wanted to strike at the heart of the Grey Ranger organization, to lower morale and support.
4- She is sure that Thenmar will rescue her (she is mistaken; he may try to have her killed once he discovers where she is).
5- Laonux was another sibling of theirs, younger, and also wishing to prove himself worthy of the «gift».

The Heroes may wish to question them further. Mindril will authorize it.

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Rotten Apples in Homestead - Part III

After quite a few days of investigating the Empty Barrel and the people on the list they found with the corrupted cargo, they seem to get a break. Sgt Agrom Scarhead has heard about the arrest of Lt Taline Chorano and rushes off to tell his allies at the Inn but in his hurry, he fails to notice Sgt Ullkish following him.

Once Ullkish is certain of the orc’s destination, he runs back to the barracks to tell Tia and the Rangers. They quickly discuss their options and decide to head towards the Empty Barrel. The place seems deserted. Tia, Vandien and Vanessa climb the rooftops of a neighboring building, hop over to the Inn’s roof and climb down to the upper windows. They manage to unlock them and enter the Twins’ rooms. Malen joins them in the shape of a ferret. But before they can start searching, they hear someone climbing the stairs quickly. The rangers hide among the rafters.

A man of about 30 years enters the room and he quickly opens a chest at the foot of the bed, pries open the bottom and withdraws a black bladed dagger. The man does the same in the other room and then departs as fast as he arrived.

After a quick search of the chest they only find a fibres and bizarre smelling wax. They then decide to follow the man down. When they get to the streets they don’t see any sight of the mystery man, but Toji tells them the man headed to the Inn’s stables.
The Rangers head down the cellar and to the secret door they know is there, down the winding hall way, making sure not to be detected. And into the sewer system. They keep their distance and they come to a alcove where a new wooden ladder has been propped there. The man climbs up and closes the trap door.

The rangers strain to listen. They hear a few voices but have difficulty making out any words. When the voices move away, they exit the sewers and scout the area. They find themselves in an old carting mill, with lots of boxes, crates and broken machinery. They hear people outside and peering thru cracks and windows; they see the twins, Aldus and Kyrana Lavanchy, and a few of their goons along with Holcheck and his muscular assistants speaking about dealing with this situation and eliminate the threat. They then all leave the area in different directions, after saying that they will be back at here at the 13th hour.

The Rangers make their way back to the barracks as fast as possible to speak to Capt. Deron. Once they enter the HQ courtyard, a huge explosion rocks the fort. People are thrown to the ground and some are caught in the blast and suffer varying degrees of wounds. Once the smoke clears enough, the Rangers discover that the blast originates from quarantined cargo cellars. The door still holds but has been weakened.

Malen blinks inside and finds a lot of smoke and only minor fires which he puts out easily, then blinks out. Capt. Deron runs over to investigate. As they discuss the recent events and help organize healing of the wounded, Vandien questions the guards and how they seemed to be distracted away from the cellars and Malen and Toji spot a big muscled man, with his hood up, trying to sneak out the courtyard. When they yell out a command to stop, they recognize the orc, Sgt Agrom Scarhead who immediately attempt to bolt. Toji and Vandien rush him while Vanessa aims an arrow at him in the hopes to slow him down. When they begin to ask why he was sneaking out, they are joined by the page-boy, Billy. He tells them that the jailer and Lt Taline are dead. That when they notice Agrom’s hands are covered in blood.

They tie him up and haul him to Capt. Deron’s office for questioning. He seems not to know or remember killing anyone in HQ nor placing any explosives.

As the sun has set and the 13th hour is near, the Rangers get ready to raid the old wool mill. Deron assigns Sgt Ullkish and four rangers to help the heroes as well as Tia who will enter thru the trap door.

When they get near, they notice chanting and a violet glow coming from inside. The Rangers burst in and they see five Necromancers around a ritual circle. Three of them are holding old bones covered in runes and tossing insence over the circle and the other two are on the raised platforms overseeing. At least 10 other goons are spread around the place and move to intercept the heroes.

Arrows fly, steel is drawn and clash against shield and blade. Spells are exchanged as well. Suddenly three ghouls drop down from the rafters to engage the enemy as well but they fall swiftly to the white silver arrows and to Malen healing magic.

After Aldus’ intimidating threats, which shook everyone, friend and foe alike, he rallied his remaining troops but to no avail. Each one fell, one by one. Until only Kyrana remained and they managed to subdue her.

In the aftermath, they attempted to revive one of the fallen rangers but it was too late. A raven flew into the building at that moment, alighted on a beam among the rafters, looked around, cawed a few times and flew back out but not without leaving a black wing feather behind.

The final clean-up remains. Any and all necromantic items are rounded up to be destroyed after being investigated. The bodies of the infiltrators are burned. The Mill is cleansed, the Empty Barrel Inn is closed for an undetermined amount of time for further investigation.

Baron Erevan, lord of Homestead, is brought up to speed about the events in the city and how the heroes helped prevent a disaster. He offers them his gratitude in a long boring speech in front of the whole Ranger’s Hall, but also in the form of two improvements to whatever gear they wish (from his own hired Mage).

Capt Deron writes up a report, endorsing and explaining the heroes’ deeds leading up to, and including, the current incidents. He will also hand over a sealed messenger pouch to them, addressed to Lady Grayson herself.

Vandien is promoted to Sargeant (w/ silver signet ring),
Malen is promoted to Corporal,
Toji and Vanessa are elevated to Ranger 1st Class,
and the three Rangers, Althea, Omark and Rafe, who helped and survived the attack on the Mill, are assigned to them as well.

Sgt Major Ullkish is promoted to Lieutenant and second in command, in Homestead.

Agrom, Kyrana and Master Harrick McCormick are arrested and sent via prisoner wagon to Kythros and the heroes are to escort the prisoners since they are to return there anyway.

Luckily, the three day trip back to Kythros is uneventful. No one wants to approach the prison wagon. Kyrana is kept bound and gagged except to drink and eat but always watched carefully. Agrom is firmly chained and the small and frail Master McCormick doesn’t give them any trouble.

The Rangers are filled with anxiety and a little fear about how Sgt. Major Kork Mindril will react after being away so long, but have a detailed report from Capt Deron, praising their effort, diligence and bravery.

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Rotten Apples in Homestead - Part II
Corruption lies deeper

Our brave Ranger/Heroes pursue their investigation into the plot involving the Necromancers, the contaminated cargo, the list of names and the Empty Barrel Inn.

They return to their rooms after their trek thru the sewers, wash up and lie down to get some much needed rest.

The next day they discuss what they have learned and what they still need to discover. Lt. Taline Chorano still seems too clean, so they continue to investigate. They ask Capt. Deron about Chorano s past and he agrees to accompany them to the hall of records and dig up her file.

She grew up in Serenity and was orphaned when she was about 9 years old. Before she was completely lost to a life of crime, a ranger named Bersulde Chani who saw the quick mind she posessed. So she was taken off the street and offered a roof over her head and regular meals. She quickly graduated and was assigned to the Kingdom of Erimar. She was transferred to Homestead but no reasons are written.

While Lt. Chorano is on duty, the heroes enter her office and carefully look everywhere. The only thing they found was an expensive bottle of wine.

But when they searched her private room/ bedroom, they eventually found a love letter from a mysterious L and another letter she was writing to him. Its content is all about how she longs for him and yearns to be with him as soon as possible.

The next day, they notice Lt. Chorano leaving the barracks with a very determined look and stride, into the city. Vanessa, Malen and Toji decide to tail her. Vandien will stay behind to break into Tia s room and wait for her with a bottle of wine.

Despite Lt Chorano s care, the Rangers manage to go unnoticed and find a hiding place near the Empty Barrel, which is her destination. She quickly climbs the stairs to the inn s common room. Malen takes a minute to centre himself and transforms into a pigeon in order to sit by the window sill and spy into the building.

He sees Taline, facing him, talking to a broad shouldered man with dark hair with his back to the window. The conversation seems passionate from her and somewhat dismissive from the man. But Malen still cannot hear what is being said, so he heads towards the open window he noticed, further away and manages to change shape into a rat once inside. He climbs the rafters until he gets to the common room and overhears Taline and the dark haired man talking about her fervent desire to meet with Him and that it’s been to long. She pleads with the man to pass along her letter but stubbornly refuses, saying things like «Return to playing the good little Ranger» or «He will contact you, don t try to contact him again» and so on. She leaves finally, on the verge of tears.

Malen-rat lingers a bit and overhears the man and the dark haired woman behind the bar, who share familiar features, talking about how silly Taline is and how tightly their brother has her wrapped around his finger.

They also mention how they hate being surrounded by mere humans and anxiously await their reward once their mission in Homestead succeeds. The woman voices her concern about the tardiness of Laonux and his supplies. Then man says «We will wait two more days then we will proceed with our plans, no matter what. We are too close now to turn back, Laonux will have forfeited his reward. More for us, dear sister.»

The next day, the Rangers head to the city records and discover that the Empty Barrel was purchased last year by Aldus & Kyrana Lavanchy and they brought with them other family members, mostly cousins, to work with them. The business increased and the clientele improved.

They also seek out the Mage who helped analyze the grain they brought into the city, a older man named Arminias Sorec. Tall, greying hair, blue eyes and a long scar along the right side of his face. He informs them about vampires and werewolves and various undead and their abilities to charm or control others, as well as a few other powers.

Arminias also gives to Vanessa and Toji three white silver tipped arrows each, enchanted to return if at least one is still in the quiver.

Armed with these news discoveries, the Rangers speak again to Capt. Devon and they agree to arrest Lt Chorano in the most subtle and less messy way possible. She is still a Ranger and a very good fighter. Tia offers to drop a sedative into both her food and her drink. and fortunately for them, Taline is quite upset and partakes of her hidden stash of spirits, that has been spiked.

The Rangers find her sleeping at her desk and discreetly carry her to the detention block and into a cell.

to be continued…

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Rotten Apples in Homestead - Part I
Uncovering secrets

While travelling between Esouro and Homestead, both Vannessa and Malen shared some stories about their past.

Malen recalled his people’s swimming and diving lesson’s as well as the competitions. That year, Malen won in his age group and that earned him the right to join some adult Korindians on the next ship to leave for the main land. But Shaintar’s seas are unpredictable and a freak storm hit and their ship sank on the shores between the cities of Coastline & Haven. A group of Rangers found Malen, apparently the only survivor. Malen decided to join the Rangers at that time, since he felt a debt towards them and it would be a great way to see more of the world.

The following night, Vanessa regaled the group with her own story about how her great-grandfather would sit her on his lap as a child and tell her of his travels and adventures and how he always looked younger than her grandfather, he was also more active and vigorous for much longer so maybe he had some elven blood.

A few days later they arrive at the gates of Homestead, the very city where General Jeremiah Grayson was supposed to settle in after many years of faithful service to Galea. Awaiting their turn to enter the city with their contaminated wagons, they went over what they knew and/or suspected about the Necromancers’ plot. So far, all they have is a list of names of people in Homestead found on the dark sorcerer and the names of a few other people of note that Garrick, a fellow ranger and leader of another group, shared.

So, when it was their turn at the gate they spoke to Sgt. Ollar there and managed to convince him to let them thru but that they need to make sure that nobody touches the contents of the 3 wagons. Sgt. Ollar gave them a letter, vouching for them and he had the wagons marked with long red strips of cloth, as a warning.

Once at the Rangers’ HQ, Vanessa and Malen were escorted to see Ranger-Captain Deron Von Garron, commander of the local Ranger garrison. Vandien and Toji stayed behind to keep an eye on the wagons.

Once in Capt. Deron’s office, they explained their encounter with the other Rangers and the “Merchants” summoning undead (see Riding to the Rescue) and their subsequent investigation of the bodies and the wagons.

Unbeknownst to anyone, Tia, the Captain’s cup-bearer, was listening carefully to as much as she could.

Capt. Deron agreed to keep things as quiet as possible and made sure all the contaminated foodstuff was locked up and safe. The storeroom in question has a two lock system, so he has one key and gave the second one to Vanessa.

After that, the heroes were left to their own devices. So the took a few hours to relax, clean the dirt and dust of the road. They then set off, that night, to discover what they could about the names on their mysterious list. Vandien led his friends to some taverns and other seedier places. Vanessa played the role of distraction, with her beauty and charm, while her twin used his own talents (even though he’s the “ugly” twin).
They confirmed that Sgt. Agrom ‘’Scarhead’’ BloodFist, the orc night-guard has a nasty temper and is on probation and that he resents his superiors. And that Master Harrick McCormick has a gambling problem and since he’s the one in charge of the city’s grain storage, he’d be obviously a viable target to blackmail him into cooperating with the Necromancers.

Not much could be discovered about Ranger-Lt. Taline Chorano, second in command of the Rangers in the city, apart from the fact that she was assigned to the Kingdom of Erimar before being re-assigned to Homestead. She’s stern but fair, dedicated and hard-working.

The real enigma was Mortimer ‘Mort’ Holchek, a candle shop owner. Nothing really noteworthy could be gleaned about him. He didn’t seem exceptional but he did manage to get a deal to supply all candles to the Rangers’ HQ as well as to the Baron’s keep.

The lack of “dirt” or detail about Holchek bothered Vandien. Why was his name on the list? What leverage did the Necromancers have on him? This of course motivated the Rangers into digging a bit deeper into the candle shop owner.

They had also discovered that the Necromancers, posing as merchants, were to seek refuge at the Empty Barrel Inn with is close to the Baron’s storage and various mills. It was a seedy dive, catering to those who searched for any type of paid labour, until it was bought by a group of immigrants, coming from “up north”. The owners seem to be a mix of brothers, sisters and cousins. Once the place was renovated & cleaned-up, it was welcoming a higher class of clientele, who had traveled a long way to deliver their goods and wanted more than just watered down beer and stale bread.

Being careful not to attract any unwarranted attention, our heroes kept an eye out for trouble, but while staking out the Empty Barrel that night, they were somewhat surprised that Tia, the Captain’s cup-bearer, looking very different, dropped down from the rooftop behind them. They suspected someone might be tailing them but were never sure.

Tia greets them and begins explaining her presence there.

«I’ve been in the city for a while now trying to get to the bottom of a possible conspiracy or plot. I’m an agent of the Black Lanterns. »

Her statement is met by blank stares but after a few moments Malen remembers a few fragments of information.

Tia confirms and adds a few more details such as that the Black Lanterns were formed to counter the machinations of the agents of the Malakar Dominion, the Prelacy of Camon as well as Tor-Mastak agents of the Kal Empire or Shadowlands spies. And that she is here specifically because a Ranger working in the city sent an encrypted message to her organization.

And now our group of heores seem to have, unwittingly, stumbled upon a major clue and element of this conspiracy and she would, of course, welcome their aid. So, after a brief discussion, they agree to check out the candle shop owner.

No big surprise to find that Holchek’s place was both closed and quiet. But they carefully investigated all around it. Tia and Vandien went to the rooftop and peered down from a skylight. Meanwhile, Malen, Toji and Vanessa walked to the back alleys and looked into the ground floor window. There was no activity or movement within. Wax in large vats, in blocks, candles hanging almost everywhere and various oils to make scented candles are evidence of a prosperous business.

Tia unlocked the skylight and they hopped down as quietly as possible and Malen simply “blinked” inside and unlocked the back door. Working as a team, they discovered a trap door leading down into a storage cellar for hemp, rope, twine and string. They kept investigating and found a secret door at the far end of the cellar. They borrow a candle along with a brass holder and open the door that leads to the city sewer system.

They explore one tunnel to their right for a short time then double back and do the same with the left side. Toji hears something, behind them, voices. They quickly extinguish their light and hide. The noise turns out to be footsteps and voices. At this distance no specific words can be made out.

Malen decides to shape change into a rat and crawl towards the source of noise. He sees 3 men loom over him as they walk by, oblivious. Two of them are heavily muscled and with scars on their hands and face as well as noses that have been broken more than once. The third man was much smaller but still in good shape, probably from working in his shop and kept his head shaved clean. This was most likely Morty Holchek himself.

All three men opened the secret door that led to the candle shop cellar and locked it behind them.

Malen-rat rejoined his friends and resumed his normal shape. After a brief discussion, they set off to discover where the three men came from. Between Toji, Vanessa and Vandien’s tracking skills they managed to find another concealed entrance to a short tunnel, then a cellar with many smaller rooms. This led them to stairs upwards where they herd people talking, drinking and be merry.

The Rangers quietly exited the building and discovered they were in the Empty Barrel.

to be continued…

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The Restless Dead
The Fallen

So Vandien and company set out towards Homestead, with the three loaded wagons. Their progress is slow but steady and the first village they come too, greets them warmly. The Rangers set up a guard with a few village militia-men to make sure none of the doubtful cargo is taken.

They make it to the next village, Esouro, two days later. The villagers are very glad to meet them and quickly ask them for help with the strange events that have happened lately. A week has passed since the young Theressa Balemont has disappeared. A few night ago some children say they’ve seen strange shapes moving just outside their homes and the previous evening, the old widow Jannet Uller thinks she saw her dead husband staring at her just outside her window before fainting.

The Rangers immediately jump into action. Vandien and Toji stay with the wagons and speak to some locals while Vanessa & Malen go to Mr. Balemont’s home to talk about it all. Vanessa manages to get the mother to open up about how Theressa seemed to be more withdrawn and quiet, locking herself up in her room, no longer seeing her fiancé Romney Kylen, the blacksmith’s son before disappearing.

Meanwhile, Malen goes upstairs to investigate the girl’s bedroom. It’s messy but no signs of a struggle. With his gift of Arcane detection active, he senses something under the bed. A few old pieces of parchment and the leather hide that was wrapped around something big but no longer there.

The parents admit that these items may have belonged to Theressa’s great-uncle who dabbled in the dark arts about 60 years ago but was stopped by a group of Rangers. They buried his body at a crossroad about an hour out of the village. After a quick trip there, they find no evidence of recent activity near his grave marker.

They return to the Balemont residence and enlist both Mr. Balemont as well as the Mr. Kylen and his son to join them towards the cemetery, after they’ve locked up the wagon in a nearby barn, or course. By the time they get to the village cemetery it’s just past sunset and they spot the 15 or so open graves and are set upon both former villagers as zombies and ancient skeleton warriors from the nearby burial mounds where a large battle took place about 100 years ago.

After a protracted battle, they manage to put down the corpes and follow the tracks to the burial mounds. They spot a group of more zombies and skeletons and both groups rush each other. As the battle is joined, the spectre of the Kal warlord Razul emerges from the mound and obscures the area around his undead minions. Theressa is nowhere to be seen.

Razul fades back into the ground and reappears near Malen and Vandien, swinging his bloodsteel sword. But with a combination of skill from the Rangers and maybe a weakness of Razul, he fails to inflict any wounds upon the heroes.

Meanwhile Vanessa and Toji are in the fog fighting the zombies and the eventually take them down despite the obscurement.

Vandien manages to inflict serious wounds upon Razul and then Malen applies deadly life giving healing gifts upon the core of the spectre, dispersing him in an explosion of ectoplasm.

After making sure no other corpses are moving with hostile intent, they search and find Theressa in a shallow cave, surrounded by candles, and a few other ritual items and still clutching the book of dark rituals of her great-uncle’s. She seemed catatonic, but they manage to bring her back to her home to heal and separate her from the book.

They also melt down Razul’s blade of blood-steel in Master Kylen’s forge, once the blacksmith is reassured that his forge will not be cursed or haunted. Malen performs a simple ritual to bless the area and calm any spirits. He also performs a healing ritual in order to bring some peace to both Theressa, her family and the villagers.

They then head out the next day, with they wagons of contaminated grain, etc and continue towards Homestead to investigate the cargo’s destination and the list of names that the lead Necromancer had.

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