Shaintar - A legend begins

Journey to Eldara, part I
Sheep's Clothing

The Rangers return from Greensway, with their four prisoners. Once they’ve stabled their horses and stowed away their gear, they then file their reports about their recent activities. Sgt Guz was somewhat upset that they left without orders or much notice, but after the debriefing, he fully understands and will pacify Sgt-Major Mindril before they meet him personally.

Erdan’s time is split between crafting poppers and potions, and sparring with Vanessa, now that he’s got a brand new staff, laced with everwood. Malen gors to see his bowyer contact, with Roberre in tow. Roberre assures Malen that he can help craft the bow much faster and better than anything the bowyer could make himself. Vandien meets up with Neala who is in the city for a short while, along with Jenna.

Before leaving on his next mission, Vandien commisions from a whitesmith, a ring of white silver with an inscription, to be delivered to Neala Elsamunerys once he’s left. Vanessa helped with negotiate the price and chip in with her ugly twin’s efforts.

They are summoned to none other than Lady Valinda Grayson’s offices, where they also see Mindril, Guz and Roberre. Lady Grayson gives them a very special and secret mission, to her new Ghost Wolves. They are to escort Roberre to Eldara where he will ask the Quo Unias to contact Saiderin, so that Roberre can finally bring him his message. They will be carrying dispatches as well as a cover. They are to tell no one about their true objective, nor about Roberre, since it’s obvious that there’s at least one faction that wants Roberre captured or dead.

Once the meeting is done, they prepare their arms and armor, and check on the rest of their gear and the horses. They get some rest as they plan to leave in the morning, at first light.

Before they leave, the bowyer and Roberre present Malen with “Toji’s Wrath” bow, along with a brand new bow sheath/quiver.

When they get near Berell Town, they meet fellow Rangers, Reagar, Filbur and Ssukko and the rest of their team, just on their way back from a patrol run in the area. The two groups decide to meet up in the Town’s Alehouse, where they carouse, exchange info, but Reager especially is asking many questions about Roberre, as well as rumors that the Ghost Wolves squad has been restored to active duty.

Despite some ale being passed around, Vandien and his squad don’t reveal much or deflect some of the inquiries. Eventually everyone agrees to retire to their own rooms.

At one point in the night, Horak awakens to the smell or smoke and the noise of horses panicking. Most of our heroes follow the ogre down once he wakes them up. Vanessa climbs out the window and up to the roof.

The familiar silhouette of the dregordian and the dwarf, and at least one man can be seen and they engage the Heroes. Others assailants appear form the shadows and get surprise on our Heroes.

After an short intense fight, their foes are defeated, some are killed but a few are captured.

to be continued…

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Trouble in Greensway, part III

After defeating Uggabaa, the Bloody Cleaver, an abyssal brute of remarkable strength, a thratchen, some ratzin and the ritual master Fervan ki Krasaros, Erdan goes about the bodies of the childer and demon to collect some fresh exotic reagents for future use, they then secure the perimeter and Malen and Erdan pour over the manuscripts and scrolls in order to discover how to deactivate the summoning circle and the portal, without causing a backlash. The facts that the magical construct is part of an old Druidic Loci, slowly corrupting it and that it’s a very different arcane theory (Thaumaturgy versus Sorcery and Channelling), is the main reason for the difficulties encountered.

Also, Erdan finds a letter that is apparently written in his brother’s handwriting. It tells about his new vocation as an Acolyte of Ceyrana and the research he performed for the ritual, its location and time, as well as the true name of the Abyssal brute. He even goes by a new name; Agoskus ki Seberzarna.

Vandien decides to split the squad in two, due to the urgent news that other childer and demons as well as Kal forces, are heading towards the village of Greensway again. Erdan and Malen will try to close the circle/portal (Dramatic Task) and Toji and the three junior Rangers will remain to protect them. Vandien takes Vanessa, Horak, and the lumberjacks in an attempt to save the villagers.

Thru the ‘’heat-haze’ kind of effect that the circle emanates, both Erdan and Malen occasionally see the trees beyond the Stones, burning. A foreshadowing of their possible failure. With this grim thought, they bend their will and mind towards quickly but safely close the portal.

As soon as the spell-casters begin tampering with the circle, the War-Priest Traszany Arolya feels the effect somehow. She orders her subordinate acolytes to keep going towards the village, along with the ratzin, minotaurs and horde fiends. And she doubles back with her own group of followers to deal with the troublesome Rangers.

After what seems like an hour or so but is actually no more than a dozen minutes, the energy of the bloodied essence fight Malen and Erdan’s combined efforts and opens a rift and summons half a dozen ratzin. In a stroke of good fortune, Malen and Erdan re-establish the connection to the forest, and the offending childer are quickly dispatched.

And while the struggle at the Standing Stones is taking place, Vandien’s group encounter a returning force of Kalinesh that includes Traszany, as well as her Battle-Leader Kellef ki Felsoalva, 6 Kal warriors and the Minotaur battle master she summoned personally. A small stream separates the two groups. They maneuver the terrain in order to engage in combat. Fire blasts are felt, arrows fly and eventually, metal clashes against metal. At one point, Traszany burns the dwarf lumberjack, and impales him on her bloodsteel blade.

The Minotaur charges in a blood rage, across the stream, bellowing loudly in an effort to frighten the enemies, but from out of nowhere, a thick branch hits him in the face, making him stagger and look rather foolish rather than intimidating.

At one point, Vandien sees his chance and leaps on a nearby rock and slices at the hairy beasts neck, cutting it open, blood sprays all over him as he rides the monster down as its body falls like a felled tree.

Soon after all the Kall soldiers lay dead, and Traszany attemps to flee. Vandien, Vanessa and Horak give chase (Chase scene) thru the woods. Serpents of fire and arrows are launched, as well as the occasional sword stroke. The combined efforts of the Rangers eventually gets the better of the War-Priest. She is incapacitated.

Bound and gagged, they return her to the Standing Stones, tired, battered and bruised themselves. As they reunite, they are joined by Ents, but Oakhorn is missing. They tell of how he gave the last of his life force to help return the Standing Stones to their original state. They are saddened but thankful for the Rangers’ assistance.

They find some wagons, horses and gear near the Stones, which they commandeer and return to Greensway as quickly as possible. At the village they see the people slowly returning, tired and bruised as well, but mostly alive. They see Cecilia, the village reeve, standing with a rolling pin in her hand, next to three beaten, hogtied Acolytes.

Cecilia tells the Rangers that they were trying to flee as fast as possible when they were beset by more childer, demons and these three Priests. Just as they thought they were all going to die, the summoned monsters disappeared, leaving the bewildered and now outnumbered Priests, who quickly surrendered.

As the villagers return to their homes or to what shelter their neighbors offer. Celicia thanks the Rangers and offers lodgings in her own home/inn. Plans are already discussed for rebuilding the village and for the funeral ceremonies for their fallen friends.
They don’t have much to offer the Rangers as a reward, but their heartfelt thanks and gratitude. They will always have a place to call home here if they wish it (Renown card played; +1 CHA if recognized, 50% chance).

The following day, after much needed rest, Malen heads into the forest, towards the Standing Stones. Once there Malen pays his proper respects to them for their loss. “I knew Oakhorn, not all that well, but enough to know him as a being worthy of much respect, and it was my honor to call him a friend. He shall be missed. Let us not mourn his passing, rather let us celebrate his life, honor and courage.”

“I wanted to ask a boon of you here. My friend and fellow ranger Toji is a good person and deserves a weapon worthy of his heart and dedication. I have commissioned a bowyer to make a bow for him. In order to complete it I need Everwood and Ironwood. I wonder if you could help me realize this gift for my companion. I understand I am asking a lot and am willing to owe you a favour in exchange.” 

At this point Malen sits down and quietly await their answer. Eventually the druid hears the creaking of branches and the rustle of leaves that he hopes is Entish. 

Hours pass and he falls asleep, but when he awakens refreshed he finds a few long branches of wood. Some are the familiar silver and gold veined ones, and the others are mostly blueish-grey which are likely ironwood. As Malen leaves, he thanks the forest and its residents for all of its gifts and heads back to Greensway. 

Malen also notices that his oakhorn staff seems different. A quick Detect Arcane spell reveals that it’s now linked more strongly with the forest and the Standing Stones. Of course he doesn’t quite know what this stronger link with the woods may mean or what consequences it could have. Perhaps with great power comes great responsibilities. While he ponders these implications, he realizes that what took almost two hours to reach the Stones, now only took a quarter of the time. Very peculiar!

(On the body of the Minotaur Battle Master, Horak finds an item that looks to be of goblinesh make, wrapped around its belt. Once he cleans it, he recognizes it as a Mantle of the Fierce Beast; once the dire wolf pelt is wrapped around his shoulders and the buckles fastened, he knows that this helps one of goblinesh blood to resist fear (+1) and possibly enhance his fighting skills (boost trait: Fight, Throw or Shoot only; 5 essence)

(Erdan is given a sprig of everwood that was once part of Oakhorn the elder Ent. Once he takes it in his hand, it twists and moves towards his ironwood staff, entwining itself around and into the weapon’s structure giving it a light and dark marbled texture. Ever curious, Erdan spends his time analyzing it. It seems that he can tap into the staff’s reserve of Essence (10 points, usable for his Sorcery principles). There seems to be more, but for now it’s keeping its secrets under a tight guard, perhaps more research and time will reveal them)

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Trouble in Greensway, part II

Once Oakhorn has given them directions to the Circle of Standing Stones, the Rangers head out as quickly as possible that way. The sun begins to set on the 16th of Festival Moons, and two of the moons will be high in the sky, not a perfect alignment but it will lend some power to the Priests of Ceyrana’s ritual,

Very soon after Malen changes shape into an owl, the group is ambushed by ratzin archers who quickly fire at them and then melt back into the forest. Two gargoyles drop down from tree branches and attack Malen-owl, who quickly flies back down to join his friends and return to his true form.

Suddenly, a thratchen appears right next to Vandien and attacks him with both it’s blades then it disappears.

The squad decides not to follow the fleeing childer and continue towards the Stones. They eventually reach the Circle and as they spy the area, they see the intricate ritual circle glowing in angry red and orange light, seven cultist standing motionless on either side as well as one acolyte at the far end of the Stones who seems to be wearing a horned helmet under his cowl. They also see a human male, his skin covered in red cuts and welts.

Vanessa takes aim and launches her arrows and just as the first arrow is let loose and birdcall is heard and the figure disappears and reappears right next to the naked man. The acolyte is really a thratchen, who plunges it’s dagger into the man killing him and completing the ritual to summon Uggabaa the Bloody Cleaver, a large, nasty, and exceptionally wicked abyssal brute who wields an enchanted meat cleaver like axe named the Cleaver, of blood steel.

The four lumber jacks start to quake in their boots right after an Acolyte steps out from cover and throws a explosive fireblast spell at our heroes. Vanessa fires two magical shafts, in quick succession at the Acolyte, hitting the eyes. The priest of Ceyrana’s body falls as he screems in pain, and Vandien manages to taunt Uggabaa which seems to help the lumber jacks’ resolve. The fight is a tough and bloody one, and it’s made more difficult when some ratzin archers show up and a thratchen dervish also pops in. And once Uggabaa wades into melee range, the Rangers soon realize that this demon will be tough to take down, if possible at all. Their task is made more difficult when they realize it’s weapon helps him regenerate his wounds very quickly. After a prolonged battle, both the demon and the thratchen dervish fall.

The lumber jacks & the three Rangers (Althea, Rafe & Omark) who managed to catch up with their leaders, return wounded but victorious against the ratzin.

Now, what to do with this open portal to Hell that is still open? And the news that the junior Rangers saw a group of Kal warriors and childer are rushing towards the village of Greensway?

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Trouble in Greensway, part I
Fire & Brimstone

Shortly after the big fight with the Impostors from Camon, the Ghost Wolves Squad gather for the evening meal. After some small talk, Vanessa notices that Malen’s everwood staff, propped against the wall behind him, is smoking.

Malen reaches for his staff and even before he touches it, he feels the heat emanate from it, and when his fingers close around it, he falls to the floor as if struck physically. His eyes shut tight, smoke billowing from him as well as the odour of burning wood & leaves.

Malen is a silent witness to a barely familiar forest, burning. People he recognizes thru the smoke and soot are fighting both the flames and creatures that look like rat-men and bull headed giants. As Malen looks around, he spots Oakhorn, the ancient ent engaged in combat with a large minotaur and goat-headed creatures that seem to blink in and out of sight.

The vision ends with the Ent’s voice entreating aid as urgently as possible.

The Druid relates his vision to the others and they all agree to leave for Greensway, straight away. Our 6 heroes push their mounts all thru the night, while the 3 junior Rangers, Althea, Rafe & Omark, bring up additional horses & supplies at a slower pace.

Once in the village,  they see the remains of a recent attack. The buildings on the northern side of the river are all burned down. Many of the one on the southern shore show damage and burns. many people are wounded, tired and demoralized. Seeing the Rangers so soon, brightens their spirit considerably.

Vandien and company quickly organize an evacuation and get a little rest after their mad rush.

They then decide to head out and track the Childers who assaulted the village and the Ents. Fanning out while heading north thru the forest, the manage to find Ratzin & Minotaur tracks. After about an hour or so, they are ambushed by those same creatures. 

The fight is short and bloody, and the Rangers come out victorious. But the war is not over, these creatures came from somewhere and the villagers and Malen’s vision mentioned humans dressed in foreign garb and armor.

Erdan collected some key bits of anatomy from the both the minotaur and ratzin bodies.

While Erdan is about his grizzly business, Malen tries to communicate with Oakhorn, thru his staff. The Druid does form a link, tentative as it is. The Ent shows him the way to find their hidden location. They quickly set off with Malen and Toji in the lead. After a few hours of forced march set by the Druid, they arrive at a small, seemingly empty glade. Eventually Oakhorn and his fellow Ents reveal themselves. They all bear marks of violence (cuts, breaks and burns) that cannot heal while the forest itself is injured and still under attack.

They are very glad to see them and have begun telling them the tale of the last few days. Despite using the elven tongue, it takes a while for the tree-folk to get to the crux of the matter. 

Acolytes from the Kal-a-Nar empire, along with soldiers have begun corrupting an old forgotten circle of Standing Stones and are using it to open a portal to Norcan Darr, the Hard Lands to call forth Childer, and then possibly Demons. 

to be continued…

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Galean Guests

Vandien and company are given some R&R time, and while they are all keeping busy with personal projects (Malen manages to use Laylana’s River Stones to learn the Sentry gift), they hear about the arrival of the most recent batch of Galean Knights & Soldiers for the purpose of an exchange of training and culture.

A few days later, on the 9th of Festival Moon, the Galean contingent arrives in Kythros. They display cool confidence, sharp coordination as well as much condescension and disdain towards Sgt-Major Mindril and Sgt. Guz. Vanessa steps forward to take care of the horse of one of the Lieutenant, who goes by the name of Pieron, a bowman. They chat briefly, and the man finds Vanessa quite interesting and she finds he is also worth getting to know better.

Mindril asks Vandien and his squad to keep an eye on their guests, as he suspects something is not quite right. Vandien briefs his group. Erdan attempts some magic but nothing exceptional is revealed. Vanessa invite Lt. Pieron for an evening out on the town and the two of them get to know each other quite intimately. Not much is revealed by the soldier.

And while they are on maneuvers, Vandien does a B&E into Capt. Rasul and Lt. Pieron’s rooms. The only thing he finds is a few dry fleck of blood here and there, and a couple of recent cuts in the clothing or uniforms that show recent repairs. They also check out their horses and gear, and the find some dried blood there as well. Vanessa doesn’t remember Pieron having any recent scars or wounds.

They decide to try to back track the Galean’s path. With some skill and luck they find the area that the tracks of a large group of mounted troops regained the main road. They follow that to the edge of the Silverwood forest, where they come upon a grizzly sight, over a score of bloated, and rotting bodies. The only identifying marks are some Galean military tattoos. They continue to back track and find Prelacy uniforms & gear, buried in burlap bags.

Once they’ve warned Sgt-Major Mindril, he tells them to be ready tonight during the farewell feast. When confronted by the uniforms, chaos ensues and the battle is joined.

Battered and bruised, they eventually eliminate or subdue the imposters. Luckily, they capture Lt. Hadrian after stabilizing him, as well as a few other soldiers. Once they are awake, they reveal that they were to pose as the Galeans, shake the Ranger’s confidence and try to kill as many of the high command as possible. This would of course cause much trouble between the Rangers and Galea.

Sgt-Major Mindril rewards Vandien and his group with a bounty on the gear, arms & armor as well as the mounts and their gear. Some of it will go towards the families of the actual Galeans, some towards the families of the rangers who perished and the rest to Vandien and his squad.

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RETURN TO KYTHROS

You finally make it to Kythros in the wee hours of morning. You rode all night, hoping you wouldn’t be attacked again during the night. When the gate guards see you, exhausted & dirty, they simply let you in immediately and even offer to escort you thru the morning traffic to Ranger HQ.

You report at least your presence to Sgt Guz, the ogre and aid to Sgt-major Mindril, semi-coherently. He acknowledges your arrival and orders you to get some much deserved rest. Even if he hadn’t ordered it, you would’ve done so anyway. You thought he said he’d take care to find quarters for Roberre. Whatever.

Hunger wakes you, late in the afternoon. You all stagger to the mess hall at various times, and sit together, more or less. Then you clean yourselves up, get a new change of clothes and square away your gear.

Vandien files his official reports, along with the corroborating reports of fellow Rangers and various peoples of note you met during your mission.

The next morning finds you all in better spirits, as some much needed sleep and good food was supplied. Sgt Guz summons you to the offices of Sgt-Major Kork Mindril, the Rangers’ non-com officer (a dwarf warrior).

Roberre is there, seated just outside his office. He nods a greeting to you, as you enter to see your commander.

Mindril is looking at Vandien’s reports with interest as you enter. He signals for some of you so sit (there are only two other chairs) and with Horak and Guz there, it’s a tight squeeze.

’’I’m extremely please ‘bout your capture of Ballok and some of his gang. Apparently Lord Erevan and Capt. Devan will be keeping an eye out for more trouble there and the reputation o’ the Rangers is most likely on the mends.’’

‘’Guz was right. Ye really are the best o’ the lot. I’m placin’ you under a special command unit, effective right now’’

He hands over to you, Vandien a letter, sealed with the mark of the Rangers and the personal seal of lady Grayson herself, and then saiz while looking you very seriously, directly in the eyes;

‘’This be a Letter of Orders, signed by me and counter-signed by the Lord Commander, Lady Grayson. If’n anyone else of rank questions ye about your orders, your mission, or your business, ye are t’show ‘em this, let ’em see the seals, and respectfully be on yer way – without explainin’ more’n ye have to about what ye be doin’. Don’t be rude, an’ respect the chain o’ command, but ye be on Command business. That be no one else’s place to interfere, officer or no. I hope ye understand’’
Ye might hear the term ‘’Ghost Wolves’’ among other rangers. It’s an un-official name that’s been used in the past to refer to a squad o’ Rangers outside the regular chain o’ command. Don’t deny or confirm anythin’ if somebody asks.’’

‘’Now it’s time for y’a to introduce yer new friend there, Roberre, and tell me more about ‘im and this message he’s s’pposed to deliver to the Raven’’

Vandien opens the door and asks Roberre to enter. Both you and he relate how you met and Roberre stresses the urgency of delivering his message.

When Sgt Mindril tries to push Roberre for more information, Roberre simply re-states; ‘’It is a very important, but also a very confidential matter. I can assure you that it has much to do with the days to come, but I can say no more than that.’’

Mindril then dismisses you all for now. ’’You’re free for the day, but put on your dress uniforms for the dinner at the late 6 bells (i.e. 6PM).’’ he says.

When you enter the mess hall, later that day, many other Rangers are there, standing at attention on either side of the hall. And the Sargeants Mindril & Guz are there as well as few of the respected teaching staff, at the far end of the hall. You all make your way down the cleared floor to trumpet fanfare. Sgt-Major Mindril announces that the Rangers before him are to be rewarded with a promotion in ranks, due to their outstanding service and courage.

Vandien is promoted to Sgt-Minor, Malen is now a full Sgt., while Vanessa and Toji become Corporals and Erdan & Horak are raised to Rangers 1st-Class. Everyone applauds and a feast is enjoyed by all.

The next day, Malen spends time with Jenna, who’s still recovering from the shock of her grievous wounds, some of it mental.

Vandien had searched for Neala, but was told her and her squad are off on a mission to escort a Duke back to his home of Olara. But while you’re relaxing and simply going about some personal business, you get to see some Rangers you haven’t seen in a while. Sgt-Minor Reager, Sgt Ssukko (a dregordian warrior), Corporal Filbur Ironhand (a dwarf warrior) and a few others. You and Vanessa trained with him a few years ago. You exchange stories and he asks about the stranger you guys arrived with the previous morning. You only speak in vague terms and he says he understand that you might be under orders to keep quiet. These are troubled times after all.

Toji and Horak spend some time together, sharing stories about their goblinesh origins.

Vanessa and Erdan, as well as Malen (once he can be pried away from Jenna) are introduced to a man called Helroth (see picture attached), a powerful Arch-mage from Mindroth’s Tower. He says that he detected the recent use of the Portals in the Halls of the Well.

When he was younger and travelled about, with his companions, much like you Rangers, he discovered the Halls of the Well. He spent much time researching them, experimenting with them and exploring their various locations. He’s kept them a secret to avoid the enemies of the Southern Kingdoms from using them. But since you Rangers know about them now and have used them (and now some elves in Landra’feya as well), he figures you may as well be armed with the proper information.

There is the Hall near Berell town, one north of Ey’Dreigh (in the great elven forest) and the ruined one near Haven (where you fought the fish-like creatures, but Helroth has blocked access to/from that one Hall).

Helroth requires all three of these Rangers to commit to memory the proper combination for the Berell & Ey’Dreigh Halls, as well as a third Hall, to be used only in extreme emergencies. This third Hall is the one beneath his tower in the Peace Woods, near Mindroth’s Tower. He also instructs them on how to lock the gates behind them, should the need arise.

He warns about using and abusing the waters of the Wells in each hall. The Berell Hall had been corrupted by the mad alchemist, and its waters seemed to affect a living being’s heath and vigor. Helroth is looking into cleaning it up and purifying it. The Ey’Dreigh Well, affects ones physical strength (Erdan will most likely find this very interesting).

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IN THE DEAD OF NIGHT

They then head towards Kythros. At a way-inn they halt for the night. In the middle of the night a young woman wakes up almost everyone and insists on speaking to the Rangers. Her name is Katrina and beseeches them to aid her and investigate the attackers that tried to kill her and most likely killed her travelling companions.

Almost all the group, except Roberre, who is left behind, leaves with her, but after two hours of searching and not finding any trace of a camp or an attack. It’s obvious that this was a ruse. Katrina laughs and mocks the Rangers, saying that her allies will have either captured or killed Roberre by now. Horak knocks her out and throws her over his shoulder. They then all high-tail it back to the inn, which is on fire now.

Vandien & Malen quickly brave the flames of the Inn, upstairs Vandien finds the body of a shayakar agent and Malen discovers a bottle of explosive consequence, but both have to leave due to smoke and debris falling down on them.

Meanwhile, Omark has found a trail most likely left by Roberre, leading towards the woods. While following the trail, a sudden bang and a bright flash is seen nearby, so the Rangers rush towards the source and see Roberre beset by 4 nightguards, two more are dead nearby. Arrows and spells eliminate most of them quickly, but more nightguards drop down from the trees. Jenna is mortally wounded, but those dark assassins are eventually dealt with. The one fighting Horak, whispers something when he recognize Vandien & Vanessa and utters his death-whisper, before his final breath.

Erdan investigates the nightguard leader’s body and discovers a partially ripped message that says they are to capture Roberre, or kill him as needed. And it’s signed by a fancy letter L that Vandien and the others recognize as Thenmar Lavanchy’s signature. It seems that the twins identity and general location is now known.

They decide to waste no more time and travel to Kythros and protect Roberre.

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A serious discussion

After defeating Krig and his minions, and liberating the village of Valburn, Vandien decides to have a stern discussion with Baron Willard Malik. It’s time that he sobers up and return to his duties towards his lands and it’s people.

On the way to his small keep of Gravlar’s Hill, Toji expresses his concerns about his commanding officer, Vandien, about his obvious anger. When Toji was in the court of Duke Harrington and also at the court in Galea

A few things you need to know: Lord Willard Malik, baron of Graval’s Hill and of Gravlaros (the lands that include Valburn and Riverwick) is a widower but was once at least a good honourable man, if not remarkable. His eldest daughter is lady Hariette (21, plump, meek but nice. She should be married by now or at least bethroed). Lauren (15, plain looking and acts and dresses as a boy). And finally, Gregory (7, his only male heir but neglected and blamed for the Baroness’ death at childbirth. He clings to Hariette as a mother figure).

His subjects do not really hate their Lord, but do resent his prolonged mourning and lack of concern for them. The baroness, Lady Louisa, was much loved, a kind and giving person, devoted to the Ascended.

Eventually Vandien, Malen & Erdan are bid to see his Lordship. The great hall still does not live up to it’s namesake. There are few candles, the fireplace has a meagre fire, the floor still has old rushes upon it, and Lord Malik’s clothes are dirty and threadbare, he sits at an old table, eating stale bread and watered down wine.

Vandien speaks to him in polite tones, trying to convince him to sober up and be more consious of his duties, while Malen speaks his thought a bit more openly. Malik seems to get rather upset, but it seems that Vandien and Malen’s words have ignited a small spark in Hariette, his eldest. She thanks the Rangers and has her sister Lauren guide them to the kitchen to pick up whatever they wish. She will have a much more serious talk with her father.

When the Rangers are all together in Valburn, they get ready to leave towards Homestead. On the way there, they meet Baron Erevan of Homestead and his retinue. They are on their way to meet his brother-in-law Malik for a hunting expedition, but the real reason is to pound some reason into Malik’s thick skull.

Once in Homestead, they deliver their prisoners, file their report and also meet their new recruit, Horak the Tower, an ogre that they rescued near Silvergate a little while back.

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THE MESSENGER

While they are having their breakfast at Mr. Woodley, a man walks into the room, dishevelled and travel worn, yet clearly agitated. Dressed in blues and browns, with a cloak of an odd shade of tan that almost suggests pink, he looks around quickly, taking each member of the group in with his steady gaze.

He appears to be in his forties or early fifties, though robust for his years. Lean, with a black-grey, trimmed beard, and surprisingly blue eyes that hint vaguely at purple, it is when he drops his hood that you see the wild mane of unkempt hair that gives him a slightly mad appearance.

‘’Well, what in the Stellar Hells took you so long? The Merchant and the Seer know the Seeker has been found! It’s only a matter of time before Julian is put into play…..

His voice trails off as he seems to realize none of you have any idea who he is or what he is talking about.

‘’I… am most sorry. I must… have the wrong…room…’’

He then turns and leaves, but Vanessa manages to grab him firmly but without malice and make him sit down and explain what the nine hells he’s talking about.

Of course, I knew I’d come to the right place. The name is Roberre, and I am very much in your debt.

When questioned about the strange things he’d ranted about previously, he will look startled and confused, and replies –

‘’I am not at all sure what you are talking about, I am sorry to say. I’ve had a terrible fever, though, and was laid up for a time, unable to finish my journey. You see, I am bound for Eldara, the elven capital city. I must find Saiderin there, and deliver a vital message. I am so glad I found you Rangers here, for I know you can see me safely there. Please, this is a desperately important mission I have, and while I cannot reveal too much of it, nor pay you any grand sum, I have some small amount of skill in some areas that might be of service.’’

He really doesn’t seem to know what they are speaking of, and insists that if he spoke any such words, clearly they were remnants of his fever dreams.

The “Rangerly” thing to do is to escort him at least as far as Kythros, and see what the commanders want done from there. But first there is the business of the Baron’s lack of concern for his lands and the people under his charge. Vandien has taken it as his responsibility to take the drunken noble to task.

What will happen at the keep of Gravlar’s Hill? Stay tuned…

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Opportunists

The Rangers bring back the mayor’s wife and two children to Riverwick. After the happy reunion, the Rangers are thanked with a hearty breakfast, some fresh horses as well as a wagon to transport the prisoner. Erdan and Jenna will remain behind to make sure no other troubles arise, since there’s still an unseen opponent unaccounted for.

As they prepare to leave in the morning, a message has reached the Constable that there’s some kind of trouble in Valburn, which is fortunately on the way back to Homestead & Kythros. As usual, the Baron neglects his duty and just drinks himself into a stupor most days and it seems to be up to the Rangers to resolve this issue.

They arrive at the small village of Valburn, built on a smalll hill and surrounded by a palisade wall and they stop near Mr. Woodley’s ale house. Toji decides to stay with the prisoner wagon while the others go into the house. It’s surprisingly empty. Mr. Woodley bring them some weak ale and what little food he still has. He seems nervous and a little tense, but looks also relieved to see Rangers here, finally. He hints that since the new ’’Constables’’ arrived, he can’t keep his best ale in stock and food stores are always low. But that they really should get their weapons checked at the blacksmith’s, Urias Silverhammer.

The dwarf smith, tells the heroes that the village headman was coerced into accepting the offer of protection from Krig the ogre, and his motley bunch of lackeys. So the Rangers quickly ride out and directly to Homestead to drop off their prisoner, Ballok, file their report and gather their reinforcements (ie Rafe, Omark and Althea).

Then they just as quickly return to Valburn, where they leave the horses about a mile out of town, and under cover of darkness, climb the palisade and slip inside the village, but not without making some noise. Malen seems distracted and kicks over a bucket which attracts the attention of a patrol. Luckily, a villager also heard and saw the Rangers come in and opens her window and urges them inside her home. Once inside, they wait quietly and hear the patrol approaching. Shuffling steps indicate they are where the heroes were a few moments ago, but seeing nothing, they return to their route.

Their savior introduces herself as Nancy, a young woman who works with Mr. Woodley. She is pretty, about 20 or so, brunette with dark brown eyes. She is very glad to see the Rangers and hopes they are there to help. She agrees to go to the ale house and warn her boss. While Vanessa goes to see Silverhammer and Malen changes into an owl and scouts the house that the bandits are using as a base of operations and barracks. Two guards are outside and maybe four more sleeping inside.

Once all reunited and with a plan laid out, the heroes move towards the barracks/home, but once again Malen doesn’t pay attention to his surroundings and tips a pile of wood someone left lying around. The two guards are now alerted, arrows fly but not before one of the guards rings an alarm bell. Both bandits fall swiftly to the archers’ skills, but the damage is done. The men inside open the shutters and fire at the Rangers. One of them falls before he can duck back behind cover.

Soon, more ruffians can be heard to be approaching from the other direction. Krig the ogre turn the corner flanked by two goons. The ogre’s very large axe gleams in the torch light. Vandien gulps and wonders if he’s being brave or foolish while moving in on the huge opponent. Luck is with him as he ducks under the huge weapon, and Longfang bites into the brute’s groin and up to his belly, spilling all the food and ale recently ingested.

Before the ogre’s body collapses to the ground, Malen transforms into a lion and leaps onto one of the bandits and mauls him quickly, and in a flash of adrenalin then jumps the other poor bandit.

With their leader defeated so quickly, the remaining ruffians surrender.

Some well earned rest is needed despite the brevity of the fight. The villagers are happy to have been released from the constant threat of the “constables” and are even more so when Vandien orders his three junior Rangers to remain in the area until these safety issues are addressed by Baron Willard Malik.

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