Shaintar - A legend begins

PREDATORS AND PREY PART I

Having proven themselves as competent and dedicated, the new Rangers are assigned a mission of increased importance. They are to hunt down Bloody Ballok, a notoriously violent bandit leader who has been terrorizing the lands surrounding Homestead, located on the Howling River south of Kythros.

The mission is particularly delicate because Ballok has already escaped the grasp of the Rangers once, killing a number of people in the process; his capture is a matter of both pride and restoring the reputation of the Rangers.

On a given day while in Kythros, following the morning’s exercises and chores, the Heroes are summoned to the cabin housing the working quarters of a number of important non-officers, including Sergeant Major Guz. Sergeant Guz is an elderly ogre who has served the Rangers for most of his adult life; currently, he serves as one of the main trainers of new recruits, though he also oversees local mission assignments and other duties as needed (Guz has a permanent wound from a past battle, on his left leg).

Upon entering the administrative quarters, the Heroes will likely be surprised to see not only Sergeant Major Guz, but also Grand Sergeant Major Kork Mindril, the highest ranked non-officer in the Rangers. They are asked to close the door, and Guz moves in behind them to see that no one disturbs the meeting. Once they settle in, the dwarven veteran begins the conversation.

“I’m glad to hear that your last mission went well. King Harrington is very pleased overall. You’ve all proven yourselves capable and resourceful Rangers. I’m goin’ to have ta ask each of ye to keep what I tell ya in the strictest o’ confidence, aye?”

He looks around the room, seeking assent from each Ranger.

“Good. Ye may have picked up on the fact that we be hard pressed these days. Our numbers have dwindled o’er the last few decades, what with how peaceful things have been. Howe’er, there’s those in place o’ power and influence what know what’s comin.’ The very Gates o’ Hell are goin’ t’ open soon, if you believe the druids an’ the priests…an’ believe me, I do.”

He pulls out a map of the continent of Shaintar and begins to point out certain areas, north of the Wildlands.

“The Kal-a-Nar Empire is amassin’ troops all along the northern borders with the Elves and Olara. O’er here,” he points to the Malakar Dominion, “there’s reports of the Maelstrom building fortified camps near Landra’Feya.”

Guz interrupts, saying “The Maelstrom is a large mercenary army, founded in the Empire, made up mostly of those who worship Ceynara.”

“Aye, that they do. For all intents and purposes, they be another force servin’ the Empire’s interests. The reason I be tellin’ all this to ye is so that you’ll be ready for what’s likely to be asked o’ ye. The Rangers are stretched t’ the limits, and it’s gonna get worse long before it gets better. It’s hard to motivate people who’ve only known peace for a century, but that’s gonna end soon, and we’ve got a lot o’ work t’ do.”

He points out the area just south of Kythros, around Homestead. “Your work begins here. We’ve got a deadly bastard of a man, Bloody Ballok, raidin’ and murderin’ all around this area. We’d already caught him in Tarry, but his men jumped our people in a small village between Tarry and Homestead. They killed ev’ry one a’ the poor folks the Rangers were stayin’ with, and word’s spreadin’ fast about how we lost him and got those folks killed.”

The old dwarf straightens up, and gives the Heroes a hard look. “The reputation o’ the Rangers is at stake here, folks. We need t’ be recruitin’, and we can’t have a stain like this hurtin’ our efforts. That, an’ the fact is this be a right bastard who needs t’ be dealt with. If ye can capture him and his men, so be it. If not, justice at the end o’ your blades, arrows, and magic will suffice well enough.”

The Heroes are instructed to make their way to the area around Homestead and begin their hunt for Bloody Ballok and his men. There are any number of ways they might pursue the investigation and hunt, but the two most likely approaches will be the following:

- Track him and his men from the scene of their last known attack, a small farm on the outskirts of the village of Valburn.

- Head into the town of Homestead and seek any information from there.

So our group of heroes gets their gear and horses ready and leave as soon as they can, heading south and east. They stop at Homestead and speak to their contacts there. Lt Ullkish gives them what little information he has. «Ballok has been hitting small farms & villages southeast of here. Mostly around the barony of Malik, which includes the villages of Riverwick & Valburn and I don’t have enough men to send down there to stop him»

After only a brief rest they are off again. At the village of Valburn they learn that an outlying farm has been attacked about a week ago. They head towards the farm in question and discover a gruesome sight, the house has been burned down and the butchered bodies of the family in the barn.

Toji manages to find some tracks leading towards the south but they get harder and harder to see and eventually the trails turns cold. So they decide to visit the local Baron, Lord Willard Malik and see if he can lend a hand.

The lord’s castle has seen better days. It is small and old but looks well built despite the lack of maintenance. The banners are in tatters, crenelations and peaks are damaged and the few guards’ uniforms are old and dirty, seeming to match their attitude and lack of manners.

They are eventually led in the Lord’s presence, who greets them rather rudely (no surprise there), he’s still drunk and incoherent. Once he realizes what they want he simply summons Hariette so speak to them and leave him in peace.

She brings them to a quiet sitting room and they start start speaking of the recent bandit activity. Hariette remembes that one of the woodcutters remembers seeing suspicious activity nearby. They find the woodcutter, Charlie, who reveals that he saw men leading horses near a particular forest he sometimes goes to collect woods and a rare mushroom. It’s far when on foot, so he rarely goes there, but recently he saw these men and followed them to a cave, They had a pig with them too. Once they were out of sight, Charlie withdrew and returned to the castle.

Charlie agrees to guide them part of the way there and then takes his leave, wishing them luck. Leaving their three ranger subordinates with the horses, our heroes creep into the cave. After a few twists and turns they are surrounded by the bandits horses and they also hear an underground stream ahead and spot simple rope & wood bridges that cross the water.

Vandien inspects one bridge to find a simple bell alarm system tied to the underside of the wood planks. After a few tense moments he manages to neutralize them and they cross the bridge. As soon as they set foot on the far side, one of the bandits stumbles into them mumbling to himself about draining the snake. On pure reflex, Vandien slays him and sets the body down quietly.

Then, the four Rangers quickly walk into the back of the cave and shoot the remaining 6 bandits dead but manage to only wound one, the apparent leader of this bunch of miscreants. Realizing that none of them match Ballok’s description, they stabilize the wounded one, who might be called Ford or Terrence, in order to question him.

And that is where we ended the episode…stay tuned for the next episode of «The Wild, Wild Rangers!»

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In the meantime, . . .
elsewhere in Shaintar.

In the vast underground halls of a very dark castle, somewhere in the Shadowlands, stands a lone figure, looking very small and fragile despite his fine attire and the haughty expression and confidence he tries to exude.

Lord Thenmar Lavanchy has been summoned by his Masters. Some recent set backs have brought their gaze upon him and they might be questioning the wisdom of the Gift they gave him.

All past successes have been washed away and now only his recent failures will he be judged. He must use all his charm, his guile and persuasiveness to convince them to redeem himself.

This all started because his younger siblings wanted to prove themselves worthy of the Gift. He told them to wait, to be patient. «Easy for you to say» they replied, «you are already blessed with immortality, big brother». So they hatched a plan that would prove their strength and worthiness. It would’ve dealt a demoralizing blow to the much hated Grey Rangers by striking at the heart of their organization.

But the youngest brother got sloppy and exposed the whole plot and shortly after, the twins were captured or killed before the ritual was completed.

Maybe he should tie up the loose end that his sister poses, before she reveals anything more. But Kythros will be a tough nut to crack so soon after her capture.

Then, there’s the more recent debacle at castle Stormwall. His masters told him that hobgoblins are difficult to control, which was proven when they killed that farming family when he expressly forbidden any contact with humans. This in turn attracted the attention of the Rangers, once again. Perhaps a new approach is needed, one with more subtle servants.

Luckily Thenmar still has a few agents, like Taline Chorano, under his sway. But he needs to play them just right. Patience is the key, but he feels that his Masters are moving somewhat quicker these days.

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The Founding of the Kingdom of Khorimar
after the deadly aspirations

1- Malen gets a personnal talk with the Korindian ambassador, Master Ebar Vildan. He was asked, by King Harrington, to speak about Malen’s outburst toward Baron Glantri.
«Even if the Baron was being rather pompous and arrogant, he is still a Lord and one doesn’t just yell at someone like him to shut up, no matter how much he deserves it. Only the fact that you were under the King’s favour and that you were ignorant of the ways of Nobility saved you from any official repercussions. Be careful if you see him again. Perhaps do something to placate him, compliment him and/or offer apologies. This is my advice, young man. It is up to you to do with it as you will»

2- Toji has made himself look as good as he possibly can and has brushed up on his etiquette of fancy people (new defining interest: Etiquette) and even managed to make friends. He’s becoming quite the charmer.

3- After a few days of celebration and recovery from said activity, the new King and his whole retinue prepare to leave Vale, in high spirits and with an additional escort of 40 knights of Galea, all the way to Telok. No one dares bother the procession on their return trip

4- A rather loud and enthusiastic crowd greets their new King. Progress to his castle is slow but steady. All the knights are looking their best, despite the road’s dust and are vigilant. Both King and Queen Harrington wave to their happy subjects.

5- Once back in the castle, Master Jordin Ironfire, the young dwarven alchemist & retainer to the King, has completed two items commissioned by Jonas before they left for the city of Vale.

The Little giant’s belt, commissioned specifically for Toji, increases his Strength by one step (max d12, +1 if STR is d12 already). It’s dyed a deep red and has a large bull’s head buckle.

A Charming bracelet, commissioned for Vanessa, adds +1 to Charisma. Good for any social rolls. Braids of gold and silver, with flowers and butterflies of the same metal & small precious stones.

6- Upon the Ranger’s departure, King Harrington gives them all his official reports, sealed of course, along with assurances that he is most satisfied with their performances and capabilities. He also gives them a small chest to give to Lady Grayson as a token of friendship and support. Sir Colwyn joins them up to the border of the Kingdom.

7- Over the next few months, Lord Harrington consolidates his power and authority. He quickly deals with the overt rebellion of Duke Hanaran and then turns his attention to the slimy little Duke Evor. Both Dukes died, either in combat or after a short bloody siege. Their heirs swear fealty to Jonas and he can then concentrate on stabilizing the lands and offering support to the Rangers as promised.

8- When the Rangers return to Kythros and meet with Sgt-Major Mindril, he congratulates them sincerely and gives them 2 days off, with only light administrative duties. Other rangers have heard of their exploits (a messenger Aevakar was sent ahead, from Telok).

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Deadly Aspirations (The Royal Council of Galea)

The entire procession of Duke Harrington is warmly welcomed in the city of Vale and it’s Lord, His Grace Reneau Lyonn greets them all and assignes them rooms and valets as appropriate.

The following morning, after breaking their fast, the Council meeting is held. The Rangers are helped into their finely and told about etiquette and procedures for the ceremony.

As the host of the meeting, Lord Reneau Lyonn will be the head speaker of the Council and he begins his speech:

_Presiding over the meeting of the Royal Advisory Council of Galea, in the city of Vale;

The ambassador of Korindia, Lord Ebar Vildan, (master of Kor-In, fifth knotted belt)

The ambassador of Olara, speaking on behalf of His Majesty Banrick Olar XIV, Lord Kordrak Olar.

Her Grace Duchess Olivia Descane of Riverend.

His Grace Duke Ander Venere of Volstead (rules his lands cautiously and comfortably from his stronghold) who has deigned to honour us with his presence.

His Grace Duke of Karas, Tolin Kahnar (spends as much time surveying his lands from horseback as he spends in his ruling chambers).

And, representing the King of Galea, His Royal Majesty, Argon Aladay, first of his name (of the line that has most sat the throne of Galea, is the Crown Prince, His Royal Highness, Prince Kale Aladay (age 23, currently serving in the Gleaming Shields).

And I, Lord Reneau Lyonn, the Duke of Vale (is the elderly and refined head of the House) am your humble and honoured host for this most distinguished assemblage.

We are also honoured to receive, as unofficial representatives of Grayson’s Grey Ranger, Sgt Vandien of Southgate, Corporal Malen of Korindia and Druid of the Ascended, Rangers 1st class Vanessa of Southgate and Toji of the Hurr Gather.

This meeting has been convened in order to review and approve or reject the claim of Kingship of His Grace, Duke Jonas Harrington of Sarsden and to bring under his rule the lands around the cities of Telok, Tarry, Four Corners and Middleton, and all in between. These include the lands and holdings of the following land-bearing nobles:
The Dukes Modric Hanaran, Gerir Evor and Ugmar Trebalt. The Baroness Celestine Tothale and Baron Rismak Glantri, as well a five other minor baronets and 14 more vassal knights, mentioned in the adjoining scrolls.

It is with the unanimous, whole hearted support and agreement of this esteemed Council, that the petition of Duke Jonas Harrington of Sarsden, to be recognized and accepted as His Majesty Jonas Harrington, first of his name, King of Khorrimar. This title is hereditary and for as long as his bloodline persists.

Khorrimar is a recognized member of the Southern Kingdoms and part of the Alliance of said nations. Blessed by the Ascended and by the Church of Light.

The speech goes on for a bit with details of obligations, duties, etc. But at least the Rangers’ mission is officially completed and successful.

A celebratory feast is held in honor of the new King and the new kingdom.

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DEADLY ASPIRATIONS - part III

His Grace will not be happy about this intrusion. Not only did someone try to kill him and his wife, but they killed loyal members of his household, hurt everyone who knew these men and shaken their confidence in him a little. He confiscates anything of value on the assassins in order to offer compensation to the families of those slain.

Not only is everyone in the castle abuzz about the assassination attempt on the Duke, but many of the staff are very distraught aver the whole event. Some of the guards may have had dalliances with the female staff.

Lord Glantri has been busy investigating the security breach. He finds the body of one guard in a cellar, stripped of his tunic, helmet and weapons. He also discovers some recent deliveries just dropped where they shouldn’t have been. He asks the Rangers to help him look for a hideout they may have in the nearby country side.

Lord Glantri reluctantly asks for the assistance of the Rangers to search where these assassins came from. He’s sure they can’t have been from very far away. But as the Rangers’ discuss on and on about how to proceed and he shouts at them about their inaction, and that he will take the hunting hounds and search without them, and storms out, slamming the door.

The Rangers find on hunting dog still in the kennels, a young male and they saddle up to begin their search. Malen shifts into a hawk and flies around the area in a widening perimeter. His keen eyesight spots a possible copse of woods and begins his descent. While the rest of the group follow on horse back and follow the hound’s trail.

Lord Glantri eventually find’s the bodies of three more regular people who deliver goods daily to the Duke’s estate, in another forested area.

The Rangers find a small hidden campsite, where they discover the following:
1- The letter sent from Kythros that mentions the arrival of the Rangers.
2- Blank parchment and writing tools.
3- A scroll tube with maps of Castle Darrow and a list of names of people in the duke’s employ.
4- Comprehensive disguise kit and clothing to match local residents, guards, staff, even the Rangers.
5- Some local currency, mostly coppers «wheels» and some silver «bulls».

Jonas will also order the surviving attackers hanged until death ensues, after their thorough interrogation of course. Once dead, the bodies are to be transported and hung up again at various crossroads that lead towards Lord Evor’s lands and estates. Jonas knows his enemies well and this type of attack would be Evor’s style, cowardly and deceitful. But Evor is not stupid enough to leave evidence of his treachery.

Once he is pronounced King, Jonas promises to deal with the «slippery sparrow» once and for all.

After this treacherous attack, Jonas orders his staff and retainers to pack up and prepare for the trip back to his capital, Telok. Progress is slow compared to the Rangers’ regular rythm, but steady.

They only stay in Telok for a day, to make arrangments while Jonas is absent. Sir Colwyn and Sir Marlon are to stay behind to protect the lands and people.

They then set out towards Vale, in Galea. On the way to Middleton, scout report that a force of Knights and Soldiers are heading their way. Without provocation the unknown knights charge the Duke’s forces. Jonas forms up his men and bellows orders atop his charger. Vandien follows his lead and manages to give critical assistance to the Duke.

All four Ranger heroes acquit themselves particularly well, which helps eliminate key threats of the opposing forces, while only taking minor injuries. It also helps the Duke rally his forces to greater effect despite the inferior numbers.

Eventually the enemies forces break and are routed, as few are left. A cheer goes up for The Duke as well as for the Rangers.

The bodies are investigated, and it’s discovered that the knights are in Duke Hanaran’s retinue. Jonas’ faces clouds over in anger, but is quickly suppressed. He files this away for the future. The corpses’ valuable & usable remains are gathered, as well as the horses still living. Then the dead are burned before moving on the next day.

The rest of the trip to the Vale is quiet. And when they are within sight of the city, a messenger is sent ahead. An aevakar herald is sent back with greetings and an invitation to enter the city as friends.

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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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