Shaintar - A legend begins

The first mission
Rats, Goblins & Minotaurs, oh my!

It is early sping of the year of 3121, and a new class of recruits has graduated from the Grey Ranger Academy.

Malen (a korindian druid) and Vandien (a human ’’scout’’ for lack of a better word) have been paired up with two other rangers (Magnus & Colwin) and their first solo mission and final test is to go patrol the area around Krythros. Their circuit takes them in the north-west area around the Vas’lok Lake. They are to deal with any problems as they see fit. If the threat is too great, they are to assess it and report back for reinforcements as quickly as possible.

A few day into their travels, they cross path with a farmer bringing his cattle to the butcher in the next town over. He tells them that someone is having some problems with rats. Predators are nothing new to any farmer but this looks to be more than it seems.

When they arrive at the small town of Bybridge (a quaint little hamlet, with a sturdy stone bridge and a watermill nearby) they are greeted warmly by the folks there. They do gather more precise information about the rat problem. A collection of 3 farmsteads just outside of town are the ones experiencing the rodent issues (the Damien, Eron & Lloyd families). A young boy says his friend saw a rat with a sword but the adults don’t seem to believe him.
Further investigation reveals ratkin tracks and the tracks from a more humanoid creature that also walks on two legs. Mrs Lloyd admits to finding a small pouch of money next to the troughs and 2 piglets missing.

The rangers speak with everyone over supper that evening and decide to stay awake and hide during the night and hope to ambush the next raiders. They spot two groups converging towards the farms, from two different directions. Suddenly one group rushes towards the other and attacks. The rangers managed to see a difference in the creatures’ appearances. The ratzin are quickly dispatched and the other creatures who turn out to be goblins, they manage to speak to the rangers and make peaceful overtures despite their thick kalinesh accent. Dusam leads the triplets (Toji, Hoji & Eiji), that attacked the ratzin.

The rangers are escorted to the goblins’ camp where they tell their tale of exile and how they were followed to this land by the ratzin and their Minotaur leader. Aaralon (their wise-man) agrees to go back to Krythros with Colwyn & Magnus to speak to the Ranger officers about a place for them to settle.

Meanwhile, Dusam & the triplets join forces with Vandien & Malen in order to enter the childers cave lair and end their threat. They enter the cave and eliminate the sentries and then the Minotaur and his retinue. The Minotaur was tough and one of the triplets was knocked out but then Vandien finally found an opening and dealt the beast a lethal blow. Malen hurried to see to Toji’s wounds.

They all returned to the goblins’ camp to rest. The next day they all set out to meet the farmers and open friendly relationships. Since this first meeting went well, they also visited the town of Bybridge. This went very well and the other rangers & Aaralon returned with good news.

The entire goblin community prepared to move towards Krythros with their new ranger allies.

Wrap-up
Gifts form the goblinesh: The moonlight pearl amulet for Malen: This amulet holds 5 points of essence that can be used by sorcerers or druids. Once used, its essence is restored only at the 13th hour when left under the open sky. They gave a jar of healing salve (5 uses) for Vandien.
One of the goblin triplets, Toji, owes his life to Malen and vows to follow him & protect him.

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Return to base
Fires & Family Reunions

Once back in Kythros, the heroes were debriefed on all that happened and congratulated by Sgt-major Kork Mindril. They were given a few days off to relax before their next tour. While browsing the stalls of the market square, Malen realized his new medallion was lifted, but they spotted the thief nearby and they managed to cut him off and arrest him. They discovered that this thief, Anton Leberre, is a bit notorious. Mostly harmless though, he commits petty crimes in order to buy booze and pay whores.

They were soon given their orders to travel with the goblins from the Kal empire’s fringes, north towards the forest on the northen edge of the Vas’lok lake, to meet up with a delegation of alakar. Once that is done they are to keep patrolling towards the city of Shakkar.

On their 3rd night they spotted to Grey Ranger camp/stash that had been disturbed. Toji suspected a chimera (a creature of Norcan Darr?) and he was proved right when it attacked just after sunset. Despite its fierceness, Vandien dealt it a fatal blow (a few token trophies were taken).

The following day, while gently riding between towns, they spot black smoke coming from a nearby hill. Racing in that direction they found the local church burning. A bucket line was already started and the Rangers asked if anyone was still inside. Two monks were still trapped, so Malen cast a frosty version of his deflection spell on Vandien and himself before entering the inferno. They eventually found the monks. One was trapped under the fallen altar and the other barely conscious. They managed to lift the wooden alter and drag/carry the monks out.

Once outside one of the monks said he saw the mercenaries setting the fire. “What mercenaries?” asked Vandien. The ones staying at the Old Pig inn of course.
True enough, when the Rangers arrived with the blacksmith and the innkeeper in tow, they found the 6 mercenaries simply laughing & drinking in the common room. When confronted with the news that the monks were still alive that is when the leader stood up and shouted “Heretics!” and drew his sword. The battle was on.

Both the rangers & the two villagers recruited by them, fought valiantly but the blacksmith fell & Toji also had difficulty recovering from a sword hit. The mercenaries pressed their advantage of numbers & better armor. Half of them had fallen but the heroes were struggling to keep fighting. When things looked the bleakest, reinforcements arrived and took out two more mercs with well placed arrows. Their leader was soon subdued and Malen could look after the wounded.
One of the rangers that helped out was none other than Vandien’s twin sister, Vanessa. They caught up with their recent activities and were later assigned to work with Vandien, Malen and Toji.

The fire was finally extinguished and the prisoners were taken into custody. The blacksmith’s body was given over to his family for burial. The whole village attended.
After stripping the mercs of their valuables, Vandien discovered a small button from a Prelacy Knight’s uniform but nothing else to prove their involvement. They were still charged & arrested for their heinous act and brought to Shakkar (the closest major city). Their belongings were cashed in and the majority of the funds returned to the town of Arbor.

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Town & Country
Match makers & Playing with matches

The Rangers return to Krythros after their latest mission and they have about a week off. A long time friend of the twins, Marcus Haredon, is looking is them. Marcus helped them smuggle elven captives from the Shadowlands when they all lived in Southgate. Marcus is a very good cooper & woodworker and moved to Krythros to avoid repercussions.

He needs some help now to woo a beautiful young woman named Marcella DeWinter, but she doesn’t even know Marcus exists. A little reluctantly, his friends decide to help. They ask around to find out more about what Marcella likes (plays, operas and horse back riding) and also discover that there is a rival for her hand. A minor noble named Sirencio. They tell Marcus to build something nice for Marcella, perhaps a nice jewellery chest.

They arrange to meet Marcella at the opening of a play. During intermission her father moves away from her to speak to other men. Vandien chats with Marcella and Malen & Vannessa notice the rival, Sirencio approaching and they manage to trip him up a little and make him look foolish. Marcella is very grateful and seems a bit smitten with Vandien, much to his dismay. She invites him to afternoon tea the next day.

Marcella seems a bit disappointed to see Malen & Vanessa also arriving for tea but she greets them warmly. They speak of ranger life & all the dangers & the long trips away from home. Marcella seems less enamoured of having a ranger for a husband (Vandien dodged a quarrel there!)
During the afternoon, Marcella also mentions that her father is having some problems at his lumber mill in the town of Greensway. There are no details but she will try to talk to her father and convince him to ask for the Rangers’ help.

The next morning, Marcus shows them his progress. Not quite done but it’s looking very good. The rangers are then called to see Sgt.Major Kork Mindril. Master Horatio DeWinter gives them what little information he has and tells them he’s already preparing to leave for Greensway the next morning.

When they join Master Horatio near the western gate, Marcella is there with her chaperone and their carriage rider. The trip to the town is uneventful and they arrive in the town of Greensway in the afternoon. While Marcella takes care of having their things unloaded & unpacked, her father & the Rangers head off to the lumber mill to speak to the foreman and the other lumberjacks about the disappearances. Cecilia Alves is the village headwoman, strong-willed mother of 6. Quim Pareiro is the grizzled no-non sense mill foreman. (Lumberjacks of note: Fimbur, male dwarf, Barlgulg & Sonoghra, orc siblings, male & female).

Along with the orc lumberjack Barlulg they venture into the forest where his sister was assigned specific trees to cut. No signs of a struggle but they were able to find footprints of Sonoghra as well as bizarre, large & deep prints.

They follow the tracks deeper into the woods until they disappear. In the diminishing sunlight, the Barlgulg is suddenly ensnared & pulled into the underbrush and all the plant life moves to surround the heroes.

Malen shouts out that they wish to parley to any being responsible for the missing woodcutters and negotiate an understanding. A very tall tree-like creature approaches and introduces himself as OakHorn. He an a few other ents moved here recently and wish to avoid the fate of their last home suffered. A meeting is arranged between Horatio & OakHorn.

As thanks, the elder ent gives Malen the druid an everwood staff.

Wrap-up
Since the Rangers managed to solve the problem quickly and without bloodshed, Master Horatio wishes to donate to the Grey Rangers by paying to have some of their gear enhanced (via Arcane Artificer, one effect on one item of their choice).

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Hunting the Tree Fox

It’s a dreary, rainy day when our Ranger heroes are summoned to Sgt Kork Mindril’s office. And Corporal Guz’ expression when he passes along the message for them, our heroes, to see the sargeant.

As soon as they step into his office, they duck the incoming mug, that shatters on the far wall of the hallway and hear «THAT DAMN TREE FOX! YOU FOUR WILL CAPTURE HIM NOW

When they ask him who the Tree Fox is and why he wants him captured, he calms down, takes a few deep breaths and picks up his chair. Once seated, he start telling the new Rangers how a man calling himself the Tree Fox is robbing, lone merchants between Tolm and Layla’s Meet. They are not wounded or killed, but they are stripped of all valuables the robber can carry, and their dignity. The local Rangers haven’t been able to catch him and the merchants are putting pressure on organization to arrest him.

So Mindril orders our heroes to travel there and capture him as quickly as possible. They are assigned fast horses and orders for assistance from any local law enforcement agents.

One they arrive in the city of Tolm, they requisition a wagon, draft horses, and any goods that could be carried and sold in Layla’s Meet. Vandien will pose as a merchant, sitting in the driver’s seat, Toji will hide in the wagon and Malen and Vanessa will hang back some distance.

When about half a day’s ride from Layla’s Meet, the Tree Fox strikes at another merchant’s wagon ahead of the Rangers. He is yelling loudly about the injustice of being left in nothing but his under garments and his most valuable possessions taken as well.

Vandien drives his cart and stops it next to the Tree Fox’s most recent victim. Vandien identifies himself as a Ranger and that he’s here to help. Of course the outraged merchant demands justice and orders the Rangers to do their job.

That’s when Toji notices a lone figure amongst the underbrush of the forest, a tall, lean young human male. Light brown hair, tan complexion and a crooked smile as he waves at the rangers, turns into the woods with his loot.

The Rangers give chase. Fleet footed Toji springs ahead and the others struggle to keep up. The Fox leads them on a merry chase for at least half an hour before one of Vanessa’s hunting arrows hits her quarry’s leg and he goes down.

Malen binds his wounds and Vandien questions the young man, his motives and his methods as they place him in bindings and bring him to the nearest Ranger garrison, Black Eagle Fort.

Capt. James Renault, the fort’s commanding officer, is grateful to these young rangers for finally capturing the infamous and elusive bandit. He has a celebration feast for them, where many of the Fort’s ranger attend.

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Where the Wild things are.
or Cutting the Cheese

Capt James Renault asks the Rangers to deliver a chest of various spices to Father Gregory Peshtak, at the monastery in Berell town since they are returning towards Kythros.
Their return trip is only punctuated by minor matters like petty thefts, disputes between farmers or shopkeepers, etc. When they are about 2 hours away from Berell, they hear something crashing thru the underbrush and then it leaps onto the road ahead of them. It’s a large, crazed stag, with its fur covered in pustules & bony outgrowths. Once it sees the Rangers, it charges.
Malen’s magic spear shakes it just enough for it to miss goring both him and Vandien who slices its flank while he side steps the creature. And Toji calmly takes aim and ends the beasts suffering with a well placed arrow.

They dispose of the body by burning it and then proceed to Berell. Once there, they check in at the Inn followed by a visit at the town Sheriffs’ office. After introducing themselves, they inform Sheriff Black what they encountered and he, in turn, informs them about the recent killings by a strange creature or creatures. When the Rangers mention that they must find the source of the infection, Sheriff Black seems a bit crestfallen. He had hoped that only one creature was responsible and that once killed, it would be the end of their troubles. He offers the Rangers whatever assistance they need never the less.
They then walk up to the monastery to deliver Capt Renault’s chest and chat with the Abbot and afterwards stroll to the market square and to the tavern to gather more information. After speaking to Ult Copperthumb, the blacksmith and the local fishermen, it seems that the local alchemist, Old Al, may be responsible.

That evening, they investigate his shop/dwelling. It’s locked and seems empty and just as they are discussing their next move they hear someone coming. Everyone manages to hide except Malen, but Old Al is tired & seems to think he’s a neighbour. He fails to notice the Ranger’s cloak in the fading light. Al simply enters his home and locks up behind him and goes to bed.
The Rangers return to the main bridge and interrogates the guards there. They say Old Al has been going out at night for a while now, in order to find reagents that can only be found or harvested at night.

They decide to rest for the night & gather some more information the following day with Shanssa the herbalist, who has been able to know more about Old Al and where he comes from (the city of Paradise of the Eternal Desert). They even discovered some of the history and origin of Berell town.

After making sure they have rooms that look out over the town bridge, they settle in to watch out for Old Al if/when he leaves town again. Once the sun has set and most people have retired for the night is when they spot the alchemist going out for his night-time stroll.
Malen takes the time to meditate in order to prolong his shape change into a barn owl and thus follow Al into the woods. He really goes into very difficult ground.
After over 30 minutes, he stops in a clearing where the ruins of an ancient elven temple where the only structure of significance left is the size of a mausoleum. He seems to dab a sticky substance on the spots on the door which then slides gently into the ground. Old Al takes one last look around him before going inside and the door slowly close behind him.
The rest of the group joins Malen who is busy investigating the door and the symbols there. Between the faded runes & the sticky spots, Malen deduces that its sap from three different trees is needed in order to open the door. After a quick run around the clearing, he finds the trees needed and applies it to the door, just like the alchemist.

Once open, the Rangers see stairs leading down, into the earth. They start down the steps with caution and after a few turns they notice a faint green light around a corner and a low voice. Peering around the edge they see old Al in front of a well, mixing and pouring things together. Two bizarre beasts are dozing along the wall and a third one is at the alchemist’s feet. Al had begun pouring his bright green ooze on and in the creature.

The Rangers stride purposefully down the final steps and ask the old man to surrender. But Old Al looks at them and says ‘’Rangers? They said you would try to meddle in our affairs.’’ He then orders his creatures to kill them all.

Thus the battle is joined. Arrows fly from Toji & Vanessa’s bows as Vandien wades into the room to engage the creatures in close combat. Before one of the beasts can move towards Vandien, Malen strikes at it with a powerful bolt of electricity, shaking it momentarily. The mad Alchemist throws a jar that, once shattered, conjures 4 ratzin which promptly attacks the Rangers.
After a short but intense altercation, our heroes find themselves triumphant, with only a few scratches. The bodies of the ratzin disappear & the mutated beasts simply dissolve quickly.

They investigate the Hall of the Well and the ancient fae writings & symbols. Their meaning is unclear but they take notes & rubbings for future deciphering. They also pick up some of Al’s gear, his notes & pieces of clay from the ratzin jar.

They bring back the body and all the alchemist gear back to Berell Town and assure that the wild beast attacks are over.

They then head back to Krythros and file their reports that are somewhat overdue. Vanessa asks the librarians & linguists to translate the letter, Al’s books & notes as well as the labels on the various potions & help her learn some new languages. She begins her studies as the rest of the group concentrate on their own training.

Wrap-up
Once the old alchemist and his forces have been dealt with, the Rangers can investigate the Hall of the Well. Various potions were retrieved from Al’s body, as well as many notes & some letters and some alchemist gear.

Many of the walls’ frescoes are still in good shape but they are difficult to decipher (think mayan pictograms). They represent a message that is encrypted by the faelakar and eldakar a very long time ago. Initial research hints at multiple sites and portals to other such halls spread out over Shaintar.

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The House of Betrayal
Bandits, Merchants & Ghosts

Shortly after their return to Kythros and their de-briefing, they hear a shouting match between Lady Grayson and Sgt. Major Hencival Mayl. Lady Grayson is trying to talk some sense into Mayl but he’s too angry about being overlooked and about Kork’s promotion instead of him. The main thing the Rangers hear is Mayl resigning his commission. Lady Grayson follows him out of her offices and orders a few nearby rangers to escort the ’’former’’ Sgt Major out of the city before nightfall.

Sgt Major Mindril then requests to see the heroes in his office and gives them their new orders. They are to patrol an area east of the city, to familiarize them with that zone since they spent a lot of time recently in the western parts. They are told to keep theirs senses peeled and to look at the information boards and see anything that they might come across in that area.

They leave early the next morning thru the east gate and the first leg of their journey is peaceful. They eventually get to the city of Tarry, file their report, restock their supplies and get more info on the locals. They then proceed north towards Telok.

They stop at the small town of Charbury’s tavern, The Cotton Tail. After about an hour, a fat little merchant runs in the main room, huffing and puffing…He introduces himself; Master Matteus Gilbert (cotton, linen and wool as well as dyes, etc.).

He has bought the old Gatherleigh Manor, just outside of town and had started work to renovate it. After a few weeks, the workers started reporting that tools & other items were disappearing and that they were hearing noises & feeling chills while working. Then, one of the workers was found dead with white hair, a frozen look of terror on his face. The other workers fled.

Matteus and his family also tried to work there but more strange events kept happening and he doesn’t want to endanger his family any further.

He beseeches the Rangers to investigate, straight away and to solve the issue so he can get back to rebuilding the manor. So they decide to investigate the area around the manor before nightfall. They did find some tracks but these could have been from recent workers and Matteus himself. They decide to come back in the morning.

The next morning, they hear that Matteus got impatient and took an old family short sword and headed to the manor, he hasn’t returned. They quickly return to the house and after a little investigation, they hear noises from downstairs and upstairs too. They decide to go down to the cellars, and the noises are more evident. Once they enter a storage room, they are ambushed on two fronts. Armis, the leader, and some goons in front and Nyscer (a sorceror who has access to necromantic magics) and the remaining bandits from behind. The goons go down like dominoes and Nyscer is taken down by a well placed arrow. Seeing his chances of escape fade, Armis surrenders.

Once the bandit leader capitulates, the Rangers kept searching for Matteus and discovered the loot of stuff they stole as well as the elven longsword, Nim-Quesse (elven for White-Feather). That’s when they were faced with the ghost of Myra, the chambermaid, who rushes after Vanessa, thinking she is Lady Elaine. She screams for vengeance as she lunges for Vanessa’s throat. Regular weapons are useless against her ghostly form but Vandien, thinking fast, drew the elven blade and swung it at the spectre. Despite not being used to the balance, he eventually dispersed her essence quickly along with Malen’s gifts from the Ascended.

They found Matteus, bound and beaten up a bit, in another room. They freed him and brought both him and Armis back to town and arranged for the stolen goods to be brought back as well.

They travelled to Telok and reported to the local Ranger Outpost and handed the bandit leader to the authorities. They stayed in a good Inn until Armis’ trial. He was found guilty and hanged at a nearby crossroad outside of the city.

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Riding to the rescue

Once they have rested, resupplied and witnessed the trial and sentence of one Armis the Black, the Rangers set out in the Wildlands, but not before they do some research and find a knowledgable bard named Wyeth Clabbass who manages to reveal some information about the White-Feather sword.

After a few days on the road, west-ward, they hear the sounds of battle and explosions coming from a small cluster of trees just off the road, ahead.

A small group of Rangers are trying to defend themselves against undead and necromancers.
These necromancers were posing as merchants & caravaneers, and have summoned many skeletons and zombies to assault the Rangers across the road.

After a brief glimpe in the fading light, Vandien charges towards the merchants as Vanessa fires her bow. Malen shifts to a hawks form and flies in closer to the necromancers while Toji finds cover and also fires arrows. Vandien twist his ankle while dismounting but still manages to fend of attacks from the undead minions and attack the necromancer.

The other Rangers attack the minions and the lesser dark casters. When the last one falls and the dust settles, both groups of Rangers greet each other and they notice that Hoji, one of Toji’s brothers, is part of the other group. Introductions are made and stories are shared while people rest & heal.

The other Ranger team is made up of Garick, human male, priest of Light, Neala, alakar female, sorcereress, Hoji, goblin ranger (one of Toji’s brothers), Prrawrg, aka Prowl, female brinchie warrior, Dale and Jenna, typical rangers. And they are escorting an emissary of Galea, Lady Alda.

The following morning, the wagons are inspected and searched thoroughly. What they discover is this; sacs of grain, wheat, flour, hopps, barley etc that seem to smell bad , according to the goblin brothers & with a faint aura of corruption perhaps, when Malen and Neala analyze it.

They also hid many items to perform rituals, once they got to the city, as well as coins to bribe as required (black iron daggers, silver bowls, candles and candle-sticks and many copper and silver coins and gold bars, gemstones, powders, dark robes, and bones). And the former leader of the Necromancers/merchants, Laonux, had a list of names of people in Homestead. Things are looking grimm and must be investigated further.

The other Rangers already have their own urgent mission, but will pass along word to Sgt-Major Mindril and it is agreed that Vandien’s group will bring the wagon’s contents to Homestead and investigate the matter.

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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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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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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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