Fair warning, entries marked with the label Session can be much longer than normal. These chronicle an actual gaming session from my group. If you are interested in following and don't mind a good read, check out the Session link on the right hand bar. Each session will be labeled with a Chapter. Now...on to the campaign entitled Mists & Shadows.
Rain fell in a light, gray mist over the sleepy village of Cedar’s Rest. Fog clung to the surrounding meadows and glens of the lush landscape. All was quiet as the morning turned to early afternoon and the rain abated under the warmth of a pale sun.
From the porch of the local tavern an elf, with eyes like dark steel, sipped mulled wine and watched the afternoon wind pull at the pennants of the town’s wooden walls. All around him, men, women and children went about their chores. Snatches of song carried on the chill air and carts full of tools for a day spent working in the fields trundled along muddy roads. Involuntarily, the elf pulled his rich red robes tighter about his slight frame and took another drink. The spice of the mulled wine warmed his insides and dispelled a little of the grimace from his face.
“Stuck,” he said to himself. “Not even a week out and already I’m stuck.” He had hardly left the forested borders of T’lranen, his homeland, when foul weather had forced his ship to dock and detoured him onto an overland route through Corval, the land of fog and green meadows. Now, less than a week after he set out, he was stranded with reports that the roads further east were barricaded for some reason.
“Need anything else Master Malanorian?” A young woman, barely thirteen summers old, with wispy brown hair and a handful of freckles dancing over her cheeks poked her head out at the elf. Malanorian smiled casually and waved her off. The girl smiled back before ducking inside to tend to the other patrons.
A new sound greeted the elf’s ears. Several new wagons could be heard making their way towards the village’s center near the tavern. Men were shouting, calling out for healers and the town militia. Malanorian sat up slightly and watched as a line of men appeared from between the one-story wooden homes and businesses of Cedar’s Rest. They were not dressed like the patrons of this place and his eyes narrowed for a moment.
A young man with a bandage on his left hand and a bloodstained shirt waved some of the wagons to a stop by a local herbalist shop. Malanorian eyes focused on the heap of bodies that were piled within the cart. Several of them groaned and two tried to rise before other men appeared and told them to be still.
“What in the name of the Towers is going on?” Malanorian’s voice issued like a whispered secret on the wind.
Near the front of the group he spied an older human, perhaps in his fiftieth year, grizzled and lean as if he had just climbed out of a prison cell. A scar traced an angry gash across the man’s nose and his hair was short, matching the unshaven stubble on his chin. Standing next to him was another man, this one larger and full of muscle. His red hair and beard marked him as one of the northern men from beyond the great Wildlands, in the frost covered nation of Fyron. The warrior’s mien bristled with danger, as swords, daggers and axes cling to him everywhere the elf looked.
“Trouble,” said Malanorian and he reached inside himself to pull upon the Voss, the essence of all magic. Quickly the power surged within him, singing of the glory that would be found when it was unleashed, when his spell tumbled from his spirit and became a thing of power unto itself.
“Guards! Guards!” One of the men from the procession called out, waving his hands wildly in the air. Several villagers had gathered to watch, some hiding behind windows in their homes, others standing in the streets and alleyways with their mouths agape.
Several men bearing the symbols of great cedar trees on their leather armor rushed up to meet the procession.
“What is the meaning of this?” called out one of the the guards. “What has happened?”
“The baron’s men…they are after us,” answered the man with the bandaged hand. “We escaped from Fort Shyall. They will be here any minute. You must hurry!”
Fear passed over the guards’ faces as they raced to sound the alarm bells. Malanorian stood in one smooth motion. The baron’s men are chasing these people? Shouldn’t that make them fugitives? But the way village guards were reacting, it would seem the baron was not a popular man.
The sounds of horses’ hooves pounding the ground were audible in the distance. To the east, dozens of silhouettes could be seen as the mist began to once again curtain the land in moisture. A scream erupted from somewhere far off, followed by cries, and then more screams…this time closer.
The line of men who entered Cedar’s Rest stooped to take up swords, axes and clubs, whatever they could find, and began to stand shoulder to shoulder with the guards of Cedar’s Rest. Malanorian noticed the big Fyronese warrior smile and shout something playful to the older man with the scar. The older veteran grabbed up a sword and began to move slowly, with a noticeable limp, his face a mask of fierce determination.
A rider emerged frist from the mist, followed by a rush of men, all bearing the symbol of a black bear’s head set on a red diamond field. These new men took up the fight to any man, woman or child that stood in their way. They smashed windows, broke down doors, and begin to systematically engage the villagers in combat. Nearby a woman screamed as three guards barreled into her home. Two of the men spied Malanorian and moved to intercept him as the elf made his way to the woman’s aid.
Stuck, he thought to himself as the fine rain covered him in shimmering drops of dew.
Sevenwinters moved with practiced skill as he dodged the horseman’s flail. Although his left leg was stiff from the cold and the limp he carried from old war wounds, he was able to evade the younger man’s attack. A swift stab from below and a smack of his blade on the man’s horse was enough to unsettle his assailant. Although the warrior still clung to his mount, the unorthodox tactics the older man employed took him aback.
The rain created a curtain of slick mud and gray haze as the man called Sevenwinters evaded another blow. This time he was not quick enough though and the horseman whipped the flail back, catching him soundly on the shoulder. A bright blossom of pain erupted in Sevenwinters’s mind. For a moment he reeled, but only a moment. Then the seven long years of imprisonment at the hands of the baron of these lands flooded his memory. The constant cries at night from the malnourished. The beatings. The cold cell. The nightmare-filled nights. The deaf ears that surrounded an innocent man who was falsely imprisoned for no wrong-doing. All of it came flooding back in that instant.
Without a word, he ducked the horseman’s next attack and lashed out with a backhanded strike at the warrior’s exposed arm. The man cried out in pain and the flail fell from his hand as a vicious wound traced a crimson path up his arm. The horseman fell and Sevenwinters smacked the rump of the horse, sending it galloping away.
Toe to toe, they battled. Ducking and feinting, slashing and thrusting, the two combatants played out their deadly dance. In the background Sevenwinters caught glimpses of his new traveling companion, Hjorvarth, battling another two of the baron’s men. If it had not been for the northerner, he would still be sitting in a cell within the confines of Fort Shyall. As it was, Hjorvarth proved to be a godsend. Sevenwinters mentally checked himself to remember to thank the big man again, after he finished with these savage dogs.
Nearby a rebel that fought with Sevenwinters fell under the swords of his attackers. A woman cried out and was beaten back as she tried to run to her husband. Sevenwinters had enough of his dance and moved in for the kill. With expert timing, he led his attacker in to a false sense of confidence and then soundly defeated him, his sword plunging deep within the man’s ribcage. He moved to remove the blade but it caught on a piece of bone. Raising his bad leg, he placed his muddy boot on the man’s chest and heaved the sword free, stumbling backwards slightly as he regained his balance.
Moving as quickly as he could manage, he joined the other rebels in their fight without a second look back.
“That was delicious Simon. You truly do know how to prepare a feast fit for a king.” Arim smiled as he picked the remaining bits of roasted duck from between his teeth with a wooden toothpick. Sitting back, he kicked up his feet and tossed a stray lock of sandy blonde hair aside as his green eyes took in the cup of ale in his hand. It had only been a week ago he had been traveling along the forgotten coast of the southern reaches of Corval, looking for hidden treasure, lost artifacts, old jewels…the usual. The cold, rainy nights and foggy days were far from good company, and he had found nearly nothing in his travels. Well, almost nothing. The stories of Fortune’s Point being haunted were certainly true. A shiver danced up his spine and he chased away the fearful memory with a long pull from his cup.
Sitting across from him was an old childhood friend named Simon Fallweather. Tall and somewhat lanky, Simon had long black hair and eyes the color of the sea on a summer’s day. His usual easy smile and affable manner were clouded behind his recent despair. Arim cast his eyes downward as Simon moved to join him at the table. Who could blame the man, thought Arim as he watched his friend put up a good show. His wife had recently been taken from their home on a raid not more than three weeks prior. His eight year old son had been struck down by some bastard guard in the baron’s service when he tried to stop the men from taking his “mommy”. Suddenly the duck in Arim’s belly went sour and he coughed as he shifted in his seat.
“Well I am glad you liked it my friend,” said Simon, wiping his hands on his shirt. “It’s a nice surprise to find you in Cedar’s Rest. It isn’t often we…I mean I…get guests.”
Arim breathed out slowly. He didn’t much want to get involved, but he couldn’t watch his friend suffer like this.
“She’ll come back Simon. We’ll find a way.” His hand reached out to comfort his friend.
“And how do I get my boy back Arim? Huh?! Tell me that!” With a sudden flare, Simon stood and walked away from the table.
“I’m, I’m sorry Arim.” Simon’s voice quivered with anger and sadness. “I truly am. It’s just…hard.”
The shouts of men and the screams of a woman rouses the two friends from their conversation.
“What in the hells?” said Arim as he raced to the front door and flew into the streets. Around them, men wearing the badge of a black bear’s head set on a red field were everywhere. They pushed those not quick enough to get out of their way and started grabbing young men and women and subduing them.
“What’s going on?” asked Arim, turning his face to his friend. The look of horror on Simon’s face was stunning.
“It’s the baron’s men. They’ve come back.”
Arim took it all in. In the blink of an eye, he had grabbed Simon’s sleeve and hauled him out of his house. They were running before the men saw them. Racing down alleyways, they were nearly free when three of the baron’s men blocked their path. Simon shouted a warning and the men started to charge.
With a word and gesture, Arim let fly the magic within him and two of the guards sunk to the muddy ground fast asleep. The third retaliated with an axe. Arim had enough time to push his friend to safety as the axe glanced down his back.
The two men retreated down the alley, dodging crates and stray dogs as they ran. All the while, the third guard pursued them with a vengeance. Arim turned, diving down a side passage and let loose another volley of magic, this time blue darts, which sped into the chest of their assailant. The warrior’s cry of pain only roused his anger more and soon the chase was on again in earnest.
The alleyway emptied into a large square. Fortune found them both as Simon and Arim neared a three-story guardhouse tower. Guards and villagers, assembled with a ragtag group of fighters to defend against six of the baron’s men, were already locked in a heated battle.
“Make a run for the tower,” shouted Arim. “We need to find cover!”
Simon nodded and ran, forcing his body to respond faster. Into the fray they dove, weaving between the press of bodies, until at last they stood within the guardhouse walls. The shouts of battle rang in their ears and each man gave unto the fight what he could. Arim let loose his magic, sending more of their attackers into a magical slumber. Following that, he sped his magical darts like shooting stars into the attacker’s midst. As the battle continued, both the baron’s men and the village guards fell until there remained only two of the baron’s men left.
“Inside the tower, quick!” shouted Arim as he shoved Simon and himself behind the stout, wooden doors and threw down the heavy beam. They were safe, for the moment.
The spring air was fierce in Hjorvarth’s lungs as he strode into the village of Cedar’s Rest. Dew clung to his full beard and steam puffed from his nose as he carried the heavy bundle of supplies and extra weapons for the rebels he traveled with. Only a month ago he was a stranger in these parts, seeking signs of his past amidst the Kingdom of Mists known as Corval. Now, however, he had a new purpose…assisting in the rebellion against a baron turned tyrant from the port city of Arnos. This baron, called the Red Claw by the villagers and townsfolk he has met, was savage and bloodthirsty, giving way to acts of brutality in his iron rule over his lands. It did not take much for Hjorvarth, a born hunter and warrior from the frozen north, to sign up with the rebels and even less time to make friends…like the grizzled old man that traveled by his side and who went by the name of Sevenwinters.
When he had pulled Sevenwinters from the prisons of Fort Shyall, he had thought him weak. But in the fight to flee the fort and the ensuing battle he now found himself in, he can see that he was wrong. The man fought like a bear and kicked like a mule…reminded him of his father back home.
With a grunt and a heave, he ducked a swing of an axe meant for his head and launched his attacker in a somersault over his own head. With a crash, one of the baron’s men landed on his back. Seconds later Hjorvarth’s own blade finished the job, skewering the man through his belly. With a jerk of his sword arm, he continued the attack against a new man and felled the warrior as well, just as he watched Sevenwinters disembowel his own attacker.
Then a sudden blast of heat filled the air. Hjorvarth turned and spied a young man…no, elf…in red robes flinging bolts of fire into another of the baron’s men. He watched as a storm of black fog gathered over the elf’s head and then came rushing down, folding upon the elf’s arms and shooting out into tiny black globes that struck another of the baron’s men repeatedly. A woman in a nearby house held her beaten and bruised face and grasped for a piece of wood that has come free from her porch in the fighting. She stared with hatred at the man fighting the elf and gripped the wood with murder in her eyes.
Seeing the elf was still outnumbered as another of the baron’s men joined the fray, Hjorvarth rushed to his aid, slicing into one of the men’s backs just as the elf was hit by his attacker’s sword. Immediately the black fog gathered over the elf again and the woman struck out at man, hitting him on the back with her club. Hate filled the warrior’s eyes and he moved to strike the woman, but the move would be his last. With a word, the elf sent more black globes, tiny skulls in fact, racing into the man’s chest and he fell over dead before he even hit the ground.
Hjorvarth and the elf exchanged a glance as the woman slipped to the mud sobbing once more. The battle was over, at least here. With resolve, Hjorvarth sheathed his claymore and approached the elf further.
“Well met friend,” says Hjorvarth in fluent Elvish. He noticed the elf raise one delicate eyebrow in acknowledgment of his efforts.
“Indeed,” answered the elf. “Many thanks for your aid in the battle.”
Hjorvarth shrugged and simply pointed the way to the sound of more fighting.
“It ain’t over yet friend.”
The elf nodded once. “I am called Malanorian.”
“Hjorvarth.” The big man stretched out his hand and shook the elf’s in greeting. “Let’s get to it then.”
With a nod, Malanorian and Hjorvarth moved to continue the battle elsewhere.
After a brutal battle in front of the lone guardhouse in Cedar’s Crest, the four strangers – Sevenwinters, Hjorvarth, Malanorian and Arim – were officially introduced and regrouped. Seeing that the battle has concluded, Sevenwinters made his way to the village’s temple to assist the Brotherhood monks in the healing of the wounded.
It had been several years since he had called upon his healing talents, but he knew the good monks would be in need of anyone with such skill after a day like today. Indeed, Brother Jeremy and his assistant were overjoyed at his assistance.
Sevenwinters cast his eyes about the crowded chapel and cured when he saw the dozens of wounded and dying lying about. The baron would surely pay. Once done, Sevenwinters bade the monks a good day and exited the house of healing, only to find Hjorvarth and the elf sorcerer Malanorian and traveling adventurer Arim being led by a middle aged man with dark hair and an air of command. The man stopped when he saw the grizzled veteran and called out to him by name. He introduced himself as Sergi Palthuk, Captain of the Guard in town. Apparently the regent of Cedar’s Rest wishes to speak with all of those strangers who assisted in the battle today.
Sevenwinters shot Hjorvarth a glance, but the big northerner merely shrugged as if to say, let’s see where this goes. Finally they arrived at a longhouse bearing the same symbol as the village guards. Inside, the air was warm and sweet. A woman in her late thirties with curling brown hair and a face set to business greeted them with a smile.
“I am Tess Brickworth, regent of this village. To whom do I owe my thanks for your aid on this dark day?”
Introductions followed again and Tess wasted no time in filling in those gathered with the state of affairs in Cedar’s Rest.
“For several months now, Baron Alfred Logren has led a tyrannical campaign against his people. Without mercy he has demanded unfair taxes from us, seized more than the required share of crops and cattle, and killed those whom he suspects of insurrection. Recently, a rebellion has formed and has been gaining favor with the oppressed folk of these parts. It is because of this destructive baron and his hunger for brutality that you have found themselves caught in today’s battle.”
Tess looked at all four individuals and asked them to speak to a man within the rebellion named Patrick. “You will find him in the tavern. He’s expecting you. I don’t expect you to feel obligated to helping us out any more than you already have today, but if you find it in your heart but to hear Patrick out, perhaps you will find a common cause with the rebels of this barony.”
With that, the all but Malanorian bid their farewell from the regent and headed towards the tavern to speak with this rebel. After what they had seen today, each had their own reasons for helping these people out, be it justice, excitement, or assisting a good friend.
Alone the elf inquired once more about the state of the roads heading east. Malanorian sought anyway possible to continue his quest out of these lands and seek out the black rock Tower Xanith far to the northeast in the Wildlands. Tess merely shook her head sadly and explained that while he was free to attempt it, she thought the chances of success slim, given the baron’s control over the roads.
“Besides, rumor has reached my ears that a sorceress is imprisoned in a nearby fort…Fort Gorwin I believe if my information is correct. Isn’t the Citadel obligated to help those of its order who are in such trouble? The last I checked, the laws of magic were not meant to be governed by mad barons and tyrants.”
Malanorian knew she spoke the truth. If such a member of his order was captured wrongfully, he was honor bound to assist. Saying nothing more than thanks, he exited the longhouse and wondered if he would rue the day he set foot in Cedar’s Rest. Hurrying against the growing fog and rain, he moved with speed to reunite with the others he had met that day.
To be continued...