Unearthed History

Richard the Brave
A Heroes' Journey, session 5

An old woman rushes through the dusty afternoon streets of Clearcreek, commanding anyone in her way aside. The simple linen robe she wears is still stained from her daily duties. A dull red and white patterned scarf keeps her grey hair out of her wrinkled face.
She carries a walking cane, but in her rush she hardly seems to need it at all.

Moments later she barges into The Wheatsheaf, a cozy tavern on the edge of town. A fire crackles softly in the hearth. There is a small crowd surrounding a disheveled and exhausted man seated on one of the barstools, taking heavy swigs from a large mug of cider.
“Richard! Richard, you’re alive! Thank the Gods!” She throws her arms around him in a tight hug.
When she finally lets him go she follows up with a slap to the back of his head. “I told you not to go charging into those beasts, we almost lost you! I was worried sick!”
“Yes, I know, mum,” he replies in a petulant voice. “If they hadn’t taken me, they would’ve taken someone else. You know I’m strong like no-one else here, the others would’ve surely not made it out alive, and you know it! Well, except for that dwarf fellow, he is a tough customer.”

A man with a crooked face and most of his teeth missing pipes up from the bar; “Is ‘e like, Rurik’s cousin o’somethin’, you gather?”
“Shut up, Essler, not all dwarves are related you know,” comes the answer from the back. A burst of laughter from the crowd ensues.

The old woman ignores them all and keeps interrogating her son.
“Well, what happened? Are you injured? How did you even make it out alive?”
Richard tells a colorful (if slightly exaggerated) version of the tale of him being dragged off into the Ankhegs’ dark and dank tunnels, all while heroically fighting and slaying the monsters left and right of course. All the gathered patrons listen rapturously to his tales and respond with the appropriate Oohh’s and Aahh’s, even those that are hearing it for the second or third time.
“The leg where they dragged me through the tunnels will probably hurt for a long time to come. I also never want to see another cave or tunnel or mine again in my life!”

The barkeep hands out a few more drinks to the various patrons as he points to the right of the bar. “Paul here lost an eye in the defense as well, Corkie says she can’t fix it.”
Everyone turns to look at a man with a very recent bandage around his head and an eyepatch over a now empty eye socket. “Lesson learned aye, don’t nobody go messin’ around with them ankhegs, especially without a fockin’ helmet! The bastard spat roight in me eye!”

“What do you know about them travellers, Richard? You were with ‘em all day,” comes a question from one of the villagers. Immediately all focus is back on Richard. The newcomers are clearly big news among the villagers.
“Yeah, what’s they like?” “Is they dangerous?” “They look dangerous…” Various similar questions get launched all at once.
“They came from Westwall apparently, looking to head south into the riverlands proper,” he replies.
“More fools if you ask me!”
“Lambs to the slaughter!”
“When will they learn…”

“These may be different than the last ones though. Did you see that dark-skinned fellow, the one with the cloak? He tore through them monsters like it was nothing!”
“That tall one in the cloak with the big sword? He has a fucked up face under that cloak I think. He gives me the creeps!”
“He’s uglier than Essler!”
“He never said a word when they was in the shop!”
“Oi saw ‘e didn’t ‘ave a shadow!” Essler adds.
“What, no shadow? That’s impossible, you dimwit!” another voice interjects.
“Nah, Oi swear on me mum’s grave ‘e didn’t ‘ave a shadow! Oi think ‘e’s a vampire fo’ sure!”
More people are adding to the rapidly devolving discussion.
“I heard they stole some magic stuff from the wizard! It’s supposed to be worth a pretty penny.”
“Bloody ratcatchers, they’s all the same!”
“Explorers, my ass! They are just plunderin’ what they can!”
“They better not be thievin’ round here, or we’ll give them some trouble to think about!”
Shouts and grumbles of agreement all around.

“Well, I don’t know about all that, but they surely saved my life, so they are OK in my book. Here’s to the ill-fated adventurers, saving the day!” All mugs around the room get raised in unison. This seems to settle the matter.

Richard takes another large swig from his drink while nudging the man next to him. “Imagine my surprise when I open my eyes and i’m staring right at some fine city-maid from beyond the gates. For a minute there I thought I was in Elysium!”
“Oh yeah, she’s a looker, for sure.”
All the men nod vehemently in agreement. “Aye indeed!” “You lucky fucker!” A chorus of clinking mugs and boisterous laughter fills the tavern.

The old lady slaps Richard again. “Oi, you scoundrel, better not let Alice hear that kinda talk!”
“Yeah she’s some sort of wizard I reckon, so she’s not my type anyway,” he replies.
“Ha, suddenly ‘e ‘as standards? Don’t make me laugh.” Essler interjects, who is well on his way to passing out from the booze.
“Shut up, Essler, you’d fuck a goblin while thanking the Gods it’s better looking than your mum!”
“Hehehe, Only when oi’m drunk. Hehehe.”
“So anytime, anyday then?”
Another bout of laughter echoes through the tavern while Essler grumbles unintelligibly at his drink.

Ignoring everyone else again, the woman adopts an even sterner tone of voice.
“In fact, why aren’t you home right now helping her with the kids, you lazy bum. She must be at her wit’s end by now, the poor thing! Enough drinkin’, you’re clearly healthy enough to work. Come on, git!”

Richard downs the last of his drink. “Looks like the fun is over boys, ‘duty’ calls,” he says in a sneering voice while slamming the tankard on the counter.
He goes to pay Morley, the barkeep, who rejects his money. “You deserved a couple man, this one’s on the house.”
He slowly gets up, thanking the barkeep and limps out of the tavern while being pushed by the old lady’s cane.

The other patrons stare at him incredulously and as he exits the establishment promptly continue their drinking until well into the night.

Shadow Hunt
Writeup for session 1

Medical Admissions report

Location: Fort Westergard Medical facility, Westwall area
Submitted to: General Hayden Emmerich, Commander of Fort Westergard

Attending medical personnel:

  • Anoviel Lanthar, head physician
  • Myrtle Jendryng, nurse

Patient: Jon Entwiler
Race: Human
Age: 37
Gender: M
Medical History: unknown.
Admitted by: Vargus Longwinter
Description: Subject attacked by unknown Outsider. Subjected to several spells of unknown origin and energy type.

Physical examination: Blood pressure 150/75, pulse rate 110, respirations 18, temperature normal.

Patient brought in unconscious with severe lacerations and contusions. Initial assessment by stationed personnel indicated patient status was severe enough to warrant divine healing.

After treatment patient still unconscious, indicative of further ailment. Further examination ordered.

Black discoloration of the skin found around the major arteries. Standard diagnostics performed. Does not match known illnesses or infections. Cause unknown.

Biopsy performed, sample 1074A of affected tissue stored for detailed analysis.


WARNING: Affliction is highly contagious. Extremely high mortality rate in infected patients.

Patient has transmitted his condition to all other patients in his ward in a single night. Patient alive, but still unconscious. Other infected deceased shortly after infection.

Patient had severe reaction to the touch of one particular visitor, causing a seemingly parasitic shadow entity to emerge from the body. Apparent cause of illness. Other patients in the ward host to similar parasite.
Divine energy seems to have a deleterious effect on entity.

Disposition: Patient deemed outside of purview of medical personnel at this facility. Patient discharged. Transfer to quarantine on consecrated ground under heavy guard while cause of illness and cure are researched is strongly recommended.

Patient: John Doe
Race: unknown, humanoid
Age: unknown, presumed mid twenties
Gender: unknown
Medical history: unknown
Admitted by: Vargus Longwinter
Description: Subject encased within iron maiden-like structure for prolonged period of time.
Physical examination: Blood pressure 80/50, pulse rate 65, respirations 10, temperature normal.

Patient admitted with major lacerations and puncture wounds. Severe scarring of the flesh across an estimated 80% of his body. Signs of hypotension. Patient conscious but unresponsive.

Patient has abnormal growths on his scapulae. Attached muscle tissue implies these are part of the patient’s natural physiology, but were severed forcefully.

Friar Barnard Hawtrey called in to administer clerical healing due to severity of wounds. Treatment largely ineffective. Hemorrhaging from open wounds ceased, but wounds still visible. Scarring not reduced.

Disposition: Further investigation needed to determine cause of ineffectiveness of healing spells. Patient discharged with recommendation of sufficient rest and return at a later date for followup.

Tales of Daring and Despair
Chapter 2

The doors of the Wanderer’s Respite tavern swing open, slamming against the stonework. The cold night air drifts inside, encroaching on the warmth of the large hearth. Several startled patrons immediately reach for their weapons, eager to come to the defence of their beloved watering hole.

A cloaked man stands in the doorway, a mere silhouette against the darkness outside. He is supporting a barely conscious individual by the shoulder. Both are heavily injured, their hair matted to their faces, caked with mud and grime. The cloaked figure barges inside, shouting for assistance. He limps his way to the nearest stall and gently places his wounded companion on the bench. He takes off his cloak, revealing the face of a human man in his twenties, though grimy and bruised. His short beard looks messy and singed. He unhooks the scabbard holding his claymore and sets it down next to the bench before taking a seat beside his companion.

The owner of the establishment and guildmaster of the Trailblazers, Marcus Kessler, immediately rushes up to aid the exhausted and wounded men. He signals a waitress to bring food and drinks and orders another servant to fetch some medical supplies. He recognises the man immediately as Vargus Longwinter, a member of his Trailblazers guild.
“Gods have mercy Vargus, what happened to you? Where is everybody else? Who is this guy you dragged in here?”
Vargus grabs him by his sleeve and in an exasperated voice says, “They’re dead Marcus! All except Jon. And we barely made it here with that shadow chasing us! We were foolish, we just charged in, but we were not prepared. They killed them all!”

“Calm yourself son, you are home. You are safe here,” the innkeep replies as he pulls up a chair. “Start at the beginning. Last I saw you you were gearing up to go south of the river. What happened?”

After taking a deep breath and clearing his throat Vargus visibly relaxes and starts explaining.
“We crossed the river at Stillbend, then rode south east for a few days. We found an old Dwarven stronghold to the south near the mountains. We did our usual scouting too before we went in!”
He grimaces as he massages his bruises. He takes a drink from the mug of ale provided by the servants. After a long sigh he continues, “I thought we were thorough at least… It was occupied by some Orcs. We thought we could handle it, we’ve dealt with the beasts before.”

“Everything was going according to plan. We defeated some Orcs without raising the alarm and got in undetected. We got to a large cavern below the stronghold and what we found was definitely no Orc! There was a large… machine. It was basically a massive walking suit of armour. It had a strange otherworldly bluish glow coming from inside and was covered in strange markings. It was old too, looked like it had been in a few fights.”
“Jon said it was definitely evil and must be undone, so I just did what I’m good at; I charged the damn thing.” He stares at the table, clutching his drink with quivering hands. Tears start rolling down his face as he starts sobbing. “It was my fault Marcus, I shouldn’t have attacked the damned thing! They’re all dead because of me! I killed them all!” he shouts as he slams down his mug on the heavy wooden table.

Marcus puts his hand on the man’s shoulder and does his best to console the sobbing man. “No. It was not your fault, son, do not say such things. We have vowed to seek out and vanquish the evils of the empire and that is what you did. There is no blame, son.”
A wave of calmness comes over the warrior’s face as he exhales deeply and takes another swig of his drink.
After gathering his courage he continues, “our spells did almost nothing to it and its armour was so thick we could hardly make a dent in it. Arrows simply bounced off.”
“It was terrifying, Marcus. Every time it moved it made a ghastly noise, like a bone-chilling agonised scream coming from deep within.”
“It killed Ythello in a single blow with its massive, glowing fist, slamming him into the wall. After that it just stepped on him, like he wasn’t even there. It crushed his skull Marcus, there’s no way we could bring him back from that.”
“I did my best to protect the others, but the damn thing just knocked me aside and went straight for them. Tenriel tried every spell she could muster, but none of them seemed to do very much to the monstrosity. It blasted her with a blinding energy bolt several times. Unrelenting, it kept going until she was dead. I tried everything I could, but I just couldn’t stop it, Marcus. I didn’t know what to do!” He tries his best to repress his emotions, but he is visibly shaken.
Marcus beacons the waitress to refill the cup held in Vargus’ trembling hands and allows him some time to breathe.
A few gasps and murmurs escape from the gathered patrons. Marcus directs a stern glance in their direction and gestures to the crowd to give the man some space. “Please, continue Vargus.”

As the crowd slowly disperses he resumes his tale.
“Luckily it suddenly just stopped, like it ran out of energy or something. There was a whirring noise and some clanks and then just… nothing. And it wasn’t a moment too soon neither! We were all on our last legs. Everybody had taken a severe beating from this abomination. While Jon was tending to Tenriel I pried the thing open, to make sure it wouldn’t start up again.”
“I’ll never forget it. I’ve never seen or heard anything like it. It was ice-cold to the touch and every inch the cover moved resulted in another echoing scream and a stream of blood flowing from the opening. Turns out that sound was this guy right here, trapped inside”, as he points toward his silent companion.
“The inside was gruesome, like an iron maiden, with thick black spikes going deep into his flesh, blood caked all over the interior. The putrid stench pouring forth was almost unbearable. It took quite some effort to pull him out of there too.”

Marcus screws up his face in disgust. “You mean to tell me someone built a walking iron maiden and put this guy inside? That’s horrible… Was he controlling the machine or something?”
“No, Jon thought it was draining his energy to power the machine, or something. That’s why he is barely conscious.”

“He can hardly speak. I don’t think he can understand what we’re saying either, he just stares blankly at me whenever I ask him something. He tried talking to me, but I don’t understand a word of what he says.”
Marcus studies the ragged individual dragged into his establishment. He looks like a young man in his twenties, with a tanned skin. His frazzled dark brown hair is matted to his face and back. His whole body is covered with gaping puncture wounds and old scars. A dirty long blanket has been wrapped around his shoulders.

Vargus tugs on the Guildmaster’s sleeve, pulling him close. In a harsh whisper he says, “you’ve got to see this Marcus! Here, take a look.” He gently pulls down the back of the blanket just enough so Marcus can see the man’s shoulders. Two blackened, ragged stumps protrude from the shoulder blades, covered in dried blood and surrounded by necrotic tissue. They twitch slightly as the blanket is pulled away. “I don’t think he’s human,” Vargus whispers in his ear.
The guildmaster’s eyes widen in amazement and he quickly covers the man up again. “Don’t mention this to anyone, it may cause trouble,” he whispers back. He straightens his clothing and sits back on his chair, lost in thought for a moment.
“Did the clerics heal him?” he asks.
“Yeah they tried, but hardly any effect,” Vargus admitted. “Jon also tried, but these are some nasty wounds. The bleeding stopped, but that’s about it.”

Marcus turns to regard the silent man and gently puts a hand on his wrist. “Mister, you are among friends, we mean you no harm. Can you speak?”
Up until this point the scarred individual was just sitting on the bench staring in the middle distance, unmoving. He hadn’t touched any of the food or drink provided, even though he looks thin and emaciated. When Marcus addresses him directly he gives him a blank stare. He speaks a few rasping words, but they are all in a strange, flowing and melodic language. He gives Marcus an apologetic look and shrugs, immediately grimacing from the pain caused by the small movement.

The guildmaster leans back in his chair, pondering what to do. “I’ll have to find an interpreter somewhere I suppose. Maybe one of the Mages can help.”
Vargus looks sullenly down at the table, his face saddened. “Tenriel would’ve know, I’m sure. She was always so good with languages…” He downs the remainder of his beverage and beacons for a refill.

“Excuse me, master Kessler?” a small, uncertain voice says behind the men. A young woman with flowing blonde hair has stepped forward and taps the innkeep on the shoulder.
“Apologies, I don’t mean to intrude on guild business, but I believe he is speaking the Celestial tongue. He just said that he doesn’t understand your language.”
Marcus looks over his shoulder at the newcomer. “Really? You understand him? Can you translate for us?”
“I haven’t heard the language spoken in quite a few years, but I will do my best,” she replies.
“Thank you, that is quite fortuitous!” He pulls up another chair and motions for the woman to sit down. “For starters, can you ask him for his name?”

After a few faltering starts she translates the question. The man gives her a benevolent smile and replies, which she translates back to the others. “He said to call him Sam.”
“Wondrous! Welcome to the Wanderer’s Respite, Sam,” Marcus exclaims. “Do not worry, we will treat you as one of our own.”
“And to you miss, I have a feeling you are going to be a great help in this situation! What is your name, dear, if I may be so bold?”
Ardea Caeles, sir.”

Suddenly, the ragged man’s eyes open wide and he grabs the girl by the arms. He starts excitedly rambling sentences in his strange unfamiliar language.
“Γαελεσ?¿ Είσαι που σχετίζονται με Κυαεφο?! Πού είναι, και τι ξέρεις; Τι συνέβη? Ξέχασα. Δεν μπορώ να θυμηθώ πια. Γιατί δεν μπορώ να θυμηθώ?"
Marcus cocks an eyebrow at the unexpected response. “You seem to have struck a nerve lady, what did you say?”
“Erm… I don’t know, sir, he is talking too fast. Calm down, please, ηρέμησε!” She switches to the foreign language as she tries to understand what he’s saying.

Marcus calls to his wife Marie Kessler, who runs the bar while her husband is dealing with guild business. She is a middle aged woman with a friendly face who always carries herself with grace, even when doing menial tasks.
He kisses her hand and says, “my dear, would you be so kind as to accompany our two foreign friends here to the salon please. It’ll keep our guest clear of the prying eyes of our nosier patrons. I’m sure they have a lot to talk about and I’m sure they would like some more quiet surroundings. Make sure they have everything they need. Get the clerics to take a look at him too, to dress his wounds and such.” She gives him a smile and a nod and escorts her two new guests to one of the side rooms.

“Meanwhile, you have a story to finish, Vargus,” the guildmaster says as he turns back to his friend. “Where are Earildur and Tenriel now? Didn’t they come back with you?”
“Well, that guy is only half the story, really,” Vargus says as he motions toward the now excitedly chatty Sam. “While we were busy trying to revive Tenriel and taking care of our new charge we heard sounds of more enemies approaching. Before we could even gather our wits a door burst open and a bunch of nasty creatures covered in spines poured out. Jon seemed to know what they were. He called them fiends and told us not to use flame for out attacks.”
“But we were in no shape to take on even more foes, so i called a retreat. We had no choice but to leave Ythello’s body behind…”

“We managed to slow our pursuers down a bit by quickly barricading a few doors on our way out. This bought us enough time to reach our horses and escape. Earildur carried Tenriel on his horse and we placed our new companion on the spare horse.”
“But we were definitely not clear yet. While we were riding away as fast as our horses would carry us something appeared behind us. And I do mean ‘appeared’. One moment the road was clear, the next this cloud of smoke appears out of thin air which produces a flaming horse with a terrifying black rider. It roared louder than a dragon and spurred the horse to charge straight at us. The speed of this fiendish steed was tremendous. It was upon us in mere moments.”
“We got separated from Earildur when his horse took a hit and collapsed. He used his entangling magic to slow the monstrosity down, allowing for our escape. I don’t know what became of him and Tenriel, but I fear the worst. No mortal can escape the speed and strength of that beast on foot.”
“We rode for days on end, only stopping to give the horses some much needed rest. We did our best to hide and obfuscate our tracks, but that’s usually what Earildur does…” The sombre expression creeps back on his face.
“We had to leave Ythello’s horse behind. It was too small to keep up the pace. We sent it off in a different direction and hid our own tracks, hoping to throw off our trail.”
“For a while it seemed to have worked. We rode for another couple days straight until we were almost home. At that point it caught up with us again, right as we were approaching the fort. It was trying its hardest to catch us before we got beyond the gates, but it wouldn’t go near the wall, so we managed to escape. It almost got Jon right at the end. He is still in Fort Westergard, sleeping off the nasty bite of those shadows.”
“Well, some good news at last,” Marcus replies. “I will make sure he receives the best possible care from the clerics right away. Marie and I will go visit him first thing in the morning. In the meantime, how can we find out more about this… dark rider you speak of.”

Vargus takes a moment as he tries to recall details. He perks up with a gasp as a memory pops into his head. “I have this amulet, we found it in the stronghold. Here, check it out.” He rummages through his pockets for a while and eventually produces an old, tarnished necklace with a seal of Dwarven design embossed on it.
“It supposedly had something to do with the old Dwarven clan and something about a desecration? I don’t remember man, Tenriel always knew this kind of stuff. She was prattling on about some ritual and fiends and whatnot. I tuned out after a while, she always goes on for way too long. Or she used to at least…” His gaze turns inward, remembering his fallen allies.
“She even scolded me for not caring about the link to our shared path that led us here, as she so often did. Turns out she was right once again. I can’t believe she’s gone.”
Marcus casts his gaze down in reverence. “It is a great loss indeed, she had a keen mind and was always so very lively. But, as you say, she may yet live, if Earildur’s skills shine through the gloom once more! Do not underestimate those two, they are a resourceful lot.”
“That may be true, but these odds are stacked against them quite heavily I’m afraid,” the warrior gloomily replied.
“I do recall whispers from the past about this sort of thing. Maybe we can send an expedition out to look for them. We’ll have to see what we can dig up.”

The guildmaster rests his arm on the back of the chair and tilts his head toward the room. “Laevisi!” he calls out. “Are you still hanging around here somewhere?”
A golden voice responds from nearby, “why of course I am, master Kessler, where else would I be at this hour but in your magnificent establishment?”
The voice belongs to a tall, slender man dressed in a long, stylish coat, resting comfortably in one of the nearby lounge chairs while he twirls a thin flute between his fingers. A silvery white mask with long white horns adorns his face.
Marcus turns his head to face the source of the voice. “Good. I assume you have heard every word of this conversation, am I correct?”
“Naturally, master Kessler. A skilled musician’s ears are highly sensitive you know.”
Marcus chuckles. “I’m sure they are, you scoundrel. Do you have any useful input on this whole ordeal?”
“Well, it sure sounds like your friend there encountered a Nightmare in his travels, and I don’t mean the sleepy kind. Also, I not only recognise that Dwarven seal, I know exactly which clan that belongs to and I even have some friends there!” he replied, his mask unable to hide the smugness in his voice.
“I thought you might,” the guildmaster answered. “Well, don’t just sit there, grinning like an idiot behind your mask as I’m sure you are, go get them!”
“At once, my liege, you can count on me! Though I must protest, I was just starting to relax after a long day’s work in your acoustically superior halls,” he replies with a cheeky grin as he gets up and straightens his sleek outfit. He takes a low bow and starts towards the main doors.
Marcus laughs out loud and replies sarcastically, “The chair will be here when you get back, don’t worry." He claps the man on the shoulder as he passes by. "I knew it would come in handy to keep you around, friend!”

After nearly half an hour the main doors swing wide once again. Laevisi saunters into the tavern, a sturdy looking dwarf in tow. He salutes one of the waitresses as she walks by. “Good evening, Lizzy, could you please direct me towards the owner of this tavern, he is expecting my return.”
She giggles and replies, “Of course, ‘sir’. Mylord Kessler has retired to the salon with his guests. I believe you know the way.” She flashes a smile and resumes tending to the patrons.
“Always liked that one,” he says as he nudges his Dwarven friend in the shoulder.
“Wha’re we doing ‘ere, lad, I ‘ave work in the morn’”, the dwarf grumbles.
“Don’t worry about that, you’ll thank me later. No need to sulk just yet,” he jokingly retorts.
Laevisi leads him to the salon, where Marcus, Sam and Ardea are conversing. It is a sizeable, comfortable lounge area with a crackling hearth and fine carpets. A bottle of strong liquor is shared among the group.

Laevisi steps forward into the room and in a dramatic voice announces, “Salutations and a good evening once more! I have returned with due haste and as promised, and I present to you; Thorgrim Metalbeard of clan Hammerhand, son of Mordin, blood of Grodrik the orc slayer.”
The dwarf scowls and shakes his head at his flamboyant friend before walking over to the Guildmaster and clasps his hand in a firm handshake. “Well met, master Kessler, it be quite the ‘onour to meet wit’ ye.”
“Oh no, master dwarf, the honour is all mine. I believe we have a tale of both ancient and quite recent history to regale you with, if you would indulge me. Please have a seat and a glass of our fine whiskey.” Marcus introduces the group and explains the whole situation to the dwarf while food and drink is served by the staff. Thorgrim seems sceptical at first, but listens intently.

As soon as the guildmaster produces the Dwarven medallion the usually stoic Thorgrim leaps out of his chair in amazement. “Yer tellin’ me ye found the halls o’ Durgeddin? Tha’s fantastic news! Tha’ be the greatest discovery o’ the last two decades!”
“Well, don’t cheer just yet, there is more to the story,” the guildmaster grimly replies. “Apparently Sam here has been trapped inside a fiendish machine for quite a while and was just found in those very halls by one of our Expeditions. They freed him from his prison, but barely escaped. Only at the cost of great personal injury and even greater loss of life this information has reached us. They were chased all the way here by a shadowy rider on a fiery steed. The machine in question is somehow connected to a desecration of your ancestral halls and we fear the rider is as well. Though Sam isn’t very coherent yet, he is most clear on one thing…”

“Ο αναβάτης της Φέλ Σκιές πρέπει να καταστραφούν.”

“He says the Horseman of Fel Shadows must be destroyed.”

Shadow and Flame
Chapter 1

Two riders race north along the wall through the dead of night, their heavy cloaks soaked with rain. One of them carries an unconscious figure, slumped over the back of his horse. Fighting through their injuries they charge through the muddy fields with fear in their eyes, for they know what chases them…

As they once again glance over their shoulders a roiling cloud of smoke appears through the dense fog. An earsplitting, grating shriek pierces the night and reverberates throughout the countryside as a flame flares up in the middle of the cloud. Blind panic sets in as the riders spur their mounts on faster and faster, far beyond the limits of the exhausted and frightened animals.
Out of the billowing cloud emerges a shadow at great speed. A jet black warhorse with smouldering red veins bursts forth, its mane and hooves burning with dark red flames. Smoke and fire emanate from its frothing mouth and nostrils. Every thundering hoof-beat produces a burst of flame and steam at the creature’s feet, leaving behind deep, smoking hoof-prints in the sodden ground.
A horned figure, wearing a black metallic armour and a long flowing cape that seems to trail ribbons of shadow sits atop the muscled beast, its glare fixed at his quarry in the distance.

The black figure unsheathes a massive, jagged blade that seems to bleed shadows and swallow the light cast by the flaming mane. With another deafening shriek it charges forward with even greater speed.

In the distance, a welcome sight greets the riders as the fires on top of the guard towers of Fort Westergard pierce the night, sparking a glimmer of hope.
“Jon, hurry, do something, we have to lose him,” one of the men shouts. The other rider closes his eyes and mutters an incantation under his breath. “This is all I’ve got left”, he says to his companion, as his mace starts glowing with a light as bright as the sun. The nightmarish figure immediately growls and shields his eyes from the brilliant light, but remains steadfast in his pursuit.

He points the long umbral blade in their direction and utters a single, eldritch syllable. A shadowy tendril reaches for the source of the light and latches on. The light is immediately snuffed out from the mace and its wielder lets out a horrible cry of pain as his very life force seems to be drained into the dark blade. He grips the reins of his horse tightly and forces himself to stay conscious for the last leg of their escape.

A resounding note from a blaring horn pierces the night as the soldiers guarding the fort sound the alarm. Several more lights ignite atop the high defensive walls, as a group of knights on horseback emerge from the large gates.

The shadowy figure suddenly stops his fiery mount in the middle of the road before he gets in range of the defensive forces. Its large hooves dig deep into the mud, producing clouds of steam. He lets out an angry roar that shakes the riders to their core as he glares at the receding riders until they are well out his reach. The hellish steed snorts and neighs as it rears up, casting a flaming silhouette against the darkened night sky. With a final scowling glance the black rider turns around and charges off into the fog, vanishing just as suddenly as it had emerged, leaving only a cloud of black smoke.

The mounted soldiers surround the two riders and guide them beyond the thick, reinforced gate, which closes behind them with a loud thud.

The March Westward
Wealth and knowledge lie just beyond the border

It has been at least half a century since the opening of the Amalthean Gate, which demarcates the western border of the Kingdom of Haldanór. After several centuries since the recolonisation of the Hidden Coast the western part of the continent is accessible to travel and exploration once more. A long mountain range isolates the coastal region, protecting the region from dangers lurking in the far reaching lands beyond.
This mountain range is bisected by a twisting, deep canyon, called the Windswept Pass. It is guarded on both sides by tall defensive walls, with the old imperial wall to the west and the Amalthean gate overlooking the eastern entrance to the canyon.
Even though the Haldanian military still heavily patrols the canyon and the surrounding area, a relatively safe route through the pass has been established and the nearby lands have been cleared of any dangers. The Imperial Road is now open once more, allowing access to the old Thanian Empire.
In ages past, the Empire of Thain was a mighty and wealthy realm that stretched on for many miles, now little more than a ruined wilderness. A catastrophic event laid waste to the lands and killed most of its inhabitants a long time ago. The true cause of this apocalyptic disaster is unknown and lost to history, but many are eager to find out.
Recently, a royal decree has been issued, called the March Westward:

“In order to grow the kingdom and restore the lands to the glory of days past, the wild lands must be explored and conquered once more!”

The promise of wealth, status, land and perhaps even titles of nobility have been put forth as incentives to explore the wild and bring home its riches and forgotten secrets.

The Hidden Coast used to be part of the empire as well, but since its collapse has been recolonised by humans from other parts of the world. Most of its history and knowledge has been lost in the process, but the area is now home to a large multicultural civilisation; the kingdom of Haldanór. Ruled by King Aldrin IV, it has thrived for many years, but has become somewhat stagnant in past years. Nobles are settled in their strongholds and conflicts are few, with little change in the status quo. King Aldrin wisely used this time of peace to look to the future. He ordered the clearing of the Pass to open the kingdom up to new fertile farmlands and an influx of valuable resources, new ideas and old knowledge.

Since then, the road has been cleared and Fort Westergard has been established at the gate in the imperial wall. It is a strong castle, built right up to the wall. A regiment of royal soldiers is always present to protect the gate and the kingdom from whatever dwells in the wilderness.
Near the fort, straddling the southern canyon wall, is a frontier town called Westwall; the last bastion of civilisation before heading out into the wasteland of the old empire.

Westwall is a rugged town, of mostly wooden buildings, while some structures have been built right into the canyon wall. The town has a strong wooden palisade with several guard towers. It’s a fast growing community, so to save space, people have started constructing homes on higher plateaus of the canyon.

The Trailblazers Guild

The largest inn in Westwall is the famous Wanderer’s Respite tavern. It is run by Marcus Kessler, also known as The Wayfarer, an old pioneer of the Western Wilderness. He fancies himself the headmaster of the Adventurers Guild, called The Trailblazers. Essentially, he just loves stories of strange events from far away lands and does everything he can to ensure a comfortable and friendly resting place for weary travellers with wild stories to tell. Many explorers and adventurers that call themselves Trailblazers use the inn as a base of operations.
The Wanderer’s Respite is a large structure, built partially into the canyon wall. It has quite a number of good quality lodgings and an enormous common room with a massive fireplace and an even larger bar. Entertainment is playing the stage nearly every night, while several waitresses tend to the many guests at the various tables.
There are also several smaller rooms leading off the main room for additional privacy and a more intimate atmosphere. These are often occupied by the more successful groups of explorers that have come home to celebrate their victories and enjoy the spoils.

By being early you have managed to reserve one of the better side rooms to plan your adventures. It’s a fairly large room with double doors that give a good view of the main tavern hall when left open. The rough stone walls are plastered to give it a smoother look, topped off by the arched ceiling, which is supported by thick wooden beams. All kinds of decorations litter the walls. Colourful tapestries, banners and crests of forgotten noble houses, flanked by various trophies and art pieces of unknown origin. The only daylight entering the room comes from a singular thin window high up, just below the ceiling, but the room is lighted by a simple chandelier hanging from the centre beam and several oil lamps adorning the walls. A small fireplace in the far corner keeps the room warm and gives it a cosy atmosphere.
In the centre of the room is a heavy wooden table with a couple of chairs and a long bench on either side, adorned by several quilts and cushions (to make sure the gnomes can use the furniture without issue). Though very sturdy and well built, it is an old and worn piece of furniture, decorated with many beer stains and crude carvings.
As the firelight creates flickering shadows across the tabletop you realise the carvings may not be so crude at all, but instead are markings of previous generations of adventurers discussing their plans and drawing maps, hinting at grand adventures past.

You sit around the table nursing a drink. Speculating about things that were, while ruminating on your own stories, yet to be told…


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