Kingmaker: Stormvale

atraiyu47

First Post
Hey everyone. I've been running a heavily customized kingmaker campaign for about 9 months now, and it has turned out so well that I decided to start posting the adventure log here.

You can cheat and read ahead here, but be warned that the obsidian portal log is posted with little editing and little thought to making it comprehensible to people who aren't playing the game. I correct these things before posting them here. Also the Obsidian Portal site is LOADED with spoilers. Clicking on one of the character pages below leads to a massive one.

Characters


Asta- Half-elf Summoner
Dante- Human Paladin
Meric- Human Sorcerer
Siv- Half-elf Druid (props to Greg for making a non Charisma based character for Kingmaker)


Changes from Default King Maker

I list this in great detail in this thread of my Obsidian Portal site. A quick summary would be:

1) I find D&D 3.5 to have a more elegant and intuitive layout of the outer planes. So I’m using it instead of the official Pathfinder one. I’m also far more familiar with the D&D 3.5 deities, and don’t find many of the Golarion ones to be all that impressive. So I use hybrid of the 3.5 and pathfinder deities. If you are wondering why this is so important to a Kingmaker campaign...stay tuned.

2) Racial alignments are just bizarre. The notion that a guy is objectively evil by default regardless of his actions just doesn’t sit right. So for this campaign I’m experimenting with some house rules on alignment. They primarily affect the group’s paladin Dante. We are treating all mortals as morally neutral for alignment purposes. If a person commits an evil act, it taints their aura with evil for a time. Murder and rape are the types of crimes that can have a lasting impact, but even those auras fade with time. Basically if the paladin detects evil on a mortal, that person has committed a terrible act relatively recently. It makes them smitable and vulnerable to all of the types of spells that would affect a person of evil alignment. Creatures like demons are of course always radiating evil because they are literally manifestations of evil.

3) A number of mechanical changes that don't really matter for the purposes of a story hour.


Note on Format

As I started the write ups, I found I was consistently presenting each scene from one characters perspective. Rather than run from it, I went full ASOIAF.
 
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atraiyu47

First Post
[h=2]Stolen Land: Part 1

Siv
[/h] “Be it so known that the bearer of this charter has been charged by the Swordlords of Restov, acting upon the greater good and authority vested within them by the office of the Regent of the Dragonscale Throne, has granted the right of exploration and travel within the wilderness region known as the Greenbelt. Exploration should be limited to an area no further than thirty-six miles east and west and sixty miles south of Oleg’s Trading Post. The carrier of this charter should also strive against banditry and other unlawful behavior to be encountered. The punishment for unrepentant banditry remains, as always, execution by sword or rope. So witnessed on this 24th day of Calistril, under watchful eye of the Lordship of Restov and authority granted by Lord Noleski Surtova, current Regent of the Dragonscale Throne.”


Siv couldn’t help but be a little annoyed as she read the charter. As if she needed the piece of paper to return to her home. The idea of applying for permission to settle the land had offended her at first. But Restov seemed determined to take the Stolen Lands, and she feared for the future of the wild places if they did not have an advocate among the ranks of the settlers. She also knew driving off the bandits who had come to infest the Narlmarches would take more than herself and Barry.


Still, she was surprised the Sword Lords had selected her at all. It must have been her knowledge of the greenbelt that tipped the balance in her favor. She may have exaggerated just a bit as to exactly what she remembered. No one had specifically asked her how many years since or old she was when she last resided there. It wasn’t strictly a lie, and humans never could guess her age correctly anyway.


Out of the corner of her eye she spotted a girl holding a charter identical to hers. The girl wore a hood that covered her ears, but from her slender wiry build Siv could see she was a half-elf.


“I believe we are looking for each other.” Siv said while holding her own charter up for the girl to see.

As she approached, Siv guessed the girl to be in her early twenties, though most humans likely mistook her for 15 or 16. She had deep, dark blue eyes that revealed an experience and sadness that most so young do not endure.


The girl spoke as she lowered her hood. “I’m Asta. It’s…good to meet you.”


It was obvious to Siv that Asta did not frequently engage in conversations. She could make out a faint glow emanating from behind Asta’s long reddish-blonde hair.


“I’m Sivileana, you can just call me Siv. Do you know how many others we are waiting on? They didn’t even tell me how many of us were being sent into the Greenbelt.”


“Four.” The voice came from a man who was standing behind her. She turned to see a human with long black hair and blue eyes. He was dressed in leather armor and carried a sword at his side. She guessed him to also be in his early twenties. He bowed formally to both her and Asta and introduced himself as Meric Thorn. He carried himself like a noble, his speech and mannerisms seemed too formal for an adventurer. She wondered if he had earned his place in the party by way of merit, or a rich father.


“Where is our fourth then?” Siv was anxious to get on the road, and she didn’t like leaving Barry alone outside the city for so long.


“He is on his way. I met him earlier, a paladin of Kord. He seemed….eager. And tenacious.” Meric seemed to have chosen his words quite diplomatically.


Siv restrained herself from showing outward frustration. The thought of a paladin droning on and on about his deity wearied her. The gods could be relied on for one thing, not showing up when you need them. She hoped this paladin was the rare kind who had taken a vow of silence.


Meric spoke again “There is our friend now.” He raised his voice a bit to catch the paladin’s attention “Dante.”


Siv nearly lost it. This one couldn’t be 18 yet. He was a tall lad, 6’ 2” built thick with short brown hair. She couldn’t help but wonder what this child could possibly have done to impress the Sword Lords enough to warrant granting him a charter. He approached with a smile that reached from ear to ear.


“Friends! Are you prepared to purify the stolen lands of evil? Kord smiles upon our noble quest!”


Siv turned away and rolled her eyes. This was going to be a long walk.
 

atraiyu47

First Post
Stolen Land: Part 1

[h=2]Dante[/h]
Dante could not recall being this excited in his entire life. He tried to maintain a serious demeanor as his new companions were, but he couldn’t help but smile. Traveling with a group of heroes to test his might against those who prey upon the innocent had been his dream since he was a small boy.

He found himself slightly envious of Meric, who was the only one of the group who had a horse. He thought it spoke well of the man that he had chosen to walk and lead his horse, rather than riding easily while the others were forced to travel on foot.

He definitely needed a horse. It’s just something that a proper paladin had. He wished he had the money to buy one before setting off, but all he had went into the materials for his armor and weapon. He had only a few coins to his name. Had he not been a blacksmith and able to make them himself, he would not have been able to afford even that. The scalemail had turned out well, but it wasn’t the gleaming plate he had always pictured himself wearing when he thought about heading off on adventures.

As they continued to walk, Siv raised her hands to her mouth and made an unusual animal sound. From the trees nearby, a smaller sized bear emerged and began running towards the group. Dante immediately reached for his warhammer, and prepared to defend his new friends.


“Easy there Dante.” He felt Meric’s hand on his shoulder. Dante turned to face him. “She’s a druid, while she’s around most animals are friendly.”

Sure enough as he turned back around, Dante could see Siv embrace the bear and pet him lovingly.


“This is Barry. He’ll be joining us.” Siv’s calmness eased Dante’s nerves.


“Heh, Barry. You named the bear Barry. That’s funny.” Dante could see Siv’s eyes narrow as she looked at him. She sighed, stood and continued walking.


Asta spoke up for the first time since Dante had arrived “This is probably a good time for me to go get another companion we will have along for the journey…please don’t be startled when you see him. Keep going, I’ll catch up.” With that Asta headed off into the nearby forest. Dante was confused. What’s more startling than a bear? Meric seemed to know the others better than he did. “Is she a druid also?”


“I don’t think so. I’m not sure what she can do to be perfectly honest.” Meric seemed every bit as curious as Dante was.


They continued traveling for several minutes before hearing Asta call to them. Dante turned, and saw something far more startling than a bear. Asta strode up to the group with a white sabertooth tiger at her side. The beast was enormous. Dante swallowed hard as it walked right in front of him. He had seen pictures of them, but he never imagined them to be so large. This animal could rend a man in two with little difficulty. Asta began scratching the fur between it’s ears.


“This is Skydd. He’s sort of my body guard. Don’t worry, he won’t hurt anyone unless I tell him to.”


Dante noticed Asta’s face turn to one of sudden concern.


“I mean…I wouldn’t tell him to hurt any of you. I’d only tell him to attack enemies. Like the bandits we are after.“


She looked mortified. It didn’t seem like she was good at talking to people. Dante tried to think of something funny to say to break the tension of the moment, but Meric beat him to it.


“I doubt he’ll have to hurt anyone, one look at him and the bandits with soil themselves and flee the Greenbelt forever. Don’t worry Asta, we trust you know what you’re doing. Now let’s get moving, the journey ahead is long.” Meric’s manner was warm and

Asta seemed to relax.


Already in just a half a day’s walk, they were further west of Restov than Dante had ever been. He knew they would follow the road west for a couple of days, but didn’t know their exact destination. “Where exactly are we headed first Meric?”


“A trading post just north of the Greenbelt. It’s owned by a fur trader named Oleg. We can get a room for the night before heading into the wilderness and inquire for any information on bandit activity. With luck, in just a few weeks we can secure and map the area. Then Restov will approve funds for a colonization effort.” Meric seemed to have the entire thing planned out. Dante was glad somebody did.
 
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atraiyu47

First Post
Stolen Land: Part 1[h=2]Asta[/h]
Asta would not have pegged the building in front of her as a trading post. It had clearly been a fort at one time. Ten foot high wooden palisade walls, with four fifteen foot towers rising from its corners. It was late in the evening and she was exhausted. She hoped its beds were more inviting then its exterior.


Oleg’s wife Svetlana was very welcoming. She had prepared a stew and freshly baked bread for them. She also opened a bottle of wine. Oleg himself seemed preoccupied with fixing a small hole in the roof. Asta suspected he was just trying to look busy. As the group sat down to eat, Oleg made his way down the ladder and approached the group.


“So you’re the ones who are going to solve our bandit problem?” Oleg was sweaty and gruff.


Asta would normally wait for others to reply, but Dante already had a mouth full of stew, and Meric and Siv seemed to be considering his words for a tad too long.


Asta spoke up “Have the bandits caused you trouble here?”


Oleg’s expression changed to one of barely constrained rage. Profanity began spewing from his mouth with no coherent structure as he threw his hands up in the air. Svetlana seemed embarrassed by her husband’s display, and quickly interjected.


“So you weren’t sent to defend the trading post from the bandits? We sent letters to Restov weeks ago and they finally replied that they were sending someone to protect us.”


Meric replied. “We have been sent to fight banditry where ever we find it. We were just unaware that you had been harassed by them. Certainly we will aid you.”


Svetlana breathed a huge sigh of relief. She began recounting the circumstances of the bandit’s initial shakedowns. They first visited three months ago—they threatened to burn down the trading post and abduct Svetlana for their own amusements back at their camp if the Levetons didn’t agree to hand over all of the furs and trade goods they’d accumulated over the past month. Asta could clearly see fear in the woman’s eyes. The helpless feeling one gets when they are being encircled by predators. A rage burned inside her.

“Since then, the bandits have returned twice more, each time within an hour of sunrise on the first day of the month.” Svetlana explained.


The group met eyes simultaneously. The bandits would arrive in just a few hours. Dante’s expression went serious. He spoke with a conviction that surprised Asta. “We won’t let them hurt you again Svetlana. I promise you they will pay for what they’ve done.”


The plan fell together quickly. Oleg suggested the group hide in the stables and wait until the bandits begin loading the fur onto their horses before launching a surprise attack. Everyone except Dante agreed with the plan. He insisted on facing them head on. Ultimately, the group relented and agreed that he could stay in the building to distract the bandits, while the others hit them from behind.


Asta was tense as they sat peering out from the cracks in the boards at the stable. And when she was tense, Skydd was tense. He paced back and forth peering out in the same direction as Asta, as if impatiently waiting for the threat to manifest. Asta looked over to see Barry was not so tense. He was on his back, pawing at Siv’s leg, trying to get her attention. Siv was trying to focus, but eventually relented and began to rub Barry’s belly. His leg began to kick like a dog’s. It was a sad reminder of what Skydd wasn’t. In all her years of traveling with him, he had never shown any personal wants or needs. His only purpose seemed to be the protection of Asta. Even when he would come close to be pet, Asta could tell he was doing it for her benefit, not his own. She knew he wasn’t a regular animal, but it made her feel even more isolated that her only real companion through the years didn’t need her the same way she needed him.

Skydd began to let out a low growl. The group looked and saw five men on horseback approaching the trading post. Their bandits had arrived right on schedule. As they reached the door, the man at the front began to shout. “Oleg! Open up or we’ll burn your ass out! Maybe some fire will get your fat ass moving!” The men all laughed. Another piped in “Maybe Svetlana will open the door for us! I’m sure she’s desperate for some real men to show her a good time!” They all burst into laughter.


Asta was enraged. These weren’t men. They were wolves. The door to the trading post opened, and all five bandits dismounted. Three entered, while the other two remained outside with the horses. The moment to strike was now. She began to Stand, but Meric put a hand on her shoulder to keep her down. She gave him a confused look.

He reached out with one hand and gestured towards the bandits. He spoke a word quietly that Asta did not recognize, and suddenly she heard the sound of a rattlesnake near the two bandits. The horses panicked. The two men were unprepared and lost their hold on the reigns. They were now completely distracted. Meric gave Asta and Siv a nod.


Skydd and Barry lept into action, closing the distance between themselves and the bandits in no time. In an instant both men lay dead. The blood was everywhere. Asta leapt up and sprinted for the door. Dante would not last long alone against three bandits.


The fighting was intense but ended quickly. The bandits were not prepared for an attack from numerous opponents from behind. One of the men managed to strike a deap wound in Skydd’s neck. With a thought, Asta took much of the damage onto herself. She immediately began coughing up blood and doubled over in pain. The last of the bandits made a run for it, only to be chased down by Skydd. He showed the man no mercy.
 

atraiyu47

First Post
Stolen Land: Part 1

[h=2]Meric[/h]

Things were not going as smoothly as Meric had hoped. The past few days since killing the bandits at Oleg’s had been challenging to say the least. It all started well enough. Oleg had given the group good reason to think that the bandits made their camp less than a day’s ride from the trading post, somewhere in the Narlmarches.

Each day they would section off a twelve mile by twelve mile area, and search it thoroughly. The entire group had horses now thanks to the bandits, which made things far easier than it would otherwise be. But the terrain was difficult, and each day seemed to present some new challenge or annoyance. Meric had made specific note that the Skunk River definitely earned its name.

But this day had topped them all. Asta lay on the ground bleeding profusely from a wound inflicted by a bear trap. Siv healed her, but they hadn’t been able to save Skydd. He fell victim to one and to everyone’s shock except Asta, his body vanished upon death. She promised to explain later.

They had managed to wander half way through this seemingly quiet glade before triggering a trap. A quick look around revealed they were everywhere. Many were extraordinarily well hidden.

Siv was furious. “At this rate they will drive every animal from this part of Narlmarches. No one can use this much meat and fur anyway!”

Meric was inclined to agree that this was excessive. But he was more concerned about how they were all going to pass without losing legs. He tried to focus the party. “We need a safe way out of this area. Any suggestions?”

Dante spoke up. “We could have Barry lead the way.”

Siv shot daggers at him with her stare. “They are BEAR traps. Traps designed to catch BEARS. I’m not sending my BEAR first.”

Meric interrupted before things got out of hand. “Siv, you have eyes like a hawk. If we move slowly and follow you, do you think you could lead us out safely?”

Siv grabbed a walking stick and nodded. The group followed in single file. She intentionally set off a few traps with her stick on the way back. Once they exited the glade, Meric looked at his companions’ eyes and saw exhaustion and frustration. He felt it too. They were dirty and tired and needed a rest. Little more good could come from pushing the search tomorrow.

“Let’s take a break. We’ll go back to Oleg’s and get some rest and a bath. The bandits will keep one more day.” The others nodded weakly. Meric knew the Greenbelt was the worst assignment of the four regions of the stolen lands. It offered the least in terms of natural resources, and sat on no important trade routes. It was also the most dangerous. The more experienced and influential adventurers were given the better locations. Carving a nation out of this area would be nigh-impossible. But there was no other way. He needed an army at his back when he returned home.

Once the group had reached safety, Asta went off a short distance from the others. Meric watch with some fascination as the rune on her forehead began to glow. Magic coalesced in front of her. Skydd appeared before her, as healthy as ever. He was clearly a summoned creature, but Meric had never encountered one that could remain on this plane indefinitely. What kind of spell caster was she? The rest of the trip back to Oleg’s was uneventful.

Meric had harbored some fear that while they were out searching for the bandits, some would return to Oleg’s searching for their missing comrades and burn the place to the ground. But everything was in order upon their return. Unlike their first visit however, the trading post had a number of new faces. Meric took particular note of a man in full plate armor who sat a nearby table with three other men he clearly commanded.

Oleg gave a shout from across the building. “My friends welcome back! I’ve been telling our new guests about how you dealt with those foul bandits.” At this, the man in armor stood and made his way over to the group and introduced himself.

“I am Kesten Garess. My men and I have been sent to secure the trading post. A job that I am told has been made easier do to your efforts. I wish that I could join you in the wilderness in order to track down these brigands. But my orders are to remain here and keep the trading post and road safe.”

Meric was sure he had heard the name before, but could not place it exactly. This man was a noble, but this assignment was beneath one. He wondered what enemy Kesten had made to be dumped in the Greenbelt.
He shook the man’s hand. “It is an honor Kesten. It gladdens me to know you are here to keep the one spec of civilization out here intact.” He turned to Oleg. “My friends and I are in need of some rest Oleg, do you have 4 beds available?”

Oleg smiled. “Of course! Right this way.”

Meric was practically asleep before his head hit the pillow. He dreamed of two thrones. The one he would forge in the coming months and the one he would eventually reclaim.
 
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atraiyu47

First Post
[h=2]Stolen Land: Part 2

Siv
[/h] Siv was relieved when they came upon the bandit camp on the banks of the Thorn River. It meant that the two men they had killed a few minutes earlier upstream were definitely bandits. There had been some debate on this point when they came upon them. Each bandit they had encountered so far had been somewhat differently equipped. They wore no uniforms for easy identification. Dante had insisted one of them had an aura of evil, but such distinctions meant little to Siv. He wanted to ride out and kill both men without so much as speaking a word.


Meric had managed to convince him to stay back while he rode out and asked the men to identify themselves. Asta ordered Skydd to circle around quietly in case the men attempted to flee. They did. Skydd and Barry chased them down in short order.


Siv tracked the men’s orginal path down the river until they found the camp. She counted five, and quietly pointed them out to the group.


“Six” Asta said as she pointed to one Siv had not seen in the trees. They began to formulate a plan to stealthily take out one or two before engaging the main group. But as they prepared to move out quietly, Dante slipped while attempting to mount his horse, and tumbled into the nearby water. The splash left stealth off the table. Siv let out a sigh.


Shouts emanated from the camp “Up maggots, we have intruders! I want their heads on spikes!” Meric moved quickly to the west to deal with one hiding on a platform in the trees. Dante immediately ran into melee with three bandits. She had to grant him one thing, he had courage. Barry and Skydd followed to aid him, drawing the attention of one bandit each.


Dante was fighting a woman who was larger than he was. She wielded an axe in each hand and was shouting curses with each swing of her blades. She brought one axe down on Dante’s shoulder, he grunted in obvious pain. Siv feared he was in over his head. She sprinted over to him and laid a hand upon his shoulder and released a healing spell. The flow of blood stopped, but the wound was still bad.


But Dante had more fight in him than Siv had anticipated, he quickly placed his own hand on his shoulder and the wound healed almost completely. Without missing a beat, he brought his own hammer down on the woman’s left arm, causing her to yell out in pain. It was only a few seconds more before Dante stuck a mortal blow against his opponent. Siv looked around quickly and realized only the two bandits in the trees were still alive.

They both threw down their weapons and surrendered immediately.


Among the valuables found at the camp was Svetlana’s wedding ring, which had been stolen on the bandit’s first visit. They also found multiple crates of furs that had clearly been stolen from the trading post. It was satisfying to be able to undo some of the damage these bandits had inflicted. Siv was eager to see the looks on the Leveton’s faces upon their return.


Meric began questioning the two prisoners. Siv expected Dante to be right there with him, giving the bandits a healthy helping of shame to go with their humiliation. But he seemed withdrawn, and stood a bit back from the rest of the party.


Fortunately Meric was intimidating enough alone to get the bandits talking. “How many more of you are in the Greenbelt? Who is your leader and where does he make camp?”


The uglier of the two did most of the talking. “Our boss is a monster of a man. Calls himself the Stag Lord.” Siv recalled a silver stag amulet that they had looted from one of the men whom had attacked Oleg’s.
“He has a fort on the northeast shore of the Tuskwater. It’s hard keeping track of who’s working for the boss, so we use a master phrase as a sort of password to get in to the fort. Unless it’s been changed recently, the current phrase is, ‘By the Bloody Bones of St. Gilmorg, who wants to know?’ And no, I have no idea who ‘St. Gilmorg’ is.” Siv chuckled at that.


“What else can you tell me about him?” Meric’s manner was a bit odd. He had a venomous look in his eyes. Siv couldn’t tell if it was just for the benefit of the bandits, or if she had missed something that had set him off.
“He’s a deadeye with the bow, and I saw him crush a prisoner’s hand to mush in one fist. Come to think of it, I’ve never seen him without his creepy stag helmet on—some of my friends think he ain’t got no face under it, but not me—I think that creepy helm is his face!”


Asta stepped forward. “Is there anything else you think we should know?” Skydd moved closer to the man and let out a low growl a few inches from his face.


The man was too terrified to move. It took him a moment before he found his voice again. “The Stag Lord is a bloody drunk. All that booze under the platform’s for him. He’s half of what he used to be, and ain’t never been right in the head. A few weeks ago he punched my horse for spittin’ in the yard. But even drunk out of his mind he’s still got a fair amount of fight to him."


Meric seemed satisfied and sheathed his weapon. Asta gave him a sideways look. “The charters say the crime for unrepentant banditry is death by sword or rope.”


Both bandits immediately spoke up. “We repent! We are so sorry. What we did was wrong, but we see that now. Please don’t kill us!”


Siv was not the least bit impressed. “How quickly men see the error of their ways when they are looking down the pointy end of the sword. How many victims begged you for their lives when the roles were reversed?” She looked over to Meric. “Asta is right, we should kill them.”


This was enough to bring Dante into the conversation. “We should give them a chance. I don’t sense the taint of evil on them now. They may have done terrible things in the past, but killing them doesn’t accomplish anything.” Siv had not expected that from Dante. Meric added his voice to Dante’s.


“They have given us useful information. We should spare them for now. We can bring them back to Oleg’s under guard of Kesten Garess. Oleg may be able to find use of them as reparation for the harm they’ve done him and others.”
Siv did not approve. But this wasn’t a battle she cared to fight right now.
 

atraiyu47

First Post
Stolen Land: Part 2

[h=2]Meric[/h]

Meric could at last see Oleg’s off in the distance. He was eager to conclude their business here quickly so that they could immediately ride south for the keep controlled by this ‘Stag Lord’. This man was all that stood between Meric and a kingdom and nothing would stop him now.


That was when the sending came upon him. Words projected into his mind by a distant spellcaster. He vaguely recognized it as originating from a priest from the temple of Pelor in Restov whom he had met once or twice. The message caused his blood to run cold.


Merric it’s Brook
Please return home
Everyone is dead except me
I’m so scared please hurry



His sister Brook was the only member of his family whom he still had any contact with since his father had cast him out. Could this be a trick? An enemy trying to draw him out into the open? He thought of Brook, and decided he had to risk it. He made his reply quietly as to not draw the attention of the others.


On my way
Be calm
we will have vengeance



He considered whether or not he could trust his new companions enough to ask for their help in this matter. They were formidable, and he didn’t know what dangers he faced on his return to Restov. He didn’t need to tell them everything. Just that he had received a sending and that his sister was in danger. He hoped they would not press him for more information.


They did not. They rode swiftly to Restov after a brief stop at the trading post to return the Leveton’s goods and leave their two prisoners under guard. It was the longest ride of Meric’s life.


His family’s was a modest home outside the walls of the city. Even now it bothered him that his childhood was spent here in hiding instead of ruling from the finest palaces in all of Golarion. As they approached the door, Meric could see his father in his mind, standing at the entrancing screaming for him to leave before his ‘taint’ infected his other children. His father was a stupid man.


It was late, and the house seemed dark. The whole trip Meric had hoped this was some kind of trick. That when he arrived he would find everyone alive and well going about their normal routines. But the house was so dark. He opened the door and cast light on his sword. He had done his best to hide his spell casting from the group, but it had not taken them long to figure out that he was no fighter. There was no point in keeping up pretenses now.


He found no trace of any of his family. “Meric. Over here.” Siv called out to him. As he approached her she looked down at the floor. Meric could see the stain of dried blood covering a large area. Too much for a person to spare and survive. “There are others.” Siv spoke softly. Meric looked across the room and saw two more dried puddles of blood, one for each his father, mother and brother.


Asta looked as though she was going to be sick. Meric’s blood burned like hellfire.


“Where is your sister?” Dante added as tactfully as he could. Meric had almost forgotten. “She’s probably still at the temple of Pelor. We should go quickly.”


Brook was sitting in one of the front pews, sobbing uncontrollably when he arrived. He embraced her, and the two of them sat in silence holding each other. Dante, Siv and Asta all waited at the rear of the temple. Eventually Brook gained enough composure to speak.


“I had snuck out during the night. When I returned…they were all dead. Blood was everywhere.” Meric struggled to contain his rage but did for his sister’s sake. She continued. “I fled immediately. I didn’t even call the city watch. Whoever killed them must have intended to kill me as well. I ran straight here and contacted you.” Smart girl. If Cheliax had sent assassins, their orders were surely to kill the entire family. Meric knew his name was surely on their list as well. He had so many questions, but he couldn’t burden her with them all of them now.


“Who moved their bodies? We went to the house and they were gone.”


“The high priest of the temple here, the one who sent the sending. I had to tell him what happened in order for him to send the message. After he was done he asked me who our family worshipped and made arrangements to have their bodies brought to a shrine of Aroden that still exists in the city. He didn’t tell anyone I was here.” Brook’s lip began to quiver. “I thought that’s where Mother and Father would want to be brought. I was too afraid to go see them.”


“You were right not to. You did everything right Brook. None of this is your fault. Let’s go to the shrine now. We won’t be able to stay for the burial, but we should go see them.”


He hardly recognized his father. It had been years since he had seen him, and he had grown old and fat. His Mother hadn’t changed a bit. His younger brother Nikolai was the hardest to see. He was only twelve and had grown so much since Meric had last seen him. Each had their throat slit. It was clearly the work of a professional assassin.


Asta stepped forward and asked the question that he knew would come sooner or later. “Who would want your family dead? Do you have enemies Meric?”


He and Brook looked in each other’s eyes, pondering the same question without saying a word. Their entire lives there was one rule. Do not tell ANYONE who you really are. It had been drilled into them since they were small. Neither was sure now was the time to break that rule.


“I can’t say with certainty who did this. We should investigate near the house. Someone might have seen something.” He hadn’t really answered her question, but she did not press him on it. For that he was grateful.


It did not surprise Meric greatly when their inquiries yielded nothing but people who claimed to have seen nothing. He was about to give up when Siv approached.


“There is a small boy over there who hasn’t taken his eyes off us since we arrived and started asking questions. In my experience, children usually notice when something is out of place.”


It was better than any lead Meric had gotten. “Let’s see what we can glean from this boy.”


The boy did not feel talkative. Asta, Siv and Dante tried everything including bribing him with candy, but he said not a word. Meric grew tired of this. The boy was clearly traumatized by what he saw. Even if he began to talk, he might burst into tears while recalling the incident. Meric cast a Charm spell on him.


This did not escape either Asta’s or Siv’s notice.


The boy began talking. He had seen a man leaving the house that night. He wore red, and carried two curved blades that he said ‘looked like teeth’. A chill came over Meric who looked at his companions. From Asta’s expression, it seemed she came to the same conclusion he did. This was far worse than he feared. Why in the nine hells would his cousin contract the Red Mantis? It was like using a trebuchet to kill a mouse.


Meric purchased a horse for Brook along with a bed roll and some other provisions she would need. He was afraid to let her out of his sight. She would have to travel with them. The Mantis were relentless. Once you were marked they did not stop until you were dead. And even then, they kept tabs on you. Should you be restored to life by magical means, they returned to deliver you back into death’s arms. For the first time in his adult life, Meric was genuinely afraid. As they made their way back to the Greenbelt, Meric knew he had to come clean with the others. Their lives were in enormous jeopardy by helping him. They rode at a slow pace all packed together so they could hear him speak.

“My real name is not Thorn. It’s Thrune.” By their reactions, Siv and Asta immediately grasped what this meant. Dante seemed not to. “My grandfather was Almeric Thrune, the leader of house Thrune of Cheliax. After the death of Aroden, Celiax fell into disarray. There was thirty years of civil war and chaos. Over the years, my grandfather had been making alliances amongst the other houses and eventually gained enough support to claim the throne. There was peace in Cheliax for the first time in decades. But it did not last long. His sister Abrogail was an infernalist. She conspired with devils and with their help, launch an all-out assault on my grandfather and his allies. They were no match for infernal armies and magic. My grandfather was forced to flee and go into hiding. He came to Brevoy and changed his name to Thorn.


Asta looked at Meric’s sigil. It was a wagon wheel with thorns growing through it. She suddenly understood it’s significance. “So let’s get this straight…you’re the rightful king of Cheliax?”


Suddenly Dante grasped the magnitude of what was happening and his jaw fell slack. Brook looked concerned. As if this secret that she had kept her whole life was now loose and could kill her at any moment.


Meric nodded in response to Asta. “My cousin must have found us. She must consider us a threat to the legitimacy of her rule. The assassin…you should all know that I believe he was Red Mantis. We are in enormous danger. They have spies everywhere and will not stop until Brook and I are dead. I would understand if you did not want to travel with us anymore.”


Asta pondered this for a moment before asking a question. “Just to be clear, your side of the family, doesn’t support using devils right?”


“We despise them. I want nothing more than to see them driven from my homeland.”


The rest of the ride was mostly silent.
 

atraiyu47

First Post
Stolen Land: Part 2

[h=2]Asta[/h]

The group knew where the Stag Lord was, but thought it best to proceed with caution through the Greenbelt. They took their time, exploring in a southerly direction. It also gave Meric and Brook time to grieve. Asta knew what it was like to lose a parent, and her heart went out to them. At least they had each other to lean on during this time. It was more than Asta had.


Brook was a beautiful girl. Asta felt terrible for her on this journey. There were no beds in the Greenbelt. She had to sleep out under the stars with everyone else. There was nowhere to bath regularly, and only trail rations or whatever food Siv could manage to forage from the local terrain. This included far too high a percentage of radishes for Asta’s taste.


She looked down expecting Skydd to be nearby as he always was when she hadn’t specifically ordered him away. But he was not there. She began looking around. A small sense of panic hit her. She scanned the horizon for him but saw nothing. Then Dante laughed and spoke.


“I think Skydd is going to need a bath.”


Asta was confused. “Skydd doesn’t need baths.”


Dante nodded in the direction of the forest. Asta could see Skydd rolling around in the grass on his back. She was utterly perplexed. Dante clarified what he meant.


“I had a dog who would roll around like that whenever he found some awful scent. I don’t know what it is with animals and foul odors, but they seem to love them. I’m glad I don’t have to bathe a five hundred pound tiger.”


Asta’s confusion was mounting. Skydd never behaved like this. She rode over to him and dismounted. He stopped rolling around and walked up to her and shoved his head gently into her neck. He laid down and placed his head in her lap like a kitten. A kitten whose head was cutting off circulation to Asta’s leg. She pet him gently between his ears. He purred in response. She had no idea what was happening. He wasn’t a normal animal. She had come to grips with this fact years ago. He rolled onto his back and pulled his paws up close to his face. Asta could have cried. She pet his belly and he let out a low groan that Asta took to mean he liked it. It was the happiest she had been in years.


She wore a bit of a smile for the rest of the day. They continued south through the rolling plains just east of the Narlmarches. Eventually they came upon a particularly rocky crag that rose from the hills. Siv stopped as they rode past it, and went over for a closer look. She called back to the group. When Asta came close she could see a 5-foot-wide crack at the crag’s base. The group looked down and in the midday sun, caught the unmistakable glitter of a gold vein.

Some luck at last Asta thought. The group was long over do some.
 

atraiyu47

First Post
[h=2]Stolen Land: Part 2

Dante
[/h] As the group gathered around the fire at the camp, Dante found he had no appetite. It wasn’t just that he had already eaten the last radish he ever wanted to see, it was mostly the events of the past few days weighing down on him.
Dante had fought men before. He had bloodied them in combat. But before the Thorn River bandit camp, he had never killed one. He had seen plenty of carnage. Skydd and Barry went for the jugular every time they attacked. But there was something different about killing a man with your own weapon. When he killed the leader of that camp, he could feel it down his hand and arm, into his very core. He felt the hammer tear through muscles and tendons, and shatter bone. He could acutely feel his insides as he watched the life leave that woman’s eyes.


He had been in a bit of a daze after that. Far less talkative, and with little appetite. Seeing Meric’s family murdered like that made it worse. This wasn’t anything like he thought it would be. That woman had a potent aura of evil about her. She had murdered before and would certainly murder again. She had to be stopped. But He didn’t feel like a hero.


He had lied to the Swordlords when he told them he was eighteen. He knew they would never grant a charter to a sixteen year old. He thought it didn’t matter, that he was a grown man and ready to face anything the world could throw at him. He was wrong. He suddenly felt like a child who had more growing up to do.

He laid down to sleep early that night, hopeful rest would bring him some peace.

Dante awoke to a bizarre sight. Instead of the star filled night sky that he gazed upon before falling asleep, he saw an inferno. As if off at some indeterminable distance, the very air burned. He sat up quickly and noticed his companions still nearby, asleep. The immediate vicinity of the camp appeared undisturbed. But as he looked off into the horizon, he saw the soft rolling plains of the River kingdoms had been transformed.


The landscape was a random mix of both familiar terrain and a hellish landscape that could only exist in nightmares. Jagged rock formations, devoid of any trees plants or grass dotted the terrain. Off in the distance he could see the tree line of the Narlmarches still intact, and the Thorn River continued to flow near the camp, but now dropped off the edge of an impossibly deep canyon that now existed nearby. It was as if some hellish plane had invaded the world and the two dimensions fought to a draw, leaving a scarred and insane hybrid of the two.


Before he was able to react, he realized that perhaps 50 feet from him hovered a being in gleaming gold plate armor. Large white wings spread from his back. He was perhaps 9 feet tall, and radiated goodness that calmed his nerves despite his unease at the situation. Suddenly he noticed a creature enter his field of vision across from the angel. It radiated evil of an intensity that Dante did not think was possible. It stood taller than the angel despite the fact that the angel hovered several feet off the ground. His body was red and large bat-like wings extend from his back. A constant plume of smoke rose from between them. He held a massive sword in his left hand and an equally massive whip in his right. Both were wreathed in flames. The demon spoke.


[Demon] “You are far from Celestia Uriel.


[Uriel] “The path to the prime will remain closed to you Severik. Tell you master he risks the full fury of the Host by continuing this course.”


[Severik] “Do we ordinarily see only your partial fury? Do you hold back a bit in every engagement against us? “ The demon’s grotesque face appeared to form a smile. “The hordes of the abyss are infinite, and your wrath, however mighty, is finite. Why don’t you tell YOUR master that?”


[Uriel] “You will not take the prime. Your kind was driven from it eons ago and the gods will not yield it to you now. Go back to the pit that spawned you and make war on each other for all eternity.” The angel’s face turned from stoic to what could almost be describe as amused. “It would be more productive.”


From above Dante could see a flock of birds…no not birds…monsters, circling above the angel. From both sides of Severik appeared demons of numerous types. Each more vile than the last, all palpably evil. The angel stood utterly alone.


[Severik] “The boundries have weakened. You are attempting to hold back an ocean.”


[Uriel] “The response to such an incursion will be far beyond anything your master has considered in his machinations. Cascades will commence in his domain, his defenses will lie in ruins, and his legions will be scattered where not outright annihilated.”


[Severik] “You could empty all of the Heavens and not be able to successfully hold even a single layer of the abyss.”


[Uriel] “Occupation is unnecessary. How many minutes after the host retreats will your master’s enemies in the abyss wait before converging to claim what is his?“


The demon appeared to pause. The flames that surrounded his body intensified in response to the rage that stirred within him.


[Uriel] “The path to the prime will remain closed to you Severik. Inform your master accordingly.”


The demon looked upon the angel with a hatred so intense, Dante feared it might snuff out his life. The surrounding demons began moving towards the angel.


[Severik] “You are far from Celestia Uriel.”


Without a word, the angel drew his bow and loosed 4 arrows at the balor. All found their mark, two striking him in the throat sending him reeling. The flying demons converged, tearing and biting with their razor sharp teeth and talons. With movements swifter and more fluid than Dante had ever witnessed, the angel continued to fire. Two of the flying demons were dead in an instant. Two others manage to drag the angel to the ground where a mass of smaller demons proceed to pile on him.


Dante was gripped with fear at the prospect witnessing this champion of good torn limb from limb by these monsters, but before he had much time to consider the scene in front of him, a holy word was spoken. Dante could not understand it’s meaning, but he sensed it was a profound statement of truth. At that moment, all of the demons within several feet of Uriel were annihilated. He rose and renewed his volleys against the horde that stood before him.


At that moment, the balor moved with a speed no creature that large should possess, and brought his blade down on the Angel. Sparks flew as the unholy blade penetrated Uriel’s armor. The wound was deep, but the angel betrayed no signs of pain. Uriel reached for a greatsword that was strapped to his back, and the two titans exchange blows at close range. The balor’s blade cut deep, the angel’s cut deeper. There was no doubt in Dante’s mind who would have won a stand up fight between these two.


The remaining demons largely stayed back from the fight, but one, a hideous woman like creature with the lower body of a snake and 6 arms, joined the fray. She attacked Uriel from behind, all 6 blades found their mark. The angel fell to one knee. The balor sneered when he spoke.


[Severik] “Heironieous has always favored you. He would no doubt restore you if I were to kill you. No matter, there are fates worse than death”


He struck Uriel through the chest with his sword, piercing clean through to the other side. He uttered a profane word that shook Dante to his very core. The Angel’s body was consumed by primal evil and chaos, and soon nothing remained but a gold ball of light, hovering dimly in front of Severik. He smiled and moved to collect the orb when Dante saw his expression change to one of confusion. The ball of light began to solidify. At first it appeared to change into a liquid, and then hardened into a vibrant gold metal. Realization dawned on Severik as he teleported away.


The ball exploded with a force that knocked Dante onto his back. Shrapnel from it flew in all directions, ripping numerous demons to pieces. One large piece flew end over end towards Dante’s head, nearly striking him. It landed just a few feet past his bedroll.


Severik reappeared. He was unable contain his rage and lashed out at the nearest demon, cleaving it in half. After a moment he controlled himself and began to cast a spell. Soon all of the pieces of the gold ball begin coalescing in front of him. Every tiny piece returned to him and reshaped the sphere, save for one long gash in the ball that was unaccounted for. The balor began scanning the surroundings for the missing piece, suddenly his eyes scanned in Dante’s direction, and he was certain the demon perceived him.



Dante awoke with a shout. As he looked out into the distance, he saw nothing unusual. He had been dreaming. But it was like no dream he had ever had before. He reached out with his power and could sense the faint presence of evil surrounding the entire area. The others were waking now. Asta spoke first.


“Dante what’s wrong?


He looked at them with a face he knew was showing obvious terror. Could a demonic army really be about to invade this realm? He feared they would think he was crazy. But he felt compelled to tell them the whole story.
After he finished, the group looked at him with what would best be described as skepticism. Meric had never completely gotten out of his bedroll after waking up. He did not seem convinced.


“With any luck the Red Mantis will kill us before the demons get to us.” He said in an annoyed tone. He rolled back over and went back to sleep. The others ultimately did the same.


Dante was too afraid to try and sleep again that night, but went to lay back down all the same. To his shock, he saw the same piece of metal he had seen in his dream, buried in the ground behind his bedroll. He picked it up and examined it. It looked like gold, but clearly wasn’t.


He glanced back at the now snoring Meric. Maybe it was best if the Red Mantis killed them. Apparently, there were fates worse than death.
 

atraiyu47

First Post
Stolen Land: Part 3

[h=2]Asta[/h]

The storm off in the distance was beautiful, but strange. A number of locals had told Asta that the spring storms in the River Kingdoms tended to come in isolated, powerful cells. She still couldn’t get over how she could see both edges of the storm so clearly. Nor could she understand how such a small storm could produce such a torrential downpour. It looked as though if two men were standing 50 feet apart at the edge of the storm, one would be drenched and the other completely dry. The clear skies over the party made the violent sounds of thunder off in the distance a bit unsettling.


Not as unsettling though as the cave the group was about to enter. There was a broken down sign on the ground near the entrance that read ‘Oaktop Silver Mine’. Siv had recognized the writing style as originating from Taldor. Their empire had once extended this far north and it seemed reasonable that this mine might have been abandoned suddenly as opposed to mined empty. It had to be investigated.


But unexplored cave networks are no place for the untrained, and the group faced a real dilemma with what to do with Brook. Taking her inside did not seem to be an option. But leaving her outside was not much safer. The wilderness of the Stolen Lands was full of bandits and predators. Meric ultimately had cast an illusion spell near a rock formation that would hopefully fool any who happened past to only see more rocks, instead of Brook’s hiding spot. It fooled Asta, but both Dante and Siv had seen through it. She hoped it would be enough. The thought of what these bandits would do to a girl as beautiful as Brook sickened her. They would have to explore the caves quickly.


A crack of thunder rumbled in the background. Skydd looked uneasy. His head hung low and he kept looking back at Asta for reassurance that everything was alright.


“Are you suddenly afraid of thunder?” It had never bothered him before.


His only response was to nuzzle his head into Asta’s stomach. She pet him comfortingly.


“Alright, let’s head in. Dante, you take point. Asta, you and Skydd bring up the rear.” Meric had become something of the unofficial leader of the group over the past few days. He didn’t try to boss people around; he just planned out details that the others might forget. It didn’t seem to bother anyone.


The cave themselves appeared lived in. Someone had rigged up 3 pit traps that the group had to deactivate before moving on. It wasn’t long before they found themselves under attack by Kobolds. The fighting didn’t last long and the group suffered no serious wounds. Further exploration led the group to a strange temple of sorts. The walls of this room of the cave had been smeared with what appeared to be charcoal and blood to depict multiple representations in red and black of a looming, sharp-toothed reptilian devil. Two low stone tables sat in the middle of the room, one was stained with blood. Siv spoke first.


“Well that’s kind of grim.” Siv moved closer to the stone. “I think the sacrifice was a Kobold. I wonder how many of their own they’ve thrown away like this.”

Eventually the group found their way to the center of the cave network, and had to do battle with the entire remnants of the tribe. The fighting was more intense, but the group was more than a match for them. Exploring the cave confirmed there was still much silver to be had.


Asta wondered where the women and children of this tribe were. She supposed she might not be able to tell the women from the men, but assumed she would be able to identify children by at least being smaller than the adults. The group found no eggs either. Did Kobolds lay eggs? Either way, it appeared to be a group of adults who worshipped some strange demon. It was surely for the best that they were driven from the land. She wondered what the others would have done if this had been a peaceful clan with children who occupied this valuable resource.
 

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