Kingmaker: Stormvale

atraiyu47

First Post
[h=2]Stolen Land: Part 3

Siv
[/h] The Stag Lord’s fort sat perhaps one hundred feet from the shores of lake Tuskwater. There was only one entrance. Siv was wracking her brain trying to come up with a good plan for getting beyond its walls. They had ‘A’ plan, just not a good one. It split the party and relied heavily on Meric’s ability to Bullsh*t people. She was not convinced.


Meric had told Asta and Siv the idea away from Dante. As a Paladin of Kord, sneaking into your opponent’s base and killing them while they slept was probably the cardinal sin. The plan was to use the pass phrase the group had been given from one of the captured bandits. Once inside, they could offer the liquor they had found at the previous bandit camp as an offering to the stag lord and as a means to get the men inside the fort drunk. Eventually they could silently kill some while they slept, then open the doors of the fort for Dante and Barry who waited outside.


She had initially hoped to lure most of the bandits out a few at a time and ambush them once they were out of sight of the fort. But only a single group had headed out in the time since they had arrived, and no other group was sent to investigate when they didn’t return.


She eventually agreed to go along with the plan. Meric, Asta and herself approached the fort minus Barry and Skydd. Barry remained outside with Dante; whereas Asta would summon Skydd to her once they found a quiet place inside the fort. As they approached, she was prepared to run as fast as she could away when their ruse didn’t hold up


“Who goes there!” Even though she was expecting it, the shout from the fort caused her insides to jump.


“By the Bloody Bones of St. Gilmorg, who wants to know?” Siv didn’t even recognize Meric as he spoke. His voice and mannerism had transformed into a carbon copy of the bandits they had encountered so far.


The gates opened. So far so good.


“I don’t recognize any of you.” Siv could feel the stares of a half-dozen bandits on her and Asta. Meric began handing out a few bottles of wine to the surrounding men.


“We’ve just come from the camp at the thorn river. We took down a wagon that was carrying a few cases of these. Can somebody bring this one to the Stag Lord?”


“Why don’t you do it yourself?” Came a comment from one of the now dozen men who surrounded them. Siv Wondered exactly what Meric was playing at here.


“No way. Last time I saw the Stag Lord he punched my horse for ‘spitting in the yard’. No way I’m doing it. Besides I carried the booze half way across the Stolen Lands, someone else can bring them to the Stag Lord’s door.” Meric was an uncanny liar. If Siv had not heard that story from one of the bandits they captured, she would have believed him.


One of the men yelled out after taking a swig from a bottle. “Donnel, take that case to the Stag Lord. Our friend here has earned a break.” Siv breathed a sigh of relief.


The rest of the evening was filled with smelly, disgusting, drunk bandits making lewd overtures to herself and Asta. One in particular began trying to grope her. Siv pulled a dagger and did her best to scare the man off. But he was loaded up on liquid courage, and shoved her dagger away. She was prepared to kill him when she heard Meric yell.


“Hey! Both of them are mine! “ Meric had his sword drawn in one hand and held an empty bottle in the other. All night he had cast minor illusions to make it look as if the bottle was full and that he was drinking along with the others.


“Find your own unless you want to find my blade up your ass!”


“Hey I didn’t know! Calm down! They’re yours I got it!” The man backed down. Siv was astounded at Meric’s ability to think on his feet.


Things went smoothly after that. There were twelve bandits in the courtyard of the fort. They couldn’t get inside to see how many were within. As they bedded down for the night, four remained on watch near the gate. Asta went to the rear of the fort and summoned Skydd. What followed was a brutal and methodical massacre. The bandits slept all around the ruins of the fort, and it was simple to go to them a few at a time and slit their throats as they slept.


Things almost went bad when Meric’s dagger slipped and he failed to kill the bandit he hovered over in one strike. But before the bandit could even shout, Meric put his hands to the man’s face and drained the heat from him. It was enough to finish him.


Only the four at the gate remained. Meric ran to it in a panic and signaled for them.

“Someone got into the fort and is killing everyone! Get over here quick!” He’s definitely not lying Siv thought. The panic on his face was so convincing that the bandits did not notice the blood on his armor. They ran to were Meric signaled and began to panic themselves.


“Holy sh*t they’re dead!”


Siv and Asta quickly opened the front door to the fort. Dante and Barry were inside before the Bandits realized what had happened. Meric’s plan worked like a charm. All that was left was to mop up and find this Stag Lord.

On queue a door to one of the upper areas of the keep opened and out walked a massive man where a stag’s head for a helmet. From a door on the ground level, three other men entered the courtyard. Chaos ensued.


Barry and Skydd were on the original bandits in a flash. Dante ran for the stairs to challenge the Stag Lord directly. Unfortunately for Siv, the Stag Lord stuck her with two arrows which severely wounded her. She took cover and healed herself.


The bandit at the Thorn river camped had not lied, the Stag Lord was a deadeye with a bow. Siv’s companions were learning that lesson the hard way. Fortunately Dante was able to harm him enough to grab his full attention. Skydd and

Barry attacked the new comers. Meric used a charge of burning hands from a wand they had found previously. Siv launched a Flaming Sphere at the Stag Lord, but he was often able to evade it. Skydd was wounded, but Asta healed him.

One of the Bandits struck Barry over the head with a club. He collapsed with a muted roar.


“BARRY!” Siv was enraged. But she couldn’t move from cover for fear of the Stag Lord’s aim. She summoned a wolf to aid Dante and distract the leader of the bandits. By now Skydd had killed a bandit who wielded a rapier, and had jumped onto another who wore chainmail and carried a shield. Siv ran to stabilize Barry.


Dante had stood strong against the Stag lord, but in the end he couldn’t match up one on one. He fell unconscious with multiple arrows visible sticking out of his armor. He had repeatedly healed himself during the fight, but the Stag Lord was a monster of a man. The hideous bandit wielding a club struck Asta with great force wounding her. Things looked bad for the group.


Thinking quickly, Meric cast an illusion that looked like Skydd running towards the Stag Lord. In his drunken stupor, he could not see through it. The remaining bandits fell. A final ray of frost from Meric sealed the Stag Lord’s fate. His corpse tumbled from the stair case.


Siv ran to heal Dante. He was still alive thankfully. She definitely couldn’t question his courage. It took them all a few minutes to take stock. It had been a close thing, but they had succeeded against all odds. The bandits of the Greenbelt had been decimated. The lands were safe. It was time to build a nation.
 

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atraiyu47

First Post
Stolen Land: Part 3

[h=2]Dante[/h]

Dante held his scale armor in front of himself and put his finger through each of the six holes the Stag Lord had put in it. His armor was ruined. But with the funds they had received from the keep as well as the rewards from Restov for ending the bandit scourge, he could afford the materials for far better.


Of greater concern to him were the six holes that the Stag Lord had put in his chest. They had been healed days ago, but the memory of being bested had stuck with him. It was similar to the Thorn River bandit encounter. Dante had abandoned the foe in front of him and charged the leader. Though he defeated the woman there, he had been seriously wounded. Had her initial blow been an inch higher he could have lost his head.


His determination and persistence had paid off in many of their battles. But against the elite foes, he found himself outclassed in terms of raw skill. Being rendered unconscious was humiliating. How could this be prevented in the future? He would certainly improve in skill, but there would always be battles where he was at the disadvantage. He mediated on this for some time each day.


Since their return to Restov, things had been frantic. Approval was given for colonization and a stipend of 200,000 Gold worth of Material, skilled workers and money were granted to the group and were heading to the Greenbelt tomorrow in a caravan. Dante had concluded most of his business in the city already. But had one thing left to do.


He took the piece of metal that he found after his dream and put it into the fire at the forge. None of the smith’s in town could identify it. The priests of the various temples could all detect magic emanating from it. But each was baffled by how they could not detect a specific school of magic as being responsible for it. The only lead he had came from the temple of Heironeous. There they had many tomes about the heavens and the servants of the gods. Uriel was a known angel. It referred to him as “Heironeous’ strong right arm”.


The dream haunted his waking thoughts. In the past whenever he awoke from a nightmare, the inconsistencies of the dream were always obvious. As he would reflect on everything that happened, he would inevitably wonder how he could have ever believed it was real. This dream was different. It was vivid and it was consistent. He increasingly believed that everything he saw was real. The shard of metal was even further proof.


He had made the decision to try and forge the shard into his new armor. This would keep it safe if nothing else. He pulled the shard from the fire and brought it to the anvil to hammer. It wasn’t red at all. He put a hand close to the metal and felt no heat emanating from it. His finger grazed the surface to confirm this. The metal was still completely cool.


Baffled but not deterred, he put the shard back in the fire and increased the heat of the coals as much as was possible. He left it there for twice as long as normal. When he withdrew it the metal was hot, but not nearly enough to be worked.


Dante went to his former master Iban who had no answers. His only suggestion was that some Dwarven smiths worked strong metals such as adamantine in specially designed furnaces. Furnaces that could generate far more heat than any Dante could find in these lands. He would have to make the journey to the Five Kings Mountains to have any chance of learning these techniques. Siv interrupted his train of thought.


“Dante, Meric wants to go over some things with us in preparation for tomorrow.”


“I’ll be right there.” Dante thought back to the two druids whom they had fought in the Greenbelt. Siv had recently learned to wild shape. He began to wonder if all druids end up as crazy hermits who spend the majority of their time as an animal.


His thoughts turned back to the shard. A journey to the dwarves would have to wait. The caravan needed protecting and this fledgling kingdom would be fragile for some time. He looked down at the golden piece of metal. It almost seemed to glow.
 

atraiyu47

First Post
Stolen Land: Part 3

[h=2]Meric[/h]

The nuances of agricultural trade agreements made Meric long for the days when he knew nothing of agricultural trade agreements. He had been working with New Stetven on an arrangement to import enough food to keep his people fed until the farmlands made the country self-sufficient. It would have been easier to reach such an agreement with Restov, but Meric knew he had to build strong relationships with all of the regional powers. Striking a deal with New Stetven would be a first step towards being able to claim neutrality if Brevoy fell into civil war.


Organizing even this small kingdom was an enormous endeavor, and the group had quickly realized they needed to delegate many tasks in order to simply get by each day. He had planned to spend much of his time over seeing new construction and expansion. Yet the majority of his day was simply spent resolving disputes between the commoners and seeing to a multitude of administrative tasks. It was not exactly how he had pictured ruling a nation.


They had formed a leadership council made up of the best they could find. The best they could find however was at most, adequate. Oleg had been a merchant his whole life and neither Meric or his companions had any experience in book keeping. And so Oleg became the treasurer of this still unnamed nation. Kesten Garess was made Marshall and charged with keeping the peace here in the new capital of the Greenbelt, Stag’s End. Garess was likely the finest soldier in the kingdom. Dante had sparred with him a number of times over the past few months and to date Garess had won every bout. He was doing a fine job, but he was chosen in desperation in the first days of construction because Meric had no better options. He hated having no alternative options.


There was one pleasant surprise to come from those early days however. Lily Teskerton was a beautiful woman whom many of the men fawned over. Meric had initially ignored her as just a useless local flirt. Talking with her however revealed that she knew more about the workings of his kingdom than he did. Men were always trying to impress her, and so they talked non-stop about themselves and their plans. She helped Meric identify a thief who had been sneaking into the construction sites at night and stealing valuable material. She also dug up some dirt on a few men who Meric thought it would be advantageous to have some leverage over. She was a valuable resource and best of all; no one would suspect she was acting as a spy for the ruler of the nation.


There had been no news since leaving Restov about the other kingdoms started in the stolen lands. All of them had been explored and made safe prior to the Greenbelt. And all had received caravans of resources and workers as Meric had. The nation needed to focus on building and expansion, but Meric knew conflicts would eventually arise on their borders. The entirety of the Stolen Lands would be insufficient to challenge Cheliax, let alone just the Greenbelt. They had to expand aggressively and hope the other fledgling nations were making the mistake of thinking that the charters from Restov alone would protect their lands.


The nation also needed a damn name. The council had spent an hour at their last meeting throwing out ideas, but each either didn’t fit the character of the nation, or wouldn’t inspire the reaction in enemies that he desired. He looked out the window of his chambers in the castle and could see all of the new construction in Stag’s End. Things were progressing nicely. Perhaps it was time to send for Shireen. The thought brought a smile to his face.


Thunder crackled in the distance. Every afternoon during the spring and early summer, a storm would pass within a few miles of the city. These lands had a temper. They had rejected every attempt to civilize them across the centuries. Meric understood how fragile their position in the world was. Surviving the coming months and years would be like weathering one of these super storms. But he would not be stopped. He would emerge from the tempest stronger than ever, and these challenges would forge him and his country into the weapon that would drive the devils from his rightful home. He pictured banners flying above his troops as they entered Egorian, and suddenly he knew what country they represented. Stormvale.
 

atraiyu47

First Post
[h=2]Stolen Land: Part 4

Dante
[/h] It had been 7 days since Dante had last seen the sky. It was an unnerving feeling to look up and see only the ceilings of the massive chambers the Dwarves had cut into the mountains. Why did such short people make such big rooms?

The journey itself had not been too difficult. Convincing a Dwarven Master to teach him how to smith adamantine was a bit more challenging. Gold ultimately got things moving.


He looked back down at the furnace. The metal shard was glowing the perfect yellow-orange color, indicating it was ready to be worked. He brought it to the anvil and grabbed hold of a hammer the dwarven smiths used. It was twice the weight he was accustomed to.


“Now this piece of metal isn’t going to lie back and let you have your way with it like some tavern wench you got drunk during merry mead. If you want to shape it, you have to use force.”


Dante had no idea what Master Dolgrin was saying, but he thought it best not to ask. This had been a frequent occurrence over the past few days. He had gotten by so far mostly by nodding and smiling whenever the old dwarf made a reference he didn’t understand.


“Each strike must be as if you were smiting an Arch-Demon. All of your might and precision expelled into a single swing of the hammer. “ That one he understood.


He began striking the shard in an attempt to create a 90 degree angle at one end. Each strike of the hammer rang up his arm uncomfortably.


“So you’re a paladin of Kord huh?” Dante nodded but continued to focus on his work. “I knew a priest of Kord once. Tough son of a bitch. I once saw him wrestle a bear! He wasn’t rowing with both oars if you catch my meaning.”


Dante didn’t, but smiled politely. He didn’t think wrestling Barry would be a good idea. Master Dolgrin peered over at Dante’s work so far.


“Yes, much better. You’ve come a long way in just a couple of days. You’ve got the principles down. Now it’s just a matter of practice.” The dwarf paused and seemed to consider Dante carefully. “Do you really believe that shard is part of an angel’s soul?”


He thought back to the dream. It seemed more real every day. “I do.” The old dwarf laughed.


“Well you tell the gods that if they send me anything from heaven, I’d prefer she have a couple of large peaks and low standards.”


“I’m not sure I…oh. I get it.”
 

atraiyu47

First Post
Stolen Land: Part 4

[h=2]Asta[/h]

Asta set down the heavy book she’d been reading with a sigh. Still nothing. She looked around the small castle room that she had appropriated and saw Skyyd, laying on his back in a sunbeam, and smiled. He looks happy… I know so little about all of this, but I’ve never heard of anything like — Skyyd stretched out a paw lazily and looked over at her with a toothy smile.


“You’re right, Skyyd. This group, this charter. It’s more than we could ever have hoped for. Friends, a home, and finally a chance to maybe find out what all this means. I know that you were kind of thrust on me…” She pauses for a second and a cloud passes over her face, but Skyyd pads over and butts her hand with a whuff, and she smiles again. “And I’m so thankful for the friend that you’ve been. But it’s time for me to start learning what this is all about. It’s time for me to start growing up.”


She looked around again at the books and scrolls she’d gathered around her. Never in all her travels had she had so much knowledge and opportunity at her fingertips. At least Papa taught me how to read, how many girls in the village could say that? And still she hadn’t learned anything more than she already knew about Skyyd, or Summoning. But there were more books out there… She and Skyyd had travelled far, and there might be farther to go. But she’d figure this out.
 

atraiyu47

First Post
[h=2]Stolen Land: Part 4

Meric
[/h] A light rain fell on Meric’s face as he looked over the ramparts of the castle’s tallest tower – the highest point in Stag’s End. He’d been spending more and more time up here lately, whenever he could free himself from the meetings and trade agreements that had been monopolizing his time over the past several months. Stormvale extended as far as the eye could see in every direction. By now, he’d memorized nearly every one of the rolling hills on the horizon. The work was progressing; the road connecting Stag’s End to Restov was finished, which should bring a fresh wave of settlers and an influx of trade goods. The workers moved with certainty. They were people who had come to build something for themselves.


Not fast enough, he thought. At this rate, they’d never be a threat to his cousin. Hells, the entire barony was barely the size of one Chelish legion. He had to push Stormvale’s boundaries as far as possible, as fast as possible – it was the only way to avenge his parents, his grandfather, everyone in Cheliax killed during the Pretender’s rebellion. He could feel his fingernails digging into his palms. Raindrops began turning to steam as they struck his bare flesh.


“M’lord?” A serving girl, her green hood raised against the rain. It was coming down harder now. “Your council is asking after you.” He sighed and nodded. The girl came closer to the ramparts.


“I think you’ve got a few more minutes. Lady Siv’s bear got into the kitchens and gave the scullery maids quite a fright. It will take a while to get everyone calmed down.” A grin crept across Meric’s face, almost against his will.


“Not to worry; he isn’t dangerous.” Meric had once seen Barry eat a man’s face. “My thanks for the warning…”


“Jess. It’s my pleasure, m’lord.”


“You have an interesting accent. Where are you from?”


She turned and looked out at the hills. “Westcrown.”


“_What?_ Really?…What’s it like?” The maid bit her lip and squinted.


“I don’t…it’s nice, in a way. The buildings all match. Everywhere smells of flowers. It hums. There’s a humming.” She paused. “I like it better here.”

“Uh…that’s good to hear.” Listen to me. I’ve never even been there. They stood and looked out at Stormvale together in the rain.

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“Seriso synr asanm. Mallik nonsomnys.” The words rang out in Meric’s mind as if they had been shouted. He comprehended them immediately, but it took a moment longer to realize they were spoken in infernal. “Awake young lord. The mantis does not sleep tonight.” A sense of dread overcame him. Scanning the room he perceived no one. He dressed swiftly and ran to his door. Both guards he had stationed there stood attentively. He ordered the first to go rouse

Dante, Siv and Asta while the other followed him to Brook’s room.


His heart dropped when he rounded the corner to her door and saw both of Brook’s guards dead, their throats slit. He threw open her door expecting the worst. She was nowhere to be found. Meric found himself thanking the gods for Brook’s insomnia. There might still be time.


He scrambled to the outer walls which would afford him a view of nearly the entire castle. Perhaps 40 feet in front of him stood Brook. Unharmed and staring off across Stag’s End. Relief was replaced with terror as shadowy figure dropped down behind her and silently withdrew a long saber-toothed sword.


Meric couldn’t close the distance in time. The Red Mantis raised his blade. Both were caught off guard when Dante tackled the assassin to the ground. The mantis quickly flipped back to his feet. Dante stood between him and Brook.

Meric’s priority was getting her out of harm’s way. He ran and cast invisibility on her.


“Run!”


He turned back to the fight to see Dante take a swing with his hammer that the Mantis ducked under with ease. This assassin moved like liquid. He carried his momentum from dodging the attack into getting behind Dante. He buried one of his blades deep into Dante’s back. Meric used Ray of frost. Dante’s hammer began to glow blue and he smote the assassin repeatedly. Meric was impressed by Dante’s improvement, but he couldn’t defeat a red mantis. This fight wasn’t going to last long if they didn’t get help.


Help came all at once. Skyyd and Barry galloped up the stairs towards them, and a huge Roc flew up and began attack the Mantis from above. He assumed it to be a wild-shaped Siv. It was astonishing how long the assassin stood his ground against the onslaught. Eventually, the wounded Mantis leapt from the Castle wall. Dante did not hesitate, and jumped to follow. Meric didn’t have time to warn him that the Assassin had cast safe-fall before leaping. He cringed as he heard Dante hit the ground with a thud. The others began to jump as well, most managing to land more gracefully than the Paladin.


In a desperation move, the Mantis cast a spell that surrounded him with fog. But there were no nearby structures he could use to give the group the slip. Meric couldn’t see through the fog whether it had been Skyyd or Barry who had delivered the killing blow. But he did see what came after. The assassin’s body vaporized into a red mist. All of its equipment remained, but gone was any hope of interrogating him to learn more about the Red Mantis.


“Is Brook ok?” said Asta with concern. Brook had already been made invisible before she arrived to the fight.


“Yes, we got to her just in time.” He grabbed the assassin’s helmet and stared at it. They would never stop hunting him and Brook. They would both be dead now if not for the warning he had received in his sleep. An infernal warning. His blood ran cold.
 

atraiyu47

First Post
Stolen Land: Part 4

[h=2]Siv[/h]

The others seemed irritable, but Siv couldn’t muster much sympathy for them. They had put off the task of fully exploring the Narlmarches to the west of the kingdom for too long already. In the 7 months since founding Stag’s End the group had grown a little soft. None of the others had slept outside on the ground during that time, and it was clear they were missing their beds.


Dante was openly bemoaning the quality of food she was foraging for the group daily. And though he was suffering silently, it was clear Meric was miserable outside of the comforts of the city.


The role reversal did amuse her somewhat. She had been given fine quarters in the castle, but hated sleeping where she couldn’t see the stars. She usually stayed in the courtyard with Barry on the nights she spent in Stag’s End. If she could stand months in the city, they could stand a week in the woods.


“Something just bit me again.” Dante complained while swatting at his neck.


“Don’t worry. It’s definitely probably not fatal.” Asta quipped.


“Right. There are only 37 species of insect on this continent that inject lethal poison upon biting. The odds that it was one of them are really low. Not more than 1 in 10.” Siv teased.


“Haha. You guys are hilarious.” Was Dante’s only reply.


“Is it normal for there to be a yellow ring developing around the bite?” Meric stated matter of factly while examining Dante’s neck.


“What?!?” Dante whipped his head around saw Meric smiling broadly.


“You guys are jerks. Skyyd is the only one who understands me.” The tiger never missed an opportunity for attention these days and responded to hearing his name by moving next to Dante and ramming his head into the paladin’s hand.


A feeling of Déjà vu came over Siv. This place felt familiar. She stopped and listened for a time. They were close to the glade where she and her mother lived in her youth. After traveling a half mile west, the group found a statue to Ehlonna. The others had remained quiet as she had led them here, but now Asta spoke up.


“Where are we Siv?”


“This is where I was raised by my mother. She was a priestess of Ehlonna. This was our home.” She found it hard to get the words out. Being in this place made many of the emotions she felt as a child bubble back to the surface.


“She was murdered by a tribe of orcs that invaded the area. After that a druid found me and took me in. He taught me everything I know.” No one pressed her for more information.


She scanned the horizon to the south and notice something was amiss. The Narlmarches were green. Everywhere you looked, nothing but every shade of green. To the south the landscape was scorched black. A wildfire seemed unlikely given how soaked these woods were year round. They moved to investigate.


The forest was dying. Death was radiating out from a point several miles to the south. Every plant, every tree and every insect was dead. What remained was a foul lifeless swamp. A number of small animal corpses could also be found. It took all of her willpower to not scream.


“There’s a dead horse over there.” Dante pointed in the direction of the animal’s corpse.


Siv immediately saw Dante’s mistake. “That’s not a horse. It’s a unicorn. Its horn has been cut off.”


“That will fetch some scavenger a hefty price.” Meric added. “What could do all this?”


“I don’t know but, we’re going to find out.” Siv could barely contain her rage as she spoke. It nearly blinded her to the stranger in the tree’s a hundred feet behind them who had trained a bow in the group’s direction.


“We have company. At the treeline. Human female aiming a bow right at us.” Siv avoided looking directly at the woman as she informed the others.


“How long has she been there?” Meric inquired.


“Long enough that I don’t think she intends to start a fight.” Siv thought it a reasonable conclusion, but reading a strangers motives was always tricky.


“Let’s find out.” Meric moved a few feet in the woman’s direction and called out. “I am Meric Thorn, Baron of Stormvale. We have no quarrel with you. I would appreciate it if you did not train your weapon on my allies and myself.”


The woman considered his words for a moment before lowering her bow and stepping out into the open. She did not un-nock the arrow. Siv guessed her to be a ranger. “I take it you’re not responsible for all of this then. Hard to see how a baron could profit from destroying his own lands in this manner.”


“We only just arrived. What do you know of what’s happening here?” Meric replied.


“Whatever this is, it’s radiating out in a circle. It spreads a few feet every day.” The ranger knelt down to the ground at the edge of where everything had turned black. She pulled some grass from the ground and held it up for the group to see. It was brown and dry though it was the middle of summer and still the rainy season. “It’s already dying. By month’s end it will have spread to the glade just to the north of here.”


Siv’s anger rose again. “If it’s radiating out in a circle then there is a center. Did you try to find the source?” Immediately after she said it she realized it was a bit harsh.


“I’m not in a habit of rushing alone into regions where every living thing has been killed by unknown means.” Siv could hardly argue with the woman’s point.


“I’m sorry. This is just a lot to take in.”


“You’re a druid aren’t you?” Siv only nodded in reply. “Well if you didn’t get angry about this sort of thing you’d be a pretty lousy one. My name is Sariah. I sometimes travel through this region and am pretty familiar with the Narlmarches.

If you’re going to investigate this, I’d like to help.”


“Thank you.” Siv looked up to the rest of the group. “We need to hurry. I will not see any more of my home destroyed.”


“Lead the way Siv.” With those words from Meric they headed south at an accelerated pace. After several hours the group reached the point they approximated to be the center of the destruction. Sariah scouted a bit ahead of the others. Despite the circumstances, Siv was glad to have someone else around who appreciated the wild places. Sariah swiftly ran back to the group. Siv could only assume she had spotted something.


“There are four men on the other side of that hill, possibly bandits. They’re the only living thing for miles besides us. Something is terribly wrong here.” Sariah sounded genuinely unnerved. Meric began to speak.


“Let’s not give our position away to them yet. Let’s go to the top of the hill and take a look. Quietly everyone.” Easy for him to say. He’s probably going to make himself invisible again like during the wyvern incident.


Siv crawled to a point on the hill where she could glance over the edge with only the slightest portion of her head being visible. Just as Sariah had explained, four men sat in the middle of nowhere equipped similarly to the bandits whom had been in service to the Stag Lord.


“What are they doing here? It doesn’t make sense. There’s no food or shelter, and certainly nothing to steal.” Asta whispered.


At this, Meric stood and shouted to the men. “Hail!” The four men were startled and immediately reached for their weapons. They began to charge towards the hill. Meric turned back to the group. “Well, they’re not very friendly are they?”


“I don’t have time for this.” Siv stood and began to cast Stone Call. Small rocks began to rain on the men like hail. All four were knocked to the ground by the bombardment. When it ended, there was no movement from any of them.


“There’s no way those guys were the cause of all this.” Sariah said, stating the obvious.


“There’s something evil nearby.” Dante began looking around trying to identify the location of the presence he was sensing. His expression changed to one of surprise when he turned to face behind the party.


Siv pivoted to see what appeared to be a beautiful elf with bright red hair and pale, almost grey skin. A feeling that this woman was a trusted friend passed over, and nearly overwhelmed her will. She recognized the effect of the charm spell and shook it off. Meric, Asta and Sariah all stared at the woman with loving expressions. Asta began to walk forward towards her, but Skyyd gently grabbed a strap on the back of her armor with his mouth and held her from moving.

Dante was shaking his head trying to clear it.


Siv was now sure this was an Unseelie Nymph. Their presence drains the beauty from everything around them. Killing her would allow the forest to begin to heal. Unseelie nymphs rely on the protection of their charmed victims. Once she attacked, Siv knew the others whom had been charmed would come to the creature’s aid. Barry growled at the nymph and charged. Siv unleashed an attack of her own. The nymph had no time to call her charmed allies to defend her.

The fight was over in seconds.


Those whom had been charmed were immediately freed of the effect. Siv stared at the devastation left in the creature’s wake.


She must have been here for more than a year. If we had scouted this area sooner, we could have prevented all of this.



Siv was upset with herself for not pushing the group to explore the rest of the Narlmarches sooner. She would never let something like this happen again. The wild areas were under her protection. Those who threatened them would regret it.
 

atraiyu47

First Post
Rivers Run Red: Prologue[h=2]Meric[/h]

Meric entered the library flanked by two guards, bootheels clacking against the stone floor. He had to admit that the building was rather out of place outside the castle walls, its marble facade a stark contrast to the rough stone buildings surrounding it. Looking up at the rows of bookshelves which dominated the interior, Meric hoped that enough of the people were literate to make good use of it.

“Your lordship. What can I do for you today?” A sage’s apprentice approached Meric, twisting his fingers nervously.

“I’ll need every book you have on Infernalism.”

The apprentice paused. “All of them?”

“…Just how many books on Infernalism do you have here?” The boy gulped.

“Not many, your lordship. Just a moment.” The apprentice scurred off, returning a short time later carrying a stack of four books. “This is everything.”

“Excellent. Redder, let’s get these back to the castle. My thanks.”

“Your lordship? We, ah, do not typically permit the books to be removed-”

“I do not think it prudent to make books on such a subject available on an unrestricted basis. If anyone is interested in studying these, you may send them to inquire with me at the castle.” Meric turned and exited the building, the apprentice stammering behind him.

page_break.png


In his private chambers, Meric contemplated the books. Destroying them was a bad idea. They might contain information that could be useful in retaking Cheliax. Or… He thought back to the chilling voice that had awoken him on the night of the Red Mantis attack, somehow speaking directly into his mind. Suppressing a shudder, he opened the first book.

“Doing some light reading baron?”

Meric turned to see a man sitting in a nearby chair. He did not know how this intruder had gotten in, but he didn’t hear or see a thing. The man was dressed like a rich noble of Brevoy would be. Closer inspection revealed is a light red tint to his skin, and small horns on his head.

“I apologize for arriving unannounced, but the penalty for Devil worship in your lands is a bit…extreme. I can only imagine what the penalty for being an actual devil is.” He smiled warmly.

“Find anything of interest to you?”

Meric raised both eyebrows in surprise, then leaned back in his chair.

“Something about how the only way to determine whether someone is actually communicating with devils or whether they’re insane is through lobotomy. I suppose I’ll have to have faith that you’re actually here.” Meric poured himself a glass of wine and closed the book in front of him.

“Why are you here, incidentally? It seems there are several other members of my family with whom your time would be more constructively spent.”

“I suppose that would depend on what I was trying to accomplish.” The devil stood and bowed formally to Meric. “I am Rumjal. Formally a duke of Malboge, the sixth layer of Baator. Currently I am best described as a free agent.” He began walking slowly towards a nearby window and peered out while speaking.

“Stormvale has grown swiftly. You should be proud. Mighty empires have failed to tame these lands. I expect that it will continue to grow and and become a force in the inner sea.” He looked back at Meric over his shoulder.

“Assuming your cousin doesn’t kill you first.”

Meric took note of the euphemisms that the devil had used – Baator instead of Hell, free agent instead of…outcast?

“It’s good to hear you believe in our abilities,” said Meric dryly. “I assume that what you’re trying to accomplish is not simply reminding me that my cousin is dangerous; I learned that lesson the day she had my family murdered by the Red Mantis.”

“Yes I suppose you did. That was an especially brilliant piece of paranoia on her part. She had no reason to believe you or your family posed even the slightest threat to her. And yet there you were, chartered by Brevoy to claim a nation of your own.” He slowly walked and returned to his original seat.

“Of course she missed the only target that mattered. Tell me Meric, what is your plan for dealing with the Red Mantis? I may not be able to warn you the next time they are coming. I suppose you could simply stay alive long enough to build this Barony into a full fledged nation and become a rightfully seated king. That would solve your problem.” The devil moved one leg so that it was resting on the other and reclined comfortably in the seat.

“But what of dear Brook? The Mantis will not hesitate to keep coming after her.” The devil turned his head to the side slightly as if an idea had suddenly come upon him.

“Unless of course you intend to take her as your queen. Yes that would solve this problem permanently.” His smile walked the line between genuine and mocking.

“All of these sound like my problems. What I’m still not sure about is why they concern you. Unless…did my cousin send you to act as a constant reminder of my situation, to maximize my suffering before I’m killed? She’s more devious than I suspected!”

“The nine hells are known for many things Meric but I assure you that consensus is not one of them. For every plot weaved that would benefit from the success of your cousin, there are three that would benefit from her failure. Let it suffice to say that it is in my interest to see you and your nation succeed. To that end, I shall offer you aid where I can. I fully understand your hesitation in accepting any advise from a devil so I will make this easy on you.” Rumjal stood and straightened his vest.

“Events are going to begin unfolding rapidly in the Stolen Lands. This little scrap of no where you have claimed is far more valuable than it appears at first glance. Numerous parties are moving to establish a foothold. As an act of good faith, I offer you this free of charge. There is a demonic cult operating out of Stag’s End. You will want to eliminate it before things get out of hand. I suggest you begin your search in the brothel.” He begans to walk away, but then turned back to Meric.

“One last thing. The Mantis have spies in every city.” The devil looked around briefly in all directions. “Even brand new ones. You have given them reason to pause before another assault. Eliminating their informant in the castle would give them further reason to delay. Might I suggest that accepting a bribe from an assassin to aid in murder is an objectively evil act.” Rumjal smiled and began to walk away. After a few steps he vanished from sight.
 

atraiyu47

First Post
Rivers Run Red: Prologue[h=2]Siv[/h]
Bokken was like a jittery bird. He seemed to be full of nervous energy that was constantly battling to escape. Siv had noticed it a year ago when the group had first met him at his little hut, but it seemed more pronounced now. It was the way his head snapped back and forth between whatever was dividing his attention.

He didn’t like visitors, and seemed eager to quickly end any conversation that Siv tried to engage him in. Fortunately he did like gold, which enabled her to make use of his expertise in potions. She had found an unusual patch of flowers while traveling near the Oak-Top Silver mine. They were a large rose like flower with huge thorns. From these thorns dripped a rather nasty poison.

They clearly were not native to the area. Yet despite Siv’s expertise in plant life, she could not identify them. Stag End’s library and the resources of Stormvale’s priests also turned up no information. She had brought a sample to Bokken in hopes that he could shed some light on this mystery.

“Where did you find this?” was his only reply when she showed him the flower. He didn’t wait for an answer before taking the sample to a work bench and carefully extracting some of the poison for testing. Siv had been waiting for several hours for him to finish his analysis.

“I cannot help you identify this flower. I have never seen it before. But I can tell you what the poison is. The Tears of death. One of the rarest and nastiest poisons in existence.”

“Doesn’t knowing the poison tell you what flower it came from? If it’s a known poison then it must have a known source.”

“It does. The Tears of Death is a man-made poison. It is created by combining a half dozen rare venoms under precise conditions. It’s not made from any flower.”

Siv was annoyed. “Clearly it is. I just handed you one.”

“I’ve told you everything I know. The poison is man-made. I trust that ends our transaction.” With that Bokken retreated to his hut. Siv was left with more questions than answers.
 
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