Lowlanders

Prologue

Dusk in the Southron Hills.

Four men are walking up the cobbled road towards the town of Vintiver. It’s clear that it’s been a good harvest this year – the hearths of the outlying farms are singing with smoke and the smell of meat. Tufts of cut wheat litter the road.

The men chat idly about the time of day. It’s late and they agree that they should find an inn when they arrive. Vintiver itself is visible over a small hill in the north. Bjornin thinks he can hear tavern music and turns around exclaiming the virtues of ale as the party crests the hill.

As they come over, a stray bullock stares uneasily from the edge of the road. It is snorting and has a large gash down its torso, a strand of barbed wire stretching to the nearby broken fence. Schnake calms the bull from a distance, lowering himself, and shushing at it. Behind it, he notices crows circling a field and nearby farmhouse, it’s chimney conspicuously empty. He points this out to the others, releasing the bull and guiding it to the other side of the road. Bjornin, still ranting about ale, takes little notice, but when J’onn and Harvic walk through the gap in the fence and head toward the crows, he follows, running to catch up.

As the party walks through the field, they notice sparse flecks of blood along the ground. There is a general hesitation as the object that the crows circle turns from shadow to lump to a disfigured corpse. The young man has large gashes across his face as if a claw struck him – his mouth is torn at the edge and his clothes are bloodied. Harvic, the first to approach makes to assess the mans wounds; while the others are not watching he searches the body, pocketing a small copper key.

“He’s dead”.

The party’s focus is distracted when Bones, J’onn’s hunting dog, begins to growl at an unshorn field. Looking up, the men notice a shadow disappear into the wheat. At the rear, Harvic begins muttering.

Bjornin runs over to the field and begins yelling.

“Hello? Come on out of there you thing you!?”

The dog goes mental and a single wolf explodes out of the field towards Bjornin. Several others stalk out, growling. Schnake, ever the optimist, bellows commands to the wolves.

“Stay!” He readies his bow.

They hesitate, but only long enough for Bjornin to ready his shield and raise his sword.

“You are angry dog, yes!” he yells as three of the wolves continue toward him.

J’onn spits at the ground, then with yellow teeth bared through a grin, charges the fourth wolf with his two-handed battleaxe. The wolf launches itself onto his arm, nipping him.

Bjornin fends off the three wolves attacks with his shield and the butt of his axe as an arrow whizzes past his ear, striking a wolf in the throat. It barks a hoarse, bloody bark and growls at Bjornin, who at this point realises this isn’t an ordinary wolf. It jumps onto his chest, bites him in the neck and climbs across his face toward Schnake.

Meanwhile, Harvic charges past J’onn, connecting his morning-star to the wolf still attached to his arm. The wolf flies off and J’onn cleaves it’s skull in two with a well placed overhand swing. The other wolves growl at the death knell and Bjornin dispatches another wolf with a blazing combination of parries and thrusts. J’onn turns his attention to the two wolves still harassing Bjornin.

Harvic takes the opportunity to throw a shadowy bolt of energy through the darkness into the wolf fighting Schnake whose cutlass barely hits as a mess of gore explodes from the wolf’s side. The warriors feel something warm on their necks and hear a blunt thumping noise and a yelp. Confused for a moment, Schnake figures he hit the wolf harder than he thought and loudly announces his kill. As the other wolves scamper, Bjornin clips one with his sword and leaves it whimpering in a heap nearby – he walks over and skewers its throat.

The warriors check the bodies, noting that, while they resemble wolves, the creatures seem far more sinister. Harvic remembers a story that an elderly elf told him once about monstrous wolves mad with some sort of disease. That must be it. The party gathers their things and move quickly toward the farmhouse; from a distance, they notice for the first time that the door is smashed in.

“What sort of wolf can break a door in?” comments J’onn.

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Chapter One [Scenes 1-3]

[Scene 1 – The Farmhouse]

Twisting their heads, the others shrug and they all proceed toward the door.

Three more bodies litter the path to the farmhouse, their wounds identical to the first. While the others collect the corpses into a pile, J’onn walks to the farmhouse door, stepping into a pool of blood extending through the archway from the body of a young woman. He enters warily and surveys the scene.

The farmhouse is in havoc. Dried meat, vegetables and furniture are strewn about the main room. The fireplace is cold and a middle-aged woman is slumped beside it. Her heavy shoulders are charred, torso torn and small intestines spilling onto the floor. Bloody writing has dried dripping from the wall above the mantle: it looks like elvish.

“Uh, guys,” J’onn gestures for the others to come in, “do you know what that says?”

Maram[1] entering the building says, “It says Mythal – a name I suppose, although whose I don’t know.”

Harvic casually interrupts “Mythal was an elven God; a protector of the elves.” and begins dragging the bodies from the room. Shortly, he returns, picks up the blood-stained food and a pot. He lights the fire and stove and begins cooking.

From outside, Bjornin yells in “J’onn, shovels?”

“None in here,” J’onn replies, “let’s try the barn.”.

Shortly after they leave, Harvic, not looking up from the stove, says aloud. “I found a key on the man out there. Look around the room, see if it fits anywhere.” Maram, agreeing, searches the room. Near the hearth, she finds a locked trapdoor beneath the rug. Harvic throws the key to her and with a click, the trapdoor opens.

“Just a leather pouch; a few silver.” She throws the pouch to Harvic, who takes half of the money and gives it to her. They re-lock the door and cover it.

[Scene 2 – Eshara]

J’onn and Bjornin walk silently to the farmhouse. As they approach, they hear a scuffling inside. They enter with caution, weapons ready and hear a dull moan and a single thump, as if a person is collapsing above them in the loft. A cow chews its cud in the corner, barely paying notice.

J’onn edges up the ladder, peering over the lofts floorboards. A lithe pair of legs point toward him from a pile of hay. The woman, an elf, is upside down, so he turns her over. She moans quietly and grimaces; the tattoos covering her face accentuate the effect. Aside from the tattoos, she has four large gashes spaced evenly along her flank.

“What do we have here” J’onn muses to himself, “a Dalish.” He grabs her and eases her down to the ground floor, passing the leather pouch from her belt to Bjornin’s waiting fingers. Inside, Bjornin finds two heavy joined chain links, inscribed with runes. As the pair return to the farmhouse with the, Bjornin tosses the link in the air, laughing at the clinking.

“Put it away, simple man. You know as well as I do that magic is trouble.” J’onn glares at his brother, who begrudgingly, puts it into his pocket.

They enter the farmhouse and place the woman onto the floor.

“Look what we found.”

Harvic leaves the food to simmer immediately, walks over, and opens his healing kit. An array of baubles, potions and herbs spill onto the floor. Muttering, he collects a few and sets to work, oiling and packing her wounds with obvious skill. He discreetly tears a few strips of cloth from her tunic to bandage the larger cuts and gashes. The elf is mumbling incoherently.

“Who- where am I? Who are you? What happened? You’re an elf- what..”. Maram mills, staring fixedly at her, agitated by her wounds. The others watch quietly.

“What’s your name?” Harvic asks, but the response comes slowly: ” Eshara ”.

She faints, slightly more relaxed.

[Scene 3 – Interrupted]

As night falls, the wounded elf sighs lightly in her sleep as Harvic hands out the makeshift rations. J’onn and Bjornin take theirs and head outside to dig graves by lamp light.

Several graves later, a hollering from the fields distracts them. A boy, about 16, is approaching from the direction of Vintiver.

“Hello? Who’s there? Is that you Edred? Keltin?”

Waiting for him to get closer, Bjornin walks over, swinging a wine skin. “Hello! Join us, boy. We are having a party, ahahaha!” and ushers the boy inside.

“Wait! You’re not – what’s going on here?! Oh God!” He vomits in the doorway and anxiously speaks directly, “You aren’t supposed to be here. You should come back to town with me. The Warden will want to see you.”

“What’s your name, boy? Do you like wine?” asks Bjornin, blithely ignoring his request.

“Rafael. You really should come to town.” Spotting Maram, the boy begins to chatter. “That’s an elf – what’s an elf doing here? You shouldn’t be here. None of you should be here.”

“Do you want a drink, boy? Do you like wine?” asks Bjornin, grabbing him. Drunkenly, or perhaps otherwise, he pries open the boys mouth and empties the wineskin. Rafael’s struggling lasts only as long as it takes him to collapse from the drink.

“You’d think a town of winemakers would know how to drink, ahahaha!” He takes the boy upstairs, leaving him on a bed to sleep it off. While the others continue their meal, the brothers return to the graves.

A short time later, a single torch appears in the fields, walking toward the house. A woman’s voice echoes over the fields. “Edred? Is that you? Is Rafael here?”

Bjornin, jovial as always, begins to rant at her. “Your boy cannot drink, ahahaha! Do you want to join our party instead?”

“Where is my son?” she yells.

“He is upstairs sleeping. Come to our party! If you have children, you must be buxom and not at all like a tiny-titted elf, ahahaha!” He glances inside at Maram as the torchlight recedes quickly toward Vintiver.

Unfazed, Bjornin and J’onn return to their digging. When a mass of torches broach the horizon, they edge toward the farmhouse door. A man of about forty-five walks directly up to the farmhouse. Four younger men wait about fifteen metres back. A dumpy woman peers intermittently from behind them, whispering constantly.

~ ... ~

Footnotes

1 An elf; inconspicuously present for earlier events, I assure you.

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Chapter One [Scenes 4-7]

[Scene 4 – The Warden]

The man wears a scar across his brow and a grim smile. His leather vest is studded, but plain; an ornate buckle holding a well-kept cape across his shoulders. He extends his hand to Bjornin.

“I am the warden of this village. My name is Tarl Dale.”

“Bjornin Bjornorgen de Wolfenmorgen. It is very good wine your town – hearty, like the Avvar, ahahaha! Do you like wine?”

“I do, but now is not the time. Who are you? Why are you here?”

J’onn1 walks over. “J’onn. J’onn J’norgen de Wolfenmorge. We were heading into town and were set upon by wolves near this farmhouse. It was getting late.”

“And the bodies?” Tarl motions at the human corpses.

“It wasn’t us. The injuries seem like they were also attacked by wolves.”

“You have big wolf problem, you know…” offers Bjornin.

“Regardless,” states Tarl, moving into the building around the Avvar, “you cannot stay here.” Inside, he notices the woman on the ground. Harvic, who had covered her face with a cloak, is standing next to her.

“And this? Another corpse – but different from the others somehow.” He goes to remove the cloak and Harvic quickly siezes his wrist. The warden stares at Harvic and removes his wrist easily. Dropping the cloak on the floor, he stares at the woman’s face.

“Interesting. You will all come into town. You will stay at the inn. Sister Arda will care for the elf.”

“We’re staying here.” contends J’onn, the others nodding.

“You are not. Have you no respect for the dead? Come into town – the Mullins will give you some wine,” he gestures at Bjornin, “and you can rest.”

After some back and forth, everyone but Harvic and Maram agree to leave. Throwing his arms in the air, he exclaims, “This is my patient! I have a duty of care. My assistant and I will stay and tend to her wounds.”

“Fine.” agrees the warden, “I will send somebody for Sister Arda. She will join you. Where is Rafael?”

“He is upstairs, he cannot drink so much, ahaha-hic!” hiccups Bjornin from the other side of the room, sloughing more wine from the larder into his already stained mouth.

“He will stay there then. You,” he points at Maram and Harvic, “will stay here. Sleep downstairs. Sister Arda will be along soon. You, you and you, come with me.”

“Pillows?” asks Maram, to which the Warden nods slightly. She returns with a mattress and pillows bundled high. Warden Tarl leaves with a sigh, followed merrily by Bjornin and, not so merrily, by the others.

[Scene 5 – Eshara’s Story]

Before Sister Arda can arrive, Harvic kneels quickly next to Eshara and shakes her awake.

“We must leave. Now.”

“What – wait – what?” she replies weakly. Annoyed, Harvic yields, “Fine, if you cannot, at least tell me what happened to you. We need to get your story straight before the morning.”

Wearily, Eshara begins “Okay. I will tell you – let me rest.” She sits up with a groan and, between breaths, recounts the events of the past few weeks.

“Our band – our band visited this village. Two weeks ago, during their harvest festival. We were welcome. A man – the blacksmith – he got smart, started a fight with one of our hunters. The Warden came and separated them, but we were welcome no longer.

Harralan, the hunter, was so angry. The elders put him on scouting duty -” she coughs, “as – ahem – as punishment. That was when the trouble started. He disappeared. Then others went missing, too. Three days later, just into the forest, they attacked us: darkspawn. Those who fought were killed; the others, taken. We were captured, taken into a ruin in the forest, off the main trails.

The creature – their Master – he called himself Mythallen. I escaped – I took the links,” she fumbles at her belt, “where are they – who took them?”

“You must have dropped them. Continue your story.”

“Yes – yes – I was chased by the creatures – I came back – I was wounded – I came to this farm, in the loft.” Becoming notably more distraught, she continues, “I heard them coming – they were – the farmers – attacked – I heard the screams.”

Finally, she faints once again, just as Sister Arda enters.

“I am Sister Arda.”

“Harvic. This is Maram.”

Arda bends to the woman, who has a sweat on her brow. “You’ve done a wonderful job with these wounds.”

He smirks as she continues assessing the woman. “Yes, well, I’m a very gifted healer.”

[Scene 6 – Will you marry me, buxom wife of barkeep?]

Despite the late hour, Bjornin and J’onn are welcomed to the inn by a lavish woman in her forties. Love (or something like it) strikes Bjornin’s heart (or something not so far way) with a snap and he dotes on her (or something that could be doting if you misunderstood his meaning entirely).

“Hello lady! Let me in for some wine and to watch you walk and wobble the large boobies. Most pleasing you are-hahaha!”

The barkeep, a merry man accustomed to drunken strangers, laughs off Bjornin’s comments and bids them to sit down. The Warden follows them in.

“I am Haran Mullin. The beautiful woman is my wife, Kesla.”

They sit, introduce themselves and Haran places a pint of wine in front of each of them.

Bjornin claps his hands. “Ya, excellent! Now, come over here, wenchy wenchy. Sit next to Bjornin – rreal close.” Kesla, behind the bar, politely declines2.

“Ah, you no fun – Warden, come I tell you a story.” With some fuss, Tarl Dale sits and accepts a pint, offering to pay for the first round.

The night grows colder and darker still as Bjornin tells Tarl Dale and the Mullins stories of his youth and “playing the jokes on J’onn.” The Warden excuses himself after a few drinks and bids the two good rest. J’onn is quiet at the table, watching Bjornin as he becomes more rambunctious with drink.

Eventually, J’onn prompts Bjornin, and they both retire upstairs to their rooms.

[Scene 7 – The Next Morning at the Inn]

Early the next morning, a sharp banging echoes from the inn. Tarl Dale walks from one guest room door to the next, smashing his gloved fists upon each of them. After several minutes of bashing, J’onn steps, fully dressed, into the corridor.

“It’s early.”

“Yes,” replies Tarl Dale, “we are going to check on your friends.”

A groan issues from Bjornin’s room. Tarl Dale, face set in stone, opens the door and enters the room. Bjornin, with a huge grin, opens his arms wide on the bed and cries, “Warden, you join me for some cuddles, ahahaha!”

“No. You are getting up now.”

The Warden reaches down and picks Bjornin up by his tunic, lifting him from the bed with ease and setting him standing. Bjornin, clearly hungover, vomits and the warden steps quickly aside.

“Haran won’t be happy – he’ll charge you for that.” he says, but Bjornin shrugs.

“Let’s go.” The group set off to the farm.

~ ... ~

Footnotes

1 QUESTION TO PLAYERS: Or Harvic perhaps?.

2 QUESTION TO PLAYERS: Or sits? I don’t recall exactly.

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Chapter One [Scenes 8 - 10]

[Scene 8 – Conflict at the Farm]

Next to the fireplace, a noise from outside sparks a slumped Harvic from his chair. A commotion is growing outside and he is understandably disturbed. Raised voices begin to pierce the farmhouse walls, stirring the women.

“What’s going on?” asks Arda. She looks at Eshara who twists slightly, her wounds still worrying her.

Without answering, Harvic walks quickly to the table and assists Eshara to walk, directing her to the window. “We must leave. Now!” She hobbles with a grimace, and with his help gets half out the window before grabbing her side and collapsing to the dirt below. The impact of her fall and her yelp from landing on her wound captures the attention of the crowd and they round the farmhouse.

Trapped against the window, shielding Eshara, Harvic is confronted by a man in a blacksmiths apron and wielding a maul in one hand. The man doesn’t introduce himself. Pointing his maul at Eshara, he glares at Harvic and says calmly “Give us the elf.”

“What do you want with her?”

“What do you think, boy?” From the back of the crowd, a voice pips up awkwardly, “Yes, what do you think!”

“You aren’t going to hurt her. She has done nothing to you.”

“It’s none of your business – they caused trouble, now we’re going to cause trouble.” Another voice from the back, “They swindled me!”

“She is a patient in my care! I won’t stand to have an idiot mob of racists take her and do the Maker knows what to her.”

At this, the blacksmith swings the butt of his maul at Harvic’s skull. He strikes stone as the young man deftly moves aside, a smile easing across his face. As Harvic thinks to return the attempt, a yell from afar distracts all of them. The Warden is approaching with the others.

Spying the threat of violence, Bjornin and J’onn run ahead. Bjornin yells into the crowd, unsheathing his sword. “You will all get on the ground or I will cut you down!”

With two armed Avvar bearing down on them, all but the blacksmith back down. The warden quickens his step. As he arrives, he appeals to the men, “There will be no violence here today. You men, go home to your wives.” To Coalan, he speaks directly “What are you doing here, Coalan?”

Before the smith can answer, Harvic edges around him and starts toward the warden.

“What is going on here?! A mob of barbarians, what you call your villagers, is threatening harm upon this woman with no reason!”

“Nobody is going to harm anyone, boy. Coalan has a temper – we had some trouble with the Dalish a few weeks back.”

“And you’ll send him home with slap on the wrist, no doubt so that next time the Dalish are in town he will use them as his victims rather than this one.”

The warden, calmly, ignores the implication of weakness. “Do not challenge my authority here. I will deal with this in my own manner.”

Venemous, Harvic spits a stream of invectives at the warden. Seething, he finishes, “You won the rite of might! You need to control your people, warden.”

The wardens calm stare flickers slightly and he takes Coalan aside. Harvic listens intently, hearing some sharp words and threat of economic compulsion. When Coalan argues the point, Tarl Dale puts the hilt of his sword into the blacksmiths stomach. Eventually, Coalan slinks away and the warden returns to the group.

“Now, what happened to her?”

Harvic is reticent, but, convinced that Tarl Dale would wake the wounded elf if he must and that his word is considered trustworthy for the moment, Harvic briefly recounts Eshara’s story from the previous evening.

“Fine. I will give you 150 silver pieces to go into the forest and deal with this issue.”

The group, Harvic particularly, seem reluctant to risk themselves for what they consider so little.

“120 silvers then, to investigate. This is the best I can do at the moment. If you will not take it, return to town, have a drink.” He looks at Bjornin, who seems to be already considering the possibilities.

Harvic, still angry from the confrontation, argues that to return would be to condemn the elf to slaughter, but Tarl Dale replies coolly, “It is time for you to trust me. She will come to no harm at the temple with Sister Arda. Even Coalan would not dare.”

After some discussion, Harvic agrees to return and offers to escort Eshara to the care of Sister Arda. It is obvious that he is still wary of the situation.

Finally, they all return to the town. Bjornin and J’onn head straight to the inn, and after a short while, Harvic joins them.

[Scene 9 – Resting State]

At the inn, the drink flows as freely as Bjornin’s tongue.

“Oh beautiful lady!” he bellows at Kesla Mullin. “Bjornin has had many wives, but none so large of booby. When Bjornin is the leaving, you are to come with him for marriage, no?”

Kesla brushes his comments aside with a grin and hands him another pint of wine, which he accepts graciously. Haran, behind the bar, watches Bjornin sink deeper into his chair. He walks over and sits at the table.

“You speak of your many wives, Avvar. Your ways are strange to me. Explain them I have heard that the marriage of Avvar is weird.”

“No – hic – not strange, puny Fereldian – convenient. When Avvar get married, they look into sky and count eagles. The number that fly past, that is the number of years they stay together. The Avvar never tire of their wife for they have not long enough, ahaha!”

“And they are all beautiful. Like you!” he reaches and slaps Kesla’s buttock as she collects the glasses. “Not tiny-titted like the elves, see.”

As the day passes, Bjornin drinks himself into a stupor while the others take a more measured approach, discussing the warden’s offer. In the early evening, they are interrupted by Sister Arda. She races through the door and shakes Harvic, handing him a dirty yellowing parchment with fresh ink stains.

“She’s awake again! She drew a map.” Harvic ponders the map for only a second and passes it to the others. “It seems to lead into the forest across a bridge of some sort.”

“She’s raving,” continues Arda, “about a creature and a metal link.” Picking up his things, Harvic crosses the makeshift square with her to the temple.

Inside, Eshara is lain upon a simple bed with a stool at it’s side. She looks up at Harvic as he sits.

“It’s you.” Her eyes are frantic. “He’s coming. Mythallar is coming.”

“What makes you so sure?”

“I had a d-dream – a – a vision.”

“What is the link?”

“I don’t know. It’s magic. It was part of a large chain, broken from it. I took it as I escaped. It glowed whenever he was nearby.” There is a short silence and Eshara continues speaking.

“I drew a map. You must save my people.”

“I am sorry. It is dangerous and the warden offers us not enough money.”

Sobbing and angry, Eshara lashes out. “You would sacrifice my people for not enough gold. I do not understand you quicklings – you value not your own lives or those of others.”

“I am sorry.”

“There were treasures there in the keep. I saw them. My lorekeeper, our clan leader, he will reward you. Please…”

“No. I am sorry.”

“I could take you myself! Have you no heart at all?!”

“I will consider it. Could you be ready in the morning?”

“Perhaps in the morning. Perhaps.” Exhausted, she drifts into sleep once more.

“She almost seems well, you’re clearly a gifted healer.” Arda remarks, but is answered only by a grunt as Harvic exits the temple.

Returning to the inn, Harvic explains “The elf says that the link glows near the creature she calls Mythallar. She will escort us in the forest in the morning.”

J’onn stands and takes a torch.

“I will discuss this with the warden.”

[Scene 10 – Negotiation]

Outside, dusk is eking across the landscape.

Tarl Dale opens his door barely a moment after J’onn knocks. Despite the hour, he is wearing the same buckle, cape and vest. In the light, he seems grimmer, somehow.

“I have a deal for you Tarl Dale.”

The warden invites him inside.

“You will investigate the matter?”

“Yes. But I want a promise. You have a very prosperous town.”

“Yes…”

“My brother wishes to open an inn one day. Perhaps one as successful as your own here in Vintiver. But suppliers are few and prices are relatively high.” Surveying the room, he continues, “In addition to the 120 silvers for this investigation, I want a competitive price for my brother- when he opens his inn of course.”

“Agreed. You will provide proof of treachery.”

Nodding, the two shake hands.

“Excellent. We leave for the forest tomorrow.”

Their negotiations complete, J’onn returns to the inn and the group, after another drink, retire to their beds.

All but Bjornin sleep lightly. Understandably, the events of the day and the possibilities of the next rest heavily upon their chests. Much later in the night, J’onn sniffs absently as he stirs in his sleep.

“Huh?” He sits upright in the bed and raises his nostrils to the air.

Smoke.

~ ...

Footnotes

Nil~

View
Chapter One [Scenes 11-13]

[Scene 11 – Smoke]

With the distinct smell of smoke drifting into the room, J’onn stands and approaches the window. Thirty metres from the inn, smoke curls from the temple entrance. The drapery on the near-side window is alight. Without hesitation, J’onn reaches over and shakes his brother awake.

“Bjornin. Fire…”

On the brink of a hangover, Bjornin struggles with words, but finally accepts that danger is near and that he must stand and at least attempt to walk. J’onn is half out the door when Bjornin calls him. J’onn turns and finds Bjornin staring at his hands. The silver link is glowing dark blue, the runes displayed in bright blue etching.

“Take it – I’ll catch up.” says Bjornin, tossing it to him.

“Okay.” J’onn enters the hallway. Bashing twice on each guest room door, he dashes for the inn entrance. Bones, his dog, drops from the end of the bed and follows him.

At the unexpected noise, the others wake; the smell of smoke is obvious. Harvic panics and scrambles half out the window before realising the smoke is coming from the temple. Returning inside, he enters the corridor and calmly exits the building.

Maram, looking across at the temple, screams at the top of her lungs and bolts for the door.

“Eshara!”

She is twenty metres across the town square by the time the others are assembled at the entrance to the inn.

J’onn and Harvic nod at each other. Schnake, having scaled from the window, is five metres from them, looking into the eastern darkness. A spot of firelight hangs in mid-air about 30 metres from them. Clearly separate from those encircling the village square, it begins to move toward and across their vision. A flaming arrow! It whizzes into the inn at a sharp angle and a column of flames conceals the doorway. Maram stops only to cover her mouth before plunging through the flames into the inn.

At the entrance, J’onn runs in the direction of the arrow, but is distracted by a hissing noise from his left. Two grotesque corpses charge toward him out of the darkness with short swords. Behind them, a ghostly visage of smoke and shadow forms into a screaming humanoid figure – emptiness pooling at the eyes and mouth. He raises his throwing axes above his head and screams, deftly cutting between the skeletons and pitching both axes toward the ghostly figure. A blue curl of smoke flicks outward and the two axes deflect to the sides. The empty mouth emits a horrid scream.

“Get the woman! We’ll come back for the humans later!”

Another skeleton careens out of the darkness toward J’onn. It’s skull is held together by iron bolts, and it’s mouth hangs open as if talking, is a collection of piercing fangs and incisors.

Inside the inn, Bjornin is still reeling from his condition. As he exits the stairwell, he collects a wine-skin from the bar and drinks it in a gulp. Taking his sword and shield from his back, he dashes outside. Two arrows from the east glance off his armour as he stands toe to toe with one of the corpses. Schnake turns to the east, draws back his bow and looses an arrow toward the edge of the square. Thwack! Two small blue wisps brighten and fade again into the background.

Harvic moves up to assist Bjornin, collecting a skeletons sternum with his morningstar – splinters of bone spray into the air. The skeleton springs toward Harvic, parries and pushes it’s sword into Harvic’s flank. The warden Tarl Dale charges from the nearby building.

“You have decided to fight now, boy? Good!” he bellows, placing a foor into the skeleton’s back and pushing it to the ground. Harvic retreats and bleeding heavily, navigates through the battle toward the inn.

Behind Tarl Dale, J’onn parries past the fanged creature and charges toward the figure, connecting with nothing but smoke and shadows. The chain link sparks slightly and goes dull. He turns to deal with the fanged skeleton and it hisses at him, spraying gobbets of acrid green spittle. It leaps toward him with its claws extended. J’onn steps aside, takes his axe from his back and swings a circular uppercut through its pelvis. The creature shudders in the air and lands on the ground in several pieces, thrashing at the dirt.

J’onn walks over and calmly crushes it’s skull into the ground. Blue swirls fizz out of its eye sockets and dissipate into the night.

Inside the inn, the heat and smoke are intense. Her vision straining and hands badly burnt, Maram collects Eshara and Arda, steering them toward the rear window. Outside, all three of them splutter up a nearby hill.

“Run!” Maram yells at the women. From her new vantage point, she pulls the drawstring of her bow and shoots several arrows into skeletal archer at the edge of the square. It thunks to the ground with the same ghostly blue glow.

A strange wind and sucking noise encircle the square and Bjornin and Tarl Dale clash swords as their enemies collapse into piles of bones before their eyes.

Harvic emerges from the rear of the still alight inn. He brushes dust from himself and begins coughing as he grasps his side and walks.

The sound of horse hoofs are audible over the crackling wood. Someone is approaching.

[Scene 12 – The Messenger]

“Ho there, Tarl.” The man glances around the square and climbs nimbly from the horse. “I saw the flames, but it seems I could not make it into town for the fight.”

“Garrett. Why are you here?” Tarl looks around the village and nods as the locals filter out in search of buckets and water. The inn’s outer walls smoulder, almost alight; the inside is a furnace of broken furniture and drapes.

“First things first, Tarl,” he gestures at the scorched and wounded party members and extends his hand in greeting. “Who are the heroes in your midst?”

“A group of travellers Garrett. They leave for the forest in the morning – there was some trouble with the Dalish recently. This attack is likely related.”

“Of course it is!” yells Eshara, stumbling into the square. “I said he was coming, did I not?!”

“Arda may have said that”, agrees Tarl, “but if I put faith in every dream I had, well…”

“Who is this mann, Tarl Dale?” asks J’onn, looking at Garrett.

“Ah. I apologise. My name is Garrett. I am a messenger of Bann Ceorlic.”

“And what message do you bring exactly?”

“There have been reports of attacks along the southern border towns and even as north as South Reach and Lothering. Some claim they were monsters – darkspawn – or wild beasts that normally shy form humans. The Bann is offering 25 silvers per head of darkspawn presented to him or his representatives.”

“What of these, then?” asks Schnake, presenting a crushed skull and some finger bones.

“They are gory, certainly, but not proof enough. The Bann may not be liked, but he is not a fool. If we allowed just any bones to be presented, poorer or less honourable people may stoop to grave-robbing.” Pointing at an all but complete skull, he continues, “Perhaps that one.”

Noticing the glint in Schnake’s eye, Tarl turns to him. “And the forest? Do you still intend to go?”

“Of course, but what help can you offer? Can you come with us?”

“You would ask for help while our temple burns down around us. No, I can not offer my assistance or that of any men. We have wine to prepare, exports and the rest will be helping to rebuild the temple.”

“Can you spare a riding horse then?”

“No, we have few horses. What we have are farm animals, fit for drafting, no more.”

“It would lighten the load.”

“Fine. You may lend one from the stables. Please, go rest – you should start early.”

“Look, Warden, if you haven’t noticed, I have three arrows in my chest. I need some healing before I can rest. Where is your priest?” Arda, talking to a nearby villager walks over and assesses Schnake’s wounds.

“You will be fine.” She walks away.

“But-” Schnake is interrupted by Tarl, “Your companion is a healer, is he not? Assuming he is not cowering from danger somewhere.”

“Your are too harsh, Tarl Dale. Did you see him fighting earlier? He doesn’t deserve such treatment.”

“He has the manner of an arrogant boy and I treat him as such. You, on the other hand, whine like a farmhand, when you are clearly more. Lick your wounds, noble.”

Seething, Schnake leaves the square muttering, before returning with Harvic, agrees to treat Schnake and the others inside.

With that, the travellers retire to the inn. As they enter, Maram looks back at Eshara in the square. “Eshara- you need somewhere to sleep. There is a spare bed my room.”

Eshara nods and follows her.

Inside, Schnake is approaching the bar.

“A pint o wine before bed, Haran?”

Haran eyes them wearily and glances outside at the smouldering remains of the temple. “Only one. I am tired and we must rebuild tomorrow.”

“We saved your town, Haran. Serve us some more wine.”

“Of course, thank you. But I really cannot. I will give you a bottle of wine tomorrow morning.” He leaves and the party return upstairs to their rooms.

[Scene 13 – Into The Forest]

In the morning, as the group is waking and assembling, Schnake approaches Haran at the bar.

“Ah, you’re up, here is the bottle of wine I promised.” The bottle is dusty. On it’s side, an imprint of the four armed indicates that it was bottled in the Blessed Age, over 30 years ago.

“Thank you, Haran. A fine gift. Do you know where I could purchase a crossbow?”

“It is what I could find in the time. The smith should be open – turn left on your way out and follow the road around behind the inn.”

As he approaches the inn, Schnake can see a young man observing Coalan as he works a sword over the forge. The young man rushes over.

“Hello, you’re staying at the inn, aren’t you? My name is Dorn. My parents own the inn – they have told me much about you.”

Pushing past, he approaches the forge. “Coalan, I wish to speak with you.”

He responds, still looking at the sword on his forge. “You can talk to my apprentice, Dorn – he is more than capable of dealing with your needs.”

“No, I think not. I need somebody who knows what they are doing – not an apprentice. I’m interested in buying real weapons, not toy ones.”

Coalan stops, looks up and smiles. “If that is what you need, then I agree. What can I do for you?”

“I need a crossbow.”

“That is all? I have several – they are 25 silvers each.”

“Do you have anything of higher quality?”

“I do. The next most expensive is about 50 silvers.”

Unperturbed, Schnake continues. “And your most expensive? Made with the finest materials and to the highest of standards.”

Coalan stops to think. “Out of your price range.”

“How much?”

“My finest? 2 sovereigns. You could collect it in 3 weeks.”

Schnake coughs. “Oh. Can I see the model you mentioned earlier.”

“Dorn!” He gestures and Dorn totters into the shop and returns with two crossbows, the second darker than the first, with a more solid frame. “The first is 25 silvers; the second is 55.”

Sighting the two crossbows at a nearby target, the second is clearly the better weapon. Its sight requires less correction, made of harder wood and metals.

“I’ll give you 40 for it.”

“Sir, if I could afford to bargain, I would live in the cities. 55 silvers. If you try my patience, it will become more expensive.”

“Do you drink wine, Coalan?”

“No.”

“It’s just that, well, I have this bottle of wine. It will only break if I take it with me.”

Peering over, Dorn spurts out “That’s from father’s cellar. He gave it to you?”

“Yes.”

Yielding, Coalan gestures with his hands. “Fine, let me see it.”

As Coalan studies the wine, Schnake continues “It would make a fine gift for a wife or mistress.”

“It would. I accept your offer, this bottle and 45 silver pieces.”

“Excellent. Here.” Schnake hands over the money and as he leaves, Dorn follows him.

“Er, excuse me, how much discount did he give you?”

“10 silvers.”

Dorn emits a sharp guffaw and returns to the smith.

. ~ .

The others watch as Schnake appears from the corner, a new crossbow slung across his back.

“Well, are we ready?” he asks. Nobody laughs; they walk around him in silence toward the forest.

The forest is further than Harvic assumed from the map. By early afternoon, they can see the treeline on the horizon. The pines are dotted sparsely at first, growing into a thick wood about 500 metres.

As they pass into the heavier forest, Eshara starts talking “It wasn’t long after we entered the forest that we were attacked. About 500 metres now, I guess.”

Schnake offers to scout ahead. The path forks after several hundred metres. To the right, the paths follows the lay of the land down, dimming as the thicker trees blot out more of the light. Ahead, the ground is flat and in the distance, Schnake can see a hollowing of the trees and a campsite. He continues ahead.

The camp site is a semi-circle of large caravans with fixtures to be drawn by animals. The outside are painted in swirling patterns, matched by ornate fabrics. Crockery and makeshift furniture are strewn around the pit fire site which holds a metal pot. In the pot, a rat feasts on an unknown green vileness. Schnake ransacks the caravans in search of valuables. His pack slightly heavier, he sits on the edge of a caravan and waits for the others.

The others arrive together, Eshara at the lead. “This is where we camped.” She kneels, “there are some drag marks here. They were probably taken that way.”

Harvic, raising an eyebrow, motions about him. “I thought you said you were with them when they were attacked.”

“Yes – it was late, darker than this, we were surprised by the creatures from town.” Hesitating, she continues “We should eat before we continue. We may not get another opportunity.”

Agreeing, the others begin to unpack their rations. Schnake groans. “There must be something else in this forest.”

“Have you eaten had’lath before? I am sorry. I do not know the name in your tongue. It is a medium size creature – like a large weasel, but smaller than a deer, with muscular legs.”

“Oh, yes. I have eaten that.” Schnake replies, a heady claim.

“You have eaten had’lath? Really? I did not think they came out of the forest. It is unusual. I will see if I can find one.” Drawing her bow, she creeps into the forest.

While the others eat rations and talk, Harvic searches the caravans. Becoming progressively more disappointed, he enters the third and final caravan empty handed. He considers the curtains and pillowcases. The materials are arguably worth several silvers, but are unwieldy, so he changes his mind. As he is turning the pillow, a small book falls out. Flicking the pages quickly, he almost dismisses it, but a name on the last page jumps out at him: Zathrian, the name of an elderly elf he once knew; a friend and confidant. Written in elvish, the entry is the last in a series about a meeting of several clans. In the middle of the entry, one sentence: “Zathrian’s speech was enthralling: imagine.”

Tossing the book onto the nearby bed, Harvic walks out of the caravan as Eshara returns from the forest with a stout creature, presumably the had’lath.

“Eshara, do you know anyone named Zathrian?” he asks her.

Passing the kill to Maram, she looks at him sideways. “Zathrian? Why do you ask?”

“I knew an elf once by that name. Is it a common name?”

Agitated, she tries to busy herself with skinning. “It is not a common name, no. My mother knew someone named Zathrian, but it could not be him. He was a Dalish. No, it could not be the same person.”

“Who was he?”

“Who was he? He was a lorekeeper, my mother said. It makes no sense. He disappeared – there was an accident with the templar. It couldn’t be, anyway! No.” In disarray, she flings her arms into the air.

“I’m sorry. I just wondered.”

“It is fine. Zathrian is dead.”

While the others listen with interest, Maram has started butcher the meat. She picks a few leaves from the ground and places them in the pot with the meat.

“What are you doing? have you ever cooked this before?”

Dipping her finger into the pot, she stirs it quickly and tastes the brew. “It’s an old recipe. My mother taught me. Trust me, Eshara.”

After the meat has cooked, Maram passes chunks to the group. The meat is surprisingly tender, but very gamey. “I can cook it well, but the flavour is hard to mask.” Maram comments, to which they all agree and start packing to leave. As they stand to leave, Eshara bids them to wait a moment.

“I need to get something.” She enters the third caravan.

As ruffling noises come from inside the caravan, the group stand in the clearing, watching the forest.

A twig snaps to their left and a quiet gibbering issue from the trees.

“D’you hear that?”

“Which direction?”

“Can’t tell.” Edging toward the treeline, they ready their weapons.

The forest darkens to an eerie twilight and a wind curses through the clearing. The fire flickers and goes out.

Bending down, Harvic applies his flint to the twigs. As the fire leaps in front of him, a shadow moves beyond the treeline. A back, a thick mat of fur, but on two legs like a man.

“I’m going to check on Eshara.” He stands and backs into the caravan. Inside, Eshara is searching frantically for something.

“You need to come outside, Eshara. What are you looking for?”

Opening a chest, she exclaims “A book! My mother’s diary – it was in the pillow.”

Picking up the book from the bed, Harvic tosses it at her. “This one?”

“Yes, that one. Here. Here.” She points at the page. “Zathrian. I remember. He is dead – mother told me.”

“Eshara.”

“Yes?”

“There are creatures outside?”

“Oh.”

As they return into the clearing, a directionless mocking laughter is coming from the forest. From the twilight, gnattering beasts appear. Upright jackals with long faces and short, pointed teeth, their eyes are glowing as they close on the adventurers.

~ ... ~

Footnotes

View
Chapter 1 - Scene 14 and 15

Scene 14 – Jackals

  • the gibbering creatures advance out of the forest
  • j’onn, harvic, schnake, maram, revengers
  • eshara, maram (backing away) and schnake ready their bows/crossbow, firing into the creatures as they come out of the forest
  • they all wait for the creatures to close range
  • a bolt into a creature on the left, and arrows into the creatures
  • j’onn side cartwheel over the firepit, looses his throwing axes into the chest of one of the creatures and draws his battleaxe grinning at the creatures running toward him.
  • harvic charges a nearby revenger with his morningstar. misses.
  • schnake having dropped crossbow, takes out his bow and fires two arrows in quick succession at the approaching creatures. two collide with the chest of a creature which catches on flames.
  • as he is in the air, maram casts fire blast – gouts of fire shoot beneath him into the faces of two of the dogs. eshara gasps.
  • claws and mouths bite everywhere, the others close in. one is on the ground in agony, one is closing on schnake, another close behind. three surround harvic, one of them clawing deeply across his chest, one is standing in front of j’onn.
  • j’onn, seeing that harvic is in trouble breaks the enemies lines, cutting between
  • harvic, thankful, swings his morningstar about a bit and tries to back off.
  • schnake puts an arrow into the chest of the approaching enemy and readies his cutlass.
  • maram take another shot with her bow? eshara too.
  • revenger broken lines: one approaches eshara. one attacking j’onn and two harvic
  • eshara gets torn to pieces by a creatures that claws her to the ground, biting her face as she goes down
  • j’onn smashes a creature in the neck, and it flies past both harvic and maram, landing in a lump. another turns toward schnake.
  • harvic charges back toward eshara to help her
  • schnake stabby?
  • maram yells watch out to j’onn, extends her hand – fire streams from them burning several creatures to death. everyone notices.
  • the revengers scream, attacking who they can
  • j’onn charge and swing his axe, collecting two of the creatures in one blow, launching their now lifeless corpses across the battlefield *
  • j’onn is punching the last one to death, ripping it’s jaw apart – it transofrms under his fists.
  • as they die, the creatures transform back into dalish. eshara reaches across to touch the dalish man
  • muttering about 25sp per head lsot
  • eshara in pain, but healed from thingo. she winces, and although he bothers her she stands and walks around sobbing at the dead
  • arguing about ‘you’re a magic user’
  • lies – my master my master
  • if you don’t report yourself in, i’ll report you.
  • and bribery
  • wait where did you find that
  • you remember that house
  • you’re deceiving us, you’re keeping things from us
  • you will report to the guild when we get back.
  • eshara sobbing etc etc, finally, insists we move on, my father is not among the dead. he may be alive yet.

Scene 15 – Blood Crow Bridge

  • the group sets out, harvic forgot something.
  • eshara taking the lead, harvic and maram discuss her plight in muttered elvish
  • as the group get close the bushes have crows feathers in them; they hear screeching
  • the clearing, large tree across the canyon, eshara is striding straight toward it
  • harvic can see these large crows with slightly hooked beaks and gobbets of red. 8 of them.
  • mad dash across the bridge by schnake, j’onn and bjornin (haha, you are afraid of birds). they make is across.
  • harvic doesn’t make it on, eshara makes it half way where she is attacked by a crow. it flutters into her face and then pecks and scratches at her, holding her crouched on the trunk.
  • maram decides to abandon the troupe, turning and fleeing into the forest – harvic chases after her ; they discuss and return.
  • the crows all get closer, within swooping range
  • meanwhile, schnake accurately snipes a crow from the sky, the bolt flying through one side of the head out the other and taking it across the canyon, pinning it to the canyon – its dead eyes stare at him
  • j’onn goes back onto the bridge, throwing his axes at the creature. thwack, one falls out of the sky and two others take heavy hits.
  • harvic watches as maram fires a blast of flame and two of the birds drop into the canyon, crisp.
  • the crows attack, one swooping j’onn, diving into this neck ad piercing his vein. he feels a sipping feeling and blood doesn’t pool. the bird is no longer injured, flies happily up in front of him.
  • schnake drops another crow from the sky
  • eshara stands and readies her bowl, but j’onn pushes eshara off the and lights a torch
  • maram and harvic waits eagerly for opportunity.
  • schnake drops another crow
  • j’onn hits a crow with a burning torch, clobbering it into the ground.
  • maram runs across, but slips at the last minute, gripping the edge of the trunk.
  • harvic sprints across also, tripping, but falling onto the ground on the other side
  • schnake drops the final crow – everyone
  • j’onn hoiks maram up – they all stand around for a moment
  • an argument breaks out between harvic and j’onn about expectations and being nice to people. they become progressily more irate with each other.
  • i save them constantly, they have yet to prove their worth to me.
  • as they are about to come to blows, they go to their separate tents
  • eshara wants to go on, but is too wounded. she recommends sleeping here for the night.
View
Chapter 1 - Scene 16 and 17
  • Everyone wakes up
  • Bones is nowhere to be found
    1. he comes running out of the bushes with an old sword hilt
    2. on the sword hilt is a creature that looks something like a lion (Harvic identifies it as a gryphon)
  • Bones is clearly disturbed. He runs away to the north and returns shortly afterwards, sniffing Bjornin’s pockets.
  • After finding nothing in the nearby vicinity, the group moves south
    1. As they move south, the trees become closer packed together and begin looming
    2. The group spots a few more feathers but the creatures are far enough away that they aren’t terribly concerning.
  • About half an hour south, the trees become ghostly grey and twisted.
    1. Looming above them, the trees twist upwards into a semi-circular passageway that the light seems to disappear into
    2. Their torches don’t seem to penetrate
    3. Bjornin, unafraid walks into the darkness, disappearing from sight a short way in.
      • Everyone else begins to follow
  • Several minutes of walking and bumping into each other, they spot the curtain of light that marks the end of the passage.
    1. They emerge into a natural grove. There is a cliff ridge surrounding an old keep.
    2. The group searches the ruins, finding only old rusted plate mail and other knick-knacks
    3. It is clear that there was a battle here once, as if the keep was under siege. Clearly, the attackers won
  • Bjornin kicks the front door in and a set of stairs descend into the keep.
    1. The others follow in single file
    2. As Bjornin reaches the bottom, a skeleton comes screaming out of the darkness toward him
    3. A fight ensues (there is much somersaulting – some spectacularly successful, some not so)
    4. One of the skeletons is crushed again the cieling, another clobbered by an axe and one leapt upon, it’s skull kept as a trophy and for bounty
  • After the fight, the group searches the room
    1. Harvic attempts to find something of use in the bookcase, but he finds only old books that crumble to dust when he opens them.
      • Jonn can here a muffled yelling and walks toward the doorway
        1. As he walks into the door, he feels a tug on his ankle
        2. Harvic, following him closely, bumps into his from behind and the trap is almost set off, but J’onn slips over it and pushes Harvic backward, to the ground
        3. He lowers himself and in a hoarse voice, says “Trap!”
View
Chapter 1 - Scene 18 - 21

18.

  1. The corridor extends toward some stairs. ON the left are two doors nod on the right are two.
    • J’onn says he probably can’t fix the trap and people should just step over it; irritated, walks into one of the doors
    • After several failed attempts, Schnake stops trying to set it off with his cross-bow and Maram melts it.
    • Lots of scrap metal and glass crashes to the ground. Harvic sweeps a path through them with his mace.
    • J’onn pops his head out of the left hand side door and says “You should probably see this – there are some elves in here.”
    • THey all go in.

19.

  1. There are several elves here behind a series of bars. An elderly elf introduces himself as Orellis, the clan lorkeeper and, as she enters Eshara’s father.
    • There are two other male elves, two female, one female in the corner and four children.
    • The chained door to the prison is locked.
    • After some discussion in elvish, Schnake interrupts and wants to know what is going on. Orellis request the party’s assistance and food
    • Schnake says “i’m sure I have a lockpick here somewhere.” When he can’t find one, Harvic whips one out and opens the lock with a clic. Schnake eyes him suspiciously.
    • The party hands out their hat’laff rations and the elves accept them gratefully.
    • Harvic goes to provide healing but can do nothing for them – they are simply dirty, tired and hungry. They need a few days to recuperate.
    • However, Lanaya, the elf in the corner has several large wounds that are coming through as grey fleshy skin and fur.
    • Orellis says “she is being transformed”. Into what? “Into a revenger.”
    • When Harvic says that nothing can be done, Orellis agrees that the best thing to do would be to kill her to spare her the pain of the transformation. The other elves leave and the deed is performed.
  1. Some discussion ensues
    • What are revengers? They are the transformed what he turned the weaker willed of my people into
    • How are they transformed?
    • Orellis says “that has a complicated answer.” He describes the history of Mythallar – Harralan was angry about the confrontation in two, he was sent to scout, didn’t return. He was possessed by a demon calling himself Mythallar. When they were kidnapped, he vowed to take revenge for them and to protect them. It is the spirit demon that can influence and transform others through this locations connection to the Fade. A lot of people died here – it’s natural that the Veil is weaker.
    • Further, Orellis describes a furious Mythallar leaving five hours ago with a force of 20 revengers. He’ll protect the elves the only way he knows how.
    • Orellis asks what the adventurer’s intend to do.
    • They ask how long ago and how far Mythallar and his friends could travel. Lirresh, a hunter, describes that the group is large and would have to take certain roads which means the travel time could be 5 hours at least (they may be arriving as we speak). He says that he could get a smaller group of the adventurers back in 1 – 2 hours and that it may not be too late.
    • The party considers the town lost and decide to remain to conduct an ambush on Mythallar.
    • Orellis says that the elves cannot move on for a few days and would request that they do not kill the revengers as they may transform back if Mythallar is killed.
    • Nobody agrees or disagrees, but they decide to leave the room and scout the rest of the complex.

20.

  1. The party enter and search the room opposite the prison.
    • Harvic finds an old bottle of Vintever 8:88 and 3 bits.
    • Schnake finds a cheap short sword and 3 bits.
    • Maram finds 3 silver and 3 bits.
  • They descend the short stairs into the circular room.
  • In the middle of the room is a stone pedestal. It is surrounded by concentric chalk rings and a single concentric ring of silver chain with a break in it.
  • In the background hangs a tabard of a standing gryphon. It is a tabard of the grey wardens.
  • Approaching the tabard, Harvic presses his mace against the wall which seems lighter than the others. With a kA-chunk it pops back and slides into a recess, revealing a single-file spiralling staircase down into darkness. An eerie whistling comes out of it.
  • To one side of the room, Harvic find a shelf with some old, but usable, herbs on it.
  1. Everyone stands around the pedestal anxious about the spells and the symbols.
    • When prompted, Maram declares that the spell was a binding spell and that symbols are no longer dangerous to those who take appropriate care – she walks up and takes the silver chain into her backpack.
  1. The party decides to go down the staircase.
    • They file down one by one and as the Schanke at the rear enters the doorway he is pushed backward.
    • At the front of the line, Bjornin is reversing back up the staircase with his shield out. He is yelling that something is coming.
    • Maram approaches the staircase and holds her hands out in readiness.
    • A chittering noise is followed by a web shooting out of the shadows onto Bjornin’s shield.
    • Maram looses a column of flame into the stair well and several popping noises are heard.

21.

  1. An enormous (half-human size) spider comes out of the stairwell and is followed by ten smaller spiders (head-sized). A sickly sweet smell comes up the well and Maram backs off.
    • Schnake shoots a cross-bow bolt into the large spiders torso. It’s torso is hairy and fibrous and seems to be quite thickly armoured.
    • Bjornin and J’onn are assaulted by the smaller spiders while the large spider goes for Maram who is holding the glowing blue chain link. It jumps to the ground, scuttles forward, spits a web over her and leaps on top of her, sinking her fangs into her neck. Maram takes on a greenish hue.
    • On the ground, Maram sets the webs near her hands on fire and, with a feat of unnatural strength, wrestles herself out of the web, swaying giddily as she stands.
    • The spiders shoots another web at here, which she barely manages to dodge, but it still manages to bite her again on a limb.
    • Schnake attempts to take spider by surprise, but is too loud – it turns on him. Harvic does the same. Several of the smaller spiders jump toward Harvic.
    • Surrounded the spider finds it difficult to dodge both Harvic or Schnake again as they score some significant hits.
    • Maram manages to shoot a concentrated column of flame through Schnake and the spider, destroying two of the smaller spiders in the process.
    • Finally, Harvic swings at et spider with his morningstar and missing intentionally, fires a shadowy bolt at it from his hand – it goes down. The smaller spiders rush Harvic and two sit on the larger spider’s torso.
    • Schanke plunges his sword between the smaller spiders and into the larger spider’s thorax, killing it.
  1. Harvic, assaulted by the tiny spiders that are constantly biting him, is on the brink of death.
    • Maram throws a pint of oil onto Harvic and the spiders are unable to climb back onto him for slipping.
    • He screams in rage and a blue light shines from him – the party watches as his wounds close up. Everyone is surprised -> HE IS A MAGE!
    • With the larger spider dead, the group finds it reasonably easy to clean up and kill the now scattered spiderlings.
  1. Conversation ensues
    • Harvic reveals himself as an inquisitor of sorts – a Mage of the circle undercover and hunting out apostate mages (such as Maram).
    • Schnake wants to check his credentials and Harvic encourages him to, but says that he will find nobody who can identify him as this “goes straight to the top”.
    • When asked about what he intends to do with Maram, he says that he will be turning her in at the next possible opportunity. Maram seems hurt
View
Chapter 1 - Scene 22 - 24

Scene 22

  • After the shocking revelation that Harvic is a mage (and an inquisitor), the group decides to descend the stone stairs.
  • The stairs are of single-person width and have the occasional torch. At the bottom, the stairs open onto a small cavern. A puddle the width of a person with cloudy water and a stone door are here.
  • The door is of dwarven design and is broken open – an unlit passage is behind it. The passage is probably one of the deep road’s.
  • The group enters the passage and travels for half an hour. The occasional mushroom grows in the corners. Maram identifies them as deep mushrooms, but can’t remember what effect they might have. Schnake picks them for later anyway.
  • Eventually, with no sign of the passage leading anywhere soon, the group turns around.

Scene 23 – The Plan

  • After arriving back at the keep, the group prepares a daring plan to ambush the monster Mythallar when he returns.
  • They repair the trap and the door.
  • Noticing the dead skeletons, Schnake mentions that perhaps they shouldn’t let Mythallar get this far as he is likel to notice his guard are dead(er).
  • Maram offers to create some magical traps to paralyse him. She draws a circle and indecipherable symbols on the ground at the foot of the entrance stairs with white chalk – after a moment these fade into invisibility.
  • Bjornin asks if she could do the same onto his shield – she nods and after some concentration completes the spell.
  • J’onn dictates a note for the front door, which Harvic writes in Elvish: “Thanks for the chain – hope you enjoyed town.”
  • After organising the keep, Schnake, Harvic and Maram exit to the forest outside to ambush Mythallar and drive him into the keep. J’onn and Bjornin wait inside for his arrival.

Scene 24 – The Ambush

  • A short while later, several revengers and wolves come out of the mysterious pathway. There are seven revengers and two wolves. Mythallar follow closely behind.
  • As they pass, the trio (hidden up the trees) sit silently until Mythallar is close to the keep.
  • Harvic jumps down and yells at Mythallar.
  • Mythallar screams in rage and lifts his head as if sniffing the air. He growls in the direction of the keep and heads straight for the door, ordering his beasts to defend the keep. Before he enters, all three manage to clip him with ranged attacks.
  • Escaping from the revengers, Harvic backflips into a tree. While being attacked by both Schnake and Maram, the revengers manage to wrest Harvic from the tree and in a series of quick blows tear him into shreds. He lies unconscious on the ground.
  • Mythallar runs down the stairs, steps squarely on the circle of paralysis and nothing happens. He turns to J’onn, staring at his belt where the chain link is and attacks him. As his claw strikes at J’onn, a blue flame erupts from his chest and burns both Bjornin and J’onn.
  • While he is distracted, Bjornin rams Mythallar from behind, a spark comes up from the shield and he is frozen in place. The two wail on him. Eventually, J’onn lands a magnificent horizontal strike with his axe and Bjornin skewers Mythallars face on his sword; a column of blue light encircles him.
  • Above ground, the revengers all wretch, faces and mouths of light escaping their bodies. A blue column rises through the ground from below and the faces enter it and the entire column explodes in white light. Where the revengers were stand confused elves.
  • Maram runs over to Harvic and bandages him swiftly, only barely saving his life.
  • The remaining blight wolf attempt to escape from the scene, but Schnake fires several arrows into it before it gets too far.
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Chapter 1 - Epilogue
  • With Mythallar and his creatures dead, the party and elves must decide what to do.
  • They don’t have a lot of food left, so J’onn and Schnake decide to go hunting.
  • They find a bear, which appropriately mauls them. They are surprised by it’s strength, but manage to kill it, taking the skin and meat.
  • Harvic and Maram are inside, talking to Orellis about what their plans are.
  • The Elves intend to take a few days more rest and then strike deeper into the forest in search of a relic: a book of the old magics that was lost when a clan was found by the Templars and murdered. The holder of the book was the clan leader Zathrian!
  • Orellis and Harvic discuss Zathrian and Orellis agrees to send a scout to South Reach to look for Zathrian while they rest for the week.
  • Orellis reveals that they believe a blight is coming
  • The elves are surprised that Schnake and J’onn were able to kill the bear, but happy to accept some of the spoils. This serves to temper the elves attitudes toward the humans.
  • Outside, around the fire, the group discusses the revelation (that harvic is a mage, or that a blight is coming?). They discuss what the plan is for their future.
  • They decide to return to town the next morning
  • A young elven woman asks Harvic to retrieve something from town – a charm bracelet that ised to belong “to my sister. It was not very valuable, but it means a lot to me.”
  • Cultural exchange (drinking) ensues
In town
  • Town is eerily quite, only the skeletons of buildings remain.
  • Two spikes in the middle of town with bodies impaled (Tarl Dale and the blacksmith) – bodies are strewn everywhere
  • Schnake takes the bodies down and begins looting. He takes Tarl Dale’s armour, but doesn’t wear it.
  • The party find an enormous chest too heavy to carry without a cart would seem to contain the Treasury funds.
  • They pile and line the bodies in preparation for burial.
  • That night, 20 horses come over the hill, followed by Dorn. They are led by a man, Commander Vallick. he is suspicious of them and has been told by Dorn that they were the adventurers who were asked to go into the forest – they must be in league with the bad guys!
  • They argue about these accusations, even when the skeleton heads are presented. The party explains about the elves in the forest – Vallick agrees to send a scout to confim the story.
  • In the morning, the guards surround J’onn (7 men) and the party is questioned about the location of Tarl Dale’s armour.
  • There was some reason for a series of duels. (I can’t remember)
  • Schnake v Jones – Schnake wins.
  • Vallick v J’onn – Vallick wins wrestling 16-13.
  • The scout returns to confirm the party’s story and they return to the forest on reasonable terms with the guard.
  • The elves tell them that the scout has returned from South Reach and that Zathrian is alive, but that he doesn’t have the book – presumably lost in the attack.
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