The Warden Lands

04 - The Long Walk Home
The party travels through Nari villages, adds a boisterous mage to their numbers and returns to the Reinstihl Mansion

In the freezing forests of northwestern Ul-Takra the adventurers desperately huddled together for warmth and long-deprived slumber, but the wind and sleet were relentless and uncaring. Only the shaggy-haired Nari found any sleep.

Now in their company was the diminutive, terrified form of the pirate-ship prisoner, Sigrid, who claimed to be of noble birth and the daughter of Uthcroft Thorgerson, a prominent lord of Renstake and not unknown to the knight, Cale. She begged to be returned to her family and ensured a reward must be at stake.

Morning brought some respite from the harsh conditions and our beleaguered heroes discussed whether to break camp immediately and set off for Seyoke or stay awhile and rest. Further recuperation was decided upon and the group went in search of a better camp.

Umbar broke from the others and cut his own path, one that was bisected by foreign footprints on his return. Close inspection indicated fellow Nari but the tracks disappeared at a small creek and Umbar’s quarry remained a mystery… though not for long.

The eccentric illusionist I’aeia was, at the time, trying in vain to commune with nature but his endeavours were thwarted by a Nari intrusion. A white ranger, bow drawn and arrow cocked, hailed the magician and called him to surrender, an act which I’aeia felt unnecessary. The short-lived conversation was somewhat resolved when the arrow found itself embedded in I’aeia’s belly, but the mage’s heartfelt whimpers of agony were heard by Cale and Vetch and the distant Umbar, who all made haste to join the dispute.

Cale was struck down mid-stride from a second ranger’s arrow and collapsed into blood-smeared snow. Vetch collapsed in sympathy. Umbar, approaching alone from the west, did his best to dissolve the tense situation but found the Nari rangers uncharacteristically hostile. Even when he pleaded that he and his companions were only in the area to aid the Nari (casting forth the pirate captain’s decapitated head as proof of their benevolent intentions) the rangers remained wary.

A’ari, who had been sleeping in the original campsite for the duration of the fray, was stirred by the elder of the rangers, but met the Nari’s pointed spear with nought but a prayer and a display of the Mathuin holy sigil. This bought some reprieve from the Nari enmity and the adventurers were permitted to tell their tale and render aid to their injured. Ultimately the Nari were convinced and decided to bring the party of misfits to their community, Seyoke.

The short journey to the Nari village was interrupted by a gigantic, and thankfully distant, frost giant. The ground trembled beneath the behemoth’s stride and a few moments of silent terror passed between the traveling party but eventually the giant moved on.

In the battle-hardened village of Seyoke the group were treated at first as prisoners, but once the local elders had been informed of the situation and shown the pirate map of other Nari settlements as proof, the party were grudgingly accepted as guests.

For two days the adventurers made themselves at home in Seyoke, resting, recuperating and consolidating the experiences of a frantic week past. Here they also made the acquaintance of a jovial, brash and corpulent magician called Aaaz. Aaaz had travelled to Seyoke with a Satyr friend and long since overstayed his welcome as a visiting ornithologist.

As the Nari reception towards the foreigners grew frostier by the day, it was decided to take leave of Seyoke and head south for Pincers Cove. The elders were taking upon themselves the matter of alerting the other Nari tribes of impending Tanarikin attacks, but asked if the party could investigate the source of the antagonism that seemed to stem from Renstake. Umbar, though hurt by the xenophobic reception of the Seyoke, agreed to the request.

Three days of southward travel passed uneventfully and a rejuvenated band of adventurers were soon in the presence of the Reinstihl mansion once more. I’aeia had insisted on returning to the corrupted manor and completing the mission for the villagers of Pincers Cove (purely for monetary reasons in his case), but the others were largely in agreement. Vetch the Kobold had reached the end of his tether many days prior however and decided that his days of adventuring were behind him. He was charged with escorting Sigrid to the village and hastily departed from the estate.

Before entering the manorhouse the group paid a visit to Daysun the Nari farmer. The Nari was elated to see the adventurers and Cale was similarly delighted to find his draughthorse Firemane in Daysun’s care. Ciders were shared before the heroes ventured forth to the mansion to complete that what was begun a week passed.

Great care was taken as the group re-entered the evil ruin, for a despicable presence still pervaded the dilapidated corridors and weather-torn rooms. After some minor ransacking of their own in the mansions study and library, the party’s attention was drawn to the approach of a horse-drawn cart through the gate at the front of the Reinstihl estate. It was Magidar, a merchant of Pincers Cove and a member of the villages council which hired the adventurers to clear the mansion. He was understandably nervous in the presence of the house but said he had merely come to investigate the apparent disappearance of the group. Satisfied in his discovery he made haste to leave the place. Curious as to the merchant’s true intention, A’ari cast a spell upon the man to reveal his purpose, and found a wicked aura about him. Confused, but with urgent matters before them, the group continued through the manor.

In a large living room a sinister painting depicting a pair of sleeping young girls instilled a disquieting sense of fear into the group. Umbar fired a flaming arrow into the painting and the missile seemed to merge with the picture, striking into a chair within the painting itself. One of the girls woke, smiled and ran from the frame. When A’ari approached, invoking a Mathuin mantra to exorcise the picture of demons, the second girl reached forth and attacked. The adventurers drew blades and spellbooks and fended for their lives against the malicious spirit as it poured forth from the painting and took on corporeal form. Now accustomed to attacking as a unit, the adventurers soon prevailed over the demonchild, and shortly after the battle found a trigger for a secret staircase that plunged into the dark cellar.
03 - The Sea Ghost
A smuggling operation is revealed beneath the demon-plagued mansion

A ship’s log was the only thing of importance to be found in the room, further hinting at a smuggling operation based in or around the mansion. Satisfied with their rifling, the party turned their attention to other matters. While Cale stood guard in the mess hall, Umbar and Vetch sniffed around the barred door marked ‘Danger!’, only to be met with a foul and rotten stench. Meanwhile, A’ari persisted in his search for the person behind the sounds he heard from the adjacent cellar, eventually locating another hidden door in a corner of the room.

Beyond the unveiled portal washed in a fresh sea-breeze and though the way was dark, a few jagged, stone steps descended to a sandy floor. Feeling they were hot on the trail of the escapee the adventurers pushed on with haste, but were ambushed by a pair of Tanarikin. Cale was immediately run-through with a spear, leaving the Satyr cleric to face off with one of the heathen savages while Vetch and I’aeia met with the other.

The battle was short and brutal but ultimately successful. As the group dusted themselves off and prepared to deliver aid to the badly injured knight though, a hypnotic voice came from the dark and a tall, slender human walked in calmly and persuaded them all to sit and allow themselves to be bound by his approaching brigands. No-one had the willpower to resist the magician’s curiously intoxicating request and the adventurers were captured. Hands behind backs, wrists tied with stout rope, the despondent prisoners were escorted to a holding cave.

Caught in a seemingly inescapable predicament, it was with astounding courage/insanity that the group sprang into action at first opportunity. The two guards who’d been ordered to watch over the interlopers soon took it upon themselves to ransack the party’s accoutrements, giving Umbar the narrowest opportunity to strike while a guard was within goring distance. And gore he did! Warm, viscous blood gushed in torrents down Umbar’s right horn, coating the Nari in horrifying war-paint. I’aeia (always up for a piece of crazy) joined in the fray and barrelled into the second guard, sending him sprawling over the barely conscious lump of Cale. Vetch, inspired with stupidity, leapt backwards across the room and landed with his wrists upon the unsheathed cutlass of the fallen guard. When the guard tore his blade from the kobold he did nought but sever Vetch’s hempen shackles, freeing the Geomancer!

As the guard’s tried to organise themselves to retaliate, Vetch dove to unbind Umbar. A’ari sprang like a triggered rat-trap from his prone position and hoofed the already punctured guard clean in the forehead, sending him reeling. I’aeia flailed his legs in a haphazard attack and managed to inflict some damage on the less-wounded smuggler, but with reinforcements fast approaching, things were looking bleak for our heroes. One by one they fell and though it was a close thing, the smugglers and their sorcerous leader had the day, eventually containing the valiant party.

It was in the cramped, stinking bilge of The Sea Ghost that Cale finally awoke. His companions lay battered and unconscious about him and his situation seemed most dire. Despite this, he found energy to escape his bonds somewhat, to the extent that his manacled hands were before him rather than behind and that he was untethered to anything else. As he set about affording the same accommodation to his companions, Umbar stirred.

For two days the pair sat in their stinking cell, surrounded by rancid seawater and human filth. Cale was a coiled spring of rage, his dignity utterly besmirched but the Nari insisted on patience, believing their current situation truly inescapable.

After two days, an authoritative voice ordered for the prisoners to be brought on deck and washed down in preparation for their sale to the Tanarikin. This was the first time Vetch, A’ari and I’aeia had been roused in almost fifty hours but still there seemed no opportunity to escape. After being violently hosed down the group were bound together to the mast on the cargo deck.
The enslaved party were left mostly alone and were able to finally discuss their frugal options, but fate soon intervened and presented only one.

Two intoxicated smugglers swaggered across the cargo hold and to the door of the bosun, requesting the company of his personal prisoner, a young human girl. Successful in their bid, they hauled their borrowed treasure back to their quarters. As they passed the group, Cale called forth a warning; if they meant harm upon the girl he would end them. One of the mariners was unable to contain his conceit and leant in close to spit in the Scourge’s face. Cale immediately head-butted his assailant, killing him instantly, while in tandem A’ari Commanded¬ the other smuggler to leave.

The girl was quickly summoned to unbind the prisoners, which she was able to do with a smuggler’s blade in short time. A sliver of opportunity had presented itself and the group reacted instinctively to exploit it for all it was worth. But the party was unequipped and badly injured; their spellcasters couldn’t cast spells and their warriors could barely stand…

A storm rolled in.

Umbar charged from the mast, stole two longswords from a shipping container and proceeded to hammer one with the other to jam the bosun’s door.

A’ari and Cale grabbed blades and made for the crew-quarters, knowing the Cleric’s spell would already be broken and the men would be on the attack in seconds.

Vetch searched the body of the dead smuggler and purloined a pair of gems. Precious fuel for his geomancery.

I’aeia stood bewildered and confused.

The cleric and the knight felled the first smuggler as he came through the door, then they charged into the room, upended a table and used it to pin another two scurrilous brigands to the wall. A furious, cramped melee erupted and the upperhand chaotically flitted between combatants until finally A’ari and Cale proved victorious.

Umbar enlisted I’aeia’s aid to further secure the bosun’s door and the bard became acutely aware of another issue at hand. With Cale and A’ari violently picking-off the crew, who was left to man the ship in these stormswept seas?

Screams for “All hands on deck!” had gone unheralded and the captain himself came below to investigate. Umbar explained the situation calmly, confident in his assumption that the skipper now needed his prisoners aid to see his ship through the storm. The captain agreed, but insisted that his bosun must also be summoned to help.

No sooner had the bosun been freed that the captain turned and attacked his prisoners! It seemed too great a fight to win but Cale and A’ari were quick to join the fray.

In the tight and turbulent cargo-hold the battle continued between the party, the captain and the bosun, but the good fate of Aos seemed squarely in the hands of the young adventurers and they were again triumphant. They hurriedly searched the bosun’s and the first mate’s rooms and found their equipment. Also, another container of weapons with a map of Nari settlements in the area..

Armed once again with spellbooks, holy symbols and good honest steel, the party boarded the deck. Four desperate sailors tried to tear down the main sail while the first-mate clung adamantly to The Sea Ghost’s tiller. Battling the storm seemed hopeless and the call to “Abandon Ship!” was hollered. The first mate screamed a truce to A’ari before hauling his men into a rowboat and leaving the second for the escaped prisoners. It took every ounce of mental and physical fortitude for the adventurers to battle through the storm in the small boat. Cale called for grit and determination in the face of relentless odds while Umbar bellowed his support. By the narrowest of margins the heroes made shore.

Hours later they set camp in the thick pine woods that stand in phalanx along the rugged Ul-Takran coast. Umbar confirmed his suspicions on their whereabouts and determined a path to the nearby Nari village of Seyoke to be taken the next morning. Utterly exhausted, lungs aflame, frozen and numb to the fire’s warmth, the young adventurers collapsed into sleep.

02 - The Reinstihl Mansion
The newly-formed party investigates a foreboding manorhouse outside Pincer's Cove

The mansionhouse sat heavily upon the brooding estate and the party warily investigated the perimeter. Everything about the place inspired dread and malevolence and when A’ari peered into the building with divine magic he was almost overwhelmed by the evil within. Meanwhile, Cale discovered a small gravestone near the manor which, judging by the dates, belonged to a child.

I’aeia wished to stakeout the mansion overnight and was preparing his best tree-disguise when the others intercepted and countermanded his intent, deeming it ridiculously perilous. With poor weather and Gatefall approaching, the group returned to Pincer’s Cove.

The Council of Pincer’s Cove met the adventurers and cemented their agreement with a signed document confirming payment for the clearing of the mansionhouse. Curator Helmsward granted each member of the party a vial of holy water and a blessing for the expedition, after which they returned to The Inn of the Shipwrecked Dawn.

In the tavern I’aeia resumed his pursuit of discourse with the mysterious Asura, who astonished the mad magician with insights into his disturbed psyche. The pair took a walk to Pincer’s Bluff and forged an agreement whereby the Asura would cure I’aeia of his malady for the gold earned in the mansion-job.

I’aeia had noticed a small cemetery along the walk and separated from the Asura so he could further investigate. Here he discovered a grave for each member of the alchemist’s family; the four killed in the mansionhouse twenty years prior.

During the conjurer’s absence, the others had revealed that the tombstone at the mansionhouse belonged only to the family dog.. one mystery solved at least.

Before departing the next morning the party wisely tried to find more information on the mansion house and the previous tenants by questioning the locals, though little additional information was forthcoming. A Nari farmer called Daysun, who owned an orchard neighbouring the Reinstihl Estate, confirmed the rumours of flashing lights and eerie sounds emanating from the manor at night. He also knew that many had come to cleanse or loot the mansion but he’d not seen any return. Daysun offered cider and the best of luck to the party and they set off.

At the steps of the mansion, Cale and A’ari called forth for evil to come meet them head on, but it seemed a fair fight was not on the cards. Trepidatiously the adventurers entered.

The interior of the dilapidated manor was no more inviting that the outside but with weapons drawn and torches flickering the party began their mission. At first things went well; Vetch and Cale had a penchant for treasure-finding and found hidden spoils in chimneys and under floorboards with ease. But distant ghoulish laughter, blood-ridden mushrooms and strangely shifting shadows reminded them that this would be no easy undertaking.

In a drawing room, as the party searched for further artefacts or clues, a giant centipede initiated a furious melee from it’s chimney-nest. The abomination tore Cale’s neck to bloodied shreds before being disposed of with skill belying the party’s experience.

When investigating a living room I’aeia noticed a sodden and bowed ceiling above, which he promptly went about collapsing with his very non-gay and highly utilitarian quarterstaff. Above came the shrieks of a madman, and Cale impressively hoisted Umbar up for a closer look. The man looked like a Renstake dockworker; malnourished, and in a severe state of distress. As Umbar lowered him down for aid, he lashed out and attacked, obviously possessed by demonic forces. Quick thinking put the adventurers on top of the conflict, and A’ari and Vetch immediately doused the man in Helmsward’s Holy Water, destroying the creature. At first the party thought perhaps the wickedness of the house had now been dealt with, but a further scan revealed evil still present.

Upon the man’s person they found a piece of parchment with instructions or code scrawled upon it in Baat. Intrigue was raised and theories spoken but nothing certain was gleaned.

Another possessed corpse waited in the dining room, but again the party was prepared and wily enough avoid combat, ridding the body of evil before it had chance to attack. Still the malicious presence persisted.

At the rear of the house, in a scullery, the adventurers found a stairwell leading down into a cellar. The first footfall on the highest step initiated a terrible shriek as if from a tortured woman below, but when the same exact sound rose a second time the party became suspicious and deduced it was an illusory effect… though for what reason seemed unsure.

In the large cellar below they found a knight’s armoured corpse, ridden with rot-grubs that were narrowly avoided, but at least uncontaminated with spirits. A’ari was drawn to the rear wall, having heard shuffling sounds previously, and searched for a secret passage. A gentle push and a hidden door unlatched and opened revealing a larger cellar beyond, this one obviously still in use and recently occupied.

Inside the second cellar was a large dining table with candles still illuminating the half-eaten food upon it. Sleeping pallets for ten men lined the eastern wall while food and drink casks sat on the paved floor, yet no people remained within. A pair of doors angled into the room from the north-east corner, one unmarked, the other boarded up with “Danger!” painted upon it, again in Baat. Behind the plain door the group found the living quarters of a meticulously clean individual and immediately went about searching the meagre furnishings.

01 - Strangers Meet
Bloodvines, Kobolds & Pincer's Cove

In the foothills of the Realmheld Chain in the northern reaches of Ul-Takra, a snow-driven Nari shelter played host to five new acquaintances, soon to be friends. Outside, sleet broke through the sparse pine canopy and a frigid gale whipped through the needles, but the raucous laughter, healthy fire and scent of baking mushroom-bread within kept all notions of bitterness at bay.

The Nari scholar Umbar Blacktooth left the warm cabin briefly to relieve himself on a nearby cluster of Rainglows when the sound of rustling underbrush drove him into shadows. The perpetrator made itself visible only when approaching the shelter and knocking at the door. A stumpy figure it was, with arms upraised and swaying, seemingly carved of stone with large eyes of unblinking obsidian. Cale K’Sroth, the Scourge Knight, answered the door and did his best to interpret the flailing motions of the golem, but not til the Kobold, Vetch, spoke to it in it’s native tongue did the construct properly convey it’s concern. The golem’s owners had apparently run into trouble, falling from the steep, icy path to the northwest and toppling into a ravine. After some consternation, the group decided to gather their things and head into the night in search of the unfortunate Kobolds.

About 2 miles up the path the party discovered where the Kobolds had come to grief, and 40ft down a steep drop rested the remains of a small merchant wagon. No bodies could be seen, but Umbar thought he saw movement amongst the thorny vines that covered the base of the cliff, and though he raised his concerns to the others, Cale quickly tied off a rope and descended to the base.

Once amongst the menacing vegetation Cale fell under attack as the vines whipped forth, and in seconds his neck was left a jagged mess by the vicious tendrils. The Satyr Cleric, A’ari, was fast rappelling down the cliff-face but met a similar fate upon his arrival at the base, being quickly entwined by the vines. Next came the Human Illusionist, I’aeia, also soon to be grappled by the bloodthirsty trees. From above Vetch and Umbar hurled flaming torches but to little avail and for a brief time things looked dire for the heroes. In a rapid succession of small victories the tide was turned however. Cale’s longsword swung true, the cleric brandished fire, Umbar hurled rocks onto the wretched plants while I’aeia reigned down magical fists and Vetch hurled exploding stones into the fray. As quickly as it had begun, the fight was over, and attention was turned to finding the missing Kobolds.

In a disturbingly abhorrent display of bloodthirst, I’aeia fell upon the butchered trees and drank heavily of their ichor. He ignored the pleas of Vetch and the disgusted horror of his fellow adventurers, but was quickly thwarted by the Mathuin Cleric, who purified the blood with holy words. Shocked by the actions of the young prestidigitator, but with pressing matters to attend to, the group took in their surrounds and resumed the search for the Kobolds.

Noticing some of the trees which had attacked them had bulges in their trunks, the party decided to slice the plants open, and within they found three Kobolds, still alive but very much distressed and agitated. It became quickly apparent that a fourth member of their team, a merchant prince no less, was still missing, and the hunt continued. A trail led the group to a tiny cave and I’aeia immediately prodded the opening with his quarterstaff, assuming the prince had escaped to the cave. He was thus unprepared for the giant arctic spider which attacked with lightning speed from the fissure, piercing his stomach and laying him unconscious. Cale and the Kobold guard leaped forth to attack the abomination and after a brief skirmish the Scourge split the thing in twain. The guard was quick to retrieve the merchant prince from the cave, and Vetch was just as hasty to investigate the same cave for treasures, finding a small gold ring and small sum of loose coins.

The prince was still paralysed by the poison of the spider, but with the icy sleet beating down and the Kobold’s goods still scattered at the cliffs, a clear course of action was troubling to find. It was eventually agreed that A’ari, Cale, the Kobold guard and the prince would return to the shelter while the others retrieved the wagon and the fallen goods.

Later that evening the group was reunited at the Nari waystation. The prince was stirring from the spider’s toxin and soon causing malcontent amongst the group with his empiric disdain for his company. He was largely ignored by the adventurers, though his rudeness was dutifully noted. As they settled down for the night, setting watches to stand guard, Umbar mined the prince’s advisor for information regarding their culture, though the Kobold’s swift delivery of words made it hard for the Nari to retain much of what was spoken.

The next day was filled with travel. The wagon-turned-sled was dragged relentlessly by the golem with the Kobold prince nestled within in amongst blankets and pillows. When he did awake it seemed only to cast disparaging remarks at anyone in the vicinity, and by late afternoon the travellers grew tired of the company. Matters of etiquette were raised by the bard late in the day and in a heated dialogue it was agreed that the services of the hirelings were no longer required.

Along the rugged coastline, only a few miles north of the village of Pincer’s Cove, the party halted to look upon a decrepit mansion-house in an overgrown estate. The foreboding manor seemed to radiate an unpleasantness which raised the curiosity of some, though it was agreed that now was not the time to investigate and information about the house could be pursued later in the hamlet.

Pincer’s Cove was preparing for The First Dance, a festival marking the turning of the year and the beginning of Spring. A tastefully tacky themed-inn called The Shipwrecked Dawn stood proud at the centre of the village and the party bee-lined for it. Here they met the locals.

I’aeia pursued the friendship of an out-of-place Asuran man to the point of unconsciousness. Umbar befriended a fellow Nari wayfarer called Erathwada and heard tales of distant lands to the east. Vetch chatted briefly to the barman, Keg, before drinking heavily of Nari spirits and getting quite drunk. The others enquired after the ruined mansion-house and the village itself and even matters of Renstake and the Barony at large. They discovered much, and were intrigued by the tale of the mad alchemist who killed his family and himself twenty years past in the manor, which now lay deserted and shrouded in dark tales.

After a restful night sleeping in the Ship’s cabins, the party woke to the sound of a Nari tribesong approaching the village. Apparently the Naris had come to trade goods on the eve of The Dance, and an impromptu marketplace formed just outside the Shipwreck. A’ari, Vetch and Cale investigated the Nari wares while Umbar was approached by the hamlet’s ordaining minister, a Curatic priest called Helmsward. They discussed whether Umbar’s party were interested in investigating the mansion house on behalf of Pincer’s Cove and banishing any evil within. Umbar responded positively and the chuffed Curator departed to confer with his fellows.

The illusionist meanwhile was pursuing his own curious objectives. He repaired the Kobold wagon (the merchant prince and his entourage arriving at the inn last evening) and, while waiting for his work to be discovered, was tempted by the ripe, peachy rump of Cale’s warhorse… <ahem> With his razor he sliced at the horse, intent on supping from the wound but ‘Firemane’ was unimpressed and with a swift counter-hoof cracked three of I’aeia’s ribs.

When the Kobold Geomancer and bodyguard did arrive to check upon the wagon, they were most gracious of the illusionist’s repairs and rewarded him with three whole pieces of gold. The Geomancer even tended to I’aeia’s wounds, which some might argue was an awful lot more than he deserved.

At lunchtime, as The Gate reigned supreme in the clear sky above, the council of Pincer’s Cove met with the adventurers to gauge their mettle and ability. After some conversation and bargaining it was agreed that the party would make for the mansion and attempt to cleanse it of evil. While the relevant papers and signatures were made up, the group returned to the manorhouse for a brief afternoon reconnaissance, which ultimately confirmed that something wicked lurked in the dilapidated building and that the young heroes certainly had their work cut out for them.


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