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.