The Lastlight Chronicles

Session B: The Bells of Thunderfell
Goblin-slaying aplenty

The weather becomes overcast as the adventurers leave the Valley of the Fallen Magisters and turn south to Vandalin. As they rejoin the main road, an uncomfortable drizzle begins. Strange clouds mass above the mountains to the west, near the border with Mittel, and for a moment they catch the scent of incense upon the wind.

Their travelling companion, the eccentric Septeminian man named Parasmus, has settled down a little now that he’s away from the Fallen Magisters. Indeed, it seems the further away he gets from it, the better he is. He doesn’t have a strong recollection of how he got to the Valley, but he recalls that his sextant, found in either the market or library of Vindabona and now either lost or destroyed, whispered to him and lead him there. Tagar mutters under his breath that the sextant is likely cursed, and the adventurers all agree that it’s best the mysterious device isn’t coming along for this trip.

Aerwyn and Dardiana ask Parasmus questions about his childhood and the Six High, both of which he’d mentioned earlier. Parasmus explains that the Six High are a term he uses to describe the races of Giants that pre-date the dragons and humanoid races, and who ruled this land long ago before there were any human empires. The Giants were very different from one another, and were bound by a compact. He doesn’t know what happened to them, but knows that they retreated from the world long ago. That said, when he was a child on a beach near Vindabona, he saw one of the Six High rising from the sea. He recalls she approached him and smiled, but she was then ushered back under the waves by a distant figure. Parasmus hopes that a druid named Verreban, who lives in this region, may be able to help understand the mystery of the rune-carved obsidian hidden by the Fallen Magisters.

Vandalin is a small town on a gentle hill. Behind the town, to the south, they can see a group of perhaps 30 or more people packing up tents and possessions. The town itself looks quiet, but the adventurers quickly identify that the remains of an old manor house has been recently set alight, as it still has smoke balefully rising from the ruins. When they enter the town proper, Tagar gets directions from a man named Tobias. He leads them to the Miner’s Exchange, where they meet a woman named Talia. Talia explains that a group of brigands, named the Redcloaks, have been run out of town within the past few days, and that the (unnamed) necromancer who led these brigands has recently fled on horseback. The Redcloaks’ time in Vandalin coincided with a series of disappearances; the manor has been the base of operations for these enemies for some months, and the villagers have now extracted their revenge by burning the remains of the headquarters. Questions around the Rangers of Sunder and Altamarian garrison don’t get the adventurers far; the members of the garrison appear to have vanished some months back (before the arrival of the Redcloaks), while the Rangers have hit the road to the south to defeat some goblins near Redpeak and see if they can find any sign of the necromancer. Talia does ask some questions around the ‘Six Swords Society’, but the adventurers say they’ve never heard the term before.

Following Talia’s recommendation, the adventurers head back around to Stonehill’s Inn, which is run by Tobias. Dardiana playing a fine song on her mandolin that guarantees both free food and drink, and also lodging for Parasmus. Aerwyn chats to the waitstaff, Rosie, and discovers that

  • Verreban is a druid who protects the Tree of Stars, which is located a few miles past Thunderfell.
  • Thunderfell is a village built near the elven ruins that mark the old border between Mittel and Sunder.
  • The village has recently become more built-up (i.e., within the past twenty or thirty years).

From previous information, the adventurers also know that a Hag has been seen near the Tree of Stars.

 

As the adventurers travel through the town, they see the remains of the battles that had been fought here. A tavern is closed up, and stinks of death. A fine building, once the Townmaster’s Residence, has been burned to the ground – and at least two charred sets of bones can be found amongst the rubble. Dardiana also chats to a man by the apple orchard near the town gates, while Aerwyn explores the half-built church and meets Sister Garael, a Mittelian elf who worships Marianus. The adventurers speak again with Talia at the Miner’s Exchange. She says that the recently-deceased townmaster was offering to pay for scalps for the gnolls and orcs harassing Widowsreach, or the goblins down near Redpeak, and she’s willing to honour that. She also asks them for help in passing on news to a travelling monk named Kella that there’s been a death in the family. Kella left a few days ago on the road to Mittel, which would pass through Thunderfell, and was travelling slowly on foot. They may be able to catch up with her if she’s tarried along the way. Talia does warn them that orcs have been seen near Thunderfell, coming up from the south.

The next morning, the adventurers leave for Thunderfell. The weather remains poor, and the road is quieter than that leading to Vandalin. The air gets cooler on the second day as they climb up into the mountain pass. The land here bears the scars of battles past – as the road twists and turns, they catch sight of a cleft mountain, where the phenomenon known as the Shear has sliced deeply into the rocky peak. The trees here are tall and grow close to the road. Filigreed ruins, covered in moss and ivy, can be seen amongst the thick, untamed undergrowth.

The group hear Thunderfell before they see it, due to the continuous ringing of church bells. The adventurers identify several dozen tracks leading north, and 14 smaller sets – goblins! – coming back. There are also two large wolf-like prints. Inside is a mess; several buildings have been haphazardly smashed by gigantic rocks, as has the bridge to the similarly damaged keep. The remains of several townsfolk are found in the rubble, both in the fields and the collapsed homes. 

The battle for Thunderfell is brutal. Two worgs almost kill the adventurers within the first few minutes, and the adventurers go house-by-house, building-by-building to rid the place of goblins. In all, the adventurers slay all 14 foes, but they’re exhausted and their magical resources are much diminished. Soon after Dardiana discovers a tressym (winged cat) in one of the residences (who she promptly names ‘Priscilla’), Tagar and Aerwyn search the square and identify that a statue or something similar has been removed from the town. Tagar then leads them to the partially-destroyed inn, where he’d previously spotted a goblin killed by a crossbow bolt. They help a woman down from the wreckage of the top floor, who introduces herself as Kella.

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Session 4: Death in Vandalin
In which the town catches fire

Two days have passed since the adventurers eliminated the Redcloak threat in the abandoned manor at Vandalin. When we last left our intrepid group (who are known to the townsfolk as the ‘Six Swords Society’), there were a number of leads that they were chasing down. Gwendalyn, who has searched the town in vain for news of her brother Gundren, sets out to Redpeak Mountain in the southeast, where some goblins have been sighted. Gwendalyn suspects that these goblins may be connected to those that kidnapped her and Gundren. Erol and Taerus decide to accompany Gwendalyn; both have keen eyes, and may be able to stop the impetuous dwarf from getting herself killed. Carnacki continues to rest at the old Altamarian garrison and heal from his many  wounds, while Rastus spends long hours copying spells into his spellbook from the library found below the manor.

 

When the day breaks on a new day, Rastus and Carnacki decide to explore Vandalin to close off a number of leads that they’d been chasing down. They first visit Barthen’s Provisions, a general store operated by the gossipy Erin Barthen. Then, they head to Muckel’s Farm to meet Alder Muckel, purveyor of the finest ham in Sunder. They discover that the secret to his ‘muck’ is unsuspicious and, after being gifted half a pig for their services to the town, venture to the shantytown that has been set up to the south of Vandalin.

 

At the shantytown, they meet a number of people called the Dezinry (also referred to as ‘Mayflies’ or ‘Underfolk’ by a couple of Vandaliners – it’s not clear which is a formal name versus an insult). The people who live here belong to the same short, quasi-human race as the girl, Aadara, that the group met several days beforehand near the bugbear’s den.

  • The camp has been here for a few weeks, but the Dezinry claim the land as their own: “We have been in this place you call Sunder for generations, hundreds upon hundreds of years. It is our land – the tall folk came later.”
  • They’ve moved here from the south, due to the waking of a long-defeated villain: “We are here because this land is here, and all land belongs to Alahalyn. The lands to the south have become poisoned. The sound of raven wings drowns out all else. The Raven King is centuries old. Generations ago, a champion fought him and he slumbered. Now he is arisen. He stretches out his fingers like autumn’s rot upon a flower. Where you hear the sound of his birds, you know that your lands have become his. And in his land, the dead belong to him.”
  • The Dezinry haven’t entered the town of Vandalin as it appears to run against their religious beliefs: “this town erects a shrine to falseness. Alahalyn is the light and truth, and we would not disrespect Her by stepping upon unhallowed ground.”
  • Their religion is oddly monotheistic, and gives them hope, even in dark times: “She is the One True. False gods have failed before, and will fail again.”
  • Some of their people have gone missing at night, ever since they’ve arrived, and it’s coming time to move on. The Dezinry will continue moving north, away from the Raven King.

 

Having shared some of their pig from Muckel’s with the Dezinry – including their leader Aandras, and a young woman named Aabertha – the half-orc and tiefling decide to check in again with the manor. They realise that it’s been a couple of days since they were last there, and want to find out what’s happened with the undead. They discover that the necromancer (‘Boss Blackstaff’, as their captive Redcloak had once referred to him as, or ‘E.’, as he’d been referred to in a letter they found) must have returned: the two ghouls have been deliberately freed, and the zombies from the cell are gone. In the only room the adventurers didn’t originally search, they discover a dead goblin in a cage, its throat slit. 

 

Returning to town, they discover that the undead have been let loose on Vandalin. Mara, proprietor of the Sleeping Giant, is dead, as are Townmaster Daril and his son. The zombies are dispatched through spells and bow, then the Townmaster’s Residence is burned to the ground to prevent the ghouls from escaping. In the chaos, Carnacki bumps into an old nemesis – an elf named Kenric, last seen in Lastlight. Kenric is travelling with another Lastlighter named Reza Bridgeman, and it seems that they’re working for Draeg Walshlin – a Lastlight noble with an interest in pit fighters. It seems they came in with three horses – of which two are now dead, and the third has gone missing. The adventurers swing by their garrison to find their Redcloak captive is dead, and a figure is disappearing from Vandalin via horseback, taking the southward road. The necromancer has escaped again!

 

The adventurers rest for lunch, and meet with Talia Thornton from the Miner’s Exchange. They assuage any fears they may indeed be ruffians. She seems interested on whether Lastlight or Altamar sent them; they skirt around the former, and outright deny the latter (which is largely the truth). Later, Carnacki and Rastus visit the Church of Marianus across the village green. There they meet the gruff Father Wintersson and an elf, Lady Garael. Garael confirms that the Church had nothing to do with the recent chaos, and asks for their assistance: “There’s a ghost who’s said to haunt Finneg’s Mire, maybe six days north from here. She’s harmless, I think, but is said to answer any three questions truthfully. I have but one question for her: does Gethaemir of the Golden Glade yet live?”. Even though they don’t automatically agree, Garael passes them a small amulet said to belong to the ghost.

 

The following mysteries remain:

  • What happened to the missing villagers and Dezinry? Both men and children were taken – so, where are they?
  • The Altamar garrison vanished soon before the Redcloaks appeared. Is there a connection there, or did the Redcloaks simply take advantage of an unprotected town?
  • What happened to the gnomes that the missing dwarf was supposed to meet? Futhir and Thrannir were last seen two weeks ago, buying canvas. Were they working for Elliyas and the Redcloaks, or are they victims in this along with Gundren Hearthhold?
  • What’s ‘Lantern’s Flame’?
  • Who is ‘Blackvale’, who Elliyas works for? He seems to know about the map and dwarf, to want ‘more bodies to continue the exploration’, and belong to a group called the Drakoyiska.
  • What are the other Lastlighters doing in Vandalin? And where did Kenric, Reza and Draeg go after the chaos?

 

In addition, there are the following adventure hooks:

  • Track down Elliyas the Necromancer, former head of the Redcloaks (last seen heading south from Vandalin, on a stolen horse)
  • Gnolls or orcs, seen near Widowsreach (a mountain two days’ east of Vandalin; this is the same area as some gnome villages)
  • Goblins harrying the road near Redpeak Mountain, two to three days to the south.
  • The ghost of Finneg’s Mire (six days’ north – close to Lastlight, and near the lake that the original Six Swords Society were heading to)
  • The Raven King, probably some weeks’ south of Vandalin
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Session A: The Fallen Magisters
The Halfling's Quest

It’s about six weeks into Autumn, and bugbears and goblins are raiding the countryside. Orcs and gnolls are on the move in the south. Rangers of Sunder are thinly stretched protecting farms and trade routes, and two of the Rangers left several days ago to pursue the bugbear across the countryside and destroy the problem at its root.

 

The story starts at The Cauldron, a tavern in ‘downhill’ Lastlight. Like many taverns, it’s a claustrophobic affair, poorly lit and filled with noise. Torches hang on the wall and simple iron candlebras hang from the low ceiling, flaring and guttering whenever the front door is opened to let in the chill Autumn breeze. Miners and workers from the nearby warehouse district come in and clap their hands in front of the fireplace, before moving to the bar and grabbing one of Klausimir Bale’s homebrewed Old Peculiar. There’s a clear spot between the fireplace and the bar where Dardiana the Bard has often performed, earning coin for her songs and storytelling. It’s here that Gillam Sucain and Bevan Goodbrook meet with three adventurers – Dardiana, Aerwyn the god-favoured sorcerer, and Tagar the Heathlander Ranger – to pass on a mission.

 

Word came to the Rangers of a disturbance down at the Fallen Magisters. Gillam describes it as “a small valley filled with old statues, from the beginning of the war. It’s well off the main road, and there’s been a few people who’ve ventured there before and not come back. Some old-timers say that there’s old magic there, in the earth. Lately, there’s been rumours of weird lights, something… off… about the valley. Birds fly around it, and the wind feels different.” The valley is around four or five days south from here, and they’re looking for someone gifted with magic to perform reconnaissance, as well as a ranger to help navigate the potentially dangerous terrain. With the path to the Fallen Magisters skirting by the unsettling Finneg’s Mire, and past what they call the Lake of Graves, a keen set of eyes and strong sword-arm is important. Gillam also explains that, if any extra muscle is needed, that the adventurers are best heading further south to the garrisons of Thunderfell or Vandalin, only two or three days south from the valley, rather than returning to Lastlight.

 

The adventurers head off the next day. They pass by Finneg’s Mire without incident on the first day, and skirt by the still waters of the Lake of Graves on the second. They think they hear the sound of church-bells tolling close to dawn, but with no settlement in sight it may have been a trick of the wind. On the second evening Dardiana thinks she sees a dark, shadowy shape cross the moon, but nothing more is known of it. The third day sees the group cross into rough farmland. After seeing a few abandoned farmhouses and settlements in the distance, they come across the homestead of Lukin Longbarrow. Lukin is a gruff but amiable dwarf, and fills them in on stories of the local countryside: a hag has taken up residence near the Tree of Stars, orcs are apparently on the move toward Thunderfell, goblins have been harrying the road near Redpeak and gnolls or orcs have been spotted up at Widowsreach. In addition, he passes on a tale that ‘local lads’ have been employed by someone from The Septeme to do a ‘dig’ down near the Fallen Magisters. He hands them a cut of Muckel’s finest ham and sends them on their way.

 

Soon after dawn on the fourth morning, the adventurers come across a wagon belonging to the Goodbrace Trading Company. It’s been ambushed by goblins the previous day, and a small number of these creatures have stayed behind to harass travellers. One is slain by Aerwyn’s Chill Touch, while Dardiana’s spellcraft disposes another. Tagar’s archery skills are lacklustre, but he successfully slays a third of the foul creatures, who was put into a magical slumber by the half-elf’s sorcery. The fourth escapes into the woods, potentially to gather reinforcements, so the troupe quickly moves on.

 

The trio arrive at the valley at dusk. Dardiana explores the vine-covered statues and is set upon by three twig blights, who tear at her face and almost kill her. Tagar disposes of the creatures while Aerwyn heals their companion. The group is then set upon gain at nightfall by a flock of stirges, who attach themselves to Tagar and Aerwyn. Both adventurers are nearly killed by these foul spawn, before Dardiana and her daggers come to the rescue. The rest of the night is spent resting; Tagar hears a dragging, shuffling noise in the distance, but it stops at the limits of his darkvision.

 

The next morning, the adventurers explore behind a waterfall, where lights were spotted the previous night. They find a dig site in a natural cavern. Aerwyn explores the hole and finds a massive block of smooth obsidian, into which are carved large, ancient runes. Aerwyn recognises the language as Tharnic, although the script is older and slightly different than what he’s seen in his studies. One of the runes appears to represent fire, life or heat, while another represents something that could be interpreted as wind, cloud or spirit. While he’s trying to manoeuvre himself out of the hole, a slightly crazed man named Parasmus Erasando emerges from a nearby tent. After some negotiation and calming words, the group manage to make some sense from Parasmus;

  • He is from Vindabona, a city in The Septeme. It’s unclear whether anyone sent him here, but it seems unlikely.
  • He was guided here by a magical sextant, which has since been broken or gone missing. The ground here is imbued with old magic, something “older than dragons”.
  • He employed some locals to assist him in digging. They’ve vanished or been killed by forces unknown. Whatever is out there in the valley hasn’t come into this cavern, yet.
  • The ‘Six High’ were once here, or two of them were. “One fell, one faded, four disappeared deep below.”
  • He once saw ‘one of them’ when he was younger, “rising from the ocean. She waved at me, then turned back and disappeared into the waves.”
  • He seems torn as to whether uncover the artefact and remove it, or keep it where it is.
  • There’s a druid who may be able to help him, but he’s not sure exactly where he is.

 

As the disturbance of this half-buried thing appears to coincide with the disturbances emanating from the valley, the adventurers determine that it may be best to cover it again. Parasmus’ erratic behaviour means that they’re unlikely to get much help from him, so instead they suggest that he travels with them to nearby Vandalin to locate the mysterious druid.

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Dardiana's first ballad

"Stay away you stupid ugly goblins",

said Fennig as he marched into his mire

Under the shiny stars of olde Sunder

But sadly it became his funeral pyre

 

The lake of graves is creepy and it's misty

Don't listen to the noisy, freaky bells

Tagar is out getting near the water

But we aint buying what that forest sells

 

Did something fly across the moon on day two?

Is it wise to go and poke around a farm?

That crossbow looks all big and tough and pointy

I hope it doesn't do us all some harm!

 

Lucan shared some Muckles it was tasty

And sent us some because he liked my prose

Poor horsies all got deaded by the wayside

and Aerwyn was distracted by arrows

 

Goblins gonna wish they hadn't stayed near

Ears bleeding and a throat of icy cold

Running like a bunch of little bitches

Their mother if she knew would surely scold

 

It's time to see what's in the turned up carriage

But the goblins stripped it of all decent fare

So it's onward to the fallen magister's statues

and they seem to be just scattered everywhere

 

A freaky creature flies at me, twigs outstretched

Brings its friends and hits me in the face

Collapsing to the ground I'm sure I'll die here

oh why did we come into this stupid place?

 

There's a hole inside a cave inside a mountain

A crazy dude who's digging up some runes

Oh I don't know what our next adventure brings us

But maybe it wil inspire more awesome tunes

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Backstory: Tagar
I'm not crying, you are

Tagar was born to one of the mixed clans of the Heathlands.  He never knew his  father, and his mother died when he was 3.  He was passed onto another clan, as was the custom, but adoption isn’t the right term for what happens there in the Heathlands.  Slavery is too far but closer to the truth.  Adopted children can be traded for others and are expected to earn their keep.  It’s a hard life but better than none.

 

So after being moved from one family to another for his unruly behaviour he found himself with Clan McBrae.  They had once ruled this land long ago, so he was told but they have been closer to the time of the Great War than now.  Now the land was ruled by Baron Raethorn and has been for at least as long as Tagar knows.  While the McBrae clan did their duties as peasants and servants on the Raethorn land and castle they also are the major backers of the local rebellion.  

 

Tagar was taken in by Connor and Gilda and while Connor was a capable blacksmith and hoped that Tagar’s strength would lend him to the craft it was not something that Tagar had much interest in or knack for.  So during the days he was helpful in the manual labour he was not good at the instruction for metallurgy.  Gilda’s cousin Gretta was an accomplished huntswoman though, and when she visited Tagar was always captivated by her stories of hunting and tracking game and beasts.  Gretta took Tagar along for a hunt after he followed her as she left one morning and was surprised when he managed to not only keep up but looked for tracks and signs of where she went once she snuck ahead and concealed her self, waiting for him to catch up.

 

So between labouring work and hunting trips Tagar entered into his teens and when one of the rebellion recruiters passed his hamlet they thought they had a perfect fighter on their hands.  Talon was the rebels name and he filled Tagar with tales of fighting oppression and rescuing the downtrodden.  Tagar went back to Connor and Gilda to ask if he could join.  He was 14 and in another year would be considered a freeperson to take a craft or make his own way.  They told him no and to join the rebellion would get him killed.  They didn’t tell him about how many swords or armours that they had supplied the rebels with or food hampers they supplied them with from the farm.  They told him no and that was it.

 

He left that night with Talon and a few other rebellious kids and a few older ones who had lost something or someone due to the taxes and brutality of the Raethorn soldiers. When they got to the rebel camp in the woods they were sorted out into squads and given weapons and told to make camp.  For some it was the first time they hadn’t been sleeping near the hearth but for Tagar his trips with his Aunt he found a good spot.  

 

The rebels were not quite the freedom fighters they made out to be, Tagar learned after a time.  They did raid the baron's caravans and storehouses from time to time but it was just as often travelling merchants.  That was often explained away as funding the rebellion.  Recruiters like Talon turned up now and again with some recruits sometime and left with most of the plunder to take elsewhere.  The leader of the band, a human by the name of Griff, while a bit of a bully and braggart did try and keep most of the rebels safe. Griff was, Tagar found out, part of a larger group of bandits run through a man named Harald Redthen, although he never saw Redthen and no one had ever met him.

 

They moved camp from time to time and sorted out which of the new recruits were able to make it.  He pushed other hard  to make them into the bandits that they were.  The more agile were trained to be sneaks and thieves to get into store houses and caravans and cut loose the coin and supplies.  Others were trained in weapons and how to fight the guards.  Although direct confrontation was mostly avoided.  Ambushes and illusion of numbers usually had the guards and soldiers disarmed and they didn’t want to die for a chest of gold.

From time to time Aunt Gretta would stop by the camps, much like a lot of hunters and rangers did.  Pass on news and teach a few things, some even helped on raids.  She would always check on Tagar and let him know how Connor and Gilda are doing.  Tagar felt bad for leaving them but always hoped they were doing well as they didn’t treat him badly.  

 

The night it changed was supposed to be another caravan to raid, on the road between Brocklund and Thistleton. The plan was like most they would obstruct the carriage, have rebels covering both sides and quick smash and grab the cargo.  Tagar barely listened to the plans any more, they were mostly the same and mostly the same thing happened each time.  Griff wanted him up the front to charge at the caravan from the hiding spots on the side of the road once they had the caravan stopped.  Being a big intimidating half orc this had become the usual plan in the last year or so.  It usually served its purpose.  Dragging a coach driver off his seat with one hand and throwing him to the ground does that.  So that is what happened this time much like the last half a dozen.  The tree was knocked over in front of the caravan and from his hiding spot he saw the carriage pull up in front of him as usual.  As he launched from his concealment he noticed that there was another carriage behind the first.  He reached up and pulled down the driver and pulled him down and slammed him to the ground.  The noise from around him seemed louder than usual more shouting and the carriage door swung open and someone leaped out .  It was then he felt the sting of steel across his back and he staggered forward from the slash to his back.  He turned with his short sword and saw a young male human not much different in age to himself.  He had a sneer on his lips as he slashed with his rapier again drawing blood across Tagar’s left arm as he held it up to block. The shouting and noise of the battle was deafening.  The guards were not surrendering they were fighting back.  The youth made a feint to the right and Tagar fell for it and felt the lunge as it hit him in the chest.  Textbook finishing stike that would be.  But text book strikes don’t always allow for chance or the stubbornness of orc blood in battle.  Tagar’s eyes went red and he gripped the youths sword arm with his bloody left arm and struck back with all his strength with his right. His thrust of his short sword exploded violently out the back of the youths neck almost decapitating him.  Another scream, but this one higher pitched.  A girl had been in the carriage too and she had climbed to the horse and cut it free.  She road off.  A retreat horn was sounded and the rebels ran for the trees and escaped from the guards.

 

Back at the camp the rebels bandaged wounds and the leaders argued loudly.  Talks about mis-information and that there was more guards than expected and it was only supposed to be the Baron's daughter not one of his sons as well.  Tagar didn’t listen too closely more concerned about applying the poltice correctly to his wounds with the help of Meg, one of the archers.  It wasn’t till he heard his name being used that he tried to focus on what was being said.  The argument starting talking about handing Tagar in to try and appease the baron.  Tagar wasn’t going any where in his condition and fell asleep to the noise of the argument.

 

Things were different after that.  The rebels had to move camp more frequently and the risks started to out weigh the rewards.  The baron increased the bounties on all rebels and came down harder on the peasants the supported them.  To make things worse the bands of orcs and goblins that sometimes trickled out of the mountains and caves seemed to be getting worse.  Tagar followed his orders but the rebels had to adapt to the harsher regime above them.  It was no longer take store houses by stealth and silence, it was rampage and pillage.  Caravans were less given quarter and more times than not they were all killed.  Less recruits arrived with each season and the ones left were hard and cold.  Gretta came by again in the Autumn and spoke with Griff.  They argued for a while and when she left his tent she came to Tagar.  “Your coming with me if you want to live.”

He did.

 

They travelled east and Gretta finished teaching him what she could about woodcraft and ranger trade.  She still captivated him with tales of hunts and adventures and even tales of the old war and rangers from it.  She eventually explained to him after a time why they could not go back to the cities or villages of Hearthland.  The boy he killed during that raid was son to the baron.  Connor and Gilda were identified as raising Tagar and the baron had taken them as punishment when I could not be found.  This weighed heavy on Tagar’s heart.  He never thought about the consequences of his action so much.  They lived in the wild for a few years, living off the land, occasionally they went into smaller villages that Gretta knew to be friendly to the cause and not likely to turn them over to the barons men.  Nights Tagar thought about the tales of the heroic rangers and heroes from those stories.  He wanted to be one but then felt the flash of rage when he killed Vincent Raethorn (the name of the son) he often felt unworthy of it.  

One day Tagar woke to find Gretta talking with another person.  They spoke quickly in a language he didn’t recognise.  It may have been elvish as the other person was an elf Tagar thought.  They turned to him and Gretta asked him to come and sit on a stone just out from where they were.  He sat and looked at the land stretched out from where they were.  Gretta told him he would be going with her friend Kaeril Rrywynd to Sunder and Lastlight.  It has gotten too dangerous to stay here any longer.  Tagar opened his mouth to argue but the look in her eyes told him all that he need to know.  He hugged his Aunt, wiped away his tears, grabbed his belongings and left her on in the highlands with tears in her eyes too.

 

Kaeril, a wood elf, set the half-orc up in Lastlight, and even got him an audience with Gillam Sucain. He's been there since – but is still enough of an outsider that they’re not calling him a Ranger of Sunder yet. That's a matter of time; he's not the only one  who is running from something. But Gillam trusts him, and wants to do right. Tagar hopes that one day he can use his strength and skills again, but that this time it will be to do some good in the world instead of spilling some idiot boy’s blood.

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Backstory: Aerwyn
Favoured by unknown forces

“I grew up on an isolated farm in Mittel, halfway between the cities of Gilder and Emberfell. For a long time I thought of my life like that – somewhere between the human-run granaries of Gilder, and the elven temples of Emberfell. My father is a farmer, you see, and every Spring we’d take the Harvestroad by cart. My mother is an elf, and a cleric of Marithael. While we never visited Emberfell together, her private library seemed to rival the greatest universities, at least to my mind. I spent my teenage years lost in study, and we’d often talk through the night debating some theological inconsistency or sharing a story about a tale of old.

That was before the voice came, before I felt the tugging on my soul, before we all realised that I, somehow, had been touched by the divine.

It started when I was 16, soon after I’d taught myself Tharnic. Something about that old, dead language unlocked something inside me, and it wasn’t long before my mind was ablaze with sorcerous power. Whether it was destiny or some fluke of my mixed lineage, I had been marked as something special, a favoured soul. I don’t hear the voice every day, but I talk to It. It’s a god, I know. Perhaps The God. It manifests in strange ways that I can’t always explain. My heart tugs me place, like an invisible lodestone. Sometimes when I close my eyes I can see runes emblazoned in my mind. When I look to the setting sun I see luminescent figures of flame and air. When I walk upon the mountains, I’m haunted by visions, and feel the earth’s patience and stillness. I can’t always control it, and I don’t know whether I’m a vessel or a tool, but I do know that I was destined for something greater, and that I must fulfil my destiny.”

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Backstory: Rastus
The homegrown hero

"Some people see me and they think the worst. I'm the son of two half-orcs – both my grandfathers were full-blood, from the Barakash Clan. We had a big family, and we tilled the land together. I helped out at the local smithy in Goodbrook too; my arms and back were strong, and I could work the bellows all night, even if I'd been out in the fields all day.

That's why I was in Goodbrook when the owlbear came down from the hills. There were 200 people living in Goodbrook, and within a few minutes there were 190. I went after it with nothing but my bare hands and, I don't how, somehow I took it down. When I woke up I was in Lastlight, getting my wounds taken care of.

Maybe in Altamar and a few other places half-orcs get respect, but the further you get into the mountains the more prejudice you're likely to get. I don't fit in so well in the city either. Beyond enjoying the drink in the bigger towns a little too much, my greatest weakness is that I miss things that others just seem to get. Social cues sail over my head and my mother says I've never had much common sense, but I'm clued in enough to know that it's a blind spot. 

The one thing about me that people don't expect is that I'm smart. When I was recuperating in Lastlight, one of the things I started doing was asking questions. Within a few weeks I'd demonstrated enough curiosity that Master Ebben let me into Stonebridge College's library. The things I learned! Stuff I'd never have dreamed about in Goodbrook.

My family look after the farm now, all except for my two sisters who've gone down to join one of the rebel farmers' groups that seem to be cropping up down in the Heathlands. I've travelled a bit now with Master Ebben – to Altamar a few times, and once up as far as Tervingen in the north-east. But since leaving Goodbrook, it's been pretty much Lastlight and the College that have been my home. 

Now if you excuse me, that lady over there wants to buy me a drink if I show her my owlbear scar…"

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Backstory: Erol
A soldier's life

"Growing up in Altamar, you listen to all the propaganda about how it was the last line of defence, the staging point for that one last push which defeated evil. But if I've learned anything, it's that there's still evil out there, isn't there?

As a soldier of Altamar, I did my time on the walls, plus patrols out into the hills and down to the Heathlands too. We'd often find ourselves set against brigands and common thieves – that was worse than the orcs and goblins in a way.

What I found in the Heathlands was that Altamar isn't always seen as this beacon of light that we thought we were. Heathies didn't care what happened 300 years ago, they just saw the soldiers marching in, clearing out their grain supplies and shaking down their fathers and brothers because an Altamaran merchant had been held up. My troop were good men, to a person; we weren't corrupt, and I never saw anything that I didn't think was right. But, I think me and the men were a bit too good at knowing  where to apply pressure on townsfolk to find out where the local bandits were based. One night down in a little place called Krenfeldt, the troops I was commanding were set on by villagers. Burned all of the others in the homestead that we were shacked up in, with me the only one that made it out. I should have seen the signs that we'd pushed the locals too far, all because of some bandit lord named Harald Redthen who was supposed to be in the area.

Even if that hadn't happened I'd already lost interest in the cause, and would have left Altamar regardless.  As it was, I became a ranger back in the Sunder Mountains, far from the Heathlands and not too close to Altamar. Some rangers spend their time ferrying people through the foothills. I prefer to spend my time  in the forests and mountain paths, keeping an eye out for the real enemies – orcs and goblins, not the race of men."

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Backstory: Carnacki
It was a dragon what did it

"I grew up in a snow-covered mining town called Hamor, deep into the mountains of Themgir, many weeks' south from here. You might think that backwaters like that are xenophobic – and you'd be mostly right – but it was a diverse place nonetheless, with dwarf, elf, tieflings and humans all rubbing shoulders in their quest to find their fortune in that cold, hard landscape.

The town was frequently raided – there were orcs aplenty in the frost-ridden mountains there, and worse besides – and some of the younger folk like me would be sent into the hills to act as scouts and warn townsfolk when danger came. When that happened, villagers would pile into the closest mine-shafts and wait for the worse to be over, then pick up the pieces and start all over again.

One day, though, Hamor was taken off the map completely. Buildings scorched and burned to the ground. People fled, but then two of the mineshafts collapsed and buried most of the town alive. I've heard it said that plants wouldn't even grow in the soil.

And guess what – every single scout on that night was a Tiefling, and none of us had seen a thing. Our whole clan was blamed for the destruction, and many were killed. I was exiled, and have roamed the mountains since. I swear it was a dragon that  destroyed Hamor, even if it has been 300 years since one has been seen. One day I'll find proof that those ancient beasts still lurk in the mountains, and when I find out what happened then I'll deliver my vengeance upon them. 

As a ranger, I've done some work ferrying people back and forth through the mountains, and do border guard work to keep the region free of orcs, goblins and other problems. I've visited a number of towns in the mountains, but my appearance makes people suspicious of me so I don't have many allies beyond some of the other rangers. I tend to live off the land and don't feel comfortable in cities, so I haven't ventured any further north than Lastlight."

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Backstory: Taerus
Down and out in Altamar

"A lot of people think that Altamar's this amazing place, but grow up on its streets and you may think differently about it. I spent sixty years on those streets, and I know them like the back of my hand. I knew what to listen out for, where to hide, where to look… and where not to look.

My grandparents were Wood Elves who came from the Heathlands and fought in the great wars. When my mother died in childbirth, my father raised me by himself; we never had much, but it was a life. Altamar was a tough place back then; it was before you were born, you wouldn't have even heard the stories. After my father died, I'd have ended up dead if it hadn't been for Endervane. He wasn't Lord Porcelain like they call him now, just another gang leader. There were rumours about him, but I never saw that side. He'd fallen on tough times too, made worse because his own parents had been elves fighting in the war. He was outraged that the humans and half-orcs that ran the city didn't recognise the veterans that were still amongst them. I suspect he might have seen a little of himself in me.

I worked with Endervane's crew off-and-on for years, and I still owe him a debt that I can never truly repay. I sometimes acted as a messenger, or a source of information (and a good one, at that!). I'd happily slice a merchant's coin-purse to make sure a few of the young kids on the streets got some food in their stomachs.

As the decades rolled on it was clear that I needed to improve myself, make my fortune, maybe even do some good in the world. So one day I left the city and never looked back. I'd like to set up my own guild somewhere, but for now I've got a taste for adventure and the open air.

My grandfather died in the Sunder Mountains in the last days of the wars, somewhere near a place called Durga (not that I've found it on any map I've come across). They say there's treasure up in the mountains too, so I'll see what I can find along the way…"

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