The Lastlight Chronicles

Session 1: A ranger's request
Bloodshed at Burgen's Farm

The last day of summer traditionally begins the three days of celebration called the Feast of Nisk. In the town of Lastlight, largest of the mountain-villages of Sunder, the day coincides with the Lighting of the Beacon, marking 300 years since the ending of the centuries-long war against the evils that once dwelled in the mountains. All of Lastlight’s 2,000-odd residents have come out for the festival, along with many of the farmers and miners from nearby homesteads and hamlets. The key activities are conducted by Lady Threnody Rook, who has been Lastlight’s appointed leader for many years.
 
With many of the local rangers occupied by the festivities, Gillam Sucain, grizzled Halfling ranger captain and right-hand man of Lady Rook, charges a junior ranger and his drinking companion – Carnacki the tiefling and Taerus the elf – with investigating a potentially suspicious fire at a farm some miles from town.
 
Carnacki and Taerus travel through the night, across the valley that lies west of Lastlight and up a nearby mountain peak. This mountain, like many in the region of Sunder, is marked by the wars that were fought here, with parts of the mountainside looking as if it’s been cleanly sliced by a massive blade. The mighty cliffs and gullies formed by this effect are known as the Shear.
 
Carnacki and Taerus’ destination is a small farm close to the edge of a Sheared cliff, run by a dwarf named Burgen Hearthhold. The farm appears abandoned and beyond an upturned wagon, the duo find no sign of Burgen himself. Carnacki and Taerus find and slay a number of goblins, before having a standoff in the ruins of an old tower with a fearsome, ape-like goblinoid creature called a bugbear. To save his companion from certain death, Carnacki bribes the foe to retreat. The bugbear mentions two phrases that are unknown to the duo – ‘raven king’ and ‘lantern’s flame’ – before departing.

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Downtime: the first weeks of Autumn
Carnacki picks fights | Taerus recovers

In the weeks between adventures…. 


A few days of gainful employment guarding caravans earns Carnacki a measly 15 gold, so he sets his sights on bigger meal tickets.  
Turning to a life of crime, Carnacki plunders a poorly guarded caravan owned by a prosperous local dwarven merchant named Gerth Camble. He gets 100 gold for his troubles but then finds that Gerth has strong ties to local crime boss from downhill Lastlight, Duncan 'the Boar' Boarshelm. Carnacki decides not to push his luck there, so looks elsewhere to get his kicks. 
Two weeks of pitfighting sees Carnacki win 150 gold and the enmity of a local elven fighter named Kenric. He performs well enough to be approached by a noble of Lastlight named Draeg Walshlin, who is looking at building a 'stable' of fighters. The Tiefling is non-committal, as he wishes to know more about Walshlin first.

Taerus, meanwhile, is recovering from his nearly fatal wounds. He spends a fortnight healing up in the Unicorn and Serpent. Captain Gillam has given him 20 gold for his troubles, some of which he puts toward his accommodation. When he heals up he moves to The Cauldron in downhill, which is a little cheaper. There, he is approached by Naraelin, a highly strung wood elf herbalist who's seen an opening in the lucrative apothecary business. Taerus spends the next fortnight moving Naraelin's delicate wares from workshops in Lastlight to Ombrey, from where they're sent onto Altamar. Naraelin does this in secret as he doesn't want to attract the attention of the standover men that control large portions of Lastlight's trade – he has previously been shaken down by an elven mercenary named Kenric, who Taerus thinks works for 'The Boar'. Thankfully, Taerus doesn't encounter any issues and earns 30 gold for his troubles, no strings attached.

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Session 2: The bugbear's den
A hard-won victory

Six days out from Lastlight, the adventurers were hot on the trail of the bugbear and goblins that have been wreaking havoc across the farms and trade routes of Sunder. Following clues from raided merchant caravans travelling on the road between Lastlight and the southern towns of Vandalin and Foolshelm, the adventurers push on, deeper into the wilderness. On an isolated track, little more than a goat-path, they find the mutilated bodies of two ponies – their riders missing, and possessions gone.

 

The trail leads them to an isolated valley well off the main road. A town used to be here, centuries ago – now it’s buried under landslides, moss and mighty trees, with little more than a seemingly-abandoned church to mark where it once stood. Having noticed some lights in the valley in the early morning, they search the forest and discover a young girl named Aadara. She is small and human-like, but not of a race that anyone has encountered before. She tells stories of the Raven King – a terrifying foe who is conquering the lands far to the south – and provides some limited assistance in identifying where the bugbear and goblins keep their lair. Her wariness around Taerus indicates that the Raven King may be an elf. Scouting the area, Erol notices dust rising from the north – perhaps riders, a short distance away. Otherwise, the area appears deserted.

 

Entering the cave where the monstrous raiders lurk, the adventurers quickly dispatch sentries and delve into the darkness. A guard positioned ahead escapes and sets off a trap that injures two of the party, but the group scrabble their way up a steep side-tunnel. There, they find a dwarf held captive by a band of goblins. Rastus uses his Burning Hands to obliterate the band. A mixture of intimidation and negotiation is used against the surviving goblin, failing which a flurry of arrows does the trick. Taerus rescues and revives the dwarf, and discovers her name to be Gwendalyn Hearthhold. She is niece to Burgen Hearthhold, the farmer/potion master killed by the bugbear a month ago. Gwendalyn was captured along with her brother, Gundren Hearthhold; she says something in passing of a map that Gundren held, but little more is mentioned at this time.

 

Some fine bowmanship by the rangers eliminate more threats – the returning sentry is dispatched, as are others who come to investigate the noises. The final battle is held in a dark cavern that acts as the bugbear’s lair and treasure chamber. The bugbear’s wolf attacks and nearly kills Gwendalyn. Sensing weakness, the bugbear emerges from the shadows and, swinging its massive spiked club, nearly kills Carnacki. The tiefling holds it off while Taerus circles around and backstabs the foul creature. Enraged, the bugbear knocks the elf to the ground before circling back on the other foes. As Rastus dispatches the last of the goblins with his quarterstaff and prepares to charge into the fray, Erol and Carnacki launch themselves at the bugbear and dispatch their massive foe.

 

After reviving wounded comrades with some homebrew healing potions, the adventurers search the den and discover a large stack of coins – many of them, Heathlander copper. These coins come from a lawless neighbouring kingdom to the lands of Sunder. There are no further clues of how the goblins and bugbear came to have them, however. Beyond the coins, they find a small statue and several crates marked with the sigil of the Goodbrace Trading Company, which operates in Sunder. There is no trace of Gwendalyn’s brother, Gundren or this mysterious map.

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The Road to Vandalin

The group decide that they’re best placed to go to Vandalin. It’s two days’ south from their current location, and that’s where Gwendalyn and Gundren had been headed.

As they recuperate along the way, Gwendalyn explains more about what she and her brother were doing in the area. Some months ago, Gundren had been bequeathed a map by his uncle, Burgen. The map was old and torn, yet nearly complete in its description of a long-lost mine buried in the mountains of Sunder. This mine had been founded and run by the Hearthhold dwarves and a clan of gnomes nearly 800 years ago and was said to contain a vault filled with powerful magical treasures. But, the mine was overrun in the Great War many hundreds of years ago, and its location and contents are now unknown. Gwendalyn’s uncle, Burgen, believed that he was being pursued by dark forces for this map, hence why he gave it to Gundren in secret for safekeeping. Burgen was never specific about the dark forces in question, but he did refer to the ‘Black Veil’ on one occasion.

Gwendalyn readily admits that she and her brother were excited to have the map, and may have been too bold in talking about it. Her brother belonged to an organisation called the Forge, a semi-secret alliance of adventurers that scour the lands for ancient artefacts that they can use against oncoming threats. As can be imagined, a map to a hidden vault of long-buried treasure seemed too good to be true. Gundren and Gwendalyn had travelled to Foolshelm and brokered a meeting with two brothers – Futhir and Thrannir – who were descendants of the gnomes that had established the mine, and may be able to fill in some gaps. In Foolshelm, Gundren also met with a former Forge agent named Elliyas, who had retired in Vandalin a few months beforehand and could organise a secure meeting place for them there. That meeting was due to fall on the day the adventurers discovered Gwendalyn in the cave.

So, what’s happened to Gundren and his map? Why was Burgen killed – was it the map, or something else? Who was Aadara, and where had she come from? What’s this business about the Raven King, and why did the bugbear talk about “Lantern’s Flame” at Burgen’s Farm? Who was paying the bugbear to kill, capture and raid the lands of Sunder, and why was so much of the coin from The Heathlands? Where’s the mine, and what mysteries does it contain? Where are Futhir and Thrannir? What does Elliyas know? 

The answers to some of these questions will be found, it seems, in Vandalin…

 
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Session 3: Secrets of the Manor
Redcloaks defeated

The party of adventurers joins the main road a few miles north of Vandalin, arriving at the old town walls in the late afternoon. It’s a small little place; the town used to be much larger, but was ruined centuries ago. It’s only been re-established a few decades ago as the trade routes grew more stable and prosperous, with Vandalin’s locals relying on merchant caravans, miners and adventurers for income.

Built on a small hill, the village is surrounded by the ruins of the original, much larger settlement. The town walls are so ramshackle to be almost non-existent, and there are no guards at the gate. The party also notices what appears to be a shantytown of tents and makeshift huts, about half a mile south of the village.

Erol enters town first, spending time at an inn named Stonehill’s. He listens in on a few conversations between locals, and chats with an elderly man. Key elements discussed include:

  • People have been going missing – ‘Rosie’ hasn’t turned up to work
  • There is a group in town named the Redcloaks 
  • There’s a church under construction in town that appears over-sized for a village as small as Vandalin
  • “Strange things” are happening up at The Mire (several days north, closer to Lastlight than Vandalin)
  • There are goblins at Redpeak, which is about two days south-east of Vandalin
  • The old man says that there are “stormclouds over Thunderfell like I’ve never seen, and the Dezinry are on the move”.

Erol returns to the group a couple of hours after nightfall. Uncertain on how elves will be received in this backwater, Taerus disguises himself as a human for the duration of his stay. Gwendalyn leaves the group in search of her brother. She’s frustrated by the lack of leads; her brother Gundren is missing, she’s been delayed two days from a meeting with two potentially untrustworthy gnomes, and the only contact she has in town is a man named Elliyas, who she hasn’t met before. Someone needs to pay for what’s happened!

The four adventurers enter town under cover of darkness and settles in a tavern named The Goblin’s Head. They strike up conversation with the owner, a human named Durnin Highhill, as well as a fellow group of adventurers named the Six Swords Society. Key elements discussed include: 

  • There have been orcs and gnolls seen up near Widowsreach and “Daril is paying for scalps”
  • The church is so big due to legends about Marianus (a god of the Triumvirate, the pantheon of this region) having manifested at this site hundreds of years ago. The church is still under construction, and is only half-built.
  • Altamar used to have a garrison here, of about six soldiers, but they all either walked out or disappeared around four months ago.
  • Two gnome brothers named Futhir and Thrannir were in The Goblin’s Head couple of weeks ago, talking excitedly about a map and a mine “buried high up in the western mountains.” They were last seen leaving town with a lot of canvas. They come from the east of Vandalin, a day or two away.
  • The Six Swords Society have only been in town for a couple of days. They’re not aware of the map, but are instead off to “the lake” because they have “the proper equipment”. (The Society is seen leaving town at dawn, heading north with what appears to be a diving bell.) 

 

The next morning, the group visits Stonehill’s for breakfast. According to Tobias Stonehill,

  • “The town’s been different lately. You’ve got to watch yourself more. Worzel’s son got in a fight with one yesterday, they beat him up and dragged him off. Hasn’t been seen since. Then Rosie doesn’t turn up to work. Something’s up.”
  • “The Redcloaks are a group of bandits who’ve been here for a few months, who base themselves out of a tavern named The Sleeping Giant, near the old Manor.”

And, according to the barmaid, 

  •  “I was talking to Rosie the other day, and she said that her boy had seen Little Mucky – that’s Carl Muckel – down by the Manor. And he’d seen or heard something that made him go chalk-white.”
  • The Muckel Farm pigs have been well fed lately. Carnacki and some of the others believe this means someone is feeding people to the pigs.

 

After breakfast, the group visits The Sleeping Giant, and Taerus successfully disarms and binds one of the Redcloaks while he sleeps. Talking to the owner,

  • The Redcloaks split their time between The Sleeping Giant and the Manor. They intimidate local businesses and don’t pick up their tabs.
  • There’s about a dozen Redcloaks across the countryside.

After an unsuccessful attempt to deceive the three other Redcloaks, a savage street-fight breaks out. The party is badly wounded in the fight, as the Redcloaks seem almost fanatical, muttering phrases like “blessed with wings I cannot fall” and “blood as cold as acid, breath as hot as flame, eternity for vengeance, all lives as mine I claim.”

After the fight, the group meet Daril Wester, the local grocer turned townmaster, and Talia Thornton, who runs the nearby Miner’s Exchange and helps them stow the bodies. When asked by Talia, the party identify themselves as the Six Swords Society. 

The remaining Redcloak is taken into the Townmaster’s residence and interrogated, with new information being that the Redcloaks use the basements of the manor as their base, and they’re led by ‘Boss Blackstaff’. The party set up camp in the abandoned Altamarian garrison and lock up their prisoner. They meet Daril’s son, as well as Carl Muckel. Some coins change hands, and Carl agrees to show them a secret entrance to the ruined manor. He saw some Redcloaks use it two days ago, holding a sack that may have held a small person. 

Using the tunnel, the adventurers find themselves in a cavern under the manor’s foundations. There’s a horrendous smell of decaying flesh rising from a small chasm in the cavern floor, but the party take a side passage. Erol listens at a door and hears the sound of groans and a goblin’s voice saying “stay back” and “don’t touch me”. The party try the second door, where they break up a group of gambling Redcloaks. Rastus uses his Burning Hands once again, but the bandits are more resilient than the goblins he’d faced a couple of days before. One of the bandits flees to another room yelling “Boss!,” while another protects the door until slain by Carnacki. Having warned his boss, the fleeing bandit escapes the party but stumbles in the dark, falling into the chasm and being consumed by the two needle-toothed ghouls who live there.

Lead by Taerus, the party searches the boss’ chambers and discover he must have been a wizard of some description. While Rastus stuffs his backpack with scrolls, Taerus finds a mysterious letter, some jewels and coins, and a secret door. It appears that the leader of the Redcloaks has fled. A search through adjoining rooms – which include an armoury and old crypt – contain no sign of the fleeing boss. They do find Rosie and her son in a holding cell, as well as a couple of zombies under lock and key. The cell holding the prisoners is successfully lock-picked and the adventurers return to the newly-liberated town, keen to rest up and have a lunch.

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A well-earned rest
The letter is deciphered

The adventurers intend to spend the afternoon at the garrison, but word of their deeds spreads fast in a small town like Vandalin. Once reassured that Boss Blackstaff has fled and the Redcloaks are much diminished in number, Daril the Townmaster organises an impromptu celebratory feast in the town common. The best pork is brought in from Muckel’s farm, and Tobias Stonehill provides the ale. The party reunite with Gwendalyn, who had spent the night sleeping rough. She’s asked around but found no sign of her brother or Elliyas. The timeline that she’s managed to confirm is as follows:

  • The Altamar garrison disappeared five months ago. Many locals think they walked out. The townmaster apparently sent a message to Altamar to find out what happened, but never got a response.
  • There was a portly man who visited Vandalin around four months ago who asked some questions about a mine. He hasn’t been seen since.
  • The Redcloaks started to arrive in numbers three or four months ago. They seemed different from normal brigands, and more driven or purposeful.
  • About a month ago, people starting going missing in Vandalin. This started at one or two a week, but has stepped up over recent nights.
  • Three weeks ago, a group of humans (?) arrived from lands to the south. They don’t enter Vandalin, but have set up a makeshift camp outside of town.
  • Two weeks ago was the last sighting of the two gnomes, Futhir and Thrannir.
  • There are some other gnomes who live up in the hills to the east, around two days’ hike. People don’t think kindly of gnomes around here, due to some ancient grudge.
  • There are goblins to the south-east. In the absence of any further leads, she suspects that Gundren might have been taken by them, so she’ll be back on the road tomorrow to scout for their base.

 

In addition, Taerus passes around the letter he found in Boss Blackstaff’s quarters. No one can read the strange runes on it except for Carnacki, who advises that the language is called Draconic – an ancient script used by the forces of darkness long ago, and now rarely seen. The letter reads as follows:

“E., 

You prove yourself incompetent with this latest development. You should never have trusted the goblins with a task such as this.

Find me the dwarf, and his map. Raise an army, if you have to. I have not searched this long to be denied my prize.

Lest this distract you from my earlier request, do not forget I need more bodies to continue the exploration. I expect a steady stream of villagers, or else I will use your precious Redcloaks.

Dishonour the Drakoyiska again, or fail to provide me with what is mine, and I will come for you.

Blackvale.”

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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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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: 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: 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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