A word broken, a world lost, a world in shadows…
A world who had forgotten the light, forgotten the joy, forgotten the sting…
Once, long ago, all was not forgotten and Light was not named Shadow…
Once, long ago, a soul hadn’t committed the gravest crime imaginable. He hadn’t given the world the greatest gift it had ever received. His efforts hadn’t been wasted.
It was a fateful night, not too long past. Ironically, in the so-called Treaty Lands a group of travelers found anything but peace. While a goblin presence had always been known in the region, it had hardly been a threat to the smaller towns, and certainly not the hordes and formations that the travelers discovered to march. Given the task of returning to the town to the east, Belle, are warn the villagers there of the dangers, the soon-to-be heroes began their quest.
A local guide showed them the way, telling the group that they were heading towards a “Tower Rock,” a massive, tall rock formation that could be seen for miles around. The group never saw it. Instead, they found a stream that cut across the path—which the guide said had never been there—and ruins—which the guide had never seen before.
Fleeing from a band of goblins that found then at the ruins, the group found shelter in a strange palace of sorts. Being joined by others, including a religious zealot named Ferth, and a mysterious woman in scarlet who went by Jopheila. Together they fought the shadowborn dangers of the strange and forbidding place, and found several references to a goddess none of them had so much as heard of.
Through the rooms an interesting tale began to unfold, one of both the thief and killer Black Shadow, and the Lord General White Shield, both figures of the long-lost and greatly forgotten Great Kingdom. The two epic figure’s conflict was played out before them, although in only in glimpses of history—and in those glimpses they saw Jophelia. Upon confrontation, the group discovered that Jophelia and White Shield were arch angels, and were survivors of the Great Kingdom.
Soon they were forced to choose. Shadow or White? Which was the hero, and which the villain? The group fractured, Jopheila and Ferth defending the lord general and the others placing their faith in a criminal.
The group then happened upon Black Shadow, speaking to his ghostly, unreal form. He was confused, disoriented, and slightly mad, making any conversation with him wanting at best. As the others talked, others decided to act.
When Ferth and Jopheila went to free White Shield from his Shadowfell imprisonment by drawing the sword that sealed the lock on White Shield’s soul, the group turned on one another. Blood was soon drawn, and Dark and Light fought. Ferth was cut into by the minotaur warrior Ghorrd, and Ferth burned away in shadows in that great room of imprisonment, and then then White Shield was soon to follow.
Victorious, the group tried to return Black Shadow’s sword to him, but the simple touch of the weapon caused Black Shadow to face a similar fate. Confused, and ready to leave the accursed castle, the group quickly made their way out. They, at long last, returned to the town of Belle.
Nex Terren: The band of travelers delivered the news, and then were welcomed by the villagers. Heavy rain plagued the town, forcing the group to stay within the bounds of civilization until it passed. In came some new faces, among them the warrior Vira from the Fran’Min empire, an escort on official business. The expected attack against the town came, the band of adventurers defended Belle, and became heroes for it. Eventually, after many days of solid rain, the group set back out.
Returning to their original trip to Springdale, the group happened upon Tower Rock this time, having seen it from far off. Of the castle, there was no trace. At this stone they were pulled into the Shadowfell, where they played witness to an argument between two peoples. The argument mentioned a man in white, and a woman in red moving across the shadowborn landscape. The two groups didn’t seem to notice the band of adventurers, despite their best efforts, until the very last when one of the two groups—the one that seemed more human—seemed to sense one of the adventurer’s presence, a cleric by the name of Cleo. While they could not see her, they began to joyously exclaim that “He has returned!” and they offered praise up to Cleo. The group was then pulled back to the mortal plane.
Continuing their journey, the group came upon some strange ruins centered around a weathered statue of White Shield. While surely hundreds of years old, they quite clearly referenced the small party, condemning their actions against White Shield. Here, Ghorrd made friends with a wild dog he named Dhreg. The dog had a minotaur collar around it that was quite ancient.
Nex Terren: The adventurers explored the ruins, and inside they found it to be a tomb covered in strange messages, one of which referenced a “Death of the Shadowfell,” another spoke of Vira. The group discovered the resting place of one Vedorin, so-named killer of thousands. Unable to pry open the coffin to uncover what they hoped to be treasure, they asked Vira to use her primal connection to open it. When Vira tried, open it she did. She was pulled inside and after a brief, but frightful battle inside the coffin.
When she emerged, her demeanor was changed. Although concerned, there was little the group could do, so they pressed onwards.
As they moved through the woods, they saw two figures—one cloaked in white, the other in red—watching them. They decided not to try to engage the figures, and the figures departed soon after this plan was reached. The group moved on, hoping that their long journey was nearing an end.
Such would not be the case quite yet. Instead of Springdale, the group found a fortress built to guard travelers on the way to Springdale. It would have been but a simple stop, if it hadn’t have been for a murder that had taken place the night before.
Details of the murder began to unfold, and the notorious trickster-criminal, Jack Pennybrooke, was quickly assumed to play a hand in the affairs. Besides the murder investigation, the group of adventurers learned some other information worthy of note. The white and red figures they had seen before were a pair of mysterious, and influential figures named by rumors as “the Lord and Lady.” Further, a fairly recent and elite city guard could be found within Sprindale, known as the Draco.
The group also happened across a band of slavers. The morality of this trade was fiercely debated, but in the end the group decided to let matters be. They did, however, attempt to free a strange looking slave, one that clearly wasn’t human. They were not successful in this, and left the slave to her masters.
While others attended to matters of life and death, Vira and Ghorrd saw to matters of spirits and curses. An old cleric and war veteran thought he could end the possession Vira had on her. Twice attempts were made to cleanse her. The first was a true failure, but the second pulled the spirit of Vendorin out, Vira having powerful flashbacks into the spirit’s mind, past, and soul.
The process of pulling forth the spirit from the host of flesh filled the entire church with magic, and drove the dog, Dhreg, in a great panic, running from the temple. Vira then spoke to the spirit at length, and while the spirit entertained her at great length, Vedorin left many questions and few answers. A battle with the spirit then followed, the adventurers emerging victorious—but not before the spirit addressed Vira as “sister.” The group, tired, rested for the night. As Vira rested, a woman watched the warrior, and proclaimed vengeance against her, calling her not Vira, but “Verina.”
A warlock joined the group, Kevian Firehide, who proved to be both reserved and insightful. He was approached by a woman in red, and after some short, yet confusing talk about threads of fate, asked only of Kevian that he join the group, and wait for her to come again. Kevian agreed to do so.
After this great battle, the group solved the murder, and discovered that Pennybrooke did play a hand in it, but not how they first expected. Of Dhreg, there was still no sign, and the party was forced to move on without their faithful canine companion.
Heading on, they found the slavers selling the female slave the party had taken an interest in, back at the fort. The man they were selling her to was dressed well, if unassuming, and had no apparent business in the region. With the group’s help, he freed the slave he bought, and asked if he could travel with the group. Cleo, recalling the man from her unnaturally clear dreams, encouraged the group to accept the man’s offer. The man seemed to lack any remembrance of Cleo, dreams or otherwise. When they discovered the man to be without a name, Cleo dubbed him “Gregory.”
And so the group set off, only to discover that the man Vira was to be protecting had gotten himself killed by goblins. The group battled the threat and won. They were joined by a Fran’Miri man named David, who offered his combat experience to the group (even though he couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn), as well as a guard by the name of Ekoor. With these two new companions, they continued forward, finally at the city’s gates.
Here, they were met by a search party of the city guard. Most complied with the search, but David tried to sneak past his weapons. When he was pounced on by the guard, another sect of the guard came up, and waved him through. They appeared to be commanded by a man with a dragon tattoo across his face.
In order to gain passage into the city (or, more specifically the Gateway Ward), the group agreed to sign on as paid swords of ward masters (the agreement arranged for them by Ekoor). They traveled into the ward, finding a few of the city’s ward masters and the mayor Henry Markieen giving a speech. The mayor’s words were honest, simple, and were met with great applause by the listening citizens. The speech was then interrupted by an assassin, who was quickly ended by the man known as the Lord. The Lady, without a word, escorted the mayor to safety, but left the ward masters to fend for themselves.
Joined by a minotaur who was already a paid sword, they escorted the ward masters to safety, battling a number of men of the shadows to reach a robust Draco escort. They were paid for their troubles.
It has been one week since these events, the group trying to hunt down any clues of the killers that they can. Along these lines they have found little. Rumor has it that the killers were paid mercenaries of the goblins, set to kill the ward masters to instill chaos and destruction.
The group has yet to secure passes to any of the city’s other wards, thanks due to the ward masters employing them thinking such being both unnecessary, and wasteful. Direct contact with the ward masters is extremely limited, but it has been made clear that if they wish to remain in the city they need to find clues about these attacks.
Through Ekoor, the city guard has been as much help as they are able, but they have little to tell you. The Draco, on the other hand, have been reclusive and reluctant to spend any time or effort on you.
You have been given semi-permanent rooms in Wellburn’s Inn; room, meals, and even a portion of ale being provided at the city’s expense.
The slave girl, Airahzhol, has remained a mystery both in her origins, and her nature. She typically refuses to come into the tavern proper (when she does, she hides in the corner, eyeing everyone with mixed fear and suspicion). Even when brought up the inn’s back stairs, she will not sleep on anything but the floor. She seems to have little respect for privacy, but has attempted to be as helpful as she can imagine, including making (as best as you can tell) snarky comments to bring a smile to your faces.
Ekoor is often gone on city business, but shows up at the inn bright and early every morning to see if you have need of him. You’ve discovered that he is accepted as a senior guardsman; although lacking formal rank he does have some pull and push within the City Watch, and is quite willing to use his connections whenever it might benefit you.
Gregory remains a mystery. He still can’t remember his name, and has offered nothing about his past. Cleo’s efforts to heal his mind have ended in failures, frustrating the cleric. He seems highly intelligent, and has considerable understanding on a range of subjects including history, politics, organized crime, other races, magic, religion, and bladework. He often seems lost, distracted, and a bit sad. Every night he quietly slips out of the inn. To those who might have followed him, you found him simply wandering the streets, aimlessly.
You have gained some fame in the Gateway Ward, although you are a far cry from legends. Some know your name, some know your faces, although with a degree of caution you should be able to go without notice.
You wake up, bright and early just as the sun as began to kiss the ward’s rooftops. You have few leads, but even from the second floor where you’re staying you heard more than the normal noise down bellow in the tavern. Perhaps you’ll have more luck today?
Clues and a Contract
The group started the day at Wellburn’s inn, having just escorted the wards to safety a few nights before. Their work continued as they searched for any information about the killers. They split up and, after breakfast, gave various small talk throughout the tavern/inn. Among the people they talked to was a strange jester, a woman selling rituals, a weapon trainer, and several mysterious men. Among these mysterious men was a hooded person who offered Kevian a deal:
“If I understand correctly you have… other worldly connections, ones that… shall we say… upset the balance? I’m interested in seeing that the balance is upset in the favor of my employer.”
“I offer you three things. First, I offer you resources. Comply, and keep to the gravest of secrecy, and I can promise you a Lord’s ransom.”
“Second, I can offer you an understanding of who you are. Comply, and keep to the gravest of secrecy, and I will provide you with this, given time.”
“Third, if you are willing Kevian, I offer your salvation; a way to turn your curse to a blessing. A way to lock it away when you want, and cast it into the Great Sea if you so desire.”
The man draws a scroll from his cloak, and unrolls it before him. The ink is silver, and casts a pale light. “Simply worded, no loopholes, and even the option to revoke the agreement at your choosing. You promise to carry out any orders I, or other agents of my employer give you, and keep the utmost secrecy about it, as though your life and soul depended upon it—for at least your soul does. As you complete tasks, you will be paid in coin, gems, or other valuables. At the end of your services, not to exceed one year, my employer will make good on the last promise. If he does not, this magic contract is bound to both his and my own life, killing us then and there; that is how you can trust that we’ll stay to our word. As for you, if you disobey a single order, or attempt to make any mention, or give any hint about what we ask you to keep hidden… well, you are not bound by death. You will forget myself, this contract, and any secrets you know on the instant, and our contract will be considered void. You may keep the gold, but otherwise it’ll be as if it didn’t happen. You must keep to the terms of the contract until my employer has exhausted use of your services, and then you must keep to secrecy one lunar year afterwards. After this point, you hold no need for loyalty towards us.” After this long-winded explanation, he smiles, drawing out a golden quill, already dipped in silver ink. “We are bound by death, and you only by forgetting. You’re able to leave whenever you choose, so what do you have to lose?”
After some consideration, Kevian agreed to the deal and signed his name on the contract.
Ghorrd and Vira also had a conversation with Gregory, separately, and this is what they learned:
“Who would want them dead? I’m certain the ward masters have enemies, but what of the Mayor? The Town Council is the only one he butts heads with, and I doubt they’d hire assassins to kill themselves as well. I suppose there’s the ”/campaign/madisya/wikis/red-hounds" class=“wiki-page-link”>Red Hounds and Pennybrooke’s Men, but I didn’t think either had the manpower—or training—to pull off what they did."
(after being asked who the Red Hounds are)
“A vile band of thieves, murders, cutthroats, mercenaries, and slavers who operate within the law as far as the law can see, and outside of it where the law is blind. They’re lead by a man named simply ‘Black,’ who doesn’t show his face to even his top men—or so rumor has it; nobody’s quite certain who his top command is that I’ve spoke to.”
After learning these things, Ghorrd and Vira had a brief conversation with Ekor. He told them that he had met an assassin woman by chance who possibly knew something about the Shadowfell. After a brief argument about whether or not this was a wise venture to follow through with, they eventually agreed.
The group gathered outside to learn any information about the Red Hounds. After speaking with several merchants, they eventually made their way to a mob’s hideout for clues. Rubetta managed to win the boss’s charms, and he divulged where they could find an informant. He pointed to an underground tunnel route. The group accepted this arrangement and proceeded through the passageways. Along the way, Vira grabbed a strange leather bag that seemed to be abandoned.
Once they reached the informant, it was clear someone had sought answers first. An unknown woman was interrogating him. Before they could ask anything further, an angry mob could be heard from the other side of the door. In a panic, the group moved swiftly away from the area.
They remembered a rope that looked to be hanging from the outside world. All managed to climb to safety, including the woman, except for Gregory. The group shouted for him and tried to throw the rope towards him once more, but to no avail. With his insistence, the group blocked the hole that led them outside.
Curious, Vira opened the bag she had previously found. Among the dagger, papers, ink, and a quill, there was also a letter from Black. Unfortunately, the letter concealed its contents with riddles and encryption. The group decided to look it over later; instead they walked back to the inn. After looking it over for several minutes and unable to solve it just yet, the group broke up to take a break.
It was then that a man appeared in the street—Gregory. He was alive but badly injured. Everyone helped rush him inside to rest and receive basic treatment. Amongst all this, the unknown woman (named Wanderer) observed that it was probably best to switch inns, for they were being watched…
After treating Gregory for his injuries, the group rested to think over the puzzle. Cleo and Erendar rejoined the party during this time. While they were discussing various matters, a knock came to the door of the inn’s room. A servant girl of the tavern entered, bearing two messages…
The first message was instructions to visit a man at the back of the inn for a potential job.
The second was an invitation to a masquerade ball, courtesy of the Herramies Estate.
The group gave mixed reactions about the invitation. Apparently they had become just famous enough in the city to warrant the invitation. While they thought this over, Vira, Ghorrd, and Rubetta followed the servant girl to the back of the tavern to be introduced to the man with a potential job. The man (named Joe Hauln) had this to say:
“I have in mind the single greatest hit I’ve found since I started my wandering days. Enough Archeological finds to put an eladrin historian in a coma, gold enough to please me and ten other men for years to come, and… well… there’s adventure too.” He looks away, and then back to Vira. “I’m going to give it to your straight, because if there’s one thing I’ve found out in my travels—or,” he smirks, “What good ol’ mama taught me—is that honesty is always the best way.” He chuckles softly, gathering his thoughts.
“Well, okay, I’m not going to sugar coat it: It’s dangerous. Quite dangerous. First time me and my men went in there three of them died, and between all the blood and screaming we didn’t see what was killing us until we were running out of there.” He throws up his hands, and grimaces deeply. "I hate to say this, but I’m just not cut out for the job. I can be handy with my crossbow—but not handy enough. And all the merchant guards I can find just don’t cut it alone.” He smiles, and points. “You guys, however, are something else. Something short of heroes if I understand right. Any one of you could take two of me on, and come out swingin’. That’s why I wanted to talk to you.”
Vira (as the three were quite dubious of the whole endeavor) proposed that they give their answer first thing the next morning after talking the proposal over with the others. He agreed, and they parted ways.
Ghorrd, Vira, and Rubetta then went back to the rest and relayed the message. While everyone thought about this, the invitation, and the puzzle…someone let poisonous gas into the small room while blocking the door! As party members began to pass out one by one, the fighters with more endurance tried desperately to break down the door. While this was happening, Kevian was left on the other side—the only person in the party who was not in the room at the time. He tried to move the dresser propped against the door, but he was not strong enough. He then tried to set it on fire with his abilities and hoped that his fire resistance would be enough to move it out of the way. While the door was then opened, the dresser caught fire to the walls. The tavern burned to the ground just after mostly everyone escaped.
After several minutes of general confusion, Rubetta realized suddenly that her childhood friend, Furie, was still inside (she had been deathly sick for several weeks). She scrambled inside the ruins to find her friend, but no hope remained that she might still be alive.
The group also realized that no one had thought to have taken Black’s papers. The riddle was now forever gone.
Meanwhile, Erendar spotted a very suspicious man amongst the confusion. After shouting at him to stay, the man started to run. Erendar gave chase. He eventually performed a jump still and, from a great distance, landed on the man’s back.
Unfortunately, Erendar did not know that he landed right in the middle the Red Hounds’ nest. Assassins and archers greeted him, observing that he was standing on one of their men. No one knew which way he went, and so Erendar made a desperate attempt to strike against as many of them as he could, and then flee.
But the archers were swift. When the group finally found Erendar, he was riddled with arrows…dying. He managed to convey to the group that the strange man was, in fact, part of the Red Hounds. And then he died.