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Thread: Adventurers in the Unquiet Lands

  1. #11
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    Default Adventure Synopsis (Acqua Alta, part four of five)

    Part Four - Tempest Bringer

    On the highest terrace, the assembled elves and eladrin could only stare down in confusion and bemusement at the chaos below. A third arrow finally brought Ariellana down, but a moment later, Yrisz's healing magic washed over her, pulling her back from the edge of death. Only the archer on the staircase leading from the tower could devote his attention to Ariellana; the other guards were busily engaging with Menash Oom's armored warriors.

    The troll lurched into motion, joining them. It drew a gigantic sword and lay about Menash Oom's contingent with the flat of its blade. One of the warriors rushed past, heedless of, but not quite dodging, the troll's weapon. It ran off the terrace and landed on its feet next to Ariellana.

    Menash Oom's warriors were armed with large, curved blades of a type known as ensifals in Aucothia. Drawing a second one, it slashed Ariellana with both of them before she could even return to her feet. It raised the ensifals up again, but Ariellana vanished, quite literally, reappearing elsewhere in the same instant.

    The wilden ostiary grunted as he blocked Dolan's blow and then darted past him, pivoting around and leaping over the sludge separating Rogur and Dolan from the rest of the party. He took a glancing blow from Yrisz, but otherwise landed intact next to Zephyr. However, he chose to engage in combat with Ariellana's attacker instead. The initial effort was futile, though; his club smashed into the metal armor without apparent effect on whatever manner of being was inside it.

    The woman with the chalk-white mask had walked next to Menash Oom through the melee with no one noticing or caring, but now her scythe gleamed blue and violet where the warrior's breast plate met his helmet. She leaned next to him and said something in a low voice. With Menash Oom in his typical statue-still posture, it was impossible to say how or even whether he was reacting to this threat until he replied.

    "You wield Soul Drinker? I have heard of that weapon, but Madam, if that is so, then you are singularly unequipped to oppose me or my host." Any further words they exchanged were lost in the sound of Rogur's attack. Although his first sling bullet flew wide of its intended target, the second one he hurled actually exploded in the midst of the Territory Lord and her two bodyguards. She was sent flying off the stairs, but her body refused to gain downward speed and floated gently towards the pool, below.

    "Black Winged Sign: Murdered by Storm Crows!" she shouted even as she was falling. A dark cloud swirled out of her orb and hovered over her head. Smaller clouds shot out of it, each taking the form of evil-looking, black birds that flew in a swarm toward Ariellana. Without concern for their own safety, the birds dove at her, and when they missed, turned back into clouds that glided back to their mistress.

    The masked woman let Menash Oom go in order to attack his advancing warriors, but her slashes appeared to ineffectually pass through them and seemed to be ignored. Changing tactics, she struck at the air overhead with her scythe, and black chains shot forth from the point her blade passed through. They wrapped themselves around Ariellana's assailant, and the armor that warrior wore began to crack as it was constricted by them. She then walked to the edge of the terrace, but this time her pace was interrupted by the rest of Menash's warriors, who were no longer ignoring her. One of them landed a blow with its ensifal, causing her to stumble for a moment, but her pace didn't falter.

    "So that's your answer?" Menash Oom's voice boomed.

    The woman didn't reply but the large goblin from the back ranks spoke up, "That simply won't do. My Lord Menash Oom, no one should stand between you and your honorable service. The denizens of the Middle Deep treat us like dross. It is time to rein in their impudence!"

    Leaving the situation in Beilston far behind, the travelers arrived in the fey demesne of Tanisaornkuld. Constantly challenged by hostile denizens, they eventually gained entrance to and made their way through the Unseelie fortress at the edge of the valley. There, they discovered an assemblage of visitors from many surrounding lands, arrived to observe the Territory Lord of Tanisaornkuld demonstrate her might through the execution of Twilight's Tryst. One of them, Menash Oom, a being of smoke, flame, metal, and stone from the Land of Chaos, revealed his ambition to wrest control of Tanisaornkuld for himself and provided the party with the opportunity they were seeking to unseat the current ruler.

    Using Menash Oom's advice and gaining influence with the neutral factions they were able to identify, the party entered the Gnomon Plaza at the heart of the fortress as guests rather than intruders, fully armed and armored as per the customs of the mutually-suspicious and restriction-loathing Unseelies. There, in the most random and multi-sided battle fought in the campaign so far, they challenged Tanisaornkuld's mistress, fought her, and finally maneuvered her into a position where she was forced to giving up her status as Territory Lord, with Menash Oom taking her place. During their time in Tanisaornkuld, the party didn't find any evidence Polon had ever visited the place; only Erszebet had treated with the former Territory Lord.

    Menash Oom appointed Ariellana as his adjutant, as he required someone with native blood to wear the Ring of the Territory Lord. Dolan and Karu chose to stay behind to assist and advise her and so those three characters left the party. Noxias joined the party at this point. Part of one of the observing delegations, he was found near death, almost the victim of the murderer of another member of his delegation. The leader of his band chose to exile him, either to protect him from being hunted down by the still-unidentified killer or to solidify her position at his expense depending on whose opinion was put forward.

    As the party has yet to return to Faerie, none of the NPCs introduced in this part of the adventure have made a repeat appearance. Since many of them came from widely-dispersed lands, it's not beyond the realm of possibility that one or two of them may be near wherever in Faerie the party next winds up. Noxias is of course gunning for a return match with Elpy Runegate, who sent him into exile.
    Last edited by Umiushi; 08-17-2016 at 10:08 PM.

  2. #12
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    Default Adventure Synopsis (Acqua Alta, part five of five)

    Part Five - Acqua Alta Finale

    "Bloody hells!" shouted Rogur as Yrisz slumped forward in her craft. Konstanz dove after her, attempting to stabilize the girl, but her efforts were hampered by the rocking of the boats and a continual rain of arrows and bolts from the defending thugs. Rogur heard a grunt from behind him and turned to see Noxias, his body sprouting feathered quills, fall to the floor of their own boat. And we're supposed to be a rescue party?

    Rogur inexpertly guided his coracle alongside his companions' raft and fumbled in his pack, his shoulders tense, expecting to feel the sting of arrows at any second. Finding a hard vial, he pulled it from the pack triumphantly and called to the tiefling, "Konstanz!" He showed her the healing potion and then tossed it gently to her. Reaching into the pack again, he retrieved a length of rope and set about lashing the two vessels together so he could tow the party to safety.

    Despite spending most of a day in Faerie, when the party returned, only a fraction of that time had passed. However, they still returned just moments too late to prevent the kidnapping of Lywthast by a group led by Roszroon and Roti. Even though the storm had passed, the streets of Beilston Mound were now completely flooded with standing water, so the kidnappers had arrived and subsequently made their escape on rafts. Many households stored small coracles against the Acqua Alta, which occurred to a greater or lesser degree every other year or so, and the Scriptorium was not an exception. Drawing from his experience as a sailor, Rogur hastily readied the craft, along with a raft captured from the opposition, and set off in hot pursuit with his companions.

    Unable to catch up before the gang members reached one of their hideouts in the shanty town around the ruins of the Church of Saint Avandra, the pursuit descended into a nightmarish skirmish in the tottering assemblage of half-floating wreckage, involving multiple captures, betrayals, and improvised traps. Within the complex, Zephyr, who himself had been taken prisoner, discovered that Polon was his fellow captive; the apprentice had been kidnapped a few feet outside the Scriptorium when he had set forth, not to go to Tanisaornkuld, but to alert the Hospitalers of the Imperial Cult as to what Erszebet was planning.

    When it began to look like both sides were risking a mutual slaughter, the real negotiations began in earnest. At last, the party agreed to ransom back Polon and reached an agreement to bury the hatchet between the Matchless Gang and the Garden of Preparation, whom the Matchless Gang had virtually wiped out anyway. Even so, with this action, peace came again to Beilston and Polon was reunited with his parents during Iniusy's final days.

    New characters joined the party to replace those who stayed behind in Faerie. Among them was Konstansz, an officer of the Constellation Bureau known as a rebus logothete, whose investigations into odd dealings between the local Iounic Monastery, the Imperial Cult, and the Garden of Preparation's patron temple, the Temple of Lightning's Spear had inadvertently caused her to run afoul of the Matchless Gang when she paid a visit to the Scriptorium during Lywthast's kidnapping.

    Roszroon and Roti met their ends during the same kidnapping. Polon finally made his first physical appearance in the story shortly after. A number of other Matchless Gang operatives had a return engagement with the party. The most effective among them was the phlegmatic Trade Ministry official from the beginning of the adventure, who engineered some of the worst setbacks for the party with scarcely any effort. She walked away from that engagement better off than when she entered it, but most of her comrades didn't fare nearly so well.

  3. #13
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    Default Campaign Intermission (A Funeral)

    Intermission - A Funeral

    Noxias sat down tentatively with his comrades-in-arms, a drink in his hand. He seemed somewhat shy. With several false starts and a large gulp at his cup he finally blurted out to the group, "For a bunch of people from a mundane land you all can hold your own." He sighed, mentally cringing at how that came out. "What I meant to say was thank you for keeping me alive," he glanced toward Yrisz; "and for blunting the tip of many a spear aimed at my person." He inclined his head toward Zephyr and Rogur.

    "Over the last week or so I've marveled at how much you have done for Duvek and his family and this land, but I don't quite understand why. If it is money, that is easy to grasp, but if it is for love, then I am at a disadvantage, for that is something that does not come easily. There is no love lost between me and my fellows back in the courts of the Unseelie. But that land is my home, and I was comfortable after a fashion. At least I had some coin." He fumbled subconsciously with his empty purse.

    "When they threw me to your mercy you were but babes-in-arms, but you have grown." He paused, clearly exasperated by something. "Uhh, this is coming out all wrong. I will have to return some day, I want to return, but I am not strong enough," they had to strain their ears to hear the last few words over the sound of the wake as he trailed off.

    Iniusy, who lingered a few more days after Polon's return, finally died around Midsummer. After her wake, Duvek left Beilston to return to his wandering ways and Polon stayed on in the Scriptorium as a caretaker until the parent monastery sends a replacement Magus. By this time, the floods had receded and the area around Beilston Mound was abuzz with fresh construction, as it always is after an Acqua Alta, its inhabitants busily oblivious to how close they came to utter catastrophe.

    During this period, the party decided that their next destination would be the Scriptorium's parent temple, the Monastery of Saint Ioun All-Seeing, located a few days' travel through the forest that lies north of Beilston. One of the rumors concerning Cresta, now known to be a former rebus curate who was apparently acting independently when she was working with Erszebet, was that she had last been seen heading into the forest, presumably also traveling to the Monastery on business of her own, and Rogur was eager to track her down. Noxias was interested in the arcane stores of the monastery, hoping they would provide a means to aid in his return. Konstansz and many others in the party were curious about the link established between this Monastery dedicated to Saint Ioun and the Temple of Lightning's Spear, which served Great Master Kord. Yrisz and Zephyr had personal reasons for heading to the Temple of Lightning's Spear and agreed that a trip to the Monastery could provide some preparatory research for when they finally reached Temple Landing.
    Last edited by Umiushi; 08-23-2016 at 05:26 AM.

  4. #14
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    Default Adventure Synopsis (Knowledge's Cauldron)

    Knowledge's Cauldron, the Second Adventure

    Rogur signaled to the rest of the party, a set of clear, simple gestures that seekers of trouble throughout Aucothia generally understood: one sighted enemy, at short range, calling for a concentrated attack. Nodding in confirmation, Sai and Varis entered the passage, while Noxias hung back at the far end and Cresta rushed to take the opposite corner. Rogur sent a sling bullet flying, but it buried itself in the dirt next to Drysen, Tonoi's homunculus dog he had apparently set to guard the entrance.

    Drysen began to bark with a voice tinged by a grating howl. Then it was slashed by Varis's sword and Sai's glaive, blasted by frost, and struck motionless and dead by Rogur's second bullet, which shattered open a crack formed by the other attacks, revealing an inner anatomy of blood and flesh bound by metallic sinew.

    "Drysen, my Drysen!" screamed Tonoi's anguished voice from a distance to the south. Varis, who had reached the exit of the maze, saw the man. He had replaced his priest's robes with mail and was now carrying a morning star. Even with the distance between the two, the elf perceived Tonoi's face twisting with grief and rage.

    To the north, at the other corner of the maze, was another man, a tall, strapping one, wearing the monks' robes common to this place, as well as a skullcap and circlet about his head, and a pectoral draped around his neck.

    "East! They're to the east!" he bellowed, his voice booming across the distance.

    The visit to the Monastery of Ioun the All-Seeing did not perhaps turn out as anybody had planned. The undead haunting the surrounding forest was the first sign of trouble, but nobody had much reason to believe they had anything to do with the Monastery until one of the more loquatious individuals named Pradize began to chat up the party during one of their nightly watches. When the nearby undead population is showing concern about the condition of a monastery, that's when it became clear something was decidedly amiss. Pradize turned out to be the chief of the undead in the forest, and at her direction they had closed it off to outsiders, attacking anyone who dared to enter or exit. She did this to put a stopper on the Monastery's activities, until she could sort out their recent, bizarre behavior.

    Armed with Pradize's warning that Cresta, whom she claimed had promised to investigate the monastery from the inside, was probably being held prisoner there against her will, the party approached the monastery with renewed caution. The monks standing guard in front of the monastery were peaceful enough, but it soon became clear that, while not truly at odds with each other, they each belonged to one of the two very opposed internal factions within the community. On the way to their audience with the Hegumenia of the monastery, a last-second decision to take advantage of the one of the monks' offered distraction and detour probably saved them from a great deal of unpleasantness.

    Instead of meeting the Hegumenia, the party met instead with her second-in-charge, the Hieromonk Bohumil. As the Hegumenia's policies became more and more disturbing in recent months, Bohumil found himself increasingly standing in opposition to her. When she sent a force of monks to join with the Temple of Lightning's Spear in a seemingly-inexplicable assault on the expedition to Izzmarg Fortress, he finally started plotting against her in earnest, but so far had only succeeded in gathering up some scant hints as to her plans and motives. They were enough to nurse his greatest apprehension: that somehow the Order of the Silent Word, a semi-autonomous, close-knit group of monks sealed off even from the rest of the monastic community, had become corrupted by the very thing they were sworn to guard against, namely the monstrous entities of the Montane, a forested land located in the heights above Beil Valley, and that the Hegumenia Katyrein, whom Erszebet had served her apprenticeship under before being made a Magus and sent off to Beilston, was acting in collusion with them.

    This was enough to warrant a closer look at the Order's separate compound: a gigantic, overgrown hedge maze with numerous vegetation-encrusted buildings secreted therein. The monks of the Order proved to be as implacably hostile as Bohumil had feared. Within the maze, the party ran into Innocence, an enigmatic primal spirit whose passive attack nearly succeeded in defeating them. Managing to escape from her, they discovered her two prisoners. One of them, a sacerdote from the Imperial Cult who had turned up one day to investigate the monastery, didn't survive. The other turned out to be Cresta. Besides being a former rebus curate, a pirate financier, and a proficient wizard, Cresta was an homunculus-maker who proved to have a wide range of very unrelated "friends," including Pradize, Erszebet, and Katyrein, many of whom she had manufactured homunculi for. She had in fact arrived at the monastery to assist with the attack on the Izzmarg expedition, but due to some unelaborated-on "misunderstanding," found herself a captive instead. She readily admitted her culpability in the sinking of the Jewel of Imareska, but present circumstances forced Rogur and her to act in concert in order to escape from the compound.

    The escapees were intercepted by Hegumenia Katyrein and most of her monks. It looked to be grim odds, but with the help of Cresta and Bohumil's group of insubordinate monks, a stalemate was forced before the party started to take permanent casualties. The party was allowed to flee into the forest, while Katyrein reasoned Pradize would be sufficiently distracted by looking after them that she could finally send a party of her monks back to Beilston. Cresta finally gave an accounting for herself and her dealings. Rogur, while not sympathetic, grudgingly admitted that he and the others were not in any condition to prevent her departure. In this manner, the party was able to leave the Monastery, not quite in victory, but at last in possession of a great deal of information about the local goings-on.

    Nighty-night," said Pradize, shouldering her scythe and pulling her hood over her face. She walked away and disappeared from sight.

    "I can take the first watch," said Varis with a nod of his head to Noxias, "I know everyone is tired, but before you fall asleep, can you tell me who that just was? Also, what are your plans after we reach the spring? I did not want to separate from you while there was still danger, but I feel my own path lies in the same direction as Zephyr and Cresta. With the monastery's loyalties in question, I do not know that they can be trusted to warn the people of Beil. I remember Cresta said the Hegumenia might try to use her influence to turn the authorities against us, but if she thinks she can slip through, then maybe I can too, if I'm by myself. I believe I have a duty to try."

    Rogur blocked Varis' path with an arm.

    "Let me take first watch, if it's all the same. There's no way I'm sleeping just now, but I'd wager that once I finally do nod off, I won't feel much like waking up to stare at the dark."

    Varis eyed the sailor closely, but finally nodded. "I hope your time is uneventful."

    "That would be a nice change, wouldn't it?" said Rogur. He paced fretfully around the camp as the others unrolled sleeping rolls and shed armor, glad to be rid of its stifling weight. Soon the noise settled, to be replaced by soft breathing and the occasional snore, mingling with the usual chirps and hoots of the night forest. Rogur checked the sky to fix the time, but only paid partial attention. His eyes scanned the treeline, but his mind was miles away with the burning wreck that had been his home for a dozen years. With Larak, who, despite the fears of his seven-year old self, had turned out to be a good master and a decent man. Sure, he was a smuggler, but that was just spice in the stew, wasn't it? He reminisced as he padded around the camp.

    "But why didn't you want revenge on Prakasa?" Rogur stared up in frank confusion at Larak. The wind thrummed through the lines and filled the sails as the Jewel made her way across the chop.

    The burly half-elf chewed his lip thoughtfully before replying in Elven, "'Revenge is the slowest poison.' Have you heard this before, Rogur?" The man's voice was deep and soft, but his eyes were sharp as a blade. The boy shook his head. "It means two things, all at once. Prakasa killed my captain Anhera, may the sea grant him rest. But his might was too great, and he was too well protected, to do anything just after. Could I have served my captain's memory by throwing myself needlessly into death?" Rogur shook his head, his eyes still fixed on Larak. "So I waited. The slowest poison takes time to act. You have to set everything in motion carefully, carefully, so the one killing drop finds its target at the end of its long journey. But," he broke off and raised his voice, shouting to the crew.

    Rogur wouldn't be distracted. "But?"

    Larak grew somber again as he rested his hands on the wheel. "But." He checked the clouds along the horizon, watched the ship's pennant for a moment, and shifted his weight against the wheel. "But. During the time it takes for that one drop to find its way, things change. People change around you, the world changes, and without even realizing it, you change, all by yourself." He shrugged, "Soon, I stopped thinking about the way Anhera died, and remembered the way he lived, taking us all in as an homage to the ways of the Roaming Clan and his honored father. I realized that he would forgive. He was an elf, you remember? His long life must have seen countless betrayals, and maybe he had even done some of the betraying himself, but that didn't make him any less my captain. And I looked at myself, and saw that my path of revenge had charred my soul like I had hoped to do to Prakasa's corpse. And that's the second meaning of the saying, you see? The poison eats at you longer than it does your victim. It hurts you more than them. That's the lesson I learned." He nodded as if he had concluded a sermon.

    Rogur looked out at the waves and considered. "Maybe, but I still think you should have killed him. Because then you would have taught everybody a lesson."

    Larak glared down at the boy. "And lessons need to be taught, don't they? Fetch my my staff and I'll lay it across your shoulders, and that'll be a lesson that you shouldn't be sniffing at stories when you should be scrubbing the deck!"

    Rogur laughed and scooted off to find his pail and brush. "You'll have to catch me first, old man!"

    The memory retreated, and Rogur was left staring at the night. He passed the rest of his watch and waked Varis. His mind was still working as he settled himself onto his roll, feeling the warm night air against his skin.

    He thought of Larak, and of revenge, and of slow poisons eating away, and realized something that almost made him smile before he drifted off into sleep.

    Dealing with poison is simple. You just have to make sure your container is sealed tight until you pour it out.

    More PCs came and went as the adventure progressed. Now that the party was back in Aucothia, its composition started shifting again towards fey races for whatever reason. The most notable PC who joined for the length of this adventure was Varis, run by a player still currently active in my chat games, who had arrived in the valley to warn of an impending invasion from the nearby septs. On his way to Beilston, he was waylaid by one of Pradize's wights and managed to reach the monastery before collapsing, where he was taken in and his wounds treated, at which point he joined the party for the duration of the adventure, leaving at the end to follow Katyrein to Beilston with the hope of fulfilling his mission. News of the invasion also precipitated Zephyr's departure from the party, as he left to search out his own sept in order to intervene, despite his exile.

    All of the major NPCs introduced in this adventure: Bohumil, Cresta, Katyrein, and Pradize, were still alive at its conclusion, which I suspect will prove to be an unusual result. When they departed, Bohumil remained opposed to Katyrein, but Katyrein seems too divorced from reality to care to deal with him. Cresta followed after them to do what she seems to do best, namely randomly meddle about. Pradize stuck around and provided the major impetus for the next adventure.
    Last edited by Umiushi; 08-23-2016 at 05:44 AM.

  5. #15
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    Default Campaign Intermission (Sweetwater)

    Intermission - Sweetwater

    Nox listened, his eyes growing wider as Pradize spoke, "Such a powerful wizard exists, or used to, so close by in this realm? I would bet that he has a teleportation circle as well!"

    "This sounds exactly like what we should do. Who else for Izzmarg?"

    "Not I," said Varis quietly, "it's past time I set off on my own course. This stream joins the Great River; the lowlanders call it the Yu, am I right?"

    Pradize nodded, "If you stay on this bank, it does. The other side is tricky, and can take you somewhere else."

    "Stay on this bank; watch out for the troll. I'll take that advice as compensation for the wight. It was your doing, it's become clear," he raised a hand as Pradize opened her mouth, "That's good enough for now. I have more important matters to attend to. As for the rest of you, may you fare well and find virtue." The elf adjusted his pack and then with a final wave, set off along the side of the stream. Pradize waved back, though he didn't turn around to see it. A few moments after he was out of sight, she leaned back on her seat and let loose a peal of laughter.

    "People coming and going, as though this forest was safe! Your friends owe me more than they think. I had better go about my business for the night, then. I shall be back tomorrow morning, to take you to Izzmarg Isle, about three days' travel from here. In that time, you can decide whether you want to sneak past the guards or announce yourselves to them, but if you choose the last, I doubt they will be particularly kind."

    Pradize promised a reward if the party would help rescue Cresta. After her rendezvous with them outside the monastery, it was time to make good on that deal, but never one to make things simple, she offered them a choice. Among the choices, the one with the greatest promise of wealth and the greatest certainty of danger was her offer to lead them to a hidden lair she knew of under the otherwise-empty ruin of Izzmarg Fortress. This was the offer the party jumped at.
    Last edited by Umiushi; 08-17-2016 at 10:30 PM.

  6. #16
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    Default Adventure Synopsis (Worm Delve)

    Worm Delve, the Third Adventure

    Zybrosk appeared again, standing on the steps just a few paces away from Rogur. That time, he stepped out of a black oval that briefly formed in the air to the accompaniment of low, stomach-churning chords of sound, before it collapsed back into the tip of the necromancer's staff after his emergence. He had more than one teleportation spell at his disposal.

    The goliath's face was a stoic mask, but his lips were pursed tightly together when he was not chanting his magic. It was a sign of pain, hopefully. His silver collar and robes were stained with blood and darkened with scorch marks. Zybrosk was wounded, yes, but he had already sustained blows and attacks that should have toppled an ogre.

    "You . . . fear death," he said hoarsely, and drew in a deep breath before he continued, "Justified or not, it was foolish to confront me, a necromancer, with such weakness." His shadow skeleton and homunculus servants advanced behind him.

    A blast of cherry-red flame detonated in the midst of the foes as they assembled: another spell attack from Noxias. Zybrosk shielded his face and then looked up and past Rogur. Perhaps responding to an unspoken command, the worm-like homunculus slithered away just after Rogur took an ineffectual slash at it, seeking a way up the platform in order to reach the wizard. The skeleton, however, continued to advance while the hulking necromancer walked around behind it, out of reach.

    "Know the folly of challenging me!" Zybrosk extended his free hand, its fingers drawn back in the semblance of a claw. A phantom claw indeed launched from it, made from the same shadow-stuff as the skeleton, rebounding off Rogur's jerkin without sound or force. Zybrosk made a tortured gesticulation and the claw circled around. This time time it struck Rogur full in the neck. This time there was a grinding, screaming noise as it closed around his throat. The sound seemed to come from the depths of the shadows that made up the claw itself. Rogur's flesh tore back and he was lifted fully off his feet, pinned against the crumbling wall of the stone platform.

    While on the route to Izzmarg, the party members experienced the psychic emanation resulting from the breaking of the barrier that had previously closed off the Montane. The next day, they encountered one of the first groups of monstrous entities that had subsequently broken free, but Izzmarg was not in the direct path between the Montane and the rest of the Beil Valley, so they completed the rest of the journey unmolested. Arriving at Izzmarg Isle by means of a cache of rafts left behind by the templars and monks who had previously assaulted the place, the party took care to approach the fortress without making contact with any of the groups already seen to be on the island.

    The fortress itself was just a hollowed out shell of thick, stone walls sheltering ages of debris. Inside, the party found a warrior named Derim who was hiding from his fellows. He was a member of a mercenary company hired to protect an expedition that had been exploring the island for the past few months. While this unfortunate band had managed to fend off an unprovoked attack from the nearby monastics, in the past few days they had begun to succumb to a maddening paranoia. Making matters worse, the slain bodies on the island were rising as undead.

    Just as Pradize promised, she showed them the entrance to the lair below the fortress and described her own, brief exploration of the place. She had not gotten far before she was chased out by the denizens, but still noticed how space warped in unpredictable ways within the lich's lair, as well as the vaguely deformed nature of the inhabitants that seemed to either be missing appendages or having too many of them. With her last words of advice, she withdrew, promising to rendezvous with the party on the Imperial Highway, which ran through a valley a few leagues away.

    Once inside the lair itself, the party began encountering a number of bizarre and malevolent entities. This included the expected undead presence, but numerous other oddities had also infested the place over the years. The layout of the lair would alter itself too, as Pradize had warned. Unable to effectively retrace their steps, the party became mired in the maze-like place. At one point, the space-warping effect became so extreme it consumed Konstansz, hurling her into a void.

    In the depths of the dungeon, a workshop to create homunculi was discovered. It was an oddity to see such a place, still active, in those ancient depths, especially in light of the fact that the number of people involved with homunculi seemed to be increasing very recently. There, the party met the goliath Zybrosk, a necromancer who claimed to serve as the apprentice of the master of the lair.

    Along with his undead and homunculus servants, Zybrosk was a deadly enemy. Derim fell in the fight, critically wounded. Yrisz barely survived. Worst of all, Rogur met his end at Zybrosk's hands.

    Past Zybrosk, Noxias and Yrisz, the last members of the party still on their feet, finally met the lich Abtzhoszaka and its lieutenant, the three-headed skeleton Ialcesnesohat. Strangely detached but still menacing, Abtzhoszaka related its history to the lich's audience. Long ago, it had developed the homunculus creation techniques that were now being put into common use. Over the ages, generations of apprentice necromancers mastered those techniques and spread them among the world. Zybrosk had simply been its most recent student.

    When Noxias and Yrisz proved unwilling to replace Zybrosk, Abtzhoszaka withdrew from the world, leaving its lair in the hands of Ialcesnesohat. Ialcesnesohat honored Abtzhoszaka's promise of safe passage, and allowed the two survivors to pass through a teleportation circle, sending them to the valley of Byswell, on the other side of the Montane. As Pradize predicted, significant material and magical treasure was recovered, as well as a bounty of knowledge, but there is no doubt the party completed this adventure at great cost.

    "Now you hear me speak in metaphor and allusion. Is everything I say an allegory? It is not.

    "Tell me or think for yourself: do you like the light, the darkness, the shade? Do you stand in the light, gaze into the darkness? Do you stand in darkness and perceive the light? Do you cross in and out of shadow with nary a thought?

    "The light is everywhere, but it is escapable. Darkness needs walls, floor, ceiling. Darkness is the home of the soul. You find me surrounded by darkness, but my teachings deal with the light. Is it not from darkness that we best perceive the light, not when surrounded and blinded by its glare?

    "Our allegories hide my teachings because they are painful. They wound you fair young creatures full of blood and flesh. Once, three wizard-lords sought me out. Strong were their sword arms, and mighty were the spells they chanted. They demanded of me and I taught them unstintingly.

    "The first one, strongest, mightiest, took my teachings and whittled herself down to a skeleton, excising every bit of flesh, sustained by her magic alone. I was surprised. I did not know what to make of it, so I gathered the other two and blasted them to dust below the neck. With their heads, I made an oracle. I baptized them in the jelly of mysteries so that only the white skulls were left. These skulls I gave to the first, and I asked her, 'Why did you do this thing?' Then we knew, and that is why I hide meaning behind metaphor."

    The figure leaned forward. It slid off the throne in a way that looked like it was about to topple down the dais, but instead it hung there, its torso bent parallel to the floor. Stiffly, it straightened out. Bits of rag fell to its ankles, revealing a skeleton-shaped mass of worms and insects. In the purple light, it was difficult, perhaps impossible, to discern the boundary between vermin and bone. From its eye sockets two plump green worms extended themselves. They were so wide and fat that even from Yrisz's distance she could see their open maws.

    "I permit it. Reach back in time. You have seen it. Their mark is upon you, but is it in you? It is not. His mark is upon you, but is it in you? It is not. Who wins? Does it matter? I do not know. Teach me, for I do not know. What is it that I should do?" Now that the creature was revealed, it could be seen that its jaw did not move when it spoke.

    "A dancing doll. A girl with a garland of flowers. A faithful hound. A beautiful spear carrier. A doll in a pretty dress. Bodyguards. A headless snake. An arrowsmith's wheeled box. Yes, yes, you are right. You understand. Those are all arrows. We taught the craft, and those we taught taught others, for years and years and years."

    It stretched its arms out to either side. The tone of its voice suddenly shifted, rising. It spoke its next words in a shrill copy of Yrisz's voice, "Are you equal to the task? Come, bathe in the depths of my learning. Step forward. Embrace me. Be consumed. They shall not devour the inspired bits of your brain. I shall draw those out and feed them to your companion, the eladrin. Then the teachings you desire shall be his, and yours. I am not speaking in metaphor."

    Resuming its original voice, it said, "There are many paths to our knowledge. This is the fastest, surest, least painful way. There are others, but the path to knowledge and the path of knowledge are the same track. Choosing one sets the other. What you can do, what you won't do, what it is you wish to do, and what you will do in the end, it all depends on what you know, and then also, how you came to know it."

    Worm Delve will probably prove to be the final adventure of the first part of the campaign. Although the reason to head to Izzmarg was simply the promise of treasure, there were many secrets in that ancient place, and the party gleaned a number of them. A great deal of circumstantial evidence was found to suggest that the current trouble with homunculi and possibly even the suppression of the Church of Saint Avandra are the echos of something far older.

    Be that as it may, if the journey to Faerie is successfully accomplished, the trouble Aucothia is falling into will soon be left behind. In the end Worm Delve could perhaps be taken to be a warning, a presentiment of horrors that are still viewed in the offing, even as those roiling horrors approach the shore. Just as Worm Delve ended in flight, the lesson may be that now is the time to flee, to flee far and to flee fast, before all the "poisoned arrows" Abtzhoszaka shot into the air during the dawn of the world fall back down from the sky.
    Last edited by Umiushi; 10-29-2016 at 06:47 AM.

  7. #17
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    Apr 2015
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    Default Campaign Intermission (Parable in Anthracite)

    Intermission - Parable in Anthracite

    Quietly, Yrisz trod next to Noxias and Diviak, bending all her exhausted attention to not running afoul of the treacherous, cloud-obscured path that they were managing. After hours of such weary travel, she allowed her head to bow listlessly as they joined the more civilized width of Magpie Street, content to rest her eyes a bit now that the road proved less hostile.

    “We are so very blessed to have bumped into one so familiar with the area so soon into this land,” Yrisz said, not bothering to raise her eyes, though she did manage to touch her holy symbol to her lips in a sign of thanks.

    “I rather think I’ll be able to make the one hour trip to your current abode,” she continued, as if trying to convince herself of the fact, “and as long as things have not drifted into the outrageously expensive, I think Naz and I could probably pay for your stay tonight considering how you had to curtail your alpine pipe herb hunt on our account.”

    “Do you know that I was in Beilston during the flooding?” Yrisz said, looking up then and quite obviously trying to be proper company to the one assisting them so.

    “So many strange happenings there during their Acqua Alta, you would never believe it,” she said with an awkward laugh, but then a thought came into her head with an almost audible ‘click’, and for a moment Yrisz stopped amidst the highway, her mouth half-open in revelation as she is regarded Diviak as if for the first time.

    “Oh,” she said, observing his subtly-managed magician’s staff, marking his manner of movement and speech, “or maybe you would,” she went on in a bit more subdued manner as she quickly walked ahead to regain her place between the man and Noxias.

    “There was a lot more going on in Beilston than met the eye, for sure,” she said, trying to read how Diviak would manage her obvious revelation, “and you're quite right about where I was born, I forget my accent to you must be so pronounced; and I don’t know our acquaintance would have a place for us to stay if we had to leave town; or if she would even offer it if she had one, so other than meeting her at some time in the future, I don’t think we are actually employed in the near-future if it proves we could help matters a bit in or around Byswell Town as our skills allow,” she offered, clearly trying to quickly cover any subject which might give offense to the decidedly formidable mage walking with them.

    Yrisz and Noxias arrived at an isolated teleportation circle in the mountains near Byswell Town, the community that the very first incarnation of the party originally departed from, prior to the beginning of the campaign. Taking his midday meal near the circle was an eccentric traveler in search of rare herbs. After introducing himself, the man agreed to guide the pair safely into town, which he promptly did.

    The situation in town was not tranquil. Tensions from a recent fire escalated to the point where the clannish septs had, with the aid of a well-known mercenary order sworn to the Raven Queen, overthrown the civil authority and trapped members of the Imperial Cult in their own temple. Prevailing sentiment held that it would only be a matter of days before Imperial forces would violently descend upon the rebellious community. In the meantime, however, it appeared that the septs had the run of the whole valley, including control over the access points.

    Given the circumstances, the most convenient place to stay was the same inn that Diviak was residing at. Due to its inauspicious nickname, the septsfolk had little desire to be housed at the 'Assassination Inn.' After settling in, Yrisz quietly retreated back to her life of religious devotion, rejoining her fellow Vulysen Sisters and leaving Noxias by himself to contemplate his return from exile.

    With that goal in mind, and armed with the name of a person and a location, either of which might send him on his way, Noxias quickly gathered a new party of like-minded adventurers: Rampart, a dragonborn fighter; Mar'ro, a shifter druid; and Khlarissa, a half-elf ranger. Together, they agreed to set out and leave the Empire of Aucothia completely behind, to seek their fortunes in the storied land of Faerie.
    Last edited by Umiushi; 10-29-2016 at 06:10 AM.

  8. #18
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    Apr 2015
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    Default Byswell Town

    Although small in overall terms, Byswell Town is the major economic hub of the highlands in the southern Central Range. Here, trade between the southeastern lowlands, the southern highland septs, and the rest of the Empire occurs. It strategically occupies the terminus of one of the Imperial Highways and the navigable start of the Yu River. Byswell Town sits in a forested, alpine valley that spans about 20 to 25 leagues on a side. It is the largest valley at its elevation in the south Central Range and doesn't lie all that far below the tree line.

    Layout (Millers' Neighborhood - Merchants' Course - Temple Square; Palace Hill directly south of Millers' Neighborhood)
    Byswell Town is on the south bank of a west-to-east-running stretch of the Yu River, in the southeastern portion of the valley. Three-quarters of the town is laid out along the course of the river while the remaining quarter occupies a small hill slightly to the south and west of the town's central area. The entire town used to be surrounded by a wooden wall which has recently been dismantled. The hillside area has another, formerly inner, wall which remains intact. The three riverside districts of the town are known from west to east as the Millers' Neighborhood, the Merchants' Course, and the Temple Square. The hilltop district is called Palace Hill.

    Magpie Street, which runs most of the length of the Byswell Valley, begins at Temple Square. The East Lane branches off from Magpie Street just outside town, runs through Palace Hill, and becomes the Imperial Highway once it crosses the Byswell Bridge. Each district has two to four major streets that run within their confines.

    Currently, two major gatherings of multiple septs are assembled in the nearby farmlands to the east and southeast of the town. There is also an encampment of septsfolk within the town, in the portion of the lower neighborhoods that burnt down in a very recent fire.


    Census information is not publicly available in Aucothia, but Byswell Town is probably one of the smaller townships (under 5000 inhabitants). Its population has swollen with the recent addition of over a thousand occupying septsfolk. In addition, the fire that occurred in the beginning of late summer destroyed a large part of the town, leaving the undamaged portions quite crowded.

    Up to three-quarters of the residents appear to be human or at least belong to races easily mistaken for humans. The remaining third are divided between dragonborn, dwarfs, halflings, along with some goliaths, goblins, and of course a smattering of other "civilized" races. Two-thirds of the townsfolk appear to be regular Imperials and are keeping their heads low. The remaining third are septsfolk or open collaborators with the septs. Dwarfs, goblins, and halfings tend to be Imperially aligned. Goliaths almost exclusively belong to the septs. Most dragonborn are also septsfolk, but there is a significant Aucothian minority.

    There are three "civilized" (i.e. non-raiding) orc encampments in the valley. All of them are administered by other races: goblins and hobgoblins in two cases, and humans in the third. The human-run orc encampment is an auxiliary mercenary company sub-contracted to the Raven Brothers and is therefore probably aligned with the septsfolk.

    The whole of the valley is the possession of an aristocratic magnate who styles himself the Count of Byswel (sic). The Count appoints a High Justice who performs the administrative duties of a ruler: holding court, setting external policy, seeing to the valley's overall defense from monsters and raiders, and collecting taxes. Meanwhile, the day-to-day administration of the town is in the hands of a Constellation Bureau-approved Mayor who is advised by a town council consisting of the local guild masters.

    Due to the recent uprising, actual control of the town is currently in the hands of the Raven Brothers and the septs. The Raven Brothers have replaced the town guard as keepers of the peace. The guards themselves have semi-retired to daily rounds of drinking and dicing. Meanwhile, the septsfolk, each group under the control of a different leader, wander around and mostly do whatever they wish, short of actually pillaging the place. An odd group of black-robed clerics who are sometimes referred to by the inhabitants as "anthracite priests" have appeared, mostly to deliver hectoring sermons in the direction of the besieged imperial temple. They also seem to be acting as liaisons between the Raven Brothers and the septs, but it's not at all clear that they are priests of the Raven Queen.

    Byswell Town normally hosts a garrison of Bone Lancers. When they're not enforcing the Imperial Will, their role is to supplement the High Justice's forces in keeping the local peace. As a result of the recent uprising, the remaining Bone Lancers are besieged in the local temple of the Imperial Cult while the rest have withdrawn along the Imperial Highway, and are expected to soon return in force.

    Much of the actual military strength of Byswell, as is common in Aucothia, is supplied by mercenary companies under permanent or semi-permanent contracts to fulfill duties such as serving in the town guard or assisting the High Justice. These forces can be significantly bolstered by issuing temporary service contracts to a number of free companies in the surrounding countryside. Unlike the infamous medieval free companies in Earth's history, these companies are kept busy enough with private contracts that they generally don't have to resort to preying on the local populace.

    Three significant mercenary companies in the local area are the Knights of the Sapphire Dragon, a goblin-run company with a large presence in both Byswell and Beil Valleys; the Raven Brothers, an all-male religious order; and the relatively less-numerous but highly-regarded Cyclops Brigade, which specializes in opposing groups of large-sized, intelligent monsters. The Knights of the Sapphire Dragon have their own settlement in the valley and have stayed isolated and away from the present conflict. In contrast, the Raven Brothers are active participants in the uprising on the side of the Septs. The Cyclops Brigade is largely absent, having taken up a contract to guard an expedition to the ruins of Izzmarg Fortress in the northwestern Beil Valley.

    Just outside the town, there are numerous caravansarais of varying quality, but most of them only cater to certain merchant companies or accredited travelers. There are four, low-quality inns that take up most of the Merchants' Course along the river and are presently filled to capacity with septsfolk, as well as the invitation-only "Assassination Inn" off of Temple Square. None of the riverside inns are so poor as to qualify as flophouses, but people of means and a modicum of discerning taste arrange for private accommodations elsewhere. The Assassination Inn was previously described in the Worm Delve Discussion thread and that description is copied below:

    Commonly known as the "Assassination Inn," the Fletcher's Rest is the only inn left in Byswell Town with vacancies since the occupation. It's thought that the sept warriors aren't using the place due to superstitions concerning its nickname, which most people believe to be its actual name. It is identified by the symbol of three arrows stuck in a pillow, posted on the lintel of the stone gate.

    The inn is built like a small caravanserai, composed of several low, freestanding buildings enclosed in a large, walled courtyard. There are separate complexes for the kitchen, dining and common areas, private rooms, and baths. There is also a locked, empty workroom for the private use of ritual magic located in one of the corners of the compound. Most of the rooms are intended for single occupants, but there are six rooms with larger-sized beds, and three suites: two or more single rooms connected to a semi-private common area. Noxias is currently staying in the Moon Suite by himself, since Yrisz's departure. The baths are individual bathing tanks where bathers wash themselves standing up, separated by stalls for visual privacy, but allowing spoken conversation across the bathing area.

    The owner of the inn is named Sepel, a perpetually angry-looking but relatively calm middle-aged human. He usually wears his sword at his side, even when dining. Sepel only accepts new guests if they are recommended by a current or former guest in good standing. He also charges premium prices. As a result, his inn is often empty, a fact that never seems to bother him. Sepel usually spends his days keeping to himself in the dining room, but is sociable enough when approached. He does appear to be sufficiently well-connected in town to be able to spread news to various interested quarters, if asked to do so on a guest's behalf.

    In addition to Sepel, various other people can be found at the inn. If a character's race isn't specified, that character appears to be human. Among those mentioned or described are:

    • Ulgar - Sepel's adopted son, a goliath
    • Ethaulph - a groom who helps maintain fires for the kitchen, bath, and common areas when the stables are empty
    • Jethrin - the sole tiefling known to live in Byswell Town, Jethrin is the inn's ostiary and functions like a well-armed bouncer; he is the only person, resident or staff, allowed to wear armor (leather armor) outside of his private quarters; Jethrin is rarely seen to interact with Sepel or the rest of the staff and tends to "beat the bounds" rather than staying at any particular station
    • Narya - one of the chamber maids; Sepel doesn't have a large staff, so Narya's responsibilities include a number of other duties, such as overseeing the supply of fresh water to various parts of the inn
    • Ostali - the parlor maid, her primary duty is to maintain the public areas but she is also second-in-charge, and the other servants save for the cook and the ostiary are directly answerable to her

    The inn's most notable feature is its decor. Though appreciated only by the inn's few guests, much of the prominent furniture is the product of craftsmanship far beyond what is normally available in Aucothia and some pieces are clearly magical, like the dining room's glowing, flame-less chandeliers. Characters whose origins lie in Faerie might suspect that the furniture has been imported from that distant land.

    All four of the riverside inns also have drinking rooms. There are two dedicated taverns on opposite sides of Temple Square. Numerous shops and private residences presently double as unlicensed bars as long as the liquor keeps flowing, which has created the incidental effect of filling the streets with the smell of cooking food at all hours.

    Standard adventuring gear is generally available. There is one general store, three apothecaries, and various local craft guilds along the Merchants' Course. Traders of all sorts do daily business in Temple Square, even though that business has turned muted and strange in the present circumstances. There are also a number of shops along Old Briar Street in the Millers' Neighborhood. Other than the relatively large number of apothecaries, most of whom are also practicing alchemists, permanent arcane services are largely missing, possibly due to the lack of an Iounic Monastery in the valley.

    Large numbers of merchant caravans regularly pass through Byswell Town, coming from the highway or the river. Most of the river traffic is monopolized by old halfling families who live in the lower river banks of Merchants' Course and the Millers' Neighborhood. Some of these caravans are very large and inflate the population by quite a bit when they pass through. Although there are no giant caravans in the area right now, a large number of smaller caravans well as other travelers of all sorts became stalled in their journeys because the septs are actively obstructing travel along the roads and river.

    An imposing temple of the Imperial Cult dominates Temple Square and gives it its name. Surrounding rebels threaten to physically prevent anyone from entering or leaving, but failed to keep a number of Bone Lancers from charging out of the temple and riding down the Imperial Highway, which will probably lead to nothing good. The other major temple complex, not facing Temple Square but still occupying the eastern part of town, is a sprawling community shrine to the Great Master that houses several temporary "guest shrines" to other faiths. Long-term occupants of the more popular guest shrines include clergy of Saint Moradin, Saint Corellon, Saint Pelor, and the Raven Queen. It is no secret to anyone that their guest shrine supposedly dedicated to Saint Melora actually serves as a way station for visiting Vulysen Sisters. The Conservatory of the Celebrants is dedicated to the study (and occasional worship) of primal spirits, but appears to have a reputation for sheltering undesirables such as practicing Avandrists. The fact that the Imperial Cult didn't suppress the Conservatory when they had the opportunity to do so does suggest that the reputation may be undeserved, but it cannot be denied that the Conservatory now serves as the primary meeting site of the septs in town. So-called anthracite priests don't frequent any of these places, and really have yet to be spotted indoors.

    Other Details
    • Concerning architecture:
      • Twin architectural styles in Byswell are a fondness for painting multicolored spots on the side of buildings and the recurring use of a skull motif. It's particularly off-putting to outsiders when they both show up on the same building, but the locals seem to take a perverse pleasure in it.
      • Although Byswell Valley suffers from punishing downpours in early summer and long, snowy winters, most of the buildings in town have flat roofs. How or why this works is not immediately obvious. It is sometimes noted that the buildings outside of Byswell Town seem to all possess the expected slanted roofs for the climate.
      • In addition to the Byswell Bridge, four other bridges span the Yu within sight of Palace Hill. Three of the four, as well as Byswell Bridge, are known to have been constructed with sorcerous aid. Those three in particular are known as the Three Strings and are so slender and ambiguously colored that they often seem invisible in twilight or poor weather.

    • For some odd reason, clothing styles in Byswell Town tend to spread across the empire every few years, making the place something of a fashion trendsetter, despite its miniscule population. This might be at least partially due to the profligate parties that some of the wealthier townsfolk indulge in, since "proper" aristocrats on either side of the Central Range prefer to project a sober image.
    • Despite its small size, there are large common gardens in the Merchants' Course and near Temple Square which are effectively public parks.
    • There is a gladiatorial arena in Merchants' Course, even though gladiatorial games are generally unpopular in Aucothia.
    • Byswell Town has a reputation for unfriendly locals who will cheat a person at every turn. Fortunately, none of the party has run into this sort of behavior, and Sepel, the innkeeper of the Assassination Inn, seems to be rather upstanding in spite of his draconian accounting habits. Locals claim the bad reputation is due to the passing caravans, out of earshot of any caravaneers, of course.
    • The one cultural contribution attributed to local orcs is the presence of a dromos in the Millers' Neighborhood for various sorts of footraces. It has proven popular with humans, dragonborn, goliaths, and hobgoblins, as well as the orcs. Attempting to attribute the gladiatorial arena to the orcs in the presence of one is often a terminal faux pas.
    • Concerning the High Justice:
      • The High Justice is the Count of Byswel's heir de jure. Therefore, most High Justices are offspring of the Count, or at least adopted. Traditionally, the position is held by the physically strongest among the Count's children, and the current High Justice can be challenged by the Count's adult offspring to a test of strength once every five years. As a result, High Justices tend to be physically robust, if nothing else.
      • The High Justice is commonly accepted to possess the legal power to arrest and even execute the Mayor, but the Mayor has the legal power to exile the High Justice. When the two officers are in contention, usually the one who can command the town guard gains the upper hand. A number of plays and stories set in Byswell Town capitalize on this historic tension, though it seems that no conflict between the two offices has occurred in living (human) memory.
      • Every member of the High Justice's personal guard of "Justiciars" wields an enchanted weapon, each one a family heirloom of the Count of Byswel. The High Justice wields a two-handed sword that is unfortunately named "Justice" or "Pravnost" in Aucothian Common.
      • Neither the current High Justice, the Count, nor the Mayor seem particularly memorable. In any case, none of them are running the show right now.

    Last edited by Umiushi; 10-21-2016 at 11:04 AM.

  9. #19
    Join Date
    Apr 2015
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    Default Byswell Valley

    Byswell Valley is roughly 20-25 leagues along its north-south and east-west axes. The map shown is neither particularly precise nor particularly accurate, because Aucothians rely on itineraries instead of maps when they travel, but it should give you a correct idea of where things are generally placed, particularly if you are following roads or river routes.

    Various buildings and structures you see placed on the map usually represent small settlements of less than 500 permanent inhabitants, some with only a handful of residents, most of them unnamed and insignificant in all but a local sense. Windmills are a fairly recent innovation, and there are a number of new windmills in suitable locations up and down the valley, including several that are currently being built.

    Byswell Town and Valley.JPG

    This map was created using the Age of Wonders: Shadow Magic editor tools.

    The valley is dominated by the Yu River. It is a picturesque place surrounded by mountains and glaciers. Although relatively well-sheltered for the most part, certain locations in the valley suffer from extreme winds. The valley itself is filled with wooded, hilly terrain, often featuring eskers. The soil is quite fertile but extremely difficult to plow because it is part of a moraine for the most part.

    The most settled areas are close to the river, and in the southeast portion of the valley. In the densest of these areas, one community can bleed into another, with any intervening land wholly taken up by farms. Nevertheless, the numerous unimproved roads are usually delineated by thick rows of trees, giving even the cleared land a forested look to travelers passing through.

    Elsewhere in the valley, settlements become fewer and more isolated, but septsfolk are increasingly common and several temporary sept communities can fill out a portion of the valley for a season before relocating. No individual sept is confined to the valley; they move more-or-less freely through alpine country that would dissuade all but the most intrepid Aucothian traveler, though like everyone else, septs steer clear of the Montane.

    As a point of trivia, Byswell Valley is spelled in a way that resembles "Byswel" Valley in Common script by the locals, who insist that it is a wholly different name which is only coincidentally similar to Byswell Town. There are a handful of conflicting stories as to why this is so. The position of the Constellation Bureau is that the town, the valley, and its magnate's title are all rendered as "Byswell."

    Imperial Highway
    This branch of the Imperial Highway network starts in Byswell Town on Palace Hill, literally from the gates of the town garrison, crosses the Yu River at Byswell Bridge, and heads out of the valley to the northeast. The next valley over is unnamed and uninhabited, but there the Highway forks north to the Great Central Pass, which links the eastern and western halves of the Empire, and east to the Izzmarg highlands in the northwestern corner of the much larger Beil Valley. Travel is normally limited to those carrying appropriate tokens of authorization but this stretch of the Imperial Highway is now under the control of the septs, who have reserved the use of the road for themselves.

    Magpie Street
    This is the one major road south of the Yu in the valley. It also has its origins in Byswell Town. Officially it begins at Temple Square's Corner Gate, but the cul-de-sac in front of the Byswell Grand Shrine of the Great Master is also called Magpie Street, leading to some contradictory claims. Magpie Street more or less follows the Yu's south and western banks before reaching a semi-permanent camp where the septs and Imperials meet to trade. There it splits into two unnamed roads, one of which continues to follow the Yu up to the hamlet of First Port, the upper limit that can be reached by boat. The other branch leads to an Aucothian dwarf settlement that is, as is usually the case, also a mine.

    Montane Region

    The mountain range that separates the two valleys of Byswell and Beil are off-limits to all travelers. This seems to be one of the few points of Aucothian territorial authority that the septs choose not to flout in their own country. Although the high mountain ranges are avoided by Aucothians, this prohibition is unusual in that extends down below the tree line. It is generally accepted that this prohibition is due to the fact that the Montane is clearly filled with monsters of incredibly ferocious character and crossing the region is tantamount to suicide, even for well-armed mercenary companies.

    Sept Territory

    Septs can be found all around the valley except in the Montane, but they are most frequently encountereed in the western reaches. Septs are nomadic communities that each form an extended "family" of blood relations and adoptions. Each sept has a differing set of social norms that define their specific identity. Most septs are predominantly of one race, with humans, dragonborn, and goliaths being the most common, however, members of other races are often adopted. Almost all septs have a custom of hospitality that is extended to individual travelers and small parties. However, their relationship to larger groups, such as caravans and small settlements, while often involving mutually beneficial trade, can very well be adversarial instead. Septfolk is a term to refer to a group of people all from the same sept, while septsfolk refers to a group of people from more than one sept; but the terms are often confused in colloquial Common. Right now, a large number of septs, over a dozen, are all inhabiting the southwestern portion of the valley.

    Teleportation Circle

    This marks the location of an apparently forgotten teleportation circle that was used by Noxias and Yrisz to travel into the valley. The specific sigil sequence that defines its arcane location is not generally known, though obviously the individual who sent Noxias and Yrisz here must have employed it. Currently in Byswell Town, only the PC Noxias and the NPC Diviak should be aware of both its existence and location, though the NPC Sepel knows of its existence but not its location. Sepel stated he would duly report the matter to the Constellation Bureau, but it's unclear if he ever got around to it.

    Yu River
    The Yu is the longest, southernmost, and generally held to be the second-greatest of the Four Great Rivers that run the length of eastern Aucothia from the Central Range to the sea. Byswell Town is known in the empire chiefly as the highest settlement on the Yu River, though technically the small hamlet of First Port holds that distinction while Beilston has outgrown its name to be the one true city along the upper Yu. The Yu descends through three large, alpine valleys: Byswell, Beil, and Yu, before reaching the vast eastern lowlands and eventually emptying into the sea at the famous harbor city of Imareska. Trade from as far away as the alien nations beyond the Vodlaian Archipelago reaches all the way up the Yu, from there along the Imperial Highway to the Great Central Pass, and eventually across the dry western plains into the sprawling Metropole of Aucoth.

    The source of the Yu is not well-explored, but is generally held to be one of the large glaciers in the northwest corner of Byswell Valley. Those peaks seem to be a major location related to the annual Path of Storms, and because of that, it is easy to speculate that it holds some link to the land of Faerie. It is certainly true that elves and elf-kin favor the lands the Yu travels through and are often encountered around its banks, though none love the river as much as the halflings do. It is said that every halfling in Aucothia yearns to see the Yu at least once.

    In long ages past, boat traffic along the Yu from Imareska could only reach as far as the eastern foothills of the Central Range. The three valleys were cut off from the rest of the river and from each other by a series of formidable waterfalls. Eventually, various means to overcome these obstacles were successfully employed. In the case of the segment from Byswell to Beil, a series of giant locks were carved into the mountainside, allowing for both access and complete control of the river traffic. Rumors abound in Byswell Town that these locks, normally under imperial control, have been seized by one of the septs.
    Last edited by Umiushi; 10-21-2016 at 02:02 PM.

  10. #20
    Join Date
    Apr 2015
    Pacific Time Zone, PST and PDT

    Default Current Adventure: Panic in Lonely Places

    Panic in Lonely Places, the Fourth Adventure

    (This is a placeholder for the Panic in Lonely Places adventure synopsis, to be completed at the conclusion of the adventure. Until then, it will summarize past progress on the adventure, but will only be irregularly updated.)

    At dawn, the day after the new party was assembled, it set off with the intention of searching the Yu River up to its headwaters, and then all the way back down, if need be. Legend linked its source with the Path of Storms, an annual monsoon-like deliverance of rainy weather that had its purported origins in a pact the original Emperor Aucoth made with the powerful lords of Faerie. Furthermore, a satyr named Roinon was said to wander the river's banks, guiding worthy people to Faerie. Polon's father Duvek, an elf known to be honorable and trustworthy, had even attested to meeting Roinon once, many years earlier. Finding Roinon and exporing the Yu's source were the two most promising opportunities at hand, and they could be dealt with together.
    Last edited by Umiushi; 10-29-2016 at 06:46 AM.

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