Darkwave Tales: Kingmaker

Barony of Al'Thor, Second Month, Sarenith 21 to Erastus 20

Supplies and workers, the last of those supplied by the swordlords of Restov and the leaders of Brevoy filter into the town. Construction on the castle continues apace, and another set of housing is constructed for the new workers. The queen orders the construction of a tavern, according to the desires of her new subjects. A heat wave hits the nascent kingdom, slowing work even more than thunderstorms, and the workers, now numbering over 600, look forward to the storms as a relief from the heat.

The barony’s population has grown swiftly over the month, and the construction of a road to replace the rutted trail begins. Farms begin to spring up near the city and farmers plant some late spring crops in an effort to bring in some kind of yield in the shortened season. Word of the kingdom’s lax views of indentured servitude and slavery have already begun to spread, attracting those who currently own others, even temporarily, quickly see an opportunity to increase their wealth on the backs of their sentient property in the new barony.

Of the 1200 souls inhabiting the tiny barony nearly 400 are indentured or owned in some way. In the new barony Brevoy has found a solution to another of it’s problems: an overburdened penal system. Half the work force from that nation are criminals sent to work off their crime. As an expedience, these criminals are owned by wardens, mostly landless noble sons looking for what is due to them. In many cases the families of the now-indentured criminals elected to follow them to the new land. Many of the women found work alongside the men, though more than a few elected to turn to prostitution to earn a living. Deacon, Akiros, and Tolixan had their hands full keeping order in the city, and after a handful of very public, very brutal executions the citizenry began to better understand that there were indeed limits to what was permitted. A preliminary list of laws was drafted up and posted, provisional until approved by the queen and council.

The initial consternation over seeing kobolds roaming freely around the town and countryside subsides, especially after the laws are posted stating that the scaled allies are not to be harmed. Mektek alternated his time between the town and his training with Stehlen, and the Sootscales in their new home beneath the Old Sycamore. Between his constant communication and the presence of Amalasuintha the kobolds are quickly becoming enthusiastic, is sometimes misguided, allies of the barony. As a way of getting travelers used to having ‘friendly’ kobolds around, Sootscale has assigned a couple small groups to escort caravans from Olegs to Tytos. Already the “Smallguard”, as they are calling themselves, has saved one caravan of supplies from disaster.

The 18th of Erastus was an especially auspicious day. Although it was hot and somewhat muggy, the whole barony stood assembled in Tytos as the castle was announced as complete. Titonia had arisen from the rubble and ruins of the old monastery.

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Barony of Al'Thor, First Month, Desnus 21 to Sarenith 20

The barony of Al’Thor is founded with the establishment of the city of Tytos on the north shore of the Tuskwater, at the former site of the Stag Lord’s fortress on the 21st of Desnus, 4707 AR. A tent city is established, providing housing for the 200 tradesman and laborers that are to start work on the housing and castle. The accommodations are rough, most people end up sleeping on rough wooden pallets covered with a straw-stuffed mattress, if anything. Rock for the castle is imported from Restov, though all the wood is harvested locally from the Narlmarches. Food is likewise imported, a strain on the treasury, but unavoidable at this juncture.

The Founding Day spirit was slightly dampened by the appearance of undead on the hill surrounding the ruins that were to become the castle, but the leaders deftly dealt with the threat and assuaged the fears of the new citizenry.

The rest of the month passed uneventfully, with the ranks of craftsmen being bolstered by additional immigrants and the workforce swelling past 300. Rain slowed the work somewhat as the caravans transporting the food and materials got bogged down along the way. A rutted trail was soon formed in the muddy ground, clearly marking the easiest path from Olegs, through the hills, and to the new town.

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Long Live The Queen

Long trek with workers down to monastery
Destroying the undead (with peasant audience)
Kingdom established — begin massive construction projects
Tragina despondent from the realities of ruling
The Harrowing of Byzalte

  • beware of the past, be mindful of the future
  • there will be an arrival, presenting a temptation
  • calamity is a possible result
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The Early Wyrm Gets The Squirm

The diminuitive fae construct that escaped at the ruined temple
Tuskgutter
a lot of exploration
the Tatzlwyrm lair — corpse had a map on it which pointed out…
Statue of Erastil
Meeting with the envoy back at Oleg’s

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Back in Restov

Thane regarded his special envoy over steepled fingers. The young man, so freshly returned that the dust from the road still clung to his boots and cloak, fidgeted uncomfortably.

“You’ve been to this trading post, Oleg’s Trading Post, I believe, twice now, yes?” the swordlord inquired reaching for the parchment resting on the desk before him.

“Yes, sir,” responded the envoy, “I have been there twice.”

“Tell me about it.” Thane instructed, parchment in hand. He had read it before, his keen memory allowing him to recall the details written therein almost perfectly. Now it was a prop, a distraction to place the messenger more at ease. He glanced over it regardless as the young man phrased his response.

“Well, sir, it’s a small frontier fort that’s been converted to a trading post. There’s a few buildings, a stable, guest house, main h…”

Thane leaned forward abruptly, his intense eyes piercing the young man. The swift movement and gaze halted the messenger’s recitation of an earlier report as effectively as anything else. "I’ve read the report. I know the details. I want you to tell me about it. There’s more to everything than these reports say. Some things simply don’t translate well to written word. So, " the swordlord settled back in his chair again, “Tell me about it, Brent.”

The messenger, Brent, licked his lips and nodded. “It’s rustic, sir. The folks there live on the edge without much complaint. Oleg’s a tough one, bone and gristle, but his wife, Svetlana, is as sweet and kind as he is gruff. The guards are little more than mercenaries, but they’ve all taken a shine to the couple, and the place. Gods help anyone who tries to harm them. Sir Garess has done a fair job in shaping up the guards and defenses, I wouldn’t want to assault it. Especially if those adventurers were there. I’ve yet to meet them myself, but if the tales told of them are at all accurate…” he trails off a bit before remembering where he was and who he was speaking with. He straightened himself before continuing, “They’re formidable, sir. The bandits they’ve captured and put to work tell of a mastery of the arcane that frankly inspires one to, as one of them put it, ‘desire to be in another place as expediently as possible.’”

The swordlord nodded, “How is the road? Any troubles that you have heard or seen there?”

Brent shook his head, “No, sir. It’s clear and the trip is rather uneventful, unless you count the weather. Folks still travel in armed caravans, but the guards for the caravans are starting to complain of boredom more than anything.”

“Good.” Thane stood and took a sealed message tube from a basket near his chair, handing it to the messenger. “Get some rest, but I want you to return to the trading post in the morning. Stay there until these adventurers return. If they’ve satisfactorily completed the first mandate, then give them this. It has further instructions for them. Once this is delivered, return to me and report.”

The envoy accepted the message tube and bowed to the swordlord. “Yes, sir,” he responded, turning smartly to make his way to a hot meal and warm bed. Once the messenger had left, Thane took out a map of the area to which they had dispatched the various adventurers and regarded it thoughtfully.

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Toil And Trouble

While exploring the forest west of Oleg’s, the party came upon nests too large for birds built in the branches of a tree not far from where they had begun to prepare camp. Curious about them, the party waited on the ground while Byzalte climbed up to look.

It was then that the tree itself became slickened by an odd magical substance and the branches themselves came alive to dismount him! Suddenly, a hulking figure charged from the underbrush to assault the party, bellowing for the party to leave. Phuralq was immediately suspicious, recalling the rumors of fae who lived in the woods. A cursory inspection showed that it was a simple illusion. Stehlen and Byzalte were a little too preoccupied at first to notice that it caused them no damage, but when they did recognize it as trickery, one of the empty nests fell heavily on top of the party gathered at the base of the tree as a voice from the boughs chittered angrily down at them.

And that’s when the horses’ ties were loosed and the campfire exploded, scattering them in wild fear through the darkening forest. Stehlen was incensed, Byzalte chased after the horses, and Phuralq coldly planned to deal with the fae. A trap was set for the night: a glittering trifle baiting a noose. When it was sprung, the trifle was gone, and nothing was caught in the loop!

With little to do about the pests, the party continued Northwest, deeper into the forest. Byzalte discovered the traps first, and soon the party realized they had stumbled into yet another bear hunting grounds. Disarming the traps was a laborious and dangerous process and Phuralq was separated from the wandering party in the confusing forest.

Naturally, when the little fairy dragon appeared to him, he remained calm and misdirecting. Deflecting the pseudo-fae’s questions and pretending to be simply confused and possibly afraid, Phuralq struck as soon as Perlevash turned his back to fly away. The psychic stab failed to kill it before it could vanish into the forest, though, with glares meeting at a distance.

The party then came upon a lonely hut secreted in a comfortable clearing of the far western wood. Stehlen knew at once that it was steeped in magic, though the little girl who was playing and sweeping the doorstep greeted them cheerfully enough. While Tragina and Byzalte seemed stymied, Phuralq’s suspicious nature wrestled with his un-abiding curiosity and he encouraged the others to enter the hut for a bite to eat while he remained in disguise and probed the little girl for answers. Though the answers simply didn’t add up in the aberration’s head, and it was very obvious that the owner of the hut was quite a powerful Witch, to Stehlen, it was a rare opportunity to trade spells when the mistress of the hut “returned”.

Indeed, the next morning, the Witch of the hut, one “Pharae” by name, claimed to have been studying the peculiar weather which had been misbehaving in the last many months. She was indeed willing to trade spells with Stehlen, most interested by the artifact tome he carried with him. After a few more questions, Tragina inquired about the various magical accoutrement scattered about the hut — and the Witch admitted in the course of the conversation that she had taken the guise of the little girl to safely spy on the adventurers. Phuralq felt inwardly vindicated and he resolved to keep in mind that here dwelt a person of some power if ever occasion in future had need.

The Witch was able to point the party to the ruins of a temple to the south east of her hut. Byzalte suspected it was the temple to Erastil which Jhod had asked the party to investigate, and so they set out to find it.

It was indeed where the witch had said, and the guardian was the perpetually decaying bear beast which Jhod had seen in his divine dreams. As moldering as the wretched creature was, it posed little challenge as the adventurers pelted it with spells from a distance while it struggled to emerge from the rubble of the entrance. Byzalte’s bowstring experienced a malfunction, leaving him cursing and feverishly restringing during the combat.

When the sad beast was slain, a pall lifted from the temple, the fountain pool in the front became clear and sweet where it had been brackish and stagnant for so long. With a sigh of relief, the bear’s form became a human, his curse at last lifted.

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Over the hills and through the woods

Late spring snow was quite possibly the worst kind. It was cold, soggy, and melted fast, seeming to seep right through warm clothing. It then caused the cloth to stick to the flesh and conducted the chill of the air right through! By the time the intrepid party of explorers reached Oleg’s Trading Post everyone was soaked, cold, thoroughly sick of the snow, with the exception of Stehlen. The insufferable tiefling seemed all the more irritating as he flaunted his infernal heritage.

The trading post itself was a welcome sight, smoke rising from the buildings within promised a reprieve from the bitter weather the group had been forced to endure for the past few days. As usual the gates were open, and one of the guards stood watch on the tower. He was apparently spot on in his duties for as the gates drew nearer the familiar blocky form of Oleg appeared to greet them.

“Welcome back,” he said gruffly as he took the reigns of the mounts, holding the steeds so the explorers could easily dismount. “Svetlana’s got some lunch cooking, last of our winter fare mixed with some fresh stuff Jhod brought in. Git yerselves in, and warmed, I’ve news ye’ll want to hear.”

The trader refused to say anything more, taking the horses to the stables to get them settled while the group made for the warmth of the main building. The smell of the promised repast assaulted the nostrils as soon as the door was opened, promising another satisfying meal in the near future. Svetlana’s head poked from the kitchen door.

“Sit yourselves at the table and warm up, this will be a few more minutes,” she instructed, more bubbly than normal. Like her husband, though, she refused to answer any questions. “Oleg will be along to tell you soon enough.”

As promised, the door opened not long after, admitting Oleg and Auchs, the latter lugging a big, heavy chest along.

“Put it down by the table, Auchs,” Oleg instructed. Auchs flinched visibly as he noticed Stehlen, but obeyed the instructions. The lummox flinched again at Stehlen’s smile as he put the chest down by the table. “Ok, you can go take care of the horses now,” Oleg said firmly, his voice brooking no argument.

“Y-yessuh,” Auchs stammered, nearly tripping over himself in his haste to get out of the room.

Turning his attention to the odd band of explorers that has graced his post, simultaneously managing to make life better and more difficult somehow, Oleg takes a deep breath. “Inside this chest is the proceeds and receipt for the items I’ve managed to sell for you. More than 7000 gold sits in that chest there,” he shakes his head in wonder, “and you’ve still got a bunch of stuff yet to sell. But this isn’t the important news. A representative from Brevoy visited, the Swordlords want an update on what’s been going on out here. According to him the Swordlords are very pleased with the progress on subduing the bandits and other threats in the area. They wanted to know how the exploration of the land is going, so I sketched them a bit of the map you’ve been keeping. The envoy seemed disappointed, he told me to tell you that once you’ve explored the majority of the area assigned by the charter the Swordlords have big plans for the lot of you. He seemed excited himself at the mere mention. They need to have the plains, hills, and forest mapped out before they can proceed.”

Having delivered the news, Oleg steps aside to let his wife serve the adventurers their promised meal. He couldn’t help but wonder, and speculate, as to what the Swordlords had in mind for this mixed bag of nuts, and how it would afflict, err, affect him and his wife.

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Love Snack, A Little Known Way To Get To Know Her
Heat Of The Night

The rumbling ground was the charge of three giantkin, hurling rocks as they attacked. Two of the giants looked to be melting, squamous, repulsive mockeries while the third, their leader, was a far more tolerable Ogre to see. The party took scant cover behind the shrubbery but the hail of missiles still found a mark or two. Stehlen decided to volley back and the charge was halted by the rubble created. Phuralq brutally crushed the weak mind of the first Thawn while Byzalte’s arrow’s brought down the second. The Ogre managed to approach almost within clubbing distance of Tolixan before Stehlen could put it on its back with a Grease spell. Its thrashing was quieted by Phuralq’s psychic manipulations but the Wizard wanted blood, drawing his knife. Naturally the prick awoke yon Ogre who was quite irate ending his nap too early. The resulting tantrum gave Tolixan a solid clocking over the head before it could be stopped for good.

With the prodigal Sorcerer in tow, the party made a triumphant circuit back to Oleg’s Trading Post, stumbling upon a patch of the long-sought Fangberry bushes and squashing another gigantic trap-weaver spider along the way. Trajan did manage to escape his bonds temporarily before Phuralq and Byzalte subdued him a second time with an arrow to the knee, pinning him to his mount.

By the time Stehlen, Deacon and Tolixan had dealt with the spider, Trajan was comatose.

Of the victims found in the spider’s lair, there remained a few trinkets — most notably, a magical belt which Stehlen identified as being able to augment the wearer’s personal magnetism. This he offered to Trajan in exchange for a more amicable end to their feud.

As Trajan cinched the girdle around his waist, however, it accentuated his hips in a very flattering way. He was at first quite panicked that he could not remove the device — and his companions were astonished to see him having transformed before their eyes into a distinctly feminine figure. There was little to be done about a cursed belt, and Trajan decided to at least enjoy herself for a little while…

Along the route back to Oleg’s, the party stopped by Bokken’s hut to present to him the Fangthorn berries Byzalte had gathered at great pains. The old kook was in a pleasant mood indeed and a most peculiar air wafted from the enclosure behind him. Uncharacteristically humored, he invited the party within where the fumes began to affect them as well. While Trajan and Stehlen stumbled out the door, the rest were enjoying their served meal of aromatic soup overmuch.

Phuralq, originally disguised as a woman in a ploy to barter further discounts from an industrious old hermit, found herself unexpectedly in touch with her sensuality and went galloping away into the snow astride her stallion steed squealing delight. The vapors did fade presently, and the party was able to make camp near the hut, waiting for the hermit’s senses to return with the morning. His hangover, miraculously, did not fog his memory enough that Phuralq’s second attempt at charade could lower his prices. He did mention the reason he had been brewing the love potion: a noble passing through with a caravan had commissioned it…

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A Lark In The Dark

The kobolds were laired South of the Mite cave inside what appeared to be a vein of silver deep within one of the many hills that lapped at the shores of the Shrike River. Stehlen had shrewdly played up the party’s role in the Mites’ extermination, claiming that they did so to retrieve the idol of “Old Sharptooth” which had been found near the note. That note, as Phuralq was able to translate, was apparently keeping track of some score between the Mites and their rivals. Stealing back and forth must have seemed like great fun to the nasties.

On arrival at the kobolds’ lair, the party easily parleyed into an audience with the chief of the Sootscales. Trajan’s smooth tongue brokered a bargain, the return of the idol in exchange for labor to exploit the gold mine, to which the chieftan agreed.

Immediately upon receiving the idol, Chief Sootscale smashed the idol to pieces!

Apparently the entire tribe was under the impression that they would be horribly cursed until the idol were returned and destroyed. And who had been perpetuating this superstition? The clan’s shaman. An unpopular and nasty sort, this made him quickly a target after Stehlen noted how powerful he was to return the idol from the Mites… and that Asmodeus brokered many gifts to his worshipers. The clan’s shaman was rendered obsolete with a moment’s thought.

While travelling northward, the party encountered a curiously amphibious river barge wrecked upon the bank. Stehlen sensed magic within and so he and Tolixan went to investigate in the treacherous wreckage. The heavy chest in the belly of the barge was clearly the source, but they could not open it in place, so they wrestled the container out and onto the shore for Byzalte to inspect. While he could find no trapping mechanisms, he also came to another curious observation: the lid would not open but the lock was not engaged.

Phuralq’s warning came too late for Trajan who had walked up to kick the thing. Mimics are among the most instructive denizens of underground caves, and Phuralq was left to muse how this one might have found its way to the surface to lurk as “abandoned cargo” here while the party was frantically engaged in dealing with the monster. Its ultra-adhesive saliva stumped Deacon while strangling Trajan in its maw. Phuralq, as it happened, did have a beaker of Universal Solvent on hand, which did wonders to alleviate the situation. Byzalte’s arrows could not find easy purchase on its woody exterior, though Stehlen’s summoned hellhound and Tolixan’s psychic assault saw it dead just in time to rescue Trajan from death’s clutches.

Further upstream, the party discovered a collapsed bridge with a most unrestful keeper. The toll? The Stag Lord’s corpse. A few days’ detour was not too much to satisfy the demands of a haunting corpse. The toll bells, though, caught Trajan’s hoarding eye against Stehlen’s stern admonition.

Naturally, upon fetching the Stag Lord’s corpse to his final watery grave, Stehlen happened to notice that one of the toll bells was missing.

On a petulant whim, Trajan refused to give back the bell, no matter Stehlen’s fears that not doing so might incur the wrath of the undead guardian. A half-merry chase ensued, resulting in an injured Trajan escaping into the wilds of the Unclaimed Lands while the rest of the party could only look on with bemused bewilderment. Apparently the secret handshakes of comrades can take the form of acid.

Byzalte began to lead the party along Trajan’s rapid wake. In the meantime, Trajan himself encountered a rather ill-tempered Tatzlwyrm which exhausted his supply of spells all but completely. When the party found its skewered head, they could infer Trajan’s growing sense of self-importance and confidence. But night was falling.

Unable to make good time in the dark and weary from his exertions, Trajan climbed a tree to rest, and the party soon discovered him, to stealthily lay camp beneath the very boughs. A mastodon is rather difficult to hide, however, even in the night, and Trajan awoke to discover his pursuers below.

Incensed his ire to see Stehlen’s political gamesmanship, and he made a break north after an ungraceful landing and a webbing spell to snare most of the party while they slept. Tolixan and Phuralq gave chase to spare the young sorcerer the dangers of nighttime in the wilds. It was all Tolixan could do to catch up after the human tripped ingloriously and fell in his haste in the dark. Tolixan is not a being prone to gentle or infinite patience: the butt of his sword addled the youngster just as Phuralq and Stehlen caught up, out of breath.

The animals of the night also found themselves voiceless, and the four paused to listen when the ground trembled heavily.

Lurkers in the dark had come to join the chase.

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Tick Block, Mick Nock

Even with the Stag Lord dead and his bandit troupe scattered, the Stolen Lands remain a wild place of dangerous monsters and lairs. Akiros was doing well keeping the indentured ex-brigands hard at work harvesting the forest for construction work around the trading post, and with the news rapidly spreading north, trade brought in a new face. A towering man clad in dark steel of terrible purpose, Deacon agreed to travel with the party while also searching out clues concerning a demonic cult in the area.

It was perhaps most unfortunate that just then a strange possession overcame Phuralq while the party organized their next expedition!

Though he quickly retreated to the security of his wagon, the screams were audible in ear and mind. When a telepath goes mad, it can be difficult to hide. With Tolixan standing guard on the wagon, Deacon could not ascertain the cause for himself. The uproar was soon quieted from within, though the commonfolk of the trading post were most disturbed indeed, especially those who had seen Phuralq’s true form before he acquired the peculiar ability to change his shape seemingly at whim. And some whispered fearfully, away from the shaking wagon, that they remembered some weeks ago when the thing had returned with the party from an expedition into the unclaimed lands asking about cures for “parasites”.

When he emerged the next morning, he was visibly haggard, exhausted by whatever trial had tormented him. He did not lack for the confidence required to continue travelling with the party, though clearly occupied his thoughts.

It was to the underground entrance beneath the old sycamore tree that the party next made their way, having made a note of its location for further investigation during one of their outings carting goods from the Stag Lord’s fortress. Here dwelt the Mites which had been such a nagging concern. With the Stag Lord defeated, guess who was next on the To-Do List?

The entrance was small, requiring the party to crawl to enter and hunch while within. Mites being known for their nasty traps did not phase brave Byzalte who took the lead, wielding a greatsword like a spear in the confined spaces. As unexpected guests, the party was able to make short work the mites, pouncing into each cave room and decimating the hideous inhabitants with only brief struggle. But then they came upon a cave room larger than the others.

A giant tick twice the size of a horse lurked in waiting there, mounted by the mites’ leader who stabbed with his rusty trident as soon as Byzalte emerged from the tunnel. They had heard the noise above and were prepared!

The tick could block the passage with its bulk, and proved deadly with its fangs. When Stehlen translocated into the room to lend aid, he barely escaped the tick’s grabbing mandibles before being swarmed by half a dozen hateful fae. It was slow fighting in the cramped quarters as most of the party could not even get line of sight of the melee around the sharp bend in the tunnel, and the tick’s reach was perilous to navigate, its chitinous armor difficult to pierce. But the party did prevail, though Stehlen’s sheen was scratched.

Beyond, there was a sharp rift in the earth where a a giant centipede had been lurking to now emerge. It was far more easily dispatched with the party’s full force available. The “table” in the corner of the room was a jumbled mess of sundry and Stehlen could not read the note he found there for it was written in the tongue of caves and caverns.

The mites had been torturing a kobold in the room shortly past the rift, and Stehlen’s spell very nearly killed them all outright. But the kobold did survive, just barely, after Byzalte’s medical attentions. Perhaps this prisoner might tell of where its kin now laired…

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