Last Stand

Into the Fire
Death of a hero

Being a member of Morgan Weeg’s Strange and Wonderful show for the next two days is pretty uneventful. As soon as the caravan gets to the main road, you start passing travellers. Ranging from weary souls to armed patrols, the traffic never gets too thick. Some do eyeball the caravan, but none seem to want to mess with it.
The occasional armed patrol, Crimson Fork insignia displayed prominently, is seen “questioning” the occasional traveller or group of travellers, usually ones they outnumber and outgun. Their tactics are brutal and efficient, and often rewarding.
None seem to give a second glance to Weeg’s group. Weeg does mention to you at a quiet point that there are more out than usual.
Soon, the road forks, with a dirt path leading northeast to Char, and the main one continuing east to Soulless, the walled city that sits on the lip of the Ditch like a predator over a fresh kill.

As the caravan heads to Char, Weeg explains to you about the village.
It’s been around almost as long as Soulless, and has the unique pleasure to be the main encampment for indentured servitude.
Soulless has a garrison of fat, lazy guards in Char. They have a large network of mines outside the town, as well as a small penitentiary where all of Soulless’ petty criminals are sent to work off their penance. The mines house a number of forges and has close to 80 workers. Of the 30 guards in the place, about 10 of them are on the bottom half of their life. If someone gets assigned to Char, they’re either close to being terminated, or close to being retired.

Char is a small town of about 300 people; a quaint community that, at first glance, looks like it could be any town in the Empire. But the second glance points out the heavy clouds of soot that hang low above the square stone dwellings’ roofs, and the swirling clouds of ash and cinder that blows constantly from the mine vents to the east of town. Within the town proper, the ambient temperature is about eight degrees higher than the normal.
Due to Char’s close location to a mining facility and it’s ill effects, the people’s physical deformities are rather unique. Instead of the black and scaly patches of skin seen on Weeg’s people, the citizens of Char have a more burnt appearance, ranging from blackened and blistered to fleshy faces reminiscent of partially melted wax.

Char’s residents gather around the caravan, talking excitedly to Weeg and his people in a familiar way. Weeg’s people start to set up camp, and Weeg tells you he will meet up with you later. He has to speak to the officials.

Char has 2 bars, which are The Smelter, and the Buzzard’s Craw.

The Buzzard’s Craw is where most of the older locals go, while The Smelter is where some of the actual mine employees go, as well as some of the guards.

The town is abuzz with news of Weeg’s arrival, and on a quieter note, that the Penitentiary has recently received some fresh ore mongers. About 20 of them came in last night. They were taken right to the pen, and put to work this morning. Apparently there were a dozen extra guards brought along, a full half of those being actual Fork soldiers.

No one has any real details, but gathering information reveals that a dwarf was among the new ore mongers. He was kept under lock and key, along with a couple of humans.

While mingling with the gathering crowd, a half ogre laborer picks a fight with Lucen. During the brawl, Lucen’s Jade Sting insignia shows in the open for a moment.
After Lucen drops the half ogre, Ashen breaks away to look around town. While trying to gain some more info about the prisoners that were just brought in, he notices that there was some hefty divination magic being used. Waiting it out, he finds out who was using the spell. He follows the person, who disappears into the crowd. One fleeting glance was all Ashen needed to identify the newest danger: Willem Greywell.

The Firstborn decide to break into the prison, to see if the dwarf is indeed Akram Halfhand. When they sneak onto the prison grounds, carrying with them a barrel of poisoned ale, they notice that the guards are already half drunk, and seemingly violent.
More investigation shows that the guards have been given beer laced with Khan’s Lament, designed to incite violence. Using this as a distraction, they manage to get into the actual mine. Meeting one of the slaves, a Jade Sting soldier, the Firstborn locate Halfhand, and free more of the Jade Sting soldiers.
The Firstborn, with surprise on their side, manage to decimate the remaining soldiers, along with the score of undead and the controlling cleric.
At the end of this battle, the Firstborn gather with the remaining Jade Sting, and formulate a plan to get them out of the Unclaimed, and to get into Soulless to free Belias.
Willem Greywell, invisible and armed with two potent wands, unleashes a barrage of fireballs upon the party. Willem Greywell, hurling curses and epithets at the party, dies upon Lucen’s sword.
To their sorrow, the Firstborn learn that in the ensuing fiery battle, the remaining Jade Sting soldiers died, along with Torrin’s son, Dorgen. Consumed with grief, Halfhand storms out, attempting to walk cross-country to Soulless to retrieve his ship, and to kill Dorien Ashe, Torrin’s brother and Commander of the Crimson Fork.
The party convinces Halfhand to blend with Weeg’s Travelling show, in order to sneak into Soulless undetected.

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A clever trap, sprung.
Into the Ditch.

With little ceremony, Nights’ End is prepared for lift off. Few people outside of the Keep show up to see the ship off. Torrin, along with his personal retainers, the Governor and his wife, and a few of the straggling members of the various companies. Once, this would have been a grand event, the departure of the airship, but recent events have soured such a spectacle.
Even though the official presence of the Watch is missing, crowds gather in the streets, watching with longing and joy at the scene. Children flap their arms, cheering the ship on, as their imagination places each of them on the deck someday, heroes flying into the sunset.
With a warm handshake and words of encouragement, Torrin bids you all safe journey.
“The Unclaimed is a dangerous place, lads. You can’t trust anyone, or anything that appears. Most things you encounter would rather eat you than talk to you, and that goes double for the people!
Halfhand has your orders, which will be delivered after you leave. Your arguments over your worth had me thinking long into the night, and I decided to test you. You follow the orders given, complete the mission to my satisfaction, and I may allow you to ignore the general population of the Free Companies, and move into a more…private section.”

He gives each of you a pat on the shoulder, along with a few individualized words of encouragement.
Belias- Halfhand wouldn’t let me hire him a new pilot, being confident in your abilities to pick up the trade as you go along….don’t break my girl.
Glimyr- you are a sharp one, indeed. Don’t think that I haven’t heard the stories. Trust your intuition, son, it very well could save all your asses. Be careful.
Ashen- I know you are confused about a lot of things right now. Who you are, who you are going to be, and who you want to be. Remember one thing: you are who you want to be…nothing anyone else says, does, or is can change that. you have it in you to do great things, and I look forward to hearing the tales.
Lucen- Very rarely do I find someone as dedicated and stalwart as you. Believe it or not, you remind me of myself at your age: courageous, loyal, and tougher than shit. You have a long career in the Companies ahead of you, should you chose to pursue it, and I consider it an honor that you choose to wear my mark.
Kro- You are going to meet a lot of people like you, where you guys are headed. Young, cocky, and firmly convinced that the world will bow at their feet one day. You may be able to think circles around most of them, kid, and that counts for something. But keep your head on straight, and you may live long enough to attain some of your goals.
As Torrin leaves the ship for the last time, you see him running his fingertips along the railing wistfully. He doesn’t hide the fact that he’s tearing up, and gives the Nights’ End one last loving pat before he leaves. For the first time in over a decade, the ship is under the command of someone other than Torrin Ashe.

And, almost as quickly as you got here, you leave. Halfhand has the ship keep a lower altitude, giving the people of High Barrows a show, and once the city walls are clear, the ship is turned southeast.

Halfhand calls you all into his quarters, which still feel, even to him, like Torrin’s.
“Sit, sit. You want a drink?” he pulls a jug of beer out of a steel box. He hands it around, along with some mugs.

After everyone gets settled, he reaches into the desk, and grabs out a black leather courier’s pouch. The simple fastener bears the White Crow symbol of the Riders. He sits it down on the desk, and makes small talk for a couple of minutes. The red eyes of the Crow flash briefly, and Halfhand opens the pouch. He pulls out a small sheaf of papers.

“Once this opens, you all have officially become Jade Sting. While we have known each other for years, things have changed, for better or worse. As much as I don’t like it, this is my ship now. While you all balk at taking orders due to your unique skill set, you will follow my orders should I give them in times of duress. Its not a pride issue, it’s a survival issue. If you ignore any orders I give, you potentially put the crew of this ship in danger. That will not be tolerated from anyone, friend, former or current student, or subordinate. Are we all on the same page? Good. Down to business.”

He reads them, and then passes them around. “Here are our orders from our esteemed leader. “

Jade Sting operatives require extraction from the western network of the Ditch. They report their cover has been blown, and that the Fork has them surrounded. Only a matter of time before they are found. Provide air extraction.
After successful extraction head on bearing 38.5 NE, then N along the coast into Dubal. Fort Roden has been out of communication for a week now. Reconnect with Captain Fleer, and determine status of Fort.

The captain shows you the map, and you get a rough idea of where your point A and point B is.
Fort Roden is the base of most Sting patrols along the northern stretches of the Unclaimed. Under the original command of a contingent of dwarves, it is a massive fort that is an opening to the undercity of Rodenheim. Also called New Rodenheim, or Upper Rodenheim, it was a bustling trade center before the war, and post war, is an excellent place for weapon surplus.

The extraction point, unfortunately, is right at a lower point in the canyon. The agents, a pair of deep cover spies, need extraction. They will burn red smoke when they see the ship close.
Unfortunately, while the spies are on the level, Fork troops have set a trap.

In order to rescue the agents, who are hiding in a cave along the inner walls, they ship needs to either drop down to let them access the gangplank, or within 80 feet to lower the rope ladder.

As the ship prepares for the extraction, they hear signs of fighting from the cave entrance. The party leaves the ship to see if they can aid those they sought to rescue.
The two goblins manage to make it out of the tunnels, and as the party is re-boarding the ship, a massive attack is launched. Hidden ballistae launch barrels of burning oil onto the deck. Three ogre spiders appear from the canyon walls and launch their webs at the ship, halting its progress.
A squad of kobold rangers, riding their dire bat animal companions, circle the ship, firing poisoned crossbow bolts at any crew member they see. A dozen Grak battlemages dimension door onto the deck. These manage to subdue the pilot, Belias, and deactivate the ship.
A young black dragon appears in the distance, and zooms in, seeing the stranded ship and crew as tasty snacks.
The Firstborn launch a massive counterattack, defeating all the battle mages on deck and neutralizing the ballistae.
Ashen, using a potion he saved up for just an occasion, quaffs his potion of flying, and meets the dragon on its turf.
Ashen brutally wounds the dragon, and as it closes on the ship, its finished off.
The kobolds, seeing Ashen still flying around, decide its best they take their leave.
The bad news is the ship is slowly descending. In a short time, it’ll be grounded, and at that point, both the Nights’ End and its crew will be taken prisoner.

Captain Halfhand convinces the Firstborn to leave the ship, convincing them that if they too were to fall into the hands of the Crimson Fork, it would be a harsh blow to the Jade Sting. The ship and crew, or at least the crew, might be ransomed back to the Empire.
The Firstborn grudgingly agree, and sneak off the ship. They travel blindly through the network of caves that honeycomb the walls of the Ditch.

After a few hours, the party reaches the surface. As the party finds a place to lick their wounds, they hear a noise. They find a caravan of players circling up their wagons. The players, all slightly deformed/mutated/sick in some way, are led by a man named Morgan Weeg. He is an intelligent man, a bard, who makes his living with his troupe travelling the Unclaimed. Their destination, two stops away, is Soulless. They will be able to get the party in. Travelling with the Troupe is the safest route, even though they aren’t sure if they can be trusted.
The Firstborn and Weeg discuss the Troupe’s plans, and the caravan is on the way to Char, a town between their current location and Soulless. Blending in with the caravan, the Firstborn start to formulate plans on how to rescue Belias, Halfhand and the rest of the ship’s crew.

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An Unexpected Delay
Cats and Chains and broken things.

While the party is getting ready for their midnight departure, wrapping up loose ends, and selling anything they don’t want to take with them, excitement is high.
About 10 pm, they hear a ruckus in the halls. When they go to investigate, they see Dorgen and Halfhand discussing something in the hallway, along with Chinak.
“How the hell did they get up there?” Halfhand asks, looking up, way up, at the minotaur.
Growling, Chinak says “they must have magicked themselve up there, no one has gone past me since the departure orders were given..Captain.”
The party notices that Chinak is still a bit apprehensive about Halfhand being named new captain of Nights’ End.

Halfhand spots the group, and flags them over. Dorgen follows Chinak up the stairs, while the dwarf fills them in. Someone managed to sneak aboard the ship and disable the couplings and the control panel. Without everything in working order, the Air Elemental isn’t inclined to obey, grounding the airship. He takes the party up to investigate.
Knowing the Firstborn are more perceptive than most, Akram wants them to look over the scene.

After looking at the scene, the party sees that there is a definite pattern to the destruction. It was all done by someone, or a group of someones, roughly 5 and a half feet tall. Right handed, and done with a compact bludgeoning weapon, probably a hammer or club.
The person who did this knew the right things to hit to disable the most equipment in the shortest time.
There are only a handful of engineers in the city that could have a) known what the panel was, b) known the most efficient way to disable it.

Upon inspection, there is a small, very small, tuft of fur attached to the edge of one of the ships railings. It looks like cat fur.
The damage is fairly recent, say, within half an hour.

As the group is checking out the ship, they notice a shadow creeping over the edge of the ship onto the roof of the keep.

A chase ensues. The party attempts to keep up. The figure, cloaked all in black, leaps off the roof, disappearing into the mist and smoke below. Instead of going straight down, the figure uses ledges, flag poles, banners and edges of the building to move around the keep, to the ground on the other side. Ashen, using his own preternatural dexterity, manages to keep up for a while. Kro leaps off the edge and free falls, enacting feather fall at the last minute. He tracks the figure from the ground, looking to head them off.
Before he is stunned by a smoke grenade, Ashen identifies the figure as Parrea, the female catwalk from Last Stand, who is also a Firstborn. After losing her, the party returns to the task at hand.

Someone disabled the airship for a reason. The question is who, and why? The why is pretty simple, the firstborn have a lot of enemies in the city, and if they are kept here longer, they can be dealt with before they leave.

The best person in town who would know about the panel on the airships is an engineer by the name of Max. he lives in a barn converted into a workshop. He may know something. Max is a former engineer for the Empire, a disgruntled ex employee who’s loyalty may lie with the Tide.
When they approach max’s workshop, the lights are on, but no one seems to be home. The place is a large building, filled with junk. Ropes of chains hang from the rafters all over, giving the place an ominous feel. Upstairs is the drafting table and bedroom of Max. Half the party is hiding in the chain wrapped rafters, while Ashen creeps upstairs. Slumped over the table, is a dead body. As Ashen closes, the Kyton drops the disguise, and attacks Ashen. At the same time, the chains below lash out, entangling the Firstborn hiding in the rafters.
The Kyton was sent to kill the party, and take Kro alive. The killing of the party is for the Crimson Fork, but the imprisonment of Kro is for his masters, the Cabal of Rust.

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Webs, Lies, and Loyalties
once more unto the breach, dear friends.

After the meeting with Torrin, Belias and Fox go in search of Ashen. Searching high and low, using any resources neccesary yields no progress. No one remembers seeing him once the Firstborn left the Blackmoor manor. As the sun sets, a commotion rises from the Bailey Gate. Standing in the quickly thinning crowd is Ashen, shell shocked with hands covered in blood, and transformed into glittering claws.

Ashen leads the party back to the ruined campsite outside of town, they find it already stripped by scavengers. The bodies, torn and mangled, lie naked in the dirt. The wagon, horses, and any travelling goods are gone. The only signs of the situation are three dead people, and charred remains of a campfire. Ashen only has vague memories of the attack, remembering hearing that they wanted him because of who he was, and more importantly, who his father was.

The Firstborn scour the area for any signs of where the remaining kidnapper went, and discover a set of tracks heading farther out of town. They follow the tracks, and see a campfire burning at a roadside stop. Wearing a large brimmed hat, and a heavy cowled cloak, the figure beckons them to join. Sense motive shows no threat, and a perception check shows that it is a warforged. Not the Warforged, but a Warforged.
The cloak is open to show a virtual tapestry of scrollwork. This individual has been all over. If pressed, he gives the name Omega 42, of the last original line of Warforged from the tide war.

He states that he knows the party suspects a traitor in the Glass Arrows midst. He informs them that this rogue Warforged isn’t a turncoat from the Companies, and gives the Name Gamma 87, A.K.A Lead.
He confirms that Lead is the same Warforged from the attack in Last Stand, and is currently in the company of the Greywell brothers. He provides one more vital piece of info: Walter knew from the moment he heard that he had the Firstborn in custody, that he had something valuable. The Warforged, Lead, had sent a message to Willem, who was currently in Soulless, deep in the Unclaimed. Soulless, a lawless outpost, is a great place to hire mercenaries. Willem wants to kill the Firstborn for being indirectly responsible for the death of his former captain, Tharnak.

Lead has left the city for Soulless, and Walter, now wanted by the Companies, is hiding out in High Barrows. Through the network, he has discerned that Lead will be meeting Walter at an undisclosed location in one weeks’ time. 46 tells you that he will send you a message when he learns of the meeting place.
He also warns that Walter is wanted dead by many in the city. If city guards are brought into the fold, he may not survive the trip to the guardhouse. Walter knew too many dirty secrets to remain alive.

As the party returns to the Keep, they see that a lot of the Companies are preparing for departure. In three days time, the final procession for Okni will happen, and after that, the majority of the Companies will return to their previous duties. The Glass Arrows will depart, the Daughters to the jungles of Dubal, the Thurallinavaas to the elven territories, and the Sting will resume their patrols of the Unclaimed.

There are also reports of a Shambler Army along the border. The Arrows will head that way first. The Shamblers are lead by a Blooded named Kinsey, a Ghost born priest of Tagin, the Mirrormask.

The procession goes off without a hitch. Obviously, security teams are on guard, expecting there to be an incident. The entire city seems to be subdued, as the backbone of the city is offically laid to rest. Commander Torrin gives a speech at the funeral, and is greeted heartily as he decrees that the Riders will continue to base themselves out of High Barrows.

At the one week mark, 4 days after a majority of the Companies leave, the party is approached by a warforged private. He says he has been given a vision, a vision of a blue flame burning in a marble hand with black fingernails.
This is the sign that hangs over the Chemical Compound, a local alchemy shop owned by a retired halfling adventurer, named Cyrus. This is where Lead is supposed to meet Walter. The party will investigate, and will find Walter meeting with Lead and another cloaked figure. Walter is actually being interrogated by Lead and a semi physical projection of Tyrone.
The party attacks, trying to free Walter, and kill both Tyrone and Lead. Tyrone, after being damaged through his projection, flees. As he flees, he triggers a chemical fire, quickly burning the shop down.

Lead, under a magical compulsion to resist being taken alive, resists all attempts to be taken out of the fire, and ends up being burned alive.

Glimyr and Ashen return to the burned out ruins of the shop, while Belias and Kro take the captive and gibbering Walter back to the Keep. While they attempted to do so secretly, they get spotted by some guardsmen, who report seeing Walter alive and going into the Keep.

Belias, using magic and diplomacy, manages to coax Walter back from insanity, and reprograms his mind to recognize the Firstborn as friends. Walter knows that his time is limited because of all the dirty secrets he knows. He fully realizes that once he is handed over to the authorities, he will be killed. He talks about being afraid of Torrin, because of a secret he knows.
He reveals to the Firstborn that Torrin has a brother who is the head of the Crimson Fork. He also reveals that Torrin’s brother is Lichborn.
The party hands Walter over to Torrin, who was in meeting with the Generals of the High Barrows Guard. They also see another figure in the room, but only catch a glimpse of a black cloak, and a brooch in the shape of a phoenix.
Walter was taken by the Phoenix, presumably a member of the Shadows. Torrin, being stuck between a rock and a hard place politically, offers the Firstborn positions within the Jade Sting, who’s being sent to Rodenheim, a dwarven fort in the Unclaimed. They will be assigned to the Nights’ End, and will be under the command of Dorgen, who, in turn, is under the command of Akram Halfhand, new captain of the Nights’ End.

The ship is making an unscheduled departure at midnight that night. Torrin hints heavily at the fact that the party is in grave danger, and the safest option is to accept the command of the Jade Sting, and to leave High Barrows as soon as possible.

The party agrees, after some arguing over their self importance, and make hasty plans to depart in 8 hours’ time.

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Days Gone By
Echoes from the Past

After the Blackmoor house shifts back to it’s regular place in reality, the party realizes that they are the equivalent of a smoking gun. They are in a house with the remains of 20 dead people, all prominent members of High Barrows aristocracy.

A quick check will show that it is morning. There are guards around the premise, and a cordon has been established around the property. There are servants of the now deceased Blackmoor family answering questions. For some reason, the wards haven’t been lowered.
The perceptive members of the party notice that there is a Warforged standing across the street, staring impassively at the house. It can easily be taken as a statue.
From inside, the party sees a city mage scrawl out formulas on the ground, trying to find a way to break the enchantments so the City Guard can enter the house. The Firstborn, at the final moment, decide to lower the wards from the inside.
They are taken out of the house under close guard, with black bags over their heads. Once at the guardhouse, they are seperated, and each is questioned by a guard. Walter Greywell, the Captain of the Guard, questions Silver Fox, who identifies the party as the Firstborn. The rest of the party keeps their true identities secret, unsure who exactly they can trust.
The guards offer their protection, informing the prisoners that their presence within the Blackmoor house, and having witnessed the failed ritual, makes them a target from any Tide agents in the city. Once all have been questioned, they are lead to a conference room.
The party is informed that in reality, three days have passed, and that Torrin Ashe has been voted in as the Commander of the Riders of Rey’Leiar.
The captain of the guard, Walter Greywall, is the brother of Willem Greywall, Tharnak’s first mate.
He confronts the party for lying to him and his men, telling them that if they are to be kept safe, he should have known who they really were.
While he is in discussion with them, he is called out to the hallway. The party shares their information, including the fact that Walter is the brother of one of their enemies from days past.

A commotion erupts in the hallway, and a Warforged, bearing the markings of the Glass Arrows, tells them that he is there to rescue them. As they leave the conference room, they see guardsmen fighting with mercenaries, and they see Walter Greywell slumped down at the end of the hallway, incapacitated. The Warforged leads them out into the street, towards a safehouse. The City Quarter is chaotic, as buildings are burning, and people are surging away from the attack on the guardhouse.

As the Warforged leads the Firstborn down an alleyway that leads to the safehouse, he breaks away to fight two approaching mercenaries. The last member down the alleyway notices that the Warforged and the attackers are stage fighting. An explosion rocks the buildings at the alley opening, and collapses some of the stone. The party finds themselves in a dead end alley. Enemies appear from the tops of the buildings. Sorcerers, backed with some heavy crossbowmen.
Three heavily armed warriors appear in the alley and attack. Belias is wounded gravely, and with quick thinking by Glimyr and Kro, they manage to fend off the ambush. Two prisoners are taken and questioned, which gives little information as to who their attackers were.

Knowing that they cannot trust anyone at this moment, the Firstborn make their way back to the Keep, and are immediately taken into a meeting with Commander Ashe.
Torrin and Dorgen are both worried about the potential traitor in the Glass Arrows’ midst, and send Akram Halfhand to round up all the Arrows and question them.

The party had by this time, realized that Ashen hasn’t been with them since they left the Blackmoor house. Belias and Silver Fox head into High Barrows to find him, while the rest of the party stays back to rest.

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House of the Rising Son
tell your children not to do what i have done.

The Firstborn are contacted by a mysterious stranger known as Silver Fox, a member of the Shadows. He knows them by reputation, and offers to hire them to assist him in his search for Tyrone, a.k.a Korinag Shin, descendant of a famous Tide Fatespinner.

Located in the gatehouse, the house that Tyrone/Laerkes has dead-dropped messages to is owned by the Blackmoors, a politically powerful family in High Barrows. They have, on occasion, attempted to block political moves in the city to further their personal gain, but, essentially that meant going against the ruling family and Okni, so they didn’t push the limits too far.

Here in High Barrows, though, the Blackmoors’ eldest son, Kyle, is a drunken sot. He throws money about like its water, and spends hours on end wenching and carousing. Belias uses Kyle’s vices against him, and quickly becomes one of his companions. Unlike most other men his age, Kyle was able to avoid being drafted into the war with The Tide.

The party at the Blackmoors is touted to have a very special guest, a bard from up north, who has been rumored to have performed for the Emperor himself. Try as they might, the Firstborn can’t nail down this elusive performer, and they decide to get into that party to see exactly what is going on.

Three of the party get themselves invited, and the other three sneak in early that day, and hide until the party starts. When the sun goes down and the magical wards go up, the party turns from a collection of old money families to something more sinister.

The suprise guest is none other than Laerkes, the man they’ve been hunting for.

Tyrone has funneled a large chunk of cash into the Blackmoor family to buy their loyalty.
Kyle is the true target. While Stanis Blackmoor is a cunning political opportunist, he isn’t brash enough to take risks.

The Blackmoor family are recruiters for the Crimson Fork, the Tide version of the Riders of Rey’Leiar. All of the guests have been brought here to seal their alligiance to the Crimson Fork. As Laerkes starts to talk business with the older folk at the party, Kyle declares the situation “boring” and invites the Firstborn upstairs, where they can drink and dice in peace.

The perceptive Firstborn catch a glance pass between father and son, and realize that this, too, is all part of the recruitment process.
Upstairs, Kyle produces a bottle of wine, and proceeds to answer any questions the Firstborn have about the Crimson Fork. During the question and answer session, Kyle starts to sweat and show other symptoms of sickness.

All of a sudden, he falls over, frothing at the mouth. Seconds later, he’s dead. As the party runs downstairs to get help, the entire house shakes on its foundations. The windows blacken with a thick, oily liquid, and the front door will not open.

They discover the other guests of the party are all dead in the same way as Kyle. All died at the end of an apparent toast.

Heading back upstairs, the Firstborn proceed to search for clues in the house. The only clue they find is on the third floor, in the Observatory. Looking through the telescope, they can see, distantly, the image of the house they are in. They surmise that they narrowly escaped being part of a dark ritual that shunted the Blackmoor house out of its place in reality, and into a space in between the planes.

Since three of the party were on the guest list, and they survived, they speculate that being short three deaths for the ritual stopped it from being successful.

The Firstborn head back downstairs to discover what has happened, when they realize that all the bodies of the dead guests are gone. Signs point to the bodies being moved (or moving) towards the kitchen. The kitchen no longer has entrances to it. There were two doors that led in, but both of them have been sealed off magically. The party hears scratching and shuffling behind the walls, in the kitchen area. After failed attempts to break through the wall, the Firstborn retreat to other areas of the house to find out what happened. As the party continues its search, they hear a loud crash coming from downstairs.

Entering the foyer, they see the guests are now shambling corpses with the Firstborn as their targets. A brutal battle ensues, and when the Firstborn start to gain the upper hand, Laerkes appears and starts launching offensive spells.

They eventually manage to kill Laerkes, and with his death, the guests fall to ash. The house plane shifts back to its normal location, but the magical wards keeping the Firstborn in and the rest of the world out are still in place.

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Track down these murderers
they've gone to ground.

After returning the Mask of Languages to Vardo, he pays the party their 200 gold, and displays his wares for them. He honors the 10 % off for everything. He swears softly when he realizes that Jag was ripping him off for quite some time. He doesn’t ask for any of the other merchandise back, chalking it up to the fact that he underestimated Jag’s thievery skills.

Pleased with meeting the party, he promises to toss them other work that he hears about.

As you head back to your quarters, basic barracks in the Gatehouse, or wherever they decide to stay, you are still fascinated by the sheer amount of sights and smells of a new city.
Passing through the avenues out of the Bailey, the party notices a number of things:

  • There is a thin column of white smoke coming from the main chimney of the Castle. This means that the delegates of the various Free Companies are voting on issues. Being locked in the meeting hall, they cannot come in or out until the smoke clears.
  • A lot of people are wearing armbands emblazoned with the White Crow, the symbol of the Riders. Tapestries are being hung over balconies, in windows and from eaves of houses. The city seems to be showing its unanamious support of the Riders.
  • a small group of goblinoid children are playing in the alley by a tavern called the Bleeding Out.
    The Bleeding Out, or The Bleeding, is known to be a rough and tumble bar for mercenaries and off duty soldiers.

*More prevalent in the Bailey than other places, you see small insignias, charms, or other adornments of the Gods. The Horns of War, while the most prominent in a military base/city, are rivaled in number by the symbols of Kiris, The Justicar, and and Cade, The Watcher.

*A Small sect of Lightbringers, followers of Esmara, have opened up a clinic, working tirelessly to fight off sicknesses that breed in the confines of this part of the city.

*There are even a few followers of Tagin, identifiable by their polished steel masks.

*There are rarer sightings of Eternals’ markings. The Hearthmaster, The Wee Man, and even The Huntmaster have the occasional devout followers here.

*Finally, on your way out, you see something that is partially comforting, partially bothersome. Comforting, because the basic design is familiar, and bothersom because it has been altered to the point of almost being corrupted.

*Painted on the wall, is the symbol of Sovena, the Glittering Scale. The original symbol was an off white dragon silloette on a golden shield. This symbol is a Black Dragon on a bloodred shield. You have flashes of finding the Church in Last Stand profaned. The symbol on the altar at the church was desecrated, and had changed to look like this.

While exploring the town, an interesting rumor comes to the group’s attention. A group of kids, incidentally, kobolds, who were playing in the crypts, saw some figures that they’ve never seen before, they got scared, because these humans had no face, just a black spot under the hood where their face should have been.
This is the exact description of the would be assassin that attacked the party in Shade Cove.

The kids who saw the figures are not there, save one, the rest were ‘out playing’. The one kid that is around, Snim, will show the PCs how to get into the crypts, even though they were playing in a not so public part. Snim takes them into the Crypts. And then shows them the way they found.
Snim mentions they were playing Snakes and Mice, essentially hide and seek, but the Mice have to “Die” until the game is over.
Snim’s brother, Fitz, was the Snake, and found, coincidentally, an engraving of a snake on the wall.
This snake engraving is the trigger to open a secret door. The door opens to a forgotten section of the Barrows Crypt.
The other kids, are down here, and are hiding. They saw someone, then heard the low moaning of the hall of screams. They are daring each other to get close to it. Their presence, triggered an alarm deeper into the compound. As the party nears, they’ll see, or hear another of the acolytes. “Khan’s Balls!”, he swears, and runs back down the hallway. As he hits the first corridor split, a programmed illusion splits off, leading the party on the chase.

The party chases the black masked individuals through some ruins deep beneath the city’s crypts. As they meet and overcome obstacle after obstacle, they feel a deep grinding sound, as a door deep within is closed.
In an alcove towards the end, they find an altar to Sliniss’Khan. The altar, shoddly built, was supposed to open a way to The Paths, but more than likely would have opened to a random lower plane, allowing denizens to sneak in.
Past the blocked door, lies the Sect of Sliniss’Khan, sent here to find the group.

The staircase at the back opens up not far into an alley in The Bailey. Laying at the end of the alley, at the street, is a black cloak and facehiding mask. Bustling crowds hide the escapee.

Searching the lair shows that these acolytes, followers of Sliniss’Khan, were looking for the party.
They find numerous scrolls, one of them a sacred writing, which triggers them to remember what they were taught in school.
Sliniss’Khan has historically been linked to Kin’Varos. One of his lieutenants, Khan was thrown out of the Scourge’s Court due to failing at an appointed task. Finding those that The Scourge wants, would let Khan weasel his way back into Kin’Varos’ good graces.

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New WAorld
Adventures in High Barrows

The healer from Shade Cove leaves the ship, and heads back to town.
Torrin is relieved that his son will be back to normal after a long period of rest. The trip to High Barrows, about 2 days out still, will be more than enough time for Dorgen to regain some of his strength.

Chinak, upon finding out about the harnesses on the sides of the ship, is furious. He comandeers the off duty crew members and conducts a thorough deck by deck search, looking for any stowaways or sabotage.
He beefs up the watches, especially during the night hours. Other than a grumbling minotaur making rounds on the ship, the rest of the trip goes by uneventfully. The ocean gradually slips away as the ship heads inland.

The land, still in the process of healing after the long night, is dotted by towns and villages. The larger settlements are haloed by smoke from cookfires and chimneys.
As the party approaches High Barrows, they gradually see muddy lanes widen and become paved roads, and start to clog with travellers. The train of carts, horses and people signal their proximity to the city.
High Barrows houses a steady population of about 60,000 people.
Perched on the top of a small hill, the city of High Barrows looms over the surrounding hamlets, a stone watchman, ever alert. The population has spilled outside of the large granite walls, and houses sprout from the countryside like mushrooms after a healthy rain. The city itself is a mish mash of old and new architectural styles.

Almost like the rings of a tree, you can identify where the older borders of the city were. The oldest part of town is off center, more on the west side , while the second “ring” of city houses the Castle. The third ring holds the newest section of town, probably became permanent less than 30 years ago.

The airship has a docking platform on top of the castle. Flying from the towers are 7 banners. Sitting the highest is the Platinum Sun, the flag of the Empire. Below that, the Black Lion of House De’Reyan, the ruling house. The next hightest is the White Crow of the Riders of Rey’Leiar. The last four are sitting at equal height, representing the four visiting Companies, Thurallin’avaas, Daughters of the Blind Queen , the Glass Arrows, and the Jade Sting.
All four companies work under the Riders’ Banner. These are the Company commanders that were summoned when Okni died.

Thurallin’avaas- mostly elves and half elves, this company is made up of rangers, scouts, a quick strike recon team. Probably 300 strong, broken up into smaller teams, called Strykes. Leader: Fendis Xa’lant.

Daughters- the smallest of the four, the Daughters is comprised completely of women. All of them are brutal and savage. They have a smaller splinter group, called the Sons, but they rarely hold positions of power. All the officers of the Daughters are required to sacrifice one of their eyes upon full inititation. About 100 strong, with about 40 Sons. Leader: Vala Olgaien

Glass Arrows/Blades- once was completely Warforged, they have a hodgepodge of other recruits, with a large number of artificers and alchemists. 200 altogether. Leader is Sigma Five.

Jade Sting: the largest of the four represented, they are mainly infantry that patrol the Unclaimed. Numbering almost a thousand, they have the most diversity in their ranks. Leader : Garret Alran.

The council plans to meet to discuss Okni’s last wishes. They will eventually appoint a leader of the Riders.

Dorgen, feeling better, offers to take the Firstborn into town and show them High Barrows. He takes them into the Bailey, to an old friend of his. The friend, a veteran named Vardo, runs a shop nowadays. He is glad to see Dorgen, because he has a problem.
A former worker of his, Jag, decided to up and leave, taking with him a commisioned piece that a rich person wanted. Vardo, while doesn’t craft anything other than the occasional potion, has many contacts, and they found this item in some old ruins in the Unclaimed. The item, a Crystal Mask of Languages, is worth a large sum to the collector. Vardo offers to pay the group 100 gold pieces, plus he’ll give them a flat 10% discount on any of his wares, good after completion of the mission.
He says they can keep anything else they find, since Jag stole some odds and ends as well.

After asking around, Jag was headed to a cave outside of the city, towards the Unclaimed. About 6 hours ride from the city.

The cave is now a hideout for a small band of hobgoblins on the run from the Tide. They don’t want any trouble, and are trying to find a way to buy their passage into High Barrows.
They also heard of Okni’s passing, and wanted to leave a token of respect at his grave. Being the Scourge of the Tide, Okni and his Riders built up quite a reputation.
On their way out of Tide territory, they overheard of a gift being sent to the city by some of the Grak sorcerers. The gift was called Sliniss-Khan’s Lament. The hobgoblins think this is some sort of token of respect. The gift was 12 casks of Grakish liquor, known for being a rare and tasty treat.

*Slinis-Khan is a snake demon, known for his silver tongue and double edged deals.
*Sliniss-Khan’s Lament is actually a poison that would be laced with the Liquor. It’s effects would cause shortend tempers and mindless rage in anyone who took more than one drink.
*Khan was the snake demon who seduced Vargus Brightsun, the original Knight of Shadows, into opening up the Paths, and corrupted Vargus from a knight to an antipaladin.

  • the Paths are tunnels to the lower planes, when opened, allow extraplanar into this realm.

The hobgoblins came back to their cave and found Jag dead in the front room. They are currently outside the cave, trying to get the nerve up to go inside and find the ‘ghosts’. Jag had set up a couple of minor traps, triggering ghost sounds and figments, that scared away the cowardly hobgoblins. The hobgoblins have a small collection of money in the cave, and are willing to pay the party 10 gold, out of their 30, to retrieve their stuff.
Nothing else of value is in the cave that belongs to the hobgoblins. Clothes, food, and some bits and pieces.
The leader’s name is Grop, and he leads the party of 5, once scouts for the blackened ear clan.
Should the party decide to kill and loot them, the hobgoblins have basic studded leather armor and shortswords, along with light crossbows. Grop is a second level warrior, the rest are first level.

Jag’s body will have the mask and a 30 silver. Searching the body will show that he has a crude map drawing tatooed on his arm. The map shows a ‘dead end’ recess in the cave, and a secret compartment.
The map marked a hidden compartment that Jag used to store the stuff he stole from Vardo over the years.

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Cat Scratch Fever
Eels in the street, Shrimp in the bar.

The Firstborn, having been greeted by Torrin Ashe, Captain of Nights’ End, are given a tour of the airship. Akran Halfhand, a teacher at Kihan’s, is on the ship. He gives the badly wounded Dorgen a healing potion to repair the damage, and Dorgen is escorted to his father’s cabin to rest.

Still shellshocked, the party is informed that the captain and his crew are all members of the Riders of Rey’leiar, the largest Free Company in the Empire. The leader of the Riders, Okne Pahk, sent Torrin and his crew to Last Stand, knowing there was something significant expected to happen. Dorgen was sent into the city to scout things out, and the Firstborn fell into his lap.

Torrin explains to the Firstborn that due to situations in Last Stand, and all the feathers the group has ruffled, there is no home anymore. Knowing this was on the horizon from the start, the Firstborn willingly climb aboard the ship. While the party is boarding the ship, they notice an albino crow land on a branch in the clearing, and fly towards the captain. The crow turns into a scrollcase, marked with the albino crow: the symbol of the Riders.

Torrin reads the message, and disappears into his cabin.

That evening, Jayvin arrives in the clearing, accompanied by a few of the Firstborn’s loved ones. Tearful goodbyes ensue. Jayvin assures the group that they are in competent hands, and that he has no doubt that he’ll see them again, down the road.

Late that night, Nights’ End is finally ready to depart. Destination: High Barrows.

The Firstborn have breakfast with the Captain, where he tells them a little bit about the Riders. He also tells them that the message he recieved was bad news. Okne Pahk, the Riders’ Leader, has died. Torrin hopes that somewhere in Okne’s personal effects, there will be some documentation as to why he wanted to meet the Firstborn.

During the afternoon, Dorgen becomes very ill. He passes out on deck, and is tended to by Halfhand and Cro. Using his medical skills learned at Kihan’s, Cro determines that the wound recieved from Ceros’ dagger must have infected Dorgen with an extraplanar parasite. The wound fills with tiny worms that multiply and grow, trying to take control of Dorgen’s extremities. Through skill and determination, Cro manages to keep Dorgen stabilized. Torrin sets course for a nearby town that has a professional healer that should be able to neutralize Dorgen’s ailment.

The only problem is, the crew has a “kill on sight” order on them in the town of Shade Cove. Being the moral opposite of Last Stand, Shade Cove is awash with pirates, cutthroats and Tide soldiers.

Belias, Cro and Ashen venture into the town to locate Torrin’s contact, the owner of the Cracked Head, a tavern. After bribing a guard, and charming the leader of the Eels, a street gang, the party makes it to the tavern. While waiting for Thomas, their contact, to meet with them, they take in the atmosphere of the bar.

A halfling street gang, known as The Shrimp, come in, and start trash talking to a group of Tide soldiers. Thomas tells the group that this is nothing new. Cro spies something suspicious in the storeroom behind the bar. Upon investigation, he sees the body of their serving girl.

Across the room, the serving girl approaches Ashen and Belias, and after a moments distraction, stabs Belias in the chest. The disguise drops, and a cloaked and masked figure draws its blades.

Simultaneously, the trash talking between the Tide and the Shrimp erupts into a bar fight, with blades being drawn. Using their arcane arts, Ashen and Belias manage to defeat the would-be assassin, and the barfight ends abrubtly. The Firstborn deduce that whoever planned the attack on them, used subtle magic to escalate the fight, hoping to use the chaos to kill them quickly and quietly.

The three depart the tavern, meeting the healer on the road to the ship. The healer treats Belias’ wounds, and is able to cure Dorgen of his worm infestation. As the party is preparing to board the ship to leave Shade Cove, they notice two modified housebreaker harnesses, fastened to the sides of the ship. On opposite sides of the ship, both harnesses were set up to hold someone safely and semi-comfortably on the hull of the ship, undetectable from above, or each other.

Two sets of footprints, one from each harness, go different directions into the darkness.

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School's out forever
Fly the Friendly Skies.

The weeks pass quickly since the night of the party. The three groups of watchers are always present, making secrecy almost impossible for the Firstborn. Having a heavy dose of reality, their childhood is a thing of the past. No longer interested in school, they now ponder what lies in store for them after graduation.

The conspiracy comes to light within certain circles, along with a public outcry against House Kilnier. Councilman Miles Kilnier openly denounces the actions of his son, Mierlo, and demands that the full extent of the law be used as punishment for him. Everyone knows that Miles is behind the whole situation, but no evidence will stick.

Days pass, and the house of cards that was the Firstborn’s life, slowly falls, a series of events that closes the door to their childhood, and ushers them into the realm of adults.

Grellig passes away, and even at his funeral, the party is under constant and obvious surveillance.

The Smith family shop is vandalized, all breakable things are destroyed, and a high grade acid is poured over all metal works, destroying them completely.

The Church of the Glittering Scale, Ashen’s fathers’ church, is also vandalized, and worse, profaned.

Glimyr and Cro’s adpotive parents are both fired from their administrative jobs, citing a ‘financial scandal.’

The orphanage run by the Order of the White Star, is set ablaze, and burns to the ground. Thankfully, no one was hurt.

The only respite the party has, is at school. They are assigned a number of “study halls”, allowing the Firstborn to do what they please under the watchful of one of the teachers.

On one such day, the Firstborn recieves a visitor. One of the town lawyers visits, and passes on a message and some gifts to the party. The lawyer represents a number of “concerned parties” that support the Firstborn in their crusade against House Kilnier, and urge them to stick to their story, because one day Kilnier will suffer for the atrocities they condone. The lawyer also informs them that while the Firstborn don’t see it, there are people working behind the scenes to keep them safe. The gift box includes a number of helpful potions and scrolls, as well as a finely tailored cloak for them all. Each cloak has the Bastet family crest sewn into it.

The next day, yet another visitor appears. Councilman Kilnier himself requests a meeting with the party, and expresses his sincere apologies for the acts his House has committed and wishes to make amends to the Firstborn for any grievances they have suffered. When the school faculty is out of earshot, he calmly threatens the group, telling them that if they don’t recant their story, each of their loved ones will suffer greatly.

Kilnier seems openly confused when confronted about the actions taken against the church and the parties’ family, explaining to them that anything he would do would be ten times worse than any of that. As a gesture of good faith, he sets events in motion to restore Glimyr’s and Cro’s parents’ jobs.

Finally, graduation time comes. The city of Last Stand breathes a sigh of relief as a positive event can be celebrated. Graduation day coincides with Kihan’s 200th birthday, and the Council plans a grand celebration, ending with a wonderful display of fireworks.

During the fireworks display, the keen eyed Firstborn notice a number of explosions and flashes don’t coincide with the overall story being told via magic, and during the climax of the show, they see something flash through the night sky and burn out on the wooded isle near the mainland.

Two days later, the party meets for coffee at the same cafe they met Jayvin at years ago. Dorgen Ashe meets them, looking exhausted. He waves off any questions as to what he’s been doing the past few weeks. The party spies Ceros Jade Talon walking towards them, the first time any of them have seen either of the catfolk since the attack by the kobolds, almost a year ago.

Ceros looks ragged and dirty, and is mumbling to himself. He stops at the table, and looks as if he’s going to speak. A blur of movement and he buries a dagger into Dorgen’s chest, and prepares to lunge at the party. At that same instant, utter chaos breaks out in the street. The coffee shop storefront explodes outward, showering the party with glass.

A minotaur appears out of nowhere and snatches the bleeding Dorgen up and starts to run away. Jayvin and his Shadows appear amidst the wreckage, and order the Firstborn to follow the minotaur.

Ceros, in a frenzy to reach the Firstborn, kills a Shadow with a savage blow from his dagger. A nightmarish chase ensues, as fighting erupts in the streets as one group moves to get the Firstborn, while others move to protect them. They follow the minotaur to the wooded isle, where they see signs of a crash. Trees toppled over, branches litter the ground, and in a clearing they see a strange sight.

Nestled in the brush and fallen trees, sits an airship, a knot of people standing over the dying Dorgen. A man approaches and offers his hand, introducing himself as Torrin Ashe, captain of Nights’ End.

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