Last Stand

The Beginning

As the dog days of summer wind down before the school term starts, the group of friends decide to pit brains against brawn in the neighborhood pick-up game of rugby. Dominated by a team of military brats, the last game of the season ends in a landslide, the trophy and dinner sponsored by the local orphanage seeming to go, once again, to the winning team.

In a fit of inspiration (and a little bit of jealousy), the party throws their ragtag team into the mix, challenging the ‘Sea Hawks’ to a no guts, no glory match.

Ironically named ‘The Killers’, the team uses keen eyed tactics and superior intelligence, along with some dirty tricks, to snatch the game away from the Sea Hawks, and make them look like a bunch of whiny losers in front of a large crowd of local kids.

High on their victory, the party rides their newly won coolness to glide through the rest of summer, on to the beginning of the school year.

Their second year of school at Kihan’s Institute of Higher Learning begins on a dark note. Over the past six weeks, eleven students have turned up missing or dead, seven of them from the same grade as the party.

As the names are read off, the party realizes that they share a common link with a majority of the deceased. All of them were born on the same day, of the same year. The same day that the newly chosen ‘Era of Peace’ begins.

Is this just a horrible coincidence, or do dark forces gather around them?

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Bloody Deeds
murder, mayhem, and a man with a salamander.

After finding out that 11 kids from the Kihan’s went missing and were found dead, seven of them sharing a birthday with the Firstborn, the party decides to investigate. After being denied any information about the disappearances murders, the Firstborn take it upon themselves to find out what happened. Mylea Madsen, mother of Firstborn member Roel Madsen, is the Head Librarian at Kihan’s, and has a key to the main door of the building. Sneaking into the school one night, they break into the Dean’s office, knowing that Clelan Aficias has the official file on the incident. Faced with a locked door, and no real lockpicking skills to speak of, Belias Smith and his younger sister, Anora, fall back on the family trade and remove the door from its hinges.

Once inside, they quickly locate the file. Cro’Vax Greenleaf uses his scribing skills and quickly makes a copy of the documents for later study. The party expertly replaces the door and manages to sneak out into the night. On the way off of campus, Ashen Templebound sees a figure standing under a street light, cloaked in black, talking to himself. The figure, a half elf named Jayvin Hicks, is a field agent of The Shadows, A.K.A. The Shadow of the Throne. Jayvin had been sent to Last Stand to investigate some rumors of a Tide sympathizer surfacing in the city. Jayvin introduces himself to the party, and shares with them information on the killings that he has. Deep cover agents hidden within the Tide ranks revealed a prophecy that came to light a year ago. Seeressess of Kin’varos, on the fourteenth New Year of the Era of Light, awoke from their trances and spoke.

“Last Stand bears seven children. A pair of mixed heritage. All heralded the beginning of the Light. All must die.”

A half-orcish pirate, Tharnak, managed to slip into town unnoticed. Destined to become a Bloodchief of Kin’varos, Tharnak took on the mission to exterminate the Firstborn. With the help of his firstmate Willem Greywell, Tharnak managed to slay most of the potential Firstborn kids in the city.

The party, finding out from Jayvin that Tharnak was hunting them, turned to Grellig, an orcish businessman who operates the largest casino and brothel in Last Stand. Grellig, possessing an odd code of ethics when it comes to children in danger, put his men on the streets to work, and located the pirate and his first mate. The Justicars managed to arrest Tharnak, but Willem escaped.

Having been alerted of the danger to the Firstborn, the school’s faculty try to lockdown the campus when runners reported an attack within the city. Willem had activated his Captain’s failsafe, awakening a warforged crew member armed with an artifact stolen from one of Kihan’s instructors.

Knowing that staying in the school meant they would be trapped, the party managed to slip off the school’s campus. As Stormcliffs was being shut down, Anora arranged a diversion so her brother and her friends could sneak aboard the air carriage and get to Grellig’s casino, the only safe place in the city for them.

Grellig’s agents smuggled the Firstborn into the casino, where they were kept safe from the attacks. Willem and his warforged companion launched a desperate attack on the holding facility that held Tharnak, but were defeated. Willem disappeared, and the unnamed Warforged was destroyed, the remains lost in the channels below.

As life returned to normal for the Firstborn, they continually dodged angry retorts and pranks from their rivals, the senior class military brats from the Academy. In a move that will go down in history, the Firstborn arranged a vulgar and humiliating prank that made the Academy graduating class look like fools, and made them, once again, out to be the heroes of their school.

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The worst thing about living in Last Stand...
...is all the damn kobolds.

After an uneventful summer, the next school year starts. The Firstborn, still riding high off their prank at last year’s graduation, have become heroes to their schoolmates. Anyone who wants to be anyone will go to great lengths to be seen talking to the Firstborn in public, or, miracle of miracles, to actually hang out with them.

A few weeks into the school year, a new student transfers into Kihan’s. Dorgen Ashe moved to Last Stand with his uncle, who was reassigned by the Army after suffering a serious wound in combat. Dorgen and his uncle were members of the Jade Sting, a Free Company that patrols the edge of The Unclaimed. Although Dorgen is the same age as the party, he has already seen combat, and is allowed to wear his weapon, under peacebond, while in school. Whispered voices wonder why Dorgen transfered into Kihan’s as opposed to the Academy, but no one seems to know.

Dorgen’s appearance and air of mystery and danger is a point of interest to all, to the point that a lot of attention shifts from the Firstborn to Dorgen. Dorgen, uncomfortable under the scrutiny, finds himself unconsciously drawn to the Firstborn, and quickly becomes friends with the group.

Unfortunately, the fame the Firstborn has won isn’t without a price: the cadets they pranked on last year are now employed by Last Stand as bottom rung guardsmen. Lead by Barthoff “Biff” Ramatha, the cadets do everything they can to mess with the Firstborn. Curfew citations, “friendly” warnings to follow the rules, suprise inspections to curb underage drinking, even random searches looking for ‘illegal substances’ are commonplace. Whenever they can give the Firstborn a hard time, they do so gladly.

One of Biff’s squad members, Kev Rollins, starts to draw the attention of the keen-eyed party. They notice that Kev tends to watch them closer than normally, and seems to possess greater than average intelligence and cunning, making him the more dangerous of that particular group.

Once again, Jayvin shows up in town. After hearing the groups’ problems with Kev, he warns them to be careful. He says he’s in town on unrelated business, but that since Willem Greywall is still on the loose, he wouldn’t be suprised if there was something amiss.

Another of Biff’s squad members, Jax Fenton, reveals an interest in metalworking and jewelrymaking, which draws him to Belias. Belias, showing Jax some basic techniques on Jax’s off time, manages to get some dirt on Kev and Biff. Apparently, their squad hangs out at the old Winders Tannery.

The Tannery, located Dockside, was gutted by a fire a couple of years ago, and since no one could get the smell of burnt skin and animal fat out of the place, it sat abandoned since the fire.

One night, the Firstborn see Biff’s squad heading to the Tannery, and decide to follow. After peeking into the boarded up windows, they see the group of guardsmen drinking cheap liquor and squabbling. Kev, in the privacy of their hideout, seems to be completely in charge, cowing all the rest into leaving. Alone, Kev sits drinking, talking to himself.

The Firstborn, seeing an opportunity to confront Kev on their own terms, kick in the door and start closing in. At that point, the trap springs shut.

Metal bars fall into place around the entrances, and Kev disappears. A team of kobolds appear, led by a sorcerer, who tells the group to come along peacefully, or the kobolds will have to take them the hard way.

As a pitched battle ensues, the party realizes that most of the kobolds are actually illusions, and that only two of them are real; the sorcerer, and the one with the poisoned bolts. The sorcerer managed to summon a water elemental to aid him in subduing the party.

Parrea, the female catfolk and fellow Firstborn, gets brutally beaten by the water elemental, and almost dies. Ashen also hurt, having been knocked off the second floor balcony by the elemental after attempting to move past it.

After killing the kobolds and watching the water elemental fade, the party is able to send for help for their wounded friends. Ceros, Parrea’s twin brother, is blinded with rage over the attacks on his sister, and blames Ashen for letting her get hurt.

In a turn of bad luck, the first guards on the scene are Biff and his squad. Seeing Parrea hurt, and their adversaries over the bloodied body, Kev quickly paints a picture of a brutal assault, and the Firstborn are hauled roughly to the nearest jail “for questioning.”
Ceros’ and Parrea’s father, outraged at his daughters injuries, accuses the Firstborn of brutalizing his daughter.

After four hours of being locked up, Jayvin finally manages to get the Firstborn out. Moving them to a safe location, he informs them that circumstantial evidence and loud voices has kicked up a political shitstorm, labeling the Firstborn as the villians.

As the nightmare chain of events comes to an end, two questions remain. How did the kobolds manage to get into Last Stand, and why did they want to take the Firstborn alive?

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Conspiracies and Cover-ups.
Keep Calm and Carry On.

A week after the attack, and the Firstborn has struggled to find time to get together. The Smith children have been running ragged trying to balance schoolwork and the workload dropped on them by their father. Having his children’s name slandered by the Jade Talon family has sent him into a frenzied state.

Luken’s father, on the other hand, has hired a personal trainer for his son, to teach him to defend himself against further attacks, and be damned what Administrator Clelan has to say about students carrying weapons.

Dorgen Ashe has been battling with bouts of guilt, struggling to accept the fact that he isn’t responsible for the attack on the Firstborn. He dealt with the situation as best he could, but still feels like he failed the group by not preventing the injuries sustained by the Firstborn.

The faculty at Kihan’s has been scrutinizing the Firstborn, their attitudes ranging from waspish annoyance to fullblown outrage at the smallest (sometimes imagined) infractions.

Chip and Cog, Instructor Halfhand‘s homuculi, have been around the Firstborn more and more. Being an extension of Halfhand’s will, seem to be the most understanding and honest with the group. Trading jokes and passing along warnings, the two constructs are showing more and more that they are individual beings, and not just additional hands for the Artificer.

During the weekend, Roel, Ashen and Cro are finally able to isolate from the watchful eyes of parents and teachers, and discuss what happened, and what they can do. They decide to go back to the scene of the attack and see if there are any clues left there as to how the kobolds managed to get into Last Stand, or at the very least, the Tannery.

As they get ready to head to Dockside, a young messenger from the orphanage approaches with an invitation to lunch with Keeper Terrance Hobb, head of the White Star, the organization that runs the local orphanage.

Cro RSVP’s to the messenger, who returns dutifully to the Keeper with the Firstborn’s reply.

The Firstborn, without further ado, head to the Tannery. They find that the local guardsmen have already cleaned the place out, removing bits of ruined furniture and random odds and ends left behind from the previous inhabitants. They decide to check out the disposal chute in the far corner, which was used to dump all sorts of unpleasant things into the water below.

Using a bit of rope and some ingenuity, they lower Cro down the chute to see if anything interesting lies at the bottom. With his keen observation skills, Cro spots a small chest suspended over the edge of the opening. The Firstborn manage to secure the chest, and sneak out of the Tannery before the guards return from lunch.

Inside the chest is a bottle of goblin liquor, a pouch filled with 100 silver pieces, and some random bits of crap that could belong to none other than Biff and his crew. The question is, where did all that money come from? And why that particular vintage of liquor, one that isn’t normally sold in Last Stand?

The next day, Cro, Roel and Ashen go to the orphanage to have lunch with Keeper Hobb. Hobb, an elderly gentleman with a big heart, has discovered something that he thinks he shouldn’t have.
One week ago, a former orphan, Tade Fenden, was found dead. Tade was adopoted out two years ago to a family that reportedly moved to Agrimar a year ago.

Tade was found dead in an alley behind Tong’s Brewery. No evidence of foul play was discovered by the coroner, but there were a unusual aspects of the teenager’s death. First, there were strong traces of the opiate Cla’niet in his system. The levels built up in his body showed that he’d been using the drug for well over a year, and in doses high above the legal limit. Second, the wear and tear on his body, both internal and external, would normally be expected to be found in people who had worked in cramped conditions with poor ventilation and exposure to harsh chemicals for decades. Tade was fifteen years old.

Keeper Hobb, being concerned and outraged at the condition of his former ward, decided to do some research. He came across six other cases of former orphans that had died under the same circumstances, as well as a startlingly high number of other children that were exposed to the same harsh conditions. The cases go back almost twenty years.

Checking through his personal files of his former orphans, he found that the other six cases involving adopted out kids all had the families reported as moving out of Last Stand within a year of all paperwork becoming official.

Hobb immediately took the found information to the police, who just dismissed him as being paranoid. Even the Justicars wouldn’t listen to his pleas. Hobb informs the Firstborn that he has noticed that his personal items have been tampered with, and reports seeing strange figures on the Orphanage grounds at night.

The lunch meeting is interupted by Hobb’s butler, who informs him that the local Imperial Magistrate is here, and demands Hobb’s presence. The butler sneaks the Firstborn out through a back door, and as they are leaving, they see the Magistrate, along with a number of soldiers, desecend on Hobb, citing criminal charges and demanding to see all official files of the Orphanage, declaring an audit’s beginning.

Right before Hobb left, he passed a single worn pouch that was found on Tade’s body. Inside, they find a wrought iron bracer with a crudely cut emerald set in it. Beneath the emerald are rough glyphs of scrying and warding. The party deduces that this could be a short range way of keeping magical tabs on Tade, and whoever has similar bracers like it.

Also in the pouch were a pair of thick leather gloves, scorched and pitted. The damage to the gloves shows that the wearer handled various acids, and was exposed to extremely hot temperatures on a consistent basis.

Lastly, is a worn down chisel. Also pitted and scarred, the chisel has a melted appearance to it, showing that it had been exposed to extreme heat and acid.

The group is determined to follow through with Keeper Hobb’s wishes, and find out who is using Last Stand’s orphans for malicious gain. Meeting with Jayvin, the party explains to him the situation with Hobb. Jayvin tells them that officially, he’s been issued an order to ignore Hobb’s accusations on the basis that he’s a paranoid old man. Jayvin cannot officially act on this, because the Crown has gotten involved in the cover up.

Who could have enough political clout to keep something of this magnitude quiet? What exactly are the kids being used for? How does the Crown benefit from this immoral and illegal operation?

All evidence points to someone is mining something. But what? The party starts researching geographical data, looking for signs of ore deposits, potential dig sites and recent structural changes to Last Stand’s islands.

Councilman Miles Kilnier is the prime suspect right now. He has the power over the Council, he has the wealth needed, the mining and crafting experience, and the Imperial sway to operate something of this nature and get away with it. But is it him? And if it is, how do they prove it?

If someone is monitoring other slave laborers with these bracers, they’d need an enormous emerald as a focus to exert any amount of control over the smaller emerald wearers. But how to find it? Break into Kilnier’s estate, of course!

TO BE CONTINUED….

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The Truth Shall Set Them Free
a night of wine, women, song and child slavery

The Firstborn manages to sneak their way onto Gold Isle, and finagle a way to get into a large dinner party, hosted by the Bastet Family. Posing as servers(Ashen and Lucien), taking a break from jobs at unrelated houses (Cro and Roel) or being a guest to someone who was invited (Belias), they all arrive at the party.

Upon entering the Bastet household, they eventually see that a subtly crafted illusion has been cast over the house. Using a powerful teleportation spell, each guest to the ball is shifted to the Kilnier household, which has been hidden under the guise of the Bastet house.

The Bastet, being the most powerful magic using family in Last Stand, created the elaborate ruse to protect their property from being looked at too closely. Due to free flowing and powerful liquor, the illusion isn’t noticed by the majority of the partygoers.

After mingling for a couple of hours, and examining the accessible areas on their own, the Firstborn wait until the drink has taken hold of the guests. In the study, they notice beneath the illusion, a large chandelier that bears an expertly cut emerald the size of a wagon, the controlling stone to the bracers placed on the child laborers.

The Firstborn make their way to the basement, where they uncover a secret passage leading deeper into the island. As they cautiously make their way down, they notice the tempurature rising. After a couple hundred yards, they discover the cause of the heat: a river of lava!

The rough stone walls of the chamber house a unique vein of mineral, which is being mined by a couple malnourished children. Knowing they have to stop the atrocity, the Firstborn grab one of the children, along with a sample of the ore, and flee, running across a rope bridge spanning the lava. They manage to elude the taskmasters who are chasing them, and end up crossing into a one way teleportation chamber, which deposits them behing Tong’s Brewery.

Knowing that they must seek sanctuary right away, the Firstborn head to the only place they trust: Grellig’s bar. Upon arrival, they are taken to Grellig’s office, where they are kept safe from any pursuit. Jayvin arrives shortly thereafter, having recieved a message from Grellig’s associates.

The party explain to him the events of the evening, and he informs them that Gold Isle has been locked down due to a “security breach” of unknown origins. Belias’ sister, Anora, is still on the island.

The child is placed in protective custody, and the Firstborn are escorted home. The waiting game begins once more, as the slave ring slowly comes to light. Anora is returned home safely a few hours later.

The Firstborn all notice that they’ve acquired watchers, from three different factions. Staff from the school, Jayvin’s fellow Shadows, and a third party, presumably from those that wish the conspiracy would stay a secret.

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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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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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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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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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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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