Esk in Chaos

The PCs paused before following Marta. They searched the fallen Guardians, looking for clues about these men who claimed to be “protectors of Esk.” The men bore strange mutations (odd growths of hair, claw-like fingernails, etc.) and each was branded with a humped symbol. Seamus recognized it as a stylized bridge – the emblem of Esk. The party dragged the bodies off of the road, and dumped them in a draining ditch, then covered the corpses with debris before following Marta into the wilderness.

The dark-skinned girl led them north, into the Old Forest. She seemed humble, thankful, and unassuming, but the PCs observed that she glanced about nervously as she hiked through the undergrowth. The party pressed her for information about her attackers, and asked where she was leading them.

Marta explained that the Righteous March left Esk in ruins. Most of the population either fled or joined the March, and those that remained had hidden from the army during its occupation. They returned after the March left the city, and began the process of rebuilding. Recent events had left the survivors severely traumatized. Fearful and distrustful, they soon fell prey to a charismatic cult leader. He rallied the survivors around the idea of Esk as a sentient entity – our mother and provider – and called upon the survivors to join him as her “Guardians.” While the Guardians initially mobilized reconstruction of the city, they soon began persecuting anyone they perceived as an outsider. Marta’s father Ohgren, an immigrant tailor from the southern duchy of Hornvale, was one of those targeted, as were many other non-Veldsmen, human and demi-human. Marta and her father decided to flee the city, rather than risk greater persecution.

As she talked, Marta led the party to her father’s camp. Though initially mistrustful of the strangers, Marta’s father eventually accepted their story. After pressing the PCs for information about the Righteous March and rejoicing in the news of their defeat, he confirmed Marta’s story and provided additional details. He named an arms dealer called Ernest Harker as the leader of the Guardians, and insisted that each new Guardian was put through an initiation ritual where “Esk bestowed her gift upon her protectors.” The whole thing stank of Chaos. Marta’s father also told the party that the High Hammer of Phaelan, Rictiln, still lived, but had still not regained consciousness. The Guardians had adopted Phaelan’s temple as their headquarters, naming themselves as the priest’s protectors until he regained his faculties.

The PC’s shared a meal with Marta, Ohgren, and their camp-mates, then set off for Esk. Using Seamus’s magic and the two masks of disguise in their possession, they sneaked past the sentries and made their way to The Three Kegs, the inn they’d stayed in during their previous visit. It was nearly abandoned. They found the innkeeper, Sarah, to be sympathetic to their cause, and set up base within the city.

The following morning, the party members split up to reconnoiter the city. Seamus remained in the inn to study. Byl and Gardain (who used one of the masks to disguise himself as a human) scouted the exterior of Phaelan’s temple and assessed the strength of the Guardians’ defenses. Smidgen used the other mask to disguise herself as a child, and joined a group of other children who were being led to “class” within Phaelan’s temple.

As Byl and Gardain were scouting the entrances to the temple, a sparrow swooped down from the clouds, directly toward Byl. Before he could react, the bird transformed into roll of parchment. It was a note from Crucian, head of the Deepvale Library and high-ranking member of the Wind Weavers.

“The plan has failed,” the note read, “The King has executed the Marchers and turned the Weavers against one another. You must abandon the plan and flee. The King knows your destination and will come for you next.”

Trouble on the Road

Though they had defeated the monsters that inhabited the ruins of Greenbrae, the party could not delay its errand to undo the corruption of the village. Using a Sending charm provided by the Wind Weavers, the party notified Crucian Songsteel of the situation in Greenbrae, and requested that he send agents to destroy the Chaos Egg at its heart. They then continued their trek to Esk.

The journey to Esk via the Harp Road took nearly two weeks. Most of the trip was uneventful. Scattered late summer storms made the road muddy and left the travelers wet and uncomfortable. Whenever possible, they stopped at wayside cottages (“travelers’ rests”) for secure shelter. While the path left by the Righteous March was apparent, they saw no other travelers on the road.

On the eleventh day of their journey, as they were completing their midday meal, the party heard a woman’s screams coming from the road ahead of them. Rushing to investigate, they observed four armed men laughing as a great hound dragged a struggling girl from the undergrowth bordering the road. The men wore crudely patched uniforms bearing the coat of arms of Esk. The woman wore crude peasant clothing, and appeared to be unarmed.

The party called out a challenge to the men, asking why the girl was being handled to roughly. The men, who identified themselves as “Guardians of Esk”, responded by ordering the party to halt and state their business. When the PCs ignored their orders,they announced that the girl was a “Deserter” from Esk, and warned the party against interfering, at their peril. The girl’s plight, coupled with the men’s callous behavior, compelled the party to intervene, and they attacked.

The Guardians proved themselves to be more than mere men. They and their hound demonstrated strange powers. The hound teleported from place to place, and its howl chilled the blood. One of the men, a hulking giant, sported razor-sharp claws and an inhuman voice. The Guardian squad leader, a bearded man with wide eyes, seemed able to speak directly into the minds of others, and nearly drove Byl mad. Nevertheless, the PCs killed two of the Guardians and caused the others to flee.

The girl, named Marta, thanked the PCs for the rescue and offered to lead them to her camp, where she promised more information about the goings on in Esk…

The Road to Esk
In media res...

The adventurers watched as the girl swam through the shattered remains of the village and paddled toward the churning whirlpool at it core. Gadrain stumbled to the edge of the water, shouting for the girl to turn around. His heavy boots sank into the wet earth, and he felt it shift beneath him, sliding toward the pool. The girl stopped swimming and turned toward the voice. Byl noted how easily she resisted the current. Her lips spread into a wide grin, revealing crooked, rotten teeth. As her fair skin peeled away from the scaly hide beneath, she cackled. “Time to feed…”

After a days of debating within the confines of Deepvale Library, the PCs decided to adopt the radical plan proposed by the lorekeeper, Crucian, the Grey Sage Droog Von Schelling, and Judge Mikeal Chelm. This last, newly arrived in Dell’s Landing, was the King’s spiritual adviser and declared the speaker for the Church of Phaelan. He insisted that the King possessed neither the willpower nor the moral rectitude to wield a re-assembled Kor Magros in the best interests of Erogas. Crucian and Droog supported Chelm’s desire to separate the pieces of the hammer, but for different reasons. Given Droog’s studies of the Seguro, and his discovery that the pieces of Phaelan’s Hammer might be the keys to opening that portal, the two sages felt that uniting the pieces would present too tempting of a target to the forces of Chaos. Better to keep them split and separate than to risk apocalypse.

Since the King’s army was only two days march from Dell’s Landing, the PCs needed to act fast. With advice from Crucian, Droog, and Chelm, they decided to leave the Atelus Ring with Droog, and to carry the Capspike and the Haft to Esk, and Karak Varn, respectively. The Church of Phaelan in Esk had guarded the Capspike for decades. Further, returning it there would empower the High Hammer of Phaelan in Esk with the power to rally the remnants of the Righteous March. If Dragoveld had any hope of avoiding widespread famine and plague in the coming winter, it would need to get its citizens back to their homes and farms. Turning the Haft over to the dwarves of Karak Varn would serve multiple purposes. Not only would it keep the Haft out of the King’s hands, it would also placate the angered dwarven nation, who was bristling at having its Thunderdust technology stolen by the leaders of the Righteous March. The dwarves had already shown their aggression by sending a squad of soldiers to re-capture the cannon “liberated” by the March. In fact, one of those soldiers, a warden named Gardain, served as Theldrammar’s representative in this meeting, and loudly favored the plan to turn over the Haft.

Removing the Atelus Ring from Byl’s finger proved to be the most difficult. The artifact resisted all attempts to disenchant it. With each effort, it dug its teeth deeper into Byl’s flesh until the rogue, driven mad by the pain, snatched up his dagger and sliced off the offending digit. Smidgen tended to the hideous wound, but nothing could be done to salvage the man’s finger. The ring, no longer attached to living flesh, released its hold and grew in size to the diameter of a fist. The Grey Sage slipped a silver chain through it and tucked it inside his tunic. He vowed to flee to Ashenvale, where he could shelter with the elves and further study the ring’s powers. Driven by both duty and a compulsion to guard that for which so much had been sacrificed, the Fang Brother Thoroar, the devoted monk of Ulric, pledged himself as Droog’s bodyguard and made ready to accompany him on his journey north.

After bidding their friend a somber farewell, Byl, Smidgen, and Seamus wrapped the Capspike and Haft, and prepared to leave Dell’s Landing. The dwarf Gardain offered his services as both guide and guardian, and so joined the band as they set out in the dark of night. They traveled west for three days along the Duke’s Road, paralleling the Harp River. They watched as each day, the river’s tide steadily diminished, only to flood back as the sun set before them. This mystery was revealed near the end of their third day of travel, when they reached a fork in the road. A crooked sign pointed left, down a lane leading toward the river. “Greenbrae” was stenciled in peeling paint. The lane went no more than ten feet before it crumbled at the edge of swirling vortex of water. The hamlet of Greenbrae had been swallowed by a great whirplool, which seemed to be drawing the water of the the Harp River and all of the land around it into its core. And bathing in the midst of this chaotic morass was a young human woman, or so she first seemed…

The hideous hag, for whatever had once made her human had long since been corrupted, was not alone. As soon as she spied the PCs, she called forth her “children.” These monstrosities were formed of the flotsam and debris torn from the surrounding woodland, or wove themselves from tainted vines and tendrils. Together with their mistress, they assaulted the adventurers, intent on dragging them into the water. Though they were shaken by the initial assault, the four companions fought valiantly. They destroyed the hag and banished her minions. The danger averted, they surveyed the carnage wrought by Chaos on what had once been a nondescript fishing village. Surely, this was only the beginning…

The Story So Far...

The Story So Far…

Civil War Averted

Erogas has barely avoided civil war. The Righteous March, a growing army of fanatical Phaelanites originating from the remote mining village of Emerald Hills, was disrupted only one day’s march outside the town of Dell’s Landing. According to the scattered accounts garnered from the March’s former participants, Phaelan himself appeared in a vision floating high above the army, and called out a curse on Baron Derek Thorsun, the March’s leader. Based on eyewitness’ descriptions, the light of Phaelan’s holy hammer burned away the Chaos magic surrounding the Baron, and revealed him to be an imposter. The “Baron” was actually a hobgoblin mercenary, the infamous Iron Butcher, who had used malign magic to disguise himself as the murdered lord.

Demons in Priest’s Clothing

The Righteous March suffered further setbacks when the “Baron’s” knights and religious advisors were unmasked by a band of adventurers and shown to be the Reavers, a bloodthirsty band of goblins and hobgoblins in the Butcher’s employ. Even more troubling, Judge Panven Cartwright, the fiery priest of Phaelan and the March’s moral compass, turned out to be in the thrall of a demon of Chaos. Judge Cartwright appears to have orchestrated the March as part of a greater plot to undermine the stability of the kingdom, though his ultimate ends are not known.

A Kingdom in Chaos

The adventurers destroyed the goblin imposters and the possessed priest, but the damage wrought by the Righteous March will take long to repair. A huge swath of the Duchy of Dragoveld lies in ruins, either burned by the fanatical army or twisted by Chaos magic that had been planted by Cartwright to justify the army’s crusade. The cities of Stilsburg and Esk were razed. Most of the populace of western Dragoveld either joined the March or fled it, leaving their homes and farms untended and at the mercy of goblin raiders. Thousands of refugees have fled to the southeastern duchies, and live in filthy, overcrowded camps. The danger of mass starvation looms large, since the food required to feed the refugees was supposed to fill winter storehouses.

The Idle Army

Also uncertain is the fate of the Marchers – the thousands of men and women who bought into “Thorsun’s” and Cartwright’s false promises of righteousness and divine reward. Lacking leadership and over-awed by the appearance of a deity hovering above their assembled army, the Marchers eventually decide to continue to the town of Dell’s Landing. After a tense negotiation between the town’s defenders and the adventurers who defeated the Reavers and Cartwright, the Marchers were allowed to camp outside the town, though were allowed through its gates. This situation has perpetuated for seven days, and tensions between the townsfolk and the Marchers have not lessened. Some of Erogas’s citizens feel the Marchers should all suffer death for their treason, while others argue for more merciful treatment, understanding that such a massive execution would incur political and economic repercussions for generations.

Guns Pried from Cold, Dead Fingers

Finally, questions remain about what to do with the artifacts and technology recovered from the Righteous March. The March’s military success was due in large part to their use of Thunderdust weapons, including handguns and a dwarven cannon that had supposedly been “rescued” from a warband of goblins (in hindsight, it seems likely that the cannon was stolen by the Reavers under orders from either the Iron Butcher or Judge Cartwright). The dwarven nation of Theldrammar is clamoring for the return of these weapons to the dwarfs. Human engineers in Erogas want to examine the weapons themselves, in hopes of creating their own Thunderdust devices.

The Pieces are Coming Together

Also, the Marchers had recovered two of the four fragments of Kor Magros, Phaelan’s Hammer, which had been lost since the time of his ascension. These pieces, the Golden Haft and the Capspike, are now in possession of the adventurers who defeated the Reavers and Cartwright. These adventurers also possess the Atelus Ring, the third of the Hammer’s four pieces. The final piece of the Hammer, the Face of Judgment, is in possession of Erogas’s king, who happens to be presently leading an army to Dell’s Landing. The king originally sought to quell the March, and now wants to reunite the Hammer’s pieces for the first time in Erogas’s history. However, scholars from Deepvale Library, near Dell’s Landing, have recently learned that the pieces of Kor Magros may be used to unlock the Seguro, the great seal which holds closed the portal to the Realm of Chaos. Uniting the pieces could create incredible risk for all of Feyddan, if they fall into the wrong hands…


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