Southern Kingdoms

Beginnings and Endings
ex ephemeride Benedicti

The plan, as it was formed, was simple – two days out into the forest, two days back. A simple scouting, just enough to get a feel for what might be needed for a longer expedition.

The first day out we encountered a trio of goblins. The fight was suitably short. We spent more time discussing how to dispose of the bodies than we did in actual combat. We camped a careful distance away from the site of the skirmish and spent the next day’s journey keeping a cautious eye out for any goblin reinforcements or encampments.

That’s how we spotted the wall.

Three hundred years or so of vines and moss clinging to stone looks astonishingly natural – from a distance it could be a cliff or a ridge of rock. Sirette spotted the windows though, and closer investigation revealed a solid tower fallen into disrepair. It didn’t take long to find the arch which once held the front door.

Keller used his magic to detect a faint undead presence within the tower, so we proceeded with caution. Dragda and her battleaxe took the lead, with backup from Keller’s spells and my prayers. Sirette provided melee support and Fungdark alternated between songs of courage and carefully placed arrows. The two skeletons defending the base of the tower were rapidly dispatched.

From there, we began a careful exploration, working our way up the spiral stairs. Sirette jimmied the locks that were amenable to gentle persuasion. A solid kick from Dragda’s boot convinced the more recalcitrant latches. As we worked our way upwards we encountered several pairs of skeletons at strategic junctures – defending a long-rotted storeroom of food, guarding an officer’s quarters and so on. The heaviest resistance was in a barracks near the top of the tower where a half-dozen skeletons were lurking. Fortunately, we were able to keep them bottlenecked in a doorway where they could be dealt with in manageable numbers.

On the way up, Keller discovered a journal from the former captain of the troop that had been stationed at the tower. The tale it told was grim – a promising young officer of the old empire, traveling north with his family to take up residence at this outpost. An uptick in bandit activity, coupled with an ambitious underling. Betrayal. Siege. A last-ditch attempt to reach reinforcements.

As we approached the roof, Keller’s divination sensed a powerful undead presence. We prepared ourselves for a more dangerous foe than the skeletons we had been facing, but as it turned out our preparations were unnecessary. It was the ghost of the captain, still looking for reinforcements that would never arrive. We learned from him that there were two things keeping his spirit in this world: first, he didn’t know the fate of his wife and young child. Second, the tower needed to be garrisoned and secure.

The captain had told us that his troops had been defending his wife and toddler – hidden in a bolt-hole somewhere nearby. If they had succeeded it could have led into a months-long quest for information, tracing family histories in far off lands until we found his distant descendants. Tragically, the problem was much easier to resolve. In a chamber under the base of the tower stair we found the remains of a woman and a child. Her angry spirit appeared as soon as the bones were disturbed, but I was able to calm her and she let us conduct last rites.

And now we have a quandary. This tower could be a fine base of operations – if we can keep it garrisoned. The captain and his troops will only stay at rest if people make the tower their home. Will using this as a base be enough?

On a personal note, I find myself with a theological puzzle: the Wanderer’s Code calls us to help others on their journey. Would helping the unquiet dead reach their afterlife be considered part of this calling?

The Adventure Begins

The story so far…

Adventurers have begun to gather at the One-Eyed Cat in Iron Fort.

And continuing…

One overlooked new arrival was the human wizard Keller. He was eager to get started exploring the Southern Kingdoms in search of any old magic.

Naturally, Dragda drew his attention. Fungdark (the Magnificent—just ask him!), a gnome, had also arrived and was distracted distracting her attention. This made it easy for the also newly arrived Sirette, a half-elf, to sneak in and surprise her.

Introductions were made all around, including the nearby Ben. The five of them decided to set off in the morning into the Southern Kingdoms.

The next day looked to be a nice, clear day once the morning fog burned off. The party decided to travel near the Star River so as to not get lost. Entering into the forest, the party immediately noticed something odd: there were none of the normal noises of a forest. No birds chirping, no animals scurrying, only the soft sound of the river.

The party could still see the fort. An experiment by Brother Ben proved that objects could still leave the forest. Traveling on, the normal sounds of the forest started up, making everyone a little more relaxed.

That didn’t last long when they overheard the arguing of several goblins. Sirette sneaked closer and discovered the goblins were attempting some method of fishing in the river. They proved to have good hearing when Sirette tried to sneak away. The first battle had begun.

Disposing of the goblins proved to be well within the groups’ means. Following the traditional disposal of bodies by cremation, the party decided to travel on further south for another day.

First Session

Dragda, a half-orc barbarian, approached the edifice known as Iron Fort. The expected challenge to her presence was given, though being given entry into the town revealed that the defenses where undermanned; they didn’t have enough people on watch to lower the drawbridge and raise the portcullis at the same time.

She met the gatekeeper after that. Sabine let Dragda in after informing her of the rules, which boiled down to: ‘don’t make trouble’. After opening the final obstacle to entry, Dragda was directed to where the inn and tavern could be found.

It wasn’t long before the first caravan of the season arrived.

Joining the caravan for the journey were six newcomers. Somewhat oddly, five of them were related to each other in some way, the oddity being that they were a mix of humans, half-elves, and elves. There was Theraga, a half-elf fighter; Aderyn, an elven bard; Dore (like ‘dough-ray’), a human paladin; the half-elf sorcerer who only goes by Blue Eyes; Robin, an elven druid; and the outsider of them, Tair’vor, a magus.

Passage into Iron Fort was smooth, and the caravan stopped at the warehouse, while the passengers were directed to the inn and tavern.

Inside the One-Eyed Cat, Iron Fort’s only tavern, Dragda found a table in a corner. Brother Benedictus was nearing the end of his shift working. Working off his debt, that is. Ben had travelled south to Iron Fort to see what there was to see, and to avoid one or two previous bar bills.

Eventually, the six newcomers arrived at the bar. Not all at once; a couple of them had other things to do, such as reserving rooms at the inn. Most of them settled around one of the tables that resembled a picnic table.

Soon enough, the evening crowd came in. Ben’s replacement, Drogen, arrived. Ben switched from tracking other patron’s tabs to running his own, but stayed available if needed.

Dragda wanted to experience different drinks, so Ben thought it might be time to bring out the specialty beer he had created. Drogen, thinking the brewer mad for attempting his concoction in the first place, reluctantly went into the back and retrieved the small cask of drink. Putting a tap in, he poured out a mug for Dragda.

Dragda found the drink quite good, so Ben pronounced the brewing a success, relieved it hadn’t killed anyone. Yet.

The regular evening crowd started gathering, and noticed the number of newcomers in their midst. Drogen brought attention to this and called for people’s attention.

“It’s been a long time since we’ve seen so many adventurers gathered here. You are all adventurers, yes? Thought so. Last year we only saw two. The last time we saw more than four was… Grem! When was that?”

“Oh, five, no six years ago. Yes, six years ago,” Grem said.

“Right, six years. And when they explored the Southern Kingdoms, they made a map. A map carved out of the top of one of the tables just like that one,” Droga said, pointing to the picnic table most of the adventurers had gathered around.

The table was bare of any such carving, but that didn’t prevent some from looking at the underside to see if there was a map there.

“I’ve spent many a night under one or another of these tables, and I can assure you none of them have any maps on the underside,” Ben provided.

“What happened to the map they made?” someone asked.

“I think they took it with them when they retired,” Drogan said.

“Oh, I heard they destroyed it before they left,” Grem said.

“I heard they sold it to someone,” another tavern patron offered.

“Well, whatever happened to it, it’s gone now,” Drogan finished. “Heh. Guess you’ll be wanting to start one of your own, right?”


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