Shadows of Northmere

Session 13 - The Battle of Ashdale

The PCs began at the ruins of Corbald after running off bandits who were sequestered there. They had decided to pursue the bandits, but that night Baroness Deirdre arrived with Sir Malkar, a retinue of mounted guards, her valet, and Noland the Black. According to Deirdre, once Noland arrived and heard the PCs had gone to Corbald, he said he needed to go there immediately to tell “his people” to stand down.

After Deirdre was told what had happened at the ruins, Talar offered to take Noland to track down the remaining brigands while the Heroes prepared against the gnolls, saying the entire cadre of the barony’s leaders did not need to be on this chase. Deirdre agreed and thanked Talar for her help, though she asks why Talar wanted to remain behind. Talar replied she was not an adviser or general, and the gnolls should be dispatched as soon as possible and Ashdale recovered so Deirdre can offer to build a memorial for the druids and secure their support. Also, Talar sensed something important about Corbald.

Noland was not happy about Talar—whom he ironically deemed as treacherous—but he said the remaining bandits would follow Deirdre if their current leader Raegar was eliminated.

The PCs returned to Strathaven with Deirdre, and discovered Elder Druid Lochlan had arrived in Straven and knew where the enemy gnolls were located. A War Council was held and it was determined that Strathaven would march on Ashdale.

After numerous preparations, the army marched on Ashdale, with Dame Alana as the commander, and Deirdre accompanying to provide morale support. After a failed scouting mission, the Ashdale forces decided to directly attack from the west, the only navigable way to approach the forest city. Hundreds of gnolls, along with hyenas and giant hyenas, defended ferociously, but were defeated, with the gnoll leader’s unit making a final stand.

Corbald

The Heroes began at Corbald, which they had taken from the bandits. There were boxes of stolen merchandise in the keep. Some of it was marked with its previous owner, but much could be returned to a rightful owner and would add 2 BP to the Barony’s coffers. There were gold ingots, wool, cloth, ale, furs, and coins. the group decided to keep 2,000 gp in coins and gems, and donate the 2 BP of goods to the barony’s treasury.

The bandit the PCs captured was named Niall. He was 17, part Caladorian, had brown hair in a pony tail, was tanned, and had stubble.

Deirdre’s Arrival

The young Baroness arrived that night with Sir Malkar, 10 mounted men-at-arms in chainmail, her valet (a young lad named Llew), and Noland. They were all exhausted from force marching 12 hours yesterday and today to reach the castle in two days.

Apparently, the same evening the PCs left Strathaven, a ship arrived with Noland, who told Deirdre he could get the bandits to stand down upon learning the PCs had found their hideout. Deirdre, despite Sir Malkar’s objections, decided to ride to the ruins to find the PCs and bring Noland.

When Noland saw Talar, he sneered and remarked that he could see what her treachery had earned her. “I would think you would know treachery better than most, if not all, Noland the Black,” Talar calmly remarked.

When the PCs told Deirdre of the situation, Talar offered to take Noland with her and find the bandits, suggesting that the baroness and her advisers return to Strathaven. “After all, we don’t need half a dozen advisers and a baroness to find a ragtag group of bandits.” Talar said she was not an adviser or general, and the gnolls should be dispatched as soon as possible and Ashdale recovered so Deirdre can offer to build a memorial for the druids and secure their support. Also, Talar sensed something important about Corbald.

Noland said this was a bad idea, and that Raegor would need to be killed to gain the allegiance of the remaining bandits (Talar sees this is a lie). Deirdre agreed to let Talar hunt the bandits, and Anton told Talar he would not be disappointed if she did not return with Noland. Sir Malkar reluctantly agreed to go with her, as he was hesitant to leave Deirdre’s side.

Return to Strathaven

Once the Heroes returned to the city, they saw more refugees have poured in, and there were tents and sleeping pallets everywhere.

They also learned from Steward Elisedd that Elder Druid Lochlan survived the attack on Ashdale and was in the castle. He wanted to speak with Deirdre. The Baroness held a War Council, with the PCs and her other advisers in attendance. Lochlan claimed escaped the gnolls by turning into a bird and flying away, but the mayor was executed as an example to the survivors, and everyone was rounded up for use as forced labor.

There were around 300 gnolls in the area. They had pillaged the town and burned the buildings, but now seemed to be forcing the villagers to build a palisade and dig trenches. Gnoll warbands had traveled south and west and were pillaging and burning as they went. The warbands had hyenas with them, whereas the main force in Ashdale had giant hyenas. A towering gnoll seemed to lead them.

The War Council decided to march to war as soon as able. While the militia and supply trains were being prepared, Talar and Sir Malkar returned from their bandit hunt, but without Noland. Simon asked for Noland’s body, and Sir Malkar claimed he might remember where Noland was buried. With them were 15 bandits, including the dwarf trap-maker Raegor Nogginstomper.

The March

The Barony’s Army left Strathaven amidst a small amount of fanfare with 100 Castle Guards with chainmail, swords, and shields; 100 militia with bows; 10 barbarian mercenaries hired from the waterfront tavern, and the 15 bandits Talar brought back with her, who were told they would be granted clemency if they fought. Also with the Army was Sir Liam Belamy, newly arrived from Hearthglen.

Twenty militia were left to guard the castle, along with Elisedd.

The host arrived at the tower called Aron’s Rest to cheers from the 100 well-equipped Redcloak infantry and 20 Strath knights with heavy warhorses, plate armor, lances, and bows who had been holding a defense there. The Strath leaders were joined by Redcloak Captain Rowan, who greeted Max.

The army’s departure was delayed by two days to wait for heavy rains to subside, then it resumed its march. As it neared the forested town of Ashdale, the army deployed scouts—the bandits, led by Anton. They uncovered gnoll scouts, but were unfortunately also spotted themselves and could not scout the main force.

The Battle of Ashdale

The Strath army deployed with the Redcloaks holding the north flank against gnoll irregulars and giant hyenas, the castle guard held the middle against veteran gnoll irregulars, and the Strath militia deployed behind the castle guard with their bows ready. The knights held the south and prepared to charge through the defenses to the gnoll archers once their front was locked down.

The strategy worked. The castle guard were able to hold—barely—against the gnoll center. The Redcloaks quickly dispatched the gnolls and were able to assist in the middle. The knights charged into the archers and routed them before running them down.

Towards the end of the battle, only the gnoll leader and a score of his best gnolls remained.

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Session 12 - Investigating Corbald Ruins

The Heroes traveled to Corbald to explore rumors it was haunted by ghosts. They wanted to claim it for building a watchtower and eventually a fort. The area is very strategic, with Corbald on a hill overlooking rolling plains for miles.

Gifts

A few days before the Heores’ departure, Baroness Deirdre offered them gifts for all they have done.

  • Max: Lion’s Shield (heavy metal shield +2, 3/day the lion can make a bite attack at the wearer’s highest BAB for 2d6 damage). The shield is red with a white lion, Astoria’s coat-of-arms. It belonged to an Astorian knight slain in battle and the shield was taken as a trophy and hung in Strathall.
  • Anton: * Rod of Lesser Metamagic (Focus Spell)* and a Scroll with Deep Slumber and Halt Undead (2nd level). The Rod has a dwarven rune for potency. Deirdre says she found the Rod in the market.
  • Kairn: A Brellish Longspear of Dragon Slaying +1 (Keen, Bane to Dragons). The spear is made of Darkwood with a mithral tip and iron shodding, both of which are wrought in writhing dragons. The spear is blackened in places along the shaft and has runes calling it Dragonslayer in Brellish). Deirdre says it was hanging on the wall in the castle and is a relic from the Kingdom of Brell.
  • Simon: Cold Iron Scimitar +1. It was also in the castle and seems to be a trophy taken from a mercenary captain during a Calidorian incursion. It is elegant, with topaz chips set in a circle in the pommel and enameled gold in geometric designs. The pommel is wrapped in sweat-stained silk and the sheath is made from rhino hide and silver threading. The blade sheds light upon command, and the command word is inscribed on the crossguard in the Zaladarian tongue (“Ahamel”).

Downtime

The PCs underwent various Downtime activities. Anton scribed spells, while Kairn worked on having a jail built in the town.

Corbald History

The group also discussed what they knew about the ruins, making Knowledge (Local) and Knowledge (History) checks.

Knowledge (Local) (TN 10): Rumors tell of silent apparitions glowing in the darkness, wailing, clinking chains, and eerie whistling. There are also tales of people becoming cursed and dying after looting the castle, and others being flung into the air and killed by spirits. The area is avoided now.

Knowledge (Local) (TN 15): The castle was largely in ruins after the revolution, and Armin left a young night, Sir Noland, to oversee its construction. Noland embezzled much of the funds, however, and was forced to flee justice when his theft was discovered. Corbald was left in ruins thereafter, as other projects took precedence.

Knowledge (History) (TN 10) or Knowledge (Local) (TN 15): Some call Corbald Strath’s Bane as a result of two members of the Strath family dying there.

Knowledge (History) (TN 15): Corbald was a castle built by Astoria during its occupation of Rallas. Its strategic location made it the primary seat of Astorian power in the area, along with another castle north of Allibar. From here, Viceroy Guy Balroux was charged with keeping southern Rallas in line, as well as warding Calidorian aggression and incursions from the Deepwood.

The castle weathered a fierce Calidorian siege from Armont and a massive assault from orcs. During the Rallas Revolution, the native Brell knew they would have to take the castle to win their freedom. Marshal Kaydrin’s first major victory was against Corbald, though he himself fought in the north. While Kaydrin and other ringleaders started rebellions in the major settlements throughout Rallas, Kaydrin’s lieutenant Montegar Strath, whose noble family was of mixed Brell/Astorian heritage and ruled Strathaven, drew upon his own rebels and augmented them with Calidorian, Pavikar, and dwarven mercenaries. He waited until rebellions in Strathaven and Avonhall drew men-at-arms from Corbald, thinning its defenders. He then gathered his army south of Corbald, one warband at a time, and took the southern watchtower under cover of the last snow of the season, circling the castle in the darkness.

Montegar was forced to storm the castle quickly, before it could be reinforced. His druids ripped the walls with powerful magic. Dwarven mercenaries built powerful siege engines, and fierce Brell warriors stormed the walls with ladders and hooks. Despite the element of surprise and the small defending garrison, it still took over a week to take the castle, and during this time returning Redcloaks attempted to break the siege. If Montegar had not used many tricks prior to the attack, including the use of spies to poison he food stores and horse feed, the attack likely would not have been successful.

The ensuing victory was Kaydrin’s first of many, and marked his rebellion as far larger and more effective than Astoria had anticipated. Montegar was killed however, causing his oldest son Artus to lead the southern resistance.

Corbald’s walls and gates were breached in multiple places, however, and Artus was forced to leave men in the keep to hold the area before quickly moving on to Strathaven, which he would use as a base to launch his attacks north. Later, the Redcloaks would recapture the keep and entrench the breaches in the walls, forcing Artus to retake the castle, which led to his death and the ascendance of his younger brother, Armin.

Travel to Corbald

The Heroes purchased combat-trained light horses for the trip, and asked Talar to join them. The ruins were 76 miles away and would take three days on horseback.

On the second day, the PCs spotted something in the sky flying towards them. They realized it was a Chimera and dismounted to prepare for an attack. The Chimera was pelted by arrows and a Lightning Bolt from Anton before landing to attack the mage. It breathed a line of acid upon Anton and Simon, who was heroically perched beyond a large rock for cover.

Talar, Kairn, and Max surrounded the beast and slayed it, with assistance from a Haste spell and Shocking Grasp cast by Anton.

The Heroes selflessly discussed how they would find its treasure before giving up on it as a lost cause.

They arrived to Corbald on the third day.

Corbald

The Heroes saw that Corbald, even in ruin, was massive. Some towers remained standing, as well as parts of the walls and gatehouses. The keep was perched atop a hill, rising above the rest of the castle. It looks severely damaged, but the shell remained.

As the PCs approached the northern gatehouse, they saw a glowing ball of light atop each tower, with faint outlines of a skull in each ball. Talar said they looked like Will o’ Wisps. Simon shot an arrow at one, and it passed through harmlessly. Kairn, who had somehow seen many illusions during his tenure as a dock worker, attempted to disbelieve illusions and saw they were not real. The PCs ignored the phantasms.

In the gatehouse, Max set off a bolt trap that severely injured him and wounded Kairn as well. Max slumped to the ground with several crossbow bolts protruding from his body. The group became a little more wary.

In the courtyard, Simon approached a well, setting off a trap that sprayed a mist in his face, as well as Kairn’s. Simon pulled out his waterskin in disgust and washed his face off. As he and Talar approached the well, a second trap activated, which shot poisoned darts into them. Both were paralyzed and took damage to their Constitution. The Heroes decided they did not much like the castle.

Corbald Keep

The main entrance to the keep was a large, 40-feet diameter tower which had an ascending stone bridge that connected to the main keep on the second floor. Simon carefully checked for traps, finding a trap on the doors to the tower. He also checked on the bridge before Max and Kairn stepped onto it. Both had their shields ready, as they saw arrow slits in the keep facing them.

Archers inside the keep fired at them, and then a rumbling could be heard before a massive stone boulder roughly 8 feet in diameter rolled down the bridge from the keep. Both Simon and Max were able to minimize the damage they took by jumping to the sides, but Anton, Talar, and Simon took the full brunt. Despite his serious injury, Simon charged into the keep to engage the bowmen, spotting a second boulder inside ready to be rolled down upon them.

Anton cast Deep Slumber and put 2 of the archers asleep. The archers were dressed in well-kept Masterwork Studded Leather armor and wielded Masterwork shortbows and shortswords. They were young, like other brigands who had previously ambushed the Heroes.

Kairn ran into the keep and stopped the second boulder from rolling down the bridge. Talar did her best to heal the massive amount of damage the entire group had taken. Max also entered the keep and injured one of the archers. Before long, they had dispatched the archers, with one remaining alive.

Talar roughly interrogated the remaining archer, leaving him shaken and causing him to set himself. He explained that they were brigands led by a dwarf named Raegor Nogginstomper, who was a master trap maker. “You don’t say?” exclaimed Simon. The archer said there were about 20 brigands left, though a handful would be out scouting and hunting. There were also two wizard apprentices to Darrowin (who is now deceased) and Eleena.

The archer showed the group how to bypass the other traps in the keep and took them to a subterranean level; however, the other brigands had escaped using secret tunnels.

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Session 11 - Learning the Ways of Rulership

The Heroes learned of their roles as Baroness Deirdre’s advisers and made preparations to counter the gnoll horde. They attended two councils and made individual preparations for the month. They also decided they need to explore the Ruins of Corbald to see if the location can be salvaged to build a watchtower and eventually a fortress.

The Night of Arrival

Following dinner with the PCs and other advisers, Deirdre asked Kilana, her Bron valet, to arrange for appropriate quarters for the PCs. The castle had been cleaned up, but the memories of the living dead seemed to haunt the halls with a solemn and heavy levity. Some of the guards, knights, and servants who were killed were known by the Heroes, slain by their very lord to whom they swore service. The PCs were given preliminary quarters, held by their predecessors for the most part.

Later, they were asked to meet Deirdre in the following morning in a private council prior to a war council the next evening.

A Night Out

Simon, Anton, and Kairn decided they wanted to go into the town and gauge the mood of the townsfolk and see if they could learn anything. Anton also seemed to want to relax a little and get out of the chilly castle. They went to the Mandrake Inn.

The Inn was crowded, with merchants, guards-for-hire, and refugees crowding in the normal clientele. Quintus Jinn, the enigmatic innkeeper, offered them a private table he had saved but they refused. They wanted to be among the crowd.

Anton ordered some fine Saladarian red wine, and Simon went with Red Mug ale. The people were discussing how the Barony was doomed and that they needed to get out of the area. The merchants discussed packing up everything they can’t sell and leaving. Desperate strong arms were trying to get hired as guards to get out of Strath for free, and the merchants were licking their chops at the idea of discounted guards.

Some merchants said they could make a fortune bringing back war supplied but others told them they’d lose their heads to the gnolls.

Anton asked Quintus about any tidings. Quintus echoed the known fear of the people, but also told Anton they have no faith in their new leader, but a 17-year old girl. Anton asked what Quintus would do, and he smiled and said he was but a simple innkeeper. Anton and Simon expressed their doubts about him being simple. Quintus laughed and said the Baroness will have to face battle against the gnolls and defeat them to win the people. She would have to do this on the front, not from the castle.

Simon ran into Sergeant Bors, acting captain of the militia. Bors is a large, older man, with a bald head, one bad eye with a nasty scar, and a crooked nose. He had squinted eyes, as if looking into the sun, and spits when he talks. (Bors is a simple but professional career soldier (4th level warrior). His techniques are unrefined but effective.) Simon told him he (SImon) was the new Captain of the Militia and Bors told him he’d have his hands full. “The boys have piss for gear,” he muttered, “and they’re scared of what happened in Ashwood, what with the knights turning their tail and runnin’. They are also scared of the beasts.” Simon asked about the beats and Bors said the gnolls have hyenas, and also a larger version that can rip a horse in two. Simon perhaps ordered more ale at this point.

Simon introduced Bors to Kairn and the two sized each other up. Simon also told Bors he expected reinforcements to arrive from the Duke, but the militia would need to get into fighting shape so they are not embarrassed. Bors assured him they could do that, though the gear would remain a problem because the Purser is “tighter than an Astorian hooker.” SImon resolved to get the funding Bors needed.

Simon also offered 50 gp to anyone who could beat Kairn in an arm wrestling match. Bors tried, and the match went for 10-15 minutes before Kairn barely won. Anton made a whopping 25 sp in bets, and Bors told Kairn he was a strong lad, as strong as Bors in his youth, and he’d like to have Kairn in the militia with a sword in hand. Kairn graciously said he’d hate to have faced Bors when he was younger.

The Morning Meeting, Perhaps the First of Many More….

The PCs met with the young Baroness in an upper level dining room. She looked like she had not slept at all, with tangled hair and shadows under her eyes. With her was Elisedd.

Deirdre asked the PCs if they were still willing to help her. They agreed they were, and she laid out their responsibilities, with some help from Elisedd.

  • She wanted Anton to act as an overall adviser and also oversee pursuit of magic and knowledge of the barony, including use of magic in defense of her lands. She admitted some of this would overlap Elisedd, but he had the best grasp on the condition of her people since he has been here watching over everything. Elisedd congratulated Anton on becoming a magister.
    • She asked Sir Simon if he would replace Captain Shiv as Captain of the Militia. His duty would be to command Strathaven’s militia and work with Dame Alana as deputy marshal for coordinating all of Strath’s forces. Simon said he would.
    • She also said she needed eyes and ears on the street, as well as a Sheriff to try and stabilize the Barony. Kairn said he could do this, and he had friends throughout the town.
    • Last, she needed an envoy to oversee trade treaties to generate needed income. She saw Lucien as an ideal choice as there are no other obvious candidates.

She said the two biggest problems facing the Barony were the gnolls and massive unrest.

First Day on the Job

The PCs spent the day of the council learning their new roles. Max was largely absent. Anton had breakfast with Deidre and put her worries to rest. Kairn went throughout the town doing….Sheriffy things. Simon met with Marshal Alana and discussed what he needed to make the militia better. He told her the knights are well geared but the militia have nothing. She agreed he should try to get them equipped. Simon was also concerned there were no scouts, and they knew nothing of the numbers and locations of the gnolls. “That is indeed a problem,” Alana concurred.

Sir Simon had a unit of 100 soldiers and a newly forming militia of 20 militia in the castle. In addition, there were 50 well-equipped soldiers under the purview of Sir Malkar, as well as 10 priests from the Temple of the Pantheon. The regulars have studded leather armor, spears, and shields, whereas the militia have padded armor and spears. Sir Malkar’s men had scale armor, shields, and short swords.

War Council

At the War Council that night, held in the Throne Room, Deirdre introduced everyone’s new positions. Elisedd would continue as Steward, Alana would continue as Marshal, with additional powers over the militia of Lords Murray and Elidh. Anton was the new Magister. Simon was the new Captain of the Miltia. Malkar would continue as Captain of the Guard. Max was a liaison with the Redcloaks, and Ailon was the Purser (Treasurer). Kairn would be Sheriff. Lastly, Lucien would act as trade envoy as well as emissary to Duke Kaydrin.

Deirdre wanted to know the situation with the gnolls. Alana described what has happened. The gnolls attacked her knights and Ashwood’s militia and druids by surprise during a storm at night. They numbered 200-300, but it was hard to tell in the darkness. They had hyenas and other larger beats, but not many. They also had veteran archers and rained arrows into the militia before charging in. They were strong and fought as if possessed, destroying the druids and militia in their initial, frenzied charge.

Alana’s knights held, taking out a couple of dozen, but they were outnumbered over 10-to-1 and had to retreat. The withdrew to Aron’s Rest, to where a company of 50 Redcloaks had also arrived. Alana expressed surprise the druids were not able to spot the gnolls.

Simon interjected to say his man needed better gear, glaring at Ailon. Ailon claimed stutteringly that the treasury was low and it could only sustain the forces already active for 2-3 months. Simon told him defiantly that he could sit on that money as the Barony sinks or he could put it to use.

SImon laid out his plans. He wanted to build two watchtowers, one in Hargrove Ferry and one at the Ruins of Corbald. The one in Corbald would be built into a fortress later. It would be good for the people to see defenses being built, and would also give them additional defenses since they do not know where the gnolls could go. He added his men need bows and he needs to recruit scouts. The latter was the most important because he needed to know where the gnolls were and how many they numbered. “They could have had more come out of the mountains and we’d never know.” SImon also added that housing needed to be built in Strathaven for the refugees.

Elisedd responded that the watchtowers are sound ideas but Corbald was rumored to be haunted. Previous efforts at construction there drove the workers off because of ghosts. Max said they should probably go check it out. When Deirdre asked if they should send soldiers or the PCs and her go themselves, they responded that Deirdre is not going anywhere.

Ailon said all of these projects would bankrupt the barony, but grudgingly admitted most could be carried out.

Deirdre asked for a plan of action. Alana wanted to draw up a defense and wait for Redcloaks to arrive, since 200 would be joining them in a month’s time from northern Rallas. Simon agreed it was best to wait one month so he could ready his men.

Deirdre asked about other forces available. Alana noted there were 20 militia in Hearthglen and no obvious threats to the marsh town, and 100 men in Avonhill plus a company of 50 Redcloaks. When Deirdre asked if the Redcloaks could be moved to Aron’s Rest, Alana replied they she’d prefer to keep them there to keep an eye on Lord Murray. Simon noted that Strath was putting a lot on the Redcloaks and wondered if that was wise.

Deirdre also asked if it was possible to attack with everything they have now, including the forces in Avonhill. Both Alana and Simon deemed it not wise.

Last, Deirdre asked if Sir Liam was still in Hearthglen and if so that she wanted him in STrathaven to help lead forces. Alana said he is the attendant of Lord Elidh and Lord Elidh could become angry if Sir Liam was taken away from him. Deirdre says her Barony is being conquered by fell beats, people are rioting in the Barony’s seat, and she couldn’t care less about Elidh’s temper tantrums. The group learned that Sir Liam is the son of Sir Bellamy, the former Marshal who was killed by Deirdre’s father when Armin was possessed by the Usurper’s Blade.

Alliances

After the meeting, people drifted into smaller groups to make plans. Elisedd told Deirdre she did well for her first meeting. Simon talked to Talar, who was also present, and asked if she could help him scout. Talar said she has nothing better to do while waiting on Rell. Simon also got an idea to start recruiting barbarians (highlanders) from the tavern….people who know the land, like trappers and such. He decided it was possible to recruit 10 without breaking the barony’s funds.

Afterwards, Simon wanted to meet Deirdre and Anton in private. They went to the upper study. Simon told Deirdre she would have to grow up fast and “grow a pair.” Anton tried to downplay the crudeness of Simon’s remarks but agreed Deirdre needed to be more confident and make decisions on her own. Deirdre said she would work on it, and then dismissed them.

Anton and Simon also learned Deirdre was staying in her old bedroom rather than the Baronial solar. Her servant admitted that Deirdre found it strange to sleep in the room once held bu her father, who was still alive.

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Session 10 - Return to Strathaven

Tumble on the Inner Sea

The Heroes began on the deck of a Calidorian cog. A possibly hungry, giant squid with eight squirming, bloated bodies in its tentacles arose from the water in front of the ship. As the ship braced for the impending attack, the squid deposited the bodies, presumably zombies, on the deck of the ship, whereupon they attacked the ship crew and PCs.

The frightened crew and its captain made their way to the stern, away from the onslaught, while Kairne, Max, and Rell drew up a line against the zombies, and Simon started slaying with with his overpowered bow.

The squid went after Kairne, inflicting the most damage he had taken, and forcing Deirdre to focus all of her attention upon keeping Kairne alive. After most of the zombies were dispatched, the group, being ruthlessly battered by the tentacles and arms of the squid, began to attack it in force. Anton used Shocking Grasp upon the beast, enlarged Kairne to do more damage, and used Haste on many in the party. Simon began plugging multiple arrows every moment into the squid. Rell, who had been attacking with unarmed strikes, shot an icy blast from his hands into the squid, causing the water around it to freeze and killing it.

Even the frightened Captain Marius took heart and rejoined the battle just in time to see the beast defeated and sinking into oblivion.

Talar was not active for much of the fight, but she did use some small healing spells upon the PCs and cvalled out weak spots and tactical advice, some of which granted Kairne additional attacks.

Anton observed she had gotten her powers back, to which Talar shook her head. Anton and Simon quizzed her on what she knew about the beast, to which Talar replied that the beast was indeed controlled by the Usurper’s Blade, and that it had not attacked Deirdre at all during the fight.

Finishing the Trip

The Heroes attempted to learn more about Talar and talked with both her and Rell. They learned that Rell and Talar go back, with Rell saying it felt like multiple lifetimes. At one point he asked Talar why she doesn’t just atone to the Arch Druid and regain her powers. Talar replied she doesn’t need that old man, and that he probably can’t even spell atonement backwards.

Anton asked Rell where he learned to fight without weapons, to which Rell responded far to the north.

Arriving at Strathaven

At long last the Heroes returned to their home town. In some ways it had changed. There were refugees, beggars, and cutpurses everywhere, and people were in the markets selling all of their belongings to fetch passage away from the area.

Anton cast Enlarge Person on Kairne, allowing him as a 12 feet tall behemoth to walk off the ship in his full plate armor. Deirdre asked if the Heroes would join her at the castle for dinner and advise her, to which they agreed. The PCs went in various directions running errands.

Anton visited his master, Magister Elisedd, who was very proud of him and noted Anton had grown greatly in power. Anton shared some spells he had learned, and Elisedd agreed to share some spells of his own.

Kairne returned to the docks in his commoner clothes and asked around for rumors and information. He had learned that Calidorian vessels had begun arriving to the port in the hopes of making money transporting desperate refugees. Many of Kairne’s colleagues asked where he had been, and if he was a knight,to which he replied he is just one of them.

The First Meeting

Many attended the dinner council, including the PCs, Dierdre, Talar, Magister Elisedd, Dame Alana, High Priestess Valya, Lucien (who warmly greeted the PCs), and Sir Malkar. Noticeably absent is Rell. Captain Rowan of the Redcloaks was also absent, as he is on the warfront.

Everyone learns that the Barony has lost more territory to the Gnolls, including lush farmland south of Ashdale.

Elisedd has acted as Steward, trying to calm the panic-stricken people. Dame Alana is acting as Warden of the Barony, trying to marshal a defense against the gnolls at Aron’s Rest, a watchtower halfway to Ashwood.

Alana asks that Lucien, who has been fighting on the front, be knighted. Deirdre drew her father’s famous sword, Stormlash, and knighted Lucien as well as Simon and a reluctant Kairne. In response to his willingness to swear fealty, Max responded that he belonged to the Redcloaks.

Simon also mentioned that they should consider having Noland the Black released from the Duke’s custody if he agreed to unite the bandits in the barony against the gnolls. The Baroness replied that she had already sent a written request to the Duke.

Dame Alana mentioned that the gnolls who first attacked Ashwood had ancient Brellish weapons, and it was from them that the evil Usurper’s Blade had been found and taken to Baron Strath as a prize. Elisedd surmised that there is likely an ancient Brellish crypt in the Deepwood that the gnolls found and looted. The PCs wondered if something else had been awakened there, too, as Alana had previously described a dragon being spotted by scouts.

The Heroes made rough plans to seek out the crypt and see what secrets it may hold, and deal a blow to the gnolls.

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Session 9 - The New Baroness

Feast
A feast was held the night following the Trial of Succession in Deirdre’s honor. The other two barons were present, as well several lords and knights. There was talk about invading Pavik, as well as the gnoll incursion from the Deepwood.

The Heroes were seated at the Duke’s table, with the barons and Dierdre near the head and the Heores further down the table. The Duke was jovial, laughed loudly, and made jests with the other nobles. It’s obvious the duke, his marshal, and the other two barons were all salty veterans who know each other well. One of their topics was about Baron Armin Strath. They talked about how crazy Strath was during the Astorian War, especially many of his ideas. It was obvious they regarded Strath well.

The feast included roast boar, lamb chops, breads and cheeses, apples and pears, ale, and even honey and butter.

Before the main coarse, the Duke had Deirdre take an oath of fealty and made her Baroness of Strath. Deirdre was a little emotional.

Notable attendees at the table included the following:

  • Baron Tory ”Bear” Bradan – Bradan is lord of the barony of Eastford along the border with Astoria. A large-framed, gruff man, Bradan is an excellent motivator, with a fierce temperament and ruthless reputation. Bradan is aging now, with balding gray hair, bushy beard, and a crooked nose. He wears banded mail and wields a greataxe. Bradan was one of the most seasoned leaders in the rebellion against Astoria, and was captured and tortured for a time. He distrusts Redcloaks even more than the Duke.
  • Baron Blane Logaire – Logaire is lord of the Barony of Logaire, north of Strath. He makes money taxing the Old Coast Road and has settlements near the Deepwood. Logaire maintains a demeanor of thoughtfulness and deliberation. He is middle aged, with thinning brown hair, mustache, and alert brown eyes. He dual wields a longsword and shortsword and uses a bow. He tends to wear armor with a little mobility, such as a chain shirt. Logaire maintained the logistics of the rebellion in the war and was allied with Armin Strath.
  • Marshal Kellon Truemane – Truemane is older than the other company, with gray-white hair, trimmed beard, and sparkling blue eyes. He has a kindly countenance, and is reminiscent of a grandfather figure. Truemane is old-fashioned, but very knowledgeable of leading armies. He is defensive almost to a fault with his tactics.

Other attendees at different tables included the following:

  • Captain Penrose – Penrose is younger, handsome, well-spoken, and bright. He will stay away from the Duke and hang out along the fringe of the feast, paying compliments to any who approach him.
  • Lady Briari Bradan – Tory Bradan’s young daughter, age 16. It’s hard to believe she was beget from the burly baron, as she is quite beautiful.
  • Rell – Rell, a friend of Talar’s, is Ashearan and wears comfortable, padded clothing that does not interfere with his movement. He carries a staff and has a shortly trimmed beard. He was seated with the druids.

The Heroes listened to chatter at the duke’s table, and later Simon talked to the druids and took Kairne to the city markets where “real people” were holding their own feast, drinking, and dancing. Simon drank a lot and passed at some point later that night.

Deirdre retired early, with a lot on her mind.

War Council
Dame Alana asked that a War Council be held by the Duke at the earliest time possible to discuss the gnoll incursion in Strath. The time was set for the following mid-morning. Deirdre asked that the Heroes attend with her. A very weary Simon joined the group, along with an always-well-dressed Anton.

Dame Alana explained that the gnoll incursion was on a massive scale, and Ashwood had been lost. Captain Shiv was killed forming the defense. Alana asked for reinforcements, but the Duke forcefully said it is time for the new Baroness to prove her martial prowess by defending her own lands. He also stated his own forces were being prepared for an invasion in the north. When Simon asked where, the Duke replied, “Pavik.”

Dame Alana looked dejected but said nothing.

Following the meeting, the Heroes advised Deirdre that it might be worth looking into Redcloak assistance. Deirdre asked Max and SImon to talk to Captain Penrose and see what he would want in return for assistance. Anton went along as well. Kairne went to the dock to secure passage back to Strathaven. Dame Alana told the Baroness that she already had passage and would return immediately to Strath to see what she could do.

Redcloak Meeting
Simon, Max, and Anton discovered the Redloak Headquarters in Allibar is at an inn in the Market Ward called The Sentry, a quieter, organized inn frequented by wealthier mercenaries and craftsmen. Captain Penrose had the largest suite set up as a makeshift Redcloak headquarters where he could meet people.

Penrose politely greeted the Heroes and offered them some ale or wine, to which Simon eagerly acquiesced. Lieutenant Allendais went to get the drinks. The Heroes asked what kind of assistance the Redcloaks could grant and what they would want in return. Penrose said most of the Redcloaks are kept in a fortress on the northern border so the Duke can keep an eye on them. Lord Commander Jaydin Valmort, the leader of the Redcloaks in Ralas, would only be able to send approximately 250 without the Duke’s permission, and they would need grounds to build a long-term fort since moving that many men is expensive. Simon said he would inform the Baroness.

Along the way back, Max went shopping, as did Anton. Kairn secured a ship for 100 gp for seven people. Simon and Max told Dierdre of Penrose’ proposal and she granted her permission. Simon also visited the druids of Allibar to try and secure their aid against the gnolls.

Return to Strath
The group boarded a 50’ cog captained by Marius to return to Strathaven. Accompanying them was Talar and Rell. Along the way, they were attacked by a giant squid carrying several bloated, rotting sailor corpses, all of which were moving. And there the adventure ended.

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Session 8 - The Trial of Succession

The Heroes made preparations for their fight against the Magistrate and his chosen champions for the Trial of Succession. Unlike the Trial outlined in ancient Rallas and Brellish history, this trial has five against five, with Lady Deirdre and Magistrate Corienne required to participate.

End of the Audience
Following their audience with Duke Ian Kaydrin, the Heroes were met by Chancellor Thalmane, an older, thin, balding man with alert, piercing green eyes and a thin white beard. After bowing in respect to Deirdre, he directed the group to an antechamber and wrote a receipt for the Heroes’ reward before handing it to an assistant who departed for the treasury. He remarked that the Heroes have earned a king’s ransom and have perhaps never seen so much coin in their lives, though they were quick to correct him that they had indeed seen a lot of wealth. He also noted the duke does love heroic exploits very much.

The assistant returned with bags with 1,200 gp in coinage (95 pp, 450 gp) and a Composite Longbow of Frost +1 (Mighty +2) (8,630 gp). The bow was obviously elvish but was found in the hands of a gnoll chieftain slain by one of the Chosen, who offered the bow in tribute to the duke and said it did not belong in an order of which it had slain so many. The bow was ornate, made of darkwood, and has mithral banding on each end with a unicorn carved into each band.

The Heroes had the option of staying at the castle. They chose to do so, thinking the additional security could come in handy. They were placed on the second floor in small rooms with simple furnishings, except Deirdre, whose third floor chamber was medium sized, with tapestries, master crafted furniture, and ornate bedding. They were told meals are served in the lower hall (which is where the guards and servants eat).

Allibar
The Heroes explored Allibar and perused around various shops and stores. Primarily, they sought any edge they could for the trial.

The dock ward has the lowliest taverns and is largely inhabited by dock workers, fishermen, merchants, mercenaries, sailors, and pickpockets. The Thieves’ Guild is quite active here. The recommended tavern here is the Bloody Bonnet, a sailor’s haunt that has some pirates as well.

The market ward hosts Allibar’s markets, filled with produce, sheep and other livestock, wool and clothing, leather goods, and other goods such as weapons and armor, tools, carpentry goods, and peddlers with pastries and other snacks. Sellers try to shout over one another hawking their wares and the smell of livestock is prevalent. There are some nice inns off the beaten path, but they are typically busy. The* Smiling Banshee* is a one-size-fits all inn of immense size that has a wide assortment of rooms and fares. It’s known for having good food and cheap ale. It’s usually filled wall to wall and has some dicing in the evening hours. The Sentry is a duller but cleaner and quieter inn that caters to guards, mercenaries, and those who prefer more space. The inn runs efficiently, and some dicing can be found. The fare is unimaginative but with large portions.

In the crafting ward, many nicer houses and shops can be found, though everything is a little pricier. Hayward’s is incredibly exclusive (and expensive) and caters to merchants, master craftsmen, and the learned. It has fine fare with smallish portions, an excellent wine choice from Brellin and Caladar, and nice furniture. An aged and toothless bouncer, Tullivan, eyes customers to ensure they are not potential troublemakers as they enter. The Lame Duck is known for its exotic food ranging from Bron to Zaladaran, and it also has a gambling hall for playing cards. The decor is garish, with a lot of crimson and gold.

  • Also in the crafting ward is a magic shop, The Whispering Wand, run by two retired sister mages returned to their homeland from Ruidea. They constantly correct one another and have some amazing wares, protected by magical wards. The sisters are Thella and Omara.
  • A renowned weaponsmith, Hirgar, has a shop called The Razor’s Edge that specializes in larger, two handed weapons, though he sells smaller weapons as well. Hirgar is a Hrugorn expat with surprising connections to his homeland, dwarves, and even Caladar.
  • A retired Chosen sells wooden weapons, bows, arrows, and bolts in a shop called The Quiver. His name is One Arm Garm and he is a hulking man with a scarred face, tattoos, and some missing teeth. His face was mauled by a bear in his younger days, and he lost his arm in the war. He is a master bowyer and fletcher, and can make specialty arrows that inflict +1 damage (barbed, 5 gp each), +1 hit (needle nose, 3 gp each), 19-20 chance to crit (the ripper, 10 gp each), or add 20 feet of range (the longfeather, 2 gp each).

The old ward is split into three main parts. It has a barracks belonging to the duke’s militia and city guard as well as a practice ground. It also is home to the Druids’ Circle, a small park with simple two story cottages housing druids. In addition to a bubbling spring with trees and bushes, the park has beautifully carved wooden benches on which to sit during service. There is also a poor area in old town filled with beggars and some criminals.

  • There is an apothecary, an older man with one milky eye and stringy hair, named Helgon. He sells potions and druidic magical items. His store has a surprising amount of lore dealing with necromancy and death intermixed with fresh herbs and alchemical supplies. (He also sells poisons to thieves and mercenaries).

The Duke’s Estates run from near the center of town to the southwest, and has its own gate to access the preserve. The first courtyard houses estates of nobility, mainly ornate but smallish manors. The second courtyard accesses the duke’s estate. The land to the southwest is hilly and forested, and offers some vantage points to the main road. The Chosen and Oathguard are housed between the preserve and the main road.

Hayward’s
The Heroes decided to have a nice dinner and get out of the castle before the trial, choosing Hayward’s, where Max had been gambling many nights. The inn is upscale, with separate dining rooms and a gambling hall.

While the Heroes were dining, Dame Alana made an entrance. Previously, she had entered the city with a couple of men-at-arms and her squire, and her armor was beaten and bloodied. Now she looked a little more cleaned up, and everyone in the establishment knew who she was. She spotted the Heroes and approached Lady Deirdre. The atmosphere was a little tense, because Dame Alana was slotted to fight with the magistrate’s team. However, after talking to Deirdre, she said her duty is to protect the baron and his family, and that she would not be participating in the Trial. She knelt before Deirdre, and the young heir gratefully thanked her.

Later, the Heroes had a strange visit from a young, exotic-looking woman. She was rather outlandish in appearance, with fiery red hair, topaz colored eyes, slightly tanned skin, and freckles. She wore red robes, had a staff that looked more like a tree branch, and lots of gold jewelry. She also had her ears and nose pierced, again with gold.

She approached the group and gave them a close look. “Well these are the heroes of Strathaven. Well, heroes and a rescuee if tales be told, though I don’t believe rescuee is a word. So, the baron had a big bad and also very black sword that followed you to town. I remember a black helm that did the same, though, I suppose not exactly the same since it used levitation rather than propulsion via undead, but the end effect was largely the same."
“So the sword propelled itself to you, which, if it did so later but not prior, was because it was aware of your existence when it otherwise was not, or it sought revenge—unlikely since it uses undead much akin to fodder—or it was after someone who was in the castle and left. Aha! Now things start to make more sense.”
“So the magistrate is against you? I’ll see if he can make use of my services on his team, although this whole team concept is a rather perverse twist to the old bylaws regarding succession. I’ll see you at the trial!”

With that, she departs.

The Heroes find out the strange woman was named Talar. She was a young but highly accomplished druid.

The Trial of Succession
The Trial was held in Old Town, near the Druids’ Circle. The area was normally used for jousts. A week-long festival was held in the city, with a fair, entertainment, and a feast. Most of the nobility in Rallas turned up for the event, and the trial grounds were overfilled with people.

Corienne had Noland the Black, Sir Bowen, Eleena, and Talar on his side. The battle started very tactically, with Kairn and Max taking the front line against Noland and Bowen. Corienne was in mastercraft full plate with a warhammer. Anton cast a spell on Talar that lowered her intelligence, wisdom, and charisma. Talar, strangely enough, was unable to cast her fireball spell, as it fizzled. As the battle continued, she was unable to cast a single spell or activate her druid powers.

The Heroes focused on Eleena, quickly dispatching her before her enchantments and charms could do much damage, with Simon leading the take down with his new, shiny bow. Deirdre kept to the back and cast healing spells.

As the magistrate’s side started faltering, Corienne blamed Talar for fixing the fight by not helping his side. Noland and Bowen attempted a last ditch effort to fell Dierdre and almost succeeded; however, Corienne was killed by an arrow through the throat and his side yielded.

The Heroes demanded that Noland be arrested as a traitor to Strath and found that Corienne had promised Noland a pardon for participating, if Corienne was made baron. Noland shouted at Talar that she fixed the fight and doomed his team. Talar stated that higher primal and planar powers were at work and far more important than the magistrate’s pathetic power grab. She stalked off.

Baroness Deirdre
Deirdre tearfully thanks the Heroes for their help. She was made Baroness of Strath, and Duke Kaydrin offered her a magical bastard sword called Earthshaker that he used prior to becoming heir to the duchy. Deirdre gave the sword to Max.

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Session 7 - An Audience with the Duke

The Heroes began at the Red Mug Inn in the tiny village of Hargrove Ferry. After learning they would likely not find a ship to take them north to Allibar, they decided they would need horses to make the trip overland.

While at the inn, Max won money playing dice with some local fishermen, while Simon talked to the innkeeper about securing horses and supplies. Kairne retired to his room early, while Anton flirted with the innkeeper’s daughter and tried some of the recommended house ale.

The Journey to Allibar

The Heroes traveled by horse to Allibar, the seat of the capital. The trip only took a few days, and they easily dispatched a group of gnolls that ambushed them, led by a larger gnoll who seemed to have demonic features.

Despite being small for a full-fledged city, Allibar is the largest settlement the Heroes have ever seen. The city, which dated back to the Old Empire, has tall stone walls with old, square towers. A castle can be seen arising above the walls from its perch atop a hill. The city has narrow roads and lanes with most of the houses built of stone, and many of the streets being cobbled.

Allibar is heavily fortified, with catapults and ballistae perched throughout the city and its walls. It has a decent sized guard presence and is well policed. The dockyard, though not very vast, is one of the larger on the Inner Sea, and receives trade from Ruidea, as well as from the wealthier lands of the south.

The Heroes hurriedly rode through the city directly to the castle to see the duke.

The Audience

The Heroes announced their presence to a steward and awaited their chance to court to see the duke. The inclusion of Deirdre, recognized as the daughter of Baron Strath, helped them seek a quicker audience.

Duke Ian Kaydrin was tall, muscular, and imposing. He had green eyes, long brown hair, and wore a breastplate and sheathed longsword along with his crown, a silver circlet set with a large sapphire. He had a scar on his chin and was wearing quality but practical trousers, boots, and doublet.

The Heroes immediately noticed Magistrate Corienne had somehow beaten them to Allibar, and was present in the court, in clean finery. After the characters were introduced, the wily magistrate informed the duke these were the heroes of Strathaven who braved the baron’s keep and the walking dead to rescue the baron.

Deirdre cleared her throat and stated the heroes had rescured her as well. When the duke asked who she was, Deirdre lifted her chin and proudly claimed she was the daughter of Baron Strath.

" Adopted daughter," Corienne gently chided.

The duke asked the Heroes to recant their tale and they informed him of their fight in Strathall Keep, their discovery of the duke in possession of a strange and evil sword, and their rescue of him, Sir Malkar, and Deirdre, leaving nothing out. They spoke of their desire to inform the duke that the barony needed an able ruler, which was why they came to Allibar in order to warn him.

Corienne then responded that the Baron should be investigated for possibly murdering his subjects; and warned that Deirdre is not of his bloodline and has no experience in ruling; He added that Magister Elisedd is not related to the baron, left the baron’s court on icy terms, and was eccentric;, and Dame Alana had ties to Astoria. The duke’s jaw will clench when he hears Astoria mentioned.

Regarding the baron’s illegitimate son, Corienne claimed he was intentionally sent away to Ruidea for school but instead betrayed his people by going to Calidar.

The duke shook his head and proclaimed this whole Strath affair sounded like a mess. He ordered that Corienne should become the regent of the barony and investigate claims of ascendancy and bring order in the meantime. He told the Heroes they were to back the magistrate and obey his directives. The duke then thanked them all for their service and said his steward shall see that they were compensated for their valor and have proper lodging while in the city. The audience was obviously ended.

The Heroes turned to leave, whereupon Deirdre shouted, “Your Grace!” As the entire court turned to her, she said, “I am the daughter of Baron Strath. He took me in, raised me as his own, and showed me much of what it takes to rule.” The duke leaned forward and partly disguised his bemusement. “Is that so? Tell me, what do I stand to gain placing an inexperienced girl in charge of my lands?”

Amarelle quickly and confidently responded. “One who will carry on Baron Strath’s legacy, and will increase your tithe twicefold.” There were gasps in the court, and even the duke seemed taken aback; however, Corienne chuckled politely. The Duke asked with a smirk, “how do you intend to do that, girl?”

“I will bring order to my land, re-open the mines of Avonhill, draw additional shipping by sending emissaries to Brellin offering iron, wool, and peat, which will also draw them closer to us in the event Calidar troubles us.”

The court was silent. After a moment, the Duke shrugged and said “these are words but not deeds. How would a woman, nay a girl, accomplish such feats? You are not Baron Strath, who won campaigns against the Astorians and other fell beasts.”

Deirdre stared at the Duke. “I will invoke the Trial of Ascension by Arms if needed to verify my worth.”

The court broke in commotion, before the Duke raised a hand to silence them. “You? You will take up arms in trial?”

“I may not be strong, yet I will emerge the victor in a trial of steel, fire, and wit.”

The duke leaned back on his throne. “I remain unconvinced, yet I loathe to deny a privilege of our ancestors. So be it. Magistrate, if you find a lawful candidate with claim to Strath, bring him forth to face this girl, though I despair to think of the waste this contest shall be, knowing of other uses I can find for her….mind.”

Corienne thought for a moment, a frown apparent on his face. “Your Grace, is my own claim considered strong enough to challenge? I have faithfully served as the representative to your interests there. I could continue to do so as baron, with you comfortable in the knowledge of both my loyalty and my stewardship.”

The Duke laughed. "Your argument is compelling, except for one matter. Will the people follow you, a man of no martial prowess?” Before Corienne can respond, the Duke turned to the PCs. Where are my heroes of Strath? What do you think of your choices thus far, a criminal, a girl, or a magistrate?”

Simon said he would follow Deirdre and vouched for her level head in battle. Kairne, on the other hand, said she was flighty in battle.

The duke responded, "I have made my decision. Let our fine magistrate and brave girl fight for what they seek. The winner will win the recognition they need.”

Deirdre clenched her jaw with resolve, while Corienne seemed to redden with anger and embarrassment. “I presume we can call upon a champion in our stead, as our rites have allowed in the event we are not fit, to, or are presumed too valuable, to fight?”

The Duke laughed. “Does this girl frighten you?”

“No Your Grace. But she places me in an unenviable position. I cannot win, because even if I emerge a victor, I shall be seen as a child slayer. I see the use of champions as the only logical solution.”

The Duke looked disappointed. “Fine. You have even found a way to bore me of this affair.”

Simon then interjected and said it would do no good for a potential ruler to fall to the use of a champion to fight in their stead. He proposed that the potential rulers must fight with their champions. The duke said this idea had merit and said the heroes shall champion Deirdre, if they wish, and that Corienne should find four to fight at his side.

“Your Grace, I will require two weeks to have my champions drawn forth.”

Simon interjected that was too long of a period of time to wait, and that the trial should be held in one to two days, but Corienne replied that he needed time to bring his champions from Strath and that the duke would be well served to send word to his subjects and create a festival of it. The duke replied this was an idea with merit.

Simon then said the magistrate should have to announce who his champions would be now. Corienne clearly looked unhappy, but after a minute of thought, he claimed his champions would be Dame Alana, and three the group had never heard of.

With the use of the Knowledge/Local skill, the heroes determine that Sir Belkor was a squire in service to the Hornblade family, which was dishonored by Sir Noland’s disgrace. The other two, a male and female, were former pupils of Elisedd’s who misused their magic to manipulate others and were dismissed from Elisedd’s service.

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Session 6 (The Brigand Problem)

The Heroes left Strathaven on foot early in the morning. The plan was to travel overland a day-and-a-half to Hargrove Ferry, and attempt to find a sailing vessel headed for Allibar.

Brigand Ambush

That afternoon, they were attacked by seven unusually well-equipped brigands. The group included a wizard, archers, and swordsmen wearing chain shirts. The encounter was challenging but the Heroes defeated their adversaries, with the last two brigands surrendering.

As Max and Kairne questioned them, Deirdre healed all of the fallen who still breathed but was too late to save the wizard and one other brigand who apparently was in charge of the small group, named Kelron.

The brigands, especially the two archers, were quite young, some appearing as young as 15 or 16. Max questioned them and learned they were sent by Noland the Black, a former knight of the barony, to scout the Heroes departure from Strathaven. They were supposed to wait for reinforcements, but Kelron wanted to test the so-called “Heroes of Strathall Keep” himself.

The brigands, now bound by rope, were informed by Max that they were traitors to their liege, and Max executed them. Deirdre attempted to stop him and then left in a sulking, quiet rage. Max explained that his duty as a militiaman was to uphold the laws of his liege lord, and these brigands were self-professed rebels. He offered Deirdre the option to escort them herself in person to STrathaven to undergo a trial and assured her they would meet the headsman’s block there as well.

Simon and Anton attempted to comfort Deirdre, with Simon informing her that the brigands had indeed rebelled against the laws of the land.

Second Wave

Late that afternoon, hours after the first ambush, the Heroes were ambushed at a bridge crossing a small stream. They were able to spot the brigands in waiting. One of the brigands, the apparent leader, wore field plate armor, wielded a lance, and rode a warhorse barded in studded leather. Also present was another wizard, more archers, and many more swordsmen.

The brigands attempted to surround the Heroes. Kairne made a stand on the bridge, sustaining charges from the knight and several swordsmen. Anton and Max took their stand a little to the south, trying to use the terrain to shield them from the archers.

Simon and Anton directed their arrows and spells at the enemy wizard, keeping him busy, while Kairne endured two charges from the enemy horseman. Deirdre used all of her power to keep her companions standing.

Simon seamlessly flowed between firing arrows and using his blade to harass the enemy wizard and aid Kairne in holding the bridge. Kairne used his lucerne hammer to fell several swordsmen with single swings. Max used feints paired with fast, precise attacks to down swordsmen. Anton summoned a celestial eagle to harass the enemy wizard, while his familiar helped Max with flanking the enemy swordsmen.

With most of the swordsmen defeated and the enemy wizard and horseman wounded, a retreat was sounded. The horseman, wizard, two archers and a swordsman were able to escape.

Hargrove Ferry

The Heroes were able to reach Hargrove Ferry that night on a forced march. They learned there were not any seafaring vessels available aside from local fishermen.

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Session 5 (Dissension in Strathaven)

After rescuing the baron from his cursed blade, the heroes had to decide what their next course of action would be. Max, Simon, and Alton did their best to keep everyone away from the cursed blade, allowing Elisedd and Valya only the briefest of glances at the sword as they carried it to the docks.

The Cursed Blade

Elisedd and Valya believed the sword was the lost Usurper’s Blade, which belonged to a legendary necromancer long ago, in the days of the Kingdom of Brell. Elisedd noted it had turned up after 6 decades, 6 years, and probably 6 months of its last reported activity.

Max, Simon, and Alton secured a fishing vessel and took the sword far into the Inner Sea and cast it overboard. While they were gone, Kairne monitored the rumors making their way through the townsfolk and tried to assure them that everything was ok.

Who Rules Now?

The baron was taken to the temple, where the remaining powers-that-be gathered to discuss what to do. Everyone agreed that the baron, who was in a catatonic state, was in no condition to rule. Deirdre was dismissed as an heir because she was the baron’s adopted daughter and not a blood relative.

Magistrate Corienne and Magister Elisedd believed Dame Alana could be an accomplice of the baron’s downfall and that the duke should be warned of the transpired events before Alana could return. High Priestess Valya and Captain Rowan believed Alana, who happened to be sympathetic to the Kingdom of Astoria and the Redcloaks, should be immediately warned because she was the second-in-command and is the de facto ruler with no heir in place.

Elisedd brought up the existence of the baron’s illegitimate son, Logar, who was sent to train with the Arcane Order in Ruidea but dropped out and traveled to Amarre, a large city in Calidar. Elisedd hinted at Logar being involved in shady activity. Valya and Rowan pointed out that he is not a legitimate heir and even Sir Malkar was inclined to agree.

Corienne Meets WIth Kairne

Magistrate Corienne called Kairne to his manor and thanked him for saving his life. Corienne gave Kairne a chest filled with 2,500 gp in coins and gems and asked that he distribute it to his associates.

Corienne offered to sponsor Kairne for knighthood and have a nice set of armor crafted for him if he would help Corienne. Kairne refused. Corienne asked Kairne to keep his eyes and ears about for the Corienne and he would be richly rewarded. Kairne said he might, but offered no promises.

The PCs Discuss Their Next Move

The heroes met at the Mandrake Inn to discuss what to do. They decide to warn the duke of the situation and would leave in the morning. The had earlier asked Lucien to meet them at the inn, but he had refused. They spotted Kell at the inn but did not tell him of their plans.

The following morning, they spotted Deirdre at the inn, and cautiously approached her. She told them she does not have a home and does not want to become a pawn in the power games of the town leaders. The group asks if she wants to accompany them and she readily agrees.

The PCs pack up and depart overland, taking the northern road.

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Session 4 (Attack at the Magistrate's Manor)

The PCs returned to Strathaven from Strathall Keep. They received healing at the temple and went to the magistrate’s manor to report their findings and collect their reward. It was early afternoon when they arrived, and the magistrate’s guards allowed them entry. They reported all they found to the magistrate, and he seemed extremely interested in the baron receiving a cursed blade possibly from Dame Alana.

During the meeting, the PCs witnessed one of the magistrate’s guards being killed at the front gate, which burst open, allowing entry to one of the burning skeletons similar to those in the keep. Behind it followed additional undead, mainly zombies. The group fought them in the front courtyard, while Kell ran for help. Corienne and his guards attempted to escape out the back garden gate, but it, too, was blocked by undead that pursued the magistrate back into his estate.

The PCs fought waves of undead, and then saw the baron himself arrived. After the baron curt Sir Malkar down, Kairne attempted a desperate but successful disarm, sending the evil sword spinning from the baron’s hand. The baron collapsed next to Sir Malkar, while the remaining undead attempted to secure the fallen blade.

Kell returned with help, including Magister Elisedd, Quintus Jinn, Lucien, and High Priestess Valya. The rest of the undead were dispatched, and Max made sure he secured the cursed blade without touching it, using a set of fireplace tongs to place it in a cloak.

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