Shadows of Northmere

Session 1 (Investigating Strathall Keep)

The PCs were called to the Mandrake Inn to meet with Magistrate Corienne regarding a problem in Strathaven. Corienne is the duke’s magistrate assigned to the barony, and oversees taxes and the duke’s interests.

The PCs learned that Strathall Keep, located on a peak overlooking the town, closed its gates and no one has exited it in the past two days. No guards can be seen on the battlements and there is no response from the locked gate. Captain Rowan of the Redcloaks sent two men in, neither of whom was heard from again.

The Baron was last seen in the castle, but his second-in-command and steward, Dame Alana, was sent east to Ashwood to deal with a gnoll incursion. She took half the knights and men-at-arms, and later the Captain of the Guard, a man nicknamed “Shiv,” took additional men to help Alana. As a result, there were few guards left at the castle and none left in the town itself.

Corienne was prepared to pay each PC 100 gp to investigate the castle. The PCs agreed and decided to use the front gate. Simon and Kairne climbed over the gate and unbarred it, but were attacked by several undead hounds. After the fight, the PCs could see two dead bodies in the courtyard, one being a Redcloak. The keep itself was closed but not locked.

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Session 2 (Clearing the Courtyard of Strathall Keep)

The PCs continued to investigate the outer courtyard and were attacked by several undead, included zombies and skeletons. The PCs were injured enough that they closed the gate to the castle and returned to town for healing and rest.

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Session 3 (Rescuing Deirdre)

The PCs received some Potions of Healing from the Temple of the Pantheon and returned to the castle. They entered keep itself and fought more undead, including flaming skeletons that burned anyone standing adjacent to them.

The heroes found a young lad named Kell hiding in a chimney in the old great hall. He thanked them for their help and they asked what he was doing. He said he was investigating the castle and the group took him for a looter, emptying his pouches and lightly interrogating him. Kell told them he believed at least one knight was still alive, as well as the Baron’s adopted daughter, Deirdre. Kell claimed Deirdre was not attacked by the undead and Kell had heard her talking to the baron.

the PCs worked their way towards the new great hall, whereupon they spotted Baron Armin Strath, who seemed to be alive, sitting on his throne with an evil black sword laying across his lap. Flanking him were two flaming skeletons.

The PCs wisely decided to leave him alone and instead followed the sounds of fighting to the top of a tower. Kell climbed the tower from the upper battlements and secured a rope for the rest of the PCs. They discovered a weary, hungry, and wounded Sir Malkar, one of the baron’s knights, fighting off some undead. A smile pile of undead lay on the stairs leading up from the stairs of the tower.

Sir Malkar thanked the PCs for coming to his aid and informed them that the sword in possession of the baron was brought to him by a group of guards from Ashwood, supposedly a gift from Dame Alana. It possessed him and he slayed everyone in the castle except Deirdre. Sir Malkar said the baron was able to slay the strongest knight in the castle with the black blade, which Malkar found frightening because that knight could normally have bested the baron.

The PCs decided to attempt a rescue of Deirdre and sent Kell to the top of the keep to reach Deirdre’s balcony. The group found Deirdre inside, and she seemed oddly calm. She accepted their offer of rescue and denied being a part of the happenings in the castle. Deirdre claimed the undead were outside her door and would attack her if they could.

The Pcs, along with Deirdre, left the castle and returned to town.

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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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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 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 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 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 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 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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