Joined: Jan 05, 2002 Posts: 462 Location: Central Utah
Posted: Fri Feb 23, 2018 2:56 pm Post subject: It started in Saltmarsh...
This thread will be a campaign journal for a game I started with co-workers. It is set in the southwestern Flanaess in 570 - the party started in Saltmarsh but are ranging farther afield with each adventure.
I will use this first post as a Table of Contents
1. Backstory for "Dirty Larry", Mountain Dwarf Druid, level 1.
2. Backstory for Tyrius of Sterich, Human (Oerid) Paladin of Pelor, level 1.
3. Backstory for Thokk, Half-orc Barbarian, level 1.
4. Arrival in Saltmarsh.
5. Backstory for Aurora of Tringlee, Half-elf Wizard, level 1.
6. Backstory for Babshapka, Wood Elf Ranger, level 1. _________________ My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Mp7Ikko8SI
Last edited by Kirt on Sun Mar 18, 2018 11:35 am; edited 8 times in total
Larrenthal was born to a clan of Crystalmist Dwarves. His clan was wealthy, prosperous, and in the process of expanding its holdings and starting daughter colonies to explore new mines. His parents were among those chosen to pioneer a new colony, and they set out with him still in his mother’s arms. At three years old he was developing like any dwarven infant - he could crawl and babble but not walk or talk.
What was supposed to be a short caravan journey in the late fall to an already-secure base instead turned into a nightmare when his parents and all their clanmates were ambushed by a combined force of ogres, bugbears, and goblins. The battle was long, bloody, and desperate. His mother was the last dwarf to die, just after she hid him under some bundles in a mule cart. The goblins were already leading the live mules away while the ogres feasted on the dead ones, when a huge bear came upon the scene. It must have been a cave bear, for it towered over even the ogres. After a few dozen goblins had been crushed by its paws, the rest retreated - for the moment.
Then, the bear was gone and an elderly man was probing in the cart with his staff, seeking the source of the baby’s cry he had somehow heard through the din of the battle. The man took the dwarven babe and retreated to his cave before the humanoids could regroup. All through that winter the old man cared for the babe and by the spring, Larry was walking and talking – but he spoke in Flan, not Dwarven.
The werebear druid had thought to return the babe to the first group of dwarves he found in the spring. Little did he know that the caravan massacre had prompted the dwarves of the area into a series of wars and genocidal campaigns against the humanoids that lasted for years. Dwarves aboveground had been rare before – now they were simply not to be found except in military hosts, none of which passed near the alpine valley that was the druid’s home.
The first dwarven explorers to arrive after the war were seeking pasturelands for their goats. They came when the boy was ten. Of course they knew the story of the massacre, of course they knew to which clan Larry belonged, of course they offered to return him. But when Larry was taken back to the cold stone halls of his father’s clan, he found all of his near kinsmen had been killed in the wars. True, he had distant cousins who took him in. But what were they to make of the boy who cried at the dark, who begged to see the sun and feel the wind, and who couldn’t even speak Dwarven? The boy who preferred mud to woolens and trees to forges? After two weeks, “Dirty Larry” begged to be returned “home” to the old man – and his kinsmen did not take much to convince, did not even consider Larry a “real dwarf”, but a strange, wild “bear boy”.
Over the next years the kindly old bear-man taught Larry the ways of the Old Faith, the Great Circle of the Flan, the names of all the gods and spirits of the woods and hills and mountains. Larry grew and learned and prospered, until his foster father initiated him into the First Mystery and told him that to learn more he would have to apprentice to another druid. No, he could not apprentice with the old man – they were too close and the druid's code prohibited apprenticeships within family. Besides, the man claimed to be too old.
It was only a few months ago that the man determined to send Larry to the Great Druidess. He had heard tell that the current head of the Druidic Orders held moot in the Dreadwood, far to the south. A longer journey than the old man cared to make, and through lands far too civilized.
The old man knew of a remote temple to the Old Faith, though. It was considered part of the
country of Sterich, but they did not have to cross many farms or fields to get there. Just a few valleys over, really, though the journey took them weeks, scaling the mountainsides.
The old man approached the temple warily, for in truth he seldom spoke to men, but the Head Priest knew the Old Ways well and welcomed them in the temple garden. He agreed to take Larry in and find a guide for him to the Great Druidess. Larry cried that afternoon, for the first time in many years, and would have had the old man stay if he could have moved him, but the man said his final lesson was that loss, too, was part of the cycle of life.
Larry had not been at the temple a se’nnight when he was introduced to Tyrius, a bright young paladin of Pelor, shining like a newly-minted coin. The pair were a perfect contrast – the tall, handsome, worldly, noble-born youth and the short, stout, grubby dwarf who went everywhere barefoot. Tyrius escorted Larry down the valley into Sterich proper. Every hamlet they passed seemed a city to Larry, but the hamlets grew into thorps, the thorps to villages. Finally, in a bustling river-village, Tyrius booked passage on a boat headed downriver. It carried refined ores from the mountain mines and the dense cargo meant there was plenty of deck space for passengers.
They navigated by day and pulled up at night, for the swift mountain river had many rapids that could only be safely run in the light. They had been on the water just a few days when came a misty morning. The captain advanced the boat slowly, but then ordered his men to make camp when they spied the first set of rapids. He would pilot it later in the day, when the sun had burned off the mists. Little did he know that this was a favored ambush spot of a band of hobgoblins who preyed upon the river traffic. They fell upon the camp in the mist and a half-dozen guards were slain in the space of a few minutes. The remaining guards rallied and carried the day and the hobgoblins were driven back.
But as the mists cleared, there was a curious sight – a towering, misshapen man stood among the slain. He seemed just as surprised to see them as they him, and he drew a huge axe and began to chant. The boat guards surrounded him and prepared for another fight, but then the strangest thing happened. Tyrius stepped forward.
Moving slowly, the paladin approached the misshapen man with hands open. Tyrius led him to the river’s edge. He showed him the corpse of a hobgoblin, and the man said he had not been with the hobgoblins, no, he had not attacked the guards; he was just looking for a meal. After that Tyrius began arguing with a riverboat captain. Tyrius told the captain that he needed more guards to replace his losses, and pressed him to accept the misshapen man into his service. The captain did not trust the stranger further than he could spit, but eventually his greed overcame his common sense. He gave the man a berth in the ship and meals and let him act as a guard without pay. Larry came to learn later that the man was not misshapen. In fact, he was a half-orc named Thokk, a wild raider from the mountains who was fleeing his home, much like Larry.
The guards grumbled and cursed the stranger all the way downriver, past the confluence with the Javan and then the Hool, until the ship entered the trackless Hool Marshes. Then, after fights with lizardfolk, marsh orcs, and bullywugs, where Thokk and his great axe slew more than any of them, their grumbling ceased.
Thus it came to everyone’s great surprise that when the ship emerged from the swamplands and docked in the port of Saltmarsh, the captain insisted that Thokk go ashore. The captain had just been made to pay for the King’s Protection on the remaining journey to Gradsul, he said, and he’d be damned if he was taking a free-loading orc bastard to the city when they’d left the combats behind. Tyrius argued with him past his patience, which resulted in the paladin being told to go ashore as well, along with Larry. In truth, it all seemed no great loss to Larry, for the town was a scant few leagues overland from Larry’s goal - the Dreadwood, but Tyrius did seem rather put out.
Now Thokk, Tyrius, and Larry stand on the docks of Saltmarsh, watching the ship cast off.
Joined: Jan 05, 2002 Posts: 462 Location: Central Utah
Posted: Mon Feb 26, 2018 11:30 am Post subject: Post 2: Backstory for Tyrius
Tyrius was born to an old and important Sterich noble family, themselves related to the Earl of Sterich (the nation’s ruler). Tyrius was the third son of a distant cousin of the head of his family. He was raised to be cultured, sophisticated, and elite – but the older he grew, the more tenuous he realized his position was. His father held lands that were smaller than his title was due. His eldest brother stood to inherit those lands, barely enough to maintain the family’s privilege. His eldest brother was the heir, his older brother was the spare, and Tyrius, as a third son, was just an inconvenience.
He was barely twelve when they sent him away to take holy orders. He went to a large and respected pantheonic temple in Istivin, the capital city. He didn’t appreciate how much his family was paying, he only knew that he was not willing to trade his life of privilege for scrubbing floors as a novice. He complained constantly, he got into fights with the other novices, and he had no patrons among the clergy-teachers who were willing to advance his position.
After several miserable months he was moved to a dedicated temple of Hieroneous. He was somewhat happier there, as at least the drudgery was supplemented with martial training, which he both enjoyed and excelled at. But the clergy there demanded strict obedience and deference, and Tyrius never missed an opportunity to remind the low-born war priests that regardless of his rank within the church, he was still their social better. After he had insulted his trainers one too many times, he was sent to a remote shrine to Pelor, something both he and his trainers considered more of a punishment than anything else. Pelor was a Flan deity for godssake – a god with no noble patrons and no presence at court, a lingering, embarrassing reminder of the conquered aboriginal people and their backward “Old Faith”. When she learned of this latest humiliation, his mother sent Tyrius a final letter – his family had had enough of his foolishness, they were ending his allowance, and they did not want to hear any more from him until he had been made a priest of some faith, any faith.
The shrine to Pelor, the sun god, was small, with him the only novice among a handful of priests. There was even more manual labor than before – cutting wood, milking goats, dipping candles – but now the brother-priests worked alongside him rather than lording it over him. And as much as he railed at them and cursed his misfortune, they just smiled back. All the other, previous, priests had risen to his challenges, been insulted by his abuse – but these priests of Pelor were so selfless, so effacing. They honestly cared about him and ignored his tirades. Eventually he was intrigued and had to know their secret.
They explained Pelorian dogma to him: “Justice and freedom are the fruits of charity, modesty, and perseverance. The truly strong don't need to prove their power. Perform so many good acts that evil has no room in which to exist. Pelor’s strength is the power of will and hope, the need to confront evil in the face of insurmountable odds. Be wrathful against the forces of evil, corruption, and darkness, and especially the undead. But remember that excessive attention to things of evil can blind one to more important things: personal compassion and goodness.”
Tyrius had insulted their race and their low birth; they knew that social place does not bring goodness or happiness. Tyrius had insulted their lack of wisdom and education; they accepted his challenge to their vanity and had compassion for his anger. In the end, they won him over. Their honest desire for goodness in the world, for helping people, seemed more fulfilling to him then the anxious social scrambling of his own noble family. He still had a temper and had many relapses – but every time they forgave him, his faith grew stronger. He studied the dogma and mysteries, learned the healing arts and the arts of righteous warfare, dedicated his time to improving himself and helping others.
By sixteen he was a man grown and was anointed a paladin of Pelor. He had been in a purifying vigil for a week and had not known of the recent arrival of a curious visitor to the shrine. The pair were a perfect contrast – Tyrius was by now tall and handsome, and had always been worldly and noble-born. The visitor was a stout, grubby dwarf who went everywhere barefoot, had atrocious table manners and who could barely speak Common. When the dwarf introduced himself as “Larrenthal, but you can call me Dirty Larry,” Tyrius was simultaneously appalled and delighted at the chance to put his faith to the test. The Head Priest told Tyrius that the dwarf was to be escorted to the moot of the Great Druidess, deep in the Dreadwood – and that Tyrius himself would be the escort as his first official duty as a paladin.
His brothers in Pelor had given him just enough food for their journey overland to the headwaters of the Davish river, and just enough coin to book passage for them both in a merchant ship bound for Gradsul. In that great city the brothers of the shrine of Pelor would provide aid for the last leg of the journey.
Tyrius escorted Larry down the valley into Sterich proper. Every hamlet they passed seemed a city to Larry, and Tyrius came to believe the dwarf truly had been raised in the wild. Finally, in a bustling river-village, Tyrius booked passage on a boat headed downstream. It carried refined ores from the mountain mines and the dense cargo meant there was plenty of deck space for passengers. The captain was a foul and grasping sort, and Tyrius took this as another great test of his faith.
They had been on the river for just a few days, navigating by day and pulling up at night, for the swift mountain river had many rapids that could only be run in the light, when came a misty morning. The captain advanced the boat slowly in the open river, but then ordered his men to make camp when they spied the first set of rapids. He would pilot it later in the day, he said, when the sun had burned off the mists. Little did he know that this was a favored ambush spot of a band of hobgoblins. They fell upon the camp in the mist and a half-dozen guards were slain in the space of a few minutes. The remaining guards rallied (with help from Tyrius and Larry) and carried the day and the hobgoblins were driven back into the fog.
But as the mists cleared, there was a curious sight – a towering, barbaric half-orc stood among the slain. He seemed just as surprised to see them as they him, and he drew a huge axe and began to chant. The boat guards surrounded him and readied themselves for another fight. At first, Tyrius prepared to defend his comrades, the ship’s guards, and protect his charge the dwarf. But then the strangest thing happened. Through the grace of Pelor, Tyrius looked upon the half-orc and simply knew that he was not one of the attackers. His mind kept returning to the lessons he had learned about St. Jalnir the Gentle, a half-orc Peloran priest of legend. Tyrius stepped forward. Moving slowly, he approached the man with hands open. Tyrius led him to the river’s edge. He showed him the corpse of a hobgoblin, and the man said he had not been with the hobgoblins, no, he had not attacked the guards; he had arrived after the battle and was just looking for a meal. Tyrius knew that the divine will of Pelor was in this meeting. He explained to the riverboat captain that he was low on guards and should take the man on. The captain claimed the half-orc would slit their throats at the first opportunity. Tyrius vouched for him and pressed the captain on his weak spot – coin. How much would it cost him to replace these guards, simple sellswords who had never been in a battle before today, when he could have this seasoned warrior for free? Eventually the man’s greed won out. He gave the half-orc, Thokk, a berth on the ship and meals and let him act as a guard without pay. The other guards grumbled and cursed the stranger all the way downriver, past the confluence with the Javan and then the Hool, until the ship entered the trackless Hool Marshes. Then, after fights with lizardfolk, marsh orcs, and bullywugs, where Thokk and his great axe slew more than any of them, their grumbling ceased.
Perhaps Tyrius had still not learned the humility of a true Peloran. Perhaps he had failed to thank or praise the captain enough for simply doing an adequate job. When the ship emerged from the swamps and docked in the port of Saltmarsh, the captain insisted that Thokk go ashore. In Saltmarsh the captain would have to pay the tax for the King’s Protection on the remaining journey to Gradsul, and said he’d be damned if he was taking a free-loading orc bastard to the city when they’d left all the combats behind. Tyrius tried to reason with him, but old habits die hard and their discussion became an argument, the first time Tyrius had raised his voice in years. This resulted in both he and the dwarf being kicked off the boat as well.
True, they were now only a few leagues from the Dreadwood, but on the wrong side of that vast forest. Tyrius had paid for passage to Gradsul, from where he could take the King’s Road to the northern side of the forest, and there beg an elven guide to the moot of the Great Druidess within. Entering here, on the south side, would mean crossing leagues of dangerous forest infested by humanoids, with no idea of where they were going or how to get there. Tyrius had some coin left in his purse, but he doubted it was enough to book passage for himself on another ship to Gradsul, let alone the three of them. And what was he supposed to do with the half-orc now? He had naively assumed that the captain would have been so pleased with Thokk’s performance in the marshes that he would have taken him on as a paid guard upon reaching Gradsul. But now, he could hardly leave the savage warrior with no means of employment in a peaceful port town - that was surely asking for trouble.
Tyrius, Larry, and Thokk now stand on the docks of Saltmarsh, watching their former ship cast off. _________________ My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Mp7Ikko8SI
Joined: Jan 05, 2002 Posts: 462 Location: Central Utah
Posted: Fri Mar 02, 2018 11:04 am Post subject: Post 3: Backstory for Thokk
Thokk was born in a powerful orc tribe in the Crystalmist Mountains, although he was not himself an orc. His mother was a human woman, captured by an upstart orc chieftain on the first raid of his rule from among the rare human mountain holds. Most human captives were quickly worked to death, or tortured for entertainment and then eaten, but for some reason the chieftain instead made Thokk’s mother part of his official harem. He was young and brash and claimed that keeping a human enslaved was a sign of his power and prestige, and he was strong enough that no one in his tribe could argue, though the shamans muttered against him. No one expected the woman to live long, but she was of stout mountain folk and survived the petty cruelties of his other concubines without complaint. Much to everyone’s surprise she even bore the chieftain a son before the next winter and it was likely this that ensured her survival. Thokk never knew whether or not the chieftain had any actual feelings for his mother, but he did defend her against his tribe and that is about as tender-hearted as one could expect an orc to be.
Though far stronger and more precocious than any human child, Thokk lagged behind his orc peers and was considered a runt and a weakling by everyone but his mother. He has no memories before his fifth summer, and looking back now he cannot imagine how she was able to keep him alive. His earliest memory is of his mother presenting him with a simple carven flute, and his next is of being allowed to play for the chieftain. After that he was much at the chieftain’s side, entertaining him and his personal guard as they lounged drowsily after feasts and ruts. Being in his father’s “court” often meant that Thokk had occasion to listen to visiting dignitaries, for his tribe was important, indeed. Goblins, hobgoblins, bugbears, even human priests and bandits, all passed through his father’s halls, and Thokk soon found he had a skill with language. By his seventh winter his mother was dead but he had secured a position as his father’s official interpreter.
Though his growth was slow, he did keep growing, and by ten had even achieved the adult size and strength his peers had reached years ago. He asked to be made one of the tribe, underwent the ritual scarring, and killed a fellow applicant four years his junior with his bare hands as part of the initiation ceremony. The shaman named him “Thokk” after the sound his fists made bashing in the face of his opponent.
Once he was actually a tribe member, his life became, if not easy, at least relatively free. Sometimes he volunteered for raids, and even won human-crafted weapons as blood booty. More often, though, he preferred solitary hunting, providing game for the chieftain’s household. He was not afraid of the fighting during battles, but he knew he faced as much danger from the tribemates at his back as he did from the enemies at his front - killing him in the confusion of battle would be an easy way to eliminate him. Twice his father sent him as interpreter on diplomatic missions afield – once to a bugbear king, once to human hold. It was on the latter that he was given a hunting trap in the vain hope he would convince his tribe to cease hostilities. Iron, gnome-crafted with a spring mechanism, the trap was finer than anything in the tribe and he concealed it from the others as the most valuable thing he owned. He never used it within less than a day’s journey from the lair.
Then the day came that he had long dreaded. After a particularly fine feast, a member of the chieftain’s guard slew his aged father and assumed control of the tribe. Along with all the others, Thokk pledged his loyalty to the new chieftain, his own half-brother. He begged leave to go hunting and return with meat as a show of fealty to the new ruler. His request was granted.
As he packed his few possessions (axes and javelins, a staff and a waterskin) he could already hear members of the chieftain’s guard wagering on how long he would live after his return. With his father dead, all his half-siblings were in danger - but Thokk especially so.
For the next three days he did not sleep. He first traveled into the mountains to recover his trap, but then pushed east toward the human lands down in the valley. Nowhere was safe for him now within the territory of his erstwhile tribe, but outside its territory, nowhere was safe for a solitary orc. Thokk had fought against enough of his tribe’s respected neighbors to know he did not stand a chance against any of them alone, but his tribe had always derided the humans as soft and weak, so he thought his best chance for solitary survival lay in human lands.
He skulked among the human holds of the land they called “Sterich” for the next week, moving at night and hiding in the day. He stole chickens and sucked eggs, found a rope and a tinderbox in a barn, and made it as far as the great river his people called the “Dagar” and the humans the “Davish”. He thought it wise to avoid the river as being too well-traveled, but on a cold and misty morning he heard the sounds of battle. Battle meant corpses, which meant he could scavenge gear or a meal or both. After the sounds had died down, he crept forward in the mists. He had just found his first fallen, a human soldier, but had not yet eaten of the corpse when the mists suddenly cleared and he realized he was surrounded by a whole squad of human soldiers. Though they were winded and bloodied, there were still six of them and only one of him. He pulled out his axe and began his death-chant.
Even as the men began to surround him, the strangest thing happened. A young human man in a white robe, obviously not one of the soldiers, stepped forward. Moving slowly, he approached Thokk with his hands open and empty. Thokk was ready to split his head with the axe and then start on the soldiers, but something about the man’s eyes bewitched him. They looked on him not with the fear and loathing of the soldiers, not with the contempt of his tribemates, but with a concern and compassion he had only ever seen before in the eyes of his mother. Was it his hunger, or his weariness? Thokk did not kill the man, but allowed him to lead him to the river’s edge. The man showed him the corpse of a hobgoblin, and he surprised the man by speaking Common and answering his questions. No, he had not been with the hobgoblins, no, he had not attacked the soldiers; he was just looking for a meal. After that things became surreal as the man began arguing with a riverboat captain. Thokk did not catch much of their shouted, heavily-accented argument, but pieced it together over the next few days. The riverboat was transporting refined metals from a mine in the mountains to a market downriver. The boat had begun with a full complement of guards, but nearly half had been slain by the hobgoblin attack.
The man, a priest named Tyrius, told the captain that he needed more men to properly defend the barge, and pressed him to accept Thokk into his service. The captain did not trust Thokk further than he could spit, but eventually his greed overcame his common sense. He gave Thokk a berth in the ship and meals and let him act as a guard without pay. The other soldiers grumbled and cursed him all the way downriver, past the confluence with the Javan and then the Hool, until the ship entered the trackless Hool Marshes. Then, after fights with lizardfolk, marsh orcs, and bullywugs, where Thokk and his great axe slew more foes than any of them, their grumbling ceased.
Thus it came to everyone’s great surprise that when the ship emerged from the swamp and docked in the port of Saltmarsh, the captain insisted that Thokk go ashore. He had just had to pay for the King’s Protection on the remaining journey to Gradsul, he said, and he’d be damned if he was taking a free-loading orc bastard to the city when they’d left the combats behind for good. Tyrius argued with the captain past his patience, which resulted in the priest being told to go ashore as well, along with his odd dwarven ward. Once their argument began, Thokk was able to nick, unseen, a bedroll, backpack, and mess kit from one of the guards, and pass it to a dock worker for “unloading” as if it were his own.
Now Thokk, the priest, and the hairy dwarf stand on the docks of Saltmarsh, watching the ship cast off. _________________ My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Mp7Ikko8SI
Joined: Jan 05, 2002 Posts: 462 Location: Central Utah
Posted: Wed Mar 07, 2018 2:11 pm Post subject: Post 4: Arrival in Saltmarsh.
27 July, 570 (afternoon) - Saltmarsh
[DM's note 1: Since my players were new to pen & paper RPG, and none of them had experience in Greyhawk, I decided to go with a real world calendar so that they could have a better sense of what time of the year it was without constant cross-referencing.]
After the stevedores had unloaded their gear (for which Tyrius slipped them a copper each) and they watched their former ship set sail, the trio contemplated what to do next. Or rather, Tyrius contemplated, while Larry and Thokk returned the open stares of the passers-by. The dockworkers seemed rough-and-tumble men, and if they were taken aback by the newcomers in town, they did not let on. The inner harbor, however, was lined with a dirt road that ran all along the shore. Judging by the number of commonfolk stopping and gawking, the town did not see much in the way of half-orcs, grubby dwarves, or noble paladins. It was anyone's guess which of them made the bigger spectacle. Keoish manners seemed to prevail, however, and fortunately all the bystanders did was stop and stare, whisper, and occasionally cuff the bolder children who would have spoken to them had they been permitted.
With the decision-making left to Tyrius, it seemed meet that they should first thank the gods for their safe arrival. Enough of the commoners sported the dusky hue of the Flan that Tyrius dared ask about a temple to Pelor, but the look he received spoke louder than the answer itself. Overhearing, an old man who sat mending nets nearby said that anyone who had any sense would thank Osprem for a safe arrival after a voyage at sea. He jerked a hand at the back of the harbor, where what was obviously a temple stood overlooking the water (4).
The temple was of limestone without, decorated here and there with bits of coral. Inside were simple wooden benches without backs for pews, and a stone altar in front of what looked like a marble-lined wading pool that smelled of salt water. No clergy were present, even novices, so Tyrius offered what he hoped was an appropriate prayer. He looked up just in time to stop Thokk from entering the pool. The half-orc was convinced that they should collect the coins and pearls from the pool and use them for drinking money; Tyrius tried to explain to him several times that the valuables there were offerings, not for taking. He finally succeeded in convincing the barbarian not to take anything when he suggested that the treasures belonged to a sea goddess who would be mad when she found them missing, a line of argument that Thokk found reasonable.
By the time they emerged from the temple, there was a gaggle of town watchmen waiting for them. They were escorted to the Customs House (17) which seemed, to Tyrius' surprise, to be a center for civil governance in the town. A junior customs officer questioned Tyrius at length, establishing that they were not merchants, had nothing of value that they needed to declare (or pay taxes on), and were not mercenaries. Having determined that they were not there on business, the functionary made it plain to them that Saltmarsh had laws against vagrancy - they would need to establish a residence by sundown, and gainful employment within a week. Tyrius replied that he doubted they would be staying that long, and the officer helpfully gave him the names of the three inns in town, as well as a tavern that had a common room. Finally, the officer clarified that as Larry and Thokk were neither humans nor crown subjects, they were legally considered as Tyrius' chattel - meaning that he was responsible for all their actions within the town, and any consequences thereof. Furthermore, the man said that while there was no law against freemen carrying weapons, he had already received several complaints about Thokk and his axes - he advised Tyrius to make sure that the half-orc never drew or brandished his weapons, or they would all face charges of disorderly conduct and disturbing the peace, at the very least. Tyrius agreed, but thought to himself that this was not going to be a leisurely sail through the Hool Marshes.
With so many ways to run afoul of the local law, after they left the customs house Tyrius decided the best thing to do would be to find a room at an inn and placate Thokk with food and drink while he thought about their next move. The Inn of the Merry Mermaid (7) was close at hand, the owner Madam Ruth friendly even after seeing Thokk, the room adequate, the common bed cramped for the three of them but acceptable. Tyrius washed before preparing for supper - the others saw no reason to do so - and then counted the coins remaining in his purse. Not enough for a week's food and lodging, to be sure. _________________ My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Mp7Ikko8SI
Joined: Jan 05, 2002 Posts: 462 Location: Central Utah
Posted: Wed Mar 14, 2018 11:04 pm Post subject: Post 5: Backstory for Aurora
Aurora was born in Tringlee, the capital of the Duchy of Ulek. Her mother was the daughter of a wealthy human merchant, her father an elf. She never knew her father. Her mother spoke fondly enough of him, when her own father was not around. As Aurora had grown from babbling child to discreet young maiden, her mother explained that her father was a soldier, a guard to an elven noble in a delegation to the Duke, on a diplomatic mission that lasted all of one glorious summer. They met, they fell in love, he returned home before either knew she was with child, they never saw each other again.
When you are older, her mother would say, when you are a young woman, you will understand such affairs of the heart. Why did her mother not go after him? Why did she not write? Why could she not find him? Aurora would ask. Her mother never answered directly, but always with a tale or lesson – about how some parts of the Duchy were forbidden to humans, about how her grandfather was a good man but was still subject to all the prejudices of men, about how she had known more than one person undone by the deaths of their children, and it was a sad truth that Aurora would surely die before her father…always the lesson was different, until Aurora did not know whether the true reason was one of these or some or all or none.
Aurora grew into a highly intelligent child, and quickly surpassed any tutor that her grandfather could find. She could still remember the day, a month shy of her twelfth birthday, she first saw the mendicant illusionist doing cheap street theatrics in the market square. She had dragged her maid home early from shopping, politely slipped into a business meeting with her grandfather, and announced her intention to be a wizard. His face grew beet red, easy enough with his pale Seul coloring, but then he sighed. “Ah well”, he said simply. “Blood will out.”
Aurora was apprenticed to a local Master of History and Magic, an ancient human sage with a lifetime appointment to the Duke’s Court, though one without much power or prestige (which was, he told Aurora, just how he preferred it). Like all his apprentices, it seemed she studied just as much history as she did magic, and did more text-copying, book-searching, and scroll filing than anything else. But still, over the years, she had mastered one spell after another, and delighted in practicing them.
Like all students of history, she knew about the Twin Cataclysms (the Invoked Devastation and the Rain of Colorless Fire), which had, a millennium ago, destroyed the two greatest nations the world had ever known, The Suel Imperium and the Baklunish Empire. She could recite several different authoritative texts (and note their contradictions and discrepancies) explaining how the Suel refugees passed over (or under!) the Hellfurnaces and brought human civilization to the east, eventually founding the Kingdom of Keoland. She could add, and in the presence of her master she would always add, how the people’s reaction to the destruction of their homeland by mages of power had led to a great distrust of magic among the populace, and that for the first five or six hundred years of its existence, the practice of magic was in fact forbidden in the Kingdom. And she would add, again at the insistence of her master, how lucky they were to live in an age and in a nation (for the Duchy was once part of the Kingdom, but was now independent) that were both more tolerant of the craft than the Keoland of old.
One fine day, just a few weeks ago, her master had dismissed the other apprentices and asked Aurora to remain behind. Making sure the doors and windows were closed, he even used a few charms and wards to make absolutely sure they were alone. Given the strange beginning to their conversation, she was at first disappointed when he asked her to recite the texts concerning the migrations of the Seul houses and the founding of Keoland, even more disappointed when he asked her to recite the names of the principle Seul Houses, but she did as he bid.
“And what became of House Neheli?” he asked.
She answered by rote. “They founded Niole Dra and are today the most important noble house in the north of the Kingdom.”
“And House Rhola?”
“They founded Gradsul and are today the most important noble house in the south of the Kingdom.” She respected him too much to let her boredom enter her tone, but seriously? A private lesson for subject matter known to apprentices before their first week was done?
“And House Malhel?” And here she paused. She had read this, of course, but had never been asked before.
“Master, those of House Malhel were wicked and fought against the good Houses. After many battles they were banished from the Kingdom.”
“Correct. And where did they go?”
There was a long pause while Aurora searched her memory. “I imagine they dispersed, or died out…I have not read any record of them.”
“Indeed. A House powerful enough to war upon the Neheli, and they just faded away?”
“That does not seem likely, but…”
“But that is what the texts would have us believe. Most of them.”
Now Aurora had a creeping sensation under her skin and was beginning to think the wards had perhaps been a good idea.
“Suppose,” continued her master, “they did not die out. Not at first anyway. Conjecture,” he demanded.
“Well, they had the hubris to war upon the Neheli, thus they must have been both proud and powerful. Such people are unlikely to give up after a setback. While they could have fled, migrated out of the Sheldomar, it seems unlikely. More likely they would have withdrawn, regrouped, and planned revenge.”
“Precisely,” her master said, pleased. “Logic is one of your most important tools, don’t forget that. So why do you suppose you have not seen any records of this?”
“Because they didn’t regroup? Something else ended them before they could?”
“Perhaps, or perhaps they did persist…and any record of their defiance has been destroyed, eliminated, or altered.”
Now Aurora did not know what to say. Her master had instilled in her a reverence for history so profound that at first all she could feel was aghast at the crime against truth. But then, slowly, it dawned on her…who would have the power to make sure that this history was not known…and what else could someone with that power do? She thought of her master’s wards and shivered.
The old sage lowered his voice to a whisper. “I believe I have uncovered an unedited text, describing how House Malhel retreated to the Dreadwood Forest, and from there planned their revenge. I have another text, very rare but likely authentic, claiming that the Mahlhel were powerful spellcasters, even while the Neheli and Rhola sought to ban magic. I will not tell you the names or locations of these texts, for your protection, and mine, and theirs. If I were a younger man, I would investigate this myself. You are my best student at the moment. I am charging you with learning more.”
Aurora looked at the old man, shocked. “Master, you want me to…”
“Travel to the Dreadwood, and see what you can find. Ruins, stories, texts, tales, anything. Most likely you will find nothing. But if I am correct, someone will find you. Someone will appear and, in the most delicate way, attempt to ascertain what you are doing and steer you away from any discoveries. And that is what we are after. I don’t expect you to find proof that the Malhel were in the Dreadwood. But if you can find proof that someone does not want us to know, then we will be sure that I am on the right track.”
“Master, you honor me with your trust, but this sounds dangerous, and I am just an apprentice.”
“No, Aurora, you are no longer an apprentice. Consider yourself a journeywoman, as of today. You have earned it. As to the danger, well, certainly there is plenty of physical danger in the Dreadwood. You will need to be ready for that. I suggest you get as close as you can safely, and then recruit a group of sellswords who fancy themselves heroes – what is it they call themselves? Ah yes; ‘adventures’. With your wit and charm I am sure you can convince them to go looking for treasure in the forest. But the true danger lies not in mindless monsters, but in whoever is protecting this information. And there you are safer than I, I suspect, or I would never send you. Should I, a Master of History, go poking about the forest, I am sure it would be immediately noted and defenses would be put into place. But you are a young, inexperienced wizard, seeing the world, seeking adventure…what do you know of possible hunting grounds for ancient, forbidden magic referenced only in the most esoteric texts accessible to a handful of academics?”
“But Master, you have warned me many times against appearing as a wizard in Keoland.”
“True enough, the common folk still harbor many superstitions about our craft. To the commoners you should appear as merely a scholar. But the more astute and discerning must not know you are interested in history, must instead perceive that you are a simple freemage looking for fortune, not a threat to their secret histories. Only you and I must be aware of your actual mission.”
“So I must be an historian pretending to be a wizard pretending to be a scholar?”
The old man smiled deeply. “As I said, Aurora, you are my best student.”
Over the next several days they made their plans. Her master gave her advice on what to buy, what to bring, and what prices to pay. He told her not to take just any adventuring group, but to test them first. Would they be strong enough? Would they be easily manipulated into doing her will, all the while thinking it was theirs?
He cautioned her against having another arcane caster, or anyone with too high an intelligence, in the group. He told her not to head straight for the Dreadwood, but to have a few preliminary adventures first, both to gain experience herself and to avoid suspicion. When she felt confident with a group she trusted, she could steer them to the forest, all the while making it seem like she was merely agreeing with their idea of what to do next. He told her that the northern Dreadwood was under elven control, and that the elves were surely in the pocket of the Kingdom and would
report any investigations and block any discoveries. Far better she try the dangerous and unexplored south if she was to have any chance of either a real find or of drawing out those who did not wish to see her find anything.
On the day before her departure, as she was cleaning out her desk area in the master’s tower, he burst upon her excitedly with a letter in his hand. “It is done!” he exclaimed, and then proceeded to explain that he had petitioned a friend of a friend to provide her a dedicated guard, someone she could trust beyond a mere adventuring oath. He was an elf of the Silverwood, and would join her when her ship made port in Kewlbanks.
The next day she bid goodbye to her mother, her grandfather, and his staff, and boarded the ship on the Kewl. It was a passenger vessel, and while she did not have a private cabin, she did share a bunking room with other young ladies, mostly those going to court in Gradsul. It took a bit more than a day to get to Kewlbanks, and as promised, the guard was waiting for her there.
He was not at all as she expected. Aurora had known many elves in Tringlee, and all were bright, curious, open beings – free and polite in speech, forward in questioning, and firm in friendship. This one, Babshapka by name, was the polar opposite. After confirming that she was indeed his charge, he had practically ignored her as he boarded the boat and stowed his gear. He asked her no questions and responded to hers with the bare minimum of answers. True, he did look capable enough, with his massive unstrung longbow, and twin shortsword sheaths crossed across his back.
His traveling cloak was heavy and his boots worn. She was sure he would be both skilled in woodcraft and at guarding her person, but he acted as if conversation was a more serious threat. Even when she addressed him in her best Elven he seemed offended.
All the next day they sailed downriver, with the green-grey Silverwood on their right and the farms and fields of the County of Ulek on their left. Babshapka leaned against the rail, watching the forest roll past as if in a trance. The next day they reached Junre early and spent the rest of the day in port – her guard remained sullen and distant. The day after they set sail again, soon reaching the confluence of the Kewl with the mighty Sheldomar. At last he seemed more personable, and even willing to exchange a few words with her on the two-day journey to Gradsul.
Gradsul was the final destination of their passenger vessel, and it was from this point on that Aurora was fully in charge of the expedition (all previous arrangements having been made by her master). Of course, passenger ships did not exist on the Azure Sea (at least not commercial ones – the pleasure yachts of nobles being the exception, but those were not for hire). Her first order of business was finding a merchant vessel that would take passengers. She had thought the matter simply one of coin, but soon found two impediments.
First, ships sailed with only a limited number of berths, and these were always filled. Out on the seas, after the death of a sailor, there were often free spaces – but ships left Gradsul fully manned. Second, most of the captains she talked with actually spoke, in serious tones, about the bad luck involved in having a woman aboard ship! “Best not to offend the Lady of the Waves,” they would say, or “Osprem is a jealous goddess, love.” After a full day at the docks she had not managed to find a passage anywhere, and was forced to use much of the meager allowance her master had given her on a second night at the inn.
She sought to rouse her guard early the next day, but found him already in the common room downstairs. Determined to find passage, she arrived at the docks before any of the ships had left and immediately began harassing captains from one end of the quay to the other, with no different results than the previous day. Having been turned down yet again, she thought her patience was at an end, when a voice from beside the latest captain said, “Hold now, Cap’n, surely we can make things right for such a charming lass?”
What followed was a rather spirited discussion in sea slang between the human captain of the vessel and a most curious hobniz sailor. She did not follow most of it, but as an end result the captain acceded to taking her and her guard on board, for nearly the entire sum she had remaining to her name.
In the week that followed, she learned many things about the ship, its crew, and the hobniz Barnabus. Almost too much about him, in particular, as he claimed to be enraptured by her beauty. To her surprise he was not a sailor after all, but an entertainer – or, he preferred to say, “a good luck token”. He did no real work on the ship, but sang often, played the hornpipe, and if the weather was fair, his lute. It seemed the sailors were a superstitious lot and believed, almost to a man, that Barnabus brought them luck. Certainly he seemed lucky enough, for he won coin nearly every night in the games of dice or cards that took place below decks. Aurora was not permitted to see these but Babshapka reported, tersely, to her. Aurora herself got to stay in a cabin, small and cramped, but private. It turned out that Barnabus had won a week’s stay in the cabin from a foolish first mate and had been waiting for just such an opportunity to cash in his debt. Many of his songs were simple sea shanties to help the sailors work, but he also played her love ballads and, whenever the captain came round, he sang to the sea itself, or as he claimed, to the goddess Osprem, placating her jealousy over having Aurora on board.
The ship was bound for Torvin with a cargo of hoes, plows, sickles, machinery, spirits, medicine, cloth, clothes, boots, and various and sundry other goods in demand on the plantations of the Sea Princes. Few ships sailed west, for it went against current and often against wind, so they had been lucky in that regard. When Aurora had made plans with her master, they had considered the two ports south of the Dreadwood – Anglar and Seaton, and had decided upon Seaton. Though father from the forest it was larger and would give her more chance to assemble the team she needed without drawing immediate suspicion. Thus she had told the captain that they would disembark when the ship took on fresh water in Seaton. But when, a week into their voyage, they rounded Cape Salinmoor the captain told them that the wind was not right and that he would be making port in Saltmarsh instead, a small fishing village rather than the county seat. She did not have near enough coin to make him change his mind and by this point Barnabus, tired of her rebuffs to his advances, did not seem interested in interceding on her behalf. Curiously, he did bid farewell to his shipmates and told them that he would be going ashore for a bit to spend their wages.
As evening falls, Aurora, Babshapka, and Barnabus stand on the docks of Saltmarsh. _________________ My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Mp7Ikko8SI
Joined: Jan 05, 2002 Posts: 462 Location: Central Utah
Posted: Sun Mar 18, 2018 11:41 am Post subject: Post 6: Backstory for Babshapka
A thousand years ago, in the time of Babshapka’s great-grandparents, the Elven Kingdom of Celene ruled nearly a quarter of the subcontinent of the Flanaess. A huge forest filled the entire Sheldomar Valley, and extended unbroken from the mountains in the west to the sea in the east. There were a few foul monsters lurking in the darkest corners of the forest, but the realm of the Elven King was peaceful and prosperous. The elves had as much time for feasts as they did for hunting, spent as much time in song as they did in scouting. They learned from nature and celebrated life. The elven gods walked on the Oerth and took communion with their followers. There were humans in the open plains of the Flanaess, the primitive but kindly Flan. They avoided the elves, avoided the forests, and were of little concern.
Then, over the mountains to the west, two huge and powerful human states began to war. Amid a cycle of escalating bloodiness, their greatest spellcasters called down ever more powerful curses upon one another, until finally both nations were destroyed and their lands turned into ash in the Twin Cataclysms. Hundreds of thousands perished, but tens of thousands crossed the mountains and entered the Flanaess as refugees. In mercy for what they had suffered, the Elven King allowed the humans to enter his kingdom.
Almost immediately, the humans began to multiply. They cut down the forests to make their farms, they bred like locusts, and they continued to war amongst themselves. They enslaved the native Flan people and declared themselves Kings, ignoring the rightful claim of the Elven King. Humanoids, chiefly orcs and goblins, had been used by the humans as mercenaries, and they too fled the destruction of the western lands and came to the realm of the elves.
By 750 years ago, the time of Babshapka’s grandparents, the “Kingdom of Keoland” was established and had driven a wedge between the forests of the west and the forests of the east, right along the Sheldomar River. No longer could the elves roam freely in their hunts. Every year humans ate away at the edges of the forest in their insatiable appetite for land. With the forces of the Elven King hindered in their movements, the old humanoids of the mountains and fens joined with the newcomers and grew quickly in number.
By 500 years ago, in the time of Babshapka’s parents, the humans of the Kingdom of Keoland had established or conquered all of the nearby states, and the great Elven Kingdom was no more. An elven queen now held rule in Celene, but all throughout the Sheldomar Valley were isolated forests, with communities cut off from her lands. Keoland took to the sea and began exploring, conquering, and pillaging all along the coasts. The humanoids had swollen still further in numbers, and combined into nations and tribes of their own, growing bold and aggressive.
Babshapka was born a scant 250 years ago, and is still quite young. He was born at the time of the greatest power and largest extent of Keoland. Within his lifetime he has seen the outer dependencies of the Kingdom struggle for, and eventually win, their sovereignty. Thousands of humanoids emerged from the mountains in a series of campaigns called “The Hateful Wars”. Most importantly, the King of Keoland was forced to recognize the nation of Celene and the right of the Elven Queen to rule. Fearing her power, Keoland created the Ulek States; the Duchy, County, and Principality on its eastern border. When Babshapka was born in the Silverwood Forest, Keoland claimed his home as part of its nation. Today, the land is considered part of the Duchy of Ulek, and is ruled by elven nobles who are independent, but still favor Keoland.
And that is the problem. Too many elves have compromised with the Kingdom of Keoland. Rather than fight for Celene, they have accepted their new state. Rather than push the humans out, they have collaborated with them.
Babshapka comes from deep in the Silverwood, in the part where humans are still not allowed, and that suits him fine. He had an idyllic life – chief huntsman for his village, respected by his peers, staunch warrior against humanoids on occasion but mostly free to live, sing, feast, dance, and hunt.
And then, less than a small moon ago, all of that changed. His village is beholden to an elven noble, and that noble called for a ranger. Someone to serve as a guide, guard, and protector to a half-elven child of the Duchy. Babshapka did not volunteer. And yet he was selected. It was an unwanted honor.
Babshapka gathered all his possessions and bid farewell to his villagemates. He traveled to the town of Kewlbanks and there met the riverboat with the half-elf on it. She was fair of face, but innocent and raised by humans. She spoke at length of history but never mentioned how the humans had destroyed the great Elven Kingdom. She talked incessantly at him, even over the next two days, as he was silently singing his song of farewell to the Silverwood, his only home. He will serve her faithfully, protect her as required by honor, but he does not have to like her.
Things were easier after they passed Junre and he had the excitement of seeing new lands instead of mourning the loss of his home. The next day they reached the confluence of the Kewl with the mighty Sheldomar.
Gradsul was the final destination of their passenger vessel. There, the woman spent two days wandering up and down the docks before she finally found them passage on a merchant vessel. They spent a week on the ship. A strange Halfling, too interested in the woman for his own good, gave her his cabin; Babshapka slept in a hammock among the reeking sailors.
The woman had told the ship’s captain to let them off in the town of Seaton, but he chose to have them depart in Saltmarsh instead. As evening falls, Babshapka, the woman, and the halfling stand on the docks of Saltmarsh. _________________ My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Mp7Ikko8SI
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