The Hero's Journey

Storm and Fury
A battle of survival against a Celestial Vampire

The “Nail” and Abraxas [vampire boy] had an explosive intercourse, Modrynn being extinguished at that point set the tone for the fight.
When the dust cleared, the characters started to pick themselves up to continue their fight against the “Lord of Darkness”. Gyda tackled the guy and Dordok went in, Scimitar swinging. Gehrigan recovere dnext and began to pray to Heironeous ??? Abraxas let out some weird “Howl of Horror TM” which frightened Gehrigan, paralyzed Dordok, and left only Gyda to continue the fight. Abraxas faceplanted Gyda into the floor which smashed her through the already damaged structure and down two floors into the foyer area.
Ogradynn, Cosime, and Rytlock had recovered by this stage and made their way downstairs to assist their comrades. Brandt re-animated and leapt downstairs to assist “The Master of the Night” against his former allies. Dordok’s shield was shattered by a blow from “The Dark Celestial” but this did not deter him from doing his best to aid Rytlock and Gyda in the melee. Gyda managed to even bite the “Night that lives”.
Gehrigan could not shake the frighening howl which made him pray all the harder.

“My lord god, please hear my prayer.
I left your path, in my arrogance deciding I could do more good as a leader of warriors. I have failed.
I beseech you to assist us, not for our lives,, but we cannot let the “Nail” fall into the hands of this evil creature. Without magical defences to stop it, this whole world would be in danger."

The storm outside raged in symbiotic relationship with the battle inside. The more fierce the combat became, the more the lightning flashed, thunder roared, and rain pummelled down.
Then, the storm stopped. An intense column of radiant light struck down from above, through the hole in the roof and down through the torn apart levels of the house, focusing on the shattered, burnt husk of Modrynn, Abraxas, and those around them. Ogradynn and Rytlock felt their sources of power returned, alongside Modrynn’s armour a young, glowing, naked boy appeared, and Gehrigan’s fear was gone.
Gehrigan got to his feet and then leapt down at “The Lord of Death” with StarFang ahead of him. He cut Abraxas deeply and rejoined the fight.
“The creator of Thralls” summoned shapes of darkness from the floor to do his bidding, Rytlock made a prayer to the lord of light and banished the darkness, also inflicting damage upon “The Ancient Horror”.
Cosime fought Brandt, Ogradynn cast protection spells on Dordok, and magic missiles into Brandt and “The Darkness that lives”. Elrich held the torch.
“The Wearer of Skins” had had enough, he reached into Dordok’s chest and crushed his heart, Dordok had breath for one last cry of “CatherineDennis” before his soul was consumed by “The Eater of Souls”. Gyda screamed in fury, SHE was the one who must die in battle, Gyda would not have that honour stolen from her.
Rytlock screamed, “No more, I will take no more,” and focused all of the divine power at his disposal inwards, the Lord of Light’s flame fed on the dwarven fuel source and a mighty radiant heat erupted blinding everyone present, when they could see again Rytlock was gone and so was Abraxas. Brandt and Dordok’s re-animated bodies hit the floor.
Ogradynn could tell that Abraxas was still alive but his spells could not track the “The master of Beasts”.
Ogradynn assured the group that Rytlock’s sacrifice had freed Dordok and Brandt’s souls to continue their path to the afterlife.
They picked themselves up and went to the young form of the new Modrynn. The “Nail” had freed him of his pact and his death had ended it for good. The lord of light had chosen to send him back to help in this momentous battle.
The group gathered up their fallen friends’ bodies and carried them out to the stables, placing their worldly possessions with them. For Rytlock they had only his hammer and shield for there was no body to find.
They all spoke last words for their fallen companions and then each threw a lit torch into the pyre, igniting the stables and their companions remains.

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Fairloch, once more
Sice last I wrote to you Helian

Dear Helian,
I have been unable to write for some time, my adventuring group has been held prisoner in a Wizard’s tower after a failed rescue attempt. The more things change …
We had been approached by Sir Eamon Mallory, the Chief Bailiff of Fairloch, to accompany the elven trader Thelindelar on a journey to a stronghold named Strayhold in the Khadeshi confederation to investigate Orcish intentions towards the Empire, due to a recent spate of covert incursions by mercenaries hired by the Triple-Scar clan.
I ran into my former squire, Teanik, along with other former associates, Roland and Jorge. I was taken aback by a very seductive young lady jumping into my lap at a tavern, but she was even more surprised when she realised I didn’t remember any of them. I still have so many holes, more questions than answers, it would drive me to despair if I couldn’t keep busy.
Our more social party members managed to dig up rumours of a Triple-Scar Upper echelon meeting occurring at one of their mines many hours travel from Strayhold. We set out to try and determine their intentions and got involved in a slave revolt at the mine lead by Tianik and her cronies who were there looking for a particular missing person. They had no luck but joined us in defending the mine from an early arriving force of Triple-Scars. We couldn’t get the slaves away before the main force of Scars arrived so prepared to fight hard and drive them away.
We ended up being challenged by an Ogre Sorceress who was the chieftess of the Triple Scars, we had almost defeated her when some crazy wizard created an earthquake which caused us to fall into ancient tunnels beneath the mountain and scattered our party through the catacombs.
We all managed to come together whilst allying with some of the missing Orcs. We faced down a Hydra before meeting up with the Ogress again. My friend Fynn made a deal with her to buy the freed slaves and have safe passage out of Khadesh. Fynn and I wnet back to Strayhold to collect Thelindelar while the rest of our party and the freed folk walked back to the Empire.
Fynn and I reached Stray hold and found that the local wizard Catharandamus had arranged to have Thelindelar taken to his tower. She had not returned. Fynn organised for a magical message to be sent to Val and we requested the rest of our group as reinforcements.
Val, Dordock, Elrich and Rytlock met us in Strayhold and we began to find out more about Catharandamus and his tower. I was foolish and headstrong and was brought to the barracks of the local peacekeepers who went by the name The Golden Suns. I earnt my freedom and learnt my lesson.
Fynn arranged a meeting with the wizard’s apprentice, Cosime, and she met with us so we could arrange an equitable trade. Unfortunately, her master wasn’t interested in our magical trinkets and so turned us down, Fynn let Cosime know that it wasn’t the end of our conversation.
The group worked out where a back entry was into the tower and so we entered, with our new ally Gyda – a beautiful primal warrior.
We had no idea how many forces would be arrayed against us in this hellish tower. There were a platoon of Golden Sun troops, metal men, knights made of eyeballs, fire beasts, and many other enemies. We beat most of them but wore ourselves out. Our last stand was in an underground library. I was taken out by a magical cone of cold and woke up in a cell.
They tortured us mercilessly, allowing us little rest, and kept us confude and addled. If not for the bravery of two apprentices of the tower, we would have been subsumed into their horrible simulacrums. We found out from one of our rescuers, Oggradyn, that Val and Fynn had both been killed in our final stand. I feel that I am cursed to constantly see my friends fall around me.
Oggradyn is a dwarvish mortician while Modryn is a magic-using warrior. They had found out about the experiments and horrors being committed by the 4 leaders of the tower, that’s right Catharandamus was the face for even more magic-users. WE gathered up weapons and armour and then hunted down the wizards who were present.
We destroyed two of the Quadvirate, but Catharandamus and the Orc Sorceror were not home. We destroyed all the horrors and escaped the tower.
We rested back at a local tavern and then in the morning set out to return to Fairloch.
We got out of town and headed back to fairloch, meeting refugees from Newbridge on the way. Orcs had invaded and had razed the town, we escorted them to safety and then snuck closer to fairloch.
It was under seige but luckily we also cook, rytlock cast a waterwalk spell that night and we followed the lake into town.
We are now planning to ride 100 miles to Marr’s Hill , the nearest imperial garrison , to get reinforcements to break the siege.

I will no doubt see you soon
Yours Sincerely
Regan

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Chapter Three, Part One
The Road to Strayhold

The party returned to Fairloch with prisoners and escortees in tow, without incident. The Serpent Lake Consortium made payment of a hundred Imperial Crowns (1,000gp) on Drayson Gemcutter’s promissory note, and the prisoners were safely handed over to Sir Eamon’s bailiffs. The Bailiff-Commander was troubled by their recounting of events in Big Tree, most particularly Ashara’s claim that the incident had been orchestrated by one of the war-chiefs of the Triple Scar confederation. While he intended to discuss the matter with the garrison commander, he thought it unlikely that she would approve action on such intelligence.

After spending the afternoon pursuing their individual concerns, the adventurers gathered that evening at the Bell and Bird. There they once again encountered Alec Shaw, who was still eager to recruit them into the nascent Sword and Compass. He also introduced them to Armin Volke, an Arcane Investigator dispatched by the Ordinatus in response to the original report of the discovery of the tomb in the Redmond North mine. The party repeated the broad strokes of the report they had already given, choosing once again to omit the information that the tomb’s guardians were still awake although buried beneath the collapsed mineshaft.

Though he was a little disappointed that the tomb was sealed, Volke acknowledged that it was probably the wisest course. Indeed, he seemed almost more interested in other encounters the party had had, most particularly the manticore and the bird-woman (based upon the description he did not believe her to be a harpy) Morwyn. He explained that chimerae such as those were of particular scholarly interest to him.

Later that evening Sir Eamon arrived at the inn, sharing a round with the party before asking if they would be interested in undertaking another job for him. As he had expected, Subaltern Havelock had been unimpressed with the suggestion that the Triple Scars were behind the Big Tree incident, believing that Ashara Kael had offered the information merely to make herself appear useful to the authorities. Sir Eamon was more concerned and wished to try to gather intelligence upon the confederation’s intentions and movements. He proposed sending the party as agents to Strayhold, a notorious free town in the mountains east of Fairloch, under the guise of guards working for a merchant named Thelindelar.

At Sir Eamon’s suggestion they met with Thelindelar at the Sword and Compass guildhouse the next evening. Although there was some trepidation on both sides, it was agreed that the adventurers would take on the role of guards on her next journey to Strayhold, which would depart in two days’ time.

Thelindelar’s two wagons set out on schedule, and made the journey with minimal trouble – one bandit attack (including at least one mercenary formerly employed by the merchant) which was briskly routed, and two encounters with Triple Scar cavalry patrols, peacefully resolved with the payment of tolls (or bribery). In the evening ten days after setting out from Fairloch the caravan came into view of the lights of Strayhold, and began the final leg of its journey into this hive of scum and villainy.

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Chapter Two, Part Five
Tomb of the Iron Princess

In the aftermath of their clash with the Orgoth guardians Iraga and Jakuz, the adventurers were weary and battered and after some discussion decided to take the time to rest and treat their injuries before challenging those apparently responsible for the disaster that had befallen Big Tree. Sanazu claimed that it was imperative that the deed be done before the stroke of midnight, for reasons he did not volunteer.

So it was that they got under way around an hour before that deadline, descending the spiral stair from their campsite to the lowest chamber of the tomb. Val sent his familiar ahead to scout, discovering that Sanazu’s estimate of the tomb raiders’ numbers was correct and the adventurers were outnumbered almost two to one. The large chamber was lined with statues and built around a stone representation of an Orgoth funerary barge, and the intruders had established a small campsite at the far end where their leader was apparently involved in an exhaustive examination of the grand statues there.

After a hurried discussion the party chose to attack immediately. Dordok and Gehrigan charged down the centre of the room, vaulting onto the barge to attack the two guards there, while Elrich and Sanazu advanced down the right and left flanks respectively and Val hung back to attack from range. The battle evolved into two primary melees – Dordok trading blows with a Triple Scar berserker on the barge while Elrich and Gehrigan engaged several other enemies in a swirling melee on the right flank, with two mercenary archers and Val sniping at targets of opportunity. Fortunately the enemy’s leader, a priestess of the chaos god Erythnul, had expended most of her magic attempting to decipher the mystery of the crypt before the battle.

Eventually the hard-fought battle began to swing in favour of the adventurers in spite of several dangerous moments. With more than half the defenders down the two archers attempted to flee, cutting down Sanazu and making a break for the door, but they were unable to elude Val and fell in short order. Eventually the enemy leader, the priestess Ashara Kael, was forced to surrender with her last surviving mercenary in spite of her claim that the party risked unleashing an unspecified great evil by opposing her. When confronted with this claim following her surrender, however, she confessed that it had been a bluff.

Upon further interrogating her, the party were able to confirm that she had indeed deliberately set out to rouse the tomb’s guardians into a frenzy by desecrating the site and using her own necromantic talents. She also claimed that she had been working for another – that Sȗnkrag, one of the warchiefs of the Triple Scar confederation, had hired her to spread chaos and terror in the settlements around Fairloch. He had apparently not been specific as to how this was to be accomplished, perhaps assuming that a servant of Erythnul would probably be able to work something out. She claimed not to be aware if others (such as Aric Raader’s slavers) had been hired for similar tasks.

When asked why she had remained In the tomb rather than moving on to continue her task elsewhere, she claimed that her curiosity had gotten the better of her and she had been unable to pass up the opportunity to investigate the site – particularly as she had learned upon her entry that it was apparently the tomb of the Iron Princess, a notorious Orgoth necromancer and noble whose brutality shocked even her peers (a people not noted for their squeamishness.). She had found that the sarcophagus on the barge was empty, and had been certain that the Princess’ body must lie within a deeper hidden chamber, although her fruitless search had eventually persuaded her that she was in error.

While the interrogation continued, midnight came and went, although it passed unnoticed until the guardians Iraga and Jakuz, now reincarnated by the tomb’s enchantments, sensed the intruders in the crypt and rushed to slay the defilers. Although the party had bested them before, they were in no condition to fight the fully healed guardians now and things might have gone badly had they not been able to stall the first arrivals until Sanazu arrived to help convince his allies.

An agreement was reached that the party and its prisoners would depart peacefully, removing the fallen intruders, collapsing the mineshaft that gave access from the outside world and leaving the tomb and its occupants to eternity – or hopefully a few more millennia. This was done, and with prisoners in tow they returned to Big Tree, where they found a platoon from Fairloch had arrived and cleaned out the few remaining zombies. Following a brief meeting with a very grateful Drayson Gemcutter the party agreed to escort both the prisoners and the Gemcutter children on the way back to Fairloch, where they would be handsomely rewarded for their heroism by the Serpent Lake Consortium.

SPOILS OF WAR

The Serpent Scimitar (taken from Ashara Kael)

This tapering, jaggedly curved blade has an unusually long hilt and a curving handguard carved in the form of a snake. It appears to have been forged from a single piece of black steel, and its hilt is bound with copper wire. Clearly Orgoth in origin, its unblemished form and razor-keen edge belies the millennia-long lifespan that implies.

In spite of its unusual design the scimitar is marvellously balanced and murderously agile in the hands of a trained wielder.

Martial, Versatile (1D6/1D8), Finesse
+1 to attack and damage, +2 to Initiative.
Foes do not gain an AC benefit from shields against this weapon.

The Wurmspear (taken from Orlok, the Triple Scar berserker)

The entity – opinions differ radically as to whether it is a deity, a primordial, a nature spirit or something else entirely – referred to as the Devourer Worm is popularly considered a force of evil within the Empire. To those better informed, it is merely destructive – a manifestation of the ruthless power of nature unfettered by morality or compassion. The Worm’s power can be glimpsed in the hurricane that sinks a fleet of ships, in the river that bursts its banks and sweeps away a town, even in the hawk as it descends upon its prey.

Needless to say, the Worm Cult has very few adherents within civilized lands. Even amongst the tribes of central Feloria it attracts few devotees, who usually form into roving warbands and often work as mercenaries for other groups who value their undisputable might.

Weapons produced by the Cult’s smiths invariably possess an unusual bifurcated blade, the significance of which is the subject of some debate amongst scholars but which is generally thought to represent the Worm’s jaws or fangs. In spite of this oddity and their generally primitive appearance, they are highly effective tools of war.

This spear bears the traditional bifurcated head, apparently made of engraved ivory, atop a heavy shaft of gnarled black wood. It is particularly deadly to unnatural foes.

Martial, Versatile (1D6/1D8)
+1 to attack and damage
+2 to attack vs Undead, Aberrations and Monstrosities
+2D6 damage vs Undead, Aberrations and Monstrosities

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Fairloch
Gehrigan joins a new group

Dear Helian,

I hope and pray that all is well with you. I have at last made my way out to the frontier and it does not disappoint, slavers and other ne’er-do-wells proliferate in the region around Fairloch, giving me opportunity to test and prove myself.

Never fear Helian, I am not alone in my endeavours, I chanced upon other frontiersmen who seek adventure for their own reasons.

There was Val: Elven high-born noble Mage from Qeryon, Fyn: Dragonborn ex-soldier and Cat: a young elven waif. I was invited to the table of Val and Fyn while sitiing by myself in the Bell & Bird, the best tavern in all of Fairloch. We introduced ourselves and were getting to know one another when we were approached by the town bailiff, Sir Eamon Malory, and the local head of the Sword and Compass adventuring troupe, Alec Shaw.

They wished to hire us as a group to come to the assistance of an outlying community who had sent word by bird that they were under attack by raiders. We agreed to assist and left immediately with Sir Eamon and the dwarven pathfinder Rurik Stonecleaver.

We ran into a smaller group of raiders who were busy attacking a small town on the way to our destination. My adventuring friends made quick work of them and we proceeded to hunt down the larger group of slavers, for that is what our captives admitted to being.

We managed to catch up to the main group and due to a magnificent show of bravery on the part of Fyn we ended the slavers’ journey and saved all those who had been taken.

Now that we are back at Fairloch, I see that the group before me has potential to be what we once were. I will offer them my strength at arms if they will have me and we can bring some sense of order and justice to these outlands.

I feel that I now have a direction to once again follow. The hollow in my heart feels somehow less empty now. I miss you all but at least I can do good until we meet again.

Always your friend
Gehrigan

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Chapter Two, Part Four
Enemy Mine
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Chapter Two, Part Three
The Shadow of Big Tree

As the dust settled from their skirmish with the undead in the shade of the Big Tree, Dordok made a beeline for the Gemcutter mansion while Gehrigan approached the townsfolk who had taken shelter by the tree’s trunk. The tale they told was a curious one: apparently the undead had been unable or unwilling to venture within a hundred feet of the ancient tree. Val’s investigation suggested that the Big Tree was itself a powerful source of primal life magic which had kept the undead at bay, possibly even unable to sense the presence of the people within its aura.

At the Gemcutter residence the adventurers found most of the household staff dead, but in the attic they discovered the household’s majordomo, Thurla Oldstone, protecting the family’s two young sons, Harald and Conrad. Oldstone was able to tell them that the undead had apparently appeared from the south in the evening of four days earlier – the direction of the Redmond minehead, where Drayson Gemcutter had escorted a pair of prospective investors earlier in the same day. They determined to set out to investigate the mining camp immediately after sending the survivors to join the others they had rescued at the Vines farmstead (an establishment which, one must assume, was nearing its capacity for visitors.)

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Chapter Two, Part Two
The View from Above
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Chapter Two, Part One
The Eyes of Their Wights

The arrival in town of the two-monthly caravan from Marr’s Hill caused quite a stir in Fairloch, not least because it was running several days late and carrying the payrolls for both the Imperial garrison and the miners of the Serpent Lake Consortium. When the adventurers investigated, they found the Bailiff-Commander in a somewhat heated discussion with the acting garrison commander and the two knights commanding the caravan’s escort.

The commotion had also attracted the attention of the newest arrival in town, the Halfling named Elrich, who struck up a conversation with several of the adventurers while others unravelled the cause of the dispute. In the past, it appeared, the pay-chests were escorted from Fairloch to the three primary mining hubs of Three Oaks, Long Vale, and Big Tree by soldiers from the local garrison, an arrangement of convenience struck between the Consortium and Banner-Captain Scharnvonn several years prior. With Captain Scharnvonn injured in a skirmish and relocated to a military hospital deeper in the Empire, his Adjutant had assumed command of the Fort Merrick garrison and was refusing to maintain the agreement, citing numerous Imperial regulations to back her contention that it was an improper use of Imperial resources. The wagoners were unwilling to proceed without an escort, the usual risks of bandits and monsters exacerbated by recent skirmishes with scouts from by the tribal confederation known as the Triple Scars.

With his caravan already behind schedule Sir Maguar was reluctant to lose further time, but was eventually persuaded to compromise. He and Dame Serahzha would divide their troops and respectively escort wagons to Three Oaks and Long Vale, while the wagon bound for Big Tree would be escorted by locally recruited private military contractors. Fortunately for all concerned, Fairloch’s newest celebrity PMCs were present, willing and able to oblige. Their number now included Elrich, who had found much common ground with the adventurers and was certainly not averse to being paid for a public service.

The expedition set out the next morning, having taken time to assure themselves that the contents of the wagon were what the hobgoblin had claimed. Veteran wagoner Tully Wainwright and his eldest child, 13 year old Maevis, staffed the vehicle.

The first leg of the journey was a pleasant morning stroll along the shore of the Serpent, eventually veering south into wooded hills. Scouting ahead, the party found evidence of at least one small band of humanoids crossing the path from east to west a day earlier, possibly one of the Triple Scar scouting parties they had been warned about. Proceeding more cautiously, they also found the carcass of a large bear which appeared to have fallen victim to some kind of big cat – a predator not known to be native to the area.

In spite of these warning signs, the journey was uneventful until, in the late afternoon, they emerged from the woods into the fields around Big Tree, coming into sight first of the township’s namesake and then its walls. Buoyed by the sight of their destination, they picked up the pace.

Only a last-second warning by Val denied the manticore complete surprise as it swooped from the darkening sky to land in their midst.

The battle was short and brutal; in spite of the monster’s intimidating arsenal of claws, fangs and spikes, it soon found that it had more than met its match and was brought down before it was able to flee. While the party tended to their wounds, watchful now of the skies, they also salvaged a number of potentially valuable tail-spikes from the carcass.

It was dusk before they eventually drew near to Big Tree, and they noted with some trepidation that the town before them was showing no light and there were no guards at the open gate. Instructing Tully to hold back with the wagon, the party advanced warily to investigate.

They had gone less than a hundred feet when a dozen gaunt, grey-skinned monstrosities appeared almost silently from the wheat fields on both sides of the road – ghouls, hungry for living flesh. Heavily outnumbered, the adventurers were hard-pressed for a time; the civilians with the wagon were very nearly overrun before Fyn made a desperate dash back to aid them against four of the horrors. He very nearly paid for his courage with his life, but managed to stave off the attack until others could come to their aid.

Taking stock after the dust had settled, it was decided that a single stealthy infiltrator might be better suited to scouting the town than a full party, and so it was that Cat scuttled over the wooden walls and onto the rooftops beyond.

Within he found little sign of life; while a few corpses were visible in the streets, it was the living dead that were predominant; zombies, shuffling aimlessly and silently. A number of the creatures appeared to be clustered around one structure in particular, and as Cat drew nearer he noticed the flicker of light from behind one of the shuttered windows.

Descending to the ground to investigate more closely, he was taken unawares when a dead hand clamped down on his shoulder, icy numbness radiating from its touch as it seemed to drain at his very life-force. Wrenching free he caught only a glimpse of his tall, strangely armoured assailant, two cold points of light glittering through the visor of its elaborate helm, before sprinting for the safety of the gate.

The wight’s arrow narrowly missed Cat as he escaped through the gate, but the creature did not pursue him. Deciding that any confrontation with such a foe would be better made in the light of day, the battered adventurers withdrew to one of Big Tree’s outlying farms where the residents were very relieved to see other living souls and gladly offered them shelter for the night.

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Chapter One
Dawn of the Slaughterer

It was on a cool autumn evening that they first met. The bustling common room of the Bell and Bird tavern found itself host to exceptional company that night – Cat, elven orphan from the streets of glittering Weyrcliff; Fyn, Dragonborn veteran fresh from military service; Gehrigan, spell-scarred knight whose past is a mystery even to himself; and Val, Iosan mage (or is he a sorcerer?), sent to the ends of the Empire to banish his dangerous heresies.

A more unlikely group of companions one would be hard-pressed to find, and yet their potential was clear at least to some; shortly after their meeting, they were approached by Bailiff-Commander Sir Eamon Malory and guild agent Alec Shaw with a request for assistance.

Repairing to the guildhouse of the Society of the Sword and Compass, they learned that a messenger bird had been received from the northern settlement of Newbridge. The message the bird carried was brief, and to the point – the town was under attack. With the Imperial garrison spread thin, Sir Eamon had need of outside assistance. His proposal was that they journey north by boat on the next morning – but the adventurers would have none of it, instead deciding to set out on foot immediately. Sir Eamon and the dwarven hunter Rurik, whom they met at the guildhouse, would accompany them.

Less than two hours after their departure, the party noticed thick smoke rising from the small hub settlement of Foggy Hill and diverted to investigate. There they found the village in flames, the survivors prisoners of a small band of brigand slavers.

Corsus MacRee, the leader of the brigands, was in the process of savouring his victory when he was surprised to see half his command fall asleep on the job amid a wave of strange sensations that a more worldly man might have recognized as magic. He had little opportunity to reprimand them, however, as a caterwauling whirlwind of destruction descended upon the other half of his men. Scattering and slaying them in moments it then fell upon him, hissing and spitting. A solid rising blow from his mace allowed him to take the offensive – but the infuriating creature would not stand still for a finishing strike, ducking and weaving about him even as it snarled and spat at the frustrated bandit.

Then it was gone, skittering away into the darkness, and before he could think of giving chase he saw Him – the shadow of death, the red-eyed avatar of destruction; many-armed, many-bladed, a razor-edged hurricane both pitiless and unrelenting.*

Thus it was that Corsus MacRee first laid eyes upon Gehrigan the Slaughterer, and knew that his time had come.

We shall not provide details of that gruesome encounter, mindful always of our younger readership. Suffice it to say that it was swift and dismember-ful.

While Cat and Rurik chased down one bandit who had fled, the others freed the shocked villagers from their shackles and questioned the surviving bandits. They learned that this group had broken off from the main force besieging Newbridge, which still numbered around twenty. Though eager to press on, they were mindful of their injuries and delayed their pursuit to tend them. It was decided that Sir Eamon would remain to protect the freed villagers and hopefully catch up to the party once they were safely back to Fairloch.

Upon arriving at Newbridge they found that the bandits had already departed, having been unable to take the settlement but with some thirty prisoners taken from outlying steadings. Rousing the spirits and hearts of the townsfolk, they pressed on with a dozen militia in tow eager for vengeance and the chance to free their friends.

Cunningly outmanoeuvring and eliminating the pickets the bandits had left to watch for pursuit, they came upon the main force bivouacked for a meal, not expecting such an expeditious response. After some consideration Fyn volunteered to approach the bandits alone, offering their freedom in exchange for that of the prisoners, while the others made ready to attack should the negotiations fail.

The negotiations failed – Aric Raader, the bandit leader, believed the ultimatum to be a mere bluff and when he began to order that one of the prisoners be executed the attack was sprung. A wave of magic once again felled several of the bandits as the militia exchanged crossbow volleys with the pickets. Like Corsus before him Aric was taken aback by the ferocity of the attack – while Fyn, surrounded and heavily outnumbered, was eventually brought down, Aric found himself beset by a yowling elf-child and wounded by arrows. Also, his hair was on fire, which only added insult to injury. Nevertheless, he was well-armoured and determined to sell his life dearly.

Then he saw Him – the shadow of death, the red-eyed avatar of destruction; many-armed, many-bladed, a razor-edged hurricane both pitiless and unrelenting.*

Thus it was that Aric Raader first laid eyes upon Gehrigan the Slaughterer, and knew that his time had come.

Once again glossing over the wet bit, let us just say that Justice was swift, messy and extremely well deserved that day.

With Aric’s death it was all over bar the celebrations. Liberating the prisoners and shackling the few surviving bandits, the party set out for a triumphant return to Newbridge and Fairloch, where they would receive the well-deserved adulation and admiration of the townsfolk little suspecting of the magnitude of the legend they had begun to forge.

  • - some artistic license may have been employed in this description.
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