The Mistmarches

Six Months After the Battle
Where are they now?

Genji and Korrigan are given responsibility for learning the secrets of the functional airship, training additional crew, and attempting to rebuild and reinvigorate the Talon’s Reach. The newer ship is named Dauntless and makes a number of trips around the realm during this period of months, waving the flag and, in some cases, chasing down remnants of the insurgency. Genji is installed as the realm’s new “Mage-General,” and works with other arcanists and the realm’s Magister (top mage in the realm and member of the Upper Council, the king’s top group of advisers) to improve arcane studies, capabilities, and defenses for the sake of the realm. Korrigan is given the new rank of “Air Commodore” and put in charge of the airship program as a whole.

Sarick, despite being courted by the private sector, decides to remain in the service of the realm and is promoted to the rank of Major and put in charge of the newly-created “Air Grenadiers,” airship-borne troops who are charged with protecting and fighting from the ships, as the realm’s leadership is optimistic that there will again be two at some point in the future. What this amounts to in practice is that he’s got about 50 choice troops under his command – pretty meager numbers for his rank – but he now has the authority and perceived clout when traveling on behalf of the crown on various missions.

Ti’ un Ril is offered reinstatement by the king in the Tuskwater Scouts and accepts it, with the new charge of recruiting more Dunswarders into the service. Rugged, trustworthy, and honorable, these eastern rustics are trusted by the king, and the king trusts Ti’ un Ril. He given the Scout rank of Commander and granted a reserve army rank of captain.

Sh’La’Cha Sh’Rylye, long forgotten, helps Sarick’s father with initial negotiations with trade emissaries from her people, establishing first, admittedly minor, trade links with that strange northern kingdom. She also marries Sarick’s younger brother, Skirb, who’d stayed with the business when Sarick went off on his adventure.

Baron Fengwyn Shea escapes from Freeton in disguise and is tracked down a few months later in a village outside of Kincaid, hiding in a spider hole. He is put on trial for treason and other high crimes, convicted of them, and executed in Misthaven. His junk is nailed to a stake and he is burned alive, as was the old tradition, a punishment the king declares was “too long out of practice.” The disgraced former Baron is stripped of his title and given the ceremonial rusty pocket knife, long kept in storage, as the fire is lit.

The Battle at Misthaven
Great destruction; greater peril averted

History recorded the events of the Battle at Misthaven, also sometimes called “Zion’s Defeat,” as a great victory, albeit with a strong undertone of a cautionary tale. The Black Talons had, by repeatedly risking their lives, undone part of Zion’s mad plot to return to power and install himself as the “Forever King.” While it took considerable research by arcane scholars, over many years, to determine with near-certainty that he former king had been the cause of the Storm in the first place, and had been drawn into it as he lost control of his most ambitious experiment, the evidence found by the four Scouts clearly showed a complex plot, engineered by Zion from afar – even another dimension – to weaken the kingdom through attacks, insurgencies, and internal corruption. As the Mistmarches teetered on the brink of collapse, and the people lost faith in not only their king, but the line of Anton entirely, Zion would make his return and deliver his people from their wanderings and set them on their proper course.

Haxaryz, the White Death, was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up, using his agents to entice the prideful, low-browed beast to return and capitalize on the barbarian and monster attacks to again harm the kingdom. Destroying such an ancient, mighty dragon would only serve to solidify Zion’s legacy and power among his people and those of surrounding lands.

But as is sometimes the case with complex plans, things did not unfold entirely as he’d assumed they would. Interrogations and documentary research uncovered much about the plot, and the gaps were filled in with no small amount of scholarly and legal conjecture, filling many books and pamphlets.

The dragon decided to arrive early, on its own time rather than when clever agents had tried to convince it to. The insurgents inside Burmovton had not coordinated with the outside forces cleanly enough, creating a situation where the inside tumult and outside force were obviously on the same side – a problem when the aim of the operation is to confuse the enemy and dividing his support.

Freeton and the corruption within the Scouts was more clear-cut, with several members of Zion’s line discovered to hold key positions in the aristocracy and bureaucracy, with the Scout Service, sadly, created seemingly for the secret purpose of being a front organization for the final years of Zion;s plot, and to support his final return.

There were arrests, some extended pursuits of the guilty, and a few sudden suicides of individuals who were soon thereafter determined to have been complicit in some part of the plot, either directly or not. It took almost two years to heal the physical scars of the battle on the capitol city, with some buildings restored and others replaced, monuments to the dead built and wreckage removed.

The immediate threat to the safety and stability of the realm, however, was over. King Jotwan II’s rule survived, and despite his near-assassination, he emerged stronger, more resolute than before, and with a clarifying mandate to push back the borders of foreign, alien lands, making strong allies where possible and eliminating threats wherever found.

The heroes of the day were, of course, the four Scouts, who’d risked so much as the plot had unfolded, and had been the only ones who knew enough to take correct, decisive action at the key moments to foil the usurper. Showered with accolades, public proclamations, monetary rewards from the treasury and publicity-seeking merchants, they were each vested with titles, forever bringing them and their progeny into the upper-crust of Mistmarches society and government, and were given choices as to how they would like to serve the realm, as the realm was in need of reliable, trustworthy leadership and guidance – both directly and by way of example.

How would each of the Black Talons choose to serve? Each is vested with a title and granted either lands or a guaranteed salary from the treasury, which is in part contingent on active service to the realm. Basically, aristocrats in good standing can opt to work for the realm in a variety of typically managerial positions, with a baseline of pay from their title, and more based on the type of work they do and perceived quality of it. Those who take land are installed in a more traditional leadership position in some place in the realm, or set up in a larger area in a supporting fashion to an already-established noble there. All nobles are answerable to the king himself, and not to some other higher-up noble, and no one has the authority to grant titles but the king.

The final session consisted of the Black Talons, in their damaged airship, confronting the ancient white dragon as it savaged the capitol of Misthaven, in conjunction with a large barbarian army attacking. The Black Talons gave as best as they could against the mighty beast before their ship was forced down due to damage. At this point another airship, pristine and fully-manned, appeared seemingly out of the sky and attacked the dragon. Before the Talon’s Reach set down, Genji blasted the “held” dragon as it plummeted toward the city (victim of a spell cast from the other airship), further damaging it before it died in a mighty crash into an upscale neighborhood (taking out several very nice houses). The other airship then attacked the Talon’s Reach, and the Black Talons escaped as their ship burned.

Soon thereafter was heard a booming voice across the city, announcing the return of King Zion, the Forever King, and the return of stability and rightful authority in the realm. The Black Talons made their way quickly across the city, which was engulfed in chaos at this point, bullying their way into Tuskwater Castle, which was in similar upheaval, and found the king, about to be feasted on by a Mind Flayer while Zion was having himself crowned by his alien warriors. A great melee ensued, ending with the illithid’s death, the death of Zion at the hands of the Black Talons, and the death of most of his warriors. His airship, definitely the Lincoln to the PCs’ Ford, was captured through subterfuge and arcane trickery. The king and queen, both badly injured, were saved and healed with potions, and the immediate danger to the monarchy and realm was averted.

as of 4906

The map is oriented toward the north, with the Shrike River running into and through town to the Tuskwater. Misthaven Castle anchors the northern side of the old walled city, and the last century-plus of sprawl has grown up around and outside of those walls.

The open area in the middle of town is a large market and park, and Founders’ Square, site of so many important events and announcements in the kingdom’s early years, is now a small open area immediately north of and outside the castle walls, hemmed in by municipal buildings.

Population: about 16,000
Local Constabulary: about 100
Headquarters of the Army of the Mistmarches
Permanent garrison for the “King’s Own” Regiment, of which only one battalion is normally active; however, given the recent problems the entire unit has been called out of reserve. It is unknown how much of it is in or around Misthaven, and how much is deployed elsewhere.


Weakness breeds instability, which creates opportunities for the strong

The news from the South had been good, leading Haxaryz to choose this moment to return. He flew swiftly, but not hurriedly, over the rolling plains and meadows of the northern Kamelands, basking in the crisp air and first light from the dawn. Below the pathetic humans and their ilk were mostly unaware of what was about to befall them: the return of a nightmare from their past. They’d lived through the disruptive power of that arcane rifts and transpositions, sure, but nothing could prepare them for the power of an ancient drake, whose attention had long been focused elsewhere, but now, given the development of events, had reason to return and reclaim what he had decided was his in the first place.

His own would follow soon and he would bring the cold of everwinter with him, reopening the portals long closed and transforming this too-warm land into something more to his liking.

Despite his excellent eyesight he did not see the oddly-placed sailing ship, sitting in a farmer’s field, some 100 yards from the banks of the Shrike, over 1000 feet below him. His focus was on their capitol city, toward which he flew, in search of revenge.

A Dragon's Return

While in the forest clearing the team fought off two assaults and got minimal repairs done on the ship. A wave of attackers tried to sweep in from the north, and were blunted by Ti’s ferocity and the support of Sarick, Genji, and Korrigan. Badly wounded in the fight, Ti’ required a healing potion and help to get back to the ship, where Genji got back to work with the Oornothi, trying to make the thing airworthy again. The northern end of the clearing, and forest around it, caught fire from Genji’s spells, driving the hidden enemy into two groups, one to the east and one to the west, separated by a growing fire to the north.

Some 10 minutes passed with only some taunts in a foreign tongue and the occasional inaccurate arrow shot before anything significant emerged from the woods. When it did it came in the form of a patchwork leather-clad hill giant from the east and a group of archers from the west, splitting Sarick and Ti’ as they engaged the two threats. Genji unleashed a new spell on the beast, first freezing it in place and then disintegrating it into a cloud of ash – but not before it landed a few savage blows on Sarick.

Ti’ was knocked down by several arrows, and then those archers were driven off. A short time later it became obvious that the enemy was actively lighting fires, trying to burn the team and ship rather than engage directly. Shuddering mightily due to the damage it had sustained, the ship barely got off the ground and cleared the burning trees before being engulfed in fire and smoke.

The ship was using its arcane energy faster than normal, despite conservative flying by Korrigan – the hull breaches and sail and mast damage had strained the spells that held the ship together and aloft, and they needed to find a place to put down soon. Although not seaworthy, the ship used less energy when closer to the ground, and so at the suggestion of Sarick they found and followed the Shrike River, which wound its way through the Narlmarches and out into the western Kamelands, some 30 miles north of Misthaven.

Sarick, having traveled these roads and small towns as a youth, knew a guy who knew a guy, and so they put down in a fallow farm field of a friend and tracked down the only shipwright in the area – a man who maintained the many barges and ferries that were used on this part of the Shrike for commerce. Please to be working on such an interesting craft, and happy for the large sum of gold promised, he got to work and promised that the hull breaches would be covered – although still not seaworthy – in a day.

This, as dawn started to break, was good news. The bad news was that in the first rays of light, at about 1000 feet, passing above the clouds, winged a massive white dragon, making a straight course to the south…toward Misthaven.

It seemed that Haxaryz had returned after over 70 years.

Meta: you folks are about 30 miles north of Misthaven right now.

The Talons' Reach vs. the Reach of Talons
get it?

Studying the maps took Genji a few hours and left him and the others of his team with a few findings. and several questions:

  • The script was confusing and hard to understand, as each symbol represented ideas rather than letters. Genji identified markings that looked like dates and places, and it looked like the portal they’d closed was of primary importance to the enemy, but not the only portal in the realm. Several others had been opened at one point or another, and some seemed primed to be opened, including on in Misthaven itself.
  • The ledger listed troop movements and supply movements through that closed portal in order, and with some writings around other locations gave a sense that there could be more enemy troops about than was originally thought.
  • Belgrey, Burmovton, and Misthaven all had symbols that seemed to indicate infiltration, while Freeton had a symbol that indicated alliance. An enemy camp seemed to be located within the northern Narlmarches.
  • It seems highly likely that another galleon came through a now-closed southern portal, about two weeks after the one the team captured…which seems to have come through two months ago, which is about a month before all these troubles started.
  • Silverstep was bracketed by marks, but not symbols. They were not script, and therefore impossible to decipher.
  • The cartographer’s tools included strings of different lengths with pins attached to each end, to serve as measuring devices. Their lengths did not correspond to any known system of measurement. Time and date markings didn’t, either, but intervals of time could be deciphered.
  • The journal was a base/team report log, noting goings-on at the camp around that portal. The only thing of interest was an annotation about the arrival of an individual of extreme importance and his entourage of several others. It would seem that whoever is in charge of this whole thing showed up about a month ago, and not in one of the galleons.

After deciding to make directly for Misthaven, the team headed southeast and, after crossing the King’s Northern Highway (and attracting some attention from a farming community below), the team spotted something winging up out of the great Narlmarches forest, coming at them. At first it looked like another griffon with a rider, but its shape and the fact that it kept getting bigger, and bigger, finally led them to realize it was something much worse: a massive bird of prey ridden by a giant, dropping rocks on them from within the cloud layer above them and swooping down once to rend the sails. The Reach took three rocks through its deck and significant damage to the sails, rigging, and masts before Korrigan found a large enough clearing to put down, but not before crashing through the trees and landing hard.

The giant rider leaped off the gargantuan (official size) bird circled while the giant attacked, and was killed; the bird then fly off to the south. Appraising the damage to the ship revealed serious damage to the stern section, including the steering/navigation room again); a hole completely through the main deck and all decks below and the bottom of the hull; and a partially smashed main mast and serious damage to the deck and ladderwell in the center of the ship, requiring climbing by rope to get below decks now.

The Oornothi, Genji, and Korrigan got to work assessing which repairs should be done first, with the priority being getting airborne, while Ti’ and Sarick patrolled the clearing and the edge of the woods.

Sarick decided to light a pair of fires in the clearing to provide light and therefore perhaps advance warning of attack, given that the hard landing and bird shrieks had probably alerted anyone within miles already. Ti’ climbed a tree along the southern edge of the clearing, listening and looking for threats, given that the enemy camp marked on the map – and possible origin of the bird – was to the south.

An hour into their work, Ti’ heard the unmistakable sounds of advancing threats, across his front in a line, trying to move silently toward the clearing…

Burmovton, a northern campsite
I guess I'll use the OP until I bail on it in May

The session consisted of two parts: a visit to Burmovton, that turned into an attack-as-assistance for the besieged city; and the discovery of a camp in the north, in the area where the enemy army was spotted.

Burmovton is under siege by a force of several hundred, blocking the roads in and out, with the initial attack launched in convert with guerrillas, who’d apparently infiltrated the city posing being part of merchant caravans. The Duke, expressed in his abrupt manner, believes that his forces can hold the exterior army in check while rooting out the fighters within the city, so long as reinforcements do not continue to bolster those exterior forces.

To deal with the question of reinforcements and to address their original idea, which was to explore the northern area where the enemy army had been spotted a while back, the Reach headed off to the NW, and discovered a camp in the large, open field where the army had been seen. The camp was surrounded by a strange ringmail-like fence, about 9 feet high, and crackling with arcane energy. Horseshoe-shaped, the fence was anchored on both ends in a vertical, churning vortex that appeared to be nothing other than the Storm, albeit turned on its side. Inside the camp were two large tents and a heap of crystals, which were attached to the vortex by a line – although at first glance and from a distance no one could tell if there was motion in the line, if it was solid, or anything else of detail. The camp itself was held by a group of Gith soldiers who, when approached on foot, only mocked the Talons and watched them.

The vortex, churning with cloud-like forms and crackles of energy when viewed from the south, was a perfect, black void of nothing when viewed from the north – of that sort that beckons one to jump right into that pool. Genji nearly fell victim to his interests, but was held back by Korrigan.

The fence, after some testing, had a protective field that fried anything that touched it, even blowing up a tree that Ti’ tried to use to smash it. The team decided to fly the Reach over the fence in an attempt to get into the camp, which worked. Using magic and arms, the team took on the force of GIth inside the camp, and the fight ended up taking place on the ground and on the Reach, as several of the enemy used Misty Step to appear on board. The fight was quick and harsh, and all the enemy but one were killed. The leader, seeing the impending defeat of his forces, disappeared in a whirl of light and wind from the deck of the Reach, and did not reappear anywhere they could find.

After the defeat of the enemy, which ended with a very beat up Genji and Ti’ taking significant damage, they tossed the camp, finding the following:

  • A +1 long sword of foreign design
  • Water and strange food for the soldiers holding the camp
  • Detailed maps of the kingdom, with a location within the Narlmarches marked, and what looked like a list, in an unknown script, written down the side of the largest map – whether it’s a legend or something else, no one could tell immediately, as Genji was sitting on a stool, resting.

Meanwhile, Ti’ found a large rock and tossed it hard at the heap of crystals, smashing large chunks off them. Immediately after the impact, the line connecting the vortex to the crystal wavered – as if it were a streamer flapping in the wind – then stretched, then detached from the crystals and was drawn back into the vortex with a snap. The vortex collapsed quickly on itself, and with this the flow of air, which had been outward from the vortex up to this point, suddenly reversed, forcefully pulling everything and everyone several feet toward the collapsing portal. Most of the crystals, which had truly been just a heap, were sucked in, along with some dirt and one Gith body.

The two tents were pulled down and dragged across the camp before the collapse was complete, and everyone was knocked over and dragged some feet before, only a second or three later, it was closed and gone.

Sitting with surprised expressions among the mess the camp had become in a split second, a few of the team coughed from the dirt thrown into the air. The Reach, parked about 100 feet to the south, well outside the camp, swayed a bit as its sails stopped flapping, but aside from the surprised cries of the Oornothi crew, silence fell upon them all as they looked at each other.

Meta Intro to moving north

I’d like to deal with a good amount of the trip north, and perhaps even what you find there, through the OP. There are story issues that I think you’d each like to explore and build and establishing, or even resolving, those here seems to work better – we’re all more thoughtful and scheming in character than in person, and having some time to consider our actions makes sense.

Here are a few things to consider regarding the trip north:

  • You estimate it’ll take about half a day to make it to the area where you saw that army
  • It might take two days to get to where the savage people and giant trees are, FYI
  • The ship has room in it for more crew, obviously, and even if you added no add’l boxes of cargo there is enough space in the boxes and crates onboard already to fill up with supples (food, water). The ship does not seem to have an immediate upward weight limit for people and stuff
  • The Lord-Mayor at Begglestar has no way of defending the city if forces from Freeton show up and demand his allegiance. He makes it clear that his is essentially an open city at this point
  • The Oornothi are still split – they want payback and to find out about their four fellows; and yet some see the airship, and wherever it goes, as the focus of the action. Tulschank is with you guys, regardless.

Questions to consider:

  • When do you leave to search the north?
  • Do you recruit more crew?
  • Are you going to try and find or otherwise contact Dendrik, the Ranger?
  • How heavy with provisions are you going make the ship?
  • Are you going to try to do any more repairs?

Answer some of those, please, here and I’ll shape up another post that describes the departure, journey and (at least initial) findings. That post will also include Player Secrets, in part dependent upon what you add here.

"Blast Them Again!"

The four crewmen worked to adjust the angle of the mirror while the others reloaded the tube with the glowing rocks and grey liquid. They were both tedious jobs, requiring a combination of brute strength, given the size of the mechanisms, and precise detail. The gunner understood the idea that, like a bow, a small difference close up would result in a big difference at long distances. Still, this was thoroughly singular technology, and a two-part weapon like this – and on this scale! – was foreign to them all.

All of them but the woman who spoke for the one with the covered face. Very few at Freeton had encountered or even seen either of them, and those who had were wary of them both. They exuded an air of power, of danger, and of perfect focus. The change of banner had startled many – most! – and yet the baron’s case was persuasive, and the soldiers, seeming like echoes of a grand past come to remind them all of what they could and should be, had a charisma that virtually demanded respect, if not adoration.

They fired off two more shots, using up a large amount of supplies, and missed two more times. The crew chief, upon seeing the airship turn and move away, ordered his men to wave the new banner over the parapet, which caused a rousing victory cheer to ripple through the city. He’d be in the service for years and had protected Freeton against many threats. Starting as a guard he’d been promoted into the engineers, specializing in siege weapons, and his seniority and sterling record were probably what resulted in him being chosen, with his top crew, for this new, plumb assignment. He could see which way the winds were blowing: the baron had a new boss, and it seemed that the king – really, a child – was on the outs because he couldn’t hack it. This senior sergeant’s allegiance had always been to his baron, and when the wind blows, you put your back to it and move with it.

The people of Freeton needed stability, and in these times, victory and security would enable it. He’d give them a little victory.

“Well done, men! You’ve got them on the run!” he yelled, louder than necessary, but good for theater.

Meanwhile, on board the Talons' Reach

The cold wind blew in their faces as the ship sped southward, shuddering some from the damage to its steering mechanism. Krappunpanz was trying to figure out how to do some patchwork repairs while Tulschank and Banabrawk were securing the rigging and dogging down anything that might move.

The mystery of the scouts’ defensive position provided nothing but questions – had they been routed? Betrayed? Was it all a hoax in the first place? Where was this enemy force, and how big was it? How was it equipped? What was its target? As the city came into view and the large dark green banner could be seen waving from the highest spire on the castle, it was clear that Freeton offered up its own questions.

The clearest answer came in the form of two griffon riders and four gargoyles that launched from various points on the castle and, breaking from a line, swooped and banked to come at the Reach from all angles.

The sky, aside from a few high altitude clouds, was clear. The breeze was slight, and the sun warm, despite the cold air. All eyes from the city turned upward at the coming aerial battle – never before had anyone seen such a sight, and a mixture of fear and excitement gripped the people of Freeton.

The Reach is about 100 feet off the ground as the attackers approach, rolling, turning, and diving, and are about 500 feet away when the screen cuts away.


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