It was a cold an blustery Spring in 20010 IC (Imperial Calendar) when Lord Cedric Tremayne gathered some of his newest agents in his council chamber and tasked them with an important mission—several shipments of valuable goods had been hijacked over the winter, and he wanted his agents to go meet up with the caravan master, one Traevus Tarnhammer, who was scheduled to deliver a shipment of weapons to Lord Tremayne to outfit his militia with in order to help increase the security of the Barradin’s Hold region. So out the heroes went to meet up with Traevus and then escort him back to the castle.
It didn’t turn out to be that easy, however. It never does.
On the road to the rendezvous point, the party was attacked by a raiding party of Kairn —a race of humans with the ability to harness spirits of fury and rage into their warriors and partially transform, gaining bestial features and inhuman strength and power. The Kairn are slowly but surely invading Brittanis, occupying great swaths of land on the coasts and moving steadily inland year after year. Lyonesse is a norther nation, though, and until now had never had a problem with Kairn raiders—the invaders had until now been a problem for the richer, more populous southern countries—but apparently the winds blow differently and the Kairn have brought their boats far north up the wide rivers of central Brittanis and now they raid even the northern lands. Our heroes, however, dealt with the Kairn decisively, slaying them and leaving them to the scavengers after stripping them of items useful to bring back to Lord Tremayne.
When the heroes arrived at the designated rendezvous point, they realized quickly that they had gotten there just in time—the dwarf Traevus was present, but under attack by small, horrific creatures whose heads appeared to be almost nothing but mouths full of sharp teeth! Someone called the creatures goblins, but these nasty little humanoids were far more ferocious than the stories of goblins that our heroes had grown up with. The creatures assaulted Traevus’ horse and sent it running away from the damaged wagon, and one of the nasty little brutes grabbed a black, iron-bound box that Traevus was defending with his life. The creatures attacked Traevus, wounding him gravely, and as the heroes saved his life the miniature savage got away with the box.
The heroes pursued deep into a forest barely waking from the cold slumber of winter and in their haste to catch the creature that stole their Lord’s property, rushed headlong into an ambush by a group of 4 huge, web-spinning spiders, each the size of a large mastiff. A long, fierce battle ensued and several of the heroes nearly fell, but eventually they prevailed and the spiders were slain, leading the characters back onto the trail of the box-thief.
They traced the critter to a cave overlooking a large stream, and when Tayle the druid communed with the local spirits of the area, he recoiled in horror as the spirits told him of the corruption seeping into the surrounding land from that cave. The heroes snuck up carefully and ambushed several sentries, but when damaged the sentries were revealed to be constructs made of huge spines and thorns! A dark shaman emerged from the cave, summoning an elemental beast into the form of a giant serpent made of roots, earth and wood which attacked the party fiercely. Eventually the party prevailed, though, and the shaman, root-serpent and the twig creatures were defeated. Inside the cave, the party found the box that had been stolen, still sealed and undamaged. They gathered what treasure they could find and headed back to Traevus the dwarf merchant and his broken wagon.
The trip back to the damaged wagon was decidedly less eventuful, and our heroes were grateful as they were at the very end of their endurance when they arrived at the wagonload of weapons. Waiting for them, however, was a knight in heavy plate armor, bearing the standard of the Kingdom of Orkenay. Orkenay are the northern neighbors of Lyonesse, and the two nations stand on the brink of war due to Orkenay claiming lands not their own almost two years before the campaign began. And now, a knight known as Sir Mordane, the “Black Hand of Orkenay”, sits on his destrier in front of the beaten, battered, exhausted heroes, holding the dwarf merchant hostage and demanding their surrender—and the box they had fought so hard to retrieve. Mordane also had four of his own fresh, heavily armored troops with him to enforce his threat. The heroes, however disadvantaged they might have been, refused to back down (don’t they always? I think it might get someone killed someday…) and tried to talk their way out of the situation.
Tayle the druid (in an AMAZING piece of “pull it out of your butt” roleplaying) remembered that despite his age and having been married for several years, Sir Mordane had not produced any children, let alone any sons to carry on his name. So Tayle took a chance and offered Mordane the recipe for an herbal elixir that could fix his “issue.” And (due to a Nat 20 Diplomacy on the last check of a skill challenge) accepted their offer, but with a twist. Mordane took Traevus the dwarf and let the heroes keep the broken wagon with its shipment of weapons (because Mordane hadn’t yet had time to check the contents of the wagon) and the iron-bound box forLord Tremayne. And thus did the heroes return to their Lord—successful in their mission but only in the strictest sense of the word.
Upon their return to Barradin’s Hold, the characters noticed that the tensions between the Inner Bailey (home to Lord Tremayne and his closest retainers) and the Outer Bailey (home of everybody else, including the majority of the commoners and merchants) had risen dramatically. The characters were watched closely in the Outer Bailey with great suspicion as they pulled the cartload of weapons into the Inner Bailey. After being allowed to rest and recover, the heroes were brought forth before Lord Tremayne—this time in his study, a sign that he approved of their decisions and that they were not out of his good graces—and told Sir Cedric their tale. He was grateful for the return of the box, and used his signet ring to open it and check its contents, which the party could not see, but Ehod the swordmage could tell was highly magical in nature.
Lord Tremayne asked the group if they were ready for an additional task, and when they agreed, he gave them three options based on what concerned him at the time:
1) Shipments of high-value goods were still being stolen, and Tremayne suspected an inside job. He asked the party to set up a fake caravan to lure the traitor into the open.
2) Tremayne had received a summons to send some of his most trusted retainers to be “guests” at a wedding of two rival families. Basically, the King had called his vassals to both guard and witness the wedding so that nothing disrupted the ceremony nor the alliance of two formerly hostile families.
3) The village of Krokar, home to a large population of Free Dwarf refugees and a primary source of exportable craft-goods, had not been heard from for two weeks. Neither traders nor travelers had been heard from in the area, and even Tremayne’s own herald had gone missing in the region while delivering a message. The characters were to investigate.
The heroes, ever ambitious, decided that while tactically they were strong, a wedding might not suit the best of their skillsets. They elected to go to Krokar and investigate and once that was settled, to create a fave caravan and guard it on the way back to Barradin’s Hold, killing two problematic birds with one adventurous stone. Again the characters were ambushed on the road, but instead of Tharn, this time the bandits were mostly human, and when a bandit named Taggis was captured afterward and questioned, it was revealed that Tayle the druid was the target of the attack. Ehod took the initiative and suggested that Taggis go to Lord Tremayne and pledge his service, seeing as how Taggis was the only one out of his group who survived the attempted assassination.
Injured and in need of rest, the heroes searched for and fond a cave that appeared secure and settled in to rest. The cave had ancient eladrin runes carved into the walls, and just after midnight they lit up and several eladrin mysteriously appeared and assaulted the heroes in their sleep, all the while saying “You’ll never steal the spear from us!!” and such while trying to kill the heroes who were still in their bedrolls in some cases!! Eventually the characters won through, just in time for the large pool in the center of the cave to light up and start churning like a boiling pot on the stove, its waters changing colors and growing more and more violent…