Your DM will be more vigilant about updating after each game from now on. :)
- In the two hundred and fifty-three years since the Scourging laid low civilization, the island of Cyos stood alone as the last remnant of the old world’s advanced cultures. No ship sent to the mainland ever returned, so for centuries the island continued its isolation. In recent years, however, Cyos’s supply of metal ore has been completely exhausted. Lacking any other options, the island’s governors ordered the assembly of another desperate mission to the mainland, crewed by prisoners and volunteers. Our three protagonists – Maro, Markus, and Amatus – were among the chosen.
- The ship Brave Dawn encountered an immense sea serpent on its maiden voyage and was torn asunder. The heroes survived by clinging to driftwood and washed up just outside the small fishing village of Sardia. Its primitive nature was startling – they had not even mastered bronze tools, and were reliant on outside trade for anything beyond a pointed stick. Hearing that the village of Aldrett might be slightly more advanced – and more welcoming – they set off to the east.
- The party encountered many dangers on their three-day journey to Aldrett, including the harsh and unforgiving environment; it now appeared that much of the world had become a lifeless wasteland. Worse, the continent was rife with undead. They barely survived a ghoul attack, but in the end they reached Aldrett alive.
Scepter of Destiny
- Our protagonists reached the wooden walls of Aldrett, a small village of maybe three hundred souls. Aldrett’s militia initially suspected the party of banditry, but once their suspicions were allayed by diplomacy and a small “donation” of gold, the party entered the village.
- In Aldrett, our heroes learned of three pressing matters. First, the slaver-run city of Goliad to the east continued to push its sphere of influence ever further, and Aldrett’s citizens worried that slave raids would soon reach its walls. Second, a gang of bandits were intercepting caravan traffic to the north and east. Third, the southern desert’s encroachment upon their farmland was accelerating; Aldrett could barely feed itself already, and widespread starvation seemed certain if this were to continue. The local druid, a veteran adventurer named Rainsinger, seemed helpless to stop this decay.
- The party left town to investigate the bandit problem. Rather than attacking immediately, they noticed that the bandits appeared on the verge of starvation and decided to parley with their leader, a woman named Eriana. They discovered that the so-called bandits were refugees who had escaped slavery in Goliad and sought shelter, only to be turned away for lack of food. Their caravan robberies were for survival only. The heroes decided to trick shopkeepers within Aldrett’s marketplace into believing that certain goods were tainted, and took this small amount of food to Eriana.
- Now thankful towards the party, Eriana let them know that her group had taken refuge in a black tower to the south, where significant grain reserves were held, but were chased out by the living dead. She agreed to accompany them to this tower in exchange for most of the grain. The tower turned out to be a nexus of foul magic, drawing energy from the land itself into a fragment of some terrible machine from antiquity. Defeating the mad necromancer who had hoped to draw upon this power, the heroes took his staff – a shining artifact of great power – and destroyed the ancient machine.
- Returning to Aldrett, the heroes brokered a deal between the “bandits” and the city’s elders. Now that the desert’s encroachment had stopped, they would be allowed to farm the southern reaches. Rainsinger identified the staff the party had recovered as the Scepter of Destiny, the symbol of ancient Aurthon’s emperors. He recounted the tale of how their dynasty had come to power – by overthrowing the elven kingdoms which once enslaved all of mankind – and suggested that the heroes could become leaders in their own right by overthrowing Goliad.
Kicking the Hornet’s Nest
- The heroes resolved to hunt down a slaver group from Goliad and discover what exactly they were up against. They accompanied a caravan east to the village of Cynora. Though they took refuge in the (reputedly haunted) Mossy Ruins to escape a sandstorm, they ignored the voices which beckoned them deeper and escaped alive.
- Cynora showed signs of a recent battle, and convincing the terrified villagers to speak with the party took a bit of diplomacy. It turned out that Goliad was dissatisfied with the amount of tribute flowing from the village and had taken fifteen of their young women as slaves… along with Cassius, their master craftsman, who had shown the slaver group disrespect. Without Cassius, the village was as good as dead, as their salt mine would grind to a halt, but villages who attempted to recover abducted kin were usually burned for the insult. The heroes decided to risk the latter, and with help from Cassius’s daughter they took an ancient sand skiff he had been repairing and sailed it after the slaver group.
- Ambushing the slavers from a hilltop (and running several over!), the heroes slew the lot of them in a terrible battle. Amatus was gravely wounded, losing her left lung to a broadsword, but survived. The heroes learned from instructions on one of the commanders’ bodies that Gogmaggog, ruler of Goliad, desired a new concubine after growing bored of his old one and letting “Bloody Lira” sacrifice her. They left one of the slavers alive (though unconscious) so that Maro could steal his hearing and gain inside knowledge of Goliad.
- The heroes and the rescued slaves returned to Cynora. The villagers decided to send their rescued kin to Aldrett or Firmana so that Goliad would not suspect that the heroes were affiliated with Cynora.
- Through the ears of the surviving slaver, Maro learned that Goliad planned vengeance against the “crazed wizards” who had rescued their victims, and planned to burn Cynora if they discovered any evidence of their involvement. Gogmaggog also ordered that his “hooded friend” be sent after them…
That’s Quite the… Bungle
- The heroes traveled south next, hoping to win the goodwill of the halfling lands, whose caravan connections could be a powerful asset to their cause. They survived an encounter with a con artist named Damien Poke with their wallets intact, and were taken to the hidden city of Hidehill. There they met a traveling druid named Phea and her panther companion, who decided to work with them to resolve a local issue.
- A halfling woman named Mickla owned one of the most prosperous fishing spots on the nearby underground river, from which most of Hidehill’s food came. She had recently bought it from “Old Hamhock” after his mysterious death. Unfortunately, monster attacks were killing her fishermen, and she asked the heroes to resolve it. A man named “Bungle” was implicated as possibly responsible.
- Bungle denied responsibility for the monster attacks, but made a counter-offer – he would pay the heroes more than Mickla if they convinced her to sell the land to him. He believed he should be the rightful owner, as he was the illegitimate son of Old Hamhock.
- The party discovered evidence of a monster, but could not get the creature to appear. Eventually they took Bungle up on his offer after he claimed to be capable of calling the creature, and returned to the fishing spot with him in tow. He used a special bait to attract a juvenile cryptoclidius, which the party slew without much difficulty.
- Bungle tried to get them to leave with promises of payment, but during the battle they discovered an underwater passage leading to some ruins. Bungle had been trying to keep others away from these ruins, and he let it slip that he had taught himself wizardry from a grimoire he discovered there… and had been trying to return for most of his adult life, but could never get rid of the monster. He also let slip that he had murdered his father in the hopes of inheriting the spot. The group subdued and tied up Bungle, but while traveling through the tunnel he knocked Markus unconscious with a stilled Sleep spell and wriggled free of his bonds.
- The party saved Markus and gave chase, eventually striking Bungle down with a crossbow bolt to the back of the head, which caused severe brain damage. After a long discussion on the most ethical course of action, the party decided to petrify Bungle using a trap in the ruins and return years or decades later to sort the matter out. In the ruins they discovered quite a few magical treasures, including a tablet detailing the Cloud Transmutation ritual.
- Having failed to make friends in Hidehill, the party headed south to Coincross, a halfling settlement said to be the largest town outside of Goliad. Along the way they crossed an alchemically polluted river, discovered a haunted house by following a pair of skeletal feet damned to endlessly walk the desert, and rescued an orphaned caracal kitten which Amatus decided to take as her familiar.
- In Coincross, the heroes saw many interesting sights – including a mad beggar who recognized their scepter from when the “steel-winged angel” flew her to “the Worm, the terrible, terrible WORM!” and a mysterious man recruiting for an equally mysterious “Sanctuary.” After selling goods and resting in the local inn, they were rudely awoken by a child working for the Luxoral merchant house, who had an urgent task for them. The clan’s patriarch hired them to rescue his son from an ill-fated adventure to the “Pillars of Khosh”.
- On the way to the pillars, the party was ambushed by an assassin from Goliad who called himself the Cobra. Though they defeated him, Maro and Phea sustained terrible poisonings. After learning that Goliad planned to burn Cynora for the heroes’ actions, they killed the Cobra and sent his corpse back to Goliad on his horse as a warning.
- Beneath the Pillars of Khosh lay the ancient tomb of Prince Kharsh the Unwell, of the Aurthonian royal line. Supposedly a magical prodigy who sought to unify the theories of arcane and divine spellcasting, he had died young of an inherited disease. The party plumbed the tomb’s depths and rescued Darien Luxoral’s adventuring party from a golem (which obeyed Amatus’s orders, as she carried the Scepter of Destiny!) – only to have him turn out to be quite ungrateful. They had to subdue him, and the rest of his group got themselves killed by traps while attempting to beat the “rival tomb robbers” to Kharsh’s treasure.
- The heroes discovered Kharsh himself, now a powerful lich. He offered to exchange all of the treasures in his tomb for the Scepter of Destiny… and the party deduced that without it, he was trapped in his tomb by the very wards he cast to protect it! The lich raged at their refusal, but was powerless to escape. He promised that he would revive his mummified wives with the blood of future tomb robbers and send them to “tear you limb from limb and eat your beating hearts!” Despite this threat, the heroes escaped with Darien alive.