Chapter 01:

Next

Session Number: 1
Date: Sunday 23 February 2014
Venue: Densial's
PCs & Players:

Kyra Clr1 (0 xp) (Yeran) (kills: 1 'orc', 1 wolf)
Merisiel Rog1 (0 xp) (Ash) (kills: 1 wolf)
Valeros Ftr1 (0 xp) (Craig) (kills: 2 'orcs', 2 wolves)

XP Awarded: 715

Many years ago a man by the name of Ekat Kassen tamed this area, fought off some bandits living in the hills and founded the eponymous town that the characters call home. On his death he was entombed in the stronghold that the bandits used as their base and an everlasting flame was placed in the tomb with him. As a tribute to Kassen, every few years townspeople venture to the tomb, take fire from the everflame and bring it back in a lantern. It is a dangerous quest; people die doing it. There are many trials on the way: wild animals, orcs, trolls, goblins, dragons… If the stories are to be believed. The tomb is said to be cursed. It is seen as somewhat of a rite of passage into adulthood to bring back the flame. It has been four years since anyone has successfully completed the quest. This year, it is Valeros, Kyra and Merisiel's turn.

The night before, Valeros talks to every girl in town. "I might not come back from this, you know."

The three will be leaving this morning. They head into the centre of town. The bells atop the temple of Erastil toll the midday song, echoing throughout the quiet town. As the peals begin to fade the first of the townfolk make their way into the square dressed in black as if attending a funeral, eyes downcast and mournful. After a few moments a murmur passes through the crowd as it slowly parts to let the Mayor through. He leads the way with a tarnished silver lantern. An old pony trails behind bearing backpacks and supplies. Once he reaches the centre of the crowd he stops and calls out to the assembled townfolk:

"Once again the winter winds blow through Fangwood marking the end of another harvest. There are wolves in the woods howling at our walls and serpents in our shadows waiting to strike. Just as it was 174 years ago when Kassen himself left these walls to protect us, so it is today. Where are the heroes? Where are the brave folk that will venture out to Kassen's tomb and retrieve the flame to keep this community safe for another winter?"

Valeros steps forward, sword raised.

"Welcome, stranger."

"Valeros! I'm your nephew! Gah!"

"Oh yeah. My sister's slow one. Valeros, you shall go into the wilds."

"Who's slow?" Valeros murmurs. Kyra also steps forward.

"Ah! Another steps forward! Are you also somehow related to me?"

"Kyra, my lord, and no I am not."

"Kyra! You shall join Valeros in this dark deed, attempting to make your way through the wilderness and fight off the ravages of the orcs, trolls and dragons."

"What?" Valeros says. "Nobody said anything about dragons!"

"Huge fire-breathing things that they are! If either of you are not brave enough to take this journey, let me know now."

Merisiel steps forward at this point.

"Oh thank god for that," Valeros says, a little too loudly.

"And who might you be?"

"Merisiel."

"Merisiel! You too shall tempt death to bring us the flame to light our way through winter."

Valeros looks at the two rather different women by his side. "Seriously," he whispers, "you've both got tinderboxes, right?"

"It is a hard, long and deadly road," the Mayor continues. "Many of us know that many of us have fallen. But you three brave souls… Will nobody else join them?" No one says anything. "You three, normally too few for such an arduous journey, shall have to make do, returning Kassen's flame to the town."

"We're good, right?" Valeros says to the other two. "We got this?"

"Yeah," says Merisiel.

"We should be fine," Kyra adds.

Valeros looks at Kyra and gives her a wink. "Look, I know there was that time when I was a bit inappropriate, but… No, we've put that past us, haven't we? Y'know, turn over a new leaf and all that… Look, if we're gonna die…"

Kyra rolls her eyes and looks to the Mayor. "Should we depart, my lord?"

"Which one of you will take the lantern and light it from Kassen's fire, bringing it back safely to the village?"

Kyra stands forward. Valeros is a moment behind, sees Kyra, then aborts his step forward, concealing it badly.

"Kyra, take the lantern. Guard it well. Many thieves and vagabonds will attempt to take this from you. Guard it with your life! And with your friends' lives."

Valeros nudges Kyra in the ribs. "You do know you're a chick, right?"

"Yes…"

"This is man's work. How the hell were you raised?"

"This is the path I have chosen to take, Valeros, and I will have the light of Sarenrae behind me."

"Who?"

"The DawnFlower? The Healing Flame? Any of this ring any bells, bladeboy?"

"Oh. Good! We'll need all the help we can get. Well done there."

The Mayor continues, gesturing to the pony. "These supplies shall go with you." There is a backpack for each adventurer with five days rations, a small tent, a winter blanket and a full waterskin. Also inside each is a torn piece of map. "This map shall lead you safely to Kassen's tomb," the Mayor says. "Well, as safely as you can with the orcs, trolls and dragons." In addition to the individual supplies, there is also fifty feet of hemp rope, a box containing three tindertwigs, a bottle labelled 'Cure', three torches, a grappling hook and a fine bottle of John's brandy from right up the road. "Hopefully it will steel your nerve and keep you warm," the Mayor says. "It is especially cold out there."

"I will not need to partake of this," Kyra says.

"Oh well," Valeros says, eyeing Merisiel. "More for us!"

The Mayor turns the the gathered townsfolk. "I present to you the brave heroes who will follow in Kassen's footsteps to retrieve the everflame! Some of them may not return, but I say to you that their sacrifice shall not be forgotten. Go, brave heroes, and do not return until you have the eternal flame." He points south. The townfolk begin to wave goodbye with cold, solemn expressions.

"It's alright!" Valeros yells to those gathered. "We're good."

Small groups of townsfolk huddle, looking at the adventurers, whispering. Kyra's mother has tears in her eyes. "Be strong, lad," Valeros' father says to him. "I will, Da'," he manages to say in return, emotion strangling the words. "I won't let you down!"

"Don't forget to wash… You know… Everywhere."

As people start to drift off, Kyra looks at her fragment of map. "Did you get a piece of map?"

"Yeah, I just got where I live," Valeros says. "We're supposed to head south, so I guess that's what this red line is."

The three fragments form a complete map. "I don't like the way how it gets darker the farther south you go," Kyra says, examining the whole.

"The Broken Glade, the Grey Lake, the Serpent Gorge and the Serpent Hills," Valeros says. "Sounds… homely. Is that where we are supposed to be going?"

"That's what the map says," Kyra replies. "Let's assume this map is correct. I don't know, I've never been south. Have either of you?"

"No," Merisiel says.

"Me neither," says Valeros. "Too dangerous."

Merisiel notices that a group of elders have remained, and are looking at the three adventurers, laughing. When she returns their glances, they stifle their laughter and look away.

"Those elders just laughed at us," she says.

"At us? Seriously?" Valeros says, looking in the elders' direction.

"When I looked at them, they stopped and looked away."

"Excuse me for a minute," Valeros says and strides towards the elders.

"Ignore them," Kyra says. "There's no point."

"Nobody laughs at Valeros! I'm here to put this town on the map!"

"It's already on a map," Merisiel says wryly, holding up Valeros' fragment.

"Shut up!" Valeros continues over, swaggering.

"Valeros!" one of the elderly men says. "How may I help you?"

"I couldn't help but have my friend notice that you were laughing at us back there. I was always taught to respect my elders, but, y'know, a bit of give and take here! Don't you think?"

"I'm sorry Valeros, we were just trying to lighten the mood. It's quite a dangerous journey isn't it? We all know that you may not return."

"Well, people keep saying that, but really?"

"It's been four years since anyone's made it back. You know that, right? And we send people every year, right? It's a dangerous journey, that's all I'm saying. But I'm sure you'll make it OK. You're a good boy. Strong lad."

"I am! Just remember that when we come back with the lit lantern, alright?"

"I expect you will. If anyone can make it, you can, Valeros."

"Yeah. Excellent. That's what I like to hear."

"Go on, lad, go get 'em!"

Valeros swaggers back. "I gave them a damn good talking to." There is a burst of laughter behind him, from the elders. Valeros ignores it.

"When we get back," Merisiel says, "let's laugh at the elders."

Valeros chuckles. "I like how you think!"

The adventurers look at the map again. The journey to Kassen's tomb is supposed to take about a day and a half on foot. They start collecting their gear.

"Be a man and carry all this stuff," Merisiel says to Valeros.

"Alright."

"Can you take my backpack as well?" Kyra asks.

"Well, I've already got these two swords, and I've got … Oh, alright."

"He does have some uses," Kyra whispers to Merisiel.

The adventurers set off. Their path to the south leads into forest. After a couple of hours the path narrows and the deciduous trees close in. Ahead is a fallen tree trunk, blocking the path. Suddenly a trio of snarling humanoids jump out from behind the tree trunk. Their greenish, leathery skin glows in the little light that remains. They start bellowing vulgar challenges to the adventurers. "Your mother wore combat boots! You're not a real fighter!" They each carry a greataxe. "Raaar! C'mon! Come and get some, girly men, girly men!"

Valeros drops the gear he is carrying. "Come get it yourself!" he yells back, drawing one sword, then pointedly, another.

"We don't want to fight," Kyra says. "We just want to get past."

"Speak for yourself," Valeros says, grinning and spinning his short sword in tight arcs. "This is way better than farming!"

"Raaar! C'mon, bring it on!" the humanoids roar.

"And if you are cut, if you are hurt, when we meet the dragon?" Kyra asks Valeros.

"Which way's the dragon?"

"South."

"Through them?"

"Yes."

"Then we've gotta get through them!"

"We don't need to fight them to get through them." The creatures continue their growling and taunting.

"I think we need to fight them!"

"That's OK," one of the humanoids yells. "If you're too scared to fight us, we'll let you pass. As long as you do our nails for us! Hahahaharrr!"

This is too much for Merisiel. She draws a throwing dagger.

TOR1
Two of the humanoids move forward, stop and raise their axes. Merisiel throws her dagger - badly. The blade arcs past Kyra's shoulder, narrowly missing her, and landing on the trail. She moves closer. Valeros moves up and readies his two swords. A creature closes with Valeros, who chops at it with his longsword. AC21 hits for 6 damage. It sinks solidly into the side of the creature and it falls to the ground, dying. Valeros spits on it. Kyra moves forward, her scimitar ready should a creature close with her.

TOR2
A creature moves up to Kyra's position. Kyra attacks and hits for 8 damage, felling the creature. It feels and looks different to her training… Something's up. "This is an illusion! They aren't here! What are you?" she says to the single remaining creature. Valeros takes a second look and can see right through it, as if it were translucent. He is bitterly disappointed. Merisiel believes they are real. "What are you?" Kyra repeats. "Hahaharrr! I shall kill you! Kill you all!"

Valeros and Kyra look around and beyond the lone creature, looking for the source of the illusion. "Stop doing that!" Merisiel cries. "Look at your enemy!"

"It's not my enemy!" Valeros replies. "It is a figment of your imagination!" The figment swings its greataxe at Merisiel but misses. Merisiel feels the weight of the axe and doesn't know why her companions aren't taking this thing seriously. "Whose illusion is this?" Kyra yells. No answer besides more vicious growling. Merisiel throws another dagger but it flies wide. "Help me!" Merisiel cries. Valeros stabs the 'creature' in the face. It dies, cleaved in twain. "Believe that!" Valeros says, smiling. "Thank you for saving my life," Merisiel says. Valeros holds her stare. "You, me, and the brandy later."

Merisiel searches the bodies. "Dude, they're just dust in the wind," Valeros says. "They're not real." Merisiel ignores him, continues her search but finds nothing of value.

Valeros moves past the tree trunk and looks around for the source of the illusion. Kyra joins him. She thinks she can smell smoke in the air but cannot tell where it is from. Neither can see what might have brought about the illusory orcs. "Do you smell smoke?" Kyra asks. "No, I just smell AWESOME!" Valeros answers, striking a pose. "Illusions don't just spring out of the ground, they come out of wizards' hands. C'mon, he's gotta be around here somewhere."

"What do you mean?" Merisiel says. "They came from behind that tree."

"Trust me. They weren't real."

"I don't trust you."

"I just saved your life!"

"By your reckoning, you didn't!"

"They weren't real," Kyra says. "Believe me."

"I don't believe you either!" Merisiel says and stomps off.

Valeros' attention never wavers from the forest. "Show yourself, cowardly scum! I won't hurt you."

Yeah, right.

Merisiel walks towards the fallen tree, retrieves her daggers, then looks for tracks in the area. She doesn't find any. It doesn't perturb her.

"I reckon he was behind that tree and he's scarpered," Valeros says, climbing over the trunk. Kyra vaults over the narrow end and has a look around. "I see no evidence of anything having been here."

"Maybe he's invisible," Valeros says. "They can do that too, you know."

"If he were, could we do anything about it?"

Valeros stands still for a moment, then whirls and stabs behind him with his short sword. His blade meets no resistance. "He's not here. That would've killed anything."

"Let's go," Merisiel says.

"Hmmph," Valeros grunts, climbs over the tree trunk and hefts his two backpacks. "Whoever it is," he says in a loud voice, "knows that we mean business. He wouldn't follow us. He wouldn't dare." Merisiel rolls her eyes.

The adventurers continue on the trail to the south, three abreast: Valeros on the left, Kyra in the middle and Merisiel on the right. Valeros looks to the others. "Can't I go in the middle?" he says, a wicked glint in his eye.

"Left!" the others yell in unison.

The forest gets darker and more foreboding as time passes. Strange sounds are heard in the forest. Every now and then, one or more of the adventurers is certain something is looking at them. After a few more hours darkness and the chill twilight air forces the adventurers to consider stopping.

"Camp sounds like a good idea," Valeros says. He looks at the trail. It doesn't look well-used. It is regularly crossed by broken trees; a cart would never make the journey.

"What do you think? I think off the trail," Valeros says. "Off the trail sounds good. 'Never camp on the trail,' that's what Da' used to say."

"Why… The forest seems like it's more dangerous than the trail," Kyra says.

"If someone travels along this path, they're going to find us," Merisiel points out.

"What she said," Valeros says.

"I haven't seen anything looking at me from the trail," Kyra says. "They're all in the forest."

"You make a good point," Valeros concedes. "I'll think about it." Valeros pauses, then his eyes light up. "We've got brandy! I'm suddenly in a good mood. I think off the path, Kyra thinks on the path… Why don't we let the elf decide."

Merisiel glances casually into the forest. "Let's camp off the path."

"You won't regret it," Valeros says. "It'll be fine."

The adventurers leave the path and unpack their tents. "I vote we have a watch," Kyra says.

"That's a good idea," Valeros says. "Da' used to say things like that too."

"Who's Da'?"

"My dad!"

"Oh."

"He was an adventurer, you know, before he settled down here."

"He was?"

"He was. Mighty reknowned. He went and got the flame, back in his day."

"Really?"

"Yeah!"

Kyra digests this as she begins pitching her tent. She looks at Valeros. "Aren't you going to put yours up?" Valeros snickers. "Your tent, numbnuts!"

"I thought one would be enough…"

"Oh, gods… Listen to me. Pitch. Your. Tent. Now."

"…Alright. You play 'hard to get', it's cool!"

Valeros pitches his tent. Kyra takes first watch; Valeros offers to relieve her a few hours before midnight. Kyra keeps a branch above their encampment lit with the light of Sarenrae.

"You should light a fire, too," Valeros says. "Keep you warm. And wolves and stuff stay away from fire. You start it, I'll get some wood." As soon as Kyra has a fire lit, Valeros approaches with one of the torches given by the Mayor. "Leave it," Kyra says, then casts another Light orison on the torch. It glows, but is not consumed by the light. Valeros heads off and returns with armfuls of firewood.

As the adventurers sup on their dried rations, they hear howling in the distance. "That's alright, they won't come, there's a fire," Valeros says.

"Are you sure?" Kyra asks.

"That's what Da' said," Valeros answers.

"I've got to have a talk and get to know this Da'," Kyra says.

Over the next hour the howling gets closer, then it stops completely.

"Maybe we should put out the fire," Valeros says. "No, keep it going, keep it going."

"What? It's brought the wolves here and you immediately suggest to put out the fire? Is that what your Da' would do?"

"I don't know, he's not here! Besides, it's really cold!"

"If your Da' is not here, can you trust us and yourself and not him?"

"What, I dunno… How much experience have you got with wolves and fire?"

"I don't know, but we could have thought of something instead of just saying 'Da' told me!'"

"Well, when you live to the ripe old age of 27, you learn a thing or two, don't you? That's my Da'! It's alright, they're going now. They probably heard us, and saw the fire."

"Let's hope so."

"You just thank your god that…"

"Oh, I trust in my god. I don't trust in your Da'."

"You just thank your god, and Cayden Cailean that that fire was there, or else those things out there would have been right up our butts. My Da' knows about that too."

"Why don't you tell us now everything that Da' knows?" Merisiel says.

"Take too long," Valeros says. He leans his head to one side, listening. "Nah, they've gone. I'm going to bed."

"It's possible that the wolves are out there right now, waiting for us to settle down," Kyra says. "Do you not want to go out there and check, protect our party?"

"Go out there, alone?"

"No. You go out there alone."

"It'll cost you," Valeros says to Kyra, all grin. Kyra just stares at him.

Valeros gets the hint. "Oh well, big day tomorrow, need my rest. Wake me if something happens." He turns to Merisiel. "Nightcap first?"

"The dreams of humans are weird."

"No, seriously, just leave all the knives at the door of the tent, alright?"

"Can you ever be sure of that?" Merisiel replies. Valeros looks at her out of the corner of his eye. "On second thoughts, it's not worth it."

Valeros retires to his tent. The others notice that the brandy disappeared with him. Fifteen minutes later, he is snoring loudly. Merisiel spends the time looking for signs of wolves. She neither sees nor hears anything.

The night passes uneventfully… up until a certain point. Long into Kyra's watch, she is sitting on a log when she sees glowing eyes outside the light of the fire and her spell. She hears a low growling from her left and sees multiple sets of glowing eyes in that direction. She rises, crosses to Valeros' tent, opens the flap and kicks at the first body part she sees. "Wake up!"

"What is it?" Valeros says groggily.

"Something's here. Growling."

"Da'!" Valeros says indignantly. He blunders around for his weapons. "Get the rogue!" he says. Kyra rouses Merisiel. Valeros stumbles out of his tent. "Where they from, where they from?"

"One over there, and one over there. There could be more."

"Alright. I got 'em." Valeros moves to the fire, drops his short sword and grabs a burning brand. Merisiel appears with a bandolier of daggers in one hand and a rapier in the other.

TOR1
Merisiel moves to the centre of the campsite. "Prepare to flank them!" she hisses. Creatures - wolves - emerge from the darkness. One attacks Kyra. "I'm gonna have words with my Da' when we get back home," Valeros thinks to himself. The wolf misses. Another circles and attacks Merisiel, but misses. A third zeroes in on Kyra and hits, sinking its teeth into her leg doing 7 damage and dragging her to the ground. Valeros steps forward to where Kyra lies on the ground, swinging his fiery brand and his sword in concentric arcs. His sword misses, the burning branch hits for 6 damage + 1 fire. Kyra casts on the defensive a Cure Light Wounds spell upon herself - successfully! She regains 9 hp.

TOR2
Merisiel attacks and misses. The third wolf attacks Valeros, snapping at space. Another bites at Merisiel, missing. The third tries to drag Kyra away, but cannot grasp her sufficiently. Valeros fullattacks the wolf on Kyra: long sword misses, flaming brand of fiery doom hits AC20 for 7 + 1 fire. The wolf dies. Kyra stands up, provoking an aoo that misses. She then stabs at the other wolf with her scimitar, hitting for 7 damage. It still lives.

TOR3
Merisiel misses again. A wolf attacks Valeros, sinking its teeth into his thigh and doing 8 damage. He retains his footing. The other wolf misses Merisiel. Valeros fullattacks but both weapons miss. Kyra channels positive energy to heal Merisiel and not the two surviving wolves. She heals Merisiel and Valeros… and the slain wolf, which rises to its feet! Kyra steps backwards. "My bad," she says.

TOR4
Merisiel stabs at a wolf with her rapier. Critical! 12 damage. Blood and guts spill out of its side and it growls at Merisiel. A wolf attacks Valeros, missing. Another hits Merisiel for 5 damage but fails to drag her to the ground. The third attacks Kyra, hitting for 6 damage but Kyra keeps her footing. Valeros steps and fullattacks a single wolf. Again his long sword misses. Again his flaming brand of fiery doom hits for 5 damage + 1 fire. It dies. "Now leave it there!" Valeros yells. Kyra steps into flanking position and slashes at a wolf, hitting and killing it.

TOR5
Merisiel attacks the sole remaining wolf, hitting and killing it.

The adventurers check that all the three wolves are indeed dead. Kyra and Valeros move the corpses away, then Kyra heals her fellows.

"Shall we put the fire out now?" Merisiel says.

"What does your Da' say about that?" Kyra asks.

"It never came up."

Morning comes. Merisiel wakes the worse for wear, having slept on a rock (-2 str, -2 dex.) Valeros makes some concessions for Merisiel: if she cracks on, she is off watch duty tonight.

The adventurers continue on through the forest. They pass through an open glade, reentering the forest then exiting into a field of short, green grass bordering a wide, calm lake reflecting the overcast sky above. A dense fog hangs over the centre of the lake obscuring the far side. Near the shore of the lake a dark form lies next to the water.

"Hang on hang on hang on," Valeros says. "Something else that Da' told me."

"No!" the others say simultaneously.

"No no no, it's right. Animals are attracted to sources of water. That's why we put water all over the farm! So they're attracted to it. So we might see nasty things here. Like that."

"I should probably mention that lots of things are attracted to water, because it's needed to drink," Kyra explains, as if talking to a three year old.

Valeros looks around for a rock to hurl. He finds one, and lobs it close to the form, trying not to hit it. The rock falls somewhere in the vicinity of the form, but not on it. It does not respond. Valeros retries, attempting to hit. Critical! The stone cracks into the form's skull. Again, it does not move. The adventurers move closer. There is a rank, rotting smell in the air.

"It's just a body, right?" Valeros says.

"That's all we know," Kyra replies. "It could be anything."

"Yeah, but it's probably a dead body with a stone in its face, right? Worst case, let's say it was undead, and it's got a stone in its face, you'd think it'd get up and look around or something."

"Why is it dead?" Kyra asks.

"Because something killed it!"

"What killed it?"

"Something that ate it and then walked off."

"It's right next to the lake."

"It's right next to the lake," Valeros repeats. "Something's eaten it from the lake. Let's not go close to the lake. But, this might be one of our own, though. From our town."

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