Plot Hooks and Loose Ends

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Talanall
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Plot Hooks and Loose Ends

The following is a registry of unresolved plot hooks, chains of events, enmities, debts owed to and by the party, and similar points of interest.

Talanall
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The Murder of Gester Farn

The late Master Farn employed Chuul, Jalen, and a handful of others as guards for his . . . "caravan" would be an inaccuracy, since he had only the one wagon. But Farn was a merchant, and as the PCs learned, he had worked out the means to trade with certain members of the Seelie Court of the Spirit World. Despite his ingenuity and courage, or perhaps because of them, Farn evidently had enemies. One morning in Golden Sheaves, his body was discovered in his room at the Pickled Troll, dead of blunt trauma that caved in his ribs. The suspected killer, one Eamon Thrush, fled north along the river road towards Morville, with the PCs in chase.

The party managed to catch up to Thrush, cornering him long enough to learn that he was trained by (and possibly still a member of) the Order of the Gauntlet, fighting monks dedicated to Lereina the Golden Harlot. He was hired to assassinate Farn because his activities upset what Thrush referred to as "the balance." But before the party could get him to elaborate, fey hunters associated with the Unseelie Court, led by a faerie noblewoman who announced herself as Duchess Nicotiana, interrupted the interrogation. Thrush used the spectacle of the Wild Hunt as a distraction to flee, and the Unseelie hunters took him as their quarry. Thrush was brought to bay at the shore of the flooding Moorwash River, stunned a cu sidhe with a ferocious barehanded attack, and then leapt into the water to avoid being torn to pieces.

Thrush's corpse was later recovered and buried, but the identity and motives of his employers remain obscure.

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Talanall
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Hail to the King, Baby

The process by which the Bastards came into feud with Berger Cole is . . . not really a process. More a series of accidents, arguments, and refusals to back away from a fight.

Paternal Warnings

After the death of Eamon Thrush, the party had its first meeting with a mysterious human woodsman and songster who called himself "Meren." Jalen called him, "Father," and seemed rather cross when the bard introduced Ryster and Vlyndar, suggesting that they should travel with Farn's former guards for a time, and cautioned Jalen in particular to be cautious of lycanthropes. Meren didn't seem to think that Jalen needed more details, and although Jalen was vocal in his disagreement, it's still not clear how Meren knew that Jalen was about to become embroiled in a conflict with Berger Cole's pack. Nor is it wholly certain whether Meren knew that Cole believed that his son might possess a fragment of a relic of interest to ambitious lycanthropes.

This said, lycanthropes were not the chief point of interest for Meren during this discussion. See Goblinoids on the Warpath for Meren's chief focus in visiting with what would later prove to be the original membership of the Bastards.

It has become increasingly evident that Meren is probably one and the same with Lord Merenstone Hope I, called Hagbane (see Toil and Trouble for more information on the hags of the Mereflow Valley, especially the terrible night hag Zoratadya), a former general of the Aureshan Legion, governor of the Aureshan colonial province of the Mereflow Valley, revolutionary and traitor against the Empire (see La Reconquista). Which would make him somewhat more than two hundred years old, although he doesn't look much older than his mid-forties.

The Royal Family: Ginger

Farn's trading days were brought to an abrupt end, without his having finished the circuit of trading stops he'd had planned. He was characteristically close-mouthed with his plans, but Chuul, Jalen, Ryster and Vlyndar accidentally stumbled into a rendezvous with an extremely odd half-elf werewolf, calling herself Ginger, who had been expecting to meet with Farn and serve as a guide to the next trading stop.

By this time, a hostile encounter with Markus, a young afflicted werewolf from Berger Cole's pack, had already set the stage for the feud that has since blossomed between the Bastards and Cole. Ginger seemed to know all about the self-styled Wolf King, and in fact remarked that he is her half-brother. The details of their shared parentage were not discussed, but the subtext of the conversation suggests that regardless, the two are not on friendly terms.

At any rate, Ginger was really weird, seeming to have some difficulty with "people" skills like verbal communication. Nobody tried to stop her when she changed into a wolf and ran off towards the halfling plains. If Cole is the Wolf King, then Ginger would be, what, exactly? Crown Princess? Heir Apparent? She didn't seem particularly hostile, much less interested in ruling anything.

Howl

Berger Cole didn't take the execution of his pack member, Marcus, lying down. Rather, it was the mark of a long, steady campaign of hostility against the village of Golden Sheaves. And once Tyler "Chuul" Kane positioned himself and his companions as the village's champions, that hostility grew. And grew. And grew. Until finally, the Bastards discovered the Dreadpack's latest atrocity at an isolated farmstead southeast of Golden Sheaves, and resolved bring the matter to a head.

The slaying of the Dreadpack followed, after the bastards (by this time joined by Nyshael, Alannah, and Garren) tracked them to the ruins of a goblinoid kraal, a sort of ring fortress, and slew every werewolf they could get their hands on. Twenty corpses later, Berger Cole was the only werewolf left. But he does not seem to have been deterred. To the contrary, he lured the Bastards north to Morville, where Jalen had taken up residence, and then led the would-be heroes on a merry chase though the rugged hills east of the thorp.

When they returned, Morville was . . . gone. And Ryster Wyther, one of the original Bastards, was gruesomely dead. See The Worm of Hatred for details.

In the aftermath, Alannah learned of the former existence of a powerfully magical necklace, and its possession by another Cole, possibly one of Berger Cole's forebears. She hypothesizes that the original Cole, who was evidently a companion and ally of Merenstone Hope, was either struck with the curse of lycanthropy or was already a lycanthrope but was tainted by the night hag Zoratadya in retaliation for his role in her overthrow. Alannah, Rennit and Jonas seem in hesitant agreement that Cole's feud with the Bastards may be at least partly a cover for his attempts to collect the scattered fragments of this necklace. The lycanthropes of the Mereflow Valley think it may confer power upon its wearer, over and above the strengths that Cole enjoys as a natural lycanthrope.

The Bone Necklace

The Bastards have agreed to collect any pieces of Vergil Cole's necklace that they find, in return for Rennit and Jonas's assistance in passing rumors that they not only are looking for it, but that they already possess one or more pieces of the relic. Since the destruction of Morville, Alannah has made periodic attempts to locate Cole via magic, but thus far she has been unable to detect his presence in the Material Plane. It's not clear whether he is dead, or has crossed into the Spirit World on some nefarious errand, but Alannah hopes to goad Cole into a direct attack against the Bastards by misleading him into thinking that they possess the relic he so desires.

Early inquiries suggest that various collectors in the Mereflow Valley may be in possession of some of the pieces of the necklace. Chief Eulan Barnstead of the Behir Tribe of halflings is reputedly one such collector; if anyone on the steppe would own a necklace fragment, he would be that person. Another collector, identity unknown but believed to have been based in Port Hope, may have purchased a fragment from the founder of one of Golden Sheaves' general stores.

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Talanall
Talanall's picture

Toil and Trouble

Hags (night hags in particular, but their mortal cousins as well) have plagued the Mereflow Valley for centuries, since before even the earliest Aureshan colonial presence. Coveys of hags still plot in the shadows from time to time, but since the the downfall of the Valley's most powerful night hag, Zoratadya, the scope of their machinations has been greatly reduced.

Zoratadya's fate is shrouded in mystery; conventional wisdom suggests that she and Lord Merenstone Hope I, the founder of Port Hope and the general in command of the Aureshan invasion, fought to their mutual destruction. But there's growing evidence suggesting that maybe Lord Hope I isn't as dead as widely believed. So Zoratadya's current status is likewise questionable. Gallielle, a one-time Bastard and current traveling companion who seems knowledgeable about such matters, seems quite sure that she is trapped, bound by some kind of spell.

Whether Zoratadya is alive, dead, or in some kind of third category, there were lesser night hags under her influence, as well as mortal hags—annis, green and sea—and Lord Hope did not destroy them; he merely deprived them of the locus around which they had been organizing their schemes. Their influence over the course of the Mereflow Valley's history since Port Hope won its de facto independence from the Aureshan Empire has not been as dramatic as it was under Zoratadya, but it is still quite real.

Regardless of exactly what happened to this legendary night hag, Alannah has already displayed notable interest in finding out more history pertaining to hags and night hags.

Zoratadya's Fortress

While the Bastards hunted near Morville in search of Berger Cole, Alannah and Galleille enjoyed a meeting of the minds, of sorts, when they jointly remembered the lyrics of an old song about one of Merenstone Hope's victories over Zoratadya. In its turn, this recollection jogged Alannah's memory to recall that once upon a time, there had been an imposing fortress that served as the night hag's base of power.

At the time, you were too focused on your business with Cole to go off in search of the fortress (much to Alannah's displeasure), especially since it lies somewhere on the far side of the troll-infested moors on the north bank of the Moorwash River. Still, it's probably going to appear on your itinerary sometime, if Alannah holds firm to her past interest in hag-related lore.

Rock Collecting

Alannah persists in carrying around a small stone, about the size of a human eye or a hazelnut. She believes that it may be the burned-out husk of a heartstone or hag's eye, and has decided to keep hold of it until she can find the means to try to awaken or analyze it for clues as to the hags' secrets. No leads so far.

Zoratadya's Prison

Gallielle's certainty that Zoratadya has been magically imprisoned led Alannah to yet another flash of insight. One of Lord Hope's now-deceased companions was a wizard known as Shackleton Erasmus. Alannah feels pretty certain that Master Erasmus's tower is now Fafrilla's house. Since Fafrilla has remarked in the past that she inherited the lair from her mother, who had begun to find it unsatisfactory, then Fafrilla's mother, the silver dragon Vifrilidaxas, must have been close friends with the late wizard.

The spellbooks of a powerful abjurer like Erasmus would surely be a trove of knowledge all on their own, but if he was involved in the imprisonment of such a reputedly powerful outsider as Zoratadya, there's a distinct possibility that someone may use this library to glean insight about hag-kind in general.

Curses

Thus far, the party has learned of the fate of not only Merenstone Hope the First, but also his comrade Vergil Cole. There's some possibility that Berger Cole, therefore, is the scion of a cursed lineage, since his (apparent) ancestor was something of an heroic figure. Whether it's possible to break such a curse is questionable. But then again, so is the likelihood of Chuul letting Cole live long enough for someone to try.

The life and death of Shackleton Erasmus are still somewhat of a mystery to the Bastards, so it's too early to tell whether he was cursed, too. Merenstone Hope, besides being Jalen's father, also seems to have lived at least a century longer than humans are generally expected to live, which is at least suggestive that something isn't quite on the up-and-up with him, either.

It may be that if the Bastards search out the identity of Lord Hope's other companions and find out what happened to them, there may be the beginnings of a pattern here. After all, hags are well known to curse those who draw their ire.

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Talanall
Talanall's picture

Goblinoids on the Warpath

Periodic raiding by the goblinoid clans of the Desertwall Mountains east of Golden Sheaves and Winterhome has been a fact of life in the Mereflow Valley ever since the Aureshan invasions. To some extent these raids are the outcome of simple population pressure: goblinoids in general, and especially goblins, reproduce prolifically, and they inhabit agriculturally marginal land. Raiding is a matter of life and death when their numbers grow to exceed what the land can support.

But in a larger sense, the goblinoids' hostility towards the prosperous farmers and herders of the plains is founded in a real grievance. That land used to be theirs. They used to be farmers and herders. Not unreasonably, they see themselves as the victims, and their wars of vengeance as justice for a generations-old crime.

Fortunately for the Aureshan settlers and halfling nomads who have displaced the goblinoids from their ancestral lands, it's really difficult to assemble a counter-invasion if you've been crowded onto inhospitable land that is largely unable to support the building of a large army. For most of the last couple of centuries, it has been relatively easy to kick the goblinoids in the teeth any time it began to seem as if they were about to make a real effort at reconquest.

Bloody Alliance

Alannah, Oskav, and Georgie have all had brushes with vampires in the central Mereflow Valley. In Oskav's case, the vampire was actually cooperating with a band of goblins, and there is reason to think that this was part of an alliance, rather than a case where the goblins had merely been dominated by the undead.

The High King

Recently, goblinoid raiding has started up again. This is hardly a surprise; it is well known as part of the cycle of life in the Mereflow Valley, to the point that veteran goblin fighters are always on hand. What has changed is that the goblinoid clans, hitherto fractious and disorganized, have begun to work together. Lately the Bastards have learned that the clans have unified under a high king. Their source, a captive taken after his warband failed in an ill-advised attack on their joint caravan with Elesirial Bufft, characterized the new ruler as "terrifying." According to the goblin captive, the new king is ruthless enough to exterminate a rival clan that refused to go along with his agenda, and has claimed to be one of the kings of old. Alannah and Chuul have both expressed suspicion that the new High King might be allergic to daylight. Which certainly would be one explanation as to why goblins would be working together with a vampire.

Regardless, it seems likely that war is on the horizon now that the goblinoids have been unified in opposition to the hegemony dominated by Port Hope. Perhaps the coming fight will reveal more.

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Talanall
Talanall's picture

La Reconquista

By the year 821 IR, the Aureshan Empire had established a colonial province in the southern and central Mereflow Valley, with its capitol at Port Hope. The governor, Imperial Satrap Merenstone Hope, was a decorated veteran officer of the same Aureshan Legion which had carved out the province at the expense of the goblinoid clans that inhabited the eastern banks of the Mereflow River, and the small but potentially valuable colony was thriving under his governance despite rising taxes and an increasingly heavy stream of incoming "settlers" who were really political dissidents, petty criminals, debtors, religious fanatics and similar troublemakers and undesirables.

That all changed when the Empire descended into civil war upon the death of the sitting Emperor, who had not established a clear heir. The Third Imperial War of Succession, as it was later known, lasted for nearly thirty years, and by the time it ended, Port Hope had rebelled and established itself, in fact if not in law, as an independent city-state.

This revolutionary period did not include a great deal of actual fighting, at least on land. At several points there were blockades by the Imperial navy, motivated primarily by an interest in trying to extort taxes from the rebels. But they never lasted for very long, since the exigencies of war undermined any contender for the Imperial throne who wasted resources on an out-of-the-way colony. By 855 IR, the Aureshan Empire had resolved its succession dispute but was much weakened by the decades of civil strife. Port Hope's independence has never been acknowledged by the Aureshan Empire, and the current Emperor, Aurelon the Fifth, has publicly referred to the city as the capitol of a rebellious district. It's clear that he would like to reclaim the wayward province, even though it has been over a century since Imperial rule was even a polite fiction.

Aurelon's ambitions are hardly a new development, but unlike nearly all of the sitting Emperors since the rebellion he is arguably in a position to realize them. So far there has been no sign that he is mobilizing the legionary and naval resources that would be required to execute a military campaign to reclaim Port Hope, but many of the city's merchants and aristocrats take the possibility of fighting seriously enough to discuss it as a possible threat.

In the last few months, these worries have led to an upswing in anti-Imperial sentiment, including growing suspicion that the local diocese of the Church of Agon may be a proxy for the Aureshan Empire's foreign intelligence service. There has been no violence . . . yet. But the presence of a large, disciplined, powerful order of Church-sponsored mercenaries in the Valley is unlikely to calm worries that Aurelon may be planning to undermine the city and its allies to soften them up for a full-scale invasion.

If it turns out that the anti-Empire hotheads are right, then the Bastards will be right in the middle of it.

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Talanall
Talanall's picture

The Worm of Hatred

During the Bastards' latest attempt to hunt and kill Berger Cole, they found themselves outmanoeuvred yet again, at a higher price than ever before. After the heroes followed Cole north in an attempt to prevent him from murdering friend and former member Jalen Evallason, there was a shake-up in membership and Ryster Wyther, one of the mainstays of the Bastards' membership, remained in the village of Morville to bolster the local defences while the Bastards sought out Cole.

The lycanthrope subsequently led them on a wild goose chase, burning the isolated farmstead and ranch of widowed half-orc Arkady Wojtyla and leaving him for dead to abduct his son and daughter, 10-year-old Rodion and 15-year-old Yana. After forcing the children to march several hours into the wilderness, Cole bit them both to infect them with the curse of lycanthropy, and then took on his wolf shape to enable him to outrun the Bastards on the way back to Morville.

Upon his arrival, it seems that Cole overcame the village's palisade, incapacitated a local trapper, Marc Grandlekeen, who had been on watch with Ryster, and then defeated Ryster himself. Most unfortunately for the aasimar, Cole did not kill him immediately. Instead, he absconded with the cleric of Agon to a flat rock at the shore of the nearby River Mereflow, and subjected Ryster to an agonizing death as a sacrificial offering of some kind—Oskav, being a scholar of such matters, believes that Ryster's mortal suffering was dedicated to Welerus, the Aureshan god of hatred and destruction.

All on its own, such a cruel and unexpected murder of someone so close to them would have been demoralizing for the Bastards. But Cole's ritual murder seems to have opened a temporary portal to the Spirit World, through which some kind of dragon has made its way onto the Material Plane. It subsequently destroyed the entire village of Morville, crushing or burning every structure it could. The only survivors were Master Grandlekeen, who probably was left for dead, Gunther Smiern, the village blacksmith, Elimendreda Lorethian, the proprietress of the Stone Goblin, Morville's inn, a couple of local barflies who had been drinking at the Goblin, and Rennit and Jonas, a duo of self-described playwrights who had followed the Bastards to Morville. The survivors of Morville's destruction are only alive because they were inside of stone buildings that were too stoutly built to crush.

The Bastards returned to a smoking ruin and a dead comrade, and wild tales of a dragon attack. A great many questions eventually allowed them to reconstruct the above chain of events, but the dragon was nowhere in evidence—and neither was Berger Cole. Magical attempts to discern Cole's location have since met with failure, so currently it's unclear whether Cole travelled to the Spirit World or was eaten by the dragon he evidently summoned. Likewise, the dragon's whereabouts are unknown, and the Bastards are operating from the assumption that it has flown off in search of a lair.

Running Home to Momma

After giving the dead of Morville a decent burial, the Bastards gathered the survivors of the dragon attack and headed south to Golden Sheaves, determined to bring warning to the villagers, and in particular to Mayor Fafrilla.

Fafrilla, in turn, has indicated that although she will fight if she must, she is frankly afraid. The Bastards have undertaken to seek out the lair of her mother, Vifrilidaxas, on the eastern side of the Desertwall Mountains, and see whether she is willing to help her daughter defend Golden Sheaves against this new threat.

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Talanall
Talanall's picture

Masters of War

There is mounting evidence that a merchant or merchants based out of Port Hope periodically sells weapons and armor to the orc clans that inhabit parts of the hills and moors north and northwest of the Moorwash River. The first suspicious incident was some time ago, before the murder of Gester Farn, when Chuul seized a guisarme he prefers as his weapon of choice after defeating its wielder, an orc chieftain and would-be robber, in battle.

Until after the fall of Morville, the weapon in question was just plunder. Finding one such guisarme in the hands of an orc clansman wasn't suspicious; he might have taken it as a prize himself during some other raid. But when the Bastards joined Elesirial Bufft's caravan halfway between Morville and Golden Sheaves, a large number of his men were armed with weapons forged to the same pattern, albeit not as finely made as Chuul's magical example.

Even more suspicious (although still not damning), Gunther Smiern also noticed the similarity between Chuul's weapon and the cruder version used by Bufft's guards, and even was able to localize their production to a specific city in the Aureshan Empire—according to the dwarf, they were forged according to a pattern that is most commonly used there.

For now, the Bastards seem to have other projects keeping them busy, but later they may decide to investigate more deeply into the possibility that someone in Port Hope (or the Aureshan Empire) is arming the orc clans.

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Talanall
Talanall's picture

The Wounded Land

There have been several incidents in which the Bastards have learned of blighted areas in the Material Plane or the Spirit World, of places where the natural order has been knocked out of kilter because of various polluting events.

There are several ways that an area of either plane can become blighted, generating a location that planar scholars refer to as a topos. The most common is that the Spirit World is shoved closer to an evil-aligned plane due to an evil deed of great magnitude in the Material Plane. In the worst cases, such events can tear the fabric of reality, opening portals that allow demons or devils to invade the Spirit World through the affected location. More commonly, the injured part of the Spirit World suffers blight:
plants, animals, and sometimes even fey residing there may gain the fiendish template, or they may contract diseases.

The more intense the blight, and the longer an area of the Spirit World remains blighted, the more likely that the effects will bleed through to the Ethereal Plane, and through that to the Material. Preventing this from happening requires action to cleanse the affected area—but this is usually a difficult or time-consuming task, sometimes dangerous, and the actions required to cleanse a given blighted area are specific to each case. In many cases, it is easier and safer for mortals simply to avoid a blighted area.

The Ruins of Morville

The most obvious case of blight currently in the Mereflow Valley derives from the destruction of Morville. Between the ritual murder of Ryster Wyther, the aasimar cleric of Agon, and the subsequent deaths of approximately five dozen people in a dragon attack, the former village has been saturated with evil. It remains to be seen what will be the specific effects of this incident, or how the area might be cleansed.

Atrocities of the Dreadpack

The vicious torture and murder of an entire farmstead—farmhands, farmer, wife, and infant alike—southeast of Golden Sheaves has created a topos there.

The Corrupted Spring

An abandoned hobgoblin kraal between Morville and Golden Sheaves is home to a polluted spring that is in turn inhabited by an ondine. The kraal is some distance from the road and probably does not pose an immediate danger to travelers, but the fey is clearly unstable; the Bastards were able to avoid fighting the deranged water nymph, but another visitor to the ruined farm-fort may not be so lucky . . . or as able to defend himself.

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold