Important Stuff

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MinusInnocence
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Important Stuff

To the Players

I apologize in advance to anyone who would like to play but who I could not make room for: I knew there were a handful of people who had expressed interest in this campaign concept over the years and they made it to the top of the “short list.” The campaign as described here will surely take years to complete, if it is successfully completed at all, so I assume many characters and even players will come and go between now and then. The current player roster is: Cronono as Werner von Hirch, Darker as Thunk the half-orc, deaddmwalking as Argus Turner, drumandfight as Jugg'r Shieldcrusher, Fixxxer as Feruq ibn Sa'halid and Talanall as Dalvar Hart. This is subject to change as life, death, a DM’s wrath and everything in between rear their ugly heads.

The campaign will consist of three modules converted from AD&D 2E rules to Pathfinder. Night Below is a juggernaut, more accurately described as a “supermodule,” and should take the PCs from 1st to around 15th level. Bruce Cordell’s masterpiece Return to the Tomb of Horrors incorporates aspects of the late Gygax’s classic adventure and will likely bring the heroes close to 20th level. The Apocalypse Stone, originally conceived as a “campaign finisher” (interpret that as you will) and a means of cleaning house before the unveiling of 3E in 2000, is short but sweet and might breach the Epic threshold. I’ve already covered this with the current players but anyone else interested in taking someone’s seat later on should probably avoid playing in any of these adventures so as not to spoil the surprise.

Sources

This campaign will support material from Pathfinder Core Rulebook, Advanced Player’s Guide, Advanced Race Guide, Gamemastery Guide, Occult Adventures, Ultimate Campaign, Ultimate Combat, Ultimate Equipment and Ultimate Magic. We will also be drawing from Expanded Psionics Handbook with significant revisions by way of conversion to the new ruleset. The errata for these sourcebooks, if any, can be found here and here, respectively. This links to the Pathfinder d20 SRD and here is the d20 v3.5 SRD for psionics. You can find the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Reference Document, or PRD, here. Finally, material published here at the Archive will also be considered on a case by case basis. What’s yours is mine: if I intend to use it in the game behind the screen, it is fair game for the players. If you want to use anything at all from a source other than the books mentioned above, the answer will probably be "no" and must be cleared with the DM.

Classes

Psions:
Hit Dice: d6.
Skills: The psion's class skills (and the key ability for each skill) are Craft (Int), Knowledge (all skills, taken individually) (Int), Profession (Wis) and Psicraft (Int). In addition, a psion gains access to additional class skills based on his discipline:
Seer (Clairsentience): Diplomacy (Cha), Perception (Wis) and Sense Motive (Wis).
Shaper (Metacreativity): Bluff (Cha), Disguise (Cha) and Use Implement (Cha).
Kineticist (Psychokinesis): Autohypnosis (Wis), Disable Device (Dex) and Intimidate (Cha).
Egoist (Psychometabolism): Acrobatics (Dex), Autohypnosis (Wis) and Heal (Wis).
Nomad (Psychoportation): Acrobatics (Dex), Athletics (Str), and Survival (Wis).
Telepath (Telepathy): Bluff (Cha), Diplomacy (Cha) and Sense Motive (Wis).
Skills Ranks per Level: 2 + Int modifier.

Psychic Warrior:
Hit Dice: d8.
Skills: The psychic warrior's class skills (and the key ability for each skill) are Acrobatics (Dex), Athletics (Str), Autohypnosis (Wis), Craft (Int), Knowledge (psionics) (Int), Perception (Wis), Profession (Wis), and Ride (Dex).
Skills Ranks per Level: 2 + Int modifier.

Soulknife:
Hit Dice: d8.
Skills: The soulknife's class skills (and the key ability for each skill) are Acrobatics (Dex), Athletics (Str), Autohypnosis (Wis), Craft (Int), Knowledge (psionics) (Int), Perception (Wis), Profession (Wis), and Stealth (Dex).
Skill Ranks per Level: 4 + Int modifier.

Wilder:
Hit Dice: d8.
Skills: The wilder's class skills (and the key ability for each skill) are Acrobatics (Dex), Athletics (Str), Autohypnosis (Wis), Bluff (Cha), Craft (Int), Intimidate (Cha), Knowledge (psionics) (Int), Legerdemain (Dex), Profession (Wis), Psicraft (Int), and Sense Motive (Wis).
Skill Ranks per Level: 4 + Int modifier.

Skills

The Concentration skill has been removed entirely from the Pathfinder ruleset. Characters who wish to manifest a power or cast a spell under adverse conditions now make caster level checks (1d20 + caster or manifester level + relevant ability score modifier). This includes psionic characters who wish to manifest powers without displays, DC 15+power level. It is also how psionic characters gain their psionic focus, and it should be noted that characters are eligible to take 10 or 20 on the roll when doing so.

The Knowledge (psionics) skill can be used to identify the abilities of psionic creatures as well as the following other functions:

Identify auras while using detect psionics: DC 15 + power level.
Identify a power already in effect: DC 20 + power level.
Identify materials created by psionics: DC 20 + power level.
Identify power after being targeted by it: DC 25 + power level.

Psicraft can be used to craft psionic items and perform the following functions:

Identify a power as it is being manifested: DC 15 + power level.
Identify the properties of a psionic item using detect psionics: DC 15 + power level.
Address a power stone to determine what power or powers it contains: DC 15 + power level.
Identify a psionic tattoo: DC 25 + power level.

For the purposes of this campaign, the Climb and Swim skills have been merged into a single skill, Athletics (Str). It performs all the functions these two skills previously did.

For the purposes of this campaign, the Escape Artist and Sleight of Hand skills have been merged into a single skill, Legerdemain (Dex). It performs all the functions these two skills previously did.

For the purposes of this campaign, Use Magic Device and Use Psionic Device have been merged into a single skill, Use Implement (Cha). It performs all the functions these two skills previously did, with one limitation: only psionic characters or creatures (those with a power point reserve) may use the skill to manipulate psionic items.

Psionics

This campaign will be operating under the rules variant "Psionics is Different" (Expanded Psionics Handbook, pp65-6). Whenever applicable, assume magic has a "diminished effect" on psionics, and vice versa, as described in the variant rule from the relevant text. The "specialty spells and powers" described therein are also available for use, and will be more fully developed as the campaign progresses.

Optional Rules

In 2EE we'll be utilizing the hero point and trait optional rule systems, available for review in the Advanced Player's Guide pp322-25 and pp326-33. Characters who opt out of the hero point system will receive a single bonus feat as compensation.

Regarding traits, each character starts the game with two: one from the "General" list and one from the regional list based on his or her homeland. There is a feat available called Additional Traits, which lets you pick two more from any list. You can find the complete list in this thread under "Traits by Region."

Edited by: MinusInnocence on 02/20/2019 - 14:43
MinusInnocence
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Plot Hooks

Jelenneth

When the party first arrived in Haranshire, they were accosted on the road by Carlanis and his gang of local hooligans. The bandits expressed interest in taking potential spellcasters and psionics users captive; their leader, Carlanis, insists that was the task appointed him by a sinister figure known only as "Eyepatch." Since exploring the Garlstone Mine and interrogating the bandits who made it their home, the party have discovered that Grizzler's nephew Snagg was abducted in the middle of the night in the northwestern Blanrydes, promptly taken underground. His current whereabouts are unknown, but it is believed this is the work of the same kidnapping ring that targeted the heroes. On the 8th day of Fourmonth, Tauster's apprentice Jelenneth was reported missing in Milborne, apparently also kidnapped in the dead of night from the comfort of her own home. The adventurers tracked her abducters to the Thornwood but eventually lost the trail. Her whereabouts are unknown, and the party has been offered 1,000gp by her parents and the mayor of Milborne for her safe return (or proof of her death).

The cloak Jelenneth was wearing on the night of her abduction has been recovered from the corpse of one of her kidnappers, a redheaded woman in league with a fat priest, a man with a scarred face and another man with one eye. The woman, priest and scarred man are all dead, either at the traitor Gideon's hands or in the course of infiltrating and sacking Parlfray Keep. Only the man the Heroes have dubbed "Eyepatch," who originally hired Carlanis to accost wizards, priests and minders on the road leading into Haranshire, remains.

Magic Fish Oil

The bandit leader Carlanis claims to have stolen several doses of a bizarre magic oil from the mysterious one-eyed man who hired him. He promptly developed an addiction to the vile stuff, and since losing his supply he has begun a startling transformation into some kind of vile seamonster. It is not clear whether this is the purpose of the oil or an unfortunate withdrawal symptom. Carlanis succumbed to the awful metamorphosis several days after being transferred to Garyld's custody, and his remains have now been disposed of outside town. G'haz-kuhl has confirmed that the fish oil's principal use is that of mind control. Regular doses makes the subject susceptible to the machinations of mind flayers and worse from the Night Below, which is where the oil originates. When speaking telepathically with the werebear Kurt, Dalvar confirmed the stench of fish oil on the air when the boy witnessed the cell of kidnappers ushering Jelenneth into the woods on the night of her abduction.

The New Mire

The families south of Milborne in and around the Patchwork Hills have been washed out of town, as the Cutter Brook has dramatically overflown its banks. This is no flash flood: it was not preceded by heavy rainfall or the bursting of any dams. Over the course of about four months, the locals went from dry grassland fit for flocks of sheep to waist-deep, brackish water. Darius Carman has offered the party 75gp each for two weeks of work, to investigate what he calls "The New Mire;" and a princely sum of 1,500gp divided between them if they can actually resolve the problem. He advises they travel south to the village of Harlaton if they want to learn more. Harry Denfast, a nine year old boy who lives south of Harlaton, reported seeing several "blue-skinned giants" around the headwaters of the Cutter Brook. Harry's "blue-skinned giants" are not giants at all, but blue goblins. The Patchwork Hills are apparently crawling with hyperaggressive, militaristic goblinoids, and the party was nearly overwhelmed by wave after wave of skirmishers on their first night investigating the New Mire. They also encountered a monstrous worg named Singefur, whose pack resides with the goblins but is apparently at odds with them. It is not clear what, if any connection these evil humanoids have with the rising water level in the region.

The Rosestone of Sarenrae

Semheis, the village cleric, believes there is an ancient relic of Sarenrae buried somewhere in the Great Rock Dale. He calls it the Rosestone, but can't specify where exactly in the fifteen mile gorge it can be found. The region is crawling with gnolls, goblinoids and orcs, but if you brave its perils the priest has promised everything from free healing to bargains on curative potions and holy water. At the very least it will require a trek north to locate the relic. At most, the job may call for a stint as hired security while a team of laborers excavates and transports the artifact back to Milborne. Dalvar has reason to believe the stone is not stone at all, but some kind of sentient psicrystal. G'haz-kuhl the orc believes the Rosestone is literally not of this world and very dangerous both for the energy that powers it, untold abilities it may possess, and secrets it might reveal.

Several sources have confirmed G'haz-kuhl's report - the Rosestone is probably either from a different celestial body somewhere in the recesses of space or from a different plane of existence altogether. It is alive and capable of influencing the minds of those near and far while they sleep. The party has had personal experience with this as well as a similar phenomenon when sleeping within Parlfray Keep, where it is believed another alien relic lies burned somewhere deeper in the hill.

Queen of the Mire

There is a mysterious entity known only as the Queen of the Mire lurking within Shrieken Mire, east and south of the village of Thurmaster along the Churnett River. Kirkuk of the Blunt Knife clan speaks of her with reverence, speaking of many tribes made up of many races rallying to her banner, but his people were exiled from her court. Grizzler thinks she is probably a dragon of some kind, but recent events suggest something different and far more sinister. If she is not an Aboleth or involved in the kidnappings in any way, perhaps she knows who is.

Orcs in the Thornwood

Jelenneth's captors running there after their dastardly deed is not the only thing that makes the Thornwood an interesting destination for adventurers. While on the hunt for the missing girl, the party was accosted by orc raiders whose shields were emblazoned with a strange tribal marker. Kuiper, an expert on the activity of evil humanoids in the area, did not recognize it. Thunk, however, points out that the orcs' dialect carried a peculiar accent. He posited that they were likely not only strangers to the Thornwood but originally from another region entirely, citing that many orcs live underground. This would corroborate what the party has since learned from speaking with the goblins of the Patchwork Hills and the kobolds in the Thornwood: that someone or something is driving evil creatures from beneath the earth up to the surface. For his part, Thunk does not believe this was a coincidence.

Many more orcs have been slain since the Heroes first encountered the Bloodskulls in the Thornwood. Some are interested in defecting, and follow an orcish priest named G'haz-kuhl. He wants Thunk to challenge the chieftain to single combat for the right to rule the tribe. To that end, he has made multiple overtures of alliance to the party and would like to assist them in their efforts by staging a coup.

Local Wizards

Feruq has done some research on the arcane talent in the area. Vold Sunderhelm is a dwarven wizard of some local repute; his services are retained by the Korvan estate. Victor Korvan, the family partriarch, has a half-elven aunt named Ella. The two do a great deal of work for the family crafting magic items and the like, but it is unlikely one could get an audience with either without Victor's good graces. Vold has offices at the Exchange in Milborne and Ella resides at the Korvan Estate on the road south of Harlaton.

Featherfall

Shenjurath the nixie has informed the party that Shiraz, the third ranger of the Sylvan Circle in Haranshire, spends a great deal of her time at a place called Featherfall in the Thornwood. It is a 300' high pillar of sheer rock jutting from the forest below, nestled in the region where the woods blend with the Patchwork Hills to the west. A wide swath of its western face is marred by a rockslide that, in the light of the setting sun, sparkles with many-hued striations reminiscent of a peacock's tail feathers. It is as impossibly remote a place as one can find in this province's already rugged terrain, which is probably why the lycanthrope likes it so much.

Snagg

Old Grizzler has a nephew. Snagg makes a trip once every year or so from Torag's Pact in the Coldstone Mountains to deliver his uncle, who languishes in exile from his homeland, a cask of Gutbuster ale. By the time Jugg'r arrived in Milborne, however, Snagg was already long overdue, despite the fact that Jugg'r (cousin to both dwarves) left the mountain citadel a full tenday after him and even got lost along the way. Snagg has made the trip many times before and Grizzler is convinced something has happened to him, maybe even something connected to the recent rash of kidnappings in the area. After interrogating one of the bandits squatting in Garlstone Mine, Dalvar learned Snagg was among those taken into the Night Below; Jugg'r had a dream recently indicating Snagg was very much alive, currently held in bondage by the Bloodskull orcs.

Phoenix Guard

Issha, one of the fallen paladin Deventer's old colleagues, arrived in Milborne sometime after the Heroes did. Sher and her brothers and sisters in the Order of the Phoenix had heard he fell at the hands of the bandit Carlanis and had come to retrieve his body. This request was strictly refused on the grounds that Deventer had already been interred in the Hall of Heroes in Milborne; dissatisfied but respecting the area's legal traditions, they departed. Later, the party learned the true purpose of their visit: they were hunting vampires believed to have fled from Quigsby after the Mindwar ended. Kuiper the ranger suggested they investigate the Hardlow Woods, and they have not been seen or heard from since.

"Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag and begin slitting throats." - H.L. Mencken

MinusInnocence
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Synopsis

Welcome to Haranshire

Our story began on the sixth day of Fourmonth. Several fledgling adventurers eager to carve out fame and fortune in the world converged on the Royal City of Blackstar to apply for a job opening: the "Street King" Gordrenn wished for a package of material components to be escorted to a wizard in neighboring Haranshire to the east. Since the end of the Mindwar, troops no longer patrol the roads, which makes things safer for those with mischief in mind but puts simple travelers in grave danger. Even a task as mundane as parcel delivery requires armed guards, and both Gordrenn and Tauster were willing to pay handsomely for the trouble.

Their concerns proved warranted as scant hours after passing the border into Haranshire, the heroes were assailed by a band of brigands on the road, led by a vicious murderer. Deventer the Paladin of the Phoenix Guard gave his life that others may live. A few prisoners were taken, including Carlanis, the ringleader, and the heroes were escorted by two locals on to the town of Milborne. Along the way it was discovered that Carlanis had been paid to kidnap anyone with obvious magical powers or psionic potential and kill the witnesses, though his mysterious employer's motives were unknown. The survivors of the kidnapping attempt were handed over to Garyld, Sheriff in these parts and responsible for detaining prisoners until their trials and executions. Two bandits, little more than boys, were assigned to hard labor on Kuiper's farm, but Carlanis was promptly sentenced to death.

Unfortunately, another piece of the puzzle fell into place as a fishy-smelling oil, jealously guarded by the unscrupulous rogue, was taken from him. A startling transformation was set into motion as, horrifyingly, the man began to look more and more like some kind of fishy slug-person. While Semheis the resident cleric of Sarenrae was either unable or unwilling to treat the condition of such an evil man, he informed Garyld and Capella (the town executioner) that by law his sentence could not be carried out while the illness persisted. Eventually, whatever was causing this ran its course and Carlanis, by then little more than a mindless monster, died in the night. His body was disposed of quietly some distance from town.

After arriving in town, Joswa the warrior left his friends to continue their journey without him. Haranshire was his home and he had been away for far too long, and now that he had returned he felt compelled to check on his uncle and other relatives. However, during their stay at the Baron of Mutton, the party met a ranger named Argus who claimed to have some skill in the wild. He agreed to accompany them at least the rest of the way to meet Tauster. It turns out that Andren, the proprietor's grandson, was actually engaged to wed Tauster's apprentice Jelenneth, and the young man was plied for information before the heroes had to set out in the morning to deliver the old wizard's package. Tragically, some time before dawn on the 8th day of Fourmonth, Jelenneth was abducted from her residence. The town was in an uproar over how this could happen under their very noses and immediately calls for justice rang out.

At this point the new ranger's expertise in tracking proved invaluable and although he could not find a trail in the mud after the previous night's heavy rains, he was confident that if any clues made themselves known, he would be able to find them. Feruq told her parents, Haldelar and Parella, that he would bring her personal effects on the journey to rescue her so that the girl might return home safely dressed in more than a torn nightgown. Ultimately, the party was resolved to find whoever was trying to kidnap wizards, priests and minders; rescue the wizard's apprentice Jelenneth; and put the villains to the sword. To that end, Dalvar made a compelling argument that Tauster, the man they were going to see anyway, was most likely the next target, so they bought horses and continued on their way.

Lured Into Darkness

After agreeing to look for Tauster's apprentice Jelenneth, and fearing that Tauster may be the kidnappers' next target, the party raced to Thurmaster to deliver their package to the old wizard and inform him of all that had transpired. They reached the village at dusk and spent the night there, then in the morning agreed to deliver a letter from Tauster to the ranger Garyld, requesting the young tracker's aid in finding the missing girl.

Riding back west the party found Kuiper at his farm and learned that he actually had a lead: his neighbor, Krynen, had spotted Jelenneth walking near the Hog Brook with an armed escort. He did not rule out investigating the Shrieken Mire later, as Dalvar intended, but advised that the best place to start looking for her was the last place she had been seen. The party forded the river and entered the Thornwood, spending the night in the dark forest. On the morning of the 10th, they were accosted by orcs who Kuiper, though he made it his business to keep track of the activities of all evil humanoids in the region, did not recognize. Their shields were emblazoned with a strange marker and they called themselves "the Bloodskulls." Thunk theorized that if they were from somewhere else, their dialect suggested that they could originally come from deep beneath the earth.

Indeed, Kuiper searched the area and uncovered a recently opened rift in the ground that had since collapsed again, killing several more orcs with the same tribal markings. Moving on, the party eventually followed the kidnappers' trail as far as they could, where the Hog Brook terminated in a shallow pond called the Reflecting Pool. There they met Oleanne, who the locals call the "Wild Woman of the Woods." Neither she nor her lupine companions had seen the villains the party hunted, nor the missing girl Jelenneth; but she did inform them that for some time there had been increased activity deep within the Thornwood to the south.

Oleanne suspected that whatever they were up to in that region, there must be some kind of base of operations nearby. Argus agreed that anyone living in such a remote locale must venture into town at some point to purchase provisions, and since the trail had gone cold the party had little choice but to turn around and head back home. Oleanne did instruct them that the area had experienced several tremors recently and that as a result, many caves and subterranean passageways had opened up to the surface. Few of these seemed like good choices for anyone hoping to elude capture but one in particular was not far off the beaten path on the heroes' way back home anyway, so they decided to check it out.

The following day, they came to the place Oleanne described and discovered it had been occupied by a tribe of kobolds. After a fierce battle, a prisoner named Kirkuk explained that the Blunt Knives were busy at work not only excavating the tunnels that had led them to the surface and then stranded them there after another quake, but also fortifying the hill above the mouth of the cave against future interlopers. These renovations were not complete by the time the party arrived to investigate. The entire situation was a misunderstanding, as the kobolds clearly had nothing to do with Jelenneth's disappearance, but Kirkuk did agree to tell his kin to keep an eye out for the kidnappers if they came back to the area. In return, Dalvar promised to take some of what he called far'ja mushroom caps back to the civilized world and see if he could market them and other strange trade goods from the "Night Below."

Of greater interest to the party, however, was Kirkuk's explanation of where the kobolds came from in the first place. He said that far to the east, an entity called the Queen of the Mire holds court, ruling over tribes of many different races. Recently politics in the Queen's court favored aggression against the surface people in Haranshire, and anyone who expressed reservations about this policy were killed or driven out. The Blunt Knives wanted no part of war against the humans and sought only to return to the Queen's favor. This reinforced Dalvar's suspicions that this person or thing might in fact be the culprit for the recent kidnapping attempts.

Eventually, the party returned to Milborne to tell Garyld what had transpired in the Thornwood. Along the way they picked up another traveler, a dwarf named Jugg'r Shieldcrusher. He claimed to be in Haranshire on family business but after hearing about Jelenneth's plight agreed to accompany the others on their quest to find her. When they all got back to town, several new business opportunities opened up as well as a few new leads. The townspeople had scraped together a sum of 500 gold pieces for the safe return or recovery of her remains, and Mayor Carman agreed to match that sum.

Further, the party could earn up to 1,500 gold for solving the riddle of the New Mire, where south of Milborne countless farmers had been driven off their land by rising floodwaters with no apparent source. Semheis the cleric offered free healing and potions, scrolls and holy water at-cost if the party could assist him in locating and recovering an artifact called the Rosestone, which he believed to be located somewhere in the Great Rock Dale.

Jelenneth's parents informed Feruq over dinner that while temple records could probably elaborate on the subject, they could confirm that the Parlfray clan had not always resided in the Halfcut Hills on Howler's Moor. The family had once maintained a fortified estate somewhere deep within the Thornwood, but some calamity forced them to relocate. Then-Count Elman Parlfray issued an edict declaring it illegal to even mention that sequence of events, punishable by fines, flogging and even incarceration.

Grizzler explained to the heroes that Garlstone Mine, where many local laborers once earned their wage, had been shut down some years ago due to some legal dispute. But it was spacious inside and the old dwarf even had a map of the place, insisting that if any ne'er-do-wells were lurking about Haranshire, it would be a great place to hide from the law while they plan their mischief. He also confided that his nephew, Snagg, was expected from the citadel of Torag's Pact and long overdue. In fact, Jugg'r was dispatched almost a tenday after Snagg with a cask of Gutbuster ale, a "treasure" the toothless dwarf forgot to bring with him when he set out for his uncle's. Jugg even got lost along the way to Milborne and still beat his cousin there, so something was definitely amiss. Grizzler assumed the worst: that his nephew had run afoul of the same ruffians who have been targeting travelers and locals alike for kidnapping.

In the morning, Grizzler delivered his map of Garlstone Mine as promised and gave Dalvar his best guess for what was going on here: Aboleth. The "slug kings" of the Underdark are born minders and capable of warping the minds and the bodies of their servitors, transforming hapless victims into savage skum. The retired miner was convinced this is what happened to the rogue Carlanis, and conceded that the fabled Queen of the Mire may not in fact be some variety of wyrm as all the locals always assumed but in fact an Aboleth, as Dalvar assumed. The wizard believed Kirkuk's story about his own tribe's struggles lent credence to this theory, as only a towering intellect with significant power could rally so many different kinds of servants who clearly do not get along under one banner.

After meeting with Mayor Carman and being told in no uncertain terms that they might even face legal retribution for trespassing, the party geared up and decided to ride north into the Blanryde Hills for Garlstone Mine anyway. It was far removed from the Thornwood but "Eyepatch," the quasi-mythical figure responsible for Carlanis' attack on the heroes, was supposed to have dispatched multiple cells of bandits to do his dirty work across Haranshire. The party also had another motivation: armed with a sinking suspicion that Mayor Carman was hiding something about that place, they sought whatever evidence they could find that might implicate him in this community's recent troubles.

Evil Below the Mines

On 4.13.412, the party rode north to Garlstone Mine. They found the place easily enough with some directions from miners in the area, but quickly fell into a goblin ambush. A survivor, Grubu, explained that he thought the heroes were different harmanz: surface folk he calls strangers to the area had recently taken up residence inside the mines and had massacred many of his tribe. The goblins that fell upon our protagonists were only a scouting party, returning too late to save their kin. They elected to burn the bodies to confuse and lure the bandits out of the cave, but the party showed up first. Grubu offered whatever treasure his dead friends had that he could not carry himself in exchange for the chance to spill the blood of those who destroyed his clan. Moving inside the party was assailed by wave after wave of vicious bandits. These were less stealthy and more militant than the ones who attacked them on the forest road coming into Haranshire several days prior.

Driven out of fear or desperation to prevent the heroes from uncovering the Mine's secrets, the goons at least succeeded in preventing them from catching up to the ringleaders before they could make their escape. The lowest levels of the mine concealed a tunnel leading to parts unknown but which had been sealed behind the villains as they fled. They did uncover one clue, however: a still-twitching, rotten arm of some Undead creature protruded from the pile of rubble in the collapsed tunnel, revealing their quarry possessed some skill in necromancy. The party also learned from a prisoner, however, that Grizzler's nephew Snagg was indeed taken by these hooligans, but that Jelenneth's captors operate in a different cell. It was not immediately clear if either cell was aware of Carlanis' cell at the border with Blackstar but that made a great deal of sense: limiting the information any one person or group of people could give to captors.

When they left the mines, however, they discovered an armed escort waiting for them. Count Parlfray had been informed of their trespassing and had dispatched several of his personal retinue, including Captain Greyholme. In diplomatic tones and with plenty of evidence inside the mines to corroborate their story, the heroes diverted the Captain's attention away from themselves and back onto Mayor Carman. He left, presumably to return to his Count, to inform him of the mayor's willingness to requisition resources from the noble's house for his own personal vendetta.

The next morning, the party was introduced to one Detective Bindleson Hegensur, a halfling from Bralkast who traveled to Haranshire when he heard the rumors of trouble brewing within its borders. He attached himself to their party to aid in their investigation into recent goings-on, particularly interested in finding Jelenneth and returning her to her family. Together, the eight of them went up the hill to speak with Mayor Carman, determined to bring his shenanigans to light and confront him about his potential involvement in all of this.

Unfortunately, their suspicions were misplaced. Carman was not trying to conceal anything untoward, but rather trying to buy time while he investigated something on his own. During their absence, the mayor uncovered evidence in his father's records that implicate the previous owners of the mine in trying to cover up the wrongful deaths of several workers hailing from Quigsby. His father, the late Bernard Hoffman and a gnome named Biddlegapp Sprocket colluded to hide the truth from the community, closing Garlstone Mine instead. The worst part of it all was that Albrecht Hoffman, Bernard's son, was the one ultimately responsible for the deaths, and to this day has spent much of his own money to reinvest in the community and try to absolve himself of past transgressions.

It was at this time that the party learned of the arrival of several mercenaries, both individuals heeding Carman's call for sellswords and groups of people looking for a new home. Chief among these was the Firespear tribe hailing from the Wild Plains far to the south. Apparently their clan and the Carman family had struck some kind of business arrangement in ages past and they had come to cash in their chips. Mayor Carman offered them residence in Milborne while they tried to acquaint themselves with their new neighbors.

Carman also disclosed to the party that his own wife and two children had accompanied the last group of refugees to flee the rising waters of the New Mire west to Blackstar. They had been attacked on the road some time after the heroes left to investigate Garlstone Mine, likely quite close to where the party was waylaid by Carlanis; there were no survivors. Deciding that the New Mire was probably their best remaining lead, the party gathered their things and prepared for the ride south to Harlaton.

Investigating the New Mire

On the 15th day of Fourmonth, the party rode south to Harlaton to pay a visit to their friends Balford and Bill. Their road would eventually take them further south past the Terraces into the Patchwork Hills and finally to the shores of the New Mire, where they hoped to uncover its origins and try to halt or even reverse its effects. After Jugg and Thunk shared a rousing game of horseshoes, they followed a lead about "blue-skinned giants" from a young boy named Harry Denfast.

What the heroes found was quite different, however. Goblins; some of whom were led by minders (who, indeed, had blue skin); roamed the Hills with impunity, attacking the heroes several times during their first night in the area. Eventually, they fought their way back out and north to Harry's uncle's farm in the Terraces, but not before encountering a pack of worgs led by a ferocious beast who called herself Singefur. By way of metaphor, she implied some kind of pact with the goblinoids that restricted her ability to strike against them, but that she might be willing to help if they were left crippled and defenseless. But it was unclear how trustworthy the creature really is since she mentioned this as she watched a blue goblin's lifeblood seep into the earth, clearly the one responsible for his mortal injury.

Returning to the Denfast home, the party had time to lick their wounds and plan their next move. Ultimately, warning the people of Milborne about the goblin activity right on their doorstep was a priority, but returning to deal with the evil humanoids personally was less so, since Dalvar remained convinced the incident of the New Mire was only tangentially related at best to Jelenneth's disappearance. He also speculated that in a rural community with a suspiciously high percentage of the population possessing some kind of arcane talent, he may be the only spellcaster about which the Aboleth, or whatever it is, lacks detailed intelligence.

Under the Sea

Garyld had a letter for the heroes when they returned to Milborne from Shiraz, the third ranger of the Sylvan Circle. She spent a great deal of her time at a place called the Eelhold in the Blanryde Hills, near Garlstone Mine, and indicated that is where the party should go if they wanted to meet with her. Because she is friendly with the birds who call Haranshire home, Shiraz seemed the most likely to catch wind of evildoers skulking about overland, so her friendship would be invaluable. The party rode north. When they arrived, however, Shiraz was revealed not only to be a ranger but a wereeagle. She routinely flew to and fro across the land, suffering both from wanderlust and claustrophobia. But she agreed to introduce the party to the nixie Shenjurath, who was responsible for security at the Eelhold: a water elemental was indeed bound there, just as Grizzler had warned them, and in recent days it had become increasingly belligerent.

She sought either some kind of arcane focus in the form of a magic item attuned to the Plane of Water or for a band of strong, brave adventurers to plumb the depths of the lake and venture over to "the other side." There, they would be tasked with performing a ritual to seal the Gate opened centuries ago and drawing the elemental back to its plane of origin. There was fierce debate over how to handle this new dilemma. The first option sounded a lot like something the party could handle if they had succeeded in the New Mire and found the source of the flooding. But while an adventure in the Elemental Plane of Water sounded terribly dangerous (and it was), Argus delivered a stirring speech about how he was tired of running from place to place, always coming up short, when here the Heroes of Haranshire had a situation where it was all laid out on the table for them and all they had to do was reach out and grab the opportunity.

Although it was unclear what, if any connection this phenomenon had to do with the kidnapped girl, the party reluctantly accepted the task. Venturing into the Plane of Water, they found themselves in some kind of temple with architectural elements similar to those of the dam and observation tower at the Eelhold. Apparently its engineers had fortified the other side of the Gate to prevent flora and fauna from interfering with the magic involved. But in the centuries since that time the temple had instead become home to all sorts of dangerous aquatic monsters, and the party barely escaped with their lives after performing the ritual, swimming back through the Gate and trapping the water elemental, and navigating through an underwater labyrinth back up to the surface.

Shenjurath was elated to see them alive and successful in their task, and rewarded them handsomely with whatever treasure remained from what she had collected over the centuries. Unfortunately, the bulk of it she kept hidden in an underwater cave, and during the completion of the ritual the elemental's rage shook the earth, dislodging a large boulder and sealing the tunnel. Perhaps some day the Heroes can return and remove the boulder, but for now the nixie's gold lies frustratingly just beyond their reach.

"Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag and begin slitting throats." - H.L. Mencken

MinusInnocence
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Traits by Region

General

Killer Instinct: Norgorber smiles on you. You gain a +1 trait bonus on critical confirmation rolls.

Child of the Temple: You spent your formative years with your nose in a book, committing the noble bloodlines and coats of arms to memory and studying the works of all the great philosophers. You gain a +1 trait bonus to Knowledge (nobility) and (religion) checks and one of these is always a class skill for you.

Great Communicator: It isn’t necessarily true that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar, but you were raised to be polite and listen carefully, and this has opened many doors for you that a closed fist could not. You gain a +1 trait bonus on Diplomacy checks and it is always a class skill for you.

Sacred Conduit: You were born under a favorable sign on an auspicious day. When you channel energy, you gain a +1 trait bonus to the save DC.

Gifted Minder: Not all who manifest a wild talent are created equal. Choose three powers. You gain a +1 trait bonus to your manifester level when manifesting these powers.

Hedge Magician: You apprenticed under a wizard and know your way around a laboratory. When crafting magic items, reduce the cost by 5%.

Magical Knack: Innate power comes in many forms. Choose one 0th level spell. You may cast it once per day as a spell-like ability with a caster level equal to your character level. Its save DC is Charisma-based.

Psionic Talent: Psionic potential manifests in individuals in all walks of life. Choose one class. You gain a +2 trait bonus to your manifester level in that class as long as this bonus doesn’t raise your manifester level above your current character level.

Ley-Line Researcher: Your academic career was motivated by the study of the natural world, the energy contained in its geometry and the barriers between this world and the next. You gain a +1 trait bonus to Knowledge (arcana) and (planes) checks and one of these is always a class skill for you.

Natural Leader: When you were a child, one personal triumph stands out as a time when you led a group of your peers to accomplish something none of you could have managed on your own. All cohorts, followers and summoned creatures under your command gain a +1 trait bonus on saves against mind-affecting and fear effects. In addition, you gain a +1 trait bonus to your effective leadership score.

Blackstar

Latent Talent: During the Starfall, meteor showers bombarded the royal capitol. Today, upwards of 10% of those born here manifest psionic potential. You gain a +1 trait bonus on Psicraft checks and it is always a class skill for you. This bonus increases to +2 if you have a power point reserve.

Ear for Music: Though the city teems with refugees, it is still a haven for artists and musicians the world over. You receive a +1 trait bonus on one category of Perform checks and a +2 trait bonus on Knowledge (local) checks pertaining to the local art and music scene.

Lore Seeker: Only Bralkast’s universities can rival the great libraries of Castle Blackstar. You gain a +1 trait bonus on Knowledge (arcana), (psionics) and (religion) checks, and one of these is always a class skill for you.

Riffraff: The kingdom is shattered, and even within the former capitol’s walls the government struggles to maintain order. The streets belong to thieves now. You receive a +1 trait bonus to Bluff and Intimidate checks, and one of these is always a class skill for you.

Adamantine Will: A strange power emanates from the rocks still buried beneath the city streets here after the Starfall, and it fortifies your mind against intrusion. You gain a +2 trait bonus on Will saves against mind-affecting effects.

Haranshire

Patient Negotiator: You have had years of practice placating disgruntled neighbors. You gain a +2 trait bonus to Diplomacy checks to influence unfriendly or hostile creatures, and if you fail in doing so, you can reroll immediately. You must take the second result even if it’s worse.

Town Gossip: You spend a great deal of your free time swapping rumors about your friends and coworkers. As a result, you gain a +1 trait bonus on Diplomacy checks to gather information and Knowledge (local) checks. One of these is always a class skill for you.

Militia Veteran: Before a life of adventure, you served with your friends and family in the defense of Milborne or Thurmaster. Choose one: Profession (soldier), Ride or Survival. You gain a +1 trait bonus to all checks with that skill, and it is always a class skill for you.

River Rat: Your first jobs were as a deck hand on the ships and barges moving up and down the Churnett River. You gain a +1 trait bonus on Athletics checks, and it is always a class skill for you.

Freedom Fighter: Your people are plagued by bandits, kidnappers and evil humanoids of all stripes. Whenever you are evading or escaping capture, or helping another do the same, you gain a +1 trait bonus to all attack rolls and skill checks. In addition, Legerdemain is always a class skill for you.

Southspear

Fencer: In Land’s End, a young man or woman without a blade is asking for trouble. You gain a +1 trait bonus on attacks of opportunity made with daggers, rapiers and swords.

Rich Parents: Coming from one of the Five Families has its perks. You start at 1st level with 900gp.

Child of the Streets: Not everyone in Southspear was born with a silver spoon in their mouth. You gain a +1 trait bonus on Legerdemain checks and it is always a class skill for you.

Charming: Most want you. Others want to be you. You gain a +2 trait bonus on all Bluff and Diplomacy checks made against anyone who is (or could be) sexually attracted to you, and one of these is always a class skill for you.

Canter: You grew up among thieves and smugglers and still have a knack for speaking openly about secrets without arousing suspicion. When you use Bluff to relay secret messages or Sense Motive to interpret them, you receive a +5 trait bonus to the roll.

Bralkast

Classically Schooled: In Bralkast, magic is mundane, and being able to navigate the arcane is a cornerstone of the curriculum in state universities there. You gain a +1 trait bonus to Spellcraft checks and it is always a class skill for you.

Focused Mind: Competition has always been fierce for placement in the best schools. Your parents insisted on diligent study to ensure the best future for you. You gain a +2 trait bonus on concentration checks.

Skeptic: Your daily life is saturated with magic, and you have grown accustomed to telling the difference between what is real and what is false. You gain a +2 trait bonus on all saving throws against illusions.

Scholar of the Great Beyond: Your academic interests have always been esoteric. Maybe they haven’t helped much in the job market, but you are highly sought after for conversation at social gatherings. You gain a +1 trait bonus to Knowledge (history) and (planes) checks, and one of these is always a class skill for you.

Magic is Life: Pharasma smiles on you. You gain a +2 trait bonus on all saving throws against death effects while under the effects of any spell. In addition, if you drop below 0hp while under the effects of any spell, you automatically stabilize.

Quigsby

Veteran of Battle: The life of a questing knight is hard. It is even harder to live in a place where knights are necessary when you don’t have the proper training. You gain a +1 trait bonus on Initiative checks, and if you are able to act during a surprise round you may also draw a weapon (but not a potion or any other item) as a free action.

Undead Slayer: All knightly orders of Quigsby swear oaths to Iomedae and Sarenrae to defend the living from the restless dead. You gain a +1 trait bonus to weapon damage rolls against undead creatures.

Divine Warrior: The War Mother smiles on you. When you cast a divine spell that affects weapons, for its duration you gain a +1 trait bonus on your own weapon damage rolls.

Peasant Life: The idyllic landscape of Quigsby was your playground as a youth. Choose one: Athletics, Handle Animal or Ride. You gain a +1 trait bonus on checks with that skill and it is always a class skill for you.

Armor Expert: Either as part of your training as a knight’s squire or because you wanted to emulate a hero, you spent your formative years dressing up in homemade armor and have acclimated to its bulk. When wearing armor, reduce the armor check penalty by 1, to a minimum of 0.

Dunhaven

Highlander: Away from the walled communities and mining camps, knowing how to evade dwarven interlopers, brigands and predators is an essential survival skill. You gain a +1 trait bonus on Stealth checks, which increases to +2 in hilly or mountainous terrain. Stealth is always a class skill for you.

Poverty-Stricken: The Mindwar and the perpetual conflict in the years since have made for a hardscrabble existence in Dunhaven. You gain a +1 trait bonus on Survival checks and it is always a class skill for you.

Resilient: The foothills of the Coldstones are an unforgiving place to grow up, and the experience toughened you. You gain a +1 trait bonus to all Fortitude saves.

Reactionary: You lost more than one friend growing up in the badlands, where an unexpected encounter could turn deadly in the blink of an eye. You gain a +2 trait bonus on initiative checks.

Mind over Matter: Years of grueling labor have taught you how to ignore physical strain and let your mind wander to another place when your body wants to surrender. Choose one Strength- or Constitution-based skill. You can apply your Wisdom modifier instead of Strength or Constitution when making checks with that skill.

Northreach

History of Heresy: The Church of Asmodeus brooks no dissent. You learned early on to keep your opinions to yourself, for the sake of your own life and the lives of your family, and this has jaded you toward religious institutions and matters of faith in general. As long as you do not have a level in a divine spellcasting class, you gain a +1 trait bonus on all saving throws against divine spells.

Demon Hunter: Unsurprisingly, when the government is in league with devils, demons come out of the woodwork to harass them and tear down their hard work. You gain a +3 trait bonus on Knowledge (planes) checks about demons and a +2 trait bonus on Will saves against their mind-affecting spells and spell-like abilities.

Brute: Your time in The Pits has hardened you and taught you how to work a crowd. Others can sense something unpleasant about you. You gain a +1 trait bonus on Intimidate checks and it is always a class skill for you.

Blooded: Life on the streets or in the gladiator arena is nasty, brutish and short. After confirming a critical hit, roll damage as normal and multiply it. Then add your weapon’s crit modifier as a trait bonus to the final result.

Indomitable Faith: You grew up in a region where your faith was unpopular, and in recent years has even been outlawed. Commitment to your beliefs means a daily risking of your life. You gain a +1 trait bonus to Will saves.

Coldstone Mountains

Goldsniffer: There are untold riches under the mountains. Your family’s livelihood depends on knowing the difference between quality mineral and slag. You gain a +3 trait bonus on Appraise checks related to metal ore or finished metal products. Appraise is always a class skill for you.

Tunnel Fighter: Caves and tunnels are a second home to you. While underground, you gain a +2 trait bonus to initiative checks and to critical hit weapon damage.

Guardian of the Forge: Torag reminds his faithful that security requires learning from the past as well as fortifying against an uncertain future. You gain a +1 trait bonus to Knowledge (engineering) and (history) checks. One is always a class skill for you.

Suspicious: You would never call someone a liar to his face unless you were ready for a fight to the death. But you tend to be skeptical of others. You gain a +1 trait bonus to Sense Motive checks and it is always a class skill for you.

City Living: The hustle and bustle of daily life in a metropolis can be distracting. You have honed your senses to pick up on things others might miss in the tumult. You gain a +1 trait bonus on Perception checks and it is always a class skill for you.

Grayleaf Forest

Naturalist: “The People,” as you call yourselves, lead a mostly nomadic existence under the boughs of the forest. If you don’t hunt, you don’t eat. You gain a +1 trait bonus on Survival checks and it is always a class skill for you.

Starchild: Desna smiles on you. You always know which way is north, and you gain a +4 trait bonus to Survival checks to avoid becoming lost.

Tree Runner: Footing in the forest, whether high in the branches or in the undergrowth, can be treacherous. You gain a +1 trait bonus to Acrobatics checks and a +1 trait bonus to your CMD against trip attempts.

Outdoorsman: Exposure to the elements is a daily occurrence for the elves of Grayleaf Forest. You gain a +1 trait bonus to Fortitude saves.

Warrior of Old: You trained with sword and bow for decades longer than your traveling companions have been alive. You gain a +2 trait bonus on initiative checks.

Red Hills

Animal Friend: Being around wild things puts you at ease. You gain a +1 trait bonus on Will saves when an animal (at least Tiny size and at least indifferent toward you) is within 30’. Handle Animal is always a class skill for you.

Feyblood: Your ancestors mingled with those on “the other side,” and with a touch, you can impart some of the lifeforce that flows through your veins. As a standard action, you can touch a dying creature to stabilize it automatically.

Failed Apprentice: Magic isn’t for everyone. Your parents were disappointed, but while you may have abandoned your apprenticeship, you still picked up a few tricks. As long as you don’t have a level in any arcane spellcasting class, you gain a +1 trait bonus on saving throws against arcane spells.

Dangerously Curious: Your interest in the unexplained has nearly cost you your life on several occasions, but it led to your life of adventure today. You gain a +1 trait bonus on Use Implement checks and it is always a class skill for you.

Birthmark: Your people have always had a strange connection to other worlds. You have a birthmark that looks very much like the holy symbol of your patron deity. It can serve you as such, and you also gain a +2 trait bonus on saves against charm and compulsion effects.

Vast Marsh

World Traveler: A life on the open roads and rivers of the world suits your people, universally afflicted with wanderlust. Choose one: Diplomacy, Knowledge (local) or Sense Motive. You gain a +1 trait bonus with that skill and it is always a class skill for you.

Rapscallion: Moving from place to place usually means, sooner or later, a life outside the law. You gain a +1 trait bonus to Legerdemain skill checks and initiative checks.

Vagabond Child: You learned to thrive in a sometimes hostile urban environment. You gain a +1 trait bonus to Disable Device and Legerdemain skill checks and one of these is always a class skill for you.

Dirty Fighter: Fighting fair doesn’t make much sense when everyone else is twice your size. When flanking, you gain a +1 trait bonus on damage rolls.

Fast Talker: Getting caught red-handed isn’t the end of the story for the silver-tongued. You gain a +1 trait bonus on Bluff checks and it is always a class skill for you.

Deft Dodger: Your senses are sharpened by a life on your own. You gain a +1 trait bonus on Reflex saves.

Outlands

Desert Child: Some say those native to the Ocean of Fire have the blood of efreet in their veins. You receive a +4 trait bonus on Fortitude saves to resist the effects of high temperatures. Once per day, if failing such a save would give you the fatigued condition, you may reroll immediately but must take the second result even if it’s worse.

Animist: Your faith in nature spirits or deities inspires you to learn more about the natural world. You gain a +1 trait bonus on Knowledge (geography) and (nature) checks and one of these is always a class skill for you.

Child of Nature: You are at home in the wild. You gain a +2 trait bonus on Survival checks to find food or water and a +1 trait bonus on Knowledge (nature) checks. One of these is always a class skill for you.

Scholar of Ruins: Those who came before left many signs of their passing, and these have always fascinated you. You receive a +1 trait bonus to Knowledge (dungeoneering) and (history) checks, and one of these is always a class skill for you.

Strange Lineage: The bloodlines of the tribes of the Wild Plains guard a well-kept secret. Choose a spell, power or the kineticist's metakinesis class feature. When applying metamagic feats to this spell, the effective level of the spell is increased by one less, to a minimum of one. When applying metapsionic feats to this power, the power point cost is increased by one less, to a minimum of one. When applying this trait to metakinesis, the burn cost is one less, to a minimum of zero. 

Contested Territories

Courageous: The Mindwar and what followed took its toll on your people, but through it all you remained undaunted. You receive a +2 trait bonus on saves against fear effects.

Bullied: Life in the lawless parts of the world is hard, especially for a child. You receive a +1 trait bonus to attack rolls made during attacks of opportunity using unarmed strikes. In addition, when targeted with an unarmed strike during an attack of opportunity, you receive a +1 trait bonus to Armor Class.

Caretaker: As a child in a community ravaged by war, you often had to help tend to the sick and wounded. You receive a +1 trait bonus to Heal checks and it is always a class skill for you.

Bully: There are victims and there are survivors. You receive a +1 trait bonus to Intimidate checks and it is always a class skill for you.

Adopted: Many individuals of the Elder Races returned to human lands with the conclusion of the Mind War; almost as many as the orphans left by that war. Choose one: Coldstone Mountains, Grayleaf Forest, Red Hills or Vast Marsh. You may select a trait from that list.

"Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag and begin slitting throats." - H.L. Mencken

MinusInnocence
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Synopsis, Part 2

Evils of Haranshire

The party returned to Milborne where Detective Bindleson Hegensur said his goodbyes. The world outside Blackstar was too big, he said, especially for one as small as he. It pained him to walk away from pursuing Jelenneth's abductors but these past several nights on the road with the Heroes of Haranshire confirmed in his mind and in his heart that a life of adventure was just not for him. Hannel, the young cleric who had accompanied the party since they left that first fateful meeting with Gordrenn in Blackstar and whose life was spared by Deventer the paladin's heroic sacrifice, also said his goodbyes here. He was resolved to rebuild his order, hoping to bring order and justice to this lawless land in a different way; one where competing ideologies and conflicts of interest need not impede the greater good. Almost as soon as they had said their goodbyes, a pair of newcomers accosted them: Long Tom, a loudmouth elf with a swagger and a bow, with his erstwhile companion Fayed (a traveling cleric of Abadar).

Just as soon as these strangers arrived from out of nowhere to offer their services to the Heroes of Haranshire, Argus burst into the Baron of Mutton in a flurry of excitement. His strategy had paid off: watching Rastifer at the general store, the party finally had a lead on the kidnappers' whereabouts. Just the night before, half a dozen strangers arrived under cover of darkness to purchase provisions enough to sustain scores of men. They stowed it in a cart pulled by a single horse and left town, with at least one witness confirming the direction they traveled in (if not their destination). As the party gathered their belongings to make chase, they bumped into several paladins, clerics and the like at the temple of Sarenrae. Deventer's Order, the Phoenix Guard, had arrived to claim his remains and bring them home to Quigsby. This was quite irregular and altogether impossible, as Semheis the cleric had already performed funereal rites and interred the paladin in the Hall of Heroes, where all those who give their lives for the good of Haranshire are laid to rest. He flatly refused to accomodate their demands, but it did not come to blows.

A storm brewed on the horizon as the Heroes made their way east along the Churnett River. At one point, Argus expressed confusion at what he was reading from the tracks: it appeared that their quarry either split up, or some entered the river, or something of the like. He resolved to retrace their steps, sending the rest of the party on ahead in case he was mistaken, and Gideon accompanied him. The pair unfortunately found themselves atop a hill at exactly the moment the storm broke overhead, with a bolt of lightning coming down right through Gideon's body. Argus managed to rescuscitate him with not a moment to spare, but he was helpless to think of what to do next: thankfully, morning came and with it, salvation. Issha of the Order of the Phoenix led her brothers- and sisters-in-arms that way at Hannel's behest and their curative magic brought the spellsword back from Death's Door.

Meanwhile, the rest of the party witnessed another bolt of lightning strike a passing barge on the river, promptly leading it to run aground. They rescued a woman after racing aboard, but she was alone and could not account for the whereabouts of the others who had made the journey with her. Cattea was her name and she claimed to be a mercenary in the employ of the merchant who owned the vessel. Once the worst of the weather passed over, the Heroes resolved to lead the watercraft the rest of the way to Kuiper's farm and hope to rendezvous with Argus and Gideon there. They did the right thing, as Issha & Co. arrived soon after with their stranded companions.

The assembled crusaders and do-gooders shared stories, sang songs, and generally had a rip-roaring party. Kuiper regaled everyone of a local legend pertaining to those waylaid on the river during a thunderstorm at night; sometimes they disappeared without a trace, but stranger still once in a blue moon one of them came back. He or she was never quite the same, though, and often struggled with strained relationships with friends, family and colleagues. Issha, meanwhile, explained what their presence in Haranshire meant: they believed one of the nobles who fled her home in Quigsby after the Mindwar ended succumbed to a vampire's predation, and is now a vampire herself. Issha and her comrades have tracked the creature here and Kuiper advised her to begin their investigation in and around Hardlow Woods.

The ranger left the best for last, waiting until everyone had either passed out drunk or retired for the evening. His neighbor, Krynen, had a son named Kurt. Kurt, it turns out, is a werebear, and Kuiper had reason to believe the boy had recently undergone his First Change. He had been missing for a day or more and it was assumed he was somewhere in the Thornwood, ideally having the presence of mind to remain close to the Hog Brook. He requested the party's assistance in tracking the boy down. In the morning, as they were preparing to leave Long Tom and Fayed told the party they would be accompanying Issha and the rest of the Phoenix Guard, believing their quest to be more pressing (and more fun). Everyone said their goodbyes and ventured under the boughs of the Thornwood for a second time.

Seralis, a half-elf the Heroes had met the night before at Kuiper's, committed to joining them at least as long as it took to recover Kurt and bring him safely home. After several hours on the trail, the party sighted a band of orcs; Bloodskulls, by their insignia, but not apparently hostile. Thunk treated with them as the party's diplomat (nominated mostly because he was the only one who spoke the language), and after performing several feats of strength and courage, convinced the orcs he was qualified to challenge their chieftain to single combat for the right to rule the tribe. The oracle leading this warband, G'haz-kûhl, confided in Thunk he sought just such an opportunity to stage a coup, claiming the tribe had been corrupted by the wiles of sinister beings from the Night Below. He confirmed the party's suspicion that the kidnappers they hunted had made their base of operations the ruined, abandoned keep formerly maintained by the Parlfray clan, and made a pact with Dalvar to the effect that he would endeavor to use poison to weaken or kill outright anyone who stood against them at the keep when the Heroes made their assault. He needed help to do it, though, and to that end Dalvar enlisted Kuiper's aid in retrieving the necessary ingredients.

Kuiper resolved to remain behind after the party said their goodbyes to the Bloodskulls, claiming a nearby pit trap was a hazard he could not risk Kurt harming himself in. Gideon and Seralis agreed to stay behind with him while the others continued on the trail to the Hog Brook. When they arrived it was after nightfall and they decided to stop until morning to replenish their strength, which proved to be fruitful: an entire platoon of orcs sought to waylay the druid there, arriving just in time to discover they were horribly outmatched. After dispatching their foes, Oleanne informed them Shiraz and the rest of the Sylvan Circles would be convening there at the Reflecting Pool soon to decide what to do about the growing orcish threat and what the tribe's alliance with the kidnappers could mean. Cattea resolved to stay with Oleanne and learn what she could of the druidic arts, not quite cut out for the rough and tumble life of adventure (though it was unclear why she thought remaining with the steward of such a deadly, ancient forest was any safer).

That night, the party had strange dreams. They discussed them at length but did not learn more about what they portented until finding Kuiper, having been left for dead by the blackheart Gideon. He had murdered Seralis in cold blood and tried to do the same to Kuiper, kicking him into the pit trap. Just as he was getting back onto his feet, Kurt emerged from the brush, suffering from exposure and weak with hunger. He had had a very trying First Change, indeed, but was also enthusiastic about what this could mean for the future (and his eventual membership in the Circle). The party, with Kurt's aid, filled in the pit and buried Seralis at the same time. They then escorted Kuiper back to his farm, where he learned Gideon's treachery ran further than anyone might have guessed: he set fire to the ferry, the barge Cattea had been rescued from and the barn, after murdering one of Kuiper's own ranch hands. Adding insult to injury, he then fled with the party's horses and Dalvar's mule.

He rode east, by all accounts, so that is where the party went. They said goodbye to Kuiper after making an accord to establish a letter of credit in exchange for the loot from the dead orcs, as well as receiving a gift from the farmer Krynen for returning his boy safe and sound: a magic ring that once belonged to his own mother, herself a werebear and something of a folk hero from the Mindwar. When they last saw Kuiper, he was heading into the woods to retrieve the cached arms and armor at the Reflecting Pool; but not before he swore that in five days' time, he would journey north to the Rosestone and swear a blood oath on Gideon's head. The party eventually made camp in the Redwood along the Churnett River, and on the way they met Jelenneth's parents who were just returning from visiting Tauster in Thurmaster, as well as Garyld, who was traveling from Milborne to Thurmaster himself in order to obtain the last of the ingredients for G'haz-kûhl's poison. They were attacked in the middle of the night by a rabid dog, and in the morning Argus was visited by a horse that clearly belonged to someone who must be looking for him. The steed appeared loyal to the ranger, though they had never met; proof his bond with Nature was strengthening even as his resolve to defend it against all foes did the same.

After inspecting the horse, who Argus named Puck, Feruq insisted his friends try to retrace its steps and find out what happened to it and what it was doing out here. He believed it had been attacked by rats, which may or may not explain the dog's condition as well. Fearing an epidemic in an area that boasted both a large feral dog population as well as several resident loggers, the Heroes ventured into the woods and came upon a tragic scene: an abandoned caravan, its members having lost their lives either when their wagon crashed or from swarms of rats. The party hatched a plan to destroy the vermin with minimal risk to themselves and it proved successful. After recovering some loot (as well as some of Tauster's missing mail), they pressed on to Thurmaster and were nearly stuck there due to inclement weather.

After speaking with Squire Marlen about Kuiper's letter of credit as well as what Gideon did, the elderly seneschal agreed to speak to the Count about placing a bounty on the villain's head, as well as those of any of his companions. They then visited Tauster, who was relieved to receive his lost correspondence from Gordrenn (which he claimed boasted a promising lead about a possible resolution to the riddle of the New Mire) but less than pleased to hear about the impending storm, which Argus and Garyld (who was present for the meeting) agreed would likely produce a tornado. Meanwhile, Jugg and Thunk hit up the Hound & Tails where word around town was that Gideon had murdered three bar patrons just a day or two earlier before skipping town. They challenged some of the locals to a drinking competition, which Jugg won handily.

Garyld and Tauster explained they would be teleporting to the Reflecting Pool to visit Oleanne and expedite the process of delivering the poison for the Bloodskulls. Squire Marlen agreed to escort as many of the townsfolk as wanted to evacuate to Count Parlfray's keep, a mere dozen miles or so to the northeast. Everyone who wanted to travel upriver instead were welcome to do so, but the quality of the road was treacherous, given all the recent bad weather, and there was a very real possibility of flooding along the riverbank. The party encountered a stranger, apparently a homeless person (not unlike themselves), who called himself Raphael. After insulting Jugg's beard, the dwarf and half-orc accosted him but failed to meaningfully harm him. He accompanied Dalvar & Co. along the way back up north, which they believed was their best bet as to where Gideon had gone with his new companions (all of whom Dalvar saw in Kurt's mind when he read the boy's memories using telepathy) and even helped treat Puck for exhaustion along the way. The Heroes of Haranshire (and Raphael) made camp just far enough away that they could rapidly make their escape if the weather to the south advanced north, but close enough that they could rest their weary heads after twelve hours on the road.

Gideon's Justice

Jugg and Thunk's watch during the night was occupied with a spectacle of Nature's full fury, as the tornado Argus and Garyld knew was barreling toward Thurmaster wiped the hamlet from the face of the map. It was truly humbling and, despite the inherent destruction and disruption to local daily life, was still a welcome reprieve from all that troubled their hearts and minds. In the morning, some brief experimentation with the pouch of magic dust Jugg won from his drinking competition at the now-destroyed Hound and Tails revealed it to be... well, Dalvar didn't tell Jugg or anyone else what he discovered. But shortly thereafter, a conversation about the relative merits of a cup of coffee almost turned to blows when Jugg thought Dalvar questioned his family's honor without cause and Dalvar couldn't help but voice his objection to an obvious (to him) dereliction of duty on the dwarf's part, enticing Thunk to partake in booze and revelry such that he was literally unable to speak until the morning after.

Eventually, the conversation returned to the task at hand - tracking Gideon and his new colleagues as well as could be managed after several days of violent weather. The party deliberated about the best course of action and thus began a trek across the untamed expanse north and east of what used to be Thurmaster, spanning the distance between the Redwood where Argus bonded with the horse Puck and the seat of power for this realm: Parlfray Keep, nestled in the Halfcut Hills, home to Count Parlfray and his son Lyntern. Over the course of the next two days, they followed this or that set of tracks north, west, east and every direction in-between. The confusion was exacerbated in no small part by two different parties of mounted riders traversing the terrain immediately before and after the recent rainfall. Lacking any more specific information about their quarry, Argus was left to his own devices to make a guess, essentially, and even if he had guessed correctly he and his companions were on foot and their quarry had fresh horses before every morning's ride.

It was not until late evening on the 27th day of the fourth month that the Heroes of Haranshire reached the foothills where they believed Gideon and the murderous band of rogues he now called friends had sought refuge within Count Parlfray's halls. Another furious storm was on the horizon so they were enthusiastic to see the beginning of a path that presumably led up to the front gate of the Keep. The road, however, was littered with the dead - burned alive as they made their way up the hill, counting at least half of the refugees from Thurmaster. Not everyone opted to travel west along the river toward Kuiper's farm or Milborne, it seemed - some followed Squire Marlen and his guards, Golman and Reven, to seek hospitality from the elderly count. Having observed this obvious indication something was horribly wrong inside the stronghold, Dalvar recalled osmething about this particular structure's construction that might provide a clue about alternate ingress.

Eventually, the wizard and dwarf hatched a plan together to find a network of cave tunnels that the wizard hoped would house the terminus of a ventilation system intended to regulate the Keep's internal temperature during the summer months. If they could find it, climbing up inside it to the basement would be a simple matter, and from there hopefully the Heroes could access the castle's dungeons and cellars to catch whoever might be occupying Parlfray Keep unawares. Although the subterranean route was guarded by monstrous centipedes, this proved fruitful, and even netted the party some treasure along the way. On the morning of Day 28, the party left the confines of the secret passage they found themselves in and accessed the keep's jail. There, tragically, they encountered the late Count Parlfray and his son, Lyntern; now a ghoul and a blind man, respectively. The boy, barely old enough to assume his father's responsibilities, watched as the elder Parlfray succumbed to ghoul fever, rose again, and devoured Squire Marlen inside his cell. In his grief and horror, Lyntern gouged out his own eyes. Based on their combined testimony, Gideon and his companions seized control of the Keep at some point in the last two or three days and butchered everyone inside. After some calamity occurred upstairs, the few survivors fled down to the basement and beyond, with Gideon in hot pursuit. Golman, the chubby guard assigned to Squire Marlen's detail, apparently died trying to harry the assassin, but a magic lockpick was found on his person which allowed the party to release Lyntern from custody and escort him to the secret passage they used to access the basement. The now-Undead-former-Count, meanwhile, waited in his cell, hoping to reconvene with the party after they explored upstairs to negotiate his release.

From Beyond The Stars

The party emerged from the basement into the Keeo's wine cellar where Jugg was promptly set upon by a pair of Undead shadows. He was nearly overwhelmed but clung to life, barely, hovering between this world and the next as the rest of the party continued to explore the fortress. Everywhere they saw signs of the Ninth Legion's depradations even while looting the place of all they could find that might help them in their quest; chief among the horrific blights laid upon this place by the cult was the obviously botched summoning of a devil from the Nine Hells. The party managed to treat with it, but only after several tense moments of negotiation interspersed with savage attacks on its part. The garrison, too, was obviously butchered when the cultists seized control of the Keep and subsequently reanimated to serve their new masters' bidding.

The Heroes eventually discerned that the vengeful spirit of one of the cultists, the redheaded woman Gideon traveled with, had haunted the place after her death at Gideon's hands (in his defense, all signs point to him merely trying to protect himself, having objected to serving as a sacrifice to the aforementioned devil). After long hours studying in the library to see if they could find anything about where Gideon went or why the cult came here in the first place, Dalvar and Raphael decided some kind of alien spacecraft lay buried beneath the Keep and that it was inadvisable to remain there overnight, both because of fear of further encounters with horrific aberrations emerging from the depths and because the castle is haunted. Raphael, however, in his hubris determined it would be prudent to attempt to exoercise the spirits who had infused Parlfray Keep with negative energy - by himself.

The rest of the party reclaimed the horses and mules stabled outside and retreated to a nearby hill to rest for the night while The Nose attempted to put the redhead's soul to rest. He failed and died when part of the ceiling collapsed on his head.

"Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag and begin slitting throats." - H.L. Mencken

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