When my descendents tell the tales of ancient days, of their long ago ancestor Arndor, they will say that destiny reached out. They will remember the day that we defeated the Staglord and were confirmed as heroes.
Who is “us”? A brief reminder; it’s been a while, I know.
Bryan is our fearless GM
Marc plays our warrior Stannis, skilled with a bow
Hudson plays Sonja, who fights with savage fury, hewing foes with a great-sword
Paul plays Egg Shen, a monk of unusual disposition from distant eastern lands
Brian plays Ambario, whose mastery of armor cements his bold advances
I play Arndor, a fey-blooded sorcerer (history here)
When our tale left off, I was telling you of that fateful moment of confrontation, when the door fell and we stood mere feet away from the Staglord. His expertise was immediately obvious; before Sonja could regain her balance from hammering down the door, arrows stabbed fletching deep in her muscles—a mere hands-breadth from dropping our fierce warrior. We rushed forward, trying to close and trap the Staglord where we could engage him. He shrugged off a color spray from Arndor and retreated into the heart of his inner complex, firing arrows to dissuade our pursuit.
In the very next room we encountered Valkeri; we moved with reluctance to engage him—and he proved equally reluctant. Ambario reluctantly agreed to let him leave unmolested, if he would abandon the Staglord to our justice. He agreed, so we continued forward, keeping under cover to avoid the punishing arrows from above. We advanced, until Stannis was blindsided by a horrific beast—an owlbear! Fortunately, Arndor was able to hypnotize the beast, which distracted it while we advanced. Ambario and Sonja led the way, braving the attacks and rushing up exposed stairs toward the Staglord. The Staglord’s men interposed themselves and died. Arndor struck at the Staglord with magic missiles, prompting the Staglord to launch his own deadly missiles back at Arndor, but distracting him from the advance of the other heroes.
The Staglord retreated along a narrow wall, interposing his bandit defenders and refusing to engage with Ambario and Sonja. Egg forced his hand by scuttling over the roof and coming from an oblique angle, forcing his retreat into the tower. Egg pursued, but was hammered back by the Staglord’s deadly arrows; he had to bide while reinforcements caught up.
After a lengthy duel that traced across most of the first and second levels of the fort, the Staglord was finally caught between Egg (who went a long way around to come up behind the retreating Staglord), Sonja and Ambario (who pushed the Staglord into a steady retreat), while Stannis and Arndor peppered the mighty bandit leader with arrows. It took a long time, but finally the Staglord’s retreat led him stumbling back into Egg. He fell to fists and swords, and we shouted our victory to the heavens.
The Staglord’s remaining followers took advantage of our lengthy duel with their leader to flee the fort. We began searching the fort thoroughly, but found little treasure. It took two days before Arndor stumbled on a secret door leading from the kitchen down to a dungeon of a kind. Their treasury was here, as was a trapped shapeshifter, who attacked Stannis at the first opportunity. (Perhaps because Stannis had taken the Staglord’s bow as his own, and the prisoner recognized that weapon?)
We stuffed the most valuable goods in our pockets and packs, then gathered up the Staglord’s body to commit to the river at Davek’s crossing. As we left the foul keep, we burned it behind us—we knew how terrible that keep would prove in the hands of foes. It lay too far from Oleg’s to keep reliably as our own outpost. So it burned as we headed north, bearing the fallen Staglord, who we unceremoniously tossed in the river. Avenged, Davek has abandoned haunting the old ferry crossing.
The reception at Oleg’s was joyous. It must have been a week before we could stand, so hard had we celebrated our victory. But danger and adventure called us to action once more; we headed toward the Skunk River, where rumors placed the tazzlewurm. Along the way we encountered a troglodyte and his pet, Sluurg. Sonja impetuously slew Sluurg, but we couldn’t bring ourselves to slay the pitiful troglodyte who owned the beast; Arndor called images from the trees that distracted him until we were out of sight—but not earshot, as we heard him loudly mourn his lost pet.
The Skunk’s sulfurous waters made the next day of travel unpleasant, but we found the tazzlewurm on the beach. Sonja lept the river and engaged; the rest of us had to rush a circuitous route to the ford to aid our impulsive companion, who was shocked when a mate answered the bellows of the first wurm. Fortunately, Stannis was able to help Sonja whittle down her foe, while Egg Shen raced ahead and cut off the second wurm. He couldn’t hold out long alone, but was swiftly joined by Ambario; together they defeated the mate.
That was the last of our foes as merely wandering adventurers… though we did come across a strange unicorn, hornless and lying dead—though otherwise unmarked. We took our trophies from the tazzlewurms and our tale of the Unicorn back to Oleg’s. We caught our breath and prepared for the next disaster.
What came next was no disaster; a message arrived from Brevoy. A message from the Swordlords of Restov praised our deeds and confirmed us as stewards of a new town—a new city. Wealth was pledged, as was help and assistance in establishing our first settlements. A well practiced team of people were sent south to try their luck and join the founding of our outpost. But where to locate it?
We asked those more familiar with the area; Svetlana and Oleg, our friend the priest Jhod, and others for advice. After much debate, we decided that along the Tuskwater made good sense as a location. Over the next month we cursed having burned down the old monastery/castle, though the curse seemed to have burned away at the same time as the support beams.
In short order the fledgling town of Hillsdale, overlooking the Tuskwater, began taking form. The locals pitched in and helped us to establish the lines of our town; houses popped up, along with a mill, the beginnings of a garrison (using much of the old castle’s stone) and more. Oleg turned his attention to running the town’s finances; Arndor got lost in tuning the leylines to power the region’s magic, Ambario heads the council, Sonja’s our general, Egg is keeping an eye on the shady elements, Stannis keeps the bandits down, while Svetlana makes sure that all opinions are heard.
In the last few months, a kernel of order has begun stretching from Hillsdale, back north towards Brevoy. Farmers are turning their attention to the land, while we keep an eye on the lake and rivers and watch our humble town find its feet. It’s growing quickly; mile long walls are being erected as defense against the wilderness, but leaving ample space for the town to develop within the protected area.
Our council meeting on the town green was nearing its end yesterday, when a worn man who has long lived at the forest edge addressed us. The man’s son—a simple boy—has gone missing. His absence was marked by a peculiar cloth, one that Oleg recognized from the bad times 25 years ago. That was a time of war, a time of goblins pushing out of the forest and raiding as they wished.
As Oleg laid out the meaning of this ominous cloth with its simple stitching, we felt the renewed call of adventure. We agreed to help the man track his missing son. Though we are pessimistic, given the time that has passed and the tales of goblin cruelty, we do not give in to despair. We will recover the boy and restore him to his family. And we will return with more certain knowledge of the forest that lies only a double dozen miles from our young town, knowledge of the creatures that dwell within. Our fledgling city seems to lie in the path of marauding goblins. In the morning we set off with our reluctant guide, to find a missing son, and to learn of the storm that we must secure our city against.