The Gathering Storm

The Story So Far

Campaign Progress

Interactive Map

First Act

I. The Board is Set
II. The Pieces Move
III. The Hideous Truth (part 1 & 2)

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The Search for Lilly

Hayden manages to get Linden to confess that he is helping Lilly hide in the woods until the Witch Hunters leave. Zahora realizes that the caves he has recently moved Lilly too are the Spider Caves and are not safe for her. The party ventures forth to find her and relocate her to somewhere safer. The party arrives at the spider caves to find many of the webs damaged and an empty bedroll and burn out fire. They venture further into the caves to discover that one particularly large spider has devoured the rest and cocooned Lilly. Something unnatural has happened to the spider, its eyes glow a strange green/yellow.

After defeating the spider the party cuts a poisoned Lilly free from the webs and nurses her back to health. She thanks the party and explains that she is on the run and hopes to journey to Jedda Tul, far from the reach of the kingsmen. Lilly explains that she was masquerading as a postman, and within her bag Zahora finds a letter form her lover. It explains that he has been captured and is being held prisoner in Jedda Tul. Zahora and Hayden agree to help Lilly flee the country with Linden. Hermatt agrees reluctantly to aid them as well.

The party is concerned over the way the animals have been acting and conclude that the spiders may have been exposed to the mist somehow and that it has a corrupting influence on all it touches.

Return from the Mines
Something has broken free from the depths

Summary: The party returns to New Hope and meets with Russ Hammel. The party decides to inform Russ about the Mist but do not tell the villagers or Matthias Creel. Russ puts the man in a makeshift cell in the back of his stables. The party interrogates the hostage and find that he is a Veldian explore who was hired to explore and discover ancient dwarven artifacts. It appears that he hired two Tieflings to escort him north from Jedda Tul into Valenar. The party divides some items that were found on the bodies of the tieflings, specifically a magical dagger that allows an individual to briefly go invisible called a curfew dagger. Hayden takes the magical cloak one of the tieflings wore which grants +1 resistances. Zahora recognizes on of the longswords as an Elven longsword which allows her to use her dexterity as a bonus to hit rather than strength.

The party is confronted by Matthias and his men, who give an explanation for their actions against Hayden, explaining that they mistook her for Lilly Swevs an abdicate on the run. Hayden was a friend of Lilly at the academy, but does not share this information. The witch hunters congratulate the party on their successful investigation of the mines.

Dressed in Sheep’s Clothing

In the poor lighting, it seems as if the tunnel slopes downward into a great and bottomless abyss. Ropes, tied off on the planks above, run waist high into the inky blackness. Hadyn stoops over and examines the quality of the rigging on either side of the wall. One rope is grey with age and the other is, in comparison, almost new. It looks just slippery and steep enough that it would be folly to climb down without using the ropes assistance.

‘Which side is the most secure?” Zahara asks, slipping Toki into her backpack. Toki makes a small growl of annoyance and nips playfully at the elf’s fingers.

“The right side,” Hadyn motions to the wall far wall.

Hadyn grabs the rope firmly and steps out onto the slope. As she takes his first step, the rope goes taught and then slack as the sharp noise of breaking pots comes from the planks above. Blood and pottery shards seep down from the ceiling, splattering their clothes and equipment. Disgusted, Hadyn tries to wipe the blood from her arms only to find that all it does is smear into long streaks.

‘Pigs blood,’ Zahara calmly states, pulling her finger from her mouth.

Helping Hadyn back onto stable ground, Hermatt curses, ‘well we’ve accounted for the missing livestock then.’

‘The real question then,’ Hadyn states, pausing midsentence to hand water to Zahara, ‘is who took the livestock and set that trap.’

‘And why,’ Zahara adds, washing Toki’s face. Enjoying the attention, Toki eagerly laps up most of the water meant for his face.

Reeking of pig’s blood, Hamett makes his way down the left side of the tunnel, with Hadyn close behind and Zahara bringing up the rear. The room they enter is expansive, with a wooden gate on the far end, and a winding tunnel to the right.

Zahara freezes in her tracks, prompting her companions to take defensive stances.

‘What is it?’ Hadyn whispers unsure if she should shield her light or hold it up to illuminate more. Hermatt shifts his weight uncomfortably.

‘I smell something, but I cannot make it out over the pig’s blood. It is a familiar smell.’’

Slowly Zahara inches forward, sniffing the air.

The sound of padded feet echoes down the tunnel.

The howl of the starving pack, confirms Zahara’s fears.

Down a Broken Path

Summary, Story to Follow Shortly:

Hadyn seeks out Linden, and believes he is acting suspicious. She notes that he has a Kingsmen’s postal uniform drying in his personal chambers. Linden is quick to close the door and to change the topic of discussion to sales.

Hermatt reconciles with Matthias Creel Zahara waits for her letter

The three adventurers meet up in the morning and set out to explore the ruins of Castlegrave. They find a small camp fire that has been doused by the rain. It is impossible to tell how old it is due to the weather of the past few days.

They venture into the mine.

The Horseman

“Russ Hamel is a horse breeder,” Zahara states, “how did he become the Sheriff?”

“It happened about a month ago after you helped him birth his two colts,” the boy makes eye contact with Zahara momentarily, his skin clearly reddening even in the poor visibility of the rainstorm. “I wouldn’t bring it up though, he wasn’t too happy about having this office forced upon him.”

Trudging through the muddy streets, the boy leads them to a small house on the outskirts of town. The house, a single floored building with no more than 3 rooms is dwarfed by the large stables that share the property. The inside of the house is almost Spartan and the boy motions for group to sit down a oak table by the fire.

“I’ll fetch Mr. Hammel, Sheriff Hammel that is, right away,” the boy promises, slipping back into the rain.

The room is bare except for a large bookshelf filled with leather bound books and small desk with quill and paper. The later looks as though it was recently acquired, as unlike the rest of the trappings in the room it is neither worn nor deeply weathered. Hermatt explores the bookshelf, pulling out several leather books to leaf through. They are ledgers filled with rows of dates and names documenting the lineage of horses and their sales going back for over 100 years. The first entry in the oldest book is for the sale of a large number of work horses sold to a dwarf named Kieran.
The door opens slowly and a broad shouldered man enters wearing full raingear and smelling of damp straw. Hanging his poncho on the wall, his face is somber.

“I’m glad the three of you could make it. I’m Russ Hammel, the new sheriff elect.”

The man takes a moment to look over his three quests before muttering something to the boy that sends him scurrying to the kitchen.

He looks to Hermatt and Hadyn before continuing, “I had received word that the King would send officials to investigate. I was beginning to worry that Matthias and his witch hunters had been sent in your stead.”

Russ nods politely to Zahara before addressing her in a welcoming tone, “I know I still owe you from when you helped me birth the coals, but things have gotten so bad I didn’t know what else to do. It all started when the miners found something in the tunnels beneath the ruins. This has been a mining town since before Castlegrave was built, and it is where the gravestone was quarried to make the castle in the first place. But they found something down there; everything was hush-hush, except for a few of the lads who talking down at the Inn. They’ve disappeared now.”

Russ Hammel absent mindedly takes one of the warm mugs the boy has returned with. “Next thing you know,” he continues, “miners started disappearing, travelers started being assaulted, and live stock began to disappear. No miners would go near the mine, and after the sheriff never returned from his investigation the town elected me as next in charge. I’m no hero though, I only know horses.”

Nervously he runs his hands together. “There is talk of demons howling in the mines and with us so close to the border…,” he trails off before adding, “I’m just a horse breeder!” He takes a large drink of cider from his mug and stares off at the bookshelf.

Scowling Hermatt breaks Russ Hammel from his trance. “Well, what did we expect when we left an unguarded village down here? Evil will not stay out forever,” he folds his arms across his chest revealing the tattoos of the Sundered Chain Monastery on his arm, “It finds ways to break through our gates and trickle through the cracks in our walls. No gate is strong enough and no wall is perfectly composed. We will assess the situation and see what we can do; if anything can be done.”

There is no optimism in Hermatt’s response and yet the Sheriff looks as though a great burden has been lifted from his shoulders. He leans back comfortably in his chair.

“I don’t presume to understand the affairs of the King sir, I’m just as simple man, but I’m inclined to agree. No offense, to you all, but I’ll just be happy when this is over and everything goes back to normal. No witch hunters, no strangers, no surprises.”

Hermatt shakes his head slowly, “I doubt things will ever be normal again. It is best to adapt.” Russ Hammel straightens in his chair and scowls.

“Matthias Creel said something along those lines as well. I may be a simple man, and this may be a simple town, but you demon hunters seem to have a lot of suggestions considering you haven’t even been here more than a day. I was under the impression that you two,” he gestures at Hadyn and Hermatt, “were specialists in removing these threats. I won’t have you turning this village into some sort of paranoid community, turning back travelers or suspecting our neighbors of sinister deeds. That is too steep a price to pay.”

He slowly stands up and walks across the room to gaze out the window.

“My family has lived here for as far back Valenar was a country. We lived in the shadow of Castlegrave, and when it crumbled we continued to live here. Things changed, but we always had our trust. Sure there may be scuffles between the miners now and then, but we are good people.”
He turns to Zahara, and makes an empathetic gesture with his hands.

“You know us Zahara, and while we may have faults we mean well. That’s why I brought you in on this. What with Matthias’s talk of adapting to be more preemptive, they’ll turn us against ourselves. You are an honest person, and I trust you. I want you to help them get to the bottom of this. Help us get back to the way things were before. They’ll need your knowledge of the local area if they are to scratch any deeper than the witch hunters did.”

Zahara smiles, “Russ you know I do not normally become involved in human politics. However, if there is reason to believe these occurrences are unnatural then I am concerned. If these two,” she nods towards Hadyn and Hermatt, “require my assistance than I will help them as best I can.”

The Olon Orb

Zahara watches the crowd dissipate and return to the warmth of the inn as she ponders the recently acquired bauble in her hands. Finally, as if waking from a trance she stands, gently places Toki in her pack, and leaves the comfort of the inn.

The two travelers are in the midst of introducing themselves when Zahara approaches. “Hermatt of the Sundered Chain,” the tattooed man proclaims, his bold voice cutting through the wind. The monk places a closed fist against his chest in the traditional greeting of the Alfather. The girl looks past Hermatt to the approaching stranger, causing him to turn quickly, ready for another encounter with the witch hunters.

“Mara Aowray,” the druid speaks in honeyed elven. “I have your Al’theron, you dropped it in the tavern.” Seeing the confusion in the girl’s expression, Zahara produces the large clear orb that had rolled across the ground. “Your Al’theron, or as your tongue might call it your Olon Orb.”

The young girl reaches out, and as the orb touches her hands it begins to radiate a soft glow. “I am Hadyn, of the Valenar mage college,” smiling she adds, “thank you so much for returning this to me.”

“Are you here to investigate the source of the strange occurrences in the forest?” Zahara inquires, temporarily distracted by Toki’s attempt to climb out of his resting place and into her arms.

Hermatt steps forward, “Indeed we are…”

“Zahara, druid of Ashami.”

Hermatt greets her with the welcome of the Alfather as he continues, “I was sent to meet Hayden and help investigate the recent troubles of this town. Livestock stolen, travelers attacked on the roads, and recently several miners disappearing.”

Hadyn, silently interrupts with a nod of her head when she notices a young boy standing several feet away, patiently waiting to be acknowledged.

The boy has dirty brown hair, is most likely in his mid teens, and is dressed in the manner of a serving man, no doubt employed in some fashion at the Noble’s Rest Inn.

“Begging your pardons,” the boy makes a clumsy and out of place bow, “but my uncle told me to be on the lookout for the arrival of you two. He’d like to speak to you in person right away.”He gestures to both Hadyn and Hermatt before turning his attention to Zahara.

He blushes profusely, adding, “He also asked me to request your presence the next time you came to town. I would have approached you earlier tonight, but…” He stammers several times, shifts his weight awkwardly and the abruptly swings his arm up to point down the road. “I can take you to see him right now if you’d like. Sherriff Hamel lives right on the edge of town.”

An Assembly of Fools
The Villagers of New Hope

Outside the tavern Matthias Creel glares at his audience.

“She travels alone as a witch,” Matthias yells addressing the crowd directly, “without proper documentation or escort.”

Several villagers cheer as the witch hunters begin to tie the girl’s wrists together with thick cord. She is completely soaked now and the look she gives the crowd is not so much one of fear but of pity.

Matthias Creel continues, “Is it not convenient that she should show up now, when the howls of demons can be heard from the mines at night?” He licks the rain off his lips before continuing, “The demons call to her, she cannot resist, for she is just a slave to their power.”

A villager pushes his way through the crowd as the witch hunters tie a gag around the girl’s mouth. Spittle flies from his mouth as he screams at her, “What have you done with my livestock, I lost a whole pen of pigs you witch!” With a clap like thunder the man brings his open palm down across her face. It is when he reaches back again for another blow that he feels the muscle cored grip of the stranger behind him. With a gesture lost in a sudden flash of lightning, the strange man twists the villager’s wrist behind him, both pinning him and dropping him to his knees in a single move. Still holding the man’s arm in place the stranger slowly addresses Matthias, ignoring the angry crowds around him, “This individual has knowledge that I seek.” He thrusts his left forearm out to display the tattoo of a shattered chain. “It is within my rights to claim her, order your men to untie her; Now.”

Matthias, glances at the tattoo and then at the shouting villagers behind the warrior monk. “This doesn’t concern you Monk,” he yells, his voice barely audible over the storm. He grabs the girl by the jaw and looks directly into her fiery gaze. “Don’t think we’ll forget this, girl, my pack will find you if you wander far. I promise you this.”

Matthias pushes the girl away in frustration and, hands bound, she stumbles in the mud. The monk releases his victim to the throng of wet and muddy villagers, and steadies the girl. Pulling her gag down from her mouth he whispers, “Stay Close.”

Behind him Matthias calls out one finally retort, “You heard the monk, our hands are tied boys, these villagers are on their own!” As if on cue several members of the mob push forward brandishing weapons both improvised and real.

Stepping between the mob and their target, the Monks raises his fists. For a moment the wind seems to die, as he addresses the crowd. “This is of no more concern to you, return home to your families.” The returned wind drowns out a lewd response from one of the more intoxicated members, but the ominous peal of thunder from overhead serves as enough warning for the others. The warmth of the tavern and the ferocity of the storm slowly turns several villagers, and slowly the crowd dissipates.

Moving quickly to untie her bonds, the rescuer watches as the rope curls and burns on its own, from some unseen heat. Steam rises from the girl as the water evaporates from her clothes and rain melts on contact with her skin.

Puzzled, the monk looks hard at the girl, “You could have fought your way free from the start?” Pointing to the symbol of the Valenar Mage College on her right arm the monk adds, “These fools would have been no match for someone of your skill.”

Steam still raising from her body, the girl pulls her cloak’s cowl back over her now dry hair.

“Yes, but these are the fools I am here to save”

Mob Mentality
Matthias Creel's men

He had seen their type before, all madness and no method. Thinking back on his hours of study, the physical demands he had placed on his body, and the mental discipline he had come to command, he sighs. It seemed they were letting any dreg become a witch hunter these days. Seated across the inn from the darkly cloaked men, he watches as one hunter slowly drinks himself into a stupor. Their leader Matthias Creel, however, was a different story. Hermatt had heard the stories whispered along his route from the Sundered Chain Monastery. Many claimed he was the best witch hunter south of Stonehaven, and that he had killed thirty witches last year alone. It was also said he was eight feet tall, Hermatt recalled one tavern patron claiming.

A clap of thunder shakes the room and a slender female enters the inn. Shaking her cloak free of rain she does not notice Matthias Creel and his men in their dark corner. Hermatt watches as the hunting dogs startle from underneath their master’s table, emitting low growls, barely muffled by the sounds of the taverns noisy patrons. Without hesitation the men grab their weapons and fan out, the dogs pull their leashes taught, and Matthias Creel boldly pushes his way directly towards the girl. Pulling a coin from his pocket, Matthias Creel taps the women on the shoulder. ‘You dropped this miss,’ he flatly states.

The girl is puzzled, but reaches her hand out to accept the valuable. With impressive speed, Matthias snatches her arm and pulls back her sleeve roughly to reveal the mark of the mage colleges.

‘Looks like we got ourselves a witch, boys!’ Matthias yells to the cheers of his men. All eyes turn towards the spectacle, the girl stammering to explain that she is in the employment of the King and has the proper documentation.

One of the men dumps her backpack on the ground, spilling papers on the wet floorboards and dislodging a clear circular bauble that bounces twice and rolls under a table. The elf by the door slides her foot out to stop its path.

Fumbling the wet paper, the sheets begin to tear in the careless hands of one the drunken hunters. Matthias has already begun to drag the girl out into the street.

Hermatt rises, and calmly pulls his cloak off to reveal his muscle corded arms and dark tattoos; a proud proclamation of his ties to the warrior monks of the Sundered Chain Monastery.

A Trip to Town
The Druid Arrives

Three different patterns of wooden floor, at three slightly different levels, made up the common room of the inn. Beyond this single quirk, however, it might as well have been any other tavern: a bar stood on one side of the vast chamber, a staircase on the other, with a smattering of chairs and tables scattered throughout. Two fireplaces radiate a comforting warmth throughout the room, and several serving staff whirl about with tankards of ale and plates of smoked venison. Despite her frequent visits to town all eyes were on the elf druid who sat by the door, oblivious to the draft from outside. A small white fox pokes its head out from her cloak, looks lazily around and unimpressed retreats.

Samuel, one of the staff approaches with some scraps for Toki, the arctic fox, and some wine, thought by most humans to be the customary drink of elves.

“The postman hasn’t been through yet, the storms must have slowed his progress, you know how the roads get outside of town” he states nervously before offering, “but I’m sure he’ll be here soon.”

Zahara gracefully locked her gaze with the serving man; her pale green eyes making him fidget uncomfortably.

“Who are those men?’ she speaks in accented common, while pointing towards the furthest side of the inn. Sitting in a solitary corner, three men in dark leather sit casually with their weapons on the table. A fourth, older man addresses them in hushed tones. Under their seats a pair of vicious hunting dogs rest with their heads on their paws.

Samuel swiftly steps in front of her, masking her gesture to the rest of the room.
“Those are witch hunters, kingsmen sent here by the crown. I’d be careful about attracting their attention.” Adding as he moved to wait another table, “They’ve been known to sic their dogs on people who’ve landed on their bad side, you best stay clear of them.”

Left alone Zahara silently fed the table scraps to her fox.

Outside the storm took on a new rage.


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