PREVIOUSLY: A group of youngsters have discovered that a town logging operation is somehow connected to a curse which has befallen the surrounding forest. Hoping to prove themselves so they may be chosen in a forthcoming coming-of-age ceremony, the youngsters begin their investigation only to discover more questions than answers…
Having completed their daily chores and training, the group again meet up at a local watering hole on the banks of the Tourondel River. The group contemplate their next move and decided to go and investigate the logging camp. Whilst heading out of town towards the logging camp, just outside the gates, the group walked past what appeared to be a makeshift stall of sorts. Two men in formal clothes were examining bottles of a brown substance, their owners standing on the other side of the tables. The four individuals were made up of an elf that Zevan recognised as Elyin Ursage, a local bee-keeper; a man, an older woman and a halfling, all of whom were from out of town. Behind them stood a series of apiaries, and it soon became evident that the townsfolk were taking part in the initial stages of a honey judging ceremony.
The group overheard one judge mention to the other that the last sample they tasted was not as good as the last batch of honey produced by Tenzekil Braybittle. Eve recognised the name as that of a gnome beekeeper that had disappeared 2 years ago after losing the competition to Ursage. Some say that the gnome had a breakdown and fled into the forest, while others said he died of the ‘whitening’. The group stopped to ask what was going on, however they were soon asked to move on as this was serious business and not a place for youngsters.
The group continued on their way, and soon after moved into the forest to avoid detection as they approached the camp. As they began sneaking in, Sam, who was clearly new to the idea of remaining quiet, gave their position away. The group then saw Colbin, his major domo Grimscar, and a couple of other loggers, heading in their direction. Knowing their position was compromised, the group moved out of the forest and onto the roadway in order to confront the men. Eve was the most vocal, claiming that Colbin and his operation were destroying the village and we’re bringing forth a curse upon Kassen. Colbin laughed off the accusation, stating that the only proof they had was from a bunch of “brownies”, and a cluster of dying trees which was too far away from their logging operation to be their concern. Colbin, with the assistance of Grimscar, threatened the group and ordered them off his land. Colbin and his men brushed past the group as they headed into town.
The group discussed their options, and although Eve was clearly interested in sabotaging the logging operations, it was Kal who suggested a better course of action was to investigate further and gather more evidence. With that, the group headed back into town.
After entering through Kassen’s western gate, the group happened upon Mayor Uptal who was in deep conversation with Arnama. The group stopped and spoke with both of the village councillors, informing them of their encounter with the brownies and that the logging operation was, according to the brownies, the cause. The Mayor assured the group that he was doing all he could, and given the delicate nature of the situation, he requested that the elders handle the matter. With that, Arnama took Zevan aside and asked him to come with her. The group went back to their respective houses but not before planning to take matters into their own hands. Eve and Nell suggested getting all of the loggers drunk so that they couldn’t work in the morning. It was a short term solution, and Sam, and Kal dismissed the idea, claiming that their actions were likely to get them in trouble. By late afternoon, Sam made his way to the town gate tower for his shift, and Kal returned to the chapel for afternoon prayers. Eve and Nell however still thought that their plan had merit, and discussed their best option.
Their first, and final idea, was to steal some of the honey they saw earlier, and to use the most potent of it in a large barrel of mead. Their plan was to get the barrel back to the inn, hand it to the loggers as a peace offering, and then sitting back to watch the result.
With the plan hatched, Nell went off to buy the ale, whilst Eve spoke with Asina about what they wanted to do. As night fell, both Eve and Nell stealthily left the town through the front gate where Kir and Sam were stationed, gradually making their way to the bee apiaries they had seen earlier.
Upon arrival, Eve and Nell found that the tables and honey jars were covered. Upon inspection, Nell noticed that one of the jars was magical, and that it was jar belonging to Elyin Ursage. Nell grabbed the jar, broke the seal to taste it. It was highly bitter, and almost caused her stomach to turn. Nell instructed Eve to get an empty bottle, open one of the aviaries, and fill the jar with honey. That way they could swap the magical jar with the new one. Eve, clearly only knowing a little about the nature of bees, reached into the aviary to scoop the honey into the jar. Unfortunately her actions disturbed the bees, and she was swarmed by them. Eve ran from the scene screaming, and headed towards the river. Eventually, whilst being stung, she quickly jumped headfirst into the river, its cool water temporarily soothing the burning stings across her body. Sam and Kir heard the commotion, and yelled out if all was well. Nell responded that it was just her and Eve, and to go back to their duties. Nell quickly finished the job with the honey, replaced the lids, and ran back towards the town in possession of the honey.
Later, Eve arrived at the doorstep of the chapel, soaked from diving into the river, and with bee stings covering her arms and face. Kal answered the door, shook his head, and administered some divine healing to the injured elf.
Meanwhile Nell returned home with the bottle and asked her father to take a look. He said he would do so overnight and told her to quickly finish her chores and be off to bed. As she was preparing for bed, Moltus Vargidan, her adopted father, entered the room with the jar. Her father described in detail that the jar of honey was laced with a powerful magic poison, and explained that one dose would have been enough to kill several men.
During the night, each of the five friends received letters of invitation from the Kassen Council to be the one of the chosen to recover the Everflame from the Crypt of Kassen as part of the Coming of Winter Celebrations.
The group completed their daily chores, and at midday made their way, as instructed on the invitation, to the town square. All of the elder townsfolk were assembled upon their arrival, all dressed in ceremonial black garbs, as were many of the villagers who by this stage had filled the square. The Mayor introduced the five and handed each of them a backpack full of supplies, along with a series of additional equipment including the sacred lamp that would be used to bring a spark of the Everflame back to Kassen. After the ritual was read by the Mayor, the group was sent off, and soon after exited the southern gate towards the Crypt.
Around mid-afternoon, the group stopped to examine their belongings and their backpacks. In each backpack was a series of supplies including a map showing the direction to the Crypt of the Everflame. The group assembled the map, and plotted their course.
The journey was coming close to nightfall, when they came across a fallen log across a path. As they prepared to go over the log, they observed five orcs jump up from behind the log, and start charging towards the group. Sam was the first to fall, however it was not long before Eve realised that the orcs were illusions. It was difficult to convince the rest, but eventually everyone came to realise the folly of their ways. Eve heard a laugh in the distance, and noticed that it quickly moved away from their position. Kal also heard it and identified it as Holgast, the local Sage and Wizard. Clearly all of these would be tests of their mettle.
The group set up camp on a ridge, and organised watch for the night. During the evening, hungry and diseased wolves stalked the group from the safety of the shadows. Around midnight, they struck. The wolves however were quickly dispatched. Zevan identified that the wolves appeared malnourished and slighted affected by what appeared to be the same disease that was affecting the brownies. Eventually, everyone returned to sleep.
The rest of the night passed without incident, and although they started late, by mid-morning, the group returned to their journey toward the crypt…
PREVIOUSLY: Something is afoot in the Kassen logging camp. The heroes arrive to find a number of logs had broken free and toppled down onto the unexpected workers below. The heroes begin an investigation whilst helping the injured workers…
EVENTS: Kal and Sam made their way to the collapsed cabin and found that three workers were trapped underneath. Sam and Kal attempted to move a number of the logs, initially without success. As the workers screamed out for help, Sam managed to find the right position to lift two of the logs, whilst Kal recovered the men and set them aside after stabilizing their wounds.
Meanwhile Zevan and Nell made their way to where the logs had broken free from. There, Zevan began looking for tracks whilst Nell checked for any sign of magical tampering. Both found no signs of what they were looking for, with Zevan and Nell both discovering that the chains had broken through chemical means, although the chains themselves were weathered and clearly in need of repair.
From the tree tops, Content Not Found: evelyn-lanthaldar_ checked the surrounding area with her keen elven senses. It was then that she observed movement coming from the underbrush, as though something was moving through the trees away from the logged clearing. Content Not Found: evelyn-lanthaldar_ yelled out to Zevan, however Zevan could not see anything from his vantage point. Content Not Found: evelyn-lanthaldar_ also noticed that a fire was brewing at the bottom of the hill near where a pack of chemicals had been smashed open. Content Not Found: evelyn-lanthaldar_ quickly jumped down to alert the others, but fell clumsily upon her decent. Not something a rogue would have been proud of doing. Content Not Found: evelyn-lanthaldar_ limped towards Kal and Sam to advise them of what she had seen.
Kal and Sam in the meantime had pulled all of the three of the workers out of the collapsed cabin. As _Content Not Found: evelyn-lanthaldar approached, Kal noticed the young elf’s limp. Content Not Found: evelyn-lanthaldar brushed it off as nothing more than a sprained ankle, but Kal knew better. Kal channeled his divine energy and healed the injured elf along with the men they had just rescued.
Meanwhile, Nell and Zevan went into the undergrowth in search of what Content Not Found: evelyn-lanthaldar had seen. Their search however was fruitless, and whatever had fled the camp was well and truly gone. Nell also detected residual magic nearby, but could not identify its source. With little else to look for, Nell and Zevan made their way to the encampment where the remaining workers were hurriedly making repairs, and the Logging Guild leader, Colbin Vetnar, was barking orders.
Nell and Zevan were the first at the fire. Nell tried ordering the men to help put out the fire, but it was clear they fears Colbin more than they did her. Zevan instinctively grabbed a bucket and scooped water from a nearby trough. Zevan attempted to extinguish the flame alone, but without success. Nell tried again but was shouted down by Colbin, who ordered her off site.
Once the men were comfortable, Eve, Kal and Sam also made their way to the tent encampment where the fire was starting to spread. Sam assisted Zevan with the bucketing, whilst Eve, Nell and Kal attempted to reason with the Logging Guild Leader. It was clear that Colbin was not interested in what they had to say. Nell then created a flame in her hand and threatened some of the workers. This was enough to sway a couple of the men to assist. Colbin in the meantime appeared more worried about the loss of income, more than he was with the well-being of his men.
It was not long before the fire was put out. Meanwhile the Mayor and Zevan’s mentor Arnama Lastrid, a ranger of some renown, arrived at the scene along with a number of the town’s guard including the Captain of the Guard, Gregor Wisslo.
Zevan approached Arnama and explained what had occurred, and showed Arnama the broken chains. Arnama was quick to identify tracks, but could not readily identify what they were. She was able to determine that the tracks went south, further into the forest, although disappeared after about 50 feet. Arnama asked Zevan to head in that direction, and report back anything that they found.
Nell, Eve and Zevan then disappeared into the undergrowth. Kal, who explained the situation to the mayor, observed the three disappear and called for Sam to accompany him into the forest and allow the councilmen to conduct their investigation.
The group followed the direction of the tracks for a good half mile before they entered a clearing. The clearing was filled will felled trees, which did not appear to have been logged, but that the trees had withered and died. The heroes entered the clearing, and as they did so, Eve and Zevan spotted movement from behind bushes. What was moving was unknown, and the group readied their weapons. Eve called out, stating that they meant no harm, claiming they only wanted to talk. With that, a single brownie staggered from behind a stump. Its skin was pale green, with veins cascading across its skin. The Brownie explained that it was suffering a curse, caused by the logging of the trees. A curse brought down on the forest by the Dark Queen. The Brownie gave the group a week to stop the logging, or that there would be consequences for their town. The group agreed, and the brownies disappeared.
The group made their way back to town. They had many questions, but night was fast approaching. Who was the Dark Queen? Why did she curse the brownies and the forest? What did the loggers do to cause this in the first place? Nell decided to converse with her father as he had been in Kassen for many years. Zevan made his way back to Arnama to question what she might know, and Sam was called for duty at the gate tower. Eve and Kal however decided to conduct their own investigations with the town sage, Holgast.
Zevan questioned Arnama into the night, but Arnama was just as puzzled about what Zevan had seen and heard.
Nell went to question her father and after being told he knew nothing, told the girl to do her chores. Wanting to join her friends she declined. Her father however cast a spell, and Nell later woke fulfilled as she had done her father’s bidding.
Meanwhile, as businesses were packing up for the evening, Eve and Kal went about the town asking questions, only to find that a number of key members in the town were missing or unavailable, including the Mayor. They did however speak with one of the baker’s apprentices who they convinced to explain what was going on. The apprentice said that it was part of the ritual. He could not elaborate other than a number of the towns folk were involved and had headed out the day before. Kal realised that his fellow acolyte Dimira Nashare had also not been seen for a day or so. The two realised that the Cobbler, a carpenter and his apprentice, along with 5 other townsfolk were missing. Kal and Eve soon went to Holgast’s tower and found him unavailable. His apprentice, a young man named Moto advised that he was away for a few days, and would return later.
Eve, Kal, Nell and Zevan then went off to the inn to discuss their findings. Whilst at the inn, Kal started making small talk with Asina Silvers, the inn keeper’s daughter. Asina was pleasant; however her mind appeared to be elsewhere. Nell and Zevan watched from a corner booth and found that a fight was brewing between some of the townsfolk and the loggers, in particular the wife of one of the loggers who was injured. A fight broke out, and the town guard was called.
Sam and his friend and fellow guardsman Golfond Kir were first at the scene, having heard the shouts for help from the gate tower. Sam and Kir quickly dealt with the revelers. Meanwhile, Eve, who had been eavesdropping on the conversation between Asina and Kal, learned that Asina’s father was under the weather. She offered to help behind the bar and during the fight slipped upstairs to Asina’s and her father’s quarters. There Eve found Trelvar Silvers sobbing with what appeared to be a drawing of him and his wife in one hand, and a bottle of rum in another. Eve attempted to counsel the man, however he was clearly upset, and at one stage suggested that Eve reminded him of his wife. Eve, somewhat, taken aback by his advances, withdrew and returned to the inn below.
Having dealt with the revelers, Sam and Kir imposed themselves on Asina for free ale. Asina, agreed, and as the two took their first swig, the Captain of the Guard, Gregor Wisslo arrived. The two were openly chastised and ordered back to the gate. The Captain suggested that the inn finish up for the night and the various groups dispersed. Eve returned upstairs and spoke at length with Jimes “Short Change” Iggins, her friends and mentor. Jimes had nothing to offer, other than a few more suggestions for fleecing drunken woodcutters of their coins.
The others returned to their homes, vowing to continue their investigations in the morning…
Whilst the heroes of our story rest on the banks of the Tourondel River, training and sharing tall stories of their exploits, an alarm sounds not far from where they were resting. The heroes rush through the forest in order to lend aid. They soon find themselves in a large clearing where the Kassen Woodcutters Guild had gouged out a part of the forest as part of their lumber operations.
In the clearing they find that the encampment is built on a slight slope, with piles of logs at the top of the rise ready to be transported to the river. Normally held down with large chains, the heroes are confronted by a scene of devastation where a number of the larger logs had broken free, and tumbled down the hill. The logs took no mercy, and crushed everything in their path including the operations cabin situated in the centre of the camp, a number of tents belonging to the workers, and a supply of reagents used in breaking down lumber. The later of which had started to smoulder and was in danger of catching fire.
The heroes immediately split up. Kal and Sam ran to the crushed cabin and found a number of injured workers trapped under the debris. Nell and Zevan moved to the remaining logs to ensure they were secure and to see if there was any evidence of tampering. Meanwhile Evarl climbed a nearby tree in order to better assess the situation.
What happened to cause this incident? And why was Guild Master Colbin Vetnar more concerned with getting the area cleared up, and the men back to work than saving the lives of his injured workers?
PREVIOUSLY: In a small village in northern Nirmathas, strange happenings are afoot. Who of its citizens will step forward to help, and who will be propelled towards riches beyond their wildest dreams…
EVENTS: Ekat Kassen was a crusader and fortune seeker who came to serve Lastwall in the year 4515 AR. While he fought with distinction, he soon realized that he wanted more from life and left the Lastwall military to find his fortune elsewhere. His travels took him all over the region around Lake Encarthan, and he decided to settle down in 4522 AR after a very profitable adventure.
Using a sizable portion of his fortune, he set out to tame a small area of the Fangwood on the banks of the Tourondel River, making it a natural stop-over for those traveling up and down the river to Skelt. For the next 10 years, the town, which was then known as Kassen’s Hold, grew and prospered.
All that changed when Asar Vergas came to Kassen’s Hold with a host of mercenaries under his command. Asar was an old companion of Ekat, and the two had traveled together for some time before splitting up after their last adventure. Over the years, Asar became sure that Ekat had cheated him after that adventure. Promising great wealth to his mercenaries, Asar raided the town relentlessly for 2 months. Finally, the townsfolk managed to locate Asar’s camp in an ancient crypt deep in the forest, and Ekat himself went out to deal with his old companion.
The battle was terribly bloody, with only a few townsfolk coming back to tell the tale. In the end, Asar was slain and his mercenaries scattered, but Ekat suffered a mortal wound. He died 2 days later, on the 11th day of Neth, 4535.
In honor of their beloved founder, the townsfolk buried Kassen in the ancient crypt, interring his bones in a place of honor, above the simple sarcophagi used to inter Asar, his mercenaries, and the townsfolk that lost their lives in the bitter struggle. They placed an eternal flame above Kassen’s final resting place, so that all who visited might find warmth in the wilderness.
After the defeat of Asar Vergas and the death of Ekat Kassen, the surviving townsfolk drew closer together in mourning – and in pride at what they had come together to accomplish. Old feuds were forgotten for a time, and the traditional Nirmathi independence of spirit bent to an appreciation of what the community as a whole could do. As the generation that had fought alongside the paladin aged, however, they were unhappy to see their children and grandchildren falling back into old habits, holding grudges that drew lines of division in the town, now simply called Kassen, and disregarding the hard lessons of community that their forebears had paid for in blood. The town elders came together to devise a way to convince the youngsters of the benefits of working together, and so the Quest for the Everflame was born.
Once in each generation, generally every five to seven years, the young adults of the town participate in a coming-of-age ritual that recreates the quest of Ekat Kassen and his followers into the wilderness. On the late autumn day that marks the anniversary of the day Kassen set out on his last march, the chosen young townsfolk gather in the square and are solemnly sent off with a lantern from the Greathall, to light it at the eternal flame in the crypt of the fallen paladin and bring it back to town to be preserved through the cold winter, a symbol of the town’s history and resilience. What happens while the fledgling adventurers are away is a secret closely guarded from the younger residents, but when they return a few days later, the town holds a great celebration in their honor, using the fruits of the year’s final harvest. Those who return with the lantern are hailed as the heroes of Kassen and are henceforth viewed as fully-grown citizens, marking the end of any apprenticeships. The Quest of the Everflame celebration, therefore, is often the background for engagements and weddings, as well as land and business transactions as the heroes prepare to enter adult life.
Although most of the inhabitants of Kassen have gone through the Quest for the Everflame, all seem to have taken an oath not to tell anyone uninitiated what exactly is involved in the ritual. Most adults only smile secretively when asked by a child. If approached during the Quest of the Everflame celebration, returning heroes are equally non-forthcoming; some will rumple the children’s hair and tell them not to worry about it, while those more fond of the limelight will spin wild tales about wrestling trolls or defeating squadrons of orcs from Belkzen. Every child in Kassen seems to know of a vague and distant relation some generations ago who died during the quest, but as their own time approaches, the adolescents grow more dismissive of the dangers, rolling their eyes and declaring it’s only some lame trick of their parents that couldn’t possibly be all that interesting. After that, most young people are too busy in apprenticeships and jobs and courtships to give much thought to the ritual.
The year is now 4709 AR, 174 years after the death of the town’s namesake, and the town’s Mayor has decreed that a group of youngsters will again make the pilgrimage this year. There are still a few days until a decision is made of who will be bestowed this great honour.
Our story begins on the banks of the Tourondel River a mile or so out of town, where a group of young friends enjoy some down time, each one pondering their chances of earning their place in Kassen’s history…