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…