The Valley of Gon is a disputed land between Ariaka and Hadun, that is occupied by feuding warlords who vie constantly for control and riches. It formed as a separate political entity in the aftermath of the long border war between Ariaki and Hadun. This war came to its exhausted conclusion perhaps 300 years ago, when the people of Hadun and Ariaka decided that they could no longer justify warring over the valley. New borders were drawn, with Hadun ending at the western and northern side of the low mountains on the northern side of the valley, and Ariaka ending in the forests on the southern side. The river valley in between was left unresolved, and in the period of peace that followed free peoples from around the Archipelago moved here to settle and farm the fertile lands. They were followed by warlords who conquered settlements and formed their own tiny principalities, made and lost by violence. By the time the people of Hadun and Ariaka realized what was happening in Gon it was too late, and no one wanted to spill more blood on the land; from then on it became a wild zone of separate, overlapping warlord’s holdings. Exhausted from the border war and seeing the benefit of an ungoverned wilderness separating their kingdoms, Ariaka and Hadun stood by as the valley fell to warring chieftains.

The Patchwork Demesnes of Gon

The Valley of Gon is a fertile land, and has many small settlements. Over time these settlements have been captured by warlords and amalgamated into their holdings, so that now the land is a patchwork of different warlords’ possessions. The area of land held and defended by a single warlord is called a Demesne, the villages and towns within it subject to the whims of the rulers, and its capital usually characterized by a stronghold of some kind surrounded by a shabby township. Most of the strongholds are remnants of the Ariaka-Hadun border war, or older towers built by dwarves or elves to help the humans fight deepfolk when they first settled after the Harrowing. Some of these strongholds are beautiful and enduring works of military architecture, while others are decrepit ruins crumbling slowly under the poor stewardship of their warlord owners. Nonetheless, at the centre of every demesne is the stronghold and the warlord’s personal army; possession of the stronghold, combined with the death of its former owner, gives someone the power to declare themselves ruler of the demesne – though they will still need to be able to defend it against rivals.

Some demesnes are successful and have been passed down through generations of descendants. Others change hands regularly, as one warlord is slain and replaced by another, neighbouring warlords steal land, and border conflicts sap the warlord’s fighting strength until an incursion finally leads to his overthrow, or an outside usurper takes over. Many adventurers have ended their career of delving and fighting deepfolk by moving to Gon and overthrowing a weak ruler of a small demesne; they soon fall prey to some other retired adventurer, a mercenary band with ambition, or a neighbouring tyrant. Sometimes they impress the citizens of their demesne into fighting for them, or tax them until they bleed while war ruins their crops and hopes. Such is the life of an ordinary person in the Valley of Gon.

By common agreement, citizens of demesnes cannot easily leave. They will not be openly allowed into any other demesne, and must live their lives within the demesne in which they were born until such time as a rival warlord captures the land and makes them part of a new demesne. They are not serfs per se, but in many ways their lives are similar to those of peasants: nominally free, but unable to leave and subject to the whims, the taxes, the wars and the cruelties of their masters. Such is life in the Valley of Gon.

The Freeports

The river Gon meanders through the middle of the Valley of Gon, and at points along its banks one can visit a Freeport, a small town not held by any warlord, free for all to visit and trade in. Not every town on the river is a Freeport: El, for example, held by the fourth Elizabeth, is a town on the banks of the river that is not free; while Azell, a half day’s boat travel upriver, is a Freeport. Why some towns are Freeports and some are not is not known, and not all towns remain Free: Azell, for example, is disputed by the Warlord of Ar and his western neighbour, the 11th Indri. One day, if the power balance in that rivalry fails, Azell may become a new holding in the demesne of one of those antagonists. In the meantime it makes a roaring trade, taxing all goods heading to the demesnes surrounding it while charging passage fees to all boats heading past.

Anyone can live in a Freeport, and any resident of any demesne can leave to live in any Freeport. By common agreement Freeports are neutral towns where Warlords’ disagreements must be set aside and all must live in peace, though no Warlord would be foolish enough to put their safety in the hands of common agreement. Commoners, too, do not often take advantage of the freedom on offer in these ports, because by common agreement any Warlord is allowed to send soldiers to recapture any citizen who has moved to a Freeport, unless they can pass three Harrowings in the port and thus be declared a freeman. Because by common agreement no one can interfere with a Warlord’s exercise of power in his or her own demesne, no one can stop a Warlord from punishing those commoners who leave a demesne, and grisly torture can await those who fail to stay hidden for three Harrowings. Thus it is that the Freefolk of the Freeports and the commoners of the demesnes live different lives and rarely experience each others woes and joys.

The largest Freeport is Gon, at the mouth of its eponymous river, ruled by a merchant family, teeming, filthy, busy and raucous. The other Freeports are all along the river, growing smaller but richer as one heads inland. No one knows how a Freeport is made, though all know how they are lost, and Warlords all watch each other carefully for signs one is planning to take over an existing Freeport, with all its riches, artisans and opportunities. The forcible capture of a Freeport is a rare moment when Warlords will unite in common purpose, and fear of the massed vengeance of other Warlords is the primary reason that the Freeports remain free. War is all in the Valley of Gon, and it is the threat of war that keeps the river open and its towns prosperous.

The Book of Broken Nights

In every Freeport one can find Nightmasters, a kind of archivist who keeps the complex history of the Valley. These people maintain special registers of the major events of the Valley of Gon, in which they record every time possession of a demesne changes hands, maps of every demesne and records of every change in boundaries and laws in the demesnes. These books are called Books of Broken Nights, for reasons no one understands. They are the only history of the Valley of Gon that matters: who killed who, who wrested what right from whom, and who belongs to whom.

Most Nightmasters also hold other books called Almanacs, which chart the history of individual demesnes. The Book of Broken Nights at Azell, for example, will record that 11 years ago the Warlord ruling the demesne of Ar was overthrown violently by an incursion by another warrior, who captured the demesne and declared himself the new Warlord Argalt. The Almanac of Ar will record that following this capture there were two years of sustained raids by the 11th Indri on Ar’s southern border, attempting to wrest control of three sheepfarms and an elvery; that these raids failed; and that after the payment of 30 cows and a young woman whose name is not recorded the 11th Indri ceased attempts to conquer that stretch of border, and had returned to him his own son, captured in war. The Almanac of Ar will also record that that son had been rendered a dribbling lunatic by a blow to the head during his capture (so it is said!) and that the 11th Indri harboured much resentment for it which likely led to two assassination attempts, though the details of those attempts are uncertain. The Book of Night will therefore record no adjustments to the borders of these two demesnes, since the 11th Indri failed in his efforts.

This is how history is recorded in the Valley of Gon. Should one seek knowledge of a rival, whether for trade, love or war, one must seek a Nightmaster in one of the Freetowns, pay them the coin they demand, and put their faith in the dismal record they are given.

Possession and freedom

The people of the Archipelago consider slavery abhorrent, and will tolerate no capture or control of others for profit or ideology. While this consideration extends to the Valley of Gon, it is interpreted differently within its borders, and generally with a much greater degree of moral flexibility. While outright slavery remains unheard of, indentured servitude, forced labour, conscription, human trafficking and inherited obligations are common. It is a bad idea to become indebted to anyone powerful in the Valley; crimes committed against the powerful can meet with far worse punishment than simple imprisonment or corporal punishment. Demesnes in the Valley of Gon can have many strange customs, including hereditary castes, inter-generational labour obligations, permanent captivity and hard labour. Some Warlords practice human trafficking or use the slightest excuse to enforce punitive labour punishments on their commoners; for some reason no one has been able to understand this is particularly common in demesnes that have old mineshafts within their boundaries. Sometimes warlords do population swaps, exchanging for example 10 shepherds they no longer need for 5 potters from a friendly neighbour. Whether those shepherds’ and potters’ families will accompany them in the swap is rarely discussed, since it is of no matter to those who matter. Of course this is not slavery – the shepherds are free to flee to a Freeport, as are their confiscated family. No one is constrained!

This possession and freedom extends beyond individuals to demesnes themselves. Some demesnes are tributary to larger, more powerful demesnes, providing annually taxes and sometimes conscripted labour in exchange for “protection”. Many warlords, after taking possession of a crumbling stronghold in a tiny demesne ravaged by war and mismanagement, soon realize that it is better to live on your knees than to die on your feet, and attach themselves to a richer, more powerful rival. It is well that these poor and war-ravaged demesnes always have too many mouths to feed, because inevitably their tribute-holding master will find a need to sacrifice people in the frontline of their latest battle. Why would they risk their own, when they have desperate allies paying tribute?

Such is the nature of freedom in the Valley of Gon.

Strange ideologies

While investigating the selkie killings in Estona, the Wrathbreakers met some strange people who followed an ideology called “monarchism”, and advocated for serfdom in all of the Archipelago. These monarchists did not develop this ideology by themselves, but learnt it from a Warlord in the Valley of Gon. With so many demesnes and so many rulers, the Valley of Gon constantly reveals strange new systems of political organization, most of which are soon put to the sword. Some, however, survive. Occasionally a warlord attempts to unite the entire Valley under one leader, and in doing so they usually present an ideology of rulership and a vision underlying their conquest (they are never doing it just for themselves, and those who claimed otherwise can be seen outside the stronghold windows, sinking slowly on the impaling spears). After their inevitable failure these Great Uniters leave behind their ideology, which festers and spreads long after their vision has disappeared from the earth. Sometimes these ideologies even escape the Valley to find a foothold in the more civilized regions of the Archipelago, though Kyansei showed the contempt in which many such ideologies are held. Nonetheless, the Almanacs are full of strange visions and mad philosophies.

No Deepfolk

Part of the reason for the Warlords’ continued success is the absence of deepfolk in the Valley. Aside from a few incursions on the northeastern edge of the Valley, where its mountainous borders encroach on the Spine, there are no deepfolk anywhere in the Valley of Gon. War in the Valley is an exclusive conceit of the humans who make it their home. This was not always the case: until perhaps 500 years ago there were Deepfolk here, and they left behind them some of their workings, including mineshafts, occasional towers and structures aboveground, which are assumed to have been used against humans, and abandoned tunnel networks. Some demesnes are rich because of these abandoned mines, which they continue to work; occasionally they uncover buried secrets of the deepfolk that inevitably lead to ruin. Some Warlords have deepfolk artifacts, which they use to enrich themselves or destroy their enemies, and occasionally a mining team will uncover some dark beast from the time of the deepfolk, abandoned in a deep shaft for hundreds of years, and catastrophe will follow.

Generally, however, the Valley of Gon is free of deepfolk, which gives its human Warlords more time and freedom to kill each other for money and power.

Strange religions

The spirituality of Salt, Sun and Storm can be found throughout the Valley of Gon, but here it co-exists with other, stranger religions drawn from the minds of people too long freed of any obligation except constant war. Oftentimes a traveler in the Valley of Gon will come across a strange Shrine in which devotees of an imagined god sing strange songs. Sometimes these religions will be a harmless mish-mash of folk wisdom and the teachings of distant lands; other times it will be a philosopher’s work turned into a creed to which the lost blindly cling; but sometimes the traveler will find themselves being sacrificed to some dark and insane religious icon. All of these religions are empty of power and gravity: they cannot heal like a devotee of Salt, or call upon the weather as does a Stormcaller. But here in the Valley of Gon every madness has its place, and many strange religions can be found.

In amongst these strange religions are rumours of dead gods, buried gods, ancient magics with strange powers that cannot be compared with anything humans know or normally use, and mysterious alchemies. Devotees of strange gods brew mysterious potions and devotional tinctures on twisted altars, to be used in religious ceremonies that should never be known by simple humans. Even, it is rumoured, human sacrifice, blood magic and cannibalism can be found in the Valley of Gon, if one dares to look.

And it is to this strange and twisted realm that the Wrathbreakers now travel, seeking a lost girl and the answers to questions about lost secrets. Something is stirring here, and they are going to find it – and kill it.

A stitch in time …

The Wrathbreakers have been investigating a mysterious puppet-master in the city of Estona who uses printed notes to dispatch various mercenary and criminal groups on shady missions. They are also attempting to track down the former apprentice of the wizard Siladan, by finding the boyfriend they think may have harmed her. All they know about this man is that he had long dark hair, was older than her, hung around the docks, and was referred to by her as her “Starfall”. They have reached a dead end looking for the notes, and know that the only way they can pursue them now is to confront the man or woman who runs the network of street urchins who deliver messages across Estona. Their investigations proceed from this impasse. The roster for today’s session:

  • Bao Tap, human stormcaller
  • Kyansei of the Eilika Tribe, wildling barbarian
  • Itzel, elven Astrologer
  • Quangbae, wandering blacksmith

Seeking the Puppet Master

It was nearly the new year, the 31st day of the month of Ice, and all would go quiet the following day. They had learnt that the Puppet Master organized his business arrangements with a first, initial visit by one of his agents – one time a dwarf, and one time an elf – so they decided to search the seedier areas of town to find out if there was any knowledge on the streets of a group of adventurers or criminals that was multi-racial, containing an elf and a dwarf, and had been in the town for at least the past year. Unfortunately, this investigation turned up nothing – they could not tell if such a group was here and hiding, if their inquiries had been insufficient, or if the group did not exist. This, their last avenue of investigation that would not bring them into conflict with other forces in the town, ground to nothing.

New Year

New Year in the Archipelago is a day of quiet reflection and prayer, where the citizens of all the islands retreat into quiet contemplation and prepare themselves for the year ahead. The wrathbreakers participated in this day of still inner peace as well, though in their own ways:

  • Bao Tap visited the primary Shrine of the Storm in Estona, a huge tower of ancient stone with a large, open chamber at its base where devotees of Storm could spend the day in silent meditation. He eschewed the option to climb the outside of the tower’s noble spire where, buffeted by the strong winds above the city, he could absorb the full energy of the storm, and instead prayed in the Great Chamber of the Winds at the base of the tower
  • Kyansei rose early at the stronghold to pray to the sun as it rose over the mountains to the east, then traveled all day to the storm-tossed beaches on the western side of Estona, where she prayed again to the setting sun and bathed herself in the salt waters of the first tide of the new year
  • Itzel attended services at the Academy, where she spent the day in the ancient building’s sun dome, meditating on a beam in the pale glow of the new year’s sun
  • Quangbae also attended the Academy, but only for simple prayer and reflection in one of its devotional chambers

At the end of the day, refreshed, they were ready to face the new year, and all the challenges they knew it must surely bring.

Confronting the Rock Spider

They decided that it was time to force the hand of the man or woman who controls the urchins, who they call the Rock Spider. They could have tracked him by carefully observing what his urchins do and where they go, but Itzel thought of a subtler technique. A few days earlier they had received a letter from the Rock Spider telling them not to interfere with his business or inquire further about the notes, or they would be punished. They decided to reply to this letter with a new year note, wishing him well and agreeing to his request. However, the letter would be written with magical ink that would tell them where it was delivered and when it was opened. Itzel knew this ink could be bought from the Academy, and set off to find it. She bought a bottle at the Academy, but they learned it would take a few days to be delivered. In the meantime they decided to continue the search for the missing apprentice, Sara.

The Iron Hand

This time the Wrathbreakers decided to use their limited charms to search for the boyfriend of the apprentice, again trawling through bars and restaurants in the Docks and Old Town looking for signs of a man who might fit the description they had been given. By now they had narrowed down the area of their search to a small cluster of bars and night districts just back from the Docks, so they set out there with a simple plan. Kyansei would again pretend to be on the hunt for men, while the rest of the group would stay nearby within easy alarm distance, ready to pounce.

They plied this tactic for two nights, and on the second night finally found their target. Kyansei was relaxing on a verandah of a well-known bar when from across the road she heard a young woman’s voice exclaiming “Oh stars you have a tattoo! Oh wow! On your neck!? Let me see! No show me! Oh wow it’s a falling star! So beautiful!” Looking closer, she saw a man who matched the description they had been given of Sara’s former boyfriend, flirting with a young woman who was exclaiming over this falling star tattoo. Remembering the nickname Sara had given her boyfriend – “my Starfall” – she realized this must be him. She stood up, abandoned her drink, gestured to the rest of the Wrathbreakers where they sat in a nearby coffee bar, and walked across the road to speak to the man.

Perhaps it was something about her demeanour, or perhaps their investigations thus far had not been as subtle as they had hoped, but as she approached the man saw her, pushed his woman away, stood up and snarled something at her that suggested he knew who Kyansei was. Then he attempted to leap over the balustrade of the verandah where he sat, and battle was joined.

They thought they would be confronting one man, unarmoured and carrying just a knife, but they soon realized they had stumbled into something much worse. A woman emerged from the bar where the man had been resting, carrying a shield and sword; from an alley nearby they saw a wizard with ruined legs, marching towards the square in a chair with magically animated spider’s legs; someone else emerged from the bar carrying a bow. Bao Tap called forth his Nature’s Champion, which manifested as a giant hippopotamus and charged down the alley toward the wizard in the animated chair; as it did so a solid, powerful looking women in half plate armour with a great axe emerged from the shadows and hit it a huge blow with the axe. The wizard began dropping balls of fire on the main battle, which enveloped Kyansei and Quangbae but seemed not to harm their engaged enemies at all. The woman with the sword and shield teamed up with the Starfall to take on Kyansei, and she had great difficulty hitting either of them; behind them the man with the bow deployed healing magic or blasts of stone bullets from his hands to support the warriors or take down the Wrathbreakers’ marine minions.

The battle was poised until the wizard in the magical chair and his heavily-armed colleague finally beat the Nature’s Champion hippo to death; they began to move towards the square, and the Rimewarden on the verandah with the bow did a serious injury on Itzel. Things were looking bad for the Wrathbreakers, but Bao Tap decided to risk everything and cast a second Nature’s Champion. It worked, and another giant berserk Hippo appeared in the square blocking the path for the wizard and his female companion. At this point another man emerged from the bar carrying a bow, and called for a truce. The two sides backed away from each other, the Hippo stopped its advance, and they agreed to a ceasefire while they tried to find out whether they actually had any cause for disagreement.

Badly injured and exhausted, the two groups cautiously moved back into the bar, set out tables, ordered drinks, and sat down to negotiate.

They discovered that they had run into a group of adventurers called The Iron Hand, who had been based in Estona for a few years and made money from various mercenary tasks. Their rogue, Stitch, had been paid to befriend Siladan’s apprentice Sara and find out more details about her master’s work. He had sent these details as letters to his employer. Eventually, after a few months of investigation, Stitch had been told to kidnap Sara and send her to the Valley of Gon. This had been about 4 months ago, about the time that the Wrathbreakers had run into raiders looking for an old friend of Siladan’s just outside the Valley of Gon.

The coincidence was too great to be put down to chance – they guessed they had run into raiders sent by the same people that had taken Sara. Although Stitch did not know this – he had simply sent the girl as a package to a ship he had been told about – they guessed they knew where she had been sent. But why? They asked him who his employer had been and he explained to them that he had been instructed to do all these vile deeds through a series of notes sent to him.

The Iron Hand, then, were also being paid by the mysterious Puppet Master, by the same mechanism. They asked who had set up the arrangement initially and were told it had been a Wildling agent of the Puppet Master. At this point Itzel realized, the agent must be a Changeling. The Changeling appeared to all of the Puppet Master’s agents as a different race, to ensure that they could never find the agent’s employer. From then on they would be given instructions in notes, which they were instructed to destroy. Except …

… They discovered that the Iron Hand had not been destroying the notes. It was always good to keep evidence of their employers’ foul intentions, so they had kept them all, with the wizard casting a spell to make it appear that the notes had been destroyed. They offered to sell a note to the Wrathbreakers for 500 coin, and the Wrathbreakers quickly agreed. Now they would have the notes, they knew where Sara was, and they guessed that the Puppet Master was interested in some secrets buried in Siladan’s past adventuring. What had been in those elven documents that had been stolen by Deepfolk…?

The Wrathbreakers had more pressing concerns, however. Having established what they needed to know, they had to negotiate a careful truce with the Iron Hand. They had been surprised and unready, but even so it was clear that the Iron Hand were easily their match, and they could not afford to go to war with them. They carefully negotiated an agreement not to interfere in each others’ affairs, finished their drinks and went their separate ways, but as soon as they were on their own the Wrathbreakers immediately agreed that they had to destroy the Iron Hand. They were certain that they would be forced into confrontation with them again, and also sure that soon the Puppet Master would pay the Iron Hand to kill them. As they neared their targets, they needed to clear this mercenary band out of the way. But there were 6 of them and they were very dangerous. The Wrathbreakers would need to be stronger and would need to get the upper hand in some way.

First, however, they decided it would be best to find Sara. She had been kidnapped and sent off to the Valley of Gon, possibly to a very bad fate, and needed help. They also guessed that if they found out who had taken her and why, they might be able to track down the Puppet Master from a different direction. Having crossed the Iron Hand they guessed now would be a very good time to get out of town for a while, and when they came back, more powerful and hopefully with more information, they would be in a position to attack and destroy the Iron Hand – then move on the Puppet Master.

They were close to answers to many questions, and whatever evil secrets the Puppet Master sought in the viscera of the Selkie she had paid for was connected to the disappearance of Siladan’s apprentice, the raiders they had encountered in Gon, and the deaths of the surviving members of the Ashentide. Somewhere behind it all was some dark secret buried in ancient elven lore and stolen by the Deepfolk. They were close to something now, though they did not know what, and the answers were trapped somewhere in a dungeon in the Valley of Gon, scared and alone and waiting for rescue. It was time for the Wrathbreakers to leave Estona, and to be heroes again …

The wrathbreakers are on the trail of two difficult problems: where is Sara, Siladan’s lost apprentice, and who is the mysterious and powerful wizard who is trying to kill them? They know that Sara had a boyfriend in the docks, who they are trying to find, and they know that the powerful wizard uses notes of some kind to direct agents of the underworld in Estona to do his bidding. They continue to search the docks for Sara’s boyfriend, and they have been ambushed by agents of the mysterious wizard. But who are they looking for, and who is trying to kill them? The roster for this session:

  • Bao Tap, human stormcaller
  • Kyansei of the Eilika Tribe, wildling barbarian
  • Itzel, elven Astrologer
  • Quangbae, wandering blacksmith

They are joined today by Alexin, a Rimewarden, and three marines, all working for the Myrmidon Kay. Right now, though, they have no targets to point their soldiers at. What to do?

The rock spider

The first thing they decided not to do was to continue pushing into the nature of the network of child messengers in the town. They knew that this network of messengers was controlled by a central figure, likely an adult, who they decided to call the Rock Spider. They also knew that one of these urchins had lured them into a trap, and they guessed it was because either the Rock Spider was in league with their wizard nemesis, or part of the payment his network of urchins had received included alerting their wizard nemesis if anyone was spying on the wizard nemesis’s dropboxes. They had tried to approach the Rock Spider through their only underworld contact, cashing in the favour they were owned by the barkeep at Charlotte Sometimes to ask him to set up a meeting with the Rock Spider. Unfortunately the barkeep returned to them with a simple message from the Rock Spider: there would be no meeting, and although they were on neutral terms at the moment all that would go out the window if they continued trying to investigate or break into his network of child runners. They decided to put that issue aside for now, because they had sparked enough confrontations with underworld figures already.

Onto the Carousel

They decided to continue their search for Sara by deploying Kyansei into the bars and nightlife of the docks, pretending to be a woman looking for a casual partner. They guessed that the man who had been Sara’s boyfriend was likely a player, and might be well known in the area. If Kyansei spent a night or two carousing and looking for men meeting a certain description, they guessed she might hear of one or two regulars who matched the description. They were right: after two nights of flirting and drinking she was able to rule out a large number of potential suitors, and also learned of a few regulars who might match the man they were looking for. Exhausted and hungover after a long night, Kyansei returned to the Boar and they decided to switch their attention to the search for the wizard nemesis.

Creosote’s story

All they knew about the wizard nemesis was that he or she (probably she) communicated with her agents almost exclusively through notes. But reviewing the case so far they realized they had not asked any of the wizard’s contacts how they first brokered the deal, and any details about how the notes looked or operated. They knew the men they had interrogated so far did not keep the notes, destroying them as instructed, but they knew nothing else about them. They decided to visit Creosote, the only recipient of notes they had left alive, and see if they could ask him more questions about the origin of the notes. Obviously given the damage they had done to his business and his dignity the visit was going to be a little complicated, but they figured they could just hit him a lot if it did not go as they intended. So they set off to his lair.

It took them some time to break him down, but ultimately they were able to come to an agreement with Creosote. He convinced them to owe him a favour, in the form of a job that he would call on them for in the future, if he answered their questions. He told them:

  • The notes were printed, not hand written
  • The notes were intended to be destroyed, and were enchanted so that the sender would know if they were not destroyed
  • The ink on the notes had a particular smell, which Creosote could not describe but would recognize immediately if he smelled it [for the reader: it is the smell of the AD&D Player’s Handbook]
  • The notes were printed on fine quality bone-white paper [1]
  • The job before the Selkie job had been to organize someone to kill a hedge witch called Aelsov and deliver his head to a particular location in the docks. Easy work!
  • The job had originally been organized by a dwarf, about two years ago, whose featuers Creosote did not remember and whose name he did not ask. “Just a generic dwarf,” he told them, who was an agent for whoever sent the notes, and who he never met again.

Creosote also made clear he was not scared of this patron: he destroyed the letters as instructed not out of fear, but because he assumed if he did not destroy them he would lose future business. He seemed unconcerned by the work he had been contracted to organize – as far as he was concerned the notes offered a simple, reliable source of income and the arrangement was far preferable to the usual complex meetings and negotiations he had to engage in as part of his work.

At the cusp of an age

After this meeting the Wrathbreakers rested, and then set to work: they spent a day searching the town for every printing press. They discovered there were two commercial printers and a small independent operation run by a strange bunch of political fanatics called “monarchists” who advocated absolute rule of the land of Hadun by a hereditary strongman, with most of the population held in a form of abject subjection they referred to as “serfdom”. Obvious freaks, they had a printing press of some kind for producing their repulsive propaganda. The wrathbreakers visited the two commercial printers, collecting samples of their paper and inks, and confirmed from Creosote that one of the papers was the one used in the notes. They visited that supplier and determined that indeed, about a year ago an elf had come into the shop and bought a large supply, but they could not remember any more details than that – “A generic elf”, they said. So, it was on to the monarchists.

Itzel attempted to politely negotiate with the monarchists, but their leader, an oily old man who called himself “King” Robert the 1st, offended Kyansei. He mentioned that in future, when he was “King”, the “empty” lands of the far north would be colonized by the people of Hadun. When Kyansei pointed out these lands were actually crowded with wildlings “King” Robert patronizingly suggested to her that she did not understand the language she was speaking, and that rather than saying “crowded” she should use the word “infested”. As the predictable results of this exchange unfolded across the office and the younger members of the monarchist group either fled or cowered from Kyansei’s rage Itzel and Bao Tap walked into the back room to investigate the printing press. It was a ramshackle, shoddy machine with little ability to produce decent type, let alone high quality letters. This was not their target. They waited the length of time required for Kyansei to beat “King” Robert to a pulp, and then left the building with her still raging at the remaining monarchist activists. That did not appear to be a movement with its eye on the future …

They returned to the Boar. Now they knew they were looking for a fourth, unknown printing press. They also knew that the wizard’s agents were a “generic dwarf” and a “generic elf”. They decided that for their next step they would ask around after adventuring groups of that kind. If they could not find answers in that avenue well, they were going to have to find out from the urchin network where they collected the notes. That was going to require a confrontation with the Rock Spider. They were close, and all that remained was to determine how much violence was needed to find their target …


fn1: One of my players, not yet used to the full depravity of my campaigns, imagined that an off white bone-coloured paper might actually be paper, rather something manufactured from the bones of children. He will learn!

The Wrathbreakers are searching for a missing apprentice called Sara, and also trying to find the person who hired mercenaries to skin and gut selkies on the coast west of Estona. They know that Sara was spending time with an older man she called her “starfall”, at the docks, and they also know that the mastermind of the fey hunts organized them by way of printed notes. But who are these people, and how can they find them? The roster for this session:

  • Bao Tap, human stormcaller
  • Calim “Ambros” Nefari, human rimewarden
  • Kyansei of the Eilika Tribe, wildling barbarian
  • Itzel, elven Astrologer
  • Quangbae, wandering blacksmith

The Wrathbreakers have been carousing in the docks, sitting around with sailors and scoundrels plying them drinks trying to find clues to the identity of their target, this “starfall”. They have also set an urchin watching a dropbox in the Old Town, where they think their note-printing target is likely to visit. While they wait for these tasks to bear fruit, they spend a lot of time in the Boar, their chosen tavern while they are inside the city walls, and Itzel spends a lot of time at the Academy researching Fey. Unfortunately her research yielded few results, except the knowledge that a much larger and more useful library can be found at Alpon in Ariaki, where the Wrathbreakers have connections and mysteries to solve. They resolved to travel there as soon as they have resolved the current problems.

The Urchin Network

While scanning the docks looking for the man who might be behind Sara’s disappearance the Wrathbreakers had to spend a lot of time sitting watching the day-to-day activities on the wharf. They spent many hours between the 12th and 19th of the month of Ice watching people moving around on the docks, trailing people away up the snow-dusted slopes of the winter-bound town hoping to find hints of criminal activity, or watching small deals take place out of sight of the main squares and merchant spaces of the city. It was cold, difficult, boring work and it yielded few rewards – after 8 days of careful attention they found no clues as to the identity of the “starfall”.

However, they did discover one of the secrets of Estona’s underworld. There was a small network of children who worked delivering messages and running small chores for the people of Estona, and those children were obviously connected and working for someone. The younger ones could be seen gathering and sharing resources, then meeting older ones to hand over money and other rewards, receiving instructions and returning to work. Many were clearly poor and struggling, but this may have been an act: others dressed well and filled other roles, such as acting as messengers or porters for Astrologers, Rimewardens, ship captains or ladies in waiting. Some obviously knew their adult contacts well, as if they were regular clients, but others obviously were performing tasks for people they had never met before. Much of the work was simple and blameless – delivering bread, looking after a baby while a father delivered goods for his shop, running off to the blacksmith to get an urgent repair done, the kinds of work that keep small businesses functioning throughout the land – but some was obviously shady. They watched notes and packages exchanged, subtle gestures, children slinking into alleys to make arrangements with shady men. Some could obviously read, and were employed for that skill, to be able to follow instructions and written information. Others obviously could not read, and received either the lowest paid jobs or in some cases jobs where it would help if they were unable to read at all – jobs where they could be trusted not to understand the content of the material they carried, and thus not to care to spill secrets to others.

At the center of this network of children they guessed there must be an adult, or a small gang, pulling the strings that connected all the gangsters, ordinary businesses, scholars, and government workers in Estona. Did everyone know about this network, or was it operating mostly unnoticed in plain sight? And how much did that gang at its heart know about all the criminal activities happening in Estona?

The crayfish trap

After a few days of watching the subtle patterns of criminal activity on the wharf, the Wrathbreakers were approached by one of those urchins. It was a different child to the one they had set to watch the dropbox (as far as they could tell), but this one told them that not only had he seen the person who owned the dropbox, but he had followed her to a secret location outside of town. The child demanded extra payment – after all, he had done more than asked – but in exchange he would be able to guide them exactly to their target.

Like foolish naifs, the Wrathbreakers paid up, and followed his tip. The urchin told them that the woman they wanted had left Estona and headed along the river to a secluded bank with an old wharf, where she was hiding in a small river boat with a group of armed men. They followed the child’s directions, traveling near the river for a few hours until they reached the place he had described. A crumbling wharf jutted into a small bay in the river, and leaning against it was a decrepit old river boat that was obviously too old and unstable to be used. The edge of the river was swampy open clearing surrounded by a dense stand of silent trees. The old boat had no cabin but a kind of tent of canvas covered the middle of the deck, and inside that tent they could see a dim light.

They approached the wharf. Itzel remained in cover in the dark shadows of the trees, keeping watch in case anything crept up behind them. They crept forward in the faint glow of the distant light and the fading remnants of the sunshard, which pulsed slowly in half of a cloudless sky; the other half of the sky was blocked out by the distant bulk of the Orun cliffs, towering here 2 km above them on the far side of the river. A freezing breeze blew down the river, and all they could hear was the slosh of water against the boat.

Nothing noticed their approach. They walked carefully down the rickety wharf and onto the boat, pulling aside the curtains of the tent carefully to look inside. The tent covered a set of splintered, fragile-looking stairs that descended to a low-ceilinged underdeck, from whence they could see the light. They carefully descended the stairs into an empty room, on the far side of which a small light glowed from an emplacement. There was nothing in the room, and noone. They fanned out to search for doors or lurking trouble, and at that moment everyone felt it: a faint wave of magical force, a creaking, grinding sound, and the ship fell apart around them. The walls and floor collapsed and freezing, muddy river water crashed in through the rapidly fragmenting hull of the ship. They all floundered in the water, and then the giant crayfish came.

There were four, ancient chitinous beasts from the murky depths of the deeper river. They slide under the kicking, struggling Wrathbreakers and lunged in to attack, striking and grabbing with pincers the size of a child. In the dark and the chaos the sinking Wrathbreakers could not tell how large these beasts were, but they knew they were in trouble. They attempted to drag themselves out of the water, either onto the water or the swampy ground, but with little success until Itzel, far away in the trees, was able to levitate Kyansei out of the water. She dragged Calim, and Quangbae dragged himself somehow onto the mire at the water’s edge.

It was then that the archers opened fire, shooting at them from within the cover of the trees. Truly, this was a vicious ambush. As they lay gasping and frozen on the shore, Bao Tap still battling the beasts in the water, a hail of arrows struck at them. A massive crayfish emerged from the water to attack Quangbae on the shore, but now Bao Tap was able to make a moment for himself, and unleashed his most difficult and powerful spell: Nature’s Champion. It took two tries but on the second try a huge snapping turtle came at his call, bigger than any of the crayfish, and started attacking them in the water.

With the crayfish under control the group were able to turn their attention on the archers, who were shooting now at Itzel. They made short work of them, but took no survivors. By the time that battle was done the crayfish had been destroyed and the snapping turtle had slid away into the turgid depths from whence it had come. They all stood, frozen and exhausted, at the edge of the water, watching as the remains of the ship drifted into the river and out of sight. They had been set up by someone who wanted to kill them, who had powerful magic at their disposal, and who had used the urchin they had paid to lure them into the trap.

Questions would need to be asked, and their search for the person behind these notes would have to be stepped up. They returned to their stronghold and the next day sent Selena into town with a message for the Myrmidon. After she returned they set out for the town again. They would continue their search, and if necessary the Myrmidon would help them. It was time to call in some favours, and start hurting people …

Standing at the limit of an endless ocean

Stranded like a runaway lost at sea

City on a rainy day down in the harbor

Watching as the gray clouds shadow the bay

Looking everywhere ’cause I had to find you

This is not the way that I remember it here

Anyone will tell you it’s a prisoner island

Hidden in the summer for a million years

The Wrathbreakers have discovered that someone sinister is operating in Estona, directing criminals to do dark deeds by mysterious notes. They have found the first link in some kind of chain, the fixer Creosote, who hired some mercenaries to harvest body parts from Selkie and then shipped them on to a warehouse in the docks. He was hired to do this by note, which he destroyed, and had little else to tell them. Now they must move on to the warehouse of the man who received the goods, one Gerald of Hamm. The roster for today’s session:

  • Bao Tap, human stormcaller
  • Calim “Ambros” Nefari, human rimewarden
  • Kyansei of the Eilika Tribe, wildling barbarian
  • Itzel, elven Astrologer
  • Quangbae, wandering blacksmith

Standing in the smouldering ruins of Creosote’s bar, they decided to head straight to Gerald of Hamm’s warehouse before he received a warning from one of Creosote’s flunkies.

Warehouse failure

At the warehouse everything went wrong. As they approached they saw a group of men loading some goods, and deciding to be careful they sent Bao Tap sneaking down a side alley to investigate the back of the warehouse. He failed to sneak, and was sprung by a wizard smoking a cigar. Fortunately this man was unconcerned with his business, and after introducing himself this man made off to the front of the warehouse to oversee his goods. He was an Astrologer from the western isles called Jonah, who was shipping coal out there for new technologies he was developing. During this brief chat Bao Tap was able to establish that maybe fey magic is absorbed by coal, though he learnt no details before the man walked away. With Jonah gone Bao Tap was able to sneak inside, through a kitchen and into a completely dark back store room.

Meanwhile the rest of the Wrathbreakers entered through the main door of the warehouse. Kyansei and Quangbae lounged against the entryway looking threatening while Calim and Itzel sought out Gerald of Hamm. They found him soon enough, a balding man wearing simple workman’s clothes, carrying a clipboard and yelling at his labourers. He agreed to talk to them and took them upstairs to an office that had been built onto a gantry overlooking the main warehouse. Here they tried to talk him into telling them about his delivery arrangements, using threats and insinuations.

Unfortunately as they were doing this trouble hit them on multiple fronts. In the dark back store room Bao Tap realized that some men were coming to the door, so he hid in the dark behind what he hoped was a solid object; however, with no light to see by he did not know where he was hiding. Moments later the men entered the room carrying lamps, and in the sudden glow Bao Tap realized he had hidden in direct view of a consignment of mirrors, which stood in direct sight of the entering men and were set up in just the right way to ensure he was visible in all of them. After a moment of mutual shock Bao Tap pushed them out of the way and dashed for the kitchen exit, accompanied by their clamour.

While Bao Tap was preening at the back of the warehouse, at the front a gang of men were approaching, armed to the teeth and obviously intent on some kind of violence against the Wrathbreakers – maybe sent by Creosote, maybe by someone who had begun to realize what they were up to. Kyansei and Quangbae moved to meet them just as Bao Tap hit the side entrance. Up above them Gerald heard the clatter and yelling and made a break for the entrance to his office. Before he could reach the stairs Itzel hit him with a levitate spell and lifted him into the air, dangling him over the warehouse below, an obviously fatal drop. As he hung there and the sounds of battle began to drift up from below Calim began negotiating with him.

They heard the same story from Gerald: he was given instructions by note, which he promptly destroyed. In this case he had immediately shipped the goods to a dropbox in the Old Town. He gave them the location but was unable to give them any more information because as Itzel was searching his room for shipping records and other details she triggered a trap, and the shock and damage broke her concentration. Gerald of Hamm fell to his death in the warehouse below, and as they heard the clashes begin outside Itzel and Calim decided they had better go help.

The battle ended quickly once they were all there in force, leaving their assailants either dead or limping away in terror. Worried that more trouble would soon come they only had time for a quick search, and found nothing. The back room where Bao Tap had been hiding was obviously some kind of smuggling room with a hidden stash beneath the floor, but they could find nothing of use there. They gave up and headed off to find the drop box.

The dropbox

It was evening on the 8th of Ice, a bad season for staking out postal boxes. Their target was a small compound of eight stone rooms with locked doors, an open gate and no apparent guards. They stood across the road in the freezing cold watching the snow fall, and after a while decided to go and investigate. They did not know which room they were looking for but based on the limited information they had been able to get from Gerald before Itzel killed him they guessed which door it was. They were about to open it when Itzel sensed a magical alarm, and they backed off. There was every possibility it was also trapped, and now both Itzel and Kyansei were very wary of trapped things. In fact Kyansei was across the courtyard, “keeping watch” on the deserted and frozen street. No one was coming, of course.

They retreated to the shadow of a doorway across the street to consider their options. They were tired, lightly injured, and they did not know what they were looking for. The latest delivery by Creosote had been some days ago, likely had already been picked up, and they knew – since all the men Creosote had hired had been killed by Selkie-enchanted lampreys and Gerald of Hamm had been killed by Itzel – that no more deliveries were likely soon. They guessed that the alarm on the door was intended to tell the owner when the door was opened, which they guessed was how he knew his goods had been delivered. But if he was not expecting more goods they did not think he would blithely open the door, and they guessed that their target was likely a powerful astrologer. Gerald had indicated that the person who sent him the notes did not always nominate the same dropbox, so triggering the alarm would probably just alert their target to the fact that his or her note-based arrangements had been discovered. They could see no easy way to solve this problem.

In the end, not seeing a way to solve the problem by direct violence, they gave up and headed back to their stronghold. They grabbed a local urchin and paid her a small amount of coin to keep an eye on the drop box, and headed off to sleep.

The lost apprentice

Two days later, after recovering their strength and taking some time to discuss what to do, the Wrathbreakers decided to head back to Estona to continue their investigations. They took rooms at their regular haunt, a tavern called the Boar, and prepared for the next stage of their investigations.

Here they were approached by Alephia, one of the apprentices to the astrologer Siladan who they had met when they visited him. When they visited Siladan he had mentioned that one of his apprentices had recently left him, probably because she could not handle the pressure of study, but Alephia told them she thought something more sinister had happened. This apprentice, called Sara, had been very committed to becoming a wizard, and in Alephia’s view was not the kind of girl to give it up. She thought that Siladan had misjudged Sara because she was the kind of “nice girl”, all shiny manners and big breasts, which made people think she was weak and simple, when in fact she was a strong woman with a deep desire to learn the secrets of Sun. Alephia thinks something happened to her.

In fact, Alephia was able to pinpoint her suspicions: Sara’s new boyfriend. This man she had only seen once but he was much older than Sara, quite oily, and he seemed sleazy and “not quite right.” Sara had spoken about him a lot, calling him her “starfall”, but Alephia thought she was being manipulated. She thinks maybe Sara’s “starfall” has done something to Sara, and in exchange for a magic weapon she would like the Wrathbreakers to investigate. Surely they have contacts and abilities?

Of course the Wrathbreakers did not say no. They took her initial payment – 6 magic arrows – and agreed to investigate. In fact they set out immediately to scour the docks, pretending to be agents for Sara’s family looking for information about her. It was a pleasant break from investigating lost notes held by tight-lipped criminals, and they suspected it would be an easy investigation that would yield a nice magic gift from Alephia.

Strange notes from arcane fey-harvesters, lost girls, flying gangsters – Estona was proving more troublesome and more complicated than they had expected, and they had not even begun investigating the many mysteries they had encountered on their journey here. They had much to do, and many secrets to uncover …

The Wrathbreakers have returned from investigating what they thought was a band of wreckers, and are ready to investigate its patron. In the course of their investigation they discovered that Estona’s lost ships were not destroyed by wreckers, but by a small group of Selkie who were exacting revenge on the hunters who had killed their fellows and skinned them. Now, the Wrathbreakers have a prisoner and want to know more about whatever dirty little scheme had been enacted in the breakers west of Estona. Present for this adventure:

  • Bao Tap, human stormcaller
  • Calim “Ambros” Nefari, human rimewarden
  • Kyansei of the Eilika Tribe, wildling barbarian
  • Itzel, elven Astrologer
  • Quangbae, wandering blacksmith

The Wrathbreakers took their prisoner to the myrmidon Kay, chief of the Estona marines, and had a short and fruitful discussion with him. They confirmed that the survivor’s band had been tasked with hunting selkie and extracting their body parts, to be delivered intact to Estona. They sought some organs, a strange gland from behind the Selkie’s thumb, and as much of their skin as they could flay, though they were given instructions to flay this within an hour of death, and in cold salt water. Such specific instructions and body parts intimated at an evil purpose, one involving magic, and Kay the myrmidon was concerned about what nest of sinister wizards were operating in his town. Though the gang had not committed any illegal act, Kay made clear to their prisoner that there would be consequences for the traffic he had been engaged in, and unless he coughed up the name of the fixer who had organized this gang, he would be in big trouble. The prisoner agreed and promised to make himself scarce until the entire storm had blown past, and told them that the gang of Selkie hunters had been put together by a man called Creosote, a fixer near the docks. In fact this prisoner was happy to tell them the man’s name on the promise that he would be hurt, because nobody had warned them of the viciousness of the Selkie they hunted, and after the first few successes – when the Selkie were not expecting to be attacked – things had turned very dark for the prisoner and his crew, and he wanted some revenge for being tricked into such a dangerous job without warning.

Perhaps that had been part of the plan, even? That after the first few deliveries of parts the Selkie would organize, and silence all the witnesses to the trade? A very convenient plot if so.

Kay was not happy with the idea that there was a fixer in town willing to trade in materials for dark magic, and decided that now might be an ideal time to put this oily man out of business. Again wanting to maintain some distance between himself and the investigation, he recommended the Wrathbreakers take a direct approach: visit Creosote’s hideout and demand he hand over the name of the person who paid him to fix the job. If he would not, they were free to take whatever measures were required to convince him to confess, and Kay rather relished the idea that he might refuse to talk immediately.

So it was that the Wrathbreakers found themselves at Creosote’s offices that same day, ready for violence. The office was a converted gambling den upstairs above a restaurant a block away from the docks, with stairs leading up to a common room where Creosote’s thugs lounged around. The Wrathbreakers walked in and pretended to be rival Selkie hunters prepared to sell parts to Creosote. This deception convinced his thugs, one of whom disappeared into the back to get Creosote himself.

Unfortunately the message did not put Creosote at ease; rather than coming to speak to the Wrathbreakers he sent his lieutenants to kill them. They burst through the noren separating the common room from the backrooms, and the battle began.

It was short and brutal, and they won. Half of Creosote’s men died, and most of the rest fled as the tide of battle turned against them. Finally Creosote and his last two lackeys surrendered, and he offered up all the information they wanted. Unfortunately, however, this was very little: the task had been given to him in a letter, by someone he had never met. He had gone about the task confident of being paid for it, because this was how these tasks always worked: delivered to him by letter, discharged according to instructions, and rewarded as promised. In this case the note had given him specific instructions about where to find and how to hunt the Selkie, what body parts to take and how, and where to deliver them. He had done as asked, and the parts had been delivered as requested, and he had received his coin.

Of course he had destroyed the letter, as he always did.

So the Wrathbreakers had no clues about who was procuring these parts, except that the instructions were delivered by note (as they always were by this particular employer) and the goods had to be delivered to a warehouse owned by a man called Gerald of Hamm.

They left Creosote alive, surveying the wreckage of his business, and left to find Gerald. Who was sending these notes, and what could they do to find this person? They would just have to keep shaking people up until someone told them something useful … or their mysterious correspondent took a direct, personal interest in them …

Kiss me goodbye

Pushing out before I sleep

Can’t you see I try

Swimming the same deep water as you is hard

“The shallow drowned lose less than we”

You breathe

The strangest twist upon your lips

“And we shall be together… ”

The Wrathbreakers have stumbled upon a strange cave complex while they were searching for wreckers, and now they feel they have stumbled on something that is much stranger than mere criminal damage. It appears that there are some kind of magical seals in the cave, perhaps somehow linked to the sea, and the ship they came here to investigate was not lured onto rocks by wreckers at all.

Having escaped from a trap set by the seals in a cave just off the entrance to the complex, the Wrathbreakers regrouped at the entrance and decided to risk exploring the rest. They left Quangbae on guard, and began their search. There were three tunnels leading from the cave, and having investigated the first, they decided to search the next.

The next tunnel turned almost immediately and opened into a small cave, still dimly lit by the light from the entrance. It was empty, with a dry sandy floor and small cracks in the ceiling letting in wan daylight. The entire wall of the cave was covered with a network of faintly glowing pale blue lines, laid on the wall in a pattern disturbingly reminiscent of the tattoo they had seen on the patch of skin they had recovered from the wrecked boat. It was not the same pattern, but obviously from a similar hand or culture. Whoever’s skin had been flayed and cured and hidden on that boat, they or their relatives lived in this cave.

They could all see where this was going, but they needed to be sure. They ventured into the final tunnel and followed it down a steep, precarious and slickly wet descent to a much larger cave. At the entrance to the cave was a large pool of dark, still water, and beyond the dim glow of Itzel’s werelight the cave disappeared into darkness. A narrow ledge of rock led around the edge of the pool. Treading carefully to avoid stepping in the water, they threaded their way along the ledge.

They were halfway around the pool and separated by some distance when the water began to rise around their feet. Before they could scramble back a new squad of seals appeared in the water and the powerful surge of the water hit them, dragging one of them into the water and forcing the rest of them to take positions on the ledge or the steps. This time, however, as they fought the seals in the water, three humanoid figures emerged from the shadows, screaming in rage.

They were tall, bigger than humans, two wearing sharkskin armour and carrying coral spears. The third was a tall, austere-looking woman in a ragged robe that appeared to be made of seaweed, also carrying a coral spear. Their skin was covered in a fine layer of grey-brown fur, just like the fur on the skin they had found in the ship. When that woman screamed, they knew they were in trouble. Feeling the full force of the strange creature’s power, Itzel stepped forward and yelled “Parley!” in every language she knew, while holding aloft the skin they had found on the shore.

The seals in the water withdrew, and the woman responded in an archaic and almost incomprehensible elven dialect. Her demands were clear: if they returned the skin and promised to bring to her the people who had done this to her fellow selkie, she would let them live. They agreed, and leaving the skin behind, they retreated up the stairs.

Ivrem and Selm

Outside, they gathered around a small fire to rest and eat and dry themselves. They had to wait three days here for Kay’s marines to arrive and take them away, which gave them plenty of time to make plans. It was at this point, recovering their poise around the campfire, that they remembered the two men they had seen hiding in the cliffs behind the cave. They had a good idea of who those men might be, but regardless of who they were they must have seen what happened on the beach. The Wrathbreakers decided to go and get them.

It did not take them long. The two men were hungry and desperate, and had little they could do. After Bao Tap sent them a message with his spume owl they descended the cliff face and, after a brief, tense negotiation, entered the wrathbreakers’ camp. Over a small meal they attempted to talk their way out of the trouble that must be coming, but they failed, and their story was spilled for all the world to know.

They were the surviving members of a team of men who had been assembled in Estona and sent out to hunt Selkie. Selkie are fey, and someone somewhere was willing to pay good money for their skin and “Other parts”. The hunting had been good at first but the Selkie soon learnt what was going on and became harder to trap. Then, on their last journey back down the coast, their ship had been run aground in perfect weather and attacked by Selkie. In the foaming shallows the crew had turned crazy and started hacking at each other while seals dragged them underwater and drowned them, but somehow Ivrem and Selm had been able to get away, and had fled to the cliffs. Here they had been for a week, unable to come down to the beach because the Selkie were waiting for them, but unable to find a way up the cliffs. They had survived on rainwater and raw lizards and eggs, getting ever more desperate.

They tried to bargain, but to no avail. The Wrathbreakers dragged one of them down to the cave – Ivrem or Selm, they couldn’t remember and didn’t care which – and offered him to the matriarch. They told her they would take the other back to Estona and use him to find the man who had organized the mission, and they would bring that man – and anyone connected to him – here. The Selkie matriarch agreed to their terms, and as they left the limpid pool filled with lampreys, which tore the prisoner to pieces as he drowned in a murky soup of gelid brine.

Three days later the marines made landfall, and they dragged their surviving prisoner – Ivrem or Selm, they still didn’t care – down to the boat, to be taken back to Estona to cash in all of his friends. They did not feel many qualms about staking their survival on the hideous deaths of this man and his employer, and they had a strong feeling that Estona would be a better town once everyone involved had been thrown to the lampreys …


Picture note: This is a picture by Natalia Drepina on Deviantart.

The Orun Cliffs

The Wrathbreakers (for so they are now called) have rested for two months in Estona. They have passed the month of Settling attending to mundane matters in the town – shopping for weapons, making connections in the Church of Salt and the Academy, cleaning out and refurbishing their stronghold, and resting after their month of conflict and terror in the mountains. At the end of the month of Settling they visited Siladan the Elder, whose fate seems intertwined with their own, and asked him many questions about his past and about those sadly dead adventurers who they discovered on the journey to Estona.

During this period of relaxation and recovery they also met a Myrmidon named Kay, leader of a division of marines, who invited them to his office in the tower called the Redoubt, a small fortress overlooking the Docks and the bay. Here he acquainted himself with them, and mentioned to them that he had a few agents amongst the underworld of Estona who might occasionally make contact with the PCs, and offer them work on Kay’s behalf that he preferred not to have associated with the marines. They agreed to this suggestion, thinking it would be good to have things to do while they investigated the loose ends of whatever spiders’ web of lies and trouble had been cast over them when they stumbled on the deepfolk in the Middlemarch.

And so it was that, early in the month of Ice, one of those agents made contact with them, and they were invited to a meeting at a dockside dive bar called Charlotte Sometimes.

The Wreckers of the Orun Cliffs

The bar was a narrow single-counter slot between two warehouses at the edge of the docks, run by a man called Argalat. When they entered he gestured them upstairs, to a small second floor lounge with a single table big enough for one group of six. They settled around a small table that was soon groaning under a load of freshly grilled seafood and ales, and in between serving laconic patrons downstairs, Argalat explained the situation and the job.

Argalat himself was a sleazy-looking older man with a narrow, pinched frame and a cold manner. He was no doubt deep into various illegal activities, but carried himself as a man not compromised to within an inch of his life and up to his neck in treachery. He revealed that in exchange for this job he would owe the Wrathbreakers a favour, though it was hard for them to imagine what they might need from him – watered beer, perhaps, for a party? They were relieved to hear that they would also receive coin and a few potions.

Argalat told them that recently two ships had gone missing along the coast to the west of Estona, perhaps a day’s sailing west, along the Orun cliffs. A navy ship returning a few days ago had seen a light near the wreck of the second ship, and the marines now suspected there were wreckers operating on that stretch of the coast. Their guess was that a crew had a base somewhere in the Orun Cliffs, and were using a fake lighthouse to cause ships to wreck, then stealing their cargos and reselling them in Estona. The wrathbreakers’ job was to travel to the latest wreck, kill most of the wreckers, capture at least one, and bring him or her back to Estona to reveal their contacts. It was made very clear to the Wrathbreakers that once they had captured a suitable informant no other wreckers were to survive, and if they were to die by drowning it would be considered a bonus. The Myrmidon Kay wanted the Wrathbreakers to do it because he assumed someone would escape or somehow get a message out, and he wanted their contacts in Estona to believe it was a raid by rival gangsters, not a bust by the marines – that way their network in Estona would not go to ground, and when the Wrathbreakers returned with their information they would be able to move on the whole network.

They would sail the following night, heading along the coast until they were about a day’s walk from the shipwreck. That area of the coast featured a long, straight beach that they could easily walk along, so they would be taken past the wreck during the night by a shrimper’s ship and dropped at a safe cove a long distance from the wreck at dawn. They could then walk back along the beach until they reached the wreck and begin their investigations. There was a possibility that the wreckers were only accessing the beach by sea, the Orun Cliffs being imposing and often impossible to navigate, so in order to ensure the Wrathbreakers could bring their prisoners out, the marines would land at the wreck after three days. If the Wrathbreakers were not there to meet them, the marines would search for them and kill everyone they found.

An easy job! They agreed and set off to prepare.

The beach

The journey to the beach was uneventful, and at dawn they set off along its black sands. A biting, freezing wind howled along the beach, and the waves crashed with an even, rhythmic roar to their right as they marched back towards the wreck. They threaded a line along the wet sand near the waves, where walking was easier and the wind a little less biting, and where they had slightly less fear of falling rocks. The Orun Cliffs towered above them on their left hand side, here rising more than a kilometre into distant haze. At their base here the Cliffs were not as sheer as around Estona, forming a kind of rubble-strewn series of ledges leading down to the beach. Here, in between the black tumbled rocks of the cliff itself, the ledges formed grassy slopes scattered with occasional stunted trees and scrabbly patches of ferns in the lee of the larger rocks.

Everything else was an endless series of parallel lines: the black horizon of the beach, perpendicular to the distant hazy edge of the cliffs; a white line of surf trailing towards them from that far set square of black stone and powder, and cutting between them all the faint grey line of the ocean’s horizon, light hazy grey above and dark threatening green-grey below. Nothing grew, nothing moved. They walked, cocooned in the roar of the surf and braced against the frozen wind at their backs.

Towards midday they came across a bleached whale carcass, a huge line of perfect white bones stretching along the beach in front of them. As they approached a throng of rats and scavenger-lizards scattered from their slow feasting on the bones and fled across the black sand, disappearing into the scrub and scree at the edge of the beach. A seal lay lazily in the white foam of the breakers, watching them with innocent curiosity as they walked into the arch of the whale’s rib cage and stood staring at its monstrous form. The whale must have been an old giant of its kind, far bigger than a longship, and now here it was reduced to bleached white ruin, its empty eye sockets staring endlessly at the uncaring grey sky as a multitude of insects crawled over the bristling plates of baleen in its enormous jaw. Kyansei tossed a stone in the seal’s direction, and they walked on.

The wreck

Towards afternoon they reached the wreck. It lay in the waves at the beach’s edge, marooned and half broken by the constantly pounding surf but not yet fragmented. Perhaps 300 metres further on was a small promontory of Orun stone, jutting into the sea like the prow of a great black stone ship, but the wreck was surely too far away to have hit it. They guessed perhaps a light could have been set on that promontory, and decided to investigate it immediately after the ship. After some confusion and fussing Quangbae, Calim and Bao Tap waded out to the wreck to search it.

They found three bodies in the lee of the central cabin, rolling in the gently undulating water of the ship’s wave-shadow. As they approached them a seal popped its head out of the water and swam away, the only other living thing at the wreck. While Calim dragged the bodies out, Kyansei waded over and dived in to search the underwater parts of the wreck.

The bodies were long dead. Two were wearing leather armour, one carried a knife at its waist, and one was dressed in typical sailors’ rags. They had been gnawed on by fish and slowly rotted despite the freezing temperature of the water, and in their condition Calim could tell little about how they died. He did, however, find a small gold locket on one of the sailors, which Itzel identified to be enchanted. Upon deeper inspection, though, she noticed that strange greasy, unpleasant sensation of deep magic – it was an evil artifact of some kind. They covered it in salt and gave it to Calim for safe-keeping.

Under the wreck, in the frozen sea, Kyansei dug around in the captain’s cabins until she found a small chest, which she dragged out. On land as she slowly unfroze they smashed it open, revealing a pouch of coins and a bolt of a strange kind of chamois leather material, a super supple leather on one side lined with fine, short grey-brown fur on the other. Underneath the fur, embossed on the leather itself, was a complex geometric pattern of fine silver-blue lines, which had been applied in such a way that they must be some kind of tattoo. Were they looking at the skin of some person or monster? And if so, what? And who would remove it?

They realized then that there was an obvious problem with this wreck. It had not been looted, the single signature job of wreckers. Whatever reason it had been run aground here, it had not been for money. The “wreckers” they sought were either psychopathic killers who wrecked ships for pleasure, or had some other purpose behind their actions. At this point Kyansei voiced the question they had all been asking: what was this ship? What had it been carrying? And they realized that they had forgotten to ask this essential question before they set out from Estona. They were alone on this frozen black beach, in possession of a mystery, pursuing the wrong cause, and at least one of the bodies was steeped in deep magic.

What tangled web had they caught themselves in? (Again)

The Caves

From the ship they set out to the promontory. Bao Tap had conjured a spume-owl, a kind of owl that lives in the waves and almost never sets foot on land. He now sent it ahead to spy on the promontory and cliffs. So it was that by the time they had walked the short distance to the rocky outcrop they already knew that there was a cave in the face of that rock, with an open area of stone in front of it and a second entrance from its roof. They also knew that two men were watching them from the cover of the Orun Cliffs, though those men did not know they had been seen. The Wrathbreakers decided to try the caves first, and come back to the men in the cliffs when they knew who or what was inside the caves. It would be very bad to be trying to scale cliffs in pursuit of two men and have a whole brigade of archers emerge from inside the caves.

They checked the flat stone area outside the cave mouth for signs of a fire or light of some kind, but found none. So, with nothing left to investigate, they entered the cave. Kyansei entered first. She saw a line of shells scattered across the entryway, their mother-of-pearl sides all facing up to reflect the weak light from the cave entrance and the hole in the ceiling, but only realized it was a trap after she stepped over them and triggered it. From the eastern wall of the cave a huge blast of water erupted, striking her and driving her back out of the cave. Fortunately it did not do much damage, and Calim was there to heal her.

Guessing that the line of shells was the trap, and seeing it was now washed away, they entered the cave. Calim had noticed that the water that hit Kyansei was fresh, and wanted to investigate the source, so they headed east into a narrow tunnel that soon opened into a large cave. Here there was no light, so Itzel used her magic to cast a pale silvery glow around the cavern. This cavern was filled with a pool of water, in the middle of which stood a small rocky island. It was perhaps 2 metres from the entrance to that rock, and submerged in the water just a bit further into the pool was a human body.

Kyansei and Calim jumped into the frozen water to retrieve the body, and it immediately began to swirl and bubble. Four seals emerged as if from nowhere and began swimming in rapid circles around the rock. Sensing the worst, Kyansei hauled herself onto the rock, but behind her the current suddenly strengthened and dragged Calim under. He fought against the pull of the water and dragged himself out just long enough for Kyansei to drag him onto the rock. Everyone fled from the cave, and a moment later another blast of water hit them, knocking them down as they fled into the entrance cave but fortunately doing no damage.

When they ventured back into the cave the seals were gone, and there was no sign of any way they could have entered or left. Kyansei swore they had just appeared in the water as if by magic.

They all cursed. These were no wreckers. They had stumbled into a nest of fey, and now they were going to have to fight their way to whatever sick and twisted secret lay at its heart. Vivid memories of the redcap and its horrid games returned to them. What was it with Fey, water and twisted games?

There was only one way to find out. They girded themselves, and prepared for the worst …

Where will they look to find these lost secrets?

Chapter 1 of the Archipelago campaign has come to a close, with the PCs liberating themselves from Hugo Tuya’s employment under unfortunate (for him) circumstances and arriving in the city of Estona, where they have established a stronghold. As chapter 2 of this campaign begins they need to choose a name for their new, independent adventuring group, and decide what they want to do next. During their journey across the southern part of Hadun they encountered several mysteries and some potential for future adventure, some of which hints at dark shadows stirring under the mountains. Now they must decide which of those strands of information they will pursue, or if they wish to embark on some other adventure of their own choosing. Estona is a maritime center on the western coast of the Archipelago’s largest island, and offers many opportunities for exploration and adventure if the PCs so choose. Here I will describe some of the mysteries and adventure opportunities they encountered on their journey, and some choices for their group to pursue in chapter 2.

Siladan’s adventuring group

During their adventures the PCs happened upon the history of an adventuring group that hailed from the lands they traveled through. This group appeared to have separated after a catastrophic adventure went wrong, with the survivors settling in their home towns. The three survivors whose names and history the PCs encountered were:

  • Verbere the Flame, a human explorer who returned to the town of Ibara after catastrohpe befell the adventuring group, but who was killed by bandits outside Ibara and whose body and belongings the PCs discovered. They found a letter to him from his old colleague Siladan the Elder, and based on the contents of this letter dug up a buried stash of iron, which they subsequently were forced to hand over to Verbere’s widow
  • Regald, a human warrior living in Ell’s Hamlet, whose daughter they found reanimated outside of Ibara. This girl had been murdered while meeting an elf who appeared to be her lover, and on her body they found a necklace of black stone. Following this necklace, they found Regald, and when they searched his house they found a letter to him from Siladan which suggested he had received some elven documents from their adventuring days, and his daughter had taken these to her elven lover, where she had been ambushed by deepfolk and the documents had been stolen by those deepfolk.
  • Siladan the Elder, a human Astrologer who settled in Estona after the break up of the adventuring group. He appears to have spent some time a few years ago cleaning out old documents and paraphernalia, and sent some of the items he wanted to remove to his former companions. A letter about buried iron was sent to Verbere, while some elven documents and a letter explaining them were sent to Regald. These letters, in their own ways, got Verbere and Regald’s daughter killed. Verbere’s death was likely a coincidence, but Regald’s daughter was killed by deepfolk returning elven documents to the elves. These documents had been previously held by deepfolk, from whom Siladan and his adventurers had stolen them, and it seems likely that the deepfolk somehow discovered they were in the possession of Regald’s daughter and killed her to get them back.

It seems clear that this adventuring group had fought deepfolk many times, had stolen some elven documents from those deepfolk, and the group then dissolved after a catastrophic battle. It also seems likely that the deepfolk desperately wanted those elven documents back, and when the documents were moved from Regald’s house by his daughter the deepfolk somehow became aware of them, and killed her to get them back. What was in the documents? Is it a coincidence that the documents were stolen by an adventuring party active in the same part of Hadun where the deepfolk have become newly active after years of peace? This opens three possible tasks connected to this group:

  1. Meet Siladan and learn the history of his group
  2. Find out more about the elven documents, what they contained and where they were found
  3. Find out how the deepfolk tracked the documents

Which leads us to …

Argalt’s Raiders

The PCs were not the only people looking for Regald. When they were approaching Ell’s Hamlet they were ambushed by a squad of raiders from the Valley of Gon, who they learnt had been sent to Ell’s Hamlet to find Regald. They tracked the raiders to their camp and attacked it, in a vicious battle with the squad leader Rimgalt, who fought with a deepfolk axe.

They learnt that these raiders had been sent from a stronghold in the Valley of Gon by a man named Argalt, a raider chieftain, who had wanted them to find Regald and bring him and any documents in his possession back to the stronghold. They assumed that this must mean that Argalt had learnt of the elven documents some time after Regald’s daughter moved them, and came to Ell’s Hamlet looking for them. The PCs did not travel to the Valley of Gon to interrogate Argalt, so they do not know how he knew about the documents or why his raiders were late to get them, but they have their suspicions. But they could do these things:

  1. Travel to the Valley of Gon to investigate Argalt
  2. Try to learn how he knew about Regalt’s documents and why he wanted them

The fact that Rimgald fought with a deepfolk axe makes them suspect some connection to the deepfolk, and although it is close to blasphemy to think humans would work with deepfolk, Calim suspects it – why else did the deepfolk raiders they met on their journey hold captives to ransom for coin? Which brings us to …

The Skydeath Clan’s Vile Purpose

After Ell’s Hamlet the PCs traveled on to Estala, where they were supposed to receive the first instalment of payment for their escort work from their employer, Hugo Tuya. Unfortunately Estala had been attacked by a contingent of deepfolk from a local clan called the Skydeath clan. These vile beasts had successfully stormed the town at night, killed some guards and taken captives, and had dragged them out of town to a lair nearby where they held them as hostages. The PCs went to help with the hostage negotiations, and learnt that the Skydeath clan were demanding coin for the return of the hostages. This is a very strange demand, because deepfolk cannot trade with humans – any human providing succour or support to deepfolk in any way is a blasphemous concept, it is never done, and there is no record of any such interaction or allegiance between deepfolk and humans, so they simply have no use for coin. Usually deepfolk hostage negotiators demand grain, rice and glass. Why would they demand coin?

The PCs raided the deepfolk camp and slew most of them, freeing the hostages and earning the payment they should have been given for free. They then became involved in the aftermath, tracking down the deepfolk gang and confirming their movements. As part of this they visited a nearby observatory, which the deepfolk had raided, and found:

  • The deepfolk had removed all the observatory’s telescopes
  • The deepfolk had killed everyone working at the observatory and reanimated them
  • The deepfolk had destroyed all sources of knowledge held at the observatory, zealously making sure that nothing that had been researched or learnt there could ever be known by any other humans
  • Someone had managed to erase a poem on a blackboard during the battle, perhaps in desperation to prevent them seeing it. The PCs had been able to reconstruct the poem, though they could not understand what it meant

After the observatory the PCs themselves headed into the mountains on their journey, into a pass called the Middlemarch which they had been promised was safe but which obviously was not. Here they ran into a large force of deepfolk, also from the Skydeath clan, who killed their employer and drove them out of the pass. When they left the pass they realized they had a map from Regald’s documents, which seemed to indicate the location of the deepfolk camp in the Middlemarch. They had been told by reliable sources that the deepfolk in this area had been very quiet for decades, and that the recent attack was highly unusual. Had Siladan’s adventuring group woken something in the mountains? So, the PCs could ask many questions here:

  1. Why did the Skydeath clan attack the town of Estala?
  2. Who are the Skydeath clan? Are they new in the area?
  3. Why did the Skydeath clan want coin?
  4. Why did they destroy the observatory?
  5. What was on the map the PCs found in Regald’s house, what did Regald and Siladan know about the deepfolk in the Middlemarch, and did they wake something up in the mountains at the time that they found, or drew, the map the PCs hold?

To answer these questions might also help the PCs to clear the Middlemarch and drive back the deepfolk raiders, which would clear the way for them to return to the southern part of Hadun, and in particular to Miselea, where they have unfinished business. Which brings us to …

Killing the spider god

On their journey to Miselea, early in chapter 1, the PCs stumbled on a nest of spiders and a loathsome fey called a Redcap. They killed the Spiders and learnt horrible things about the Redcap written in blood poetry by one of its victims. They also freed some humans who had been enslaved by the Redcap, and learnt that they had been accompanying an astrologer who had entered the great forest in search of a god of spiders.

From this the PCs guessed that there are great and powerful gods of animals living in the deep forests of the world, and that the god of the spiders lives in the forest east of Miselea. They guess it is also accompanied by some Redcap king or queen. They also think that, were they to kill it, they could become incredibly powerful. The freed slaves of the spider nest they attacked promised to help them kill the spider god, and any Redcap that is with it. So one possibility for the PCs is to return to Miselea, enter the kingdom of Ariaki to find the freed slaves of the spiders, and launch a campaign into the wilderness to find and kill the spider god.

What could possibly go wrong with such a venture? And while they are in Ariaki, there is something else they could do …

Researching the Northern Blight

Kyansei, the group’s warrior, is a Wildling from the northern lands. She is traveling in Hadun looking for clues as to the blight that has begun afflicting her homeland, convinced that it has some connection to the deepfolk or some cause in dark magic that the Wildlings do not understand. In Miselea she encountered a delegation from Ariaki, who promised to help her in her inquiries. They have sent messengers to an Academy in the town of Alpon in northern Ariaki, and if the group enters Ariaki on other purposes Kyansei would no doubt want to visit Alpon to find out what they have learnt. Perhaps in Alpon, too, the PCs could learn something of the nature of the fey, to help them kill the spider god … or maybe they would need to visit the elves of the Great Forest to learn such things.

In any case, knowledge is power, and the PCs need more knowledge, particularly about the dark and evil things that lurk in the shadows and stones of this land. Which brings us to …

Aveld the Foul’s Secrets

A side adventure that the PCs could also consider involves uncovering the origins and history of a scholar called Aveld the Foul. The adventuring group whose deaths the PC have traced across the southern lands seemed to have some connection to this man: Siladan the Elder mentioned him in a letter to Verbere the Flame, and insinuated to Regald that the had other scholarship by Aveld the Foul that he was working to translate or understand in some way. If the PCs obtain this documentation from Siladan they could track down any leads to find out who Aveld the Foul was, what he knows about the deepfolk in the region, and whether he has any dark secrets that need to be buried.

Burial is perhaps a theme in the first chapter of this campaign. Which brings us to …

The Standing Stones of the Spine

The PCs discovered some iron buried underground outside Ibara, amongst a scattered mess of very old deepfolk bones. In Miselea Calim mentioned these bones to the local Rimewarden, including explaining his suspicion that the site where they were buried looked like a ritual burial ground or magic site of some kind. This Rimewarden told him that the same patterns of standing stones have been found in other sites along the eastern edge of the Spine Mountains, but that no one had thought of digging beneath them before. He suggested that were Calim to return to Miselea, he could organize an archaeological dig at some of those other sites, and they could begin to answer questions about the purpose of the standing stones, and the nature of the burial that led to these bones being scattered in holes in the ground.

But does anyone care about how and why deepfolk are buried? So long as they are dead, eh?

Conclusion

So these are the choices available to the party, if they choose not to embark on some other jaunt of their own:

  • Find Siladan, talk with him, and learn the history and truth of the adventuring group and the elven documents that got Regald’s daughter killed
  • Investigate Argalt’s stronghold in the Valley of Gon and find out why Argalt was after Regald and his documents, and how he knew of them
  • Kill a spider god, with help from soldiers in Ariaki
  • Travel to Alpon in Ariaki to learn more about the blight afflicting the north, and perhaps also to learn how to kill a spider god and discover more about the fey (or perhaps this would require a journey to an elven settlement)
  • Learn more about the history and secrets of Aveld the Foul
  • Travel to Miselea and then perhaps Rokun, to do some archaeology in the Spine Mountains

As chapter 2 begins, the PCs face choices, and a long, hard path to uncover the secrets of fey, gods, deepfolk and humans. What will they find, and who will they have to kill on the way?

The PCs have raided a tea merchant’s compound and driven out some strange fey creature that was nesting there. A businessman in Estona has offered them the (relatively) unrestricted use of the compound for themselves for one year, and so now they prepare to move in. This post gives a brief description of the compound and its buildings.

The compound belonged to the sister of their benefactor, but she managed it poorly and became entangled in legal trouble with a firm in distant Rokun, which prevented her from selling the place or significantly changing it to some other purpose (such as a stonemason’s yard). It had become unprofitable due to competition from tea merchants in town, and after she died the PCs’ benefactor, Arvil, inherited it. Arvil himself is a successful businessman who is entering retirement, and has little interest at this late stage of his career in rehabilitating a fading investment or taking risks on it, especially given its legal troubles. He is more than happy to let the PCs manage it for a time.

The property is about a half day’s ride east of Estona, on an overgrown track that leaves a fork of a fork from the main eastern road. It has been allowed to become overgrown and is situated in quite thick, boggy forest. The fey that was nesting in the compound had woven some kind of glamour over the forest to make it difficult for people to follow the overgrown path and find the property, which even from the river is difficult to spot in its overgrown state, but the PCs managed to penetrate that glamour and now know how to find the place easily. The primary features of the property are listed here.

1. Lighthouse and pier

The lighthouse is crumbling wood, with unstable stairs inside leading up to a small tower that once held a light. From here there is a good archery position over the whole area but it is difficult to climb to without breaking the stairs or falling until it is repaired.

The pier is also crumbling, and there are no boats on it.

2. Warehouse and office

The warehouse has solid rammed earth and rock foundations, with wide double doors that open into the slightly recessed, cool first floor of the building. There is nothing here except a few trashed crates. Wooden stairs in one corner go up to the second floor, which is a solid wood extension to the first floor. This room contains some smashed up furniture and a long window looking out over the river, with a smaller window looking out over the courtyard. It is another excellent archery post but there is only one way in or out. The windows are jammed shut.

3. Storehouse

This is a white-washed stone building with large doors on two sides. It used to hold food and supplies for the compound (not tea – this was stored in the warehouse near the pier). It is now empty, and the doors smashed.

4. Stables

The stables have 6 stalls, and a little space at one end for stairs leading up to a storage loft.

5. Servants’ quarters

On the western end of the stables is a door that leads under a covered porch to a small servants’ quarters with four beds in it, where the stablehands used to sleep. This room is drafty and empty.

6. Tea workshop

This long, single-story building has solid walls of stone carefully placed together, and good quality tile roofs that are largely intact. Inside the walls are lined with ceramic and the floor is cool slate. Large stone and wood benches stretch down the middle, and a series of large storage cabinets run down the southern wall. The northern wall has faucets for hot water from the hot spring, and also a pump and well system for water from underground. The beastmen used this water and treated the room relatively well, though it is still not clean. A door in the north runs to the onsen, and to the east a door opens to the tea roasting space.

7. Roastery

Tea used to be roasted here and although the roasting oven itself is smashed and useless, the space is perfectly designed for e.g. a forge.

8. Hot spring

The hot spring is in an interior room in this wooden structure. There is a narrow changing area on the outside, with racks for clothes and some old wooden buckets and brushes nearby. A ceramic tube carries water from the spring to the spigots in room 6, and another tube carries it to the kitchen in building 9. There is also a sluice on the eastern wall but it no longer works. The onsen itself is a large rock structure that the wooden frame has been built to obscure, with water rising from an exit point perhaps 3m above ground and falling into a pair of connected pools, one higher than the other. The water from the top is very hot but cools rapidly as it falls to the pools – supernaturally rapidly – until it is just scalding hot in the smaller, higher pool and then perfect temperature in the lower pool. The sluices and ceramic tubes connect to the top where the water emerges, so they deliver essentially boiling water to the rooms each side of this one. Steam rises through vents in the ceiling, and smaller gaps in the rocks allow small floods of water to fall around the main rocky structure onto slate floors. Beneath the slate are several layers of wood, through which the water seems to seep relatively comfortably, and the ground outside the building is not especially wet. Water from the lower pool runs away into a crack at the base of the pool where it disappears presumably underground. The only hint as to the magical nature of the pool is the strange speed at which the water cools.

9. Longhouse central office

This is the building where the tea merchant would conduct business with visiting traders, and also where the tea merchant himself lived. The first floor has a recessed floor and walls of solid brick and earth, like a typical Archipelago longhouse. In the centre of the area is a large firepit, surrounded on three sides by chairs and with a table between the firepit and the western entrance. To the east is the main entry area, a small porch-like structure with double sliding doors leading east and a separate entrance that opens to a covered walkway extending across to the hostelry. The western side of the main room has steps leading up to a small kitchen and stairs that go up to the second floor. The second floor has three rooms: on the eastern end a bedroom, in the middle a study and office, and on the western end a small sitting room area. The servant who worked here has a small sleeping room abutting the hostelry. The beastman sheltered in here, and it is trashed and stinking with refuse and rotten meat. The fey leader lurked in the rooms above on the second floor, which probably require a good cleansing religious ritual before they are comfortable for humans to use.

10. Hostelry

This is a simpler wooden building with stone reinforcement on the side facing the river. Its first floor is a wide, open living and dining area, with a kitchen on one side and beyond that a small set of servants’ quarters for a total of four servants. Stairs in the main living area lead up to a set of sleeping areas, with space for six separate rooms with two people in each. There is a small bathroom on the ground floor, which looks over the river. A bath in this bathroom uses water drawn from the onsen, but this whole building is musty and abandoned.

11. Gardens

The gardens here are now in disarray but used to hold a sizable herb garden, and could do again if cultivated. There is a small glasshouse, with some panes currently damaged, and a shed with tools for gardening.

All of these areas are damaged and run-down, and some parts (such as the Longhouse itself) have been badly soiled by the beastmen who lived there until the PCs drove them out. The Onsen is fully functional, and anyone spending the night in the fully restored compound recovers 2 wounds per night instead of one. Anyone who spends a week fully resting here with appropriate care upgrades resilience checks to recover from critical wounds, and all healing spells and medicine checks performed to recover from critical wounds are upgraded. Attempts to brew healing potions in the tea workshop are also upgraded once due to the benefits of using magical healing water to prepare them, but the difficulty of brewing poisons is upgraded once for the same reason.

The compound can serve as a tier 3 stronghold, with one free tier 1 feature (the onsen) that does not count toward the limit of tier 1 features. It easily has accommodation for all the PCs, and the servants rooms can be adapted to easily accommodate Selina and Laiea. Some extra work will be required to enable the addition of a barracks – for example installing a dormitory above the stables, or reforming the hostelry to allow the guards and the PCs to have rooms in the one building. Nonetheless, the compound offers a versatile base of operations for a group of adventurers interested in settling down and using all the opportunities Estona has to offer as they chase up the many mysteries left over from their exploration of southern Hadun.