View Full Version : Campaigns / Adventures Lord of Dunharrow
06-20-2008, 01:56 AM
I'm starting a D&D 4th campaign in a few weeks, and I've decided to keep an online journal of its progress. Here is the introduction.
You awake and step out on the balcony of your castle. It is a shambles. There is only one thing new here, unweathered, unbroken -- a looming statue of almost living marble, larger than life, depicting a stern-faced paladin holding forth the Sword Unerring. At its base is in an inscription -- “Aldarion – our protector, our savior, beloved friend – greatest of the Dunharrows.” Before he was a statue, he was your father. In the morning, with the sun rising in the east, you awaken in father's shadow. Have the last few weeks been a dream? Can this be real? Can father really be dead? And how is it that you ... YOU ... once a peasant have been created a Lord of Dunharrow?
Everyone knows father's name -- Aldarion -- savior, paragon, paladin, redeemer, hero. Say the word and crowds cheer, maidens swoon and old men tell their favorite tales. A whole saga has grown up around father only about half of which he ever did.
Which is not to say that Aldarion was not a real hero. He defeated the lich-lord Kyrannus, king of the Dead Ice, not once but twice! He bested the lich-lord’s demonic allies, countless undead minions, and even an orcish warlord cowed into the dead-king’s service. He led the expedition that at last solved the riddle of Mad King Moldath’s Tomb and retrieved the Sword Unerring from its centuries of hiding. With that sword he laid low the lich’s greatest creation – the undead dragon Scathya Hellwing. He thwarted the Blackguard Leandra de Varn in her scheme to build a permanent bridge between the material realm and the Nine Hells, later converting her to the path of righteousness.
And when Kyrannus returned as a demon-lich to finally conquer the free lands of the west, it was Aldarion who journeyed to the Obsidian Tower, slew the reborn abomination and shattered the Gate of Twelve Locks forever. Alas, breaking the demonic artifact also shattered the Sword Unerring (which it turned out was also the thirteenth key – thus completing Mad Moldath’s centuries old scheme to save his lands). Aldarion's body was recovered but was so tainted with demonic energy that any resurrection was impossible. His body was burned and consecrated. His ashes were given to his widow the redeemed Lady Leandra (who he had married). She scattered her beloved to the winds. The free peoples owe much to Aldarion and now he has gone to his reward – forever.
Everyone knows father's name. When word reached the throne-city of Talos of his triumphant demise, the king of Dalmark declared a day of mourning. Aldarion’s state funeral was sincere, massive, thronged. To the unanimous applause of the masses, the king decreed that Aldarion’s descendants would be elevated to the title of Duke and given the Duchy of Dunharrow to rule forever. “It is the least our grateful land can do.” You were there when the words were spoken. Now, by royal decree, you life is forever changed.
Everyone knows father's name – but no one has heard of you. You have been given a troubled and tiny borderland, long mismanaged by its former owner. You have a castle but it is nearly a ruin. The treasury is empty. There are rumors of monsters in the woods and former guardsmen turned bandit. Most of your subjects have fled to safer neighboring duchies. Maybe the king doesn't really like you after all.
Everyone knows father's name – but will they remember you?
06-20-2008, 02:11 AM
The white-haired man was nervous. He steadied his hands and awaited their arrival. As they walked in, he tried to conceal his surprise. This was a strange lot -- stranger than he had hoped. But it did not stop him from rising and bowing. "My lords," he said, with all due and proper courtesy. "Welcome to Dunharrow."
“I am your humble steward, my lords, Sir Cecil of Westermost. Welcome to Dunharrow Castle and congratulations on your recent ascension. I am your most humble servant and will work tirelessly to see your interests preserved. Now, pleasantries aside, I must tell you that you have been gifted with a most troubled domain. The manor was for years run by a … ahem, less than interested noble who preferred to spend all his time away at court and demanded all revenue be sent to him to support his less than restrained lifestyle. Finally, he had the good sense to die in a duel over a matter concerning someone else’s wife and his bastard son. But, the damage is done and this neglect permeates every inch of your domain.
“Your treasury is all but empty and the castle, as you have doubtless noticed, is in complete shambles. A network of silver mines, once the principle source of revenue for your manor, is currently occupied by horrid subhuman raiders and entirely unsafe for the miners. What remains of your guard are little more than bandits themselves and not to be trusted. Every bridge has collapsed thanks to a lack of repair and so, if there were any traders willing to brave this dangerous land, they would be forced to ford the rivers, slowing their progress and endangering their wagons. The stone quarries which could be employed to fix both the castle and the bridges, is reputed to be haunted though I am uncertain of the truth of this. And it is said that the pass to the north which might connect us to the city-state of Montradaria is inhabited by unholy beasts whose very glance turns men to stone.
"Worse, your neighbor to the south, Duke Davison, openly covets your lands and though constrained by law and tradition from simply invading, considers your holding vulnerable and will doubtless ceaselessly work to undermine your rule. Given these difficulties, most of your servants have fled. I remain here simply because Dunharrow is my home and I know no other.
“As good as all that news is, it is not the worst of your situation. You have been gifted with all lands south of Mount Halacathra, east of Mount Scafell, west of Mount Arn, and north of the twin springs Syrna and Cythera. This is what your documents and the royal proclamations decree. This is simply not true. Less than half of that domain is even vaguely under your control. The northern half of the lands are, it is said, the domain of monsters and fey and none of the soldiery or peasants dare venture there. A great dragon is said to make its residence atop Mount Halacathra. And there are rumors that a second castle long abandoned in the north has become the domain of an unknown evil.
“All of these difficulties aside, you have been given a domain of rare beauty and natural splendor. The forests are lush and game is plentiful, the soil is good, and the mountains rich with silver. If you have the will to tame her and wit enough to survive her many challenges, you will discover that Dunharrow could become a crown jewel amongst the royal charters. I believe this and I hope you share this faith. But understand that for now no one else believes this. To all outsiders Dunharrow is a savage and blighted land, a worthless borderland of neither value nor concern. And it will take all our efforts to prove them wrong.
"So, my lords, what shall our first order of business be?"
The white-haired man finally took a breathe. He paused and looked into the faces of this motley assembled. And he waited for them to speak...
07-01-2008, 01:43 AM
The Lady Leandra de Varn read the charter carefully, even as the pretty young maid combed her long and resplendant raven-black hair. She remained good with contracts. Years of dealing with devils will teach you that skill. "It seems straight forward enough," she remarked. "Aldarion II will be the Duke of Dunharrow."
"It isn't fair, my lady!" said the servant, betraying a slight Sernian accent. "You are Aldarion's wife. You should be duchess!"
The lady smiled -- such youthful naivete. "That is expressly forbidden. The King of Dalmark -- the last king -- forgave me for what I did and spared my life. But I can never hold title. I am simple 'the Lady' Leandra. I am ... content with that."
"Surely, the king would forgive you now!" said the young servant, her voice full of youthful certainty.
"I don't think so. I think even twenty five years is not long enough..."
"What could you have done that was so terrible?" said the young girl.
She paused and sat down the scroll. She examined her hair. "That's fine," she remarked. She turned to face the young girl. "What did I do ... you really want to know?"
"I'll tell you. After negotiating a blood-contract with the arch devil Geryon, I was finally powerful enough to approach the lich lord Kyrannus and have a reasonable chance of emerging from his throne room alive. It was there that I received the Heart of Maladomini, a giant shard of jazrael -- a gem stone formed only in the fiery pits of hell and a powerful arcane connection to the nether world. The price was easy enough to pay -- I gave him my warband for his experiments. You should have seen their faces as they were dragged off to the vivisection chambers.
"Though I had the Heart, I had no talent for the arcane. So, I located the Lodge of Endless Winter -- a minor cult of Geryon devotees -- but one with magical lore enough to complete the ritual. Their leader doubted my sincerity but after I cut off his head and ate his heart, the rest were pliant enough. Using potent magic, we disguised ourselves and the artifact and took up residence in the undercity of Talos. The local wererats didn't much care for our company but my sword of black flame convinced them to aid us with security quick enough.
"Alas, the wererats were a little too rambunctious and killed a patrol of town watch. I never ordered them to do that, the fools! We were trying to lay low as we completed the fiendishly complex 666 day ritual to bind the prime material plane to Hell. But it was enough that the Captain of the Watch contacted his good friend, Aldarion and his companions to investigate the murders. Suffice it to say that Aldarion dealt with the were-rats, the Lodge, even some assassins I hired to kill him. The ritual was interrupted and I was defeated. He had me at sword point. He didn't have to show me mercy, but he did."
She sighed. She could still see him -- there in his platemail. He had come through the sewers -- fought devils, rat-monsters, mad cultists and worse -- and still he shown like the sun. She tried not to shed a tear. These wounds were still too fresh...
She rose. The servant girl hired to brush her hair and dress for tonight's coronation had backed away somewhere in the midst of the tale. She said nothing but her pale face said it all -- 'You're THAT Leandra...' The Lady Leandra de Varn tossed a few clattering silver on the table.
"That is why I'll never be duchess."
07-17-2008, 10:13 PM
The Duke has been given by the king one of the three originals of the royal charter itself signed by his majesty. It is a heavy and beautifully illuminated scroll contained in an ornate wood and silver case (worth 250 gp just in materials).
Though long and couched in dense archaic legal language, the royal charter contains thirteen articles that are summarized below.
Article One: You are hereby of noble blood. You owe your allegiance to the king of Dalmark. You are his vassal. You will not aid his enemies in any way. In times of war, you must support the King as best you are able. You or one of you family must personally lead these forces into battle.
Article Two: You aren’t just any noble – you are a Duke, beneath only the gods, the king and the royal family. Everyone has to call you “Lord (your first name)” or “My Lord” or “Highness” or “His Grace”. Your full title is “Lord (your first name), Duke of Dunharrow, Protector of the Kingdom of Dalmark, Most Gracious Prince of the High Church of the Celestial Host, Peer of the Realm.” Your full title is reserved for formal occasions.
Article Three: Your wife is a Duchess. Everyone has to call her “Lady (her first name) or “My Lady” or “Highness” or “Her Grace”. She has no legal power unless you give it to her.
Article Four: Everyone who is related to you by blood or married to someone related to you by blood is a lord or a lady and everyone must address them as “Lord/Lady (your first name)” or “My Lord/Lady”. They don’t have any legal power either.
Article Five: You are the law in your duchy unless you specifically delegate it or the king is visiting. You can’t stop the king (or an agent bearing his seal) from entering your duchy. He doesn’t have to announce himself (though it is polite to do so). If the king does visit you must show him all due hospitality. Other dukes, lords, members of the royal family and knights have to ask permission before entering your duchy. But if you grant them permission, you must show them all due hospitality.
Article Six: You get to pick your heir. When you are dead, your heir gets to be duke. If you don’t pick an heir and you die, the King will pick one for you.
Article Seven: You get a seat at the Ducal Council (the so-called Council of Severus). The Council meets every three years in the capitol city of Talos, though it can be called together at other times in case of emergencies. You have to be there and you have to obey its decrees. The Council can make decrees if six of the twelve dukes agree and the king doesn’t object. The Council can overturn royal decrees if nine of the dukes agree. The Council can force the king to issue a decree or even depose him if all twelve agree.
Article Eight: Attacking another duchy or any royal holdings is forbidden and treasonous unless you can prove before the Ducal Council that they attacked you first. Even if you prove it was justified, you only to get to keep anything you conquer if the Council issues a decree approving the seizure.
Article Nine: The king can depose you at any time except when the Ducal Council is in session. The only person who can put you on trial is the king. Even if someone catches a duke doing something obviously criminal and treasonous, the duke must be turned over to the royal court. No one else has jurisdiction over him.
Article Ten: You can create knights but they are your responsibility. If they make trouble for some other duke or the king and they can prove it, it is your fault and you have to make restitution. Everyone has to call these knights “Sir (your first name)” or “My Lord”.
Article Eleven: You have to pay taxes every year (they are due on the first day of spring when a royal tax collector will be visiting). You owe the crown 10% of all your revenue.
Article Twelve: You may not ban the Church of the Celestial Host from your lands. You must tithe 10% of your revenue to the Church. Just give the money to the local bishop on the first day of spring. You are not required, but it is recommended you tithe another 10% to your people so that the poorest and most needy will be well taken care of within your demesne.
Article Thirteen: Your holdings consist of the land south of Mount Halacarthra, east of Mount Scafell, west of Mount Arn, and north of the twin springs Syrna and Cythera. This is the twelfth duchy of Dalmark. You can place the Roman numeral ‘XII’ on your standards. No one else is allowed to do so.
07-18-2008, 08:50 AM
Interesting stuff. I'm definitely looking forward to the rest of it!
07-18-2008, 07:31 PM
Interesting stuff. I'm definitely looking forward to the rest of it!
Our first session is this coming Sunday (20th July). I'll try to post a summary shortly thereafter.
07-18-2008, 07:35 PM
Religions of Dalmark
The Kingdom of Dalmark is polytheist and has a tolerant attitude towards any worship that doesn’t involve human sacrifice, blood rites or demons. The Church of the Celestial Host is the state religion and the nobility give mandatory tithes in exchange for church support during times of war. The Church is a sprawling organization with temples in almost every town, shire and borough and a complex hierarchy that often baffles outsiders. The earthly leader of the Church is the Lord-Patriarch currently Anterus IX who is rarely seen outside of Talos.
The Church worships a host of deities believed to be faces of the primordial Creator. The twelve gods (the so-called ‘Host’) the Church reveres are Avandra, Bahamut, Corellon, Erathis, Ioun, Kord, Melora, Moradin, Morwen (sometimes called the Raven Queen), Osprem (god of the sea and sailors), Pelor and Sehanine. Further a countless host of demigods serve these aspects. While there are separate temples dedicated to each aspect of the Creator (in particular temples to Pelor are common), the Church is ultimately unified.
The only other religion with any strong presence in Dalmark is the Brotherhood of the Sun (or the Pelorists). This religion teaches that Pelor is both a deity separate from the Creator and the actual physical sun. The Church of the Host tolerates the Pelorists (only occasionally calling them heretics) but does subtly make things difficult for the sect. Aldarion was a Pelorist although he still managed to earn the respect and trust of the Church of the Host.
Besides those two, a host of other religions are to be found through out the kingdom (usually in the major cities where fad religions come and go). They are always small but usually well tolerated. Since the Church of the Host doesn’t view any sect save the Pelorists as a potential political threat they are largely ignored. Many local nobles (particularly knights) may even attend their ceremonies. After all, what can having a few extra gods on your side hurt?
The Empire of Alahandra to the south is a marked counter example to the tolerance of Dalmark. They are monotheists adhering to the Sariah (literally ‘The Way to the Source’). Trying to convert believers or openly practicing other religions are crimes in the empire. They famously deny the divinity of Pelor, believing this ‘god’ to be merely an angelic servant of the Unnamable ‘Source’ – al-El. This and other vast cultural and linguistic differences, their expansionist tendencies, and their practices of keeping slaves, have frequently brought them into confrontation with Dalmark.
The dwarves of Taan-Khartha follow Moradin claiming that deity is in fact the first dwarf and creator of the dwarves (as opposed to the Church of the Creator who always depicts him as a human). They mix their reverence for the First Father with a strong dose of ancestor worship creating their own personal religion that they simply call ‘The Faith’. Non-dwarven practitioners of the Faith are unknown as the Faith requires a blood-line connected to Moradin for many of the rituals. This does not displease the dwarves.
The Sernans to the west also follow the Church of the Celestial Host but do not acknowledge the authority of the Lord-Patriarch in Talos. Instead, each of the city states has their own Patriarch who occasionally gather in sacred meetings called the Communion of Seven. The Church of the Celestial Host has little love for this nearly identical branch of their own religion calling them the Communionist Heresy.
07-19-2008, 07:15 AM
Our first session is this coming Sunday (20th July). I'll try to post a summary shortly thereafter.
Looking forward to it. I also liked how you've set up religions in your world as well. I recognize the real world parallels, but it's not glaring. Very nice ;)
07-28-2008, 04:55 AM
Session One -- 7/20/2008
Oriana Dunharrow - Firstborn Female, Tiefling, Warlord.
Aldarion Dunharrow II - Firstborn Male, Human, Paladin of Pelor, the new Duke.
Viktor Dunharrow - Secondborn Male, Human, Criminal.
Lina Dunharrow - Secondborn Female, Human, Ranger.
Sirri Dunharrow - Thirdborn Male, Human, Wizard.
Marsinn Silverscale - Foundling, Dragonborn, Cleric of Bahamut.
Tawny Barkskin - Male Half-Elf, Paladin of Pelor.
It was summer in the year 1255 by Dalmark Reckoning when the new Lords of Dunharrow arrived in their domain. Five children, one companion, one foundling and their mother made the journey. They left behind all they had ever known to claim a gift they had never asked for. They were no longer commoners. By royal proclamation, they were now noble, elevated by the deeds of a dead man. This is their story.
These newly created Lords of Dunharrow discovered a duchy in disarray. The last Duke of Landisfar (as it was known then) hated this backwater borderland and kept his home in the far off metropolis of Talos. He demanded every spare coin the duchy could manage to support his lavish lifestyle. And so neglect and anarchy have spread throughout this dominion.
Sir Cecil of Westerlyn, last knight of Dunharrow, gave his grave council in the ruins of the newly renamed Castle Dunharrow. Entire sections of the walls were missing, cannabilized by the local townfolk unable to afford new quarried stone under the old duke's larcenous taxes. Even as Sir Cecil was finishing his briefing, a knock came at the door. A messenger had arrived. Duke Davison, the lord of the lands to the south, requested a visit in his 'cousin's' domain.
The new duke, Aldarion II, was hesitant. Sir Cecil counciled that Davison openly coveted this land. But still, it seemed unwise to make his first act of rulership to antagonize his vastly more powerful neighbor to the south. The duke granted Davison right to enter the duchy.
Mother, the Lady Leandra, noted the plight of her sons and daughter and so offered them what help she could. She possessed a collection of valuables from her previous career as a Blackguard and a consorter of devils. Alas, most of the valuables were decorated with grotesque and infernal markings that made selling them in open markets difficult. A solution was found in smelting the valuable metals and minting a new issue of ducal coinage. The treasury of Dunharrow was no longer empty -- only very nearly so.
Duke Davison arrived the next day with a hundred armed men -- his personal bodyguard he insisted. He was all smiles and pleasantries, presenting his cousin with a fine hunting hawk. He requested a private audience and received a meeting with the Duke and his privy council. There he became less polite -- more insistent. "You are not nobility -- peasant stock! I have here 50,000 gp if you will but sign this!" He presented a decree that would sign over Dunharrow to his rulership. Aldarion listened patiently and then spoke.
He was polite but firm -- no. Subtles shows of magical power by the wizard Sirri and Orianna emphasized the point. All sides exchanged veiled threats. The meeting ended but not well. As he was leaving, Davison requested the traditional three days hospitality to get to know his cousin. Feeling honor bound, Aldarion agreed. Davison used this hospitality to have his men enjoy themselves. The treasury of Dalmark was drained. Davison left without a single blow exchanged or a single open threat spoken. But everyone was sure they'd made an enemy.
Attention turned to other matters. The once guards of the castle had turned to banditry and dwelt in the woods. Although Sir Cecil clearly disliked these scofflaws and their ringleader Brannock, it was soon determined they had done little save raid the stores of the old duke who was refusing to pay them. But there was a matter of a rape of a local townswoman.
Viktor, Lina and Tawny travelled to the woods to contact Brannock and have words with him. It was the Duke's intent that they should take his temper and see if these men-at-arms could be reconciled. The three fanned out and it was Tawny who managed to meet them -- alone and outnumbered ten to one. Only quick words managed to keep the half-elf from being robbed of all his valuables by these outlaws. But Brannock did not seem an evil sort. He has scourged the rapist within his own ranks. Tawny decided to cut a deal. Brannock and his band agreed to meet with the new duke in three days here on the forest's edge.
Viktor and Lina were not pleased with Tawny's offer. Sir Cecil was positively livid! Bring the new duke to the edge of the woods where twenty armed men could ride him down?! Unthinkable! Aldarion ended the debate. "I will go." This was not a time for cowardice and half-measures.
Aldarion appeared before the bandits and their leader. He offered them amnesty and regular pay if they would but return to his service. He offered them a chance at a new life outside of the woods. Negotiations were tense and but eventually the Duke and his retinue carried the day. Brannock accepted the deal and was immediately reinstated as Captain of the Watch. He brought with him ten armed infantry and ten skilled archers.
Aldarion returned to the Castle Dunharrow, his first triumph under his belt. With the watch reinstated, some small modicum of order returned to the duchy. But his work had only just begun. The Duke received word that the nearby township of Argenton had declared its independence from the realm and was now ruled by a 'Prince Stephan'. Further, the silver mines nearby, once a principal source of revenue were overrun by orcish raiders. The time had come for action.
The Duke marshalled his forces and marched to Argenton. He made a fine show of his new authority and position. When this 'Prince' revealed his madness by ordering the peasants to attack the new Duke, he was quickly deposed and so the town of Argenton was retaken without bloodshed. The mad would-be prince was shipped back to the Castle to be held until later.
Now, there is the pressing business of those mines crawling with orcs. The time for talk was over. Swords are drawn. Arrows are nocked. It is time for battle...
07-28-2008, 12:19 PM
Good write-up, although as one of the players I do have a couple of nits to pick:
Marsinn and Sirri did most of the magical intimidation. Oriana simply did her party piece: poking the fire with her bare hands.
Oriana was also fairly livid about Tawny's "arrrangement"; she thumped the back of his head twice. Oriana offered to go in the Duke's stead, making some plausible excuse for his absence. Nevertheless, the Duke felt bound by Tawny's promise.
This was most definitely the Duke's moment to shine. In the orc caves, though, different characters may shine (*cough*warlord*cough*).
08-06-2008, 09:07 PM
Lord Hazzar Knight-slayer scowled at his ugly, flea-bitten lieutenant one more time and threatend to back hand the weasley little fool. Beating Tothka accomplished nothing but making him feel better but today that was enough. Still no word from Aznar. Not a peep from the gods-damned, worm-eaten, shit-shoveller Aznar. How long was he supposed to hold up in this mine? How long before even the stupid humans got their act together and counter-attacked? How long before his head was on a pike? He got up and begin to pace.
"Troubles, O great and terrible Hazzar, slayer of men, worthy born son of Heaven?" said his still cowering lieutenant. Hazzar did not answer his fool of a lieutenant. Hazzar said nothing. There had been not a single messenger in weeks. Maybe it was time to go home. Maybe Aznar was simply trying to get him killed. Maybe this was simply a test of loyalty. Maybe, maybe and maybe. Hazzar hated maybe. Finally it was all too much.
"Where is the gods-damned horde?" Hazzar demanded in frustration.
"Surely the blessed Aznar, thrice chosen of Gruumsh, master of dragons will be here soon enough, O great and terrible Hazzar."
Hazzar again contemplated giving his idiotic lieutenant another beating when a guard arrived. "Knights, my lord! Soldiers have come to the human village and now they're headed this way!" reported the goblin scout.
"Knights? How many hundred?"
"Not hundreds... Less than ten, my lord."
Hazzar paused. "Less ... less than ten?" The orc began to laugh. He couldn't help it. A small chuckle turned into a great guffaw. His lieutenant and the guard laughed with him. "Less than ten," he finally managed. Hazzar brightened. True, the humans would still eventually wash up from the hills in numbers great enough to overwhelm him. But for now he could have some fun.
"Muster the troops, Tothka. Tonight, we feast on man flesh!"
08-07-2008, 02:26 AM
An excerpt from the Journal of Viktor Dunharrow
written by Chris Bayes
posted by Gary McBride
I find my family has not changed much over the five years I was away. They still talk too much. Everything has to be a damned debate. Everyone gets their say, well except for the criminal. The criminal just gets to stand there and be ignored like father used to always do. I would ask him for something and he always had better things to do. Always Siri needed books or Lina needed a new dress for some party. So when were my needs then? Ignored. I would not say I am bitter, I just cannot stand by and wait my turn for things I should be entitled to. I prefer to just take what I need then, screw waiting around to get a hand out like a beggar.
It seems Orcs are in the silver mine. How I wish I could sneak off and speak with the Orc chieftain. I could make him see that he is going about it all wrong. I am sure for the right price he would let us refine the ore his Orcs mine. We pay the Orcs to mine the ore, make the money and me and the Orc chieftain make a nice bit of extra in return. Sounds like a great plan to me. Aldarion II has other plans it seems. Much Orc blood will be spilled for his justice. That lizard friend of his also wants the Orcs to suffer. I am not sure about that Half-Elf, he seems up to something. The only one not out for blood seems to be Oriana, which should not surprise me. She has always been the one with the most sense.
I think after we deal with the Orcs I will have my quarters moved to the dungeon. I looked around down there it has promise. I could lock my quarters and have easy access to leaving the castle when I wished, unseen of course. I know we won't be using the dungeon for anything, so I think I could get better use of it. The chests mother brought hold some promise as well. There must be something good in there for her to hide them all these years. I thought I knew every hiding place in our old house, guess mom is full of surprises.
Well slop time fast approaches, as I must attend or be accused of being up to no good, again as usual. I cannot wait to see what fashion of miserable crusty cowhide makes its way to the table tonight. A few more meals like yesterday and I can fashion some new boots, moldy cowhide boots. Should be all the fashion rage this year. I should talk to Lina about that, no I won't. Then she will have an excuse to tell me about all the things I just don't care about. "Look at my pretty dress." she would say "Stick a moldy boot in it." I would say. Then she would run off and tell Aldarion, and I would get in trouble like back when dad was alive, good times. Maybe I do want to talk her after all....
08-07-2008, 02:33 AM
An excerpt from the Journal of Aldarion II, Duke of Dunharrow
written by Russ Dibble
posted by Gary McBride
The snow is two inches deep on the ground and we've been kneeling in it since sundown last night. And it's the longest night of the year.
I've heard that other orders allow their aspirants to kneel within the temple on the night before they are received as squires. Milo even claims that the templars of Kord don't do any kneeling at all, they just get drunk and beat each other silly.
Are Milo and Hans (or any of the other four) thinking of these things? Or are they actually still praying in the snow?
We are in the dark and cold to remind us of what waits for us if we turn away from Pelor. It's strange that tonight, of all nights, I'm supposed to feel a spiritual yearning to be within the temple, but I'm so cold all I can think of is getting warm.
Do the priests and brother-templars feel cold at all if they are filled with our Lord's warmth?
Thank Pelor I've long since stopped asking these questions aloud. Fortunately, I don't think Brother Joachim found them wicked so much as dull-witted of me.
Our Lord's first light appears above the horizon.
The priest, Father Marcarius, “The Sun conquers, the Sun reigns, the Sun illumines all Creation!”
The people, “Glory to the Light that shines on all!”
Brothers Hellum and Ox (how'd he get that name?) open the temple doors and beckon us in. At last.
I've never gotten used to the grandeur of this temple. Or the presence (however discreet) of the symbols of the various other gods and goddesses of the Celestial Host. Even when I'm freezing (but acting like I'm not), it strikes me. The village temple was much more simple.
Occasionally, usually on important holy days like today, nobility who seek favor with the brotherhood will visit us. I've been told that the temple's somewhat ecumenical approach to worship was in order to make these noble followers of the Host feel more at home, to assure them that we're not fanatics.
Brother Joachim calls it “politics”. “Thankfully, only Captain Sigmund needs to deal in it.”
Father Marcarius, “Brother-Captain, are these the aspirants who are to be accepted into the brotherhood?”
Captain Sigmund, “They are, Father Marcarius.”
Father Marcarius turns to us, “Do you reject the darkness, it's lies and deceits?”
The aspirants, “We do.”
Haven't we had enough of that?
But, of course, we kneel. Father Marcarius' hands faintly glow.
When he touches my head, I no longer feel cold.
08-07-2008, 02:45 AM
Sticks and Stones
A Tale of Oriana Dunharrow
written by Frank Mitchell
posted by Gary McBride
Pelor was still high in the autumn sky when Oriana and her two brothers walked home from lessons at the local temple.
Oriana was nine, and as the eldest responsible for her two younger brothers. Dari her brother by blood was seven; Marisin Silverscale, their brother by adoption, was only three winters old but already bigger than Oriana, and quickly catching up to Dari in reading and writing.
Until last summer, Mother had escorted her children to and from the temple. With Viktor not old enough for lessons until next spring, and Lina and Sirri running underfoot, even Mother had to admit defeat. From four onward, Oriana had helped Mother take care of Dari in the home, and wrangled their new dragonborn brother until he learned how to understand the word 'no'. Taking charge of her younger siblings outside of the home was something new, though, especially given her problems with Outside.
Surprisingly, Oriana managed her duty well, especially since she got to give orders, one of her favorite things in the world. They strolled quite unconcerned on the well-worn path from the temple to their cottage two miles away. Oriana was boring her siblings with more passages from the writings of Duke Armigus, interrupted by Dari's thoughtful questions and Marisin's occasional sighs. She truly enjoyed this time together, even when she wasn't talking. It was a chance to get out of Mother's shadow for a while without dealing with strangers, and she truly loved her brothers.
Dari, who had been called Darion after her father's old name, had asked to be called Eldarion because that was a hero's name. He had been late to begin talking, but his first sentence was grammatically correct. He scarcely cried when he hurt himself, and his big sister somewhat ham-handedly tried to bandage him. He always spoke clearly and honestly, but politely. From a young age he wanted to fight monsters like his father, although Oriana deplored his meager understanding of proper military strategy.
Marisin, after his initial rambunctious and ravenous stage, quickly became the most disciplined child in the house. His direct approach to every problem sometimes made for awkward and hilarious situations, but he always wanted to do the "right" thing. If only he wasn't so fixated on correcting those who did the "wrong" thing, as he understood it.
They must have made a strange trio: an upright reptilian creature in a tunic and breeches, a tall girl clad head-to-toe in white, with an elaborate hat and a gauze veil so thick only she could see out of it, and an incongruously normal-looking boy. Perhaps that's why Jubal the miller's son chose to pick on them that day.
"Here comes the freak family!" he shouted from a nearby hillock. Like all rich people in the village, the miller lived on the North Bank, and attended the Church of the Celestial Host. The only reason Jubal and his two cronies would be here, on the Pelorist side and nearly to the woods, was to make trouble. Jubal was good at making trouble.
"Ignore him," Oriana whispered, as Marisin tensed and Dari slowed down. She sped up slightly, and headed silently for home.
"What's this?" Jubal called. "The ugly girl and the dummy have a pet!" Marisin growled. Oriana tugged his sleeve and got him moving again.
"Dressed up like a man, even!" Jubal persisted, as his cronies laughed. "Does it do tricks?"
"I said ignore him," Oriana hissed. "Mother is expecting us."
Jubal jogged ahead of them and planted himself in their path, only a few paces away. "Come on, then. Let's see him roll over!" Jubal held out his hand. "Here, boy! Shake! Shake!" His cronies thought that the height of humor.
"Get out of our way," Marisin snarled, baring his many teeth. Jubal's cronies backed away, but Jubal stayed put; if anything, Jubal looked ready for a fight.
Oriana sighed. "Jubal Miller. Does your father know you're mingling with Pelorists? After your sister's little problem, I don't think he'd like it."
"What do you know about it? Leave my sister alone!"
*What do I know? Bits and pieces. People talk around me as if I were a chair.* "Then leave my brothers alone."
"You're not going anywhere until you apologise."
Dari began, "My sister is sorry for any --"
"No I'm not!" Oriana snapped. "I've said no more than others have. In fact, I'm giving him some friendly advice. Jubal, you're a nice boy, but we both know that no matter how much you love me --"
"Love you!?" Jubal's face twisted into a grimace of pure disgust. "A freak so hideous she has to wear a bag over her head? The daughter of a Pelorist brigand and a witch? You?"
"Watch what you say about our father and mother," Dari said, coldly.
"You must love me deeply," Oriana continued, sighing, "to follow me around so much. But it will never work. I'm sorry, I cannot return your love. Find some other girl, and forget all about me."
"Ugh!" Jubal started to turn away, but a thought arose in that square, spotty head. "How deformed are you, anyway? What is it? Scars? Warts? One eye? Are you green like a toad?" He reached out to pull Oriana's veil away, but as she recoiled, baring pointed teeth he would never see, Marisin lunged forward.
"Leave now," Marisin growled, snout-to-nose with Jubal, "or you will pay."
Oriana saw Dari stepping behind Marisin, and Jubal's two cronies slinking, a little reluctantly, back to his side. "Enough!" Oriana shouted. "Marisin, Dari, get back here! We are going home."
Oriana led them around Jubal and his cronies, who backed out of their way. "Seriously, Jubal, don't come near us again, or you'll regret it." She turned his back on him, and walked away, her brothers following. Marisin growled one last time, and then they were safely past.
They were several paces down the road before Oriana let herself relax. She could imagine what Mother would say if she had let the boys fight. As if Oriana didn't have enough --
Something hard slammed into Oriana's head, and she toppled forward. The next thing she remembered, she was lying face-down on the ground, her hat askew, and a rock lying a few inches away from her eyes. Reflexively she adjusted her hat, which mercifully had remained over her horns -- but touching the side of her head brought a swift stab of pain. Dari knelt beside her, asking her if she was all right, and Marisin towered over her, glaring at the direction they had come. She heard one of Jubal's cronies shout, "Aw, it stayed on! Try again!"
Before Oriana knew entirely what she was doing, she grabbed the rock, stood, and threw it at Jubal. By some freakish luck it hit him square on the nose. He screamed and grabbed his face, and blood gushed from between his fingers.
Oriana had never known a rage like she felt now, like a comforting fire in her heart. An autumn breeze wafted the smell of blood to her, and the scent stoked the fire within her, heady, intoxicating.
Marisin surged forward, and in a sudden panic Oriana grabbed his arm, nearly losing her footing as he dragged her a few more steps. *Pelor watched as I broke one of his commandments!* Oriana screamed in her head. *I've harmed another person! When mother finds out ... oh Pelor help me, when Mother finds out ...*
"He needs to be punished!" Marisin roared.
Jubal and his cronies ran, stumbling, back toward their side of the village. Oriana could hear shouts and crying.
"I lashed out in anger," Oriana said in horrified fascination. "Anger is the root of much evil."
"They deserved it," Dari said.
"Anger is evil. I must keep myself free of all evil, so Mother says. Pelor, please keep me from the sin of anger ..." Oriana muttered. But a treacherous voice in her head said, *Mother gets angry, even Father gets angry ... why not you?*
08-07-2008, 02:54 AM
Because it is the right thing to do...
A Tale of Sirri Dunharrow
written by Kenneth Weed
posted by Gary McBride
"No Mother, his death does not affect me the same as it does you" Sirri turned to look at his mother. In her eyes, for the first time in a long time, he saw pain. This was not the pain of an errant word cast by a count, or throngs of people calling her murderer, for these pains she learned to hide. Her heart was shattered, and he could see it. He turned away and walked to the edge of the parapet as he continued, "If you remember, I went to the elves to learn for much of my life, and those few years that I was here, and cognizant, father was off, or training my brother, who was much more to his liking, to his temperament...his ideology, if you will..." He turned back to look at her as the last vestiges of her armored personality broke, and the tears began to come. "I did not come back for love of father. The world knew a different "Aldarion" than I did," he walked back to her until he was directly in front of her, "I came back to support you mother." She broke down and began to cry, and he held her close. He took her into the room of the castle and closed the door, and held her in the confines of the room. She quietly sobbed for close to half an hour, and he said nothing, only held her. Once she gets it out of her system, she will be the Steel Lady again. She will never let the world see her like this.
"Was..." the sobbing died down, and he wiped away some of her tears and looked at her with a smile, "was he so horrible to you?" She looked at him with concern, quickly believing that all of his children, save her eldest son and youngest daughter, despised their father. The thought pained her.
"No, Mother, he was not horrible...he was just not there. To be honest," he gestured out to the balcony and the streets below, "my memories of father are not much different than theirs...Hero, paladin, legend in stories and poems...something outside the realm of mortal. I do not bear him ill will, but he is relatively unknown to me. When I did see him, he was a kind man, though I sensed great disappointment from him in me," she shook her head vehemently, "for I was not a Paladin, not a martial person..."
"No, no he was never disappointed; he knew the power of magic to..."
"Mother," he interrupted curtly, "there is a different between knowing the power of a wizard, and accepting that wizard as your son. He made me, and for that, I am grateful. However, I am not so blind as to not realize reality. When the time came to set out on his adventures, to go places, to see the world, he took Aldarion, and he did not take me. As father was fond of saying, 'It is not by a man's words, but by his deeds he is judged.' He took Aldarion, he did not take Oriana, he did not take Viktor, he did not take me."
She continued to shake her head, "I would not let him take you..."
He smiled broadly, took her face in his hands and kissed her forehead, "Mother, if he said he were to take any of us, you would not have uttered a word to the contrary. You believed in him so fully, that if he would have said that the river was purple, you would have thrown grapes in until it was so..." he pulled her close again.
After a few moments, he heard her whisper, "Will you support your brother in his new position? He will need help and the others..."
"Marsinn will never fail him, Lina will stand with him, and there are many others throughout father's journey's who will lend hand to him without question, or fail."
She pulled away from him and looked and him with all seriousness, "That is not what I asked. I asked if you will stand with him. This land is superstitious, and a wizard trained by the Eldarin could lend strength and prevent..."
"Yes, Mother. I will stand with him." Again, he smiled at her.
"Why?" she looked at him, with a hint of uncertainty.
"For one reason, because you asked. For another, because he is my brother. But for the most important reason...because it is the right thing to do..." He put his arm around her and led her to her bed, sitting her down on it.
"Sleep well, Mother. And know this; the next few years will not be kind to us..." He kissed her forehead again, and left the room.
08-07-2008, 03:04 AM
Background of Tawny Barkskin, Paladin of Pelor
written by Taylor Stockum
posted by Gary McBride
My Younger Years
My Father was a Pelorian Priest. My Mother was a Pelorian cleric. And so, I grew up with little doubt of who the real god is. Both of my parents were half-Elven, which I suppose made me a pure blooded half-Elf. The humans always giggled to themselves every time I proclaimed to be a pureblood. More often than not they would humor me and say, “And that’s why you’re special to Pelor.”
Life was not difficult being a half-Elf. Life was difficult being Preacher’s son. Every single wrong I did, seemed to earn a punishment ten times worse than all the other children in our town. But on the other hand, all the other children respected me, as I was the elven looking one with a Priest daddy. I don’t know if all of the Human mothers were simply telling their young to be nice to me or if it came from some other aspect. But the fact that I was the leader of all my town’s children was very gratifying.
However, when my teenage years rolled around, I felt much younger than the rest of the human children my age. They were all interested in Girls or focusing more on how they can start helping out in the town. My Father said it would be this way for a while, as my Elven blood not only makes me live longer, it also makes me younger longer. So, for a while longer, I stayed the leader of the town’s young children.
I would organize the children into a group after church and we would pretend to act out one of the many Aldarion stories we heard. I would have some of the children play the enemies and some play Aldarion and cohorts. Of course I would rotate the bad guys with the good guys so everyone could get a feel of what it was like to be a hero.
One kid however, didn’t want to be rotated out of the enemies. His name was Gevin Bendsmith. I remember him as that one kid who often went to the outhouse during Church, and didn’t come back after he was finished. When I asked my father about it, he would tell me, “When you see Gevin, tell him that Pelor is a forgiving god and will wait for him.” I did tell Gevin this, but he and I spent more time arguing over how powerful his play-monster was. He was never willing to be “defeated,” and would run off before finishing the play-fight yelling allowed “This guy didn’t die!”.
One time during play, Gevin got too rough with one of the younger children playing a “good guy” and made a nasty bruise across the young Timothy’s back. When Timothy cried aloud and fell to the ground, Gevin must have made a dead sprint to his home. I was at the Timothy’s side in moments. “Let me see your back,” I told the boy. Trembling, he lifted his shirt and revealed a small scratch. “Hey, you’ll be just fine, it’s not even bleeding,” I said trying to bolster Timothy’s courage. He stood up and raised his stick in the air and proudly yelled, “No scratch would stop Aldarion, so no scratch will stop me!” All of the children, including myself, cheered for Timothy.
Gevin didn’t come back to play Aldarion after that. I guess he knew that he wasn’t invited anyway.
I mentioned above that my Mother was a cleric. I’ve only seen her a few times because she traveled much. When I was 35 years old my father finally told me WHO she was traveling with. I couldn't believe my ears, "Aldarion." Sadly, with that good news came the bad news. She died during Aldarion’s attempt to overthrow the Lich-Lord Kyrannus. Father stories to me about how Aldarion went into a blind fury when my Mother died, and struck down the orc warlord responsible for my Mother’s death.
I wanted to help Aldarion. I wanted to somehow express my thanks for avenging my Mother. But, by the time I was old enough (physically and mentally) to travel alone, Aldarion himself died. The church clergy told me that he had several children that were receiving land off in the far Northeast corner of the Kingdom in thanks for their Father’s deeds. I convinced myself that helping Aldaroin’s children would be a great way to thank Aldarion. “Besides,” my Father added, “You’re great with children.”
And so I headed out of my town, destined for great adventure, just like my Mom did. “I hope I’ll like these kids,” I said aloud only to myself.
08-07-2008, 03:07 AM
Wow. That's a lot of stuff. Anyways, that is not everything written between the first and second session by the players. Ken and Frank in particular have both sent me considerably more than this.
But that's enough for now.
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