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Hey I Can Chan

The Valley, Part 2: The Campaign

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PCs are members of or associates of King Gaston Carpentier’s royal family that rules the Kingdom of Marchand, a small, moderately successful newer kingdom in a valley isolated from much of the surrounding world. PCs are expected to defend and promote the Kingdom of Marchand. No PCs start the campaign wanting to destroy the Kingdom of Marchand.

The campaign world is the valley. While beyond the valley exists, exiting the valley usually means leaving the campaign, but exceptions can be made for plot advancement.

Right Now

It’s a November Wednesday in Marchand, the year 1114. The moon is out, visible through the unshuttered windows of Ptarmigan Roost, the castle you call home. It’s now 10 pm. Dinner is served late because of King Gaston’s long nap this afternoon. He’s still not arrived. The venison is savory but slightly cool and the potatoes are dry—you’ve experienced better meals—but you dive in anyway. The king’s made it clear that no one should await his arrival, although the cooks always try.

Viscount Eugène Brun, one of King Gaston’s oldest and most loyal friends, is again shilling for the Knights of Gaston, hoping to find new recruits to stave off what he must be exaggerating as a full-scale beholder invasion. Were he for real, the realm—the entire valley—would be a wasteland already.

While Brun speaks (his mouth full of venison, of course), the guards whisper of last night’s ghostly appearance of Angelique Gaston, the king’s oldest daughter by his first marriage, who appeared on the battlements last night at midnight. The clock keeping time in Ptarmigan Roost said that she appeared—as an adult but her distinctive facial birthmark clearly evident—at half past midnight.

The figure that just slipped in unannounced refuses the wench’s offer to take his cloak and grabs a seat at the table’s end. His features remain shrouded by the cloak. He makes no move toward the food placed in front of him.

The Past

Were you to join, you'd get a timeline (conveniently located on the aforementioned map) so you wouldn't have to make your own as you follow along. Wouldn't that be nice?

Padrig was a barely surviving backwater of a few hundred halflings protected by a distant dwarf king who sent a tax collector every other year to pick up a token half-sack of silver.

That is, until 53 years ago when the human warrior Gaston Carpentier arrived. He killed the wererats that plagued Padrig. He organized the local gnomes into a respectable fighting force so they could defend themselves from the goblins to the west. He brokered the treaty with the forest elves that permits halflings access to vast and incredibly fertile farmland so long as the halflings live harmoniously with the land. He made the swamp’s tortle population his allies by curing them of shellrot. He secured the trade agreement with the mountain dwarves that made them a vital part of valley society once more. He earned the trust of the western orc barbarians by living among them, and then he married the chief’s daughter, brought the tribe to Padrig, and civilized them. Carpentier united so many of the southern valley’s peoples that when the Walking Worm’s abhorrent army of the almost-damned attacked from the north, there was no other choice but Gaston Carpentier to lead the hastily assembled, ragtag army. His strategic brilliance and limitless courage saw Padrig’s skirmishers turn back the Worm’s forces and the Walking Worm herself dead by Carpentier’s sword.

The southern valley’s peoples proclaimed Gaston Carpentier King Gaston, and he’s ruled the Kingdom of Marchand from Padrig—now renamed Ptarmigan Roost—for 50 years.

It wasn’t all peace and prosperity, however.

King Gaston’s first three children—two boys and a girl—all died at age 6, apparently of fright, their hair white, their eyes wide, and their mouths stretched to screaming, although no scream was heard. Each death was investigated thoroughly but no cause has ever been found.

King Gaston’s wife, the orc tribal princess, was assassinated 30 years ago by a poisoned magical blue-fletched arrow. A 100,000 gp bounty remains for proof of the bowman’s death, and the Blue Bowman is a figure used to frighten Marchand children. Twenty years ago the king remarried a human noblewoman from a far-off land who birthed, in order, 1 daughter, 2 sons, twin daughters, then twin sons. Rumors of children born to the king and his lovers during the ten year gap between wives are unsubstantiated.

Although long a protector and ally of the valley’s people, the gold great wyrm Zundaeoloth went mad 20 years ago, destroyed a halfling town, and removed himself from the valley’s affairs. The dragon’s not been heard or seen since.

In the same year the drow ambassadress Adinnitra Hlarett of House Hlarett visited the King Gaston’s court. For reasons he’s kept to himself King Gaston slew her retinue and imprisoned her beneath Ptarmigan Hall. No one but the king has been allowed to see her since, and no further drow have visited the court.

Ten years ago the elves revealed they’d always known the Clocktower of Veiled Eternity to be in their forest, but had kept it secret. That is, until it started ticking and then chimed, the hour changing on its face from 10:00 to 11:00. Adventurers were hired to explore the Clocktower, but none returned. No one’s clear when midnight will actually be or what midnight means.

Ten years ago Alphonse Martín sold his soul, becoming a thrall to a creature of darkness. Then he wrote a poem. Martín’s “Twilit Music Box, or How Alphonse Found the Beauty in the Darkness” was a hit, but the poem’s readers inadvertently sold their souls to the creature as did any who heard the poem in its entirety. Many ended up thralls to the same creature to whom Martín sold his soul. King Gaston established the Inquisition to locate and end the thrall threat.

Also, ten years ago gnome tailor Pefford Dawdlewhistle perfected invisible silk. The light, warm semi-transparent garments were immediate hits, and traders from beyond Ptarmigan Roost came to the town to purchase the material. Many gnomes and halflings abandoned their farms to work in the invisible silk industry, and while trade flourished the land soured. Runaway inflation and food shortages led to riots and a royal decree that only the king could employ more than 10 people; any enterprise employing more would be broken up by the Strongboxers—agents of the treasurer—, the former employees exiled, and the former owners executed. Invisible silk making remains a gnome trade secret today.

Five years ago Ptarmigan Roost was beset by the Coachwhips, a conspiracy of ruffians and thieves whose ambition fortunately outstripped their skill. A trap captured the conspiracy’s leaders, but while the Coachwhips’ Council of Thieves was brought to justice their mysterious leader Sakasneki is still at large.

Five years ago Queen Hélène proclaimed that she would refuse the crown were it offered her upon her husband’s death, that the Marchand’s safety depended upon her daughters’ political marriages to other states’ royalty, and that neither they nor she would take the throne upon the death of King Gaston. Such a decree holds vast weight, and as King Gaston’s daughters approach marriageable age, his oldest son stands to inherit upon his father’s death.

Simultaneously with her proclamation, Queen Hélène revealed her pregnancy. King Gaston’s virility went unquestioned despite his age (nearing 70). Shortly after the boy’s birth the child’s guards were slain, and the child abducted by what is now believed to be a cadre of inevitables. The bounty for a live inevitable—or information leading to the recovery of the boy—equals the Blue Bowman’s bounty.

Last year a plague spread throughout Marchand. It struck all races and classes and left many crippled, but also granted some strange powers. The tortle hermit Raymond Lagrand visited the king’s court, declared he could slow the disease’s progress, and began casting a spell. Lagrand was slain by the king’s wizard Bernadette Gauthier before completing the spell. Gauthier claimed that the spell wasn’t the cure Lagrand claimed but a curse that would’ve doomed the valley. Unmoved, the king ordered her imprisoned, but before she could be thrown into the dungeon she escaped. Although the bounty on Gauthier is merely 10,000 gp, she is widely despised for, although Lagrand’s spell was incomplete, outbreaks of the malédiction rouge have lessened vastly, and the disease shows signs of disappearing within a few months.

Six months ago a halfling in Ptarmigan Roost, Matthieu Blanchard, age 10, traded his family’s cow for some traveling gnome’s beans. The stalk that sprouted from the beans was ten feet in diameter and grew, overnight, into the clouds above his family’s home. He climbed it, returning only days later but looking years older, and told stories of a land of giants. Several have ascended the beanstalk, including two adventuring parties, but none have descended. Blanchard is vague on details of the Royaume Sky, as it’s called, and as nothing’s come from it except him, further investigation has halted in the face of more pressing concerns.

Six month ago the king’s oldest friend Eugène Brun proposed the formation of an elite contingent of knights to defend the kingdom after Gaston’s death. The king approved, and advertisements for Brun’s Knights of Gaston were posted throughout the valley. Construction began on the knight’s fortress at the valley’s entrance, but it remains uncompleted. Applicants have been few, and rumors of beholders within spitting distance of the under-construction fortress persist.

Six months ago the king’s health declined precipitously. The best healers in the land gave him a month to live. He’s lasted six and, although feeble and his once booming voice now a croak, still lives.

Last month a rabble-rousing orc Benoît Blanc urged many of his race who had settled in Ptarmigan Roost to pack their things and reclaim their birthright. He gathered at least a hundred orcs and half-orcs and their families, and the lot of them went west. Everyone knows that were King Gaston to have been well enough he would’ve easily persuaded Blanc and his followers to remain. Rumors circulate in Ptarmigan Roost of savage orc raids on tiny Marchand thorps.

The Present

Here are some things to do.

— Find a cure for King Gaston.
— Investigate the rumors of raids by orc warlord Benoît Blanc.
— Investigate the beholder sightings near Fort Gaston as reported by Sir Eugène Brun; alternately, find recruits for the Knights of Gaston and send them to investigate the beholder sightings near Fort Gaston.
— Talk to Matthieu Blanchard about what he saw in the clouds.
— Talk to the soldiers who, last night, saw the ghost of the king’s daughter by his first marriage appear on the castle’s battlements.
— Hunt down an inevitable and interrogate it about the royal kidnapping.
— Investigate the rumors of Sakasneki restarting the Coachwhips.
— Greet the ambassadors from Cresencia who arrived a week ago seeking King Gaston’s oldest daughter’s hand in marriage to their merchant prince.
— Investigate sightings of Bernadette Gauthier in the swamps to the southeast.

PCs have so far done all of the above except hunt down an inevitable for interrogation and search the southeastern swamps for Bernadette Gauthier. They have also, as is their wont and as was expected, strayed very far afield, discovering other plot threads in the process.

Next: Languages, Religions, and Names.

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