The Riismark, House Dale
The clan hall was mostly empty and but a single fire burned, barely keeping the chill away. Before the fire, the lord of House Dale is writing notes in an old leather bound journal.
‘Midwinter night has passed and whatever joy it brought has long since fled. The past year was been dire and the new year looks to be even worse. The shield of the northlands, our great fortress keeps, are crumbling and help from the south dried up long ago. The orc raids two years past were driven back, but at a terrible cost in lives. The smaller forts and watchtowers were so undermanned that they easily fell to the raiders and now there is neither the money nor manpower to repair them. Only our clan and our allies stand in the way of the Dark God’s victory.
Thinking over the past year brings both hope and despair. The marriage of Risella, my jewel, to the young Redgard heir has strengthened that alliance. The trip to Steel Hill was also good as the Fallons remain true and offered arms and safe haven if the orcs raided again in the coming year. The trip to Bastion was a disaster; that old enmity still runs deep and they see no reason to fear as long as the Riismark bears the brunt of the attacks. Instead of helping us, they’ll watch us die before taking up arms. The fools deserve to burn… That was beneath me, I shouldn’t tar the whole clan for the weakness of its leaders. There are still good men in Bastion and some did offer to ride with me in the spring and I’m sure there will be those who offer the bounty of their harvest and fresh mounts.
There are many hard choices to come. Should the northern pastures be abandoned; has the risk and cost to defend them become too high? Do I strip men from more of the towers to strengthen those few that have the hope of holding? Can I find the money to repair what forts we still hold? I so hate playing the beggar, meekly asking for the crumbs from the High King’s table. Is it worth sending yet another envoy to the south to rally support? How many years has it been since a Sarcosan Knight rode the mark? Give me a thousand Sarcosan horsemen and I’d drive the orcs back into the Vale.
Would that the orcs were our only problem. Three Whitehall trained channelers have been murdered in the past season. They were all seasoned and had fought with us so their assassin must be very skilled or exceptionally lucky. Replacing them will be very difficult. Not many are willing to brave our harsh winters and the constant patrolling. The reports about increasing numbers of heavily armed clanless men are also disturbing. So many loose blades are trouble and none are worth my trust or coin to hire. Someone is hiring this scum and I need to find out who. They’ll be blood in the end, blood better spent against the Shadow in the North.’
Adventuring in the late Third Age
The late Third Age offers the players the chance to influence key events and adventure in a land under the looming Shadow in the north. Old alliances have broken down, the Fortress Wall is crumbling, and the Shadow’s agents are spreading through the land. Civilization still stands but for how long? Battle rages in the Veradeen, under the Icewalls, and in the more or less constant raids in northern Erenland. Political intrigue is rife, fracturing the court of the High King, as clans and noble families jockey for position and seek true friends and allies to stand with them in the days ahead. Ardherin remains the champion of Erethor and Jahzir is a rising military leader in the south. Can the players help strengthen the alliance between the free peoples so they can stand at least one more time against the darkness?
As the most threatened of the human lands, the Dorns are acutely aware of the looming threat, and most of the major houses are preparing, albeit slowly, for the impending war. Without a strong central authority and assistance from the south, the strain on the individual clans is reaching the breaking point. Old animosities and perceptions of unfair distribution of the enormous bill in money and manpower to maintain the Fortress Wall have led to the fracturing of Dornish unity. House Davin and House Chander have fought over grazing and farmlands near the Ishensa River. House Pendor has suffered for over a hundred years from weak and indecisive leadership and bridles at demands from Riismark to supply more food and warriors to defend the north; the House teeters on the brink and could easily dissolve. Orc raiders, once a rarity in the early Third Age, cross through the crumbling Fortress Wall on an almost daily basis.
Two mercenary groups have taken over border forts to the east of Dale lands. They claim some unknown Sarcosan lord pays them. While every sword is needed, can they be trusted?
Someone or something is hunting channelers in the northlands. At least a dozen channelers have been killed in the last season. House Fallon is offering a rich reward for anyone who can stop the killers.
Malicious rumors are spreading through the markets of Bastion that the current heir of House Pendor is not the Prince’s son and therefore not worthy to take control of the House when his ailing father dies. The Pendors are blaming House Dale for spreading the rumors.
Kingdom of Erenland
The High King rules Erenland in name only. While the core of the kingdom may still be loyal to his dictates, the great Sarcosan noble families and many of the Dornish Houses chart their own course. The High King is no fool and realizes any heavy handed attempt to force the nobles to follow his rule would lead to civil war at a time when the Kingdom could least afford it. With the help of traditionally loyal families, the High King has attempted to limit the influence of the most rebellious noble houses.
Ships are disappearing in the central Pelluria and their cargo has not appeared at the normal haunts of the pirates and privateers. The latest ships to go missing were a courier and its ship of the line escort. Both were well armed and captained by very experienced sailors.
The High King is seeking ambassadors to travel to Erethor and the clan halls of the Kaladruns seeking to restore the close cooperation with the fey of years past. Previous embassies have fallen on deaf ears, met with harsh words, or simply disappeared.
Brigands have plagued the caravan route between Erenhead and Low Rock. Strangely, only convoys destined for the Fortress Wall have been attacked. All attempts to trap or track the brigands have failed, hinting that someone close to the High King is providing information to the brigands.
Support for the never-ending demands from the Dorns is rapidly waning. Many of the noble families believe that large areas of the north are either as good as lost or not worth the tremendous cost to defend. Some see opportunities to advance their family by uniting the Sarcosan south or even seizing the throne for themselves. The wiser families have seen the rot growing in the foundations of the Kingdom of Erenland and seek to strengthen themselves for the coming darkness and to root out corruption in their own house. The tournaments and raiding between the riders have become far more pointed and more blood is being spilled in the causes of honor and family prestige than in fighting against the growing strength of the Shadow.
The annual tournament at the meeting of the hosts, normally a time of peace, ended in bloodshed as two hosts met not with padded lance and blunted blade, but with sharpened steel. Before the two hosts could be separated, over forty riders lay dead. The cause of the dispute is still unclear.
The Sahi priesthood is divided over recent predictions from a noted scholar from the Star Tower of Rahne. The scholar claims that the Dark God is truly dead and while his malign essence still lingers in the north, it has no power to influence beyond the Vale of Tears. Several of the southern lords have sided with the scholar and denounced the need for more troops along the Fortress Wall.
Something is attacking the horse herds in the central plains. Scores of dead horses have been found, ripped apart by fang and claw, yet the attacker took no meat; seeming to kill for the pleasure of killing.
Under the mighty Kaladrun Mountains, the halls echo with war cries and ringing steel, as the endless hordes of orcs and goblinkin throw themselves against the dwarven defenses. The dwarves still grieve the loss of Clan Dorin and fear other clans, long cut off by the orc hordes, have joined the ranks of the fallen. In Calador, the clans debate on how to meet the threat, but little action is taken. Blood ties and old disputes prevent the dwarves from uniting to relive the sieges in the north. As the war begins to enter its critical stage, dwarves are retuning from Erethor and the Kingdom of Erenland to fight with their people. A few, whose roots in the west are deep, have refused to leave and have offered their service to the great human houses or the High King.
Word is spreading in Calador of a messenger from a dwarven clan thought lost to the Shadow. Clan Borgen held one of the most exposed fortresses in the northern Kaladruns that was believed to have fallen over 30 years ago. If they could be rescued, it would be a tremendous boost to dwarven morale.
The sole survivor of an expedition under the White Desert claims to found an eldethar mine and the forge used to create some of the legendary weapons from before the fall. The survivor, in his brief moments of sanity, claimed fantastic creatures guarded the forge and wherever he went, he was followed by a whispering voice promising excruciating tortures.
The clan lord of the Bodrun, a leader calling for the clans to unite as one people and send an army north to fight the orcs, was attacked and left for dead. He claimed to have been attacked by dwarves bearing no clan device.
In Caradul, the Witch Queen Aradil watches as her carefully wrought alliances wither and her hopes to hold against the rising tide of darkness in the north become increasing desperate. The Veradeen remains her fortress, the Erunsil, with aid from the heartlands, deftly counter every Shadow raid. Her scouts are spread throughout the Highhorns, watching the orc movements and identifying key leaders for assassination. In the human lands, something or someone is hunting her people. Elven ambassadors are found horribly mutilated and trade caravans are attacked by bandits in lands that should be safe. Aradil’s pleas to the Sarcosans to stay true to the High King and the alliance with the fey are increasingly falling on deaf ears. Time is running out and the great darkness, predicted in the dawn of the First Age, is almost upon her people.
Orcs and darker creatures from under the Highhorns have been massing at Bandilrin. The Witch Queen’s agents have been unable to get close to the ruined monastery. It’s vital to determine the numbers gathering and their intent.
Demons are stalking the Caraheen, striking out at seers and scholars. The Queen’s champion, Ardherin, has sent his finest demon hunters after them, but the demons seem to stay one step ahead of the hunters. Ardherin is reportedly recruiting skilled hunters and channelers to assist his teams.
The Witch Queen is considering sending another expedition over the Endless Sea in search of the lost colonists. The miransil are provisioning ships for a four-month search.