The Castle at the Edge of the World

Back Story

The campaign begins in the small town of Piren’s Bluff. It lies on the eastern border of Chelliax in the Aspodell mountains. Ostensibly it is the fiefdom of the Red King, who protects the Aspodell pass from his Citadel. Yet none living in Piren’s bluff can remember ever seeing the Red King, or anyone from the Citadel.

Every year at harvest the people of Piren’s Bluff send two wagons full of tribute to the castle, and the castle leaves them alone. Occasionally a group of soldiers goes to the castle, stays for a day then leaves, but these events may be years apart.

Life in the town is governed by the quiet rhythms of agriculture. For as long as anyone can remember the people have grown their figs, made their wine, and raised their goats in peace.

Three weeks ago a child disappeared from the village. At first they thought it was the act of a lone wolf, or a mountain lion. Such things were not unheard of. Guards were set and mothers kept their children close to their skirts. Again, two days later, a child went missing. They doubled the guard and whipped a man who had gotten drunk and fallen asleep on duty.

Two more days passed. A second child was heard screaming by his parents and a guard patrol. The boy was drug screaming through his bedroom window by a great winged beast. The guards attacked, but their blades shattered like glass when they struck the beast. The beast brushed them aside and carried the boy away. His mother had to listen to him scream for her as it flew away.

The pattern has repeated itself every second night. The beast comes and steals a child. Nothing has worked to stop it. Neither Nets, Fire, spears or snares stopped the beast. Not even hiding the children seemed to help; as the beast had an uncanny sense for finding them. It always comes. It always takes a child. The town’s warriors it disdaines, leaving them with little more then bruises.

The day the eighth child went missing, the mayor of the village gathered his courage and went to the castle for help. None answered his call, and the draw bride was not lowered. He went back to the town and met with the respected men of the village. They decided to send someone to Brastlewark for help.

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The Hero, The Half Elf, and the Witch

Five more children disappeared before a man named Laoden came to the village claiming to be the hero they had sent for. The villagers were concerned because Garibaldi had not returned with the hero. The hero explains that they had been beset by manticores upon the return trip and Garibaldi had been slain. Many feel ashamed hearing the story. Bernardo, the bar keep at the Salted Press, had started a rumor that Garabaldi had probably fled with the money. As time wore on many began to believe it. Now Carlo could hold his head high. His son, the Shepard, on had died a hero’s death.

The village has no Inn, so the hero is housed with a local farmer, his wife , and his half elven step son. Rafian was given the duty of accompanying the hero around the village and assisting him with whatever he needed.

Rafian takes Laoden to meet Goody Bloodknucle the villages healer and midwife. From her, the hero learns that Rafian’s mother Dahlia was pregnant when she married his step father. His birth father had disapeared shortly after getting Dalia pregnant, leaving behind his sword and armor. Dahli was in dire straights. Her parents had thrown her out and no other man in the village would have her, not with a half blood bastard in her belly. Alfonzo, an ugly stump of a man fifteen years her senior, agreed to marry Dahlia. He knew that under any other circumstance he would never have gotten a wife so beautiful. Alfanzo, while not excessively abusive, is not a caring person. He always refers to Rafian as the bastard, or knife ears. He has kept them clothed , and fed , and provided a home for them to live in. He, of course, reminds them of the fact every chance he gets.

When Goody gets done embarrassing Rafian, she gets serious and says she foresaw the coming of a hero. She also foresaw how the beast can be stopped. They must journey to the tower of the green witch. She knows where a weapon is that can destroy the beast.

Rafian knows the witch is no one to be trifled with. There are stories of the witch going back three generations. All of the villagers are taught to avoid her holdings. Goody assures him that there is no other way. He must take up his father’s armor and sword and join the hero in his quest.

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A Thief in the night

Goody Bloodknucle Tells the village elders what she has seen and what Laoden and Rafian must do.

They are given the village’s only mule and supplies. Laoden and Rafian head out of town toward the tower of the Green Witch. The first night they camp in a stunted wood. This is the farthest Rafian has ever been from his village. While Laoden is on watch, he here’s someone trying to be stealthy going through their supplies. He captures a goblin trying to steal food. The goblin surrenders and begs for his life. He tells them his name is Idgen, and that he was banished from his clan, The bad moons.

They must pass through the bad moons’ territory in order to reach the witch’s lands. Idgen offers to show them a way to sneak through with out being spotted. He says that he has been doing it for a long time, that it is easy for those that know, but those that don’t are doomed. The bad moons are very strong. They agree and feed Idgen some dried meat and bread.

In the morning Idgen leads them on a perilous route on top of narrow rocky crags, avoiding the more arboreal valleys. They are often forced to push and prod their donkey into moving. Idgen keeps asking when they get to eat the donkey. Finally they come to the end of a long cliff line and they must climb down. A task impossible for their donkey, so the decide to lower it with a rope. Looping it around a hardy mountain tree Laoden and Rafian slowly lower the panicky donkey.

Suddenly a silent creature rears it’s head out of the misty forest. Before Laoden and Rafian have time to do anything. The creature has bitten off the donkey’s head. The thing is like a giant constrictor snake with the head of an alligator, all constructed from gleaming bone. Idgen screatches at them to save the donkey meat. The creature takes another bite of donkey. Its jaws neatly severing flesh while its many ribs shuttle the meat backward. Laoden slides down the rope to attack the creature while Rafian braces the other end. Idgen yells for him to save the meat. The creature rears back when Laoden crashes into it. The creature still has the donkey clasped in its jaws, which causes the rope to go taught. This Leaves Laoden hanging in the air.

Rafian ties off the rope on a stump, Laoden hits the creature with his sword again. Rafian draws his bow and shoots the creature with an arrow. Laoden smashes the creature with his sword two more times. The creature lets go of the donkey corpse sending Rafian crashing into the cliff face.

The creature tries to slide back into the forest, but Rafian kills it with two well placed arrow shots. Once they all climb down Idgen begins to gorge himself on raw donkey guts. Laoden and Rafian examine the creature. It is an intricate construct made of bones wired together with silver filaments. All of the bones are beautifully engraved with tiny runes. There are two rows of rib bones one, for locomotion and one for retention of the meat. What it needs the flesh for is uncertain, as the creature could not have been a truly living thing. Idgen tells them the bad moons call them grey takers. He says that there are many more of them in the forests around here and they are very dangerous. He offers to share the donkey’s nose with them. They decline.

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The tower of the witch part 1

The group hike for two more days reaching the tower of the witch. The five story octagonal tower is at the bottom of a bowl shaped valley. It floats 12 feet off of the ground slowly rotating. It’s shadow rotates across the valley below in denial of any natural laws. It’s slow steady progress sweep across a carpet of bones.

When the party gets near the clearing they spook a small deer. It leaps away from them toward the clearing. It pauses at the edge eyeing the party in panic. It kicks the air twice with its front hooves and charges into the clearing of the tower. After a few feet it slips and falls on the bones and falls. The towers shadow sweeps across it and the deer’s flesh disappears like a fading dream and it’s bones fall and mix with it’s cousins.

The human, The elf, and the Goblin Watch the tower from the edge of the clearing. They observe that the tower door is opposite the side of the shadow. The decide that judging by the speed of the tower; if they are careful and quick they can reach the door throw up a grappling hook and climb up to the small stoop in front of the tower door.

They ready their gear, and time their charge carefully. They begin. As soon as they enter that Ossuary field the bones, jealous of their liveliness, begin to skitter and roll under their feet, attempting to trip them up. First Laoden slips, when he hits the ground the bones begin their whispers. “Stay with us. Be calm. All your pains and woes will soon be behind you. Rest. Rest.” Laoden resists and Rafian helps him regain his feet. They run again. The shadows motion is deceptive. It seems slow when observed as a whole but as you draw near the tower the circumfrence it needs to travel is less then at the edge of the clearing. They are forced to run for the door in kind of a looping arc. Forcing them to cover more of the field. Rafian slips, and Laoden helps him up and untangle the the grapple from the treacherous bones. They reach the base of the tower and Rafian heaves his grapple, hooking the stoop. They all climb up and are left dangling on the end of s spinning rope.

Laoden climbs up on to the ledge and picks the lock to the door. He swings it open. Idgen, on the bottom of the rope, spews three day old donkey meat. Rafian climbs up and in, followed by Idgen. Inside the tower it;s rotation is not noticeable.

In the base of the tower is a cozy kitchen. A full meal of roast duck, jacket potatoes, and greens is set out on the table. Tarts, cookies and and pies are piled up on the counters. A pot of hot chocolate bubbles on the wood stove. The smells make their mouths flood with saliva and their stomachs groan with need. The sudden and unatural hunger worries Laoden and Rafian so they resist. Idgen dives right in. After Idgen has been stuffing his face for some time, the food at times appears normal to Laoden and Rafian, and at others it appears to be sawdust, cobwebs, and mold. Till finally the illusion is completely breached in their minds.

They convince Idgen to carry on with them, that he will be able to fill his belly on the way out. They mount the winding a stair case that leads upward.

They come to a room of comfortable beds and couches that invite them to rest. They find themselves unnaturally weary and pinch and poke themselves and each other til they reach the stairs and continue upward.

At the top of the stairs there is a landing with a door. The door is locked. Laoden finds a needle trap and disarms it. Then he picks the lock. It opens onto a harem of beautiful women lounging on couches, and cushions or bathing themselves or each other in a large central pool. All of them turn toward the opening door, a look of excitement on their faces. The closest rush to the door speaking their friendly welcome.

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We are but four score of virgins

The women beckon becomingly and invite the party into their chamber. Rafian finds it odd that they do not step out into the hall way when the men are reluctant to enter. The girls sulk, make veiled promises, and finally plead with them to come inside. Laeoden invites them to come out.

Finally they confess that they ae the prisoner of the witch and can not leave. They beg the boys to come in. We have been here so very long with out company. Finally the party relents and comes into the room, when they learn the only way to reach the witch is through this chamber.

Once inside the room the men are pole axed by exotic scents and feelings of euphoria. The women begin to touch them in inappropriately, but they still resist going on theory that the first two levels were magical snares for the unwary that this one must be so as well. After several minutes of reistance the illusion fades, and the girls are revealed to be nothing more then corpses lying on rotting bedding. The fountain is filled with a stinking brown mud.

Even with the illusion mastered they can still hear the girls talking as if in another room and still smell their perfumed sweetness intermingled with the putrescence.

They exit the room on the opposite side and continue on their way up the tower. They trudge up and up soon realizing they should have shot out the top of the tower having climbed this far. Then the begin to hear furtive whispers from what at first they think is above them then below. Every time they stop the noises stop. Soon they come upon a body on the stair. It has been there quite some time and it is nearly a skeleton. They decide to search the skeleton and soon discover some oddities. It is dressed exactly like Laoden, and has the twin of Rafian’s dagger in it’s chest. It’s boots and feet are missing. Undeterred they pull thexact same number of gol pieces out of its bag as Laoden has and continue on their way. Soon they come up on a corpse that resembles Rafian. It is fresher. It’s arms and legs are missing. They rob it is well. Further up the stair they come upon second pair of Laoden and Rafain. The appeared to hav died when they stabbed each other at the same time. They climb higher and come to landing where they are forced to climb over two Laodens and one and a half Rafians. They climb higher still and a Rafian comes screaming down the central shaft of the stair well. He has either jumped or been pushed from some higher level.

At another rest interval they here voices from below saying " I think they are right above us." Two Laoden and a Rafian come running up the stairs. All look emaciated and filthy. On of the Laodens is missing his left arm from the elbow down. The stump is healed and shiny pulled taught across the bone. They decide to run from themselves. Soon Laoden and Rafians are raining down the central shaft with increasing frequency.

They are growing tired, and debate fighting themselves and escaping the tower, bu soon see that there is a horde of themselves all fighting to get to them. Rafian stops and says. "This can’t possibly be real. This must be another of the Witch’s tricks. We must have reached the top of the tower a long time ago. He closes his eyes and reaches forward for a door he knows must be there, and his hand closes on the cold steel of a handle. When he opens his eyes they are standing on a rather mundane landing. The door handle is in his palm.

They find and disarm a mundane trap that would have sprayed acid on them if not disarmed.

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Of Ice and Magic

The Top floor of the tower is devoted to the Witch entirely. She stands in the center of the room. Her cold beauty is like an icicle slid into the heart. To call her an ice queen would be a lie. To suggest ice suggests a chance of a thaw. To look into her eyes was to know that no spring would ever come to her heart, for they were cold, blue black, and alien.

To Rafian’s mind comes the notion that she is the kind of women who confuses lust with love, anger with passion, and brutality with strength. To explain these things to her would be like blowing in the wind. For the first time in his journey he is frightened. He actually can feel his balls pull tight, and the hair on his neck stand up.

Laoden, being the least sensitive of the two, recovers his wits first. He bows low to her and greets her formally. While bowing he notices that she stands in a large circle defined by blood and iridescent black feathers. She asks him to come closer, but he refuses to cross into her circle. She moves right to the very edge. She seems annoyed that he will not obey, but she soon masks her emotions and asks why they have come. They explain the creature attacking the village and their need. She says that she knows of the weapon that can stop the beast. She will tell them where it is, if they will travel to the court of the Red King and convince him to free her.

Long ago the Red King would come to her tower seeking prophecies. Soon, He fell in love. She had no love to return, so the king had his black priest summon a demon. A dark pact was struck. The demon imprisoned her within her own tower, until she gave her love to the King or he set her free of his own volition. (He can’t be forced to do so at knife point for instance)

She also makes promises about regaining her freedom that she sees as coy and seductive but even Laoden finds vaguely repulsive. She also promises a place by her side once she is free to reclaim her place as a power in this region. Laoden and Rafian agree to go to the castle of the Red King, but only in order to free the witch for the purpose of getting the weapon, and saving the Children of the village. She once again tries to get them to come into her circle, but they decline, and leave the tower.

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It Can't Be Me He's Shooting At

Darian Pendrax has been recently demoted to the Blue Manticores for failing to follow the direct order of a superior officer. To make matters worse the unit he has been demoted to is a Landsknecht from the edges of Molthune region. Being too experienced and too well equipped to be a foot soldier; he was placed into the units second lieutenant position much to the ire of the units men. Johann Kemmer, a popular man in the unit and best friend of Martin Tembo the units first lieutenant, was up for the position before this fancy born Chelaxian misfit stole the position.

Their current mission is to transport a banished noble woman, Alessia Thrune, and her retinue to the citadel of the red king. The mission has been plagued by troubles. Rough Seas forced the men to stay below for the entire month long journey form Westcrown to Alvis. In Alvis the companies payroll was stolen by a smooth taking brigand. So the men must go unpaid until they return Westcrown. The overland journey is slow going due to Lady Thrune’s insistence she be carried in a sedan chair. Six days out of Alvis the princess’s cook prepares a wild mushroom stew, sharing it out among most of the servants and half of the mercenaries. The stew turns out to be poisonous killing all 20 Zweihander Doppelsoldner, the cook who made it, and all bearers and servants of Alessia Thrune, save one.

The Blue Manticores are forced to take turns carrying the Lady Alessia’s sedan. Darien is forced to take all of the overnight guard shifts, as he does not have to carry the lady. He often finds himself dozing off in the saddle during the day. It’s a testament to the intelligence of his horse Carrie that he hasn’t fallen off of a cliff.

It is early in the morning on the eighth day out of Alvis, to Darien, it feels like he has just fallen into bed when first lieutenant Tembo is shaking him awake. There is smoke from a campfire coming from down slope. He wants Darian to come investigate with him. They mount up and head off to investigate. The Captain is running the remaining twenty men through drills. Having them form up the the picket, or pike fence, and fall back to the Castellen, or pike square. The Thrune woman is waking up and screaming at her maid Anunciatta to attend her.

Darian and Tembo ride down hill for a few minutes. Darian begins to suspect that Tembo is up to something when he too catches a whiff of wood smoke. Darian begins to turn to speak to Tembo when Tembo’s horse spooks and rears. At the same moment Tembo opens fire with one of his horseman’s pistols. Darian hears the angry buzz of the shot whizzing by his ear. A huge chunk of wood is blown from the trunk of a nearby ironwood tree. Tembo’s horse continues to panic. Tembo curses, and drops his spent pistol on its lanyard, and attempts to draw another while also trying to get his horse under control. Darian looks around saying “Well it can’t be me he’s shooting at.” Tembo finally looses his other pistol and points it at Darian, a snarl curling his lip.

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A Servant's Tale

Aether Fromm has infiltrated the retinue of Lady Nyrissia Thrune. She took the place of a chamber maid using a magical mask to hide her identity. Things went well for the early part of the journey, but then the cook killed all of the other servants with a poisonous mushroom stew. Now she is forced to wait hand and foot on a woman used to close to forty servants taking care of her daily needs. What is worse is the Lady Thrune can’t seem to adjust to life on the road. She wants all of the comforts of home.

While Darian Pendrax is being awoken by a treacherous first lieutenant, Aether is awoken by her lady’s screeching. “Annunciata attend to me!” Aether comes into the lady’s pavilion tent carrying warm wash water and freshly laundered towels. She scrubs the lady clean and helps her to dress. She then hears a shot come from down slope. The sound is muffled by the morning fog but definitely recognizable.

The Captain sends his men into action, ten men head down slope. Ten men surround the tent. The sound of men screaming and the sound of more shots comes from the forest. The captain comes to a decision and says to three of his men. “Right, just like we discussed. Hallver, Fegson, and Mirt kill the Thrune woman and her Jilly. No time for play, just do it clean. We don’t know what’s going on down there. We need this finished so we can get the rest and clear out.” The three men draw their short swords and toward the door flap as Aether is comming out with the chamber pot. Hallver attempts to cleave her with his sword, but she screams, and instinctively raises the chamber pot to block. The heavy crockery stops the sword, saving her life. The crock splits though spraying her and her attackers with night soil. Hallver has been sprayed in the face. He turns away revulsed. The other two Blue Manticore Mercenaries laugh at Hallver, giving Aether the split second she needs to duck inside the tent and draw her wand.

She tries to convince Lay Thrune of their treacherous dilemma . Lady Thrune does not believe their guard have turned on them. The gaurds swagger into the tent swords drawn. Their grins show very plainly they intend to ignore the captains orders and have some fun with their prey. Aether is having none of it and color sprays the lot of them with her wand. They all fall in a heap in the door way. Aether again tries to convince Lady Thrune to flee. Lady Thrune begins to search through her things for the absolute essentials to take with her.

Outside the tent, the Captain is reevaluating the situation. He was not expecting any kind of resistance from the coozy bitch Thrune or her spooner. He is debating what to do when he spies two men running up the hill in the fog.

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A Bounty Hunter's Dilemma

As Aether Fromm is scrubbing royal backside and Darian Pendrax is riding out with his executioner, Sinjin of Absalom is finishing his coffee and stretching his muscles awake. From his hiding place, in a rocky cleft, he can see the Blue Manticore camp. For the hundredth time he wishes them to just pull up their tents and go. He sighs and sips his coffee.

He had been following Laeoden on the road from Alvis to Piren’s Bluff and the Citadel of the Red King. He knows he is not far behind his man, but the fog on the unnatural fog on these mountains forced him to camp or risk plummeting into a crevasse. Now he is stuck here until these Blue Manticore’s move on.

Suddenly a shot rings out down slope where Sinjin’s quarry may be camped. He thought he had seen another campfire through the trees in the early hours of this morning, but the fog made it difficult to tell. Ten additional soldiers head down slope to where two of their commanding officers went earlier. It is the same direction the shot came from.

Sinjin curses under his breath, dumps the rest of his coffee, and gathers his things. If it Laeoden down there, the Blue Manticores are likely to kill him. A man fitting Laoden’s description robbed this mercenary companies payroll. “My fee is contingent on returning Laoden alive to Westcrown”, thought Sinjin. I am not about to give up two months work. He heads down slope to save his target.

Why is it never easy?

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An Unlikely Truce

First Lieutenant Tembo draws his second pistol as he brings his horse under control. He smiles as he brings Darian into his sights. He controls his breath and begins to squeeze the trigger, when something drops down and pulls him by his head into the the thick foliage of an iron wood tree.

Laeoden apporoaches the combat from his campsight and introduces himself to Darian Pendrax and asks what is happening. Darian replies, “The death of no one of consequence.” Then they both here Aether’s screams coming from their encampment. Laeoden says" A Damsel in distress. Let us make haste Darian. Laeoden jumps on Sancho, Lieutenant Tembo’s horse, and begins to gallop up the hill. Up in the tree Martin Tembo is screaming his last, his arm falls from the tree still gripping his horseman’s pistol. Darian scoops it up as he rides past. They meet the Blue manticores coming up the hill. Laedoen begins to speak to the men urging them to head up the hill and help the lady in distress. They want to know hy he has Tembo’s horse. Then strange monsters attack out of the woods, ending the conversation. While them men are being eaten alive Darian and Laeoden ride past and burst into the encampment just as Sinjin is racing down from his rocky perch. The Captain sees them and organizes them into a double volley line, and orders them to fire.

All of their shots go wide and the Captain curses them to reload. Sinjin uses his bow to fatally wound a soldier on the end of the line Laeoden and Darian dismount to engage them. A suprise ally comes out of the woods raining arrows down on the Mercenaries. An elf has chosen to lend aid. The soldiers reload and the Captain engages Laeoden and Darian. They exchange tentative strikes testing the metal of the other but no blows draw blood. Just as the rifleman are about to open fire monsters stitched together from the mind of a mad man come lurching into the clearing. One is an octopus with the head of an ox. Another is a bear with a sharks head. A third is a writhing worm of left over parts, clumps of horns and antlers clatter across the ground as it slides toward them. Teeth gnash together in no less then six mouths. There are also less fleshy creatures. Great centipedes and spiders made from polished bone.

Laeoden uses honeyed words to convince the solders to fight with them against these abominations or face mutual extinction. The fearful soldiers agree and an uneasy alliance of necessity is born.

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