- A few short minutes after the demon is slain, the unnatural cavern that served as its prison begins to shake. Hurrying, the heroes left the chamber and returned along the bone path, their gnoll ritualist in tow. Beld had grabbed a few of Arlo’s belongings, including a small journal.
- Upon reaching the top of the sarcophagal stairwell, Glia heard a noise coming from the side passage. It sounded of heavy breathing, and something coming from the water. Grabbing a torch, she approached the intersection and saw the small, lean shape of a young man crawling up the last few stairs. Valeran, approaching behind her, looked at the drenched figure and asked, “Is that you, Brett?”
- The figure stood slowly, and breathing heavily from his great exertion he told his tale. His name was Bane, but he had once been Brett. There was much he couldn’t remember, but he spoke of finding himself suddenly in the Shadowfell, where souls travel once they depart the flesh that was their home. He eventually found himself outside a great black fortress, so tall he could barely see its top, and he entered. Expecting to meet the Claimer inside, to be judged and either punished or granted immediate passage to the Celestial Hall of his favored god, he found no one to greet him. He wandered the great halls for some time, and eventually departed. Once outside the fortress, he wandered the grey expanse until he was found by a group of shadar-kai. They took him in, not out of kindness, but as a slave. He was taken to a camp, or perhaps a small town, ruled over by a shadar-kai known as Corvus, the Raven King. He was thrown in with other slaves, and taught to fight. Later, perhaps several months but he couldn’t be sure, he was fighting in an arena when a great storm sprung up from nowhere, destroying buildings and sending everyone fleeing for cover. During the resulting confusion a shadar-kai woman approached him and offered to help him escape. This Lady Gwawr led him to a pool and bade him make his escape by swimming. He did so, rising from the dark waters here, in the tomb where he had died.
- Realizing they had left the body of their fallen friend Throck behind in the strange chamber beneath, Valeran tried to return down the sarcophagal stairwell. Finding the passage quickly collapsing upon itself, he realized the bone path and cavern were an extradimensional space apparently supported by the power of the demon itself. With its demise, the space was collapsing into itself and disappearing. Seeing no way to provide a proper burial, he instead carved Throck’s name in the side of the sarcophagus, the best he could do for his lost friend.
- The heroes returned to the chamber of the Ghost Squire to question him. He told them what he could, although he seemed unable to recall many details of his own life. He was a young boy, only eight winters, and was squire to a noble pauper knight. The knight and his allies had bested this great demon, but finding themselves unable to destroy the foul creature they hatched a plan to imprison it forever. Not only would it be sequestered in this extradimensional prison, they would conceal the location of the prison to prevent its discovery and release. They searched for some time until they located a suitable home for this prison, eventually finding this place where the the veil between the Middle World and the dark Shadowfell was thin. Anyone trying to detect the magic of the prison here would find only the Dark Mirror that leads to the Shadowfell, and so they built this tomb as the knight lived out his last days. He was buried here, in the room supposedly laid out for his squire, the sarcophagus that seemed his would hide the passage to the prison. Why would anyone bother robbing the grave of a pauper knight who has forsworn all personal wealth? As for himself, the Squire could not explain what happened to him. He knew not where his bones were interred, if in fact they ever were. He died just as construction was completed, his oath to watch over and protect this place for all time fresh on his lips. He couldn’t say how long he had been buried here, but local stories of the Knight’s Tomb go back for generations, perhaps tens of generations or more. The gnolls, their tiefling master, and a human had come here. He had fought back against these interlopers, but they were too much for him to overcome and he eventually fell to them. Bound forever to this place, he wasn’t destroyed but rather incorporealized, unable to interact until he could slowly coalesce a new form. That was weeks ago, and even now his form was barely discernible in the tomb, his features faint and still unable to interact with the physical world. Since the heroes return from the sarcophagal stairwell he could sense that something had changed within the tomb, but he seemed unsure what to make of it. Even if the imprisoned demon had been killed, how did that change his oath to watch over this tomb? He still felt the need to protect this place, and it seemed as if he could no longer differentiate between himself and Knight’s Tomb, as if perhaps his great oath or the countless years that had passed while he stood guard had rendered the two inseparable.
- Seeing nothing more to be done here at the Knight’s Tomb, the heroes departed and made their way southeast towards Laston, their risen comrade and their captive gnoll accompanying them. The morning sun, for it was only a few hours past dawn still, was bright and a sense of freshness hung in the last Spring air. But when no more than an hour had passed on their journey Beld felt a strange presence, as if being watched. Alerting the others, they kept a close eye on the trail both ahead and behind as they made their way towards home. They began to notice a flicker in the shadows to the west, behind them, as if someone followed them while cleaving to the shadows. And before long they spotted those who followed them, their facial tattoos and piercings giving them away as shadar-kai. After some brief discussion, they decided to locate a good spot to confront these shadar-kai. Valeran wanted to speak with them, but most of the others felt a physically confrontation was unavoidable. Did they not travel in the company of Bane, who had just escaped from their slave-pen? What else could these dark once-humans want?
- Finding a good spot in the woods, where a few long-abandoned stone buildings would provide cover and protection, they waited for the shadar-kai to approach. Shortly, the group arrived, looking about to see where their quarry had gone. As they approached, Valeran stepped from the shadow of the ruin and asked what business they had in these lands. The leader of the shadar-kai, a witch adorned with countless bits of metal ornaments placed into her flesh, asked who was this boy who asked such questions. Was he lord of these lands? Did he have some claim of ownership to this place? Was he this land’s appointed defender? Valeran explained that as a knight in the service of Stafford Greenspire he was, in fact, an appointed defender of this realm. The witch asked what would happen if she chose not to recognize his claim of office, and Bane could take no more of these insults and threats. Leaping from the ruins, he tore into the shadar-kai, twisting and spinning among them, his quarterstaff smashing into them and inflicting grievous harm. The other heroes would quickly follow suit, and combat was joined.
- The battle was quick, but bloody. The shadar-kai fought viciously, but in the end the heroes proved victorious. Just before she would fall in battle, the witch spoke quickly and calmly, “My Lady Rouge, it is my disgrace to report that we have located the slave but shall soon fall in battle. I can only hope that my impending death serves to redeem me in your eyes.” As she finished speaking, a wisp of black and crimson smoke rose from her high collared cloak and dissipated into the wind. As the battle continued, the gnoll apparently trusted Morwen’s promise of freedom in exchange for his assistance in taking a powerful shadar-kai prisoner, fighting alongside the heroes. True to her word, once the dust had settled and two shadar-kai – one soldier bearing a great glaive, and the witch who led them – had been rendered unconscious, Morwen told the gnoll he should run and never be seen again in these mountains. Wasting no time, he fled to the south.
- Our heroes met Bane, a revenant. Revenants are those rare individuals whose journey does not end with their death. After being judged by the Claimer and sent on to their god’s Celestial Hall, they are not allowed entry but rather instructed to return to the mortal worlds for some divine purpose. A revenant’s prior mortal identity almost completely subsumed by their newfound purpose, they have scattered memories of who they were before. Valeran and Gwil spent some time debating the nature of a revenant, ultimately coming to the analogy of a plate somehow returned to the clay from which it was made and then fired once more in the form of a vase. While completely unlike the original, one cannot deny the connection between the two pieces of pottery, one past and one present. But if revenants are created by divine will, what should they make of Bane’s story of the deserted Hall of Judgment and his subsequent return? Is his return due to chance, or is something deeper going on here?
- Physically, Bane resembles Brett Treharne, the 11 year-old who often accompanied Kenton and who was killed by the wraiths at Knight’s Tomb. However, there are several obvious changes. He seems leaner, his skin somewhat ashen. His eyes are black orbs with golden dots for pupils, his fingernails thick and strong, almost claws. He also seems older, but having seen firsthand that time in the Middle World does not pass as the same rate as time in other realms it’s quite possible for Bane to have spent a year or even more in the Shadowfell in the few months that have passed since Brett’s death.
- A brief bio appears here.
In which we see that not all things lost are forgotten
- Our heroes interrogated the shadar-kai witch Llymanta. She indicated that she was sent by th Lady Rouge, the best hunter in the service of Corvus, the Raven King. The Raven King rules from Tywyll, which is the Shadowfell version of the town of Laston in the Middle World. The Lady Rouge had provided both passage to the Middle World and the smoke charm that would allow Llymanta to contact her to arrange for travel back. Having sent the message of their impending failure during the battle, Llymanta and the others no longer had any way to return to Tywyll. After the interrogation, the heroes decided to bring the two shadar-kai over to the reeve Alastrianna.
- The heroes returned to Laston late at night, the sun already set behind them. They found the valley that holds cloaked in deep fog, the Gwynedd River hidden from view. As they approached the church, the encountered a Brother Simon and a nearby knight who was confronting a large spirit that was later identified by Llymanta as the Lady Rouge. Her lower body was that of a great black spider, larger than a horse and bearing red markings, but where the front two legs would be there was a mass of tentacles. Her upper body, rising from the front of the spider torso, was as large as an ogre. Her long crimson hair trailed down her back, and she wore red leather armor. She would prove to be only an apparition, though, as the knight’s sword would pass through her. She laughed and said, “I am sorry to disappoint you, Sir Knight, but I have other business to attend to. But fear not, for I have sent others to reclaim what was taken from my King.” Her form dissipated into the fog just as small, dark shapes separated from the fog and attacked the knight.
- As the heroes moved to engage the stealthy assassins they recognized them as Dark Ones – sly, murderous creatures from the Shadowfell. Many speculate that they were once halflings, but were trapped in the Shadowfell when Jakariel overthrew the Primordial Marwgoel and the Shadowfell turned into the twisted land it is today. The Dark Ones would prove to be craft combatants, hiding in the deepest fog until it was time to strike. And even in their death was a threat, for when they were killed they exploded in a burst of darkness that blinded all those nearby. The knight was able to assist, dispatching a number of the Dark Ones himself and showing an ability to restore the sight of those blinded by the shadow creatures. After a long struggle that nearly saw Beld fall beneath their seemingly-endless number, the heroes and the knight would prove victorious. Having lost sight of Brother Simon during the melee, the heroes rounded the small building where he had last been seen. Fearful of finding him dead, they were surprised to an altogether different picture – Simon, carrying a sword, and the fading vestiges of several Dark Ones who had fallen to his blade. The knight, once the battle was won, removed him helmet. Valeran and Gwil were pleased to see that this was none other than their sworn liege, Stafford Greenspire, eldest son of the Baron and heir to these lands.
- Stafford explained to the group the reason for his visit, having arrived in Laston but an hour before. Tomorrow would bring news of great import, for the Baron Coluddyn had managed to convince King Gerrard Callon to go on the offensive. Taking a large number of the King’s Army with him, the Baron Coluddyn had struck at the heart of the barbarian horde that threatened the kingdom. The horde, perhaps 3000 in number, had been decimated and scattered. Perhaps a third or half killed in the fighting, it would be some months before the surviving warbands could be caught and dealt with, but the fatal blow in the war had been struck and Callon had proved victorious. Some conscripts would likely return home quickly, while the others should be home in the autumn.
- But despite this news, Stafford was disquieted. Had the heroes not reported a large armed camp, perhaps 500 or more, hidden near the Slumbering King? Stafford believed the Baron Coluddyn’s estimate of the orcs killed in the assault was likely exaggerated as well. How large was the remaining barbarian horde truly? Stafford had dispatched scouts to venture into the north of the Coluddyn barony to reconnoiter, but they had not yet returned and he feared the worst. King Callon was enamored with the Baron’s bold victory; Greenspire, long a valued advisor and confidante to the King, now seemed out of favor. If the Baron Coluddyn was in fact in league with the horde, what would be his next move? The Greenspire barony’s isolation from the rest of the kingdom and the enmity between the two Barons could make them a tempting target, so they must make ready for whatever is to come next.