“Blessed are they who stand before
The corrupt and the wicked and do not falter.
Blessed are the peacekeepers, the champions of the just.”
Li Lung is a highly disciplined, highly skilled martial artist. Raised and trained in the Monastery of the Maker’s Hands, high in the Anderfels, he has a true moral compass, and will go out of his way to help others, even complete strangers. His friend, Mikhael Dryden, is a smith who also was part of the monastery, as well as Kolgrim, who helped uphold the law there and settle the very rare squabbles. Verrat was a mage who sought peace from the Chantry, and found it in the monastery. Verrat one day crafted a mysterious, glowing red medallion, which seemed to drive him to madness, slaughtering most of the people in the monastery. Li, Mikhael, and Kolgrim narrowly escaped the destruction of their home, and fled to Ferelden. Li Lung now hopes to build himself a new life, all the while improving those all around him. Mikhael told Li to go to Sothmere to the groundsbreaking festival, where he would return and meet back up with him after he contacted his family and found a next move for them. The events that would transpire in Sothmere, however, led him down a different path.
Kadence is a young Dalish elf, born and raised in seclusion in the forests of Ferelden. She has great pride in her heritage in spite of her exile from it. She has a fiery spirit, and will not hesitate to challenge anyone who offends her or her friends. Zathrian, her keeper, seemed to have rediscovered ancient elven immortality, as he was hundreds of years old. He also has a great hatred for all of humankind due to the atrocities they committed against Dalish elves centuries ago. Thus, when she saved a human from a darkspawn contingent, and brought the wounded man back to her camp for treatment, Zathrian was outraged. He demanded the human be executed, so that he wouldn’t be able to lead humans back to their camp to wipe them out. And if he were to be released, he consented that they show them the Dalish can be as barbaric as the humans think, and strike fear into their hearts. He suggested they cut off his hands, and release him to his own devices as a warning to humankind. Kadence refused the monstrous compromise, and was cast out of her home. She returned with the human to Sothmere so his kind could care for him, and found herself at a festival in the village.
Derniers is a human, a mage with a warrior’s heart. His father, Eveiller, was a great Orlesian warrior, his mother from Ferelden. They met when Orlais was occupying Ferelden at the end of the Blessed age, and fell in love. His mother, however, had been hiding inherent magical talents from her husband, and was eventually found out. Eveiller, a devout Chantry goer, was equal parts anger and despair. He had to send his beloved wife to the Circle of Magi, where she would be kept prisoner by the Chantry, under the careful scrutiny of the Templars. She was already with child, however, and Derniers was born there. Derniers lived a few short years out of the Circle after his birth, until his own magical powers started to show themselves. His father had to undergo the same agony all over again, as Derniers was taken to the Circle. His mother was also in despair that her son would suffer the same fate as her, so she made a deal with a demon, hoping to release him. The demon, of course, betrayed her, transforming her into an abomination. The Chantry’s Templars were forced to cut her down. Derniers recently escaped from the Circle with Jowan and Olaf. They were found out by First Enchanter Irving and Knight-Commander Greagoir, but Jowan, much to Derniers and Olaf’s dismay, used blood magic to save them all. Derniers and Olaf later woke riding in the back of a merchant’s wagon, with two dwarves, Bodahn Feddic and his boy Sandal, driving. They were headed for the village of Sothmere, to peddle wares at the Groundbreaking festival.
Olaf is a human conduit of the Fade. His father was a powerful apostate, living with his mother. He left her with child and was taken by the Templars, at which point he became a Grey Warden to escape captivity. Olaf’s mother, not wanting to incite hatred in him towards his father, told him stories of the glories of the Grey Wardens and their triumphs against the evil darkspawn, so that Olaf grew up enamored with the Grey Wardens, their legends, and his father’s connection to them. So when his magical powers inevitably developed, and the Templars came to take him to the Circle of Magi, he took those stories and dreams with him. He developed a very unique ability among mages – the power to summon a pure spirit from the fade. This spirit manifested as a Griffon, the sigil, and now-extinct former mounts of the Grey Wardens, and bore the name Ferdinand, after a great Grey Warden hero from the Second Blight. The Mages and Templars were both uneasy about these unorthodox powers, so they didn’t give him his Harrowing, and instead signed orders for his Rite of Tranquility, along with Derniers and Jowan. Thus, the three fled the Circle with the subtle assistance of Uldred, and ultimately the much less-subtle assistance of Jowan, showing his true colors as a blood mage. Olaf awoke with Derniers in the back of Bodahn Feddic and his boy Sandal’s merchant wagon, on the way to the village of Sothmere for the groundsbreaking festival. There they sought to take advantage of their newfound freedom, but instead found their powers in demand.
The group enjoyed the festivities in Sothmere, the games, the attractions, the exotic food and drink. Derniers and Olaf both reveled in their newfound freedom, drinking, dancing, singing, whoring and the like. Kadence found an opportunity to test her skills with the bow, besting Fiala in an archery competition. This caught the eye of Li Lung, who approached her with an idea for some entertainment of their own. The monk stood perfectly still, waiting, as the elf leveled and loosed an arrow straight at his heart. The crowd gasped in fear, followed by cheers and applause as the monk caught the arrow not inches from his body.
They drank at the tavern together, laughing and joking, and Derniers encountered an old wise-woman named Old Stoyanka. As he passed by her she muttered at him, “you and your friend need not fear the Templars here, young man.” When Derniers stopped and looked at her, amazed that she knew he was a mage, she smiled and said “you thought you were the only apostates in this village?” The drunk mage was dumbfounded and asked her to read his palm. “your fate is your own to decide,” she muttered, pushing his hand away. He stumbled away and into Bogdan, the town smith, who was enraged at the offense. He whirled on Derniers, demanding an apology, at which Kadence bristled. She immediately defended her new friend, and a bar fight broke out. Li Lung tried to maintain the peace, but when it came to blows he was largely effective. The group handily subdued the man and hog-tied him, but when they heard the guards coming to sort out the mess, they slipped out, with Derniers throwing a masterful bluff to help them pass.
They woke the next day to more of the festivities, and attended a town dinner that night in the dining tent. There, Sheriff Milo, the burgomaster and highest ranking citizen of Sothmere, sat with his daughter, Wanda; the wise-woman, Old Stoyanka; the First Knight of Fort Sothmere, Ser Vilem; and several other villagers. As Milo was making his toast to the guests, an axe slashed through the back of the tent, and a Chasind raider walked through. He was jaundiced, and emitted a foul, acrid smell. He tried to attack Milo, but Wanda got in the way, and was slashed by his dagger. Two more raiders entered the tent and started slaying the villagers as they tried to flee. The festival immediately erupted into chaos and the party stepped into action, trying to defend the helpless citizens of Sothmere. Olaf summoned an eagle to help distract the raging stalkers, Li Lung made his best effort to disarm the men and prevent any more needless death, Kadence drew her swords and joined close combat with them, and Derniers was a haze, scimitar whirling in one hand and raw magical power erupting from the other.
They finished off the raiders in the tent, and left to find several more outside terrorizing the citizens. Dielza, a Dalish dancer-turned-entertainer, was wounded, and lying next to their elven landship, while her brother Olek flurried viciously with a dagger in each hand, fending off two ragers. Fiala greeted an old friend, Oskar, who arrived at the festival at the height of the violence, but he turned on her, jaundiced and with the same pungent stench as the other raiders. This proved a developing theory, that the raiders suffered from an unnatural disease that could be contracted. Nearby, Bodahn and Sandal were defending themselves from two more raiders, Sandal holding his own, Bodahn’s unfamiliarity with battle showing. Two children also huddled under a wagon, with a raider on either side reaching under to try to grab the poor kids. The group sprang into action, with Kadence and Li getting cut by poisoned blades along the way. Olek fell in battle, Fiala, Dielza, Bodahn, and the young girl all were poisoned, with the girl taking a massive wound, only surviving because of some expertly delivered medical attention from Li. The group finished off the threat to Sothmere and reconvened with Sheriff Milo to discuss their next move.
Milo was clearly shaken with the condition of his wounded daughter, unconscious and unresponsive to treatment, already feverish from the poisoned dagger. The first order of defense was to prepare defenses against future attacks from these ragers. Ser Vilem suggested Fort Sothmere, saying even undermanned as it was, it would provide great shelter for the citizens from the attackers. However, he would only accept the uninfected villagers with the knowledge in mind that those infected could turn. When the issue of the infected villagers came up, Ser Vilem and Bogdan both immediately declared that they should be put to the sword rather than take a chance at dooming them all. This ignited a fierce debate, with Stoyanka saying her alchemical brew should stave off the effects of the transformation, and that there may be a way to cure them. After a long and heated discussion, it was decided that the infected villagers would be locked in a local barn and kept under close watch, with torches nearby. It seemed the right combination between caution and cruelty, and the bargain was struck.
Milo then asked if anyone would be willing to undertake the quest to retrieve the ingredient Old Stoyanka needed to try to cure the disease. Our heroes volunteered, rested for the night, with Kadence and Li being forced to stay in the barn with the other infected villagers, and began their quest at dawn. Old Stoyanka muttered an incantation in an open field outside town, and summoned a raven to guide the party. She gave them three bags, one filled with carrion beetles, one with a foul smelling mixture, and the third empty. She said the beetles were to be fed to the raven, live, to keep the enchantment active. The foul brew was to be boiled in water wherever the raven led them to summon the firesprites. When the firesprites arrived, they would lead the party back to the place they would find the Shadowmoss. The third, empty bag, was to be filled completely with shadowmoss and returned to Old Stoyanka within three days, which was as long as she guessed her brew would delay the effects of the disease. They bid their farewells, and the raven flew south.
The four rode south on horseback, feeding the raven every so often, and came to a high cliff. The group carefully tried to navigate down the steep cliff, and since Li was an inexperienced rider, he was thrown from his horse and tumbled down, getting many bumps, scrapes, and bruises, alongside his horse. They straightened themselves up when they reached the bottom and the raven was circling over the Sudrand River. It seemed much too deep to ford, so they consulted their map and decided to take a side trek to Wichford and cross on the ferry there, and return back to the raven.
When they encountered the settlement, they saw it had been attacked as well, with corpses littering the town. The ferry had been cut loose, with its ropes drifting listlessly in the current of the Sudrand. They found the ravens pecking at the bodies to be more than they appeared though, as they were mutated by the blight. The bloodcrows attacked the party, but a well-placed fireball from Derniers all but ended the threat in one fell swoop. They were easily finished off, and the party found a survivor in the second story of the cordwain shop. They found a man named Josef, with a shattered knee, feverish and somewhat delirious. He told the group about the ragers who came through Wichford, attacking relentlessly while Josef hid in his attic. Someone had cut the ferry off to try to prevent more ragers from coming through. When Josef came downstairs to look for survivors the next day, his neighbors were turning and attacked him on sight. A dying guard saved his life with a well-placed crossbow bolt, but his knee was shattered, and the man bit into Josef’s arm as he fell. Josef knew what he was becoming and asked them to kill him out of mercy. After acquiring all the information they needed from him, Olaf conceded and put a crossbow bolt in his head.
The heroes went about their quest, stopping just long enough to loot some of the houses for gear and supplies. To their dismay, they found the ferry lines cut, presumedly to try to stop the Chasind Ragers during their attack. Josef had told them that even though the ferry wasn’t operational, the river was shallow near the town. They decided that they should be able to cross here, and did so. It ended up being a much more difficult affair than they had hoped, Derniers and Li Lung particularly finding some trouble crossing. After crossing, though, they pressed on and rode back east to meet up with their guide-bird.
When they did, he led them back south again, until they came across the camp of a local trapper named Branik. He shared his recent experiences with the Chasind madmen and recommended they stable their mounts at a Chasind village called Dosov. They found this to be sound advice, as it was only slightly out of the way of the raven’s flight. Along the way to this village, however, they were ambushed by a group of uninfected Chasind stalkers. Li knocked one of the raiders out, hoping to interrogate him on the recent outbreak, but Kadence’s fury at the attack wasn’t so easily quelled. She slayed the man without hesitation. They continued on their way to the village.
In the small, swamp village of Dosov, they met with the village’s Baba, or elder, by the name of zorya. She was happy to invite the party in, and even happier to negotiate a deal to shelter their horses. The party found her to be a shrewd negotiator, especially in that she had no interest whatsoever in coin. She only had desire for things that were of use to her and her village. Derniers did the negotiating, being required to imbibe her ‘wildwine’, or a grain alcohol made from the local crop, ryott. They found a deal in offering her one of their four horses, as well as a flask and some sheets of leather.
So they camped by the village overnight, and left early in the morning, continuing through the swamps wherever their raven led them. After a day of harsh terrain, the bird landed on a small hummock out in front of them, turned to face them, and simply fell over dead. The party made camp once more, and in the morning boiled the foul-smelling brew. This caught the attention of a massive swamp crab, who attacked the party, trying to steal the mixture for its own dinner. Olaf was able to charm the beast, and simply convinced it to leave them alone, avoiding what could have been a disaster. The firesprites arrived in short order, coming to inspect them and the boiling pot. They sang a sad, mournful song, which seemed to speak to the party without words. They were there a short while, flying and hovering about, and then left. It was a lengthy chase, trying to keep up with the agile firesprites, and the party only avoided a dangerous asphalt pit with Kadence’s vast knowledge of nature. Eventually, they came upon an ancient-looking grotto that seemed to be of some old, unidentifiable architecture.
The firesprites flew around in this area, their song charming the party, and finally descended into the pool of the grotto. After much hesitation, the party followed, finding an underwater tunnel. Derniers struggled swimming in his heavy armor, taking heavy damage from sharp rocks and water in his lungs, but they finally made it through. They emerged in a cavern and found what appeared to be a 30-foot snake, but ended up being only molted skin. The real guardian serpent emerged soon after, attacking the party. They made short work of it, and began exploring the cavern. The winding tunnels led to a chamber containing the shadowmoss, as well as an abandoned pit where they found treasures, including gold and silver as well as a suit of light mail plate armor, though it was damaged. They discovered through the song of the firesprites that the shadowmoss was their key to survival, and is created only by the guardian serpent. It was, in fact, the serpent’s excrement. Therefore, by slaying the guardian serpent and stealing all the shadowmoss in the chamber, they were dooming the firesprites to extinction.
The group tried to help the firesprites in any way they could, and decided to gut the guardian serpent, to leave them with whatever small amount of shadowmoss they could. So they left the grotto with the spoils of their labor, intent to return to Sothmere in time to save the infected villagers. But as they emerged the grotto pool, they found that the rains had stopped, and the sunlight seemed to cast differently. They were badly disoriented, and unsure of the correct way out of the Wilds. While navigating their way, they came across a group of wolves, very rare in the lands after being hunted almost to extinction. These wolves were particularly bloodthirsty, attacking the party outright. They were wounded in the battle, but came out all-in-all intact.
They later came across a group of Chasind Rager-Hunters, as they called themselves. They had set up a trap to try to draw in the Ragers, and dispatch them to try to put an end to the disease. They were very suspicious of the party, and their dealings with the infected madmen, but ultimately left it only at peaceful interrogations from both sides. They were gravely concerned to hear how far the disease had already spread, but were put slightly at ease when the party bluffed that none of them had been infected with the disease. The heroes went on their way, journeying on and finding the edge of the Wilds at last.
Shortly after exiting the forests, they were approached by a Chasind named Giera, who was badly wounded. He begged them to help his friends, who were currently being ripped apart by Ragers nearby. From the way he described it, it sounded as if his friends were beyond saving, and the party weighed their options carefully. With a grimace, even Li decided that time was too large a factor for them to go out of their way for an already lost cause. Giera continued to beg, but the party stoically moved on toward their destination. They returned to Dosov, reclaimed their mounts (less the one they bargained with) and rode hard for Sothmere.
As they came into the hills and neared Wichford, they saw through the again-stormy skies a lone, mounted knight flying unfamiliar colors atop a hill ahead. Olaf rode out alone, as the knight requested, to meet with the man and see what he wanted. The knight revealed himself to be Ser Vilja Wulver, the First Knight of Wulverton, a village he said was a day’s ride to the west of them. He seemed troubled by what he was about to do, and told them to relinquish the shadowmoss to him. When Olaf pointed out that he was outnumbered, he whistled a signal and four more horses rode up over the hill and into sight. Despite trying to reason with the man, the knight was resolute. His village, including his own wife and children, had been infected with the Amber Rage, and were doomed without the shadowmoss. He was in a situation much like the party, but they refused to budge. Ser Vilja begrudgingly drew his blade and declared combat, saying if he had to he would take the shadowmoss by force.
In reply, Olaf deftly cast a telekinetic spell, unlatching the knight’s saddle. He wheeled and rode back to his allies as Ser Vilja fell unceremoniously from his horse, and combat ensued. Though the group from Wulverton had an apostate mage in their party, the bulk of their group was still militiamen, farmers with axes and short swords. They proved to be no match for the party, namely a well-placed fireball from Derniers, and Li knocked out their young female mage for later questioning. Ser Vilja fought bravely, but futilely. He was quickly overcome, and as Li was about to deliver the subduing blow, Kadence again came in and made it a fatal one. She rode by and slashed off the knight’s leg, leaving him screaming in agony and weeping for the imminent deaths of his family and villagers, until he quickly bled to death.
The party was disappointed by the unnecessary violence, but had to continue, and so bound and gagged the mage and slung her over one of the horses they recovered from the group from Wulverton. They rode north.