[HINTERLANDS, ONE DAY FROM FREEHOLD; JANUARY 8, 2018 (WR)]
Brother Wisk and Brother Grim were like crows, calling to each other with each corpse they found hanging or chained to a tree. This was the Hinterlands, however and there wasn’t much left to find after the wolves had their fill. They may as well have been crows, their black garments only betrayed in hue by a white cross upon their chests– the symbol of their mercenary order.
Away from the woods and back on the road was the charred skeleton of a merchant wagon. Beside it, Brother Ghost removed his ash-covered gloves and wiped his brow with a bare hand. It was a mild day in a winter so harsh, you’d have thought Anubisath was still alive to threaten Midworld. With the sun out and this bright, the snow and the Brotherhood of the Sword and Cross were sweating. He stood up to face the approaching sound of crunching snow.
A few moments later, Wisk and Grim broke through the treeline to squelch the road’s mud beneath them. Wisk bore a troubled expression whereas Grim’s was a calmer, almost jovial visage. Where Ghost’s gloves had ash, theirs had blood and they had that faint slaughterhouse smell of a “thorough examination”.
“No weapons, no food. Everything else is burned” Ghost slapped his gloves against his thigh.
Wisk shook his head with a grimace. “The Gilded Albatross isn’t going to be happy. Those are their merchants, their teamsters and their guards strung up in the woods”
“Tortured” Grim was smiling when put a twitching right hand upon the tome at his side. It stilled shortly thereafter, leaving blood on the cover. “Mutilated. Broken. Again”
“Same as the other travelers then? They’re not just hitting merchants, they’re hitting whoever they can find”
“Yeah. And it’s the same each time” Wisk spit on the ground. “The torture, the recruitment and then the killing and robbing, these ‘Heavenfall Sons’. Some folk will do anything for a ‘good cause’”
“As opposed to us Brotherhood that do anything for money” Ghost’s chuckle was unbidden and bitter.
“Not like this though. Not for no reason either. Foraging and shakedowns are one thing and a thing of the past. But this is dark work – the cuts we saw on those bodies… this isn’t just banditry”
The tallest of the black-garbed mercenaries patted his Tome softly when the others turned to him for counsel. “Sounds about right. The dead said much of the same”
“And? What else did they say?”
“They also spoke of a Purifier. A seeker and destroyer of Sin. The Sons of Heavenfall venerate and emulate his work in destroying all with sin. They said to the victims, only in this way can the world be saved from the onslaught of more falling stars” Grim was looking at neither of them, staring into space.
Ghost and Wisk exchanged looks then the former scratched the back of his head. “Really? How’d you get all that info?”
Grim’s gaze met theirs, but his expression betrayed an untroubled lack of disturbance. “Oh, I asked.”
Out of Game Clarification: Those Kingdoms who have been struck by Anubisath’s “Frozen Stars” were not destroyed but severely damaged. Player Characters from those Kingdoms who were struck by Frozen Stars do not gain Patronage at the beginning of this year– such resources are expended by the Kingdom in recovery efforts. If such a Kingdom stabilizes from the damage, then next year may yield Patronage as normal.
However, such Player Characters do not lose Kingdom Standing from this incident (though other incidents may inflict such a loss). Their Standing increases or decreases as normal as tales of their deeds spread across their homelands.