Category Archives: Tales from the Hinterlands

Events that take place in the Hinterlands outside Freehold.

August 2018 Prologue

PrologueRumors and Clarifications

‘At Least’ —  those are this month’s words

Rodrigo Zapatero heard the curtain beads clatter as his sister entered the tiny kitchen. Tierra was kind enough to let him stay here after his shop was demolished by Fang-zhara’s golems in last month’s invasion so he did his part whenever he could, at least.

“I did not know you had already returned” Tierra’s voice was as low and tired as the sputtering flames beneath the cauldron, as the flickering fires of the candles. “The children are asleep. How was work, Rodrigo?”

“Only getting worse” he sighed, elbows on the dining table of the small room. He rubbed his aching, bandaged fingers together. “People still want their shoes and their leathers mended. But they have not the money to pay. So, I’ve been getting foodstuffs and baubles”

“The farmers are still growing food, at least. Things are difficult with this thing around Freehold that’s stopping us from leaving.”

He upended his bag unto the table, spilling out shrunken and shriveled vegetables and hard bread. “Everyone is talking about what that bright wall is. Lots of folks are putting the blame on the Sun Elves…but no one really knows.”

Tierra picked up an onion and held it closer to a candle. The farms were saved but the price of their salvation was paid to a monstrous, treacherous Witch – so said the people in the tavern. That much she believed, but she and her children were alive…at least.

“We’re not starving” Rodrigo did his best to sound hopeful but found it harder to do than shape leather with ravaged fingers.

“But we will be soon” Tierra started cutting with a nearby knife, starting with the onion and then moving on the rest while she spoke. Shriveled or not, it needed to go into the cauldron with the rest of the foodstuff she traded for her husband’s things. “I heard that the Emerald Chalice and Swift Shipping Guilds have opened their stocks and reserves to the needy, but there is only so much food here. Hinterlanders line the streets of the north and west markets, trapped in town and hungry”

“And desperate?” He was suddenly aware of the weight of the club hanging from his belt.

“No, they left me alone. But this can’t last for long”

“It can’t. It won’t” His fists hurt as he clenched them. “But I know that we will endure this and see this through! There are people out there that will make things right for Freehold!”

She stopped cutting and her voice was a whisper as she signed herself with the symbol of the Seven United. “You don’t mean Primus do you? Celia said that she saw his cultists skulking in the streets, yesternight”

Rodrigo looked at her aghast. “No, no, that’s terrible. No- I mean, the Freefolk! They’ve beaten Primus before and the rest of those other monsters. They even defeated the three Immortals last moon! They’re practically gods and they were scattered like crows! They’ll fight their way out of this!”

Tierra finished cutting as he raved and dropped her work into the simmering interior of the cauldron, handful by handful. She felt, rather than heard, the children stir at his voice– but she couldn’t find it within herself to rebuke her brother.

“And if they don’t?” she said quietly into the cauldron.

“Then it would up to us?” He grinned at her and patted his club. “And no one wants that to happen”

Clarify (everyone should read this):
Rumors (anyone may read this):
Rumormonger skill only
Researcher, Aura-sight, Spirit-sight and/or Lorekeeper skills only:

July 2018 Prologue

PrologueRumors and news

[NORTHWESTERN FRINGES OF FREEHOLD, JULY 09, 2018 (WR)]

With a full moon illuminating the warm summer night, Marlowe stepped into the threshold of the farmhouse’s ruin with nary a sound. With precise claw and godly skill, her Mistress had fused her flesh with metal and power. She was stronger and swifter now, even more than she ever was…even more than she ever could be. What was once a young human woman from the Pariah of Kali-Ishtar was now the keenest knife in the arsenal of Fang-zhara, the Eternal Architect.

She found her Mistress standing over what used to be the farmhouse’s fireplace. Everything else from the building had been broken and scattered. Neither wall nor roof remained where they had been, with only burnt beams and shattered stone to mark what had once been a home. When rain would come, its fall would sizzle and steam over flame and forge — but there was no rain tonight, just a clear night sky and a bright moon.

The Immortal had turned the fireplace into a workshop in the span of an hour. The bright fires of her creation cast long shadows into the night and illuminated the silhouette of her horns and her wings. She could have been mistaken for a statuesque Nightkin from behind, but for her green scales and a palpable aura of peril that surrounded her. From this place, Fang-zhara forged soldiers and servants, horrors and monsters, to fight, work and die for her as she wished.

These augmentations made Marlowe understand her place in things, of course, which is why she knelt as soon as she came close enough. “Mistress, there is no sign of the Deceiver”

Fang-zhara put down her tools and stepped away from her forge. Her voice quavered only slightly as she hissed: “I know he is near. I can sense his lies!”

“Then I have failed you once again. Let me be punished according to your will”

“No” Firmly yet gently, the Immortal’s clawed hand clutched Marlowe’s chin, firmly yet gently, and guided her to standing.

“Primus’ lies will never again harm me and mine. You still have a role to play in his doom, Dearest” The Immortal’s words burned with both hatred and affection.

“Must we ally ourselves with Portia and Tenebrous? What is their role in all of this?”

Her questions gave Fang-zhara pause. It seemed to Marlowe that her Mistress had much to think about these days.

After a moment, the Immortal paced as she spoke, giving some voice to her mind’s whispers. “We have common enemies and the Deceiver is not the only one. Furthermore, we have come to an agreement and they have promised me the Vashalla beneath Freehold and the Hinterlands”

“Vashalla?”

“In this era, it is called Mercurium. It is a rare, powerful mineral and very useful in my craft. In all of our crafts, in fact”

Marlowe nodded but her uncertainty remained with her. “I see. And the others, they will let you have it after Freehold has been defeated?”

Fang-zhara could not help but laugh then. “Oh, Dearest! Of course not!”

“Then why help them, Mistress?” Marlowe’s hands balled into fists, with her golemic arm seizing with supernal strength. Within her, the golemic heart filled her with elemental energies as the thought of the Mistress’ betrayal brought her boundless wrath. Had she not suffered enough? Had she not seen enough lies?

Fang-zhara turned back to her work, her visage lit by the glow of the forge. “Because I will break anyone who will keep me from what is mine, even another Immortal”

Rumors (anyone may read this)
Rumormonger skill only
 
Lorekeeper skill only

Clarify: Those with the Mark of Fang-zhara are aware of the exchange in the prologue, in bits and pieces, as though a dream, although the Marked characters are fully aware of its reality.

May 2018 Prologue

PrologueRumors and News

[FORSAKEN CATHEDRAL, SOMEWHERE IN THE HINTERLANDS; MAY 14, 2018 (WR)]

It was a holy place long ago, but few things survived the march of antiquity and the Demonic Entity’s desecration. Overgrowth now trespassed where engraved stone once stood and shadows replaced a muraled ceiling that once depicted a covenant between gods and mortals. It belonged to Him now, corrupted and stolen from silent divinities. Only two broken pillars and an altar remained of the hallowed house – and they were mockeries of the holiness they once radiated.

When the last of his disciples finally arrived to give the Demon his worship, there were precious fewer than there were before. Yet, he had called them from across the ends of Midworld, whispering into each fetid niche and benighted corner that served him. Where he once had tens of thousands, he had mere hundreds. Still — all that still lived, all that survived the destruction of the tome and the crucible of the Freefolk’s vengeance, arrived and bent the knee in turn. Even mighty Dmitri and a shape-stealing Skinwalker genuflected humbly before taking up their places beside the master of the Court.

In a twisted parody of a Dammerung Vespers, he addressed his congregation of killers and blasphemers from behind the corrupted altar. All knelt before their fell celebrant, except for two grinning Gnomes in the back.

“I have called and you have arrived. We are here to execute our greatest conquest upon Freehold and bring this land back to its true nature. For too long, the light has inflicted its tyranny upon us. For too long, we have kept our fangs unbared. Now is the time for vengeance, my servants…”

The Demon’s dark homily trailed off as a hooded figure entered the ruins, having navigated the illusions and traps that prevented its discovery for ages. The Court’s mastermind raised his right arm to halt Dmitri from advancing.

“Are you done talking? I usually let ‘em finish before I do my spiel. It’s the politic thing to do” the newcomer drew back his hood to unveil a sneering face riddled with runes and horns. The crowd encircled him as shadows before a candle.

“Who are you to stray into this my domain, little flame? Did you answer the call?” The Demon already smiled at the answer that he knew was coming.

As one, the congregation arose and encircled the newcomer, flickering shadows around a blazing candle.

“Me? I’ve come to offer a sacrifice to your ‘holy gathering’… in exchange for what I want”

“Pray tell, what does a member of the Brotherhood desire from the Court of Shadows?”

“The Brotherhood? Nah, I’m just Arcanamach now” The Sorcerer tilted his head to crack his neck and then surveyed the multitudes of villainy that surrounded him. “I want Freehold to burn and I’m here to tell you how you’re going to do it”

Out of Game Clarification: Those who have once been touched by the Dark Pact are vaguely aware of the Court meeting, having seen it in a few recurring nightmares. Its location remains elusive.

Rumor (anyone may read this)
Only those with the Rumormonger skill may read this
Clarification (everyone should read this)