Category Archives: Tales from the Hinterlands

Events that take place in the Hinterlands outside Freehold.

May 2018 Prologue

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[FORSAKE 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)

April 2018 Prologue

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[THE HINTERLANDS, 2 DAYS FROM PORT DAWSON; APRIL 5, 2018 (WR)]

The column proceeded slowly along the road to Port Dawson, trekking amidst a grey land of drizzle, mist and a vanished sun.

Her newly wedded husband rode beside her, chatting away with his cousin about his latest experiments with “turkey bacon”. Grugach Cu Gohrrim was always prone to amusing matters like that and that made him more tolerable than the affair itself. It was a political marriage rather than one of love, a joining of the most powerful Clans in the Bog – represented by the wedded couple’s closest of kin.

Love and affection mattered less to them as much as the support of their families…or what passed for a family among Clan Nemain. Aemon Mac Nemain did not believe in love nor was she inclined for anything beyond her research and her spellcraft. But Gru was tolerable, acceptable and even amiable and he found her much the same and more. In the end, everyone got what they wanted: Gru got acceptance among his war-like kin, Aemon was one step closer to her goal and the Clans received an alliance strong enough to shake the foundations of Morread. And of course, the couple had each other — which was more comfort than she expected from it.

Now that the wedding was over, the long journey back to Morread across road and sea awaited them. Breakwater was much farther than their original venue of Freehold, but she had convinced him and their families of the change – and judging by the rumors of what had just happened, she was right. The most arable of lands in the region lay in Morread’s northern border, split between the Gohrrim and the Jotunbrud Chainers and fattened by the constant bloodshed of infrequent raiding. That would be Aemon’s new home – though she did not expect to stay in it overlong due to the demands of her research. Perhaps, arrangements can be made for a change of scenery…

Grugach stopped and the column stopped with him. Despite the marriage and the alliance, both the Clans of Gohrrim and Nemain still regarded each other with some distance. Both had fearsome reputations and centuries of feuding that no amount of drink and merriment could absolve. It did not help that a fair number of Aemon’s cousins were burdened with no small amount of demonic or umbral grafts, becoming more horrific entity than elf.

Angry mutterings came from the back of the column, no doubt a Gohrrim clansman suspecting the other faction’s treachery. They were loud like that. A proper Nemain would seethe quietly rather than voice their disquiet, except for that ass-mouth Kelder (who was definitely not invited).

Aemon’s mind was quickly changed when Gru called for weapons. Both Clans drew swifter than an adder’s bite then faced away from each other, peering into the mist and rain and leafy boughs.

After a few pregnant moments, their doom revealed itself. It came for them quickly, as beasts, plants and frenzied Druids launched themselves upon the Bogfolk. The air was soon filled with warcries and howling and screeching. When her kinsfolk, new and old, began to turn on one another instead of the enemy before them – Aemon knew better than to stay. She grabbed Gru but was slapped off of her horse by a strength she had never seen from him.

As she strained to raise her ringing head from the mud, Aemon looked up to watch her husband stride toward her, an alien fury in his gaze. And then suddenly, he was gone — backhanded into the treeline by a towering monstrosity that was both wolf and man and neither. She called desperately for the energies of her spell, but her mind instead was filled by the words she had discovered in her latest research into the Druids:

Awaken the Sundering Storm!

Awaken the Ancient Fury!

He who breaketh the works of Men and Mortals,

Morrath the Destroyer!

 

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

February 2018 Prologue

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[DEEP IN THE HINTERLANDS; FEBRUARY 01, 2018 (WR)]

As the bonfire burned and sizzled, light and darkness danced along the log walls that encaged the area. In daylight, the fire circle would have been a meeting place for rangers and woodsfolk to discuss matters or even celebrate harvest feasts beneath sunny skies. The stones and logs here were for sitting and congregating, though they all encircled the firepit itself, just as the walls encircled the place entirely.

Tonight, the fire circle was for deviltry and dark deeds. The horned figure in front of the bonfire remained seated upon a stone when Dagmar and Zaalamon entered from beyond the walls. They did not fail to note that sweltering heat that pervaded the air nor that the area around the bonfire remained dimly lit despite its flame’s size.

A black stone and a dragon tattoo marked Dagmar’s twisted visage – he seemed eternally wrestling with a hateful wrath. In contrast, Zaalamon was quiet and cool-blooded, moving with confidence and without need for the brutish restraint that characterized his colleague. They knelt before the horned figure, head bowed and neck offered in abeyance.

Dagmar spoke first, in a bitter growl. “Dimitri, we failed the Master. The Justicar’s armor is still out of our hands – perhaps, they are with his slaves. The Freefolk… got in the way yet again”

Zaalamon’s grin crept into his words, slippery and oil as the Troll that spoke them. “But we know who the Lightwalkers are. It is only a matter of time before they are vulnerable again. And when they–”

“The Master already knows of your failure, just as he knows that a piece of the Archon’s armor has already made its way into the hands of the Kingslayer”The horned figure did not look at them when they spoke to him, gazing instead into the depths of the flame.

Even Zaalamon’s smile slipped at the sound of that name. “How did he know?”

“The Master has his ways. He has over a thousand darknesses in his employ, did you forget?”

Dimitri’s eyes left the flame and it immediately dimmed to mere embers. The dance of light and shadow fell to a standstill thereafter but the heat remained – indeed, it only intensified.

Standing up, Dimitri fixed his gaze on the pact-bound souls in front of him, eyeing them like a butcher deciding which of his livestock was for slaughtering. “Remember that you are all morsels to him and he can devour you with but a thought. The moment it no longer pleases him that you live and that you FAIL, he will snuff you out”

Dagmar and Zaalamon were dripping in sweat. Gravel cut into their palms and knees. Worst of all, every instinct they had screamed at them to stand and fight or scream and run.

But they remained prone, with only the crackle of dying flame to count the long passing of moments.

After an eternity, there was a sound like deep, mirthless laughter from around them. And they knew then that their time of sentencing had passed them by… for now.

“Find the armor” Dimitri turned back to the bonfire and it flared up renewed. The heat seemed to recede and the strange shadowed light replaced the utter darkness that was. “Bring it to the Master while you still amuse him. Drown Freehold and the Brotherhood in their own blood if you must”

When they left the fire circle, Zaalamon turned back one last time and could not help but wonder how he had first failed to notice the shadow that towered right behind Dimitri.

*Out of Game Clarification: Those with the Dark Pact are vaguely aware of the Court meeting, having seen it in a few recurring nightmares. They are also plagued by a malevolent darkness that haunts their nighttime hours and incites them to dark acts.

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