Category Archives: Tales from the Hinterlands

Events that take place in the Hinterlands outside Freehold.

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)

April 2018 Prologue

PrologueRumor and News

[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)