Blackmarch

The Gnomish National Anthem (adapted from the Elvish Epic of the Apple of Truth)

1. Lemaraün is seeking the Apple of Truth for the Rain King.

2. Joalethe is on a quest for the Apple of Truth for the Baron of the Tall Oaks.

3. Lemaraün and Joalthe both arrive at the Apple of Truth at the same time, and fight.

4. The gnome Zert, in the confusion, steals the Apple of Truth.

5. Lemaraün and Joalethe chase Zert, delaying each other, through the Forest of the White Pines.

6. Lemaraün and Joalethe chase Zert, delaying each other, across the Ocean of Frozen Waves.

7. Lemaraün and Joalethe chase Zert, delaying each other, through the Desert of Murderous Oases.

8. Zert eats the Apple of Truth, becoming incredibly wise, and Lemaraün and Joalethe realize they are in love.

9. Lemaraün and Joalethe attempt to flee from the agents of the Rain King and the Baron of the Tall Oaks.

10. Lemaraün and Joalethe appeal for help from the Elf Queen, but are rebuffed.

11. Lemaraün and Joalethe face the Rain King and the Baron of the Tall Oaks and trick them into killing each other.

12. In the denouement, Lemaraün and Joalethe retire to the beautiful underdark where they will be safe from rain and trees.

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Fifth Session Recap
You want us to do what to who, now?

Today’s episode of Blackmarch opened in the offices of the Blackmarch Tribunal of the Imperial Inquisition, where the party sat at a long table with Brothers Lucas, Valan and Siegfried. A hooded stranger — new PC Llandrin Trawscoed — was also preent. The mood was grim.

Brother Lucas spoke:

Lucas

Count Henry has requested an official summary of the other night’s events, in which Ulysses Underhome was killed outside his home by the city watch in the course of an investigation by the Inquisition.

To be specific: he was killed by a member of the city watch acting under the orders of a ranger being attacked by an unknown half-Orc swordsman. A swordsman whom the ranger appeared to let escape. Orders that witnesses say were contradicted by the cleric in the party.

Let me be clear: this event has left the city in a panic. We have experienced a demonic attack not merely within the city walls, but in the city’s center of commercial wealth and power. Its victim was a decorated hero of the Red Sorcerer’s Rebellion and the founder and owner of the Northwest Empire Shipping Company, operating under exclusive Imperial charter to connect our perpetually endangered province with civilization. Gold, lumber, hides, and more flow out of Blackmarch via Northwest Empire ships and wagons, and essential goods and comforts flow in.

This cannot be overlooked.

We have prepared an account of the incident which will be satisfactory to all parties affected, and requires only your signatures.

First, that Ulysses Underhome was indeed possessed by a demon. And that to free his spirit from its grasp and preserve Foothold from destruction, it was necessary to destroy his mortal frame.

Second, that Ulysses Underhome was at no time himself suspected of links to the Diabolist.

Third, that Underhome’s possession was in no way linked to any actions on his part, or on the part of the Inquisition.

Fourth, that the hunt for the person or persons behind this demonic attack is in progress. And to this end, the Inquisition and the City Watch are in pursuit of the fugitive Thurash, who aided in the attack on the city. It is our intention to arrest him, bring him before our tribunal, and put him to the question.

Khash and Nureddn tried to argue with Lucas, but he made the point that Hochnor was the only person qualified to diagnose Underhome’s spirital state and make the call to kill him or not; and furthermore, what actually happened is less important than assuring a terrified citizenry that the empire is capable of defending them, and is doing something to fix this colossally fubar’ed situation.

Hochnor, Elanesse and Nureddin signed the document. Khash refused and stormed out in anger.

With Khash out of the room Nureddin told Lucas about his deep mistrust of the relationship between Khash and Thurash, who despite being Khash’s acolyte, often seemed to be the one in authority. Choosing his words carefully, Lucas acknowledged that although the Inquisition primarily deals with the threat posed to the Empire by the Diabolist and the High Druid, the Empire has other enemies; and the party is encouraged to defend her against those enemies as well. Winks and nods all around.

With a deep sigh, Lucas then introduced the new member of the party: a wizard whom Count Henry so very generously provided to help the Inquisition with its investigations. Yeah. This just got political.

Lucas then asked how the party’s investigation of charges of diabolism against Maksim Gold Finder were going. Hochnor said he believed there was enough evidence to bring Maksim in.

The party decided to bring Maksim in first, then deal with the Thurash situation. Making their way to Maksim’s house in High Town they found the street filled with silent dwarves blocking their way. As they approached, the dwarves stepped aside to let them through but did not depart.

Maksim himself appeared at the door, clearly expecting them and knowing he was about to be hauled off to the Inquisition. He asked only that they give him a chance to show them something he discovered in the Thunder Falls mine a few weeks ago — if he’s going to disappear into the Maze, someone trustworthy needs to know about this.

The party agreed, first searching his house for evidence of wrongdoing (assisted by Boris, Maksim’s “honored slave.”) They found some interesting things — including the locked bedroom of Maksim’s deceased wife (and Nikolai’s sister) Yelena, but nothing to indicate that Maksim was a diabolist.

The party rode in Maksim’s carriage (which Aaron perfectly described as "the carriage equivalent of a black, bullet-proof Mercedes) to Thunder Falls mine. As they descended deep into a newly-dug shaft, Khash sensed a spiritual aura of fear and ancient magic — not demon magic, but something unknown.

When they arrived at the bottom they saw what Maksim’s miners had uncovered in their digging: a carved chamber containing a metal door carved with screaming faces, with a ruby-eyed rune-carved skull set into it, a doorframe carved to look like another screaming face, and the symbols for the icons around it. WHAT MESSAGE COULD THIS POSSIBLE BE SENDING?

Funny thing, though: the icons weren’t all icons of the 13th Age. Using his knowledge of past ages and the help of the Helm of the Relentless Inquisitor, Hochnor identified them as:

  • Emperor
  • Elf Queen
  • Dwarf King
  • Prince of Shadows
  • Archmage
  • Crusader (not the current, dark Crusader but an earlier Crusader of light)
  • Fool
  • Opener of Ways
  • Queen of Cups
  • Lady of Ravens
They stepped into the room and the skull’s eye and runes glowed. Each party member then heard it speak in the language closest to their true natures:

Traveler: thou standeth at the entrance to a place of terror and woe. There is nought within but death. Turn away, if ever ye wish to see the light again.

A white stripe of paint was on the floor a few feet in front of the door, and a chain stretched across the room at the same place. Maksim explained that this marked the point beyond which the skull “melts your brain.”

Llandrin Trawscoed badly wanted to get through the door and to the fabulous treasure that he insisted must be on the other side.

Llandrin and Hochnor crossed the line and the skull began a psychic scream that did indeed melt a porton of 1-3 random party members’ brains. Nureddin, Elanesse and Llandrin launched three rapid attacks that blew the skull into fragments. Hochnor and Llandrin failed to force the door open, and found that touching it caused them to experience a crippling fear.

Hey, wondered Nureddin, who inherits the mine if anything happens to Maksim? Maksim said that the mine would go to his brother-in-law Nikolai — and with Nikolai being so unstable since Yelena’s death, Maksim worried that this might not be a good thing. Nureddin got a strong hunch that Nikolai has been setting Maksim up.

The party escorted Maksim directly to Brother Lucas’ office, where Hochnor described to Lucas what had happened and vouched for Maksim’s innocence. The investigation wasn’t over by any means, but Maksim was at least cleared.

Llandrin finagled access to the count’s historical archives so Hochnor could use them to research the door and the icon symbols surrounding it. Rolling a 5 on his relationship with the Emperor earned Llandrin a complication in exchange for this favor: he has to organize and stage the re-enactment of Foothold’s founding for the upcoming Founding Day festival.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rX7wtNOkuHo

Waiting outside, Khash was approached by a Father Simon from the cathedral. Father Simon said he noticed that Khash was troubled, and offered to help. Khash politely declined. Father Simon bade him good day and walked into the bakery that Khash uses as a dead drop for his imperial handler. Coincidence?

And so we closed the latest session of BLackmarch with Hochnor Half-Hand, paladin of the Age, immersed in the count’s historical archives searching for an answer to the riddle of the door.

As Hochnor reads, his eyes widen. “Gods of light,” he whispers in astonishment…

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Fourth Session Recap
Attack of the Gnolls

An Imperial soldier shares a rumor about the late Maggie Dead Eyes with Nureddin Wolf-Father at the The Knife and Adder. Word is that she was in Blackmarch because she was running away from trouble: she made bouncy-bouncy with some high-ranking soldier boy while on a secret mission in Bitterwood, then got into a spat and tried to blow his face off. Uncharacteristically, she failed to kill him so she lit out for the frontier until the trouble blew over. Whether that had anything to do with her attacking Elanesse…can’t rightly say.

Khash is getting good and soused with his new drinking buddies when a greyhound races up to the tavern and frantically begs Nureddin (whose unique is that he can talk to dogs) to help his master Ulysses Underhome. He’s in some sort of dire trouble with gnolls.

The party slowly and reluctantly makes their way to Underhome’s mansion in High Town, where they find a crowd of city watch and onlookers surrounding it. The house is encircled by an eight foot high thicket of unwholesome-looking spiny vegetation. Also, sickly, flickering yellow light can be seen in the windows. The guardsmen haven’t been able to get through the thicket, but surprise! It parts easily for the adventurers, who make their way in through the servant’s gate. They hear yipping and cackling from the front yard. Yep. Them’s gnolls, all right.

Nureddin tries to sneak up on them and (fumble) winds up face to face with a gnoll savage. Oops.

Unnervingly, not only are the three gnolls expecting Hochnor Half-Hand and his crew, they seem wayyyy more familiar with his background than they have a right to be. They make jokes about how he sacrificed his fingers to get information. (“Hey, Hochnor! If you give me yer thumb, I’ll tell ya where the bathroom is!”) But the gnolls have a bigger surprise, one they credit to Maksim Gold Finder: they’ve forced a spiky wooden crown onto Underhome’s head, and as the party watches, it sprouts tall wooden spider-legs and lashing thorny vines. Thurash Many-Rocks, Smasher of Elves unexpectedly joins the heroes, and the battle’s on.

The battle is long and hard fought, with Thurash repeatedly brought back from death’s door by Khash. It turns out it’s a lot easier to hit the barely-conscious Ulysses Underhome than it is to target the wooden crown or its appendages, and there’s some disagreement over whether the party should give a shit. Thurash certainly does: he grabs Khash and hisses in his ear, “You can’t let him die! Save him!” Eh?

At a critical moment in the battle the thorny thicket disintegrates, giving the watch a chance to join the battle and the crowd to get a good look at what happens next. The last surviving gnoll yells something about how Maksim Gold Finder will kill them all and runs into the house — which Elanesse (fumble) accidentally sets on fire. Nureddin yells to the guards to kill Underhome because he’s possessed. Khssh yells for them not to kill Underhome, Thurash attacks Nureddin, and a confused guard decides he should do what the ranger said and shoots Underhome with a crossbow. Critical hit! The demon-thing falls apart.

The dying Underhome asks Khash — cleric of the goddess of hearth and home — to purify his defiled house “for my son” and heir, who lives in Glitterhaegen. With his last breath he whispers, “The Howler in the Woods is coming.”

After a brief melee Thurash and Nureddin stand down, but it’s clear this conversation is far from ended. As he limps away, Thurash — who’s a spy for the Orc Lord, remember — says in a low voice to Khash, “We have to fix some things.”

Hochnor races into the house after the gnoll, and (fumble) catches fire from Elanesse’s wayward spell. He and Nureddin catch up with the creature on the second floor, where it’s blocked by Gar, a paladin of the Crusader who saw the end of the fight and came in through the back door to cut off the gnoll’s escape. The three make short work of the vile monster.

Khash sends a messenger to summon Hildegard, Archbishop of the Black March to help him purify the house from demonic influence. When she arrives, she’s deeply disturbed to learn that Underhome is dead. Elanesse uses breath of the white dragon to put out the fire, and the clerics enter the house while she loots the gnolls’ bodies of their filthy, filthy equipment.

When Elanesse picks up the wooden demon crown, she has a vivid, frightening flash of memory: she’s strapped to an altar while hooded figures perform a ritual over her. The walls and floors are painted with symbols of the Diabolist. One of the figures pushes his hood back to reveal he’s made of liks of silver chain. Elanesse recalls Kyell’s confused message from the Elf Queen to either “wear the silver chain,” or “beware the silver chain.” She now suspects the correct message was “beware.” She uses burning hands to incinerate the crown.

Entering the master bedroom, the adventurers plus Hildegard and her retinue of priests find a demonic portal to the woods. Khash realizes he can perform a ritual to close it, but (fumble) vomits ale all over the floor when he speaks up.

Gar, Nureddin and the wolf Lomo walk through the portal and find themselves in the woods a couple of miles from Foothold, and pretty close to the lumber camp of Nikolai Tree Feller. As they trek back to town, Gar tells Nureddin that he likes how the ranger handled that half-orc back there. He might have an opportunity for Nureddin to kill some orcs and make some money along the way.

Khash and the other clerics perform the ritual, Hochnor and Elanesse head back to their respective lodgings, and eventually everyone gets their first sound sleep in days.

They’ll need it. Because as they rest, that one crossbow bolt fired by a confused city watchman in the heat of battle is sending shockwaves through the Empire all the way to Axis, and the palace of the Emperor.

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Third Session Recap
The PCs return to Foothold and find themselves processing a lot of information. And killing dwarves and assassins.

Upon emerging from Orbius the wizard’s home, the party was ambushed by angry, drunk dwarves — three on the street with hammers and picks, and two up on the roofs with muskets. They were mainly angry at Hochnor Half-Hand because they were under the impression he’s been going around town accusing dwarves of worshiping demons.

Khash took a musket round right in the chest, but other than that the dwarves did a poor job of teaching the party the lesson they’d intended. However, the female half-elf assassin who teleported into the battle and proceeded to start taking Elanesse apart (after first apologizing to her) was rather more competent.

However, the battle soon turned as a mysterious half-orc warrior joined the fray. The assassin finished off the last dwarf standing and tried to flee, but was taken down by Khash. The half-orc warrior introduced himself as Thurash Many-Rocks, Smasher of Elves — Khash’s new acolyte — and identified the assassin as Maggie Dead-Eyes, a notorious blade for hire. Looks like a carefully planned ambush, with Elanesse as the real target.

Khash and Thurash left together, whereupon Thurash revealed to Khash that he too was an agent of the Orc Lord, conducting operations in Foothold under cover as Khash’s acolyte.

Hochnor set about making life uncomfortable for Ulysses Underhome, visibly staking out his home overnight and going around town asking innuendo-heavy, inquisitor-type questions about him and making lots of notes. While he made his rounds Brother Valan found him and told him that things are getting dicey with the local dwarf community. Maksim is a respected figure, and this investigation is stirring up bad feeling and dividing the dwarves. He encouraged Hochnor to continue pursuing the truth, but to stay safe. He also tipped Hochnor and Nureddin off that the town watch identified the dead dwarves as layabouts who frequent the Stone Cup, a shitty dwarven tavern in the Low East Side.

Elanesse returned to the Wretched Hovel and encountered Kyell, who finally remembered the message he was supposed to give Elanesse from the Elf Queen. It was either “Wear the Silver Chain,” or “Beware the Silver Chain.” When Elanesse went up to her room she attuned to the True Magic sash she’d looted from the half-elf assassin’s body. It gave her the power to teleport, but because her number of magic items exceeded her level, their personalities dominated hers. Her magic book and sash were now in charge.

Nureddin and Hochnor checked out the Stone Cup (which was indeed a shitty dwarven tavern), crossing its owner’s palm with silver and gold in exchange for information. Bear-Killer the Bartender couldn’t tell them much about Maggie Dead-Eyes — except that she typically hung out at The Knife and Adder. He did, however, have a lot of gossip about Maksim Gold Finder and Nikolai Tree Feller. Bear-Killer revealed that Maksim and Nikolai are brothers-in-law. (The closest analogy, given that human family connections are much less complex and nuanced than dwarf family connections.) Nikolai was the brother of “the beautiful Yelena”, Maksim’s wife who died tragically a year ago. Bear-Killer said that Nikolai blamed Maksim for some reason, and became consumed with his anger. Bear-Killer also allowed as how a dwarf who owns a mere lumber camp would probably much rather own a mine, as Maksim does.

Nureddin, Hochnor and Khash went to the Knife and Adder to ask about Maggie Dead-Eyes. Khash went in first, and immediately bought a round for a table of half-orcs. While asking them questions, Khash spilled a tray of drinks on a dwarf at the next table — and it turned out to be one of the two dwarf gunmen from the night before. A tavern brawl between dwarves and half-orcs ensued. Before punching the dwarf out, Khash revealed to him that he’d been the one who killed Maggie Dead-Eyes. Afterward, the deeply impressed half-orcs told Khash that Maggie had been in the other night asking about an elven sorceress. She seemed frightened.

Under the influence of her magic items, Elanesse fled her room and ran out beyond the city walls and into the forest. There she met Nikolai. He was in obvious distress, and demanded to know why Maksim wasn’t imprisoned or dead yet: “Haven’t you heard everything everyone’s been saying about him?” He said that Maksim killed Yelena, and asked Elanesse if everything was “going to be all right.” Nikolai did not seem to be holding together very well.

At the end of the evening the party achieved second level.

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Do ALL the things!
Elanesse

Last night was not what I considered to be a success. Apparently someone wants me dead. Or, well, wants me actively dead now. We were trapped by an ambush, and some half-elf assassin tried to kill me. ME! I’m afraid. Does this mean that the Archmage knows where I am? And why did the assassin apologize before she tried to skewer me? I don’t understand what’s going on, and it makes me nervous.

Kyle told me that he had a message from the Elf Queen – either “Wear the Silver Chain” or “BEware the Silver Chain”. That’s…possibly the least helpful message ever. So, I guess I need to be on the lookout for silver chains? I don’t even know. And why can’t the Elf Queen use a more coherent messenger? I know that she has the ability to use people effectively, so why is she saddling me with a drunken gnome?

After the assassin was dead, thanks to the priest, I found a fine woven sash on her body. It called to me, and after I ate, I decided that I needed to wear it. I feel…powerful, now. I feel like the book that I got from the magician is speaking to me even more, and I need to run and jump and climb. And now, with this sash, I can be hidden from anyone. It’s great, because I’m finding that I want nothing to do with any of these people. I managed to find myself in the lumber camp again, and that dwarf that we talked to before actually grabbed me! He grabbed me! He kept babbling about a Yelena and how she was dead, and how Maxim is dealing with diabolists, and that’s fine and good and all, but stop touching me!

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Second Session Recap
In which our heroes take a break from the usual b.s. and find themselves in some different b.s.

The party awoke to find themselves invited/summoned to join Ulysses Underhome, a member of the Foothold Merchants Association, for breakfast at his home in High Town. During breakfast (which includes large helpings of awkwardness and forced cheer) Underhome dropped unsubtle hints that a lot of people would be awfully happy if Hochnor Half-Hand stopped going around asking people about Maksim Gold Finder and diabolism. Maksim is powerful and influential, an important figure in local dwarven relations, and one of Foothold’s bedrock citizens; undermining him potentially threatens the security and stability of Blackmarch.

Perhaps deciding that they needed a break from devil-worshipping political dwarf bullshit for a day, the party decided to follow the map Elanesse looted from the unconscious wizard during the first session’s tavern brawl. The map, as you’ll recall, marked a spot in the nearby forest with a dragon’s head, a symbol for money, and an exclamation point. Dragon treasure, maybe?

After a two-hour trek in which Nureddin Wolf-Father almost got cut in half by a pendulum trap, the party reached the location marked on the map. They quickly discovered that the symbols on the map did not mean, “Dragon treasure here.” They meant, “Here is where I need to bring money to the dangerous band of orc assassins in service to the Three (a trio of evil dragons) who are extorting me to fund their escape from Blackmarch.” Elanesse tried to negotiate a peaceful settlement, but when Nureddin responded to a counter-offer by shooting an arrow through one of the orc warriors, things went downhill. (Or uphill, if you enjoy killing orcs. Which Nureddin does, very much.)

After the orcs were slain, two magic items were recovered from their hideout. Nureddin found Hater of Priests, a silver dagger that was currently consecrated to slay Hildegard, Metropolitan of the Black March. Khash took the orc berserker’s greataxe and discovered that it, too, was magic: the Blood Oath Axe deals damage to both foe and bearer.

When they got back to town the party found Orbius, the wizard who’d had the map. Orbius said he’d stumbled across the orcs while looking for spell components in the forest, and admitted that the whole, “I have a treasure map and seek bold adventurers” spiel was indeed a desperate and not very well thought out scam to raise the money the orcs demanded. He apologized profusely and offered his services in the future.

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First Session Recap

Hochnor Half-Hand, paladin and Imperial Inquisitor, arrived in Blackmarch from the capital city of Axis. He met his superior, tribunal head Brother Lucas, who told Hochnor that he was to become the new Sergeant — the local tribunal’s field representative. The last person to hold this position, Brother James, had been missing for some time and prior to disappearing, displayed erratic behavior and went off on his own for weeks or months at a time. Before vanishing completely he burned the records of his investigations.

Hochnor will be supported in his efforts by a retinue of free companions:

  • Elanesse, an elven sorcerer (secretly a fugitive fleeing servants of the Archmage who performed msgical experiments on her)
  • Khash, a half-orc cleric of the goddess of home (secretly a double agent spying for both the Emperor and the Orc Lord)
  • Nureddin Wolf-Father, an Imperial Raner and deadly foe of orcs

As they gathered for the first time at the Wretched Hovel inn, the party immediately found themselves in a wild tavern brawl. Elanesse looted an unconscious wizard and found:

  • 30 gold pieces
  • 1 key
  • small knife
  • Clear vial sealed with cork & wax full of rusty-looking fluid
  • A map of the nearby forest with an X drawn on it alongside a dragon head, a symbol of an Imperial gold piece, and an exclamation point

The next day Hochnor received his first assignment: to investigate charges of diabolism against Maksim Gold Finder, a wealthy and powerful dwarf who owns the Thunder Falls mine. Accusations include:

  • Weird livestock births near the mine: a three-headed calf was born near the mine, that sang an unearthly song before it died. Of the people who heard it, one died, one went mad, and a third has founded his own religion.
  • Pigeons kept by Colonel Silvershield laid eggs that hatched deadly vipers. He and Maksim had a recent dispute over their respective property lines, during which Maksim called Slvershield a “snake.”
  • A granary was infested with rats bearing the faces of evil dwarves. Maksim has been trying unsuccessfully to purchase his land for months.
  • An unprecedented series of dire but non-fatal accidents have occurred at logging operations owned by Nikolai Tree Feller: tools breaking, people losing fingers and toes, broken arms and legs, perfectly good high wheel loaders falling apart. Lumberjacks report that they now get a “dire feeling” in the woods. Lucas said Nikolai is “some sot of relative” of Maksim, but that “all dwarves seem to be related somehow.”
  • A servant in Maksim’s house reported that he glimpsed Emery Whitethorn, a rival mine owner who died ten years ago, shrunk down to the size of a doll and trapped alive in a glass bottle on a shelf, begging for help.

The party began their investigation at Nikolai’s lumber camp. Nikolai was excited to see the party, and eager that Maksim be brought to justice. He pledged his full cooperation with the investigation, and the party began searching the nearby woods for signs of supernatural activity.

Suddenly, they heard cries for help: a dwarf lumberjack ran back to camp saying that he’d found another logger dead in a clearing, killed horribly by slashes all over his body. The party ran to the clearing and were attacked by a tree animated by demonic power. The party slew the creature, which then split open and disgorged the body of Brother James.

They brought the body back to town, and Brother Lucas gave Hochnor James’ magic helmet: The Helm of the Relentless Inquisitor, which contains a servitor spirit named Brother Theobald who can answer questions about the Empire, druidism and diabolism.

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Journal of an Inquisitor Part I

Journal of an Inquisitor

Part the First
I know not what I have done to anger my superiors, but I have been transferred. Effective immediately, my duty station is as the Sergeant to the Brothers already in Foothold. Researching my new post, I learned that the Black March is a boil on the ass of the Empire, and Foothold is the place from which this boil must be lanced if the Empire is to be preserved and the End of the Age delayed.

What the Head Inquisitor thought of as punishment for some imagined slight appears to have placed me in the time and place best-suited to my needs. Once again, the Inquisition and I use one another effectively. I cannot believe it to be a coincidence.

The journey to this particular boil was uneventful. The merchants with whom I travelled filled the time with tedious tales of negligible worth. I did, however, glean some information of potential value, should it prove accurate – and I have no doubt that some of it will. These folk are too simple to attempt deceit. And my first day here has borne out much of the tales.

Upon arrival, I was assigned a home and was called to meet with a band of free companions. A clerist, a ranger, and a sorcerer. Scarcely had we set down to eat when we were accosted by a beggar attempting to sell us a map of some sort. Before he could get through his pitch, he was struck by a tankard of ale thrown by a nearby table of rabble-rousers and troublemakers.

After dealing with the troublemakers, I reported to Brother Lucas, who provided a focus for my investigations over the near term – it seems a local mine-owner by the name of Gold Finder or Gatherer or some equally Dwarfish name is suspected of Diabolical connections. We were given several incidents as containing evidence of his guilt, and were told to follow up on these incidents.

Incidents:
1) A local landowner refused to sell his land to the suspect. Shortly thereafter, his lands were cursed – his chickens hatched only vipers, and the eggs which were not hatched were rotten and foul.
2) Livestock around the mine has been afflicted, with a three-headed beast being born and then singing and prophesying until it was destroyed.
3) Another local mine owner (dead, now, for several years) was seen in Gold Seeker’s home, shrunk down to a height of two apples and kept within a jar very much alive.
4) A local lumber camp has had dramatically more injuries, accidents, and damaged equipment than is to be expected from a camp of this size. Not only that, but the workers apparently claimed that some trees and portions of the forest felt wrong, somehow. The owner, a local Dwarf known as Tree Feller, is apparently a distant cousin of Gold Sniffer.

The lumber camp stuck out most in my mind, as it has no direct tie that I could see to Gold Hunter’s thwarted desires or his presence, and so I gathered my band and travelled there to examine it first-hand. When we arrived, we were initially greeted with fear, which is appropriate given my inquisitorial robes and other regalia. Once it was explained that we were there about their troubles, however, they relaxed.

I questioned them at length and examined their shattered tools. There was no sign that they had been taught what to say. They pointed out on a map (provided by Tree Feller) where these locations were. When we went to investigate, the Ranger took it upon himself to scout ahead. He was quickly ensnared by a demon-possessed tree.

I find myself less-than-impressed by the quality of the assistance I have been provided.

Nonetheless, I sprang to his aid and swiftly dispatched the tree, at which point it vomited forth a surprise – a body wearing the regalia of an Imperial Inquisitor.

Upon returning to town, I was informed by Brother Lucas that it was likely the body of Brother James, who was the Sergeant before me. I asked for his records and information on his latest investigations, and was told that he had been operating independently and his book had been burned. No useful clues were extracted from its ashes.

So here is what I have:

1) A map, acquired by the flighty member of my team.
2) A team, consisting of a magic-using elf, a half-orc clerist, and a human ranger. The elf has the attention span of a gnat. The ranger has demonstrated the ability to fight in bars, but was then bested by a tree. A TREE! And I have yet to see the full measure of the half-orc.
3) A helm, previously worn by my predecessor. It is infused with the spirit of “Brother Theobald,” who wishes only to help. He seems knowledgeable with regards to the Empire, Druids, and matters diabolical.
4) More leads to follow than I have team or time in which to invest. None of them convenient.
5) A small stipend and a home from which to operate.

I pray this boil is lanced sooner rather than later. The elf in particular may drive me mad.

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Setting the Stage
What happened before the adventure

The Elf Queen sends an earth elemental to Elanesse and Deleva with a message: a new imperial inquisitor is coming to Blackmarch. They are to travel to the town of Foothold and join his adventuring company as “free companions” for an undetermined time. This will give Elanesse a measure of official protection, because nobody wants to get on the inquisition’s wrong side. Strings have been pulled and favors called in to ensure that they are chosen.

The Elf Queen is of two minds about the inquisition: she finds it distasteful and wrong-headed, and despises their methods, but the Diabolist whom they oppose is a serious threat. The pair should always remember that they are not inquisitors themselves. They should do nothing that goes against their conscience, but are also not required to oppose the inquisition’s abuses.

Nureddin gets orders from his commanding officer that a new inquisitor is coming, and Nureddin’s been assigned to babysitting duties. Try and keep him from getting killed, okay?

Khash gets a message from his imperial handler that he will soon receive an invitation to join an adventuring band assembled in support of a new inquisitor in town. He is to accept this invitation, and take advantage of it to investigate reports of a formal alliance between the Diabolist and the Orc Lord. In addition, be alert to mentions of a “Brother James”.

Khash also gets a message from his orcish handler: the ranger Nureddin, a dedicated foe of the Orc Lord, is now attached to a new inquisitor in town. See if you can find out why. Is the inquisition’s scope being extended to include sympathizers of the Orc Lord?

Hochnor Half-Hand receives orders from the Imperial Inquisition to travel to Foothold in the Black March and report to Brother Lucas, the Senior Inquisitor of the provincial tribunal. He will fill Hochnor in on his duties. Hochnor is given a horse for the journey, a badge of office and just enough gold to get him there.

Hochnor travels to Blackmarch with a Chauceresque group of merchants, clerics, scholars, spooky rangers and swaggering paladins of the Crusader. From them, he picks up the following pieces of information:

  • Despite its name, the Wretched Hovel is a good, comfortable inn that’s a favorite of adventurers. It’s run by a halfling named Molly. You have to check your weapons at the door.
  • Count Henry has been in charge of Blackmarch for three and a half years. He made his name as a capable, brave, smart general during the Red Sorcerer’s Rebellion. The Crusader’s paladins like and respect him, but think he’s in over his head.
  • If you’re ever seriously down on your luck, the Gods of Light Shelter in Low East Side offers a place to sleep and some bread and soup.
  • Mining, lumber and banking are major industries in Foothold.
  • Micah Strong, the current mayor of Foothold, also served with distinction in the Red Sorcerer’s Rebellion. He has a magic glove. Or maybe a magic hand? Anyway, they say it makes him strong enough to flatten an ogre with one punch. Or it shoots fireballs.
  • Traveling medicine shows will carry magic potions and maybe oils. If you need runes as well, you’ll have to go to a wizard or sorcerer.

When Hochnor arrives in Foothold, he reports as instructed to Brother Lucas. Lucas reveals that Hochnor is to serve His Imperial Majesty as the tribunal’s sergeant, their agent in the field. He will investigate reports of diabolical activity, kick down any doors that need kicking down, kill any demons and cultists that need killing, apprehend suspected servants of the Diabolist and deliver them to the local law enforcement agents for confinement till their trials. Then he will be debriefed by Brother Valan and Brother Siegfried or their secretaries.

As sergeant, Hochnor will be supported in the field by a band of free companions. Brother Lucas has taken the liberty of approving them: Nureddin, a ranger; Elanesse, a sorcerer; Deleva, a wizard; and Khash, a cleric.

Because His Imperial Majesty has decreed in his wisdom that the Inquisition may no longer funds itself by seizing the property of traitors to the Empire, Hochnor’s pay will not be great. However, the Inquisition will provide the following:

  • A modest four-bedroom house in the Low West Side, perviously occupied by his predecessor, Brother James
  • A monthly stipend for the bare essentials of food and clothing

In addition, he and his free companions are permitted to engage in adventures not related to Inquisition business, so long as they do not conflict with Hochnor’s duties. He may keep the proceeds from those adventures, but His Imperial Majesty is not responsible for any debts or obligations that Hochnor or his companions incur.

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