The Broken Crown

A Frustrating Series of Events
from Salzar's Journal

A frustrating turn of events indeed. Not much that has happened today has filled me with confidence. I can see the cracks, the signs of distrust, and the way they watch me cautiously. Are they afraid of me?

The first time I noticed it was when Brother James joined us again. I have seen him watch me, scrutinise me when I perform minor rituals or my prayers. On several occasions I have thought to enlighten him of the truth between the Bitch Raven and the Reaper, but the distrust coming from him is too worrisome. I wonder what has happened to make him act so suspicious? He questioned our motives on defending ourselves from those lying priests, but I do not think he believed the truth when he heard it.

Wrenn witnessed Enna’s mother being arrested for ‘cavorting with false agents of the Raven Queen’. Instead of having poor Wrenn die once again, I called him back to my side. I have travelled too long without him, and although he is a useful spy, I am happy to see him with me again. I will spend a few hours with him, then I will need to send him off to visit the false Princess we left in Ponterin, for I have my word to keep.

The stonecunning dwarf in our company, Dhomgrim, has been particularly useful over the last few days. He has proven himself a worthwhile fighter, and I daresay he is an adequete replacement for Jason… especially when the dragonborn is being too dilatory to be useful.

In my most recent failing, I attempted to divulge information from Xara. A human trafficker (according to the guards), I posed as a buyer of such things. She promptly told me to bugger off. I suspect that this headband has made me far too shrewd for the mortals here, especially mere commoners.

Perhaps it’s just a mood swing, or perhaps it’s the frail moralities of my companions, but they concern me. We may be drawing close to a forked path, and I may need to leave the group. I have acquired some friendships here, tenuous as they are, but my destiny is with squashing this cult in its entirety… a fact that the party seem to be less inclined to believe.
I suppose it’s easier for mortal minds to associate me with the ‘bad guys’.

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Season 2 Episode 1 Synopsis

The party travels south and reencounters Brother James, who has been tasked with tailing them by High Priest Whittard, suspecting them of a connection to the Cult of the Sealed God. They arrive in Erinport to a riot; Xara, owner of the shipping warehouse, charges the Kingsguard of pocketing more than their share of tax. Wrenn and James confer with the guard captain, who counter-accuses Xara of smuggling and trafficking. Seren and Jason search the warehouse for evidence, eventually leaping on to a departing ship.

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Episode 16 Synopsis

The party, with new member Dhom, repels a blood hawk attack, and follows the trail of a shadowy figure to a waterfall cavern. Fighting through its tunnels to the peak, Enna confronts Krarzen, son of her late nemesis Grarzuk. She overcomes and beheads the orc, but succumbs to Ashblood poison from his gloved hand. Enna’s spirit comes to rest in the Faewild, and walks with her father for eternity.

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Episode 15 Synopsis

The High Priest of the temple arrives and defuses the situation, beginning to revive his Brothers. As reparations, he requests the party retrieve some diamonds from a dragon hoard in the Frostback Mountains. They try to convince a militia to join them on the quest, but decide instead to travel to Eastreach, following one of the few clues remaining as to the whereabouts of the princess. On the way to the port, Enna follows signs to a ranger foregathering, where she learns her father has died.

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Episode 14 Synopsis

Hoping they will work with him against Prince Rellis once the latter takes the throne, Xander disavows the royal agents in the party. They take equipment from the barracks armoury and train, but discover that Jason’s new armour is cursed. When the temple priest fakes the ritual to remove the curse and demands money, combat breaks out leading to the death of several priests.

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Episode 13 Synopsis

The party escape Jason and the agents through underground tunnels, leading eventually back to the abandoned mine they explored some weeks before. There, they meet Brother James, a travelling priest. They return to Ponterin, and discover the “princess” was in fact a decoy.

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Enna, to the Reaper
from Salzar's Journal

Today, our companion has perished at the hands of an ash plague. I implore her soul to find its way to the Reaper’s side, so that he can better use and channel her rage. She was a strong individual and I am glad that her body has destroyed itself so, or else I would have to lament my lack of ability to bind her spirit to her body.

This has only further strengthened my resolve. I must discover a way to use Nerull’s gifts to my advantage. To not do so is a great disservice to the Reaper himself.

I have left Wrenn with Enna’s mother, but have yet to tell her the sad news. Perhaps I will not, and I will instead keep Enna’s secret. Perhaps, instead I can encourage this war and further my goal into joining this silly Cult — after all, am I not forcing her to aid the Cult by starting this war?

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Dhom's Story

Stoneheim Hold had been carved out generations ago. Clan lore told of how a natural cave system had been extended over the centuries, taking shape around a deep magma forge and rich veins of iron ore. Smiths had transformed that iron into great wealth, and masons worked caverns into great halls, and fortified the cave entrance into an impregnable fortress designed to hold off an army. Stoneheim’s proud warriors had easily held off Goblin hordes and Orcish raiders there, and that was part of the problem – they watched lazily, and in the wrong direction.

Dhom was still an apprentice smith when they lost Stoneheim. He thought he was a pretty good smith by then, although his parents still disagreed – Stoneheim had a significant reputation to maintain, and young upstarts with only a quarter of a century of experience couldn’t be trusted to produce the finest weapons and armour yet. So he still laboured in the workshop of his mother, Braenlyn, but that was enough to earn him a vote on clan matters.

In a way that made it partially his fault; the sages warned against it, but he vociferously agreed with the majority to extend the magma channels in search of increased forge heat. Afterwards they thought that must be why it happened, with either the sound of the tunnelling or the great machines to raise the magma calling up the invaders.

The first kobolds seen that night actually burst into a tavern hall. The day’s mining shift happily interrupted their drinks for a brawl, and the alarm was raised. The stout smiths quickly joined them and pushed the kobolds back deeper, a direction they seemed strangely reluctant to go. Then things rapidly became worse, with the tunnels belching forth unholy alliances – beetled hulks, and things with too many tentacles, and others with too many eyes. The warriors running down to join the fight soon joined the rout upwards and outwards, confusion and fear strangely seizing everyone.

Once outside the bedraggled clan regrouped, but it was too late. A tide of kobolds were trying to fight out of the gates, not into them, and the dwarves fled before the creatures of the deeps came out into the night. They trekked for days for get to their sister clans further into Mzendethil; every family had lost members, and most were only carrying the wounded, not what they would normally have chosen to carry with them on a long journey. The clan had survived but their status had forever changed.

The clans that had taken them in were kind, but also pitying – what kind of dwarves would lose their home so easily? Dhom joined others in swearing they would not be so easily surprised again, and reluctantly borrowed gold to hire master rangers to train them. The erstwhile smiths’ strength and stamina proved useful as they roamed the mountains under the expert eyes of the humans and elves.

Dhom had always had an eye for detail, a skill that proved useful, and he soon gained an agility that his appearance belied. But although he gained a proficiency with a bow he still often preferred to use his strength in new martial ways against the creatures they encountered.

As they trained, and mapped and patrolled the caves near their adopted holds, their clan elders were not idle. Their trade caravans around the kingdoms were recalled and their last master-crafter goods were sold, debts were called in, and warriors were re-equipped and trained further. The first groups back to Stoneheim Hold had been quickly rebuffed by Kobolds, with the fortifications now working against them. But plans had been drawn up and the dwarves had long memories; they needed many years to prepare, but the time came for them to reclaim their home, and their honour.

Dhom and his fellow rangers led and flanked the dwarven force as they retraced their steps back to the hold. The area had been increasingly avoided over the years, and the rangers soon noticed that also affected the wildlife; no way to supplement their provisions on the march. As the fortress was scouted at dawn, no sign of any kobolds were seen; Dhom his fellow rangers kept a careful watch, bows nocked, as a team of rogues scaled the gates and disappeared above. Soon the gates creaked open; they all winced at the noise, but nothing emerged.

Dhom and his colleagues were gestured forward, switching to axes for close work. But the darkness behind the gates revealed nothing but bones and musty smells. As the rangers worked their way down, with the main force behind, much had changed; new tunnel mouths gaped, and rubbish and detritus filled the ruined, previously gleaming, halls.

Dragging tracks and strange footprints with snail-like glimmers could both be why the only kobolds to be seen were dried husks. Rangers were sent short distances down side passages and reported strange noises; scouts were posted as the force stalked slowly towards the main forge chambers, the center of the old hold. Ahead, Dhom froze – the magma was no longer moving and had gone cold and dark, but darkvision showed floating shapes with four eyestalks heading towards them. Ducking behind a fallen beam, the rangers switched back to arrows as the fighters and priests hurried towards them.

This time the battle was short and sweet. But the central chamber didn’t feel like the end, and every scout sent to the further halls reported unsettling sights and noises. Everywhere had been defiled and parts strangely eroded. Home didn’t feel like home, and the treasures they had hoped to win back were no longer in the upper levels – in fact, strangely little was in the upper levels. As the elders and warleaders conferred, Dhom already knew the decision would be to pull back; they had been ready for kobolds and Hulks, and the Spectators had proven no match for the clan, but there was much worse here and little to fight for any more. They could take the bones of their clan away to be buried, and there was some honour to be regained there, but it was too late for their home to be their home again.

Dhom moved to where his mother Braenlyn’s workshop had flanked the magma forges, searching through the rubble and ashes for the past. Shifting a rock, he spotted a squared hammer for shaping platemail, and grasped the haft with a grin.

Hammers could be used for other things, and perhaps it was time to range further afield.

For a while.

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Raen's Story: A New Client

The manor house was easy to find; its newly constructed facade stood out like a sore thumb against its ancient neighbours. Huge marble lions flanked the as-yet unfinished gate, their gilt eyes shimmering in the late afternoon sun. This flaunting of wealth was never a good look, but against the rugged backdrop of Fortitude it was laughable.

As Raen passed the gate posts and ambled down the path to the house, she amused herself by predicting which parts of this gleaming monstrosity would be stolen or vandalised first. The perfectly manicured shrubs lining the path? The gold-plated iron gate that lay on the lawn waiting to be hung? The… “gods! Is that a gem-encrusted door knob!?”, she thought, disgusted.

Despite her distaste, all of these things were good signs to Raen – this client had more money than sense. She mentally doubled her rates.

Raen stretched to grab the door knocker, another lion, and just out of easy reach for a dwarf. She knocked. After a moment the door was answered by a stern old man. He was dressed well in a butler’s attire and he surveyed Raen with a steely face and his nose turned up. Raen had taken care to scrub her worn clothes and plait her hair more neatly than she usually would; apparently she still failed to impress.

“You must be the new help”, said the butler with a sneer. “Please come this way”.

Raen followed him up through the gaudy entrance hall and through a side door into a cloak room. “You can leave your… belongings… here”, he said, gesturing to her beaten pack and various axes. She reluctantly obeyed, some clients would insist on this despite the guards they undoubtedly employ.

Raen was led in silence through several corridors until they reached a large mahogany door. The butler knocked once sharply and was bade entrance by a booming voice on the other side.

The doors swung open to reveal an immaculate wood-panelled study. One wall was lined with book cases, each stacked high with old leather-bound tomes; the opposite wall housed a fireplace. Against the back wall, behind his desk, sat her client.

“Do come in, Raen is it?”, beamed the man behind the desk. He was dressed extravagantly and his hair and moustache were slick with oil. The common twang in his voice confirmed Raen’s original suspicion, this man wasn’t born into nobility. Knowing Fortitude, his wealth wouldn’t have been gained through legal means.

Raen approached and sat in the seat that her client was motioning to.

“I’ll cut straight to the chase”, said the client, leaning back in his chair. “I’d like you to take care of a problem for me, you come highly recommended as a…"

“…person who solves problems”, Raen cut across. This man had no subtlety.

“Yes!”, he agreed, enthusiastically. “Well my problem shouldn’t be difficult to solve. I’m looking for a gnome.”

“Any particular gnome?”, Raen enquired.

“Yes a gnome who, and I’m sure it’s an innocent mistake, seems to have borrowed a very precious item of mine”, replied the client, his brow furrowed.

“I see”, said Raen, “what can you tell me about them?”. She got the impression that there was something more to this job, something personal. “And what did they steal?”

“Oh no”, replied the client, far too quickly. “As I said I’m sure he’s just borrowed it. The item in question is a rather rare book of mine.”

“And you want what, the gnome? The book?”, pressed Raen.

“Ideally both, you see he’s a nice chap and I’m sure this is a misunderstanding, so I’d rather like to speak to him about it”, said the client.

Raising her eyebrows, Raen said “alright then, tell me more about this gnome I’m supposed to kidn… bring to you, and then we can discuss my fees”.

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Armies and Orc Slaying
from Salzar's Journal

We are on the cusp of such a great event. Today, the politicians of Askor rally an army to march on these lands… and I find it difficult to sympathise.
My most pressing matter is to hunt down this orc that slew Leala’s allies and left her a scar. I can see Enna is furious with these things, so I do not think that if we encounter another orcish child, I will be able to save the poor thing.

We shall see.

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