The Broken Crown

Nerull's Newest Subjects
from Salzar's Journal

While I’ve been enjoying looking at teleportation circles, I’ve found myself unable to continue. Carlton – Jason’s twin brother – has decided that he wants to arrest Jason. Well, I suppose I’ve found the first of Nerull’s newest subjects.
I suppose it won’t be too difficult to get Carlton’s trust – my disdain for Jason should make it easy. And once that trust is earned, I’m certain he will make perfect for my first goal for the cult.

He is also accompanied by three others – an elf mage named Caelynn, a dwarf footpad named Einkil, and a halfling scout named Bree. I do hope I won’t have to kill all of them to rescue Jason.

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Helge lost in the woods

Panicking. Need to find my party. It feels like years ago that I was skipping merrily through the woods filling my fucking boots with samples. I can’t believe I got out of those woods alive.

Camping alone is awful too – never again. Reached the point where I’d have been grateful to share a meal even with the psychotic warlock.

Can’t wait to categorise those samples though. In retrospect, it was fascinating to meet the great shepherd. Leering at me in reproach, the gnarled mask of ancient bark that comprised its face suspended only inches above my own. I could hear its mouth creaking as it formed words, and its voice was so profoundly deep that it was felt in the chest rather than heard. Its cool breath filled my nostrils with a rich dose of that earthy, decomposing scent that rises from the forest floor. And there I stood like a naughty child, paralysed with fear and awe.

I’m lost. Only now does it occur to me how rarely I contribute to the party’s navigation efforts. The trees seem to close in on me at all sides. In a fit of desperation that teeters on insanity, I even call out to the forest guardian to please grant me one last act of mercy and guide me out! Maddeningly (but predictably) this does me no good. I must stick to my heading. Keep walking.

There! Over the trees! Smoke! Civilisation! Perhaps someone will have seen my friends. They’re certainly difficult to miss, what with their unlikely formation, and their inevitable trail of orcish corpses. I still feel disturbed by the appearance of the infant after the brutal dispatching of its family. Worst of all is that I, sickeningly, played a part!

I’ve learnt to appreciate, however, that in a world steeped in loneliness and danger, the value of travelling companions lies beyond their notions of morality.

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Episode 11 and 12 recap

After dispatching several Orogs and some goblins, the party notice that Enna has disappeared, possibly to further sate her bloodlust. The remaining party members start to investigate the siegeworks. They find a strange siege weapon which they determine is used to throw fire at enemies, as well as a map in the tower which outlines the plans of the Broken Crown.

Before they can explore further, they hear the sound of boots in the distance. They take up position around the courtyard and wait.

Three hobgoblins enter the courtyard and our heroes surprise them and kill off two of them. They take the third prisoner and, uncharacteristically, don’t murder him once they’re done interrogating. He introduces himself as Kurtok, and the party appeal to his ambitious nature; he agrees to help them.

The party make their way beneath the siegeworks and start to explore. They find a furnace room, a well stocked pantry, and lots of sleeping chambers. Towards the end of a long corridor, they spot two sleeping guards blocking the way. Wrenn attempts to kill them silently but misses one who cries out. The rest of the party rush in and murder the second guard.

In the room past the guards, they find a girl chained to the wall who is confused, possibly concussed. They determine that she is Princess Ellesia, who they were tasked with finding. Seren comforts her and the party communicate their success with Xander via a stone of sending.

Almost immediately after this, they hear footsteps in the corridor nearby, and narrowly miss killing Helge who has managed to track down the rest of the group.

While they wait, they explore the siegeworks further and discover a secret door which requires a Royal Talisman to open. Immediately beyond the door is an animated suit of armour guarding the way. The party prepare to fight, but some quick thinking on Helge’s part saves them the bother – he shows the armour his Talisman and commands it to stand aside, which it does obediently.

In the next room, our heroes are attacked by strange dust creatures which they spend a few minutes destroying. This part of the keep seems to have been abandoned for centuries, possibly since the Age of Great Empire.

They make their way through another chamber and out into an enormous cave, with huge stone pillars rising up into the darkness. There are altars at either end.

On the closest altar, they find a second map which they assume to be the real plans of the Broken Crown. They pore over it briefly, then they notice some loot off to one side of the cave. After procuring several magic items from the cases there, they head towards the other altar.

On the way there they pass what looks like a teleportation circle in the middle of the floor, Salzar is particularly interested in how it works. Before they can investigate further, they are attacked by a spectator.

After a fierce battle, they defeat the monster just in time to hear movement in the rooms they entered through. Barely having enough time to hide, they sneak behind some pillars with varying levels of success.

To Jason’s surprise and horror his brother, Carlton, walks down the stairs and into the room. Salzar and Jason share heated words with Carlton and his party (though Salzar was fantastically diplomatic), while the rest of the heroes manage to stay concealed.

Carlton tells Jason that he’s under arrest, and must accompany him to Askor.

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Salzar - understanding cults
He must rise! -- and other cultish nonsense

Nerull must rise.
He must rise.

What tripe – almost as bad as those black-fledgling cultists who spout “Raven Queen’s swiftness” like it’s going out of fashion.
I met with Precept Edris, a shepherd trying to lead his Apocalypse Cult, and he gave me four goals I had to achieve before I could join his little secret exclusive members-only club. They are as follows:

Sacrifice a tiecut off ties to something you hold dear
Betray a trusted friendbefriend someone and then betray them
Force someone to act for the cultfind somebody to act for the cult against their will
Find the darknessdiscover someone’s secret and keep it for myself

These seem obvious to me, even if I’m not sure where to begin. The only thing I do know that I’ll accomplish for sure is betray a trusted friend… because the moment Edris spreads his arms to openly accept me into the cult, he’ll be greeting Nerull with a new cavity in his head.
And another thing. Why are these children acting like bringing Nerull back is going to be the end of the world? Reaper Tharoth would be foolish to actually kill every mortal being on this realm, for then his divine power would crumble like the dust his cultists snort to keep their religious fervor alive.

Anyway. I would like to take Wrenn to visit Tarreld Forest soon. Maybe I could enlist Leala‘s help again in infiltrating and stopping this ridiculous cult. She was not unpleasant to be around. I also can’t wait to see Jesh grow up – that little orc is going to be a heartbreaker when the Cult of the Raven Queen discover that I orchestrated his prophecy.

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Wrenn’s Story: An Orc Baby

Wrenn sat cross-legged and deep in thought. The woodland glade he faced housed a small shrine to Melora, where his family had worshipped for generations. On the other side of the clearing a pair of children were playing together, at around 8 years old they were already taller than Wrenn – half orcs grow a lot faster than gnomes.

The pine cone that the children were kicking around suddenly sailed over towards Wrenn and his small pile of books and papers. He smiled at their worried faces – his reputation as a loner combined with the wild imaginations of youth had lead to rumours: “Don’t go near that Wrenn, he’ll set the animals on you” or “That Wrenn’ll put a curse on you if you touch his books”.

Leaning over, Wrenn picked up the cone and tossed it back towards the children. They watched pensively as it came to a halt by their feet, then quickly ran away. He Laughed to himself. The half orc children in Benklur were especially superstitious, no doubt they were off to tell their friends how they had narrowly avoided being cursed.


Wrenn snapped back to the present. The piercing noise of an infant filled his ears, the chaos around him interrupting his reverie. Almost in slow motion he saw Enna draw her blade and Gethman’s fists start to glow.

A dozen possibilities flew through Wrenn’s mind as he realised what Enna’s intention would be with the child, something he could never let happen. He could not live with himself if he turned away and did nothing; he knew he could get to the child but there was no way he’d outrun the ranger; and despite their disagreements, he wasn’t sure if he could bring himself to kill her. Would it come to that? Yes. In defence of a child, an innocent.

With his hand drifting to his rapier, he was stopped by Jason’s voice – the more calm voice that was reserved for dealing with situations like this. What had Wrenn been thinking? His instinctive response would have led to a blood-bath. He followed suit and adopted Jason’s diplomatic tone.

“Enna, there’s not a threat here – let’s put away our weapons.”

It took some convincing, but between them the group diffused the situation. Wrenn was surprised when Salzar took the initiative and removed the baby from the equation by flying it away. He didn’t fully trust the warlock, but almost anything was preferable to Enna slaughtering the child in front of them all.

As she sated her bloodlust by killing an unarmed prisoner, Wrenn turned away. He found himself wishing they were on any other quest; one that didn’t involve orcs at all. He looked up in time to see Helge slowly backing away into the forest, nobody else seemed to have noticed. The look on the young man’s face told Wrenn everything – he was horrified.

Feeling a surge of respect at Helge’s principles and sadness that he might never see him again, Wrenn gave a nod. He hoped that his friend wouldn’t judge him too harshly; right now he wanted to join the monk and escape this madness, but he owed Jason a life debt. Wrenn would never tell him that, but he knew that one day he’d get a chance to pay the dragonborn back.

Wrenn took a deep breath and came to a resolution. He would reconsider his life once the debt was paid, perhaps the Lord Protector could find a more scholarly way for him to carry out his duties. In the meantime, it might be possible to do some damage limitation regarding Enna.

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Episode 10 recap

Salzar picks up the screaming orc infant. He instructs his raven-formed imp familiar to carry it to Grenscombe, there to leave it to be raised by the inkeep Stead. Meanwhile, Jason and Wrenn restrain Enna, while Helge slips off into the forest, disgusted at his friends’ conduct regarding the child.

The heroes continue north before they decide to finally turn east into the forest proper. It soon becomes clear they’ll have to abandon their horses in the soft undergrowth and broken terrain of the woods. They tether them together and leave them to walk the road. They trek confidently through the forest for some time, oblivious to the fact that they are quickly becoming lost.

After a few hours, they come across a set of bootprints, heading perpendicular to the direction they are going, which they believe is east. While Enna is inspecting the footprints, Salzar hears a high-pitched whine deeper in the forest. The adventurers resolve to follow the footprints, while Salzar’s familiar flies to inspect the noise. Some time later, it sees an alluring blue mote of light, which soon drains all life energy from the imp, severing the psychic connection to the warlock.

The party soon lose the trail, but not long after, stumble straight into the Obvious Goblin Ambush. True to form, they quickly dispatch the assailants, leaving the last member alive for questioning. Despite the goblin’s lack of Common vocabulary, he advises them that using the Broken Crown talismans won’t fool anyone, and only the (now very dead) captain knew the way to the stronghold – which he refers to as the Siegeworks.

The terrain grows hillier as the adventurers travel north, and the forest thins out somewhat. The afternoon draws on, and they spot a stone building in the distance; Enna senses two very strong orc-signals. They stake out until evening, spotting shapes moving along the walls but no other movement. At twilight they begin their assault, which quickly goes pear-shaped when they come under ballista fire, nigh-mortally wounding some of the party. Nevertheless, they reach the wall and successfully hide flush with it.

The Siegeworks is low and flat, roughly square in plan, with a three-story tower in the northwest-corner. Part of the southern wall is collapsed, and so some of the party clamber up it. At the top are the two ballistae, manned by goblins, but not for much longer. The rest of the party scale the walls (or at least try to). In the courtyard are two big hulking orcish creatures, who had been hauling a siege engine; Enna, with intimate knowledge of orc taxonomy, identifies them as orogs. They put up quite a fight, employing the formidable speed common to orcs to close the distance to the wall. But they prove no match for our adept monster-killing heroes.

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Episode 9 recap

Early in the morning in Grenscombe, the party awakes to commotion outside. The village is under attack by goblins, accompanied by a bugbear. Joined by two new adventurers, they drive the attackers away, but not before bard Seren is almost taken out by a well-thrown javelin.

On the road north, they notice notches carved into the signpost just outside the village, which Wrenn recognises as Orcish writing. It says MEET. Enna’s finely-tuned senses feel a large gathering of orcs, perhaps two dozen, in the hills to the northeast. The heroes decide to press on north and ignore the potentially lethal encounter.

Meanwhile, in Askor, Salzar (and his newly-conjured Imp familiar) enter the hidden door in the crypts of the Cathedral of the Pantheon. The stone spiral stairs lead down quite some way, opening out into a small chapel. Inside, cultists are already gathered, and Precept Edris conducts Salzar’s initiation ceremony.

On his way out, he employs the scrying services of an acolyte of the Raven Queen, using the lantern he “borrowed” from Wrenn to discover his whereabouts. He departs, defusing a confrontation between two factions of the city guard, and defrauds the city stables out of their fastest horse. Travelling through the Vale, he catches up to a party that greeted him on his way into the city, and discovers their leader is none other than Carlton Dragonborne, twin brother of his friend Jason. They are travelling the same direction as Salzar, towards Kirkston, but do not desire his company on the road, dubiously claiming they were on a covert mission.

The rest of the heroes march north for some time, before Enna detects a small group of orcs moving south towards them. They set an ambush, and kill most of the orcs, with Salzar arriving in the nick of time to aid them. The last orc confesses at knifepoint; there is a shortage of food in the valley, and word has passed through the clans that The Broken Crown can provide for them. They dispatch the orc, and hear a baby screaming. In a sling around the shoulder of a dead orc is an orc infant.

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Jason's Backstory - Part 1

My name is Jason Aurix Dragonborn
If you are reading this, then I am most likely dead. I wrote this note at the end of my apprenticeship – to remind myself of my purpose.
And to warn others should I fail.

I am the youngest son of House Aurix, based on the outskirts of Askor. In recent years my House rose to prominence in Askor for a variety of reasons, these mostly centering around its charismatic leader, Carlton Dragonborn. I would never proclaim to know Carlton Dragonborn fully, that’s just not possible, however I know him better than most – he is my twin brother after all. What I do know is that as of today, House Aurix only has 2 Dragonborn constituents. The books will tell you otherwise, that we number 24 strong, and that we are a small but prosperous Dragonborn family – but that was years ago. Now, all save my brother and I are dead – and I helped him do it.

To understand why this is, let me explain my beginnings. I had caring, wealthy, and well respected parents, a heritage of ancient royalty, and a twin brother who enjoyed similar interests to me – I never once needed for anything. My brother and I were educated by the best teachers Askor had to offer, befitting of only the finest Dragonborn. Additionally, we were both trained to fight with sword and shield from a very early age – a tradition in my House – and we loved it. We loved everything about battle.

We were being groomed to lead our House to a resurgence; to revive our fortunes and past glory. Our House and name had fallen in Askor, due to various incidents in recent history – these mostly self inflicted.

We had a deeply fractured family, each relation with their own agenda to lead the our once “Great House”. My father currently held the title of head of House Aurix, but for how long was anyone’s guess. What we desperately needed was stable and unified leadership, my parents hoped that one of us could help bring it.

It was at 16 that I realised I was good. I was talented with the sword and equally so with my studies. I even had some skill for the arts and most things I tried for. I knew this because I was always just a bit behind someone who was great, maybe even genius like. Carlton Dragonborn was the undisputed golden star of our family, and it was simple to see why. Whilst being just as (if not more) talented than I was, he had a natural air of confidence, coupled with a sense of ambition and quick intelligence. When we fought our regular sparring sessions, his ability to find new ways to beat me often left me tired and frustrated. Just when I thought I had caught up, he would seamlessly pull away, as if suggesting we were never really level at all.

A few months after turning 16, my father publicly announced who would lead the family after he passed away. It was of no surprise to me that he announced my brother to be the future 47th head of the Aurix House – a huge honor. The private rumblings from our extended family were expected, no surprise given there were a fair few older candidates who believed themselves to be the right fit in such a situation, but they did not publicly voice their opinions – yet. The loudest of these rumblings came from our uncle, Cadmus Dragonborn, who had served in the Askor military as a high ranking officer. He had discipline and leadership written all over him, and everyone knew it was only a matter of time before he made a move.

My brother remained unfazed throughout the saga, and it was around that point I gave up trying to better him. I now had to put the future of my House first, and if that meant playing second fiddle, then I could live with that. Honestly, part of me was glad that Carlton was getting the responsibility. He always seemed to get the result he wanted, and to get our family unified was going to be a small miracle – but one I believed he may be able to accomplish.

Nearly 3 weeks after the announcement, my parents left us to travel south on business.

That was the last time I ever saw them.

Two days into their travels, their carriage and soldiers were ambushed by a well prepared force along the valley route. News came back that there were 13 dead with no survivors, and that the whole site had been burning for an hour or two. Most of the bodies were horribly burnt by the time the first witnesses had arrived.

Upon hearing the news shortly after they had been ambushed, I was left devastated – a mere shell of my usual vigor. My brother seemed to take it all in his stride – he had to, he was now leader of our House. After discussing the details with the messenger – who mentioned the corpses were being transported back as they spoke – Carlton naturally realised that there were only meant to be 10 convoy sent along with my parents, so perhaps the extra (13th) corpse could provide us with a clue as to our parents murderers.

The extra corpse, which arrived later that night, was a lone Dragonborn with a long gash down the left side of his face. He looked to have died from multiple stab wounds, but that was irrelevant in my mind. There was only one Dragonborn I knew with a mark like that, and that was Cadmus’ son – Kalmin. Rage and fury immediately boiled within me – it may as well have been public knowledge that Cadmus would make his move for the head title, but like this? It was all too much. I needed to know – right now – whether he had ordered his son to kill my parents. Else I may well kill someone before the day is done.

As it turned out, that was prophetic.

Looking back, I didn’t realise at the time how much of a coincidence it was that Cadmus was staying at the House Manor. His own family were based a couple of hours hard ride on the outer estates of Askor, and he hadn’t had time to reach them. He had needed to travel to the city for work – but as I found out later, had been delayed – so had taken up lodging in the House Manor, as was his right.

He clearly hadn’t heard the news either, as when my brother and I came charging into his room, he was definitely surprised.

Before he could say anything, I demanded of him where his son was. Maybe the corpse we found was fake. I knew that Cadmus and Kalmin often travelled together, as they were both officers in Askor’s military. My tone obviously held some impact as he answered after a moment’s silence.

“I don’t know” he said, “he travelled down south early yesterday without fully explaining the details, but he told me he had found a fantastic opportunity for the House. In fact, he should already be home now….”

I didn’t believe it for a second, Kalmin never did anything without his father’s permission. His father knew where he was at all times. The timing of his arrival back home matched perfectly as well. Had he survived the ambush, Kalmin could have easily ridden back on his stallion to their estates by tonight.

I was about to retort when my brother beat me to it.

“Your son killed our parents Cadmus” he said. Then he smiled mirthlessly and added: “And for that we will destroy you”

I saw the panic in Cadmus’ eyes, then I saw anger. He looked at me then at my brother, as if really seeing us for the first time. And I swear – I saw the shame behind the anger.

He immediately pulled for his side dagger, but I had already drawn mine. With blind fury, I lunged and stabbed him straight through the heart.

We topled to the ground, and as the life drained from his face, he mustered up one last word.

“Used”

And like that, I started a civil war within our family.

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Episode 8 recap

The party awakes to a barracks in chaos, guards running around everywhere. A sergent hands leaflets out to the passing guards and a bell rings in the distance.

From her tree, Enna can see guards nailing posters to trees. The party meets by the east gate of the castle and decide to speak to Xander and drop off the stone of sending.

They find Xander in the king’s chamber, being sent there by a council member in the main hall. There is a sheet covering a body on the bed, and Xander explains that the king has died.

The party now has only eight days before Duke Rellis is likely to march on Ponterin and claim the throne. They are told to keep the king’s death a secret or there will be war across the Nine Kingdoms.

They leave for the stables, take horses, and ride towards Grenscombe.

Their journey is unveventful, aside from a short battle with some dire wolves. Arriving in Grenscombe, they make their way to the tavern and spend the evening there.

During the course of the evening, they take on two new party members: A young sorcerer named Gethman, and a bard named Seren.

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Wrenn's Story: Meeting Jason

Wrenn darted into an alleyway, wide-eyed and out of breath. He gave himself a moment to think, his mind was racing. He knew his best chance at survival was to climb onto a nearby rooftop – he surveyed the alley for a way to ascend. Nothing.

Suddenly the two guards, his pursuers, clattered around the corner. “Found you, yeh little shit!”, one of them yelled, his ruddy face set in a sickening smile.

Wrenn never pick-pocketed unless the need was dire: the risk of conflict was too high. This was his nightmare scenario, but he was running out of money fast in this new and unfamiliar city.

He never liked to target common people when it came to stealing, a few gold pieces missing could mean starvation for a working family, so he planned his targets accordingly. He’d first seen the young noble, his mark, two days earlier.

The man was intolerable. Wrenn observed him from a distance making note of his movements, when he was alone, his interactions with other people. He was exactly the kind of man who deserved to lose a few gold – foppish, arrogant, thinking himself better than everyone else. He was followed by two guards of his house at all times, but it should be nothing to slip past them. It wasn’t nothing.

Wrenn snapped back to the present, he ran straight towards the two guards which had the desired effect. One of them made a grab for him while the other stood slightly confused – Wrenn slipped between their legs and out of the alley, back onto the busy high street.

He knew they were right behind him. On flat ground they had the advantage of speed, being nearly double Wrenn’s height. He needed to get up high and spotted his chance: a pulley was being used to load barrels into a nearby tavern. Wrenn launched himself up onto a crate and grabbed the rope, quickly pulling himself up hand over hand. It was a moment too late.

Wrenn felt a sharp tug at one of his legs as the first guard pulled him away from the rope and flung him onto his back. He was winded. The second guard placed his worn boot on Wrenn’s chest, pain shooting through his ribs as pressure was applied. When he felt the first guard’s foot make contact with the side of his head, he saw stars, the realisation hit him: he was going to die.

He closed his eyes tight. Waiting.

The pressure left his chest as suddenly as it had arrived, punctuated by the crash of armour against cobblestone. He took a sharp breath and opened his eyes in time to see a huge scaled figure towering over him and one of the guards slumped on the floor.

The dragonborn drew his longsword in a fluid motion, the afternoon sun glinting off of his golden scales. Expertly he struck the remaining guard in the side of the head, using the pommel of his sword. The guard staggered. Before he was able to right himself, there was a blade at his throat and he was staring into the eyes of an angry dragonborn.

“I suggest you leave”, Wrenn’s rescuer threatened, coils of smoke curling out between sharp teeth.

The guards didn’t give it a second thought, they jumped up and sped away, back in the direction of their young master.

After watching them leave, the dragonborn bent down to offer a hand to Wrenn. “I’m Jason”, he said, “I imagine the town guard are being summoned as we speak – we should probably leave.”

Wrenn accepted Jason’s hand. Still shaken up from his near-death experience, he managed to stutter, “Thank you… I’m Wrenn”.

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