D&D 4E: Keep on the Shadowfell
1st Level, Eladrin Warlord (Curtis)
Do we just wake up one day and decide to be an adventurer? As a child, we read about the legend of this or that hero… do we then thrust a sharpened stick into the air and yell “I’m going to fight evil someday!” when we’re out playing? Are we destined from birth for great things and we just need some trigger?
Well, regardless, something chose me… and pulled me in kicking and screaming.
I was born in a village called Mudbog. It was a boring collection of homes, animals, and people. The town was started when a group of travelers got insanely lost and happened upon an area that was decent enough to eek out life (dense forest, and a couple of intertwining creeks) since they were out of supplies and were tired of building temporary shelters.
As you probably guessed, there are no major roads nearby, no populous cities, and only one town within a day’s walk. We Mudboggians don’t do much besides farm and live out the life. Oh, the townspeople recently added brick-making to our list of activities. That’s been staving off some of the boredom. There’s no one nearby to trade with so the bricks and pottery all stay in town. Most of the townspeople had enough stories (made up or passed down from their traveler parents) and creativity to keep life from being too mind-numbing.
Speaking of my parents, you may wonder how anyone with Fey blood could survive in such a place. Well, this is exactly where my parents wanted to be. Fed up with ever-changing fashion trends, everyone trying to out-create everyone else, it got too much for them and so they left (and joined with the fore-mentioned travelling group). After hearing their stories growing up, I agreed with them and was content to live out life as a pottery maker and farmer. Everything was mediocre as usual until a few months ago…
One day people started getting sick but never getting better. The town healers tried their usual potions, prayers, etc. but surprisingly NOTHING worked. A few of the elderly passed on because of it but for the most part it just made everyone a little weaker, cloudy headed, and a little slower. The town sent their entire militia (all 3 of them) to the closest town — Raven’s Peak — to see if they could get help.
Eventually, a motley group of 7 from Raven’s Peak came to help but, after a cursory glance around, declared the town to be infested with some evil spirit and put a makeshift wall around the entire village (in some spots using our bricks!). All attempts at gathering information from the Raven’s Peak group were met with a generic message of “stay calm, save your strength, finding the why & how takes time…” or just open threats to get back & shut up. Even with overwhelming numbers, in our weakened state, the town had to put all effort into daily living so we were stuck under an unopposed siege for 3 months.
My friends and I had been asked by our respective families to just do as the Raven’s Peak group said and work our chores but as the weeks went by, claustrophobia set in. Even I, happy to be involved as little as possible and settle down to a simple life, had finally gotten fed up seeing my family and townspeople wither away with no end in sight. My friends, less content with this life, were already planning infiltration and eventual attacks. To which I would quickly point out the glaring (to me at least) flaws in their plans. Purely to stop the nagging, I agreed to help them at least find out if there was more to what was going on.
My first suggestion was to sneak around and investigate. If we got caught, we’d play up our youth and say we were bored (not that far from the truth). Staying up late one night, those of us who could see well in the dark, went around to see what the Raven’s Peak 7 was doing to help the town. I went and chatted up their ranger sentry who was standing on a tall stack of lumber at the “gate” at our makeshift wall. He was wary of me at first but I steered the conversation towards urban combat being much more difficult than combat in the wilderness. Fortunately he was pretty opinionated on that topic and our conversation was plenty loud. Meanwhile, my two roguish friends (Nightgrasper Squad… what? hey, we were still somewhat kids then, everyone has to have fun code names…) had a chance to sneak out between some of the wall bits on the north river side. Making their way around, they saw two of the Raven’s Peak group digging and filling holes, with their cleric supervising (holy symbols just give those guys away too easily), and another woman in robes walking around with a staff. One of the diggers asked how long they had left to find “it” and the cleric responded with “oh a few more days but the curse I have going will make it easy to go in and take over.” They didn’t say much beyond that but it was pretty apparent that the health and well-being of Mudbog wasn’t their top priority. After getting the signal that the Nightgraspers were back safe, I wound down the conversation and met up with my friends to get the update. With our suspicions validated, my friends were itching to go to the town at large and tell what they saw. It almost went to blows but I finally got it through to them that we’d need more than just our word versus theirs… we need evidence.
Over the next few nights, we did similar surveillance and vulnerability checks. In the process, we found two separate camps, one for the day shift, one for the night shift as well as a rough idea of their rotation (primarily who’s sleeping when). The day shift was the rogue, the warlord, and a fighter who had an affinity for polearms. Night shift was another fighter, cleric, wizard, and ranger. The ranger & rogue typically took watch during their respective shifts. Hitting them right before a shift change would be best since the off-shift folks should be just waking up and the on-shift would be tired. Again, I had to keep my “troops” at bay… even with those advantages, the townsfolk would be easily cut down. Most could barely stick a sharp tool in the ground, much less into a person.
I had the Nightgraspers watch and go into the different shift camps on numerous occasions to see what was left alone and what was used daily. I had them retrieve anything that hadn’t been touched in a week so we could look at it and keep it as something to show the town. While digging through the stash, we got a bit giddy and were caught. Mizeral (the “sheriff” of Mudbog), heard our noises and tracked us down. His aggravation at us quickly changed to rage towards the Raven’s Peak group when he saw what we had… a rough map of the area with markers dotting the river in certain spots, a scroll that, as far as we could tell, said how to sustain a curse on a large group, and a scroll case full of wanted posters for the warlord (probably keeping them as treasures). There was also a satchel of letters… it wasn’t clear exactly what they were looking for but it dealt with precious metals. Mizeral was a mix of emotions but he shook it off and told us to make our way home but come to the main hall at noon the next day.
We did so and inside the main hall, we found Mizeral and a few other well respected people from our village. Mizeral motioned to us to come closer and said that he had a few villagers doing maintenance on the hall to avoid any spying from the outsiders but we should still speak softly. Mizeral wanted to be in charge but he just couldn’t clear his mind enough to think of what to do next. Seeing no other options, I eventually piped up laid out my plan… First, have the ’Graspers make one more trip into the encampment gathering up any potions and weapons they could manage without being too greedy. Second, get some of the little remaining precious metal in town and bury it near one of the far walls to bait them in. Third, arm & ready the town for a fight. Mizeral gave a grin and nodded his approval as did the others there.
Word spread through the town and under my guise, the townspeople armed and armored themselves with whatever they could find. I gave them simple instructions… just defend, don’t try to go berserk, don’t try to be a big hero, just defend and slow. My group was able to bury the metals just outside the walls near where we were getting out for our little trips. We also assembled a large number of crates and jagged stacks of drying bricks. One night, word was passed around that it was time to put the whole works into action. Near the end of the night shift, one of the ‘Graspers, having no metal on him except for a handful of silver coins and a vial of silvery dust, sneaked his way from our bait to the group. The wizard’s staff immediately started glowing and she waved it around like a divining rod trying to locate their precious. The ‘Grasper made his way back to the wall and went inside. The wizard’s rod went crazy near the wall. They started to whisper “Finally!!” “Didn’t we already search the wall?” “Who cares, I think we found the vein!”
They began digging, and digging, and digging. Each time they started to tire, we’d drop in a tiny pinch of the silver dust which would in turn make the rod light up and gave them inspiration to continue on. Eventually there was a good-sized ditch with the fighter, ranger (pulled from his watch by the commotion), the cleric, and the wizard all down in there. That was our cue to start the ruckus.
A horse whinny came from the wall and the Raven group in the ditch fell silent. Suddenly, from above and the sides, the wall and crates burst into flames and crashed down into the the ditch followed by enough bricks to build 5 houses all pushed by a spooked horse & carriage, and a few dozen villagers. My group busted through the front gate and made our way to the day-shift camp. We found the fighter putting on his chain and, in his surprised state, was quickly dispatched. The rogue and warlord were nowhere to be seen though. We headed back to town to find our townspeople in a panic. People were falling from stab wounds left and right. The Raven’s rogue was having an easy time picking targets using the shadows made by the flames. We eventually encircled the rogue and brought him out of the shadows for an easier fight and he was brought down as well. Checking on the ditch, we found the 5 there, burned and bloodied… and already finished off by the townspeople. On the other side of town, we found the warlord in a lifeless heap on the ground, still being beaten on by as many as could fit around him.
We passed around potions and bound up the wounds we could. All in all, we had lost 11 people, some from the rogue, some from the warlord, and a couple from being in the wrong place at the wrong time with the madness of combat. After putting out the fire, a tired but proud town gathered around us, giving handshakes, hugs, offerings of what little they had left in value. While the townspeople disposed of the dead, my group and I and brought back everything of value from the 7’s camp. Money, valuables, and rations were distributed around the town and my group got the pick of weapons and armor. I picked up a longsword from the fighter and the warlord’s hide armor. Some were concerned that the death of the group meant that the curse would be there forever. In studying the scrolls further, we found that as time passed, the symptoms would eventually go away.
In the days after our ordeal, while we were still cleaning up, a group of hunters from Raven’s Peak came to town and asked if anyone was missing. The tired and worn blank stares pressed them to give more detail (it would be another week before everyone was back to normal health). Apparently the hunters found the decayed remains of our militia group nearby and recognized the town’s insignia on a few pieces of leather. It was in the same direction that the 7 adventurers originally came from so we felt safe in assuming how that played out. We described the group that we took out and none of the hunters recognized their descriptions… the 7 was definitely not from Raven’s Peak.
Using the wizard’s equipment, a small gold vein was discovered at the west end of the town. Not enough to change the region’s economy but enough for early retirement for everyone there and maybe just enough to put this town on someone’s map.
It wasn’t long before the sleepy town was disturbed yet again, this time from a rumble of horse and wagon. A large group showed up with about two dozen well armed & armored troops, supplies. After the dust settled, an ornately armored elf emerged from the mass. He greeted us and introduced himself as Lieutenant Suloan, in charge of Wayland Company. He was searching for the very group we had dispatched days before. The town leaders show him the armor, weapons, and equipment taken from the 7 and tell him the whole story. He congratulated us on defeating them and saving the town. As a reward for our heroics, my friends and I were offered placement in the army. After the taste of combat & adventure, they jumped at the chance. I declined.
From Suloan, we find that the 7 found some gold in the river downstream and followed it upstream. The 7 had already killed and beaten a number of people in the area in an attempt to keep it to themselves. It was safe to assume our town was sitting square on a vein of very precious metal. They figured the group was just going to wait until we got so weak, they could just come in and easily dispatch the whole town and mine for the gold themselves. When asked why the army was doing that sort of work, Suloan gave a smirk and said “I lost a bet.” After goodbyes from my friends, Wayland Company headed north and was soon out of sight.
After the excitement died down, I headed for home and found my parents packing up their things. They gave me hugs and said the recent adventures had rekindled their Fey blood (not to mention, they’ve now got stories to retell for years) so they’re headed back to their old city. My father tossed me a bag to pack up so I can join them. When I tell them I have no interest in any of the normal Fey life and I’m just going to stay, they laid on the guilt… not as you’d expect though. Their comments were simply that I obviously have talents and I should use them to help others… and bring back stories every decade or so when I visit them.
We say our goodbyes to the town (now well on its way to becoming something much more with extra gold being pulled out of the ground). I journey with them to their city, stay for a few days to visit with family I’ve never met, and then continue on my way to Fallcrest (picked at random by throwing a dart on a map).