A New Dawn
The town of Kassen was founded 174 years ago. Each year, at the 4th of Neth it is celebrated that Kassen defeated his enemy. To lead the town through the winter, a delegation is traditionally sent to the crypt of Kassen to obtain fire from the Eternal Flame.
The subjects of our interest, three youngsters, are in for an interesting time. They differ in many things, but all have grown up in the small provincial town of Kassen that is starting to feel too small. Jonathan, the human ranger, spends most of his time out in the woods outside Kassen already. Lini, the gnome cleric, is usually found in the temple of Erastil, and aches for new experiences to break the daily pattern of the temple. Preen, a half-elf rogue, meanwhile lingers at the Seven Silvers tavern where his mother works as a waitress – hoping that the new day brings more interesting guests, and failing that interesting trouble to get into.
History may be about to deal them an interesting hand for a change. As Preen and Lini know, Johark Uptal, mayor of Kassen, intends to send a number of young people to the crypt this year, as a rite of passage. It doesn’t hurt that this may serve to boost his popularity in the upcoming elections. Preen, Jonathan and Lini have been personally asked by the mayor to take part in this mission. It normally is a journey of two days to the crypt and then back, to their knowledge the yearly delegation is always back within a week. The three youngsters are asked to assemble with travel gear at noon of the 4th of Neth in the town square.
That morning, Preen is packing his gear, preparing for the trip. Also Lini has packed her stuff and is taking her time for a prayer to Gozreh. When she takes her leave of the priest, he seems to be downcast and says farewell with a heavy heart. When Lini asks what is the matter, he says there is a dangerous journey ahead.
A dangerous journey? We’ll be back in a week time! But I would be glad to get some adventure, to test my skills.
Jonathan and Preen take their leave from somber parents. When Preen leaves the inn, his halfling friend, Jimes “Short Change”, gives him a quick grin, before he too solemnly says farewell. Preen wonders, and asks if Jimes knows why his mother is so glum, earning only a quick wink in response from the halfling.
More or less at the same time, all three arrive on the completely deserted town square, each from a different side. Although they have not witnessed this ceremony before, as it is for adults only, they were led to believe the square would be full with people to send them on their way, and not so unusually quiet. They look a bit at each other, and join together in the middle of the square, discussing the strangeness of this all.
At noon the bells in the temple ring out, and suddenly the town square fills with people clad in black. The mayor leads a pony with a cart, loaded with some gear. He gives a speech, and a circle opens up around him. Preen, Jonathan and Lini go toward the mayor. He holds a lantern, and looks somberly at them. He thrusts the lantern towards Lini, and says that this lantern is to be used to fetch a light from the Eternal Flame. Also three bags have been prepared with provisions for their travel. The three youngsters each take a bag from the pony cart.
Off Into the Unknown
In a totally downcast atmosphere, as if they were led to their graves, the townsfolk set them on their way south, towards the crypt.
“I’m impressed, they’re putting a real effort into it. But I’m sure all the doom and gloom is just a charade for our benefit. Lini and Jonathan seem te be falling for it, though…..
When they are well outside the town and out of sight of the watch tower, they open the three bags, to see what is in them. One lumpy bag holds 50ft of rope, a grappling hook and three torches. As both Lini and Preen have 50ft of silk rope already, they only take the torches. The second bag, which feels soft, contains three winter blankets and a small shelter. Also two small bottles of brandy and a potion bottle to cure light wounds. They take the shelter, but leave the blankets, as they already have their own blankets. The last bag contains rations for three persons for five days, a full waterskin and a box with tinder and tinderwick. This they will take all. They distribute the new loads and hide the surplus gear behind a tree. The last bag also contained a piece of parchment, which shows the road to the crypt.
The forest around them is lively. Jonathan goes in front to scout the road, while Preen and Lini follow at a slower pace. Just when Jonathan has waited for the others to catch up, and they set out again, they reach a blockade on the road, an three humanoids (orcs) jump forward, armed and with ill intent.
Preen quickly jumps into a tree and shoots one of the orcs with his bow, straight through the eye and killing him instantly. Lini dashes forward all on her own and sets off a lightning arc, injuring one orc but failing to slay the foul creature.
“What’s the gnome doing?! Has she gone insane??? She’ll be cut down for sure!” “Wow, look at that lightning!”
Then the two orcs rush the lone gnome cleric, covering the distance much faster than Lini anticipated and with two mighty blows strike her down. Dropping to the floor, lini is left unconscious and bleeding. (-11 HP)
Jonathan kills the wounded orc with a well aimed arrow shot in his throat, and hits the second orc with another arrow. Preen takes another shot at the remaining orc, but misses him. Then the orc charges Jonathan, and wounds him. Jonathan hits the orc with his sword, only slightly injuring him.
Rushing up behind the orc, Preen thrusts his rapier through the orc, mortally injuring his foe and almost hitting Jonathan in the process. Only then does Preen realize he felt no resistance when his blade slid into the orc.
With the last orc fallen, all three orcs vanish and it is af they have never been there. There is no blood on Preens sword, Jonathan has no wound, and Lini gets up off the ground, completely unhurt and with undamaged armour albeit a bit dazed as she really felt she had died. When they look around, Lini notices a faint air of pipe smoke and sees a bird in the sky. No signs of magic are felt, but they all realize the town’s wizard is known to smoke a pipe.
“I almost fell for it. Even when I knew they were making a big show of it, I almost thought the orcs were real. Don’t want to spoil it for the others though, and let them think we’re on a real mission of sorts. Lini in particular seems to think it’s a big deal and all.”
After they each expressed their amazement at this adventure, they continue on their way. Even though they realize it was all an illusion of sorts, the close run affair has given them food for thought and discussion on how to better cooperate in case they run across a real foe next time. Preen meanwhile is on the lookout for any further staged surprises, but does not spy any.
The evening falls after they have walked for some time without any disturbances. They find a place to set up their camp, put up their shelters and light a fire. When finished, Preen takes out his flute and starts to play a tune. Jonathan strongly discourages him to continue playing, as you never know what may be drawn towards them by this sound. Grudgingly Preen puts the flute away again. In the distance some wolves are howling.