First Things First
The players have come from all over the continent to train in the shadow of Paran, the capital of the Human Civilized Realm (HCR for short). After a grueling six week boot camp the players have acquired a few skills and determined what they are good at (or at least what they arent horrible at!) In game terms, they have trained hard enough to earn the trust of the Mageocracy that controls the HCR (as well as reaching level 2, or in other words, they can survive more than one dagger blow before dying now)
The continent sits in an uneasy truce between two warring factions, the HCR and the Oxchaga Council. The truce has been maintained, with some skirmishing, for around 100 years. The main reason why there has been no major outbreak of hostilities is not common knowledge, and has been kept secret from the populace by the Mageocracy and their allies for decades.
They are called before Sir Humphrey near the city’s Eastern Gates to be briefed on their first assignment. The motley crew is compromised of the following members:
- Bombiir “Blackleaf”, a mysterious dwarven thief, dressed in light armor and skilled in scouting, who keeps one eye on his enemies, and the other eye on his allies.
- His brother Romdiir, a dwarven cleric clad in metal from head to toe, with a heart as pure and true as a platinum vein dug fresh from the earth.
- “Papa Stogie”, a gnomish fighter/ illusionist wrapped in a six foot beard and concealed within a perpetual wall of cigar smoke.
- Tilly, a halfling druid who hails from the Temple of Kinarr, who is equally bound by the laws of nature and by the orders coming down from her all female druidic order.
- Sixlet, who is just as comfortable intimidating her allies into doing her bidding as she is in carving up her enemies.
Humphrey gathers them together and presents them with a map. On it are marked several landmarks – since the players have come to the capital from across the continent, they are none too familiar with the local surroundings.
Cover Your Nose, This Smells of Stinking Evil
However… the most interesting feature of the map is the marked border between the HCR and the Oxchaga Lands. Sir Humphrey informs the players that there is a mystical barrier, erected at the end of the war— in fact, it was erected to END the war— that keeps those with ill intent from crossing over into the HCR. This barrier is the main reason why the truce has been maintained for nearly 100 years.
When asked if there will be a problem with the party crossing the barrier, Sir Humphrey shoots them a dark look and says that he Hopes Not…
He continues, showing them a marked game trail and a location on the other side of the barrier where Zimmer, an ally and contact for the HCR has a cabin. He has not been heard from for several days, and he was due to leave a dropped coded message for the HCR that never arrived. The players are tasked with investigating the situation, and if possible, speaking to Zimmer and finding out what is going on. Left unspoken, and unasked by the player group is the following piece of mystery: why was Zimmer left alone by the Oxchaga even though he was on their side of the barrier? And how/why was he able to maintain communication with the HCR via dead drops for such a long period of time?
The party sets off, and using the skills of their dwarven scout, they reach the outskirts of their destination. The druid can smell some sort of meat cooking, the sickly scent wafting through the air towards their hiding spot amongst the trees. A pair of goblin sentries discover the party and raise the alarm. A furious, yet short battle ensues. The party discovers that these goblins are equipped with sleep toxin on their crossbow bolts— luckily the dwarves prove very resistant to the venom and the party is able to overcome their foes.
Sensing another group approaching, from the stamp of armored feet and the shouting of orders, the party uses illusions and misdirection to send a large group of foes off on a wild goose chase into the darkness, leaving them time to approach Zimmer’s cabin. Leaning against the cabin, slouched down in a sitting position is a hill giant, gnawing on what looks like a human adult femur. A pile of bones lies next to him. A bonfire roasts several more human body parts while a squad of goblins waits impatiently for their turn to eat.
While the scout signals the others to coordinate their attack, the druid unleashes the power of nature, calling for the plants to reach up and entangle their foes. The goblins are all lashed to the spot around the fire, while the Hill Giant seems amused by the turn of events. The party rushes in, with the barbarian warrior and dwarven cleric unleashing a fury of melee attacks, while the thief darts in and out, backstabbing like mad. The druid and illusionist work their magics and tend to fallen comrades, as the sleep toxins cause several short naps from crossbow bolts that strike home. A beard comes in handy several times as well.
When the giant finally rises to challenge the interlopers, he is met by a furious series of blows, including a kidney shot that cripples him. The party begins a quick search of the cabin and surroundings to determine what happened. After looking within the home and finding little besides a family portrait, the thief is called on for a more professional ransacking. It is determined that Zimmer and his wife were killed, and their children taken off in chains towards the heart of Oxchaga territory some hours before. The druid uses her affinity with nature to speak to the animals, and together with the tracking skills of the scout they determine these facts. She sends a raven to try and locate the prisoners, but the bird is felled from the sky by a goblin crossbow before it can report back.
Meanwhile, the other half of the goblin raiding party makes its way back. Using some clever trickery and illusions, the party creates an image of their hill giant leader to confuse and befuddle them, while they then lay waste to their foes. A brief debate occurs, as to whether they should go back to report to Sir Humphrey, or whether they should go after the children. The party gleans a clue from their goblin prisoner, who seems pleased at the idea of them heading towards the prisoners— and into the heart of the massing Oxchaga armies.
With several critical pieces of information in tow, the party decides to head back to Sir Humphrey and report what has happened. The barbarian is very convincing in helping the party make its decisions, intimidating them into her point of view as she towers several feet over each of the dwarves and gnomes.
Sir Humphrey seems very concerned by the news and he asks them to follow him into the courthouse. He leaves them in the company of Inspector Snyder, who proceeds to pepper them with queries. His office is within the main court building, but on a side passage— and is filled with alchemical equipment, gem covered lenses and objects, and other oddities. Inspector Snyder uses one such gem to peer through as he asks them questions, and it leaves an uneasy feeling within the party’s rogue who feels as if he is being scryed upon.
Luckily, the party distracts the Inspector by asking him about a topic of his interest, and he proceeds to ramble on for several minutes, losing all thought of interrogating them further. He does, however, tell them that the missing children may be part of a larger conspiracy. He says their is a travelling circus, Mr Mojo’s Circus— which is in town for the week. There have been numerous reports— unconfirmed as of yet— of children going missing while attending the circus. He asks the party to investigate the circus, and presents them with a small magical charm which they can use as a symbol of their authority. In an emergency, they can break the charm which will destroy it, but will summon a mage from the HCR to aid them. He advises against that however, unless they are in dire straits….