The Latest Adventure
This page contains the latest section of notes from an Ironsworn game in progress. It is not an edited and finalized tale, and it's often an abbreviated sequence of events. Here again, it's a work in progress so there may be future pages on the site for housing finished projects.
Deep within the city of Swordbreak, Rhodrig's mother has been waiting for a shipment of fresh fruits and vegetables to come back from the northern Gnarled Woods. She's been using the leaves from the tankenroot plants to aid in some new project she's been working on for the guild, but Rhodrig longs for the taste of tankenroot. The guild has been trading supplies with farming settlements within the woods, and the north woods always have the potential for trouble. It's been just over a week and a half, and the carts should have been back by now. Something is amiss, and Rhodrig has volunteered to check the roads and ask around at the farms within the woods.
Rhodrig produces his smithing hammer from his belt sack and takes it by the head, touching as much iron as possible as he swears his vow.
"Before the gods of old and new, and true to the deeds of my father, I will see it through."
Nan Stonebreaker is proud of her son's vow and sees him on his way.
Given the carts have been gone for so long, the thought of bandits or raiders taking the shipment is a distinct possibility. But asking around Swordbreak begins to bring Rhodrig to other conclusions. It's possible the farmers have broken their deal. There have been disputes between Swordbreak and the northern woods for some time. It's also possible the elves have taken the carts and shipments. Word is, the elves of the northern forest habitats have been increasingly on edge of late and have needed supplies for the war against their rival kin in Llandy Wood.
After swinging by the Wayward Rider, a local watering hole, Rhodrig discovers there's been talk of the Olfyg Blackhearts stealing shipments from the roadways near the farmsteads and forest fronts not more than a few days from from the city walls. The guards have had run-ins with several of the Blackhearts of late, and it's almost certain they're responsible.
He sets out upon the main road as the afternoon turns to early evening. The plan is to make camp well after dark and then hopefully reach one of the areas of interest within the end of the following day; to check the tree line closest to the city.
Rhodrig sees one of the Blackhearts being taken into the city in shackles, as he's leaving the gates. A quick chat with the guards indicates the carts were seen in a specific area, and the location is known to Rhodrig.
With new knowledge about precisely where the carts were last seen, he sets off down the old Llandydale Road that stretches across the northern coast and branches into the forests of the Gnarled Wood. The Llandydale splits by the time the sun sets, so he continues on a ways south before making camp for the evening. It's been a quiet journey thus far.
A day and a half goes by, and the Llandydale Road is now behind him. It branched off a few times, and now the less traveled roadways are before him. He enters the northern Gnarled Wood as a few local farmers pass by. They seem friendly enough, and not rattled by any possible dangers. But Rhodrig knows he's on the right path and the carts were seen near here.
After traveling deeper into the Gnarled Wood, a few of the locals from various small settlements begin to pass by with inquisitive looks and curious stares. Some of them might even be looking to take advatange of Rhodrig traveling alone, so he decides to hum a mystical song of death and remorse as his staff gains a faint redish hue. Magic is rare within the province, and all who see it quickly take notice.
The farmers and traveling merchants avert their gaze and carry on with their business, pretending to have never looked his way.
Then he comes across a slight incline in the forested roadway, followed by a wooded valley. Down in the valley is where he was told the carts were last seen.
Just beyond the next turn in the road and barely within sight through the trees, he sees one of the carts. It's being used as a makeshift bed, as one of the presumed bandits is caught sleeping in it and his feet are dangling off the back. Some smoke is seen drifting from the woods a little further from the cart, and Rhodrig assumes they've set camp nearby.
For them to remain here for several days, something must be keeping them.
Then he sees why. There are fresh mounds of dirt near the cart, and they appear to be graves. These bandits have had troubles of their own. Possibly elves. Possibly farmers. At any case, they're few in number and potentially able to be dealt with alone. Rhodrig weighs his options.
Rhodrig attempts to sing a keen and enact a ritual in order to enhance the damage of his staff, but the magic isn't coming to him. The spirits of the dead are not listening. So he cautiously approaches the cart beyond the trees at the corner.
There's another bandit near a fire, in view. The bandit looks weary and is attempting to keep watch. He doesn't see Rhodrig due to him being behind the cart (and rolling a weak hit). So Rhodrig begins to create a large circle ward in the dirt at his feet. The ward is intended to be right at the base of the back of the cart so the sleeping bandit would step in it upon waking and the bandit on watch might run into it while rounding the cart in pursuit.
Once again his magic fails him. Rhodrig senses something dark within this area, and wonders if there's some sort of suppressive element at play. Either way, he's going to have to deal with these bandits in a straight up fight if he wants any chance of retaining any of the goods they stole.
Time to kill the sleeper in the cart.
Rhodrig jumps up on the cart as the bandit awakens from the thud. He sticks the end of his staff right into the throat of the bandit before he can rise, and twists it violently. The bandit's airway is crushed and he begins to perish as the man near the fire stands and draws his sword.
The swordsman is skilled. He reaches the cart before Rhodrig can get to the ground. And he parries one staff strike before landing a punishing slice across the thigh. Rhodrig growls then backs off before readying for what's coming.
Rhodrig spins the staff to distract the bandit as he moves to clash. The bandit slides to the side but isn't successful in escaping the coming blow. The staff cracks him across the face and blood sprays from his mouth as he spins and tries to regain his bearings.
Unfortunately for Rhodrig, the bandit recovers faster than expected and charges in.
Rhodrig dives out the way of the incoming sword thrust, and notices something out of the corner of his eye. There are children here. They are wearing the garb of the bandits. And they're eating the food intended to come back to Swordbreak.
But they disappear almost as fast as they appear, as if they were apparitions from the smoke from the fire. It feels as though dark magics are at work within this area, and Rhodrig suspects that's why his own conjuring was unsuccessful.
The smell of cooked vegetables and rotted meat fills his nostrils as the evening sun sets in, darkening the already darkened overgrowth of treetops above.
The bandit comes slashing back in as Rhodrig tries to avoid the distractions and stay focused. His blade scores a vengefull strike, cutting deep into Rhodrig's arm. Stoneshaper belts out a howl at him as the two are face to face.
Rhodrig Darts out of the way and wheels the staff around to strike the bandit with a violent blow to the back of his head, knocking him off his feet.
As the bandit tries to get up, he's hit with another blow to the head. This one was fatal. But he raised his sword just enough to cut into Rhodrig one last time, as the end of the blade pierced his side. Bleeding but standing, Rhodrig snaps the man's neck to be sure he's gone. This swordsman was a competent bandit, to be sure. Perhaps that's why he was one of the few to survive whatever battle took his friends in the ground by the cart.
Rhodrig makes his way over the smoldering fire and plants himself down for a rest. As he sits, he feels his hand burn. Looking down he notices a marking appear on the back of his hand. A burning sensation flows through him as the mark becomes evident. It's a rune of revenge. He has been marked for vengeance by someone or something.
Taking a look around, he sees nothing. The air shifts and the sense of dread that hung over the cart and fire dissipates. Someone was watching, but they were unseen. And that someone or something has chosen to hunt Rhodrig.
"Come out, you coward," Rhodrig yells into the woods.
A calm falls over the area as he tends to his wounds and checks out the remaining supplies.
He manages to find some healing herbs and bandages up his wounds while drinking a bit of a restorative concoction. Then he checks out the cart and surrounding area for the shipment.
There's nothing here. Either it was stolen by elves or the farmers or someone else made off with the goods. Either way, Rhodrig feels extremely discouraged and must make the long walk home to bring the ill news. And with a mark of vengeance to boot.
The burning sensation from his hand intensifies. The thought of heading home leaves his head as he considers the ramifications. What if he brings an ill omen to his city and family by returning with the mark? A decision is made to hunt down whatever gave him this mark, or at least stay as far from home as possible until the mark is resolved.
He decides to seek the hidden mystic threat.
"If you seek to hunt me, demon, I shall hunt you. And so it begins."
Rhodrig stays for a while at the campsite and makes sure the fire is out before venturing onward. He decides to head due south, as the wind seemed to die down to the north and something felt off in the deeper woods. Playing on his hunch, he stayed away from the road and made his way deeper into the northern Gnarled Woods.
The evening is uneventful, as he presses on without much rest. Though his sleep schedule has been erratic, he's managed to gain enough sleep with his staggered pace thus far.
Deeper into the woods he goes, as the morning sun breaks through the trees. The dense forest is providing a fair amount fo darkness this deep in. The animals are starting to scurry as Rhodrig stops to eat some of his rations and take a few drinks from his flask. He checks on his wounds and finds his bandages are holding well.
He communes with the forest and utilizes his connection to the magical plane, as a way to feel for any dark entity in the area. Something traveled this way, but is no longer here. He feels he's on the right path so he soldiers onward.
The Children of the Plane, or so they are called, are those who are gifted with the usage of magic. It's a rare gift that randomly passes between Ironlanders and Firstborn. There is no particular lineage or family line that passes the trait, it just appears within random individuals. Overseers and other Children of the Plane have always wished there was a way to determine who has the gift, but alas they cannot. The only way to know is to witness the usage of the gift.
Rhodrig's father had the gift, and so does he. They are able to connect with the plane of magic and sense when other Children are near. This is how Rhodrig is somewhat able to sense the residual essence of the being or man who cursed him with the mark of vengeance/revenge. All magic is inherently dark and mysterious in Kathig, and so the more twisted the magic the more potent it is to witness and track down for the Children of the Plane and the easier it is to detect; though some forms of magic can prevent detection.
After his communing with the plane he continues southward. During the evening he begins to see familiar pathways and hunting routes. He decides to stay in a clearing and make camp, knowing he'll be close to the village of Grimtree come morning if he keeps up this pace. And Grimtree always has the potential for trouble. He wonders whether this bastard thing who cursed him has scampered back to that gods forsaken village.
Come morning, he could hear chatter from some travelers to the south and saw the billowing smoke, presumably from a chimney. Grimtree was near. He decided to head east a bit before crossing one of two streams that connected to the Avasil River which runs through the heart of Gnarled Wood.
Grimtree rests on the edge of the Avasril River. The river connects to the Lake of the Grand to the northeast and the coast of the Sea of Hoda to the west. It's the longest river in the province, and is a favorite for smugglers and contraband runners due to its vast connection from east to west.
Communing with the plane once more, he senses there's something amiss within the area of Grimtree. It could well be what he seeks.
No one is visible on the road and the sound of talking fades. Rhodrig begins to wonder why so few Ironlanders and Firstborn have been seen on his journey. Considering he's traveled so many days, and through some of the most beast infested parts of the forest, it's been strangely silent along his path. He then attributes the cause to be this darkness he seeks. The potential exists that this enemy has been keeping threats at a distance and Rhodrig has been close enough to enjoy the safety of such a magical wake. The thought rattles him a bit, but he must find a way to rid himself of the mark.
He rounds the trees, down the road coming into town, and sees the first set of houses near the clearing of the village. There's a a figure dressed in black standing next to the closest house. The figure is facing Rhodrig and is completely motionless. It's fixated on his position.
Rhodrig attempts to fool the black-clothed figure into thinking he's spooked by the sight. and he immediately darts into the woods off the side of the road in an attempt to drawe the target close and away from the edge of the village. And he's successful.
The man comes running towards Rhodrig as a slight rain begins to fall on the forest. Then a feeling of dread overtakes Rhodrig. A deep, guttural, moaning sound comes from the forest behind him. It's an unnatural moan that resonates within his mind. Something from the deepest form of corrupted evil is producing it, and he fears it's the thing responsible for his mark.
Sliding his way around the trees, towards the man in black, Rhodrig stays away from the road then pounces on the black-clothed figure at first opening.
Rhodrig thrusts the butt of the staff into the temple of the target on the roadway and the man tumbles to the ground in a startled panic.
There'e s blood-curdling howl heard from the area of the moaning in the forest and Rhodrig turns towards the sound of the moan. And there it is, shambling and deformed, in all its evil menace, a lesser haunt. The foul creature vaguely resembles a man but has broken blades stuck through it, chains wrapped into and through its flesh, and stitched holes where its eyes used to be. The being is gray and pale, with shredded clothes hagning from its frail frame. But it moves with a quickness as it runs down the road towards Rhodrig.
"Come, serpent! Come to your end," yelled out Rhodrig in a moment that was much an attempt at giving himself a vote of confidence as much as anything.
The sense of dark magic poured through his veins like the heat of summer as the wretched thing approached, and the black-clothed figure began to rise from the dirt.
The figure cackled with laughter as the lesser haunt leaped at Rhodrig and knocked away his defensive swipe of his staff. With the opening, the stranger produced a dagger and stuck it into Rhodrig's side as he was fixated on the horror.
Rhodrig whips the staff around and cracks open the jaw of the man from the village in a violent strike. The man cries out and tumbles to the side of the road, completely incapacitated.
"Face me, demon!" spits out Rhodrig as he keeps his gaze focused on the creature.
Rhodrig see the thing leap at him once more, but he's prepared. The end of his staff begins to hum as he chants and ancient hymn, just as the being is airborne. In one continuous move, Rhodrig spins the staff, strikes the lesser haunt in its neck, burning the beast with an unseen magic, and then turns to prepare for the creatures retaliatory maneuver when it lands. But the creature took more than it bargained for. It fell into a slump behind him and hissed for a minute before becoming motionless on the road.
The burning sensation in Rhodrig's hand faded as the lesser haunt turned to ash in the roadway. The man by the side of the road was slowly dying, so Rhodrig had a decision to make.
He asks the man a question regarding his connection to the haunt, but the man only responds in the tongue of some demonic language Rhodrig doesn't understand. So Rhodrig quickly puts him out of his misery.
The lesser haunt was coursing with dark magic energies, and Rhodrig still feels it on the wind. He begins to sing the keen for those his staff has killed and the weapon glows a slight redish hue. A hum begins to emerge from the staff as the sound of mutlple souls swirls around the weapon. Rhodrig slowly absorbs the power of the foul energies in the forest and his own understanding of the keen ritual increases. In deep conversation with the spirits of the dead, he wanders into town as his eyes dart to and fro.
As he wanders into Grimtree he sees the smoke billowing from a far house near the village edge and close to the docks, but decides to take a look inside the house nearest where the man in black was standing. He tries the door and it was open. Peering inside he's immediately overcome by the smell of rot and decay. The slight amount of light coming in from the outside reveals four corpses situated around a table in the middle of the room. The dead are seemingly placed upright as if seated for dinner. Rhodrig notices they each bear a scarf that has the mark of one of the warbands of Shieldrock, the city down the coast from Swordbreak. Shieldrock is the largest city-state in Cronemoor Province and regularly competes with the old city of Swordbreak for claims to land and title in and around the coastal areas. Given these men are all from Shieldrock, there may be people looking for them.
Rhodrig opens the door a little more to take a closer look, but doesn't want to enter. He sees the warband symbols on the four men contain the stitched image of a mountain on one of the shield crest quarters. He looks down at his own family's crest, stitched into the brown sash he wears around his waist, and sees they are similar in pattern. His family crest contains the same mountain pattern with the symbol of a rising sun. Rhodrig Stoneshaper comes from a long line of stone masons and craftsmen who left the west generations ago with hopes of settling east and help in the founding of Cronemoor. They are among the oldest families on the coast, and it would appear these four men could be of some distant family relation.
He decides to cover his face and enter for a moment, just long enough to take a scarf and leave.
Putting the scarf away as he walks out, he hears the dead whispering through his staff. Some residual energies are emanating from it, after his last commune. They are speaking of ghasts and other horrors within the temples of the eastern drylands, and Rhodrig can't understand their meaning.
As he begins to walk down the main pathway through the village he spots a few more of the black-clothed figures when peering towards the river. And they are being followed by what could be another lesser haunt. It's hard for him to tell at this distance.
Then the dread moaning starts in again. Another horror is to the west, down the main road the skirts the edge of the village. Rhodrig decides he's almost certainly in over his head with this place and decides to leave the way he came. Grimtree is living up to its billing, and he will have to return at a future date with aid.
With the warband scarf in his pack and a yearning for home, he heads back east before nightfall.