Kai'ckul

Kai'ckul: Age of Wardens
The Story So Far...

She is a young world. Despite the legions destroyed in the Lost Wars, she is still in turmoil as civilization fights for purchase. The Dragons — the fathers of Her races, you and I — are gone, disappeared before we were able to hold on to more than vague memories, and long before the written word. Now, we are alone. Now, Wardens — guardians for all of the civilized world — patrol the outskirts and the forsaken halls of our ancestors, protecting us from the evil that once plagued Mother Kai’ckul; an evil which has been absent for generations — since our ancestors destroyed them in an act that now seems quite permanent. Now, we scrape and scrabble with and against one another as without the Lost, we have been left with a void. A void of directionlessness. Restlessness and wonder. Yet, something, deep within us all knows trouble brews.

And you, young adventurers, at the tail end of Pax Omnia, the end of the Age of Wardens, will decide the fate of Kai’ckul and her people. You are destined to reveal that which pricks up the hair at all of our necks. Will you be the beginning of a new Age of Heroes, or the end of time itself?

We find the beginning of those answers now, as we turn our eyes to…

Eldorin Gwaehiriel, a High Elf Wizard member of The Circle, from Oakenfell; Fyrsson Akhtar, a Mountain Dwarf Cleric and new member of the Wardens from Akhold near the Bloody Neck; Nilbud Underfoot, a Stout Halfling from Terminus with a wicked punch; Bargol Bandol a Half-Elf Sorcerer Wild Man;Jethrael Landiskew an Ender Ranger Trailblazer; Aemeri Grundelwhern a “Low” Elf Druid; Nolya, a fringe High Elf whose taken to the life of a ne’er-do-well; and Adrik Strakein a Mountain Dwarf Soldier from Tumbledown.

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Wandering in Worthen
Entry 1

6th day of the Wyvern, Year of the Crown

I have always found the race of Man to be a boisterous and jovial lot, but now perhaps my mind is changed. I have arrived in the city of Worthen and the streets are full of dreary faces. The town prepares for a memorial of the passing of their King’s final daughter, and last chance for an heir to the storied dynasty of the Greatworths.

How brief a time is given to Men, and how inspiring that they are able to make anything of it! And yet, how sad that a line once so great is now reduced to sickly children and roadside accidents to snuff out their last.

It suits my mood. I, Eldorin the Untested, leave my people on a task of dire importance but, perilous though my quest may be, I shall not write much of it here lest this journal fall into the wrong hands. At least, if writing helps me to grapple with the size of my task, then a success I shall call it. One step at a time, I think, and the journey will be made.

But first, Worthend. The journey hither was uneventful enough — I had hardly left the shelter of the Fey Woods when I came across the ancient and sturdy roads leading into town. But now that my sight is set elsewhere, I find that a guide may indeed prove useful. Perhaps one can be hired here in town. Of course, to find a guide, I may need to decide my next destination….

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For King and Country
Entry 2

7th day of the Wyvern, Year of the Crown

My quarry is near.

More than this I do not know, and it drives me nearly to the point of madness.

As within, so without, for the city of Worthen is in chaos. All were gathered for the memorial of King Greatworth’s daughter, Alia, when a crossbow was fired from a window of The Elf’s Tears Inn: a clear attempt on the life of the king.

But the Greatworth dynasty was not fated to end so soon — the shot missed, and guards rallied around him to escort him out as the square erupted into riotous terror. Many fled the square while guards entered The Elf’s Tears, and I followed only to find on the third floor an old acquaintance as the prime suspect: Filandrael, known as ‘Nolya’, of the very line of Arinoth and kin to Calentir.

Thankfully, Filandrael had not harmed anyone, and I was able to defuse the situation, though not to prevent his being taken into custody. We gained an audience of Dwarves, Men and Halflings as we processed, with Filandrael under guard, to meet King Piter. There I pledged to help him in whatever way I might, and gained a team to help: two Wardens, a soldier Dwarf named Adrik, a woodsman (who may yet prove to be that worthy guide I sought if indeed one is needed), and a mysterious half-Elf sorceror, who had used strange magic to disguise himself as a human barmaid.

The king bade us find the truth of the matter and, after some bowing, agreed to entrust Filandrael to my keeping, with the promise that he would not leave Worthen until the king was satisfied of his innocence. “Let this be your first test: keep this Elf in your protection and under your guidance. With no heir to my throne, it makes too much sense that I would be a target. Already I hear the Fiori, the Curious Crows, the Hurch Gang, the Revitalizers, all of them clamoring for the throne. Discover what you can…”

In short order as we conferred, new information came to light: The man bearing the bier with the king was none other than Ozymandias Welton, who drove the cart that killed Alia; and perhaps more pertinent, the bolt was fired from the second floor of The Elf’s Tears, not the third as everyone had hitherto thought.

We hastened back to Memorial Square and split up to search. The sorceror, Bargol, found a place to spy the whole square for anything unusual, but witnessed nothing. The Wardens interrogated a man who was earlier at The Elf’s Tears, who tells them that “there’s a man named Walter in the West, hiring strong men.” They also met with a persuasive halfling with the ill-fated name of Nilbud, who quickly joined our company.

The rest of us made for The Elf’s Tears and the innkeep barred our way upstairs only until we revealed our purpose. He led us to the secret crawlspace on the second floor, where a man was hiding. I put him to sleep before he could escape, and our muscle removed him for questioning. Meanwhile, we found a concealed box of crossbow bolts.

The innkeep knew nothing of the sleeping man but bought our company a round of stiff drinks (for those of us who would have it), and we retired to a room at the “Dick & Pickle” across the square. Adrik’s quick inspection of the man revealed a telltale scarring under the hairline which confirmed his membership among the Nicks, a cruel and dangerous organization of cutthroats expanding their operations. Searching further, we found something more telling: he held a purse of 50 Downings — gold pieces minted in Tumbledown — with a note that read: “Crawlspace before the attic. Small Window. During the speech. Don’t leave until the next day. Don’t Miss.”

They woke him with a blast of cold from the sorceror and began to question him. This began to seem futile, and I removed to the hallway to scan the area for any trace of my quarry, but found nothing.

When I returned to the room, my companions had acquired a name from our prisoner: Hector Strong – though few heeded it. Already, the group was splitting up and I hastened to join the main party, while Nolya headed for The Elf’s Tears and the druid Warden and the halfling headed for the King, to apprise him of our findings.

Just then, as the rest of us headed out into the night, we were beset by men wielding crossbows….

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A Shadow Riseth
Entry 3

… the four assailants wasted no time in filling our captive with bolts, slaying him within seconds. We gave pursuit, but most of them scattered. Thankfully, Filandrael sneaked around the back and tripped one up, taking him prisoner. It was clear that our enemies knew our location and had no intention of allowing a prisoner to reveal their plans, so the plan had to be changed.

Some guardsmen came out and questioned them. I had thought to enlist their help, but our friend the Warden Dwarf carefully (if drunkenly) hinted that our enemies may be among the Worthy Men as well as among any other group. They pushed for interrogating the prisoner ourselves, in private, and I could not deny the logic in this, though it pains me to lack a face we all know we can trust.

We tiptoed on back-alleys around the night-time streets to the address given by our first prisoner, found a scantily-used apartment, and our group scouted it while I stood watch and Filandrael shared some recent events with me — his membership in a certain group, and the clear attempt by someone to frame him for the assassination that was clearly timed for that exact moment.

We used the apartment to interrogate our new prisoner, who was quick to name the Hurch Gang as his employers. He stuck to this story and offered to take a message to the Hurch leader, Plint Dundarry, if we desired. He insisted he did not know Plint’s location, which seems plausible.

The rogue did not have much else to offer, and did not long survive his wounds. He bore two notes – one with the name “Dick & Pickle” (the place where we held the first prisoner), the other with a description of my old friend Filandrael — clearly, they have singled him out for something, though precisely what I cannot surmise as yet.

What to do now? Believe the rogue’s story or not, the Hurch Gang is our most solid lead, and we have no real reason to doubt it (or at least no more likely direction thus far). But we have no friend in the ranks, do not know the territory, and they are one of the strongest gangs in the region. Entering on our own could be suicide, while entering with backup could start a civil war, or at best might still leave Piter short on men to defend him.

We crept back to the town square and into the rear entrance of the Elf’s Tears — all but Bargol, who threw caution to the wind to spend a luxurious night in his own room across the way at the Dick & Pickle. The rest of us have boarded at the Elf’s Tears for the night after an unexpectedly long day. Filandrael and I quietly went upstairs to find any further hint of those who set him up, but found nothing, and with no further ideas we, too, retired for meditation.

The day has been long and eventful. I cannot help but feel this task we have been given has barely yet begun.


8th day of the Wyvern, Year of the Crown

We awoke early this morning feeling refreshed. On a hunch, I led our group across to “The Crossroads” to see if I could sense my quarry. He remains undeniably near, and confoundingly out of reach. I sensed nothing, apart from the same sign I have had now for nearly a day — all in the region around the square.

We finished breakfast and questioning locals and hurried on toward the King, as we hoped to consult with the King for new instructions.

On the way there, we came across a family fleeing their own home. I regret to say my first reaction was to leave their plight to the guards — we had no time to spare, and our quest was urgent, was it not? But it became clear that the guards paid no attention to their concerns, and the “rats” they claimed had overtaken — overtaken! — their home were far more dire than any should have reason to suspect.

Many of the rats were normal, but clustered into groups that seemed to have a wisdom of their own. Others were of an enormous size, enlarged by some unnatural force — a sorcery not entirely unknown to me, alas. We dispatched them with only moderate difficulty, though Filandrael was nearly slain, and barely pulled to safety.

We laid open the children’s room and I immediately put another horde of rats to sleep. Fyrsson charged into the parents’ room, and then a terrible thing happened, and this I swear: a shadow dislodged itself from the very wall and moved to attack him…

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The Story So Far...
Are You Worthen of the Task?

Fyrsson stepped bravely into the Ollentor’s bedroom. There were no signs of the monstrous rats which had overrun the rest of the house, but with a furrow in his brow — whether due to a hangover or concentration and disbelief — crossed towards the door on the opposite side of the room. Light cascaded in through the three windows creating speckling and broken shadows and lighting the two shrubs on either side of the Ollentor’s bed, which looked in dire need of watering: dessicated and barren sitting in their pots. He turned, beginning a shrug to the wary party peering in the door when the shifting of light played tricks on all of your eyes, darkness seeming to pull away from the wall itself and slide soundlessly towards the religious Dwarf. And then, the impossible happened: hands materialized from the floating silhouette and grasped for him.

Crying out in alarm and warning, Eldorin gestured, materializing bolts of energy which lanced out towards the thing of nightmares and tore it apart. As silently as it came, it went. Even more unnerved, the party passed into the room and began a concerted effort to dispel and inspect the shade cast upon the floor and walls. Aemeri, concerned with the well-being of the shrubs, pulled his waterskin out to refresh the plants. Manifesting not only life, but a strangely humanoid shaping, the branches struck out and caught in his armor, barely missing his exposed skin and the proffered waterskin.

On edge, Eldorin blasted the other shrub with a firey bolt incinerating it summarily, while Jethrael leaped to the Warden’s aid and diced the truly living plant into kindling utilizing his dual blades. A nervous laugh overtook the party as, once more, silence and seeming safety fell upon you. As unsettled as your spirits were, there was a basement to investigate, so cautiously, you tread down the staircase into darkness.

Familiar chittering grew from a rumor to a reality as you passed down to the basement landing. As the unnatural rats reared their heads to your threat and you prepared for another engagement, a pile of dust in the corner began swirling of its own accord — and nary a draught to caress the accumulation — and formed into a diminutive man-shape with glowing sockets where eyes should have been. With a whisper which raised the hackles, “it” swept across the floor and motioned widely with its “hands,” which brought Aemeri to collapse and a number of the rats roll onto their backs. The remaining rats assaulted Fyrsson as the defended the doorway with Nilbud nimbly darting in to strike at the massive beasts and swarming pests.

After prolonged engagement and Nilbud’s seeming knack at extermination, the rats were no longer threatening the home, but that dust-thing still lurked down below. Spotting him with a well-thrown torch by the Trailblazer, the party prepared to fight this thing only to be surprised by four more materializing around them, identical to the little dust-man who had lost an arm to a deft strike by Jethrael. One blew dust down the stairway, blinding a couple of the party, but as quickly as they appeared, they collapsed with a two-handed downward blow onto the originator’s ‘head’ by the Halfling.

The danger abated, you took time to inspect the room, finding a cot in one corner which hid a clear vial of “necrotic power” as informed by Eldorin, and Aemeri searched well, finding a small sachet containing dust in the corner where the dust-creature had materialized. Noting the magical properties contained within the packet, the party headed upstairs to ask the Ollentor’s about visitors…

Over bread and bleu cheese, Wart and Uniss informed you of an aged traveler, leaning upon a gnarled cane, easily of eighty years, who wanted to avoid the danger and crowded nature of the taverns and inns of Worthen and asked to stay a single night with them before he headed west on his travels. Paying in an ancient mint of gold, the man named Walter rose early and set westward without breaking his fast. Within days, the rat issues began.

Informed, but only enough to pique your curiosity, the party needed to inspect the attic to ensure that the danger had truly passed. There were no rats, nor dust-men aloft, instead you were beset by a spider of prodigious size and its web full of children, swarming for food.

Utilizing the clear vial in a move of desperation as the spiders had easily laid low much of the party in the first approach, the revived group attempted a second-time to defeat the arachnids. This time, the swarming spider’s children climbed Aemeri — covering him from head to toe in a black, churning second skin of thousands of eyes and arms — yet he remained unhurt, chanting softly to the Druidic spirits which he claimed as his own. Meanwhile, the party dispatched the parent, and slowly, carefully denied it reproduction and removed the babies from the smiling, unharmed Warden of the forest.

Beaten, but not broken, you assembled in the main room of the house with your minds racing. Had this Walter had any part to play in the affliction that beset the Ollentor home? Was this an issue that Worthen would be suffering as a whole very soon?

With a Writ from Piter Greatworth in hand, you have the power of the King now, but are warned of riots which have broken out throughout the capitol…and still, the people behind the man who had tried to assassinate the last Greatworth are at large. Is it the Hurch Gang, as your captive claimed? Is it another underworld element, like the Curious Crows or The Nicks? Or is it someone or something else you have yet to discover?

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A New Leaf
Entry 5

10th day of the Wyvern, Year of the Crown

With no other recourse, I decided to separate from the group for some time today.

I made a trip to a shop called “Cherelle’s” where I was able to find some necessary reagents, and then found my way to some seclusion to call a friendly spirit, then send him apart. I then made some rounds about the areas I’d found before, this time taking careful notes on the locations and angles of any notable sensations. I was not fortunate: very little remained of what I’d sensed before. None at all remained at the Ollentors’ home, though they seemed well, thankfully.

But something curious happened: I stopped by the Elf’s Tears, and once more I met someone unusual. It was the Frostguard, Eraneth. She sat at table, taking her midday meal, I suppose, and seemed little surprised to see me. I spoke to her for a short while, but neither of us had any report. Indeed, there was but one notable thing throughout the meeting: the amulet felt warm the whole time, for perhaps the first solid time the whole day. Her story seemed to be in order, though, so I gave her greeting and continued on my way.

When I got outside, I pulled my companion, Orieth, from my pocket and gave swift instructions: to keep watch over the building and report back to me by dawn the next day.

I then sought out my companions and found that they had happily succeeded in our goal! The plot had been uncovered: it was the King of Tumbledown, Martin Downings himself, who had paid for the assassination attempt, and the contract was indeed through the Nicks. Grave news, but for now a job complete. The question now is simply: what next?

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The Slow March
Entry 6

12th day of the Wyvern, Year of the Crown

It might never have seemed possible, but I begin to fear for our very lives due to nothing more than petty animals.

Our departure from the city was swift in the end: after receiving our reward with thanks from the King, we made only a cursory stop to the markets to provision ourselves for a journey of some days, and then made for the setting sun, having no wish to either lose pace on this " Walter " nor attract undue followers in the Nicks.

Orieth has been of great help — not only is it fairly clear that the Nicks are not on our trail, but she has provided ample warning to save our lives on more than one occasion.

The first time was near dawn after our first night of travel: I was keeping watch when Orieth returned with word of wolves approaching. We could hear their howls the evening before, but hoped they would keep their distance from such a group. But I fear something was very wrong with these wolves. I even spoke with them, pled for peace with them, and their only reply was a moaning call of “food”.

Before the wolves, we had already been attacked by raptors of some sort. The next day it only grew worse. Giant vultures, oversized insects. All with the same unsettling, ravenous madness. Can we survive unto Mortar, a “mere three days’ pleasant ride from ”/wikis/worthen" class=“wiki-page-link”>Worthen "?

I feel we have no option but to suspect this " Walter " is behind this, whether by malice or by ignorance. And behind him, my true quarry? Only time will tell.

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A Culture of Fear
Entry 7

16th day of the Wyvern, Year of the Crown

What is the source of betrayal? How does one turn from friend to foe, from brother to bitter enemy?

The days wear on and time after time we are beset by beasts and brigands. But the nights, though wary, are often quiet — more so even than the silent nights of the forests of Culdonia, where silence is shattered often by evening birdsong and the fox, the owl, the wildcat. This new silence lends itself to reflection, and I wonder how I came to find myself wandering so far afield…

One year ago, I should like to think I would never have questioned the loyalty of a single member of The Circle. Somehow, in the time since, I find myself questioning the motives of even the most stalwart champions of our order. Mighty Eraneth, defender of Oakenfell, the Frostguard herself — who in better days planned the defenses of the inner sanctum at Perian and was entrusted with staffing its guardians — even she now falls under my suspicion.

It is clear to me that she is the one hiring adventurers of all sorts to be gathered in the west, at Greenbirth, yet when we meet she says nothing of it. I can scarcely believe the detail is insignificant, seeing the numbers of travelers called to action in the west, lured by extravagant payments in advance (and what fund provided so large a source of precious coinage?). No, I dare say this detail was left out — but to what end? It is not yet damning to learn of this, but it bears concern.

But suppose it is betrayal? How could exalted Eraneth turn from champion to renegade? What inside her might have changed? And likewise for others of our number?

In Mortar, I spoke with a tavern-girl — a provincial one of the dim sort one so often seems to find in such places, but one of good intentions, as far as we could tell. She seemed worried about our affiliations and perhaps our motives. To soothe her fears, I found an unopened blossom on the windowsill and imbued within it the life force of the forest, causing its petals to wink open as a newborn bud on a spring morning, and gave it to her in full bloom as a token of fey friendship. Her face now moved from concern to abject terror. It seems fear is the natural state for many of this world.

Thus it is that through fear, minds move to distrust, and from distrust, they move to protect themselves from a threat perceived in others, whether real or not. But one’s protection against another, if undeserved, may be seen (rightfully) as a motion of distrust, or even a slight to one’s honour and trustworthiness. From here, it is no stretch to go from fear, mutual distrust, and insults, directly to violent action. Could it be such a simple answer that drove some to betrayal among our order? Simple fear and misguided self-preservation?

I want to believe this. For if the answer is no, then I have no choice but to find fundamental evil among those I once counted friends.

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The New Norm
Entry 8

18th day of the Wyvern, Year of the Crown

A night of rest, and for once it seems well-earned. The Naftry Farm is devastated, but once again peaceful. The farmers have been slaughtered, but we were able to save at least one of the residents: the human child known as “Newt”. The victory offers small comfort, but small comfort is better than none.

The victory brings with it, however, another concern. Is this the new norm? The old man Walter has a lead of at least 10 days on us, and it is unclear that we have shortened that lead at all. Every day this Walter spends somewhere to leave behind these gifts requires two days for us to clean up the mess. We travel no faster than he, and moreover there is no evidence that we have definitively “cleaned up” sufficiently.

The roads are filled with beasts either grown to incredible sizes or filled with a mad, hungry rage. The wolves we fought on the road did not come from the Ollentor’s, nor from the Naftry farm. What of the hawks? The vultures, the insects? The plants?

Each site left by Walter breeds a madness at every level of the natural world. We cannot have found every site, nor indeed can we ever hope to do so. We may clean the sites we find, but all the while, the madness spreads from the others. It seems the world grows more and more monstrous every day.

At the farm, as we searched the bunkhouse for survivors, I paused to look out an open window. There was a moment of peace, and the wind rustled the leaves of the forest around the farm. A sparrow alighted on the sill and (though it pains me to say it had gotten this bad) I recoiled, but the young male merely looked at me, and I offered my finger. He flew to my hand.

“You are brave to come here, little one,” quoth I. “What do you seek?”

“Not brave,” said the sparrow, cocking his head to the side. “Only hungry. Have you food?”

I smiled and offered him a seed. He flew back out the window and chased a female in twisting paths across the sky. Down below, a weasel as large as a man chased a chicken across the yard.

Is this the new norm?

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Nilbud's Vision

Nilbud is tired of becoming unconscious. Over the last few weeks of adventuring she realizes just how close she has come to death on a number of occasions. On one of her more decent trips into the void she had a vision. It was of her ancestor Merla Underfoot who came to her and gently comforted Nilbud in a way that no one ever had. Then while Merla stroked Nilbud’s short red hair she sharply rapped her knuckles on Nilbuds skull, and boy did it smart. Then Merla returned to gently caressing and soothing Nilbud’s wounds, but at the same time in a well meaning but harsh tone demanded that she toughen up and to keep those big stupid animals on the defensive.

Since that time Nilbud has gone into intense training. Getting some pointers from Venmar along the way she has been practicing feigning and attacking in such a way that opponents stumble away from or just fall flat of their faces. In addition she has begun to pray to Mediena who (she is convinced sent the vision to guide her. When she prays she falls into sort of a trance that allows her to block out some amount of physical pain, in addition she has taken to hitting herself with objects (it’s a little weird) and challenging people to boxing matches to allow her to handle more and more punishment like Merla told her to. She has also developed a tick where she raps herself on the head with her knuckles when she feels as though she failed at something to remind her that now she is weak…….but soon she will make Merla and Mediena proud.

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