Frontier Dreams

Fireside Story: Growing Up
In Which Cultures are Blended

The rag tag group of adventurers gathered around the camp fire that evening as they had for weeks now. Looking south, it was clear the many weeks of routine (such as it applied to them) would soon be at an end, and calm suppers might become a rarity in their future. As such, they seemed all the more intent on enjoying every one.

Calder plied the group with stories of great adventurers past, promising every word was genuinely what ahppened. Waeslyn demonstrated there was apparently no end of creative ways to prepare trail rations alongside freshly hunted meats. Therran among his many myriad talents turned out to be a fair singer, even if his deep baritone was often not well matched to the jaunty uplifting tunes he preferred. Woomera had stories aplenty of the life left behind in the home far to the south. Maarus even joined in, coming up with outlandish names for everyone if they turned to banditry and were plastered on wanted posters.

Milvin leaned back and took in his surroundings. Here he was surrounded by adventurers, going on a grand quest, and exploring ancient ruins. He’d devoured stories of people leaving their homes to go on journeys like this as a kid, but in those stories it was always the gold and magical treasure that the hero was rewarded with. Surrounded by his second family, mind and body trained harder everyday, Milvin was quite sure he was already richer than those fairy tale explorers.

Lacking the eloquence of Calder or the bravado of Woomera, however, he wasn’t quite sure how to explain to everyone that particular sentiment. So he merely remarked that by his reckoning, his coming of age would roughly this time and he was truly happy to be spending it with everyone. Cheers from those gathered around the fire returned, and near the cart, Iument even snorted loudly.

As the fire’s embers dimmed everyone made ready to get some rest for the evening. Before they were able to slumber, however, Woomera approached the rest away from Milvin. She explained to them that in her home, the coming of age is a significant milestone in a person’s life and is to be celebrated and challenged. She has come to respect Milvin’s drive and wishes to honor his achievements on his coming of age day with an appropriate challenge, but is not as yet so familiar with Horizon Alliance culture. She would like the help of the others coming up with a challenge that will test him. And with a toothy grin she remarks that the combined ideas of all three will make for a truly entertaining ordeal.

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Interlude: Stormy Seas
In Which We Revisit the Other Side

Benjamin hauled hard on the lines, cursing to himself. The sails were whipping about furiously and if they weren’t tightened soon, they’d never get out of this mess. Every sailor knew not to sail near the Stormwall. The waters here were treachery made manifest. But ships had to go farther and farther to still find any fish worth catching. The captain had insisted the waters here were still unfished. With good reason, the crew mumbled when they learned the course.

Ben focused on the knot he was tying down. Not because he needed to; he was fairly certain after years at sea he could do it in his sleep. Maybe he even had. But the knot was something to focus on that wasn’t the terrifying gale, with crooked purple lightning off the starboard bow. The lightning and dark clouds loved to play tricks on the eyes, and lure fool hardy sailors to their doom.

The lookout had already been twice reprimanded fiercely for falsely reporting the sighting of a ship within the raging waters. He claimed to have only seen it in a bright flash from the chaotic strikes of lightning bolts, but he was certain. He was confined to quarters until whatever madness possessed him passed. Everyone knew to sail within was certain doom. Those fool traitors and refugees had tried it over a hundred years ago, and they all sank to the depths.

Satisfied that the sail would behave having been sufficiently bound, Benjamin moved to the side to inspect the fishing nets. The deck suddenly bucked underneath him and his heart skipped a beat as he was briefly airborne. He hit the waves with a hard smack, and icy water filled his lungs. Coughing violently, he grabbed for the net, and desperately clung his fingers into it. He could barely make out the “Man Overboard!” cried coming from the deck over the wailing winds.

As he clung to the side of the boat lashed by waves, Benjamin hurled all manor of sailor curses at the Stormwall. But in a brief flash of lightning, he saw it, unmistakably. It was not a boat that was illuminated by the lightening, but bound to it. As the bolt struck the ocean, where before there was not but churning tide a gigantic silhouette defied the clouds. And just as quickly, the phantom hulk vanished. As the crew hauled him on board, he coughed out the last of the briny seawater. He never told another soul what he saw in those clouds, but he did get the lookout released from his quarters.

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Fireside Story: Things Left Behind
In Which Therran Opens Up

During one of many fireside meals late in the evening after a day of hard travel, the party as usual turned to story telling to pass the hours until sleep came. Waeslyn’s eyes were drawn to the firelight reflected in a dull gold wedding band on Therran’s finger, something he’d noticed several times before. Having spent enough time together, Waeslyn finally felt comfortable enough to ask about it. Therran didn’t respond immediately, and went to refill his mug, implying that the answer would not be short.

Twisting the ring back and forth on his finger, Therran’s eyes lost focus as he stared at nothing in particular. He says that as Waes;yn guessed, it’s a wedding band. But he ain’t been married for some time now. In a round about way, that ring is how he came to be in that manor. With an empty laugh, he admits that the ring has gotten him into several manors actually.

Many years ago, in Trinity Bay, Therran was a locksmith. Certainly not a glamorous profession, but it kept food on his plate, and he got to practice his craft which was more than many could say in those days. Having built a reputation early on as a craftsman of reliable quality, his clientele would often recommend him to friends. He was contracted to replace all the locks on a particularly fancy manor when he met a woman. She was in another social strata above him, but they were both too young to realize what that meant.

Their relationship grew despite the protestations of her parents and he eloped with her. For a few brief wonderful years he had everything he wanted, but of course that didn’t last. Her status caught up with her, and she was forced by unrelenting pressure to abandon him. Therran should have been furious, or at least devastated, but all he felt was hollow. He could never bring himself to hate the woman he loved, regardless of her actions.

When she had been escorted back to the family manor they had taken all the jewelry in their more modest home assuming that it had all belonged to her. Therran’s wedding band was among what was taken. Not wanting to leave it behind, and knowing all about how to get in, Therran made to sneak in at night and recover what was his. As he made easy time on the locks he had himself installed, he crept through the house to the dressing room. There the jewelry was laid out, his ring among them.

As he slipped it onto his finger, he felt his heart finally burst. This must finally be the despair I’ve been owed for so long, he thought to himself. When he looked down, he realized that the pain was more physical, as blood began to quickly stain his vest. Collapsing to the floor he realized everyone would smear the Lighthammer name further for a locksmith turned common burglar.

There was a period where everything was a blur. Images he didn’t understand, voices he didn’t comprehend, no concept of time passing. And when he came to, he was trapped in a mansion smelling of blood and with terrified screams behind every door. Waeslyn of course knew the rest, having been the person to free him from that cursed manor.

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Interlude: Strong Foundations
In Which Groundwork is Laid

The lumber merchant shielded his eyes against the midday sun. In the distance he could just barely make out his destination. Sitting back down on the wagon’s bench he encouraged the stubborn oxen to resume their pace. First thing he was going to do with the profit from this sale was get a younger pair not so defiant. And possibly a grill. Strike that, he thought. Definitely a grill. He’d certainly be able to afford it. The representative from the Rentyllian estate that he normally dealt with had given him a fair bonus for transport. He had only ever sold his timber near Cape hope, but they had insisted on transport to this remote site.

Approaching the final hill, he was clearly not the only one they had contracted, and not the first to arrive either. Logs were neatly stacked and supplemental planks organized nearby. Two figures were arguing near the supplies looking at a map. One had a sword on their hip, the other had a saw on their belt. He chuckled to himself imagining a duel between them for leadership. They only briefly paused their heated debate to sign off on his delivery and direct him to the storage area. From what he caught, it was something about security concerns versus function.

Much later after the last log was unloaded, he was relaxing and wiping the sweat from his brow. He had to admit that the place had a certain beauty to it. The thin inlet to the sea was bright and clear, though too shallow for cargo boats to come directly. With a little work he wouldn’t be surprised to see this crossroad outpost become a serious hub in years to come. He certainly hoped so anyway. Expansion was always good business for a lumber merchant. As he began the long trip home, he saw them laying out the finishing touches on the sign, some sort of bird he guessed.

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Interlude: Lurking Shadows
In Which Plots are Hatched

Hopukanga sharpened his dagger. The action was more habit than necessity. The blade was already so sharp it could split parchment, but the methodical scraping of the whetstone focused his thoughts. Seated near him were three others, all performing similar rituals. Less experienced individuals might have filled this time with idle chatter to ease the tension. But less experienced individuals would never have been chosen for this.

Testing the edge on his fingertip, Hopukanga was satisfied with his work, and slid the dagger into a fur lined sheath on his arm. Two other such daggers were concealed on his person, each sheath’s lining coated with deadly poison. Wordlessly the others began to don their armaments as well. An early stage of the plan had involved using smuggled weapons from the invaders to frame the colonists for the deed. But that was quickly abandoned. This was about tradition, and even implying one of the invaders would make it to Kotahitanga was a heinous misdeed.

Signaling to each other that they were all ready, the four assassins adjusted their uniforms: the honor guard of the Chieftan. It had been nerve wracking these past few months playing the part, and if he was honest with himself, Hopukanga was looking forward to being done with it all. He flexed his wings one last time and strode out onto the balcony. In front of them, Nanakia was overlooking the town, preparing to make her grand address.

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Interlude: Prying Eyes
In Which Marks are not Forgotten

Tatati pulled her cloak tightly as she made the walk from Koka’s new medicine cabin to the village chief’s meeting. Apparently, one of the farscouts had found something, and they wanted Koka’s thoughts on it. Koka had become increasingly reclusive after his recovery, citing chronic pain from the amputation. Tatati suspected it was simply that he couldn’t stand the stares he received wherever he went at his lack of wings. She could hardly blame him, it was well into the warm season, and a full bodied cloak like she was wearing was clearly unnecessary. But she wished to avoid the looks just as much.

Skirting the main paths, she swept aside the cloth covering the doorway and entered into a room feeling much larger than it was for how few people were a part of this meeting. Chieftan Rango looked up from the table and saw her approach, his immediate understanding clear on his face. Tatati hoped this would be some trivial matter and she could recuse herself quickly. When the other elders parted to give her room, she spied what lay on the table and realized this was anything but trivial.

Splayed out on the table were several items she vaguely recognized. There were two curved pieces of metal that she thought the young human who had come to town had been seen placing on the feet of the pack animals. Beside them was a scrap of leather with a mangled buckle on one end and a case affixed to the other. And from the case had been pulled what to any eye was clearly a map. Or more accurately part of a map. Whatever had caused the case to come loose from its carrier had torn off a majority of the details. But what was there, even without fluency in their script, would decidedly narrow their search for this hidden village of medicine makers and earth tenders.

Rango explained to Tatati that he wished for her to go in Koka’s stead with the next farscouts, and granted her approval to make peaceful contact if the opportunity arose. Tatati gazed long and hard at the map, attempting to appear like she was memorizing it, or searching for some unnoticed detail. But in truth she was barely able to stand upright as her mind warred between crushing apprehension about spending that much time with other scouts, and renewed hope that her condition might be curable if they find them.

As she returned to the medicine tent, she was slightly surprised to see Koka outside waiting for her. When he saw her approach, he made a show of yelling at nearby kids that “My wings might be gone but if you put one more rock through my window, I’ll sting you just the same!” Tatati didn’t buy it for a second, but appreciated the gesture. As they walked inside past patient’s too sick or wounded to return to their own home just yet, she explained what Rango had revealed. Koka silently nodded and helped her pack for the trip. When she asked why he was bundling a long sleeved traveler’s robe instead of simple leathers, he turned and mused that perhaps the hidden village people would appreciate someone who wasn’t wearing armor to make the introductions. Tatati hugged the grumpy old wyvaran, ignoring his empty threats about old age and personal space.

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Interlude: Hangover
In Which We Look Elsewhere

Julius heaved. Or more accurately, the boat heaved. But the ramshackle sloop he’d chartered passage on had far more experience than he did on these open ocean waters, and if it was going to heave, clearly heaving was the thing to do and who was he to argue with it. His medical training told him it was a simple imbalance of internal fluids. His mixed elven blood told him he was above such displays. And his feet told him that despite the surroundings, they were firmly planted on solid wood. Sadly Julius could hear none of those internal monologues over his resounding headache.

The crew had celebrated in typical seafarer fashion after the harrowing battle with the sea monster by breaking open several barrels of rum. Julius, lost in the moment and excitement had joined right in. Too much it seemed. It was only now to his dismay he learned that of the bountiful and varied supplies they had purchased with their winnings from the “festival catch” had included not one single bean of coffee. At that moment he would have gladly traded his entire suture kit for even a lukewarm mug of java.

Sadly, that was not an option. Steeling himself against the sway, Julius went back below decks. his mercantile ability notwithstanding, his suture kit was sorely needed. The fight against the serpent had not been without injury. Nor for that matter had been the celebrations afterward. With a suppressed grin, Julius admitted the rag tag crew of the Chimera certainly weren’t what he expected.

At first he’d simply select the vessel that struck him least likely to ask questions about his destination or reason. But he quickly learned he was not the only person here who had that particular desire. And as it seemed his services were needed ere, perhaps he might see about staying on when next they make port. Provided they drastically reassess what constitutes vital provisions.

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Interlude: Mailcall
In Which We Peek Behind the Curtain

Dirk sat at his desk, grumbling at the apparently permanent source of paperwork that had become a depressingly significant portion of his day. Hearing the bell toll outside his window, he stood up, resolving to tackle it after he stretched his legs on the midday rounds. As he put his hat on and walked outside, he noticed a small cloud of dust on the road into town. Recalling what day it was, he headed out to greet the traveler. As usual, the carefree sound of whistling reached his ears before he could make out the driver.

Dirk didn’t recognize the whistler lass, a young one who must be new to this route. Judging by the parcels and packages adorning her cart, Leopold’s oddities had arrived in bulk. Dirk had no interest in those, Leopold had other channels he assumed if he wanted to bring questionable materials past his guard. What he searched for desperately was a package of unknown size or shape, but with a distinctive marking. His heart skipped a beat as he scanned twice and saw nothing, but he almost failed to hide his relief when she dismounted and he spied it strapped to the seat across from him, that same distinctive green twine.
After exchanging the usual pleasantries with the lass, granting her entry and lodging, Dirk plucked the small brown parcel from the seat. When she protested, he reassured her he knew who it was from, and where it was going. He was just as excited to receive it, and swore on his badge it would not be tampered with.

Drydia was behind the counter stacking clean glasses for the evening when Dirk walked in. Before he could say anything, she spied the parcel hanging from his fingers and shouted up the stairs for Louby to come down. The three of them eagerly gathered around a table before undoing the twine. Inside the straw packing lay a rusted pirate hook, encrusted with barnacles as well as a couple curiously purple sea shells. Dirk examined the curious hook while the worried parents eagerly read the exploits of their adventurous son. He didn’t pry overly much, but it would seem the wandering lizard warrior was an able mentor, if stubbornly brusque.

Drydia tenderly picked up the sea shells, and turned them over in her hands, wondering aloud if Abigail could make some earrings of them. Louby meanwhile pulled out a stool to reach above the bar and mount the hook on the wall of increasing oddities he’d received. The hook while noteworthy, was nothing compared to the three foot long barbed quill of some terrible beast his son had slain. So long as there were ears to listen in his bar, he promised himself he’d never stop telling his customers how proud he was of his son.

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Session 16
In Which the Open Road Beckons

As the party explored the strange gallery of mirrors, a growing feeling of dread consumed them. The scene playing out upon the animated glass mural seemed to imply that the “burning ones” mentioned in cryptic notes were the trapped souls of the Mahi-Tahi that had become entrapped in the Rentyllian family curse. Unlike the rest of the mirrors in the mansion, these held nothing but masses of hands clawing against the glass to get out. Therran became overwhelmed by the atmosphere and desperately tried to pick the lock, but they were sealed in and the door would not open.

As Waeslyn continued to stare at the moving stained glass landscape, he became increasingly hypnotized by the lights, and when he touched the point they were congregating at, the entire scene shattered outward. Along with the mirrors multitude of shards, the glass came together in the center of the room in the form of a towering ghostly titan.

The heroes sprang into action, and did battle with the angry Shattergeist. With every rapport of gunfire its attention was redirected to destroying the user of that most hated weapon in its eyes. The myriad surfaces of its body were in a state of constant flux reflecting the countless victims who had been slain by bullets, both colonial and Mahi-Tahi. The voices let out a terrible wail in unison, shaking the adventurers to their core, save Maarus who stood resolute in his determination to put these tortured spirits to rest.

The Shattergeist proved to be one of the most dangerous challenges the group had so far encountered on their journey. With each massive blow of it’s arms, jagged shards of glass tore at the intruders. Woomera exhausted her supply of thrown weapons and resolved to get in close to the monster, hoping her magical weapon would be more effective. After an initial shock that would have caused a malfunction save for his years of training, Waeslyn regained his composure and laid down suppressing fire from a distance. Maarus fanned the hammer of his blessed weapon, filling the screeching giant with holy shot. And Calder searched deep into the planes to call out to a spirit of light for help. The lantern archon’s illuminating presence weakened and disoriented the Shattergeist until it was finally brought crashing down.

Bloody, tired, and shaken, they witnessed the torches that had been burning with blood red light go out. In their smoke was dual representations of the many Mahi-Tahi whose souls had been held here. As they vanished, a blinding light consumed the group. They found themselves back at the entrance to the mansion, the doors to the outside world open to them. With relief and renewed energy, they all stepped back out into the sunlight, save one.

Therran had paused at the threshold, clearly unsure about proceeding. Waeslyn turned and Therran pointedly asked Waeslyn if it was by the wish of a Rentyllian that he leave the manor. As he stepped out, he revealed an old gunshot wound that faded into the light. As he took his first breath of fresh air in a long time, he fell to his knees and wept.

They returned weary but triumphant to the Rentyllian manor to inform Waeslyn’s father about what they had seen. He was not as startled as one might have expected, and instead set about trying to determine how to avert the issue repeating itself in the future. Woomera offered the services of a priest of MoeMare that she knew quite well, though admitted that contacting him may prove to be a daunting challenge in its own right.

As the party relaxed and restocked, they set about planning their next destination. The luxuries of city life were a poor substitute for the siren song of the open road. Plans were laid down for a possible stop over at a site to be built with both colonial and Mahi-Tahi citizens upon their return. And all too soon for his father’s tastes, Waeslyn and his fellow adventurers set off on the road once again, this time headed deep into the forest and one step closer to their dreams.

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Session 15
In Which the Darkness Comes to Light

As the party descended the second staircase, they once again emerged into winding corridors, much to their increasing dismay. They quickly arrived at a set of stairs more decorative in nature leading abruptly into the ceiling. Going around the curiosity, the party returned to a room they’d previously seen, the dining room, food still fresh upon the table. Confusion ensued as they were certain they had gone down two floors, and that some cruel trick of the manor was warping the building to torment them.

As they continued to wander the shifting halls, they were subjected to increasingly gruesome mockeries of life. Rugs that were as scabs covered wounds in the houses floor. Casks of aged wine held within them foul blood. Furniture was haphazardly and confusingly misused room after room. And as they pressed further inward, malevolent spirits began to hurl objects at them to deter them.

A particularly well locked door was unlocked by Therran to reveal a conference room, empty save for a fountain. Maarus’ keen eye spied something within the waters and he pulled out a small handheld glass. Calder’s examination revealed that the glass allowed the user to view invisible objects. An immediate test found a poltergeist hiding in the corner of the room; Woomera drove it off with her spear.

Once again a witching mirror was hidden around a corner and Calder fell prey to its enchanting powers. Caught in his reflection’s whims, he began to stab himself repeatedly until Woomera shattered the mirror. Calder seemed to have no recollection of what had occurred, and magically healed himself as the party pressed on.

A trophy room held each of their heads upon display, with golden filigree about the frame mounting Waeslyn’s head. Extremely disturbed by the morbid parody, the party made hasty exit from that room, save Calder. He stayed behind to see if there were any hidden treasures within his doppelganger, but found only dirt.

Past rooms containing increasingly poor choice of decor, the party entered into a room where everything had been affixed to the ceiling. Suspecting spirits at work, Woomera examined the room with the spirit glass and did in fact find a poltergeist perched upon a table suspended from the rafters. An extremely keen strike from her spear dispatched the foe, causing all the furniture to come crashing down at once. Thankful that they would not have to dodge any more tables, they pressed onward.

Next door, a statuary corridor awaited them. One statue in particular held a heart in its palm, and as the party tried to skirt past it, the heart seemed to resonate with those walking past. Gathering strength and life, it animated and assaulted the group. Taking heavy punishment with it’s marble form, it was finally stopped when it’s bloated heart was revealed inside its chest and a crack shot from Waeslyn destroyed it.

A bedside table lay at the end of a short hallway with a desperate warning scrawled on paper. The spirit glass revealed a hidden quill and ink, which the party tried to use to communicate with the force animating the objects. It dispensed cryptic warnings before running out of paper, only adding to the confusion.

Many windows were found as they wandered the bloody halls. Each of which seemed to be facing out of one of the towers on the corner of the house from the highest point, despite them having descended multiple flights of stairs. Breaking them destroyed the illusion and showed only brick and mortar behind them. Dashing hopes of an easy escape they began to ignore the windows fairly quickly.

Methodically reexamining rooms they had passed through before, they began to attempt to dismantle many of the enchantments presented to them. The ethereal musicians in the dance hall were silenced, causing the dancers to depart. The throne of thirsty boNes was doused in holy water, burning away the spirits within.

Once again the party came to the long dark hallway that they had seen before. Mustering every last ounce of courage, they moved down the ominous hallway. Behind an ornate door was a room dancing with reflected lights. Flanking an ornate stained glass window, two torches burned bright red. Marble statues stood at regular interval about the room holding up mirrors. An almost palpable dread washed over them as the door they had walked through slammed shut behind them.

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