Aeryth

Bound by Death
An incident in the woods

Date: Petalspread 9, 1098 IR (Imperial Reckoning)
Location: The Weald, The Duchy of Coryn, Southeast of the town of Drakesbury

On a bright spring day, a party from the school at Sunfire Abbey sets out deep into the Weald for a lesson in herbalism. The students are around sixteen years of age, on the verge of adulthood, in their last year at the school for most of them. They are a precociously suave Human boy named Samael, a curious Elf girl named Holly, an angry Half-Orc boy named Ira, an apparently Human boy named Xook, and a very pretty Human girl named Lorelei. Their teacher is Brother Jerome an elderly cenobite from the Abbey with his young Deva assistant Oris. Accompanying the little party is Wil, a lay servant from the abbey, wearing a red leather jack and armed with a stout oaken club.

The day is pleasant, the first day of true spring after the cold rains of Greentide have given way to the warm clear days of Petalspread. The small band come across a grove of hawthorn trees in full bloom, the white flowers brilliant in the sunlight. The shattering of the mood is abrupt and ugly as the point of a spear emerges from the center of Wil’s chest, leaving him staring down at it in incomprehension. As Wil’s form slumps, misshapen figures burst from the woods, savage creatures with greyish green skin, course black hair and sharp tusks – bloodthirsty Orcs.

Brother Jerome urges the children to fly, and he too takes an orc spear through the heart. Ira is the first to move, drawing a pair of daggers and launching himself at the nearest Orc with a furious growl. Not to be outdone, Holly pulls the spear from Wil’s back and rushes to his side.

Xook slips behind a tree and his features flow and change, taking on the semblance of an Orc. He runs towards one of the orcs and grunts emphatically, but incoherently. As the other orc looks at him perplexed he finds a Xook’s dagger planted in his belly.

As an Orc advances on Samael and Lorelei, Samael stands rigid and suddenly blinding light bursts from his fingertips, striking an Orc and arcing to strike another. Another Orc approaches from behind and Samael turns and light bursts from his fingertips again, stunning but not killing the orc. As an act of spite, the Orc’s axe cleaves open Lorelei’s skull before more searing light engulfs him and burns him to a cinder.

The serene expression on Oris’ face does not change as he gestures gracefully and sudden thunder erupts from his hand to take a pair of Orcs, hurling them backwards. A few moments later the battle is over. The bodies of dead orcs lie at the feet of the bloodied Holly and Ira, and others lie in smoldering piles.

As the small group stands there stunned and panting, grieving for their fallen friends, a group of Bounders, the Ducal boundary watch, comes upon them too late. The Bounders escort the students and their teaching assistant back to the Abbey, and take up the bodies of their slain comrades, lying covered in white petals beneath a hawthorn tree.. The Orcs, they strip and leave for the wolves.

Later that evening, after their wounds have been tended to, they slip out one by one and end up in the Orc’s Head, a nearby pub. Little is said as they drink their ale, but the look in their eyes has changed, an unspoken bond forged in death and danger.

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The Hawthorn Society
Eight years later

Date: Petalspread 9, 1106 Imperial Reckoning
Time: Around Vespers
Location: The Orc’s Head Inn, Abbey Foregate, Drakesbury

As the bells of Sunfire Abbey rang, calling the brothers and sisters to Vespers, Samael sat at a table in the corner of the taproom of the Orc’s Head in, drinking the potent, smokey uisge beatha distilled by the proprietor’s father. He glowered morosely at the amber whisky in the cup, only looking up as Oris slid out a chair at the table and took a seat. A look of concern touched the eyes of the Deva’s face, but did not otherwise disturb its serene stillness.

“Is something wrong, Samael Kalkin?’ the Deva asked. The human shook his head and waved vaguely.

“It’s of no consequence.” he said. Even if Oris had been inclined to pry, further discussion was forestalled by the arrival of Holly and Ira, the elf and half orc taking their own seats at the table.

“The hawthorns are blooming.” said Holly as three white blossoms fell from her cloak to the table. This seemingly innocuous comment was greeted by a reflective silence from the company. Throwing off the mood, Holly asked, “So, who do you think Xook will be this time?” Their speculation lightened the mood, and a moment later, Xook joined them in the persona of Jonathan, the human bard.

“So, what’s new?” Jonathan/Xook asked, looking at Ira and Holly, now themselves part of the Duke’s Boundary guard.

“Well, saw a pig with six legs.” said Holly.

“Now that was a lot of ham.” Ira commented in his low gravelly voice. Holly rolled her eyes and continued.

“And one with two heads.”

“The worst was the one with the head at each end.” Ira said, “We couldn’t figure how it…”

“Anyway,” Holly interrupted, “a lot of strange things going on.”

At that moment the night was shattered by a long, drawn-out scream, bloodcurdling in it’s terror and pain as if a man were having his soul ripped from him.

As the band rushed out into the Foregate, another scream shattered the night, this time that of a woman, ululating in terror. They rounded a corner to a street beside the inn, heading towards the source of the screams, passing townsfolk fleeing in the opposite direction, and an otherworldly sight met their eyes.

Floating in the air were three balls about two feet in diameter seeming to be made up of masses of translucent tendrils, wavering in an unseen breeze. On the ground were a man and a woman, spasming in what could only be described as a seizure as two more of the creatures or objects rested on their chest. As the creatures seemed to become less translucent and more solid, bodies stilled.

“Fell Taints!” Ira said, identifying the creatures.

“Creatures of madness from Outside the World.” Holly said, “What are they doing here?” She and Ira moved forward to engage the creatures while Samael, Oris hung back. Jonathan spanned his crossbow and fitted a quarrel to the string. As they engaged the creatures on the bodies of the man and the woman, Ira and Holly’s weapons slashed into the tendrils, but the creatures, finished feeding and rose up off the bodies, becoming as translucent and insubstantial as the others drifting slowly towards them.

One of the creatures brushed Holly with its tendrils and she felt a wave of searing pain flare up her nerves. Her own weapons seemed to pass through the Taint like so much vapor. Oris raised a hand and a white, phantasmal shape flashed from his fingers towards one of the Taints, the creature finally reacting, its tendrils shuddering in pain. Swirling lights flashed from the Samael’s dagger, his bolt too, striking one of the Taints, causing it to shudder. With a snatch of rhyme, Jonathan wrapped a jinx around the end of his quarrel before shooting another of the Taints.

A slash for Ira’s sword, even though it did not seem to do much to the Taint, caused one of them to vanish. As the party hit their stride, more of them vanished. Holly, besieged by two of the things panted in near exhaustion, but a quick battle chant from Jonathan sent new energy surging through her limbs.

As the last of the Taints vanished, three more drifted out of the windows of a house nearby. Two of them moved towards Ira and Holly, and the third, floated up higher and flashed three times and sent bolts of psychic energy, sending pain into Jonathan and Oris, but Samael shurgged it off.

“Where are these things coming from?” Holly yelled. Quickly now, two of the creatures vanished under bolts from the magic users and slashes of sword and spear. The third floated up and out of sight, over the roof. Now near the house that the creatures had come from, they heard the sound of a man sobbing and moaning. All eyes turned to the door, and they entered cautiously.

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How Times Change

As time progressed and the members of the Hawthorne Society grew in power and in reputation, certain members found other goals and objectives that were not in keeping with the primary objectives of the society. Because of this, Sir Samael decided to recruit new members to replace them.

Xook decided to focus on the family business and endeavored to pursue objectives closer to Drakesbury and building his information network in the surrounding areas. While Sir Samael greatly appreciated Xook’s contributions to the society, he decided to look for a healer that could tend his wounds in battle instead. As luck would have it, the Society’s reputation had spread to the point that adventurers that wished to prove themselves made their way to the doors of the Hawthorne Manor House. Elaine Benoit was one such person. She was a promising young healer and while she was a little to intelligence for Samael’s liking, she would do just fine.

Holly disappeared rather mysteriously. She was prone to long absences with no explanation, so no one was surprised when no one could find her at first, but after a month or so, people began to talk. Sir Samael was unable to find a suitable replacement for Holly, so he had to settle for a large oaf named Granite. Granite isn’t very smart, but he has no problem standing in front of Samael and that suits his needs.

Oris stated that he felt a need to pursue more spiritual goals. So on short notice, he packed a few meager belongings, leaving his impressive collection of ritual books to his potential successor and left for a sabbatical. It was common knowledge that Oris was a spiritual being, so this surprised no one, but there have been a few very disturbing rumors of him that make their way back to the society about Oris, hookers and blow… Oris leaving didn’t bother Samael one bit; he always thought Oris was a bit to much of a “do-gooder”, and was glad to be free of the Deva. Finding a replacement was easy, but unfortunate. The duke had a pet wizard that he used as a bounty hunter of sorts. He was a skilled wizard to be sure, but the drawback was that the wizard was thoroughly insane. So when the duke died and his son, the king-to-be, sent Tim the wizard to the Hawthorne Society to assist them, it could have been politically disastrous not to accept the addled old Genasi.

And so it came to pass that the only active members of the Hawthorne Society were Sir Samael the human sorcerer and Ira the half-orc ranger.

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The World According to Tim

The World According to Tim…

It was a devastating loss for Tim when the Duke was killed. It was the Duke that found Tim after the tragic events that led to the destruction of his previous party and the Duke that took Tim under his wing ever since.

After the Duke died, Tim wasn’t sure what to do with himself. He had worked for the Duke for years as a sort of royal bounty hunter and he never had much interaction with the Duke’s son.

Tim knew that it didn’t help matters at all that he was commonly considered to be insane. While it is true that the entire world did seem a little foggy to Tim, the fact of the matter is that it couldn’t be farther from the truth though he could see how others might think he was insane. Tim had tried in the past, without success, to explain to others that he was one of only a few people that could see these giant rodents because of his finely tuned arcane perception, his connection with other planes and his brush in the past with these nasty invaders. It would be simple for Tim to leave this forsaken plane for a more conducive elemental plane, but after what these invaders did to his party so many years ago, he vowed he would do everything in his power to stop them.

Luckily, Tim was not the only one that was on to them… There were others that knew what was going on; plenty of them. Tim was part of a powerful, but secretive group whose goal was to fight these invaders and prevent them from infesting this plane and taking it over. The group was so secret; they didn’t even know each other. They had the means to communicate silently so Tim was able to hear them in his head. Tim hasn’t quite mastered this “trick” yet and unfortunately he often answers back out loud and catches the attention of those around him.

Despite the challenges, Tim had enjoyed a small amount of success in the past: There was the time in the Arcanum library Tim cornered on of them and blew the hell out of it. It was then he discovered that the liberal application of energies from his native plane could go a long way towards destroying these creatures. This didn’t earn him any friends at the library and now there were apprentices following him around every time he entered the Arcanum. One day he would show them…

Tim’s life changed after the newly crowned king assigned him to assist the Hawthorne Society in an urgent mission. The Hawthorne Society was a group of young but skilled heroes that had seen a great deal of recent success in aiding the kingdom. Tim knew the assignment was probably just a ploy to get him out of Drakesbury after a rash of recent fires that were falsely attributed (for the most part) to Tim, but it was just as well as Tim had a dream that his path to stopping the invaders was best served by joining the group.

It had been a long time since Tim had been a member of a group. This caused a small amount of consternation from the party as a result of Tim’s predilection to blow things up. Inevitably, a portion of the party would be included in a blast here or there and they would get all sensitive about it. Part of this was the fault of the block head appropriately named Granite. Instead of standing in front of Tim like he should, he had a way of running out in the middle of the biggest group of enemies he could find. Naturally, Tim would want to blow them up and sometimes Tim failed to resist the urge to include some of his party in the blast.

There is another caster named Samael in the party. Tim suspects Samael of being part the effort to stop the invader infestation. Tim has no proof, but he has witnessed Samael talking to himself on numerous occasion which is an obvious sign of Samael receiving information and orders from other members of the secretive organization. Samael is is a good guy to have on the team. He blows things up well and aside from being a bit of a dandy, he can hold his own. (Sometimes known as “The bossy one” or “Sir Fancy pants”)

There is also a healer named Haiyou who always looks at Tim sorta funny, so he has avoided her for the most part. Tim thinks the half orc (named Ira, aka “Sir Slicey” or “The ugly one”) in the party might be a little insane. One time Tim blew him up (just a little bit), and Tim could swear he saw the orc smile just a little bit.

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