Tor's Gate

5 - Harrow
Poison and goblins, prefacing the arrival of a last unlikely hero.

Late Malader, 2718: In an effort to heal the breach between her and Par, Vorzheva asks him to help her pick out a new sword. She wants to broaden her range with a larger, heavier blade, opting for a broadsword that Par helps her choose. (She doesn’t keep it long though, as a few fights demonstrate that it just doesn’t suit her style.)

Halwain comes by the Tattered Gryphon in the evening. He says that he must go to Harrow to see about some kind of disease or poisoning that is afflicting the town, which lies a few days to the west. He asks Vorzheva, Par and Zath (Hope isn’t feeling well) to accompany him, since there have been reports of trouble with goblins in the hills along the road west.

The next morning they set out, accompanied by an acolyte from Halwain’s church, and Mallon, the messenger from Harrow that brought the troubling news. The first night is quiet, except for Par and Halwain choking on Zath’s extra spicy cooking (though Vorzheva is delighted by it).

The next day they are attacked by goblins before they reach Harrow. They fight them off, though most of the goblins flee, Vorzheva does take three goblin ears to collect the bounty on them as well as a few silver pikes and copper helms from their pockets and a decent enough shortsword for her personal use.

Halwain, Zath, Vorzheva and Par head upstream from Harrow the next day. Scouting ahead, Vorzheva finds some goblin sentries. She and Zath try to take them out quietly with a sleeping powder grenade and are only partially successful. They give chase to the remaining sentry and run into an ogre guarding the entrance to the caves where the goblins are digging. After slaying the ogre, the group makes a concerted assault on the caves.

They manage to get pretty far into the cave before they are attacked by the first wave of goblins. The adventurers fight their way through them and track the survivors to a closed door. Uncertain how many goblins are on the other side of the door, and already a little tired, the group considers their options. When asked if she feels up to pressing the attack, Vorzheva states she doesn’t want to give the goblins time to dig in or get more reinforcements.

The group breaks down the door and begin to cut their way through the ranks of goblins arrayed against them.
It is difficult business and they are down to their last strength before Vorzheva disarms the goblin chief and forces the remaining goblins to retreat, and swear they will never return. Par is badly injured by goblin archers, who managed to hide in the back ranks, and with the Goreadon unconscious the group is unable to exact more favorable terms.

Halwain and Zath determine that the goblins digging tunnels and pouring the dirt into the stream is the cause of the selux poisoning, though the goblin shaman seems to have been deliberately extracting the stuff from the tunnel walls to add to the stream as well.

Vorzheva, her small frame belying her true strength, carries Par back to Harrow, where he is tended to by Halwain and Theska. Vorzheva hovers around outside, feeling personally responsible for the wounds he’s suffered in the attack. He is back on his feet in a few days, but she can tell he’s troubled.

Early Eledra, 2718: With the constable and a few men they return to the goblin cave to make sure they have cleared out for good. The goblins have indeed gone, leaving their dead behind. Vorzheva, Par, Halwain and Zath had slain 30 goblins plus their ogre ally. The constable pays the bounties on all of them and has the men seal up the cave.

The four of them remain in Harrow while Halwain tends to the last of the poisoning victims and makes sure the stream in the north of town is once again safe to drink from. Par is somewhat morose; he doesn’t feel he did very well against the goblins and mentions he’ll have to atone for his lack of ability once they return to Tor’s Gate. Vorzheva argues that the four of them killed 30 goblins — how much better could he expect to do? — but to little avail. He is not very responsive to her efforts to cheer him up, though she is eventually able to convince him to join her for a drink at the local pub, hoping that the fact that the townsfolk regard the four of them as heroes will have some positive effect on his mood.

“Listen, Par,” — she puts her hand on his shoulder to make him stop and listen to her on their way to the pub — “we were all on our last reserves of strength in that fight and maybe we shouldn’t have pressed on to that last fight at all. We both know that if those archers had had the intestinal fortitude to stand toe-to-toe with you, you would have had the better of them, but there’s little enough you can do against cowards who stand behind ranks of their fellows and shoot at you. The only reason the archers didn’t shoot me down as well is that I’m a much smaller target and harder to hit over the backs of their comrades’ heads.

“If you have to blame someone, blame me. I should have known better than to shoot my mouth off around a bunch of men about how I felt like I could fight some more, when we were all pretty beat up already. You couldn’t let yourselves be outdone by a girl.

“And I know you don’t believe in Luck, but that doesn’t prevent Her from taking an interest in you, whether for good or ill. If it did, people would be a lot more inclined to trust in Fate and not go praying for Luck to help them out.

“So please stop beating yourself up about this. It won’t help for you to lose confidence in yourself, and it’s breaking my heart to see you so down and not be able to do anything about it.” She gives his shoulder a squeeze and lets him go.

He proffers a weak smile and doesn’t say much, but his posture improves.

At the pub, they are surprised to see Zath and Halwain already there with Hope, who had come to check up on them since she expected them to be back to Tor’s Gate by now. Hope has acquired an admirer here as well: Aldus Lankit, a young man perhaps seventeen years old at the most. He has a dog he calls Raffi, and seems very intent on killing goblins. Aldus explains that he’s from an even smaller town called Coldmere, which is further west, and his father was killed by goblins there not too long ago. He wants to see the goblin cave so he can try to track the remaining warriors and the goblin chief that escaped to be sure they do not cause trouble again. Par and Halwain only reluctantly agree when they get him to promise that he won’t slay the goblin women and children who were with them. Aldus seems to have been in a few fights already, despite his youth, but Vorzheva supposes they will find out tomorrow how well he handles himself.

Vorzheva takes Hope aside to tell her what happened in the goblin cave and about Par’s moodiness. Vorzheva feels that Hope will probably understand him better and may have better luck talking to him. Hope says she will see what she can do.

Aldus turns out to be as good as his word when they go to track the goblins the next day. He has no problem finding and following their tracks, which lead into the Grey Hills, away from any towns or roads. However, he also finds some bugbear tracks heading straight for the White Road (between Harrow and Tor’s Gate) that were made only yesterday. They are probably planning to waylay travelers, and may be the ones responsible for the trouble along the road that they had on their way to Harrow some days ago.

They follow the bugbears hoping to prevent any mischief. Aldus estimates that there are at least a half dozen of them. The emphasis should have been on the “at least” part. When they finally catch up to the bugbears they end up fighting nine of them, all of whom are big and tough. Everyone is pretty seriously injured before they finally kill the last of them. Vorzheva’s face is badly slashed by a bugbear spear, and she is very glad Par and Halwain are both there to provide healing prayers.

All in all it ends up being a fairly profitable trip, at least monetarily, thanks to bounties and plunder. Zath cooks bugbear remains for dinner that evening, though no one but him is willing to eat any. Vorzheva abandons her plan to have him cook exotic dishes at the Gryphon.

Aldus accompanies the group back to Tor’s Gate, paying particular attention to Hope along the way. Vorzheva asks him what brings him to Tor’s Gate, “besides Hope’s smile, that is.” He says that he has nothing keeping him in Coldmere. His father was the huntsman for the low governor there, but was killed by goblins not too long ago. His father wanted him to get an education, so he is heading for a big city to find something called a university, where people go to learn stuff. Vorzheva tells him that everyone she ever knew learned by living and doing and she’s never heard of this university thing before. Aldus says that it is pretty expensive, so he will be looking for ways to earn money for a while.

They arrive safely back in Tor’s Gate the next day, where Hope tells the tale of their exploits against the goblins and bugbears to the patrons of the Tattered Gryphon.

Characters Introduced: Mallon, Aldus Lankit, Raffi

4 - Freelance Enforcement

Vorzheva decides to take a night off away from the Gryphon where she can attract some male attention, with Zath along to provide extra backup but no sense of a “chaperone.” The two head to the White Chimera, an establishment a little rougher around the edges. There they strike up a conversation with a lone bladesman who has an interesting sword: Ashta, a human warrior who has spent some time in the drakhan homeland of the Dragonskull Isles. He and Zath hit it off well, and Zath participates in a drakhan custom by adding a pinch of burned herbs to their drinks.

While Vorzheva’s getting another round of drinks, she overhears some men speaking in a gutter-cant, planning to waylay Ashta and steal his sword. She returns to her drinking companions with the news, and the three decide to turn the tables.

The thieves use a prostitute to try to lure Ashta into an alleyway so they can jump him. The ploy works well enough that they are able to put him out with one of those sleeping powder grenades that Valmer had used. Vorzheva fights off a dark-skinned, slender swordsman with a Kheran cast to his features. Though she gives as good as she takes, he manages to cut her up pretty badly before he escapes. They managed to capture the prostitute, but the other thief also gets away.

The prostitute is unwilling to talk until they assure her they will kill the thieves, as they had apparently threatened and intimidated her into working for them. She tells Zath, Vorzheva and Ashta what she knows, though it isn’t much. There are three thieves; Ryson, the one who hired her; the dark one Vorzheva had fought; and a dwarf with terrible burn scars on his face, who seems to frighten her the most, but whom they hadn’t seen. She says the thieves have a safe house that they call the Cold House, but she doesn’t know where it is (Vorzheva speculates that it may be near an ice seller). Vorzheva gives the girl some money for her trouble and makes sure she isn’t followed when she leaves.

The three of them set out for the Hall of Swords, where Vorzheva shamefacedly asks if Par will heal her. He seems upset that she is out getting into fights without him and not telling him what is going on, but heals her anyway. After looking in a few likely places for the thieves and turning up nothing, the group retires for the night.

In the morning, Vorzheva brings Zath and Ashta to see Roarsh the Bald to find out where they might have gotten those sleeping powder grenades. Roarsh says he makes them, but you have to be a licensed bounty hunter to purchase them. Describing the thieves to him, he recognizes Kewish, Vorzheva’s dark-skinned opponent, as a bounty hunter that used to buy from him, but hasn’t been by in some time. When they ask how one goes about finding a bounty hunter, Roarsh tells them that the guard posts usually keep a list of names and how to contact them. Becoming a licensed bounty hunter entails going down to the courthouse, filling out some papers and paying 100 gold crowns for the license.

The three of them consult the bounty hunter list at the guard post nearest the Tattered Gryphon, where they talk to Constable Querth. Kewish is still on the list and the place to leave a message for him is indeed very near an ice seller’s place.

Vorzheva and Zath head over to the courthouse to become licensed bounty hunters. Ashta then hires them (for a copper each) to track down the thieves, so it’s all official. Zath sends a message to Kewish about a potential bounty to lure them out. They set the meeting for that evening in the room across from Vorzheva’s at the Tattered Gryphon. When they show up Zath, Vorzheva and Ashta jump them. The dwarf panics when confronted with one of Zath’s fire spells, and is dispatched shortly afterward. Ryson uses a sleep grenade to knock Vorzheva out as she chases him down the stairs, but her fans among the clientele come to her rescue and capture him for her. Kewish surrenders to Ashta.

The three turn Ryson and Kewish over to Constable Querth. Vorzheva points out that he may want to question where they got their sleeping powder grenades from, since Roarsh is the only licensed dealer in Tor’s Gate and the ones they were using were not his work. Returning to the Gryphon, Vorzheva buys her patrons a round of drinks by way of thanks and relates the entire tale to them, proudly showing off her pewter bounty hunter’s badge. She also gives Osgrod some money to cover Zath’s fire damage, but he doesn’t seem too upset. As her reputation grows, so does the Gryphon’s.

The next day, Vorzheva goes to apologize to Par and explain why she didn’t want to get him involved. At first he doesn’t seem to think it’s any big deal to make enemies in the local underworld. He gives some ground when Vorzheva explains that he’d get a knife in the back when he least expects it rather than a fair fight from them, but is still a ways from chastened.

Characters Introduced: Ashta, Ryson, Kewish

3 - Five Bloods
Corpses are missing their hands, but the hands make a repeat appearance.

Early Malader, 2718: Some idle time passes. Vorzheva decides to purchase a horse, and Par introduces her to the dealer Ruul Pakshrin, who sells her the mare Lumbri. Halwain brings a pair of novices from his temple to the Tattered Gryphon, and Vorzheva debuts a new dance for the occasion based on Vayani courtship dances (one that later becomes known as “the Scandal Dance”). She ends up in Halwain’s lap at the end of the dance, embarrassing him, but claiming it’s to make him look good in front of his friends.

On their way back to the temple, Halwain and his two friends discover a body. The victim was apparently strangled by one hand, then had his throat cut to drain away the blood and his own hands removed. Investigation over the evening and the next morning reveals this is the ninth to die in this fashion, though the first two were stabbed rather than strangled. The Thehtites from the Temple Under the Mountain have done what divinations they can, revealing that “a Southlander is in danger.”

Halwain brings the news to the Gryphon at noon, where he meets the others (Vorzheva returning from the first of many visits to Mother Farla’s orphanage). Deducing that this means someone from Ibrydos, the group assumes the target is Marib-abn-Li. Going to her house, they find she’s already been forewarned, and her wards have destroyed animated hands that attempted to find their way inside. She agrees to send for them later.

As the group waits at the Gryphon, a messenger arrives to tell them that Marib-abn-Li has been attacked again. It’s a trap, however, and when Vorzheva and Hope go to their rooms for their gear, Vorzheva is attacked by a small swarm of severed, animated hands. They destroy the hands (Zath nearly igniting the inn) and intercept two suspicious men watching from outside, slaying one and capturing the other. The culprits turn out to be members of the Five Blood Society.

The corpse of the dead cultist is taken to the Thehtites, who coerce information from its animus. He names his master as Tairg, Slayer of Mothers, says he makes his home among the roots of the rose, and asserts he is guarded by the faithful, that which was taken, and that which was sent.

They spend the evening investigating, and find a suspicious house downhill from the House of the Rose brothel. The contents include some traces of ritual work, and the landlord is able to describe the renter. With the help of gate guards, the group tracks their quarry to a farm in the nearby town of Lockstone.

The infiltration isn’t quite a success; fire mages are not terribly stealthy. Speed prevails, however, and Vorzheva, Hope and Zath are able to cut down Tairg while Par and Halwain struggle with the hideous snouted thing, “That which was Sent.” Zath finally burns the summoned entity to death. A crate of animated hands is dispatched shortly thereafter. The group takes a few of the priest’s spoils (including his chainmail, which Hope dons), leaves his money with the farmer family to assist with damages, and goes back to collect their reward.

Characters Introduced: Ruul Pakshrin, Salder, Mirin, Mother Farla, Madam Amberyll, Tairg

Characters Departed: Tairg

2 - The Funeral
A funeral is held in which the recently departed is not the only one needing to be put to rest.

Early Spring 2718 (CE): A little over a week later, an older man by the name of Kalyan approaches Vorzheva and Hope. He is looking for an honor guard for his former employer’s funeral cortege. He doesn’t expect trouble, but the deceased (Payal Chalkspar) asked to be buried in the family cemetery, which requires some travel out of town. He offers 20 crowns a head for an honor guard of four.

Vorzheva, Hope, Zath and Par all accept. Only two other mourners make the trip: Selik and Forshan, also former servants. Also attending are three workers to dig the grave, and the priest Halwain Escrit, a devotee of the Higher Nine who will conduct the ceremony.

The trip itself is uneventful; the service, however, is not. Animated animal skeletons (the most dangerous, a boar’s) come burrowing out of the freshly-dug grave and attack. Halwain notes the bones were gnawed clean.

They retreat with the mourners to Chalkspar’s home, now belonging to one Brest Ilvar, who plays host to them that evening. In the morning, the five (the honor guard plus Halwain) return to the grave site, and squeeze through the tunnels farther into the mountain. The tunnels lead to an old mausoleum buried deep, one that Halwain translates as belonging to a warrior called Kuli Kavan. They fight a variety of walking dead — human skeletons and zombies, and a ghoul king wearing Kuli Kavan’s golden death mask. The fight is dramatic, but the undead are laid back to rest, and the death mask restored to Kuli Kavan’s sarcophagus. Halwain reconsecrates the ground, and Payal Chalkspur’s funeral concludes.

Some time passes, during which Parmoran begins teaching Vorzheva to read and Hope to better her sword skills.

Characters Introduced: Halwain Escrit, Kalyan, Selik, Forshan.

1 - The Menagerie
A sideshow proves more dangerous than expected, but so do its customers.

Shortly after Icemelt, 2718 CE: Par wakes Vorzheva early to go see a menagerie outside the western gate. A variety of beasts are on display. One — a “Devil-Ogre” from Toquay — inconveniently breaks its bonds and is loosed. Par and Vorzheva put it down with the aid of a hooded magician. Afterwards, introductions are made: to Zath Osath and Hope Wainwright.

It turns out the ogre was deliberately loosed, by a girl attached to the show. It was a distraction so she could flee. The adventurers track down the girl, Trileene, and hear the story of her abuse at the hands of the caravan-master Valmer. She explains that there are eight guards, three of whom might be dangerous (Trig, Sorco and Vesh). The adventurers lure out Vesh, who was following Trileene, and capture him. Then they head to the menagerie and shut it down.

The menagerie contained a badly treated hunting cat, which is taken to Wolfchapel; a malicious huge spider that must be put down; and a plant that drinks alcohol and changes color (which Zath trades to Osgrod for three months of room and board). Zath keeps Valmer’s carnival wagon. Trileene stays on at the Tattered Gryphon as an entertainer. Vesh is turned in. And the group runs into a court wizard who acts nothing like a court wizard.

Characters Introduced: Zath Osath, Hope Wainwright, Trileene, Valmer, Trig, Sorco, Vesh, Kallin Longpaw, Mace, Constable Querth

Characters Departed: Valmer, Trig, Sorco

0 - Preludes
A tiefling comes to Tor's Gate.

Mender 2717 CE: Vorzheva parts company with a caravan in Lockstone, meets Sidelle. The two are entangled, so to speak, in an affair against a botanomancer. They set off for Tor’s Gate, and there’s an interlude at the unfinished Carler Tezzun’s Inn. Thimber Tallstalk, aka Tallshanks, aids them with goblin-trouble from the Foulbriar. They rescue a number of captured men from a goblin camp. On the last leg of the road to the city, an ogre blocks their path but is made to flee.

On the 10th of Mender, they arrive in Tor’s Gate. Vorzheva earns a room at the Tattered Gryphon by ousting the would-be lute-plucker “Sir” Luuvar Dialdon, and meets the sellsword Teric. This causes some trouble, and Dialdon eventually pays others to steal her violin. His mischief is undone, though.

Over the winter, Teric moves on and Vorzheva goes to the Hall of Swords to learn a new form of swordfighting. She is given to the care of one Parmoran, which will prove entirely more significant than anyone suspects.

Characters Introduced: Vorzheva, Sidelle, Thimber Tallstalk, Luuvar Dialdon, Osgrod, Rahani Marib-abn-Li, Roarsh the Bald, Hevark Goldhammer, Teric, Slorn One-Eye, Velanya, Parmoran, Tierkarone


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