Things have been lurking in the shadows, watching, plotting, scheming, preparing an army in the Old Ways of the past. We speak of the demonic cult of Ordet, of Dimitri Von Raven and his undead horde, and of whatever sinister presence lurks in the gloom (and up the referees’ sleeves). And for once the adventurers had had enough.
So instead of waiting for the storm to hit, Gaalen Iskarshrynn decided it was time to strike first, and gathered together a group of hardy adventurers at a small village overlooking the Isle of Souls to strike into enemy territory in the Old Ways between the planes.
The adventurers that joined him in the snows of Deepwinter were:
- Captain-General Catherine Brack-on-Hill if the Berwickshire Medium Infantry;
- Ranger Ned of the Scouts;
- Huntsmaster Lucy Ashworth and Forester Rowan Tait-of-Amblevale;
- Master Arthur Lightfoot of the School of Demonology; Master Johnny Test and Gaalen Iskarschrynn of the School of Thaumaturgy;
- Squire Revan of the Knightly Black Order;
- Defender Lucius Aquarius Rhade of Vleybor; High Mother Anne Turner and Brother Thomas Charnock of Longstor;
It began simply enough – bringing members of the party up to speed with the nature of their plan, the enemies they could be facing and other bits of information that may or may not be important as well as distributing a number of potions amongst the party to fortify their will against the forces of Ordet.
This was the plan – to enter one of the Old Ways that had been perverted to the taint of Sharda by the presence of Ordet in a small “pocket” between Arda and Sharda, find the demonologist RedFang, gather intelligence and materials from the enemy and pop as many of the demonic forces they could before returning home. It was going to be dangerous. They could all die in the spaces between the planes. But no one turned away.
So they set out, heading towards the village where Ned was sure there was a way into the Old Ways – created during the Great Spell at the time of the last Axirian invasion – but the village seemed too quiet even for the winter season. At the centre of the village were a group of people who seemed understandably wary … until one of them went away to fetch a weapon and attacked the Forester and Longstorian priest who queried him about it. At this the others began to fight back and soon the adventurers were encircled with the demons riding the skin of the people snarling that they had been invited and taunting the adventurers. But, as Ned hurriedly cast a ritual on the closed fae portal, the enemy backed off and the adventurers were thrown into the other place. Those carrying fae items writhed with pain at the forced entry into what had once been of fae, whilst those carrying key-stones were wounded – causing the general to fall to the ground bleeding from the body thanks to the innocuous ring tucked in her satchel.
As people made their preparations to advance further into the bridge between Arda and Sharda, Rowan and Catherine had a quiet chat about the ring and what it might be required for, before the party set off following Ned. They fought their way through several waves of demons and possessed cultists before they came to a break in the path.
The metaphor of a bridge had been used to describe the place they were going to – with the apex of the bridge closest to Fae or Sharda depending on where the Old Way led. The closer to the apex of the bridge, the closer to the other place and closer to the rules that existed in that place, but like any old bridge there were likely to be cracks or holes or crumbling pieces. Except, rather than falling into water, the unfortunately soul would fall into the void from whence none return.
Several large holes diverted the adventurers up a slope – avoiding smaller holes, onto another path. The Captain-General’s foot slipped into one of the holes, her shield falling on another and Rowan – standing between the Kharachian and the Vleyborian, turned to grab her by the hand and haul her friend out of the Void before it claimed her. The shield was gone – cracked in two – so for the rest of the mission Catherine fought with Rowan’s shield and all were more than a littler wary of the cracks in the snow underfoot.
More demons, with some of their larger brethren, and a small scuffle at the edge of a small diversion off the path led the adventurers across a “rickety” bridge up to an old ruin filled with whispers of knowledge for knowledge. Having obtained what Gaalen needed from that place, the party quickly returned to the main path, made some preparations then continued on their way.
They encountered many ‘packs’ of demons who cast their foul powers upon the party or commanded members to turn against their fellows, but most fell to sharpened blades or to the Huntsmaster’s Demonsbaned axe. They came across those that can cling to the shadows, one man who gave up his soul to Ordet to become a powerful demon, and a strange darkness that swept across the party – spreading blindness and fear at the voices whispering in the ears of the party.
Weapons were sharpened, blessed, drawn and used to fight off the tainted beasts and the front line rotated around to keep those actively hunting the demons fresh, but the party pulled together to keep their fellows on their feet with bandages and alchemy.
Then they reached the apex of the bridge, where the ogre RedFang was bound to a tree with items scattered around him – a conduit of all the Shardan forces bleeding into the place between realms. Fighting off the demons that came hunting the party, interfering with their plans and breaking the hold they had on the ogre, the party were beginning to run low on resources. Rowan’s sword was shattered and demons tore through the party. If it had not been for the demonologist negotiating with the demons to buy Defender Rhade time to stem the critical wounds of their companions, the mission would have ended there with bodies lying in the softly falling snow between worlds.
But, thanks to the powers of the Lady of life, they survived to make for the exit. More demons lurking in the shadows, a challenge which Rowan answered willingly, and a ritual on the exit, the adventurers returned to Berwickshire alive and in one piece – the ring being pressed into Tom Charnock’s hand as he was bid to point the way in Ned’s hasty ritual of “lets get out of here now!”.
But their trouble did not end there. Returned to Ardan soil with the power of the Gods alight in their hearts (the closer to Sharda the party travelled, the quieter the Gods’ voices in those of faith), they were unprepared to face the wrath of the Vampire Lord who regarded them all coldly and demanded his ring. With Catherine pacted to the Vampire and unable to attack and a limited supply of weapons that might be able to harm the creature, Rowan took a tactical decision to get the ring away. It had been hidden from him for a reason, right?
So she told Catherine what she was going to do, took the ring from the pouch and slipped it in amongst her own gear and walked away. No one tried to stop her, no one queried where she was going – she simply walked away – inwardly apologising for abandoning her friends.
She hadn’t got very far before Tom and Gaalen caught up with her, and she warily questioned them on the fate of the party – had they all died, were they now slaves to the vampire’s will? But their behaviour indicated another cause for their pursuit and upon hearing their casual conversation of killing the forester so they could check her pockets unhindered, she knew what had befallen them. They attacked her and she laid them low, to bandage their wounds and heal them but leaving them unconcious on the road. She apologised for what she had done to their prone forms then hurried on, cutting through the undergrowth to reach a smaller track through the landscape, heading for a familiar settlement to get her bearings and escape amongst the heavily used roads – the fear of the death of her companions heavy on her heart.
However, the party survived their encounter with the Vampire Lord who had questioned them about the whereabouts of the ring, fought with the black knight squire and others before the party escaped – dragging High Mother Anne with them, heading for the safety of Newcroft to replenish supplies and recover from the events of the night.