Mr Niehls, an Oluthen merchant with deep pockets and dark intentions, has been a growing menace in Berwickshire for nigh on a year. Initially a great admirer of the work of the adventuring community, he sought to do “good” and at the behest of his colleague Kyra came to the county to help her investigations into a source of power that lay hidden in the land. But the promise of power is corrupting, and soon Niehls became a pestilence upon the county and a danger to the common folk.
He must be stopped. Whatever the cost.
Niehls knows he has rattled the adventurers, and that they are intending to come after him. But as he delves deeper into the heart of the county and the Akenwode his grip on reality slowly begins to erode and it all seems to become a little game to him. He taunts his pursuers with little notes, sending people who he has injected with his experimental mix of alchemy and blood into the towns when they are too sick to be up and walking, panicking the villagers and rousing the ire of the adventurers who know what he is doing. Knowing he is somewhere in the Akenwode the Pathfinder of Ithron and Fortescue travel to the village of Bleakstone and identify an entry point into the dangerous woodland that bewitches the mind and leads one astray.
They are joined by a company of friends and comrades, with Tungdil leading them because he has had a bone to pick with the fiend and his allies for a long long time. But this is more than about the 7/6 he’s taken from him – this is about finally getting even.
The adventurers who set out upon this task were:
- Pathfinder Wulfric Treewalker, First Scout of the Berwickshire Medium Infantry and Head of the Scouts Guild;
- Seamus O’Malley, member of the Berwickshire Medium Infantry and the Mercenaries Guild;
- Dr Krom Goodfellow, devotee of Crowa and Physician;
- Guild Protector Roger of the Guild of Blacksmiths;
- Fortescue Everbright of the School of Enchantment;
- Errant Ivers of the Templar Order;
- High Mother Brigit Wooller and Brother Trevelyan of Crowa; Tungdil Stonehammer of Tralda;
Trekking towards the edge of the woodland they came to the stone circle that seemed to control a “doorway” into the Akenwode. If correctly attuned the path into the darkness would, in fact, lead to another location, hopefully near Kyra and Niehl’s camp. Fortescue set to calibrating the dials whilst the rest of the company formed ranks behind him. Suddenly a man stumbled out of the darkness, tumbling to the ground in a wheeze of pain and having appeared to have come from nowhere. Brigit and Krom went to him, suspecting him to be one of those injected with the alchemical mix, and soothed his suffering as best as they were able. He gave Brigit a note that Niehl’s had sent to them with guidance on how to access the way in which she passed to Fortescue as he tinkered. Eventually, he was able to open the “doorway” and the dark space beyond that led into a matted tangle of thorns shimmered and became a straight pathway.
They came upon Niehl’s encampment beset by undead and cleared the area. They searched the site and found a number of papers and a map which Fortescue and Brigit poured over looking for clues as to what Kyra and Niehls’ had planned. A voice chuckled in the shadows and Niehls seemed to appear before them. But it was not so, it was some illusion of magic, and the real Niehls was many many miles away. Pressing on the company found a figment of Niehls boasting of his plans to a piece of Paluen – a fae entity that, at times, is a spirit of the land. She was not impressed but alarmed at what he hoped to do and when he vanished the adventurers crept out of the shadows. After making an offering of water as a token of good faith, Brigit discussed an easing of the ways through the Akenwode to permit them to complete their goal, which aligned with the wish of the creature. Paluen agreed – what Niehls was doing was draining it of its power and was going to harm the land – and offered to try to calm the trees along their route. A note on the Akenwode – whilst it was a dangerous place where the wilderness could not be tamed, the true danger was in the trees. They move, they change the paths, they reach out to the unwary and entangle them in thorns and undergrowth to drag them off the paths and the extent of the wood shifts from day-to-day within the encircling ring of shrines. What might be rough scrubland one day could be the woodland tomorrow …
With this in mind, Brigit accepted the creature’s help for the company and it granted a few blessings of protection upon her companions before melting away into the woodland with a promise of aid should the adventurers succeed or sacrifice much in the attempt. Forming skirmish order the adventurers trekked across a rare patch of open ground, fought off more undead, then reentered the woodlands. Then things got strange.
Crossing an old stone bridge they seemed to step from woodland out into open country that led to the gates of the Dwarven hold of Dun Mhurdo. The place was in ruins, the doors smashed in, bodies were strewn across the ground with no one left to tend to them. The adventurers could not recall how they got there, but Tungdil was bellowing and weeping, claiming to have been fighting the Orcs who had broken their siege on his homeland for several days. They had to get into the halls, into the mining mountain, to find the King and save him! He ran off before his companions could try and find out what had happened, shouting at them for abandoning him in his time of need. Even reasoning that they were still in the Akenwode and this was all a trick had no effect on the angry dwarf. They fought through undead and managed to catch him as he was slowed by combat, Brigit instructing the charge at a Nightmare and channelling holy power to fend off a Wraith, but it vanished before she could destroy it. She watched the darkness around them as the rest of the company hurried after Tungdil, but to no avail. Bellowing at them all for their “betrayal” Tungdil dashed off towards the mountain and the wraith popped out of the darkness and struck down the physician. Trevelyan dismissed it as the rest of the company pounced on the bleeding Doctor and the Pathfinder raced after Tungdil. Separated the party sought them out, calling out into the night. Eventually, they caught up to him once the effect of the magics lifted from Tungdil’s mind but they were turned about and lost until Fortescue felt another jolt of magic being pulled away from him.
Climbing a hill and finding a widening path the adventurers came upon a creature of Abraxis spoiling for a fight. Brigit obliged but in the dark she could not tell her weapons were doing no damage as the creature struck her again and again. Drawing her enchanted blade she struck the monster as Tungdil pounced on it from behind and between the pair of them they brought it to the floor. A loud voice spoke to them and Brigit felt the dread in her bones as she recognised the voice of Lord Abraxis, the dark opposite to her blessed Lady and the God of Slaughter. He praised them at besting his champion, spat upon the thought of merging with his sister, declaring there to be a bigger issue at hand than their petty infighting between the faiths and asked their opinions whilst being rudely interrupted by Tungdil and Fortescue and dealing with them. Brigit spoke her mind, speaking of tolerance rather than truce, of accepting that the Dark Six have the same divine mandate when it comes to the undead and the Shardan but making the promise that if any Abraxian raises a hand against innocents or her companions if they are on the same battlefield she and the Church of Crowan would be the shields they would break upon and the sharp sword thrust through their bodies as they fought in defence. The Dark God chuckled and recognised her stance and bid her bring his words to her Church.
In the darkness ahead they came upon more undead and Brigit was trapped in a similar experience to Tungdil – finding her brother Colwyn lying dead on the ground having travelled home to Corven. She could recall the journey whilst her companions could not and was weeping over the body until someone knocked her out and the illusion was broken.
They came to a clearing where Kyra was sat in a protective circle around a rune, happily waiting for the end of the world. She did not wish to be involved with the tinkering Niehls was doing to the Apex, the centre of the runes and the power they had sought. They had fashioned a form of anchor that would help them tap into the magic – except Kyra had realised that they hadn’t done enough research into the consequences of tapping this power and had grown concerned at Niehls’ erratic behaviour. Power corrupts and his thirst for their goals had driven him mad. His unpredictability had made her afraid for her life so she had decided to make herself a little bubble of protection to sit out the madness that was to follow. Fortescue wanted information from her, and the pair of them entered into a mage duel. They cast magics back and forth until they were unable to cast anything else and Kyra, whilst attempting to seem contrite and innocent, tried to grab the knife in Fortescue’s hand. He lashed out and mortally wounded her and with her death the protective circle came down. Tungdil took her head as evidence for the courts as Brigit tried to offer some form of counsel and comfort to the distressed Mage who had only watned to know what she had found about the runes in her research.
Warned about Niehls’ true goals they hurried on into the darkness, had an encounter with a Vampire which bit Seamus before the company could intervene, and were subjected to another illusion – Seamus, Roger and Fortescue’s worst nightmares of a Newcroft where drinking and other enjoyable activities were banned. Having learned from Brigit’s encounter how to end the illusion, Brigit apologised to each and declared that she was about to knock them out before hitting them with her cudgel. They came to a bridge across the river near a ruined tower where Niehls had set up a base and after talking with the bridge guards they were all turned into horrors by the illusions and one of the fellows Roger had arrested for illegal blacksmithery dashed away to warn his companions of demons and monsters coming out of the woods. Climbing the hill they came upon the remains of the camp – a woman sickening from the alchemical mix Niehls was putting in his fighters and a whole load of automata. They fought off the automata, had weapons broken and shields warped, but were able to stem the tide of reinforcements Niehls was clearly summoning to him. Back across the river they pressed on, fighting off automata of all sorts and picking up the pace.
They triggered a trap in a tunnel that sent Tungdil and Ivers flying as a great log of wood swung down at them, and skirted floating patches of magic that had Fortescue pushing and pulling members of the party to and fro to avoid them.
At long last they came up the rise to the Apex where Niehls, disheveled and clearly losing his wits, was drawing on the power via his tether. Before he could speak the adventurers rushed him, intent on bringing him down before he became too powerful or blew up the whole of Berwickshire. He “pushed” them back with magic and they fell to the floor, to pick themselves up and rush him again. He healed himself with magic, lashed out with spells that made people writhe in pain or pitch over with wounds, or pushed back his attackers. Automata attacked them, patches of magic wandered across the battlefield drawn by the power building in the place, and all seemed hopeless. Fortescue began breaking the runes in attempt to slow the draw of magic Niehls had at his disposal, Roger tried to poison him and there was a scrap where Niehls was held in place and wounded wherever anyone could get a blade in. Somehow they were able to stop him and with a splutter Niehls pitched to the ground and began to twitch and writhe. Going back to pick up their companions Fortescue suddenly called out a warning – Niehls was going to explode with magic! Taking steps back the adventurers tried to get clear but some were not so lucky as Niels suddenly exploded in a bright flash of light and Fortescue pitched to the ground with grevious wounds. The rest of the party launched themselves at the wounded and began holding wounds or hunting for alchemy. Weapons and gear that had been near Niehls were gone, turned to dust or ash in the intensity of the blast. For good measure Brigit cleansed the ashes and kicked them to scatter them to the winds so as to prevent anyone using them for mischief in the future.
Then they returned to Bleakstone, collecting the sick woman from the second camp, and made their report to the Guards. They were victorious, Berwickshire was safe once more from the meddlings of Kyra and Niehls, and the company could breathe a sigh of relief. Tungdil might not have got his 7/6 back, but they certainly won.