“The Marked Ones,” it seemed would be the choice. Perhaps it was the alcohol.
Mair’it, the next morning, called upon The Marked Ones to see the damage still smoldering, and to speak of a mission. Townspeople are kidnapped, it seems, and the town guard is currently in defensive repair mode. The group of flung-together heroes are the only ones available to take care of this problem, and they seem eager in fact, to accomplish the task. Towards this end, Mair’it reveals that they have a goblin captive, an ornery sort not yet broken, if the group wants a crack at interrogation. It seems they did. Together the group made their way down to the barrack’s prison, a mess of a goblin still hanging on to life down below. Guarded well, more to see to it that he does not die than prevent his far more unlikely escape.
Kaj, though scary in his own right, has no real effect on the goblin murderer with words and gestures designed to bring about fear and cowardice. Banyan, perhaps in this regard far more compassionate than the Invoker of Bahamut would have been, heals the prisoner of his wounds. Though this lightens the move, it is not until Navarro’s golden tongue is turned to the task that the Marked group begins to see an opportunity. A quick meal for the goblin later, Flint and Navarro tag-teaming him emotionally with words of truth and of lies, and finally the monstrous humanoid began to speak. Here were his words:
“Our goblin leader, Shinruth of the Red Hand, is holed up in a ruined keep 35 miles or so to the east. It is called Amateen Keep. He is forming a new goblin army to reclaim the glory of the ancient Red Hand (a fearsome goblin army of 100 years ago that terrorized the surrounding area). We have come to an agreement with the undead that inhabit the keep, they leave us alone and we provide them with ‘food’ (prisoners from town).”
Along with a crudely drawn map, they knew they had got all they could from the prisoner. Yor’ik, took this time to pick his own thoughts on the nature of the Red Hand, and some memories of his studies took hold. In historic times, he recalled, the Red Hand were indeed a fearsome battle horde of the goblin kind. But something seemed inconsistent with the new group who had taken the same name. Either by mistake, or some dark purpose, they had painted the hand of their symbols, upside down.
Now more comfortable in the town with this gruesome business behind them, it was time for The Marked Ones to take the opportunity to see to personal matters. Speaking to those on the street, they find the subjects of their queries.
Dweniden and Kaj went to speak to Narda, Justicar of Bahamut’s church in town. Apparently, one of the kidnapped was a junior cleric of her rank, by the name of Jalissa.
The Invoker swore that Bahamut’s charge would be returned by any means in His name, if only to himself and his god. In exchange for their kind words and vows, Narda gave them a curative potion, said to reverse the ravages of war on one’s flesh… if only slightly. But of course, it is never that simple… perhaps her mother taught her the proper application of guilt in attempt to get what you want. After all, after being given a gift by a holy woman, who can say no to a simple request. Even if that request is to rid a holy place of prayer and healing of the Kobold foe that infests the land with their apocryphal filth. In return, she offered a letter of introduction to the Temples of Bahamut in Enyen and Pard’lu. Dweniden knew the worth in this, and thought it to himself at least how such letters could help to advance his position in the church. Finally, before the two left her, the Justicar noticed Kaj’s marking and had this to say: “Those sigils remind me of ancient legends from thousands of years ago – but you should talk to the Teachers of History at the seminaries of Enyen or Pard’lu.”
Father Pelor, aptly named and placed as Pelor would be among the poor was visited by the Natural Brute and the Nervous One… that would be Banyan and Indore, of course. On the way, stopping to confer with the Circus folks briefly to exchange word of their bosses death. This proved unnecessary, as the word had already spread, and some had already fled.
The Giant and his friend moved on to the temple and found Father Pelor there. He quickly took note of Banyan’s marking upon his forehead and claimed some knowledge of ancient stories of those who were ‘chosen’, remarking that Justicar Narda would be the one to speak to about this in more detail. Of course, after their chat on the nature of the marking’s, a Priest is not just going to let a group of able bodied adventures move on without seeking their assistance. This came in the form of helping a poor farmer, a member of the Temple, whose water supply has somehow become tainted. In exchange for their assistance, a scroll that contained the power to banish disease was offered.
Of note, was Flint’s finding that the only real Magician in town was working on some kind of Dragon Burial site just outside of town. His curiousity piqued, Flint could not help but make that visit to his man, called Xelkor.
Flint arrived at the peculiar building, a single story thing with a tall tower in the middle… typical actually, once you consider the inhabitant. No one seems interested in talking until Flint came around the back, and the cook apparently has no problem with disturbing the old magician, as she lets him right in. Xelkor, who seems to have left all his better days far behind him, seemed willing to talk for a time. After admitting his interest in the burial site, he remarks that he had hired an archaeologist for the task of excavating it. This man however, has been missing for more than a week now… the valet sent after him also now missing a couple of days. This can’t be good. Well, but of course the old man offered something in return to discover his employee’s fates. That thing being a letter of introduction to the Imperial School of Magic in Pard’lu. No small thing to someone so inclined to the Arcane Arts. Upon a hunch, Flint reveals his sigil to Xelkor. This invokes excitement from the Magician, who rambles a bit about legends and Gods. Of note however, was his story of Neseananna, a nymph who live here long ago and whom the town of Nesena was named for. She too, bore such a marking.
Next, the names Ninaran and Thorn came to light. The latter being a Halfling (whom the group realized was watching them the previous day) who leads a dangerous gang, considered to be a psychopath, he is not to be toyed with. Ninaran, the Elven woman watching them as well, is a huntress living near, but separate from town. Preferring a seeming neutrality, she spends most of her time alone and further information on her was difficult to come by.
Navarro believed he could perhaps find common ground with the man called Thorn. It took some doing to track down his hangout near the slums around Pelor’s temple, but the reception was unpleasant. Recognizing the bard from the battle on the previous day, Thorn seemed uninterested in speaking, setting his band upon the half-elf. Navarro is a slippery bard (some might call him spoony), and was able to evade their attack.
Finally, it was time to depart.
Towards the eastern Wild Lands The Marked Ones traveled, following the main road that was like a journey through the skeleton of an old creature made from bones of hollow abandoned farms. Things go from barren to desolate soon enough, but it was in a valley that things got interesting…
Ambush! Kobolds, not unlike the group mentioned tainting the sacred Waterfall, attack them in the valley. Three soldiers armored and coming to attack directly, one squirrelly bastard with javelins and even a magic user of some sort hurtling small orbs of flame at the group from afar.
The soldiers are no match for the Warforged’s resolve, and though they cause him damage, they can not pierce his defenses while the rest of the Marked Ones in turn rain down pain from behind the wall they call Banyan.
Yor’ik notes that the Magic User, seeing less effect from his side’s fight, calls out to Ninaran, seeking help. The Elf Woman of that name is noticed them, watching the battle from safe distance and cover, again seemingly neutral in this contest. When the group is starting to really turn the tides of this battle, the woman seemingly fades back into the wood and is gone. Though the Warriors sent by Nesena are victorious, the Magic User did evade them as well. Some coins of value scavenged, icons of the dark god Bane uncovered… the group leaves the escaped Kobold and Elf for another day.
On down the road they travel further, until night winds convince them that setting camp is the wise course of action. Guards are posted, but their watches are thankfully uneventful. The next morning concludes the journey to Amateen Keep, a tumbled, ivy-covered ruin. If not for the fresh tracks, one would easily conclude it was abandoned. Following these trails leads to a hole, through which one would find themselves underground in an old part of the Keep. After a thorough sweep by Flint, the Marked Ones’ made their way down.
Below, the ground finds themselves at a room serving as a junction, shaped in the classic ‘T’. The welcoming committee is a readied group of guards. Among them, a pair of hobgoblins, and two less physically threatening goblins with cowards crossbows as their tools of battle. The room, illuminated by two torches on their stands, serves as the grounds for this fight. As the Marked One’s make their way inside this room, one of the cowardly goblins opens a door beside him and activates some kind of trap attached to those torches.
The two hobgoblins together are troublesome to the Heroes, landing much of their blows and dodging the incoming attacks gracefully. Meanwhile, those goblins plink away at the group with bolts. Banyan squares off with the Hobgoblins, this considerable visage difficult to ignore. The Bard and the Rogue, a team seemingly made to work together, take on the crossbow wielding bastards while Flint supports the group as best he can with distracting attacks and cures that serve to frustrate the efforts of their foes.
Only now doe the purpose of torches’ movement become apparent, as seemingly randomly they flare and a powerful arc of flame tunnels through the air between them. As they move on tracks, however, predicting their pattern proves basic to the party and they are able to keep ahead of this particular danger… though the distraction from the battle at hand is rather unwelcome.
The monsters they face, well aware of their “home’s” defenses, keep clear of the flames as well. The goblins, one of which making his cowardly ways apparent with an attempt to escape, are soon dispatched. The fleeing one taken before he could make good this escape with a shuriken to the back. Those things were well worth the purchase, apparently.
Now, unified with no other distractions, the group focuses on the hobgoblins. Difficult is the task of dividing and concurring them, and so they stop trying. Realizing that their armor really is the thing that keeps them so well protected, the Marked Ones rely now on their abilities that don’t care if one is wearing armor or not. This tactic, effective, quickly ends this conflict. Nothing of value is found except perhaps the glory of victory.
Searching this first room of the underground keep, the group discovers it seems to be in fact, the way down into a old crypt, with the two passages leading either to the family Orodoom or the family Dethnell… sound like nice people. In fact, some in the group recall these names as nobles of old, allies to Amateen, who themselves completely disappeared from the local histories. There are three doors from this place, and each is checked.
One heads down a long tunnel, void of light until the stairs heading down at it’s very end. It seems as is someone or something moves down below.
The next doorway reveals a short passage, bending towards the north. It too is dark and reveals the sounds of movement.
The third door however, another passage that turns north, seems to give away the group with its opening. Inside goblin voices call in their foul tongue… the enemy knows that the group has arrived, and are preparing themselves for battle. While the goblins gather themselves, The Marked Ones too gather their wits and heal their scratches.
The battle will be again joined. The goblins are just ahead, awaiting the blades and magics of the Marked Ones. Who knows just what foe lies in the depths of this place, however. The group is about to find out…