Pathfinder Kingmaker

A Horde Sweeps out of the Dunsward
"we attack from all sides!"

Dawn had not broken, and yet the armies were on the move. The barbarian peoples of the Dunsward had mostly kept to themselves for the last few centuries, and clashes with the people of the Mistmarches were not common. The Toor’Ash, as they called themselves, were made up of several tribes, clans, and groups of various sizes that fought more among themselves than with others, so long as the others stayed out of their lands. They were a people married to rigid tradition, and so the movement of such large forces – and before the sun rose – would have stood out as odd, even shocking, to the knowledgeable observer.

Each Mosh, or war band, had its own leader, who was in theory answerable to his or her tribal or clan elders. How many elders varied from group to group, with some headed by a single leader while others by councils. Like other Balkanized peoples, large-scale cooperation over a period of time was rare. And yet here they were, moving westward into the Tors of Levenies with riders ranging between them to carry information. A few small settlements – mostly farmsteds – had been taken, and the next targets were the passes that led to the western slopes of the jagged mountains and Lake Silverstep or, as they knew it from their ancient stories, Sky Water.

Spring had come early to the land this year, with only mild rains thus far. The Prophet’s promise of good weather for war had been accurate.

Scouts reported back to Hrach, leader of the Mosh tasked with capturing one of the southernmost passes: enemy forces had been spotted, and they’d fortified the pass. He ground his teeth in frustration, then snorted dismissively. “There will be a fight – fine,” he said to those around him. Looking down from his horse at the scout, he smiled and continued.

“Hold your position. Stay hidden at pain of death!,” he barked, then turned to one of his lieutenants. “Bring Ezdrenza forward to the scouts. She will open our assault. I will arrange the Mosh and will tell you when to unleash her.” His men nodded, knowing what to do. As they scattered to go about their work he took a moment to savor the morning air.

‘Only a lone hunter moves in the dark – but now we move as one,’ he thought. “Today is a good day for blood” he said aloud as he rapped the reigns of his horse and set off to prepare for battle.

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A Summary of Years and Events
to bring everyone up to date

Meta

I’ve cleaned up the last several posts, adding years and months to each in order to make the timeline more clear. A few things jumped out at me, and I provide them here before going into a breezy summary of events that lead up to the barbarian attack from the east.

  • It’s been 15 years – almost exactly – since the Sword Lords of Rostland granted the charter to explore & subdue the Stolen Lands. The PCs, therefore, are all a lot older than when they started the story. Think on that.
  • Anton’s been married since May, 4708 – 13 years. Princess Jeyo De Mistmarch in 12. Prince Gryphon de Mistmarch is 10. The twins are 8. Evelynn Wynnwil, the queen, has smile lines and her skin is no longer so bright and perfect. Anton, despite his hard work, has put on a few extra pounds around the waist and has gone prematurely gray.
  • Pik and Gurple have been married for almost 7 years. They do not have children, a result of her seeming infertility – a problem more common among gnomes than other races.
  • Kincaid is dead, having finally succumbed to the fallout of his injuries from long ago. He is buried on the grounds of the headquarters of the Mistborn Rangers, in Misthaven.
  • Reg is Reg: steady, a little grouchy, and focused on his work. He remains unmarried, one of only a few half-orcs in the kingdom. He has become essentially the Chief Operations Officer for the realm, managing the details of daily leadership internally.
  • Tessara has not reappeared, nor her Caretaker alter-ego.
  • Zion has spent the last few years focusing on increasing his arcane skill and knowledge and in building up the Mistmarches as a place of arcane learning. He married his peasant girl and they have a little girl, age 6.
  • Brevoy and Rostland did go to war, a few years ago, resulting in moderate destruction for both and Brevoy’s recognition of Rostic independence. The Mistmarches stayed out of the fray, much to the anger of the Sword Lords, who’d expected Anton & Co. to dance to whatever tune they played. The kings decided that, given the nature of the Sword Lords’ war aims (territorial gains in the north), it was not in the Mistmarches national interest to get involved. They traded with Rostland, but never committed troops.

Overall, the Kingdom of the Mistmarches is in good shape. It stopped growing years ago, with Pitax being its last territorial acquisition, in late 4713, almost 8 years before the current day. The realm is shaped roughly like the state of Tennessee, although a little taller relative to its east-west length. The population has grown slowly, and the economy is stable. Basically, it’s a small, relatively healthy realm with not too much of note beyond the fact that it’s young and thus far successful. It has good relations with some of the River Kingdoms to the southwest; so-so relations with Rostland; so-so relations with Brevoy north of Rostland; and rocky relations with Galt to the southeast.

The kings are generally liked, with Anton being the most prominent of the four. Pik has stepped back from actively being the chief diplomat abroad, as he now has several ambassadors working for him. He runs international affairs and intelligence work mostly from Misthaven. Reg is, as stated above, deep in the details of managing the kingdom, and lords over a staff of bureaucrats across the lands who handle taxes, land grants, patents, and so on. In some ways he hates his job; and in others he thrives on the responsibility of it. Zion lives almost full-time in Silverstep, overseeing an academy dedicated to arcane research. He has attracted a few mages, scholars, and others of note, bringing some cachet to the Mistmarches as a place of arcane study & skill.

Since the assassination attempt on Pik and ensuing urban renewal project, things have been almost boring, even taking into account the winter portal that caused some trouble a few years back.

The attack from the east, therefore, is a sudden and unexpected departure from the peaceful norm.

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Mistborn Rangers, reporting
...after a long silence

Devon T’Shea, still a little self-conscious in the uniform of a Mistborn Ranger, strode across the yard that connected the stable to the Lord-Mayor’s keep at the center of Silverstep. the capitol of what had been the Varnhold Annex from a few years before had grown into a stable, small city of a few thousand residents, some noteworthy shops and artisans, and the headquarters of the Mistborn Rangers for the eastern portion of the Kingdom of the Mistmarches.
screen-shot-2013-09-26-at-11-58-30-am.png
The guard at the side entrance to the keep stepped aside, opening the door as T’Shea approached, clear as it was that he was on serious business. Once inside he weaved his way through the halls to the inner keep, and into a large chamber where the Rangers did their administrative work.

“The stone – get it” he barked at the sergeant on watch that night, who barely had time to register that his commander had entered the room before being ordered to retrieve one of the Sending Stones kept locked in the safe, to be used only in emergencies when communication with Tuskwater Castle. and the leadership of the realm, was crucial.

Motioning to the NCO to close the door, T’Shea finished off the pitcher of water he’d grabbed, wiped his mouth, and then placed the stone into a small metal bowl, to which a hinged lever was attached, enabling the user to quickly crush the pumice to activate the magic. Once crushed, the stone would allow a brief message to be send instantaneously to a matched stone in Misthaven.

“Army of thousands approaching from east. Garrison will be overwhelmed in 3 days. Enemy believes it is unseen. East of Tors already taken. Preparing defense Silverstep.”

The sergeant’s eyes went wide as T’Shea finished speaking. “Wake the Lord-Mayor and tell him I will brief him in 30 minutes in the Hall. Tell the duty runner to wake the List and that they are to begin implementing a full city defense. And then tell him to brew coffee – we’re going to have a long night.”

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"Bitchy little girls, that's what they are..."
*a translation from another tongue

The large, rough men and their equally intimidating women stood around the fire pit, swilling the darkest of ale and sharing their stories of future conquests.

“They will fall before the might of our armies!” boasted one bearded giant of a man.

“I will crush their pathetic Anton between my thighs and take his woman as my toy!” jeered a large female warrior, to the delighted hollers of others.

“Mayhaps after we feast in their Tuskwater Keep we can pass around a toothPIK? HA!” laughed another warrior, although this jape didn’t draw any laughter, and in fact caused no fewer than several sets of rolled eyes and shaking heads. The warlord’s cousin was…special.

The moot continued long into the night, with even some actual planning taking place. Their troops would march before the New Moon and would arrive by the next Full Moon, and alongside their new allies would crush the puny excuse for a kingdom, restoring what was rightfully theirs.

With the might of their warriors, their numbers, and the Prophet in the lead, they would take back their ancestral lands, and would add to what had once been the home of the Nomen – nothing could stop them.

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Two Years Later
because folding time & space makes it easy to restart a story

Over two years had passed since the slums had been cleared of the worst crime. Pik and Gurple were happily married and living comfortably in a renovated manor house next to Tuskwater Keep. Anton and his family had recently spent three months traveling, visiting all the cities in the kingdom and spending time at the western palace in the former Pitax (would you like to rename that?), holding a few state visits from important leaders from neighboring realms.

Zion, his rift with Reg still evident, had spent most of the year in Silverstep, the largest settlement in the eastern lands, building an arcane academy and overseeing the development of the kings’ interests there. Kincaid, seemingly trapped in the body of an invalid, or perhaps truly only a mortal shell, barely alive, sat, gaining weight and tended to by retainers, in an upstairs room at Tuskwater Keep.

Reg and Akiros, in concert with the Lower Council, managed the affairs of the kingdom while the kings were away or otherwise occupied. The year passed quietly, with the economy trending generally upward, good crops, and relatively few problems requiring the kings’ attention.

Either it was the beginning of a ‘Pax Mistmarches’ or, as Reg and Akiros were concerned, the calm before another storm.

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The Loud Silence
The Calm Before the Storm?

Misthaven_great-hall.jpgHe laid the gold circlet on the table beside the map markers. Studying the large map of the region, Anton noted the placement of their forces and wondered, not for the first time, what was wrong.
The quiet on all fronts screamed to him of trouble. “Since the day we came to the Gnarlmarches, there’s always been trouble. Now, not a peep, nor sound, just the hollow echo of my voice. Where is everybody?”

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"The portal's closed, sir!"
...and the storm gone away...

The Mistborn Ranger team detailed to keep an eye on the swirling winter portal was surprised and confused by the magical storm’s sudden disappearance. One moment it was there, spewing furious winds and biting snow and sleet; the next, it was gone. No flash, no light, no nothing…just gone. The trees in the surrounding wood quickly stilled, and the flurries of snow settled. Within an hour the temperature had started to rise, and the clouds had dissipated. By the time the pair of riders dispatched to bring the news out of the wood had reached its edge, it was getting warmer.

Two days later the kings, shuttered in their anti-scrying room, discussed the sudden change of events. What of the other portals that had supposedly opened elsewhere, in other countries? What had caused this? Unsure of what to do, Pik suggested a series of diplomatic messages to friendly lands, inquiring about portals that might have opened in them, and perhaps closed.

If the witches of Irisen were truly behind these, this sudden turn of events only added to the kings’ concern.

And still there was a kingdom to manage.

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"through the portal we go...we know...we know..."

A maelstrom of snow and ice swirled around the two figures, blurring their lines and concealing them within the clearing. The guards outside of the growing meadow were dead, their bodies already freezing solid, and the pickets within the forest were unaware of the presence of the two.

“Land’s frozen…we’re chosen…we know….we know…where we….go….” the elf muttered, unaffected by the sub-zero temperatures, despite the fact that she was naked, wearing only calf-high boots, a black headband, and smears of brightly-dyed animal fat spread across her bare skin.

The riot of images, sounds, and voices in her head rivaled that of the storm, colliding and morphing with one another. Sanity was no longer a question or concern, but volition persisted, along with the remnants of core values, and perspectives based on them.

“Tuk, tuk,” she clicked at the great cat under her, urging it forward a few steps.

And without further talk, sound or thought, she and her companion vaulted through the winter portal, eager to find and destroy the causes and creatures behind the frozen blight visited on her beloved Narlmarches.

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It's your problem now..
...my lords

The five Rangers, along with a few senior Mistborn Ranger officers, withdrew from the royal audience chamber. They’d presented their report, provided evidence, and had answered a great many questions from Kings Anton, Pik, Reg, and Zion, and Sir Akiros. They’d done their jobs well, having saved a forest, a village, and alerted the kingdom to a threat from abroad.

Now it was up to the kings to determine what to do about the winter portal – one of seemingly many. Pik had, through contacts in other countries, learned of at least four other such portals, and so the tale that they would spread across Golarion had at least some credibility.

And while the young Rangers had done their jobs well, it was obvious that they were not up to the task promised on the other side of the swirling light and wind: a fight with Queen Elvanna of Irisen, and her host of winter witches and warlocks. They’d been wise to bring the news to their superiors; and their superiors had been wise to alert the kings immediately.

The summer had been a pleasant one, with the kings and city of Misthaven enjoying a period of calm and seemingly pent-up, suddenly-released prosperity and goodwill at the conclusion of operations to crush organized crime in the city. The docks were clear and clean, and several major criminal leaders had been killed or captured, and their gangs and networks largely broken. While crime would never go away, it was on the run at this point, and the realm and kings were benefiting from it.

Now this challenge sat at their feet. How they decided to deal with it could possibly shape the future of the realm, and perhaps that of the world at large. The kings were now, they realized as they looked at one another, at a crossroads, placing them between their work in the Mistmarches, and their potential role on a much greater – and much riskier – stage.

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A king is run to ground

Pik’s injuries from the attempted assassination had healed, but the little man’s sense of personal security was still shaken by his near-death. Avenging himself on the criminal element of the old docks during and after Bright Night had helped, however, something was still missing from the mosaic of his life – something to make sense of all his work, all that he’d sacrificed over the years, and risks he continued to shoulder.

His apartment in Misthaven Castle was nicely-appointed, with furniture and fixtures sized and arranged in the gnomish tradition, making his retreat as welcoming as possible – but the rooms and open-air deck were still empty, and growing too quiet for his comfort.

It was during the weeks after Bright Night that the damn broke, and the king was finally chased down, figuratively, by his long-time romantic stalked, Gurple. Zion had seen the opening and exploited it when he invited her to the royal dinner that followed the early summer festival, and made sure that Pik was adequately lubricated with a good vintage of Andoran wine. Conversation followed, a few more bottles of wine disappeared, and before anyone recognized that it was coming, the plucky gnome alchemist was hanging on the king, chewing on his right ear. Although a moderate breach of etiquette, it had happened a few years before and so no one was really surprised. Pik, after all, was smitten with the girl, but being wholly uncertain of himself in honest social situations everyone knew that he wouldn’t do anything unless pushed.

Anton made the culminating move, hours into the evening, and long after Gurple had arranged herself in Pik’s lap, her arms around his neck so she could easily whisper who-knows-what in his ear.

“Attention here!” he boomed, standing up suddenly. “Look here my friends!” Silence slowly fell on the room, the 20-some in attendance getting whiff of the king’s request in waves as conversations stopped.

“These last two years has been hard on us all, and on the realm. War, internal strife, crime, a leader gone mad….” he left the last words hang in the air as their meaning resonated with everyone present, as they – the inner circle of leadership of the Mistmarches – had all experienced loss and hardship during these times. Anton let them ponder for a moment before continuing.

“And yet today we’re on the first steps of a new, greater journey. Our city is healing; our kingdom is growing. Allies raise their banners alongside ours, and enemies know our potential – or, at least, they think they do,” he spoke, his tone becoming more serious as regal as he went on.

“There are plans still unmade, I say. We are working to build a realm for the ages, and with that must come further sacrifices, always with an eye toward posterity.” Anton continued for a few more minutes, obliquely referring to the future and the responsibility of those around him to it. It was a line of discussion he fancied, and typically once he got going, he kept going, ad nauseum and to the suffering of his audience.

“And so it is with the great burden leadership that we…” he stopped himself mid-sentence and flashed his rare, devilish grin.

“Awww…enough of my rambling…dammit, Pik, marry that girl! We’re sick of this dance, aren’t we?” he laughed. Others at the table joined him in a roaring laugh, pounding on the surface and shaking their goblets in the air. Jhod stood and motioned for silence, turning toward the ashen-face Pik.

“I think I can handle this…Gurple, is this the man you pledge your honor, life, and love to….?”

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