Pathfinder Kingmaker

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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...and justice for all...
Operation SANCTUARY

Anton stalked down the alley toward the three cornered perps.

“I am the law!” he bellowed as he swung his massive sword swiftly before him, flinging gore and a spray of blood across a nearby wall, evidence of the justice he’d meted out on the others in the gang.

“Your sentence has been decided! Now give me a chance to see you die with some small shred of honor…fight me!” he continued, a mad look in his eyes.

One of the men, a portly brigand known for his cruelty in running several notorious brothels, dropped forward to his knees and began blubbering.

“Mercy! Mercy dread king! I have broken your laws and…and done bad things! Mercy and I will serve you loyally!” be wailed, fighting to hold himself up with one had as he shook in fear.

The other two looked at each other, sharing what they both knew were their last moments alive, and rushed the king, roaring as they moved in on their lone opponent. The fight was quick and final. Anton feinted toward one and used the momentum of the other to slam him mightily against a stone wall, knocking him senseless for a moment. While the other tried to reorient himself, he was beheaded by a wide flat sweep of the king’s greatsword. His body continued for a few more steps, not yet realizing what had happened. Before the head could hit the ground the king wheeled, using his momentum to carry himself completely around. His sword tip scraped along the wall, throwing forth sparks and chips of stone a split-second before connecting with the other brigand’s mid-section, continuing through and beyond it.

The man let out a ragged howl as he looked down to see his entrails spill forth. Involuntarily he tried to gather them up in his hands, all the while howling as he collapsed, slipping in the growing puddle of his own filth and gore.

Ignoring the death throes of the man he’d gutted, the king moved on the still-blubbering pimp, now prostrate at the end of the alley, his legs and arms splayed outward, his face in a puddle of muck.

As the man behind him expired, the sounds of battle receded. Above the whimpering of the man before him Anton could barely hear shouting and the occasional clang of metal on metal from nearby streets. The other kings and Sir Akiros’ MaxTac team were finishing their work, it seemed. Anton studied the man briefly, considering him, what he’d done, and what he represented. In this brief moment Anton reflected on his work and his role as king and symbol of the realm. Had he done right by his people? Were his priorities aligned with his stated goals and values? Had he been a good king? The very existence of these slums was a black mark on his record, he accepted. Glancing at the alley around him, he recognized the mount for a sign no longer there, for a shop opened when this place had been a street, years ago, when Misthaven was young, and such problems were distant.

No, he’d not been the best leader he could be. He’d reveled some in being a king, and enjoyed its trappings…and let this happen. The greatest of kings never ruled without problems, nor challenges. And the greatest of kings owned up to their mistakes. Allowing this rot to take hold in his beloved home was, he accepted, his fault. He would not tolerate in himself such a mistake again.

The pimp’s volume increased, snapping King Anton back to the present. He looked down at the pathetic excuse for a man and pondered his fate…and his own.

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Bright Night
...kicking over slimy rocks...

Operation Bright Night took about 5 weeks to fully implement, due to some logistical problems and production challenges. In the end, several streets in the working class neighborhoods around the old harbor area – the real slums – were lit at night as the air warmed, heralding the coming of summer. Shorter nights, now lit, resulted in a steep drop in crime and a corresponding boost to the businesses of that area, also a result of a festival encouraged by the kings and put on by local business owners.

A fortnight after all the lights were up, crime had dropped by over 60% on those streets, and a number of wanted petty and more serious criminals had been caught – unaccustomed as they were to being seen, their routine was thoroughly upset, and many were therefore apprehended.

Of several notable brigands captured, Brango O’Rourke and his accomplice, Shandyrayn – two notorious thieves – provided Sir Akiros with actionable intelligence about some of the worst elements at work along the old waterfront. Drug smuggling & sales, and prostitution were rampant in that area, and the two men were more than willing to drop dime (or, in this case, Anton) on those they knew to be involved in those trades.

Within a few weeks Akiros was confident that the worst blocks were essentially isolated, and that traffic in and out of them could be adequately monitored.

“My lords,” he announced as he brought his briefing on the progress of Bright Night to a close, "I believe it is time to launch Operation Sanctuary.

“We have enough reserves on hand to handle routine patrols and enforcement in the rest of the city, enabling us to detail the best for this work – at least for the first few nights. After that we can continue the push with our MaxTac teams, of which I now have three. One will be on duty, one will be on emergency reserve, and the last will rest unless needed.

“And with the addition of you,” he nodded in general to the four kings surrounding the table map in the tight quarters of the anti-scrying room, “we can cut this cancer out of our good city!”

The kings cheered a mighty roar of ‘huzzah!’ and clanked their great kingly tankards of ale together, and then broke into a bawdy song of war, adventure, and comely damsels in distress before gorging themselves on hearty stew served in sourdough bread bowls.

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Deep undercover
really deep

Zion brings the kings together in the meeting room with the table to show the others the letter he received from the Queen. When they have all taken their seats, he begins by tossing the parchment on the table within easy reach of Pik who he knows would be the most curious.

“My Fellow Kings, and friends. The queen has left us. She has undertaken what we have already discussed she should not do alone, which is find, and confront this ‘Caretaker’. In her arrogance, She believes she is the only one qualified to deal with it. Yet one more reason why she never should have been elevated to the status we share. She claims she is doing it for the people but it is NOT up to her to decide what is best for them. Our people come to us because of how we govern our people.

“She is unhinged. I believe we need to craft a defense if she is to return.”

Pik reaches out and takes the letter, reading it aloud.

Dread Zion,

I have chosen to share my decision with you first, that you would then pass it along to the rest of the kings. Perhaps by entrusting you with this information you will be able to discern my true intent and loyalty.

I am greatly concerned with this Caretaker, and its place in the realm. I wish to learn more about it. To find it and speak with it, whatever it is. I believe that I, with my deep history in and knowledge of the lands and world and people am uniquely positioned to take on this mission. I will find the Caretaker and determine the Caretaker’s real intentions, so that we can act on them.

It is a sad thing indeed that you have so arranged yourself against me these years, never trusting nor accepting my person or position. If only you could know my heart in full you would know that you have nothing to fear from me; and, in fact, everything to gain from me. From me. But that is all in the past now, and only our work today and tomorrow will determine what the future may bring. Perhaps a piece of my heart still holds out hope, but that is for another day, and maybe another world entirely.

I do not know when you will hear from me again; and if my mission fails, if you ever will again. Believe me when I say that I am looking out for the realm and its people, and will keep these ever-forward in my heart and mind as I delve into the Caretaker’s secrets.

Yours, forever and affectionately,

Tessara

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A Month of Work
do not mistake activity for progress

Meta
This is a summary of plans put into action over the weeks following the attempt on Pik’s life and Tessara being called on the carpet by the other kings.

Light is being brought to the neighborhoods that skirt the slums near the old waterfront (that is, the first set of docks built). Progress is slow, due to the unique nature of the work, the fact that it requires coordination between disparate groups not used to work with one another, and the matter of red tape related to existing zoning ordnances, some of which needed to be changed. The bureaucracy of Misthaven isn’t that big – and that’s part of the problem, as there aren’t enough pencil-pushers, accountants, survey crews, and other public works folks to get the job(s) done in a timely manner. That said, the first posts are up and the process is being ironed out. The entire project should be done in about two months.

A few groups of Mistborn Rangers have been quietly brought into town to help support the local constabulary as Sir Akiros shifts manpower and resources to prepare for the big push into the slums, which he says he’ll be able to conduct in about a month.

Pik and Boldrick “The Boulder” Ballbearing spent about a week working on the assassin, trying to get him to see the light, change his evil ways, and overall embrace niceness. The guy, however, turned out to be a jerk, refusing offers, not taking the men seriously, and being abrasive and rude at every turn. He demonstrated a noteworthy tolerance for beatings and other forms of coercion, including sleep depravation, high and low temperatures, and bad food. Basically, the guy’s a tough, stubborn jerk who really doesn’t care what happens to him, having long since resigned himself to being executed for attempted regicide. Do with him as you will.

As for gathering intel on the criminal underworld of Misthaven and the kingdom at large, you’ve turned first to digging through existing records and sources in order to see if anything’s been missed. The lack of a Spymaster has really hampered your ability to conduct this sort of internal intelligence-gathering, and it’s entirely possible that different cities’ constabularies have information that could help…but you’ve no idea if they do since no one is running the show. Essentially, law enforcement in the kingdom above the local level is a disjointed hodge-podge, much like an incomplete symphony with no conductor or sheet music. Expanding spy operations within the city or kingdom will depend on what local law enforcement can muster, meaning that such operations are going to be as uneven as are your different cities’ constabularies.

What are the kings up to during all of this?

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