Pathfinder Kingmaker

Post Script to a Campaign

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I hadn’t intended to end this campaign when last month I got a burst of focused creativity and needed to write more. I think, however, it is over, and ended the right way. The story of the founding of the Kingdom of the Mistmarches was told by a group of us who played almost weekly for a total of well over a year. During this time we added a lot to the story online only – it was a perfectly hybrid campaign, and it was the most extensive and well-developed story I have had the privilege of creating through a game.

After reading that last post again it became clear that the story of Anton, Pik, Zion, Kincaid, and Reg is over. They’ve done their piece for those of us who played them and worked together to create this world, and it’s time to let them rest. Perhaps someday I’ll pick up with the Mistmarches again, but not with these characters – maybe Anton’s children, or the grandchildren of some of the secondary characters will make names for themselves some day, after their generation has been entrusted with the fate of their home.

Thanks for reading and for contributing.

Epilogue to War
Some wounds are hard to heal

The simple monument to Reg was finished and had been dedicated at sunrise. In keeping with his abiding faith in Erastil, the half-orc had been buried where he fell, and out in the Kamelands there was a matching marker above his simple, stout tomb. Reg would not have agreed to any kind of resurrection, as it went against his faith. This obelisk stood next to the one that memorialized Kincaid, in Founders’ Square, next to Tuskwater Castle. The people of Misthaven had taken up donations to erect it, and a pair of local stone cutters and some artisans gave their time to complete the job.

Anton’s scars were lighter and thinner, but healing slowly. Wounds sustained from magic were hard to heal, even through arcane and divine means. He’d lost all the hair on his head and arms, and most of his neck and face had been badly burned in the fire. The best healers had told him that his right hand would be stiff and weak for a long time, and might never be quite the same. But he’d taken damage before, been wounded almost to the point of death. Physical injury was quantifiable and its healing or lack of it, was obvious. Wounds of the soul were worse – hidden, perhaps on purpose, and prone to festering. Anton missed his friend Reg, and wrestled with the guilt of knowing that he’d given his life to save Anton’s.

Zion had healed quickly, once Pik had worked the poison out of him. But he was different now – distant, as if he was always paying at least some attention to something that others could not perceive. He and General Alcorn had chased the Nomen out of the kingdom, killing more of them than would be counted in the process. Meanwhile Pik had worked with the Mistborn Rangers to put more eyes out to the east to determine if any threat lingered.

What they’d started was based on a promise between friends and family: to pacify and rule these lands as good men, in ways that they’d wished they themselves had been ruled before. Kincaid, Pik, Anton, Zion, and Reg – five men who’d claimed a kingdom for themselves, earned the respect of their people, neighbors, and enemies. The years had changed them all, with Kincaid stepping away first, perhaps a surprise to no one when he found his elf bride and took to the woods, only returning when Pitax threatened his home – and eventually suffering terribly to protect it.

Zion had separated himself, too, but not completely nor for reasons of animosity. In years to come, when the history of the origins of the Mistmarches would be written, sages recognized Zion’s drift away during the years after the war with Pitax as the beginning of greater changes for him as his magic grew, and his connection with the arcane power in his blood drew closer.

Not long after the Nomen Incursion, as it would soon become known, Zion abdicated his position as king, formally becoming the realm’s Magister, and adopting his birth name, William, as a quiet honor to his lost brother – the only family he had.

Pik, recognizing the years of change that had already taken place, and looking toward the future of the realm, stepped down from his throne, as well, creating the Mistmarches as a true kingdom, with one king to rule it, and loyal friends to assist him, and an heir to one day replace him when it was time for a marker to stand for him in Founders’ Square.

An Ending

With the help of Pik, the foul poison inflicted by Tessara was expunged from his system and Zion was finally able to try to get the rest he sorely needed to make a real difference in the defense of the kingdom.

His dreams, ever since he was able to take dragon form, had become more clear, and possibly a little clairvoyant. He dreamt of the war. The battles he was a part of but from the distance of miles in the sky. He flew as a separate consciousness. No physical form, no silver scales, nothing. Far below, a battle raged. It meant nothing to the formless thought that was Zion. His power was growing. Magic was consuming him but making him stronger.

There in the distance was Silverstep. Another physical manifestation of the physical world. There is something there but he is unable to grasp it. Further to the west. The capital on the Tuskwater. All these forms, the sounds. He felt himself absorbing their energy, he was detaching from the world.

Once again, the battle drew his attention. Lives on both sides were lost. He saw their souls depart their bodies, and move onto their final resting place. In the middle of the formed chaos came a roar of rage and pain. He didn’t hear it, but more felt it. Why? There were people dying all over this world? Wait….

Half-unconscious and soaked with sweat, Zion bolted out of bed and sloppily started to pull on his boots, getting only one on – on the wrong foot – before he gave up, stood, and to the shock of the attendant who’d barely had a chance to react, disappeared in a whirl of wind.

The air split and Zion emerged from a swirl of compressed air, dropping to the ground inside the ring of thorns. He didn’t know how he’d been able to appear right where it seemed he was needed; he felt something pull him out of his sleep and continue to pull him through void to this spot. Quickly surveying the scene, he saw Anton sprawled on the ground, smoking. The only exposed flesh – his right hand – was charred black. Reg was on top of Tessara, who was dragging herself from out under his brother. The mad druid caught sight of the disheveled silver-haired sorcerer and gasped, then screamed in blind, incomprehensible rage.

Calling down the last of her power over nature, a funnel cloud whirled into existence above Zion and stabbed at him from the sky, lightning firing around it. The sorcerer-king had little to respond with, and simply pointed a finger at the elf, from which pulsed a thin green ray. The elf, light on her feet still and her blood up from the long fight, moved to spring to her left and out of the way, but was caught and instead took the ray full in the chest.

The green ray, upon impact, knocked her flat, in place. As she hit the body of Reg beneath her she shattered into a million tiny motes of dust, which in a second disappeared, as cold breath quickly fades once exhaled. All that was left of her was her left boot, firmly held in Reg’s final grip.

Zion collapsed to his knees and yelled, “healers!!”

The Last Full Measure

Reg sputtered, blood filling his mouth and nose. He felt cold, dizzy, and somehow…distant…from his surroundings. He looked at himself on the ground, saw that he was on top of the elf, and felt her wiggling around, trying to get out from under him. He watched as his great arms wrapped around her, holding her just long enough for the air to split open. Somehow, he knew it would happen. He saw Anton collapse, yet there was nothing he could do. Perhaps they’d travel to the other side together – he didn’t know, couldn’t, and had more important things to do right now.

Squeeze with the last of his strength, and hold her for just a bit longer….the air would split, and he’d arrive.

Kings' Battle
not all will live

The dust settled some as Anton turned his horse toward the elf, who was waving her left hand as she cast some spell at the king. Spurring his horse into motion, Anton was suddenly bogged down in a mass of sticky mud, as rider and mount began to sink. Thinking quickly, he lunged off the horse and tried to skip to dry land, several feet away. He was unsuccessful, and ended up dragging one foot out, almost losing a boot in the process.
The elf made good use of Anton’s wasted time, whipping her hands around her and conjuring a circular wall of thorns, isolating the two inside. Just as Anton steadied himself she struck, having transformed into a massive black bear. Two paw strikes sent the king reeling to his right and the ground, losing his shield in the process. Cursing, he tried to roll with the blow as much as he could in order to regain his footing and put some space between the two. ‘Damn! I’ve not been hit like that in years!’ he thought.

The bear’s eyes were the same color as Tessara’s, and displayed the same frenzied madness she had shown a moment before when an elf. It charged the king, barreling into him while biting. The force of the impact again knocked the king to the ground, but not before he was able to bring up his great sword, which burst into flame an instant before striking the bear with the flat of its blade.

The flames surprised the bear, giving Anton a split second to scurry to his feet and swing. The mighty sword struck hard this time, scorching bear fur and flesh and slicing a bloody gash into the beast’s side. Howling in fury and pain, the bear stood on its back legs and swung at Anton with its paws, connecting with several deep scratches in Anton’s breastplate and compressing his chest.

The bear stepped back toward the wall of thorns and transformed back into the elf, who then started screaming.

“YOU’ve brought this on us all! Balance! Bring back what WAS!” she screeched as she called down another spell, this time a column of flame from the sky, centered on Anton.

Hearing the rush of air above him, Anton dove to his left, barely avoiding the flames, but still within the corona of intense heat. His armor immediately began to smoke as it heated, burning the padding underneath and his skin with it.

Reg dragged himself to standing on the arm of one of the Guards, bleeding profusely. The rate at which he was bleeding out alarmed the small part of his mind that was still rational; meanwhile the orc warrior in him paid no attention to anything but the thorns that separated him from Anton and Tessara. The battle outside had continued, but the Mistmarchers were holding their own, and in some places pushing the Nomen back. There was some confusion among the barbarians when their Prophet had joined the fight and then disappeared, and they were poorly organized at this point, anyway.

Reg lunged for the wall, some 8 feet high, and with the help of the Guard mounted a horse, which he showered in his own blood. Bellowing a war cry that rose above the ear-splitting din of combat he stood on the horse’s back and dove over the thorns, partially catching on some, which tore at his flesh. A column of fire nearly dazzled his vision and warmed his face.

Anton pulled himself into the mud and tried to hold his mouth shut, feeling a tugging sensation in his chest as the fire sought to draw all the air out of his lungs, and perhaps his lungs with it. Focusing his mind he drew on powers that he’d not had to use in years and brought some healing to himself after thinking a prayer to Iomedae. The healing magic spent, he felt his skin begin to burn again.

‘If this is the way a king dies, then so be it,’ he thought as he forced himself to his feet and turned to find Tessara.

The elf was on the other side of the circle, laughing and preparing another spell when Anton saw her, and saw a bloody figure fall on her from above.

Reg was much heavier than the elf, and with his armor even more so. He crashed down on top of her, knocking her flat to the ground, he lower jaw impacting so hard on the firm turf that shattered teeth and blood spurted from her mouth. His inert mass weighed her down as she struggled to get her wits about her.

Anton, partially on fire, smoke coming out of the seams of his armor and from around his neck from the charred skin underneath, staggered toward her, before collapsing and sinking into unconsciousness, his wounds too great to continue.

The Kings Arrive
In the blood-soaked Kamelands

Tessara and the Prophet sat tall on Lupo as the great cat stalked back and forth, several of the Nomen Mosh leaders around them. A quarter mile away, on the crest of a low mesa, sat the Mistmarcher army, arrayed still in a horseshoe. The terrain did not allow an easy route to the western side of the hill, and the enemy had enough ranged weapons to make movement over the open ground between them dangerous. The Nomen had launch several charges, all of which were beaten back, but at high cost to the enemy. It was a stalemate right now…but just for right now.

The Prophet was angry at Tessara and all her ‘balance’ crap. The Prophet knew that they had held powerful spells in reserve, and could not understand why the fool elf druidess had thus far refused to use them. They could have scattered their enemy, to be easily slaughtered by their cavalry while the foot soldiers rushed in to secure the spoils from the caravan.

Tessara could see the Prophet’s point, but she also understood that there were greater threats than this army. Yes, if they made it to Silverstep they would create problems for the forces seeking to capture that city. But the Prophet was so focused on the traditional Nomen lands that she could not see well the fact that Misthaven was a powerful source of problems, and something would need to be held back, in case the kings rallied more forces, and sooner.

The Caretaker had nagged some too, last night, about the forests and streams, but the Prophet and Tessara agreed to not listen to it for the next 27 hours – not until the second moon reached its apogee. Then they’d put up with its blather for a bit. But not right now.

While the cat and its rider paced, the Nomen talked among themselves, trading their own ideas for what to do next. They were inspired by and wary and sometimes afraid of the Prophet, and kept their distance. It was during these tense moments of deliberation by both the group of barbarians and the group of voices in the elf’s head that a chorus of shouts came up from the men to toward the front of their horde – the enemy was formed up and charging!

From their position on the plain the Nomen and their Prophet could see a column of heavy foot marching forward at a quick pace, flanked to the north and south by cavalry. In front of the infantry rode a small group bearing the banner of the kingdom and the personal war flag of…King Anton. Tessara recognized it – she’d helped design it, actually…well, picked out one of the colors…whatever. She, the Prophet, the sudden intrusive voice of the Caretaker, and out of the blue of her addled mind four other voices she’d not heard in years all shouted in joy – the great source of imbalance was here and could be finally destroyed.

The Nomen, unable to hold off from a fight, charged pell-mell at the human forces, their blood up. Moments later the forward edges of both forces clashed: the frenzy of a barbarian charge versus the disciplined ranks of regulars. Cavalry on both sides clashed, limiting the outward movement of the foot soldiers, and the king’s banner waved high, in the middle of the fray.

Tessara and her personal mental retinue was momentarily paralyzed, arguing internally over what exactly to do.

“Misthaven is without its true king! I can lay low the city!” exclaimed Tessara, seeking primacy over the others.

“Kill the king! Smash his skull and feast on his brain!” muscled in the Prophet, riding a wave of blind fury from the Nomen.

“If too many of them are killed here, there will be imbalance,” warned the Caretaker.

For a few precious moments the elf sat high in the saddle, a blank stare frozen on her face. Few Nomen paid attention to her now, so drawn they were to the fight and the killing to be had. Those few who risked a glance at her eyes as they ran past couldn’t tell what was behind them. But again, the Prophet was beyond the knowledge of mortals, and odd behavior was not only accepted but by now expected.

Anton, Reg, and the Guard smashed into the barbarians like a hammer, crushing some under horsefoot while slashing and stabbing with a furor none had experienced in years. The split second before the clash, Reg and Anton shared a glance and each smiled, if grimly. Neither fully expected to come out alive.

Reg went after anyone on a horse, and kept an eye on Anton. If the king stayed up and in the fight, they’d have a chance. The Guard did their part by hacking to ground the barbarians, and jointly the group began cutting a gash into the horde of half-dressed, fully-crazed warriors. To their left and right the regulars pushed hard and maintained their formations. In the presence of their kings they gave all they could, every man fighting as if the kingdom depended on him alone.

The elf snapped out of her daze and charged, knocking Nomen aside and trampling a few as she headed directly toward the king’s war banner, which itself was affixed to Anton’s horse. She’d been on the inside of their rotten realm and knew how to end its destabilizing presence: kill the kings, scatter their armies, destroy their cities, let the people to the mercies of the Nomen.

A roar of sound rose above the din of battle, drawing Reg’s attention. Anton was locked in combat with a pair of barbarian horsemen and Reg had just cut down a pikeman who’d threatened the king from his flank. Reg saw and recognized the elf a moment before she’d crash into Anton’s unprotected right side. Processing and deciding what he had to do without thought, the great half-orc kicked his horse forward and turned it hard to the left, then launched himself out of the saddle and directly into the path of the elf and her mount.

The impact enabled Reg to plow his great axe into the cat’s skull, and in the doing also opened his entire torso to both its teeth and the force of its charge. The last thing he saw before his world became a tumble of dust and pain was the shocked look of the elf: filthy, naked, and utterly surprised that her charge was completely broken, and her about to be thrown from the saddle.

Reg and the cat twisted and rolled into a ball on the ground, the cracks of bone coming from both. Blood sprayed from a great wound in the cat’s head as it started into its death throes. Its jaws tightened around Reg’s side, cracking ribs and bursting organs as his blood mixed with Lupo’s in a dark maroon mud sludge. The cat thrashed about and weakened quickly; Reg had gone into the red rage that only half-orcs knew, and didn’t consider his grievous injuries above his one task: kill this beast and find the elf.

Tessara flew several body lengths, knocking one of Anton’s foes off his horse before landing lightly on her feet near the king, who immediately recognized her, and shouted for his Guards to close on him – she would get no help from her savage minions.

The worst of nightmares
Zion's troubled night

The light glowed green around him in the deep forest, filtered through the many layers of leaves. A cool, damp wind gave him a slight shiver, and the strong scent of damp, old wood dominated his senses. Zion could hear the voices of faeries, their lilting, high-pitched voices unmistakable and beyond comprehension. They seemed excited, and at the edges of his vision he caught glimpses of them flitting here and their, on branches and in the air.

Frozen in place in a deep forest glade, he felt warm breath on his neck and could just hear a shuddered breath follow. He could not move. The warmth of the breath on his skin increased, as if whatever or whoever was behind him was very close, and breathing just next to him. He realized that he was wearing only his sleeping clothes – a loose shirt and baggy shorts.

He felt a greasy hand on his left forearm. He could was still unable to move. Footsteps to his left, and into his field of vision he saw her appear. She was a little thinner than when he’d last seen her, and wore only a pair of knee-high fur boots. She was filthy, with layers of oil, grease, and dye spread across her bare skin. Her hair stood at all angles, caked with dirt that obscured the pink and green colors. Her eyes were wild and bloodshot, and she stood before him, her mouth just slack.

“You denied me once…” she half-spoke, half-breathed.

Zion woke with a start, sheets soaked from his fever. The poison had run its course, and the healing magic applied to him had done what it could, and he knew he was not at his best. He knew it would be days before he would be able to transform again, and that his spells would be limited. He also knew, fever aside, that the dream represented reality: Tessara, the Mad Bitch Queen as she was known by most, was back.

Greeting the sunrise with a fight
The Prophet arrives

General Alcorn’s force made ready to march before daybreak, striking tents and cinching up loads on wagons. The troops ate quickly and were bolstered by news of the impending arrival of the rest of the Tuskwater Dragoons, who were supposed to meet them today after assembling from across the realm. They should reach Silverstep late that day, or the next morning at the latest.

No one knew that the morning pickets hadn’t reported in before the clank and low rumble of an army about to move was matched by a rising howl from the east, as a great wind storm coalesced out of thin air in the morning calm, whipping through the army and blinding men with dust and debris, and blowing over many. Were it not for the roar of the wind the troops would have heard the screams and war whoops of barbarian horsemen quickly closing from the east, just as the sun rose over the Tors of Levenies in the distance, further blinding the men.

Not far behind the front ranks of the enemy cavalry galloped a single rider, given space all around by the Nomen, in both reverence and fear, given what they’d seen their Prophet do with her magic and how she was not bothered by collateral damage. The massive cat on which she rode bounded forward at a lazy pace, since it was so able to cover more ground than the Nomen horses.

The petite figure’s hair stood almost on end, stiffened by layers of lard and dye, and she squealed in delight as the moment of contact drew closer. Aside from her boots and riding gloves she was naked – and filthy. The elf was lost in a moment of pure warrior bliss, the only rational thought being the knowledge that she was about to restore balance to her lands.

Silverstep under seige
Armies to the north and south

Cyrus Vary crushed the last Sending Stone and read from the note sitting on the desk in front of him.

“Silverstep besieged. Forces in balance; appears a holding action; we are unable to break out or attack. Zion recovering slowly; will update tomorrow after probes.”

Yes, Zion was recovering, with the emphasis on slowly. Whatever poison were in those enchanted vines had laid him low, weak and somewhat addled in the head – dizzy and easily confused. Indeed, the attackers had arrayed themselves along the major roads around the town, preventing escape or easy reinforcement. The defenders could hold, but the attackers held them in check. It was clear to both sides that Silverstep and its garrison – what there was of it – would be stuck for the moment, along with the barbarian forces.

What else the invaders had in mind, no one could tell.

Meeting in the Kamelands
Two days out from Misthaven

General Alcorn and his small force made good time on the first and second days, making it about 2/3 the way to Silverstep and being augmented by more cavalry, which rode hard from Burmovton to join them. Their challenge was to balance between moving quickly, and moving too quickly – showing up for battle beaten down and exhausted was a great way to lose before a fight began, and Alcorn was wary of how rusty part of his contingent was.

A scout had encountered a lone man galloping hard on a horse, who waved down the small recon party once he saw them. He clearly wasn’t trying to stay hidden, and was animated in the telling of his story to the men. The sergeant brought him directly to Alcorn as the column continued its march.

He told the story of what happened to Varnhold and how he’d escaped. Alcorn, having been to the city a few times and had been through both passes, quizzed him on some of the details that he remembered as a way of checking the veracity of his claims, and had his aide find a soldier who’d lived there to dig even deeper. The man seemed honest and his story checked out as best as it could and squared with what news had come from the east already. Alcorn dispatched a single rider westward with the news. Yes, he had a few Sending Stone, but this news, however horrible, was old at this point. They knew forces had moved west of the town and so the assumption was that it had fallen. This news did not change anything other than clarifying the nature of the threat and surprising level of organization the Nomen were showing.

“See to his needs and put that horse down,” Alcorn directed. “Put him in a supply wagon and give him something useful to do,” he continued, then turned to Connor. “And there’s a lot of work to be done – we could use you.” He’d relied on this tactic many times to bolster the spirits of men who’d been through awful things: put them to work and let them know that they were needed. Connor, exhausted, nodded.

“I’ll do my best,” he said.

“That’s all a man can offer, isn’t it?” Alcorn replied, resting his hand firmly on his shoulder before himself nodding and stepping away, returning to his horse.

As they spoke, the army had moved around them. Alcorn and his staff picked up their speed to move back toward the front of the column and rode steadily for another few hours without incident, but with a growing tension as they got closer to what they knew would be a desperate battle.


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