The Fifth Blight

The Tower
Session 3

Encountered main room of the tower. Lots of debris; evidence of battle fought. Remains of barricade on the eastern wall, another door to the west. Alexandra edged over to one side and urged the others to follow to the east.

Fought battle in what appeared to be guardsman’s barracks. Three skeleton archers, and three skeleton spearmen. Roarke heavily injured on initial assault; Lenka and Alexandra fought the skeletons for the first half of the fight and on getting wounded themselves retreated and were able to heal Roarke. Overall, the team was seriously wounded but survived. In the aftermath, a note from Ser Greenthorn was found pinned to skeleton on a wall.

Up the stairs led to the second floor and a room with statues depicting virtues. Another note from Ser Greenthorn was found on the table, held down with a battleaxe. Four crowns on table were laid on a long table, which were inscribed about “The Good Monarch”. Alexandra placed the crowns on the correct statues that corresponded to natures about a virtuous monarch, which revealed the stairs and allowed the team to progress. Up the stairs appeared to be some sort of office in the tower’s third floor, where another note from Ser Greenthorn was found amongst the copious recordkeeping of people coming and going by the tower.

The party moved on to the top room of tower, where the spirit of Duty, as well as the Orlesian warden heavily injured and a skeleton of the long-dead commander were found. Duty mentioned that he had taken over the task of the tower, to watch over the comings and goings into town, to prevent and vanguard against invasion, for fifty years or more, long after the war had ended.

It surmised that Ser Greenthorn helped “the Rebel Queen”, Queen Moira, escape an attack on her life by Orlais by drawing the pursuing Orlesians to the tower, causing them to think the Queen was inside. Duty had seen a heirloom sword wielded by the warden, handed down by his father who killed Ser Greenthorn, and assumed that the warden was his father.

Alexandra attempted to bluff the spirit down, stating that Ferelden had won the war and Orlais were her subjects, and that harming the Orlesian warden would be dishonorable. After realizing that Duty would determine Alexandra was lying, Roarke told Duty the truth.

Duty then showed the party the extent of the blight to come, and the Wardens’ preparations. Duty then released them, and on leaving the tower, helped the Orlesian warden back to Cally’s inn to rest and recuperate.

Come morning, the party reunited with Duncan and moved on to their next task.

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Greenthorn Approach
Session 2

Tonight saw the small band of initiate wardens set out for the village of Greenthorn, with a few hiccups along the way. Once they finally arrived, a grisly sight revealed greater troubles in store than a simple escort task.

The party travelled along the Imperial Highway towards the Ferelden border in the Frostback Mountains for two days, before splitting off the road to follow a narrow path through a canyon. It was late afternoon when they decided to begin looking for a suitable place to camp, though with the steep cliffs looming either side of them so close, nobody felt too happy about their chances. As the canyon narrowed to a few yards, Roark spotted a strange shadow behind a large rock. As he turned to his companions to point it out, a large, imposing figure popped up from behind the rock. He had the look of an Avvarian hillsman, the large barbarians who lived in the mountains. He wore a suit of mail armour and hefted a large two handed axe in his massive hands.

“I am Forstal Ar Nithig O Frosthold and you are on MY ROAD!” he shouts to the wardens, striking an intimidating pose with his axe at the ready.

Alexandra seemed terrified by the sight. Lenka gave away no sign of her feelings, and Roark seemed particularly unimpressed.

Forstal demanded the trio hand over all their gold, armour, and weapons in payment for using “his” road. While Alexandra seemed ready to negotiate some kind of amicable arrangement, Roark was still unimpressed, and told Forstal exactly where he could shove his demands.

Forstal only grinned, as he replied “I was hoping you’d say that.” And he turned to the steep cliffs that surrounded them. “Show ’em the Avvar way, boys!”

Only silence followed, for several moments. Roark thought he heard a grunt of pain from somewhere up the slope.

Forstal, meanwhile, turned to rant at the mountains surrounding him, demanding his “boys” stop stalling and attack NOW! In response, a dark shape leapt from the canyon walls to pounce on him. He managed to get one swing of his axe just before the shape collided with him, spilling his lifeblood in a spray all over the path.

The party tensed, as the dark shape rounded from behind the rock. It revealed to be a tall, misshapen figure, with long limbs and blades attached to it’s forearms. It’s head was bulbous and bald, with long sharp ears and a deep jaw opened wide showing large sharp teeth. It seemed to be dripping blood, a parting gift from Forstal’s axe, and the trio noticed the blood was black as pitch. The sight of the creature made Alexandra recoil in horror, and the two dwarves knew instantly what it was.

“Darkspawn!”

Lenka was the first to react, slinking up the side of the path along the canyon wall as the creature fixed it’s attention on the other two. She tried to get close to stab it but at the last minute it spotted her, and she could only get a glancing blow with her short sword. It retaliated in kind, landing a slashing blow across Lenka’s cheek with released a fine spray of blood. Roark made ready to aid his comrade, but before he could move another creature, like the first only appearing at full health, leapt upon him from higher up the canyon wall.

The dwarves and the darkspawn traded blows, both taking damage from the other, and the wounded was dispatched quickly with Roarks maul. Meanwhile Alexandra recovered from her initial shock and let loose a powerful spell. She wrapped the healthier of the two darkspawn in a constricting sheath of energy, causing periodic damage to it as the others fought on. Before long, as the creature seemed to sag beneath the weight of the magic and it’s wounds, she shouted at the others to get clear. Only Lenka was fast enough to react, however, and praying that Roark’s armour would help him withstand whatever was coming, she launched a throwing knife at the creature, which struck true. It screamed in agony, before exploding in a shower of black bile and viscera, knocking Roark off his feet at the impact.

As he righted himself, Roark shot Lenka a withering glare. She only shrugged, as if to say “Not my fault you didn’t get out of the way.”

The trio decided they should move on to a safer area to camp. As they passed the grisly body of Forstal Ar Nithig O Frosthold, Roark decided to take his fallen axe for himself.

The party made camp a short time later, though they didn’t rest as well as they hoped, even with a watch schedule set up. While both dwarves had seen darkspawn before, they had never seen that particular variant. Alexandra, drawing on the lessons she had received from the Warden’s tutors, had called it a “shriek”, the variety of darkspawn that were once elves. They found themselves waking at every suspicious noise, fearful for a sneak attack in the dark.

The night passed uneventfully.

By mid afternoon of the next day, the trio finally arrive at the outskirts of Greenthorne, overlooking the valley in which it is located. The village stretches out below them, and beyond is a small hill with a defensive looking square tower. They notice that carrion birds are circling above the village, though all three do not grasp the significance at first. Though they do notice the village seems unusually deserted for this time of day.

As they reach the village square, they are greeted by a gruesome sight. Humans and their horses lay slain in the centre of the square, looking like they’ve been dead for at least two days. Alexandra is paralized by the horrific scene, never having experienced anything like it before in her sheltered life.

Lenka makes a quick scan of the bodies, and finds an arm band on one of the fellows, which is engraved with the griffon emblem of the Grey Wardens. Their armour too looks well made, though their weapons are nowhere to be seen. This, evidently was who they were sent to meet.

The party does note, however, that there are five slain horses, and only four humans. Perhaps there is hope yet of finding Aldric LaPointe?

Wrapped up as they are in their own musings, the party stumbles up to the inn, not noticing the commotion inside. Roark opens the door to find a woman behind the bar beset by five shambling corpses, reaching for her throat. The woman wields a cleaver with deadly precision, however she stands little hope, outnumbered as she is.

Lenka again proves to be the fastest to react, and quickly hurries to leap upon the bar and stab the nearest corpse. It is taken by surprise, and she quickly brings town her second weapon, her morningstar, and batters it over the head. The fight progresses quickly from that point.

Lenka gets a few more good stabs, setting up corpses to fall to Cally’s cleaver. Roark proves monstrously effective, reducing one corpse to a puddle of flesh behind the bar thanks to a lucky blow with his maul. Alexandra fires off some bolts of magical energy, killing a few including one who got dangerously close to hurting her.

As the adrenaline wears off, it’s clear Lenka fared the worse of all of them, and she slumps against the bar in pain. Roark lends her a fortifying swig from his flask of “watr” (a disguise for his whisky that only he thinks is effective), and she seems to pick up a little. Alexandra suddenly realises it’s her chance to be helpful, and rushes over to tend to Lenka’s wounds. The silent dwarf lets the mage do her work, though her scowl shows how little she cares for the attention.

Once Lenka is tended to, they all take a breather at a relatively clean table. The woman introduces herself as Cally, the bartender and owner of the inn. Cally explains she’s most likely the only one left alive. According to her, corpses came down the hill two days before, killing many on the first night. Then those that died rose up the next night to kill even more… The wardens tried to help, but got overwhelmed as well. She doesn’t know what might have happened to the remaining warden, but suspects the tower has something to do with it, which wasn’t there two days before.

Roark made a show of attempting secrecy while finding out what Cally knew about the wardens, asking if she knew who they were waiting for. Alex, however, in her nievity, blurted out “They were waiting for US, stupid!”. Luckily this means little to Cally, who is still only grateful the trio turned up when they did.

After hearing of corpses and the nearby tower, Roark makes the leap of logic that the Tower should be their next destination, declaring “Corpses are raised by mages, and mages live in towers! Let’s go!”. As he launches to his feet, Cally agrees with his conclusion, but not his theory, and explains that the tower was not there two days before, and suddenly his bravado is gone, and he slumps back into his chair. Alexandra and Lenka ( in her own silent way ) both urge him to take courage, and they decide they will seek the tower. After all, it is their only lead on the last warden.

Before they leave, they negotiate what to do with the fallen wardens, as none feel right leaving them to rot in the streets. Both dwarves seem keen on giving them a “proper burial” – Roark reasoning “Humans return to their stone too, right?”. It takes both Alex and Cally to explain that they should be cremated if they are to be honoured properly, so that their souls may return to the Maker’s side.

It takes a few hours to build a sufficient pyre for the fallen wardens, and another for their horses for purely practical reasons. Cally says a few words, but says sadly afterwords that she is a poor substitute for a revered sister or mother.

As Cally moves to return to her inn, she fends off Roark’s suggestions of joining them. The inn is all she has left, and she will not leave it. In an unexpected display of generosity, Roark gives Cally the two handed axe he took from the fallen Forstal the day before, reasoning she should have a better tool at hand than a cleaver. She takes it gratefully, though she hopes she won’t have to use it.

Lenka gives Roark an appreciative and proud nod, as they turn toward the tower. Roark avoids making eye contact with either woman, looking embarrassed by his own actions.

As dusk falls, the party begin the trek up the hill toward the mysterious tower.

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Background and set up
Session 1

We started off this session with the creation of the characters (level 3 Grey Warden initiates, a dwarven rogue Lenka, dwarven warrior Roarke, and a human mage Alexandra), and we each revealed our character’s backstory to the other players. We made it clear to each other though that this was purely player information, not what the characters themselves would know.

Roark went first, detailing his history as a “miner” caste dwarf, delving into the deep roads with a band of fellows for treasures. Unfortunately, their habit of raiding lost taigs and selling the artifacts buried with their lost decendents didn’t go down too well with the noble caste, or indeed the law as it stands in Orzammar. Roark and his companions in crime were banished to the deep roads, and as their numbers fell to infighting, starvation, and the darkspawn, Roark saw the true faces of his so-called “friends”, and realised this was not the people he wished to die alongside. He set off on his own, and by chance ran into an a Grey Warden, who had come to the deep roads to complete his Calling. As the Warden explained the organisations purpose and duty, he saw his chance to escape a lonely death, and followed the wardens directions to a hidden tunnel to the surface, somewhere in Ferelden.
It is now a few months later, and Roark no longer fears falling up into the sky. He eventually found the Ferelden Wardens, and has spent some time as an initiate, though has not yet completed the Joining.

Next, Alexandra explained her origins, growing up in a Ferelden noble family. She proved to have magical talent a little later than when most discover it, and in order to avoid Templar scrutiny of the families magical linage, all efforts were made to keep her from the circle. She received tutelage from an older relative, also an apostate whom she would visit as regularly as was possible without drawing undue attention. As Alexandra grew, however, it became less easy to keep her at home – she was growing into marriageable age, and was expected to attend the regular suaries to garner interest from eligible noble sons. The excuses were becoming harder to sell, and so the family decided it was time for Alexandra to need to forge her own path. And so, a “trip to Orlais” was planned as cover, and with a few provisions, all their love, and pleas to never bring templar attention back to the family, Alexandra was sent from her family home to begin her life as an apostate.
Being sheltered as she was, and not having too much experience providing for her own needs, Alexandra was foolish with her gold at first, spending too much on too many nights in expensive inns to maintain her standard of living. As her savings dwindled, her desperation rose, and she was perhaps a little too conspicuous in one village and drew a Templar’s attention. The scene grew tense, and all hope was quickly becoming lost for Alexandra ever avoiding being dragged to the Circle before a tall stranger stepped in, a Grey Warden by the name of Duncan, who claimed Alexandra was a member of his organisation. He had sufficient clout to give the templar pause, though he did insist the two of them never return to the village. Duncan and Alexandra left together, and as he explained the Warden’s purpose, Alexandra realised it was her best option to avoid Templar scrutiny for the rest of her life. As it stands, having only been among them little more than a week, she has not yet proven herself to the other members or even to Duncan himself.

Lastly, Lenka reviled her tale. As a female among the Astyth dwarven noble family, she decided to honour her ancestor Astyth the Grey (a dwarven warrior, who first fought for women’s right to be soldiers) by joining the Silent Sisters. The sisters go through a training period, before completing the Bloodening ritual, where they cut out their own tongues (as Astyth did in protest to not being heard) and compete in a fight to the death in the Provings. Lenka has completed her Bloodening, however in her proving fight she was thought to be killed, but in fact clung to life in the typical Dwarven fashion. She woke up alone, some time later after being prepared to return to the Stone (the burial process, as is traditional for all dwarves of sufficient standing). She quickly realised her life as she knew it was over – she could not return to the sisters, the shame of surviving her defeat more dreadful than the defeat itself. Nor could she return to her family and spread the shame to them.
So she fled to the surface, leaving all who knew her to believe she had returned whole to the stone, a legend usually reserved for the most honoured of dwarves. She found her way to the Wardens, who took her in and treated her wounds, as the Wardens value dwarves highly. Many Wardens recognise the sacrifices made by the stout folk to keep the darkspawn at bay, the last line of defence against them spilling out onto the surface unchecked.
Lenka has been with the Wardens longest in the group, becoming an initiate around 5 months before, though she also has not yet completed her Joining.

Following this, the party received background on the Prologue to the campaign, the adventure “Duty Unto Death”.

The three of them were traveling with Duncan along the east side of the Imperial Highway around Lake Calenhad to the docks at the north of the lake. Duncan had an appointment at the circle tower, and the party were along partly as escort, partly to learn more about the wardens and prove themselves.

As camp was set, Duncan took the time to explain to the two dwarves present a bit on the history of the Wardens in Ferelden, touching on why some still do not treat them with respect. He touched on a bit about Ferelden’s war for independance from Orlais, something which still carries old wounds for those old enough to have seen it, and since the Ferelden chapter of the Wardens were originally from Orlais, that distrust of Orlesians carried over to the organisation itself, giving it a sullied reputation among some.

After some exasperation at the “damned history lesson”, Roarke and Duncan had a back and forth which eventually lead to Duncan expressing his admiration for the dwarven people in their daily struggles keeping the Darkspawn at bay, something which the rest of the world often takes for granted. This went down well with both Roarke and Lenka, whom both respected Duncan a little more.

Duncan then left the fire to rest, and Lenka decided to take first watch. After an uneventul few hours, she got up to wake Alexandra, whom Lenka had summarily decided should take the second watch. After an awkward interaction where Lenka tried to convey the concept of taking watch with only gestures to communicate, the message eventually got through. Though the awkwardness quickly returned when Lenka tried to ask to borrow Alexandra’s tent, (expensive, sturdy and warm, yet small enough for portability) as she had none of her own, only a bedroll by the fire. Alexandra gave no sign she understood the request, so Lenka resigned herself to sleeping by the fire near a snoring Roarke.

Alexandra’s period of watch also passed uneventfully, so she went to wake Roarke. After his initial surliness from being awoken, he asked Alexandra if she knew anything about why Lenka didn’t speak. When she expressed interest in knowing as such, anticipating some information on the subject from Roarke, he only said that she should ask Lenka about it sometime, and uttered a slow, rumbling chuckle.

On the morn, as the camp was being packed up, Duncan informed the trio that he had received some news in the night. He needs to continue on to the circle tower, and tells the trio they need to travel to the village of Greenthorn, in the frostback mountains in a valley between the imperial highway and Orzammar. There, they are to meet an Orlesian warden named Aldric LaPointe. He and his party will be waiting at an inn named The Queens Boot.

Once they’ve met Aldric and his party, they are to escort them back to the Lake Calenhad Docks to meet Duncan, where the entire party are to travel on Denerim. He stresses the need for secrecy, the locals won’t look kindly on a party of Orlesians entering Ferelden.

The session ended as the party prepared to set out for Greenthorn.

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