The group is once again a Baron Pont’s estate, roughly a week after successfully figuring out what was happening to the children of Junn. This is the first time the party has seen Baron Pont since the mission, due to him being gone.
Baron Pont: “Hello all. My maester told me about your success, but I would like to hear exactly what happened from your own lips. Please inform me.”
Baron Pont: “Well that is an excellent job out of all of you. Some of my men who patrol this section of the city have reported back to me that common folk are talking about your deeds. This is a great first step, but much needs to be done. I have a new mission for all of you, and will be of particular interest to you, Vern. The party will be heading to the great north. The first portion of your mission is of the upmost importance, and if you fail, could undo all of my work. As you all know, the north is made of warriors. Between the harsh weather, harsh jobs, and minerals to create war weapons, the north prides itself on its strength, toughness, and warrior ways. This, unfortunately, can lead internal conflict, especially in times of relative peace. One specific conflict has all of Arem worried. That is between Lord Snow, supreme leader of Nester and the North, and Count Kelvin, leader and commander of the North’s second greatest city/fortress, Arrodia. There has always been an uneasy peace between the two, but recently that has escalated with the tariffs Lord Snow has been placing on trade. Arrodia mines the Arrod Mountains, and almost single handedly makes its living off of the sale of carnen, the most common alloy for making steel, along with iron. The Arrod Mountain range is the only location in Arem that provides the specific carnen needed to create the best steel. Because of the mounting tensions between the 5 Great Cities, Lord Snow has put a massive tariff on carnen, causing trade to screech basically to a halt. This has caused Kelvin a great deal of anger. I fear for what he might do if we do not resolve this problem…”
Baron Pont: “Luckily, I think I have a solution. Count Kelvin had sent his only daughter, Miranda, to Domith as a young girl to prepare her for the trials of nobility. She was taught history, politics, and general court manners. A lovely lady I must say, one that would make a perfect wife. Lord Snow has many sons, but his eldest is Prince Robert Snow, heir to the throne. I have arranged, through months of negotiations and maneuvers, to unite these two in marriage. Once the Snow and Kelvin Houses are connected, there tension between them will greatly decrease, and it should unite the north like never before. Your mission is to escort Miranda, along with her personal with her Maester Ludwig, to Nester to meet up with her husband. I imagine there will be a courtship period, but regardless, the mere act of bringing them together should reduce the tension of the north. I repeat: it is imperative that she gets to the north unharmed. If anything would happen to her I would hate to see the consequences…”
Baron Pont: “Excellent. Once you are done escorting her up to Nester, you will proceed with the second part of your mission. Lord Tor, leader of the Black Keep and the Wall, has been sending us many ravens over the past few years, begging all the Cities to provide more men. Since peace and prosperity has come over the realm, people see little need to join the Men of the Black. On top of that, what are the men really protecting us from? Most of creatures and monsters from beyond the wall are mere fairy tales told to make children behave. And the Wandering Folk haven’t staged an attack on the Wall in years. Regardless, the Wall does hold a special place in the hearts of all Arem men and women, so I would like you to go there and see the state of affairs. Report back on the conditions, and if you sense any need for more support up there.”
Baron Pont: “Good luck sirs, and may the fates watch after you.”
As the group leaves Domith, a raven appears with a note for the nobles: “We command the presence of all nobility. A small castle has defected from Domith, and we are currently in the planning stage in how to take it back. As a step forward to unite the cities, each of your lieges has given their permission for you to participate in this mission. You will meet up with the garrison located outside the castle and talk battle strategy. You will then lead the men into battle and take back the castle. May the fates watch after all of you.” The entire group decides to go help.
The following was reported by Tiberious Thrawn, concerning the rebellion:
When the Castle Vania seceeded from Domith our rag-tag group of heros were dispatched to deal with the troubling insurection of its owner, Earl Aquilius of Domith. Earl Aquilius was disgruntled over Domith’s recent changes in trade and tax policy, most notably the pricy tariffs on imported goods. With these new policies, the Earl felt it cutting into his pocket book and decided to start manipulating the records in order to skim off profits for himself. In midst of the current economic and political climate surrounding Arem the ruling council and Lord of Domith found this most distressing. A courier was dispatched immediately to inform Earl Aquilius that he had been found out and was ordered to stop. The Earl however, chose to break ties with Domith, believing that his small town, estate and castle were insignificant to the powers that be in Domith. His calculation was wrong. A small taskforce from Domith was dispatched with one mission, bring in the Earl, dead or alive. He was to be an example of what happens to those that cross mighty Domith.
The Earl however was a shrewd tactician and new that cowering in his castle would mean certain defeat. So instead he launched a surprise attack at dawn on the force camped outside his castle preparing for the assault. His attack almost succeeded if not for the actions of a few brave men leading the siege. The unlikely, and even more unseemly, team of our heroes managed to spoil the surprise attack with a few well placed and well timed shots with the catapults. Jaque McFlern, a peasant thief, landed the first blow, taking out soldiers in the lead ranks. However, it would be Count Tiberious Thrawn that would land the decisive blow and end Earl Aquilius’s revolt against Domith.
Count Thrawn was directing a group of archers and catapults on the right flank when he noticed Earl Aquilius actually out of the castle leading the surprise attack from a small hill. Count Thrawn instructed the nearest catapult crew to aim for the rogue Earl. Unfortunately the lead operator was struck by an arrow before the shot could be fired. Count Thrawn stepped forward and made the last quick final adjustment to send the boulder hurling towards Earl Aquilius. The shot hit its mark. With their leader dead the rest of the soldiers were routed and Castle Vania was taken easier than expected.
The group then traveled to Nester with Miranda and her maester, disguising her as a common peasant while Ben dressed up as here. The party fought off a group of bandits before safely making it to the Bluewood Pass. There, Miranda and Vern talked, with Miranda showing Vern respect and care, something he experiences little in the north.
Miranda: “Hello sir. I have been awful lonely during this journey, and wished to have someone to talk to. What is your story?”
Miranda: “This is the first time I have been to Nester since I left so many years ago for Domith. I’m going to miss my friends back there, but this is what I was born to do. I will help lead Nester into a better age, and hopefully stop this discontent between the cities. Do you think my future husband will love me?”
Miranda: “Thank you for your time sir. Maester Ludwig is not the best for conversation! I will see you on the morrow.”
The group arrived in Nester. They are met by guards in front of the castle and introduced themselves. They were then escorted directly to Lord Snow in Shard Keep via open carriage. The guards eye Vern suspiciously, though some would argue it was more a combination of nervousness and hatred.
As they walk through the city it looks much different than Domith. It is much more rugged, with most buildings made of brick due to the mining that is done in this region. Everything is covered in ice, but it does create a unique beauty. The people they see seem merry and warm, regardless of the temperatures. Almost everyone is wearing fur of some kind, with a large amount wearing wolf.
As the party enter the gate to Shard Keep, they see a bunch of kids play fighting in the yard. Their technique is poor, but the sharper members of the group notice that many have a lot of potential if they keep up their training. Further on they see the knights of Nester training. This particular group is composed of huge, mountainous men, wielding massive broad swords. The battles they wage in these courtyards are full of rage and terrible blows, more than many of the members have ever seen. Regardless, after one knight got knocked down, the other removed his helm and helped him up with a smile upon his face.
The group is finally escorted into Ice Hall, the great hall of Nester. In front of them, sitting on his throne, is Lord Tybalt Snow. He is a larger man, though not overwhelming, around the age of 40. The group can tell that he is in amazing shape for his age; he has not stopped training at the art of war even as the Lord of the North. To the right of him is a Prince Robert Snow, a spitting image of his father. He is taller, lankier then his dad (which might change with age), though not hard on the eyes as the group can tell by the blushing of Miranda. To Lord Snow’s left is his Commanding Officer Ronald the Terror. He has truly earned his name: the man strikes fear into everyone he looks at, and rumor has it that he has never cracked a smile outside of combat. Regardless, his reputation precedes him: he is often considered the best commander in all of Arem. There are other knights and nobles in the room as well to welcome Miranda, many of which are eying Vern with a look of disgust.
Lord Snow commands that everyone rise. He walks slowly down the stairs and stands directly in front of Miranda (who is at the front of the group). The hall is dead silent. He then gives a huge hug to Miranda.
Lord Snow: “Welcome Miranda! It has been ages since I last saw you. Welcome back to Nester. How have you been? ”
Miranda: “Good my Lord. It is an honor to be in your presence.”
Lord Snow: “The honor is all mine. How was your trip?”
Miranda replied about the trip.
Lord Snow: “Well I would like to personally thank all of you for escorting her up here safely. You are men of great honor, and may the fates look over you kindly. That does not go for you Vern. Do not think I have forgotten your actions. Since you brought Miranda to me safely, I will be courteous. But do not believe for one moment you have affected my opinion of you. I can only hope that you grow to become the man your father way, and not maintain the path you are currently on.”
Lord Snow: My Maester will see to it that you get a warm bed for the night and a good meal (calls the Maester over). Now Miranda, I believe there is someone who would like to meet you…”
(Miranda and Lord Snow walk together up to Robert, and the group clearly sees he is blushing. After a quick introduction, other nobles approach all to say hello to the future Lady of Nester.)
The Maester approaches the group and escorts them from the hall up to the guest quarters.
Maester Freeze: “How long will you gentlemen be needed to stay with us? Excellent, all your items and possessions will be safe here. There are maids who can get you food or drink, just ring the bell inside your residence. Thank you again for what you did today. Lord Snow looks favorably upon you. I apologize though, I must get going. So much to do with Miranda around!”
The group then explores Nester for the night. Tiberius and Vern mingle with the nobles, with Tiberius talking to Ronald the Terror about his father, as well as asking for advice. Disliking the mood amongst the nobles, Vern steps aside for some fresh air when he is suddenly attacked by an assassin who whispered “For the North”. Vern kills him away while Tiberius viewed the carnage.
Belisarius had a busy night, performing a series of quests for the local town folk. The most impressive feat was defeating Chancellor Jenkins in a duel, restoring the honor of Sarah and earning him her favor (a Red Sash). Notably, Vern turned down 15 gold to duel for Chancellor Jenkins, possibly a start to him turning over a new leaf.
The rest of the members had their own ideas of what a night out on Nester meant. The citizens of Nester discovered that the Bastard was a HELL of a dancer, whooing many women with his skills. Not everyone was successful in the group, with Jaque trying to manipulate a gambling game to get into the thieves guild, but blotched it and was kicked out of the establishment as well as refused membership to the guild.
The next day the group set out for the Wall, but unfortunately were attacked by a pack of wolves, which they quickly defeated. The party then stopped at Raven’s Keep, home of Vern. The group is amazed by how worn down it is. The people looked very poor, and the place was in shambles. The few citizens that were there all looked at Vern with a reserved hatred. The party quickly continued their journey, choosing not to stop.
The group finally arrives at the Black Keep, but it pales in comparison to the Wall. The party stands in awe as they look up and see the top of the Wall over ½ mile up into the sky. Not only are they amazed by its height, but also its length. No one can see where the wall ends in either direction. The Wall is a grayish black color where you can see it, but much of it gives off a blue aura from the ice frozen on it. The group also notices it has gotten considerable colder since they came within sight of the wall.
As they admire the magnificence of the Wall, a group rides up to them dress all in black.
Lord Tor: “Welcome travelers. We don’t see many of you up here. What is your purpose for coming to the wall?”
Lord Tor: “Someone finally heard my plea. About the only good news I’ve had today. Allow me to introduce myself: I am Lord Tor, Commander of the Men of the Black. Please, follow me to the Keep. We will provide you shelter and food, and then we must talk at length of the plight of the Men in Black.”
The group is escorted to the Black Keep. There are no walls or defense structures to the south; the Wall’s only goal is to keep the evils of north out of Arem. As they approach the Keep they notice men training in the yard, but everyone is keenly aware of the numbers. There is hardly anyone here.
The Black Keep is pure black, so dark it even overpowers the ice that clings to its side. It is severely run down, though it seems sturdy enough. As almost reading your mind, Lord Tor says “I know she isn’t much to look at, but she’ll hold. I have all my builders working to keep the Wall, at least this section, in good condition. The Keep matter not if the Wall falls.”
While traveling, Lord Tor calls Vern to ride beside him.
Lord Tor: “I want you to know this: I don’t agree with what you do, but your father was a great man and a strong supporter of the Wall. Because of that, I will allow you to come to the Keep. Heed my words though Vern: someday you will have to come out from your father’s shadow. Is this how you want the Blackburn name to be remembered? That they kneeled to other nobility, did their awful deeds, all for some coin?”
The party enters the Black Keep and notice that the interior isn’t much better than the exterior. No lavish banners, no fancy furniture, nothing. Just tables and benches. There are men eating here, but again, not a lot. Lord Tor remains quiet as he walks through the hall, up a flight of stairs, and brings the group into his personal quarter.
Lord Tor: “Guards, close the door, and make sure we are not disturbed by anyone. If I some much as hear a knock you will have wall duty for the next month.”
The guards nod and promptly leave.
Lord Tor: “I’m sure you all noticed that lack of men I have. In total we have 300 men. 300! Many of them are stewards, others are builders, and finally get down to our final total of 150 fighters. 150! Most men can’t hold a damn castle with 150 men, how am I supposed to man the Wall, which protects the realm!”
Lord Tor cools for a bit, then starts again.
Lord Tor: “I apologize. It is not your fault I am in this predicament. And I am glad you came. We get so few visitors up here. Lords no longer feel the need to visit us, and the only people who come to look at the wall are those who are forced. For those of you who don’t know about the wall: 250 of the men here are not here by choice. They were forced to come here or be killed for crimes they committed. There are good men in the group, but not enough. They are not born soldiers, so we do the best we can, but it’s just not enough.”
Lord Tor: “I am not so prideful though that I won’t say the following: I’ll take the worse Arem has to offer if it means I can defend these walls. I plead with you, return to the cities have tell all of the plight of the Men of the Black. I know most people do not believe the evils that are north of here, and I’ll admit, sometimes I have my doubt. But there is one thing I know: the Wandering Folks have been increasing their movement lately, and I think something might be coming up, something big. And when that times comes, in our current state, we will not be able to stop it.”
Lord Tor: “I wish I had more men to send out on rangings, but we just don’t have the numbers. But the few I have sent out have told me that the Folks are constantly moving, and there groups are getting bigger. I fear that soon they will unite, which would an unprecedented feat, could prove to be the undoing of Arem.”
Lord Tor: “While I have you here, may I ask one favor of you? There are rumors going around that some of my men are planning an uprising. Many men can’t handle the lifestyle we live: no wifes, no children, no family. The only thing we have is the wall. This can be an especially hard on those who did not freely choose it, but instead was forced to go this route due to their deeds. I can’t confirm it myself if a revolt is going to happen, but now that you are all up here I was hoping you would look into it. It would be devastating to the Men of the Black if that happened. Go talk to my Maester Dob further up in the tower, he has more information about it. Now if you excuse me, I must return to my duties. Thank you for your assistance.”
Group goes up to the Maester’s quarters, finding him looking over some reports.
Maester Dob: “Well hello travelers. Please sit. Would you like anything to drink or eat?”
Maester Dob: “Lord Tor told me of his plan earlier, and I have the information prepared for you. We believe that there is going to be a revolt here soon, but we can’t pinpoint who is planning it. We have it narrowed down to three men: Cal Rarn, Poxy Domingus, and the man that goes by Unbux. I have marked on this paper where you can find each of them. Again, we are not sure who is going to do it, but we believe one of these men will be responsible. Discover who it is and then try to capture them (capture means getting them below 0 HP but not below -10 HP). You have our thanks.”
After the talk, Jaque approaches Lord Tor to question him about his father. He replies as follows:
Lord Tor: “You are the son of Pierre McFlern? Pierre was a great man, and an excellent ranger. To be honest, I never believed for a second that he stole from that magistrate, but I could never get your father to talk about it. Too hurtful I imagine. Regardless, he was a man who was always in good spirits, and especially when the letters came. He loved you Jaque, more then you’ll ever know. One of the saddest days as Commander of the Wall was when he didn’t return from his ranging. I’ve sent others out to look for him, but nothing has ever come of it. I’m sorry my boy…”
Lord Tor: “The first day I made him a ranger, he gave me something. He said to me ‘If anything ever happens to me, I want my son to have this’. He never gave me a name or where you were at though, which always confused me. Maybe he knew something I didn’t, but in the end I believe this is yours. Cherish it son, just as he cherished you….”
Ben receives a chain with a medallion (Dad’s Gift) on it. On the medallion are numerous weird markings that don’t seem to make anything.
Thrawn also approaches Lord Tor, asking about his brothers who are up here. Lord Tor says responds that he had just received a letter from a raven telling him that Commander Thrawn had requested both his sons be returned to Domith. Lord Tor tells Thrawn he can find Davadus and Patriclus in the training yard.
The group decides to split when trying to discover who the rebels are. Belisarius, Arathorn, and the Bastard decide to go to the armory, while Thrawn, Jaque, Vern, and Kong go to the yard. The armory group quickly discovered that the people there were planning the rebellion, and got in their good graces. Unfortunately, some misspoken words by Belisarius led Carl, their leader, to question their motives. He held the Bastard as a hostage, and told Belisarius and Arathorn to go kill the guard outside.
Meanwhile, they yard group was talking to Poxy Domingus, the trainer for the Men of the Black. They discovered that, though he hated Lord Tor for not letting him go search for Pierre McFlern (Jaque’s Dad), he still respected the man’s decisions. The group told him about the possible rebellion, and Poxy joined their cause. Thrawn then found his brothers in the yard, and spoke to them at length, agreeing to take them home to Domith with the group. He also recruited them to help fight the rebellion, making a rather sizable fighting force.
The yard group then noticed that the guard had been killed (or so they thought) by Belisarius while screaming “Down with Lord Tor!”, and Poxy charged in a fit of rage to kill the rebel scum. Though multiple people tried to stop him, he still attacked Belisarius in his fury. Eventually, the true rebels revealed themselves and took Poxy into the armory to whole up. After a fiercely fought battle that involved the floor being set on fire, the group apprehended most of the rebels (the ones that were not decapitated or thrown in a fire to make a bridge) and took them to Lord Tor. Belisarius took the rebellion and deaths hard, being visible shaken after the battle.
Lord Tor invites the group to watch the public execution, which occurs on top of the Wall. The rebels heads were cut off on the edge of the Wall by Lord Tor’s great sword, Night. The bodies were after which thrown over, so that their final resting place would not be in Arem. Lord Tor then spoke:
Lord Tor: “All of you have seen what happens when you break our sacred oath. If we fail, all fails. Now, recite the Oath with me once more, so we all can remember why we were chosen for this path in life (all members of the Men of the Black recite this):
“We are the Wall that shields the Realm. As the Winds rise, and nature falls, we hold. As fear rages and honor weakens, we hold. We can’t fail, or all fails. The Wall holds the hope of Arem, and we the will.”