The Kingmaker

"Enter the Stolen Lands, a wilderness claimed by nobles, bandits, and beasts alike. Into this territory the fractious country of Brevoy sends its emissaries, tasking them with subduing the lawless folk and deadly creatures that have made it a realm of savagery and shame. Beyond the last rugged frontier stretches the home of voracious monsters, capricious fey, wily natives, and bandits who bow to the rule of a merciless lord none dare defy. Can the PCs survive the Stolen Lands, bring their dangers to heel, and lay the foundations of a new kingdom? Or will they just be one more fateful band, lost forever to the ravenous wilds?"

The Stolen Lands, a wild lawless place awaiting the hand of strong justice. A politically ambiguous place where many parties vie for control. Into this cauldron of woe walk five heroes-in-the-making to create their own nation. Patriots—but to what cause?

Kingmaker is a Pathfinder Adventure Path role playing game published by Paizo Publishing under the terms of the Open Game License. It provides a rich backdrop for a group of pioneers as they attempt to bring civilization to a wild, untrammeled land. This website is not published, endorsed, or specifically approved by Paizo Publishing.

This blog represents the letters of one of these characters, Marquand, a bitter, righteous man—an Inquisitor defending his faith in the deity Erastil against all the enemies of civilization.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Letter Twenty-nine—Yeorrrgheeeeouwourghfaeourghhheouhhgh!

Dear Pino,
I continue writing you even though recent events have left our friendship less than cordial. Yet, I insist that you still need instruction about the wicked ways of the world. I can only hope that someday you will understand that duty demands sacrifice—even the sacrifice of those you love.

On our way back from the games at Pitax I left you with our entourage as I rode beyond our flanks, and well behind, to make sure no one was following. While the main party skirted the remains of poor Tatzleford, we picked through the ruins, burying what scant pieces of the dead remained unmolested by wild things. I promised their spirits whatever Justice these old hands have left to give.

Your mother looked askance at me when you hurried to your room after our homecoming. I explained to her that you had heard a version of the Gyronna tragedy that had angered you against me.

“Well, you can't blame her,” your Mother sniffed. “We welcomed Lily into our home. She was Pino's friend—and mine!”

I left without another word, soon after sending a boy to move my few and paltry things to the Inn. Afterwards, as I paced the streets morosely, I discovered that the city didn't share my dour mood, but instead was celebrating the welcome news that our Queen was pregnant. Returning to our citadel, I found Lev surrounded by courtiers and taking their congratulations jovially. But his mood changed when he saw me, quickly pulling me aside with a worried look.

“Something's going on,” he said once we were alone, lighting incense in one corner of the room by an altar of Erastil. With a start, I realized that he feared someone was using magic to spy on us. “My people are restless, shifty, uncomfortable around me,” he complained. “Citizens stop talking when I enter a room.”

“I'm sure they're worried about the threat from Pitax.”

Lev shook his head as Vlad entered the room. “It's Kelm I'm worried about. He watches the city from his tower like a lord and people are starting to think of him that way—'The lord of two cities,' they call him. When he's not here he's in Vordakai's tower. People are wondering about the strange treasures we've collected and to what use he's putting them.”

“I wonder that myself.”

Vlad handed him the dispatch he was carrying and, after a moment, Lev sighed resignedly. “Try to find Cane and Trask. We need to talk.”
That evening we gathered in our usual spot, a back room at the tavern. I noticed that Lev hadn't invited Bert Askew to join us. Did he fear that Askew was Kelm's man? I wondered. The serving wench brought us tankards of ale and a large platter of pastry and sweetmeats. Her saucy manner reminded me of Lily, but I studiously ignored her.

Once she had gone, Lev quickly cut to the chase. “One of Skot Skevins's spies heard a rumor that Irovetti is working on a mass cloud kill device under the tutelage of an elven alchemist and master poisoner from Daggermark.”

“No can be!”

Lev frowned. “Skevins thinks they're at an abandoned vineyard north of Pitax called the White Rose Abbey of Cayden Cailean. It was once known for the quality of its wine but has been abandoned for decades. It's said the springs underneath the Abbey have magical properties that enhances both wine-making and the mixing of spell components.”

“That horn of cloud killing seems like it would be really sweet to use,” Trask giggled.

“Give me a few days to give the marshal a boot in the ass to start mustering that army and to announce the annexation of Lake Hooktongue and Fort Drelev to the P.U.R.K." With a look of determination, first comrade Lev Davidowich stood to leave. "Then we'll look into this horn of cloud killing.”

With the time remaining, I tried to make it up to you and your Mother but in the end had to admit defeat. When I left townfor the very first timeyou weren't there, among the cheering crowd, to say goodbye.

We took the Queen and her entourage of soldiers and engineers to New Tatzleford to oversee its rebuilding. From there we headed northeast to the Glenebon Uplands. It's a harsh place of rolling black hills, dry, tall grass, impenetrable scrub, hot gusting winds, and vicious, biting insects.

At night, we tore away a patch of the grass, clearing a small space where we carefully nurtured our campfire so as not to set fire to the entire prairie. It's said that manticores roam these hills but we were fortunate and encountered none. Finally, we saw the tall peak of Mount Branthlend, like the knobby skull of Arn the stonemason, peering over the horizon.

I guess I can't tell you what to do anymore, Pino, but I can advise you to read the tale of of Noarra, she who loved the barbarian lord, Targran. When Targran made another woman his queen—because of his obligation to his people—jealous Noarra climbed Mount Branthlend to hurl curses over the land. Legend says that a great cyclone of fire and brimstone swept over her and when she emerged, she had transformed into a great black dragon that ravaged these badlands for a great long while after.

But that was long ago. What remains of the dragon's fire erupts sporadically from the ground in the form of geysers, which startled our horses and provided some relief for the boredom of our long ride. 

We headed more towards the west after that, finally reaching our destination, a modest knob towering above the grasslands on the top of which stood the White Rose Abbey. Around the perimeter of this knob's base, ran a low stone fence where, just inside, several buildings had fallen to ruin. A path, overgrown with drying and dead grass, wound its way determinedly up the west side of the hill to the Abbey above. As we carefully made our way around I noticed, out of the corner of my eye, the grass inside the enclosure shift, as if being pushed aside by an invisible force.

As we carefully searched for traps, Lev read from the scroll Bert Askew had thoughtfully stuffed into his backpack as we were leaving:

“Some think the exceptional water used by the winery was due to the presence of a naiad below the abbey, who taught the monks how to use the water to make their exceptional wines and beers. . . .

“The last Abbot, Il Debin, was murdered and the residents poisoned by a gardener, mad with jealousy, it's said, after being repeatedly passed over for advancement. This same gardener practiced dark magic and was sometimes heard raving about the voices of the stars!”

The stars! Dear Erastil knows the voices I hear come out of the woods.

We entered the property through a gap in the wall on the west side, following it around to a large, crumbling building. “Here we go,” Cane said, slipping through a ruined door with Alley as the rest of us followed. 

Inside, the building was framed with huge, dark timbers that had probably been harvested from the nearby Thousand Voices Forest. The floor was cluttered with dusty wine-making equipment. In the cellar, we found a long tunnel extending deep into the hill. Every few feet were side branches, which they had once used for storage, ransacked long ago. At its far end, the tunnel opened into a large cave filled with water. 

A thin, sandy beach stretched along the far side of the cavern with a rickety wooden bridge to span the water. There, a large cistern rusted among unused casks stacked haphazardly against it. We could see all this because a wide beam of sunlight lighted the dark vault through a large round hole in the ceiling above. 

That's when we noticed the strange glowing lights following us.

Yeorrrgheeeeouwourghfaeourghhheouhhgh! Yeorrrgheeeeouwourghfaeourghhheouhhgh!” An anguished howling erupted from the cistern, echoing off the far walls, as a glowing blue shape emerged from the water. 

“Yeorrrgheeeeouwourghfaeourghhheouhhgh!” It blithered. For all its noise, it was very small, maybe three feet tall. A halfling ghost? I was guessing here, but by this time we saw the lights descending from the ceiling and recognized our old friends from Candlemere Island—Will-o'-the-wisps! We quickly crossed the bridge before the Wisps could finish swooping down on us.

Like the colorful balls children play with, Wisps are spongy and round. Unlike those balls, their color is bright and always changing, making patterns to intimidate . . . children. How can a death's head scare someone once they've been dead?

We've fought so many battles since the Wisps sent us packing from Candlemere with our tales between our legs. Here, they were almost laughable. Unfortunately, the ghost was not.

“Yeorrrgheeeeouwourghfaeourghhheouhhgh!” The halfling seemed to become a riot of mold and decay, his ghostly body a hideous garden of fungus and ruin. A wave of fear washed over us, but, like the electricity sprinkling from the Wisps, I shrugged it off. 

Alley, Cane, and Trask weren't so lucky, Trask running screaming back across the bridge as electricity sizzled around his head. Lev responded with what he's best at—speechifying, focusing our attention to the task on hand.

Suddenly, black tentacles erupted from the ground, one grappling me. I saw the others had also been caught. I managed to free myself but was immediately grabbed again. Fortunately, Lev was able to suppress the tentacles.

There was a scream as the ghost caressed Cane with its corrupting touch. Suddenly, several arrows thumped into its side and I realized Trask had overcome his fear and returned to the battle. “Ghosts suck,” he yelled from far away.

Desperately, knowing the next ghost attack would be his end, Cane lashed out and, with a moan, the infernal critter disappeared as Lev killed the last Wisp with an anemic swing of his morning star.

Trask marched back over the bridge, which creaked and swayed alarmingly under his portly frame. We'd only a short time to exorcise the place before the ghost returned and we looked for clues to how he'd met his end. Trask sniffed the water in the well suspiciously, finally taking a small sip.

“It's delicious!” he crowed, filling his waterskin.

The casks were empty but in one of them we found a latched door leading into a tiny apartment fit for a halfling. There we found a rod of lesser quicken metamagic and a beautiful and intricate water clock of colored glass, bronze, silver, and darkwood.

Deciding to take the clock with us, we were emptying it of its water when a beautiful shimmering Nereid appeared before us. 

“You saved me,” she gushed. “How can I ever thank you? . . . Where's the gardener?”

If you're talking about that nasty ghost,” Lev said, “we dispelled his spirit for the time being.”

Oh, he was destroyed, then. Now that I'm free he'll never come back.”

Yay!” everybody cried.

But I must ask your assistance,” she batted her big, beautiful eyes and I found myself wanting to help her very much“He stole my shawl and within it lies much of my power. If you were to help me retrieve it," she smiled heartrendingly, "I'd be eternally grateful.” She looked puzzled. “Where's Briar?”


The sword in the cistern. It's been taken . . . by them, I suppose.


The people who killed the gardener.”

What are the powers of the sword?” Cane asked, suddenly interested.

It has strong ties to the first world,” she sighed, seeming to slide from my sight for a moment. “It's precious.”

Precious!” I seemed to hear Bert Askew purr in the back of my head.

Do you know anything about the people who killed the gardener?” Lev interrupted.

They were . . . human . . . he was handsome . . . for a human.” She then described the leader for us, “A florid, fleshy man, powerfully built, twirling a long rod fitted with thin blades.”

Irovetti!” Lev gasped.

I'm sure whoever killed the gardener and took the sword also took the shawl,” she continued.

It sounds like your enemies are our enemies,” Lev declared, clapping his hands. “We can work together.”

Do you know how long ago?” Cane asked. “You were imprisoned in a clock.”

It's been many many years since the gardener imprisoned me,” she replied. “He took my shawl. That's how he was able to imprison me.”

What does the shawl look like?” Trask asked her.

If you can find it,” she went on, ignoring him, “I will tell you much that can aid you." Lowering her voice melodramatically, she added. "This entire region is threatened by a great, great power from the first world.”

She then told us about the magical waters of her spring, which improved all things made with it, be they magic potion, elixir, antitoxin, beer, wine, or stew. “We better take a few gallons of this back to Kelm,” I urged my comrades before we left.

We'll find your shawl, Mam,” Lev assured her as we made our way back across the bridge.

I will be here,” she told us with a lilt to her voice as she waved goodbye. “In the spring.”

Outside, we rested in a small glade before climbing up the steep trail to the Abbey, which was crumbling under the weight of the fiercely blowing wind and the harsh heat of the sun. Nearing the top we found an empty well and, looking into it, we saw that we were staring down at the Nereid’s cistern below. She waved up to us. “Yoo hoo!”

From the back entrance to the Abbey a hallway led deep inside, every few feet was a small cell fit for a monk. Out front a bridge spanned a dry creek bed. Crossing, we found a wall that had been broken open, behind which were two doors. Inside one door were broken basins—a washroom or a lavatory. Behind the next door were stairs going up.

Climbing the stairs we found a large sanctuary, dark rafters overhead, with rounded bays that ran along either side, each containing dusty old barrels and benches long since fallen to ruin. We also found barrels of more recent vintage.

Alchemical regents,” Lev noted thoughtfully.

Let's rummage through their junk,” Trask giggled.

A yowl escaped from Alley as Cane suddenly cursed. “Incoming!”

Looking up, we saw two figures crouching in the rafters with long bows—wererats! I realized with horror as more arrows whizzed past us and, with a sinking feeling, we saw that we were surrounded by a squad of heralds and wardens, from Pitax judging by the distinctive red swords they were carrying.

A loud boom rolled over us as Lev went after the wererats with a sonic attack while Cane leaped into the fray, killing two as Alley hissed and slashed at another. Like the Wisps, they proved no match for us.

Y'know,” Trask grumbled when he realized how inadequate were our foes. “I resent being hired by Kelm to work with you psychopaths. Before we left, Bert Askew said to me, 'Laddie, sweet laddie, I like you but you guys are really dumb! You'll fall for anything.'

And you know what? I had to agree. We once chased 25 gold pieces into a fangberry bush!”

You hadn't even joined us when that happened!”


We survived,” I objected. “And it made us stronger.”

Did you?” he sneered. “Maybe all this is just an illusion because you're still in a coma in that fangberry bush.”

Cane will bring the pain!” We heard the great hunter challenge while killing several more of our foes. It was a massacre except for the wererats, and even they soon fell from their rafter perches.

Unfortunately, we suffered a casualty of our own when Alley—that big, fluffy man-killing alleycat you loved to snuggle—was killed by one of the wardens, who took her when she was down and unconscious.

He was the last man standing, looking around fearfully as he fell to his knees. Whining, “Please don't kill me.”

We started to question him but Cane, furious about his cat, decided to kill the man despite our pleas. Only I stood between them. “He may have valuable information!” I cried, hoping to get him to see reason.

Cane shot him dead anyway.

I hope we don't regret this.

Your uncle still,