The three days of training by the recruits covers the basics of Terraden to make sure they’re familiar the world outside their little regions, the structure of various cultures, an exhaustive list of current events and individual training to hone their knowledge on topics like the CAP, the E3, the DDK, Terraden ecology, currency systems, common legends/lore (including the Rim other side of Terraden), major religious factions, uncommonly common uses of the arcane, the Four Matrons (Moons), the Paths above, and various cultural customs of note.
After several days of class training the team is ready at nightfall to go back to bunkhouse 11 when Hector comes into the classroom to gather group.
- “Commander Merrick asks to see you in his quarters. He seemed somewhat hush-hush about the whole thing which is odd – he’s never asked to see recruits outside of the training grounds.”
Hector leads the team out of the classroom, across the training yard and out of the main camp to an old stone structure that still stands from the original fort that Camp Cairn occupies. Several CAP guards, on lone to the Keepers for protection, stand near the entrance nod at Hector as he leads the group into a large hall that has been converted into a fine suite – in stark contrast to your bunkhouse. This large hall with vaulted ceiling has several separate quarters created by using wooden panels and fine cloth draped between rooms. One area looks to be for bathing with a fine copper tube, another with several cots for servants and farther back a large area set up as sleeping quarters for the Commander.
In the central common area is a long, finely crafted table of tooled wood and inlaid metal covered with sweet rolls, exotic fruits and several empty goblets. A pile of fine armor pieces sit next to a rack along with exotic looking weapons lays near the wall. Several charts and books lay spread out on another smaller table in the far corner. Commander Merrick stands in the farthest section of the hall in his sleeping quarters before an ornate mirror of unusual make – still dressed in his finely crafted CAP armor. He turns to the party, walks forward and slides a cloth to close off his private quarters from view as he comes to greet the group.
- “Xenos C3-11 – You’ve done well and many instructors here have taken note. During your training you’ve shown promise – something that cannot be said of most who answer the call of the Keepers. Several weeks from now you’ll complete your testing and training here, and if you perform as I believe you will – you’ll be inducted into the Keepers order as Initiates of Xenos…from the largest class to graduate here at Camp Cairn and go travel then to Delanbur, the Allied Capital, to receive your choice of assignment. But before you go off to greater glory in service to the world I have a more immediate need – something a little more hands-on?”
He points to chairs that surround the table indicating where they party should sit and hear his offer. Merrick looks back at a door to the side and shouts:
- “Azamuki! Bring something memorable for our future leaders – they should grow accustom to better accommodations as not doubt these few, these Chosen Elite, will be remembered for their works. Good Azamuki…now back to your bed – we will be talking.”
Out scurries a small but muscular goblin breathing hard but with a slight smile of polite servitude when he comes to the table. Azamuki the Goblin pours the party a very fine wine.
Commander Merrick makes sure you all have a drink, raises his chalice and asks:
- “To the rise of the mighty – may the new age promised come by our hands. So what do you say my Chosen – are you ready to rise?”
As the party drinks of the fine wine they look to one another with smiles and a little trepidation. One by one they start nodding their heads in support.
- “I expected nothing less. This assignment is a sign of great confidence, coming at the request of the highest levels within the Keepers. Do your part well…and they will certainly take notice of what has been accomplished.”
With that, Commander Merrick taps the table in a series of quick taps in an elaborate sequence while saying something swiftly under his breath. He closes his eyes and seems to concentrate…moments later a dim light fills the surface of the table flowing up the fingers of the Commander and seeming to draw images from his mind back down the hand to the table where it creates a map that floats in the air in stark gray-white light.
Commander Merrick opens his eyes to examine the accuracy of the reconstruction, then turns to the party with a serious look on his face:
- “Out of necessity, this assignment is best kept secret from the other recruits – your first “strictly off the books” mission which the Keepers are famous for running. [MERRICK POINTS TO THE FLOATING MAP] This is the town of Lunnac, a small mining operation that became a hub for the surrounding villages – and a vital asset to the College by provided Terridium – a commodity used to fortify the refinement of Lumi-nox and Jyntec . The borough warden of Denslu, Smathis, has asked for the Keepers assistance with strange rumors from an exhausted rider that a few key people have disappeared after a mining accident. Lending a hand to the locals in finding their missing folks will help prevent a temporarily shut down of the Red Wolf Mine, a source of commerce for the region. The masters here will teleport you to Lunnac which is normally a four day journey through Denslu and north along the Sea March (road). When you enter Lunnac, seek out Fenster our local contact who owns a scrap yard and pawn shop. Ask him about the local situation, track down the source of what’s behind the missing workers report back here as soon as you can.
When you’re done you can follow that road back down to Denslu and stay in the Briggon Brat Inn – give the Innkeep this note and he’ll put you up for the night, give you hot meal and a substantial monetary reward for your efforts – Greggor, the proprietor, once worked in the Red Wolf Mine. Come back to camp and report for your immediate graduation to the final stage of initiation and recruitment into the Keepers.”
To ensure the new recruits have guidance Hector, you handler, will accompany you on this trip.
A noticeably nervous Hector swigs from his flask and smiles to the party – apparently uncomfortable with the possibility of combat.
Told the party should leave tonight they request to grab supplies from their bunkhouse which the Commander agrees they should do but insists they return to leave on this mission at once. Grabbing only what is necessary, the party returns to Commander Merrick quickly as requested.
Then Commander Merrick leads them to what was once a stone chapel now made into a lab, library and study for the masters of the college here to assist the training. One familiar looking old keeper is searching through tomes on the walls and putting them in a stack as they party enters. An orcish-looking servant assisting the old man takes these books and packs them into a large strong box.
The old keeper turns to the party after finding a moment to pause and nods to Commander Merrick:
- “So the chosen will go to Lunnac – very good. Uragiru – clear the trans-pad.”
The orc shifts his attention to the transept alcove where several large items such as statues, map racks and skeletal reconstruction projects – clearing this space by pushing these item to the side to reveal a series of tiles placed on the floor in a pattern that connects them (like an elaborate puzzle of stone pieces that interlock). The old master walks to the trans-pad with an aged staff in hand, knocks on the stones in a firm sequence while whispering words that sound like spiders crawling into your ears and mind. The tiles glow with dim green light – the master indicates for everyone who wishes to go to step on the panel.
With anticipation the party steps onto the floor and tingles their feet as the green light swirls around their ankles. The team sees a faint image forming in their mind as they stand on the pad – an image of a small town with a mining entrance against the mountain that lies at the end of town. The green light sparkles up each of their bodies as they feel their essence flow down into the stones and then up from the ground next to a statue that overlooks the town. A small plaque on the statue reads Welcome to Lunnac and the Red Wolf Mine.
Even at dusk the group can see several buildings on fire and many others boarded up with lights out. The a huge fire near the mine entrance burns with what looks like a pile of bodies. A large building in the center of town appears to have boarded the windows with dim lights shining on the upper floors. This town is in ruins, dark figures can be seen moving about in the shadows below.
Just as the party talks about decending the road down into the lowered ground of the town they see two hulking black figures emerge from the mine entrance – a very bad feeling creeps into the hearts of our new heroes – how will they find out what’s happening in this small town that looks to be in utter ruin?
From the brush nearby emerges a dark figure that speaks to them – asking their business here after watching them materialize from the ground in green light. The party meets Groot, a local Warlock who has tracked the source of a darkness he found several mines from this small town of Lunnac which he has frequented in the past.
They explain the basics of the mission they understood they were on – and further explain that this does not appear to be the situation they were told to expect. After a few details of disease that has been spreading in the area, killing all wildlife around it and spawning dread in it’s wake – Groot the Warlock suggests they should seek counsel with an old wise women of the dark wood several hours from Lunnac in the direction of his home village. He explains that this sudo-witch named Geziel may be able to help them understand what could be causing this and what they may do to stop it.
Fighting through the thick woods that surround the area Groot leads them to, they come across an owl with glowing eyes that speaks to them with the voice of an old woman:
“What are you doing here Groot and who are your companions?”
Explaining the events and the desire of his new traveling companions to investigate the scene at Lunnac, Geziel offers them access to her hidden tree hollow. There she explains to the party that this can only be exposure to a potent vein of Nox-Nuri – a substance that she explains is very rare near the surface and very dangerous – spreading a plague called “The Corruption” for those that come in contact with it and releasing terror things upon the land where it spreads.
When asked for help, Geziel agrees under the condition that the party solve her problem of collecting herbs for her medical condition.
- “Collect the pollen of the Night’s Widow, a rare flower that flourishes at Lake Lumin northwest of here. Do this for me and I will share with you a protective agent again the Corruption. Be cautious at the Lake as there is a beast, a terrible ooze, that has kept me from collecting my own Night’s Widow. Should you kill this beast I will reward you greater – with a recipe for greater protection against that Corruption.”
Very interested in ways the group can protect themselves from the horrible plague known as the Corruption, they thank Geziel and journey to Lake Lumin in search of her Night’s Widow flower.
Looking around in the darkness of Lake Lumin at night the group, led by Nat the Druid who’s looking for this rare flower, comes across a dark trail leading from the water’s edge and up along a walking trail into the woods. Determined to find out if this is the ooze they are suppose to confront the recruits walk the trail for 30 or so minutes before they run into a few dark shambling creatures – humans corrupted with the dreadful disease. The Corrupted creatures see the party and engage them with a hunger. In the midst of this battle Narm takes a hit from the Corrupted and feels the sickness enter his body – sapping his strength as the disease sets in.
With a diseased member of the party they now make haste and continue to follow the dried dark drip marks along the wooded trail until they come across a small cabin with a faint light that can be seen from the window. The door slightly ajar the party advances to the window to see within a blacken man on the floor oozing dark liquid and convulsing in painful spasms. As the slowly and cautiously enter the cabin the dying man takes notice of their arrival and seems incoherent during a string of questioning that leads to little solid information on what gave him this disease. Close to death he summons the strength to ask:
- “Please – don’t come over or you risk…your own life. The Gods are finally punishing me for all that I have done with my wretched life [PAINFUL SPASM]. Who are you?”…I know of the Xenos Initiative – you are a pawn in a game that is about to turn – I have seen the pieces moving – leave this place and do not return. May saving a few innocent lives buy me some measure of mercy on the other side. Prove you are worth saving by doing me one kind act Angel of Mercy (LOOKING AT AERRENAI), end my suffering before you leave this place [PAINFUL SPASM].”
Aelyria seeing the pain in this man’s eyes looked at the party who all nodded in solemn approval. As Aelyria grabs an arrow from her quiver the man starts mumbling a series of numbers the party memorizes in puzzlement. She notched a arrow and ended the poor mans suffering.
After a quick search of the small cabin a small chest with little in it draws their attention as they notice a series of numbers that can be depressed. Trying the sequence the dying man uttered it causes the chest to draw back, leading down a tunnel to a small room underground – a small smugglers den. In this room lingers smoke from the burning of papers that now lay in ash around the room – all but one note written in code. The note told of four groups that the dying man warned must be stopped.
Several barrels here have a narcotic powder and several bundles of unworked silk. Under the lone bed in this small underground room is scrawled in blood the word ATBASH. It did not take long for recruits to remember this as a code used in earlier wars to transmit secret messages.
Gnarl and Groot above dismantle the floor boards above when they notice something carved into the hard earth under the cabin – a rough map of the CAP with several marks where the various Xenos Initiative camps are located and written with capital letters in strange locations. Narm grabbed the note provided by Commander Merrick and quickly determined it contained the same Atbash code in CAPITAL LETTERS. The note Commander Merrick gave the group for lodging at the Briggon Brat Inn after their trip to Lunnac clearly was coded to have them murdered should they make it to the Inn.
In respect to dead man of the cabin they built a quick pyre and burned the diseased corpse. While watching the blaze the group wondered why Commander Merrick would want them dead? Who was the man they just killed? What gave him this disease? Who are the groups he warned must be stopped?