Posted tagged ‘Horse Downs’

Wizard’s Path, Chapter I

September 3, 2009

Chapter I

Sticks and Stones

 

The day was grey and threatening rain on the city of Mor Aldenn. The thought of rain did not worry young Cellian Varr, she had a spell in mind should the rain fall. As an apprentice of the Tower of Abjuration, the magic of protection, one of the first things she learned was how to create a magical umbrella. Even the wizards of Mor Aldenn were wise enough not to tamper with the weather, well, not much in any case. Still, it was not a bad day for shopping.

She started as she caught a pair of eyes looking at her but then laughed as it was just a mirror. Cellian patted her hair making sure that the combs were keeping it snugly in place. Her long hair was dark where her mother’s was honey blond. Cellian tilted her head right and then left, comparing her features to those of her elven mother and wondering for the thousandth thousandth time what her father had looked like.

“I wish I had her fine features,” she lamented quietly. “At least my eyes are those of the elves.” She smiled sadly meeting her own violet eyes in the looking glass.

“Can I help you, young lady?” asked Kol Woodwright, the gnomish proprietor of the store, as he peered around a wardrobe.

“Just admiring the mirror,” she replied with a blush. “Perhaps when I am a master, I can afford it.”

“I cannot hold it that long,” the gnome smiled.

“There will be other mirrors.”

“As long as you purchase from me, young lady, I will be happy.”

She waved and headed on. “I will not forget, Master Woodwright.”

“Take care, young woman.” The gnome moved to polish the mirror. “And be careful, there have been a rash of accidents. Be wary for I fear there are some spirits of ill-fortune about.”

Cellian reached up to check the protective amulets around her neck. “Thank you, sir, I will be!”

As she moved from shop to shop gathering the components needed to build a set of wards for her next test, she heard about the mysterious accidents Woodwright had mentioned: A wagon wheel had broken and the ropes holding the load had snapped, sending barrels rolling everywhere. A piece of slate roofing fell and hit an apprentice, only a flesh wound but it could easily have been worse. Carelessly stacked wood had fallen into the fireplace and nearly starting a conflagration at the Whimsical Sprite Inn. And other minor incidents, people hurt, things broken. Cellian could not but think that something was going on and it seemed only a matter of time before someone was seriously injured.

She was lost in her thoughts as she turned a corner. Avoiding a dark cloaked man she almost ran into a string of fish at the end of a pole. “Ack!” Cellian jerked back and almost tripped, dropping her bag.

“Ssellian, not be afraid, is fish,” said a small, lizardlike being with glittering black eyes. She waved the prizes of the day’s fishing tied to the end of her spear.

“Konni,” said Cellian relieved as she bent to pick up her bag. “My head was in the clouds. You look to have had a good day.”

“Good for fish, bad for frog,” the kobold said with a shrug. “You like? Fresh as fresh can be.”

“Maybe, Konni, maybe, I am not sure what mother has planned for supper,” she replied. “Have you seen any odd accidents in town?”

“Old Jaspar slipped on fishguts, broke wrist. Unhappy making,” answered Konni. “Lost fish too.”

“Cellian, Konni!” Rufys, his unruly red hair wild and his stained apprentice’s robe flapping as he moved, hurried over. Rufys, for all that he studied the arts of transmutation in the Changing Tower, seemed totally unable to keep himself neat and clean. Following him with a measured stride was Zael, the young dwarf’s precise appearance and movements contrasted with that of his human friend. Konni slipped behind Cellian, Zael still made her nervous.

“Have you heard . . .” Cellian and Rufys both began before stopping and laughing.

“Accidents?” asked Rufys. Cellian nodded. “I thought as an abjuror you might have some ideas about it,” he continued.

“Not yet. Master Woodwright thinks it’s a malevolent spirit.”

“Master Woodwright thinks bad soup is caused by spirits.”

Konni looked out from behind Cellian. “Maybe not wrong now.”

“The dragonling has a point,” agreed Zael, earning the dwarf a glare from Konni. He returned the kobold a polite nod.

“Well, I do not yet know how to locate a spirit . . . but I would recognize a curse or spirit summoning tablet,” ventured Cellian. “So we can look.”

“A plan!” said Rufys, and with a gesture he transformed the end of his staff into a small red banner displaying an intricate arcane mark.

The quartet moved onward in a loose line with Konni and Cellian on one side of the road and Rufys and Zael on the other. “What exactly are we looking for?” asked Zael.

“Any sign of a curse or haunt,” answered Cellian, pausing while Konni sold her string of fish to a passing goodwife. The young dwarf pondered this statement while Rufys tried to conjure a breeze to make his banner wave.

The four continued, more thoughtful than before, and meandered along through the city streets and alleys. After nearly an hour, they were beginning to think about calling it a day when Konni pointed to a rooftop. “There,” she hissed.

Cellian saw something fall from the roof and something small leap back from the edge. She ran forward, behind Konni who dashed ahead, her fishing spear ready. Cellian knelt down for a closer look at what had fallen and immediately recoiled, her gorge rising. It was a young cat. The poor creature had been terribly tortured, its legs were bent and broken and its fur torn away. Cellian did not think it was dead before it hit the ground.

The young wizardess gritted her teeth, forcing her mind into order. She stood, bringing her spells to mind. She drew her one wand out of her satchel. A wand made of carved ivory, which had been a gift from her mother, something to defend herself with until she mastered more magic.

“Konni, where did it go?” Cellian asked scanning the nearby rooftops.

Zael and Rufys arrived, dagger and staff ready. “What cruelty,” growled the dwarf looking at the slain cat, his knuckles white on the hilt of his dagger.

“There,” pointed Konni as a roof tile toppled. She tossed her fishing spear. It skittered across the roof and tumbled down. Followed by a few tiles and a squirming . . . thing.

Rufys ran forward, swinging his staff. The thing, now revealed as human-shaped amalgam of sticks and pebbles, stood half Konni’s size. Rufys’ swing went wild as he lost his footing on a fallen tile.

The thing seemed to laugh as Rufys fell. Then it was on the move, dashed away as Konni’s net flew towards it. The kobold hissed a curse and reeled the net in. Zael and Cellian gave chase.

“What is it?” managed the dwarf, his stout legs not built for speed.

Cellian’s mind raced as she ran after it. Something so small should not be so quick. “Elemental?” she ventured, dodging around a stack of firewood.

Cellian could hear the others behind her as she dashed out across the open field of the Horse Downs. The stick man was fast and nimble but she kept it in sight, just. She was faster across the open ground. There it was! Cellian gripped her wand. The animate dashed over the road. She was almost upon it. She tried to aim her wand but it vanished behind a stone block. She skidded to a halt as something blocked the sky in front of her and looked up.

It was the Fallen Tower, its shattered upper levels looming over the young wizardess. “Oh . . . dear,” she stepped back. Cellian spun as she heard skittering behind her. A trio of odd manikins made of charred bits of wood and pebbles clambered up on another stone from the tower. Cellian pointed her wand at them. She heard movement behind her. How many are there? she wondered, slowly looking around, Eight, ten, eleven. This is bad.

Cellian traced a rune of protection with her right hand. Her left, trembling, held the wand pointed at the group of three as the circle of menacing things made of sticks and stones slowly tightened around her. One leapt at her. A flash of magical force from her wand shattered it. She cried out as twig-claws slashed at her left ankle.

Zael’s dwarven frame ploughed over one of the manikins. “Run, Cellian, run!” He tried to fend off another two with his small dagger.

Cellian stumbled over the pieces of the one that Zael had trampled. Almost losing her wand, she turned and let loose another blade of force at the things. It went wide shearing off an arm of one of the figures and gouging a notch out of a fallen stone block.

Rufys stepped forward. He winced as a small rock bounced off his temple. He gestured and a fan of flames flicked over a group of the animates. One collapsed in a pile of burning splinters. The other two rushed forward at the young transmuter.

Konni’s thrown spear took one in its torso piercing through and pinning it wriggling to the earth. “Flee, flee!” she shouted. Cellian needed no more encouragement as she scrambled away onto the road.

“We need help,” she said limping back from the fray. Aiming her wand, she blasted one of the things off of Zael’s back. The dwarf fought his way free of two others, leaving his sleeves shredded and his arms covered in scratches.

From the Fallen Tower arced a black stone. It landed and rolled towards them far too quickly, passing through the fragments of the shattered animates, gathering bits and increasing in size. Suddenly it stood. The black stone was the head of another of the things, its body made from pieces of stick and bone, cloth, string and pebbles.

“Unfair!” cried Rufys, batting at one of the creatures ineffectively with his staff.

“I do not think the demon cares,” snapped Cellian as she dragged Rufys back. “We really need to get help.”

The remaining seven manikins gathered around the newly formed one, their sightless faces watching. Konni tossed her net over them and bolted. “Run! Run!”

“To the Tower of Abjuration!” added Cellian running as best she could with her wounded leg. She was sure she could hear the things chasing them but she did not look back. They ran through the streets, dodging carts and pedestrians, and the occasional shouted curse. Cellian thought she saw one of the beings out of the corner of her eye but they made it to the tower without incident.

Rufys pounded on the door of the Tower of Abjuration with his staff. “Masters! We need help.”

“We can go in,” muttered Cellian, opening the door and stepping inside.

Master Winn was coming down the stairs, “Cellian! What was that pounding?” asked the old master, leaning on his cane. His watery blue eyes squinted at her and the door beyond.

“Master Winn, thank goodness! There are things at the Fallen Tower causing trouble! Accidents all over town.”

“What?! Something is escaping from the Fallen Tower!?” Winn changed from his usual dithering persona to the skilled wizard he was. “Master Laud, Master Vallent, we are needed!” He looked to Cellian under glowering brows, “This had best not be a joke, apprentice Varr.”

“No, sir, not at all,” answered Cellian nodding.

The other two masters-in-residence appeared, as did the other apprentices and journeymen. “The Spellwarden is away, so I am in command,” stated Winn, all listened and nodded. “All of you, gather warding materials, quickly,” ordered Winn. “We march on the Fallen Tower in five minutes.” Cellian remembered that Winn had served among the armies providing magical protection before retiring to teach. “Go help them, Varr,” the old master added after a moment.

“Yes, sir.”

Less than five minutes later, with Winn at its head, the entire magical contingent of the Tower of Abjuration marched out. The masters questioned Cellian and her friends the entire way. “How many?” “You say a stone came from the tower?” “How big were the animates?” “Did you hear anything from inside?” They answered as best they could. Though Konni’s observations were politely ignored, so it seemed to Cellian. The kobold had sharper sense than most she knew, it pained her that her friend’s thoughts were overlooked.

As the Fallen Tower came into sight, Winn organized and dispatched the abjurers to encircle it, giving each a particular task to perform. Cellian and her friends were kept close to Winn.

“There is one,” said Zael. Everyone looked as the animate ducked behind a stone.

“Apprentices and journeymen, place the wards,” commanded Winn. “Masters, guard.”

The magic flowed around Winn. Cellian could feel it as she placed the first of the ward stakes she carried. She jerked back as one of the other apprentices cried out. It seemed that all of the things were attacking Vennik, a senior apprentice. Vallent raised her hand and rays sprang from each of her fingers. The rays struck several of animates swarming Vennik and knocked them away . Zael ran forward and dashed one of the others to the ground. Vennik spun, beating frantically at the others clinging to him.

“Continue with the wards!” bellowed Winn, snapping Cellian back to the task at hand. She focused on placing the next stake. Vennik was quietly muttering, so she knew he was safe, if unhappy. Cellian placed her third, and final ward stake and quickly recited the words to activate them.

Cellian stepped back, nearly bumping into Konni. She watched as silver light flared from stake to stake. She felt, rather than heard, a cry of anger from deep within the Tower. Almost in unison, the assembled abjurers took a step back, many making signs against evil.

Winn clapped his hands. “Fellow abjurers! Good work, good work indeed. We have done what the city asks of us, to guard them from evil. Apprentice Cellian spotted a threat to us, to all of us, which allowed us to act in time. These puppet imps of the demon would have continued causing havoc and, given time, would have freed their dark master. Now we must maintain these wards. Normally, I would task a journeyman to oversee this task, but I think Apprentice Varr has earned the right.”

Cellian felt all eyes on her and blushed. “I will not fail the abjurers, Master Winn.”

“I know you wont, Varr,” smiled Winn. “Now, let us retire to our tower. Apprentice Varr, your companions are welcome to accompany us. I will be certain that young Redland and Forgeguide’s masters are informed of their assistance in this matter.”

“Thank you, Master,” she said with a curtsy. Konni mimicked the gesture. Rufys and Zael bowed to Winn with murmured thanks.

As they walked back, Cellian listened to Winn’s lecture on what needed to be done to maintain the wards.

Once back at the tower, she slipped away as everyone started in. Cellian smiled at her friends. “Thank you. Together we helped the city.” She embraced each of them in turn. “Let us always be friends.”

 —

From the shadows, a cloaked man watched as the friends made a pact that would bind them together for the future. He nodded to himself and turned away.

 —

In the Fallen Tower, a demon raged and plotted in the darkness. Its servants probed the wards for weaknesses. A handful of its puppets still skulked outside the ward, it would be hard to communicate with them…but they were there; tools to be used.

 

Written by Sean Holland

 

Like what you just read? Maybe you want to explore the setting further? Check out the Mor Aldenn Campaign Setting from Paizo.com and RPGNow.com

http://www.rpgnow.com/index.php?manufacturers_id=2779&filters=0_0_0_0

http://paizo.com/store/byCompany/h/headlessHydraGames

Races of Mor Aldenn

May 1, 2009

Mor Aldenn devides is populace evenly between humans and elves, which means that you’ll also find quite a few half-elves here as well. However, humans and elves are not the only inhabitants; you’ll find halflings, gnomes, dwarves, centaurs and kobolds living here as well.

Centaurs

The horsemen made peace with the mages more than 200 years ago and came to settle on the island in the place that is now called the Horse Downs. One would think that the centaurs thought this name a mockery of their nature, but no, they seem to fully accept and cherish the name. They live in huge tents in small families.

Dwarves

Dwarves are not known for their love of magic, but the dwarven families living in Mor Aldenn have actually come to study the arcane arts however unlikely that may sound.

Elves

The elves have a long history in Mor Aldenn, dating back to the first travellers who passed through this region. They came originally from Ossindil, to study with the human wizards, but have since then settled down and created a history of their own. They consider themselves moraldenns the same as the humans.

Gnomes

You wont find a lot of gnomes in Mor Aldenn, but they do exist. They view magic a little differently than the human and elven mages. You should seek out the Tower of Illusion if you wish to talk to a gnome.

Half-elves

It is no disgrace to have the blood of both humans and elves in your veins, in fact, for some its considered a blessing; the best of both races. Half-elves from other parts of the world consider Mor Aldenn a sanctuary, a place where they are fully accepted. You wont ever find a person in Mor Aldenn who would dare mock a half-elf, but you will find lots who would defend one.

Halflings

The small folk have also found a home amongst the mages. They love the surrounding lands, and treasure the beauty that surrounds them. They are often found amongst the craftsmen of the city.

Humans

Like the elves, humans have lived in Mor Aldenn ever since its founding more than 300 years ago. They are found in all layers of the society, also, the current mayor of Mor Aldenn is a human named Oswin Theodorick.

Kobolds

Kobolds have actually been accepted as part of the population. They are as peaceful as the other races and will raise the spears in defence of the city, should it ever need it. However, there are some who fear that the kobolds will turn upon the city, revealing their alliance with the night hag, but they haven’t thus far.

Another history lesson…

March 23, 2009

Taraathalorm Wyrmmother

Long before the founding of Mor Aldenn, nearly 350 years ago, a green dragon named Taraathalorm settled on the big island. It had managed to escape its mortal enemies of the east, the elves of faraway Ossindil. Under different circumstances, the dragon may have stayed to fight, but this particular dragon had a belly full of eggs and needed somewhere safe to make a nest. This is exactly what it found here at the heart of Ossindrillon, or so Taraathalorm thought.

The eggs hatched and for a time the island was swarming with green wyrmlings. They may well have destroyed the last remnants of the tower that stood on the hill, scattering the memories of a lost era.

Taraathalorm would leave the nest and bring back food for her young, often staying away for weeks. Some believe that the Horse Downs is actually named after the horse bones that the first settlers found beneath the hill, but this may not be the entire truth.

Five years after Taraathalorm hatched her young wyrmlings, a group of human travellers discover the nest. The largest and most powerful of the wyrmlings is brutally slain, but the humans manage to bring the rest of the wyrmlings with them to Ossindil where they sell them to the elven wizards.

When Taraathalorm finally returns, she is enraged to find one of her wyrmlings murdered and the rest stolen. She smells humans, but suspect that the elves are behind the theft, especially since the trail leads directly towards Ossindil. She sends her minions against the elven city, who successfully destroys a few villages and towns on their way to the elven capital. However, in the end, the army is scattered by the elves who wields some of the strongest magic in the world. A few minions return to Taraathalorm bearing the bad news. She is enraged and filled with an even stronger hate than before. But with her army scattered she cannot strike at the elves.

A group of humans and elves from Ossindrillon travels to the island where Taraathalorm resides. They attack during the night and successfully slay the green dragon. The heroes bring back a dragonstone, taken from the chest of Taraathalorm, as proof of their deed. This famous dragonstone is later named the Emerald Heart and is, to this day, still in the elves possession.

The small group search the island and finds remnants of a lost age, but more importantly, they also find a place of strong magic. There is something hidden, deep below the island, which makes this place the perfect home of wizards, sorcerers and bards.

Designer’s Notes

There is, indeed, something hidden deep below Mor Aldenn, but so far, the mages have not managed to find the source of this magic. They do, however, suspect that it is not by accident that the magic is strong here and have delved deep. This dungeon that the mages have carved from the earth can be accessed through the Barrow delve, but also through the Tower of All-Magic. In fact, most of the mage towers have a portal that takes the mages into the deep reaches.

This place may be Dragon’s Delve… or perhaps, some other ancient dungeon.

A few thoughts about Mor Aldenn

March 8, 2009

Let me tell you a bit about the city I’m working on. Hopefully by answering the following questions, you’ll get an idea of what this setting will be like, but remember, everything could easily change.

Why is Mor Aldenn called the City of Mages?

Its quite simple actually. The first people to pass through these lands were elven wizards from Ossindil. They were looking for the old kingdoms in the west, but found a wild realm that wanted to stop them in their explorations. It was also wizards, humans and elves, who fought and killed the green dragon that used to inhabit the island. The first building of what was to become Mor Aldenn, was actually, the Tower of All-Magic. They feel a special connection to this land and with the rise of the Mage Guild, have claimed the city as their own, and so far, there have been no contenders to this claim.

Who rules Mor Aldenn?

Most moraldenns would claim that the city is actually ruled by the mages, even though the city is ruled by the mayor. The mages choose the mayor and they have the power to remove him from the office as well. The mayor lives at one of the southern isles, in a mansion that was build more than hundred years ago by the mages. He has lots of servants, guards and the mages shower him with gifts that keep him entertained. There is a small prison below his mansion, but it is rarely in use. The current mayor, Oswin Theodorick, has two important mage advisors, Master Balsadarus and the Lady Salyssa Fadhyra. The mayor has some power, and is sometimes asked to make rulings as the city’s judge, but most often, people come to the mages with their complaints.

Are there any thieves in Mor Aldenn?

Yes, of course. This is a prosperous city at the center of the realm. Lots of caravans pass through here, which means that lots of coins pass through here as well. Granted, its a small and young city, but of course you’ll find a small Thieves’ Guild here, often referred to as the Guild. They are careful and stay far away from the business of the mages, which is probably why they can still be found in Mor Aldenn. The guildmaster is also the proprietor of the Ugly Harpy, a fat human called Yargus Tem (male human, rogue9).

What races can be found in the city?

There is, of course, most humans and elves, which means that there are half-elves as well. You’ll find halflings, centaurs, gnomes and even a small tribe of kobolds here as well. The moraldenns are not very prejudistic, which means that you’ll sometimes meet goblins, orcs, lizardfolk and even giants here as well, but so far none have made the city their own.

The houses of Mor Aldenn?

The elves of Ossindrillon have build most of the house in the city, with the help of the humans of course. This means that most houses in Mor Aldenn are small works of art, with lots of unique details. Its also uncommon to find a single story house in the city, most houses have two or even three storeys, with beautiful balconies. Most houses have glass windows and a small garden, either in front of the house, or behind. Shopowners live above their shops and six inns cater to the travellers that come to visit Mor Aldenn.

Why did the mages abandon the Tower of Conjuration?

A demon inhabits the Tower of Conjuration, and has done so for the last 57 years. In the beginning, the mages tried to kill the demon, but that seemed an impossible task and so they abandoned the cause. The summoners had tried to summon a powerful demon, which they did, but unfortunately for them, their protective circles were not powerful enough to hold the demon. They were all killed, brutally, and its believed to this day that their bones litter the great Summoning Hall. Fortunately for the city, the protective runes that grace the outer and inner walls of the tower, were strong enough to keep the demon locked away inside. Moraldenns also call this tower Demonhome or even the Fallen Tower.

Who is Grey the Diviner?

The Tower of Divination is without a doubt the smallest of the mage towers. It is located on one of the southern isles, atop a steep hill. It is also called the Lonely Tower because of its single inhabitant, the diviner, Grey. He is a hermit of sorts, though sometimes people come to visit him, asking for his advice. They all return with the feeling that this man must be mad, and rarely does any of them think that what Grey told them, could be true.

Where can I find the centaurs?

The centaurs actually have their own lands inside the city, also called the Horse Downs. This is, basically, an open part of the city, located near the Tower Hill, where the centaurs live in their large colorful tents. They are also allowed to keep bonfires here, which they do every night. The centaurs have a chosen leader among them, a fighter named Orregil Silvermane (male centaur, fighter5/ranger5).