The Witch, The Bandit, and The Bastard

1649 ASF

The Baseborn Usurpation was an attempt by the Gallowsbound mercenary company, under the command of the Duke’s bastard son and a Syndicate representative known as Red Asha to seize control of the barony Fairdale. The initial attack on the population center of Scrimshore occurred on Blossom Night, the annual celebration of The Champion, during which most of the populace was intoxicated in the town’s streets. The surprise assault, lit by the burning blooms of ceremonial flowers, managed to scatter or outright slay the vast majority of Baron Farafsadel’s already meager forces and resulted in the immediate surrender of the town to The Bastard. The Baron himself was captured that night, escorted away from his people while drunk and sobbing.

The Gallowsbound mercenaries seemed to have taken the Fairdale as a collected due for unpaid salaries and recompense for fallen soldiers. They had fought in the Feral Risings, and those of their comrades who died were promised to have their family’s cared for by the Duchy of Trailfar. Since Gallowsbound soldiers fought on the losing side, the Duke did not consider it necessary to pay the war-weary soldiers for their services. Furthermore, the dale’s heir was not only a woman but one of mixed heritage—her mother being a splicebred. The Bastard considered himself a more legitimate heir and hoped that the Duke would stay out of the conflict until the Bastard legitimized his claim through force. Over time, it became clear to the people of the dale that indeed the Duke was not interested in committing his own military forces to resolve the internecine conflict.

After the initial assault, the Gallowsbound forces performed an atrocity now known as “The Lover’s Bridge Massacre.” The Bastard ordered couples of mixed race—a common occurrence in Fairdale—to be bound together at that covered bridge. With the captured crowd and his troops watching, the Bastard put his own half-sister, Valentia, to the breaking wheel. He broke the woman’s bones while reciting the names of men killed during the Feral Risings. But that sickening sight was not enough. He then had his men officers put their sabers through bound together couples, and tossed them over the side of the bridge, among them Eliza and her husband Sven. The Bastard personally stuck his serrated saber through a few of the victims before throwing them over over the bloated waters to dangle by their necks. Eliza managed to survive the massacre, as when the mercenaries tossed wheel over the side to see Valentia dangle the banister snapped, dropping them all into the surging water. Eliza untangled herself and saw her broken husband drown, then clung to the only thing she could see floating— the breaking wheel and Valentia upon it. The two made it to shore and fled with the help of the Huldra, who were observing the travesty from a distance.

After the Lover’s Bridge Massacre, the Bastard and his army, bolstered by sellspells, quickly established control over Fairdale by holding the troops at the choke points of the isolated valley region, controlling the roads and the river with spellfire and muskets. They began uprooting the local crops and having farmers plant a strange white grain. The Bastard’s men also seized control of The Hermit’s Glossolalia, bringing the massive tome from its shrine to the baron’s keep. Red Asha would later send scholars to begin trying to translate the piece, also managing to send vast tracts of it to an unknown source using tanglewriters. Red Asha’s role in the whole affair seems to have deeper machinations than the raw anger of The Bastard.

Within weeks of the situation at the Dale, The Spires, the Lacunae, and The Ascendant Church heard of it and decided to take immediate action to preserve the collected knowledge of Scrimshore’s vast library and, most importantly, The Hermit’s glossolalia. The Spires sent two of their Lacunae and an ally to recover and protect the text. Among the Lacunae was young woman named Lazslo and a flighty bard referred to as “Marzi”. These two were accompanied by a representative of the Eucemenical Temple, an atavus named Dzuberi. The university hired a lance of Free Legionnaires, including the giant Belle to escort the group, enter the dale, and retrieve the text from the fires of war.

The mission, however, was nearly ended before the group even made it to the dale. A detachment of Gallowsbound soldiers, along with hired local bandits under the guidance of the swashbuckling veteran named Cur ambushed the group, slaying all but four. They escaped through the woods on a rattling wagon till they met a fast flowing stream. Ansel, a mendicant of The Hermit and former Free Legionnaire, found them and guided them to the safety of a village of the hidden people. There, the outsiders met with the only survivor of The Lover’s Bridge Massacre, Eliza. Ansel revealed then that the glossolalia would not be easily stolen, and that to protect the holy text and free the people of the dale, they would need help. Specifically, he outlined a plan to win over the elves of the Vale, to bring the bandits into the fold, and find and free the baroness.

Their first step was to steal the bandits’ payroll. The group infiltrated the southern camp, with Belle dispatching a couple of guards with a proffer of drink while Eliza and Dzuber crept in. They made off the quartermaster’s ledger,and discovered where to waylay the payroll to steal and use to break the Gallowsbound’s relationship with the local outlaws.

To win over the hiddenpeople, the small party was directed to oust a problematic witch named Medb from a taboo place in the untouched hills, called a Geissmache. The hiddenpeople feared an inquisition, and proffered their services as warriors in trade for Medb’s removal. The motley group took up the challenge, infiltrating the Geissmache despite its guardians, the murmets. They found themselves in a garden of war, surrounded by statues of amaranthine deodar that had started to sprout new trees. The Geissmache was once a holy place where novices were tested, and the group found access to the underground fortification by solving the riddles once posed to servants of The Lady of Blossoms.

Inside the party fought huldra youth maddened by Medb’s use of arcane herbs and hexcraft. There they found that she had been using old magics to make the murmets and other beasts that fed on blood and sun. When the erstwhile adventurers confronted the witch, she offered the creatures of Maleficarum in trade for the head of the leader of the hiddenfolk, her own brother. She promised to turn the tides of the coming battle over the dale with her magic to far greater effect than a few dozen huldra with longbows could. The adventurers, however, refused, though with some debate. Medb immediately killed Marzi when the group attacked, tearing his limbs from his body with a rush of magics. The surviving party fought the witch and her creations, sufferring grievous injury before finally impaling Medb a the end of Dzuberi’s spear.

The party then set off for the deep woods to pay off the bandits. With no small help from Eliza’s own penchant for seduction, the group successfully negotiated a deal with Cur to provide his outlaws a place to live in trade for his services. Namely, the many fallow fields in the dale.

After successfully stealing the bandit’s payroll in a well-planned ambush, dispatching the witch Medb, and winning over Cur’s bandits, the party went to find the Baroness. At Ansel’s suggestion, they sought information at a local inn run by one of the baron’s knights, a venerable swordsman named Azkari. They disguised themselves as pilgrims coming to see the hermit’s shrine to enter the rowdy bar, filled with the smell of smoke and brined eel. Meanwhile, Eliza communicated with Azkari in a paltry approximation of subterfuge, finding out the baroness hid in her nursemaid’s basement in Scrimshore with her knights.

With the baroness’s location known, they made way to the town of Scrimshore, in disguise. They found the nursemaid, an apothecary now. They won over her trust, and she peeled away the boards to her secret cellar, revealing within atrophied knights and the baroness, Valentia’s other half-sibling, writing in her journal by candlelight. While the rescuers planned an escape with the knights and baroness, Gallowsbound soldiers knocked. The apothecary denied any visitors, but the soldiers searched the shop, finding the secret entrance to the cellar. The Baroness’s former nursemaid then threw herself to defend the noble lady, getting stabbed knockein the process, but giving the party and the knights enough time to prepare their vicious assault on the guards. They made their escape from the apothecary, setting a fire outside of the shop and escaping out the back. A few stole some horses that had been in line for shodding to get the knights mounted. They rest tore off toward the main gate, hoping to burst through by virtue of speed and chaos. They felled more than one mercenary on their exit, and gave the rest time enough to get a mount and break away from the occupied town.

With the bandits fighting for the dalish resistance, the Baroness and the rest went out to recruit local farmers, gathering them all at the dale and fomenting the rebellion as best they could. Dzuberi tracked down some local hedge wizards and convinced them to provide medical aid in the coming battles The errant noble lady Valentia spent her time training more mounted warriors and swordsmen. Belle constructed armor and explosives to aid them in the coming fight. Eliza and Lazslo managed to scout the keep at Scrimshore and sabotage some of its powder, though not without difficulty.

When they were ready, the army of huldra, bandits, farmers and a handful of broken knights went to the Lover’s Bridge to cut off Scrimshore from reinforcements. The party had decided to enact a strategy of rolling force rather than a pronged attack to preserve the lives of the dalish citizens, at the cost of risking Red Asha’s escape with the glossolalia.

At the final battle, Valentia met her half-brother in the field with Eliza by her side. Valentia unhorsed the commander and Eliza pounced on the felled bastard, tearing off his helm and then his face with her clawed hands. Lazslo and the rest raided the keep. Their they found the the baron had been executed long ago, as well as an office manned by well-kept clerks and beurocrats led by Red Asha. She ordered her own well-paid mercenaries to defend her while she escaped with as much of the transcribed glossolalia as she could, making it out through a twist of magic and luck.

The Witch, The Bandit, and The Bastard

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