our story begins in the city of vinne, one of the lone islands of civilizations in the southern kingdom of svain. the youngest of svain's metropolitan city centers, vinne houses a population around 8,000, with another 8,000 in the outlying villages, namely to the north and east. founded 120 years ago, svain lies on the southern border, and serves as a trade hub for frontier settlers and merchants that explore the southwestern frontier of the kingdom.
the kingdom of svain, at present, enjoys a uneasy peace with its southern neighbor, the empire of xianlian, as well as the turathi kingdoms and the arkoshian caliphate to the east, across the halien straits. the gnoll hordes to the west, in the howling savannah plague much of svains western expanse, their raids keeping much of the expansion contained. the other main threat to svain are the goblins of escabla. more organized than the gnolls, they still lack the organization to let them be self sufficient, and so they periodically make war on the svanesse, predominantly by campaigns in the northern end of the continent. the result is an army stretch to maintain an every growing expanse of border, and forced to prioritize threats. the city of vinne, to date, has remained relatively protected. outside its founding, the city has remained safe from raids and assaults in the years that it has grown. the garrison, remains vigilant, though never tested. however, for those who consider svain a threat, vinne stands as a small monument to svains aggressive territorial ideals.
in the year 305 after empire, our party has found themselves in vinne, each for their own reason. the ridire squire mithrellis, hailing from scietti, is on pilgrimage on behalf of his order, and has traveled to the frontier town to find a means to aide the locals against any outsider threats. the performers sorin and jace are part of a turathi troupe that is currently roaming svain in their nomadic lifestyle. sorin is a talented acrobat, musician, actor, and sorcerer extraordinaire, whilst jace is an extraordinaire musician, and gifted with 'the voice', able to harness music toward magical ends. the muscovan known as kazimir is an immigrant from his homeland, looking to enhance his skills in crafting and artifice. vinne is only the most recent location he has managed to find a mentor and develop his skills outside the observation of the federation guilds. lastly, the sciettish mercenary, boyd, is recently returned from excursions in arkoshia, where he is dealing with the trauma of losing his squad to betrayal, and is hiding in self imposed exile.
the party meet each other, a foggy night in vinne, to the sound of warning bells and shrieks of panic flood through the street. the clamor can be only one thing – gnolls. despite a history of caution, it appears the gnolls have turned up in force, and sought to take the town. the party come across each others path in a desperate fight for survival, able to kill or wound gnolls where citizens and garrison recruits do not. they fight desperately, retreating back to the garrison. all, accomplished spell casters, are able to bend their magic to holding of the wave of savagery for a time. yet, their foe is relentless, and cunning. despite not having as many numbers as would be expected, they seem to gain every advantage, and dispatch resistance methodically and deceive. in the end….they die, hold up together in a bunker.
the party awake to find the event a dream, real and vivid. more importantly, as they walk the town, they recognize their faces, and the sight of recognition is returned. not in all, but for the party, there is a shared sense of suffering, if not real, than what? the party, though, were not the only ones to remember this shared dream. another, a young man named mateo, begins to gather the disparate few who recall this experience. with the parties help, he is able to give them knowledge of something deep and sinister.
from there, the party take up his mission, scouring the city for information regarding this strange dream that has infected the town, with most unaware of it. they explore the sewers underneath the city, encountering a strange rat man that harriers their exploits, and the influence of a strange fungi that has begun to grow in the humid waters below. little by little, they track the influence, down through the broken water treatment plant, and the sewage outlet, where they encounter a vile beast that guards the way. disease for a time, mithrellis and boyd recover as the party retreat, relaying their information to mateo. as time passes, the party gain more clues, but the forces that be act in response. the party eventually finds a trail leading from the sewers to the bluffs west of the city, along the lake. tenuously, the party makes the trek, and with perserverence, finds a cave system hidden among the shoals. inside, the cave is filled with the same fungi as the sewers, the place seemingly isolated and removed. as the approach the back of the cave, though, they are assaulted by strange beasts, bat like creatures of darkness, and primordial sludge that seems on pure mindless death. the party utilize fire and lightning, and wrest themselves from these monstrous creatures, wounded but alive, and more intrigued than ever.
the party returns for new insights, only to find mateo dead, stone cold and without struggle in his inn bed. the authorities are alerted, and make to remove the body, but not before jace can lift some of his positions for the party to puzzle over.
amongst the items are a medallion of the organization mateo spoke of, the protectorate, their mission somewhat unclear. more strange, though, is an odd orb, black as the night sky, and specked with starlight within. in contemplation, mithrellis awakes the soul within, an angelic mind that calls itself eshrim. here, the party learns that he has worked to aide mateo in his hunt for the vilnach, an ancient foe, demons and worse that seek to destroy the world they know. mithrellis pledges his servitude to eshrim, in exchange for information and aide, and a bond is formed.
with eshrims gifts, the party returns to the cave, determined to find answers. past the point of the prior ambush, the party finds the cave has a pocket beyond. upon deep exploration, they find the remnants of a hideout. a home, of sorts, the lair is filthy, and barely hospitable. yet, before they can investigate, the party is set upon once again, this time, by gnolls. gaunt, ragged, and famished, they assault the party like starving animals. sorin is nearly torn to pieces, and saved only just by boyd and kazimir. once dispatched, the party explore the cave in detail. they discover strange fey script, odd alchemical work, and ancient and rather gruesome texts. beyond this layer, lies one last chamber. as the party press on, they see the remnants of a cage, seeing the gnolls where kept as captive.
hearing a strange muttering, the party investigate, and are surprised to find three strange creatures around a room, with a cauldron, and a strange beast on a throne beyond. the creatures are not friendly, and appear to posses magic of their own. a desperate fight ensues, as the party struggles against the magic. as they would discover, the hags possess a powerful advantage in a group, and nearly kill sorin, jace, and boyd. the gifted voice of jace is able to rescue sorin and boyd from unconsciousness before she too falls, and mithrellis manages through deft swordplay to pin one hag to the cauldron whist kazamir utilizes his strange devices to detonate one of the hags in a gore explosion of sound. battered and burned, the party explores the remnants of the cave, and meet the strange beast, a captive by the name of pophorous. known as a mycinoid, pophorous explains how he can speak through the fungi, and his mind is one with those who have inhaled the spores. the party realize that the spores have likely spread throughout the city, infecting anyone within miles.
pophrous goes on to explain how he has been forced here against his well. indicating his chair, he is seen to be growing on the throne, unable to move. in has lap, a strange rough hewn crystal, the size of a cannon shot, it shows cracks of dark back and red vines fractured from within. pophorous explains how he isn't allowed his own dreams, but rather the dreams of the mind within the stone. eshrim expounds, stating that this is the mind of a powerful vilnach, an otherworldly creature. the party conclude that this creature have manipulating the dreams of the entire town, making them relive the same horrific experience over and over, but yet they forget it in the morning.
the party, then interrogate one of the hags left alive, though they don't tell much – mocking the party in a strange ancient language. they speak of one more hag, their leader, othera, and the vengeance that will be visited upon them. the party, weary and without patience, kill the remaining prisoner, and speak with pophorous on how to free him. explaining how their sun will degrade him, the party must wait till night to move him, and must develop a system to move his large body across the crag like cliffs near the lake.
the party decide to leave pophorous where he is for the night, and return the following night with supplies. they do so, and come back to discover pophorous dead, the hags bodied burned in solemn ceremony, and a message of warning waiting for them. "return the stone, and you will be spared". naturally, the party refuses, and so a desperate hunt for othera, while trying to avoid the same plight that befell mateo. after the insights of eshrim, the party learn that othera is a master of disguise, and has made herself in the image of dilila, the mayor of vinne. in a meeting, they come to a silent understanding of each other, and later that night, mithrellis is visited in message. othera asks that the party return to the cave once more, to parlay, otherwise the citizens of the town will suffer her wrath.
the party, sensing an trap, relent to showing, in an effort to take othera, dead or alive. the party arrive, and after doomed negotiations, boyd attempts a rear ambush against othera. despite having the visage of an old woman, othera proves a formidable foe, with skin stronger than steal, sharp claws scour kazimir and mithrellis, while sorin and jace attempt to pin their foe with magic. with the tide turning, though, othera senses danger, and retreats into the ether like a ghost. nearly lost, kazimir is able to locate her moving through the earth itself by her staff, an artifact of magical power. like a beacon, kazimir tracks the item through the caves, the earth, the city, and back to the sewer. as the minutes tick by, the signal begins to wane, even as the party tracks their foe through the sewers. hidden and unseen, the party nearly fail at capturing othera, wounded. at the last moment, mithrellis and sorin are able to conjure bolts of magical force that, with kazimir's aide, find their target in another realm, and blast her back to their dimension. captive and unconscious, boyd removes her head for surety, and proof of the threat.
at this point, the parties exploits have remained secret from the rest of the cities knowledge. silent heroes, little know of the plight they have faced, from either the strange dreams, or othera's vengeance. as the party returns to the city up top, they set about alerting the authorities of the extent of the damage, and help in uncovering the damage othera has done to the council. as a member, the reach of her influence is unknown. the party meet with the council: blanca quinteros, the garrison captain, emmanuel viernez, the trade minister, oliver chapa, the artisan guild master, and lucero magallanez, the vice regent. the party detail their exploits, and are met with skepticism and supervision by some. when the party accuse dilila of masterminding corruption within the city, the council question the timeframe, arguing that dilila has been a resident of the city for decades.
quelled, the party, bent on making sure that othera hasn't done any lasting damage, seek to gather evidence of her actions. they investigate her manor, where they discover a band of mercenaries hired as guards, rather an garrison recruits. with some stealth, they find arkoshian gold, evidence of a foreign agent, and signs of graft and abuse. more questions, but fewer answers. eventually, the party gather aides to investigate the sewers, the treatment plant, and the caves, demonstrating the extent of the work. slowly, but surely, the council begins to understand. nonetheless, the party is now left confused – what was the meaning of all of this? what are the vilnach? is the city still in danger?
eshrim seeks to aide the party in these questions, and more, but lacks the information at this time. he explains how the mind that speaks is only a portion of his own, the rest kept in safe keeping deep within an ancient forest. he asks that the party, if willing, can take him to this place, that he can answer their questions, and find out more about the influence of the vilnach.
the party agree, though debate the means to do so. they realize that without the support of the town, they lack the resources to make a journey, nor can they hope to deal with any new complications. they decide to delay, and seek a practical means to increase their resources. as such, they decide to hire themselves out as bounty hunters and bandit hunters. inquiring with enrique as well as local merchants, the party collect assurances of payment and assistance in trade for dealing with bandit threats to the south.