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Kingmaker: Varnhold Vanishing, Session 1, Part 1

May 8, 2016

In the autumn of 4718, rumors arrived from the east that something had happened to the town of Varnhold. The townsfolk simply disappeared, said one rumor, much as House Rogarvia vanished all those years ago. Or the Nomen centaurs launched a surprise attack on the town, said another, and murdered everyone in their sleep. No, said yet another rumor, the centaurs called on dark gods to bring a terrible curse upon the town, and all the people were turned into animals. The one element that the different stories could agree upon was that Varnhold as a town had ceased to exist and that travelling there was extremely dangerous.

This news was greatly worrisome to the Empress Sojana, of course, as her family and many good friends resided in Varnhold. She would have rushed out to investigate, but she was 8 months pregnant, and was asked to stay away from potential danger.

Instead, some of Marshal Pelagia’s scouts were sent to look into the matter, and messengers were dispatched to Restov to discretely discover what, if anything, the Swordlords knew. The messengers returned empty-handed, and the scouts did not return at all.

The situation was serious, and growing moreso by the day. And so it was a windy winter morning in Neth (November) when the protectors of Caerelia – the slayers of the Stag Lord, the victors of the troll war, the killers of Talonquake – rode out of Stagfell’s north gate, crossed over the Shrike River, and turned east towards Varnhold and the rising sun. The company included:

  • Emperor Satampra Zieros, male human rogue 3/swashbuckler 5
  • Spymaster Mestinous, male elven wizard 8
  • Keeper Iofur, male human druid of Gozreh 8
  • High Priest Remesio, male human cleric of Cayden Cailean 8
  • Orseen (no title), male human warpriest of Iomedae 8, their newest companion

When the party crossed over into Varnhold’s territory, word quickly spread. The farmers and miners of the hills were trying to live their lives as they had before, but there was much fear that Varnhold’s doom would soon visit them as well. And with the capital and their leaders gone, they had little reassurance or hope. But as the company passed through the land, the Emperor reminded all who came to see him that he was married to their ruler’s daughter, and he reassured the people that he would do his best to set matters aright. And in the meantime, he promised, the people of Varnhold would be placed under Caerelia’s benevolent protection.

On the third day, the group passed through the Varnhold Pass, which cut through the Tors of Levenies and intersected the Crooked River. Recently placed signs dotted the western bank of the river, warning travelers from proceeding. On the opposite shore stood a watchtower, unmanned. Casual investigation revealed no signs of life in the tower and no evidence of violence. The adventurers decided to camp on the western bank that evening, shunning the protection of the tower walls in favor of some peace of mind.

They reached the far side of the pass later the next morning, from which the party could look down and see the town of Varnhold itself. At a distance it, too, appeared abandoned, a strange sight to the travelers who had visited the town often over the years. As the group drew closer, Satampra noticed that the town looked… greener than it had when he and his wife had been there a few months ago. Varnhold could not have been “vanished” for more than a month or two, and yet the place looked almost reclaimed by nature.

Remesio took a swig from his flask. “So… faeries?” he inquired, tipsily.

“Faeries,” the others agreed. They rode on in cautious silence, weapons and spells at the ready.

Varnhold Vanished

The first building that the explorers encountered was a rundown hog farm. A massive feral boar had broken into a pigpen and was busy eating the dead hogs therein. When the group got a little too close to the fence, the boar made as if to charge them, and they quickly backed off.

They poked around a couple of homes, which were all open and empty, before following their noses to the tannery. It stood as empty as the other buildings, but they did discover some interesting horse hides that were being treated out back. The hides were cut off at the withers, or the shoulder area – normally where the horse’s head would extend from. Or, theorized the druid, where a centaur’s torso would extend from? An examination revealed that the hides were indeed from centaurs and not horses.

The group left the grisly discovery behind and approached the banks of the Kiravoy River, which separated them from the rest of the town. There once had been a wide wooden bridge that allowed passage over the river, but it had been torn down to the stone supports. As they pondered how to cross the ice-cold water, Satampra caught a glitter from under the water. A closer look revealed that there were several large chests nestled in the riverbed and partially hidden by the supports. Some of the chests had broken open, and were filled to the brim with coins, gems, and jewelry!

It’s a Trap!

varnhold vanishing session 1 map 1“That’s obviously a trap of some sort,” noted Iofur.

Satampra wiped the drool off his chin. “OK, but – what if it’s not? Can we really afford to take that chance?”

“Um, yes? You’re an emperor! We’re already rich!” But the greedy ruler was not dissuaded.

Plans for extracting the treasure without exposing themselves to danger were discussed. Iofur came up with the idea of summoning a water elemental to retrieve the gleaming booty, but he couldn’t speak aquan, and thus couldn’t direct the elemental to perform utilitarian tasks. Remesio realized that he could cast both a prayer of tongues and summon a water elemental. He also noted that his prayer time (clerics have to pick a time of day to receive their spells for the next 24 hours) was happy hour, which wasn’t too far off. And there was a brewery on their side of the river. Clearly, the gods – or at least his god, Cayden Cailean – wanted them to go to the brewery and drink for a few hours.

At the brewery they found over a dozen fresh kegs of the local beer, Cheerful Delver Stout. Remesio tapped one of the kegs and they settled in until he could commune with Cayden for a new batch of prayers. By the time the party exited the brewery, the sun had fled and took the light with it. Clouds blocked much of the stars and moon. The spellcasters called forth magical torches and they made their way back to where the bridge had once stood.

A magical light was tossed into the water so that everyone could see the treasure. Remesio beseeched the gods for the power of communication, and then called forth a water spirit, which rose out of the river as a standing wave. The cleric ordered the wave to go down to the river bottom and bring up as many chests as it could carry. The elemental splashed into the water, becoming invisible to the onlookers in the process, and so they kept their eyes focused on the treasure below.

The treasure simply vanished. Soon after, the water elemental splashed to the surface again and gave its equivalent of a shrug. It told the cleric that when it touched a chest, they all disappeared. The group didn’t know what to make of that, and refocused their attention on getting across the river.

Remesio took Satampra’s arm and dimension doored them to the other side. He then commanded the water elemental to carry the others across before it returned from whence it came. Once everyone were on the other side, they set off down the path, at which point Remesio and Orseen promptly fell into a covered pit.

The pit was twenty feet deep, and the bottom was lined with sharpened stakes. Remesio escaped without too much damage, but Orseen was impaled on several spikes. After ropes were lowered to help the two climb out, the group quickly retreated from the beaten path and doled out a fair amount of healing.

After Satampra drew a map of the town in the dirt, the party knelt down to examine it and debate where to go next. But they were startled out of their discussion by the sound of music, coming from the river behind them! A fiddle, unlike any other fiddle that they had ever heard, was playing a proud fanfare that stirred their hearts and made them all want to stand up and cheer lustily. Iofur promptly closed his eyes and stuck his fingers in his ears, but the others stood and turned to see what was making such magical music.

Rising slowly up out of the river was a muscular human who was indeed playing a fiddle. His hair and beard were long, and he stood naked save for the jewelry that he wore. He continued to play as he ascended up from the water, until finally he stood upon the river’s surface, unperturbed by its swift current. He brought the fanfare to a rousing finish before lowering his instrument and addressing the group in a booming voice.

“Greetings, mortals! Welcome… to my domain.”

Next: the ferocious fiddler!


  1. Pinkius permalink

    T’would have been a better trap had they NOT been open! I’ve been playing a lot of dark souls, and lemme tell you, chests are so ENTICING… usually involved in some manor of trap though of course

  2. Best reason I can recall for drinking 😉

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  1. Kingmaker: Intermission #1, Session 9, Part 2 | Daddy DM
  2. Kingmaker: Intermission #2, Session 1, Part 2 | Daddy DM

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