The Ash Wood (Campaign Diary #1)

In the far north of Tyr Alona, on the banks of the Silverrun River which flows out of the Mountains of Madness, lies the city of Greywatch. A continent-spanning mercenary guild called the Sapphire Legion operates a franchise of adventurers there. Recently, the unfortunate adventurers–known as the Sapphire Hares–met their demise in the depths of an abandoned dungeon outside the city.

Occupational hazard, you see.

Five new recruits from Ebonholde have been hired to fill their shoes. They hired a cart driven by an older gentleman named Berny to take them to Greywatch, where they would meet their Sapphire Legion liaison and manager, someone by the name of Exard Shaley.

These five recruits are:

  • Thia, the Wood Elf Ranger
  • Winnie, the Firbolg Druid
  • Jewel of the Mountain, the Tabaxi Rogue
  • Hyperion, the Aasimar Paladin
  • Cora, the Halfling Rogue

As they entered the last day of their journey, the cart entered the Ash Wood, a cursed wood full of menacing fairies and terrifying monsters, according to rumors. The mist seemed to thicken, obscuring what little the adventurers could see through the dense foliage. The air grew chill, and the din of nature was seemingly silenced.

An hour into the Wood, a scream erupted from around the next bend. Berny knew better than to stop on this road, so the cart rounded the corner to find an ornate carriage surrounded by four guards on horseback focused on the eastern side of the road, crossbows drawn. Arrows streaked out from the foliage, hitting the carriage and one of the horses, which reared up, throwing its rider to the ground with a crash.

The new adventurers returned the attackers’ fire and rushed forward to help the fallen guard to his feet. He thanked them and offered them a reward for assistance in dealing with the vagabonds. The adventurers needed no further prompting and sprang into action, hurling axes and firing bows until several bandits dropped and the rest fled.

The guard captain on the other side of the carriage ordered a charge to prevent them from regrouping, but something told Thia that danger lurked from the other direction. Sure enough, as soon as the guards had left the carriage, a second squad of bandits sprang from the western side of the road!

Pictured: the wrong bandits

The adventurers rushed to hold off the bandits, but not before the elderly carriage driver was wounded and a noble woman in fine dress was pulled out of the carriage (though not without significant effort on the bandits’ part). The biggest, burliest bandit, with a shortsword in one hand and dagger in the other, placed his blade on the woman’s throat and demanded the guards and heroes back off and let him leave in peace. The guard captain ordered his men to lower their weapons, and the bandit began to edge back into the woods.

After a moment, the adventurers had had enough: they lined up their shots and let loose their arrows, piercing him before he could make good on his implied threat. The would-be hostage screamed and ran a few steps further into the Wood when a hidden bandit hurled a vial of some kind at the ground, and from the shattered glass billowed out a cloud of stinging poison. The noblewoman coughs and sputters, though the adventurers seem to shrug it off, allowing them to easily dispatch the last bandit.

Now clear of danger, the heroes escort the woman back to her carriage. She scrambles inside, and the guard that had fallen from his horse pays them a small sum as he promised. Disappointed, the adventurers press for more, and the guard tells them to talk to Lady Ariel Cusiana, the noblewoman they had rescued, as she was the one in charge of the caravan.

Lady Cusiana allows them into her carriage, where they learn that she is an aristocrat of the Corvalian Empire, the daughter of the regional governor or praetor. She thanked them and gave them a more substantial reward. She was headed north to Greywatch because she was betrothed to the young Duke of Greywatch, Arthund Laithfair. The empire had conquered the region of Greywatch with the rest of Amberon just over a generation ago, but allowed some local rulers, like the Laithfairs, to continue to administer their localities so long as tribute flowed back to Corvalis.

Lady Cusiana had never met her betrothed and did not seem terribly excited about the trip or the marriage. She told the adventurers it was an arranged marriage and that her father would not hear any complaints. When the adventurers pressed her about any foreknowledge she may have had about the bandit attack, she became upset and sent them out of her carriage.

The adventurers returned to their cart and driver, Berny, who exclaimed that he hadn’t seen action like that since the war. The praetorial carriage continued onward, with Berny driving the adventurers just behind.

Another few hours and they left the Wood. They entered a land of hills dotted with tree copses, and the air grew chill. Shortly after nightfall, they crested a final hill and saw below them bathed in moonlight a walled city on a riverbank, with an island in the river connected by a bridge to the city. On the island rose a castle whose towers’ roofs were coated in what looked to be silver, albeit tarnished.

The city gates open for the praetorial carriage and the adventurers piggy-back inside. The carriage and cart make their way along the wide main road through a town mostly dark at this time of night, but in the moonlight the adventurers can make out a number of shops, smithies, and taverns, the latter of which tended to still have a lantern on inside. They cross the bridge to the castle, and the praetorial carriage is allowed inside, but the guards stop Berny’s cart from following. The adventurers convince the guards to call back the carriage’s guard captain, a man named Rewis. The adventurers indicate that they have information for him about the praetor’s daughter and the bandit attack, and he begrudgingly vouches for them. They enter the castle grounds, but as the carriage approaches the great central hall, Rewis pulls off to one side and motions for Berny to follow. They head toward a dark side building…

…and that was session 1 of the new campaign. If you’re wondering, yes, there was an entire adventure in the Wood worked out for when the bandits got away with Lady Cusiana. But the bandit took like 3 rounds to get her out of the carriage, so it never happened and the game just rolled right past all that content. That’s the DM’s lot in life, I suppose.

I cast Maroney’s Disappointed Smirk, you all take 12d12 psychic damage and leave me alone to cry while I burn all my prep notes.

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