Shards of Bravok, Part One and Two: The Eastern Borderlands

Shards of Bravok, Part One and Two: The Eastern Borderlands

We’re extremely excited to return from our brief hiatus to begin the official Augur’s Lore pre-launch campaign, “Shards of Bravok,” an adventure that takes place in the Eastern Borderlands of the Empire. It’s been extremely busy in Descrypt Studios land, so it has taken a while to get back into recap mode. It’s been an amazing transition as we work some of our latest tweaks and adjustments into the rulebook. We will continue to push edits and updates to the rulebook as this next campaign takes off. We’ve gotten a great start already and I’m looking forward to how the characters’ stories unfold.

Our adventure begins in the township of Niren, a centrally-located settlement in the Borderlands that is home to a large order of Balendian scholars whose sacred mission is to observe and document history first hand. Ever since the Scholarly Order of Niren began paying adventurers to take on scribes as part of their travels, Niren has grown to be a haven for the budding adventurer and for a number of adventuring guilds. It is in this context that our adventuring group emerges, travelers from distant parts of the Empire who have converged here looking for work, fame, or answers to lifelong questions. Like many adventurers passing through or living in Niren, each of our emerging party has found their way to an establishment called “The Goat’s Fancy,” where they trade stories with several other adventurers like themselves, and with a few locals and scholars from the Balendian order.

The player characters present in Part One and Two of the Shards of Bravok launch were:

  • DaTuol, the human sellsword and master of disguise, played by @xsubnuke
  • Galad, the human paladin, a Bard of Baliith, played by @saelbrin
  • Ishtaya Drynmor, the viantu marksman, a Delonian Stinger, played by @evan
  • Jennix, the kahlnissá marksman, a mysterious sleeper, played by @katherinehunter77
  • Mordello Cordifarr, the ais’lun loremaster, disciple of Nalvaram, played by @Terri

Part One of our story dawns on the eighth day that the adventurers have been in Niren, each of them having arrived in the Eastern Borderlands only days before. The Eastern Borderlands have long been considered the leftovers of the Empire. They consist of a stretch of earth that runs the length of the Balendian channel, sequestered by natural barriers from the Empire at large. It takes a day’s travel if the wind is right to sail down the Balendian Channel from Oskol to Mahrkonat or to Bright Reach; only about a day and a half to travel by horse caravan in good weather. Numerous people live in the old way throughout the Borderlands. Some (especially in the far north and south) take a more active role in the provincial squabbles between Hinn, Bosen, and Reviak. But most in the heart of the Borderlands cling to an older, more separate identity that predates the purview of the Empire. Those living within the borderlands rarely have dealings with the Empire at large, mainly due to poverty and to their geographic isolation. But they don’t seem to mind it much. The people here have their own way of living, and Peacekeepers seem never to patrol these regions. The people in the Eastern Borderlands take care of their own.

There are only seven major settlements in these lands, some of which receive shipments of goods from other parts of the Empire seasonally. Only during the rainy months can merchant ships safely navigate through the Teeth of Sulas, a rocky reef that divides the Balendian Channel from the Sea of Thrennum. Even then, only the bravest Creonan boatmen dare to make the journey, and many have felt the sting of Sulas’s bite. And smaller ships that regularly navigate inside the channel are ill equipped for the stormy southern seas. Oskol gets more regular shipments by riverboat, but those supplies are often divided among Delonians before all others. So food and goods are made and procured locally more often than not. The earth is harsh and rocky in many places, but there are enough grasses to tend to goats and sheep, and potatoes and other tubers seem to grow well in the central areas of the borderlands. The channel yields many ground-feeding fish, shellfish, and small water fowl.

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And so after enjoying over a week of time in Niren, a small, hospitable township centrally located in the tri-city area, the adventurers spin tales over chapan, mead, and tart potato breakfast wine. Adventurers gather in Niren for a number of reasons, but those who remain in the areas tend to fancy themselves militia leaders, landlords, or treasure hunters. Many also remain on commission from the Scholarly Order of Niren, the group of Balendian Scholars who shares their information and insights with the guilded adventurer companies of the Borderlands. The Order learns of tasks that need to completed or areas that warrant exploration, and pays adventure companies to send along a recorder. Some criticize the Balendian scholars, saying that if they were not so committed to watching and recording history, events would happen differently, but most in and around the Order are committed to the First Sentinel’s vision for truth and understanding. But in any event, the Eastern Borderlands has plenty of areas worth exploring.

As seasoned adventurers, all of the newcomers to The Goat’s Fancy realized that they could make a real impact in this region. The Balendian Scholars chose the town of Niren to base their Order as it rests in a central location, and the heart of the tri-city area it is the safest and most densely civilized region in all the borderlands. The town of Niren itself has also been around longer than the cities that surround it. Adventure guilds have forged their own home here in Niren for generations for the same reasons. The primary adventure guilds that currently populate the halls and training grounds in the north of town are:

The Northern Knucklers: Known by their colors, they wear oiled black sleeveless leathers and draw black lines on their arms to note their “conquests.”

Stewards of the Horn: They all wear pretentious green capes and prefer to drink out of their own goat horns, which makes the inkeeper of “The Goat’s Fancy” fly into a regular, red-faced rage every time they try to dip their horns into the mead barrel.

The Grape Belchers: A group of adventurers that boasts a membership over forty. They brag of their membership and that they prefer to enter into battle drunk. The name refers to the grape wine they like to drink before, during, and after battle.

Vjorn’s Guard: A company of adventurers who sees it as their job to protect the central Borderlands at all costs, and they are often ruthless in enforcing their lawful and honor bound code.

There are a few other groups, but none of them currently have permanent guild halls in Niren. Most everyone from these guilds gathers in The Goat’s Fancy for their daily meals. That morning, the eighth day the newcomers were in Niren, the group consisting of DaTuol, Galad, Ishtaya, Jennix, and Mordello, as well as a fierce warrior by the name of Nixea, all found themselves seated near Praelen Urelld. Praelen is an Initiate Recorder of the first level, a 19-year old scholar who is eager to make his mark in Balendian history. Praelen told the group of capable-looking adventurers that he arrived last autumn by boat to Dhentin and quickly made his way to Niren to join the Order. He has read about many areas in the Borderlands, but has never seen any of the areas outside of Dhentin and Niren first hand.

Praelen seemed drawn to the group and asked if they were a working guild planning on remaining in Niren. This gave the adventurers a lot to think about, and certainly seemed like an opportunistic idea. Nixea claimed she traveled as she pleased, never in the name of any one guild. But the newcomers of the group realized that a guild commanded power in this region. And the more the group and Praelen spoke, the more he seemed drawn to working with them. The adventurers began to establish an idea for a guild, which they decided should be called the “Wardens of the Watch.” A local viantu real estate dealer named Isperat negotiated a guild hall space with the adventurers, located just south of the training fields.

Finally, after the adventurers had adequately established their acquaintance with the area and their position in Niren, Praelen asked the Wardens of the Watch at his table if they would be interested in investigating the interesting disturbance in the Mines of Bravok, and if they would accept payment to bring him along with them. The story from Bravok was that a group of three miners were lost when they fell through a breach in the eastern leg of the mine. Others would have climbed in the hole to search for their coworkers, but apparently some “monsters” discouraged them from doing so when they came out of the hole and ate the mining foreman’s cousin, Marik. The rest of the workers fled to the mine’s entrance when they saw Marik being devoured and they all sealed the entrance door to the main mining shaft. Bravok is a village that is home to miners who export tin and small, attractive but otherwise worthless gemstones. The town is just a few hours travel east of Niren. Praelen mentioned that the mining foreman is eager to get his operation safe and under way. He is willing to reward adventurers handsomely for setting the mine right again.

The young Balendian scholar sipped on his mead with an eager grin. It was clear he was interested in learning more about the “monsters” that the miners fled, and in uncovering what lies in the opening beneath the eastern leg of the mine. There are ancient rumors that old world civilizations are buried deep underneath the surface of the world. Praelen noted that the adventurers who discover the mines are asked to bring any ancient artifacts back to the Balendian Order for further study, but that they can keep any random loot they find for themselves. The adventurers were more than intrigued, and agreed to make the trip to Bravok.

The mead and excitement may have gotten the better of them, and in the moment DaTuol–who wanted to recruit a few more of the adventurers around to his group–divulged their Bravok adventure plans to a seasoned adventurer by the name of Fythriana. She had dark paint along her eyes and in bands around her arm. Once DaTuol had conveyed their intentions, Fythriana excused herself and left the establishment. The group learned the hard way that information is opportunity in Niren, and they should watch what they say. They realized that they needed to head out to Bravok immediately before Fythriana stole their opportunity.

The adventurers rallied, along with Nixea and with Praelen in tow, then they left hurriedly on the eastern road toward Bravok. The landscape in the central Borderlands is a harsh but beautiful steppe land, and the road winds east through increasingly sparse vegetation. After nearly a half day’s travel along the road, Galad noticed Fythriana and five members of the Northern Knucklers just ahead in a clearing. “There’s your friend again,” the paladin said to DaTuol. The Wardens of the Watch decided that rather than confront the Knucklers, they would try to sneak quietly past the guild and then move at a brisk pace the rest of the way toward Bravok. Shockingly their plan worked, and two hours later the group approached a small village that is crudely organized around the great mouth of a mine.

Beyond the main entrance of the mine, the adventurers met Bahaelen Gurenn, the enterprising mine foreman. Bahaelen got right to business, offering the adventurers a reward if they were able to clear the mine of any threat and discover what happened in the eastern leg. The shaft entrance had been sealed from the inside of the main entrance house, and Bahaelen told the group he would have to seal them inside once they entered for the safety of the town. As they were planning their foray into the mine, Fythriana entered the main house. She greeted Bahaelen with a sense of familiarity, and the foreman brought her up to speed on what the Wardens of the Watch were planning. The adventurers didn’t like her too much, but she did not seem to care about that. She elected to remain in the main house of the mine to make sure she could provide support if the Wardens of the Watch were to fail in their task.

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Still grumbling about their distrust of Fythriana, the Wardens entered the mine shaft and Bahaelen sealed the door behind them, which felt more shocking and finalizing than they had anticipated. The damp tunnel reflected the dim light of their torches as they began to acclimate themselves to the thick, dark air. They descended into the mine carefully; Nixea drew her two blades and squinted as she led the group below. Praelen etched in his journal aided by the light of his lantern.

It did not take long to reach the central hub of the mine, and the adventurers wasted no time. They turned down the eastern shaft. Soon they could hear the frightening sounds of hideous mastication and grotesque growls. The amber glow of their torch and lantern light cast ahead revealing several ghouls chewing on the remains of miners no doubt trapped when the others fled. Beyond the monsters lay a breach in the floor through which more ghouls scampered. Nixea cried out with a bloodcurdling war shout and the battle had begun.

Though gruesome, the creatures proved to be little threat to the collective attacks of the adventurers. Praelen hid along the wall of the mine behind a support beam, where he sketched the form of the monsters and their foul practices, all while the Wardens of the Watch diminished them to broken, rotten husks. Mordello proved to be useful with her sling, shooting two of the creatures clear through the skull. Nixea, Galad, and DaTuol were ruthless with their dual wielded weapons, and Ishtaya and Jennix proved resourceful from a distance. The newly formed Wardens of the Watch quickly found a rhythm in battle and used it to great advantage against the ghouls. When they had destroyed the monsters, they approached the breach in the mine floor to investigate.

There at the opening they found half a miner, likely what was left of Marik, as well as other gore from the ghoul attacks. It was strange that ghouls would be here beneath a mine. After dropping a torch into the floor opening, they discovered it descended no more than ten feet, so the group lowered Ishtaya into the opening on a rope. She could plainly see once she was on the floor of the level below that there was rubble that could be climbed in and out of this area. It appeared as if the corridor in which she was standing was hollowed or burrowed out somehow. Once the entire party had climbed down to the lower tunnel, they followed it further east and sloping downward until they noticed the shape of the corridor shift into a more permanent sort of architecture. The southern wall revealed a solid, stone door, and on the far end of the eastern hallway there was a crude, stone-banded wooden door.

The adventurers entered the door carefully, shining their light into a room that appeared to be partially reclaimed by shifting earth. An elaborate, tomb-like door was on the southern wall of this space, and the north opened up into a cavernous expanse in which many small burrowed holes appeared. It was clear to the adventurers that something was burrowing in and out of these small rooms that had been lost beneath the tin mine shafts above. There was a rumbling sound as they explored this room, and suddenly a creature burst forth from the ground. It had clicking mandibles and large, burrowing legs, and when it entered it immediately rushed toward the sound and warmth of the adventure party. It seemed lifeless but animated; a construct of sorts put here for reasons no one could guess. But it was clearly intent on destroying the adventure party.

Unlike their bout with the ghouls above, this creature proved almost deadly as it attacked. The adventurers struggled painfully in a long and grueling battle. Each time they struck a blow on the creature, it seemed barely damaged. And when the creature successfully injured one of the Wardens, its attack was crippling. A head-on assault was not working for the group, and they knew they needed to come up with a strategy or they were most certainly going to die. DaToul ran past the creature, shouting, in order to distract it and move it away from the others. While this happened, the rest of the group attacked the creature from behind with missile weapons and with flasks of oil. The assault proved successful, and they lit the creature on fire in a blinding and sizzling explosion. The hairs on the construct’s burrowing legs melted and immobilized it, the flesh of its claws cooked and popped open. The fire caused a small amount of collateral damage, but the fire was far more manageable than the direct assault of the burrowing beast. Finally, the only movement from the creature was the hissing of its cooking flesh as the fire continued to consume its form.

The Wardens regrouped and bound their wounds. Galad removed the creature’s clicking mandibles as a trophy. Nixea tore the cooked flesh from the creature and took a defiant bite. Then she promptly spat it out, clearly disgusted by the taste. The group laughed, relieved by their victory and ready to see what this creature had been guarding. The room in which they stood clearly had been the playground of this burrowing beast for many centuries. The large door on the southern wall had an odd symbol. A sun encircled and surrounded by orbs in varied placements. Galad recognized the symbolism as that of Renkian culture, though she had only heard the simplest of stories about such things. This allowed her, however, to recognize this room for what it was. “The tomb of a Renkian Wizard. That explains why there was a construct guarding it.”

Ishtaya, like many adventurers often do, had in her possession an item she found during her earlier travels. It was comprised of a strange red metal and had on its handle a unique sun-like symbol. Back when she first discovered this trinket, she attached it to a thin chain and now wears it about her neck as a keepsake. Now, standing before this tomb door, she clutched the makeshift necklace between her thumb and first finger, feeling the sun-like symbol as she stared at the same etchings on the large door. The Wardens of the Watch had stumbled into a lost tomb, and as a strange turn of events it seemed to be connected to the same cultural symbolism as her very own keepsake. After marveling at the connection for a moment, Ishtaya removed her necklace and tried placing its symbol at the center of the door’s emblem. With a thunk, a moving part in the door engaged, allowing the banded wood to recede into the threshold revealing a small chamber containing an elaborate sarcophagus.

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The adventurers searched the room before finally deciding they needed to open the sarcophagus. It took several of the Wardens working together to loose the lid, but they managed to shove the marble aside exposing centuries of dust and decay into a well-preserved hold. The man inside was large; he must have been tall in life. What remained was a dark-leathered mummy clothed in once impressive robes that began to crumble just as soon as they met the dank air of the chamber.

The mummy wore a large medallion with similar sun symbolism, though the orbs surrounding the center were in different positions on the medallion than could be see either on the door or on Ishtaya’s trinket. It seemed like these differences were deliberate symbolic changes to each of the icons, which made the complexity of Renkian culture intriguing for the group. What could these symbols mean? The group deliberated for a moment and then decided that they wanted to take the strange medallion. The mummy was so old and frail that its neck cracked open with the slightest movement, and the chain of the medallion slid off more easily once the entombed wizard’s neck and spine had cracked and shifted into a dusty disturbance. The Wardens felt odd about looting this sarcophagus for a moment, but felt like it was best for them to keep this medallion from Bahaelen and anyone else who might wish to sell it for personal gain. Praelen wanted to bring the piece back to the Balendian Order and submit it for further study.

The Wardens resealed the sarcophagus and decided it was time to return to the mining foreman and tell him what they had discovered. Knocking on the main door to the mine entrance was an interesting phenomenon. There was a momentary realization that they were, indeed locked inside an underground tunnel. But thankfully, Bahaelen was good for his word, an honest foreman who wanted to get his mine running safely again. The Wardens looked obviously battered from their adventures beneath the mines, and Bahaelen was astounded to hear about what they had discovered. He wanted to see for himself this tomb. Fythriana was still with Bahaelen, and she too wanted to see what they had discovered. The group reluctantly led the pair below, but revealed nothing about discovering the medallion.

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The large stone door on the southern wall of the tunnels below required excavation, and so Bahaelen said he planned to discover what lay beyond. But he was definitely enthused to find valuable items in the sarcophagus chamber. Fythriana seemed to notice that the symbolism in the tomb was Renkian in origin, and wished to take her leave hastily after her tour of the area. Galad and Fythriana exchanged an interestingly tense dialogue before the group all took their leave.

Bahaelen marveled at what the Wardens had accomplished. “It was far worse a threat than I could have known,” he said. “Yet you survived, you found Marik, and you set my mines safe again. You are heroes, and I am in your debt.” By the end of the day, Bahaelen had told a handful of villagers what the adventurers had done and even put a trophy of a dead ghoul outside the mine. The Wardens were named “The Heroes of Bravok,” and had instantly won a bit of celebrity in the village and even among some of the townsfolk back in Niren. Bahaelen rewarded the Wardens as promised, and Praelen walked away with scores of pages of material telling their story.

In the coming days, the Wardens of the Watch settled into their newly furnished guild hall in the north of Niren, thanks to preparations made by Isperat and his crew. The group had established their position as willful and capable Borderlands adventurers. Many around town identified them as the Heroes of Bravok, so for the time being it seemed that their guild earned a position of respect in Niren. Praelen of the Order knew that he wanted to continue traveling with the Wardens of the Watch, and several other adventurers approached the guild hall over the next week seeking prospective membership with the guild. They were off to a good start.

It was nearly two weeks after their victory in Bravok when Fythriana paid the Wardens’ guild hall a visit. She seemed concerned, and took Galad aside for a conversation about an apparent attack on Tradesbay. It seemed that Fythriana was worried that the trouble might involve some opportunistic members of the Northern Knucklers, so she sought the help of the Wardens of the Watch to investigate without informing her own guild. Once the Wardens were up to speed on her story, they agreed to travel to Tradesbay with Fythriana, leaving Mordello and Ishtaya to follow some hours later to make sure Fythriana and the Wardens weren’t followed. In our next recap we’ll explore how the Wardens of the Watch address the trouble in Tradesbay. See you then!

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Fractalform is the gaming handle of Bret Woods--ethnomediologist, author, and lead developer of Augur's Lore RPGs. Bret is Thing 1 at http://descrypt-studios.com.

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