You already know King Osirius, who rules over this great land. You saw him in the flesh at Cardstock. But did you know he had an uncle? Lord Makhail of Castle Mitternacht has died recently, and his lands have fallen on hard times in his absence… though there are rumors that he’s not as absent as most dead men.
Perhaps the trouble started further back. Lord Makhail had always been a private person. He never married, and rarely journeyed beyond his walls. He left his title to the Countess Jovana and her young husband Yurik. Unheard of until recently, the couple has a strange demeanor that lends itself to rumors.
Ever since they installed themselves in Castle Mitternacht, the servants swear they’ve witnessed an endless string of frights. One thing they’ve all attested to is the growth of the bat population.
The rumors reach the king, but he has no patience for them. He insists that the new lords of Castle Mitternacht are upstanding folk. The Baron of Shieldhaven is skeptical. He visits you at your Keep on the Hinterlands under cover of night, traveling alone.
“Heroes,” he says, “King Osirius has never met Jovana or Yurik. He has not seen how unnatural they are. Even the way they walk!”
“There are also various… disturbing reports from the towns near Castle Mitternacht.” The Baron looks unsure how to continue. Finally, after sighing, he shakes his head. “It would be best if you went and saw for yourselves.”
He assures you that you’ll be well paid for uncovering whatever foul plot is afoot at Castle Mitternacht, and you set out in the morning.
The sun is setting on your first day of travel. The first town in the Countess’s lands should be just around the bend. You look forward to a warm meal and soft bed before continuing on to the castle in the morning.
“Halt,” comes a voice from the shadows. You don’t see anyone, but then you notice rustling in the trees around you. “We have you surrounded, and we’re armed to the teeth in fey steel. Identify yourselves, and don’t try anything funny.”
“We’re from the Keep on the Hinterlands,” you respond. “You may know us as the victors of Cardstock.”
“Oh!” Several figures in sewn cloth hoods jump down from the trees and kneel. “Apologies for our insolence, heroes. We did not recognize you in this dusk light, and, as you may have heard, the night is dangerous here.”
They escort you into town. A makeshift gate opens before you, then closes behind you.
“We can never be careful enough,” says the leader of the band, who introduces herself as Captain Teadora.
You notice the bright silver barbs along the fence.
“Fey steel?” you ask.
“We don’t really understand it either,” she admits, “but you’re not the first aid sent our way. Svitlana, Warden of the Silver Forest, has been arming the resistance in these lands. Our assailants are nigh impervious to traditional weapons, but her retinue have magic that cuts through their defenses like butter.”
You decide you’d like to meet this Svitlana. Teadora agrees to lead you to Svitlana’s camp in the morning.
“For now, we rest,” she says firmly. “Travel is much safer by daylight in these lands.”
To be continued…