At the end of their training The Master calls them to a lavish banquet and calls forth the slave that Kharon had been taking his pleasure with. Summoning forth a barbed devil the woman is given to it, to which it gleefully tears to pieces. Drawing some of the devil’s blood with a silver dagger he moves to each party member and draws the sign of Asmodeus on their forehead.
“Behold,”he proclaims, “The Nessian Knot is forged.”
“Just in time,”The Master remarks.“My ship has arrived.” On the river dock behind the manor under cover of darkness, a square-sailed longship sailed into the slip. Sitting heavily in the waters, laden with a substantial cargo. The Master dismisses the party and the feast is over.
The party is called to his study the next day, “Welcome my children,” he said in a deep resonant voice that had an almost inhuman quality to it.“Training is at an end. You have proven yourselves worthy. Now, it is time for you to use that training and take on your first mission.”
“Your mission is war, my children. You will bring war to Talingarde.”
“You have two objectives. First, you will see a shipment of munitions delivered to a bugbear chieftain named Sakkarot Fire-Axe. He makes his camp on the northern coast of Lake Tarik beyond the Watch Wall. With this shipment, the Fire-Axe will have resources enough to unite the barbarous humanoid tribes of the north and light the fire of war.”
“Sitting on the dock as we speak is the longship Frosthammar captained by Kargeld Odenkirk. Tomorrow when the ship is resupplied it will be your transport. The captain is a ruthless mercenary and not to be trusted. He knows nothing of the specifics of our mission and you should keep it that way. He knows he is smuggling cargo to the north beyond the Watch Wall. That is all he need know.”
“Once the cargo is safely delivered, he will take you just south across the lake under cover of darkness and land near the town of Alden cross. There our contract with Captain Odenkirk will be concluded.”
“It is a shame how greedy he has proven. I had hoped to let the captain serve me again but it seems he is too much a liability. Kill him. Kill his crew. Burn his ship and leave no survivors. It is crucial that no one suspects our involvement and that loose ends are taken care of. Be sure to reclaim the coin I gave him. Best not to be wasteful.”
“That done you begin your second task. We will do more still to aid our ally the Fire-Axe. The bugbears are mighty warriors but poor siege engineers. You will infiltrate the tower Balentyne, keystone of the Watch Wall, kill it’s commander and open the gate for Sakkarot’s horde.”
“Once the shaggy monstrosities pierce the Watch Wall, the bugbears will pillage and lay waste to the townships of the north and the local garrisons will have no choice but to meet the Fire-Ave in the open field. Sakkarot is the most brilliant, gifted and murderous bugbear of his generation. I expect these battles to go poorly for the knights and yeoman of fair Talingarde.”
“Do all of this and then when you task is done, break this clay seal.” He handed the party a delicately carved clay seal adorned with a tangled knot of thorns surrounding the holy symbol of Asmodeus. “I will have more instructions then. Succeed and I will see you rewarded handsomely. Fail or betray me and you will pray for the comfort of Hell before I am done with you.”
“The mission you start upon today is a holy mission. The people of Talingarde think they have seen the last of the mighty Asmodeus. Soon enough we will remind them that there is no escaping the grasp of Hell. Let us toast our success.”
He poured each of the party a glass of deep red wine and pouring one for himself he raised the glass and offered the toast.
The party boarded the Frosthammar and began their journey, and slowly made their way up the coast. Just as they were about to pass the Watch Wall they were hailed by a Talingardian ship christened The Blade of St. Marius. Coming along side the Frosthamar Raphael informed Captain Edward Sambryl that they were on a mission to the north on a secret mission. The captain considered what Raphael had to say and let them go. The next night the ship was attacked by a group of tritons and water elementals led by a Triton Oracle named Nerianus. The party defeated them and captured Nerianus, upon questioning he claimed that Mitra had been sending him visions of the evil that was coming to Talingarde. The party disposed of him.
Moving on Captain Odenkirk told them that they had to detour to Seal Isle to refresh the water supplies. Knowing that the water stores were fine Cervantes questioned the Captain further and discovered that he wanted to hunt seals for some extra coin. Not having been given a time limit they agreed to the stop at the isle.
Arriving at the island the party hunted seals obtaining 5 pelts and Odenkirk and his crew obtaining 6. Shortly after the hunting was over they were approached by a group of Yutak tribesman. Ignoring the captain’s suggestion to kill them they traded with the tribesman obtaining a 8 foot long narwhal horn and several walrus tusks.
Leaving the island the Odenkirk sailed north to a narrow river that led through the northern woods to Lake Tarik where they quickly found the humanoid encampment of the Fire-Axe. Docking they were met by several bugbears, thinking Grumblejack was in charge they asked if he brought the “little ones” to eat. Raphael stated that they were there on the orders of Cardinal Thorne, which meant nothing to the bugbears. He then stated that they were there at the Fire-Axe’s invitation, which confused the bugbears long enough for the Fire-Axe to arrive.
The Fire-Axe stated that the men were his guests and that they brought them steel to fight their war. He then invited the party to join them in a feast to honor their arrival, to which they accepted. During the meal they found that the camp not only consisted of bugbears but also goblins, hill giants, and a few Naatanuks (intelligent polar bears from the far north). After the meal concluded the Fire-Axe requested them to accompany him to his tent.
“You are traitors to your own kind. You must know that. When Balentyne falls and my horde pours through it’s shattered gates, we will slaughter the Talireans by the thousands. Yet I see no regret in your eyes. Tell me how can this be?”
Each party member related their stories to the Fire-Axe and when they mentioned the f brand he removed his breastplate to show them the sign of Asmodeus burned into his chest and said, “We all have our scars.” The party reveals that they are the ninth knot and the Fire-Axe tells them “I am the only true member of the the knot. The rest are only fools” at which point he tells them that he will betray his own at the appointed time for the greater glory of Asmodeus.
He then finishes the evening by saying,“Tomorrow you must depart this camp. It will never be truly safe for you here. Over the next week, more tribes will rally to my banner. I will promise them blood and give them steel. Then at last I will be ready to march. I will move my horde to the valley just North of Balentyne. There we will wait for your signal. Fire this rocket into the air. Within the hour we will attack. Make sure that the way is ready.”
“After we gather, my horde will be idle and start to grow anxious. I can hold them together for another two weeks. After that, I can expect desertions and squabbling. Get your work done before then. You have one month to infiltrate and destroy Balentyne.”
He then handed the party a single carefully wrapped signal rocket and then says staring into the party’s eyes,“Can you do this? In one month can you break the Watch Wall?” answering him that they can he grunts and says “Thorn has faith in you. If you weren’t his best, he wouldn’t have sent you. Do this and your names will be legend. Hail Asmodeus!!”
The next morning the party left the encampment and spent the next week crossing Lake Tarik.