The Story So Far
Vesper's Backstory Scene
Vesper and her father Mannis watch Varit in the woods. He teaches her that the Varit eat a grass named for them that excretes a white powdered irritant. After this, he shows her the Cres tree, a cure for the Varit Grass powder.
But when Vesper climbs up the tree with her father's help, she saw a strange burnt tree in the distance. She and her father carefully approached, saw signs of deep wounds in a nearby tree, and her father warned her they needed to leave this place.
On the way back, they found sanguine amaranth, a flower that seeps red nectar that looks like blood in the snow. It is sweet to the taste and a sign from Anesidora that good things are ahead.
Finally, they were able to meet up with Vesper's mother, Ragna, who had caught a spined rabbit for dinner.
Dalexo's Backstory Scene
In a mansion that overlooked the Nile River, Dalexo prepared for a party with Tosskey, his bodyguard. Tosskey convinced Dalexo to get out of his head and have fun for a bit, so that some day he can be social enough to take over his father's merchant business.
At the party they drink, have a good time, and Tosskey teaches Dalexo to dance.
Sandor Angelslayer's Backstory Scene
Sandor tracks two men through the woods who stole something from Artemis. Following the sounds of violence, he sees one man dead and the other dying by a large bleeding cat. Sandor shot the man, collected his scroll case, and checked the cat. He discovered she had a kitten, and decided to release her from her pain with a prayer to Artemis. Sandor decided to adopted the large kitten and raise her as Cyrene.
Anik Deora's Backstory Scene
Anik and Dalexo make their way through the Maat Pass. They pay a fee (Bribe?) to the Tyr guards and continue West to meet the Yuling at Devil's Grove. En route, Anik discusses how Dalexo has changed the parameters of their contract, so he should pay her more.
They arrive at the Devil's Grove, a place where thick, tall, ancient trees have grown in a circle. The trees that face into the circle have been horribly burnt and images of humans have been painted on them in white. In the center of the circle of trees are ritual rocks and human body parts.
Deciding to leave, they run into an Osirian Death Bear, a ground sloth-like animal over 20 feet tall. Slowly, they move away from it, and it ignores them, following the scent of rotting meat to the center of the Devil's Grove.
Next, they found themselves surrounded by Yuling warriors and a druid. They explained that by eating the bodies, the Death Bear would carry their soul to the next plane. They were invited to watch and decided to join in the ritual.
Later, they met with the Yuling chief, Orgof, and his daughter, Alia. They were invited to stay with them and trade their goods.
Gem's Backstory Scene
Gem heads North along the mountainous road from the Nile Delta to North Lelantos. She doesn't have much idea where exactly she is headed, and she's incredibly hungry. Fortunately, Hush, her pet hydra, caught and spiny rabbit and brought it to her. They share the rabbit, eating its raw meat.
She hears a caravan of traders and goes to spy on them. She decides to sneak among them, and meets a kind trader, Dalexo. He offers to feed her and allow her to travel with him in exchange for keeping his wagon and junk clean. Along the way, she learned that some people can be nice, and they form a bond.
The Hand of Artemis
Dalexo and Gem arrive together at Artemis as the sun is setting. In the crowds outside, they run into Dalexo's old friend, Anik Deora, and decide to help a confused Exiled girl, Vesper. The four enter the broken body of Artemis together and set up a camp in the Hand of Artemis, a place named for 5 bent metal slabs that cover an area the size of a football stadium. In camp Vesper meets Sandor Angelslayer, and they talk about food.
Still in the twilight, the Lord of the Hunt, Byleistr Quarter, returns from a great hunt with his mother, Greta Valkyrie, and his sister, Princess Bella Quarter. The Lord and his mother are both Jotunn, giants originating in Jotunheim far to the East. Bella is a normal sized human like her father, incredibly beautiful and wearing a fine ancient dress. The hunt arrives with cart upon cart of fresh food, but it is all taken inside, past the desperate people int he Hand. In the crowd, they here rumors that Byleistr's father, Belen, used to share the spoils of the hunt with the people.
After a short time in camp, Gem sees a group of guards looking through the crowd for someone whose picture has been drawn on a sheet of paper. She tries to get a look, but ends up grabbed by the guards. Anik Deora rushes to help her, with Vesper and Dalexo close behind. They discover the soldiers are looking for Vesper, the mysterious Exiled girl! They agree to take the whole party into Artemis, but they must wear black bags over their heads.
The Oracle of Artemis
In a strange metal room, the party met the Oracle of Artemis, Callisto Engeen. She was attached to a great machine that suspended her body in the air, and cables connected her to Artemis. She also had terrible old scars around her burnt out eyes, that she explained was from when she looked directly upon Artemis when she was young.
Callisto told them of her dream, where she saw Vesper in the hand of Artemis and Vesper's ring. Artemis told her, "Where the tears of the unforgivable fall on blood soaked dirt, she will find the path to death."
In order to help with her vision, she drew cards from a magical deck.
The Past - The Angel, the most powerful unliving being who represents death, destruction, and loss. Once it was a servant of the gods and ancients, so it can mean a path to absolution, often stained with death
The Present - The Coin, represents wealth, but it also represents greed. It is the beginning of a journey and the end of it. An unending cycle of potential corruption and temptation paired with necessity and negotiation
The Future - The Orphan, is powerlessness, loss, and a lack of direction. But it is also hope, youth, and the unknown. The orphan represents a path to maturity and knowledge. The Orphan is not an end but a new beginning born of tragedy.
The Actor - The Godshard, represents power, divine connection. A single small piece that can join others together to form an indestructible divine bond. But it also represents greed, just like the coin. A lust for wealth and power.
The Heart/Guide - The Fey Serpent / Loki, is pleasure, change, desire, and deception, everything and nothing. Where he goes and what he says cannot be trusted and he clouds all things.
The Interpretation, Together these cards form a journey, where danger won't just come from around but also within. Where your own desires could tear away at your very soul. There is a battle raging between the unifying strength of the godshard and the separating force of the fey. You all will be tested by violence, loss, fear, and temptation on this journey, and the only thing I know to be unavoidable is Artemis’s warning. That you will find the path to death where the tears of the unforgivable fall on blood soaked dirt.
Then the party was taken away to a private room to stay the Winter before leaving to visit the grave of the Angel in hopes of interpreting the vision.
Dreams and Nightmares
Confined in the room for weeks on end, where light and dark blends together with the cycles, the party started to have terrible dreams. One night, they all had nightmares so horrible, they woke panicked and Sandor drew his rifle on Vesper. They calmed down and prepared to leave for their long journey North.
They gathered their belongings, and left right after the plowmen headed North to clear the road.
The Journey to Still Valley
The party pressed North through the forest of Artemis. They came upon a sign for the Godsmetal Inn and decided to continue North through Calydon.
In the town of Calydon, they learned that over a hundred refugees, mostly Exiled, were trying to run South away from a Changeling invasion. The guards held them behind the portcullis. The party decided to create an intimidating disruption to continue their journey.
On the road, they saw a sign warning of plague in the white forest to Redgrass. Rather than go that direction, they decided to take the long route through Still Valley.
In Still Valley, they met more refugees who were staying in a camp outside of town. Dalexo and Sandor stocked up on supplies while Vesper, Gem, and Anik talked to the refugees. They learned that Changelings had been raiding more aggressively recently, and they were trying to escape the violence. Anik gave the Yuling a Godshard to help them on their way.
That night in the inn, Vesper had another nightmare and confided in the rest of the party that she doesn't trust Sandor. Dalexo brought Sandor back from his camp outside of town. Sandor and Vesper had a discussion where he apologized for pointing his rifle at her and explained how when he awoke from his nightmare, he wasn't himself. She accepted his apology, and they agreed to continue East to Redgress as a party.
Secret Meetings and Dreams
Vesper told Anik about her dream. She saw a great and terrible angel, and she and it were pulled down into the hole. Beneath the surface, she saw a face with four eyes made of green fire scream out, "I will have my birthright!" Gem overheard this and was caught. At the same time, Dalexo and Angelslayer met with Aesop Weaver in secret. He gave them two secret shipments, one for Redgrass and the other for Goldenfields. Anik protested not knowing what was in the shipment, but eventually relented and they left East.
Gem told Dalexo that in her dreams she remembered people talking about the "Dark Mistress," and asked if he had ever heard of her, but he had not.
On the road to Redgrass, the party found a messenger striped of his belongings, and left to die in the snow. They found a message detailing that the plague in Goldenfields had been growing and people were fleeing the city.
The party arrived in Redgrass only to discover that the town had been attacked by Changeling raiders. Their mayor had been killed and the new mayor accepted Dalexo's shipment from Aesop.
The party also learned that the plowmen had stopped, because their second team had never made it to Redgrass from the White Forest. The party convinced them to continue their mission in exchange for Angelslayer returning and looking for their friends.
At the Angel, the party found 50 men lead by a young commander, Mowin. They learn that they are trying to starve out an Exiled warband that has taken up residence in the angel and the surrounding undergrowth.
Anik spots their leader, who has two ritual scars that run vertically across his face and across his eyes. She explains that he is Astor, the Butcher of the North Road, a man she fought against in her past career as a soldier. Angelslayer agrees to shoot him, but at the last moment, Astor dodges and Angelslayer hits him in the leg.
They decide to try to burn the Exiled out, which succeeds, only to reveal that the warband is 20 warriors and about 200 unarmed civilians. A bloody chaos ensues, and Anik tries to send the civilians away. Mowin orders her to stop and the soldiers to open fire on the civilians for necromancy. Immediately after, and heavily wounded Astor comes out of the civilian crowd and cleaves Mowin, before turning to face Anik, godshard great sword in hand.