When we left our heroes, they were arranging for an auction of the priceless Bonesung Armor they had retrieved from the Big Rubble. Let’s just say the auction didn’t go as planned. Rather than selling it to a friendly cult, the players found themselves caught in a bidding war between Sor-Eel the Short, Count of Prax, Lunar Governor of New Pavis, and Duke Raus of Rone, Lunar Governor of the god-forsaken Grantlands in the Zola Fel valley to the south of Pavis. Eventually, Duke Raus won out and the PCs found themselves the target of Sor-Eel’s redirected anger. The PCs were also somewhat miffed to discover that Duke Raus’ winning bid was guaranteed but not yet actually manifest in cash. The Issaries priesthood said they would hold on to the armor pending delivery of the cash. Also part of the deal was a grant of land, the settlement known as Rabbit Hat.
The Governor’s mood was not improved when a Moon Boat hove in to view on the horizon soon afterwards. Rumors spread throughout the city that Sor-Eel had been replaced as Governor and the boat contained his replacement. That night, the PCs dined at Gimpy’s, where Krogar introduced them to Griselda and Wolfhead, and after a few tense moments between Xaraya and Griselda, the latter pronounced the party as worthy. As the PCs left the tavern, however, they were set upon by three savage Sable Rider nomads, seemingly directed by a fourth, unseen assailant. Unarmored, the party took some severe wounds while dispatching their attackers, and they stumbled back in to Gimpy’s for healing. Krogar and his friends provided it, while Wolfhead went out to examine the bodies. They discovered notes implicating Lunar intelligence and GimGim the Grim.
Krogar suggested that our heroes should get out of the city for a while. The Chalanna Arroy priestess they had rescued from the trolls needed to be taken to her sisters in the hospital at Horn Gate to recover from her ordeal, and had been offered a place on Duke Raus’ barge the next day as he was traveling down to his new fortress, Raus Fort, or Ronegarth as he called it. Krogar’s messengers swiftly secured passage for the PCs on the barge as Charvina’s companions and as the new holders of the Rabbit Hat grant.
The next day, the PCs met up with Charvina at the Chalanna Arroy temple and accompanied her to Duke Raus’ townhome, where the Duke, his family and retainers joined them. Before going down to the river, however, they went to see the Moon Boat dock on the Pavis temple. Sor-Eel was also there, looking distinctly unamused. The Moon Boat discharged its passengers: an imposing general of some sort, a beautiful though mature noblewoman, a bald-headed sage, a fierce, tattooed criminal of some sort and a demure girl clad in the raiment of the Northern nomads. The Governor looked at once relieved and yet upset, while GimGim the Grim, who had been shadowing Sor-Eel, disappeared as soon as he saw the newcomers. The noblewoman smiled at Duke Raus, who responded with an extremely deep bow.
On the trip downriver in the Duke’s barge, the PCs became familiar with the Duke’s right-hand man, Daine, a former Scimitar of the Lunar war-god Yanafal Tarnils. He impressed the PCs with his honesty and common sense, and especially with the no-nonsense way he dealt with the attempts by Sun County officials to extract some form of tax for using the river. Grom was intrigued by the Duke’s attractive daughter, Jezra, but also nonplussed at her rudeness to him. All down the river, the PCs also noticed newtlings staring at the barge with what seemed more than basic curiosity.
Ronegarth itself proved less than advertised. A stone tower, a wooden palisade and a bunch of tents did not a capital make, the PCs thought. They were happy to stay there that night, however, before setting out across the plains the next day. Daine accompanied them, saying he had to purchase some more slaves for construction work. Xaraya and Grom both expressed disquiet at this, but Daine did not understand their objections.
An uneventful trip across the chaparral followed the next day, and the party arrived at Horn Gate without incident. Daine explained that this was an unusual oasis. The downtrodden folk of the oasis, blond and blue-eyed as they were, poor souls, grew dates and other desert fruit for their sustenance but were always subject to whichever nomad tribe had moved in to exploit them. At the moment, this was the hated, pro-Lunar Sable people, much to Xaraya’s disgust. There were two things that made the oasis unusual, however. First, there were ruins from the First Age here. At one point, Waha! himself had erected giant horns that surrounded a gate to subterranean ruins. Those horns had long-gone, but the gate to the underworld was still there, guarded by a cult of Amazon warriors, the Daughters of Azundati, who protected the gate but not the people. They also guarded a white-stone hospital, a temple to Chalanna Arroy, occupied by priestesses who could not stomach the Lunar occupation of Pavis.
The PCs delivered their charge to the White Sisters. They were delighted to see Charvina, whom they had thought dead. The PCs met Matron Mother Arquanel, an impossibly aged crone, only four feet tall, who nevertheless had Heroquested many times and her two other High Healers, Sister Aelbertha, plump and jolly, and Sister Marcilla, raven-haired and the most beautiful woman anyone in the party had ever seen. The Sisterhood put on a feast to celebrate their sister’s return, and during the feast the seemingly senile Arquanel reached moments of lucidity where she pledged her aid to the PCs should they seek to fulfill their destiny and overthrow the Lunars.
The next day, while Daine stayed to purchase some slaves from the Sables, the PCs set out to explore some more of the land. In the plains, they met their first Morokanth, the slaver Kareel Keenclaw, with his train of herd men (unintelligent humans), and slave trollkin and baboons. The PCs were appalled by the idea of herd men, which Kareel referred to as his cattle. The PCs scraped together all the monies they had and bought not just the slaves, but also the herd. Kareel kept a couple to eat and headed off towards Horn Gate to purchase some more slaves with his new riches.
The PCs did not find it easy to keep their new coffle under control, but they found a couple of trollkin they could rely on, given a promise of freedom. With their aid, they moved the gang towards the defile known as Weis Cut. In the caves at the head of the cut, they encountered the Men-And-A-Half, the Agimori, and their leader Chaku Ironspear. Chaku was amazed but impressed at the PCs rescuing the Herd Men, and explained that some of his people had been enslaved by the Morokanth and turned into animals. After long discussion over kvass and roasted meats, Chaku agreed to have his shamans awaken the Herd Men to intelligence in return for favors to be bestowed later and for influence with Duke Raus.
The next day, the PCs and their trollkin and baboons entered the squalid hamlet of Weis, a people even more downtrodden than the oasis folk, and their cocky Mayor, Tarnak, who expressed interest that Lady Jezra had returned to Ronegarth. A few hours later, they reached Fort Raus, where they freed the trollkin, who agreed to work hard for their benefactors and help build the settlement at night, allowing for 24-hour long construction. They then freed the baboons, who scattered in every direction.
After another night’s sleep, the PCs decided to head out to Rabbit Hat to review their new property. Daine, however, said he had to brief them first…