An Empress Betrayed, Episode 1

“The companions returned to the Throne Room, victorious in their mission to free the Emissary of Ultair. Her Majesty stood stoically, facing the party with unblinking eyes. Wondering why the Empress was so still, they approached cautiously. Before them was poised a statue in the perfect likeness of Brelia. Her face was frozen in a pleading gaze, her hands raised as if to shield a bright light. To their horror, they suddenly realized that in their absence, the Empress had been turned to stone…”

The first meeting of the companions is tonight, in beautiful Longmont, CO. In the group so far, we have three Level 1 characters:

Valcora – a Dragonborn Cavalier, played by Angela

Afton – an Elven Mage, played by Shasta

Delsior – a Satyr Bard, played by Andy

As a child, Valcora disobeyed the direct orders of her parents, and ran into a burning building to save her two brothers. Unfortunately, she could carry only one of them, and had to leave the other behind. Upon exiting the collapsing home, her mother gave her the ring off her finger, saying “No matter what happens, make certain that you bring this ring to Master Simon.” Her mother then ran into the flames to rescue her still trapped son – but neither emerged. To this day, the brother she saved is bitter toward Valcora, as if it was her fault that they lost both a brother and a mother.

Years later, Valcora is in the Young Cavaliers program, learning about military discipline and defending the Empire of Sarpadia. During this time she takes an oath to obey every order she is given by her superiors. One evening, as she is walking past the alchemist’s tent, he commands her to enter. “Drink this!” her orders, handing her a green, frothy potion. Obeying the order, she drinks it without hesitation. The liquid burns her mouth and throat, as well as the inside of her skull, and the back of her eyes. Lightning shoots upward from the ground, and scars her with a purple streak from the bottom of her right ear, down her throat, and across to her left armpit. She is now spell-scarred for life. Sometimes the purple streak glows with a ghoulish light when she gets angry, or when she is in the midst of battle, but she does her best to hide it beneath her collar…

Later in her teenage years, Valcora is constantly teased by her rival, Xanth. He is a handsome human Cavalier, who pokes fun at her spell-scar and constantly tries to embarrass her. During a parade, she finds herself in several situations where she could push him in to a mud puddle, or embarrass him in a speech at an awards ceremony. She elects to do neither, taking the high road of honoring fellow knights. Upon graduation from the academy, Xanth pulls her aside and commends her on holding back, and a delicate truce is declared between the two as they both attempt to move up the ranks as Knights…

As Valcora takes her first assignment as a knight, her father dies of old age. Being a Knight himself, and having served decades faithfully for the Empire, the Dutchess of the Grey Mountains commissions a statue in his honor, to be built on the burned out ruins of the family home. The land is cleared, but before the project can get started, Valcora decides to take the budget for the project and give it to poor hungry children instead. Cleric Peltanis visits Valcora personally, and thanks her for the donation. It is more money than his charity has seen for three decades! He promises Valcora “If you ever find yourself in need of a favor from the Brotherhood of Light, name it, and I will see that it is yours.”

Spirits high, Valcora walks the streets of the capital city as a celebrity. Roses pelt her from every direction, and dirty children and street urchins jostle for a touch of her cape. But the reverie is shattered as she passes her old home where the statue was meant to be – a merchant named Jardan is now building there, having bought the land from the Dutchess for ONE GOLD PIECE! Angered by court politics, she demands to know how her family’s land can be sold off for pocket change, but she is dismissed by a wave of Jardan’s hand. “Finders keepers, loosers weepers! You should have kept it, you fool! But now its mine and there’s nothing you can do about it!” he says with a crooked grin.

And now, dear reader, the childhood of Afton the Elven Mage. When she was 8 years old, a band of High Elves came to conscript her father into the Army. Rather than hide in a tree trunk with her mother, Afton jumps out and tries to fight off the brigade single-handedly. The captain of this Elven unit has his eyebrows singed bu Afton’s child-sized fireball, and is impressed. He decides to conscript her as well.

The Army gathers to fight a huge dragon, a nightmarish beast of both red and black scales. The Army is decimated in minutes, and Afton’s magic bounces off the wyrm’s skin harmlessly. The dragon’s tail swipes through the ancient oaks like tissue paper, and Afton and one other child from her village are buried beneath the timbers. When the smoke clears, Afton and Lagor are the only two survivors.

After living in a Wild Elf village for several years, Afton comes across a gruesome scene in the forest. A human caravan has been destroyed, all of its members slain. All valuables have been picked clean by some unknown thief, but Afton finds a magic wand of unspeakable power among the rubble. Instead of keeping it, she travels to the nearest human town to try to find its rightful owner. She eventually finds him; she gives the wand to Allbright the Ancient, a wizard of enormous power. Impressed by her selflessness, he takes her on as an apprentice. After years of tutelige, he tells her that he’s taught her all he can, and encourages her to make her own way in the world. Allbright promises to remain her staunch ally.

As Afton travels to the Sarpadian capital to participate in the tournament, she finds herself in a tavern. Overhearing the local’s conversation, she is flabbergasted: she hears the name of her father mentioned! Not only alive, but a famous dragonslayer? Although she did not find his body after the dragon attack all those years ago, she assumed he was dead just like all the rest of the Elves. But these townsfolk speak of him in fear, as they are afraid of his ‘dark magic’. After asking for a bit more information from the townies, they begin to get curious. “Why do you want to know?” they ask. Afton elects not to tell anyone her true identity until she can find out more about this “DragonLord”…

The adventure begins with an Arena Battle, where the Empress chooses this season’s champions. If any of the PCs are victorious in defeating another level 1 adventurer (with one magic item), that PC will gain experience points and that magic item.

DM Note: each character starts by roleplaying a backstory, which will have a major story event at the end of level 10, as well as the end of level 20. The story will conclude with a major battle and story hook at the end of level 29. In other words, when the character is created, the DM already has a plan for major events in the character’s career, and eventual success in their life’s major quest…

The Empress then called on her new champions. She described a sticky situation that needs a brave group of heroes to solve. A Sarpadian ambassador was kidnapped, and is held for ransom. The group claiming responsibility is a sect of anarchists, intent on bringing down the Empress’ rule. What’s worse, the Ambassador had some important and secret news he was bringing back for the Empress’ ears only. The party is to save the Ambassador if possible, but more importantly, get the top secret information and bring it back as soon as possible.

Next week: the party travels to the Forests of Ultair (where the Ambassador was last seen) to gather clues. Ultair is one of the Brother Kingdoms. It used to be one Kingdom, but when the king died, the twin brothers split the land down the middle and created two kingdoms…

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