A quiet evening’s drink in the Antler and Thistle tavern in Brindol (following a hard day of doing whatever it is our reprobates get up to) is interrupted by a impolite and untimely invasion by the Red Hand – a group that everyone believed wiped out ten years ago!
The heroes (and I use the term loosely) of our tale?
Tam the Bastard: a half-orc rogue, and ex-initiate of the Even-Handed, an assassin-cult allied once allied to the Red Hand.
Rock: a shifter avenger, and another ex-acolyte of the Even-Handed.
Mire: one of the strange Fenfolk, a fighter haunted by the ghosts of the marsh.
Gryll: a dragonborn war-cleric of the Torchbearer, hatched by alchemy and adopted by the folk of Brindol.
Derrek: a dwarven druid and part-time kitty in search of a fabled lost clan.
The inn’s attackers are handily repulsed (although a chandelier-swinging goblin makes life particularly hard for poor Tam, who doesn’t know how to fight it) and the party race out into the town to witness a raid. The town is aflame, and hobgoblins are looting anything they can get their hands on.
And what’s this coming down the street? Why, it’s an ogre, pulling a cart of pitch barrels which his minions light and pass to him to be thrown at anything flammible-looking. Like Derrek, it turns out.
A savage battle breaks out in the street, our heroes frantically trying to keep the ogre from pressing further into the town. Gryll rushes forward recklessly and tries to set the pitch-wagon on fire, succeeding with a combination of his firey breath and an invocation to the Torchbearer. But it’s a costly move – the wagon explodes, blasting him unconscious. Mire tries to hold the ogre back, putting up a good show of himself until, trying to lure the beast away from Gryll, he is smashed to the ground by the ogre’s club. Fortunately, he had reluctantly called upon the spirits that rarely leave him in peace, and their cruel thievery steals a little of the ogre’s vitality and grants it to Gryll, who recovers.
Meanwhile, Tam and Rock are moving to the attack through abandoned houses and dark alleys, pausing only to do a Batman and rescue a townswoman from the attentions of two hobgoblins.
The wagon is now exploding, as barrel after barrel of pitch ignites. The ogre and several of our heroes are caught in the flame, and things look grim for poor Mire until Tam leaps in, snatches the fighter from beneath the ogres legs and drags him to safety seconds before another fireball erupts from the wagon. Jolly exciting.
Rock leaps to the attack, bloodying the ogre, but its counterstrike is brutal, knocking him unconscious in a single blow. Derrek turns into a snowleopard, darts to the attack and retreats before the ogre can retaliate.
And now Tam rushes back into the fray. He hurls a spray of weak acid into the ogres eyes, blinding it for a moment, then slips beneath it and drives a savage, precise blow into its vitals, wounding it badly (45 damage in 1 round!).
It’s left to Derrek to finish the creature off – he conjures a thorny vine, which twines around its neck and throttles the creature. It falls to its knees, clawing at the vine, then slumps forward, dead.
Short work is made of its allies, and the rest of the night is spent putting out fires and restoring order to Brindol. After their ogre artillery fell, the raiders slipped away. But when a dawn grey with mist and clinging smoke comes, it is clear that they took prisoners with them, and the relics of the war against the Red Hand from the Hall of Valour.
Caspen, the town clerk turns to the party for help. Someone must go after the radiers and get the hostages back. The Brindol militia managed to take a hostage in the fighting – a hobgoblin called Volk, and the party decide to see what can be found out from him.
Volk is imprisoned in the stocks in the town square, where an angry mob is gathering, baying for blood, and two harrassed guards try to keep them back. Realising that cunnig plans and diplomacy are not their strong point, the party turns to Mire, whose method of interrogation is direct and brutal, but it gets them what they need: a name, and a place.
The Red Hand are based in the crypts under the ruins of Rivenroar Castle, a fort of the early migrants who founded the kingdom of Rhest. The Rivenroar Family were one of the earliest families of the Rhestine nobility, and dark rumours linger about their name. The ruler of this new Red Hand is Rain – a visionary whose dreams inspired her to launch the raid on Brindol. Her name is familiar to Tam and Rock – she was one of Tam’s tribe, born under the yellow star of the Gleaming, who was taken by the Right to become another acolyte of the Even-Handed. She, Rock and Tam were acolytes together, but she had drunk the Black Lotus Tea and became a full member of the Right on the night before the Red Hand attacked Drelin’s Ferry ten years ago. She was lost in the battle, and no-one knew what became of her.
Having asked Caspen to gather supplies for them, the party head out into the wilds, in search of Rivenoar Castle, and the ghosts of the past.