Legacy of Orphans
The Ribknot Chronicles (CB 225) are a collection of tales told in the townships of Riverthorpe and Willows’ Bend. They tell the story of a company of Riverwar mercenaries who through misfortune and misadventure became known as the Heroes of Willows’ Bend.
The High King’s archives contain only a mention a group of adventurers from the southern Riverlands who under command of Seth Blacksong, High Marshal of the South, had aided in routing the reisen hordes in CB 225. No word is mentioned as to the further career of the adventurers until later in the early volumes and cycles of folktales collectively known as the Legacy of Orphans.
It was not until CB 239 that Cheiu Master Crain of Dorns Vale gave a full account of the events of that year in his report to the High Marshal of the North on the origins of the Ribknot Shadow. It is in these written accounts that we learn the heroes’ names: Ender – son of a Blacksong marshal, Deiru Osu – a Perdfolk orphan raised in Willows’ Bend, Grale the Dark Horse – also of Willows’ bend, and Arathorn Snow – a vagrant from the north who met his companions during a Riverwar campaign in Ylm. Cheiu Crain also makes mention of the Gabron piihopa Lana.
THE SHADOW IN RIBKNOT
In the years prior to the Stand at Bloodied Ravine (CB 225), the Gabron record the theft of several makili – a sacred Tobl key to a monastery known as a mahina. The monks left to protect these sacred moots were slain with sorcery and ravaged as if by beasts. It is believed that this was the first signs of what later became known as the Shadow in Ribknot.
A BRUSH WITH DANGER
The seanachai tell that in the summer that followed Prince Liam’s campaign against the river pirate cartels, a company of comrades returned to their hometown of Willows’ Bend, nestled between the great Vestflud and the ancient Ribknot forest.
Now at this time the Bend was nothing more than a small hamlet frequently the victim of river pirate attacks. Ender and his friends returned to find their small hamlet changed over his four year absence. Grale’s family had been killed in a pirate raid, and the hamlet’s only survival came from an Anderan minor noble, Rig Bailey, who had brought northern gold and hope just half a season after Ender, Grale, and Deiru had left.
It was Ender’s uncle, Jon Brush, the village herbalist, who began the young men’s dark tale. When some of Bailey’s men were poisoned, Ender and his friends found Jon Brush missing. The herbalist had grown strange over the years since his wife Ereyen’s death, and his trips out into the forest to trade with the Tobl had taken longer and longer.
Ender and the others found Jon that night hiding in the old willows’ bend deep in the forest, half-mad and raving about a man in a cave – a man of dark power, what the Olmites call a værlog, an oath-breaker. Brush had tricked the wicked sorcerer into drinking some tea laced with poppy milk. While the warlock slept, Brush stole his blood red candles, grimoric scrolls, and calling bones and fled.
From the depths of despair, Jon followed the voices that came to him from the violet flames of the candles and the strange symbols on the scrolls. Through the bones he heard what he could to do keep Willows’ Bend safe. Brush had begun a ritual!
Just then the flames dimmed and the corpses of Jon Brush’s victims began to writhe and move. The horse corpse which had been burned in a pyre stood, the embers falling from rib bones. Ender and his party were terrified but in the end able to slay the undead and finally the possessed herbalist.
As Ender stayed behind to bury his uncle, the others returned with to Willows’ Bend with the antidotes.
THE BATTLE OF WILLOWS’ BEND
Grale, Deiru, and Arathorn set out to find their brother-in-arms, Ender. At the site of the dark ritual, the three met with a young Tobl priestess named Pukana. Kana was looking for something important. The strange little cleric helped the heroes track their friend to a large Domr camp of some hundred or so warriors. The company was able to save their friend, who told them about his meeting with another prisoner, a Blacksong ranger named Gram Nightwing. Ender had learned that the Domr tribe who called themselves the Vingihafa were set to march and destroy Willows’ Bend.
Stopping for only a few hours to rest that night, the heroes were waylaid by large dark wolf-beasts. The party was saved from final peril by Princess, Nightwing’s dark gray wolf. The dire wolves seemed bent on destroying the heroes quickly, looking for a relic and believing the party had it. Ender had another surprise as he found Princess carried a very important map and letter.
The heroes returned to Willows’ Bend to find the whole hamlet celebrating the “grand opening” of the Knotted Willow inn. While Rig was busy being a good host, the rest of the town made merry with ale and song. Grale, Deiru and Kana stepped up to warn the people of the coming Domr host. With his allies’ aid and the support of Rig and Carn Bailey, Grale was able to convince almost every able-bodied man to take up arms together rather than run back to their own farms. The men had just over seven hours to prepare defenses, equip the men, divide them into units and position them onto the battlefield. The party wisely allowed Carn to lead each group of men through a ritual of blessing to beseech the protection of Ôm the Valorous and Brave.
The Domr were completely surprised at the organized resistance that was awaiting them. As the people of Willows’ Bend began to count their blessings and their dead, Kana noticed Rig Bailey’s “Tobl Charm” which had been delivered to him by Ender and company for his uncle. “Go ahead…” Rig said, giving Kana the relic, ”...not like it did us much good.”
THE GODDESS IN THE FOREST
The heroes set out on their quest to find the Blacksong host and tell them of the coming battle with the reisen hordes at Bloodied Ravine. After several misadventures, however, nature itself turned against them – blinding fog and binding vines slowed their progress. The heroes made their way to Ashbrooke to discover that the whole village had been trapped within the entanglement spells of their goddess. Some named her Orea, or Pri, or Pele, or a dozen other names. While most of the starving townsfolk were content to wait and pray for mercy, one band of hot tempered men led by Belf was just too hungry and too angry. In a tavern brawl, the heroes calmed Belf, but only for a while.
While en route to investigating the Blessed Brooke of the goddess, the team encountered dryads who used their fey charms to confound the heroes. Stronger wills prevailed and the heroes were able to face the other peculiar defenses of the forest goddess.
Nothing could prepare them though for the strange otherwordly personality of Pele. Ancient and yet oft times childish, Pele claimed that an old pact bound her to protect Ashbrooke from the growing shadows of Ribknot. Her lover, a druid named Maedeth, had been missing now for several months looking for this shadow. In her grief and at his orders, she had walled the groves off. Only their strange affinity with the dark shadows of Glau allowed the heroes to enter her sanctuary.
Instead of attempting to slay the fey creature, the heroes entered into a pact with Pele, giving up items of value and priceless memories. Bound by the pact, the heroes swore to find Maedeth and ensure his safety.
When Belf attacked at the end of their pact, the heroes witnessed Pele’s might as her otherworldly beauty burned the sight from almost all who looked upon her directly. Summoned satyrs, nixies, and her own fey magic killed Belf and his ten men within a matter of a minute. The heroes of Willows’ Bend were forced to listen to cries for mercy as the seidhe giggled and took delight in the slaughter.
THE RECLUSE’S TOWER
Leagues from Ashbrooke, the heroes of Willows’ Bend were distraught to find that an army of gol stood in their way. Losing patience with the loss of time, the heroes traveled a longer path. In the village of Three Pines, the heroes found a phantom massacre – bodies strangled and crushed and no tracks!
A lone survivor, Crain, was found in a well. Crain turned out to be an Cheiu apprentice who needed Ender’s help decoding a Blacksong map which would lead him to an ally of his and save him from invisible assailants. Crain promised them that his ally, Master Aldern the Recluse, had the resources to far-send them to their location if they would escort him to the Cheiu’s tower.
The recluse’s tower was a bewildering maze of puzzles and magic. The heroes fought through rooms of animates, homunculi, and other sorcerous defenses before finally awakening Aldern from his rest.
Aldern told the heroes of the Cadre, a connection between Cheiu, Blacksong rangers, druids, and the Gabron monkd. He provided insight into the assassination of the Svartan diplomat their bardic friend Andreu was investigating. Finally, he gave the heroes a name – Otirius, the Shadow of Ribknot and his former friend.
Before sending the heroes into the groves of the Stone Circle where a second Blacksong host were camped. Then with old Khone magic, he sent them away . . . into a battle between the Blacksong, the druids and a bronze-green drakon!