Thursday, May 30, 2019

Lux Tenebris: Iliana Greenlane

ILIANA GREENLANE - L12 Strongarm Halfling Assassin

STR     12 (+1)
DEX    15 (+2)                                   
CON   10 (+0)
INT     10 (+0)
WIS     12 (+1)
CHA   10 (+0)
HP       60
AC      13 (Leather Armor)

Racial Traits:
Size: Small
Speed: 25 ft.
Halfling Nimbleness
Strongarm Weapon Training
Languages: Common, Halfling, Thieves' cant

Proficiencies: +4
Armor: Light
Weapons: Simple weapons, Hand x-bows, Longswords, Rapiers, Shortswords, Battleaxe
Tools: Thieves' tools, Dice set, Land vehicles, Disguise kit, Poisoners kit
Saves: Dexterity +6, Intelligence +4
Skills: Acrobatics +6, Athletics +5, Insight +9, Intimidation +8, Perception +9, Stealth +10

Military Rank
* * *
Sneak Attack  (6d6)
Cunning Action
Roguish Archetype: Assassin
- Bonus Proficiencies
- Assassinate
- Infiltration Expertise
Uncanny Dodge
Reliable Talent

Daggers(3). Melee. +6 to hit; deals 1d4 +2 piercing; Finesse, light, thrown (range 20/60).
Crossbow,Light. Ranged. +6 to hit; deals 1d8 +2 piercing; Ammo (range 80/320), loading, 2-handed.
Battleaxe. Melee. +5 to hit; deals 1d8 +1 slashing; Versatile (1d10).
Leather Armor. AC 11 + Dex Mod.
An explorer's pack, a disguise kit, a poisoner's kit, a set of thieves' tools, a set of common clothes, a set of traveler's clothes, a dice set, a purse containing 17g.

Iliana Greenlane grew up in the halfling village of Gold Meadow. Most of her friends were Stout or Lightfoot halflings, but Iliana's family were Strongarms. Because of this, she was always a little out of step with her peers. While they were fishing or picking apples, Iliana was undergoing weapon training with her father.  Her preferred weapon was the battleaxe and she became quite good with it.
Upon reaching her age of majority, Iliana joined a reputable mercenary company and left Gold Meadow to see the world. She was gone for ten years and when she returned she was much changed. Reserved and taciturn, she refused to speak of her time away from Gold Moon, and became quite cold to anyone who pressed her on the issue.
Iliana joined the village militia where she soon distinguished herself as a deadly marksman with a crossbow. Over time, she thawed a little, and even participated in local archery contests where she won several prizes.
However, when the draconic legions passed through the area, Iliana's warmth vanished. She became frighteningly cold and pragmatic. Her quick thinking to evacuate Gold Meadow probably saved lives, and her neighbors were thankful, even if they did return to decimated homes.
When the compact was invoked, Iliana led her village militia to Fairhill where they joined the forces that would harangue the dragonborn legionnaires. Because of her skills, she was asked to join a group of individuals who would focus on high-risk targets, such as dragonborn officers, clerics and spellcasters.
Iliana agreed, even though she was unsettled by the presence of a Gray Warden among the group. During the campaign Iliana removed a number of high-ranking dragonborn officers, and was credited with slaying the last dragonborn soldier.
Iliana has since returned to Gold Meadow, to help her village rebuild. Her actions in the conflict have earned her quite a reputation, which she finds annoying. She has been appointed commander of the village militia, and begins and ends each day with weapon training on the village green. Inspired by their grim-eyed leader, many of the Gold Meadow militia now take their duties far more seriously than before.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Lux Tenebris: Strongarm Halflings


Strongarm halflings are a halfling subrace found exclusively in the Southlands of Nur. Although they possess the traits common to all halflings (as outlined on p. 28 of the 5e Player's Handbook), they also possess unique traits.

Strongarm halflings tend to be more serious than other halflings, and slower to warm up to strangers in their midst.  They also tend to be more clannish than other halflings, preferring to associate mostly with their own kith and kin.  Strongarms are not unfriendly, per se, just more reserved and cautious than other halflings.

Strongarms appeared after the fall of the Phoenix Kingdom, when Southland halflings had to become more self-reliant re their own protection.  Halfling communities could no longer rely on the protection of knights or soldiers of the crown, so individuals within those communities began to take it upon themselves to defend their communities. Naturally, these likeminded individuals married each other, beginning a tradition of physical conditioning and martial study.

More martial than most other halflings, Strongarms spend a portion of their free time practicing with a weapon of their choice.  Many choose the hand crossbow, preferring to strike from a distance, but others choose traditional melee weapons such as the battleaxe or warhammer.

Strongarm halflings often surprise Northland fighters with their physical strength and martial ability.

Ability Score Increase. Your Strength score increases by 1.

Strongarm Weapon Training. You have proficiency with either the battleaxe, longsword, shortsword, warhammer or hand crossbow.

Lux Tenebris: The Southlands

            If you were to ask someone from Darkwater or Mountgate where the Southlands begin, they would probably describe the region south of the New Road and west of the Palatine Peninsula.  Ask the same question of someone from Alindor or Alindrast and they would laugh and say that they were the South.  Southlanders, however, would not include the Palatine Peninsula in the region, and would scoff at any part of Nur further north than Alorn's Wall or east of Dorem's Keep as being southern. Pretty much everyone agrees that the Southlands end at the banks of the Narnola River in the west.
            Culturally, the Southlands share a common history and heritage that dates back to the time of the Phoenix Kingdom, when the Kings of the South ruled from Goldcastle and the Northlands were nothing but wild frontier.  The Phoenix Kingdom collapsed over four hundred years ago, at the Battle of Grey Hill, but Southlanders still talk of the event as if it were recent history.  They curse Athen Blackmantle's name to this day, burning him in effigy every winter, while Rochard, the last king's name, remains a popular choice for boys among humans and halflings.
            Halflings are more prevalent in the Southlands than in any other part of Nur. They live quietly, in small villages or hamlets, farming the fertile valleys. Some halfling communities exist along the southern coast, but not many. Human communities dominate the Southshore and the northern and eastern regions, especially along the ruins of Alorn's Wall.
            There are no proper cities in the Southland, and few towns of any prominence.  Fairhill is, perhaps, the best known community outside the region.  Although it is a prominent trade and social hub, Fairhill is best known as the headquarters of the Knights of the Phoenix Crown.
            The Knights of the Phoenix Crown trace their history back to the Phoenix Kingdom. They were hand-picked by the King himself and charged with defending the kingdom from all threats, foreign and domestic.  The order served loyally and well for centuries, but was unable to prevent Athen Blackmantle's rebellion. Indeed, the order was betrayed by two of its most respected members, Sir Tellorol Leanleaf and Sir Ormero the Doomed, who chose to ally with their elven kin against King Rochard.  Although King Rochard died and the Phoenix Kingdom ended, the Knights of the Phoenix Crown remain, continuing to defend the South and its peoples from all manner of threats.
            Elves are neither liked nor welcome in the Southlands. Many historians agree that if the elves had not betrayed King Rochard and allied with the Blackmantle that the Phoenix Kingdom could have survived. To this day, however, debate continues as to why the elves betrayed the king. The most widely accepted theory, at least in the South, is that they allied with the Blackmantle because he was a half-elf. Blackmantle's mother was from a powerful elvish family, and it is widely agreed that they engineered his birth to give them a road to the throne.
            Whatever their reasons, when the rebellion failed the elves found themselves driven from the South. They fled north, establishing the cities of Goldsun and then Moonhome.  Even the wood elves fled the region, claiming that the traitorous acts of their cousins had poisoned the very land and water against the race. 
            There seemed to be some truth to the wood elves claim that the Southlands had been tainted by the rebellion.  Droughts, forest fires and pestilence seemed to fall upon the land. The Southshore was beset by storms and hurricanes.  Communities that had survived and thrived for centuries were wiped out, some in the space of a few days, others more slowly.
            With no central authority, lawlessness swept the land. Banditry became common, almost expected, and the surviving coastal communities turned to piracy and shipwrecking to survive.
            Eventually, the leaders of the larger communities, as well as the heads of various temples and the Knights of the Phoenix Crown came together and hammered out an agreement, known formally as the Compact of Three Rivers. The compact established a unified legal code across the Southlands, based heavily upon the old legal code of the Phoenix Kingdom. It also established a series of conditions and treaties wherein the individual members would agree to suspend any disagreements if the region was threatened by hostile forces, foreign or domestic. The compact would be evaluated every ten years, although it could be evaluated earlier if a majority of signatories desired.
            Although the compact had no immediate affects, it laid the groundwork for greater cooperation and planning among the various Southern factions.  The mutual defense aspects of the compact would not need to be invoked for almost seventy years after the initial signing, when a plague of undeath would sweep the region.
            The Gray Wardens appeared at this time, and, working with the Knights of the Phoenix Crown, ended the situation by tracking down and executing the Carrion Court, a group of evil necromancers.  Afterwards, the Grey Wardens would remain, declaring themselves guardians of the region's graveyards, ruins and haunted places.  And although many would find their presence, and their nature, unnerving, no one could deny that they kept the dead quiet and in their graves.
            The compact would be invoked again, ten years later, when the Kraken Brotherhood tried to seize control of the Southshore, to turn it back into a haven for piracy. The Pirates War, as it became known, would drag on for almost three years before the Brotherhood would admit defeat and retreat.
            In general, however, the Southlands have remained largely at peace.  Considered somewhat backwards by others, there is little trade between the Southland and the other regions of Nur. Insular and close-knit, the region's communities look after themselves and each other, preferring to ignore events happenings beyond their borders.
            Unfortunately, the Southland has not been able to ignore the Draconic Invasion.  General Akor Korkiri led over 10,000 dragonborn legionnaires from Calhorne, in the east, to Moontree, in the west. Korkiri chose the most direct route, leading his army through the Southland. What little resistance they encountered, the dragonborns responded to with lethal ferocity.  Whole communities were laid waist to, while others were stripped of anything of value or use. The Draconic Legions moved quickly, leaving death and hardship in their wake.
            However, after laying siege to Moontree and burning the coastal city to the ground, Korkiri chose to return to Calhorne along the same route. This would prove to be a fatal mistake, as the compact had been invoked and the South prepared a lethal greeting for the dragonborn invaders.  Knowing they could never field a proper army against the legions, the Southlanders adapted guerilla tactics.  They harangued the draconic legions with arcane spells and divine curses, assassinated key commanders and destroyed supplies. They prevented them from foraging by adopting scorched earth tactics, destroying anything in the legions' route that could be of use.  Southlander casualties were light, while draconic losses went from a trickle to a flood.
            It was roughly 1500 miles from the banks of the Narnola River to Calhorne. Before they were even half way across the Southland, even after abandoning their spoils from Moontree, the Draconic Legions had been decimated by the Southern tactics. At the end, the Knights of the Phoenix Crown led a frontal assault upon the dispirited remnants of the draconic forces, decimating them. No quarter was given or asked for and the dragonborn dead were left where they fell, to replenish the land they had invaded.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Lux Tenebris: By the Campfire

            Night had fallen. The near-dark moon provided little light and what little it did shed did not penetrate the forest's canopy.  Iliana and Dero waited for their eyes to adjust to the gloom before proceeding into the wood. Nightbirds trilled and crickets chirped.  Around the halflings, scattered through the woods, campfires began to appear.
            "I guess he really was the last soldier," murmured Dero.
            Iliana said nothing, merely shifted her crossbow to her other shoulder.
            Ahead, familiar silhouettes were gathered around a fire, a little further away from the others. Iliana led the way into the firelight, Dero close behind her.
            The Lightfoot cousins, Oren and Hal Rosering, sat close to the fire.  They glanced up from the leather bag set between them, but said nothing.  They were taking turns, plucking coins or jewels from the bag and adding the loot to their own purses.
            Ajala sat next to the twins, perched on an overturned log.  Whisper, her dire serpent companion, lay in languid coils over Ajala's shoulders and lap. The great black snake's head rested comfortably upon Ajala's silver-gray hair.  Occasionally, she would reach up and feed the beast tidbits from a pouch. Its eyes gleamed like polished emeralds in the firelight.
            Sir Hospin stood a little way apart from Ajala, watching the woman and her beast. He was tall and thin, dressed in silver chain, one gauntleted hand resting lightly on the hilt of his blade, Elfbane.  He nodded at Iliana and Dero but continued to listen to what the final member of their little group was saying.
            She was draped in heavy veils of grayish silver. Only her hands, white as snow, were visible and they moved when she spoke, emphasizing her words with elegant motions. Silver chains hung about her neck, from ceremonial shackles fitted about her wrists, connected to her girdle.  Her name was Yrella. She smelt of jasmine and earth and smoke. Just being around her made Iliana's flesh crawl.
            Yrella turned toward Iliana. "It is done."
            It was not a question, but Iliana nodded.
            "You should have seen her," said Dero. "I never saw anyone so patient!"
            "But it's done," said Hal. He plucked a gold coin from the sack, adding it to his spoils. "Took you long enough."
            "If a thing's worth doing, it's worth doing right," said Oren, choosing a short strand of pearls.  He held it up and admired it in the firelight.
            "Where'd that come from?"
            "Spoils of war," said Hal.
            "I heard talk that the truthspeakers want to send the gold back to Moontree," offered Ajala.
            Iliana settled herself by the fire.  "They try to do that they'll have a second war on their hands."
            "That's truth," said Hal. He fished out a ruby and tossed it to Iliana. "Here, cousin. A reward for your patience."
            Iliana caught the jewel and threw it right back to Hal. "We're not cousins and I don't need fancy jewels."
            "You could buy yourself a new crossbow with that," suggested Dero. "Or get some better armor made."
            "I'm fine as I am," said Iliana.
            The Roserings glanced at one another and shook their heads. They would never understand the Strongarm woman's attitude.
            "So what will happen now?" asked Dero, settling himself beside Iliana.
            "Regarding what, Master Dero?" asked Sir Hospin.
            Dero shrugged. "I don't know. The war, I guess."
            "Whisper and I have heard things," said Ajala. She reached up and stroked her serpent's jaw, prompting it to flow and coil about the old woman like a living piece of shadow.
            "What sort of things?" asked Iliana.
            "Gossip. Rumors.  The northerners are massing an army at Fallen Baramir to march on Calhorne."
            "Good luck to 'em," said Hal. He turned and spat over his shoulder. "Filthy dragonborn. I hope they get pushed back into the Wastes."
            "Will we be joining them?" asked Dero.
            "Some might," said Sir Hospin. "But my order will not. Our duty is here, to the South and the southern people."
            "As is mine," said Yrella, folding her hands together.  "There has been too much bloodshed already. The dead grow restless. They must be soothed lest their agitation rouses greater troubles."
            "I was surprised, lady, when you Gray Wardens chose to involve yourself in the current matter," admitted Sir Hospin.  "You don't usually stir yourself from your ruins."
            "With good reason, sir knight," said Yrella. "The affairs of the living seldom interest us, but the draconic incursion through our territories was impossible to ignore."
            "For everyone," said Oren. "It's why the conclave was called and the pact invoked."
            The others nodded.
            "Now the dragonborn are all dead," said Iliana. "The pact is complete."
            "Meaning what?" asked Dero.
            "We go our separate ways, Master Stout," said Sir Hospin. "I, for one, will be glad to return to Fairhill."
            "And we to the marshes," said Ajala, stroking Whisper's black coils. "What of you, Master Dero? Where are you bound after all this?"
            "Back home to Glasswater, I suppose," said Dero. "I hadn't actually thought I'd live through all of this."
            "But you did," said Oren Rosering. "So why you want to go back to a boring bump in the road like Glasswater is beyond me."
            "And where will you be heading, Master Oren?" asked Sir Hospin. "You and your cousin are from the coast. True?"
            "Blue Shell Cove," said Hal, proudly. "I can't wait to get back. With my share of the spoils, I can finally buy The Angry Frog."
            "What's that?" asked Ajala.
            "Or is it a who?" wondered Iliana.
            "It's a tavern," said Hal, his eyes shining. "Best damn tavern in Blue Shell Cove!"
            "Also, the only tavern in Blue Shell Cove," added Oren.
            His cousin glared at him.
            "And what about you, cousin? Where are you off to?"
            Oren smiled. "Darkwater."
            Hal stared at his cousin as if he had suddenly grown a second head.
            "That's a fair ways away," offered Ajala.
            "What in the Nine Hells are you going to do in Darkwater?" demanded Hal.
            Oren shrugged, smiling a tiny smile. "Oh. I'm sure I'll find something to do in the big city."
            "Keep one hand on your purse and the other on your knife," counselled Iliana. "Darkwater is full of villains."
            "How do you know?" asked Oren. "Have you been there?"
            "Yes," said Iliana, but did not elucidate.
            "And you, Mistress Greenlane?" asked Ajala. "What are your plans?"
            "I'm a Strongarm," said Iliana. "I'll go home to Kalkelak and get ready for the next fight."
            Dero frowned at her. "You think there will be others?"
            Iliana stared into the fire.  "There are always other fights."

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Lux Tenebris: In the Long Grass

            Ssorn crouched in the long grass, his senses alert for any sign of danger. At his back was the forest, but on all other sides was open grassland.  A rough dirt tract cut through the tall grass ahead of him and to the right.  It wound along, dusty and red, like a line of dried blood.
            The dragonborn scout flattened himself in the tall grass and muttered a quiet prayer to Ikilli. He did not know if the Wild Huntress would hear him or help him, but at this point, Ssorn decided prayer would not hurt.
            He lay where he was for a few moments, letting the warmth of the sun sink into his body. Ssorn was lean and wiry for a dragonborn, most of whom were known for their bulk. In the legion, his comrades had good-naturedly goaded him about his small size, suggesting he was actually one of the lizardfolk pretending to be dragonborn. 
            Lying in the grass, Ssorn snorted. His comrades were dead now, their corpses left to rot in the forest behind him and along the road from Moontree.  Their greater size and hardiness had not saved their lives.  What use was strength or armor against foes who struck from the shadows with poisoned weapons? Who never showed their faces and vanished into the forest on silent feet?
            Oh, how General Korkiri had raged at these tactics! His rage had done him no good. Ssorn remembered the morning the legion had discovered Korkiri's corpse.  The general had been stabbed through both eyes in his own tent. His guards had heard nothing.
            After that, things had only gotten worse. They had lost their wizard and then their clerics. Although, in all fairness, the clerics had been of little use since the sack of Moontree. The gods had made their displeasure of that city's butchery obvious by withholding their divine favors. 
            Morale sunk among the legion as they marched east, heading back to Calhorne. With each quiet death the soldiers grew grimmer.  Someone had started a pool, taking bets on who would get back to Calhorne alive.  Ssorn thought the officers should have stopped it, but they didn't care. The legion continued to lose soldiers, and heart, every day they continued east.
            And now I am the only one left, thought Ssorn, lying in the long grass.
            They had abandoned their spoils days ago, to make better time. The commander had spread them out in a line, weapons at the ready, marched them through the forest.
            When darkness enveloped Ssorn's part of the line, when he had heard his comrades roar in fury and pain, he had acted instinctively. He had dropped to the ground and fled like a craven cur.
            But better a live cur, the dragonborn now thought, than a dead hero.
            He still didn't know who, or what, had been harrying them.  Elves? Humans? Forest gnomes? Ssorn had heard the rumors that the western nations were moving to a war footing, gathering their armies in preparation for an assault on Calhorne. 
            Ssorn thought it unlikely that elves or humans would have resorted to such ambush tactics.  He could see forest gnomes attacking in such a fashion, but not for such a protracted time. And how would such military forces even know where they were? Or remain hidden from the legion's scouts?
            There would have been some sign of an organized military force, thought Ssorn.
            But there had been none. Just knives in the dark. Poisoned arrows shot with uncanny accuracy, penetrating weak spots in armor.
            Korkiri's legion had not been defeated by soldiers, but by assassins.
            And I have lived to tell the tale, thought Ssorn.
            A cloud passed over the sun and the dragonborn shivered.
            So far, he thought.
            Ssorn lay in the long grass for some time, breathing in the smell of green growing things and rich dark earth. He listened for anything out of the ordinary, but heard nothing but the twitter of birds, the buzz of bees. The sun marched across the sky.  Shadows lengthened. 
            The dragonborn remained still, tensing and relaxing his muscles.  His mouth was dry but he did not reach for his canteen. Better to go thirsty than to risk discovery.
            He waited, quietly, occasionally praying to Ikilli or the shades of his ancestors.
            Let me live, prayed Ssorn. Let me return home, to walk the streets of Kargoth-Denn and pray for forgiveness in the Temple of Meleh for my cowardice. Let me return home, to offer wine and blood to my ancestors in the Field of Bones. Let me live.
            The sun set.  Ssorn watched the sky darken. The first stars appeared, pale and shimmering. He did not move.
            The moon appeared, a sliver of dark yellow, casting little light. Nightbirds sang to one another in the forest.  Crickets began to chirp.
            Ssorn took a breath and slowly rose. He made no noise. Drawing a deep breath, he regarded the heavens for a moment and oriented himself toward the east.
            I'll follow the tract, thought Ssorn. It must lead somewhere. A village or a farm. Somewhere I can find food and. . . .
            The breath was knocked out of him and he fell to his knees. He looked down, tasting blood in his mouth, and stared at the crossbow bolt erupting from his chest.
            He tried to speak, but he had no breath.  His vision began to darken, as he pitched forward, into the long grass. It smelt wet and green.
            Ancestors, thought Ssorn. I'm sorry.
            Then he was gone.
* * * * *
            "Cyric's truth! I thought he was never going to move!"
            "He was patient," said Iliana. "And smart." She lowered the crossbow and walked toward the fallen dragonborn.
            "Are you sure he's dead?" asked Dero.
            "He's small for a dragonborn," said Dero, as they stood over the corpse.  "How old do you think he was?"
            "He was old enough to be a soldier," said Iliana. She drew her knife, knelt on the dragonborn's back and jammed the blade into the base of the corpse's skull.
            "What are you doing?"
            "Making sure he's dead," said the woman.
            "I'm pretty sure you already killed him."
            She wiped her blade clean on the grass and slid it back into its sheath. "You can never be too sure."
            "We should get back to the others. They're probably worried."
            "I doubt it," said Iliana.
            "Shouldn't we bury him or something? Say some words at least?"
            "Why? Are you worried he'll come back as an angry spirit?"
            "Well, I wasn't until you just said it."
            "Let the grass and the worms have him," said Iliana.
            Hefting her crossbow, she began to walk back toward the forest. Dero hesitated, glancing at the dead dragonborn. With a sigh he clasped his hands and muttered a quick prayer to Halab, asking the God of Mercies to look after the dead soldier's spirit. Then he hurried after Iliana.