11th Moon Cycle of the year 764 A.S.
For the world is changing: I feel it in the water, I feel it in the earth, and I smell it in the air.
Treebeard, The Return of the King
The Annwyn (“a-noon”)
In the year 763, during the 2nd Moon Cycle, an eerie darkness emerged, engulfing the realm in a mysterious fog. Beginning at the Witching Hour, this phenomenon persisted through the night and lingered throughout the subsequent day before gradually retreating. Dubbed the Day of Mist, it left behind a wake of sickness and death, as well as unsettling accounts of vanished souls swallowed by the fog, never to return. Livestock perished, crops in the south failed, and an otherworldly chill claimed unfortunate lives, leaving an air of foreboding and dread in its wake.
Then came the appearance of the Annwyn. How exactly it was discovered remains unclear. The popular story is that a band of sailors in Breakwater Bay in western Arnesse came across a line of fog that swallowed their ship whole. They returned some days later, cast out of the fog and speaking of a land shrouded in mists and mystery. They spoke of ancient ruins, terrible monsters, and fantastic treasures. A land lost to time itself. Thus, it was given the name “Annwyn,” the Otherworld. Further scouting expeditions revealed a section of what was the western Arnesse coastline was now no longer bordering the sea, and in its place, a wall of deep, roiling fog. Following the line of demarcation, these forays confirmed the sailors' account as well, that the fog extended out past the new coastline and into the waters, forming a solid ring around the newly revealed land. Several expeditions entered the fog, though none would return. The foolish, the brave, and the desperate of Arnesse continued to converge on the place, as though it were a terrible beacon of their salvation. Like moths to a flame. More and more arrived over the following weeks. The fact that none had yet returned to tell of their journey did little to quell the interest in the idea of abandoning oneself and destiny to the Annwyn. The tents, lean-to’s, and squalor adjacent to the persistent fog eventually became so widespread that it turned into what might be called a town. Thus was the modern village of Gateway born. The desperation and squalor eventually gave way to crime as it so often does. Unsure of what to do about governing this new inconvenience, a debate raged among the nobility about their next move.
With little interest in losing their worldly status and wealth to the uncertain fate of making the journey themselves, the nobility did what they often do - little and less. One sadistically ingenious plan to come out of the squabbling, however, was that the Kingdom could use the Annwyn as a means of corporal punishment. What has become known as the Last Walk, prisoners are taken to the border of the Annwyn and sent to join the others that have chosen a similar fate. With the burgeoning interest in travel to and into the place, many began to take to the latest scheme in making a few copper dragons - mist walking. Now that so many had arrived at Gateway, it seemed everyone knew someone who knew someone who had returned from the mists and could get you there easily. No questions asked. And of course, for the right price. While some may indeed be able to traverse the mists, the Mistwalkers have established themselves as a loose consortium that is considered mostly honest, or desperate, depending on your point of view, gambling on the chance they might be able to make a quick getaway with a hefty purse of dragons after they abandon their group to the Annwyn. Though with few options other than to go it alone, many travelers are happy to take the chance, paying handsomely for even the most brittle façade of safety. Giving credence to their claims is the proliferation of news and rumors that has seemingly originated from the place beyond the fog. And news must certainly mean there are those who have had to come back to report it? Despite this, it is still said that Gateway is a place where the faces are always changing. To quell the lawless new outpost, the King ordered a garrison of Blayne, Richter, and Bannon soldiers and nobility to form the garrison at Gateway - the Mistguard. While charged with keeping the peace at the borders of the Annwyn, many are more focused on profiting off of the opportunity. Today, Gateway is a bustling but rowdy town that is ill-kept, choked with mud, and poor sewage disposal. It reeks as much of feces as it does of lust and pure greed.
The First Royal Expedition
In mid 763, King Giles Bannon II assembled a band of explorers, led jointly by the Lady Ludmilla Laurent of the Bannon High House Laurent and her Aurorym contingent, Lord Wilhelm Hardinger of the Richter High House Hardinger, and Lady Ella Falconer of the Corveaux High House, Falconer. Between them some five hundred knights and assorted men-at-arms made their way to the Annwyn. The expedition made it mostly intact through the mists, where they found a land that was almost completely abandoned. It was clear people had lived there, perhaps centuries ago, but many parts of the Annwyn were unspoiled and open to be claimed. Beyond a few firepits and lonely encampments, there were few signs of the modern explorers or settlement anywhere. The Laurents quickly claimed an ancient House Castellan fortress, emblazoned with the name of Maidencourt. Raising their banners, they redubbed the place Stag Hall. In the shadow of the keep, they erected a town known as Carran, which has, in the moon cycles since, grown to be the largest settlement in the Annwyn and is a thriving trading hub with the other settlements. Stag Hall and Carran are located on the western side of the Annwyn, closer to the sea. South along the coast and somewhat inland is the Hardinger settlement of Ironhaven. Ruled by Lord Wilhelm Hardinger, it is little more than a fortified motte and bailey that has already taken to a massive mining operation in the nearby hills. The Dusklanders are also working on a keep, Emberstone, but by the current date in 764, it is only about half finished. Lastly, the Falconers settled to the northeast, somewhat inland by a stately wood, finding another abandoned castle, and restoring it in the fashion of their ancestors. The castle is called Skywatch and below it, the town of Arcton, has become a burgeoning nexus of trade for the remote area.
All seemed to be going well for this new expedition to the Annwyn, save that they had forgotten they were not the first to arrive in this new land. Criminals and cast-offs from the Long Walk had been sent through the mists in greater and greater numbers. Naturally, not a few of them started to coalesce into organized groups of raiders and brigands. The King’s forces and their knights felt quite confident they could deal with this upstart threat, but quickly found out these Crows, as they were so aptly dubbed, were far more organized and better equipped than they expected. Led by a wily and dangerous figure known only as the Old Badger, the Crows quickly started to cause problems for the fledgling settlements of Carran, Arcton, and Ironhaven. Raids and robberies started to become increasingly more commonplace. Though the nobles threw their forces headlong into the fray, the Crows seemed to be ever the more elusive. To add to the mounting pressures, there were also rumors that the Bannon, Richter, and Corveaux nobles were not alone; that both the Innis and Aragons had sent expeditions to establish settlements as well. These settlements have not yet been found, but are said to be named Goldleaf for the Innis and Moonfall for the Aragons. It is little secret among the King's Expedition that many believe the Aragon and Innis to be working to undermine their activities in the Annwyn, including backing and arming the bandits and Crows.
The Second Expedition
In the 7th moon cycle of 763, shortly after the arrival of the King’s Expedition, a band of adventurers arrived in the Annwyn. They came upon an ancient settlement known as Tamris, a port that lay along the coast and within the lands now claimed by the newly arrived House Laurent. It is here that some of them decided to settle down and cultivate the land. Amongst their number were nobles from the Northern Marcher house of Draghean, Varga of the Dusklands, a member of the Bannon family, an Aragonian noble, a Corveaux Lord, and even the Captain of a Rourke ship and their retinues. With them came many common folk as well; crafters, soldiers, gatherers, Cirkys, and not a few criminals who had faced their Last Walk. The early days of this arrival were chaotic, with no clear leader emerging among their ranks. House Laurent was quick to attempt to exert their authority over the area, but met some resistance from the new locals. In addition, the conflict between the Crows and the King’s Expedition began to expand and this new settlement was not exempt from its effects. The Laurents lost a valuable caravan around the time of this band’s arrival and the theft was blamed on the Crows. While the loss of this caravan was a blow to the Laurents, it was only the first of many.
Worse yet, these new settlers who arrived sensed a palpable dread about this new land. Signs of strange things in the woods and an ominous, invisible presence weighed heavily on them. What some claimed to be a specter would appear in the settlement; the hideous wraith of Lady Grace Bannon. Was she a terrible herald for an uncertain destiny? Within only a few turnings of the moon, rumors abound of new and even more ghastly terrors began to drift on the wind. Rumors that were confirmed when the next market happened during the 3rd moon cycle of 764 in the remote village of Mistvale. The folk here were beset by what some thought to be curses, strange occurances, and assumed wytchcraft of all types. The conflict between the Crows and the King’s Expedition continued to mount, with more caravans losing their goods to raiders. One such attack dealt a significant blow to the economic foothold of the weakened Laurents and their allies, when many Laurent guards and a Cirque merchant named Eldreth were slain while transporting a major resupply to the fort.
House Laurent’s hold was beginning to slip, but that did not stop them from dispatching a Seneschal from Stag Hall, a Walter Beauchamp, to collect taxes, and to appoint a Burgomaster and Sheriff. Domitille of the Apotheca was selected as the Burgomaster with Ser Ake Dagson as her Sheriff. For now, the town is being overseen by Ludmilla’s son, Lord Silas Laurent. They would soon learn that the occurrences did not plague Mistvale alone. The waxing influence of an omnipresent maleficence and the constant raids by the Crows began to have a real impact on the established nobility. The hammer fell heaviest on House Laurent, who by Summer 764 was struggling to hold onto power. Perhaps as a breath of fresh air, in the 3rd moon cycle of 764, the forces of House Blayne and the Aurorym finally chose to make their presence known. An expedition of the faithful in the form of a pilgrimage, arrived with knights of the Fervent Order of the Vellatora and numerous aurons. Rumors of witchcraft and supernatural activity beyond the mists has drawn the attention of the faithful, who are sworn against these evils. This pilgrimage has often been heard spreading their message of illumination through apotheosis, and a great war against a coming darkness spoken of in their Book of Magnus. They believe the Annwyn to be the battleground for this conflict, with the faithful flocking to the Annwyn in greater numbers since, fervent in their hallowed errand.
The Current Events
It is now the 11th moon cycle 764, and the region is on the cusp of Winter. Mistvale has continued to grow and become more established under the leadership of the Burgomaster and the town officers. But the situation for House Laurent and the other houses of the King’s Expedition has grown much worse. Witchcraft in the region has gone from mere rumor to confirmed plagues upon the people and blight upon the land. Towns like Carran and Arcton have taken to shuttering their doors and windows at night for fear that they or their children will be abducted by these servants of the unhallowed. Curses and disease run rampant, unable to be cured by any medical means. Commerce has dried almost to a trickle and along with it, the coffers of the local nobility. Even they have not been spared this scourge, with scores and more afflicted and dying with ailments both strange and terrible. It is said that Ludmilla Laurent herself lies upon her death bed, stricken by a hideous, wasting illness. So too has Stag Hall been shut tight for several moon cycles now. Guards patrol the street and stop anyone who looks suspicious or is unknown. Ironhaven has been spared the worst of this, but only because they have almost entirely shut their gates and are acting as a city under siege. The faithful chose to settle in what is essentially a large war camp about ten miles north of Mistvale that they are calling Dawnhaven. Some permanent buildings have been set up, but the camp is now housing perhaps a thousand or more Aurorym who are living in conditions unsuited for the coming freeze.
True to their namesake, the Crows have begun to flock, redoubling their efforts to attack the Laurent, Falconer, and Hardinger outposts. It is rare these days that a caravan from outside gets past the bandits. Thus far, their attacks have taken a huge toll on the military strength of the first expedition. No one has exact estimates on those who have been killed, but there are rumored to be far less than the five hundred knights who were said to have entered the Annwyn. Some soldiers in service of those houses have even said to have defected to the Crows, seeing that the writing was on the wall. Interestingly, the Crows seem unaffected by the malignance that has affected those in the other settlements. Encounters with the Crows have become dire, where once there was a rag-tag band of criminals, they have turned into elite raiders who show little mercy or loyalty to anyone. Following the initial spate of curses and Crow attacks at the start of 764, Mistvale citizens have been relatively untouched by Witch and Crow alike. Their raids have all but ceased and ‘nere a curse or affliction has been leveled upon a resident of the town. This has caused others from the region to flock to Mistvale in hopes of gaining refuge from their suffering. All of this has been a boon for the residents there though an ominous speculation has begun to take root. Why have they not suffered while everyone around them has? Some of the town’s residents have said that it is because they have multiple faithful among their population and that Dawnhaven is a scant ten miles away. Others whisper darker things, up to and including alliances with criminals and Crows that have swollen the purses of some of the town’s residents to near bursting. The murder of the Cirque named Eldreth remains a black mark upon the town’s name as her death is unsolved and unanswered. As the new market arrives, all eyes are on Mistvale.
In reaction, many people of the Annwyn have turned to faith in their desperation. The Aurorym is one path, and the ranks of the Dawn’s faithful continue to swell with new arrivals and converts from within the Annwyn. Wytch Cults are another path that some have taken. Instead of fighting against these witches, some have turned to revering and even worshiping them and their dark goddess in an effort to be spared. Little is known about these cults though they are said to have the eyes of every crow and an ear in every tree.
There remains no official word from the Northern Marcher or Tarkathi settlements. The Laurent’s efforts have shifted from rooting out their hiding places to struggling to defend what they have. Still, these factions are not without teeth and an animal is always the most dangerous when it is cornered. The lack of proactive attention from the forces of the King’s Expedition has made the countryside beyond the town's walls more dangerous than ever. Crime is rampant in most regions and getting mugged, robbed, and killed has become a common fate of more than one merchant or traveler. The depredations of these bandits are not just limited to ‘legitimate’ targets and they will attack just about anyone they come across, including, in a few cases, women and children. Truly, dark days have fallen upon the Annwyn as winter looms.
Arriving & Living in the Annwyn
The town of Gateway and the Annwyn are in western Arnesse, on the coast of Breakwater Bay in the Vale of Shadows between the Worldspine Mountains to the South and the Richter lands of House Varga and the Deephold to the North. Players are free to leave from whichever destination they wish, however those that wish to journey to the Annwyn only have two options: overland, which is by far the slower of the two routes, or by sea. Sea travel is less expensive, though far more dangerous, and is the method preferred by those with less than their fair share of coin. One might seek a wealthy patron to cover all or part of the cost, or one could also agree to assist with work on the ship. The journey by sea from most locations in western Arnesse takes weeks. The weather is a constant threat, as are pirates. The waters around Breakwater Bay are marginally patrolled by some Richter ships out of Ludavar, but are well known to be dangerous. Captains must navigate between Crow’s Nest and Ship’s Rest to avoid shoals closer inland.
The journey overland is long and arduous. Roads in Arnesse vary in quality. Some are smooth, level, stonework affairs, while others are little more than rock-plagued mud channels that are ridden with deep ruts. Most travel is done in wagons or on foot. Owning a decent riding or war horse is generally for the wealthy and knights alone. It is easy to get hired onto a merchant caravan bound for a major trading hub like King’s Crossing, Scrow, or Ember, which will get a traveler most of the way to the Annwyn. It is more difficult, but not impossible, to find a caravan headed for Gateway or the Annwyn itself. Most caravans charge a modest fee to accompany them, but someone could serve as a guard or even work labor as a hired hand to help offset the cost. This would be a fantastic journey for almost anyone who undertook it. Traveling like this is not common at all in Arnesse and a trip of any length is something that a person could tell stories about for years to come and would make them the envy of many.
After one reaches the edges of the Mists that surround the Annwyn, if they are not traveling by sea, a Mistwalker is usually hired to pass safely into the mysterious land. They claim to be the only ones who can guarantee safe passage, and people are inclined to believe them. Their services aren’t cheap, though. Most journeys are either sponsored by a wealthy benefactor, or paid for by groups who pool all the coin they have left. Some people sneak in with groups who have paid, though it’s unknown how well that went for them. Travelers must be wary of fraud; there are miscreants, especially in Gateway, masquerading as Mistwalkers, who steal coin from naïve adventurers seeking passage into the Annwyn. It’s usually safe to say that the less a Mistwalker talks, the more legitimate they are.
Once one has arrived in the Annwyn, there are a variety of opportunities where one can live. Mistvale, while its housing has not been fully restored (see unfinished buildings below), seems to have no limitations on who can live there. Those who wish to take shelter in Carran, Arcton, or Ironhaven will have to pass more hurdles. Carran is taking almost no new residents right now, save those who are tightly aligned and sworn to the Bannon family. Arcton has been a bit more tolerant, but is also the furthest away from Mistvale. Arcton has also been beset by Witches of late as well, and can be less than safe. Finally, Ironhaven is locked up tight, but would be available for PCs who are from the Dusklands or sworn to the Richters. Other than that, they are allowing few others in. Dawnhaven is an option for any player who is faithful, but the conditions there are poor and getting worse as winter approaches. The rumored town Goldleaf and Moonfall are not talking. One would suspect that it would take a huge effort to find, let alone become a resident of one of those towns, even if a PC were correctly aligned.
Three Decisive moment opportunities will be available this game:
Will you lend your influence and resources to help the many common folk and others who are flocking to Mistvale for help?
Will you support the Aurorym faithful as they struggle to maintain the settlement of Dawnhaven and prepare for Winter?
Will you lend your support to the Wytch Cults as they continue to spread their influence over the Annwyn?
These Decisive Moments boxes will be available at the in-game tavern play space.
Any player can put influence tokens in any decisive moments box to contribute positively toward the effort.
Any player can also put Espionage in any box to contribute negatively toward that cause, at the rate of 2 espionage to cancel out 1 influence.
The success of a Decisive Moment will be determined based on the total positive amount of influence after espionage has been subtracted from it. Negative amounts are a suitably negative result.
Buildings, Blueprints, & Effects
The following effects are in place on the entire town:
One skill reset is available at Noon on Saturday.
Blacksmith goods of any level can be created.
Artificer goods of any level can be created.
Alchemical substances of any level can be created.
(Cirque Only) Gain 50 resources per event at a cost of six copper dragons each.
Gain one skill reset at noon on Saturday.
Forge and Metalworks
A forge and metalworks is required to create blacksmith goods of any level.
An alchemist lab is required to create alchemical substances of any level.
An artificer’s workbench is required to create
artificer items of any level.
(Noble Only) The owner of this building gains +3 influence every event.
Gain one skill reset at Midnight on Friday.
(Auron Only) Gain +4 Influence or +15 silver an event. Once per event, 25% reduction rank up costs for an Auron, Vellatora Knight, or faithful Veteran designated by the building owner.
(Menagerie Only) Every event, gain 4 espionage and 25 silver to spend on resources or items from the black market list. You also know who has access to the Black Market.
(Burgomaster Only) Gain 5 Influence to the town coffers that can only be used for Decisive Moments. Gain +1 Logistics or Architect skill level. +1 gold is added to the town coffers each game.
Outside the Annwyn
Those who are arriving from outside the Annwyn may have heard some of the following rumors about the Kingdom of Arnesse:
Civil War in the Sovereignlands
It appears as if the civil war that was brewing in the Sovereignlands for the last few years may have finally begun. It was said that an argument broke out in Court during the Darkest Night festival when a group of Aurorym claimed that the end times were upon the kingdom. After a healthy dose of ale and convincing, King Giles II agreed there was a danger and moved to decree that House Bannon must convert to the Aurorym faith. Despite his best efforts to convince his uncle, Charles, the old man turned against his nephew and the house of Bannon was thus split in two. While no battles have yet been faught, lines are being drawn and forces are being marshaled both in the Sovereignlands and the Hearthlands as Lord Paragon Frederick Blayne has agreed to lend his forces to the cause of the King. This situation threatens to tear House Bannon apart if it is not resolved. House Corveaux, with its oaths to various lords and ladies in the Sovereignlands, is rushing to attempt to resolve this conflict in a peaceful manner, but with the rise of the Aurorym in their own lands, it is getting increasingly harder for them to deny the faith.
A Royal Heir
It is said that Queen Aline Bannon is with child. After years of attempting, the Queen has taken with child, and despite the growing chaos in their own house, the King and his Court are celebrating. Some say that this good fortune was a blessing from the Dawn for Giles II’s decision to mandate conversion. Aline’s pregnancy may also have been Lord Paragon Charles' Bannon’s reason for finally moving against his nephew. As a direct blood relation to the King and the patriarch of House Bannon, Charles’ son stood to gain the throne if Giles could not produce an heir. He may see this as an opportunity to take control of the Kingdom.
The Iron Guard
To further complicate matters, the delicate balance around the Annwyn appears to have been thrown into chaos. House Richter has moved to claim the town of Gateway and the whole of the Annwyn as its own. They have moved a huge army of ten thousand Iron Guard toward the Vale of Shadow and are said to be making for Gateway in order to take control of the garrison there. Anyone coming into the Annwyn from Gateway would have seen the Mistguard making preparations for a fight. Most of them feel they have no hope as an army that size will simply overwhelm the town. Citizens are fleeing in droves, and many into the Annwyn, which, given the situation there, is out of a frying pan and into a hot fire. House Hawthorne, the northernmost vassal of House Bannon and stewards of the Vale of Shadow are said to be mustering their troops, but their force still pales in comparison to that of the Richter force.
A Second War?
In direct response to House Richter’s move, House Innis has threatened the Ironlords that if they attempt to seize Gateway they will have no choice but to attack the Dusklands. They have sent a large army out of An Rath toward the Hardinger’s lands, positioning them on the border as a show of force. In a rare show of common purpose, House Blayne has also made it clear to the Richters that if they attack Gateway and try to seize it by force, they will move to stop them. The Ironfolk will now have to make a hard decision if they want to open up a front in the Vale of Shadow Annwyn, as well as potentially be attacked on their eastern flank by the forces of House Innis. The King has remained silent on this new development, likely working feverishly behind the scenes to come to some compromise that does not see Richter and Bannon forces come to blows for the first time in as long as anyone can possibly recall.
An Ominous Silence
Most other houses have remained silent for now. The Aragons and Hales are so remote as to not be affected in a direct way, but even the shrewdest politician realizes that a war of this potential scope will draw in every house, no matter how far away. Most smart bets speculate that the Rourkes may very well be waiting to see how, and if any battle lines are drawn before they find a way to take advantage of this situation. It has not been since the Great War that the entire kingdom has devolved into open conflict. But the bones have been cast, alliances and oaths are being tested, and banners being called. For most, it is a game of brinkmanship that no one can afford to lose, especially the King, who has bet his throne on a prophecy of doom that few believe is real.