The Grey Season of 2189 will be remembered as uncommonly mild, but the White Season must be remembered as uncommonly bitter. The High Forest of Skrauner is known to be inhospitable in the cold seasons under even the best circumstances – and so over the past pair of months it is a wonder that the four of you have survived at all. Food has been scarce and at times it seems you have missed more meals than you have taken. The game you have snared is all scrawny and underfed and the brutal winter has put a near halt to smuggling activity – the very blood of the Skrauner Wood. It is as if the high forest were a body – now frozen. Instead of aid or assistance from the camp of Eagle-Eye Roland your ersatz patron – you receive news of death by illness and starvation. You yourselves are not immune from the hostile conditions. Snowbound – you've spent at least two weeks bound to your houses in the strange grove of the Mountain God. Gums weak you've found clumps of hair and even the occasional tooth in the basin during your morning ablutions, or perhaps you've misplaced a fingertip or a toe in the aweful chill of bitter winter in the high forest.
All the parties of the forest have faired badly, some far worse than yourselves. In the past month you've taken on a few stragglers, members of smuggling bands now disbanded due to mutiny, starvation or worse. Five men with the Tall Axes of the southern Yoyue now live in the Mountain God's village – all that remains of a company of Hall-Axe condotta. A Pair of Roland's own archers have come to serve as hunters and scouts and as well there are the assorted camp followers – a trio of forest women – their houses broken by the terrible winter have come in search of succor and as well there are the orphaned affiliates of those camps you have broken by violence and sword – for the bitter winter has done little to increase the wealth of the Smuggling barons of the Skrauner – but it has inflamed their rivalries and Roland has made great use of your primary talents as mercenary executioners. You have put down many minor bands as well as the hunting incursions of the neighboring barons – trade being less useful in these desperate times than game. In all your reputations have been secured, this has been proven as on one occasion it fell to you to repel two separate attempts at assassination staged by the anarchic minions of Lotor and the hard pressed agents of Finestre. In both instances the peculiar layout of your spare little village has proved highly functional.
As the 37th White Day dawns this is what you know of the Skrauner wood and this is what you anticipate:
- The Skrauner Wood is divided into bandit-prncipalities.
The Strongest of these is that of Manfredt – which occupies the Northern edge of the forest. Manfredt is supported to some degree by Tunkannyl Florian – who has all but abandoned his responsibility to maintain law and order in the forest – as he is consumed by his ongoing campaigns against neighboring Rosecrown.
Roland is perhaps the second strongest militarily, in no small part due to you and your growing company of mercenaries.
Galba – far to the south is the most successful and secretive of the smuggler barons, it is clear he has some external patronage but who and where is unknown. You have had very little engagement with Galba or his agents – although they apparently press very hard on Finestre.
Finestre is in the weakest position of all the Barons. Trapped between ambitious Roland and powerful Glaba, his territory diminishes by the day and his best mercenaries have all found an untimely death – most of them at your hands. Finestre had been an ally of the Chamberlain, but his reversing fortunes have plunged him into a sort of solitude.
Lotor is the most dangerous of the Bandit Barons. Barely an authority at all, Lotor's gangs are basically murderous pirates who brazenly interfere with the clandestine trafficking of the other barons. Lotor and his band would certainly have been exterminated by now if not for their lack of any central base or operation. They have proven elusive and difficult to track.
Corianus and his band is uncommon and unique in the Skrauner wood. They do not transport smuggle the riches of Rosecrown into the East, but rather traffic the swords of Solemnwell into the temperate west. Corianus, much research has revealed, is a follower of the Poisoned Sword – a heretic tradition of the
Events have progressed outside of the Skrauner Wood as well.
In Rosecrown – the
In the Swardjohm there has been a minor coup. The local priests of the
Outside Solemnnwell there are rumors that the eastern neighbor – Nightcandle – has begun to suffer from interference from their Euye Neighbor – Stormhorse. The details are shrouded in mystery, but it is known that the Chamberlain has some stake in these events.
You communicate with the chamberlain mainly through coded messages that arrive by pigeon. Communication with Roland is by messenger.
Your camp, initially consisting of yourselves and the irrepressible Trudo (called Double-Lucky) has grown to include the following notables:
Fabricio Klial Goldendream – A native of Great Klial, Fabricio has fled the easy life in the capitol. Entranced by the Yoyue traditions he joined a condotta company of Emberbark Hall-Axemen. After many reversals and much misfortune here in the Skrauner Wood he has come to be the Sarjent commander of the four remaining members of his little company. He has sworn loyalty to your company – as you have generously taken him and his 4 soldiers in. He is loyal, effective and good natured but ruthless when it is called for.
His Soldiers now number 4 but once their legion was composed of more than a hundred highly trained mercenaries. They have been crushed by military failures, the hard weather and desertion so that now they only the five of them.
Gasdoe the Skraunerman – A Skrauner native and agent of Roland – Gasdoe is an able hunter and skillful archer, he has wintered with you and is largely responsible for your ongoing survival. He has an adolescent son who always accompanies him.
Claudine Swardjohm – Once the Patroness of the Whipsnake style and among the leaders of the Ruylishean in Swardjohm, Claudine was defeated by the Church duelist, now, crippled and defeated she has come to find her once most favored student – Lilith in the hopes of convincing her to take up her sword and rescue the Ruylishean from the Church's hegemony.
There are at least 10 other people living in your camp at any given time. All of them regard the four of you as their patrons and leaders.