The Tide Hammer

Dark Tides
Prologue

Fear grips the people of Thedas once more as threat of a new Blight spreads across the land. Like some ominous tide, it is said that hordes of Darkspawn have begun to wash over the coastal cities of Ferelden, while whispers dart across taverns that a similar fate has befallen the peoples of other nations such as Orlais, the Free Marches and Antiva. As war-worn armies scramble to mount a defense against these brutal and swift attacks, many folk flee inland, choking the roads with refugees, while others take to the sea in hopes of reaching a city that isn’t wracked with fear and turmoil.

All is not lost however. Word has it that great forces from all nations are marshaling at Amarthine and Alamar, readying themselves to face the Blight and providing safe haven to those who rally there. All you have to do is get there.

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Episode 01
The Deep Roads

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Campaign Date: 9 Harvestmere, 930
Fleeing West Hill, a ragtag group of heroes more aptly called fortune hunters makes their way towards the Deep Roads, where the barely scrupulous dwarf, Tortho, insists that smugglers have left a vast fortune. The heroes’ efforts are complicated when they discover a band of refugees seeking safe passage out of town. The two groups make a pact, and descend into the Deep Roads.

Each hero proves their worth in the Deep Roads: Sun, an apostate with a mercenary attitude helps the group navigate the labyrinth of dwarf-made passages. The cautious and quiet Fif warned of impending dangers. And the well-spoken warrior Stefan helped the group and its refugee followers stay calm and collected. Deep within the complex, the heroes discovered an ancient lantern, with archaic runes etched upon the surface. More mysteriously, the lantern flickered to life just moments before Darkspawn charged down the tunnel. Dispatching the threat quickly, although not without great injury to the young Antivan girl Rosalin, the group fled through the tunnels as more of the creatures started to close upon them.

Their path ended at a massive drop-off, where the underground road emerged from a cliff side, with the crashing water far below and a system of pulleys that descended to an abandoned smuggler’s ship, which the heroes later discover is named The Tide Hammer. With Darkspawn closing in, the heroes raced down the ropes to the ship as the hideous monsters rained axes upon them. After valiantly securing the ship with all the refuges aboard, the heroes discovered what killed the ship’s original inhabitants – a massive spider. As Genlocks leapt from the pulleys down to the ship the heroes managed to finish off the spider, push the ship off shore and finish off the last of the Darkspawn.

Safely aboard and managing what they could to direct the ship out of the hidden bay, a fierce debate broke out as to where the heroes should head first. Some of the refugees wanted nothing more than to meet up with their families in the towns of Highever and Kirkwall, while other had no where to go at all. In the end, the group set course for Kirkwall where they could drop off a few of the passengers, pick up supplies, and perhaps hear what fates have befallen the other coastal nations of Thedas.

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Episode 02
Strange Company

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The heroes, after a few days of getting their sea legs, started their journey north to Kirkwall. Everyone on the ship, from the heroes to the refugees pitched in to guide the ship to her destination. Despite presenting a few mysteries as to its previous owners, the Tide Hammer served them well in their journey across the Waking Sea.

A few days in, the heroes found their first taste of the Darkspawn at sea – a dark island, silhouetted by an ominous red glow. The heroes’ Darkspawn sensing lantern flickered to life as they sailed past the island, hoping to escape notice. As if to spy on them, a flock of diseased crows from the island quickly descended upon the heroes and left after the Apostate Sun turned one of them into a living bomb.

With barely a day to rest, the heroes came upon a slave ship, on fire and taking on water with the victims still trapped on board. A quick battle to free them found the heroes with an even more disparate band of followers, including a Qunari, a Templar, a carpenter, a young woman and her brother Martis, an Apostate with terrible power. Despite warnings from the Templar, the heroes agreed to take all of them back to the Tide Hammer. Fif gained a loyal companion in the form of Lors, the Qunari whom he rescued.

With tensions rising from the appearance of Darkspawn as well as the dangerous combination of crewmembers on board, disaster struck the drunken helmsman made a pass at Martis’ sister, and the demon, which he barely controlled, was freed. A creature of rage and anger began to unleash destruction, destroying Gjorn outright while setting fire to the ship. The heroes scrambled – Fif putting out fires, while Stefan protected those crewmembers he could. Not wanting to outright kill a fellow Apostate, Sun opted to enter the Fade to try and purge the demon in a battle of wills. Although successful, the efforts were ultimately tragic when the demon fled Martis’ body and inhabited the boy, Merit. The heroes had no choice but to end his life before the demon could.

Down a few members, the heroes now sail into Kirkwall, not entirely sure where fate will take them.

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Episode 03
Welcome to Kirkwall

As the heroes made their final approach to Kirkwall, they held a secret meeting to determine their fortunes moving forward. Kirkwall would be their first chance to rest and perhaps a chance to ignore the growing Blight altogether, at least for a while. While tempting, the group ultimately decided to press onward together towards Alamar and Amarthine, in hopes that the rumors of armies rallying there to fight the Darkspawn were true. With the hard travels ahead of them beyond Kirkwall, the heroes justly gave nearly everyone a chance to stay aboard or leave. Old man Vyris and the cowardly guard Edwin both departed, while the heroes escorted Martisto the Templars where he could be monitored and hopefully, trained.
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With such matters attended to, the heroes set about exploring Kirkwall to gather crew, supplies and perhaps a couple jobs. The Kirkwall they hoped for and what they found were two different things however. Driven to a panic by rumors of the Blight, the people of Lowtown have been barricaded into their district to prevent a mass exodus. Meanwhile, with all the town guards occupied with keeping the populace segregated, crime has run rampant in Lowtown with a gang of elves aiming to carve their place within Kirkwall. As the heroes struggled to help those they could within Lowtown, while also searching for opportunities throughout the city, rumors of a Grey Warden turned thief surfaced with a 50 Sovereign bounty on her head and both the Templars and town guards in hot pursuit.

With the city at a boiling point, and only a few days left before the military drafts all remaining ships into its standing navy, the Fif, Stefanand Sunhave decided to enter the chase after the Grey Warden by descending into Dark Town – a place of ill-repute where the city’s most desperate criminals and most destitute victims skulk about in shadows.

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Episode 04
Kirkwall, City in Chaos

After attending to the business of acquiring a new navigator, crew and the dockmaster Malindrin and his mysterious crew, the heroes set their sights on tracking down the 50 sovereign bounty.

The dark and miserable recesses of Darktown hid more than just people from the group of heroes as they sought out the rogue Grey Warden. Tortho, the dwarf that’s as untrustworthy as he is round, sold the group out to murderous thugs after he spotted Stefan talking with rival dwarf Bolduin. A short and brutal fight ensued during which Tortho slinked away to never be seen by the group again.

After a muck-filled interrogation of the thug’s leader involving the sewers of Darktown, the heroes were able to find the whereabouts of the Grey Warden. Following their clues to the refineries of Darktown, the heroes found the Warden at the same time she spotted them. A chase through Darktown ensued, with all three heroes chasing her up into Lowtown. Once in the open markets, a shove from Fif, a crack of the staff from Sun and a quick reversal from Stefan found the Grey Warden pinned.

A series of fiery exchanges between the group and their new Grey Warden captive resulted in an aligning of goals, although no foundation of trust from either group. Regardless, the group smuggled the Grey Warden aboard the Tide Hammer and along with their new crew, the group quickly departed Kirkwall before riots threw the city completely into chaos.

Now the heroes find themselves feeling at home in the open seas, safer on ship than they ever were in the city of Kirkwall. The Grey Warden, Talia de Castille explained to the group that their fight against the Blight will require them to find either an Elven Keeper, an Avarrian Loremaster, a Chantry archivist or Chronicler from Antiva. However, their course is already set for Highever to deliver the Dockmaster Malindrin, with the city of Ostwick next to find a Chronicler.

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Episode 05
Journey to Highever

Campaign Date: 30 Harvestmere, 930
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On the open sea once again, the heroes find themselves leading a crew of able sailors and loyal followers as they work their way towards the city of Highever. At least for the moment, near everyone on board is able to forget the darkness of the world around them. To them, the open sea means freedom from the oppression and horror of the Dark Spawn.

The merriment came to an end when the Tide Hammer and its crew came upon a shipwrecked sloop bearing an uncanny resemblance to their own. Called the Last Sojourn, this ship was the same size and shape, had the same details and the same figurehead. The only thing that differentiated it from the Tide Hammer was the mass of chains that seemed to wrap around the hull. Despite spotting an ominous black spot approaching on the horizon, curiosity got the better of the heroes. Eager to learn more about their own ship, the heroes ordered the crew of the Tide Hammer to be on high alert as they anchored near the ship to investigate further. Braving the frigid waters of the Waking Sea, Fif, Stefan, Sun and Lors all jumped in and swam towards the broken and battered Last Sojourn.

Stefan and Lors explored the captain’s quarters, finding the captain’s chest, sealed airtight and submerged. After enough struggling, and a moment of true fear upon discovering the deceased captain’s skeleton still clung tightly to the chest, they managed to wrestle the chest free. Meanwhile, Sun found a crate of weapons and a mostly intact ballista which he managed to help pull aboard the Tide Hammer thanks to some cunning rope use and barked commands. Lastly, Fif braved the deepest of the waters to see if the Last Sojourn had the same mysterious door as the Tide Hammer. What he discovered was the source of the chains the wrapped around the ship, all leading to some sort of shadowy figure that couldn’t be made out in the murky waters. Unwilling to investigate further, and with the lure of gold and weapons left behind elsewhere on the ship, Fif abandoned his investigation and returned to the surface as did his companions.

What greeted them was not the cheers of an excited crew about to count their loot, but a fearful one. The black spot on the horizon had become a massive longship, wreathed in ominous black tendrils that seemed to pull it forward through the water. The Tide Hammer lifted anchor, turned around and billowed out its sails in an attempt to flee. Stefan barked commands and words of encouragement while Sun walked among the crew, making sure the orders were fulfilled and the crew stayed strong. Fif kept to the rigging, working the sails and ropes to keep the Tide Hammer moving as fast as possible. Although the ship had never sailed faster, the Dark Spawn monstrosity kept on their tail, and their situation worsened when their navigator Gilmont, previously injured in a battle with Dark Spawn suddenly grew ill.

Quick thinking, a wartime promotion of one of the sailors and a monumental effort on everyone’s part pulled the Tide Hammer ahead, and eventually free from the Dark Spawn ship. Relieved, exhausted and fearful, the heroes decided to recover and reward their crew before immediately setting off back towards Highever. This also gave the heroes the chance to count their loot from the Last Sojourn – a cache of masterwork dwarven weapons, a collection of glowstones, a captains log whose ink only appears in the light of a Dwarven brazier, and the key to the mysterious door in the hold of their ship. Upon recollecting the fate of the Last Sojourn and its lower hold, the heroes are reluctant to see what powerful force lays trapped beneath their ship.

They now approach Highever a bit more cautiously than before, eager to reach the city where they can continue to search for answers about the Bligth and their ship.

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Episode 06
Storms of Highever

Captain’s Log: 31 Harvestmere 930

It has become apparent that the daily workings and travel aboard a ship demand a travel log, and as we intend to spend quite a bit of time on The Tidehammer we must comport ourselves as true mariners.

After escaping from the creeping menace of the blighted ship we treated ourselves and our crew to a feast of sorts, at least the best that we could provide. Unfortunately Dr. Sun and myself were unable to fully enjoy ourselves as we went below to care for the stricken Gilmont as best we could. Seeing no alternative we were forced to amputate his infected arm, even though we both feared it was too late. While Fif watched the stairway and the dashing Talia de Castille distracted the crew with a competition of story-telling we went to work. I must comment that Sun handled himself as a true professional, working with sure hands, a steady eye, and an iron façade, far better than myself in fact. Unfortunately our actions were for naught; Gilmont still succumbed to the corruption that had infected him and Sun was forced to dispatch him from this world as many of us were occupied with a fierce squall that had blown up.

Running before the storm brought us closer to Highever, an ominous prospect, but also inflicted some severe damage on our vessel, costing us some supplies and some of the merchandise we carried for the Kirkwall dockmaster Malyndrin. It was in this sorry state that we limped into the harbor of Highever, a city that had once been my home but was in truth now as alien as any of the cities in the Free Marches. We had scarcely secured ourselves when a company of guards accompanying a city official boarded us and blatantly tried to poach our crew off of our very deck, promising them riches and glory in the Faran Guard.

Apparently the city had its own share of troubles outside of the blight, mainly being a group of renegades called The Arimathros, rebels bent on disposing the traitor Quentyn Howle. Being in disguise, in order to avoid any of the traitors’ forces that would recognize me, I was unable to confront the recruiter directly. However, due to “captain “ Sun and Fif’s arguments as well as the close bond we all shared on the ship we only lost a couple of minor sailors; but above all else I was able to spot and recognize the Commander, Devlin Cooseland, the last friendly face I saw in Fereldan and a true man to the Carroways.

Seeing him reminded me of my last days in my homeland, when he and the mage Celanawe had taken me to a secluded area for “training,” but in reality to protect a younger and stupider Stefan from the Arl’s assassins. After the failed attempt on our lives and Cooseland’s impressive display of swordsmanship that saved us all I was hustled to a hidden ship and spirited away to the Free Marches. Now that we have returned my companions have agreed to help me in my search for missing family, I am thankful for such friends and only hope our search proves fruitful in the morrow, as well that my resolve stands firm to pursue the true enemy of men.

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Episode 07
Storms of Highever Part 2

Captain’s Log: 9 Firstfall 930

It is with mixed feelings that we leave Highever behind, after many a harrowing day we are pleased to have survived both bodily and as a group. It is, however, with a heavy heart but a lightness of spirit that we leave my sister Avenisa, and her followers to a fate of their own design.

After the first night in Highever the crew and myself scattered throughout the city to seek supplies and information. As the doctor paid a visit to the market place in search of arms and armor for our quickly growing crew mate, Rosalin, I traveled to the canal sector located in the shadow of the great keep, my former home, in search of information pertaining to my lost family. Fif scoured the docks for raw materials and crew but encountered a bit more than he bargained for; after a serious bout of drinking we were all surprised, not least of all Fif himself, that he had secured the services of Sigmund, a master artillerist of fierce appearance and worrisome appetite. For a “slightly” inflated fee he has fixed our ballista and promised to serve as a sergeant-of-arms on our travels.

Our other efforts proved fruitful as well, if not very disconcerting. By questioning a variety of the denizens of Highever we learned that not only was my sister still alive, but returned and playing a major role in the hierarchy of the Arimathros. Unfortunately her situation was dire indeed, having been poisoned in a failed mission against the Arl and on deaths door. With Fif, and a harlot, acting as my go-betweens we were able to meet with Celanawe to learn the extent of the crisis. With time of the essence we three quickly procured horses and made all haste to the King’s Forest in search of a sprig of Maker’s Mist, an herb rumored to have potent healing power.

While our steeds served us well they were taken from us on the edge of the King’s Forest, along with our weapons, by band of Dalish outlaws. Rather than killing us out of hand they offered us a chance; to complete the rites of passage all of them go through and returning to them alive. Bereft of our weapons and steeds as well as under the threat of Avenisa succumbing to the poison at any minute it seemed an unlikely prospect, but one we would endeavor to overcome.

Over the next three days we not only battled the elements but blighted wolves as well. We finally came to our destination, a cave and burial chamber high in the mountains. Makers Mist was found growing around the entrance but we were forced to delve deeper to find the true herb, known to shimmer when exposed to moonlight. While we found much of it inside we also encountered its guardian, an elven shade that proved immune to our mundane weapons. Powerless to fight it Fif and myself did our best to gather the herbs while Sun pit his magical power against that of the ancient sentinel. If not for his help we would have surely succumbed to this evil, as its touch breached not only my armor but tore at my very soul.

Seeking a short cut home we ventured into a secret passage and through the very heart of the mountains. The other side did not prove to be any faster but did reveal the ruins of a lost city, known as Dal Riata, which had a palatable air of power. Forgoing any further exploration we hurried as best we could towards where we thought the Dalish camp was; poor weather and violent terrain proved our better and separated me from my companions, I bade them continue with the mission and did my best to find my own way back. Through pure grit, and not a little luck, we were able to convene back at The Standing Stones, an inn that served as a front for the resistance, and administer the herb to save poor Avenisa. Yet at that moment, finally reunited with my family and my home which I had long sought I found I was yet unfulfilled. If truth be told it was that moment of choice that has given me true purpose and vision, that my family is indeed those aboard the Tidehammer and our mission to fight the blight takes precedence over any petty squabbles of who’s sigil flies on a castle wall.

Before Avisa could awaken I gave up any claim to the throne that should have once been mine and we all returned to our ship, the only haven I have known in these dark times. We sail for Ostwick at Talia’s bequest, once Fif returns from his mission regarding something he calls a “Bannhammer,” perhaps it is a weapon to use against the darkspawn when at sea?

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