Our story finds Pipperly “Deathstorm” and Will Kane in Icevane-Wil trying to eke out a job and Deathstorm attempting to infiltrate the court of King Goranx III of Icevane at the behest of The Undying Court. Unexpectedly, Wil receives a message via hawk from a Lief Ettrian, who claims to have been recommended to his services from the tribe of Saria Shadowmoon. Lief urges Wil to travel to Calica City as he has a job that will provide steady, regular pay and would co-incide with his current more “secretive” mission from the Calican king. Simultaneously Deathstorm receives a letter from Vivian, telling her that she must report to the palace at Calica City immediately for a re-assignment. The king is in need of service, and the Court has agreed that Deathstorm is their best bet to answer the King’s call for aid yet still allow her to remain covert and work for them. Wil, never shy to see an opportunity for work, rounds up a small group of travelers willing to pay (including a poor but overeager youth named Ricky) and sets out across the cold barren tundra of Icevane. Wil soon notices 2 followers: the strange hawk who delivered his letter, but more importantly, Deathstorm, who trails behind Wil’s caravan-unable to pay but needing some direction to Celica City. Wil tentatively agrees to take her on after a display of her strength.
Far away in the Sian Republic, Judah is working on a sailing vessel when he is approached by Peyton “Kraken Killer” Ghastly. The pirate king informs Judah that he recently received a letter from King Bergen of Calica, looking for his recommendation of a person of good quality for a job that would send them into the territory of Emperor Sh’rayas the Sylvan. Peyton wants to recommend Judah, not just because the pay is good, but also because word is that somewhere on Sh’rayas’ lands there is a magical door, leading to…. somewhere unknown-perhaps off Nevermore. SInce Peyton knows Judah’s desire to leave Nevermore, he is more than happy to release his sailor from his duties… for of course a price. Judah agrees to a 60/40 split of his wages for his pending Calican employment, and Peyton sends him on his merry way, reminding Judah that at the end of the day…. he is still the boss.
Strangely enough, in the same city as Judah, “Stokes” sits at a bar, drinking away, as an official messenger of Calica finds him, bows, and presents him with a rather fancy looking scroll. It’s a request from King Bergen directly, saying the king was given his name by a former friend. Bergen offers him solid pay and a job, if he is willing and bold enough to accept his request, and tells him to report to the Calica City palace posthaste. Stokes knocks back his sherry, and stumbles to the door, looking for a ship to travel to the mainland. Judah and Stokes end up on the same ship, but barely notice each other, except for the seasick antics of Stokes as he attempts but fails to keep his composure on the rocky vessel. Stokes does make the acquaintance of another traveler, a young rather annoying fellow named Aton, who is traveling to Calica City as well to meet the girl of his dreams and also his best friend. Stokes reluctantly agrees to help Anton get to the City once they reach the mainland, in exchange for gold and some bad poetry.
All four eventually get to Calica City around the same time, and after a fairly uneventful night in the castle (all except for Stokes, who sneaks out with Thal Wunderman-a halfling chef who befriends him and treats him to a night out at a local bar), they are all summoned the next morning to meet with the King. Wil and Stokes greet each other happily, as they knew each other from previous jobs, as do Judah and Deathstorm, who fought together in the NightmareScape. Stokes, however, is rather coldly greeted by his daughter, Deathstorm, who regards him as the father figure who abandoned her literally in the cold of Icevane. However not much time is given for a reunion as Leif shows them into the throne room.
King Bergen sits on the throne, looking an imposing figure, as his 16 year old son, Prince Reeve, stands nervously off to his side. The king explains that he was given all of their names as a recommendation by people OUTSIDE of Celica that he respects or trusts to work for a specific job. The threat of Sh’rayas, he explains, grows bigger every day. The past 250 years, he has grown his empire to the point where he is on the brink of eradicating an entire country (The Nightmare Scape). An all out war on his forces may result in a victory, but it would be a close match and the cost of life would be astronomical. The only way to stay ahead of him is to gather Intel on his plans from the inside. Calica is in need of a team of heroes, a small group who can get in, gain the trust of the dictator, work for him even- BUT report back to Calica and her allies. These can’t be people that Sh’rayas knows are associated with Celica-they all have to be outsiders. Therefore King Bergen has to trust the word and recommendations of his allies. The pay is good-150 gold per person, per month. Plus any extras along the way may be kept. If they discover the secrets of Sh’rayas, Calica will reward their deeds and secret allegiance. The work is dangerous, but profitable. The heroes consider, and nod in agreement.
King Bergen further explains, the best way to get noticed by Sh’rayas is to get involved and get noticed by him. Move up in rank. Sh’rayas is looking for mercenaries and has not been shy about putting out the word that he is looking to build his forces. Once they are in, there are 3 major things he wants to know about Sh’rayas-and will pay extra to whomever can deliver upon those secrets:.
-There have been rumors of a magical door in the Shifting Sands area. This door may be a portal that leads outside of nevermore. Bergen fears Sh’rayas may be hiding troops behind this-regardless, it is a powerful magic that has not been seen before in nevermore. More information is needed.
-The forces in the Dragon Mist Isles WERE fighting against Sh’rayas’ armies, but have stopped. There have been no rumors of change of leadership, no revolts that King Bergen is aware of-just a stop. He wants to know WHY.
-King Bergen has heard rumors that Sh’rayas may have been responsible for the earthquake that separated Sternberg from mainland Calica. How he would have gained this immense power is unknown, but if he can do that again, the world will be in trouble. Do whatever you can do discover this secret.
Bergen also explains that they will have a 5th