The thunderous sound of a massive stone door closing is the first thing you hear. You stand on smooth dirt, strewn with weeds, clinging shrubbery and the occasional stone. The air is cold, above freezing but only just. The persistent wind does little help the unpleasantness. The air is clinging and damp, and a light mist swirls about your feet.
Above you tower the walls of a deep but narrow canyon, its walls a yellowish gray stone. The top lets a little harsh sunlight shine down, bouncing from rock to rock. From here it is impossible to tell the time of day, or even the weather. A twisted, rough-shod sort of path winds away between the rocks, and in that direction the crevasse takes a sharp turn out of sight. In the other direction, seemingly the direction from which you came, towers a gargantuan double sided door of carved stone, seemingly the same as that of the canyon. Cracks and crags line its surface, and a kind of pale, stubborn moss, patches it’s surface here and there. Inlaid in the doorway, you can just barely make out a pair of carved figures, each seemingly crying or prostrating in despair. The doors are massive, at least a dozen feet tall and clearly thick. Their seal seems infinitely tight, even at a glance, and there are no handles. The door is framed with similar thick, unforgiving stone forming a solid seal to each canyon wall, and upwards to out of sight. The way back is surely and tightly blocked.
You take a moment to take it all in before you realize, languidly, that you are not alone. In the cold, windy shade before the imposing doors stand three others. You study them. Each is dirty, clearly road weary, and heavily equipped, as if for a long journey. Their faces gaze mutely back at you, studying you in kind. Adventurers, you suspect, or mercenaries. You notice, slowly, that each of them holds in their hand a weapon, bared, though none look prepared to leap to use their tools. You realize you, too, have your weapon out.
It is only now, studying these strangers, that one, critical realization strikes you, ringing like a bell: you have no idea where you are. You do not know when it is. You do not know who any of these strangers are, what they are doing in your company, or why they appear ready to fight. Most importantly, and strangest of all… you do not even know who you are. The thought is not a frightening one, it is merely a fact. Everything is gone, but You are intact. Your personality, your morals, your knowledge (though, curiously, scrubbed of any context) all seems to be there. You even have an awareness of exactly what you look like. You know your name… at least you think it belongs to you. Everything is inside you… except you. Through your bewildered haze, you notice the other three all bear similar expressions of confusion, but not of fear.
Where… and what is this place? Who are these travelers? Friends? Foes? Are you alive… or dead? And most importantly… what do you do now?
So the journey began. Four travelers, bereft of all memories, stood before the great doors. Elian, an Elven cleric of human gods, bearing a sword and shield. Paul, a musician and scoundrel, his fine rapier at the ready. Ash, a human expert, with a single long knife. Anabelle, a wizard with a kind demeanor.
A piece of paper, evidently a map, attempted to flutter away on the wind, only to be intercepted by Anabelle and Elian. After some discussion, the party decided to pocket the map and the ancient dagger that had been holding it, and continue as a group down the canyon.
Along the path up the canyon wall, the company of strangers discovered a large gap baring the way. A rope bridge had collapsed, seemingly due to the weight of a man and his horse, who now mouldered as a pair of corpses at the bottom of the gap. The group decided to climb down into the hole and up the other side, using their ropes. Anabelle was the first down into the gap. As she walked across to investigate the bodies, the man’s corpse sprung to action, clawing its way out from under the horse. Its eyes were misty and pouring glowing smoke, and its actions showed a clear and immediate malice towards the living.
The company rapidly set about burning and stabbing the walking corpse, but were unable to prevent it from savagely clawing Anabelle into a state of near death. As things began to look dire, Ash leaped down from above and lopped the creatures head off. Anabelle was restored to consciousness by the ministrations of Elian, and the company continued on, somewhat more cautiously.
At the top of the path, the party came upon a wide ledge, with the ruins of some ancient stone circle or structure strewn about. It was here the party met the first person of their new lives. A strange pale woman, clothed in raven’s feathers. She told them her name was Morigan, and gave them some cryptic answers to their burgeoning questions. She told them everyone here had no memories, and that she herself knew not why. She did tell the party if they wanted to know the answers to “Seek the first throne where sits the last king”
Paul, feeling a strange spirituality about the mysterious woman, pulled out his Lyre and sang a song of an ancient moon goddess, dedicating it to her. Morigan thanked him, and the party moved on.
At the bottom of the path, as the party entered into the marshes that lay below the mountains, the company found a hut, and a small lake. The old man fishing their identified himself as Gregor, and was quite hospitable. He answered many of the parties questions as honestly and truthfully as he could:
No one here grows old, none are born. If you die, you rise again as a walking corpse unless an ancient platinum coin is placed in your mouth. Most who rise are “hollow men” the unthinking dead. Some rise thinking and hating, and can command the hollow ones. None remember their lives before this place. To the south, along the coast, there is a settlement called Covish where he advises the party to go. There are elves called the Seekers somewhere to the south, and the townsfolk of Covish do not trust them.
He advised the party to head quickly, as he felt a great storm coming. He said they can take the old road east by southeast, but that it was a long way around the blackmarsh and the crevasse, and moreover that the road was beset with bandits allied with ‘the court of hunger’: some mad cultists. Due south lay the old Aelith road, which came close to the crevasse and a bridge across it. This was his advised path. The road, he said, turns west and goes all the way to the coast, where one can find an Aelith ruin that is safe ground and shelter from the storm, but may draw the attention of monsters. The swamps are beset with Ogres, Gibberers, Hollow men and “worse”.
The party tookoff quickly along the old Aelith road as the weather worsens. The rain came down rapidly, turning into a cold monsoon before the afternoon was up. The company foun the bend in the road, and followed the mud path down towards the rickety rope bridge Gregor spoke of. Unfortunately, the water had washed away the road. Ash took a leap across the torrent blocking the way, and stumbled into a crazed Gibbering Mouther. After a savage fight, the mouther was downed, but Ash had fallen into the water and clung to a root to stay alive. After a hasty rescue, in which Anabelle is almost drowned herself, the party turned west towards the ruin, saying good riddance to the hazardous route.
As Ash and Anabelle’s hypothermia worsened, the party came to the gate of the ancient Aelish ruin, a fortified town atop an earthwork mound. Inside the crumbling walls, they found an unusually tree-like ogre tending a fire and cooking himself a sheep. Paul immediately attempted to calm the beast with soothing music from a music box he carried, which had the effect of confusion the creature. After being offered gold, and reassure that the group meant no harm, the ogre, named Gorum, let them share his fire. Gorum was not fully becalmed, however, until Paul sung the creature a sad lullaby, sending it off to sleep.
So ended the first day.
Upon waking, the ogre Gorum decided to let the company live, and wandered on his way. After collecting their belongings, the company headed down to the south gate of the Aelith ruin. It was there the party had a nigh disastrous run in with a group of Hollow Men and their Wight commander. Encountering more than a half-dozen skeletal corpses fighting a gibberer, the party debated distraction or running past, but failed to make good on their plans due to clumsiness.
The fight was long and bloody, and every member of the group was injured critically during the battle. Ash and Elian both came almost to deaths door, and all four members lost consciousness at least once during the fighting. Due to luck, perseverance and clever tactics, the party eventually felled the foul creatures. Sparing a single platinum coin to set the Wight to rest, the party gathered their wits and continued down to coast, to Covish town.