A Dream Besieged
You look back from the roof of the ruined fort, back west towards Haven. You ignore the reek of dragon gore as you think of the homeland you have left behind.
The dream of Haven has been born. A land of freedom, where people can build a life for themselves free of tyrants and cults.
But it is a dream besieged, like a child surrounded by ravenous beasts.
To the North is the fractured land of Brevoy. Tottering towards a ruinous civil war, the ruthless families that rule the land are too distracted by their own murderous plottings and schemings to pay much attention to what happens in the ‘wildlands’ to their south. But there is a terrible will amid the chaos of Brevoy, one that steadily gathers strength, one that will inevitable gaze south one day and desire what you have built.
Greatest of all the Brevoyan families is the Surtovas, who seized the throne following the disappearance of the entire Rogarvian family. With no Ragarvian left alive, there the Dragonscale Throne is open to whoever is strong and ruthless enough to seize it. High-Regent Noleski Surtova has both in abundance and is now all but King. Yet he is haunted by visions of things to come, of a storm that will destroy not only Brevoy but all of Golarion. He obsesses over preparing his kingdom and its people for that storm, willing to make alliances and pacts with even the most terrible powers to gain aid, willing to commit any deed no matter how horrid to ensure that some will survive. Patriot or monster, the Regent believes Haven will provide some sort of bulwark against the coming storm, and as long as that is true Haven has a dark mentor whether it wants it or not.
The great houses of Brevoy plot and scheme endlessly, unable to imagine any other path. House Orlovsky remains aloof in the east, gathering forces and sullenly ignoring the Surtovan demands for open fealty. House Medved, Kavortorov and Garess also stay uncommitted but their own rivalries prevent them from joining forces. House Lebeda has enthusiastically rallied to the Surtovan cause, along with, with somewhat lesser enthusiasm, House Lodovka. All gather armies, and the only thing that is certain is that there will be bloodshed.
But House Surtova may not need any allies. Regent Noleski Surtova has gathered a horde of mercenaries, though where he gets the gold for such mobilization is a mystery. The great dwarven clans are cowed, with clan Stonehand barely surviving a siege within their deep strongholds. The churches of iomadae, Sarenrae, Desna and Abadar have been ruthlessly purged, their priesthoods hunted down, the few Sanctuaries filled with a few craven lick-spittles. A new faith is emerging, still in the shadows but all the more terrible for it, one of discipline and fire, one that tolerates no dissent.
To the South is the turbulent River Kingdoms, like Brevoy torn by strife yet harboring violent resentment towards any who would rise above the endless bloodshed and petty cruelties to build something better. Mightiest of the River Kingdoms , Mivan and Pitax, dream of adding your lands to their own, to strip them of resources to further their own petty empires.
Even in Stagsfell, the heart of Haven there are enemies. The throne has dispatched agents of the Inspectorate to ‘help’ the people root out disloyalty. And the Aspis Corporation has an outpost, manned by a party of twisted souls who may rival your own powers. Enabled by a writ from the Brevoyan throne to ‘explore’ at will, their main attention is focused on the semi-dormant world-gates scattered across the land. To what purpose you now not, but already strange beasts and odd artifacts has surfaced that truly seem to be from other worlds.
To the West is the greatest danger. In the woodlands of the Narlmarches and the festering mires beyond something ancient and alien seeks to enter this world, to take back what was once theirs so long ago the very mountains bore different shapes. The barriers between the worlds are thin here, pierced by portals that lead to a myriad of alien places. The one that seeks to enter Golarion see you and all you hold dear as vermin, fit only for extermination. This Fae deity is powerful beyond your understanding, yet you know you must face this unseen foe if Haven is to survive. Temporarily driven back, that diety bides its time, patient as only an immortal can be, ready to burst into the lands of Haven when the time is right.
Yet there is hope. You are not alone.
In the Narlmarches dwell other Fae, ones as good as the invaders you fight are dark. Led by Celendia, an immortal Fae of powers that rival her dark counterpart, she is grateful for the aid you have provided and is a true, if fickle ally. You know in the end the timeless Lady of the Woods will be at your side.
There is the fallen Nymph Daphne, who owes you her soul and relentlessly patrols the lands near your settlements, waging a solitary war against the creatures of darkness that patiently lurk in the shadows, waiting for their dark queen to rally them once more to war and rapine.
Derided by many, there are the Kobalds, ruled over by King Sootscale the wise and his vizier, Mik-Mik the sagacious. They burrow under Haven, some say heedlessly, finding great riches in the dark and growing steadily in number. Scoffed at by most, for the first time in ages the Kobolds have found strength and some wonder at what might result from such a scorned race finding out that they too can be powerful. No matter what you think of them, Sootscale is your ally, pledging his people’s future to your cause.
The Pathfinders themselves have a presence in Stagfell, lending expertise to your cause and scouting for danger. Like Aspis, they too are tempted by the incredible bounty of knowledge offered by the world-gates, but for the moment heed your command to leave the gates alone and focus on the many dangers close at hand.
And like Noleski Surtova of Brevoy, you too have attracted an army. Not deliberately, but many have flocked to your banner, a nascent army of the light to stand in the way of darkness. There are the Seekers of Redemption, a grim band of former miscreants and monsters who seek to atone for their former evil by deeds and so save their souls.
There is the army of exiles from Pitax, led by Pyotyr Borodin and his fierce companion Margery Sturmonov. Dismissed as an oaf by many, Pyotyr is wildly popular amongst his followers and displays enough cunning that makes you wonder if his oafish ways are more a screen to camouflage a discerning mind. His lover Margery is more openly intelligent, moderating Pyotr’s rashness with wisdom. Yet Margery has become withdrawn, as if torn by some inner conflict. But you have no doubt that the heir to the throne of Pitax and his followers will be by your side no matter what comes to pass.
You step back, feet deep in dragon gore, the twilight a burgeoning darkness. You must unravel the mystery of what happened to Varnhold, punish whatever destroyed this place that in many ways resembled your beloved Haven. You look East, knowing the answers lay there. You gather your weapons, for the future promises only more bloodshed.