It is Midwinter in the prosperous village of Oakhurst. Always a very tolerant society, outsiders are more than welcome, as long as they don’t get caught halfway out of someone else’s window. Unfortunately that is exactly what happened to Mac, a young tiefling rogue on his first night in town. Mac has never been a good thief, or a good liar, so when he claimed it was because he was desperately hungry and seeking food and milk, not many of the townsfolk had a care to believe. The town magistrate however took a liking to the young rogue’s (literally) devilish charm, and reduced a sentence of certain mutilation, to a fortnight in jail and a small fine.
Two weeks later, Mac, having served his jail time, decided not to heed the jailers solemn advice and clear off out of Oakhurst. Instead he went to pay a quick visit to the village inn, to see if he could pick up any work.
In Oakhurst, twice a year (once every midsummer and midwinter), a goblin tribe who occupy ruins (called the Sunless Citadel), at the bottom of a nearby ravine, sell a single piece of magical fruit to the highest bidder. A perfect ruby-red apple on the summer solstice (which grants vigor, health, and life), and a single albino apple at the winter solstice (which brings drowsiness and strange dreams, and is rumoured to connect the person who eats it with the dead). They’ve been selling these apples in Oakhurst for the last three years, and word is spreading.
As Mac entered the inn on this Midwinters day, it was very busy with villagers and strangers alike, all waiting for the goblins to arrive later that night with the fruit to sell. Upon seeing Mac, a few of the more militant types (incredulous that the young elf would have the temerity to appear) made it clear that the young lad was in for a beating. Mac quite quickly realised that the mistake was his, and that the jailer was right. He’d be lucky to escape this one, and would certainly lose everything of value. So when two elves, (one a little scary and dark and the other smooth talking and from the woods) approached him at the bar, he believed his time was up. Luckily for him these two strangers meant him no harm, and to prove as much the dark elf approached the hostile group of thugs to try and “sort” the matter out, quickly backed up by his woody companion, obviously unsure as to the wisdom of this but well used to being dragged into ill advised fights.
To Garon, the innkeeper’s, horror a serious fight was about to kick off. He had warned the young tiefling to clear off, and was even in the process of justifying that position to a number of other guests somewhat put off by his evident lack of hospitality. One such new guest was a striking young, tall, and radiant man. Resplendent in well polished chainmail, and a serious looking mace slung over his back. It seemed that Mac had another guardian angel, whose motives were potentially purer than the dubious elf double act. The man, whose name was Jordan, rose and positioned himself between the advancing elves and the pack of thugs, now bristling with half drawn steel. Jordan’s presence silenced the room. There was no need to un-sling the mace, no need to even raise his voice. Within a minute of calmly administered authority he had defused the fight, and guided the two elves back to the young teifling at the bar. The thugs left, but continued to linger outside. Garon, incredibly relieved that his bar was not about to be trashed, sat the four of them down at a table out of harms away and proceeded to serve them lunch.
News of the altercation travelled quickly.
A couple of days ago two locals, a brother and sister, formed a small adventuring party with the intention of flirting with the ravine, the Sunless Citadel and it’s often dangerous environs. They had not returned as expected, and the talk was that they had come to harm. The missing adventurers include the brother, a fighter (Talgen Hucrele), the sister, a wizard (Sharwyn Hucrele), a paladin of Pelor (Sir Braford), and a local ranger (Karakas).
Kerowyn Hucrele, a widow, mother of the missing locals, and matriarch of this rich local family, was trying to get a rescue party together, but no one was willing to do this at such short notice. Time was of the essence, and so when she heard the story of the magnetic tall young man and his new companions, she took a chance and went into the inn to speak to them. Still eating their lunch, the group quickly decided to take up the lucrative offer to rescue her children. For Jordan it was simply the right thing to do, for the other three it simply was too good to be true, and as the thugs outside were growing in number, Kerowyns offer to disperse them and allow them free passage to complete the task was an added bonus. The group’s only additional demand was that the albino apple be purchased from the goblins when they arrive, and be kept safely for them upon their return. Kerowyn quickly agreed.
It did not take the new adventuring quartet long to get on the road, and after a few hours trek they were standing by the ravine, looking into the darkness below trying to discern the shadowy towers of the Sunken, Sunless Citadel…. far below.