Post Wed Oct 09, 2013 1:33 am

A new morning

Dust swirled ahead on the road, kicked up by the boots of the adventurers walking in front of him. The low angle of the morning light illuminated every mote, and the last wisps of fog that clung to the cool ground gave the scene in front of him a hazy, dream-like quality.

A sharp pain from the old wound on his hip reminded him that this wasn’t a dream, but by all rights it could have been.

Just a few years ago the heroes of Haven were a displaced bunch of refugees camped outside of Caledonia, hoping like hell to retake their conquered home. Not too long ago a Kingdom was born, a Kingdom that faced challenges both internal and external. That Kingdom held on, changed hands, prospered and survived… only to find itself faced with a horde of enemies and threats to its very existence. It wasn’t just the Red Tear, the ancient cult of Necromancers who had plagued Phanterra since time immemorial… no, it was also the Master, a mage of stunning power whose schemes had been the undoing of more than one civilization over the years. These enemies had begun to pull at the very threads of our reality, threatening to unmake all we had built and destroy the fragile hope our sacrifices had purchased for the people of Haven.

But Haven still stood, and her enemies had been broken. A collaborative campaign of nations, led by the Haven, had shattered the Red Tear was on the verge of wiping them from the map. Haven herself had eradicated hundreds of Red Tear mages and brought freedom and safety to Gateway, Susspin and the Corsair Isles. Despite his plots and decades of planning the Master had been defeated and the corpses of his great army were burned atop the desert sands after falling to Haven’s might. The land itself, once in danger of being ravaged yet again by foul magics, was now healthy and at peace.

Korrigan stopped at the peak of Hunter’s Hill and let his friends go on ahead of him. Their conversations carried across the crisp fall air and brought a smile to his face. The Queen was chatting with Toritaka and Shea about some book they had dealt with in Gateway while Marcus plodded along behind them, ever watchful of the road ahead. Nell was reading even as she walked, prompting Kaylen to tease her and occasionally steer her away from trees and oncoming carts. They walked a bit ahead of Fafnir, Blidthe and a collection of other dwarves, whose banter and song hadn’t ceased since they left Gateway. Rothek, it seemed, was everywhere: trotting in the front of the column, running alongside, diving into bushes after rabbits and bringing them back to a smiling-but-confused Aurora. Bailey and Gideon joked with each other at the front of the column, relaxed in their stride but with arrows at the ready. A dark knot of Ga'Vin moved down the road as well, keeping mostly to themselves. Not far ahead of where he stood, Aidan and the new mage Phinkis were discussing some sort of magical spell, though the terms the two casters were using were unfamiliar to the barkeep-turned-King. Godowon stood nearby, staring off into the distance gathering his thoughts before Aidan and Phinkis pulled him off on another adventure. His eyes failed to find Cirrus for a moment and a sly grin played across his lips as he reflexively felt for his purse, but he spotted her slender Aviana form, silhouetted against the horizon and nearly to the Tipsy Traveler… far ahead of the rest of the Heroes.

More stalwart heroes walked the road that morning, and more still awaited them in the Haven. Some who had remained behind to protect the lands, others whose travels had taken them to far corners of Phanterra to battle the Red Tear and give aid to Haven’s allies, but all could now, finally, know at least a measure of rest.

Turning from the road ahead, Korrigan let his eyes fall on the many villages of the Haven. Hunter’s Hill stood tall enough that he could see much of what was happening around Haven proper from this vantage point, and what he saw left him nodding in approval. Squads of Peacemakers had arrived from the Corsair Isles and were marking places for their waystations as teams of Caretakers lay survey lines for Haven’s roads. Busy Messengers were darting to and fro, carrying messages and packages for Haven’s growing population. Schoolchildren made their way to morning lessons, guided by the sound of bells to the tidy new schoolhouses that had popped up around the Haven. Workers were already busy digging trenches and building troughs for the aqueducts that would bring running water and real sewers to Haven’s families. The Kingdom had gone from squalor to splendor in a very short time, and the progress they had made was astonishing - even to the man who had engineered Haven’s transformation.

A cry could be heard ringing out over the valley, and Korrigan’s blades flashed into his hands as he spun to face the sound. It took him a moment to understand why sounds of laughing and cheering followed so quickly after the screams he had just heard, but he suddenly realized he was facing the new Hospital. A baby had been born that morning, just seconds ago, and the cry he had heard was the first howl of a healthy child.

Leaning against a tree, Korrigan sheathed his blades and noticed his hands were shaking. His breath seemed tight in his chest and he looked down the road at his friends as they walked towards the Tipsy Traveler. The cries of a child had always given him pause… at least since the incident with his supposed half-brother so many years ago, but this was different. Korrigan shook out his hands, clasping them again and again to steady his nerves, and tried to center himself. His thoughts kept returning to the newborn, and how thanks to the efforts of his friends there was a chance that the screaming infant might have the chance to grow up in safety. That child might have the chance to find love, start a family, grow a business and have children of her own: all without the constant fear that monsters were going to tear the flesh from her bones and extinguish her dreams.

The world that would be home to that baby could have been a land of darkness and desperation, but instead it held promise and hope. Did Haven’s heroes really understand that none of this would have happened without them? So many had fought and died to see this day, Korrigan thought, and so few of those brave souls who first tried to carve a home from the madness of the Cataclysm were here to witness this new morning, but a new morning it was. The usually unemotional King found himself moved and more than a bit shaken by the onrush of feelings he experienced as he thought of Haven’s past and future, but as the sun rose in the sky Korrigan pushed himself away from the tree and began striding down the road.

Protecting the people of this kingdom from suffering would take work. Making a land safe for the dreams of Haven’s people would require more blood, sweat and sacrifice from Haven’s heroes, but it was a price they were willing to pay. Plank Tennyson had written about “The Haven Fallacy”, but thanks to the efforts of a few brave souls it was a fallacy no longer. The Kingdom of Haven was a true haven from the horrors that had once stalked the land, and Haven’s King walked into his kingdom resolved to keep it that way.
GM-Taki - Final Haven GM, Winter Haven GM, Editor of the Rulebook Project.