"Take a seat, pilgrims. I'll pour you some drinks. How was your journey? Safe? I'll tell you who you have to thank for that. Wouldn't you know that Tyddyn's had its very own heroes? And I'm not just talking about Saint Eirian lying in repose under the cathedral. Stay a while, let me tell you the story…"
The three of them arrived together by carriage, but what bound them was nothing more than fate: Lady Yaroslava and the itinerant zealot, Emil, arrived from the eastern realms, over by the Heresiocracy: she looking to find her stratega's lost love; and he searching for the light that would burn away the dark shadow cast wherever he walked. Towering over them both was the giant, Mao-Ying, who traveled from a distant land in pursuit of a criminal whose bounty was his honor.
'Round this time, Tyddyn was under siege. Always had a problem with bandits on the road ever since the town grew into a great trading center as more and more pilgrims came to visit the ruins of Saint Eirian, but they were different lately, organized, brutal—an army. The heroes survived a series of attacks 'long the highway and found that their fates intertwined not just with each other, but with Tyddyn: Lady Yaroslava's man, a priest named Oleg, had gone missing recently, and the bandits were suspected; Mao-Ying's bounty, after hanging around town for a while, ended up running with the highwaymen; and Emil promised the presbyter he'd offer help to Tyddyn in exchange for a chance to commune with Eirian's relics.
Hunting bandits weren't the only good thing they done for Tyddyn, neither. You probably passed by Delwyn's farm 'long your way in. Wolves had nearly ate all of his livestock, but these three helped hunt down the pack. Delwyn was so pleased with 'em for saving his farm, he treated 'em just like family. The good lady and the foreigner weren't inclined to mingle with a poor Lyubomiran farmer, but Emil stayed with Delwyn's family every night… probably just as well, since word started gettin' around that there was somethin' strange about the man, that he bargained with the devil for sorcerous powers that he used to terrify his foes.
'Course, people had reason to be skittish 'bout black magic at work in Tyddyn. The guard had been so busy dealing with the bandits, a whole cabal of devil worshippers set up shop in the middle of town! Guard eventually got around to it and held some in stocks in the middle of town: a dark man from the heathen kingdoms and some local no-gooders, talkin' about how Lubomir were evil and the devil were truly sent by God! Can you believe it? They hanged 'em good, don't you worry. We're God-fearing folk, here.
Didn't help, neither, that there was a Pauper Knight, Sir Pajen, they'd helped along the way to Tyddyn, and though he were proper grateful for their aid, he saw Emil's powers and swore he saw the devil in it. He'd get to talking after getting some ale in him, and before you knew it, every laborer in town heard that Emil was some kind of sorceror. Hoo boy, when Emil found out who started these rumors, he came storming in here right cross with Pajen. Thought there'd be a fight, but the men must've worked something out.
Lot of people forget about this, but there were a time when people in town'd cross the street and make a sign against the evil eye whenever they crossed paths with Emil, so it seemed like the only friend he had was poor Delwyn. He even refused to speak when the demarchos gave him a platform at the celebration, but you know what he did? He called everyone to the craftsmen's square and gave a speech the likes of which I can't do justice. Had the working folk enraptured and the priests casting each other nervous looks, talking about being a warrior of God, a "paladin" like under the Holy Empire, and working wonders like no one ever seen. Saw Pajen in the crowd, I did—threw a dark glance at the spectacle and left Tyddyn that very night.
Now, even with the bandits on the run, that was only half the work done. They still ain't found Oleg or Pamphilos.
They'd found a holy symbol on a harpy that attacked them during their last foray, so they knew they'd need to go deeper into the woods and prepared for a great ordeal. They trained with the town guard, and Lady Yaroslava even won the respect of many who doubted her by humbling a bunch of 'em that ganged up on her. Mao-Ying even trained a wild bear to fight alongside him—some say it was heathen magic, while others say that the giant won the beast's respect through his great strength. Me, I think it was a little of both. And by the time they left, they'd gotten themselves some shiny new arms and armor. Not sure how they got their hands on it, but some say they saw Lady Yaroslava hand over a mighty fine antique instrument to some shady-looking gentleman who was in a real hurry to get his hands on it. I think the lady just carried more wealth on her than she wanted anyone to know about, though. Either way, they left their old gear with that farmer, Delwyn—what a charitable bunch!
During that time, some guardsmen who were clearing out the last bandit camps came back with word of a nest of harpies deep in the wood. With their preparations done, the heroes left to make a final trip into that cursed place…"