This is session 1 one of my Ironsworn playthrough. The story of Zanita, a young Warden eager to prove her worth. Zanita comes from the wealthy town of Raven Wood that sits on the crossroads of the Flooded Lands, The Deep Wilds and Southern edge of the Havens. Raven Wood has decent relations with the Elves, their hunters are allowed to enter the woods on the condition that they don’t delve too far. Zanita, however, has no love for the Elves. They killed her parents for ‘tresspass’ in the early days of settlement and she was raised by Caersun, a local warden that taught her to survive.

Zanita is strong, nimble and stealthy but not necessarily great with people. She’s brash and forthrite with little time for intricacy and now she’s got a job to do.

I was in the River Rat with Adda, it’d been a day. Finally finished my training and went out to celebrate with a few drinks but what happened? Caersun turned up. My fucking captain, on my night out, turned up and gave me a job. No rest for the best she said. Well flattery might get you graces from some, but not me.

There’d been a spate of murders, looked like ritual killings. The scene was always the same, a single person home, throat slit, the body carefully laid out in the hearthroom. Organs removed and placed in a circle around them and a single rune carved into their forehead. I’d been tasked with investigating it and had sworn on my and my parents honour that I would find this killer and bring them to justice.

[Swear an Iron Vow: Strong Hit]

First thing’s first, I needed to have a look at one the victims and find out what that rune meant.

The next morning I made my way down to the House of the Dead to see Kimura about the corpses and that rune. She’s a rude cow with a heart of stone and I’m pretty sure she’s never used a fucking hairbrush in her life but the Gods only know she’s a damn genius when it comes to bodies and what makes ‘em tick.

[Gather Information: Weak Hit]

Kimura couldn’t tell me much that I didn’t already know, except one thing. The rune looked Elven. Fucking Elves. Well shit. The last thing I wanted to do was get those wiry fucks involved but it was starting to look like I didn’t have much choice.

There had to be someone else in town I could turn to for some information on the rune but I’d have to keep it discreet. Caersun told me to keep this quiet. She didn’t want panic breaking out and there were enough rumours flying about the place as it was. But who else might know about Elven runes and weird rituals?

[Ask The Oracle (Does anyone else in the village know about this stuff: Unlikely): Yes]

The it hit me, what about Nakura? He was into all that lore shit, man had an unhealthy thing for Elves. Maybe he could help. So that was that. A trek out to the plain but if it meant not having to enter the forest I was all for it. To the hells with Elves. Arrogant, spindly fucks.

Anyway, the exercise’d do me good and Poe’d been itching to spread his wings. Off we went.

It wasn’t a long hike out to Nakura’s place. A couple of hours down the well trod path to the farmsteads. Even saw a few farmers taking goods into town on the way. But it would be hitting dusk by the time I arrived and I was going to need somewhere to sleep. Thankfully Nakura was all about hospitality.

I finally arrived as the evening chill was just starting to set in. Knocked and waited.

[Gather Information: Strong Hit]

Nakura opened the door.

“Ev’nin’ Zan, whatcha doin' out this way of an eve?"

“Official business Nakura, mind if I come in an' have a chat?"

He noted the Warden’s mark I now wore on my furs

“oh aye, and congratulations on t’mark”

“Yeah, cheers, anyway it’s brass tits out here”

“Ha, O’course, get ye inside”

I stepped in. Nakura’s place was big, even by farmstead standards. His family had been one of the first to settle Raven Wood but had chosen not to sit on the council. They cared more for the land than politics. Fair play to them.

“What’s this all about then?" He asked.

“D’you recognise this?" I held up a scrap of parchment with the rune on it.

“Aye, that’s Elf writ. It means…" He thought for a moment, “Well it doesn’t translate to our tongue easily but roughly, it means ‘Follow’. What’s this about?"

"‘Follow’? Great, more cryptic Elf flap”

“Well” he said, “Elf writ is all about context like. Where was it writ?"

“Look, if I tell you, you need to keep it hush. If people find out, there’ll be panic and it’ll be my head on the block for it”

“Alright, you’ve my word” He looked concerned, not surprising given what I’d said

“You heard about those people turning up dead lately? Well this was carved on every one of their foreheads."

His face darkened, eyebrows furrowed, I could see this was bad news.

“Oh aye, then what you’ve got there is a rite”

“I’d figured that much but what kind of rite? I need to find who’s doing this Nak, and I need to stop them from doing it again."

[Ask the Oracle (Is the killer even human?: 50/50): No]

“It’s a rite of passage” he said, crestfallen “Not Elf though, something older, something even they fear”

“Well what then? What could the Elves possibly fear?"

“A ghoul” it was almost a whisper, like the word itself was cursed and he didn’t want it on the wind for fear of what it might bring. “Check the bodies again Zan, there should be some bits missing, an organ, an eye, some flesh, summat will be taken”

“What for?"

“Offspring."

That chilled me. I felt sick to my stomach, the kind of cold void that fills you when you think about your own death. This… thing was killing my people so it could make more of itself. This wasn’t just a murderer, it was some kind of demon…