Southlands Adventure Path: Introducing Marcus Raventree, Human Bard

My local IRL gaming group, Chicago Midgard Adventures, embarked on an adventure path in the Southlands, a vast continent in the Midgard Campaign Setting published by Kobold Press

This adventure path will take our heroes from level 1 through 20.  Every other week, we’ll publish a story based on these sessions, beginning with the character introductions.  This article is Part 2 in the series.

The River Kingdom owes its entire existence to the River Nuria, for without it, there is nothing.   A common blessing that you often hear in Nuria Natal is, "May you always drink from the River Nuria.”

This great river originates far South of Nuria Natal, fed by the magical waters that tumble from the Well of Urd in the sky and onto the mysterious Black Lotus Mesa.  From there, the waters cascade from the top of the mile-high mesa, forming the Black Nurian River.  Further North, the Black Nurian River merges with the Green Nurian River in Makuria to form the massive river that gently winds its way for over a thousand miles, ending its journey as it merges with the Middle Sea. The River Nuria is life and power, and it conveys these qualities to the kingdom’s inhabitants. 

Centuries ago when the first god-kings learned how to harness the River Nuria’s magic and how to command Midgard’s ley lines, they achieved semi-divine immortality. Then, they created a powerful and clever nation to protect the magical river.  Since then, nothing in Nuria Natal is ever done in half-measures. 

Image titled Aramis by sunsetagain on DeviantArt
Image titled Aramis by sunsetagain on DeviantArt
Standing on the east bank of Nuria, Marcus Raventree stares across the mile-wide river toward the western section of the capital city.  Despite this physical separation, Nuria is one unified city, the capital of Nuria Natal and home of the God-King Thutmoses XXIII who governs from the golden Palm Palace located in the center of the eastern city.

Average in height and slight of build, Marcus has an appearance often associated with academics - well dressed but in a casual and somewhat disheveled manner.  He is attractive, but not remarkably so, with a disarming smile, swept-back hair, and a neatly trimmed mustache and goatee, he exudes an air of affability with a glint of mischief - or danger - in his eyes.

It was only the day before that Marcus completed his three year appointment as the God-King’s chief court composer and musician.  He was offered another term at the royal palace, but Marcus politely declined the honor, his wanderlust drawing him away from the capital.

Life in the royal court is similar to pit fighting, except instead of fists and feet, combat is done using elitism, position, rumors, intrigue, and innuendo.  The pirate-ruled city of Mhalmet is child’s play compared to the court of the God-King.

While at court, Marcus had constant access to Thutmoses.  He is tall, with a prominent aquiline nose, shaved head, and a glorious beard woven with gold and mithral.  But he found that the God-King is a besieged and worried man of middle years, almost sad at times.

During the war with the Mharoti Empire over a hundred years ago, seven of his royal ancestors were awoken from their tombs to help defend Nuria Natal against the dragon-armies, and now his own political power is slowly being eroded. One of the awoken kings returned to his tomb beneath the great step pyramid in Nuria, two were slain in battle against the dragon lords, and four still reside in the kingdom. 

Queen-Goddess Meskhenit, Mother of Destiny and Defender of the Realm, is the de-facto ruler of Bastet.  While independent, aloof, mysterious and ruthless, she is distant second to Bastet herself in power.

God-King Set-Amun has installed himself at the palace court as an adviser to Thutmoses and intriguer among the courtiers.  While he publicly supports the living God-King, Set-Amun subtly undermines him wherever he can. 

God-Wizard Kuluma-Siris maintains a tower in Nuria Natal, and is rumored to be enchanting new weapons and armor for the defense of the kingdom.  But no one knows for certain where the tower is located, particularly Thutmoses.  
Lastly, there’s the God-King Sut-Akhaman of Anu-Akma, leader of the Cult of Anu-Akma .  The cultists are stewards of Nurian culture and traditions in temples known as “Houses of Life.” The priests of Anu-Akma help the common people pass into the afterlife with dignity, and they ensure the continuation of the royal, divine legacy in the transition of the Cobra crown. 

The most obvious sign of Thutmoses’ worry is the increasing independence of Per-Xor and Per-Bastet, both of which still render tribute and troops to Nuria, but with increasingly loud complaints and a sense that perhaps the current God-King does not measure up to the standards of his illustrious ancestors.  

Despite the drama of court politics, Marcus had fun working for the most important lord of the land.  Proud of his humble beginnings, he received his early education at the temple school in Mhalmet, where literacy was "beaten into you with a cane,” at least that is how he tells it.  Marcus didn't truly get into poetry until the age of 15, after being inspired by his love for another student.

A musical prodigy, Marcus developed a strong interest in combining performance with magic.  After entering the Nuria University at the age of 16, he developed a particular style of storytelling involving music and illusion magic under the tutelage of one of his professors. While he sometimes will incorporate actual music and lyrics in his performances, he mostly uses his instruments as an accompaniment to storytelling, along with the subtle use of the mold earth and minor illusion cantrips to create an immersive form entertainment.

While at university, Marcus studied the seven liberal arts where he developed a passion for archeology.  Immediately after graduating, he was offered a teaching job at Nuria University, but taught students only for a few months before leaving to work on several archeological expeditions. 

Within a few years, Marcus gained fame while on various digs, becoming known as one of the best minstrels in the Northern regions of the Southlands continent, as well as a rather competent archeologist.  It was his reputation that resulted in a summons to the court of the God-King as his chief composer.

Snapping out of his daydream, Marcus watches the Queen of the River begin to dock at the edge of the vast Barge Souk after sailing from Horem-Gatra north of Nuria.  “That’s my ride out of here, and then on to Per-Bastet,” thinks Marcus.  His wanderlust triggered after finding an indigo colored plate inside an instrument that the God-King himself presented as a gift to Marcus over a year ago.  

Marcus is still young, and he is wise enough to know that there is more for him to learn, more experience to gain, more of life’s lessons to partake, and a bard college to enter.  It would be impossible to grow as a bard and archeologist living in the luxury of the palace.  Finding that plate was just the excuse he needed to strike out again, and to find out what awaits him in Per-Bastet and beyond.  

Even though he can afford the most expensive stateroom aboard the Queen of the River, Marcus signed onto Captain Asmaa Antar’s ship as an entertainer for the passengers, and duties to be otherwise determined.  Why waste precious coin on fleeting luxury.

The 20-day, 440 mile journey is scheduled to make five port-of-calls along the way to Per-Bastet in Neffero, Ushanti, Corremel, Herak, and Memphar.  The Queen of the River’s income depends on hauling cargo as well as passengers to and from these cities, which is a profitable and safe venture in these parts.  

With the ship docked, Marcus notices a Nkosi crew member on board, working the lines and helping to prepare the ship for departure.  “I must get to know that one,” Marcus whispers to himself.  “She must have some amazing stories to tell.”

Finally onboard, Marcus reports to the Captain Antar and then settles into his small, but comfortable cabin before returning to the main deck to watch the departure.  It’s rare for him to view this beautiful city from the river while he lived in court, and he certainly does not want to miss it. 

An hour later, The Queen of the River departs from Nuria, loaded with fresh food, drink, cargo, and passengers.  Marcus takes up a position on the bow before getting to work entertaining the passengers.  Now moving effortlessly upstream, the Queen of the River continues her voyage South to Per-Bastet.  “One last chance to view the wonder of Nuria from the river,” Marcus thinks.  

The capital city is full of monuments, domed temples, palm trees, and thousands of houses built of bricks made of mud from the River Nuria, sand from the desert, and straw from the farms. The entire city sprawls for miles along the riverbank, lined with magical obelisks that defends Nuria from being washed away entirely when the river floods.

Outside the city there are farms, endless fields of crops and livestock far beyond what Marcus’ eyes can see, and all of them fed by this wondrous river.  The journey south is expected to be…uneventful.  

"May you always drink from the River Nuria,” Marcus says to himself.


Marcus Raventree is a Human Bard (level 1) played by Erik.  

The lore in this story can be found in the Southlands Campaign Setting (Pathfinder) and Midgard Worldbook (5e). Both books are published by Kobold Press and used in this blog under their Community Use Policy.

Chicago Midgard Adventures is part of the Chums of Chance D&D 5e & Adventure Group, based in the western suburbs of Chicago and found on MeetUp.  We are also affiliated with Midgard Adventures, an online group of fans of the Midgard Campaign Setting.