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<u>Sanctum</u>

The sun sets and a warm summer breeze blows through the trees. The crimson moon hangs low and full in the sky. Off in the distance the faint clanging of metal on metal can be heard as well as the sound of song. Under the night sky a caravan rolls onwards. Its wagons are a stark contrast to each other: some garishly painted in bright colors, others dark and drearily adorned with skulls and leering gargoyles. Painted on the side of each of these wagons is a mask in five pieces. This heraldry marks the Troupe of the Shattered Mask, renowned performers of the exotic and mysterious, hailing from the four corners of Sanctum and usually found in the lower city of Mithras, capitol of the Iron Kingdom. Now marks the time of the Sanguine Carnival; every other summer the Iron Empire sets aside a month to celebrate the binding of the Dark Espers inside the moon turning it from silver to red. All over the Iron Empire various small festivals and revelries are taking place. The troupe of the Shattered Mask are traveling to many of the main cities and collecting the Chosen Eight. Individuals selected by a lottery to be named the Lords of the Festival at the end of the week in the city of Blut Himmel. Upon arriving at each location there is a night of dancing, feasting, games, and plays.

Each one of you have been hired to join the Shattered Mask. Some of you have been hired by the ringmaster Mr. Mephistopheles; others have been hired by a third party through House Cathay; your contact is a Half Elf calling himself Mr. Grey. Your duty is to help guard the Troupe from threats while on the road or in towns. The first four stops have gone by rather smoothly, nothing of note besides some drunk locals. There are rumors floating around of some serious threats against the troupe and any of the chosen by something called the "Shadowed Scale", but so far nothing substantial has been uncovered.

This night began warm but as the moon climes high the temperature dips unnaturally low. Soon Mist rises from the ground and hangs heavy cutting visibility one the sides of the caravan. The road is illuminated by powerful everbrite lanterns mounted on the front wagon. As the caravan travels rapidly down the road the sounds of the night cease and a quiet hangs heavy in the air as the mist covers the ground. The night is pierced by the sounds of metal groaning and tearing. The two front wagons pivot to the side and dig into the dirt as they skid to a halt. It would appear that both of the lead wagons have multiple broken wheels that will need to be repaired. If that weren't problem enough on this night the sound of clicking can be heard from off the road. As you look into the foggy night shapes slowly shamble into view. A host of skeletons are making their way towards the caravan. It would seem that in the month of the Sanguine Carnival even the dead wish to partake is festivities. Welcome to Sanctum, hope you survive…

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Sanctum: Empire of Iron and Souls. SteveWeiss