The campaign began in the fortress of Stenhold, the fortress of one Arl Voychek Neruda. The Arl’s children, Joseph and Hana, were returning from their time spent in Denerim. They had been visiting relatives, but with the growing rumors of darkspawn, and the Kings decree that his Arls begin the preparations for war, the Arl’s wife, one Lady Macia Neruda, ordered them home at once. As the Arl was busy preparing his forces for war, he had few forces he could spare and so, at the behest of his steward Alenka, agreed to hire adventurers to ride out and help safeguard their return once they entered his lands.
Three adventurers answered the call for aid; Megary, a Circle mage who had been on an assignment from the Ferelden Circle of Magi and finished early, Durrik, a surface dwarf and erstwhile merchant who had just been visiting an old friend in Sothmere, and Kehlehyr a solitary Dalish elf with a mysterious past. These three were greeted by Alenka as they entered Stenhold and were taken to an audience with the Arl.
At their audience they were able to see the poor treatment the Arl had for his subordinates, and his short amount of patience for anything not related to marshaling his army. He offered each of them 50 sp for two days work. The would-be party accepted.
The party accompanied Alenka out of the Arl’s chambers where they encountered Lady Macia. The Arl’s wife implored her gratitude to the adventurers and offered to give them a single gold dragon as further payment for their service, but they declined.
After traveling from Stenhold for perhaps and hour or more, they encountered a ravine where a rope bridge should have been strung according to Alenka. As the party was examining the remains of the bridge a party of genlocks burst from the woods and attacked. The party was able to dispatch the genlocks without sustaining too much damage and proceeded to cross the ravine by chopping down a nearby tree and using it to bridge the gap.
After traveling for someways Alenka suggests the party rest for a minute to catch their breaths and patch any wounds sustained. As the party spread out to forage for food and make a small encampment, Alenka began to approach Megary, Durrik and Kehlehyr in turn, suggesting that if their little band was of an unscrupulous nature that they might find the children and take them on a longer way back to Stenhold. They could then request more funds from Arl Neruda for the safe return of his children. When none of the other party members agreed with her thought, Alenka posited that she was merely commenting on the realities of the situation, but was aghast that they might think she would actually do such a thing to the children.
After packing up their camp, the party continued on to the rendezvous point, but were beset by a blight owl. The owl put up a significant fight, but eventually succumbed to the adventurers. The party continued on only to discover a macabre scene not far from the owl attack. A party of wagons had been attacked and dead soldiers in the livery of Arl Neruda were strewn about the wreckage. A thorough search of the grisly setting yielded two important facts, the first being that the attack appeared to have been made by darkspawn, and the second being that the bodies of the children were not amongst those killed by the darkspawn raiders.
They party had little time to linger however as the quiet that hung over the place was rent asunder by the sharp, shrill scream of a young girl.
The party made all haste in the direction of the scream and encountered a battle already joined. At the crest of a small hill they saw two knights holed up behind some rocks firing down a path at a small and wounded party of advancing darkspawn, one hurlock and three genlocks. As the party advanced up the hill, they split up, some of them climbing a small escarpment to reach the be leaguered forces as quickly as possible, while the other half went to circle behind the darkspawn forces.
As the adventurers engaged the darkspawn, blight wolves mounted the hill from the opposite side and attacked the knights, and a second scream was heard. As the first group of the party reached the knights they saw the children and two wounded knights, Ser Blaker and Ser Bridgette. As the blight hounds descended upon the small group, a flash of light erupted out of Hana and a bolt of energy struck one of the advancing hounds and the girl fainted.
With the aid of the adventurers, the darkspawn were cut down in short order and the blight hounds were slain but not before doing further damage to both the wounded knights as well as the adventuring party.
After assessing the damage to everyone and reviving young Hana, Alenka and Ser Blaker had a small conference away from the rest of the group. Upon their return, Alenka and Ser Blaker confronted the adventurers requesting their aid in extorting more money from Arl Neruda, claiming him to be an arrogant tyrant who deserves such a fate and that he will hardly miss the money they request. Ser Bridgette made it known she disagreed with this course of action, calling it dishonorable and that she would be forced to lay down her life in the defense of the children if it came to it.
The hired adventurers sided with Ser Bridgette. Alenka and Ser Blaker flew into a rage and attacked all present save the children, but were defeated in short order. The party returned to Stenhold with the children in tow.
Upon hearing the story of what happened, and having the actions of the adventurers personally attested to by Ser Bridgette, the Arl was grateful and borderline magnanimous over the safe return of his children. He paid the adventurers as promised and offered them extra silver for uncovering Alenka’s treachery.
In the aftermath, Durrik signed on to be part of the Arl’s construction crew responsible for repairing Stenhold in the event of a darkspawn attack. The Arl and his wife then offered Megary the opportunity to be Stenhold’s new steward. In accepting, Megary bought herself a significant amount of freedom away from the Circle, but at the cost of keeping Hana’s magical abilities a secret. The Lady Macia could not bear to see her only daughter be cloistered away from her for the rest of her life, but promised she would use her considerable political might to ensure the Megary was given freedoms most uncommon for Circle mages. Her first task was to escort a dwarven merchant named Ograth transport a load of ryott produced in the arling to Denerim for sale. Kehlehyr, having befriended Megary during their previous adventurer (and being nomadic in nature) decided to accompany and so the party set out for Denerim a few days later.