Seven Sins of Alterone

Count Stuval Lord of the Undead
The final moments of Lord Gluttony

Daxis was not one for secrets and mystery, and threatened Mirandra if she didn’t tell them the truth. Anlon quickly pointed out that there must be something amiss with the young lady, as everyone the party had met so far was trying to get as far away from Murtigen forest as they could, while Mirandra wanted to go deeper in. Mirandra relented and showed her true form. She was a hideous night hag, shriveled and disheveled. She explained that her sisters were under the control of Count Stuval, a man who had been Gluttony’s familiar, who sold his soul for the chance that Gluttony would bit him and make him a vampire. Mirandra wanted her sisters free from Stuval’s control, and she would need to find Stuval’s pact item, an item that meant something to him in his human life, when he made his agreement with Gluttony. The ruins they were now facing were what was left of the Stuval family.

The party walked in and began exploring the grounds. Count Stuval’s family was clearly wealthy. The grounds had servant’s quarters, a blacksmith with a high quality forge, and a three story manor. Anlon was busy admiring the forge and checking out the craftsmanship of whoever worked there, while Daxis found a well made crossbow on the wall. Aeros noticed that Montgomery started acting a bit strange. He seemed distant and aloof. Firinic figured that Montgomery had been possessed, but before he could do anything, Montgomery tried to polymorph him. Anlon exorcised the spirit from Montgomery’s body. The party would remain on their guard.

The party searched the manor. Count Stuval’s pact item had to be in the manor, probably well hidden. The first floor was a library filled with all manner of magic scrolls, with both holy and arcane magic. Count Stuval was a powerful practitioner in the magical arts it seemed. On the second floor, Firinic found Count Stuval’s bed chamber, and found a personal diary, detailed Count Stuval’s life. The count was a low level noble, not too high on the feudal food chain in Gluttony. He made a pact with Lord Gluttony, hoping that Gluttony could cure his ailing wife. Count Stuval studied all sorts of magic to try and cure his wife who had come down with a strange illness. In the end, the Count made a pact with Gluttony. Save his wife, and he’d become Gluttony’s familiar. Gluttony accepted, on one condition: that he devour everyone at the Stuval manner and drink their blood in Gluttony’s name.

Just as Firinic read the last page, he felt a cold presence enter his body. Daxis and the rest of the party had caught up to Firinic. Firinics magic was powerful, and with the poltergeist in control, the party struggled to exorcise the ghost from his body. Just then, several other ghosts walked into the room through the wall. They were the tortured ghosts of Count Stuval’s family, who he had devoured in exchange for Gluttony’s magic. The party fought off the vengeful spirits. Eventually, the party made it to the third floor, and discovered a magic mirror which was a portal to….not even Firinic could figure that part out. But it must have had something to do with Count Stuval’s pact item. Firinic activated the portal, and the party was transported to an underground dungeon.

Daxis, Acedia, and Aeros were on one side of the underground dungeon, while Anlon, Firinic, and Montgomery were on the other. After searching around for awhile, Anlon found a woman, clearly dead, but perfectly preserved somehow, lying on a dais in the middle of a large chamber. Was it Count Stuval’s wife? He didn’t have too much time to ponder that question, because he was set upon by the guardian of the chamber, a gorebull with menacing horns. Daxis and his group traversed a dark pit and used Acedia’s flying carpet to traverse the distance, rather than hopping across the wooden posts jutting out from the ground, leading into endless blackness. At the far end, there was a room filled with treasure beyond the wildest imagination. Daxis, knowing better than to step even one inch into the room, used his mage hand to grab an ivory figurine which was sitting on a pedestal in the middle of the room. Predictably, the room filled with a noxious yellow gas. Daxis and his group were well ahead of the gas, traversed back over the pit, and started running down the hall. Eventually, the two groups came together and fought off the gorebull. Daxis realized what Stuval’s pact item was, his wife’s wedding ring. Daxis took the ring and the figurine, and the party barely managed to escape as the entire underground structure filled with the poisonous gas.

The party made it back to the third floor of the manor, finally breathing fresh air again. They had finally gotten the pact item. They could use it to weaken Count Stuval, free Mirandra’s night witch brethren, and end the zombie threat once and for all. Count Stuval was located in a cave in the middle of the forest. The party made their way there, being sure not to be seen by any undead. After all, the undead were now all under Count Stuval’s power, and he could see through their eyes. The party found the underground cave where Stuval hid. There was a back entrance through a series of underground caverns. Acedia fell off her magic carpet into the underground river, and the current began to carry her. Aeros tried to save her, but was caught up in the current himself. Daxis, cursing under his breath, commanded the carpet over and used it to save his compatriots.

The party eventually found the central chamber where Count Stuval was waiting for them. The walls of the cave were lined with people, stuck to the cave walls, tendril like masses draining them of their life energy and feeding them into…Gluttony? The cavern was massive, and the bottom was over 100 feet down. Aeros looked down and did not see the face of Count Stuval, whose face he saw in a portrait back in the mansion, but rather the pale, vampire face of Lord Gluttony. Firinic was overcome with an intense hunger the likes of which he had never experienced, as if he hadn’t eaten for a month, and Montgomery was attacked by bats and spiders that seemed to appear from the dark. It appeared Lord Gluttony wasn’t entirely dead; his soul found a willing host in the body of Count Stuval, but Count Stuval himself was rotting and undead.

The party entered into fierce battle with Lord Gluttony. Aeros used Count Stuval’s pact item, and separated Gluttony’s soul from Count Stuval. Gluttony retreated into the shadows, while his night hag slaves fought against the party with their powerful magics, at least until Acedia implanated paranoia into one of the hag’s minds and convinced her her sister was trying to destroy her. Aeros and Anlon lept down, over 100 feet, while Firinic made use of feather fall to slow his comrades’ descent. Count Stuval was a formidable opponent who could summon zombies at will and who had terrible psychic powers to overcome his enemies. Gluttony was there too, and he tried his best to possess Daxis’ body. “I need a host who’s heart is as black as night. You’ll do,” said Gluttony as he reached out for Daxis. Anlon summoned the power of the god of the dwarves, and banished Gluttony, only momentarily. Count Stuval was a difficult opponent, however, the party was victorious. Acedia delivered the final blow to Stuval. For a moment, their minds locked, and Acedia saw the count’s life fly by, from his time as a young man, to when he became Gluttony’s lackey.

At the end, Gluttony was released from banishment, and made one last attempt to inhabit Daxis. Daxis crackled with black lightning, a war was being fought inside his body. After a few moments, a deep voice boomed, but it wasn’t Daxis’ voice. “This one is reserved for another.” Gluttony’s spirit was forced out by some unknown entity, most likely Daxis’ patron. Gluttony was destroyed, his soul banished into oblivion forever. The entire cave lit up as the people whose life force was being drained were finally freed. Acedia quickly found Arin, who was unconscious from the ordeal. He could now lead the party to the red orc.

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Enter the Horde
Will Victoria FAll?

Daxis wasted no time in finding an abandoned shack, tied the bandit to a chair, and began questioning him. The bandit was tight lipped at first, but Daxis had a way with words, and knives. The bandit soon divulged that he was part of a group of thieves who were working in an abandoned copper mine to the north. Grall, an orc who had been one of Gluttony’s men before the fall, was the leader and was using the mine to enrich himself and gain power. Daxis had heard enough, and paid two thugs to stand “watch” over the tower while the bandit would be left inside, most likely forever. The party rested for the evening, planning to head to the forest to figure out Arin’s fate.

Daxis did not have a good evening. He spent it tossing and turning, his dreams going into dark places, his mind filled with hellish imagery. Daxis awoke, but received no benefit from his rest that evening. He immediately went to the inn and ordered a huge breakfast. The rest of the party awoke and began milling about, chatting with the peasantry. Dolvion soon received a carrier pigeon carrying a message. Dolvion read the note, and his face was filled with shock. Acedia asked him what was wrong. Dolvion said that his mother had sent him a note from Sloth. His father was imprisoned by Envy’s invading army, and that his mother needed Dolvion’s help to free him. Dolvion left immediately, harshly even saying goodbye.

After a few hours, a young man dressed in a dark cloak came walking up to the gates of Victoria. The guards immediately confronted him, but he simply walked up to a guard, and once he was nose to nose, cast misty step and appeared inside the city gates in a poof of magical smoke. Firinic Frostfire was a capable wizard, and soon set his things down. He checked his sundial, and said to himself “30 more minutes or so.” Firinic caught site of a cloaked man yelling at laborers while they were constructing wall. Firnic thought it strange that the man was yelling in the Envy dialect to a bunch of workers from Gluttony, and struck up a conversation. Anlon hadn’t spoken his native tongue in years and was excited to meet someone that spoke Envy. The rest of the party walked outside, and Firinic showed off his incredible linguistic skills and ability to speak all 7 dialects of the kingdom of Alterone. Firinic kept looking at his sundial. Aeros inquired what was he waiting for? Firinic replied matter of factly: “Oh, for the horde of zombies that headed straight for the city. I’ve never seen such a huge horde and I wanted to study their behavior.”

There was a short pause. There was a huge horde of zombies making its way towards the city. Anlon’s wall was the only thing keeping Victoria safe from the coming undead onslaught. The peasants ran to safety while the party met the zombie hordes in battle. Firinic summoned a wall of radiance, using his ability as a lore master to switch a wall of fire to a wall of light. Anlon turned the undead with the power of Khuldul, and the duo proved to be a powerful pair. Acedia noticed that whenever she tried to mind control an undead, she felt the presence of another, far more powerful mind getting in her way. When the party had repelled the zombies, one of the zombies moving off literally turned around, faced Daxis and telepathically said “I will have you, and you will sustain me for a long time.”

Daxis simply smirked in his normal arrogant manner. Firinic wanted to take one of the undead bodies and examine it. The party went back to the abandoned shack where the bandit was still locked up. Daxis walked in, said “We need to use this chair,” and lodged an axe right into the bandit’s skull. Firinic began to examine the zombie corpse. Acedia tried to use her mind powers to probe the zombie’s mind. She was more than successful, she got a glimpse into a kind of underground network. The network spread throughout Gluttony like a spider web, binding all of the undead together into a much larger super consciousness, with the heart of this consciousness in the Murtigen forest. She caught a glimpse of a deep cave, with hundreds of people stuck against the cave walls, their life force being drained out of them by strange tendril like masses. The zombie couldn’t provide any more clues, so Firinic easily dispatched it.

The forest was the next point of interest. Before going to the forest, Korg brought air biscuit to his wife Anna back at her cottage. Anna’s parents were at first happy to see Korg, until they saw the blood thirsty wyvern he had in tow. Korg was insistent that Anna take care of Air Biscuit in his absence. With little chance to refuse, the party left, and Anna and her parents were the proud owners of a new wyvern.

The party decided to get some rest after their hard fought battle to save the city. In the morning, the party ventured westward towards Murtigen forest. Arin’s journal mentioned that he was scouting out the forest. The loggers had reported strange, paranormal sightings. After some traveling, the party caught sight of some loggers who were being attacked by a group of undead. Combat quickly ensued. One of the loggers was ripped open alive by a horde of zombies, while the undead spirit wraiths tried to lock the party into their dark trance. The party made it through, and Anlon saved the life of the logger who would’ve otherwise died. The loggers ran off towards safety as quickly as possible, mystified that anyone would willingly enter the Murtigen forest.

The party trekked through the forest for maybe an hour, until they met a woman who was fastened to a tree with a strange, tendril like mass. Korg cut her down, and the party revived her. She introduced herself as Mirandra, and that she was in the forest looking for her sister. The party was very skeptical. Daxis grilled Mirandra, but she seemed insistent they keep going. She said that she had some idea of where her sister was going, and that they needed to get there quickly. As Mirandra and the party walked, Daxis noticed the confidence in her gait, and demanded to know where they were going before he step another foot. Mirandra pointed to the west towards a long abandoned castle. The wall around the castle was covered in moss and ivy, and the grounds were deserted, possibly for decades. “We need to start our search there,” Mirandra said, gravely.

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Hunt for Red Orc October
Zombie Mayhem

After some rest and relaxation the party decided to head straight into the heart of Gluttony to investigate the red orc. Emil told the party that their contact was Arin, a resistance member, who was operating in the town of Victoria. Emil warned the party that Gluttony was in a state of anarchy. K’rash’s army essentially came in, killed Gluttony, and just left, so the peasantry was left to pick up the pieces. Emil handed Daxis a Gluttony phrase book, and wished the party well. Emil also hinted that the party might make a small fortune by selling garlic, an herb that had been utterly banned in Gluttony before liberation. Auria had arrived from Harderwejk and helped the party get to the border of Gluttony and Greed.

Upon arriving at the border, the party caught sight of a wealthy looking man flanked by a paige, trying to bargain with the orc guards at the border. No one was to go in or out of Gluttony, but the rich man tried to haggle with the orcs to let him into Greed. “I NEED to get out of Gluttony!” the man pleaded. “I’ll pay anything, anything you ask!” Daxis slid next to the man. “Anything?” Daxis immediately cast fireball and roasted the orc guards alive in the ensuing combat. The merchant was left standing there, watching the carnage, with a few orc guts hanging off his new silk threads. The party asked the man why he was so intent on getting out of Gluttony, to which the man replied he just wanted to go on vacation. The merchant tried to take his leave when Daxis cast hold person, trapping the man with a spell. Montgomery tried to sell the man a new “Orc Blood Begone” potion to clean the man’s robes, while Daxis was more interested in the man’s riches. During the conversation, the man revealed he was a noble in Gluttony (outside of a city called Arden), at least before Gluttony died, and that the feudal lords of Gluttony were all fleeing for Occupied Lands. Those that were not fortunate enough to get out, were executed. Daxis replied “Like this?” and slit the man’s throat, leaving his dead body on the grass, penniless as Daxis had already relieved the man’s money purse. The noble’s paige didn’t seem too perturbed at his master’s fate. The party found out the noble was named Neville, and they recommended the boy take on the name Neville, and use the clothes, money, and royal seal to set himself up in Kerfalazud. The boy warned them that Gluttony was not a safe place and he had no idea why anyone would willingly enter, but bid the party farewell and good luck.

The trek into Gluttony was fairly uneventful, but slow. Gluttony (or Daven as it was now called), was a swampy area with thick forest, so it took the party awhile to get going. Anlon was overjoyed to find moon blossom, a very rare herb that would prove useful against the undead. Speaking of undead, the party heard a young girl screaming bloody murder in the distance and went to investigate. A young girl, no older than 17 or 18 years old, was surrounded by hordes of ravenous zombies. Daxis thought the girl was done for, but Korg moved in quickly and picked up the girl, slinging her over his big half orc shoulders. The party did battle with the horde, and soon found out that both Anlon and Aeros’ holy powers came in handy. The party was eventually victorious, and the girl introduced herself as Anna and took the party back to her family’s house.
Anna’s home wasn’t much to look at. It was a dilapidated shack. The door and windows were all barred with wood. Anna knocked on the door and let her parents know everything was alright. Her parents were overjoyed to see their daughter alive. Yes, it was dangerous to go in the woods to pick mushrooms, but staying barred indoors all day would mean that they’d invariably starve, so Anna had taken the risk. Daxis and Dolvion had a pretty decent handle on the Gluttony dialect, or at least could speak enough broken Gluttony to get things going. Korg decided he had won Anna’s hand in marriage, at least for a day, so a wedding feast was in order. Anlon and Korg went into the woods and hunted some succulent boar. Of course the forest had a few stray zombies, but Korg found bashing their skulls against a tree was fairly easy. The pair came back with a huge boar, and quickly skinned it and put it on a spit roast. Anna’s parents were over the moon. They hadn’t eaten meat in forever. Pretty soon, the neighbors got into the mix, and a potluck had spontaneously been organized. The neighbors chowed down on boar meat, Anlon fixed up the house with his excellent carpentry skills, and Montgomery serenaded everyone with a melancholy tune. Anlon and Korg went out to get seconds on the boar. Anna found herself sitting next to Korg. Korg explained to Anna that they would be husband and wife, if only for a day, but Anna did not speak a lick of Dark Speech, so sat there with her parents constantly giving her the thumbs up and picking boar meat out of their teeth.
The neighbors were drinking and merry, however it was getting late and many of them wanted to get back to their homes for shelter. Being out late at night was dangerous. Korg would have none of it. Just then, three vampire spawn came in screaming from the woods. The peasants scrambled in fear, but the party faced the undead in combat and saved the party. The neighbors were shocked that the newcomers were powerful enough to stave off the invaders, and the party resumed. The parents asked Montgomery to commemorate their daughter’s marriage to Korg. Montgomery painted something….horrible beyond words. The parents were so shocked that the mother fainted. The night passed without incident, Korg and Anna consecrated their marriage, and the party set off for Victoria in the morning. They were quick to reach the city with Anna guiding them.
Upon reaching Victoria, the party noticed the city was surrounded by a ramshackle wall of plank boards and metal fencing. “Keep the dead out!” was scrawled in blood on the side. The city guards quickly stopped the party from entering. Anna was able to convince the guards to let the party in, in exchange for Anlon working on the city walls to upgrade them. Anlon was put quickly to work while Daxis went to find Arin. Arin apparently had worked at the local grocer run by a man named Reggie and his assistant Mercilia. Reggie hadn’t seen Arin in days. Usually Arin would do odd jobs, help load and unload shipments, manual labor, that sort of thing. Reggie pointed out that Arin lived in the slums in the southern end of town and that he should check there. Harold Nightbringer was the man to see.
Meanwhile, Montgomery and the party went to see the Mayor of Victoria to chat. Montgomery thought it’d be the perfect venue for his artistic creation, and hung it on the mayor’s wall. After the mayor stopped vomiting, he immediately called for the guards. Korg and Montgomery, who did not spoke a word of Gluttony, did not understand why dozens of guards filled the mayor’s room and started tying them up and applying shackles. Montgomery thought that he was preparing for a different kind of activity, and began undressing. The mayor, thinking Montgomery was clearly insane, ordered him to be taken to the insane asylum. Korg was put in a holding cell with rather thin metal bars. There was a man in the corner, sharpening a pair of knives against each other, and another guy just sitting on a bench. Guards were posted at the door. Montgomery went into a padded room with a man who incessantly talked to himself, and another who was writing random things on the wall. Montgomery got their attention, snapped his fingers, and used polymorph to transform himself into a bird, leaving out through the window.
Anlon was hard at work reconstructing the wall for the city, and after awhile, the laborers in Gluttony figured out which grunt meant they were doing well and which grunt meant to change things around.
Daxis found his way to the slums in Victoria. There were several men engrossed in a card game, clearly gambling and drinking. A man in a vest was smoking a large cigar had his feet kicked up on a stand, obviously Harold. Daxis inquired about Arin’s whereabouts. Harold hemmed and hawed for a bit, and said his memory could be jogged for a few silver. “But if you don’t have it, ye can be on yer…” Daxis nonchalantly dropped 10 silver on the table, and Harold perked up…quickly. Harold led Daxis to Arin’s room. Hovel might have been a better term. In it, Daxis found a journal entry stating that Arin was going to help out the lumberjacks. Gluttony’s main resource was lumber, so the Murtigen forest to the west was a prime area to begin logging, but the lumberjacks all say the area is haunted.
Meanwhile, Dolvion helped translate while Anlon commanded his builders to continue on the wall. Korg found a local watering hole, and he and Montgomery placed the horrific painting there. Anlon was soon there to make sure that no one could remove the painting. A priestess of Heshtail, an old woman named Moira, approached Aeros about whether or not he could help her with the sick and wounded. As Aeros began talking, several masked men in wyverns flew down. The mayor quickly came outside, hat in hand, and bowed and scraped when talking with the men on the wyverns. Daxis was nearby, and did nothing but observe what was going on. The men in masked asked where this week’s shipment was. The mayor said that weekly shipments were getting difficult, and that they would have the silver and food next week. The bandits brandished rapiers and told the mayor that wasn’t good enough. The party intervened, and combat soon broke out. Montgomery used his new magic item to conjure a wall of thorns, which proved extremely effective in battle. The party was victorious, although a wyvern flew away. Korg managed to bring one of the wyverns under his control. He named the wyvern “Air Biscuit” and proceeded to let air biscuit devour one of the bandits while Daxis drug the other one away for “questioning.” Anlon remarked that perhaps the bandits friend got the better end of the deal. The mystery of Arin’s whereabouts was still unsolved, and would the bandits be back to have their revenge?

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The Fall of Alterone
A Plot for the Crown?

The elves thanked X’arxilaax for the demonstration of his powers, and said they had much more work to do yet with the humans. The party still had not gotten any closer to solving the mystery of the massacre at Pal’El. They continued to move around the castle awhile, hoping to find a clue. Meanwhile, a young human priest named Jean, his halfling bodyguard Ozzie, and a very boisterous dwarf named Walt had entered the palace. They had seen the Bequethal ceremony and were most disturbed by the rumors flying about Alterone concerning the Knights of Kantor. Erathor immediately called Jean into his office, and asked Jean to assist in the investigation. As a priest of Neltak, Jean immediately agreed to help keep law and order.

Jean set up his own area in a room off to the side. Erathor gathered X’arxilaax and the others, and hoped that now that a large group was together, the mystery could be solved. Jean activated a zone of truth, standard procedure in dealing with mysteries, and tried to get up to speed. Walt, always with a mug in hand, had challenged Ozzie. Ozzie got in a good bite in on Walt, and the two tussled for awhile. X’arxilaax was extremely amused; there were no such comical, small creatures in Eruna. Erathor returned and saw that the room was in chaos, and sighed deeply.

Jean camed Erathor down and asked if they could start interviewing people. The first person on Jean’s list was the weapon smith of the palace. Jean showed the smithy the longsword that Lanalus had found. The smithy confirmed that it was a genuine longsword belonging to the Knight’s of Kantor. Not being a centralized group, the Knights would commission smithies from around the kingdom to make their weaponry, so it would be difficult to pin down exactly where the sword had come from. But there was no mistake, it was the genuine article.

Next on Jean’s list was the court alchemist, Mizzandrin. Mizzandrin was summoned and sat down at the table within the zone of truth. Mizzandrin was a very skinny, slender woman. She spoke softly, so softly, that at one point someone casted thaumaturgy just so they could hear her speak above a decibel. Jean conducted the interview, and asked Mizzandrin pointed question about King Ordren and his recent illness, and whether or not Mizzandrin was responsible for giving the king medicine. Mizzandrin said that all medicine was administered by the clerics, and she just gave advice when needed. Jean then asked Mizzandrin if she had any experience using alchemy to transform bodies. Mizzandrin of course said no, but Jean’s keen insight knew otherwise. Mizzandrin was insulted by the line of questioning and immediately left. Lanalus was soon to follow behind her.

Next on the list of people to interview was the crown prince, Aelfar. Helena contemplated breaking into Aelfar’s room much like she had done with Mordecai. Of course, Jean was completely against the idea. Helena had to “go to the bathroom” and made her way to the crown prince’s room. Helena perhaps was a bit overconfident, and managed to break in right when the crown prince was leaving out with this handmaiden. Helena tried to run, but the palace was filled with guards who immediately picked her up and hauled her off to the stockades. Lanalus, who was having better luck following his mark, followed Mizzandrin back to her room. Listening at the door, he heard the sound of something scraping against the ground. He couldn’t get in the room because of the magical lock, but soon returned to the investigation room to ask Erathor for a key.

Jean talked with the crown prince about recent goings on at the castle. The crown prince was laid into the chair by his handmaiden. The prince had been born with a defect in his blood which caused his muscles to be weak and problems with walking. The crown prince said that he didn’t want to believe that Mordecai wanted the throne, but he was disturbed upon hearing that Mordecai and Mizzandrin were having a tryst, although Mordecai had many female attachments. With the crown prince’s blessing, Erathor handed Lanalus the key to Mizzandrin’s room, and the party went in.

Mizzandrin was not in her room, but Lanalus was able to easily find that there was a hidden passage behind her bookcase. Heading down, the party found a strange laboratory of sorts with desiccated animal corpses and bones lining tables. Walt found a large, wrought iron mirror on the other side of the room. Milo and X’arxilaax were able to activate the mirror, which created a gate leading somewhere else. The party stepped through the mirror. The temperature dropped by at least 20 degrees. The party found themselves inside of a tent made of animal hide. Jean went back through the portal and got some thick fur coats. Peaking out the tent, the party saw what looked to be a war camp and huge, snow capped mountains. There were hundreds of orcs, moving back and forth, preparing war machines and practicing for combat. The party was confused. Weren’t the orcs killed off in the Great Purge, 200 years ago, when the Elves and Dwarves combined forces and rid the land of the Dark Folk?

Walt and Lanalus wasted no time and charged in down the slope to meet the orcs in battle. Mizzandrin (who’s real identity was a drow) and an orc war chief soon appeared, and a fierce battle ensued. The party was able to overcome the orcs, and knock out Mizzandrin for questioning later. Walt beat back dozens of orcs to allow the rest of the party to escape back to the mirror to head back into the castle. The party made it safely back, and broke the mirror, just in case. The party brought Mizzandrin to one of the castle’s anti-magic equipped interrogation chambers. Lanalus walked around the room, admiring Mizzandrin’s amulet of evernight. Walt stood next to the window with the tassel for the blinds firmly in his hand. The party interrogated Mizzandrin, asking her if her and Mordecai were in league with each other. Whenever Mizzandrin resisted, Walt would open the blinds and let in the bright daylight of the Alteronian sun. The party didn’t believe that Mordecai and Mizzandrin were really working with each other, but Mizzandrin said she was doing all of this in preparation for the “Great Invasion,” whatever that was. Mizzandrin had seduced Mordecai so that she could gain access to the reliquary and the “Druidic Orb,” an artifact infused with great transmutation magic, that Mizzandrin used to make orcs look convincingly human. Mizzandrin laughed maniacally as Walt let the sun turn her into dust.

The party summoned Erathor and presented their evidence, and Erathor said he would bring all the information to the crown prince immediately, and that the party should wait for him to return with what the crown prince says. The party waited for a few hours, and Erathor did not return. The party went to the crown prince’s sanctuary. They opened the door to the sanctuary. It was an immaculately clean room with a perfectly polished floor. The walls were lined with portraits of the previous kings and queens of the Eluhil dynasty, an unbroken line going back over 1,000 years. At the far end of the room, the party found Erathor, crucified against the wall against the symbol of Neltak. The crown prince appeared from behind a curtain, clearly able to walk quite well. Lanalus grumbled to himself. Aelfar explained that Mordecai was indeed innocent, and had nothing to do with the plot to dishonor the knights of Kantor, but would be blamed anyway. Walt felt a monologue was coming on, and decided to immediately engage Aelfar in combat. Aelfar conjured a greatsword pulsing with dark energy, and engaged the party in combat. Aelfar proved to be extremely capable, knocking out several party members in a single hit. Walt used his paladin powers to beat back Aelfar. Aelfar transformed from the young prince, to a red skinned demon with tails and a horn. Aelfar killed Walt in a single hit, and Jean was able to revive the dwarf with a quick prayer to Neltak. The battle was fierce fought, but Walt channeled the wrath of Khul Dul to smite his foe. When Aelfar was backed into a corner, he dug his claw into his chest and summoned a dark portal, which sucked the party into its black depths. Milo grasped his mother’s broach and prayed for her to save him, teleporting him away. Aelfar left X’arxilaax, holding up the dragonborn. “Go back to your people, and tell them that once I am done with the humans here, the Lord of Anger will come for them next.” X’arxilaax breathed cold in Wrath’s face as he went unconscious. Wrath laughed maniacally as flames consumed the building, burning the portraits of the Alteronian royalty of the past, the image of the Dark Folk armies marching in from the northern mountains of the Wintervale.

As Aeon finished the story, the final page was signed “Milo.” Milo eventually returned to the Summervale and went to Faerie, as many elves do when the call of immortality becomes strong. In the final pages of Milo’s work, he details how the Light Forge was built, and that Princess Aya’s gift could be a way to fight back against the Dark Folk. Aeon gives his research to the party, and says that the Light Forge can be rebuilt. The party stayed in Kerfalazud for a month, getting some much needed rest after the rescue of Aeon from the prison. After some down time, the party reconvened, and Emil said that the party had a choice. First, the party could try and rebuild the Light Forge, possibly by investigating the “Shrine of Tal Alustiel” marked on Aeon’s old map of Greed. Second, Emil’s spies had found some information on the mysterious and powerful red orc, whose secrets are somewhere in the northern mountains of Gluttony. Third, the party could travel into Sloth, and figure out why K’rash’s army is being held up and unable to march into Greed. The party carefully weighs its options….

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The Massacre of Pal'El
Enter the Past

Aeon had finished copying down the tome from memory, and began to recount to the party a tale of four adventurers who had met by happenstance in the town of Ebikon, 400 some odd years ago, in the Kingdom of Alterone, before the Dark Occupation. X’arxilaax, a dragonborn sorcerer from the kingdom of Eruna, was in Alterone on a diplomatic mission to negotiate peace with the humans, now that there were humans visiting his home continent on a much more frequent basis. His trip through Alterone was mostly uneventful, except for the fact people had never seen a dragonborn before and freaked out at the sight of him. He sat down at a local outdoor eatery and tried to order some soup and a glass of water, but the restaurant owner, Grunhilda, tried shooing him away with a broom. Helena, a young high elf girl, noticed the dragonborn from across the eatery. She was with her “boyfriend” at the time, who bankrolled her way into the kingdom after some unfortunate events in Kalen. X’arxilaax produced a pile of gold, the universal language, to get Grunhilda to calm down, which she promptly did. With gold coins in her eyes, Helena left her boyfriend at the table and tried to ingratiate herself to X’arxilaax. Lanalus, a hunter in search of rumors of “dark folk” in the east, thought that this entire situation was quite amusing and tried to figure X’arxilaax out. Was he a dragon that needed destroying? Milo, bard extraordinaire, also saw the confusion and thought it might be good inspiration for a song.

The party chatted for awhile, and Grunhilda seemed to be much more at ease. Wolfgang, her husband, asked the party if they could deliver a package for him to the next town over, Pal’El. His brother, Bernhard, was opening up a new restaurant, and he and his brother had hoped to start a chain. The party happily agreed, after all, Pal’El was on the way to the city of Alterone where the “Bequethal” ceremony was going to be held in a few days. The Bequethal was a quadricentennial ceremony, where the elves bestowed a gift upon the humans. Usually the gift was a blessing for the new harvest, or something ceremonial, but this year, the gift was supposed to be something really special. Milo wanted to be the lead performer for the Bequethal ceremony, and the rest of the party had their own reasons for wanting to go to Alterone.

Milo did some checking around, and with his golden tongue, was able to procure some information before the party left. King Ordren Eluhil was rumored to be quite ill, which was odd, because the man was very robust and healthy. He would go swimming and hunting almost daily, and act as a role model for other citizens. Another rumor that had been swirling about was that the citizens of Pal’El were cultists, worshippers of the god of Rogues, Bel the Lord Thief. This was probably just a horrible rumor, and Milo didn’t pay much attention to it. The party set off to deliver their package.

Upon arriving at Pal’El, Helena noticed that the town was eerily silent. She saw a man, dead, crushed underneath a wagon. The smell of fresh blood was in the air. Lanalus used his ranger powers to sense if there were humanoids in the distance. Despite Pal’El being a city of over 1,000 people, he only was able to sense five beings. One was definitely human, the other four, were unclear as to what they were. The party walked into the city. It was a massacre. Men, women, children were all cut down, their dead bodies left to rot in the streets. Helena saw people hacked in half or lying crushed under a wagon. The party made haste to where Lanalus had sensed people. Lanalus and Helena stealthily made their way to what appeared to be an open air forge. The building had two floors, the bottom being where all the metal work was, and the top probably where the blacksmith himself lived. There were 4 men near the forge, clad in white and silver full plate, carrying long swords and shields. Milo quickly recognized the insignia on the shields as none other than the “Knights of Kantor.” The party was shocked. The Knights of Kantor were the army of Alterone, knights who had consecrated themselves to destroying evil and protecting good in the world. The party engaged in combat and Lanalus was able to do quite a lot of damage with his twin blades. The party unmasked the culprits, and found to their astonishment, all four warriors were human. Milo cast detect magic, and found out some magic was afoot, but when he tried to dispel magic, the bodies dessicated almost immediately, leaving behind only the sword, shield ,etc. The party went upstairs and found Anna, a young girl hiding in a pile of her father’s smithy work. Her father had given her a shield to defend herself with. The shield was a lion’s head, but splattered with blood. The party rescued Anna and asked her what had happened.

“The men on horses came in this morning. People gathered to greet them, and everyone seemed so happy. Then, the men said something about…hermetics? Heremetics? I don’t remember the word. Then, I heard lots of screaming. My father gave me this shield and told me to run and hide. There was so much screaming…” Anna was distraught, and the party tried to console her as best they could. The party opened the package they had been tasked to deliver, and found it was filled with war memorabilia. It seemed Wolfgang and Bernhard were both veterans, and that once they got out of the army, they planned to open a chain of restaurants across Alterone. Wolfgang had given his brother some recipes, as well as old knick knacks and favors from their days as soldiers. It seems that their dream would never be fully realized. The party left the scene of the massacre and headed to Alterone.

Alterone was decked out in anticipation of the Bequethal. There were white banners everywhere, emblazoned with the symbol of Neltak, the god of law and order. There were also standards for the Elven royal family, the Everstars. The city was abuzz with people, some who just wanted to party, and others who dressed up as elves themselves to welcome their new guests. Lanalus immediately found Anna’s aunt, and gave her over to family members. Lanalus also went to see the captain of the guard, and reported what the party witnessed at Pal’El, handing over a longsword, emblazoned with the symbol of the Knights of Kantor. The guardsman believed Lanalus’ story, and told him to keep the story on the down low for the moment while he consulted with his superiors. Lanalus nodded and went to follow his comrades.

Milo wanted to be the main star of the Bequethal, and found the master of ceremonies, a rather portly man with long black hair and a vein popping out of his forehead. The master of ceremonies was yelling at his assistant to move the banner to the left. Lanalus remarked that perhaps they shouldn’t have waited until right before the Bequethal to get everything ready. The master of ceremonies kept screaming at his assistant to adjust the banner correctly. X’aarxilax said he had a solution to the problem, and breathed a cone of cold to freeze both the assistant, and the banner, in place. After a few more snarky interchanges, the master of ceremonies had the guards remove everyone except Milo. Milo convinced the master of ceremonies to let him be the opening act. After all, he knew elven music and elven customs, and would make for a great opening show. The master of ceremonies agreed, and the party waited for the Bequethal. Before the Bequethal, the party successfully got an audience with Erathor, the royal advisor. The pretext was that X’aarxilax was a representative from the Dragonborn, and wished to establish diplomatic relations with the humans now that the two species had made contact. Lanalus presented Erathor with evidence of the massacre at Pal’El, but expressed his misgivings that the Knights of Kantor were truly responsible. During the battle, the Knights were grunting at each other in a language Erathor was not familiar with, and that the bodies had disintegrated when they were investigated. Erathor said any talk would have to wait after the Bequethal, but that he would investigate this matter with the utmost seriousness.

The Bequethal ceremony had begun with a gong. About two dozen elves appeared at the gates of the city, marching solemnly in procession. At the front of the group were two elves, Princess Aya, and her brother, Prince Feldor, wearing silver laurel circlets and wearing pure silver robes. At the same time, the princes of Alterone had made an appearance. King Ordren was conspicuously missing, however his two sons, Aelfar and Mordecai, came out of the palace. Aelfar was the crown prince, the immediate successor to the crown, but he was a sickly young man who needed his handmaidens help to walk. He had platinum blonde hair and clear eyes. His brother, Mordecai, was far more robust, tall, and clearly athletic. The gong went off to start the ceremony. This was Milo’s cue.

Milo used feather fall to float down from a nearby tower, and once he landed, began playing a lively elven ballad. He then was able to recount 20 generations of the genealogy of the Alteronian royal family, from memory, and then delivered a stirring speech, announcing the gift the elves were to bestow upon the humans. The performance was so convincing, several of the elves in the procession had thought they missed their cue. The elves unveiled their gift: the Light Forge. The Light Forge itself was a translucent forge. Princess Aya had stated that the Light Forge was built with “Dwarven Metal and Elven Magic, and would find its potential in Human hands.” Milo ended his song and then used Dimension Door as a final exit, amidst the applause and cheers of the audience.

The Bequethal was going well, until a woman went amongst the crowds and started raving. Lanalus recognized the woman as Anna’s aunt, and the woman had Anna in tow. She was screaming about the Knights of Kantor and how they had murdered her brother. The crowd as aghast at the woman’s accusation. Lanalus sighed; he had tried his best to keep it under wraps. Prince Feldor turned to Princess Aya and remarked “If we give the humans the light forge, they may end up just killing each other off.” Aya scoffed. The Bequeathal ended suddenly. Erathor, the royal advisor and confidant to the crown princes, invited the players into the palace in his personal study. Erathor had brought both prince Aelfar and prince Mordecai into his study to talk. The heroes retold the story of what they say at Pal’El, including what Anna had saw. Aelfar looked horrified, but Mordecai seemed angry. Mordecai expressed his frustration, saying that the story sounded made up and that he didn’t have to sit there and listen to nonsense. Mordecai left in a huff, sneering at his older brother, while Aelfar left with the help of his handmaiden.

Erathor made all the servants leave and checked that the doors and windows were secured. Erathor told the party that in fact King Ordren was dying, from a sudden ailment, and that the two princes, Aelfar and Mordecai, were at each other’s throats. Aelfar was sick since he was a boy, of poor constitution, but since he was the older brother, he was the next in line for succession. Mordecai is none too pleased about it, and doesn’t believe his brother would make for a strong ruler. This recent development would definitely make the Knights of Kantor look bad, and would disgrace prince Aelfar, because the crown prince is the de facto Grand Marshall Priest of the Knights of Kantor should a war break out. Erathor fears that someone inside the palace has some connection to this, and since the heroes are all outsiders, he thought they’d have the best luck in investigating. Erathor gave the party access to most of the palace, and instructed his servants to be as helpful as possible.

Helena decided to check Mordecai’s bedroom. They confirmed with a servant that Mordecai was outside doing sword practice; something he often did when frustrated or angry. Helena expertly snuck into Mordecai’s bed chamber, and found a diary locked in a drawer. The diary was mostly bland: Mordecai was worried about whether or not his brother could truly succeed the throne, and worried for the future of Alterone. The notable entries were about his new paramour, Mizzandrin, the court’s royal alchemist. They had started to hit it off about a month ago and were clearly lovers. Helena made sure to put back the diary and leave everything as she left it. Meanwhile, X’irxilaax was talking with the contingent of elves who had come to teach the humans new magic spells. The elves were especially interested in Dragonborn magic, and requested that X’irxilaax give them a demonstration of his power. X’irxilaax used his acid splash spell, melting a target dummy. The elves were mostly unimpressed, especially with a cantrip, remarking that “Dragonborn magic must be low level.” X’irxilaax bristled at the description, and used a Lightning bolt to show off his prowess. The elves were impressed, and even more impressed because they noticed that Dragonborn do not draw their powers from a God, the way elves, dwarves, and humans do. Instead, the Dragonborn seem to be able to call energy from the Maelstrom directly.

The mystery of the massacre weighed heavily on everyone’s mind. Erathor had given the party several people to talk to: Crown Prince Aelfar, Prince Mordecai, Mizzandrin the Court Alchemist, Ulius the Archivist, Princess Aya, Prince Feldor, and Priest Avonius of the Church of Neltak. Hopefully the party can uncover the mystery.

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Rescue Aeon!
Into the Prison!

Time was of the essence. Aeon would be executed the next morning, and the party had two ideas on how to free him from prison. The first was to wait until Aeon was being sent to the guillotine, create a grand diversion, and then free him from his cage. The second, a plan put forth by Aeros, was to use the underground entrance into the prison and sneak him out that way. After some debate, the party decided to go the subterfuge route. After all, if they failed in rescuing Aeon on his way to being executed, they would get no more chances. Dolvion wrote out a map to the caverns so that the party could traverse the underground caverns, while Dolvion kept watch at the inn. Montgomery was still at the spa, trying to forget his near death experience.

First, a diversion was in order. Korg procured some gunpowder he had kept from their adventures in Trebizond. Anlon fashioned a cart to carry the gun powder. Actually, Anlon spent most of the day working on his brand new chariot, which caused quite a stir among his fellow smithies at the metalworker’s guild. Korg needed a disguise, so he cast “alter self” and put on a big, fuzzy blonde wig. Korg lugged the cart full of explosives, oil, and gunpowder to the front of the prison, but not without being stopped by an orc guard. Korg laid on the charm, and the orc guard instantly fell in love with the way Korg screamed at Anlon, as if Anlon was his servant. The orc was smitten, right up until the point Korg pushed the gunpowder laden cart towards the prison, and threw a fiery twig screaming “Fire bolt!”, causing the cart to explode in a gout of flame, incinerating the hapless orc with it.

The local area started to catch on fire, and the diversion most certainly caught the attention of the town guard. Meanwhile, Daxis, Aeros, and Acedia went invisible and snuck into the western gate where the entrance to the underground caverns was. Daxis noticed that on the ground were weird piles of white powder that would stick to anyone walking through them. They deftly avoided the trap, and then moved towards the entrance the prison. There were two hobgoblin guards, both asleep, near the door. Acedia and Daxis had little problem getting through, but Aeros bumped one of the sleeping hobgoblins, spilling him over. The two dark folk began arguing bitterly over why one had knocked the other out of his chair. The party took the opportunity to move through the door into the prison. The second level of the prison had cells lining the wall, and several larger cells in the middle. There was a hobgoblin captain and his subordinates patrolling. It was not clear where Aeon was. After all, the party had never seen him before.

Korg and Anlon did not have the benefit of invisibility, so Korg pretended Anlon was his prisoner, by loosely binding his hands. The hobgoblin guards bought the ruse hook, line, and sinker, and let Korg and Anlon in. The two quickly caught up to the others, but not before fighting the hobgoblin guards. Korg and Anlon were busy discussing how much they should bet on whether or not Korg could take the hobgoblins out by himself. The hobgoblins kept trying to interject with their longswords, but Korg turned and simply bashed their skulls into one another so that he could concentrate on his conversation with Anlon.

The party decided that quiet and stealthy was not the way to go, so Anlon cast thaumaturgy on Korg to make his footsteps rumble like earthquakes and his voice to boom louder than normal. Korg opened the door into the second level of the prison and combat ensued. Acedia, still invisible, found the prison register and easily located Aeon, who was on level 3, cell #16. Daxis and Aeros moved downstairs, only to find that their invisibility blinked out. Level 3 was the area of the prison where the magic users were imprisoned, and a powerful anti magic field was erected to make sure there were no shenanigans. Fierce combat ensued. Acedia “suggested” to one of the guards that they unlock Aeon’s cell, which it did. Daxis freed several of the magic using prisoners, and Anlon did the same, blessing the prisoners, supplying them with weapons from the corpses of the dead guards, and sending them to the first floor. Korg valiantly managed to stave off the guards that came pouring in, no doubt being tipped off by the thaumaturgy spell that made Korg’s voice boom as if it were amplified by a megaphone. After Aeon was freed, Daxis handed him an invisibility potion, and Aeon was off.

The party managed to escape. The guards were busy with the sorceress upstairs who was pelting them with acid arrows and magic missiles, as well as the prisoners who were infused with the power of KhulDul. The party booked it back to the Bloody Raven. The north western part of the city was ablaze and there was chaos in the street, so making it back to the inn was not difficult, especially since Korg knew the streets well. Upon arriving back, the party decided to relax for a bit. They received word that Aeon was found nearly dead in the street, and that luckily Mathe had found him and brought him back the resistance underground. The resistance requested that the heroes meet immediately.

The party arrived at the resistance underground headquarters. Aeon was in bad shape, but stable, and Emil heartily shook Anlon’s hand, thanking him for everything the party had done. A woman’s voice rang out from the darkness. “Yes Anlon, thank you for leading me straight to the resistance.” The party turned and saw a woman with fiery red hair and a scantily fitting outfit standing at the entrance to the sewers. “I never figured that the resistance would walk up and shake my hand, but here we are.” Acedia recognized the woman as Mayvin, Eon’s paramour from the library. Mayvin smiled. “In one fell swoop I get to destroy the resistance. I have something special for you all, as I know just how all of you fight. After all….” Mayvin snapped a finger and transformed, into Thalzul, the second in command for G’ruumsh. “I watched you all fight in the crucible of fire. I will take this city once you are all dead. Your heads will please Lord Wrath!” Assassins literally melted in from the shadows, and combat ensued. Mayvin unleashed a pair of eldritch beams, one blue and the other white, while Daxis fended off the onslaught with eldritch blasts of his own. Daxis’ and Mayvin’s beams collided, crackling energy filling the room. The assassins were quick to poison and blind their adversaries. Acedia had special difficulty with one wearing a special metal helmet, and found that her mind powers had only so much effect.

Mayvin seemed to have two demeanors, one calm, cold, and collected; the other was wild and unpredictable. Mayvin made a low incantation, and waved her hand at Korg. Korg’s mind was besieged with feelings of rage, as if a being of pure, cold hatred reached straight into his brain. Korg, not in control of himself, turned on Anlon and beat the priest unconscious. The battle was difficult. Aeros fell as Mayvin unleashed Hellish Rebuke, bathing Aeros in painful red lightning. Just when the battle was looking grim, Korg managed to finish off Mayvin with several brutal attacks with his axe, while Acedia tortured her enemies with psychic powers. Bloodied and bruised, the heroes were victorious, and Mayvin’s corpse was consumed by magical red fire as she lay dying.

Aeon was eventually nursed back to health and the heroes stayed with the resistance. Once Aeon was up, he called for some paper and a quill. “During my research I found several books that I think hold the key to defeating the Lords of Sin and freeing Alterone once and for all. I did not want the books to fall into enemy hands, so I committed them to memory. So much of what we knew about the past was lost when the Dark Folk burned all of our ancient histories. Here, first I’ll begin by drawing a map of Arafel…” Aeon drew a map of the kingdom of Greed as it had been 500 years ago, before the dark occupation had ever happened. The most notable portion of the map was the great forests that once filled Greed, and something called the “Shrine of Tal Allustiel.” Anlon also pointed out that he thought he saw “Wawmar” which was the great city of the Dwarves that was lost during the Dark Occupation. Aeon also began to tell a story, one that took place around the same time the map was created. It was a story of a group of pilgrims that were heading to the province of Alterone (modern day Wrath), on a sacred journey to witness a great gift the Elves were bestowing upon the kingdom of Alterone….

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The Meeting of the Council
Ties that Bind

After having escaped the mysterious red orc with their very lives, the party regrouped along the road and headed back to Kerfalazud. The party reconvened at the Bloody Raven, but everyone (except Korg) recognized that Kerfalazud had somehow changed. The church of Voth, which had once been the main building in the northwest of the city, had been moved to the southeast, where the graveyard had been. Also, the status of Tazluth, the great orc hero, was gone and replaced by a small garden. After reconvening at the Bloody Raven, Mathe arrived and was glad to hear the mission was (mostly) a success. However, Mathe informed the heroes that the resistance was not necessarily going to help; the party would have to convince the leadership of the resistance to join.

Daxis did not like this news one bit. The party drug Mathe downstairs and tied him up to a chair. Aeros convinced Daxis not to stab Mathe through the leg, however, Aeros stayed downstairs, making sure Mathe understood the gravity of his lie. Daxis went back to his room to study, and finished deciphering the text left by Aeon, and finally became fluent in ancient Dwarven and Ancient Elvish. The book was a book of poetry, and while reading it, Daxis caught a passage talking about a “Princess Aya.” He wondered if it could be the same person as the elven woman he encountered in the past.

Night fell, and Mathe led the party into the sewers where the leaders of the resistance were to convene. Mathe and Daxis stayed far apart. Mathe introduced the party to Emil, the leader of the resistance in Kerfalazud. Emil was a small man, not much taller than 5’6, and skinny, with piercing black eyes. The party chatted for a bit, told Emil of the red orc and the gunpowder plot with Nea, and asked why did Emil’s cell not know about the gunpowder plot in the first place? Emil’s answer was quick: Korthor was the leader of the Ekruup cell and he and Emil did not get along. As far as Emil was concerned, Korthor was a bull headed braggart and loose cannon who would get them all killed. Anlon asked how the resistance expected to get anywhere if all they did was sit back? A loud and boisterous woman standing at almost 6’4 came by and slapped Anlon across the back with a mighty blow.
The woman introduced herself as Inia. She was a muscled looking warrior woman. Inia said she preferred action to words and would support anyone who would help the resistance in that regard. Aeros inquired about the rest of the council. Besides Emil, the council consisted of Inia, Sogor, Mathe, and Erath. Sogor and Emil were founding members of the resistance, and Mathe had been with them early on as well. Inia was newer, but determined to bring down the orcs and the sins. There was one more man, named Rennet, who was not himself a member of the resistance, but held great sway because of his skill. Aeros and the party addressed the council directly. They told the council of their plan to rescue Aeon, namely, creating a scene and then using Daxis’ invisibility powers to escape with Aeon amidst the chaos. The council soured on the plan, except Inia, who enjoyed the thought of bathing in orc blood. Emil thought the plan to be extreme, but he did not want another resistance member to die. The council retired to their chambers to deliberate, and the party was allowed to talk to the council members to plead their cases in person.

Anlon and Aeros first paid Emil a visit. Anlon pleaded with Emil to reconsider his relationship with Korthor. After all, the orcs were the real enemy, not humans ,and Emil had built an impressive network of spies. Anlon noticed a picture of a beautiful woman on Emil’s desk, and recognized it as the rebel woman who had been executed in the town square. After some persuasive words from Aeros, Emil agreed to send word to Korthor and share some of his network’s intelligence. After all, it was Emil’s network that had known that the sins were sending something in the caravan, a vital clue to finding the red orc. Emil also promised he would support the heroes in the council.

Aeros, not quite satisfied, decided to meet with Mathe next. The party made sure Daxis was otherwise occupied. Mathe was in his quarters, using a large sack as a punching bag. His wall was lined with all manner of sharp weaponry. Aeros calmed Mathe down and discussed their plan. Mathe was disposed to following the party. Mathe said he would lend his power. The next stop was Rennet, who was sharpening his sword in the main area. Rennet was a man of few words, and barely acknowledged the heroes when they came over to meet him. Korg stuck out a hand in friendship, but Rennet grunted and didn’t acknowledge the half-orc barbarian. Aeros did the talking again, and convinced Rennet that he and the party were dependable and wanted action. Rennet would jump at any opportunity to put an arrow through an orc’s eye. The party had his support. Anlon was willing to call it a day, but Aeros said they must seek out Sogor’s support as well. Even though they probably had the votes to go through with their plan.

Sogor was in his study, creating small illusions for fun. He had created an ornate, small music box which played a haunting melody. Aeros approached Sogor, breaking the young sorceror’s concentration. Sogor introduced himself meekly. He was a tiny man, very pale, and spoke in a low tone. He said that as a child he had great magical ability, and that he enjoyed creating illusions to fool people. Aeros convinced Sogor the party was sincere in their efforts and that Sogor should support them.

When the council reconvened, the party’s plan to rescue Aeon was agreed upon. Emil even went as far as to allow the party the use of two members of the council who would help the party and lend their aid. The party chose Rennet and Sogor. Sogor normally did not go out on missions or put himself in danger, but Aeros’ stirring speech reminded him of his duty. Mathe reminded the heroes that G’ruumsh was having another “Crucible of Fire” contest that evening, and that Mathe thought something strange was going on with the fights. The party had missed one of the events while they were out, but Mathe went. Mathe noticed that that evening G’ruumsh had live prisoners fighting in the ring, and when they were done, the prisoners were sent off. Mathe suggested that during the next crucible, the party investigate.

The party returned to the inn and took care of the day to day business. There wasn’t another chariot race until the next week, so there was nothing to do but wait until the crucible of fire match. G’ruumsh’s lackey came right on time, and the party was led to the usual place. The decor had changed somewhat. This time, G’ruumsh had his own throne overlooking the arena, with skulls adorning the hand rails. Black torches and symbols of Voth lined the walls. Dolvion and Mathe decided to wait until the crowd got whipped up before sneaking off. G’ruumsh arrived, wearing black robes, whipping up the orcs and the (few) humans in the crowd. His second in command, Tana’kh, was decidedly displeased. G’ruumsh asked who was brave enough to step forward to suffer his trials, and Daxis boldly stepped forward. The crowd got worked up into a frenzy, and Mathe and Dolvion snuck off. G’ruumsh opened his speech with the phrase “War is hell. Today, I will see how you survive hell.” The arena transformed into a hellscape. There were lakes of fire with human bodies bobbing up and down in agony. There were other humans chained to rocks, being eaten alive by indescribably creatures. The party was beset by a chain demon, a fearsome demon bred from the hellish realm of torture, bearded devils, and a Vrock which had swooped in from the sky. The party battled it out fiercely while Dolvion and Mathe made their way through the cave. They eventually found two hobgoblins wearing prisoners garb. Mathe and Dolvion quickly dispatched them, and fought some more hobgoblins before finding a strange door. Dolvion snuck up the stairs, and was shocked to find that the underground passage was in fact an entrance into the prison!

The party in the crucible survived their encounter, special thanks to some powerful attacks Korg was able to unleash. Korg used his “reduce person” spell to smash a bearded devil into a pancake, and send its head flying towards G’ruumsh, who roared out loud at the gross display of barbarism. Dolvion and Mathe returned, spoke to the party about their findings. The crucible of fire was over, and the party returned to the inn. Aeon was to be executed tomorrow, and they had a scant few hours left before they have to act.

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Caravan of Secrets
A new kind of orc?

The mood at the dock was tense for a moment, as the inhabitants of Trebizond were confused. Daxis activated his swarm of insects and, with his eyes glowing, commanded everyone to run. Which they did. The citizens of Trebizond panicked and scurried away, while the orcs on guard were confused. Do they need to take orders from Anaeus now? Watching all of this from the local bar, Korg and his caravan mates, Elee and Pell, were watching with excitement. Pell slipped away out of sight, which Korg saw, but paid no attention to it, reading his “Speel Buk” to prepare his spells for the next day. Korg asked Elee what was wrong. The female orc’s jaw was practically on the floor, her body frozen in place.

Montgomery went up to the huddle of orcs to listen in on their conversation while a very portly man waddled his way down from the dock offices. It was Gant, the owner and manager of the docks. Gant was a very fat man and short man wearing gauche necklaces and gaudy rings. He demanded to know what all the commotion was about. Daxis simply turned to him, eyes glowing, demanding that he leave immediately. Gant fell backwards in terror, pleading for his existence. The merchant ran back into the office. Montgomery went to talk to the orcs to convince them to leave, which was aided by Daxis commanding them to obey his orders. Orcs love taking orders, so they packed their things and left.

Daxis went into the office of the docks, because Gant had clearly not gone in the direction of “out of here” and wanted to see what the merchant was up to. Gant had unlatched a secret door and was busy stuffing his worldly possessions in a sack. Daxis reiterated his desire for Gant to leave, and Gant hurriedly left, leaving a trail of gold pieces and gems behind him as he bungled getting his sack of valuables over his back. Meanwhile, Korg had exited the bar as Elee seemed to be interested in talking with Daxis, but was too afraid to approach. Korg met Montgomery, and they had a rousing conversation about intricate and detailed legal philosophies. Montgomery invited Korg to join the party, saying they could use a man of Korg’s ability. After all, Korg had introduced himself as the greatest orc sorcerer alive. Korg reminded Montgomery that he was under contract with the merchant caravan, and that he very well couldn’t leave his job. Montgomery looked at the contract, which was basically a standard orc contract that indemnifies the merchant owning the caravan from any accidental disembowelment, and Montgomery simply declared the contract null and void, and tore the contract to shreds. Korg was fascinated with this new concept

Daxis walked back outside. He and Aeros had searched Gant’s office and found his ledger. It appeared that the caravan had been having some problems. The wheels on the wagons were mysteriously removed from the wagons, which meant they had to be prepared. Add to that the freakish inclement weather, and the caravan had been waylaid. Half the goods were sent with the first ferry, and the other half of the goods would be sent tomorrow morning. As Daxis walked down from the office back into the main area, Elee approached him. She wished to speak with “Lord Anaeus” alone. Daxis led her back up into the office. Satisfied with himself, Daxis kicked up his feet on the desk and leaned back, arrogant grin on his face. Elee fell on bent knee, and asked lord Anaeus had he come personally to oversee the delivery of “the item” from Lord Wrath? Daxis played along, and said yes. Elee seemed miffed that apparently she alone wasn’t trustworthy enough to oversee the operation, but did not wish to question “Lord Anaeus.” Daxis commanded Elee to leave, saying that he would take over things from here. Elee acquiesced, and left Trebizond.

Alone, the party decided to check out the warehouse and see what was in the shipment. All of the doors into the warehouse were locked shut. Korg decided to cast one of his “spells.” Screaming “Knock!” Korg managed to punch down a solid steel door and break one of its hinges. The party easily found where the crates of the shipment were kept. Korg tried desperately to remember “C6,” but could only get the 6 down. Aeros rolled his eyes, shipment ledger in hand, and pointed out where the crates were. Opening up the crates, the group found several magic items. Jorn, the merchant who owned the caravan, had hired a group of 3 treasure hunters to track down magic items and then give them to Jorn to sell them off. While Daxis was rummaging through the stuff, Korg tried to warn him that a shadowing figure wielding a rapier was creeping up behind him. The figure screamed “Your head will bring me great glory, you fiend, Anaeus!” The figure slashed Daxis across the back. Korg took his club from his back, and screamed “Summon Lump!” bashing his enemy over the head twice. Korg looked up, and saw his companion Pell, lying on the ground, blood streaming from her head.

The party relented. Daxis took out one of his hand axes and brandished it in Pell’s face. Korg asked what Pell was doing here. “My name isn’t Pell, it’s Nea.” Montgomery leaned in as well, playing the good cop. Nea revealed she was a member of the resistance, and had smuggled gunpowder on to the merchant caravan to be delivered to Kerfalazud. The gunpowder was necessary because K’rash, the orc who had led the initial invasion of Pride, was planning something big, and Greed was next. If Nea had to lay down money, she would pick Kerfalazud as the first site of military action. Daxis pointed out to her that they were sent by the resistance, so why would the resistance send people to attack a caravan with stuff they were smuggling on it? Daxis just went back to checking what goodies there were in the cargo, while the rest of the party conversed for awhile. The next ferry wasn’t scheduled to arrive until the next morning, so the party figure it would be best to get some rest. Daxis instructed Anlon, Dolvion, and Acedia to put all of the goods on a wagon and head back to Kerfalazud, they’d catch up later.

Rest would have been nice, had the ferry not left from the northern shores early and arrived in the evening. Aeros was the first to spot the ferry and alerted the rest of the party that they should put their plan into motion. The ferry docked, and M’ruth, the caravan leader, was barking orders at the goblins below to start unloading. The party positioned themselves to lie in wait, while the goblins unwittingly opened the dock bay doors, setting off a carefully laid trap made by Daxis, causing the gunpowder kegs next to the bay doors to explode, spreading fire and oil across the dock. The party got the jump on their adversaries, and battle ensued.

Korg and M’ruth clashed axes in battle, sparks flying as they landed blows that would have killed a lesser being. Korg also got to show off his spell, “magic missile,” which is a javelin he painted purple. Montgomery got off some biting remarks (to no avail) and also managed to break his crossbow. Daxis and Aeros took out one of the treasure hunters, a heavily armored fighter, while Korg took out the wizard Theo. Nea stayed on the roof and picked off adversaries with her crossbow. After the battle was won, the last treasure hunter, Anya, was allowed to go free, after she dragged herself from the river when she tried to run away from Montgomery (of all people).

The party made its way on to the ferry. There were a few goblins running about, but they were not going to get in Daxis’ way. After some searching, the party found some more magic weapons, loot, and of course, tons of gunpowder the resistance had smuggled in. Daxis found a large crate in an area that didn’t necessarily belong to the caravan, but was written in the same handwriting. He figured it was someone who didn’t want their goods linked with the caravan. Opening the box, Daxis and the party were astounded to see a red orc in a glass case. “Orcs come in black and green,” admitted Korg. The body seemed to be lifeless. Inside the box were some alchemical ingredients, one of the most notable being Arathol root, which Aeros noted in the cargo manifest. Arathol root, according to Anlon, was a very rare plant that only grows in the northern part of Gluttony.

Daxis tried to burn the creature with fire. It seemed to have no effect. Korg picked up one of the hands and played with it, saying “See? He is dead? There is nothing…” and immediately the hand grasped Korg and flung him like a rag doll into a pile of crates. Aeros began to smell smoke, and noticed that a fire had broken out. The party ran from the boat like mad, and Montgomery and Aeros were able to come out unscatched, but Daxis and Korg were not so lucky. Aeros looked up, and saw the flaming bodies of Korg and Daxis shooting through the air like meteors above, landing straight on the docks. Korg willed himself up out of unconsciousness, while Daxis was barely hanging on. Montgomery turned and saw the orc emerging from the flaming wreckage of the ship, literally on fire, it’s wounds healing even as the flames consumed it. The party decided it’d be best to find some horses and run away as fast as possible. The party found a pack of horses and got on, but Montgomery couldn’t get his to move. The red orc emerged, and from its hand a beam of red energy sprung forth, burning Montgomery and flinging him off his horse. The red orc fired another beam, narrowly missing Aeros, but was so hot that the gravel and dirt had turned into glass. Korg ran by and picked up Montgomery and flung him on the back of the horse, and turned to leave when none other than Elee and the orc guards from the pier were in front of their escape path.

Daxis took whatever was left of his Wrath uniform and flung it to the ground. Elee screamed “YOU TRICK ME! KILL THEM ALL!” The party began high tailing it out of the other side of the town, dodging a hail of arrows. The red orc turned on the other orcs, burning them alive, melting flesh from bone. The party used the opportunity to escape, and rode for an hour until they could find a small clearing. The party set up camp and rested. Nea was angry that not only did the gunpowder on the boat get destroyed, but also the gunpowder in the warehouse was left on a wagon back at the docks. Daxis just glared at her before going to sleep. The party rested shortly in the glade, until leaving to go meet back up with their compatriots, and possibly deal with whatever horrors the red orc might conjure.

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Back to the Past
A baby in trouble

After returning from the Crucible of Fire victorious, Daxis and Anlon interrogated Mathe in their “cold room” back at the Bloody Raven. Mathe revealed he was a member of the resistance in Kerfalazud. Mathe knew nothing of Eon’s arrest, but it did not surprise him, as a member of his own resistance cell had recently been executed. The resistance in Kerfalazud had most likely been infiltrated or compromised in some way. Anlon asked if Mathe knew of some way to help Eon escape from prison. Mathe thought to himself a moment, and said that his resistance cell would most likely ask for help, and they’d help in kind. I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine. Anlon and Daxis told Mathe to meet them at the Lion’s Head Inn the next morning after Mathe had gone back and spoken to his superiors. Mathe left the inn, but not without Daxis going invisible and following him. Mathe had snuck over to a grate in the southeastern section of time, an area the Dark Folk had forgotten, produced a key, unlocked the grate, and went into the sewers. Daxis pursued no further. Back at the inn, Aeros was enjoying a relaxing evening, when he was absolutely sure he saw the figure of a female clad in black on a nearby rooftop. She disappeared as soon as she was seen. Daxis investigated, and found that whoever it was used both an invisibility spell and a scrying spell. Slightly unnerved that even more people were spying on them, Daxis and the party returned to the inn and relaxed the rest of the evening.
Acedia had awoken from her slumber and Montgomery had returned from his debauchery. The party convened in the morning and headed to the Lion’s Head Inn, the tavern of choice for the blues. A well-dressed merchant was awaiting the party at a large round table. After an order of coffee, the man leaned in and revealed himself to be Mathe in disguise. Mathe agreed to let the party do a job for the resistance, and if successful, the resistance in Kerfalazud would have enough trust in them to help them free Eon. Mathe explained that there was an important caravan carrying goods from the town of Melfthis to the north. This caravan most likely had supplies and gear that would invariably aid the dark folk. The caravan was owned by a rich merchant named Jorn. Jorn is well known as not just a collaborator with the dark folk, but a human who is supportive of their rule. The resistance wants the party to procure the caravan’s supplies for the resistance, through violence if necessary. Mathe could not offer too much information about the troop complement, just that Jorn was a fairly rich merchant and could afford able body guards. The caravan was due to arrive at Kerfalazud in 2-3 days depending on how fast the caravan moved. The caravan would have to cross a river at two different points, and come south down the Gold Road to Kerfalazud. Mathe would allow the party to decide how best to proceed. Anlon sent a message to Auria and asked her to use any resources in Melfthis to try and get info on the caravan. Auria replied they had 3 resources, and that she would set them to work immediately.
Daxis and the rest of the party came up with a plan to make sure that the attack on another party, namely Wrath, rather than the resistance. The party managed to procure several uniforms for foot soldiers, and with a little help from Aeros, Montgomery was able to create some excellent forgeries of marching orders. With their gear set, the party set out north on the Gold Road, unsure of the exact schedule for the caravan, but knowledgeable in its general path. The trip northward was mostly monotonous. The border with Gluttony was sealed off months ago, all trade with Pride and Gluttony had essentially been halted, so there was little traffic for merchants going to and fro on the northern Gold Road. The landscape of Greed was one of parched earth and little vegetation. It had been quite some time since the last rain. As the party moved forward, a huge storm seemed to gather as if from nowhere. The storm was strange. It had an intensity and fierceness unlock the other storms usually experienced in Greed. The rain came down in hard sheets and the wind was intense. The party quickly took refuge in an old house, half of which had crumbled due to the passage of time, but the other half proved useful for shelter. The party lit a fire and tried to cover themselves as best they could, as the rain was still dripping through the eaves in the roof. The house itself was bare. There was the remnants of a broken desk, and a picture frame with no markings and no picture inside; no doubt rotted away by the passage of time. Daxis kept a watch at the window while the rest of the party slept. As the night wore on, Daxis felt a strange sensation coming over him as his eye lids got heavier and heavier. Daxis tried to wake up his sleeping comrades, but to no avail, and soon, Daxis drifted away into slumber himself.
Daxis was the first to wake up. He scanned the room, and was shocked to find himself in the same house, except very much intact. The floor was carpeted, the walls were restored and looked as if they had been recently constructed, and the picture frame on the wall showed a portrait of a family. Peering out the window, one could see a beautiful, verdant forest and green grass, nothing like the barren terrain of Greed. Daxis stood up and began waking his comrades, utterly befuddled as to what was happening. To his left, there was an elven woman, injured, laying on a table. The sound of someone rooting through drawers and cupboards came from the adjoining room. Daxis, Aeros ,and Dolvion headed to what appeared to be a kitchen, while Anlon and the rest of the party tended to the wounded elven female. The elf introduced herself as Aya, and she had been stricken by an orcish curse. A black pulsating blob had latched itself to her side. Anlon cast remove curse, and was shocked that he was easily able to summon power from his god Khul-Dul. Anlon removed the object, but Aya was still weak from the orc poison and dark magic. Montgomery tried to speak with her, but was surprised her Elven was archaic and used a lot of vocabulary he was not familiar with.
Meanwhile in the kitchen, Daxis walked in on an older man, possibly in his 40s, rooting through cupboards and drawers looking for something with haste, while a woman was swaddling an infant while sitting at the kitchen table. The man turned around, shocked that there was someone else in the house, and asked if Daxis and the party were intruders. Daxis found the man’s dialect to be nothing like the Greed dialect he was used to. The man spoke some archaic form of the Greed language, which Daxis was knowledgeable enough in to communicate. Dolvion followed along while Aeros was totally in the dark as to what the conversation was about. The older man grabbed an axe and told Daxis to get out, and Daxis instinctively pulled out a knife and began threatening the man as to why he had kidnapped them. After a tense few minutes, the old man relented, and told Daxis he and his wife Maria were being chased by orcs through the forest and that they were hiding in their house. Meanwhile, Aya was having a difficult time communicating with Anlon who knew neither the Greed dialect nor Elven, but they managed to communicate in pidgin Dwarf. Aya turned to Aeros and used a detect alignment spell. “You are a warrior of Kantor. Here, if the orcs come for our lives, use this.” Aeros, embarrassed that Aya essentially given away what he had long hidden, took the light orb from Aya. “Concentrate. Visualize yourself using it as a weapon.” Aeros closed his eyes, and imagined a great axe. The orb pulsated and spun, and within moments, a great axe made from pure radiance sprung into being. The weapon was lighter than a feather and shone brilliantly, the light itself ebbing and flowing like water.
The party didn’t have much time to ask further questions before a raiding party of goblins appeared from the forest, flanked by a large, menacing troll. Battle soon ensued. The party used the cover of the windows to use their long range attacks. Aeros found that he could change the form of his light weapon with just a thought, and changed it to a crossbow and back to a great axe when the need suited him. The light weapon tore through the flesh of the dark folk with ease. Things looked bleak when the troll went into a berserk rage and managed to knock Aeros unconscious. To make matters worse, Daxis tried using his eldritch blasts, but quickly found that he could not summon his powers easily. The battle was fierce, but the party emerged victorious after wiping out the goblins and burning the troll’s corpse to a crisp. With a few minutes respite, the party returned inside. Anlon sought to mend the damage to the house while Daxis asked Aya exactly what was going on. Aya explained that the Orcs had conquered Therazuul (Daxis had never heard of a city by that name) and had executed the entire royal family, save for the baby the woman named Maria was holding. The prince was the last of the bloodline of the Ellendir family. The man introduced himself as Lor ack Matheus, and apologized for brandishing an axe. Lor, Maria, and Aya were trying to help the prince flee Therazuul, but the orcs were hot in pursuit. Daxis reasoned that the party had traveled back in time, 400 years to the times of the fall of the kingdoms of Alterone. Within a few minutes, the sounds of war drums could be heard outside. An orc wearing shaman clothing, the skulls of small animals laced together into a necklace, and a large gnarled staff appeared from the woods. “Never leave a goblin to do an orcs job.” Aya went unconscious, the poison from the orcs curse leaving her weak and vulnerable. The party proceeded to defend themselves from the coming onslaught.
This time, the orcs prepared a sneaky back attack, launching themselves through the back windows and into the living room where the prince and Maria were held. An extremely tense battle ensued. The party brought to bear all of their resources of spell and sword. Daxis focused, managing to keep control of his powers to their fullest extent. Acedia, surprisingly protective of the young prince, brought to bear the full fury of her psychic powers. Montgomery used his powers of illusion to trap the two ogres flanking the shaman with a spell, entrancing them with swirling colors. Anlon summon the full might of Khul Dul into a swirling storm of flying hammers. The orcs fell to the wayside, but the orc chief managed to knock out Daxis and mortally wound Maria. “Our attack is meaningless if we don’t kill the child!” The young prince lay there, crying in his swaddling clothes on the floor. Just as the orc chief raised his axe to deliver the killing blow, Daxis leapt on to his back and jammed his dagger straight into the orc chief’s throat, green flames shooting out and sparking straight into the orc’s body. Aeros had already obliterated the orc shaman, combining the might of his light weapon with the holy power of Kantor, and releasing bursts of pure radiant energy from his light crossbow. The party killed the last of the ogres and orcs, allowing none to escape.
Maria went into the adjoining bedroom and showed the party a large chest filled with riches. She thanked the party profusely for saving them from certain death. Aya found her way to her feet to properly thank her saviors. Aeros turned to her and asked who she was. “You don’t know? I am Aya of the Eluhir daughter of—-“ her sentence was cut short as reality faded away and the party found themselves back in the abandoned house. The party awoke at the very crack of dawn on the 9th day of the 7th month. The checked their bodies, and found that if it was a dream, it was a very real one. All the wounds they had incurred, all the damage they had taken, and all of the magic they had let loose was real. Daxis immediately found the lock box underneath the floor boards of the house and procured a very large sum for the party. Acedia looked at the picture frame, and this time saw the words “Ellendir” inscribed in them, and a patch of the family portrait, still ravaged by the sands of time, but fairly intact.
The party deliberated for a moment. Montgomery had found that there was no sign of a caravan having been on the road. The ground was muddy and tracks could be easily seen. It had been a day, so it was unclear whether or not the party would meet the caravan on the road or have to go further. If they did find the caravan on the road, they were spent from fighting with the orcs to be able to do much. The party elected to rest for the day and set back on the road. After several hours of walking at a pretty good pace, they reached Trebezon, a small port settlement overlooking the Denez River. The port looked rather large, enough for two large boats as well as some smaller skimmers. No ferries were sighted. From afar, the settlement wasn’t much to look at. Near the docks was a large building with a warehouse attached, most likely an office of some sort. There were small restaurants and inns, some lining the water front, and there were people going to and fro, buying, hawking their wares, trading, etc. It was unclear if the caravan was on its way, but it had most likely not already left. Daxis and the rest of the party put on their Wrath uniforms and concocted a bold plan: Daxis would pretend to be one of Wrath’s 12 commanders flanked by a contingent of Wrath soldiers, and commandeer the port as part of a forward vanguard of Wrath forces. Daxis entered the square in full view of most of the population, and in a loud voice, boomed “I am Amaneus, Commander of Wrath. I hereby proclaim this area to be property of Wrath himself!” A hush went over the area.

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Off to the races!
Chariot racing for a new and younger you

It was the 6th day of the seventh month Reannos and the party was resting in their new property, the Bloody Raven. Dolvion was excited for the chariot races and had his blue sash at the ready. Daxis was spending the morning deciphering the tomes left behind by Eon, and was making some headway in translating the ancient Elven and Dwarvish. Acedia was hibernating, celebrating one of the kingdom of Sloth’s most important holidays: the Festival of Many Dreams, while Montgomery was out and about, doing God knows what. The party headed over to the coliseum amidst the hustle and bustle of the city. Passing the city square, the party caught sight of prisoners being transported in cages towards a guillotine that had been set up in the city square. A large orc with a top knot ordered a young woman brought onto the stage. “This woman is a member of the resistance. She tried to destroy us, the great kingdom of the sins, but she was weak! And weakness deserves death! Hail Vornoth!” Some in the crowd cheered, and Daxis and Anlon made mental note of who those people were. Regretting that they could do nothing but watch, the party continued on to the coliseum.

The coliseum was not especially busy as it was just a day for new gladiators and entrants. The “Blues” were already outside, drinking and partying, and they were elated to see Dolvion walk up, sporting his solid blue sash. Dolvion was pointed to go speak to Leera, master of games, who was responsible for registering new entrants and general management. Leera was a broad, large, and in charge. Dolvion registered and was told to speak to Mormon, the stable master and manager of the chariot races. She recommended that Aeros accompany Dolvion as his chariot defender, all the while rubbing up on Aeros, much to his chagrin. Aeros also signed up for the contest of strength later that afternoon.

Dolvion met Mormon, the charioteer manager who showed Dolvion some of his higher quality (i.e. expensive) chariots. The first chariot was a “Dwarven chariot.” Anlon inspected it, and went into a fuss about the obvious fake. “No self respecting dwarf would craft something like this on his worst day!” Embarrassed, Mormon showed off a few more chariots, and with Daxis’ masterful bargaining skills, Dolvion procured himself a chariot and two horses. After some shopping for proper ranged weapons for charioteering, Dolvion and Aeros got into position. The other racers were also getting into position, most notably, a very strange looking old man with a full head of white hair, poofed out as if he had been hit with an electric shock. Even stranger, he had no defender. The other notable charioteer was Mur’agh, a huge orcish woman with black pigtails. Her chariot was being pulled by two large winter wolves with a rather burly orc male as defender. Dolvion and Mur’agh exchanged “pleasantries” before the race, to which Mu’ragh replied that she would “paint the walls with your gore.” Mur’agh then displayed her red sash. Anlon positioned himself in the pit with the other mechanics, ready to repair Dolvion’s chariot if need be. As manager of the team, Daxis was allowed into the manager’s viewing booth which was in the first row. Not as luxurious as the sky booths for the more wealthy managers, it was still fairly comfortable. One rather burly man in the manager’s box was screaming for “Reggie” who was going to make his debut today in the races, while another man, rather slender and haughty, simply sipped at his wine glass and enjoyed grapes, as if the result of the race was a foregone conclusion.

With a sound of a gong and a wave of the flag of Greed, the chariots were off. Except Mu’ragh, who was having an especially difficult time getting her wolves to move, whipping them furiously. The chariot race was furious and fast. Aeros made good use of his glaive and nets to try and keep foes off balance while Dolvion kept the horses under his control. The wizard “Reggie” proved to be a rather haphazard driver. His translucent glass chariot was difficult to maintain. At one point, Reggie was shoved aside by an invisible force, which quickly took over the reins. Meanwhile, in the pit, Anlon, disgusted by the goblin team, decided to start a fist fight in the pit. He picked a fight with one of the goblins, tripping him and letting the creature land on his anvil, when he brought down the full force of his hammer. Mu’ragh was again trying to get control of her chariot, when her own wolves turned on her and attacked. Dolvion and Aeros tried their best to keep their chariot from tipping over. Reggie proved to be a rather uncontrollable sort. One pair of charioteers calmly took the lead though, while Dolvion and Aeros could only watch. The charioteers who were in the lead (Etholeth and Ian) managed to knock down one of Dolvion’s horses, and their speed was drastically reduced as the horse fell to the ground and broke its leg.

As the charioteers rounded for another lap, Aeros “commanded” Reggie to take over the chariot, knocking his invisible servant out of the way and commandeering the chariot for himself. Reggie activate the special ability of his chariot, the “flaming” chariot, which greatly increased his speed, but clearly at the expense of control. Reggie’s chariot sped across the race track, leaving scorch marks in its trace. Dolvion and Aeros continued, however, without a horse they were starting to fall behind Etholeth’s team, while Mar’agh was close behind them, ramming her chariot into theirs at every opportunity. Aeros gave as good as he got, and aimed his glaive attacks at Mar’agh’s winter wolves. Rounding another corner, Anlon had bested several goblins in a fist fight, and with the help of the other humans in the pit, fashioned what Anlon lovingly referred to as the “goblin cannon,” throwing unsuspecting goblins onto the track where they would prove to be deadly obstacles for oncoming charioteers. Etholeth nimbly jumped over the goblin, while Mar’agh wasn’t quite so lucky. Disgusted with her defender, Mar’agh literally kicked him out, screaming “You are useless!” As they were nearing the end of the second lap, Aeros brilliantly stuck his glaive in the wheel of Etholeth’s chariot, breaking the wheel and sending the charioteers hurtling forward into a wall without a wheel. Etholeth’s team had managed to prop the chariot up on a stick and were attempting to drag themselves, but to no avail, as Mar’agh lost control of her chariot, sending the chariot portion flying over the wolves drawing her chariot and, like a missile, was flung into Etholeth, leaving the charioteers nothing but a bloody stain along the side of the wall. With most of the racers either dead, unable to move faster than a brisk pace, or without a chariot, Aeros and Dolvion were declared to have won the qualifying round. Anlon took Mar’agh’s bloody sash as a prize for the blues, draping it across their lodge in the coliseum.

Later that afternoon, after some beers and celebrating in the hall of the Blues, Aeros participated in the test of strength. The competition wasn’t as fierce as the chariot races. The first challenge was to leap across a chasm filled with magical water. Aeros and several of the other contestants made the jump easily. The last competition was to lift magical cubes made from some dense matter. Aeros won the contest easily. His only real competition suffered a hernia and had to withdraw. Aeros and Dolvion were admitted as professional charioteers. Anlon set about upgrading Dolvion’s chariot at his workshop in the guild, hiding it behind a curtain so that no one could see his masterpiece before it’s time.

On the way back to the Bloody Raven, Anlon noticed that the orcish guard was out in force, picking up the strays, vagabonds, and lepers off the streets. Anlon helped an old man, seemingly insane, off the street and into the Bloody Raven. Daxis was disgusted by this clear and blatant act of charity, but Anlon explained all the people they helped would owe them a favor. Anlon picked up a few more people and took them to the Bloody Raven where they had a warm meal. Anlon wasn’t convinced entirely by the old man’s crazy act, and conferred with Daxis. When Anlon came back to question the man, he was gone. He had apparently taken a kitchen uniform and disappeared through a hallway window into the city. Suspicious, Daxis invited Una downstairs to a cold room, where he and Anlon interrogated her, suspecting that she wanted revenge for losing her bar. Una wasn’t lying, she really had no idea who the old man was and what was going on. Not wanting to take any chances, Daxis ordered the kitchen staff to clear the restaurant of all the prepared meals and anything they were currently cooking, and made new meals for all the patrons. Wary, the party went to bed.

The next day, the party mostly rested, Daxis continued his research, making some headway. Night fell, and one of G’rumsh’s soldiers appeared at the inn to lead Daxis and his crew to their new “special venue.” The party headed to the western wall and into a guard tower, where the guard revealed an underground passage leading into a cavernous area beneath the city. The area itself was huge, most likely carved out from years of erosion from underground rivers. After some walking, the party caught sight of a huge crowd of orcs, goblins, and other dark folk, as well as a group of humans who were standing off to the side. There was loud cheering and whooping, amidst cries of “Kill him!” There were two humans, bare chested, slugging it out in a pit sunk into the earth. There was a throne on the far side of the room overlooking the pit, empty. Daxis and his crew looked around, and saw that many of the humans were vagabonds and lepers, most likely picked up the previous night. Daxis took out his daggers and began playing with them, waiting for G’rumsh to take the stage, which he soon did. G’rumsh ascended to his throne, flanked by another orc, who Anlon recognized from the execution of the rebel the previous day. G’rumsh gave a speech, announcing that he was going to create a fighting force of orcs and humans, but only the strongest humans were worthy to serve. Those who were too weak would be cast out. Daxis grinned.

Daxis’ group was chosen first as “honored” guests, and lowered into the ring, along with 4 other humans. The orc shamans surrounding the ring began their incantations, and transformed the bare ring into a lush rainforest, wet and humid. G’rumsh called the games to begin, and said this would be a “test of guile and strength.” Daxis and the rest of the party decided to lie in wait, hiding in the foliage, while Anlon began pounding on his anvil in a rhythmic manner. Dolvion felt the ground, and felt several strange vibrations. The party heard a loud, horrible scream from within the depths of the jungle, most likely one of the other humans in the jungle. Just then, an ankheg burst forth from the ground, and tried to catch Aeros in its mandibles. The party began a fierce battle, as more ankhegs burst from the ground, spraying acid from their maw or trying to grasp their prey in their mandibles. The party fought valiantly, and when the ankhegs were wounded, they burrowed under the ground and disappeared. Daxis remembered that one of the other humans was positioned northwest of their current position, and hacked through the brush to find the human in question…cut in half, bobbing in a river of acid. Peering into the gurgling depths of the acid river, Daxis caught sight of an ankheg, bathing, healing its wounds. Anlon continued his pounding, when out of the brush, a strange man clad in a cloak appeared. Anlon studied him up and down, and figured out he was the same man from the night before, except clearly less old and less crazy. Calmly, but firmly, Anlon told him to keep close. He had some questions for later.

The fighting continued on. The party split up momentarily, when Dolvion was attacked by an ankheg as it burst from the ground, biting him and holding him with its mandibles. Aeros met a similar fate, except the ankheg successfully latched onto him, dragging him into the river of acid, scalding him. The party fought valiantly and eventually ended victorious, but not without a few bruises, scrapes, and acid marks. The rainforest disappeared in a puff of magic, and G’rumsh, laughing, declared them the winners. The orc who had stood next to G’rumsh’s throne was none too amused. The party was raised up out of the pit. The imposter old man introduced himself as Mathe, but declined to comment further on why he was in the inn the previous evening until the orcs had gone away. The entire arena was clearing out. Some of the humans simply left, while others who were wearing grey uniforms were chained and had bags placed over their heads as they were hauled off.

Upon returning to the inn, Daxis and Anlon led Mathe down into the “cold room.” Anlon played more of the good cop, while Daxis found the role of the bad cop much more to his liking. Mathe, somewhat trusting the Anlon since he had seen his cleric powers, Anlon had proven to be a charitable sort, and they had fought together for their very survival, revealed that he was a member of the resistance of Kerfalazud. Mathe had no idea who Eon was, or that he had been arrested, but that a member of his own cell had already been executed. Mathe also revealed he had not been in the inn to poison or to do any damage, but simply to case the place. The resistance was aware of the parties entry into the city, and they were persons of interest, so Mathe was sent to investigate. Daxis and Anlon continued the conversation with Mathe well into the evening.

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