Selanis

The Demon

With the sound of howling wolves approaching, but still distant, the party decided to make a run for it and try to reach the Professor’s camp before the wolves caught up… hopefully, they hadn’t moved yet this morning. The chase was on, and with some good rolls by the party, they managed to get to the camp with plenty of time to spare. The wolves, with their goblin riders, had been surprised when the party disappeared as it crossed the line marking the camp’s invisibility field. They continued to approach, but cautiously.
Meanwhile, inside the camp, most of the guards (Mazon and Mercenary alike) had been watching the situation and readying weapons to deal with intruders. Razius and Sam were immediately recognized, and as the party ran stumbling into the camp (tripping over tents that had appeared out of nowhere), the mercenary guards welcomed them while the Mazon guards scowled. The greetings were short-lived, however: Darak yelled that goblins were coming, and two dozen men armed their bows, readying shots from behind a wall of invisibility. They let loose on a command from the Mazon captain, and all but one goblin-and-wolf pair were cut down immediately (the survivor managed to flee).
In the confusion, Magus had managed to slip away undetected, diving into a tent as soon as the party entered the camp. While everyone else was busy fighting off the goblin riders, he tried to sneak up to the large metal box placed next to the campfire in the center of the camp that presumably was responsible for the invisibility shield. He was spotted by a keen-eyed Mazon guard, who yelled at him to stop… instead, Magus ran for it, diving around the side of a tent to lose his pursuers, then sneaking into the back of a different tent to hide. Pretty soon, the entire camp was on a manhunt, trying to find the strange interloper.
Magus was eventually found, and probably would have been imprisoned or killed if it hadn’t been for the intervention of Razius. Razius was pretty angry, though, at the (in his mind) completely unnecessary incident.
Minutes later, the Professor emerged, and gleefully called to Razius to come over. “There you are! Where have you been, anyway? No matter. I think I’ve found it!” He excitedly explained to Razius how he’d found the site of the cathedral, which was about a day’s march away, across the river and south of Teledil, nestled up against the mountains. When he could get a word in edgewise, Razius explained about the new “recruits”, and was able to convince the Professor to hire them: a thousand gold each once the expedition was complete and everyone was home. None of the party had any objections to that. Razius (as well as the party) had also attempted to explain the the professor about Mazon’s treachery, but the Professor wouldn’t believe any of it, to everyone’s great frustration.
The party broke camp and set out across the foothills. Darak had mentioned to the Mazon captain (Captain Jamus) that there was an orc army somewhere behind them that the scouts just maybe were associated with. He hadn’t seemed to react at the time, but while marching, they noticed that the Mazon contingent seemed to be short a few men. Perhaps he had sent some scouts to investigate.
On the way, the Professor explained something about the purpose of the expedition. Everyone knew about the ancient civilization of Amnor, he said, a prosperous nation in which elves and dwarves had worked together, until invading orcs destroyed them. What was less known, he explained, is that Amnor was actually the second civilization to occupy this territory. “Old Amnor” had not been the mixed-race nation that “Late Amnor” was, but Empire historians (“such as myself”) had never been able to definitively prove what race the Old Amnorians were. The elves claimed that they were the first Amnorians, but so did the dwarves. Old Amnor had also apparently been wiped out by Orc invasions, and Late Amnor had been rebuilt from the ashes, the elves joining with the dwarves (or perhaps the other way around) to form a new civilization that shone gloriously for several centuries before its downfall.
The Professor obviously cared very keenly about the issue. It was a question with significant historical implications…and he, Professor Quintus Quiffidern Hansemalenius, had finally found the clue that would settle the question once and for all! It would be the crowning moment of his career…
While professor waxed passionate about his work, some dust clouds had appeared in the distance behind them, their source hidden by the folding of the terrain. Darak mentioned to Razius that there might possibly be a small orc army chasing them. Razius was not pleased by the news. The seriousness of the situation was such that Razius and Jamus found themselves conferring quietly about the situation, other concerns temporarily forgotten. As the afternoon stretched on into the evening, the clouds got closer, and a sound like a distant waterfall started to grow in everyone’s ears. The expedition decided they had no choice but to make a stand… according to Darak, the incoming force was probably about 30-40 orcs & goblins with a couple of ogres… and they had the advantage of invisibility. The expedition stopped at the top of a tall grassy hill on the east side of a bowl-shaped valley, and waited.
Before long, the orcs appeared… as expected, about three dozen of them. They stopped halfway down the far hill… while another couple hundred orcs appeared on the hill behind. A magically amplified-and-translated voice boomed out across the valley, issuing a formal challenge to “The Demon,” who had so vilely defiled their god and slaughtered their people.
All eyes turned to Magus. The orcs had apparently decided that their recent misfortunes were supernatural in origin, and the theory that an evil Demon had come to plague them certainly fit with the shape of recent events as well as the appearance and actions of Magus. The voice reiterated the challenge, daring the Demon to a single, ceremonial combat.
Gyth stepped forward out of the invisibility bubble, ready to answer the challenge. The voice angrily demanded that the Demon himself come forth, and not send his servants. Magus asked to borrow the fireball wand, and fired several shots at both the orc champion who stood alone on the valley floor and the army on the hill behind. His shots mostly missed, leaving several patches of smouldering grass and angering the orc army further. Someone decided to take matters into their own hands and bodily threw Magus out of the shield… who then proceeded to taunt the orcs, make “rude gestures,” then disappear back inside the invisibility shield With a roar. The furious orc army began to surge forward…
Meanwhile, Razius and Jamus were conferring, apparently trying to decide if the orcs would leave them alone if they just gave Magus to them. Magus, deciding he didn’t want to be killed by “allies” or enemies, decided to run for it. He charged down the hill towards the orc champion and the army several hundred yards behind him. The army stopped and cheered… and Magus, continuing to run at full tilt, swerved sideways and sprinted for the nearby river. The champion and the army both turned to pursue him, ignoring the expedition still huddled under the invisibility shield on the hilltop.
At the same time, the grassy hillside was starting to go up in flames. It turns out that everburning candle + tall grass + helpful artificial breeze (courtesy of Samiel) is a great recipe for a brush fire. With the fire masking them and the army distracted by Magus, the expedition took the opportunity to retreat down the back of the hill they were on and ford the small river, hoping to get deep enough into the mountains to evade further detection. This turned out to be successful.
Magus, in turn, had also managed to evade his pursuers, diving into the same river at a different point and swimming downstream at full tilt. He eventually emerged, and while deciding whether or not to risk returning to the expedition (who all apparently wanted to kill him), a sharp-eyed hawk somehow found him in the darkness and delivered a note. It simply said, “You’re a hero.” Razius, who had been considering tying Magus up and rolling him down the hill to save the expedition, had instead seen a man courageously charge an entire army in order to draw them away. Magus wasn’t pleased about having his actions interpreted as heroism, but did follow instructions from the note to find the expedition camp and trail them quietly…
The next day, after a short journey, the expedition found the ruins of the cathedral that the Professor had been after. Some excavation revealed the catacomb entrance that was needed… according to the Professor, the Late Amnor cathedral had been built on top of an Old Amnor cathedral of some kind, and the catacombs linked them. With any luck, enough of the old cathedral had been preserved to determine what god or gods the Old Amnorians had worshipped… was it the Builder God of the dwarves, or the Sun Goddess of the elves?
Preparations were made to enter the catacombs and find out.

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