Selanis

The abandoned town of Narak-Nalun (part 1)

The going was monotonous as the party proceeded into the darkness of the tunnel. Despite having crossed more large cracks and holes in the tunnel walls and floor, they had seen no sign of any living creature, although they did pass more picked-clean skeletons. The only sound was that of their own footsteps. The vile smelling glands retrieved from the yellow-shelled bugs hadn’t become any more bearable with time, and made eating normal food nearly impossible simply from their presence.

Just when everybody was starting to contemplate how and where to rest, the air suddenly felt slightly fresher. There was a refreshing chill in the air, and a sense of air moving. Soon, there was the distant sound of flowing water as well. The left wall of the tunnel suddenly ended, revealing a vast cavern. The torchlight makes it hard to see any details, but clearly reflected off of stone and brick, Prominently carved into the nearest corner in foot-high letters, wass the text “Narak-Nalun” in the Old Tongue.

Darak decided to try the light wand he had found before once again, hoping to get a better view of the situation. Several minutes of swinging and experimenting with the wand later, nothing had happened. Frustrated, Magus took the wand and started waving it around wildly, banging and bouncing it off of the walls, ceiling, and party members. It jolted into life, sending a beam of light surging into the cavern for a couple of heartbeats. It revealed a city built inside of a smooth dome-shaped cavern, the flat roof reflecting light downward. Magus grinned, handed the wand back, and the party moved in to start exploring the abandoned town.

The eastern half of the town was dominated by a large multistory building, built out of stone bricks. Much of the wall on the side facing the tunnel consisted of an ornate mural depicting dwarves drinking, eating, drinking, sleeping, drinking, laughing, and drinking. Some steps led up to an entrance that still managed to look stately, despite the darkness and obvious years of abandonment. The letters inscribed in the stone nearby bore the name “The Builder’s Blessing.”

The party entered, and was immediately accosted by the faded but all-too-familiar stench of orc. The building seemed to be an inn of some kind, and from the look and smell of things, orcs traveling through the tunnel had been using it as a rest stop. The party discovered a swarm of red bugs in a kitchen area… and were pleased to note that the swarm immediately dispersed and fled, apparently driven away by the insect glands they had recovered from the large yellow bugs in their last fight. Some more yellow bugs on the roof, however, were not impressed, and charged the one carrying the glands. The fight was brief, but afterwards, the party decided it was time to rest before exploring further.

After a rest, the party returned to a door they’d discovered in the inn that stood out: the large metal door still gleamed, carved with exquisite craftsmanship. It bore the image of an armored dwarf, massive shining hammer in one hand and bright shield in the other, facing off against a dragon rearing to strike. The shield bore a crest of two crossed golden feathers. Some of the party recognized the figure and his crest: the legendary dwarven hero, Thormin Starshield. The door was solidly locked, and scratches in the nearby stonework bore testament to previous fruitless attempts to open it. Arkan proposed a simpler plan. After spending several minutes gauging the door and its surroundings, he placed his hands on the stone to either side. With a tremendous crack, the stone surrounding the door split. Arkan gave the door a push, and it fell inward, along with several inches of stone all around it.

Inside was a well-furnished bedroom. Although slightly dusty, it was neat and unspoiled. The large bed in the corner was crisply made. Trophies lined the walls, beasts magical and mundane. The party took particular note of a dragon claw and the invisible head of some magical beast. A desk stood on one side of the room, lit by a single red candle that apparently had been burning for the untold years since the room and city were abandoned. An attempt by Gyth to extinguish it by pinching the flame resulted only in singed fingers. On the desk was a book. The first part of the book appeared to be a registry of guests at the inn, but the last few pages held the following text:

It is over. We no longer have any choice: we must flee while fleeing is still available to us. I still do not know what happened to the great cities, or how the foul orc-kind defeated them so quickly. For nearly a year now, we have cowered in our hidden home, hoping that one day the tunnel would be unsealed and friendly faces greet us, telling us how the war was won and Teledil and Amnadil reclaimed. That day has not come and I fear it never will.
The sun will not last much longer. I have expended all of my wealth so that my people may have light and food, but at last it is at an end. We idle away our days in the arena, or in song, or in drink. When the plague of devourers appeared, not many had the will to fight. As their mayor, I could have compelled them, but in my stubborn pride I did not. And I have payed the price.
My son is dead. He took my hammer and my shield, hoping to win glory by doing what his father would not, and sought out the blue-shelled one. I will never forget the sight of him stumbling through the door, a ragged stump where his fighting arm once was. His last trembling words to me were an apology that he had failed, and that the blue-shelled one yet lived. But it is I who failed him, for if I had been at his side, he would never have fallen. I buried him in the High Vault, in a place of honor where the sun will always shine brightest upon him.
I have given the order to evacuate all of the citizens that remain. The master of the school is, I think, the only one who believes we will ever return, but his mind is gone. He refuses to believe that his best pupil is dead.
I have sealed the High Vault. It is a tomb to the best dwarf who I’ve ever known, and who I will never see again among the living. The gate will only open to those who speak his name, to allow them to honor him. May my shield guard him forever, and may we both find each other one day in the halls of the Builder. I, Thormin Starshield, do end my record.

The party also found a small chest under the bed, containing four silvery potions and a wand with a large obvious rune about where the thumb would go. Darak tried pressing it, producing a fireball that set the bed on fire but miraculously didn’t kill anyone.

Further exploration of the city revealed a “dip-well”, a shallow well with a constant flow of water through the bottom…not a true well as much as a piped convenience. The party passed a series of merchant stalls that had been long abandoned and looted. At the center of the town, they found an octagon-shaped plaza, centering on a still-running fountain. They also found some shards of thick glass.

A nearby building proved to be a school of some kind. The abandoned bookshelves contained one item of note: a short primer on basic arcana, which happened to have an illustrated diagram and instructions of a light-wand on one of the first pages… the workings of that item, at least, are no longer a mystery.

The session was cut short before the party could explore any further…

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Smelly stuff happens

With little time before more orcs arrived, the party sprang into action. Everyone agreed that it was time to make a run for it. Some noises from a nearby room prompted curiosity, and opening the door revealed a kitchen and a solitary cowering goblin. Adjacent to the kitchen was a small latrine. Magus dispatched the goblin while the others checked other doors from the main hall, looking for anything useful. They found nothing. Near where the goblin had cowered, Magus found and took a small keg: later inspection revealed it to be full of some kind of strong alcohol.

The party decided that the best option would be to escape down the latrine. The foul-smelling opening was little more than a large stone chute descending most of the way down the cliff. Despite being covered with all sorts of unmentionable orc slime, it seemed like the best way to avoid the incoming orcs and make pursuit difficult. A rope was secured in the kitchen, and the party descended one at a time. Gyth went first, making it down safely to a huge mound of steaming sewage. Arkan did not fare as well, losing his grip on the rope and falling… fortunately, Gyth was able to catch him well enough to prevent injuries. Donavan, however, was less lucky: he fell all the way into the sewage pile, ending up neck-deep in the stuff. Meanwhile, up above, the orcs had arrived and spotted Magus in the kitchen. He quickly untied the rope and dove head-first into the latrine, pushing out with his arms and legs to slow his fall. He cannonned out of the chute and landed on Donavan.

After freeing Donavan, the party ran into the woods, trailing brown and green muck. Darak did his best to hide everyone’s tracks and conceal signs of passage… despite the sticky situation, an excellent Survival roll meant he was able to direct everyone out of sight and mask their trail. The overpowering scent would confuse any trackers temporarily. After moving quickly and quietly for a quarter hour, the party found a stream in which to rinse themselves off. Once clean and on the other side, Darak worked as hard and as fast as he could to patch up his wounded party members, applying various strange-smelling herb poultices and incanting quietly over them. His efforts exhausted him, but most of the party was healed, and they were all able to move onward.

The decision was to follow the strange-symboled map that they had found in Norgrug’s chambers. One side of the map showed the local countryside, marked with a distinctive rune also found on a short staff that had accompanied the map. The other side of the map appeared to show the region around the ancient city of Teledil, and was marked with a similar rune. The party reasoned that the fastest escape (and the quickest route to more adventure) would be to ollow the map and take the “teleport,” or whatever it was, to the Teledil ruins on the north side of the mountains.

After an hour or so of careful traveling while covering their tracks, the party found a wide, shallow depression in a cliffside with an unnaturally flat back wall. Touching the staff to the wall caused it to open, two huge stone doors quietly rotating outward and revealing a tunnel leading into the earth. The map didn’t mark a teleport: it marked the ends of this tunnel! The group decision was to rest up for a day or two, gathering supplies, and then venture into the tunnel to see what adventures came (and to put distance between themselves and a lot of extremely angry orcs).

The morning of the second day, they were spotted: a group of goblin scouts, mounted on wolves, had finally tracked them down. They were easily fended off, but one scout escaped, meaning their position would soon be known. With the clock ticking down once again, the party entered the tunnel once more and began their journey through the darkness.

The entrance of the tunnel was littered with debris from the orcs’ previous passage: discarded waterskins, shredded cloth, and foul-smelling fist-sized lumps of some sort of meat skewered on the ends of long sticks. The tunnel itself was unmistakably dwarven in make: the stone was smooth and unbroken, flawlessly carved, their path perfectly straight. The passage was about 25 feet wide and 30 feet high, the roof forming an arch. The first few hours of their journey passed like a dream: the walls and floor never changed, the only sound the steady rythm of their own feet.

Eventually, though, the flawless walls began to be broken. Small cracks were visible in the walls and floor. They grew bigger and more frequent as the party progressed. At one point, they passed the remains of an orc skeleton, his bones picked clean and gleaming in the torchlight. His near-pristine armor and the lack of dust hinted that he had probably not been there very long.

The cracks continued to get bigger and more frequent… eventually, they found themselves at a large crevice in the floor about 25 feet wide. Arkan stepped forward… after concentrating for several seconds, he gestured slightly. A stone bridge rumbled out of the side of the crevice, forming a smooth and narrow passage over the dark pit. As the echoes slowly died away, the party carefully moved across.

The dying echoes gave way to a new sound, like falling gravel, that grew gradually louder. Soon, a swarm of small red insects, like large ten-legged earwigs, flooded into them. Torchlight glinted off of their bright red shells as they rushed forward, swarming and biting everybody at once. Magus took off running down the hall, fleeing most of them but drawing a subswarm in chase after him. The party swung at the red-shelled bugs with their torches, trying to burn and smash them.

Darak, meanwhile, began to chant, and tap his feet against the stone in a rythmic, mesmerizing dance. The swarm was captivated, ceasing their attack, swirling around Darak in a spiral of tiny legs. The dance changed slightly, and the swarm departed, flowing into cracks in the floor and walls. Meanwhile, Magus realized he wasn’t going to outrun the swarm: they were gaining on him. He whirled around, brandishing his torch. The rest of the party sped towards him to help. The rest of the swarm was dispatched quickly, one torch finally managing to set many of them on fire. The rest retreated, dispersed. It turned out to be fortunate that Magus had turned around when he did: another large gap lay in front of them! Fortunately, this one was small enough for everyone to jump.

A short time later, the party encountered a new opening in the rocky wall: this time, it appeared to be some sort of burrowed tunnel. The smell emanating from it was the same distinctive (and nasty) scent that had accompanied the meat-on-sticks found near the entrance. Concluding that the orcs had been hunting something for food, the party decided to do some hunting of their own, and filed into the narrow tunnels.

The burrowed tunnels turned out to be home to more bugs: similar in shape to the first, but man-sized and with bright yellow shells. The resulting fight was brief, but left Arkan dangerously wounded. Deciding that hunting maybe wasn’t the brightest idea after all, the party returned to the main tunnel, where Darak applied his healing abilities once again.

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A challenging battle (at last)

Peeking outside the cave, the party could tell they were in trouble: A large group of orcs, backed up by ogres, were arrayed in battle formation outside the cave. Charging was clearly suicide.

While the party conferred about what to do next, Magus was having his own problems. A pair of goblin wolf-riders had been tracking his scent, and were catching up quickly. Rather than flee, he elected to hide in the bushes and wait for them. Once found, he sprung forward out of the bushes, tearing into the scouts like some sort of unreal nightmare. Although wounded slightly, he emerged victorious… then skinned the goblins and wore their hides on his body, as a gambit to hide his scent and throw any other trackers off. He continued prowling the woods looking for things to kill, while moving generally in the direction of the cave…

The party ultimately decided on a plan proposed by Arkan: use his earth magic to create an avalanche, sealing the cave. With any luck, they could hopefully convince the army outside that they had accidentally killed themselves, and at the very least seal off a passage behind them while they raced back up to the castle to fight out that way. The operation was successful, and a rumbling avalanche closed the cave behind them while the party sped back up the subterranean passage once again.

Magus saw and heard the avalanche. Going to investigate, he found that the orc troops had split up: a majority were moving on back up to the castle, while a dozen or so of them remained behind to guard the area while a shaman investigated the rubble. He decided to wait until “nature called” for one of the guarding orcs… then snuck up on him and mutilated him horribly while he was occupied. The screams brought other orcs: Magus hid in the bushes and watched. After a brief conference, and a lot of angry shouting and cursing, one of the orcs took off running, presumably to warn the remainder of the army. Magus followed, caught him, attempted (and failed) to interrogate him, then decided to add some orc to the horrible bloody pile of skins he was already wearing.

Knowing that the bulk of the army was probably returning to the castle, and that they didn’t have much time before they got there, the party charged straight in. Opening the secret door from the cave tunnel, they found a handful of orcs busy searching the walls. They dispatched them quickly, but two of them escaped up the stairs. The party followed, charging up the stairs and into a large entrance hall full of orcs and another ogre.

What followed was the toughest battle yet: the orcs knew some sound tactics, and used them. Several orcs grabbed swords and lined up in front of the ogre, while others pulled back further and started firing arrows at the Defilers. Gyth made a legendary charge straight towards the line of orcs and the ogre, sweeping two of their legs out from under them. Arkan backed him up, while the archers traded fire with Donavan and Darak. Towards the end of the battle, Magus arrived through the front doors as well, a ghastly apparition covered in several kinds of bloody hides cut from fallen foes. The battle eventually ended, nearly every benny spent and most of the party wounded one way or another. Arkan narrowly escaped death: a lucky blow from an orc scimitar had him bleeding out onto the stone floor, but Darak was able to administer enough healing to stabilize him.

The players decided to make a gamble based on gaming conventions and guessed that the blue potions (of which they had acquired several) were probably for healing. Arkan took one, confirming this guess, to everyone’s relief.

It remains to be seen exactly how close the rest of the orcs are… Magus presumably passed them on the way up, and might have something to say about that.

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Curse those Defilers!

Earlier that night…

All around him, orcs howled in anger, swearing to exact vengeance. Shards of the broken statue of their god could be found in every corner of the room, and the sacred stones had been taken. The Defilers had been thorough. And they had escaped! Zulgar grunted in frustration. As far as he was concerned, worse than the unforgivable sacrilege was that they had robbed him of the pleasure of killing his brother. Zulgar had concocted a dozen fantasies about how he would kill Norgrug, each more elaborate than the last, only to find him gone. Most likely dead, the fool. His magic tricks hadn’t saved him from a real threat. Zulgar could have, of course, but the witless traitor had left him behind, thinking he no longer needed him. Had Norgrug’s ego inflated so much that he really believed that Zulgar wouldn’t seek bloody revenge on his traitorous brother? And yet Norgrug had evaded him, in the end… curse those Defilers!

A goblin rushed forward, babbling to him in his own foolish tongue. The news was interesting, at least… and useful! The wolves had found the scent of the Defilers, and had traced them into a cave. Five scents had entered… two had left, one of them a new scent. Zulgar smiled, for the first time that night. He may not have had Norgrug’s way with writing or speeches, but he was no fool. The instant the goblin finished, Zulgar started barking orders, mobilizing his troops. Perhaps the Defilers could yet be caught. Perhaps all of those revenge fantasies wouldn’t be completely wasted.

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Slaying the "Unslayable"

The robed orcs ran into Norgrug’s room, slamming the door behind them. The pounding of footsteps echoing through the halls indicated to the players that they didn’t have much time before orc backup arrived from upstairs. Working quickly, Magus and Arkan dashed back to the stairs leading upward from the current level. Magus detached and tossed a couple of orc heads up the stairs, while Arkan used his command over stone to seal off the bottom of the staircase by pulling a thin wall of rock out of the floor and into the cieling. Meanwhile, Darak noticed a subtly hidden lever in the corner of the corridor where he was standing: pulling it opened a previously hidden door into a disused library of some kind.

The party decided leave the library for the time being, and instead check out the room across from Norgrug’s. Inside, they found a makeshift temple, dominated by a hideous statue: an enormous stone orc, with two heads and four arms, eyes glittering with the red of rubies. Donavan, playing up his greediness, immediately tried to pry the rubies out. A critical failure caused the statue to topple onto him instead. The statue broke loudly, stone arms and heads cracking off and rolling across the floor, while the main body pinned Donavan to the ground. As the crash faded, a wailing shriek from the Norgrug’s room indicated that the shamans had heard the noise and guessed what it meant.

The party considered the possibility of simply sealing Norgrug in his room, but ultimately decided to go with the simple and straightforward plan: put Gyth in front, with everyone else supporting, and smash down the door. The battle was over quickly: although Norgrug was well equipped, and the shamans had contributed their magic to increasing his armor and adding a flame to his weapon, some great rolls led to Norgrug and his shamans falling within seconds. (The GM forgetting to use his bennies didn’t help either). Norgrug “the unslayable” was slain, and the party took his head as proof and as a trophy.

Meanwhile, orcs continued to pound at the barrier at the bottom of the stairs, while the party searched and sorted loot. Between Norgrug’s treasure room, fallen orc bodies, the thoroughly defiled orc idol, and a later perusal of the library, here is all of the loot:

Norgrug’s Armor (plate + 1, total + 4): Gyth (wearing)
Norgrug’s Gladius – Short sword, Armor-piercing 1: Donavan
Double crossbow (ROF2, + 2 attack if firing both barrels at one target): Gyth holding for now
Archer’s Gloves (+ 1 Shooting): Darak (wearing)
4 Blue potions (unidentified): Gyth
Pink potion (unidentified): Gyth
1041 gold: Gyth
runed Map & staff: Gyth
4 small rubies: Arkan
Ornate gold helmet: Gyth (not wearing)
Norgrug’s Head: Gyth
Runed golden bracelets: Gyth
Ancient tome on Amnor military tactics: Donavan

(details on some specific items and what’s known about them can be found here: Items)

The runed map and staff were of particular interest.
After loot processing, half of the party decided to check out the library for anything interesting, while Arkan and Magus decided to take care of the orcs trying to break through the stone barrier at the bottom of the stairs. Magus had the clever idea: executed by Arkan: turn the stone steps the orcs were standing on into a slide. It worked, and resulted in a satisfying series of yelps and crashes as a bunch of orcs slid and smashed into each other at the bottom of the former-stairs slide.

The next idea was to try some slightly more ambitious magic to collapse the cieling on top of those orcs. This partially worked: stone came down on top of them, but the extra weight and vibration caused the barrier at the bottom of the stairs to break. An avalanche of orcs and stone tumbled into the guard room at the base of the stairs: Magus pulled Arkan out of the way just in time. What was left of the orcs picked themselves up out of the rubble and set in to attack. The rest of the party ran to help, and another short skirmish ended with the orcs getting quickly cleaned up and killed.

Between the battle with Norgrug and the orcs, Arkan had taken a couple of wounds, which Darak was able to heal: however, some unlucky rolls (using the new power system) left him fatigued. The party had hoped to hole up in the library and rest for a while, but it was not to be: somewhere up stairs, someone smart had gotten his act together, and was putting pressure on the party. A goblin scouting from floors of the library above spotted them, and although an arrow from Donavan quickly dispatched him, his death alerted whoever was above that the party was below.

The party readied themselves for another fight with favorable bottlenecks: but this time, the enemy changed tactics. A series of torches came flying down the stairs, followed by a bottle of oil, splashing fire into the dusty library stacks. As the flames started to spread, the party decided it was time to retreat, and headed back towards the secret cave entrance.

There were a few goblins scouting the cave, but they were dispatched in seconds. As they navigated the cramped underground corridor, the party debated over the next course of action: Check out the rune on the map? Head back to Feldvale, to present Norgrug’s head and collect their reward? Or return to Norgrug’s base, clean out the rest of the orcs, and loot the place thoroughly?

The last option ultimately won out. After reaching the exit to the cave, the party looked out into the night air, verified that nobody was around, then looked towards the building on the cliff. They could see a lot of activity, and what looked like “platoon-strength” numbers (12-50). Confident they could handle that many more orcs if they needed to, they settled down for the night in the middle of the tunnel.

Meanwhile, Samus, the captive they had freed, had taken the opportunity to quietly slip out of the cave and run off into the night. Magus noticed this, mentioned he was going to go “take a leak,” and set off after him, alone. He never found Samus… but he did find a small patrol of goblins, which he ambushed and dispatched quickly. He then administered first aid to the last goblin, and decided to spend the rest of the night “keeping him company.” None of the players particularly wanted to know about the details. Their characters remained blissfully ignorant of whatever deeds Magus was doing… as the sun started to rise, he finally finished whatever it was and headed

Come morning, the party returned to check out the cave entrance. A large force stood arrayed around it, watching and waiting. Someone had not spent the night idle, and had deduced where the party had gone… probably by following the various tracks leading in and out of the cave. The party retreated back inside before they were seen.

Meanwhile, Magus was picking his way back towards the cave, as-yet unaware that he was probably being tracked too…

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Flashback: Magus & Splug

Several Days Prior…

Magus led Splug back into the woods, keeing him in front. Splug followed meekly, humming something to himself under his breath. Didn’t he understand that it was his time? Maybe he did… that would explain the cheerful humming. Magus could respect that.

They had come to a shady hollow in the woods, the trees forming a canopy overhead while a spongy gold-colored moss lay underfoot. A light breeze kept the air fresh, rustling leaves and carrying the sound of birdsong through the forest. This was a peaceful place… it would do nicely. As they stepped onto the mossy turf, Magus moved in closer behind his target. In one smooth motion, he raised his katara and drew it across the goblin’s throat. The humming turned to spluttering as blood gushed onto the moss below, and Splug collapsed onto it facedown, his body making a soft thump. Splug’s hands grasped towards his throat, twitched slightly, then grew still.

Magus looked around, satisfied. It wasn’t like he was a barbarian, after all: he’d chosen the spot well, and the goblin had met its destined end quickly and peacefully. He wiped his blade on the moss, and as he stood noticed to his amusement that a squirrel sat on a nearby branch, watching silently. That would have been helpful earlier… oh well. Magus turned and started on his way back to rejoin the others.

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Of Splug, Spiders, and Secret Entrances

After leaving Roxbury, the party set out to the northeast, towards the reported location of Norgrug’s base. As the first afternoon waned, Shadow the hawk spotted a group of goblins poking around a mountain meadow. After brief deliberation, the party decided to quietly approach and investigate. Arkan tripped over a branch, alerting the goblins that something was in the woods, but the ensuing fight was over quickly. One goblin was captured, and a search of the meadow made it apparent that the goblins had simply been looking for loot in a spot where there had once been a battle of some sort.

Magus was quick to volunteer to interrogate the surviving goblin. He insisted on being the one to do the job… and as soon as he got agreement from the others, he then suddenly ran off into the woods, muttering something about needing to find a squirrel. The party waited a couple of minutes… then decided they should probably interrogate the goblin without him, just in case Magus didn’t find a squirrel. To everyone’s disappointment, he didn’t, and we still have no idea what he had planned.

The goblin’s name turned out to be Splug. The only useful information he had was that there was apparently a secret tunnel leading from a nearby cave to the abandoned building where “Norgrug the Unslayable” was located. The party never did get a satisfactory answer as to how Splug knew about this alleged tunnel… by the time they were done with him, Magus had returned (without a squirrel) and volunteered to take Splug for a walk back into the woods… he caught up with the rest of the party shortly after that.

Other events on the journey to Norgrug’s base included an empty trapper’s cabin where the party spent the night (followed by a confrontation the next morning with a group of unfriendly trappers who were not pleased to see them there) and being hunted down by a pack of dire wolves deployed by Norgrug’s army to hunt down intruders. Fortunately, Darak was able to communicate with the wolves, and even claimed that they were friends of Splug the goblin… apparently, the wolves knew Splug, because they accepted this explanation and left the party, to the relief of everyone.

The next day, the group spotted their destination… a large building built into the top edge of a cliff. The smooth stone walls gave little information about the purpose of the structure, but it was clearly dwarven-made, impossible to determine where the stone of the cliff ended and that of the structure began. The party decided to check out Splug’s claim of a backdoor cave… despite seeing some signs that the area was routinely patrolled, they did not encounter anyone, and did eventually find a tunnel hewn into the back of a small cave system nearby. They followed it as it led them upward, towards the strange building.

At one point, the tunnel suddenly opened up into a large crack-like section of natural cave. The bones on the ground and the bits of webbing visible in the torchlight gave everyone a reason to be cautious. An attempt to fire a flaming arrow upward revealed more webs, which unfortunately refused to burn. Donavan crept forward, stealthily looting the accessible bodies, and amongst the corpses of goblins, humans, and dwarves, found a wand of some kind, the smooth stick carved with runes. He also saw what looked like light leaking through a stone door, just ahead.

After returning to the party with his discoveries, Darak decided to give the wand a try. Despite not having any magical aptitude at all, he managed to trigger the wand once, unleashing a bright beam of light that illuminated the roof above. For just a second, the party could see big bundles of thick webbing… and eight thick hairy legs protruding from one of the larger masses of them.

Since it looked like there was only one spider, of a (hopefully) manageable size, the party decided to go ahead and take it on. Donavan ran forward at full speed, hoping to trigger the spider’s trap but still evade it. The spider, however, had years of practice at intercepting fast-moving bodies, and managed to land squarely on the elf as he ran. Before it could get a good paralyzing bite in, though, a well-shot arrow from Darak hit a soft spot on the spider’s abdomen, causing it to explode in a mess of foul-smelling fluid.

The light at the end of the tunnel was, in fact, a door, and led into an empty room. Nearby, the party found a prisoner, begging for his freedom. Samus was an Empire soldier who was captured some time ago, and had been forced to watch all of his captured comrades used for Norgrug’s “demonstrations.”

As described by Samus, these demonstrations were regularly arranged by Norgrug the Unslayable to reinforce his power and position with the army. Norgrug would take off his armor and abandon his regular weapons, and step into the ring with one of his captives, dressed in the same rags and wielding the same weapon, of the captive’s choice. He would allow the captive to beat and kill him, at which point both captive and dead Norgrug would be carted out of the arena. Moments later, Norgrug would reappear, alive, the captive dead instead. All of this to demonstrate that not only could Norgrug not be killed, but that anyone who tried would end up dead in turn.

Samus had been expecting that he was the next “volunteer” for Norgrug’s demonstrations. Instead, the party had appeared, hopefully to rescue him. Instead of simply letting him flee out the way they had come, however, they decided that he could be useful… so they fetched a short sword from one of the corpses in the secret entrance cave, and insisted that he come along to help. A starved and beaten prisoner wasn’t likely to be that much good in a fight, but he could at least be a distraction.

Moving forward down a hallway, the party discovered a pair of orcs guarding a stairway from above… apparently they had entered on one of the lower levels. Magus and Donavan crept up on them carefully, then with the help of some good die rolls executed a picture-perfect surprise attack. Magus lept around the corner, punch-knives in hand, and thoroughly ventilated the near orc. As that orc crumpled to the floor, the other started to stand and open his mouth to scream… but before any sound could get out, Donavan fired a single arrow straight through his open mouth and out the back of his skull, pinning him to the wall.

The group quickly moved further down the hall, and after rounding a corner, found a pair of doors opposite each other. Listening revealed conversation coming from one room, and after some hurried discussion and planning, they had Samus open the door, then run away, planning to ambush whoever came into the hall after him. As Samus ran down the hallway past the others he yelped that Norgrug himself was in the room, along with two of his bodyguards… the fight was on. Trying to fight into the room Norgrug was in wasn’t working so well: the chokepoint of the door gave Norgrug and his bodyguards the advantage. After burning through several bennies and attempting several tricks, the party pulled back into the hallway. At this point, the bodyguards made a critical error: they charged into the hallway one at a time, thinking they had their attackers on the run. Instead, they found Gyth, who quickly became the focal point of the battle, aggressively attacking with his greataxe. Arkan used his earth magic to help defend the half-orc, while Donavan and Darak fired arrows for damage and distractions and Magus backed him up with his knives. Faced with this change in the tactical landscape, the bodyguards went down quickly.

Just as the second bodyguard collapsed, the second door (opposite the first) opened, and two robed orcs ran into the room where Norgrug still was. The lull in battle sounds also revealed the noise of pounding orcish feet reverberating through the stone hallways. Apparently some sort of alarm had been sounded, and reinforcements were on the way…

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A night in Roxbury

Commander Tom’s offer was simple.

“Alright, mercenaries, listen up. There’s an army of chaotics that’s made its way through the Eagle Mountains, and is on its way down into the plains. They’re being led by a particularly foul orc named Norgrug: somehow, he’s managed to command a lot of loyalty, and unfortunately he somehow figured out how to sneak his army right through the Eagle Mountains… so much for impassable terrain.
The good news is that we know where Norgrug is. He’s holed up in some old dwarven ruins up in the mountains, back from before the days of the Empire. He’s sent his army on ahead of him, but from all accounts is both the heart and brains of the lot. Kill him, and the whole army will fall apart.
That’s your job. It’s a dangerous mission, but since I’m paying you so well, I’m sure you’ll agree it’s worth it. I look forward to celebrating Norgrug’s death by burning these worthless pieces of paper (nodding to the stack of conscription records). In the meantime, I will be assembling all the men I can to move north and stop the Orcs before they get to any of the settlements up in the foothills.
I’ll let you lodge here tonight, but I expect you to be on your way before first light tomorrow."

The “mercenaries” were sorely under-equipped, having only what they’d looted when the coach crashed. Fortunately, a grateful quartermaster was willing to give them all the equipment he could: his wife and child had been saved from fire by a half-orc with an unmistakable scar where his eye should have been. They also met Darak, to whom Commander Tom had made the same offer, apparently on the same mission.

The next day, the group set out northest, towards the mountains and the lair of Norgrug. The journey was uneventful for the first few days as the mountains began to close in around them. The next day, however, Darak’s hawk (Shadow) spotted danger ahead and alerted his master to a group of orcs ready to ambush travelers on the trail.

The party turned the ambush on its head: Magus, Gyth, and Donavan crept up behind the waiting orcs, while Arkan and Darak walked up the road to distract them and spring the trap. The orcs were swiftly dispatched, but as the afternoon grew longer, Shadow spotted more groups of them patrolling the woods nearby. The party decided to seek shelter in the nearby village of Roxbury.

When they arrived at Roxbury, the village appeared deserted. After creeping quietly around the village, Magus and Donavan discovered that the entire village was inside a Kohmite chapel, gathered for some kind of prayer service. Donavan took the opportunity to loot the empty houses, finding a few coins and one small gold idol.

Eventually, the party decided to approach the villagers and ask for lodging for the night. The sight of Gyth’s orcish stature and missing eye nearly caused a panic… seeing Magus nearly turned it into a riot. The village priest, who appeared to double as their leader, managed to calm them down, and confronted the party. He introduced himself as Adelmar… then proceeded to beg the party for help defending the village from the orcs, who were surely coming for them soon. Surely the gods had sent them to help Roxbury in their hour of need!

The party somewhat reluctantly agreed to help protect the village during the night in exchange for lodging. Arkan, seeing the patchy state of the village’s defenses, offered to help shore them up with his earth sorcery. He raised reinforcing dirt where the palisade was weak, and created a collapsing trap where there was a particularly large gap in the wall. The villagers, although surprised to see this kind of magic performed by a human, took it in stride, not interested in questioning the form their “divine intervention” was coming in.

Late that night, the orcs attacked, following in the wake of an ogre that battered the gate down. They had obviously not expected much resistance, and only sent a small force… but the party was able to quickly wake and arm themselves, as well as a couple of the villagers. Gyth singlehandedly slew the ogre, a mighty axe blow severing the Ogre’s arm and sending it tumbling to the ground. The following orcs were quickly dispatched… although one of them, who had apparently stayed back to report on the outcome of the assault, disappeared into the woods.

The next day, the party left Roxbury, continuing forward on their mission. Adelmar pleaded for them to stay and help defend the village… surely the orcs would return, and in greater numbers. Nevertheless, the party continued on. As they reached the woods to the east, the sound of wardrums to the north and a report from Shadow indicated that more orcs were close, and coming closer.

Donavan ran back to the village, offering Adelmar valuable information in exchange for the expensive-looking necklace he wore. Adelmar coldly turned him down, convinced that instead of the divine intervention he had prayed for, the group was simply a bunch of heartless opportunists. He and his villagers returned to their chapel to pray. Donavan took the opportunity to quietly visit all the empty houses and gather whatever loot he missed the first time around, then rejoined the rest of the party to the east.

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Fire over Feldvale

The adventure began with Magus, Gyth, Donavan, and Arkan in the back of a military coach on its way to the city of Feldvale, where the passengers would be transferred to a boat and sent off to begin their new lives as soldiers of the Final Empire. Of the “recruits”, only Gyth was a volunteer: the rest of them were conscripted straight from prison, a popular approach for the Empire these days.

As the coach (as well as the escorting coach full of soldiers and a mounted officer) approached Feldvale, it started to speed up… looking out the window and overcoming his deathly fear of horses, Gyth was able to catch a glimpse of a large swath of fog covering the city, as well as the glow of flames shining through it. As the coaches descended into the fog at top speed, though, all vision was lost.

The next thing that happened was the wreck of the coach they were in, as well as the one in front of them. A tree felled across the road had been particularly deadly in the fog, and the coaches moving at full speed were no match for it. The lead coach, full of Empire soldiers, hit the tree dead on at full tilt, killing or incapacitating all of them. The driver of the second coach apparently reacted a bit better, swerving to avoid the obstacle, but managing to send himself flying and causing the conscript coach to flip over and skid off the side of the road.

Emerging from the wrecked coach, the party found themselves surrounded by fog, lit by the eerie glow of fires in the city and haunted by the sounds of screaming and clashing steel. Investigating the wreck of the first coach, they found a small cache of weapons, which proved useful when a patrol of goblins came hurtling out of the fog to attack. They were quickly dispatched, Arcan charging into their midst and dodging or absorbing all of their blows with earth magic while Magus and Donavan slyly cut goblin throats and Gyth showed them the sharp end of his axe. The last goblin fled for his life, only to find his feet tripped and his head hammered by stones subtly rising up out of the ground to meet him.

Apparently, they had arrived in town at the same time as a large goblin raid.

As the dust settled, they noticed cries of help coming from a nearby burning building… a woman, along with her young daughter, were stranded on the upper floor and yelling out of a window. Gyth immediately set to work climbing the building, intent on rescue. Arcan tried to smother some of the fire with his earth magic, but wasn’t able to put it out faster than the fire was spreading. Changing tactics, he decided to help Gyth get back down by creating a ramp of earth up against the side of the house. Although the improvised magic was difficult, it worked, and Gyth came sliding down the ramp with the rescued woman and her daughter clinging to him, safe from the fire.

Meanwhile, Magus snuck back to the first wrecked coach and quietly cut the throats of all of the Empire soldiers who had not been killed by the impact. None of the others noticed any of this bloodthirsty act.

Arcan’s use of earth sorcery should have been impossible for humans, at least according to conventional wisdom… so Donavan, as a native elf who had grown up knowing that elves could do sorcery but humans could not, was shocked. Gyth was surprised, but mostly just grateful for the help.

Before long, a troop of Empire soldiers came by and collected the conscripts. They were brought back to talk to Tomas Korigan, garrison commander of Feldvale (affectionately referred to as “Commander Tom” by his troops). He told them that the boat they were supposed to get on had fled as soon as the Goblin attack began. Rather than having to detain them for months until the next visit from the Empire recruitment office, he made them a barely subtle, under-the-table deal: they take care of a mission for him, and he would conveniently lose the records of their conscription, making them free men again.

The party seemed willing to go along with this, at least for now…

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Welcome to your Adventure Log!
A blog for your campaign

Every campaign gets an Adventure Log, a blog for your adventures!

While the wiki is great for organizing your campaign world, it’s not the best way to chronicle your adventures. For that purpose, you need a blog!

The Adventure Log will allow you to chronologically order the happenings of your campaign. It serves as the record of what has passed. After each gaming session, come to the Adventure Log and write up what happened. In time, it will grow into a great story!

Best of all, each Adventure Log post is also a wiki page! You can link back and forth with your wiki, characters, and so forth as you wish.

One final tip: Before you jump in and try to write up the entire history for your campaign, take a deep breath. Rather than spending days writing and getting exhausted, I would suggest writing a quick “Story So Far” with only a summary. Then, get back to gaming! Grow your Adventure Log over time, rather than all at once.

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