Arulia

The Story of the Orcs
The Plot Congeals

Bella, Karl, and Chance were brought before the orc leader, Sughag, chieftain of the Stonehide clan of orcs. Attempting to learn why the orcs had gathered here, they diplomatically drew information from the orc.

They learned that the host was led by a great orc chieftain named Thurrulash. Thurrulash had recently united all the clans of orcs in the area under his banner by promising them great power. Thurrulash had shown his own power to be greater than any leader before him.

The chieftain explained that Thurrulash was given a vision of a great threat to the world, one that would destroy or enslave every last orc in the world. To avert this disaster, Thurrulash had his seers find a great forgotten human ruler of the region and take his power. Thurrulash found the tomb of a thousand-year-dead human priest of the Coveter. A name nearly forgotten but for his centuries-long reign over the region. The power stolen from this ancient evil changed Thurrulash, such that he must feed upon the living as the Coveter seeks to devour all in the world.

Thurrulash gathered a few clans under this power and destroyed the foul beasts within the dwarven watchtower. After securing the position, he put out the call for the other clans to gather here. For although Thurrulash was successful in overwhelming the monsters, they had other positions of power and were able to complete their wicked plan in those locations, as evidenced by the shafts of light seen in the skies.

As the orc tribes gathered, Thurrulash was sharing his stolen power with other chieftains one by one. The chieftain of the Stonehide tribe himself was next. But Sughag had reservations about this power. A lifelong follower of Candruug, he hesitated to yield his soul to Candruug’s brother, the Covetous One. Thus, although he suspected the newcomers of being spies, he gave this information freely.

Bella attempted to persuade Sughag that a human named Gwardesh was disguising himself as Thurrulash, in order to deceive the orcs into attacking the towers held by the invaders. Sughag asked “So… he tricked us into following him, so he can attack… himself?” Bella was pretty sure that was what was going on.

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Let's Split the Party and Take Half of It to the Most Dangerous Place We Can
What could possibly go wrong?

After speaking to the dwarves, and studying the orcs camped around the tower, they decided to send Chance, Bella, and Karl into the orc camps. Kismet determined the name and banner of the least hostile tribe, and they started their trip there. Bella disguised herself as an orc.

The Stonehide clan holds the territory closest to the Dwarven Borderholds. As such, they have the strongest diplomatic ties to the Dwarves. Still, those diplomatic ties tend to consist of raids for livestock or resources every few years and the inevitable repulsion by the dwarven guard or an intrepid adventuring party. They have frequently been coerced to agree to a truce for a number of years at a time, and have traded goods with the Dwarves at irregular intervals in the past. Although savage and evil, the orcs of the Stonehide clan have the greatest exposure to civilzation of the orcish tribes on the wild southern range of Nuanhon.

They approached the Stonehide orc encampment and saw that the tents and weapons racks were decorated with the heads of strange otherworldly monsters, heads with large milky eyes and tentacles for mouths… Just like the shadowy creature that attacked them at the other tower! Also, scythers and stormclouds were in pieces around the camp, body parts placed in positions of prominence as trophies of some battle past.

A gigantic sluglike malformed creature was visible having been slaughtered in the yard before the tower. This resembled the creature that the paladins and rogues had killed in the other tower.

Chance, Karl, and Bella were brought to the tent of the Stonehide chieftain, Sughag.

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The Gift of Sleadren
Hey, Free Armor!

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Arriving in the freeholds, the party was approached by a dwarven apprentice who overheard the party talking. He brought them to his master, an armorer who had lost his sight. The armorer told the party that he worshiped Sleadren because he saw her missing hand reaching out, and sculpting a suit of armor, so even though he was blind, he forged the suit he saw in his dream, and when he met Priya, he knew it was meant for her. It fit her perfectly.

The party then used their magical connection to the gods to restore the craftsman’s sight.

They traveled on to the site of the tower, and came upon the encampment of the dwarven militia, preparing for a fight. Off in the distance they could see the tower, and around it, the banners of many orc tribes.

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Moving Down the Mountain
Session #30!

The party arrived in the lowland dwarven freeholds of Vurin. The party met a messenger carrying information about the invasion from Orden, a map of the places where the pillars of light happened, and more news about King Athrimas, who was marrying his longtime mistress, the mother of Erdwell, and possibly legitimizing Erdwell to name him heir to the throne. This would keep his daughter and Ilrael from the line of succession.

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Wild Minotaur Slammers
I Call Bull

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Continuing on through the mountains, the party encountered some feral monstrous minotaurs, of great power and strength, who battered the party soundly, but were eventually overcome by the vast might and intelligence of the party.

After defeating the threat, they encountered a village which was inhabited by humanoids called goliaths. Large mountain-dwellers, not quite big enough to be giants, but much larger than humans typically get.

The goliaths told the party that there was a dragon up in the mountains somewhere. They were particularly worried yet, but it was scaring some pretty nasty monsters down the mountain (such as the minotaurs) lately. So eventually, they’ll ask Lady Tuala to take care of that for them. She usually takes care of stuff like that. Only Lady Tuala’s been called upon to rally some fighting men to go stop the army of Prince Ilrael, who fought the Prince’s army in a great battle after which the Prince was declared missing. His bastard brother Erdwell was missing as well, but fortunately, the kingdom has a new hero, the newly knighted Sir Bellmaker, who rescued Erdwell from the battlefield as he was going through the bodies “looking for survivors.” After he rolled Erdwell over, Erdwell regained consciousness, and thanked his rescuer by promising to bring him back to Strahn and honor him with a knighthood.

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Jay's Not the Only Wyvern Around Here
No, Actually Wyverns

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The party left Humantown by the most expedient route, and chose to travel over the mountains beyond the reach of the Vurin Rail. Once out in the mountains on the surface world, they made decent time. They did, however, interrupt a wyvern courtship.

Two males were posturing for a female wyvern. When the party came within sight, both males attacked to have some food to offer the female. In the fight, the party quickly killed one of the males, before the female flew in low, grabbed Karl and flew up. The party attacked her while she was as low as possible, but Karl was slashed and stabbed by the wyvern’s claws and tail. Karl did kill the wyvern himself and fell to the ground, using his all his powers and skills to cushion his fall as best he could, but still nearly died from the fall.

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So Long, Humantown

Disgusted with her brethren’s actions, Priya set up a questing booth in Humantown to do good deeds without having to go through the temple. She spent most of the day at the booth waiting for work, until eventually a woman came to ask for help finding her son. He turned out to be under the bed. Still, a good deed is a good deed, so, chalk up one (more) for Priya.

Jay Wyvern found himself a private area of the town, and took his new whetstone out of the pack, and the dagger his father had left behind. Sharpening the dagger on the whetstone, a shower of rainbow-colored sparks flew from the friction of the blade, and the metal changed to reveal a new material Jay had never seen before. Taking it to a dwarven craftsman named Rildon, the dwarf said it was only heard of in legends, and he wished he could afford to buy it from Jay. The new metal was Ultrinium, and was as strong as adamantine, but had the purity of silver or mithril. This dagger also turned out to be more powerful against evil fey creatures.

Chance, Braun, and Kismet researched the tower phenomenon. They learned from other travelers that other places had experienced similar events. Mapping the points where the columns of light appeared, it revealed four points forming a trapezoidal box. Chance realized that if there were a fifth point that was unreported or failed to appear, it would make the light-columns center on the new comet that had appeared in the sky in recent weeks. Placing a dot on a spot on the map in Vurin, Chance asked the local dwarves what was there, and were told a watchtower was in that area.

The party decided to travel there as fast as they could.

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Showdown at the OK Brewery
Whose Tower Is It Anyway?

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Returning to Humantown, the party immediately went to check in with their contacts. Kismet went to her new underworld contacts, and Priya went to check on the chapterhouse of the Hand of Sleadren. Both locations were empty of people. The buzz in the street was all about the pillar of light that came from the watchtower down the mountain from Humantown. After a burst of light flared up into the night sky, a force of knights and leather-clad fighters descended on the tower, approximately 25 in all. The party went out to investigate.

They ran to the tower as fast as they could. They saw the Paladins of the Hand of Sleadren emerging and healing one another as well as some of the rogues who had gone in with them to fight. After the flare, both groups had raided the tower simultaneously. Arriving together but not united, they decided to put aside their differences to investigate the possible emergency.

When the party caught up to the alliance of paladins and rogues, they were dividing up loot from the raid. They found some amazingly wonderful magic items that could have belonged to the party, but instead were now firmly in the possession of the paladin sect and the thieves’ guild. All of these items were wonderful and would have been perfect for the various party members, but oh well.

This, of course, was unacceptable to Priya. The Hand of Sleadren had abandoned all of their principles in her eyes, by associating with these wicked rogues. In fact, some of them were noticeably evil with a simple observation. Two rogues had died in the raid, and one was converted to the side of good and was planning to atone, but Priya was having none of it. She turned her back on these apostates once and for all.

Turning to matters of more immediate import, the party used some of the quintessence they believed had come from the missing boy or his captors, they purchased a scrying spell, and learned that the kidnappers were holed up in a brewery in Humantown. The party raiding the brewery and fought a great battle, during which a mysterious creature emerged from one of their fallen foes — a brain on four legs. Apparently, it had dominated one of the villains and was secreted inside him. After that monster emerged, the party killed it with great difficulty.

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Going Off The Rails on This Crazy Train
This Campaign is Beginning to Feel Railroaded

As the party was preparing to go about town, they learned of a dwarven man and his child who were kidnapped by the evil alien-infested cult.

They wandered around Ilgard, trying to rescue the kidnapped dwarf, who got on the train back to Humantown before they could catch them. They left by train the next morning knowing the captors had a 12-hour start. Ahead, they saw a warning lantern telling the cart drivers that there was a cart wreck ahead, and to stop. Although the evil cultists had prepared an abush, Karl’s psionic senses alerted them to danger, and Kismet leapt off the cart just in time to separate the evil sorcerer from his group.

The lantern-bearer attempted to cast spells but Kismet stopped him from casting, so he stepped back and became invisible. Karl was able to see the invisible caster psionically, and grant that same ability to Kismet. In retaliation, the caster threw up a Darkness spell. Karl was able to see through it with his Darkvision.

Because of their advantages and abilities, the party made short work of their attackers.

According to the journals of Chance Oskew:

Somewhere before the train, Chance pulled Bron aside for a conversation. Unfortunately, you weren’t there, so we didn’t get to play it out! In the interest of continuity, I’ll just write out here what would have been in that conversation, so you’ll be ready for next time. Your part will be played by one of the adults from the Charlie Brown cartoons.

C: Bron! I need to speak with you a moment, away from the others. It’s, uh, somewhat related to your priestly duties.
B: Wah waah wah, wah wahh.
C: As you may recall, back in Humantown, we were attacked by a group of shadowy creatures. They were Aundine’s children, loyalists to her cause known as Anzili. The leader of that small band was an Anzili Xi, and his shadelings were mere aspects of his power. I am fairly certain they were scouting for me, and they found me. Unfortunately, I doubt it will stop with that.
B: Waah wah, wahh wah wah.
C: You are absolutely right, and I regret that anyone in our group was injured by their actions. Normally I would handle it myself, but I believe that with your help we can make this into an unprecedented opportunity. A five-square leap in the upcoming war against the Coveter and the Discordant One. It will be dangerous, but if you and I are prepared, we can handle it.
B: Wah wah wah? Wahh wah-wah wah wahhh.
C: No, I need the others to seem genuinely surprised when the time comes. Let me explain: The children of Aundine appear to be hunting me because of some innocuous experiment I conducted awhile back. That testing phase is over, but I suppose they are worried it might resume, and head in a direction that is dangerous to their kind. The Xi’s shadelings found us in Humantown, but they cannot pass the ancient wards shielding Ilgard against their kind. When they saw where we were headed, the Xi acted precipitously to stop us before we could escape. There were no survivors of that battle to warn them what happened, but they will know we somehow bested their scout. Other Xi will be looking for us, and eventually one will find us.
B: Wah wah wahh, wah-wah wah?
C: No, if we wait, they will be more careful, and may spring upon us when we are weakened, or in the midst of another battle, or worse, bring something more powerful to their aid like a Pulgrah or even a Dream Dragon. Those would be too much for us without more preparation, and they would not give us much warning. We must act first.
B: Wah?
C: The Xi are immortal. In the Collegium’s classes on martial spellcraft, we sometimes discuss strategies for dealing with immortal creatures. The price of immortality is that they tend to repeat themselves. I believe the scout who finds us next will be slightly more wary, but will think the same way, and that is what gives us this opportunity. When we return to Humantown, I will make sure they can find me, by triggering more of the sort of magics that called their attention to begin with. They will already be scouting the area, so it should make it easy for them. Once we see or sense the shadelings looking for us in town, we’ll know we’ve been found. Then, we’ll convince everyone to come with us – ostensibly to bring the warped goliath’s body to the carts, to ship to Ilgard. As before, the shadelings will report we are headed towards the carts to Ilgard, and I believe that will push the Anzili Xi to ambush us before we can escape, just as his predecessor did.
B: Wah wah wah wah wah? Wah-wah wah?
C: No, he won’t know what happened before, there were no survivors. He will also likely be more powerful than his predecessor, and thus even more likely to think himself our equal. That is where you will come in.
B: Wah wah?
C: Simple, just prepare yourself for that sort of attack. We know what we will be facing, and your holy wrath seemed to terrify them the most last time. They are devotees of Aundine, and her holy mother’s power seems especially fearsome to them. A priest of Anrahd might work better, but you were sufficiently terrifying last time, and I believe it will work again. You will simply turn the full of your powers against the shadelings. I think their master will head directly for me again, and just as his predecessor did, he will want to pull me into the shadow realm, where earthly attacks will not effect him, and where he believes he will be more powerful than I. Once I am there, the trap will be sprung, and I can stop the attack, all future attacks, and demand another favor besides. It will be one of the greatest bits of wizardry ever devised… I plan to call it Dandulus’s Lever.
B: Wah wahh wah wah-wah-wah?
C: No, no, nothing you would disapprove of. Nothing your goddess would disapprove of – and I daresay it may yet realize her fondest dreams, if all goes well. Even if it doesn’t, I think it has a very high chance of stopping any future ambushes by the Anzili.
B: Wah wah wah-wah?
C: Well, I’ll go through with it either way, so best to be prepared, I suppose.
B: Wah-wah wah wah?
C: I wish you wouldn’t. Priya would no doubt think me playing with fire and would certainly oppose the trickery involved in a counter-ambush. She would insist on a more blunt approach, which I don’t believe would yield the result we want. As for the others – I don’t think it would particularly help them to know, and I worry that it might make them react differently, and tip off the Anzili Xi. Besides, if anyone discusses this once we leave Ilgard, then one of the shadelings might hear and warn their master. We need things to appear to them as close to the way they appeared the last time as possible, since that will help assure the same reaction from the Xi.
B: Wah wah, skull-crushing wah!
C: That’s the spirit!

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I Hope This Duke Doesn't Punch Me In the Face
(spoiler -- he does)

Chance and Kismet spent most of their day vying to be the first to get an invitation to an audience with Archduke Torgemar. Eventually, secret machinations and connections enabled the party to speak with the single most important dwarven noble alive.

Assembling before the Duke, the party bowed in respect and then stood before him. His eyes widened, and he got up from his seat, walked to Jay and punched him squarely in the face. “Jacob Wyvern, I warned you never to show your face here again!” he shouted. Then ordered his guards “Arrest this miserable excuse for a man and throw him in a cell we can forget about for the rest of his life!” Guards dragged the stunned Jay off to prison as the party looked on helplessly.

“We’re not with him,” they seemed to say, as they cautiously tried to win the Archduke’s favor and persuade him that the recent starfall had brought a threat to Arul that must be dealt with.

After the audience, the Duke seemed to grant the party that they might be right, and he would look into the dangers they described. The party was also able to talk to the Duke about Jay, and perhaps convince Torgemar that it was a case of mistaken identity.

The party returned to their inn and some time late in the dark of morning, Jay returned to them, having been unceremoniously dumped out on the street outside the gaol. Some time later, a mysterious dwarven woman came to their room, and handed Jay a package, then she left. Within the wrappings of cloth, Jay found a whetstone with the symbol of the Wyvern on it. He was unsure what to make of it and put it in his back. He was confused by the fact that the symbol on the whetstone looked exactly like the symbol on the pommel of his dagger, which was the only thing he had from his absentee father.

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