Noble Intentions

Gemoor, on the Salt Coast
A DM's Accounting, and a Lee Accounting

THE DM’S TALE

Leaving The Ilecin Delve, our valiant, battered heroes were now in possession of The Heart of Stone. They were now deep in open desert. The roadway they had been following is little more than a suggestion, but they think you can still follow its course, tracing the bulge it made in the hardpan through a landscape of scattered boulders and strange stunted trees, and the endless sands around them, beneath a boiling sun that had bleached them of all color. The breeze hadn’t so much died as collapsed, the air was motionless, the heat vibrating around them like insects wings. Everything around looked both close and far away, the sense of perspective distorted by the immeasurable horizon. How easy it would be, one would think think, to get turned around in such a place to wander aimlessly until darkness fell.

At this time, they spotted a horse trader with a caravan traveling in the opposite direction. Informing the man that there was no benefit to trying to sell his wares in either Memphun or in Desheb, a brilliant plan formed in Elythia’s mind; they would volunteer to escort him back to The Salt Coast and the City of Gemoor. This man knew the way, and had horses. In time they made it to their destination, but not before losing some horses to viscous hyenas after nightfall, and then battling the tattered remnants of Uzgash’s orc dynasty, driven from their battle with Drekha the day before. Riddled with arrows and doused in magic flames, the orcs met their last, and it would seem that for now, at least, Drekha ruled supreme in the Salt Flats of The Desert of Raduun.

Eventually, after what seems an interminable and thirsty journey through the desert, they spot the glittering Salt Coast – it appears at this distance as a vast blue carpet of twinkling gems, stretching ever onward to the horizon. Imagine a place where the ground simply stopped, and beyond that a place of tumbling endless blueness, like the sky turned upside down. And sitting there atop it, the rusting ribs and creaking planks of a dozen ships, great in size and stretching up and out of the blue, like a whole village of man’s creation, jutting from the waters further than a dwarf could throw an axe.

It’s perhaps a more welcome sight than they’ve had in a long time. Just of the road into Gemoor, a monastery stands several floors higher than the smaller buildings around it in this district, at the outskirts of the city. The Monastery itself is wrought from sandstone, and has intricate stained glass windows depicting the radiant sun, Solar angels in flights, and the stern face of Pelor looking down upon the city of Gemoor. Inside they met a singing priest by the name of Meron, and learned of several things: First, that a ship had come in from Brondoriand with its crew in terrible sickness, and they had not received any scented oils in shipments from Lorione in weeks to cover up the smell. Layla volunteered to help tend the sick, and dragged the limp form of Kayras toward the sick ward to tend her wounds as well.

Second, Moron told them of scandalous rumors from Grewfert that implied that the sun was dimming, and that their Enginseers in the Astronomicon had proof. Then, an acolyte ran up to Meron and delivered a sealed, beautiful paper folded into intricate designs, with gloriously colorful dyes forming a royal crest. Meron took some time to read it, furrowing his brow deeper, and then further so, over time. “My my, it’s as if things couldn’t get any worse. This is news from Dorasea, the Deacon of the Westcrown diocese presents me with this report that the congregation there is dwindling, and She has requested aid for the church – both in terms of clergy for services and promotion of the faith, and clerics for the treatment of the poor children, for their ward is overcrowded as ours is. Though this is a different sort of ailment, it would seem – She lists terrible depictions of birth defects rising in the area: Children born with extra arms, no eyes, a second head sprouting from the shoulder, horrible discolorations, legs with too many joints, etc. In many cases it seems there is nothing to be done, they are simply treating the pain more than anything, and the family’s loss. Dwarven children are so rare as it is, such a tragedy. But I have so little to spare as it is, there simply isn’t anything to be done, even for the likes of her holiness Madame Leonhardt” As he crumpled the paper and tosses it into a wastebin beside his desk.

Leaving Layla to do her healer’s work, the party then descended towards the Bay of Nakarn, meeting Captain Stenwall, who had just returned from The Dominion of Odisvalk, and was fearful to return. They decided to board his ship, the Arcturan, to head there with him to investigate his stories of mad beasts driven into the sea. First, however, they headed deeper into town to meet with Lady Seema Idhan and deliver news from Desheb.

Approaching the walls of the Palace seen from outside the city, it becomes apparent that this series of buildings is particularly large – bigger even than they had thought from atop the hill. A number of people are milling about in front of the gate, some are beggars, and others are merchants peddling wares. Eight guards stand watch at a massive double doored gate, which stands open at the moment. Occasionally people pass through after handing documents or showing things to the guards and are allowed passage, while others are turned away. “You’ve come from Desheb, you said? Lady Seema has been expecting you. Come with me”, and so they proceeded indoors after talking with the guards.

Two more of the guards peel off of the group to follow alongside as the first begins to escort them through the gates and into the palace grounds beyond. He says nothing as he walks you up to the front of the largest building in the compound, an elaborately carved door opens as he leads the way, the guards at the front of the palace stepping aside. Brought through the open foyer through a long hallway, several artistic pottery works in recesses along the walls before them and at a large, open chamber with several couches gathered around a low table. There are pitchers of water and wine at the table, with several brass cups. Sunlight filters through a slatted roof above, as the guard leading says to wait, and heads up a set of stairs at the far end of the room.

The conversation with Lady Seema was brief, but insightful. She cannot help them, despite believing their tale. She told them that the Ivory Clan are slavers, and they have unwittingly aided in their business, fighting off The Vultures, a band of rebels under her command. Black Marten was their leader, and Rooke was able to kill him, despite his renowned sixth sense – almost as if could practically read minds. Apparently she didn’t know of anyone who ever surprised him, snuck up on him, or ever defeated him – he was a monster to fight because he always seemed to know your next move, Greiz always said. As Rooke fiddled nervously with the ornate ring he was gifted by Naphrem, the party left to return to the docks and board the ship.

Approaching the bay itself, they can see a number of docks and launch points scattered across the water. Several are empty, but many contain ships moored there, some with full rigging and multiple masts with square sails, other smaller craft and many in between. There is a wide variety of ships present here, most tied off or at anchor in the recesses of the bay. Many of these wooden ramps and slips converge onto a single platform, at the hub of the varying shipways and portage locations. There are sailors and dockworkers hauling crates to and from the ships, nets full of fish, or guiding passengers, and they all pass by a man fussing over a large book, taking note of the people who pass by him – collecting or giving coin, and having to occasional passerby write or sign something in the book itself. On his shoulder rests a bright yellow and blue parrot, rustling its feathers every so often as it attempts to maintain balance – a difficult task, it would seem, since the man was in an animated argument with a merchant, who has just stormed off angrily back toward the shore.

They discerned that there was a ship in quarantine – the one from Brondoriand, it would seem, and the merchant Malazzan wanted them to board it regardless and get back his shipment of pearls and crab meat for sale, fearing a significant loss of his personal investment and an Ivory Clan loan if he could not recover his wares. Talking with the Harbormaster Faiza, the party decided not to go on board after all, after Faiza told them "let’s just say this is one of the few quarantines I actually agree with. He’s one of the lucky ones, really (Parrot cries “lucky ones!”) – his ship is actually here. I’m sure hes frustrated that he can’t get to it, but at least the ship is here. Many boats that are scheduled to be here haven’t arrived yet, some are late by over a week. I’ve been getting my ear yelled off by so many merchants these days – it’s been made all the worse by that edict that came out of Estalia this week."

“The bank of Estalia is a huge player in our business here in Gemoor – nearly everybody has a loan or two from them they got at some point. Earlier this week, we got in an edict from the Master of Coin declaring that all outstanding debts are to be repaid to the Realm Immediately. Not sure how well they’re able to enforce that, but I don’t have the ability to repay mine at the moment. Many of the merchants are panicking, and maybe even the Ivory Clan likely can’t repay all of theirs today if they needed to. Even the Idhan family probably doesn’t have the assets they need at the Palace to cover their debts, after what happened at Memphun and all that. I have no idea why they would demand the repayment without a warning like that, and the delayed ships isn’t making my job any more comfortable.”

Asking about other locations, Faiza tells them “I haven’t heard anything is particular, most sailors see me as an obstacle rather than a friend, so they just do their business quickly and get off to the shipwreck lounge or wherever they’re headed. What I do know is that despite the fact I’m missing some ships, There are a lot more passengers coming off board than I’m used to – not tourists, really, almost like refugees, travelers who seem to have decided that staying where they were wasn’t the best idea. I’ve seen more desperate and wild eyes than I’m comfortable with recently. Not sure what to make of that, but it’s probably not good.”

With their discomfort growing ever more, the party decided to recover Layla from the church and head out on the ship with Captain Stenwall, and learned shortly thereafter from Railey, the first mate, that Stenwall has not slept for some time, in part thanks to recurring nightmares of his time in Odisvalk. According to some onboard rumors, dreams had become a place he no longer wanted to visit. Stenwall had been able to conceal the effect of stimms he used to stay awake, at least at first. But now he was afraid the others could see it. Afraid that the others could smell it on him. He was afraid a lot of the time, in fact. Especially since the dreams had started to bleed into his waking life.

And so, with dawn breaking, the Arcturan set out from the Bay of Nakarn towards the distant shores of Odisvalk, with Dark Omens swirling in their minds, and the chill of ice in the wind.


THE LEE’S TALE

In the wake of the last battle of the Four Thousand Seven Hundred and Twenty First Great Orcish Civil War (Part XXVIII), our band of adventurers struggled to return to civilization, with the newly acquired Heart Stone in tow. As luck would have it, the first non-orc they encountered was a traveling horse merchant. In desparation, they waved the aspiring businessman down and sought his aid to return to Gemoor. After much bartering from Elythia and Thomas, it was the former diplomat Sir Thomas Harbrooke that convinced the man to take them thence, free of charge. It should be noted that this horse merchant would soon die an ignoble and accidental death as a penniless street urchan after this failed endeavor. But none of them knew that.

The man would have been slain much sooner, were it not for the band of adventurers. After a brief wolf attack, they were encountered by none other than Uzgash himself and his closest band of whatever loyal orcs managed to survive the slaughter. Desparately seeking a win of any kind, the orcish squad attacked the caravan. However, much like the wolf attack, the orcish variety was also short lived. Elythia of House Valoran put her overnight study of spellcraft to work, unleashing a new spell: A Scorching Ray that burned the everything off of the Orcish leader. And so it was that, in a forgotten spot in the middle of a desert that the great Uzgash was felled by a random band of yahoos with no stake in the line of succession. A fitting end, all who knew him would agree.

However, some wounds were sustained as the team dispatched the remaining Orcs. That process went by expediently as the group had grown wise in their dealings with Orcs who don’t speak common. Having successfully ended a potential dynasty (and a little fearful of their companion), the group pressed on.

Their efforts were well worth the journey. For they came upon the grand city of Gemoor, The jewel of the Desert of Radhun (a dubious honor, its critics would say). The city was formed into districts and dominated by a large palace at its center. The outskirts of the city held the first structure: A sizeable temple to the god Pelor, as identified by Layla, who recognized the symbols of her patron god. Seeking first contact, they made their way there first.

The priest in charge of the temple was an older man named Meron. At this point in his life, he had his hands full as the chief medical authority dealing with multiple health crises, on which he briefed the group. He described the plague ship, fresh from B. Its crew and cargo were ridden with a mysterious sickness and required assistance. Layla could not help but spring to the aid of others, and left the group to assist the sick. Meron, temporarily relieved with the extra helping hand, continued to tell the adventurers of the troubles of the land. There was also talk of a spike of birth defects in the Dwarven theocracy of Dorasea, which made Musushi absolutely livid to think of the suffering of his dwarven brethren. Through it all, of particular concern to Meron was the alleged dimming of the Sun in the land of Gwerfert. Though described with a torrent of mistrust for the Astronomicon there, the group recognized the symptom to be similar to the work of Hol Boloth of the Nine. Concerned by this grave news, the group steeled themselves and came to the realization that the work of the Nine continued. And must be dealt with. With no decisions, but great concerns, the group pressed deeper into the city.

Oh, and he didn’t know anything about the Heart Stone. Nor did he care about the Nine (Musushi welcomed the familiar pain of disappointment).

Their next stop was a crossroads where travelers could pray to Fharlanghn, the god of travelers. At Rooke’s beckoning, the group stopped for a while. There, they met Captain Stenwall, a sailor fresh off the boat for resupply. He’d been having trouble sleeping from the sights he saw on his last voyage. Herds of wildlife, rushing into the sea in an act of mass suicide as he and his crew helplessly watched from off-shore. He still heard the knocks of their antlers when he closed his eyes. He pointed them to his ship, the Arcturan, bound back to Odisvalk, land of druids. Bidding farewell and half-hearted good lucks, the group departed.

Their destination was the Palace in pursuit of their quest to find answers for the missing shipment of Desheb. Again relying on the connections and negotiating power of Elythia and Thomas, the group earned an audience with the de facto ruler of the Desert of Radhun. Who they met was not as expected. All talk made mention of the Lady’s inexperience, but the woman to whom the group spoke was shrewd, though young. It was revealed that the rebellion of Desheb was, in fact, financed and organized by Lady Seema herself. And for what cause than the freedom of all. Yes, the Ivory Clan, the group’s chief (earthly) employers thus far were slave traders. The lost shipment they sought was no exception. It had miraculously made it to Gemoor, whereupon Lady Seema freed those in bondage.

The group took a (few (dozen)) moments to collect themselves.

And executed a total reversal of position. They expressed their ignorance, then outrage at their former employers. They disavowed them immediately and swore their efforts to Lady Seema and her righteous mission (in 1 week’s time upon return to Desheb). They did, however, leave vague the precise events that led to the demise of Black Martyn, the freedom movement’s local leader.

The meeting concluded, and Lady Seema being very busy, the group was then excused, but not without partaking in some of the offered (and unoffered) refreshments. Reeling with new information, the gang set to the warpath (especially Elythia). They went down to the docks to inspect the plague ship from Brondoriand. There, they caught the end of an argument between Malazzan, an Ivory Clan merchant with business interests in the cargo (allegedly pearls and crab meat) and Faiza, the harbor-master, duty sworn to keep it quarantined. As Malazzan departed in a huff, he lobbed an ill-timed deal to the group: Retrieve the cargo and be rewarded. Newly suspicious of all things Ivory, the group decided to launch their own investigation, starting with the harbor master. Faiza told them of the Estalia banking edict, which called for immediate repayment of all outstanding debts. Noting the panic of the banks, Estalia made the list of the provinces of the Nine.

Pressed for time and eager to counter-act the Nine (and after a few cons thwarted by a too-wise harbor master), the group turned back Captain Stenwall, to join the second Odisvalk voyage, slated to leave by the next morning. After collecting Layla, the group disembarked aboard the Arcturan with its sleep deprived captain and concerned crew. And adventure!

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The Illecin Delve
It's a Trap!!

Dear Diary,

Finally, some time to write. We are somehow still alive, in spite of some of our best efforts otherwise (Musushi) and the booby-trapped cave we just left.

To start, after climbing/leaping down into the depths of the Great Maw we decided to stabilize Musushi and get some sleep. Rooke was nominated to keep watch, and he accepted this post without complaint. In fact, Rooke hardly said anything because he was staring at that book, the Codex of Duri, from Naphrem. Apparently he performed his duties well enough because we all survived the night.

We then began our exploration of the Illecin Delve. It isn’t a very nice place – too much gross fungi growing on all the dead things. Oh, and the traps. We came across some stupid dead orcs who had gotten impaled by spikes. Presuming the orcs didn’t throw themselves onto the spikes on purpose, we decided the corridor was likely booby-trapped. That pot I’ve been carrying around (to keep it away from Musushi) turned out to be useful – I just banged it around (using magic, obviously) the path ahead of us to ensure safe passage.

Next, we entered a room containing a stone golem and were promptly trapped by a stone door. We turned to Rooke to ask him to check the Codex to see if the heart of stone might be in this golem. The answer was No, but it wasn’t Rooke who was talking. Well, it was, but he was kind of possessed by the Codex… Anyways, weird. I became rather concerned, as there was a starved orc inside this room who had clearly not been able to escape. Layla, out of the goodness of her heart (far too generous, I don’t understand her sometimes), attempted to give the orc some food (which we should have saved for ourselves, seeing how we were trapped) but Musushi decided to grab the food back from the orc because he wanted to ask it some questions first. This give and take of food did not sit well with the orc, and it was obviously angry. So we had to kill it. I think Layla was mad about this… but we had bigger problems to deal with, because it turned out that the stone golem wanted us to answer a riddle. And he wasn’t very nice about it. Musushi and I argued about the answer and even though we were BRAINSTORMING the golem decided to just attack us with lightning. Thankfully Layla gave it the correct answer. The door opened, and we escaped.

We escaped into a hallway that floods with very little warning. My shoes got wet (not okay) which I immediately noticed, and this gave me a good running head start. We barely made it to safety, which happened to be another room with a very heavy stone door. In the center of the room was a clock-like device that began counting down from 12. As the count down continued, the panic in our group increased. We pulled a lever attached to the clock, and this reset the countdown. This was repeated many, many, MANY times as I had to keep pulling the lever while everyone else relaxed. I came to believe that this lever was a trick and distraction meant to keep us in the room. Also I was tired of pulling the lever. It took many tries to convince everyone to let the clock count all the way down to 0… but finally it happened. Lo and behold, we escaped.

More traps and tricks followed until we reached a narrow stone path leading into a void of darkness. We bravely continued on until we were met by a large boulder that took up the entire width of our path. It approached us when we approached it. It seemed to be mimicking the movements of the person in front… This was a tricky puzzle, but Layla (she’s pretty smart) had the excellent idea of using her owl to lead our group. The owl plan worked, and as the owl flew to the side of the path, the boulder tipped off over the edge. Our way forward was clear.

Rooke/Codex took charge at this point, leading us through another set of (fake?) booby traps into a large empty room. Empty except for one large stone golem, with a sparkling stone hanging around its neck. We immediately believed this was the heart of stone. Musushi climbed up the golem and reached for the stone, which awakened the golem. It didn’t like us. Layla’s owl retrieved the shiny stone hanging around its neck, but the battle was going rather poorly with poor Kayras taking most of the damage. Miraculously (praise whatever gods were watching and caring), Thomas awoke at precisely the moment we needed him. Rejuvenated, he grabbed his longbow and shot off his arrows, some of which hit the golem directly where the stone used to be. Defeated, the golem sank to the ground. At this point we thought we had already gotten the stone via Layla’s magic owl, but Rooke/Codex told us that we were wrong. The Codex of Duri (the book) began to talk to us… yes, a book… and it told us that it (the book) was actually the golem we just defeated, and he also used to be some sort of shamen who trapped the heart of the world in his physical form. It’s all a lot to take in and keep track of, but basically we figured out that we needed to dig around inside the fallen golem for the REAL stone. We found it! We asked the Codex of Duri what we should do with the stone, and he responded by showing us ancient visions of shamens using the stone to fight back demons. Quite a handy artifact.

Our last task was to figure out how to LEAVE, no easy task considering a large orc encampment surrounded our exit. Sir Thomas, fully recovered from his bout with postofficius, valiantly volunteered to be our ambassador to the orcs and parley with them. Through a combination of flattery, showmanship, and lies, Thomas managed to convince Drekha that the shiny stone was the real heart of stone AKA the heart of the world AND that we were offering it to him because he is soooo cool. This pleased Drekha greatly, and appeared to give him and his followers a big moral boost right before heading into battle with Uzgash. Perfect timing, and a great way for us to make a discrete exit.

We are now in our way to the city of Gemoor on the coast. Who knows what we will find there, but hopefully we can find out where some of the Nine Eyes of Cyric have been sent and use our new weapon to defeat them. I hope I can also get word of Roger. I miss him.

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Journey to the Illecin Delve

After being tasked by the archangel Naphrem to prevent the oncoming apocalypse, the group of reluctant heroes decided to make haste back to Desheb to resupply and hopefully recruit allies. They had only a week before the next date listed in the mysterious Codex of Duri. Musushi thoughtfully prepared a breakfast for his companions—however none dared try it, skeptical of what ingredients he could have scavenged from the corpse-strewn city. It was during the ensuing bickering that Sir Thomas wandered away from his fellow adventurers.

Layla spotted Sir Thomas as he clutched his throat and collapsed, but could not identify his ailment. Luckily, Musushi recognized the rare Postofficius fungus growing where Sir Thomas had fallen. Inhalation of the spores sometimes lead to a condition colloquially referred to as “Going Postal.” Thankfully it was not a fatal illness, and Musushi knew that most people recovered in approximately 8 to 9 hours. Sometimes longer, if it was near a holiday.

The party fashioned a stretcher for Sir Thomas, and headed out. Not long after, they observed a band of looters digging through the rubble, with four horses tied to a post and tantalizingly unattended. Thanks to a few clever spells from Elythia and Musushi, the adventurers were able to make away with the horses before the looters knew what was happening.

Despite living underground for the majority of his life, Musushi proved to have a strong sense of the cardinal directions, and was able to lead the party out of the ruins of Memphun. The hot sun and arid climate took its toll on the party.

Pillars of smoke were visible as they approached Desheb. Bloody, armed corpses littered the outskirts of the small village, and sounds of battle carried from further in. The adventurers recognized some of the deceased as members of the Ivory Clan. They decided to look for Kayras at the Stuffshack first, to gather more information about the situation before engaging. That plan didn’t work out too well, however, because they almost immediately stumbled across Greiz facing off with a man in a dark grey cloak.

Although his weapon was coated with blood and had obviously been used to deliver grievous wounds, the ex-adventurer was looking worse for wear. His opponent appeared unharmed, and even had an air of enjoyment. The adventurers called out inquiries and demands to cease the violence, which went largely ignored. While Rooke ascended to the roof of a nearby building for a better vantage point, Layla stepped forward and used her sun shield to temporarily blind both combatants. This seemed to have a greater impact on Greiz, who started slashing wildly at invisible enemies. Greiz would only answer “kill him!” when asked again what the holy hell was going on. Since their attempts to end the conflict peacefully had failed, the party decided to take Greiz’ advice.

With the prowess and agility of a masked vigilante with a penchant for hoods, Rooke jumped from the roof of the building, broke his fall with a roll, and popped up to fire two arrows at his foe. The first entered the cloaked man’s temple with such force that the point emerged on the opposite side. The second lodged itself in the man’s chest.

Once his opponent was dead and he was no longer fighting for his life, Greiz was more forthcoming with information. The man they had defeated was known as Black Marten, head of a group of mercenaries that resented the Ivory Clan’s power. Some in the group were unsure whether they had just put down a vicious usurper, or a civil rights leader.
After another bout of bickering, the adventurers decided to report their findings to Muini. If she was suspicious of their return sans shipment and sans Ivory Clan companions, well, they could fight their way out if necessary.

Muini was indeed displeased with their news, but chose to believe that they truly had not found the shipment and were not keeping it for themselves—because they would have been idiots to return if that were the case. Nonetheless, the decorated woman paid them each 100 gold for their efforts. The group pried for more information regarding the mysterious shipment, but learned only that it was meant to go to Lady Seema Idhan on the Salt Coast. After the destruction of Memphun, Lady Idhan was likely next in line to rule Raduun.

While uninterested or unable to provide the group with resources for their quest to find the Heart Stone and prevent the decimation of all life, Muini did procure a flask and a request for orc blood. It adds a nice spice to wine, apparently.

The party decided to look again for Kayras, hoping her affinity for Sir Thomas would convince her to accompany them north, into the orc-inhabited Salt Flats. Kayras was found in the Stuffshack, wrapping her impressive wounds from the town skirmish. She was happy to see them, particularly Sir Thomas. His state of limited consciousness did not dampen her mood. “The last thing he said before passing out was your name,” Rooke lied.

So invigorated by her recent battle, Kayras volunteered to accompany the party before they could even ask. Although her hands were too damaged to use her favored greatclub, she had taken a liking to a simple sword. It leaves a hand open for rude gestures, you see.
Kayras told them what she knew of the orc tribes in the Salt Flats. They were always warring one another, for territory, status, or perhaps just out of boredom. Kayras believed an orc named Drekha to be the dominant leader of the territory they would pass through. She was also familiar with their destination, the Ilecin Delve, although she referred to it as “The Great Maw.” Orc culture considered this to be the mouth of the world, and they had a practice of throwing sacrifices into the pit to feed it.

The adventurers devised a plan. They would bring a supply of weapons with them as an offering to Drekha, in exchange for safe passage to the Ilecin Delve. Failing that, they figured they might as well allow themselves to be captured and thrown in. The end destination was the same, anyway.

They filled a few sacs with weapons collected from the dead mercenaries and Ivory Clan members, and spent the night at the Ambersand before heading north. Sir Thomas still had not regained consciousness, but the party remained hopefully that he would recover at an opportune moment, and thus loaded his prone form onto a horse for an almost-certainly-perilous journey.

It wasn’t long before they encountered a group of orcs. “We have brought a supply of weapons for Drekha!” the adventurers announced immediately. Unfortunately, these guys weren’t fans of Drekha, and were very interested in acquiring new weapons for themselves and some guy named Oosgash. It appeared Drekha wasn’t the dominant orc in these parts afterall. While the more diplomatic members of the party attempted to bargain, Kayras stepped forward and greeted the orc leader with a head-butt.

Then it was on.

Two of the four orcs were dispatched in short order, leaving one standing and one gravely wounded. Rooke honorably offered the last standing orc the chance to surrender, but the concept seemed foreign to the heavily scarred brute. Layla wanted to heal the injured orc in exchange for safe passage, but he did not speak Common and Kayras informed them he would only attack again once healed. So they left him a crowbar to fend off the descending vultures, and continued on their quest. Before leaving though, Musushi collected some of the wounded orc’s blood in Muini’s flask. The bond between gourmands surpasses social niceties.

The adventurers tried their ploy again with next group of orcs they encountered (“We have brought a supply of weapons for your leader!”). The results were basically the same. Elythia surprised them all with a spell that completely removed an orc’s head. It didn’t decapitate him—no, his head just disappeared, leaving the nerveless body standing a short second before slumping to the ground.

Finally, the group looked down upon the valley surrounding the Ilecin Delve. More than a hundred orcs were gathered around the great pit, singing with deep, ululating voices and carrying their weapons unsheathed. Several metal structures had been erected around the pit, but the adventurers could not discern their purpose. Rather than confront a legitimate horde of orcs, the group decided to wait until nightfall and sneak into the Delve.

They hid when a patrol approached…unfortunately they didn’t manage to finish dragging the unconscious Sir Thomas into concealment, and his protruding leg alerted the patrol to their presence. Another battle ensued, and more orc blood was spilled onto the salty sediment.
After the sun set, Musushi artfully defiled the orc corpses by propping them up to appear standing and alive. Elythia cast a spell to illuminate the dead patrol from behind, and projected an illusion of human voices to lure the orc horde away from the Delve. Once their attention was drawn to the pretend intruders, the adventurers made a mad dash towards the pit.

The ruse didn’t work for long. The orc horde spotted the party racing across the valley, and immediately attacked. Layla and Musushi lost their horses to spears, and themselves took several arrows. All in the group managed to reach the Delve and descend by rope, save Musushi, who for some inexplicable reason decided to jump.

Musushi managed to cast an entangle spell to break his fall. Coupled with the soft, spongey fungus that coved the floor of the pit, he just managed to survive.

Moments after Rooke and the rest of the group reached the floor of the Delve, the Codex of Duri began to vibrate. Rooke flipped open the book, and they watched in fascination as another cryptic messaged appeared on the second page.

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Memphun Burns
Adventure 2

Thanks for the notes, Freddy!

The party awoke from a sleepless (and presumably Memphun-less) night to a town on edge. The massive explosion over the horizon had not gone unnoticed. Seeking answers from their only friendly contact there, the innkeeper Greiz, the group became privy to the talk of the town: a shipment of the Ivory Clan was expected from the city and search parties were being dispatched to retrieve it. After bellowing a few questions about the coming apocalypse (to which Greiz merely shrugged), they left the Ambersand with just enough purpose to not flee the land.

The party took this opportunity to resupply and inquire about the goings on of Desheb, namely the details of these search parties, naming them competition. Visiting such esteemed shops as the Stuff Shack, they accomplished these two goals. They had water, sand masks, chain mail (one of which was painstakingly selected to match Elythia’s fine color requirements), grenades of acid and fire for Rooke and Musushi, and Thomas left with the flirtatious favor of the half orc shopkeeper, Kayras. However, when questioning everyone they came across, the group came up short in the way of apocalypse news (much to Musushi’s frustration). It was noted that the wererat’s sword was of elvish make, though its creators had passed through far too long ago to remember anything of note. Also, the armorer noted that the Sun had been dimming of late (whatever that meant).

Most importantly, the group came across two other groups. One was dispatched from the Ivory Clan itself to safeguard their cargo, led by the warrior Ahabef. The other, a dusty band of loot-seeking mercenaries led by a brute named Uzigal. With a streak of megalomania, he had apparently named it Uzigal’s Company. Finding more kinship (and fewer fleas) with the expedition of the their former employers, the party agreed to set out with them in a few hours time. The favor and resources of the dominant merchant clan would be most welcome in seeking any answers.

They were suddenly blessed with the hope of news. A rider, now blinded by what he saw, had witnessed the destruction of Memphun! The group rushed to his side and Layla healed him of his miscellaneous burns. With eager ears, they begged him to tell them what he knew. They were disappointed. Beyond confirming the destruction of Memphun, the man was a yokel, screaming and gesticulating vaguely of unnamed gods who were totally pissed with us because reasons, man. The gang bade him half-hearted well wishes and made for the desert with Ahabef.

The road to Memphun was (expectedly) incredibly sandy. The sand masks came in handy when faced with a sandstorm on the second day of traveling. In addition to choking several of the party with dust, the sandstorm also revealed a hidden cave. With a desperation for clues leading to rashness, the party descended into the cave. And were immediately attacked by scorpions.

The battle with the scorpions when comically poorly. Though victorious, Thomas had a brush with death before being saved by the healer Layla. Ahabef’s twin brother Befaha, was not so lucky. In fact, he was quite unlucky. Dead. He was dead. He died. Furthermore, scanning the cave revealed nothing worth taking for their troubles and the destruction of the scorpion family. All things considered, Ahabef took it pretty well (he did not attack the party).

Disheartened but hopeful, they pressed on. When they arrived at Memphun, the battle in the cave seemed a mercy. It was a city of death. Once great towers and humble shops lay shattered on the wide boulevards. Fires yet burned after days ablaze. And the corpses. Rotting, bloody things; burst apart on rock and clay as though flung by demons. A yellow dust lay upon them, mercifully obscuring faces frozen in shock and agony, true; but also completing the theft of their humanity. And there was yet more dust in the air. It could take months to come down.

It was a grim sight. Some of the party were stunned to silence and disgust. What could they possibly hope to find here? Eventually, Ahabef took charge. He’d remembered the task he owed his guild. He bade the party to press on to find the expected Ivory clan shipment.

What they found was wholly unexpected. Figures who yet lived rummaged through the corpses. Hoping to question survivors, the party cautiously approached… to find Uzigal and his unwashed band of raiders. The two groups bantered, attempting to find out about each other’s motives. Finding no competition, our heroes attempted to hastily retreat before any was discovered. They were, unfortunately, too slow. As Ahabef came into view, bearing the mark of the Ivory Clan, Uzigal became triggered and old, untold feuds roused his crew to violence. A fight broke out and could not be forestalled by intimidation or diplomacy.

As luck would have it, the fight was also short lived; if the blinded horseman could be believed, by divine intervention. A shadow passed over the group. Looking up, they saw that it was a rock of immense size descend menacingly upon the city. So massive and so far it was that it appeared to take forever to impact. But when it did, miles away, the shockwave was enough to toss those left standing asunder. Debris soon crashed down among the warriors, killing the lucky ones outright. All ran, crawled, and dove to cover, but by the end, only the adventurers were left alive.

Awed by the sight of a smaller version of what must have killed Memphun, the team abandoned their quest for the shipment and made for the impact crater, looking for clues as to the meteor’s origin. Memphun once again proved to be the ruined city of surprises. Halfway to the crater, they were attacked, not by the living, but by the dead. Or undead. A trio of skeletons, reanimated to be mindless killers, stalked toward the party. Initial resistance was (shall we say) error-prone, but Layla came to the rescue. As a cleric of Pelor, she raised her hands and unleashed holy fury. With a word, the skeletons burst apart, clearing the way forward. Puzzled, the group hid behind Layla and proceeded forward.

Before long, the group found their clue to the meteor’s origin. Or rather, an obvious sign hit them in the face. Out from behind the remains of a building, they witnessed a high speed chase. A man had survived! On a cart pulled by a horse! The… thing… chasing them could only be described as a blue mist with a hint of the demonic. The man valiantly fled, but the mist was too fast. It caught the cart. It killed the horse. It flung the man into the dirt. And revealed itself for what it really was.

In the blink of an eye, the mist was transformed. In its place stood a hulking behemoth. Demonic and foul in nature, it let loose descriptive threats and arcane wordspells, identifying itself as Hol Beloth, the Gravewalker of the Nine. And it had a bone to pick with the now prone rider, who was armed only with a spellbook. It was pretty clear who the party should help and Hol Beloth knew it too. Thus, he unleashed a score of skeletons to keep them at bay.

Luckily, the party hid behind Layla. She once again raised her hands and the skeletons burst apart. Musushi followed up with an Entangle spell, binding Hol Beloth to the dust on which he stood. The rest of the party attacked the demon, which interrupted his chanting and earned them his ire. With a swipe of his hand, the broken skeletons reformed and stood and stalked forward once again!

Two can play at that game. Layla raised her hands a third time that day and burst the skeletons apart once more. The rest of the party moved to finish off the surviving skeletons. During the battle, the former rider had not been idle. He too, was chanting. But at this time, Hol Beloth could address the man unmolested. The magic was quick. A celestial portal opened beneath the man and pulled him in. Halfway. It snapped shut with a sickening crunch and the man left this world amid cries of agony. The group watched in horror as the light left the man’s eyes. That horror was amplified as they received the full attention of Hol Beloth. He raised his hand to once again raise the dead. The party looked to Layla, but she could only stare back. Her spells were spent for the day. It was clear: The group raised their weapons; their only defense against the wall of bone that promised to overwhelm them.

A flash of light drew all attention. The world appeared to peel back and admit a single entity. It was an entity of contradiction. A peaceful visage of a normal man with unbridled power behind eyes as calm as a pond in Spring. He was at once as weak as any mortal man and as tall and radiant as the Sun itself. The few words he whispered boomed across the dust. Hurling insults, Hol Beloth was dragged back to the void from whence he came.

For the first time that day, all was quiet. Even the wind seemed to rest in deference. Finally, the man spoke. He was Nephrem, angel of Pelor, and made the mistake of offering to answer questions. Bombarded by a torrent of the party’s pent up confusion, he revealed that he had come as an agent in a war between gods. One side, the side of Hol Beloth, sought to erase the world. The side of Nephrem and Pelor, his lord, sought to preserve it. The leader of the enemy was a god once imprisoned, known to the Mortal realm as Cyric. Rooke noticeably reeled at the mention of this name, but would say no more.

Nephrem denied offers to rally kingdoms to the cause, but assigned the adventurers one mission. Find the Heart Stone in the Ilecin Delve to survive the apocalypse and hopefully tip the balance. He bestowed gifts to the party, each playing to the strengths of the receiver. A circlet to thwart arrows aimed for Elythia. A ring to shield Rooke from mind readers and a fire axe to hit them with. Layla received a shield with the radiance and blinding power of the Sun. Thomas received boots of speed, to cover great distances or attack twice as fast. Musushi received a cloak to aid in hiding in the dark.

But most importantly, he bade Rooke take the tome that summoned him. The Codex of Duri. Blank, but for a single, prophetic page. With that, the veil between worlds regained its strength and Nephrem returned to his realm, leaving them alone to face the coming night.

Eager for supplies and other aid, the party elected to return to Desheb before heading to the Delve. Though they did so weary of their Ivory Clan patrons, who may find it suspicious that they return without their own agents. Relieved, then troubled by this new information, the party set out once more to an uncertain future.

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A Meeting in The Ambersand
Adventure 1

Thanks for the notes, Sara!

In the Desert of Raduun, just outside the oasis town of Desheb, five lone travelers happened upon a vicious carriage attack. Unable to turn away for such barbarity (well, except for Rooke who was feeling skeptical about the situation) they defeated the carriage attackers one by one: Musushi, the dwarf still adjusting to the above ground landscape, wielded his great spoon with fearsome strength; Thomas the half-elf ranger set loose his arrows with deadly precision; Elythia the young human sorceress used arcane forces to halt the villains; Rooke the human fighter cautiously looked on and provided emotional support to the newly formed team; Layla the half-elf cleric generously healed the injured victim of the carriage attack. The now healthy merchant named Ishak gave the party a small ivory and copper token and instructions to seek shelter and a meal at The Ambersand in Desheb. As Ishak left, the party rooted through the remains of the attackers for loot. Musushi generously (naively?) gave his share of gold to Elythia, who found the dwarf’s ignorance of above ground customs funny and full of opportunity.

Inside The Ambersand, the travelers were underwhelmed by the dingy accommodations and surplus of rats. Musushi, seeing the silver lining in this infestation, seemed eager to capture some of these vermin for noodles. Luckily there were alternative meal options. Greiz the innkeeper seated the group and took their food orders. He also informed them that Ishak’s token is from a merchant’s guild called the Ivory Clan. While waiting for their food, Elythia pounced on the opportunity to share some recently overheard gossip: Greiz’s daughter went missing when the vultures left (?!), and that there is a nearby wizard gone insane over their research. Mulling over these bits of information, Layla found it impossible to let go of the fact that Greiz’s daugher was gone and he seemed unperturbed. There was some confusion over the meaning of vultures, and an unfortunate nearby patron of the inn was brought in to the discussion which had no fruitful conclusion. They may be birds, or possibly a warband. Greiz returned with the food, and a quest: Find and eliminate the source of rats. The reward would be worth their time.

Greiz’s instructions led them to the Temple of Three, a once great stone temple long abandoned. They gingerly picked their way through the rubble. Layla detected a faint magical presence but no obvious signs. Once inside the temple, Musushi began striking the walls. Wall tiles clattered to the ground and sent up clouds of dust. Thomas cleverly noticed that the dust was not acting as it should – unless there was a room behind the wall. Musushi redirected his blows, and a hidden doorway was revealed! …and also a hoard of angry rats! They fought off the rats easily, kicking them away, but a particularly vengeful rat bit Musushi.

The group was about to venture further into the hidden passage, but Thomas noticed as strange settling of debris on the cavern floor. His keen sense of perception saved them all when he detected and disabled a pit trap. (This guy is pretty handy!) They next entered a small chamber which held the remains of a man and his adventuring gear. He was surrounded by the bones of several large rodents. All of the bones had been “picked clean”. Thomas found a silver dagger, a string of beads, and a vial of an unknown liquid among the bones… Continuing along the dark tunnel lit only by their torches, they saw an eerie message written on the walls: He sees me with nine eyes. No one could make sense of the unsettling words. Musushi led the way deeper down the narrow tunnel, barely detecting yet another trap. Who set these traps and why?

The adventurers continued along the dark tunnel until it opened up into a large cavern. A beam of moonlight fell upon the floor of the cavern, revealing a large and hostile dire rat. The group defeated the rat together, but before they could breath a sigh of relief, they had an immediate and uncomfortable feeling that they were being watched. Collectively turning around and looking upwards, they were greeted by the sight of a hideous rat-like monster looming over them. Rooke’s and Thomas’ arrows struck true but did no great lasting damage. Magical damage appeared to self-heal. Layla hurled her flaming torch at the monster but it didn’t seem to care. Despair began to creep up on the group as they wondered how they could possibly defeat this beast. The giant rat monster leaped down from its perch and rounded on Musushi, and then on Elythia. In desperation, Elythia blinded the creature with a blast of overwhelming colors. The beast staggered back, clutching at its eyes. Seizing this opportunity, Thomas slashed at it with the silver dagger which left lasting damage! Emboldened by this success, he struck it again and again until at last it was defeated by a blow to its spine. The monster’s body dissolved into a writhing black tar which then melted into a still dark pool. The ichor seeped away into the ground, revealing the corpse of a man. The party was disturbed and confused by this development. They gathered the treasure and trinkets left behind by whatever or whoever the man/beast was, and hurried back to the Ambersand to confront Greiz.

Greiz thanked them for their assistance, and claimed to have no knowledge of the were-rat or other trials within the Temple of Three. Before the group could further interrogate him, he led them down into a beautiful villa which overlooked a large underground lake. An old regal woman with facial tattoos and piercings greeted them. Muini, a representative of the Ivory Clan, gave each of them a weighty bag of gold as reward for their troubles. The eradication was good for the merchants as they are expecting a highly important shipment soon.

Musushi, Thomas, Rooke, Layla, and Elythia were also given lodging for the night by Greiz, who noted that there appeared to be a falling star in the sky. Just as they were starting to turn in for the night there was a violent roar and rumble as a shock wave moved through Desheb. Looking out the window, they could see a harsh glow from the direction of the city of Memphun

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