Mazariim - "Orcs From Beyond"

Dragonsbane

Proud Grognard
Heya :)

I am running a campaign in a custom gameworld called Mazariim and it is going quite well so I thought I would share.

Gameworld hook:

A world where the gods are timeless but mortal, powerful yet not omnipotent, where the gods lead their people in the real world and sometimes perish at their side . . .
. . . A universe created by the destruction of two other universes, rather than omnipotent gods . . .
. . . . . . A universe between other universes, connected to the multiverse of the planes as well as the myriad of alternate realities . . ..
. . . . . . . . . . A land defined by the conflicts of men, elves, and dwarves, yet saved centuries ago by their very unification . . . .

The campaign centers around a alternate prime material plane (think the TV show Fringe) in which orcs won the "Great War" 800 years prior, rather than a unified force of the humans, elves, and dwarves in the heroes world. The orcs have advanced greatly, conquered other alternate prime material planes, and now have accidentally stumbled arcoss the alternate prime material plane of the heroes.

Gameworld Wiki - click here

PC background links (players started at 2nd level, these levels are current):

Current Characters:

Aizune Silverwind (CG male elven Orcale 7 of Minerva)
http://mazariim.com/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=38

Smiggles von Hoofel (CN male gnome Sorcerer 7)
http://mazariim.com/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=22

Iskar (LN male human(Sabonaar) Wizard 3 / Rogue 3 / Arcane Trickster 1)
http://mazariim.com/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=38

Askir Dreagor (NG male human(Nond) Barbarian 7)
http://mazariim.com/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=99

Rylius Saiduin (NG male elf(Raladrim) Druid 7 of Minerva)
http://mazariim.com/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=98

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Previous Characters:

Noemar Stonehenge (CG male dwarf(Gormdawi) Inquisitor 4)
http://mazariim.com/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=14

Galenrauthion "Galen" Lassendlal (LN male elven(Ya'sehrim) Wizard(conjuration) 6)
http://mazariim.com/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=9

Felinn Sarth (N male human Druid 6 of Garnak)
http://mazariim.com/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=11
 
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Dragonsbane

Proud Grognard
Campaign Prelude

(BW means Before War, AW means After War):

310 BW


A dry, crisp breeze blew past the wizard as he stood motionless under the moonlight night. Above him, Mazariim's dual moons Io’el and Randir’el shone softly, with the latter appearing small and distant as it neared its furthest point in its seven month cycle. The soft twinkling of the stars was almost mesmerizing, and Zanthar had to remind himself he was in a dangerous area. The Broken Steppes was a land filled with orcs, goblins, almost no food or vegetation, and more orcs. It was the perfect place to hide from the Zebulbans that had been on his trail for months, a place far from their towns and ziggurats and sacrifices to a fell god of death and destruction.


The priests had killed his wife, his friend, his heart, his fascination since childhood. Tatyana had been his and he hers for more than fifteen years, and they had been truly happy, Zanthar a wizard practicing magic and Tatyana a loving and faithful Sabonaar wife. He thoughtfully recalled their happy moments often; even now five years after the clerics had taken and tortured his wife. He often, sadly, recalled that horrible night as well.


They had come, dressed in black and masked and silent, and taken her, leaving Zanthar paralyzed by a magical spell to watch as they drug her away, warning him not to cross the law again. Worship of another was forbidden by the Zebulbans, and while Zanthar did not have to hide his lack of faith in any deity, the eyes and ears of the cultists eventually discovered Tatyana’s faith to Tiovin. She would be taken and sacrificed publically, and he recalled his ineffectualness and inaction the following morning, his magical might not nearly enough to rescue his love in time.


Zanthar jerked his head and was back at attention as the howl of an orc could be heard in the distance. He whispered a word, and his surroundings shimmered and changed in an instant. Deep in his underground tower, some thirty feet below the area he was just standing, he could study and live and contemplate in relative peace. Until he had constructed this place with magic, however, Zanthar’s life had been different. He had killed a number of priests in revenge, and it soon became apparent that the fear of Zebulban reciprocity was enough to dissuade any from helping or hiding him after the clerics really began looking. It had been a challenging task, but his home beneath the stones of the Broken Steppes had been worth it.


Finally, after years of work, it was time. Tonight he would test his theories, his studies, his work for the last five years, and see if his predictions held true. Zanthar took a small pipe from his pocket and flipped his fingers back and forth, a small cantrip creating a flickering tiny flame to light his pipe with. He inhaled deeply, and walked down the hall to the large room that contained the machine he had built. The monstrosity took up an entire room, with three large rings that rotated in three different directions at rest along the borders of the room, all three covered in Draconic runes and a wide array of metals and gemstone powders. In the center of the room was a small round base in which rested a smallish globe of glass about a foot wide. Zanthar took a deep breath as he steadied himself. After all, he had never tested the machine before, and did not know what to expect.


Zanthar reached out his worn hands towards the globe and spoke some words, gestures flickering between his fingers. Lightning erupted in a savage blot towards and into the globe, and it began to glow. Zanthar smiled, and continued over and over, sending spells and fire and ice into the globe, each time the magic absorbed but also beginning to awaken the machine all around him. The rings unlocked, the huge metal sound clicking with a great twang, and then the runes began to glow as well. Slowly, they rings began to spin, one vertically, one horizontally, and one diagonally, with Zanthar inside at the center of the room. Faster and faster, soon they were nothing but a blur, and Zanthar was ready. As he reached out for the magical globe, its light burning like a small sun, he braced himself for the surge of magical energy. His fingers clasped around them, and the energy ripped through him, his hair on end and teeth clenched tight as he fought for mental control of the machine. For a brief moment, Zanthar thought he had heard his heart stop, and then all was still. All around him, it looked as if he was encased in silent, peaceful earth. He focused his mind, and his view changed, moving upwards. Soon he was above the ground, and he could see the familiar Broken Steppes stretching in all directions. His view floated upward more and more, until he could see the coast to the west, and the lights of the city of Ganoshar. He focused and his view rushed forward all around him, until he was high above the city. Looking down, Zanthar’s heart skipped a beat. No Zebulban ziggurat. In fact, a completely different city. As tears of joy began to stream down his face, he looked up to see three, not two moons, and he knew his theories on alternate prime material planes must be true.

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

287 BW


It had been over twenty winters since Zanthar had started using his machine to peer into the infinite parallel worlds that lie all around us, unseen and unfelt but there nevertheless. Over the years, Zanthar had never come across another world with a second version of his love.


Perhaps it was because he had nothing of hers to use as a focus, no lock of hair nor fingernail, not even something she had once possessed. Truth be told, after the first few years the now-frail wizard had given up on finding his lost Tatyana, with the use of the machine over a long period of time containing its own risks and dangers. Zanthar soon learned that with an infinite number of worlds, so too came an enormous number of worlds that contained a version of himself. The machine seemed to always select one with some link to him, but the reason for this was never discovered by the wizard. Now gray-haired and half-mad, Zanthar had become obsessed with the different versions of his own persona he would find as he peered through the planar barriers.


About a decade prior Zanthar had devised a way to pull many of the images from the machine into mirrors, using their reflective surface as a way to view them over and over. Slowly, he visited each of the worlds he had found and took from them a permanent record of his life and personality, no one ever sensing the presence of the magical sensor that could alter its vibrations to match those of other parallel worlds. In one mirror he plowed a field and had a large family plantation. In another, he was a famous orator in a place of learning, and in yet another he was a soldier at war with the elven nations far to the west across the ocean. Zanthar often thought to himself about infinity and the strange way in which there seemed to be so many worlds with a version of himself, and in time he began to feel a sense of presence and greatness that has often been the downfall of many men.


Now, decades since he had invented the machine, he stood in another room in his underground lair, surrounded by dozens of mirrors, in each a small animation of his life in another world. And yet, he despaired quietly to himself, no Tatyana. It had been some time since he had thought of her, he himself always so obsessed with what he was doing in so many other lives, so many other professions, with so many other wives and children and fields of expertise. As his old withered form stood learning on a cane, looking on at his many other lives, for a fleeting moment of clarity he realized his own life had not been lived, not spent in the way he had wanted. As he wept quietly, he did not even consider for a moment that the creation of his machine would be considered a notable if not amazing achievement.


Later that night, Zanthar began casting spells into the machine, the familiar clicks and whirs beginning all around him. His mind wandered to his lost love and the time it had been since he had looked for her. The machine grew more and more turbulent as he slung spell after spell into his creation. Reaching out for the globe, he took a breath as he thought of Tatyana, her image finally coming into his mind after all these years. For that moment, he was there with her, in her arms, years ago. And a moment later, he was gone, vaporized into a pile of dust as his control over the plane-piercing scrying machine faltered.


Deep in his lair, the images flickered and danced in the mirrors Zanthar had created. Centuries would pass, and their magics lived on, shadows dancing all around the room. And then, be if from the planar energies cast about by the machine or the illusionary magics imbued in the mirrors that memorialized Zanthar’s alternate lives, one day the shadows slowly began to move . . . on their own.

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

close to the end of 1 BW


. . . meanwhile, in the parallel reality of Ta'Puh, which up until this date was the same as our own . . .


The darkened skies flashed with streaks of white hot lightning as ash fell like snowflakes across the battlefield. Tens of thousands of orcs and humans and dwarves littered the slowly-sloping hills around Fort Hope, the fields red with the blood of war and the screams of the dying. Demious Stoneshaper waved his dwarven mailed fist in the air, his blood-stained gauntlet gouged and worn from the long battle. The remainder of his unit moved up hurriedly to him, getting into formation behind him in their well-practiced pattern. The terror in their eyes was palpable as they looked some hundred yards ahead to the titanic battle between deific avatars, the magics and weapons they wielded breaking the earth and filling the air with destruction. The dark, plate-mailed Zuel, covered in the blood of thousands of enemies now long dead, swung his gigantic greataxe with one hand in circles as he blocked the devastating blows of Mordrion and Quarzel with a great magical shield strapped to his left arm. His left hand forever lost in the battle eons ago that brought he and Mordrion to this world when he and his enemy were known by different names, he showed no sign of weakness because of it.


Zuel seemed to be at the strongest he ever had been. Or perhaps it was his enemies were weakened, fatigued not only from the ongoing war but from the slow attrition of their followers and faithful. His fire-red eyes stared deeply at the six-armed form of Quarzel that stood before him, each hand of the god of war swinging a different weapon in a different style. "YOU ARE BEATEN, FOOL!" Zuel's avatar screamed with incredible volume. "Submit and serve me, and you shall yet live! Turn on your dwarven master, KILL HIM NOW!" he bellowed, staring intently as flames flashed all over his weapon and hands.


"Think me the fool, Bringer of Doom?" the god of war replied, his bastard sword cleaving two approaching orcs as he kept his gaze on Zuel, " . . . soon YOU will be the one who kneels, soon YOU wil-"


His sentenced was stopped midway through as the ogre-magi general known as Rangithyr slipped from between the real world and the ethereal, his giant scimitar slicing though the shoulder and back of Quarzel with amazing speed. Burning blue energy poured from Quarzel's avatar, illuminating the battlefield like a second sun, and every face within sight turning to stare as the god of battle fell. And then, as if time had itself taken a moment to pause, an earthshaking explosion of force sent a shockwave across the battlefield, driving most to their knees if not the ground.


The dust began to clear, and the hulking form of Zuel stood motionless, staring at Mordrion's weakened avatar, his eye patch a reminder of their battle so long ago. "Your allies fall, both mortal and god. All is lost." Zuel's voice was deep and powerful, echoing all around. "Yesss . . can you feel it, dog? Your faithful falter!" the orc-god continued, taking in a deep breath. "Mmmmm, I can smell their despair, soon you . . "


Mordrion's charge caught Zuel in mid-sentence, his powerful dwarven form streaking forward with his dwarven waraxe in hand, only to be met by Zuel's greataxe in response. Sparks flew all around as the two gods, locked in combat, struggled for supremacy. As Mordrion faltered against the incredible power of the orc-god, he could hear Zuel's voice as he leaned in a little. "Farwell, fool. I shall enjoy your power!" Zuel said in his ear as he brought his spiked knee up, driving it though Mordrion's chest. The dwarven god coughed and staggered, and Zuel drove his knee into him again and again, so many times that everyone around the two had stopped to watch in horror as Mordrion's form became white-hot and unbelievably bright, his magical energies streaking towards the heavens as his remaining divine husk fell to the ground.


All was eerily quiet for a few seconds as all around dwarves felt the disconnection from their god. Zuel raised his hands in victory, letting out a guttural roar that could be heard for miles. It was in this moment of hubris that Zuel was caught unaware as the form of Demious Stoneshaper, one of the greatest dwarven warriors that had ever lived, flew up into the air above Zuel, his two battleaxes coming down towards Zuel with enough precision and force to defeat the orc-god and end the war. Yet, in an amazing instance of luck and fortune, the same orge-magi general that had defeated Quarzel, one of the last of his thirteen orgi-magi generals that had helped lead his war, swung his scimitar and blocked the death blow that in another world killed and defeated Zuel. The orc-god swung around, his greataxe moving with incredible fluidity as it decapitated Demious Stoneshaper. The dwarven hero that would win the war for his people in another world lie dead before him, motionless and limp.


Zuel grinned, his evil visage sliced and bloodied yet still standing. He knew that all was lost for the inhabitants of this world.

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-==-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

392 AW

. . . in the parallel reality of Ta'Puh . . .


As the sun slowly began to dip below the horizon, the soothing sound of the water and blood-red sunset had caused Rangithyr to stop and contemplate the last few centuries he had served his master. As he stood there looking out into the oceans on what was once the shoreline of the island of hin, he remembered his part in the titanic battle in which he gained his unofficial title of “godslayer”. True, he had helped defeat Quarzel, Alagolothor, and Mordrion. But they were all weakened by weeks of battle, wounded with their fight against Zuel and his minion godlings Yocholon and Krassnae, both now gone and dissipated during that fateful battle almost four hundred years ago. It had been timing and precision, his cunning and cleverness that had helped him and his master Zuel win the day. He quietly mused about a battle with one of them at full strength, something he would never get to indulge himself in.


“Ahhhh, so long since a good battle, a good war . . . far too long,” Rangithyr thought to himself as he ignored the many calls of his harem. A giant creature at more than eight feet tall, Rangithyr’s appearance would be frightening to most, his blue skin and small horns indicating his more-than-orcerish heritage. Still, there were much more frightening things in this world now, this world of orceri that read and learn and explore and conquer. Descendents of dwarven slaves, now imbued with much more limited intellect and with steel and diamond bonded to their skin, powerful warriors used to keep order when needed. The remnants of the elven race, now twisted and deformed and used as scrying agents, all linked in a hivemind of total submission to the orceri race. Humans, the most obedient, reduced to simple-minded dogs and slaves to be used for all sorts of things.


“Those weakling intellectuals, simple-minded cattle our race has become,” he muttered as he began to walk along the beach, his huge feet leaving giant footprints to be washed away by the waves as he passed. The war had been the beginning, but most had never seen the battles he and the elite armies now long dead had seen after the war, the battles against Mordrion on his own extra-dimensional plane, the hunt for other entities that still had not been defeated across the cosmos. Five decades of battle, with visions of things most could not imagine, seemed to fly by in Rangithyr’s memory as he continued along. His thoughts were suddenly interrupted by a voice quietly speaking in his ear, the sound coming from a magical earring he wore.


“Master,” the voice called, quietly speaking and then going silent.


Twisting his neck left and right, Rangithyr answered in a gruff tone. “I do hope this is important, I am not in a mood to be bothered, wizard.”


“Indeed, master. We are at the Sanctum, in my experimentation laboratory. Please, do some soon.”


Rangithyr let out a sigh as he turned to look back at his magnificent villa on the ocean. “Wizards and their experiments,” he thought to himself as he motioned slightly and appeared in the lab with a small puff of brimstone.


Quietly standing and ready to greet him, Ozmakir was an unremarkable looking orceri, hair neatly trimmed and combed back, his face and hands and feet clean shaven and smelling of a strange mix of raspberry-flavored incense and sulfur. Yet under the unremarkable dark robes was a brilliant orceri whose understanding of magic, gleaned from the trove of accumulated human wizardry of the past era, was unmatched in most of Ta’Puh.


“What is it, what is so impor-“ Rangithyr began, but was uncharacteristically interrupted by Ozmakir.


“Battle.”


The wizard nodded slowly and humbly, and motioned for Rangithyr to follow. It had been over two hundred years since he had been in a great battle, all the opponents of the orceri, both mortal and divine, defeated or dissipated. The skeptical look on his face was enough to get the wizard started on his explanation. Ozmakir motioned to a large mirror that two apprentices were finishing polishing.


“A mirror? What manner of battle could this possibly involve?” he said as he rubbed his chin.


“Permit me to explain. About ten years ago I began to look into vibrations, well actually, the vibrations of the universe . . . you see, the universe vibrates at a certain rhythm, a certain pace . . .” the wizard started.


Rangithyr yawned.


“Yes yes, well . . . you see, our universe really is made of many other . . . well . . . planets.”


“Mmmhmm, yes, we have explored the other planets in our star system, what of them. Ancient ruins from a proto-dragon race, I recall?” Rangithyr answered.


A surprised look came to the wizard’s face, but then he smiled. “No sir. Other versions of our planet.” He motioned to the mirror and began to run his hand along some metal levers and switches, magic beginning to glow on all its sides. Slowly, the image of a tavern formed, with humans and elves enjoying drinks and engaging in revelry. As Rangithyr watched, the wizard began moving the mirror, and along with it the view, as if they were looking at a porthole in a ship rather than at a 2-dimensional mirror.


“Sir, you are looking at another version of our world, of Mazariim. They are layered all around us, vibrating at different paces, wildly different paces. There, yet unseen, unfelt, unknown. Until now.”


Rangithyr almost perceptibly began salivating. “How many . . . other worlds . . are there, my good wizard?”


The wizard’s evil smile grew slowly as he quietly said, “Infinite, sir. An infinite number.”

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

Tiovary (November) 741 AW

Snow slowly fell quietly to the forest floor for the first time that year as autumn was coming to an end close to the end of Delnintesam. As Aleron quietly walked along through the woods, he took in the serene beauty and near-silence with a deep breath, his cold breath rising from his lips in a frosty cloud. It would soon be his fifty-fifth winter, his hair now down past his knees and his thoughts more those of a adult than those of a boy. He enjoyed the quiet, his mind lately troubled by nightmares during his reverie.

He pondered the terrible visions as he silently walked along, the high canopy occasionally fluttering far above him. The visions had begun months earlier, at first just happening now and then. They were always the same, or close variations of a theme - orcs overrunning and destroying his village and the elven homeland. The thought of Vand'ardhon ever coming under a major orc attack, let alone being wiped away, was almost too much to bare. His tribe's elder had consulted the spirits and tried to commune with Minerva to no avail. He had endured half a dozen sweat sessions in his cone-shaped tent, trying to find the answers within from smoke-induced visions, with nothing but swirling mists to greet him. And recently, the dreams had begun to keep him awake and disrupt his life. Not true dreams, as the other races had, but nevertheless without his time in reverie, fatigue and restlessness had set in.


Perhaps it was his fatigue, or perhaps his daydreaming, that allowed the bizarre half-bear, half-owl monstrosity to get so close to him. He heard the roar behind him as it raised its claws and howled in anticipation of its next meal. Aleron's hand moved to his falchion, but as he did, his vision was blurred for a brief moment, a moment that seemed in fact to last forever. He dropped to his knees in pain as a wrenching feeling went through his body, and as his eyes refocused and he stood, he was paralyzed with fear and bewilderment.


Aleron no longer stood in the snowy forest, but rather in a lush field of grains stretching as far as the eye could see. The sky was a softer blue, and the two moons that had been in the sky that morning near his village were nowhere to be found. Gasping for breath, he tried to steady himself and take in his surroundings. He had never seen such expansive fields of wheat in his life, and did not even know of a place with such vast agricultural riches. He let his hands trail along the tops of the wheat, closing his eyes and taking in another deep breath.


As he stood quietly, trying to calm his mind in meditation, he felt a small breeze, subtle at first but growing in strength. Turning to look behind him, he was shocked to see a beautiful yet brawny female elf swirling inside a small whirlwind slowly descending from the sky. "A visitor from the world of the living? Ahh, a good test of my skills!" she said as she drew a sword.


Panic struck Aleron as he heard those worlds. From the world of the living?!? And then, as suddenly as before, he felt the wrenching pain. This time falling to the ground completely, things went dark.


Waking with a thin layer of snow on his face, he looked about and found he was back near his home, next to a small creek he oftentimes came to for peace and quiet. He felt a small snowflake land on his lip, and as he wiped it away he realized it was not snow, but a drop of blood from his nose. Looking into the creek as he stumbled to his knees, he saw that his long black hair was now adorned with a large white streak from his head to his knees.


"What in the name of Minerva just happened?" he murmured to himself as he slowly made his way back to his hamlet.

=-=-=-=-=-=-=

Hinter 752 AW

It had been hard to keep his secret. He had traveled for the last decade across the elven lands, never staying in one place too long, always fearful of the consequences of his curse. Where it came from, who had placed it on him, he did not know. A curse from Minerva? Some crazy mage with a grude?


He had sought answers for a long while now. Hair streaked with white, Aleron felt weaker than he had just a few years ago. He felt the support of his quarterstaff and was glad he had it, his body unable to walk a full day unaided. From tribe to tribe he went, asking to speak to the cleric or druid of the group, searching for answers.


On many occasions, Aleron had caused chaos wherever he roamed. During a stressful divination along the Southern Coast, Aleron had vanished for a few moments, trails of ethereal smoke puffing around him as he vanished and reappeared. The incorporeal entity that noticed him appeared a few moments after that, possessing a number of elves in that tribe until the elder druid of the nearby tribe could come to assist in the exorcism. Another time, while staying with a tribe along the Fertile Coast, dark visions had plagued Aleron's reverie for many nights. As he came out of the trance, he realized he had unknowingly opened a portal nearby to a world or plane made of water. Unfortunately, this plane had begun pouring into our world for a minute or two, letting come forth a tremendous deluge of liquid that washed away most of the crops of the elves he was staying with. Wherever he went, chaos followed.


This time, he hoped, the mysteries would be solved. He had sought out a priest of Mau, a rarity in the elven lands. Would this follower of He Who Knows be able to pierce the veil hiding the nature of his curse? The ritual had started with precision and passion as this priest, an aged elf named Vocinder, had traced mystical lines about himself and Aleron in the forest clearing. Other elves watched closely as Vocinder danced and chanted in circles around Aleron. Around and around he went, raising his hands higher and higher and chanting louder and louder, the strange herbs burning in the nearby fire bringing the faithful of The Watcher closer and closer to his trance. After what seemed like hours, the priest of Mau suddenly collapsed and began to convulse. A few elves quickly stood to help him, but others held them back, telling them quietly in elven that this was meant to happen.


And then, as quickly as they had come, the convulsions stopped and the priest rose to one knee next to Aleron, wild-eyed and out of breath. "The swirling mists . . they do not block your visions . . they are your visions . . . you, Aleron Windstrider, are touched by . . . Thalaman."


Aleron and other elves around the priest gasped audibly. Thalaman, the mad god? What would he want with me, Aleron though to himself. Confusion and anxiety poured over him, and as light flashed around him he felt a drop of blood fall to his outstretched hand. As it would have it, fate would not spare Aleron the sight of the horrors that unfolded in the next few moments with the usual unconsciousness.


Aleron and the whole of the group around him, and even the ground and plants around them, suddenly were somewhere else. A blood-red sky streaked with yellowish lighting reigned overhead, the oven-like heat of the Abyss pouring over the elves, their screams of pain as they began to burn overshadowed by wailing of the horrific and twisted pale-white humanoids that approached, their naked skin crawling with maggots as they slowly moved towards their new meals. A few of the manes began to feast on the elves as it ended suddenly, with all the elves returning to the prime material plane as suddenly as they had left, Aleron unharmed by the heat or creatures.


Aleron stood slowly, looking around at the dozen dead elves lying burned and eaten all around him, and he began to weep. It would seem no one would ever be safe around him, and as he began to run and put distance between him and the wails of other elves coming to see what the commotion had been, he knew he was destined for a life of loneliness.


Madness, it would seem, would always be his travelling companion.

=-=-=-=-=-=-=

Xan 774 AW

Dune and dune, for miles in every direction. This was all Aleron had seen for the last week as he wandered through the human lands of Nigal. He felt a calling, weaker at first, but stronger as he had travelled in the right direction. He was hesitent to trek into such a inhospitable region as the Zanzaboor Desert, but something was calling him, almost like a human lighthouse, fading but then strong every now and then at regular intervals. Whatever his destiny was, he would find out what it was, even if it was somehow entangled with the strange and mad human deity, Thalaman.

Most would perish after a few days in such a harsh desert, but Aleron's magics could create food, water, and even shelter. Face wrapped and leaning heavily on his walking stick, he trudged along. Occasionally waves of heat would look like land, but he knew these could only be a mirage. Yet what could this journey into such a wasteland provide? Answers. What he needed desperately, answers.

Many days later, after not seeing a single creature or even small shrub for some time, Aleron spied something in the distance. It looked similar to the tepees that he lived in as a child, yet perfectly symmetrical, at least from this distance. Aleron felt excited and nervous at the same time, and immediately closed his eyes and tried to calm his mind. Deep breath in, deep breath out . . . over and over. After a few minutes, he calmly looked off into the distance ahead of himself, and slowly made his way towards the angular structure jutting out of the sands.

Soon, as he got closer, he realized that the object was stone and actually quite large, its perfect symmetry making it look closer at first that it really was. Pulling his hood back and staring ahead and up, he could see it now was actually a stone pyramid. He had heard of these structures, ancient relics used to house the remains of the leaders of the Varkonans, one of the oldest human civilizations in Mazariim. He quietly wondered what could be inside and how it was possible for such an ancient people to make such as precise structure, and then suddenly he was sinking and falling as the sands beneath him gave way. Focusing on remaining calm, Aleron tried to steady himself as he came to a thud on a solid floor and the sands rushing in above him slowed to a trickle.

The room he had fallen into was exceedingly dark. Waving his hand and uttering magical phrases, a soft light began to glow on Aleron's hand, and soon a small magical mote of light had formed on the ends of each finger. He then waved his hands, and the modes spread out about the room, illuminating it and showing its true size, a vast chamber with pillars and carvings along every vaulted wall and ceiling. And then he saw the soft light moving towards him, not one of his motes, but another. The figure came closer, with small strides and soft footsteps, its hood covering its face and its robes barely flowing along the sandy floor.

Aleron thought to himself about his fear, and began to realize at this particular moment he felt none. The robed figure stopped a few feet from him, and pulled its hood back. Staring back was the face of a fox, long ears popping up from a somewhat folded position from being under the hood, and a few whiskers on each side twitching. He had read about these creatures, the kitsune. There were a number of fascinating races that came from the human island civilizations of Tansudo, but he had never seen one before. It motioned Aleron to follow, slowly turning towards one of the far walls and approaching a huge set of stone-inlaid murals. He followed, and began to look up at the wall that they arrived at.

There, carved and inlaid in the stone in what must have been painstaking detail among hundreds of other murals, was a representation of an elf with dark hair and large gray streaks wandering through mists. He almost audibly gasped in amazement, following it along as it showed him with energy pouring from his hands and face and some strange symbols, and then to a section that was destroyed, either by time or some long-forgotten grave robber.

"I have been waiting for you" the kitsune said to Aleron with a toothy smile and some twitching from its nose. "A long, long time . . . "

=-=-=-=-=-=-=

Pyran 777 AW

Focus. Everything he knew, everything he would be, it would depend on his focus, his concentration, his ability to control his strange and dangerous abilities. And teaching focus was Sugnim's specialty.

Aleron stood motionless, eyes closed with a mantra in his mind. All around him, the sands flew about in the whirlwind that Sugnim was creating, stinging Aleron's face and hands as he tried to ignore the pain and be one with the universe.

Sugnim watched with a small grin as Aleron seemed to finally be able to withstand the distraction and pain. The kitsune had given Aleron an amulet when they had first met, an amulet he had made years earlier, one made with silver and gold and rubies. The amulet contained an enchantment of dimensional lock, keeping Aleron and others around him planted firmly in this plane of existence. Still, it would glow green when its effect was activated, and this was a telling guide during the last few years of Aleron's training.

Much had been learned from Sugnim in the last few years in the Zanzaboor. Not just in the ways of focus and meditation, but in the theology of Thalaman as well. Aleron had progressed nicely in gaining some divine magical abilities from the mysterious deity Thalaman, and knew more about the cosmos as well. Still, there was much to learn about the Many-Faced Traveler. Why had he given Aleron such a curse? Or was it a gift?

Watching Aleron within the whirlwind, Sugnim moved his finger a little from its pattern and tossed a large stone into the air. The stone promptly flew right at Aleron's chest, hitting his squarely with a solid thud. As the amulet he wore glowed brightly though his robes, Sugnim would shake his head a little and call out "Again!" . . .

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

. . back in our world . . .

Quarz 811 AW

The sun shone down on Remular's face as he looked upwards, taking in the warm smell of fresh apple pies wafting up the hillside on the cool winter day. As he turned his head and looked down on Blowing Rock, he said, "Ahh, my home, my life . . " His tone quiet yet satisfied, he continued his climb up towards the monastery that he had lived in for nearly a decade now.

The worn yet study stone walls of the Valiant Halls of the Dragon had been home to the faithful of Paladine for over a century now, settled after the once-powerful Empire of Simir fell, giving all of the nearby cities and towns their independence, Amara and Instar included. Ever since, the top of the large hill that looks over the town of Blowing Rock had been dedicated to the Skyblade, and acts of chivalry and honor. Remular had been from Amara, there as a child on the streets of the city until slavers from Moamon tried to take him. He had been crafty, though, and was able to escape into the night, wandering for days until he came upon the town he settled in. Remular thought of those days as he entered the halls and walked towards the shrine at its center.

The shrine was a magnificent sight to behold, an interior courtyard inspired by Ejiin gardens and bridges, with a peaceful serenity and calmness. At its center was a marble statue of Paladine, depicted as a powerful and stoic man with draconic features wearing elaborate plate mail and wielding a longsword, with a pair of dragon heads facing each other behind him, two crossed lances behind the heads.

The monk-paladin slowly approached the statue and the figure kneeling before it, a Madronian man with blonde locks pulled back behind his head and blue eyes that told of deep loss and equally deep devotion. The armored man turned and nodded as Remular placed one fist in his other palm and bowed.

"Time already? It seems like just yesterday you arrived here, Remular." Lord of Justice Lionaus Harker had been at the monastery for a decade when Reumlar arrived, but you would never have known it from his appearance, his youngish looks leaving no indication of the forty-five winters he had seen.

Remular nodded, his darkish Sabonaar hair pulled back in a similar way, his well-kept yet simple robes giving no indication of rank or status. "How will you get along without me? Half of our brothers and sisters are hundreds of miles away on crusades in the east, and me going out to serve Paladine . . . you might be lonely."

The two gave each other a hard look for a few seconds, and then both smirked at the same time, enjoying a chuckle and then some warm dinner before Remular set out on his own to serve his patron and bring justice and honor to the nearby lands.

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

Xan 811 AW

Remular sat shivering in the darkened hallway, the sounds of orcs grunting and arguing faintly echoing around in the stone hallways he was secreted away in. From the looks of the dust on the ground, no one had walked around the hidden passages inside the keep in years, maybe centuries. He focused his mind in contemplation as he tried to decide his next move, hoping a good idea would come to mind.

It had seemed entirely reasonable earlier that month to set out in search of the orcs that had been harassing Amaran caravans. It even seemed reasonable to let a single one escape and follow it to its home once he had finally engaged an orc patrol in battle along the road between Amara and Instar. Entering the old ruined keep the orcs laired in far in the interior of the Steppes of Broken Stone, however, might not have been the best idea. While he was excellent at moving silently and unnoticed in the shadows as well as taking out single guards in silence, he had not planned on hearing such a large group moving in the room next to him. Luckily for him, Polyvin favored him that day as he silently escaped through a hidden door he had found, the seams of the ancient secret passage nearly invisible to most but discernible to Remular's keen eyes.

And now, a few hours later and a few guards fewer, the orcs were wildly searching for him, screaming in their guttural savage language about revenge and torture and other horrors as they searched for Remular. He had to move, and to escape this place, this old keep that looks like it was made in the years of the Bandit King's rule of the area hundreds of years prior. Slowly he crept through the secret passages that lined the entire keep, quietly checking the many tiny spyholes that allowed him to see what the orcs were doing. As he came to one of the last, he saw there was another secret passage that opened into a room that had the floor excavated. As he peered through the hole, he heard the echoes of the other secret door being found and then the minions of Kru'ka'ta pouring into the secret passage far behind him. "May the Skylord lead me to more paths of valor this day and many more," he murmured to himself, closing his eyes a moment in prayer before exiting the secret passage and closing the door behind him.

The room was not overly large or decorated, just a storage room in the keep, now empty with its stone tiles removed and dragged aside revealing a deep pit that ended with an ancient stone staircase made of a different stone. And it was as long passage, one that might allow Remular to stay hidden and out of sight of the orcs and their natural night vision. Slowly, he crept forward and descended the stairs.

He soon found a long hallway leading to a room with dozens and dozens of mirrors. Half-frosted with age and decay, the mirrors were all of different sizes and designs, and as he looked at them, dancing images could be seen in each of them, shadows dancing all about the room from their light. On the floor were two dead orcs, frozen in a horrifying scream with emaciated muscles and faces. As he looked at them, he could see no footprints leading further in, and he surmised this must be the farthest they have gone. "Perhaps they will stay back, yes . . . perhaps there is another way out," he thought to himself as he moved through the room of mirrors, not noticing that the face in all the various mirror scenes was the same, nor noticing the moving shadow that was slowly creeping along behind him.

His continued explorations took Remular through a number of hallways, all with a different stonemasonry than the upper keep. Was this ruin of an older place, something the keep was built on, he wondered? At least the orcs had not followed. He soon came to a room with writing scrawled all over it, Draconic runes and letters and phrases of protection, but to protect from what? He motioned and whispered and the small warm light that had been helping him to see grew brighter as he slowly tried to read the words and discover their purpose. Another hallway continued into the darkness ahead of him, and Remular murmured again to himself, "Wizards. I will never understand their strange ways."

The final room at the end of the hallway was the strangest yet. An elaborate set of rings seemed to surround the edges of the room with a globe resting in a strange base in the center of the floor. He held his hand high and increased the light, with the flickering of gemstone facets scattering the light all around, the rings covered in runes and gemstones. Suddenly, as Remular increased the light on his hand, it drained away and shot towards the globe on the floor, making it glow ever so slightly. "Hello, what's this?" he mouthed as he examined the globe. He paused a moment, and then cast another spell, this time one that would detect the presence of evil. Again, the magical effect seemed to be absorbed by the globe, and he heard a loud sound of metal moving that had not budged in centuries. Curiosity seemed to take over as Remular began casting a number of spells as he watched the rings begin to move, one moving right and another left and a third around the other two, each spell making them go faster and faster, until the globe finally began to hover an inch off the ground. Instinctively he reached out, grasping onto the globe, and energy surged through his body, making his brain white-hot and his very soul ache. His vision flashed and he suddenly seemed to be inside of rock and earth himself, his arms and body moving through it like water, not feeling it yet seeing it. Its destination fused into the machine long ago by Zanthar's mishap, the machine's view was the same as it was centuries earlier when it had killed the mad wizard so long ago. The world it viewed, however, was now much different.

As he stood with the magical globe in his hand, his hair dancing with the energy running through him, he never saw the spectral shadowy hand reach out and grasp his heart through his back, the incorporeal undead reaching inside of the monk-paladin of Paladine, the chill of undead making Remular's concentration falter. The energy of the machine instantaneously surged, and if not for the unconscious reflexes of the disciple of Paladine, he would have surely been vaporized as the creator of the machine was so many centuries ago. Gasping for breath as the machine decelerated and powered down, Remular tried to fight off the shadow as it passed its claws through his body over and over, each time draining strength from him, until he finally took his last breath, a withered husk all that remained of the young paladin-monk.

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

. . . . at that same moment . . .

Aleron stood with the wind in his face, looking down at the city of Fort Hope. The magnificent architecture of the dwarves made the place look like giants could live in it. From this high vantage point overlooking the fortress city, he took a deep breath. He had been here 10 long years, and it was a place he could call home.

And then he felt it, a disturbance in the fabric of the world, like a shockwave hitting him from the southwest. Almost like a strange ripple, one very few people would feel. Falling to his feet, he slowly struggled to one knee.

Aleron knew deep in his soul that whatever that was, it had something to do with his gift. He could feel exactly where it was . . . the distance, the location . . . it was time for him to go and discover his destiny.

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

. . . at that same moment, in the parallel reality of Ta'Puh . . .

High above the Yangar cities in his giant dirigible, commander Li'Zhan stood looking down to the dancing lights below, ships and homes and other balloons and flying machines powered by magic. The hum of the mana engines was almost meditative as his profound view made him see the world all that smaller.

A shrill voice interrupted the tranquility of the Zone Kluth Tak Airborne Monitoring Station.

"Unscheduled contact, south by southeast 14 miles, miles, miles!" the polyphonic voice called out, spoken by all of the hivemind mutants that stood all around, their twisted elven forms covered in strange mechanical and magical devices.

"Report. What is its origin." the elegant orceri said, lighting a small pipe that had a magical flame built into it, his puff filling the magically air conditioned cabin.

The hivemind voice answered in a strangely curious tone. "Alternate prime . . unknown. Contact lost."

Li'Zhan almost choked as he heard the hivemind answer. How could there be others that know of the things his people knew? His kind had conquered eleven worlds now, and their civilization had thrived with the new knowledge they had found on worlds ruled by elves, dwarves, even dragons. This, though, was altogether new.

Pride welled up inside Li'Zhan as he touched his wrist communicator. A deep voice answered, magically travelling between two far off lands. "By your command."

"Report to Yangar Prime. I have need of your services, and the need for secrecy."


=-=-=-=-=-

Synopsis of the 1st 26 sessions coming next!
 
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Dragonsbane

Proud Grognard
Adventure 01 Session 01

1 Garn (April) 811 AW



It was a wonderful spring day in the Free City of Amara with a gentle breeze blowing the ocean air up and over the people going about their day. At the Red Raven Trading Coaster, a few young heroes wanting to make some gold and perhaps kill some orcs gathered in answer to the rumors and message bills placed around the merchant district. There they met with one of the owners, a rather confident and flashy large man named Aldorph Broomspatch and worked out an agreement to guard his shipment to Instar and try to track down and destroy any and all orcs they find. Aldorph had suspected that another trading group was sabotaging his shipments, and soon he would know for sure.

The heroes spent the rest of the day gathering supplies and eventually retired to Galen's family villa where they spent the evening making revelry. In the morning they assembled outside the North Land Gate and met up with the two drivers for the cart as well as Fellin's tiger. In what seemed to be an impossible feat of animal management Fellin calmed the horses enough to allow the cat to travel somewhat nearby. The group set out at dawn for Instar with Aziune in the lead as scout.

It was around noon that Aizune spotted the orc ambush in hiding. Falling back, the group hid the cart and stalked up towards the orcs to flank them and a furious battle ensued. Plants erupted to entangle the orcs as the adept hurled fire from his fingertips. Fellin's cat ripped two orcs apart and Galen's acid dart covered an orc that died in agony. Aizune was able to fell some orcs by the sword as well, although slightly wounded in the process. In the end, by the ways of steel and magic, the heroes captured the adept leader of the ambush with no losses.

=-=-=-=-=-=-=

A01S02

(from a player)

Dear Diary,

The stakes are increasing. We interrogated the orcs that ambushed us after meeting a Dwarf and Gnome traveling the road. They joined our party very quickly; all of us seeming to share an animosity toward these savage creatures.

We got good, though disturbing, information on the Orc base camp... A full-fledged keep; very odd for orcs. We kept Farz as a guide but the Gnome, Smiggles, was very decisive in ridding us of the zealot Cleric Orc... Nasty how much gunk comes from a smashed Orc skull (bleah).

We set off on a day and half journey to the keep. It dawned on me in those many hours of walking the serious nature of our mission. Luckily, we were able to scout and lay ambush to another raiding party, this time dealing serious damage with minimal harm to ourselves. Felinn's entanglement spell is such a wonderful spell! I hope I can learn such battlefield control in the future!

Listen to me rambling on in envy despite just how scared I really was. It's one thing to have to react in ambush, it's another to fire shots at near-helpless foes. But yet again my training in the bow seems to have paid off and I seem to have more mettle in my bones... As I fired off the the leading volley and felled another Orc. There's something absurdly good in that statement. Do I like this combat element of adventuring?

We'll as good as we were, one Orc did manage to get off what we think was a warning shot.

Who knows what lies next for our little but growing party.


=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

A01S03


The discovery of a secret passage into the orc keep would turn out to be an incredible boon to the heroes. The slowly explored the secret passages that wound through the keep, the orcs unaware of the tunnels or the heroes.

First ambushing some orcs preparing hot oil for the entrance of the keep, the heroes then backtracked and found their way to the barracks area of the orcs. Slipping inside quietly while orcs were getting organized in another part of the keep, eventually the orcs heard noise the heroes mistakenly made and a large battle ensued. Although a orc shaman was able to give the heroes a tough fight using his spells, his magical webbing in the end would not prove enough to stop the onslaught of the heroes. As the battle neared its end, a strange snake-like creature, a orc snake, appeared and tried to gain allegiance with the heroes. Although they struck first, they were able to stop the battle and learn a little about the orcs from Aspei before they let her go, now free from her enslavement by the leader of the orc tribe, Kru'ka'ta. portraits/maz_p_krukata.jpg

Heading upstairs, the heroes found a library with many notes and scribblings from the orc shaman regarding an ancient magical machine located beneath the keep. What could this ancient machine do? Better to check after all the orcs were killed.

The heroes would then head to the upper level and confront the leader of the orcs. Hidden at first, the heroes matched steel with the two toughest orc bodyguards, and then felt the taste of negative energy as Kra'ka'ta entered the fray. With most of the heroes close to death, it was a readied magic missile that prevented the orc shaman from letting lose another blast which would surely have killed a few of the heroes.

The orcs defeated, the heroes now turn their attention to what is below the keep . . .

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

A01S04

Ready to explore the unknown ruined wizard lair beneath the keep, the heroes descend into the darkness. They first discovered a few orcs drained of their strength in the main room, killed by a diabolical shadow they would later encounter. Another room contained dozens of mirrors, all with strange illusionary images of the wizard who made the keep over a thousand years ago, Zanthar, leading different lives. In one a wizard, in another a priest, in another a meager cook . . . and strangely, slight differences could be found in them as well. In the mirror showing Zanthar as a priest, the symbol of Tiovin was slightly different . . .

Pressing on, the heroes soon found themselves in a game of cat and mouse with a whisper of Zanthar, a shadow of the former wizard. Using tactics to try and combat the heroes superior numbers, a few of the heroes has close calls with death as they were drained of strength.

In other rooms the heroes found more subtle dangers, such as a yellow musk creeper they avoided, or a gigantic mercury ooze they defeated. Although challenging, the dangers of this ruined wizard's tower were not insurmountable.

After repeated battles with Zanthar's shadow, the heroes finally found a huge machine in the last room of the ruins. There they found two corpses - one of a rather strange looking and well-groomed orc with incredible gear, and one of a monk of Paladine, most likely a member of the nearby monastery in the small village of Blowing Rock.

Through trial and error they figured out how to use the strange machine, and upon its activation they found their view changed to that of a land much like our own, with one major difference. It was inhabited completely by orcs! The elven lands decimated and the human lands ruled by civilized orcs, this strange place . . . could it be real?

As they pondered what they had seen, the heroes decided to head back to Amara to collect their rewards for vanquishing the orc thread to the Red Raven Caravan Group as well as taking the body of the monk to be returned to Blowing Rock.


=-=-=-=-=-=-=--


Garn 811

The elf stood motionless, cloaked in magic to mask his presence. As he looked down, he watched the group of raiders exit the keep, confident looks on their faces as they came through the courtyard, somehow surviving the orc legion that had infested the fortress for so long. Two elves, a dwarf, a gnome, a human . . . an interesting mix indeed. Rare to see such cooperation between different races, especially in these turbulent times.

Finally he would see what the strange pulse that called to him was. He had felt it more than a month ago, and now as he was waiting for a way to get inside the keep, he felt it again. A feeling like the universe itself was shaken, albeit ever so slightly. And he knew, somehow, that this had something to do with his destiny.

As he watched the group, a young green elven girl that had been watching the group as well finally showed herself, approaching the group with earnest. Should he ask them about what they saw deep below the keep? No . . Aleron knew he had to learn more about them if he were to approach them. With a slight movement of his wrist, magic whisked he to the other side of the keep, where he would wait until the raiders had left. It was time to discover his destiny.


=-=-=-=-=-=-=

Some player posts . . .

Aizune:

Aizune enjoyed his time hunting the Orcs with his new found companions. Counting their left ears they must have killed over 40 themselves and found another 20 dead. His companions are an odd lot. A human druid with a large tiger who is not afraid to fight. Another elf who specializes in conjuration. A Halfling sorcerer who is quite terrifying in battle. A Dwarven inquisitor who specializes in hunting monsters and is handy with both mace and spell.

The group functions well and so far no large personality differences have been encountered. The most curious part is why the Orcs came to the keep in such large numbers. Reading from the leaders, a shamans, notes they came here specifically for the device in the basement. Down there many Orcs had died because a shadow or a former mage haunts those crypts. We encountered him ourselves and only the magic missile spell, a force spell, had an effect on him. I must get a magic sword that can effect incorporeal creatures down the road. Having our entire fate depending on the Halfling sorcerer was a little disconcerting.

To add to the mystery we found a dead Orc noble just outside the machine. Who knew Orcs could so civilized. At the machine we found a dead monk of Paladine who either came there before the Orcs took over the place, or he was captured by the Orcs. At the machine we found 10 gems that were forced into position. The center orb absorbed magic thrown at it and so we let the Halfling keep throwing spells at it while some waited in the hallway and I waited in the protection room. Once the sphere absorbed enough energy the most wild happened.

We could view the world from a sphere and someone how it moved to the Halflings thoughts. We saw a different world than the one we lived in before and it was populated with Orcs, civilized Orcs everywhere. When we observed the city of Amara we also saw humans and dwarves in chains but no elves or halflings. Curious about where the Elves and Halflings where we were taken high into the sky and over to the elven lands of my birth. There we beheld a most terrible sight. The elven forest was completely razed to the ground and the largest Orc army that we had ever known was marching across it towards what appeared to be a portal to another realm. Then the vision ended.

I do not recall this tale from the history books. There would be no Elves to this day if this had happened. Was this the future of things to come or was this a vision of what would have happened if the Orcs had won the great war? And how in Minevera did the Orcs know this device was here and as crude as it was get it to work? We believe the gems were taken from the trade caravans, along with other supplies for the Orcs but they were sent here. What Orc is smart enough to be making plans this advanced? What is their goal? We must find out why and stop them or perhaps this vision comes to pass and I shudder to think what that means for anyone not an Orc.

Perhaps returning the monk to his people will shed more light on things.

Before we head back to Amara Aizune will collect as many left Orc ears as possible. I know there was a lot of dead Orcs down in the basement. I would then suggest that we burn or bury the dead Orcs. I would like to come back to the keep with a wagon team to salvage the remaining gear or if possible make a deal with Adolph that he convert it to a trading post. This would prevent some random Orcs taking back over the place and earn us some good will. We would just have make the lower basement area off limits as part of the deal.

=-=-=-=-=-=-=

Simggles:

Smiggles couldn't seem to get to sleep after the day's trial. It felt so amazing to be able to fly around the world with just a thought! Not to mention all of the things he saw. Orcs being civilized? He would have thought it all a dream, or that he had gone insane, except that everyone else saw the same thing too. Then again, this new family was pretty insane...

Smiggles tossed and turned in his bedroll, trying to will himself to sleep but his animated brain was having none of it. It kept playing back the images. It all looked so real, so...natural. He was confused. Was what he saw the past and the great war? Hmm. Doubtful. He was no great scholar, but surely that could not be the past. The Orcs looked to be in complete control, burning the Elven lands and keeping the rest in bondage. And surely, he thought, if there were ever Orcs wearing monocles and top hats, someone would have wrote about it, how could one not? By simple logic, he reasoned, if that was the past, then Smiggles couldn't see how he would be here today.

Couldn't be the future either, he thought. The were too many things that were here now that were missing in the vision. Sure, he mused, it could be in the far far future, but then things didn't look very futuristic to his eye. Where were the automatons, fly machines and all the other gizmos that he had seen being developed back in is homeland?

Smiggles sighed and rolled onto his back, placing his arm over his eyes. Well there is only one thing left he could think of that made any lick of sense. He must have been looking at another Plane. One where the Orcs were the smart ones. It would explain the room with all the dimensional anchors, and the Orc corpse with all the strange clothing of unknown origin. Yes, he thought, that makes the most sense, let's go with that. He nodded to himself in satisfaction and rolled over, ready for sleeps embrace.

If that Orc corpse was from another dimension, then how did it get here?

The question seemed to pop in his head from no where. Smiggles slapped the side of his head and mumbled, “That's enough outta you. Shut up and go to sleep brain.” This time it obliged.

=-=-=-=-=-=-=

Galen:

Galen, begins to scribble in his diary, but can't seem to put thoughts to words.

He begins to wonder about the strange turn of event from escorting a caravan to this strange device (machine really) that sits before them in a dungeon below the Orc keep.

Aizune rode it... What a brave soul indeed! He tells us of strange places and strange flight ability. How can this be?

Is this evil or just a machine with great ability? What should we do with it?

It definitely needs more study. Those crystals do something. There should be notes somewhere, somehow to harness the power of this amazing device.

Ha! This could be a FABULOUS story and play for the stage in Amara! If only I could describe it better. May have to get Aizune to pen something.

I'll ponder more later...

=-=-=-=-=-=

Felinn:

The belly of the keep was a strange mark of ancient civilization. We first were met with a room of mirrors, one where one man hogged the spotlight. Next we approached a room where there was no right way up, I am still queasy thinking of the room. There we met a friendly ghost like figure who would not leave us be and haunted us throughout the ordeal.

Further in the underbelly we dealt with more creeper mold and an ooze however the greatest thing we came across was a room with a strange magical device. This device had shown a world where orcs reigned supreme as nobles ruling the lands of humans but laying waste to those of the elves.

At seeing this I did not know what to think, whether this be true or not. However I will not ponder too long on this subject for it must be real in some realm for no man would make this as a joke but rather a foreshadowing of what may happen. This is truly why I hate orcs, selfish and uncaring for other mortals leaving themselves as the only races stomping out the lives of others.

As I said I will not dwell on this for it breeds ill thoughts, hopefully we return to Amara soon.
 
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Dragonsbane

Proud Grognard
A02S01

11 Garn (April) 811

After a long and hard-fought battle against orcs that had been attacking caravans from Amara, the heroes surveyed their bounty from the Zanthar’s Keep. Deciding that the numerous weapons and suits of armor might have value back in town, they began to prepare two carts for the journey. Sitting on the top of the keep’s wall was a small green elven girl, no more than 40 winters old. She hopped down and introduced herself in a playful manner as Lai, telling the group of her dreams of becoming an adventurer and leading a life of excitement. portraits/maz_p_laityranor.jpg Something about her wasn’t quite right, but the heroes were unable to put their finger on just what that was. Sending her off to get horses that were two days travel away, they had thought she would not return. Imagine their surprise when she did return in only half the time with the horses. They grudgingly agreed to let her come back to Amara with them, loaded up the surplus weapons as well as the body of Reumlar the monk of Paladine, and set out for home.

Once back to Amara, some of the heroes went to collect their payment for finishing off the orcs. Aldorph was thrilled at their success and celebrated with them, giving them not only their gold but letting them know he would be available to them for selling goods as well as finding things not always available on the open market. Meanwhile, other heroes strode around the noble district admiring the architecture. That evening, most attended a party at the Halls of the Dark Dancer, dragged their by Lai. Although uneventful, a few heroes did notice that a pushy man that had been pestering Lai for attention at the dance ran out of the place in fear some time later.

In the morning the heroes set out for Blowing Rock to return the remains of a monk they had found to its proper resting place. Arriving at Blowing Rock after half a day of travel, they find the small village in a state of emergency. Windows boarded up and doors barricaded, they find the market in shambles, bits of blood and gore all around. The heroes pressed onward up the hill to the monastery, where they discovered the leaded of the monastery, Lionous Harker, trying to prepare defenses for what was to come. His unending gratitude over the return of his comrade’s body was only overshadowed by his tale of attacks of the undead for the last few nights. Zombies and skeletons had been assaulting the village, and those who were killed by them raised moments later to continue the attack! It was with sadness in his eyes that Lionous spoke of having to cut down his fellow villagers whom had risen in unlife. To make matters worse, half of his temple had set out on a great crusade to the Ancient South, cutting down the number of defenders of the village by half.

Vowing to help the village, the heroes took up positions in the town center while the few remaining paladin monks guarded the edges of town. They valiantly defeated undead attacking a number of homes in the village, and then finally rushed back up the hill overlooking the town to fight off the undead horde trying to take over the monastery, with a few heroes noting Lai’s savagery in battle. Once at the monastery, the heroes defeated one of the leaders of the undead, a strange Zebulban mummy with its eyes sown shut, as well as a legion of undead in a long battle. In the end, however, Lionous fought his way out of the building, joining the heroes and vanquishing the undead. With a huge warcry heard over the pouring rain and lightning flashes, Lionous raised his hands in victory as the heroes tended to their wounds.

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

A02S02

Rain slowly turned to drizzle and then stopped as the sun rose, the night's battle showing its results all around Blowing Rock. A few homes had been breached, and a few villagers turned to zombies before being killed a second time. Thanks to the help of the heroes, the village and the monastery to Paladine had survived.

Helping the monks dispose of the corpses scattered around town, the heroes began to track the creatures, but had trouble finding a significant lead. Still, curious inquires prevailed as they asked Lionous Harker, head priest of the monastery, questions about the area. He spoke of a place where children were warned not to go, a place where explorers and travelers would occasionally find ancient rusted weapons or arrowheads, a place where centuries ago a huge battle must have taken place. Inferring that the enemy would need a large supplies of bodies, they set out for Whispering Fields, some ten miles south by southeast.

The heroes soon discovered their suspicions to be true, finding a huge thirty foot wide capstone unearthed and moved amid a giant field of tall grasses and broken stones, with a large cylindrical shaft leading down into the darkness. Using magic the heroes created a ramp of earth and stone, but quickly found that this place had defenders of its own. Skeletons with large tentacles attached to their midsections tried to pull the heroes down into the water and drown them, but the heroes prevailed.

Delving further into the darkness, they soon realized that they were in a place very very old, perhaps part of the old Zebulban-controlled Dukhan empire. In one room they found a defiled priest of Tiovin with his eyes sewn shut, holding a box with an animated dwarven head, stitched shut. The players quickly put it out of its misery. Moving on, they came to a room with prayers carved into pillar after pillar, ancient inscriptions from over a thousand years prior. Additional defenders tried to ambush the heroes, the pack of ghouls seeming easy prey until one of the heroes nearly caused the death of the group ((ooc chuckle)). Regaining control of the situation, the heroes dispatched the ghouls and took a moment to regain their bearings in this early part of the ruined temple.

Who is controlling the undead? How are the Zebulbans involved?


=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

A02S03

The exploration continued, the heroes keeping their heads as they pressed onward without resting. They discovered more and more horrifying things in the darkness, such as a fountain of unholy water and strange alchemist gear used to create a elixir allowing necromancers to control more undead. Down one corridor they heard dozens of zombies, avoiding the way entirely. It was soon apparent that someone or something was controlling the undead that they kept encountering in a very specific way, as ghouls tried to surprise the heroes as well as trap them from escape.

Soon, the heroes' minds began playing tricks with their perception of reality, notably Felinn chasing down a cat from his childhood, leading the heroes into an ambush of shadows, one of which severely drained Felinn of his strength. Defeating the ghost-like creatures, they proceeded down a set of stairs to an even lower level of the temple.

Down the stairs, more peril awaited the heroes, including a strange trap emanating a noxious mist to keep the living out. What Iskar had trouble doing gently, Aizune did with brute force, clearing the way for the heroes to move on. Another horror, a strange golem made of candlewax, proved to be a strange and resilient adversary.

Soon, the horror of the undead would be truly felt by our heroes as a large herd of zombies moved towards them. Slowing their pace with magic, something then spooked Galen and he retreated, with Iskar following his lead. Smiggles, Felinn, and Aizune then made a wall of defense and proceeded to try and defeat the entire herd. Although the herd had simply amazing luck in hitting the heroes, they did hang on and eventually turn the tide, dispatching more than 20 zombies.

Covered in gore and weakened from the constant fighting, the heroes made their way to surface, the night sky above as they heard the sounds . . . peeking out, Iskar sees hundreds of old skeletons, as far as the eye can see. Doubling back, the heroes barricade themselves in a room and try to rest for the night, not able to continue without a chance to regain their physical and magical strength.

=-=-=-=-=-=-=

((the scene in the movie cuts to the villains . . . . which the players DON'T see IN :p

Meanwhile, deep below the heroes, the forces of darkness plotted their counterattack against those that would try and stop their entropic goals.
The high-priest's chamber was a gigantic room, some fifty feet high, with shadows filtering above just out of sight. Below, a ten foot tall ziggurat stood, untouched by time's gentle wear. Magic was pulsing out of the thing, wave after wave in a ring expanding outwards. Hovering just above the altar was the unholy abomination responsible for the re-desecration of this millennia-old temple, a horrifically decomposed humanoid. From the waist down, his lower body was gone, leaving only his guts and spine dangling below encased in a strange, glass-like receptacle filled with sickly green fluids, tubes carrying the necromantic fluid attached to his face, neck and arms.

Slowly Canithlus floated down, folding his arms in over his chest as he floated towards his servant. The mummified corpse that spoke had its eyes sewn shut, and was enough to give the living nightmares and stories to frighten grown men. "Your orders, master?" the mummy said in a dark, foreboding voice. "All are in position. We can collapse the tunnel while they sleep, and their slumber will then be eternal."

Canithlus raised a hand and spoke, an even deeper and more dreadful voice coming from his ancient lips. "Noo . . let them come. I want them intact. They will serve our Lord nicely in undeath. Zebulba will be pleased to have servants so capable."

The mummy nodded and then kneeled down on one knee, awaiting instructions. Canithlus floated towards a smaller stone altar off to one side, covered in a dark black velvet cloth. The wight reached down and pulled it gently to one side, revealing a number of knives and tools, shiny and freshly sharpened. A large spool of metal wire along with hooks and needles was also there, and Canithlus found himself staring at it for some time, imagining the artistic masterpieces he would create with the heroes. Soon, they would lose their eyes, and then see the world as it truly was.

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

A02S04

The players awoke from their tenuous slumber, a night on the hard cold stone floor of a thousand year old temple. Felinn and his feline companion had begun to feel the effects of a horrible disease from the ghouls the day before, and decided to set out himself to find some herbs in the light of day. (He could not come to the game until later, IC reason)

The rest of the heroes pressed onward. In one room they found a strange crystal with a man imprisoned inside, just his hand broken through, aged and almost gone. Smiggles touched the hand, causing it to poof into dust, and the group decided to try and help the man, Aizune cutting down the chains that held the crystal aloft.

They soon explored the room they had fought the zombie herd in, finding it empty. But in the room beyond, a maggot mummy armed with sword and armor came into battle, an old remnant of the previous Zebulban priests entombed here so long ago. The group was again successful, destroying the mummy before it killed anyone.

Ahead and through two curved corridors, the heroes began to hear chanting, and finally came to see their true enemy in the temple, a wight half-destroyed from the bottom down, floating in a hovering vat of necromantic juices. The heroes stepped into the fray, battling the group of zombies and this priest of Zebulba. Soon another enemy showed itself, a wraith casting spells and menacing the rear members of the party. The battle raged on, with Aizune falling to a ravenous zombie and Iskar almost dying, getting sadistically drained by the priest. In the end, however, the group persevered, destroying the wight and causing the wraith to flee.

Returning to Blowing Rock, Lionous raised Aizune from the dead, the least he could do as thanks. The players successfully ended the Zebulban menace, saving the lives of hundreds in Blowing Rock.
 

Dragonsbane

Proud Grognard


A03S01


7 Hinter 811


Returning to Amara from their adventures in Blowing Rock, the heroes returned to Galen's family theater, deciding to tell his family about his new adventuring lifestyle, only to find Lai there, already enjoying time with Galen's mother. After some cleaning up, they enjoyed a meal, met Galen's father, and talked about his future. The group then spent a few days doing personal things - speaking with guildmasters, learning the secrets of some new spells, training tigers, and the other unusual usual things that heroes do.


Later that month, the heroes had just finished enjoying a show at the local theater and were approached by an elf who spoke of the show and of heroes. After a few minutes of alluding to the life of adventurers, he spoke of himself and his past. "Alernon Windstrider," he said, and soon he told them he needed their help. What for? "To save the world, of course," he said with a straight face. The heroes though him insane, and indeed the elf did seem a little off. Yet, Aleron had been following them since the keep, finding them as he had himself been spying on the keep, looking for the source of the disturbance he had felt weeks ago, knowing it had something to do with his destiny. Of course, the group was skeptical. An elven priest of Thalaman who thought he had a divine destiny, somehow intertwined with the strange machine they had found in the orc's keep. Asking them to join hands, Alernon then took them with but a thought to . . . another place.


Floating in the Astral Sea was a new sensation to everyone, a limitless blue void stretching to infinity . . and just as quickly as they had arrived, they were back near Amara. Obviously, Alernon's gift from Thalaman was real, and the heroes decided to help him for a wide range of reasons. The elven priest wanted to head to Arkhan's Hall to speak with a sage who might know more about the strange machine, odd civilized orcs, and alternate realities. And so, the heroes and Alernon set out.


The first night they reached Bingimton, a small town with a mix of human and dwarven residents. After a brief rest and some breakfast, they set out towards Arkhan's Hall. Along the way, they ran into some trouble . . .


Felinn spotted the chimera before the group was close, luckily for the party. After a ferocious battle, the heroes were triumphant, slaying the chimera.


=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=.


A03S02


9 Hinter 811


Cleaning up and readying so continue on their journey to Arkhan's Hall, the heroes discuss some of Aleron's previous planar mishaps, some of which sounded very worrisome. Pressing on, they soon arrive at the small dwarven hold, the occasional long toot of a dwarven steam locomotive heard from outside the city walls.


It quickly becomes apparent that non-dwarves are not completely welcome in town, but the heroes settle in at a tavern, sending a page boy to locate the home of the seer they seek, Barxis Brewerson. They soon head to his home and meet the gold dwarf, aged and balding, but with a quick wit and sharp mind. The sage had been having a late-night chat with the jarl of the town, Julius Goldenbeard. Before they knew it, they were somehow convinced to help settle a dispute in the town over the rights to a mine, as the town needed an independent arbiter from outside the town, and the heroes had just happened to arrive. Barxis is relieved he will not need to help with the arbitration, and he and Aleron quickly go about researching the items that the Orceri had with it on its trip to our world.


The next morning the heroes meet up with the jarl in the city halls, and are presented to the three rival parties vying for control of the mine. The mine, once owned by the Stoneaxe clan, became a contested property when the Stoneaxes were killed in a cave in within their own section of the hold. Now, the heroes would have to decide who best deserves the mine, based on both who is entitled to it as well as what is best for the hall. The three parties include Sebastian Fisk, a gold dwarven merchant with an impatient demeanor; Bartol Ironfist, a high dwarf of good manners but shady appearance; and Duvola, ex-wife on Odon Stonefist, a high dwarf of ravenous appetites of pleasure. As the groups went their separate ways and the heroes decided to talk there in the city hall, Iskar followed the merchant back to his offices. While investigating, he was seen by dwarven guards and chased, eluding their grasp, this time . . . :)


Deciding the look around the town before beginning any interviews with the parties, the heroes first take a trip into the mines themselves, boarding a small-sized steam locomotive pulling dozens of mining cars up the mountain and into one of many caves. The heroes disembarked and examined a silver mine, noting some planned expansions of the mine as well as some bad attitudes from racist dwarven miners.


After a examination of the mine, the heroes went to the collapsed Stoneaxe clan's abode, checking their weapons at a room before continuing into the dwarven hold. Although warned about spellcasting, the heroes do cast a few smaller spells to the dismay of the guards.


That night, they returned to the home of Barxis the sage, and hear the shocking confirmation of what some of them had thought for some time: the adamantine weapons, and its finer physical properties, indicated they were made . . . in another alternate material plane.


=-=-=-=-=-=

A03S04


((from Smiggles


13 Hinter 811


Smiggles took a long, slow draw from the pipe as he sat by the fire, contemplating the day’s events. A lot of information and lies had been thrown his way, and he was having a hard time separating the two. He breathed the smoke out through his nose as he started into the fire as if the answers could be found there. None of these greedy bastards deserves the mine, maybe it should have an “accidental” collapse so no one can have it, he thought. He frowned, knowing that when gold is involved the dwarves would actually want to know what happened.


He tapped out the ashes in the pipe and began pacing the room. The only thing he knew for certain was that Mr. Stoneaxe had a gambling problem and owed people money and that the Stoneaxe cave collapse was no accident. Both Fisk and Ironfist said the deceased man owed them money. With the law stating the debts are erased upon death, it made those two unlikely suspects because killing him meant they would get nothing. That just leaves one suspect left. Smiggles stopped and rubbed his chin. No…
There are two suspects. The fat sow has plenty of motive to want him dead. He embarrassed her by divorcing her. Smiggles smiled at the memory of getting her to drop her mask. She is also a spurned lover, and she is used to getting what she wants, when she wants it. Combine that with the fact that she actually has a legitimate claim to the mine based on marriage, killing Mr. Stoneaxe makes sense. She knows the cave and where to place explosives to cause the most damage, and she has the resources to hire people to do the dirty work and to then shut people up afterwards. Smiggles tapped his chin thoughtfully. Yes, all of this makes sense, and is certainly plausible, but then there is the other suspect.


Mr. Stoneaxe himself. True, killing ones whole clan is probably taboo, but he also must have known of the law to clear the debt upon death. Smiggles had seen desperate men do desperate things. What if he collapsed the complex himself? Everyone would assume he was dead, especially since no one has cleared it to account for all of the bodies. He could then skip town and start over, without having worry about people coming for him. He had easy access to explosives, and he would know what to do with them. Smiggles sigh and slapped the side of his head. Stupid brain, this was easier before you came up with that crack-pot conspiracy theory that makes logical sense.


Smiggles flopped back down onto the cushioned chair and let out a frustrated growl. Why do I even care so much? No matter what we decide, one dwarf is going to get richer and two dwarfs are going to be pissed. Might as well let them draw straws for it, it is basically the same thing as letting us decide at this point. At least then the two dwarfs will be pissed at the short straw and not us.


Smiggles absently hefted his coin purse knowing that there was not enough in there to get the gem needed for a resurrection. Stupid dwarves and their aversion to magic and their love of dead people who they take credit for as if being born to one of them was some great accomplishment. Smiggles snorted and said in a mocking tone, “Hey look at me, I am the descendent of Jarle Awesome-Beard, which makes me so important and great! So what the hell did you have to do with that or anything he accomplished? Nothing, that’s what. Sit down and shut up.” Smiggles closed his eyes and imagined revealing a newly revived member of the Stoneaxe clan to the meeting, flipping them all the bird and then walking out. He smiled at his imagined looks on their stupid bearded faces.


Smiggles rose and walked over to the liquor cabinet. Opening it, he gave a grunt of approval. Dwarves may be fat, hairy, ugly, drunkards, xenophobic, reclusive, grumpy, greedy, backward thinking, and short-sighted but at least they kept good spirits. Smiggles poured himself a glass of brandy and began pacing again, trying to focus his mind back to his real task of making the actual decision.


He knew for certain he was not going to give the mine to the piggy princess, so it was down to Fisk or Ironfist. Fisk is a complete ass, but Smiggles had to admit that the man must know a thing or two about running a business. He is an outsider who has obviously made a good profit trading in this tiny town, no small accomplishment. Smiggles had to admit that even before he met the man, he thought of the merchant as the front runner since merchants are the lifeblood of most economies, but his asinine behavior makes it hard to want to help him. Ironfist on the other hand is Mr. Polite and Formal, and seems like a good guy. Smiggles was not buying the act. He is just a pretty face on the bad-:):):):) mountain of crime in the town. He even admitted as much by saying that Mr. Stoneaxe owed his family money and since the only debts he had were gambling debts that must mean that the Ironfist family are the ones running the gambling houses. Even if the gambling house theory was wrong, the man obviously had no intentions of doing anything with the mine other than making himself richer, and since the Jarle wanted us to pick someone who would be best for all, Ironfist is out.


Smiggles sipped the last of the brandy and put the glass down on the table. It looks like the donkey with a beard is going to get the mine after all, he thought. Smiggles yawned and stretched. He knew he would still have to do some fact checking, but at least know he could go to bed with a mind at ease having made a decision. Now he just hoped that he wouldn't be seeing more guards in the morning...


=-=-=-=-=-=-=-


((from Aizune


Aizune went to mediate on the days insights. No good winner appeared of the three claimaints.


The X-wife was just like any other x-wife he had read about from human novels. Lying and inticing her way to the top. She had the most to gain from Odan's death but why she would take the rest of the clan with him I can't quite figure out. Unless they would have never served her then they would have to go. She also knew his home and just where to have the assassin place the explosives.


The merchant while a complete ass to us seemed like the most likely winner until when I gathered information among the townsfolk and found out he is the owner of the only gambling hall in town. You can only get in by invite. He wouldn't have much to gain by Odan's death but he may have decided he milk had run dry. Or he may have decided that he needed to be made an example of to make the others pay up. In addition, I noticed that the Jarls guards were very wary of being in his warehouse and constantly watched his private guards with their hands occasionally brushing their axes. This proves he is not a reputable man.


The Ironfisk clan stronghold was very impressive. Certainly they do not need the mine. Their spokesman was very nice to us but that's the role of the spokesman. My father taught me to always be wary of the man who seems to always have the right words. The townsfolk while not having any issues with the spokesman do have problems with his clan so much so that many warned me to watch my back when dealing with them.


I would have preferred to go with Smiggles idea to resurrect one of the deceased members but we lacked the resources to travel fast enough. We could have certainly used Lia's abilities. Something tells me she is avoid Aleron who must smell of madness and chaos to her. Maybe he should smell of them to me as well...


The best thing is to attempt to speak with one of the deceased clansmen and find out why they died. Hopefully he wasn't just asleep when it happened. I was thinking about how unlikely it is though that all of them were in the sleeping hall at the same time. The Ironfisk had many guards who must constantly be on duty 24/7 surely the Stoneax clan did the same. That would mean that the night shift guards, all of them had to be in the residence area which means they were lured there or were attempting to quell a dispute or a fire...


That gambling house may also be worth investigating if one can gain access.


=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

A03S04


((from Aizune

17 Hinter 811



After investigating the gambling house and being attacked from assassins sent by grandma Ironfist we decided to give the mine to Devula. She had the best claim, weak as it was, and more importantly the mine would be worked by the town and would directly profit the town.


Fisk needed the mine to avoid being killed by the owner of the casino. I have a suggestion on how to save his life. We disguise him as a guard who along with other guards escort us out of town. Then he simply keeps traveling with us to Amara. There we can give him a small amount of gold and put him in contact with Aldof. Maybe have Smiggles intimidate him to keep him from relapsing into a gambler again. Hopefully this death experience was enough to break that.


I would also like to establish a business relationship only!, with Devula. Basically getting her as a contact to give us information on such things as trade routes they would like, happenings within the town and in particular any Orc sightings. I am very curious what Odan wanted to find when he sent his expedition to Orc land. Perhaps she can tell me so I can keep an eye out for it.
 

Voidrunner's Codex

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