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Pieces of Eight Campaign / Session 20 Summary
« Last post by David Roomes on June 20, 2017, 09:53:47 PM »
Session 20 Summary

The Player Characters  (aka the "Heroes")

Winlock – orc/dwarf barbarian, wearing heavy chain mail armor and wielding a big war hammer
William – the party’s wizard, human male, robed and armed with a broad array of spells.
Belkor – the dashing human swordsmen/mariner wielding twin scimitars
Listig – the elven thief/archer equipped with several different enchanted arrows

The Current Non Player Characters

Almahdi - A likable Padashani beggar with quick wit. Talkative. Funny. Fluent in several languages. Street smart, but somewhat cowardly.
Halimir - An elven ranger, who has fought along side the party for several game sessions now. Has proven to be very lucky.
Nassan - A Padashani priest of Hram. Dour, sullen, doesn't talk much. Skilled at herbalism, alchemy and healing.

The session started with the party still in the cavernous chamber beneath the Hram temple in the city of Qazadeen. The party had just defeated the cultists and freed all of the prisoners. During the battle, Groot had died. The rest of the party survived.

The two alchemists began brewing a second batch of the antidote while the party slept. Several hours later, the party was rested and the antidote was done. The antidote was a milky white syrupy solution. The party took 5 bottles of the antidote each while the rest of it was dumped into the river. The alchemists also had written down several copies of the formula so that it could be reproduced. The party planned to take both the antidote samples and the formula and distribute it as wide as possible.

Several of the freed prisoners had opted to stay and help out. These individuals were told to get out into the city and start spreading the news that the river had the antidote in it and could be used to cure the infected.

Finally, the party was able to turn their attention to their prize… the second Talisman… the Talisman of Blood. The party discussed who should carry it. They knew it had powerful healing powers besides other functions. They decided that Winlock, their barbarian, would carry it. He was always in the front lines of battles and taking heavy damage. He could take advantage of its healing powers the most.

Armed with 5 bottles of antidote each and several copies of the antidote formula, the party ventured back outside the temple. The city was quiet. It was early afternoon. It appeared as if the breach at the south gate had been successfully contained and the inner city was still free of the infected. The party made their way back to the blacksmith’s shop and back to the secret tunnel entrance. They had previously made a deal with Kalrotus of the thieves guild that, in exchange for safe passage through the tunnel system, they would share with him anything they had found. Once they reached the hidden chambers of the thieves guild underground, they met up again with Kalrotus and what remained of the thieves’ guild. They shared with him the antidote formula and gave him a bottle. Kalrotus was very pleased with this. Needless to say, they have secured an ally in this city. The party continued on through the tunnel to the far end, emerging back at the Broken Tooth tavern in the outer city. The outer city was still a “dead zone”… the only people left were either infected or hiding. Having done everything they could for the city, they headed out of the city and made their way south to meet back up with Almahdi and their wagon.

Almahdi and the wagon, however, were not at the agreed upon location. Instead, off in the distance, they saw what looked like a flag fluttering in the breeze. They went out to it and found a hastily erected wooden pole, pile of stones and a “flag” consisting of a silken scarf. Sticking out from the stones was a scroll. It was a hand written note, hastily written in Southern, stating “I had to move the wagon. We are hiding at the top of the tallest hill to the south west”.

To the southwest was a cluster of lightly wooded hills. They headed in that direction. At the top of the tallest hill was a small stony ruin which looked like it was someone’s farm house now. As they approached, the party could see more than a dozen infected crawling all over it. The windows and doors had been boarded shut and inside came the sounds of hammers, men shouting frantically, women screaming and children crying. The infected were tearing away the barricades trying to get inside. Their wagon was parked beside the farmhouse building.

As the party ran up, several of the undead noticed them and began to advance. Listig threw flasks of oil on the ground which ignited a second later as William threw a fireball. The fiery explosion engulfed several of the infected who died almost immediately. Other infected came running through the flames of the oil, oblivious to the fact that they were ignited themselves.

Halimir and Listig pumped arrows into as many as they could while Winlock and Belkor cut them down. It didn’t take long before there was only one left. They managed to wrestle him to the ground and force one of the antidotes down his throat.  Immediately the creature began to convulse violently. The convulsions lasted less than a minute and the creature went limp, breathing rapidly, but sound asleep. The party waited awhile and observed and, very gradually, the blue spidery veins and lesions began to fade… the skin began to regain its color. It looked like it was beginning to work.

The party freed the people inside, Almahdi among them. Now that they were reunited with Almahdi and their wagon, the party decided to begin their journey to the next Talisman. According to the Talisman of Dreams, the Talisman of the Sea was in the southeastern corner of Qeshir, a journey of several hundred kilometers. That was the Talisman they had decided to pursue next. Their plan was to go south to Kassar’s Bay and see if they could acquire a boat or passage on a ship and travel to the far eastern part of the Qeshir. No matter how they got there, they were facing a long journey ahead of them.

The party restocked the wagon with water (from the river which carried the antidote in it) and provisions from the farm house and began their journey south.

By the time they were ready to leave, more than an hour later, the infected that had been given the antidote had recovered and was conscious, coherent and talking… on the road to being a normal human again. Conclusive proof that the antidote they carried worked.

It was about a nine hour journey to the next village, a small mining village called Kuuf. After seven hours on the road, they rounded a bend and came across a large group of infected. There were about twenty of them and they were slowly shambling along, following the road south, perhaps driven on by instinct or some dim memory of the road. In either case, they were in the party’s way and moving too slowly. The terrain was too rocky to leave the road and there was no enough room to go around them.

They decided to fight their way through. They brought the wagon up behind them. The infected heard the wagon coming, turned and charged. A well placed fireball took out most of the infected, but a particularly big one came charging through the flames. Belkor yelled “I’ve got an idea… we need that big one as a new henchman! He’s mine!” He pulled out an antidote bottle and leapt off the wagon and charged. He threw the bottle which shattered, splashing the antidote all of the chest of the big infected. He then drew both his swords and began to do battle with it. Meanwhile, the others fought and picked off the rest.

Instead of trying to kill the big infected humanoid, Belkor danced, dodged and parried. While the big creature swung its huge meaty fists again and again, Belkor made now attacks of his own. It took almost half a minute, but eventually the big opponent slowed, stopped and then collapsed into convulsions on the ground. After a few more seconds, the convulsions stopped and the creature was unconscious. The reversal of the infection had begun. Judging by the size of him, he was an ogre, full blooded most likely. He was about 8 feet tall, 400 pounds and all muscle. He had several tattoos, scars and brands on his body.

The party now knew that skin contact with the antidote worked as well, although it took more than half a minute to take effect, whereas ingestion was immediate. Good to know.

The party hoisted the unconscious ogre up on top of the wagon and tied him down securely with rope. The last time they had used the antidote on one of the infected, they shoved it down his throat… direct ingestion. That method resulted in a transformation in just a couple of hours. They were curious how long it would take with only skin contact. William suspected it would take eight hours or more.

They resumed their journey and reached the mining village of Kuuf three hours later. Kuuf was a small, unwalled village nestled in dry, rocky hills. Outside of town there was a small group of men burning bodies on a pyre of oil soaked wood. Several bodies lined up next to the pyre showed signs of infection.

Several armed guards moved to block the path of the wagon and barked something at them in Padashani. Almahdi conversed with their captain while the guards walked around the wagon inspecting it.

“They want us to show them that we have no infected wounds, no bite marks”, said Almahdi.

The players disrobed to show that none of them had bite marks or other signs of infection. The captain of the guards was satisfied, but they refused to let the ogre on the wagon in (who was clearly still showing signs). The captain wanted them to leave. After some conversation, they agreed that the ogre and the wagon would stay at least a bow shot distance from the village. Nassan and Halimir would stay with the wagon and ogre.

Winlock, Belkor, William and Listig went into the village on foot. Almahdi accompanied them to translate. It was dirty and crowded. It was clear that this village had taken in hundreds of refugees from Qazadeen. Make shift shelters and tents were set up wherever there was room.

The party told several people that they had a cure and they were told to see the umani. Almahdi explained that every village had a kaliph who was like a mayor and most villages also had an “umani” who was sort of a spiritual leader.

The umani and several village elders came out to speak with the party. They gave him a bottle of the antidote and a copy of the formula, along with a full explanation. The elders were skeptical, but agreed to give the antidote to one of the infected that were being kept in a quarantine building.

That evening, the party made camp outside of the village at the wagon. The next morning, the ogre was awake and talking. His skin and eyes looked much better and he had regained his strength. They asked him who he was and what he remembered, if anything.

The ogre began by thanking them for his life. He explained that he had served on a pirate ship out of the Pirate isles, but that ship had foundered on rocky shoals during a summer squall off of the coast of the Border Clans region. The survivors were attacked by the natives there, the mangalors, and several were killed. The remaining ones were captured by a Padashani military patrol and they ended up as slaves in the Empire. He was a slave for years. He fought in gladiator pits in various cities, before he turned on and killed his owner. Deemed too valuable as a warrior to execute, he was then sold to the Qazadeen militia who used him in their civil war. During his last engagement, the battle was interrupted by a swarm of infected. Soldiers on both sides ran. He was bitten and that’s all he remembers. Everything since then is a foggy nightmare of blood lust and feeding. He then remembers waking up on the wagon.

During his pirating days, his ship mates called him “Grim Rigor” or “Grim” for short. A nickname they bestowed on him for his temperament and rigorous adherence to the captain’s orders. He has gone by that nickname for so long that he doesn’t care to remember his real name.

The party brought the ogre, now cured, into the village. The other “test patient” in the quarantine building, was also cured. The elders and the umani were very pleased and immediately began working on gathering the necessary herbs and alchemical components to start brewing the formula themselves.

Having brought a working antidote and formula to the town, the party was thanked profusely. The umani and the kaliph invited the party to stay as honored guests. The party stayed for another day. William helped with the brewing and administering of the antidote while the others feasted and drank. The next morning, the town restocked the party’s provisions and saw the group off many thanks.

The last mining town within Padashani territory was a village named Badir. It was an eight hour journey over a winding dusty road through the rocky hills.

During the trip, Winlock began to feel a connection to the Talisman of Blood. He could feel its power beginning to seep into him and he noticed that his cuts and bruises from previous fight were healing very quickly.

After a few hours of travel, the wagon came round a bend and they saw a single infected humanoid on the road ahead. It was alone, shambling along the road in the same direction they were going.

The party talked and decided that this one may been a straggler from a larger group. William sent his raven up to scout out the region around them. The raven returned a half hour later with news of a “large group of bad things heading this way”.

William needed more information. So he cast Arcane Eye with his Talisman of Dreams and sent it in the direction the raven had returned from. It took a while for  the eye to get there, but he eventually spotted a group of 70 to 90 infected. They were following a small trail that made its way through the hills and connected to the road they were on. The group would undoubtedly end up reaching the town of Badir in a few hours.

The party decided to raise ahead and warn the village. They rode right by the single infected. It gave chase for awhile, but could not keep up.

About two hours later, they came across a long stretch of road that went down a long narrow stony canyon with sheer rocks on either side. It was only three or four times wider than their wagon. At the south end, the walls dropped away and the canyon opened up into a broad flat region in which the village of Badir sat. This narrow canyon would make a good “choke point” where the infected horde would be forced to gather tightly together. It would be a good place to fight them. The players made a note of this.

The mining village of Badir was like Kuuf, small and unwalled. Again, outside was a small group of men burning a body. The players rode their wagon up to them and halted. Almahdi spoke for the group. In Padashani, he explained that they had a cure, that it had been tested, that they had copies of the formula and would be willing to help the village make more if they had an herbalist or alchemist. He also explained that a horde of infected were coming from the north and would arrive very soon.

As he spoke, other villagers came out to listen. Suddenly, a balding man in armor and robes pushed his way to the front. He looked like a priest, but did not seem Padashni. The bald man began yelling at Almahdi in Padashani. “Who is this?” asked Belkor. As soon as the bald man realized the party spoke Southern, he switched to that language, which surprised them.

“Liar!” He screamed. “There is no cure. This plague is a punishment to these people for worshiping false gods, for laying sacrifices before false idols. You’re not the first to peddle snake oil and false promises. So take your wicked charms elsewhere. Be gone! You’re not wanted here!”

The party tried to argue with him, but the robed priest was adamant. Very quickly they realized they were arguing with a deranged religious zealot who was on the verge of calling for guards to back him up. The party quickly became frustrated with the irate priest and decided he and the village were not worth the aggravation. They began going around the village.

They would have left this village in their dust, but they hadn’t made it out of sight yet, but a villager came running after them and waved them down. Almahdi translated as the man, nearly weeping, told of his sick daughter and begged them to save her if they had an antidote. The party asked him who the priest was and the man explained that he and six others had come weeks ago and taken over the village. They wielded powerful magic and weapons and had somehow swayed the kaliph and the umani both to yield to him, granting him power over the town. Many of the villagers suspected some foul magic was at play. A number of the best fighters in the village had also been swayed. There rest of the village was at their mercy, unable to fight back. These foreign priests held the village completely in their power and would not allow anyone to leave. They also held that the plague was a punishment. He again begged them to help.

Well, this party of adventurers are heroes are heart and could not leave the village be. They decided the only way to save the village was to kill the seven priests outright. Hopefully, the charm spells would fail when they died. Then, after that was done, they could deal with the horde of infected coming down from the north. (William’s best guess was that the horde was less than two hours away).

They asked the villager his name. He said he was Baharan. They told him they would help and that he should rally together as many men as he could to help fight. Baharan said he would need only minutes to gather a group. The party said they would be along shortly.

Baharan ran back to the village while the party prepared. They decided to leave the wagon out of sight. They would approach on foot and sneak into the town. Baharan had told them the village was built around a central plaza with a well. The party would add antidote to the well and make their stand there.

Their newest comrade, Grim, was much too big to sneak into a village of Padashani. He was stand out. They had him hide behind a boulder that was a stone’s throw from the nearest building at the edge of town. They wanted him to be able to come charging in when they needed him. They would send William’s raven for that. Meanwhile, the rest of them would go into the village. Hassan would stay with the wagon.

The group discussed a ploy that might help undo some of the charm spells. Belkor would take his drellisite crystal (which generates a short range anti-magic field) out of its lead container and put it in a pouch around his neck. This would, of course, nullify his magic boots and flaming dagger. However, it would also undo the charm magic on the fighters and two village leaders, if he could get close enough. That was the hope, at least.

William, Listig, Belkor, Winlock, Halimiar and Almahdi all went into town. It was not a large village and they headed straight for the plaze. Several of them looked distinctly not Padashani and they did stick out, but it was a short, rapid walk to the well. A number of villagers were in the plaza including one of the priests who was lecturing to several villagers. Listig and Halimir vanished behind corners and scaled buildings, each taking up a rooftop sniper position. Belkor and Winlock followed Almahdi and William toward the well.

Almahdi hopped up on the edge of the well and began calling out to the villagers, exhorting them to cast of the foreign priests and fight them. William dumped a bottle of antidote into the well.

The priest saw this and stopped his lecture. He advanced, tugging his mace free and yelled at them in Padashani. It looked like he was going to grab Almahdi and throw him down the well. Belkor struck first, carving him up with his twin blades. Villagers around the plaza gasped, cried out in fear and ran. The priest screamed for help as he fought back. One of the charmed soldiers in the plaza raced to the priest’s assistance only to receive the business end of Winlocks’ Warhammer.

Very quickly, a grand battle erupted in the plaza. Another two priests and two charmed fighters came running into the plaza. Listig and Halimir rained down arrows into the plaza. William picked up one of the charmed fighters and hurled him toward Belkor and the drellisite crystal, but the fighter managed to blow a horn he had on his belt.

The horn blast summoned more priests and charmed fighters. Between blades, hammer and arrows, the party managed to cut down two priests and two fighters quickly. Baharan appeared with a group of men who took out another of the fighters. The drellisite crystal worked and as each fighter engaged in battle with Winlock and Belkor (who are fighting side by side), the charm spell on them failed and they faltered - confused and dazed - and no longer attacked. One of the priests near Belkor also had two spells in a row fail to work.

One priest managed to fire a purple bolt of energy at Winlock and he went down, paralyzed. But by this time, three priests lay dead on the ground

Almahdi was, the whole time, standing on the edge of the well, yelling to the villagers in Padashani to take up arms and fight the priests. Several of the fighters, free of the charm, turned on the priests. Villagers, cowering at the edges of the plaza, saw this and charged forward to join the fray. The tables quickly turned and the remaining priests found themselves quickly outmatched.

Very quickly, only the head priest remained and he turned and fled. He dashed down an alley away from the plaza with Belkor and William in pursuit. Listig fired his teleport arrow in a high arc across the plaza and to the far end of the alley and, in a flash, became the person closest to the fleeing high priest. He fired and sank an arrow into the man’s back.

William got within range and used his telekinesis spell (which had been active through the whole fight) to grab the high priest and drag him back. The idea of keeping the priest alive was briefly discussed as the man hung helpless in the air (telekinetically). Belkor said “he’s too dangerous to let live” and chopped off the priest’s arm from his body with a single stroke. William let the corpse drop to the ground.

A search of the plaza and surrounding buildings found no other enemies. They counted up the bodies of the priests… seven. All of those charmed, including the kaliph and umani, were free of the spell.

It was a vicious and bloody battle, but necessary. Stories of the villagers came forth like a torrent, telling of horrific oppression under the cruelty of the priests. The villagers rejoiced and thanked the party for slaying their oppressors.

Williams searched the bodies of the priests. He also found writings of the high priest in the building that the priests had been using as their home. Judging by their holy symbols and other clues, they were priests of Imarus, militants specifically. However, judging by the endless mad rantings that filled journal after journal, the high priest was insane and these priests had fallen far from the true faith of Imarus.

There was little time for celebration. There was still a horde of infected coming toward the city. The party told the villagers about the horde. The party met in the plaza with the kaliph, umani, village elders and the (formerly charmed) fighters to discuss a strategy. Some wanted to evacuate the village and flee. Others wanted to stand and fight. The party discussed the idea of using the antidote in water to cure the coming horde of the infection. The problem was that they had only a few bottles of antidote and not very much water. The well could provide water, but only one bucket at a time and they would need enough water to thoroughly drench or immerse up to 90 infected. They had no time left.

Then they struck upon another plan. This was a mining town in an arid region where lumber was scarce. The blacksmiths here heated their forges with refined whale oil obtained from trading with coastal villages to the south. They also used the oil to heat their homes, cook their meals and light their lanterns. In other words, they had a LOT of oil. The party ordered the villagers to bring all the oil they had and every barrel in the town. The blacksmiths rolled out barrels of oil. Villagers brought out their cooking oil, lantern oil and began filling barrels. Very soon, they had 32 barrels of oil loaded onto 3 wagons.

The party led a group of villagers and the three wagons to the north road. Just north of the village was the narrow canyon which the horde would have to pass through. They positioned the barrels on the dusty road. As soon as they spotted the horde on the road, they began to smash open the barrels and let the oil flood the road. Very soon, they had a huge oil slick, twelve meters wide and thirty meters long. As the horde got closer, the infected spotted the humans and wagons and charged. Listig fired one of his pyrotechnic arrows (obtained from the river camp several sessions ago). With a whoooosh, the lake of oil burst into a swirling inferno of flame and black smoke. Having no sense of preservation, they charged into the inferno in an attempt to get to the humans. The infected were utterly incinerated. By the time the oil burned out, every single one of them was ash.

This is where we ended session 20.
Pieces of Eight Campaign / Session 19 Summary
« Last post by David Roomes on May 19, 2017, 10:31:00 PM »
Session 19 Summary

The Player Characters  (aka the "Heroes")

Winlock – orc/dwarf barbarian, wearing heavy chain mail armor and wielding a big war hammer
William – the party’s wizard, human male, robed and armed with a broad array of spells.
Belkor – the dashing human swordsmen/mariner wielding twin scimitars
Listig – the elven thief/archer equipped with several different enchanted arrows

The Current Non Player Characters

Halimir - An elven ranger, who has fought along side the party for several game sessions now. Has proven to be very lucky.
Nassan - A Padashani priest of Hram. Dour, sullen, doesn't talk much. Skilled at herbalism, alchemy and healing.
Groot- A large, hulking ogre warrior. Mute. Former slave and gladiator.

Having just navigated the secret underground tunnel into the besieged city and negotiated with the thieves guild, the party now found themselves standing in a shadowed alley between two buildings. They were in the inner city, not far from the city's central temple (which was their destination).

Both Groot (the big mute ogre) and Hassan (the Hramish priest and healer) were with the group, along with Halimir, their ever faithful elven archer. It was 2 am. The streets were deserted. Most of the soldiers and city guards were at the city wall, patrolling and guarding, intent on not letting the infected horde in. The citizens of the city were cowering in their homes, trying to sleep.

So, here’s quick recap of the party’s mission and what they know. They are trying to obtain the next Talisman of the four legendary missing Talismans of Anquar. Specifically, the Talisman of Blood. They knew that a necromancy cult, known as the Death March, had taken over the city’s central temple. They were fairly certain that the cult held the Talisman of Blood. They also strongly suspected that this cult was the cause of the infected plague outside the city walls.

Listig had just done a recon of the temple and came back to report to the group. The temple was sealed up tight. All of the windows were barred and the doors locked. A few undead skeletons and cultists held the roof. Meanwhile, a number of the Jhad’s men (Jhad is the local title for a provincial governor, somwhat like a king) – mostly soldiers and engineers – were trying to gain entrance to the temple. Some were working on the main doors with a battering ram, while others were trying to tunnel in. Listig felt that the bars on the temple windows were unnatural. In other words, the temple was barred with some kind of a magic spell.

William took out the Talisman of Dreams and scanned again for the other Talismans. He got a strong reading. It was close. The Talisman of Blood was somewhere inside the central temple, he was sure of it.

The party decided that the best way into the temple was to use one of Listig’s hammerhead arrows. Each of these arrows was the equivalent of a cannon ball when it impacted. They felt certain that one or two of these arrows could blow open the front doors.

The Jhad’s men were using a battering ram on the front door, trying to bash it in. The party’s plan was to get into a position where they would be hidden, but where Listig could fire a hammerhead arrow at the door. This would breach the door and the Jhad’s men could then storm in and attack the cultists within. The party would let the city guards and the cultists fight it out and then would sweep in and help clean up the last cultists. This would allow them to search the cultists bodies and, hopefully, find the Talisman before anyone else did.

That was the plan…

The party snuck through the city’s quiet streets under starlight and moonlight and found a good position. They were completely in shadow, but Listig had a good line of sight to the front door. It was a bit of a long shot, about 70 yards, but he was certain he could hit it. The only sounds were the roar of the river on the far side of the temple and the rhythmic chanting and banging of the battering ram and the ringing of hammers.

Listig drew one of the magical hammerhead arrows and drew. Suddenly, a horn blast sounded off in the distance, followed by a second and a third. Then a gong was sounded. All of these sounds were coming from the south.

The city guards immediately dropped the battering ram and ran off to the south, yelling “Kassa! Kassa! Imerat padi imar! Kassa!”

Doors from nearby buildings opened and men ran out, kissing wives goodbye, strapping on weapons and armor as they ran. All ran south toward the city gate.

The party turned to Hassan and asked him what just happened. Hassan told them that they were yelling “Breach! Breach! All hands to the gate! Breach!”

Every last city guardsmen and engineer who had been working on the temple had fled to the south toward the growing sounds of battle. Somehow the infected horde outside the city wall had found a way in and a fierce battle was now being fought at the city gate as the soldiers desperately fought to keep the horde out and seal the breach.

The party now found themselves alone in front of the temple, their plan foiled. And now, quite possibly, they had a new deadline. If the infected horde managed to get through, it would be an hour, perhaps two, before the entire city was overrun.

The party discussed their options. There were several possible ways into the temple.

There was the main door, of course, but so far, the city guards had not be able to batter their way in through that magically sealed set of double doors.

There was the river gate. The temple was built upon the karst from which the river emerged from the ground. At the point where the river emerged was a portcullis covering a cave entrance which led to the lowest level of the temple. However, Listig had tried that entrance and the river gate was guarded by some terrible beastie with tentacles.

There was the sewer. The city sewer did have a tunnel that ran to a chamber beneath a part of the temple. That might be a way in although they had no map of the sewers and might get lost down there.

And finally, there was the roof. However, the roof was guarded and the cultists and undead creatures on the roof had, so far, managed to thwart all attempts by the city guardsmen to climb the temple walls.

They decided to consult the Talisman of dreams. William pulled out the Talisman and concentrated and soon the ground shook and thea robed being appeared again. Composed of the nothing more than the dirt and sand beneath their feet, the imposing figure rose up and took form. It turned its hooded visage toward William and spoke in a deep, resonating voice.

What knowledge do you seek?

William asked “What is the best way for us to get into the temple?”

The creature spoke again:

By spell the temple’s tightly sealed, yet other paths shall be revealed.
By river’s mouth, cling dear to breath, a watery beast may be your death.
A hammer to the gate lacks cunning, it will surely bring foes running.
By tunnels dark from sewers deep, few foes will bar you from the keep
But best would be the rooftop door, if stealth be what you’re looking for.

William thanked the other worldly being and dismissed him and put the Talisman away.

The party decided to heed the advice of the Talisman. They would summit the roof and go in by that roof top door. Listig had already been up there once. This time, the whole party was going up to fight the cultists on the roof.

Listig, once again, scaled the temple walls to the roof, this time bring a grappling hook and rope with him. He slipped over the parapet invisibly with his magic ring and made his way to a corner of the building that was partially obscured by a roof access stone building and also by shadows. William cast invisibility on several of the others. With the help of the grappling hook and rope, the others managed to join Listig on the roof.

Those who were invisible used it to put themselves into advantageous positions and the party was able to surprise the cultists on the roof. There were three red robed cultist priests, three bandit type thugs (possibly hired mercenaries in the employ of the cultists or low ranking members of the cult) and five undead skeletons.

Belkor unleashed a fireball from his gauntlet which initiated the battle. It was a fierce fight, but the party quickly dispatched all of the enemies on the roof. They suffered only a few minor wounds. Despite the fireball being detonated on the roof top, they hoped that the battle had gone unnoticed by the cultists inside. The roar of the river was constant and may have obscured the sound of the fireball. The roof door was locked, but they found a key on the body of one of the cultists and unlocked the door.

Very stealthily they snuck down to the top level of the temple. [The temple had three levels above ground and one level below ground).

They encountered a pair of cultist thugs and quickly dispatched them before they could raise an alarm. The party did not know exactly where in the building the Talisman was so they decided to do a quick sweep of each floor. The explored the second floor and encountered a trio of red robed cultists priests in a conference room of some type along with a pair of skinless dog like creatures which had clearly been created by foul necromancy.

Listig fired a hammer head arrow and missed the priest he was aiming at. The arrow hit the wall and the wall blew apart in a shower of rubble and bricks which knocked two of the priests to the ground. Belkor charged the third priest while Winlock found himself fighting both of the undead dogs. William, Listig and Halimir fired arrows and spells into the room. The bloody battle was quickly concluded. They rolled the bodies and found a few coins, holy symbols and such, but no Talisman. Although noisy, the battle brought no further cultists.

William took out the Talisman of Dreams again. Now that he was inside the temple, he hoped that he might be able to get a more precise reading on the location of the next Talisman. He did get a better reading. It was below him, centrally located. Either one or two floors down.

They continued down the stairs to the second level and heard the sounds of a young woman in dismay. Winlock, not waiting for the others, burst in to small conference chamber and found a cultist thug raping a young woman. He buried his war hammer in the thug’s skull.

They calmed the hysterical girl down and assured her that she was safe. They then began asking her a series of questions. She was a wealth of information. The cultists were priests with spells and dressed in the red robes. They had a number of followers… thugs and bandits and such that worshiped that same dark nether being as the cultists, but had no magic. These thugs were the guards and soldiers of the cult. She indicated that there were only about ten cultists, but at least twenty thugs.

A couple of days ago, while the city was dealing with the horde of infected outside its gates, the cultists had taken the temple by force. They had captured all of the priests and worshipers and imprisoned them in the cavern level below.

She told the party that they had built a contraption of wood in the cavern, a huge thing like an overgrown alchemy lab. It has hoses and tubes, vats and cauldrons and so forth. They were brewing some kind of alchemy poison and planning on releasing it into the river. It was this foul, enchanted poison that was the cause of the infected hordes outside. The cult had already released it locally and infected hundreds. Now, they were brewing a more potent version and were getting ready to release it into the karst.

The scope of the cult’s plan finally dawned on the party. If this poison were release into the karst, the river would carry it downstream and affect the rest of the empire. Millions would become infected. This would bring down the entire empire.

The party described the Talisman to the girl and she said that she had indeed seen it. It was being carried by the cult leader and that he was using it in his magical incantations in making the magical poison. They were waiting for it to recharge and, at dawn, they would complete the enchantment and release it.

Dawn was about two hours away. The party had a new deadline.

The party asked about the cultists and prisoners. Almost all of the cultists and the thugs were downstairs. The priests and worshipers who had been captured by the cultists were being held in cages in the main cavern below.

They quickly hurried back downstairs which led to a short natural stone tunnel that opened up into a large cave. From the shadows of the tunnel, the party could see the whole cave.

Dominating one side of the cavern was a large bubbling and swirling pool of water. This was where the river emerged from the stony ground and began its long journey. A broad stone walkway encircled the pool on three sides.

A large wooden scaffold had been erupted with four large platforms upon them. Just as the girl had described, a bewildering array of tubes and pipes, cauldrons and vats, ropes, pulleys and counter-weights had been built upon this scaffolding. Several of the vats and cauldrons had burning braziers beneath them and foul slime bubbled within each. On the central platform was a large tough and a long half tube that was swung out over the pool. It was clear that the four largest cauldrons could be up-ended and spill their contents into this trough. The foul enchanted liquid would then flow down the half tube and spill into the pool.

A crude cage had been built off to one side in which about thirty people had been put. Several red robed cultists were standing on the platforms, overseeing the alchemical operation. A dozen armed and armored thugs wandered about the walkway. The cultists had a pair of prisoners out of the cage, manacled, but standing on the platforms with them. This pair of prisoners were older men and, judging by their dress, were scholars of some type.

The party stayed in the dark tunnel and briefly discussed tactics. The sound of the bubbling pool and the roar of the water through the river gate muffled their whispered conversation.

Listig turned invisible and snuck into the chamber, finding a good sniper position from which he could fire arrows unseen.

Belkor unleashed a fireball from his magical gauntlet at a cluster of armored thugs on the far side of the cavern. He managed to get a couple of cultists in the blast radius as well. He was careful NOT to get the manacled men in the blast. As before, the fireball was the signal to attack. The party charged in. Belkor, Winlock and Groot charged in to fight while Listig, Halimir and William fired arrows and spells respectively.

Groot ripped the door off of the cage, freeing the prisoners. Hassan ordered the prisoners to fight for their freedom. He armed several of them with blades taken from dead thugs earlier in their battles in the temple. While most of the prisoners fled in terror, a few did take up blades and turned to help the party.

One of the cultists ran toward a lever on the central platform. The party assumed he was trying to dump the contents of something into the river. Belkor used his magic boots to make a tremendous leap onto the platform and attacked with his blades. He managed to kill the cultist before the lever could be pulled.

While the battle raged, a pair of cultists and pair of thugs entered from a tunnel on the far side. One of the cultists was clearly the leader judging by his elaborate robes, bone jewelry and skull mask. Upon seeing the battle, the cult leader cast a spell and unleashed a blazing bolt of green lightning which struck Groot in the back and sent him sprawling on the ground. Groot did not get back up.

The battle ranged all over the cavern. One by one, the cultists and their thugs dropped. Belkor and Winlock managed to fight his way over to the cult leader and attacked him together. He was a difficult opponent as he kept healing himself, but they managed to bring him down together.

Once all the cultists were dead and the prisoners rescued, the party searched the bodies and the room. They found the Talisman on the cult leader, as they expected.

Two of the freed prisoners were alchemists from the city who the cultists had forced to help them. One of the alchemists, an older man named Pujar, told the party he had secretly been working on an antidote even as he had been forced to help with the poison. He needed another hour to finish it.

While the two alchemists worked to complete the antidote, they party continued to search the chamber.

One of the cultists had a spell book and various wizardly spell components.

Once the alchemists were done, they released the antidote into the river. The prisoners and the alchemists agreed to go out into the city and tell everyone that the river was now an antidote for the infection. Any infected merely needed to come into contact with the waters of the river to be cured.

Having secured the second Talisman and given the city a way to save itself from the plague, the group discussed their next plan. There were two more Talismans to get. Using the Talisman of Dreams, they knew roughly where they were.

The Talisman of the Sea was west, in the Border Clans region. The Talisman of the Land was southwest in the plains that were home to the Secambru Tribes.

The group is planning on heading south to Kassar’s Deep and then getting a boat (perhaps from a fishing village) and heading along the coast, by sea, to the Uras River and then going up river as far as possible. They are going after the Talisman of the Land.

Miscellaneous / Re: Broadswords: A Complaint About Terminology
« Last post by tanis on May 17, 2017, 12:22:43 AM »
Honestly, it wouldn't be so bad, except for the fact that so many systems just copied whatever D&D did early on, and things became ingrained. That, and so many players were influenced by it.

Still, it isn't entirely Dave and Gary's fault; they were wargamers, not historians. I'm just the kind of person who likes the world I play in to mimic reality where it makes sense to do so, and having weapons work right isn't much different than having poison work right. I know you understand that, because a big part of your focus with Khoras is a believable world. :D
Miscellaneous / Re: Broadswords: A Complaint About Terminology
« Last post by David Roomes on May 16, 2017, 05:25:45 PM »
I agree completely. When creating a role playing game, it's important to get historical facts straight with regards to sword types, damage amounts and so forth. I may have to go through all the RPGs I own and take a look at what they did with weaponry. I wouldn't be surprised if D&D is one of the least historically accurate.

Miscellaneous / Re: Broadswords: A Complaint About Terminology
« Last post by tanis on May 15, 2017, 12:12:15 PM »
I should say, first of all, that I wasn't talking about Khoras as a world, just about how illogical many systems' weapon mechanics are, so please don't think I'm being critical. It's more that Dungeons and Dragons was influenced by fantasy authors who, with the exception of some (such as Tolkien, who would have been familiar with bayonet and sword combat from his time in the trenches of WWI, and who was an expert on Anglo-Saxon literature to boot), were largely ignorant about the weapons and armors they wrote about, or were influenced by Victorian authors who sometimes lack credibility from a modern standpoint, and as a byproduct of the success of D&D many people have warped perceptions of medieval weapons which influence how they would choose to represent them in game mechanics.

For instance, if you think a rapier was a roughly 30" edgeless thrusting sword that can't cut, you'll represent it differently than if you know that a rapier is as heavy (and usually longer) than a two-handed longsword, and has a sharpened, if somewhat ineffectual edge.

Now, in the case of Khoras, sure, lots of things are different, but also Khoras is systemless by design, so this sort of thing doesn't really apply to it as far as worldbuilding goes, because it isn't tethered to any particular mechanic. But to say that a system like D&D which is, at least insofar as its original concept goes, straightforwardly attempting to create a medieval fantasy-set sandbox world, it matters whether you represent a weapon as just a generic sword (which I'm totally fine with) or decide to represent some weapons in one way or another and other weapons differently.

The minute you do the latter, you're required to start being much more specific about weapon typology, and even if you throw in lots of non-European or even completely imaginary weapons, it's still helpful to have a clear understanding of what the weapons you're talking about look like, how they handle, etc. Complex-hilted swords existed by the late medieval period, as did broad-bladed cut-centric arming swords, and if we're talking merely about generic medieval European fantasy settings, then it seems reasonable to me to expect that they be properly conceived and represented by the game system we're using.

Of course, like I mentioned above, it might be better not to get into that sort of mechanical detail in the first place, and have pretty much all "swords" work basically the same, instead of opening the can of worms to begin with, but that's a different point than the one I was originally trying to make.

And writers can do all sorts of things, and do, but that doesn't necessarily translate to the mechanics of a game, even one which is nominally so focused on the story as D&D.

Having said all of that, I agree that it's not the most important issue, even mechanically; it's a bit of a personal pet peeve, sure, but mostly I just figured you guys would enjoy watching a video about swords. XD
Miscellaneous / Re: Broadswords: A Complaint About Terminology
« Last post by David Roomes on May 14, 2017, 10:23:26 PM »
Interesting and informative video. I myself have used the term "broad sword" to refer to various weapons in my writing. So, here are a couple of thoughts.

1. In the video, he himself says that in the medieval ages, people weren't too concerned about categorizing weapons carefully and often just called things a "sword".

2. In the video, he shows four different blades that have been historically called the "broad sword" emphasizing that it really depends on the century and culture that's involves. In other words, the term means different things to different people.

3. But most important, I just want to point out that... this isn't Earth. On Khoras, I've got a number of cultures that use specific sword types. I use the term broad sword to refer to any single handed, double edged, broad bladed sword. It's more of a category of various heavier blades that each have specific names. As a writer, sometimes you use a more generic term to get the idea across. Depends on the situation. But, on Ithria, in many cases, they would refer to several types of heavier blades generically as a "broad sword". The guy in the video talks about D&D and Hollywood movies getting it wrong. Well, that really only applies to Hollywood movies that are telling a story based on Earth. If you go to Middle Earth or any other fantasy world, all bets are off and historical Earth references no longer apply.

However, having said that, if you're talking about actual Earth history (and not a fantasy world), then yes, specific terms matter and we should all strive to get it right.

Miscellaneous / Broadswords: A Complaint About Terminology
« Last post by tanis on April 25, 2017, 10:27:12 AM »
So as some of you may recall from old conversations, I study (among other things) military history/history of technology, and as part of that, I study arms and armor. As I have progressed in my understanding of historical weaponry, little by little I've become increasingly frustrated with the way that fantasy media, largely influenced by D&D's historical development, talks about and identifies weapons. In fact, if I ever actually get around to creating my own game system, some of the many things I intend to fix are what the weapons are called, and how they are represented in the mechanics.

A particular pet peeve of mine along these lines is the broadsword; no other single weapon is so misunderstood and misrepresented in fantasy as the broadsword (though the rapier comes pretty close). Well, today I came across a video by one of my favorite YouTube channels which specifically deals with explaining the somewhat confusing history and typology of the broadsword, and I thought I would share it here, just in case anyone was interested in knowing a bit more about swords (because, let's be honest, swords are cool). The same guy that did this video has spoken about the topic before, but this is the only video specifically dedicated to explaining the history of the term in depth.

Anyway, I hope you guys enjoy this:
Pieces of Eight Campaign / Session 18 Summary
« Last post by David Roomes on March 09, 2017, 07:46:34 PM »
Session 18  Summary

The Player Characters  (aka the "Heroes")

Winlock – orc/dwarf barbarian, wearing heavy chain mail armor and wielding a big war hammer
William – the party’s wizard, human male, robed and armed with a broad array of spells.
Belkor – the dashing human swordsmen/mariner wielding twin scimitars
Listig – the elven thief/archer equipped with several different enchanted arrows

The Current Non Player Characters

Halimir - An elven ranger, who has fought along side the party for several game sessions now. Has proven to be very lucky.
Almahdi - A likable Padashani beggar with quick wit. Talkative. Funny. Fluent in several languages. Street smart, but somewhat cowardly.
Nassan - A Padashani priest of Hram. Dour, sullen, doesn't talk much. Skilled at herbalism, alchemy and healing.

My apologies to anyone who might actually be reading these session summaries. This one is a particularly LONG one. A lot happened in this session and there was also a lot of talking. I try not to let these session summaries get too talky or too exposition heavy, but sometimes it's unavoidable.

The party had stopped their journey about a mile from their destination, within sight of the city walls of Qazadeen. The city of Qazadeen is built upon a gradual sloping hillside. It has two city walls, dividing the city into the inner city, mid-city and outer city.

The party could see that dozens of battles happening in the outer city with civilians fighting infected. It seemed that the entire outer city was being overrun by infected. Archers on the city walls were firing outward, toward the outer city, picking off as many infected as they could. They were firing outward only, which made the party conclude that the mid city and inner city had not been overrun.

There were several groups of people and many individuals fleeing the city of Qazadeen. Some on foot, some on horseback, some with carts and wagons. The vast sandy flat lands were dotted with groups leaving, all heading straight away from the city.

Nearest to them, were three groups:
  • About 150 meters to the east was a big ogre on foot, fighting of a half dozen infected by himself. He was swatting them away with some large weapon.
  • About 150 meters to the west was a small group of two men, three women and three children, being pursued by three infected, all of them on foot.
  • A wagon, being pulled by two horses, was charging up the road, heading directly for the party. Two archers were on top of the wagon with bows, firing arrows at a group of infected chasing after them. One infected clung to the back of the wagon while another grappled with the wagon’s driver, causing it to veer from side to side as it came up the road.

The party quickly split up. Listig, Belkor and Winlock ran toward the ogre, thinking he might be a valuable ally.

Almahdi, Nassan, Halimir and William took the party’s wagon and headed toward the group of men, women and children.

The two halves of the party were each about half way to their respective targets when the wagon with the two archers passed them, veered sharply, hit a rock and flipped over, landing on its side, half way between the two halves of the group. The two archers fell to the ground. The group of infected chasing them rapidly closed the distance.

Wasting no time, Belkor used his gauntlet of fireballs to throw a fiery orb at the group of infected closing in on the wagon. He aimed well and the fireball detonated near the back of the group. The explosion engulfed the infected in flames, incinerating six of them. Only two survived, and it charged the flipped wagon. The two archers and the driver rapidly got to their feet and drew blades. Including the one that had been wrestling the driver and the one clinging to the back of the wagon, it was three humans against four infected.

Belkor, using his magic boots, ran to catch up with Winlock who was continuing on toward the ogre. Listig ran toward the flipped wagon and then started firing arrows into the undead, assisting the wagon riders.

Very quickly there were three separate battles happening within sight of each other.

Listig and the three men fought the remaining four infected at the site of the flipped wagon.

William and Halimir fired spells and arrows at the undead attacking the group of civilians.

Winlock and Belkor came to the aid of the big ogre who was swatting at the infected with a very large wooden plank. Belkor’s twin blades and Winlock’s massive war hammer made quick work of the first four infected.

Several of the infected had already expended their vomit and seemed to be depleted. It was clear to the party that each infected could only vomit the blue ichor once and then required several hours, at least, to refill some internal reservoir. Two of the infected did manage to vomit their foul liquid, but no one was struck.

Very quickly, the infected were defeated and all three battles were won. The infected were not particularly resilient, and they would go down with a one or two good sword strikes or hammer blows. However, they were fast, aggressive and the risk of possible infection made all of the heroes uneasy.

Halimir and William managed to kill all of their infected and saved all of the civilians except for one of the women. The ogre was saved, but had been bitten several times. The party wasn’t sure if that meant he was infected, but he was on his feet and seemed ok.

The three men at the flipped wagon proved to be capable fighters, but Listig’s aid was invaluable.

The survivors of all three battles and the party quickly grouped together. With Nassan and Almahdi translating, the party did their best to calm down the civilians, who were clearly shaken by the battle.

The party asked them "What's going on in the city?"

"The plague was spreading quickly in the outer city. We heard there were a few cases inside the walls, but two days ago, the King closed the city gates and forbade anyone from entering or leaving. The last two days were awful. The sickness spread like wild fire through the outer city. People were dying faster than we could bury them. Bodies lay in the streets being eaten by crows and dogs. We began hearing about attacks on people by the walking dead. It spread quickly. Those buried out in mass graves began walking back into the city. Bodies in the streets rose up and attacked. Those bitten become infected as well".

How fast do people turn once infected?

"At first, only the dead coming back to life. But now the illness burns more fiercely. People die in less than a die. And those bitten, turn very quickly, becoming ill and dying and rising in less than an hour. It seems to be quicker with step in the chain".

The three men with the wagon were all that remained of a bowyer/fletcher shop. They had put as much of their shop and wares into the wagon as they could and had fled. As a thank you to Listig for his aid, they gave him their finest bow, a veritable work of art. They also gave him their very best arrows, a set of magically enchanted “hammer head” arrows, that magically increase size and weight in flight, to become something akin to battering rams. Listig accepted the gifts with many thanks.

The ogre, it turned out, was an escaped slave. He bore the brand of the slavers guild on his shoulder. His tongue had been cut out long ago. He was from Ithria and, although he could not speak, he did understand the Southern tongue. He had managed to escape that very morning in the chaos and confusion of the outer city battling the infected.

The party tried to persuade the people to join them and guide them into the city. None of them agreed to that idea. They were terrified of what they had seen.  They only wanted to get as far from Qazadeen as they could. Besides, they said, they could not get the party into the mid or inner city… the city gates were closed. They would be of no use.

The party asked the ogre if he would fight with them. He was big and strong and good in a fight. They could use him. The ogre, through pantomime and gesture, indicated that he would go with them and fight beside them. The party gave him one of the potions they had received from Yaqibe, the old priest back in the town of Hefelia. They weren’t sure if it would do anything to stop or slow the infection, but it might help. They also put poultices and bandages on his bite wounds. Yaqibe had said that the poultice would help as well.

Having no way to ascertain his name at that moment, they decided to call him “Groot” and the ogre seemed fine with that.

The three men with the wagon and the other civilians decided to travel together. They piled on to the wagon and headed north, bidding the party farewell.

The party, along with Groot, turned their attention back to the city. Humble Almahdi had picked up a map of Qazadeen several days earlier in one of the northern towns. Now that they were here, the party pulled out the map and reviewed it.

You can view the map of Qazadeen here:

William decided to sit and meditate with the Talisman of Dreams again. Now that they were closer to the city, he might be able to get a more precise fix on the location of the Talisman of Blood. After a few minutes, he was able to find it. Based on the reading, William was sure that it was in the city of Qazadeen, but more precisely, it was in the inner city, near the very center of Qazadeen.

They asked Groot if he knew of any way to get into the inner city and he shook his head “no”.

William again, took the Talisman of Dreams in hand and cast a Divination spell with it. It was the most recently unlocked of his abilities with the Talisman and the first time he had cast this particular spell.

As soon as he completed the casting, the ground around them began to tremble. A mound of sand began to rise slowly and began to take shape. Within four heart beats, the sand had taken on the rough form of a humanoid figure, robed and cowled. The figure, completely composed of sand, stood towering over them. Within the hood, nothing could be seen but darkness. It turned its head toward the group and spoke with a deep, resonant voice.
Long have I watched you. Long have you struggled. This summoning is long past due…

The party stood there with jaws hanging open. They had not expected the answer to their spell to have a voice, let alone take on a physical form...

What knowledge do you seek?

William already had his question in mind. "How do we get our group into the inner city of Qazadeen?"

The hooded head looked up toward the city and seemed to consider the question.

Seek the place of broken teeth to find the robber’s road beneath.

Having uttered this cryptic puzzle, the figure dissipated, flowing back into mere sand.

The party scoured the map. Many buildings were labeled in a scrawled hand. Eventually, they found something… a small tavern on the south side of the city, in the outer city, was marked as “The Broken Tooth Tavern”. The party assumed that “robber’s road beneath” must refer to a tunnel and this tavern must be the outer end of that tunnel. With that knowledge, they headed out.

The party jumped up onto their wagon and began to circumnavigate the city in a wide arc, heading to city’s south side. They kept their distance, attempting to avoid the attention of the infected. As they made their way south, they came across a series of large low stone structures. They were spaced about a hundred meters apart. Each was rectangular and built into the side of a small slope. Water was trickling from several large round openings in the west side. A variety of plants were growing in the damp ground where the water discharged. The water was foul and the miniature oasis had an awful smell.

Almahdi explained that these were discharge pipes from the city’s sewer system. The party asked why the city didn’t simply dump their sewage into the river. He explained that the river was sacred. The great Nupar River was at the very heart of the Hram religion. The river is life, the source of all life. To pollute it with sewage would be a great offense to Hram. No city anywhere along the course of the river dumps sewage or trash into it. Even bathing in the river was forbidden. Instead, water is taken from the river and used in the city – for drinking, cooking, bathing and to feed the sewer system, which is separate and never connects to the river. There are two separate sewer systems, one on each side of the river and each system discharges out in the drylands, away from the city.

The party stopped and examined the sewer discharge bunkers. The pipe openings were almost one meter in diameter. A man, not wearing armor, could crawl up the pipe, but it would be a difficult crawl in a very tight space, through a river of feces, for several hundred meters at least. It looked like one possible way into the city, but a disgusting one. There might also be any number of grates and pinch points and locked gates one might find in the labyrinth of sewer tunnels.

After some discussion, they decided against the sewer pipes. Better to follow the cryptic advice given by the sand-formed figure summoned by the Talisman.

The party crossed the river at a stone bridge and began veering east, heading toward the south side of the city. After another kilometer, they came across a group of eight bodies on the ground. Several of them had wounds and bite marks which indicated they had been attacked by the infected. Several of the corpses looked infected.

Seven of them were wearing uniforms. Almahdi recognized them as the Qazadeen city militia. The eighth wore a hood robe over a parang and looked like a scholar or wizard type. He had a large satchel slung over his shoulder. The party searched the bodies. The robed one was carrying an alchemical kit of sorts – mortar and pestle, flasks and jars, tubes and pots. He also had many herbs, flowers, powders, tiny jars of colored liquid and other alchemical ingredients. Several of the soldiers were carrying bags filled with blue flowers. Nassan recognized the flower as the bud of a flowering cactus native to the region. He said the flower was useful in several alchemical preparations and was mildly poisonous.

The robed one also had several pages of hand written notes and documents. Almahdi translated them for the party. One doument was an official writ declaring the possessor to be an “alchemist in service to the crown” and to be given due respect. One page contained a list of herbs, flowers and alchemical ingredients “to be gathered”. Other notes implied that this alchemist was one of several that the Jhad of Qazadeen had searching for specific plants.

The party wasn’t sure what to make of this. But they took the alchemical equipment and gathered herbs and flowers and put them in the wagon. They also stripped off the uniforms of the soldiers and scrubbed them thoroughly with sand, making sure that none of the blue ichor stains remained. The uniforms had a badge on them with text. Almahdi translated and said that these men were members of the “Sand Wolf” brigade of the city militia. The uniforms were stowed in the wagon as well. Finally, the party severed the heads of all the corpses, hoping to prevent any of them from rising again.

Eventually, the party made it to the south road. When they reached the road, they were about one kilometer south of the city. The road ran straight north to the city. The distant sounds of battle in the outer city had quieted. And there were no more individuals or groups fleeing the city. They took this as a bad sign. The party assumed that the outer city had been completely over run. Those who were able, had fled. Everyone left in the outer city was either infected or dying or dead (or possibly hiding).

The tavern they sought, the Broken Tooth Tavern, was one of the buildings on the very south edge of the outer city. It would be one of the first buildings they would encounter as they headed north into the outer city. The party knew that they couldn’t take the wagon with them. As far as they knew, they were going into a tunnel. Before the tunnel, they would likely need to be stealthy, moving from building to building, unheard.

They asked Almahdi to stay here, with the wagon, a kilometer south of the city. His job was to keep the wagon safe and to move it if needed. William said that he would be able to track Almahdi magically after they were done in the city so Almahdi could move the wagon as far as he needed to, to keep it and himself safe.

They decided to bring Nassan with them. Nassan had a great deal of alchemical knowledge and it seemed that alchemy was part of this. His knowledge might be handy. Plus, he was a healer and they might need some healing. Groot, the mute ogre, had been quietly plodding along beside the wagon this whole time. Groot was now carrying a massive two handed sword, a weapon the party had taken from the destroyed caravan out in the desert. They wanted him to come with them as well.

William’s raven also stayed with the wagon. William hasn’t used the raven since landing in Qeshir, but the raven is still with the party.

At this point, it was late afternoon. The party had some food and water at the wagon and waited until nightfall. They wanted the cover of darkness to hide their approach.

William used this time to cast an arcane eye spell. He sent the eye flying toward the outer city and used it to search the outer city. It didn’t take long for him to find the Broken Tooth tavern. He remotely studied the area. A group of infected were wandering about the tavern, prowling like animals. He sent the eye inside the tavern. Inside, there were several dead bodies. There were also three infected that were up and walking around inside the tavern. He then sent the eye into the mid city and inner city. As expected, inside the great stone walls of the city, there were no infected. The dark streets were being patrolled by many city guard patrols who were searching the city with torches, looking for any sign of infection. Other than city guard patrols, the streets were empty.

Once it was dark enough, they said goodbye to Almahdi and the rest of them headed north toward Qazadeen.

As the party got close to the outer city, they slowed and went as quietly as possible. Noise might attract more infected, so  any battle would have to be done as quietly as possible. They soon found themselves within sight of the tavern. A wooden idol was perched above the door, with most of its teeth broken out. Seven infected standing outside of the tavern noticed the approach of the party and charged. Luckily they did not holler or yell, only muted grunts and growls.

Arrows and spells dropped three before they reached the party. Kenner’s blades and Winlock’s hammer finished off the rest. Groot, with his giant sword, cut one of the infected clean in half. When the battle was over, they severed the heads of the dead. They then listened. All was quiet.

They open up the tavern’s front door and the three infected immediately charged out. Surprisingly fast and aggressive, these three proved to be tougher. One of them managed to bite Kenner on the neck. Another sank teeth into Winlock. Both warriors, now furious, cut the offending things to pieces, but the damage was done. Each had a neck wound dripping with the blue ichor.

They each quickly quaffed one of Yaqibe’s potions and put a poultice on their neck wounds. There was no doubt that they were infected. They hoped that Yaqibe’s medicine would slow the progression of the disease, if not halt it.

The party quickly entered the tavern and closed the door behind them. They began a thorough search of the tavern. There were more than a dozen bodies, but no one living. Several of the bodies showed signs of infection. They decapitated the bodies and then put all of the bodies (and heads) outside.

In a back office, they found an iron strongbox. Listig picked the locked and opened it to find it filled with coins and a couple of gems. In the office, there were 3 bookcases, side by side. They discovered that the center one was on rollers and concealed a secret door. They pushed the door in and it swung on to reveal a hidden room.

The room had a large wooden table and four chairs in the center and a rug covering the floor. A few cabinets and shelves adorned the walls.

Hanging from the ceiling was a chandelier with a dozen candles in it. At the center of the chandelier, sitting in an iron bracket, was a glowing blue crystal. As soon as William walked into the hidden room, he began to feel ill. He immediately recognized it. It was a drellisite crystal which emits a kind of “anti magic field”. This was a small crystal and had an effective range of only 15 feet, just enough to cover the room.

While searching the room they discovered that the beneath the wooden paneling of the walls were sheets of lead. The room was lead lined. Between the drellisite crystal and the lead lining of the room, it was clear that someone wanted this room to remain hidden, even from spells that might discover it.

Belkor was particularly interested in the crystal. He thought it would be very useful in dealing with enemy wizards and such. He plucked the drellisite crystal from the chandelier. It was a stout shard, about 10 cm long and 2 cm diameter. William protested and said that he didn’t want the party taking that crystal with them unless they could contain its radiation somehow.

With a dagger, Belkor pried up a couple of the lead tiles that lined the room. The lead tiles were about 20cm on a side and one cm thick. The room was lined with several layers of overlapping tiles. Belkor asked Groot to help him. Belkor told him what to do and Groot used his strong fingers. Within a minute, they had rolled one tile up into a tube and pinched one end. Belkor put the crystal in the lead tube and put that in his knapsack. [DM Note - this crude lead tube weighs about 4.5 kg].

Listig noticed scrap marks on the floor. They moved the table and rolled up the rug. Beneath the rug was a large trap door with a recessed iron ring. They listened with ears pressed against the trapdoor. Nothing. Silence. They grabbed the ring and lifted the trapdoor. Inside was a steep ramp going down into darkness. No doubt, this was the “robber’s road”.

Without delay and trusting to their luck, they entered the tunnel in single file. The ramp went down a good a ways before opening up into a tunnel. It was a small tunnel, just large enough for them to walk down single file. Groot had to hunch over and his shoulders scraped the walls. The ceiling was arched and lead lined with the same square lead tiles that the room above had. It seemed, whoever built this tunnel had gone to a great deal of trouble to ensure this tunnel remained hidden from prying spells.

Winlock and Listig, who both could see in the dark very well, went first. The rest followed behind, illuminating their way with a pebble upon which William had cast a light spell.

The tunnel travelled mostly north, turning slightly this way and that, every hundred paces or so. After a short distance, the tunnel opened up into a large circular room. A giant rat was in the room and it attacked as soon as they party walked in. Listig quickly dispatched it with a single arrow to the eye. Upon closer examination, it was clear that the rat was infected by the same plague that was affecting the people above. This was the first indication that the plague affected animals as well.

They examined the room. It was a large workshop of sorts. Several work benches and tables and shelves provided work space. There were three narrow carts on wheels lined up against the wall. Several copper ingots (stamped with the standard of the Karoush Mining Consortium) were on the shelves. There was a box of nails, a few horse shoes and a few stray pieces of iron ore scattered about the shelves as well. A few iron weapons, maces and swords, lay on a table.

The party found nothing of interest in the work shop. They continued on their way. They passed several smaller side passages which went to empty chambers or dead ends. They continued along the main tunnel.

After what felt like another 500 meters, they could see a glow of light ahead. A voice came echoing down the tunnel toward them.

“Prost! Gahusha bal tan! Myratta pol handra aben malal aso tenaka”!

All faces turned toward Nassan. Nassan smiled weakly. “He say… stop. And speak our names so he knows we are not one of the creatures. Or he will drop the ceiling on us”.

Nassan spoke to the guard and the guard replied. The two went back and forth for a full minute. Finally, Nassan said, “he is going to let us pass. He is calling for others to come and escort us from here”.

Not long after, they could hear others ahead. The guard called out again. Nassan said “he wants us to come forward, with our weapons sheathed and our hands visible”.

The party complied. They came into the light in a room. The guard they had been speaking two was a man with a turban, a pointed beard and gold earrings. He wore light leather armor. He had a scimitar in one hand and his other was on a lever in the wall.

Behind him were six big men. They wore gold rings on their arms, brightly colored turbans, loose pants and leather jerkin vests.

The six men led the party through a several chambers until they came into a large square room. It was dominated by a large conference room table upon which was unfurled a huge leather bound map of the city of Qazadeen. Standing on the far side of the table were two men. One was a heavy set black man with a neatly trimmed beard, a jeweled turban and a green surcoat. Next to him stood a tall man dressed in a dark grey parang.

At the sight of the party, the black man burst out laughing and shook his head as if in disbelief. He spoke in a soft deep voice and in the southern tongue, but with a Padashani accent.

Well, well, well.. the Gods have a wicked sense of humor. You could not have picked a worse time to sneak into a city! But I’m glad you braved the journey because I have so many questions for you...

King Dalmoran has many spies. Not just in his own nation, but scattered far and wide in other nations. He likely has a many spies scattered throughout the Padashan Empire. Here in this region, we know the identify of some of them, but not all. Those we know of, we keep an eye on. And look at this.

The man pulled out a parchment and laid it on the table. It was the wanted poster that the Black Guard soldiers had, the poster that had been put up in western Mercia. Their faces stared back at the party.

It seems Dalmoran has his spies searching for you. Don’t worry… I don’t think that his spy network knows that you’re here. I have been playing games with his spies for years. I think this, shakes paper, was given to every one of their spies and every spy was told to keep an eye out for you. His minions are looking for you, but they don’t know where to look. That’s why they are looking for you everywhere. But the question is, why? Why is King Dalmoran, arguably one of the most powerful men in the world, searching for you four? Now, normally, I would bribe you with something like that… bribe you or threaten you with exposure. But things are not normal today.

My name is Kalrotus. Third in command of the Bellowguard. Here, in Qazadeen, the Bellowguard rules the underworld. A bit of thievery, a bit of fencing stolen goods, spying, smuggling and so forth. Seems you’ve already found our smuggling tunnel.  I don’t know how you found our tunnel, but that’s not really what concerns me. The larger question is why… why would you risk life and limb to sneak your way into a city that is on the verge of being overrun by an army of undead. You don’t look Anquaran. Neither do you look Padashni. You’re from Ithria. Since Dalmoran is looking for you, you’re not any of his spies. And you’re not spies of the empire. I suspect I know why he’s looking for you, but I’d like to hear it from you.

The party looked at each other but offered no answer.

Allow me to be honest with you. And I admit, honesty is not normally my first instinct. But here we are. Desperate times, desperate measures. The truth is that I don’t know exactly what is going on. But I’ll make a deal with you. You tell me why you here and why the mad king is looking for you. In exchange I’ll tell you everything that WE know. An exchange of information. Perhaps we can cooperate.

"Agreed", said William. "But you go first".

Very well… The Karoush province was once a proud kingdom… the most recently conquered addition to the empire. Being subservient to the empire has never sat well with the people of Karoush. Tensions with the empire were always strained at best. And now those tensions have erupted into full scale war. Armies roaming the land and clashing in great battles leading to all manner of suffering, displaced refugees and so forth. War is bad enough. But then the plague came. Quite suddenly. People falling sick by the hundreds. And then, a few days ago, the first reports of the walking dead. The infected.

We know what the cause is. A death cult. The Death March. Vanquished more than twenty years ago. That’s what the common citizenry believes. What isn’t widely known is that this Death Cult returned several years ago… quietly infiltrating the ranks of the royal court at Qazadeen. It’s difficult to get a spy into the royal court. But we did our best to keep an eye on these cultists. They were seducing the Jhad with tales of the thing they worship, preying upon his feeble will, anointing him with blood in their rituals. They filled his head with tales of how their dark magic could slay his enemies, and how they would help him lead his armies to victory over the empire.

It seemed, for more than two years, that they were content to play some long term game, bending the Jhad to their will. But now, quite suddenly, in just the last few weeks, things have changed. They demanded the Jahd send out his men to scour the desert and bring back the blossom of a certain flowering cactus. Meanwhile, the local apothecaries were taken by force, and emptied of certain alchemical components. We suspected they were brewing some potion for the Jhad.

But as the war was beginning the plague hit. And then, the infected, the walking dead. Perhaps it was the plague they were brewing up. Perhaps as a weapon for the Jhad, to be used against his enemies, to help him win this civil war. Last night, my men saw militia soldiers making deliveries to the temple. But then, this morning, the cultists took over the temple of Hram. Sealed themselves up in there. To our surprise, the Jhad ordered his soldiers to the temple, to break in and drag the cultists out to face justice. I don’t know what to make of that. For whatever reason, the Jhad and the cultists have turned on each other.

Now, as for you… I know that Dalmoran has sent HALF HIS ARMY out in to the world to find the four of you. They are scouring the world. There’s only one thing that could possibly motivate such a massive military movement… either you have found one of the lost pieces of the Talisman of Anquar… or he thinks you have. Either way, he will stop at nothing until he has you.

Now... it's your turn...

The party regaled Kalrotus with a story. They told him all about their adventures in western Mercia... the swamp, the militia, their attacks on the minions of the witch. They told him about their final battle with her, killing the witch and so forth. They left out any mention of the Talisman. They said only that she was “skilled in charm magic” and had used her magic to enslave the minds of those who served her. They told him that when they defeated her, they found a book filled with notes that talked about the Talisman of Anquar and hinted at a possible resting place in this region. They said that the witch had believed more information could be found within the city of Qazadeen and they have traveled here in search of it - to find the next clue on the trail and to eventually, one day, find one of the lost Talismans. There were clear to mention that they did not think the Talisman was here in Qazadeen, only more information.

They also mentioned that they did not expect to be facing a plague of undead and only used the tunnel to gain access to the inner city. They said that their quest was leading to the temple at the center of the city. Clearly, what they sought was tied to this Death March cult.

Kalrotus listened to their story, asking the occasional question to clarify some point. When they finished, Kalrotus was quiet for a time, lost in thought.
The party insisted that they only wanted safe passage. They also bartered for it. They told him of the mining guild’s caravan that they had encountered out in the wastes and showed him an iron ingot as proof. They promised to give him the precise location in exchange for safe passage. Kalrotus copied down the location.

Kalrotus made it clear that he had no interest in the missing pieces of the Talisman of Eight. To possess one of the Talismans, even to know where such a relic might lay, would be to invite the attention of the Mad King Dalmoran, to invite disaster. Clearly, the players had already made that mistake. Either the Mad King thought that they were in possession of a Talisman piece or that they might soon be. Kalrotus wanted nothing to do with the Mad King.

What Kalrotus did care about was finding a way to stop this plague. The city of Qazadeen was home to his guild and its people were their prey. If Qazadeen died, so would the Bellowguard guild. The Talisman, the Death March cult, the plague - it was obviously all connected. Kalrotus demanded that if the party find any information about the plague, any way to stop it, any hint of a cure, that they were to bring that information to him. That was the price of safe passage. The party agreed.

Kalrotus had no men to spare, but let the party go on their way.

The party was escorted back up to the surface where they found themselves in a blacksmith’s shop. The guards allowed them to go out and warned them to watch out for city patrols. The streets were under curfew and no one should be out at night. If they were caught, the city guards might arrest them and imprison them.

The party snuck to an alley next to the blacksmith shop. There, in the shadows, they talked about their next move.

William had a water breathing spell that he could cast on everyone and would allow everyone to breathe water for 24 hours. He wasn’t sure if they would need it. But they were heading for a temple that was sitting at the headwaters of a river. It might come in handy. So he cast it.

After some discussion, it was decided the best course of action was for Listig to go to the temple alone and scout it out. Normally, the party didn’t like to split up because they’re anti-scrying charm had a range of about 100 feet. Being outside of that protective anti-scry bubble for too long was to risk discovery by Dalmoran, who was most likely still searching for them with magic.

However, the party had the drellisite crystal which nullified magic. They decided that Listig would carry the crystal and that this would be sufficient to spoil any divination spell that might try to target him.

With the crystal, Listig snuck through the quiet city. It was the middle of the night and the streets were deserted. He encountered, but avoided, two different city patrols. The grounds around the temple were gardens and so Listig found lots of good hiding places. He was able to approach the temple unseen. From the garden, he could see two groups of men outside. At the main gates, there was a group of city guards. Lined up on the ground were a number of bodies – some were city guards and others were bandits dressed in leather armor decorated with bones. It seemed that a large battle had taken place outside of these doors. Dozens had been killed. The bodies had been gathered and lined up, off to the side, so that they would be out of the way. The remaining city guardsmen were trying to get into the temple by bashing the front door down with a battering ram. So, far, they had barely scratched it.

Another group was off to the south side of the temple. This group seemed to be a mix of city guardsmen and miners. The miners were digging a large hole at the side of the temple’s outer wall while the city guardsmen watched. It looked like they had been digging for hours. Ocassionally, someone at the roof of the tower would yell something and fire a crossbow bolt down at the diggers and the city guardsmen would fire arrows back.

Listig went round to the west side of the temple to where the river came out from the sub level of the temple through a mostly submerged portcullis. Listig dropped his bow, quiver and heavier gear and hid it all by a nearby bush. He then slipped into the water to investigate the portcullis. The portcullis was heavy iron and heavily rusted. Scattered on the river bed were four bodies. Three of them wore city militia uniforms. Suddenly a tentacle came snaking out through the portcullis bars. Listig tried to swim away, but the tentacle encircled his leg and began to drag him back toward the portcullis. He drew a knife and began sawing through the tentacle. Luckily, he was still under the influence of Wiliam’s water breathing spell, so at least he would not drown. He managed to cut the tentacle enough that it released him and withdrew, vanishing back into the shadows on the other side of the portcullis.

Listig quickly retreated back to dry land. He grabbed his equipment and decided to try another way into the temple – the roof. The temple was built of large stone blocks with deep grooves between, affording many hand holds. He scaled the wall with little difficulty. On the way up, he noticed that every window was barred in unusual fashion, with curved rods of steel sunk directly into the stone. Listig used his stealth ring and turned invisible just before he reached the top so he could crawl over the edge unseen.

On the roof was a man dressed in burgundy robes. With him were three thugs, dressed in leather armor adorned with bones, same as the bodies down by the main gate. All of the men were armed with serrated blades and heavy crossbows. There were also five animated skeletons, armed and armored, standing quietly off to the side. The robed man seemed to be in charge and occasionally gave an order to one of the thugs.

It looked as though the city guards had already tried to scale the walls and reach the roof. Three grappling hooks lay here with severed ropes. No doubt their ropes had been cut and they had been fired upon from above. Even now, the robed one and the thugs would fire a crossbow down at those below trying to get in.
Listig found a hiding spot, deactivated his ring and waited in the shadows. He listened for almost a half hour to the occasional bits of conversation. At one point, he heard the following

 “I wonder how long it’ll take them to dig their way in” pondered one of the thugs.

 “Come dawn, it won’t matter," said the robed man. "It’ll be too late”.

Having heard enough, Listig grabbed a discarded grappling hook and climbed back down the wall.

At this point, it was roughly 1:30am. Listig returned to the group to report all he had seen and heard.

This is where we wrapped up Session 18.

Pieces of Eight Campaign / Session 17 Summary
« Last post by David Roomes on February 02, 2017, 08:48:21 PM »
Session 17  Summary

The Player Characters  (aka the "Heroes")

Winlock – orc/dwarf barbarian, wearing heavy chain mail armor and wielding a big war hammer
William – the party’s wizard, human male, robed and armed with a broad array of spells.
Belkor – the dashing human swordsmen/mariner wielding twin scimitars
Listig – the elven thief/archer equipped with several different enchanted arrows

The Current Non Player Characters

Halimir - An elven ranger, who has fought along side the party for several game sessions now. Has proven to be very lucky.
Almahdi - A  likable Padashani beggar with quick wit. Talkative. Funny. Fluent in several languages. Street smart, but somewhat cowardly.
Nassan - A Padashani priest of Hram. Dour, sullen, doesn't talk much. Skilled at herbalism and alchemy.

We began the session right where the last one left off. The characters had just exited the sand troll’s cave and come out to the wagon to rejoin Halimir, Almahdi and Nassan. There was a dead female sand troll on the ground that Halimir had killed with arrows protecting the other two.

They loaded up the wagon and headed back to the town of Hefelia. The journey back to Hefelia was just a few hours. During the journey, William cast identify on the magic items they had retrieved.

The ring was a “Ring of Light Foot”. It reduced the weight of the wearer’s footfall to almost nothing. While worn, the ring wearer would leave virtually no footprints on most surfaces. He would be able to walk across pressure plates and weight activated traps without setting them off. Finally, he could walk across the surface of a liquid for a short distance if the surface was calm.

The second item was a pair of silver arrows. They were identical in every way except for the markings on the shaft were mirror images of each other. Instead of bladed tips, these arrows had a flat dull iron head that was dented and scratched from much use. These were a set of teleport arrows. Simply put, you fire one arrow and when it strikes a surface, whoever is holding the second arrow is instantly teleported to the location of the first.

The third item was the dagger. It was gifted with a sharp blade that struck true. Beyond this it would ignite in flames upon command. Finally, whosoever held the dagger in their hand was greatly protected from heat and flames.

Listig took the arrows. Belkor took the dagger.  Winlock took the ring.

When they arrived, they went to the temple. The temple was functioning as a hospital. Dozens were sick and being tended to by the priests and family members. Those infected appeared pale, thin and losing their hair. But most striking was the numerous bluish sores from which radiate patterns of dark veins.

They found Yaqibe, the old man who had sent them out, in the back. They gave him the mushrooms and he thanked them profusely. He was going to make an ointment and elixirs to try to slow the progression of the infection in the sick. The party asked if they could get some of the healing elixir to take with them and Yaqibe agreed.

The party resupplied and then continued their journey south toward the city of Qazadeen. Yaqibe gave them four bottles of elixir and one jar with enough ointment to make a dozen poultices. They knew there were heading into territory that was suffering both a civil war and an illness that was, apparently, spreading through multiple villages.

It was a three day journey to the next major town through a dry rocky badlands. The region was relatively unpopulated. As they journeyed, William continued his studies of the Talisman. Their anti-scrying charm occasionally glowed, indicating that somewhere was still trying to scry them (and being blocked by the charm).

Around mid day of the second day, the winds began to pick up and they saw a mass of clouds to the east. They quickly realized it was a sandstorm and that a wall of airborne sand was going to engulf them within minutes.

They pulled the wagon over to the side of the dusty path and looked for shelter. The wagon was large enough for all seven of them to comfortable sit in side. The doors and windows of the wagon could close and seal tight to keep out sound. So they weren’t worried for themselves, but rather their two horses who would be exposed.

The region had rocky hills and mesas, but the nearest rock formation of any significant size was about two kilometers away. They would never make it. They decided to use Williams tent as a tarp and fasten one end to the top of the wagon and one end to the ground (weighted down with rocks).  The tarp, slanting from the top of the wagon down to the ground at an angle, formed a lean-to of sorts. They got the horses under the tarp and tied their harnesses to the wheel. They realized, however, that sand would be blowing under the wagon (the wagon was quite large and the bottom of the carriage is a good four feet off the ground). They quickly began piling rocks and water barrels up to try to create a wall beneath the wagon to keep the sand out. It didn’t work. They didn’t have enough material and the sandstorm was already upon them. They all began choking on the sand and were blinded by it. After some discussion (shouting over the roar of the sandstorm) they decided to flip the wagon on its side and reposition the tarp. It took all seven of them together, including Winlock who is just ridiculously strong, but they managed to turn the huge wagon onto its side. This turned out to be a better approach as the side of the wagon was able to make a fairly good seal with the ground and sand and wind could no longer get through underneath. Between the wagon, the tarp, three water barrels and a couple dozen large stones, they managed to make a decent shelter for the two horses. The party then took shelter inside the wagon (which is essentially a huge wooden box), closed up the door and waited. The storm raged for a full four hours before subsiding. The players emerged to find the wagon and tarp mostly buried. They began to dig the wagon out.

A half hour later, they had the wagon dug out and right side up. Both horses had survived. As they were packing things back up, they heard the sounds of people singing. Down the road was coming a long trail of people. It was a caravan of about sixty people, a dozen small carts and a miscellany of camels, mules and other animals. The people were singing a folk song together. The group included a mix of women and children. Several of the carts had sick people, suffering from the same strange blue lesions, who were too weak to walk. At the head of the procession was an old man on a donkey with a staff. He stopped and talked with the group as the procession passed them. Almahdi translated for the group.

Through Almahdi, the old man told man told them that there was much sickness in the south and it was spreading through multiple villages. Also, several villages had been destroyed in the war. Most of the people were all that remained of the village of Jahiya, which had been burned to the ground by imperial soldiers. A few others had joined them from other villages, fleeing the war and the illness. They were heading to Visaal in hopes of finding safety and aid.

The two groups said their goodbyes and the party continued on south. They asked Almahdi what he knew about the next town. Almahdi said “Hazrathat is the largest town on the journey from Visaal to Qazadeen. It’s exactly half way. It lies right on the border between the two provinces. It pays tribute to neither provincial capital and has a reputation for being independent. Hazrathat has declared itself neutral in this civil war. I expect we will see more refugees there. It is a good town. We will be able to buy anything we need there – food, water, supplies – whatever we need”.

The next day, they saw the town of Hazrathat on the horizon. It was a small walled town with several towers and flags fluttering from pinnacles. As they approached, they saw a large gathering of people just outside of town. It turned out to be a burial ceremony of sorts. They were laying about a dozen bodies to rest in a mass grave. A few men and women were wailing, Hramish priests intoned prayers and many people were praying.

At the town gate, there was a line of people and carts waiting to be let in. The guards at the gate were carefully inspected every. Carts and wagons were thoroughly searched. Those wanting entrance were forced to disrobe and show that they had no lesions on their bodies.

The party showed that they had no illness. When Winlock took off his helmet and armor, the guards raised their eyebrows at the strange site (a dwarf/orc hybrid is something they had never seen), but otherwise said nothing. The party was charged an entry fee and allowed to pass.

Inside the city, they saw a large market plaza. On one side was a one standing on a small stage addressing a large gathering. Almahdi translated what the man was saying…  “and that’s why we need to join with our brothers and sisters in the Empire. Karoush is befouled by wickedness. We all know that the plague is to the south. But who brings this plague upon us? You know as well as I. We’ve all heard the rumors… the Death March has returned. [the crowd gasps] The old stories are true. The Death March threatens our city. This evil must not spread. We have to join the empire and march on Qazadeen”.

They party asked Almahdi who the Death March was.

The Death March was a religious cult from years ago”, almahdi told them. “It was said that they worshipped a demon, that they kidnapped people for sacrifice, killed children, defiled graves, robbed tombs, created undead. They were known for wearing masks made of human skulls. Very very not nice people. The Death March was outlawed and eventually wiped out. That was more than 20 years ago. If the Death March has returned… well, that can not be good for anyone”.

The party spent some time looking around the town. There was a large temple to Hram here and it was tending to many who had fallen to the illness. This town was coping with the illness as best it could – quarantining the sick at the temple, checking people at the city gates, etc.

The party wanted to add a hatch in the floor of the wagon as an “escape hatch”. They asked Almahdi to go find a competent carpenter. Nassan went off to purchase medicinal herbs.
While Almahdi was away, the party purchased some food and water. While they were wandering around one of the plazas, a young woman came running around the corner, her dress torn, hair disheveled, face bloody, and ran right into Winlock. Immediately behind her came five armored men, brandishing weapons. The girl cowered behind Winlock while the leader of the pursuers yelled angrily at Winlock and pointed at the girl. Winlock stood between the five men and the girl. Almahdi and Nassan were away on errands, so there was no one to translate. William cast a tongues spell on Listig who was then able to hear the big leader yelling “That is MY slave girl! I just bought her! Stand aside whelp!

The instant Winlock heard Listig say the word “slave”, he swung his war hammer into the man’s chest. His four companions quickly rushed to their leader’s side and the five of them surrounded Winlock, raining down blows. Belkor rushed forward, blades flashing to take one of them from behind. Listig and Halimir loosed arrows, concentrating their fire on the same enemy. William threw a spell. Very quickly the battle turned. The leader and one of the others fell. The other three, bleeding from multiple wounds, turned and fled.

The party examined the bodies. They both had a rough leather patch sewn onto a part of their garments… a black serpent on a tan background. It looked like a mercenary insignia. When Almahdi returned, they explained what happened. Almahdi volunteered to go make some discreet inquiries about who these warriors were.

The party took the girl back to the wagon and did their best to keep themselves, and her, out of sight. They questioned the girl and she told them that she was from a family in one of the northern provinces. She had been kidnapped several months ago and sold into slavery. She had been moved around, traded, sold and moved again. She was put upon the slave block this morning and sold to the man that the party had just killed only an hour before. When she saw an opportunity, she made a run for it and ran (literally) into the party.

Almahdi returned a short while later and informed them that the group that had fought with was a small portion of a mercenary group known as the sand vipers. There were about fifty of them and they were all in town. However, the two that the party had slain were the commander of this mercenary company and his lead warrior . Now that word had spread that the commander of the company was dead, the remaining mercenaries were squabbling over who should now lead.

However, there was more. The Slavers’ Guild was not happy with what had transpired. They considered the girl an escaped slave and their reputation had been sullied. They wanted the girl back in irons and the group responsible punished.

Almahdi informed the party that the girl, although safe for the moment, would surely be recaptured by the guild the minute the party left town. They talked with the girl and tried to figure out the best course of action. Taking her with them was ruled out. Although she’d be safe with the party, they were heading into a war zone that was also dealing with plague. Better for her to go north and try to reunite with her family. Eventually it was decided they would buy her a new dress, a hooded cloak, a fast horse and give her a money pouch filled with silver. She would ride north as far and fast as she could to while the party rode south. Hopefuly the Slavers’ Guild would follow the party if they decided to do anything.

With the girl safely away and no sign of pursuit on her tail, the party slipped out of town quickly and quietly before the Slavers’ Guild managed to convince the remaining Sand Vipers to go after them. The party traveled down the road another four hours before making camp.

The party began the next leg of their journey which would be another three days before they reached the towns surrounded Qazadeen. The first day was uneventful. During the second day, the party spotted a body lying a ways off of the road. The party stopped the wagon and approached cautiously. The body was a male padashani wearing light leather armor, but missing his sword. He had a bloody wound to the back of his head. Judging by the footsteps, he had staggered out from around the far side of rocky outcrop and collapsed here. The body was the same temperature as the air, but not yet stiff. He had died very recently, within the last couple of hours.

The party followed the footsteps for a hundred yards. They were out of sight of the road. They could hear a crash coming from ahead, followed by another. They entered a small clearing between rocks and found a trio of large, hard top wagons. Scattered around the wagons were a number of dead men laying in the dust. They were all dressed like the body they had found. The ground was also littered with debris – splintered wood, twisted bits of iron, coins, jewels, large grey rocks and iron ingots. The first wagon was damaged, the second had its back ripped apart. The third wagon shook even as they watched. Something was on the other side of it.

Listig approached stealthily so he could get a look at it. It was a large creature, but unlike anything they had seen before. It had a barrel shaped body with four legs and four arms radiating out from the central body. It had no eyes, ears or face of any kind. Only a huge toothy maw at the top of its body. Embedded in its grey hide were many large ovals of a black glossy material. Listig watched as the beast picked up an iron ingot from the third wagon’s cargo hold and dropped it into is gaping maw. It then tore open a small iron box, emptied the contents (glittering jewels) into its mouth and then ate the iron box that had contained them.

The creature gave no indication that it had noticed them and saw the party took up positions. Listig climbed up one of the rocky outcrops and got into a good firing position. Halimir stayed on the ground and readied his bow.  Belkor and Winlock got as close as they could, ready to jump and charge, respectively. Almahdi and Nassan stayed with the wagon.

Belkor used his magic gauntlet to launch a fireball at the creature. The blast was well aimed and engulfed the creature. The fireball also blew the second and third wagons to pieces. At almost the same moment, Listig fired an arrow into the creature’s mouth and the creature let out a loud roar of pain. As the flaming pieces of wooden debris came raining down, Winlock charged and Belkor used his boots to jump in to the battle. Halimir fired an arrow, which flew straight toward the beast, but suddenly veered off at the last second. Winlock and Belkor both attacked but found that their weapons slowed down a bit during the swing as if swinging through some kind of invisible barrier. They called out to the others that it had some kind of magical protection. The creature lashed out at them with rock hard claws.

Listig drew one of his phase arrows and fired. The dimensionally shifted arrow shimmered as it streaked toward the beast and then solidified deep inside the creature. As the arrow slammed in, the crystalline rocky hide of the creature split with a loud crack where the arrow had entered, scattering chips and bits of broken hide. This elicited another deep, guttural howl of pain from the creature. William tried dispelling all magic on the creature, hoping to neutralize its protective barrier, but it apparently had no effect. Halimir fired again, but again his arrow veered from the target at the last second. Meanwhile, Belkor and Winlock swung and hit the creature over and over. Each time the swung weapon passed through some invisible barrier and slowed. They were hitting it but their blows were not landing as hard as they should be.

Winlock was suddenly catapulted backward by some invisible force, but managed to land on his feet some fifteen feet back. At the same time, three iron ingots lifted off of the ground as if telekinetically controlled and then suddenly were flung at Listig, Halimir and William. Listig dodged the speeding iron brick which embedded itself in the rock wall behind him. Halimir was struck in the head by an iron ingot and fell to the ground , dazed and bloody. William dodged the ingot thrown at him. Winlock, back on the ground, charged the creature again.

Listig fired another phase arrow and split the creatures hide again. Pieces of the crystalline like armor flew from the new crack. Halimir fired again and again, but each time his arrow veered away harmlessly. The creature flung more iron ingots at party members and lashed out at Belkor and Winlock who continued to hammer away at the beast with sword and hammer. Belkor felt the invisible force tug at his sword and almost yanked it out of his hands, but he managed to keep his grip on it.

William suddenly deduced the nature of the beast. The beast was controlling magnetic fields, using it to deflect Halimir’s arrows, slow incoming weapons and hurl iron ingots. He tried to think of a way to exploit that. Meanwhile, the battle continued to rage. Belkor and Winlock had each landed several good blows and multiple cracks had appeared in the crystalline armor. The creature continued to fling iron ingots, managing to hit Halimir in the arm and spin him around. Listig fired a third phase arrow which blew a sizeable chunk of the creatures armor off and the creature fell over with a resounding crash.

[DM Note – for those interested, this creature was an iron eater, which can be found on the Khoras site].

The party did a quick search of the area to verify that there were no other foes. Once they were satisfied that no other threats were present, they sheathed their weapons and tended to Halimir who was wounded from two of the flung ingots. He had a gash on his head and a broken arm, but was otherwise ok. They gave him some healing potions.

An examination of the creature revealed several strange things. The creature’s hide was crystalline and hard as rock. The phase arrows had been devastating to it. The beast had a thick leather cord tightly tied around one of its ankles. Wooden pegs were hammered in to secure the leather cord. It seemed to be some kind of leash. The leash was frayed and burnt at the other end.

The creature had a symbol burned into its hide, like a brand. The same symbol was imprinted on all of the ingots and painted on the side of the wagons. They fetched Almahdi and asked him if he knew what the symbol was.

Oh yes”, Almahdi replied. “This is the standard of the Karoush Mining Consortium. The province we go to has many mines and most towns are mining towns. The Consortium is a powerful economic guild with great political power in the province”.

Judging by the cargo, this was no doubt a guild caravan taking iron and goods to the northern provinces. The party searched the wreckage and debris that covered the ground. It took a couple of hours, but they carefully organized and inventoried everything that was here. The cargo had consisted of several thousand pounds of raw iron ore and hundreds of iron ingots. There were also assorted iron pieces (rods, bards, strips, hoops, hooks) and many finished goods (horse shoes, nails, hammers, axes, plows, scimitars, shields, anvils and so forth). This was all well and good, but what the party really wanted was the treasure. It took them quite awhile to get it all (the coins and jewels were flung far and wide thanks to the fireball). Also, some of them were inside the creature which Winlock hacked his way into. Avoiding powerful digestive enzymes, they were able to retrieve quite a few jewels and coins from the monsters belly.

All told, they counted up several thousand coins (of various denominations, but all Padashani) and 37 jewels. A large wooden chest and a small iron strongbox had survived the battle intact. Both of them were locked. Listig attempted to pick the lock on the chest, but was struck by a poisoned needle trap and immediately felt quite ill. They decided to get their poisoned comrade back to Nassan for care. They gathered up all the treasure and a single iron ingot and headed back to the wagon. They thought the ingot might be useful to prove their story if they decided to convince someone that they had seen this caravan or perhaps sell the knowledge of its location.

Happy with their victory and considerably wealthier, the party made camp a few miles away from the wrecked caravan.

During the third day of travel, William took out the Talisman of Dreams and used it to ascertain the location of the Talisman of Blood. He wanted to see if it had moved. After several minutes of mediation, he sensed it. Based on the distance and direction he felt it, and judging by the map they had, the Talisman of Blood was still in or very near the city of Qazadeen. He was sure of it.

After a third day of travel, they reached the first town in the Karoush province, the town of Shumata. This was a small unwalled town, just a few dozen buildings around a central plaza and well. As the party approached, the saw men carrying wrapped bodies out to a mass grave just outside of town.

In this town, the illness seemed much worse. Hundreds were ill. It was the same illness – the blue lesions, the dark pattern of veins, the pale skin, the milky eyes. The temple was filled to capacity with the sick and with overworked caregivers. Most of the larger buildings, including two taverns and the town’s only inn, were now serving as makeshift hospitals. The central plaza was likewise filled with sick people laid out on blankets… a hospital under the open sky.

With their wagon at the edge of the large plaza, they talked. Being surrounded by plague made the party nervous and they debated leaving.

At that moment, Listig noticed a man on a balcony not far away looking at them. Recognition was in his eyes. He quickly pulled out a scroll and looked from it to the party and back. He then quickly rolled it up, put it in his pocket and went into the building. The party had been recognized. Listig quickly relayed what he had seen to the party and told them he would take care of it. He walked over to a shadowy nook between two buildings and activated his invisibility ring. He then chased after the man. In a flash Listig was up to the balcony, through a room, down a set of stairs and into a hallway. He found the backdoor open and chased the man out into the street. He found him, walking hurriedly down the street. Listig followed at a distance.

The man was walking toward four men sitting on the porch of a building drinking and playing a game. It looked as if he was going to call out to them. Listig drew and fired an arrow. The arrow went straight through his back, the tip punching out through the man’s chest. Without a sound, he went down. Listig ran over and grabbed the scroll from the man’s pocket. With the scroll in hand, he retreated. At that moment, the four men saw the other in the street with an arrow in his back. They seemed to recognize him and rushed over to his aid.

Listig put two buildings between them and him before he dropped his invisibility and then hurried back to the plaza to regroup with the party. When he got there, he showed them the scroll. It was a copy of the wanted poster that the Anquaran army had back in Ithria. It was identical. Clearly, this was the same wanted poster, the same artwork. The party didn’t know if the man Listig had killed was an Anquaran spy or not. He didn’t look Anquaran. He looked Padashani. Of that Listig was certain.

The party wasn’t sure what was going on, but they knew they didn’t want to stick around. They rode out of town as quickly and quietly as possible and rode until they ran out of daylight. They camped well off the road with no fire that night.

The next morning they continued on their way. They were now on the road between Shumata and Qazadeen. They were less than a day from that major city. Early in the morning, they passed a group of refugees who were travelling north. Several were wounded, many were sick. All had the same symptoms – the blue lesions and and so forth. Almahdi spoke to them in Padashi as they passed. The refugees spoke of a great battle to the east, villages attacked and plague everywhere.

A few hours later they passed a grave on the side of the road, but the dirt was scattered all over and the grave was empty. Blue ichor stained bits of the soil.

In the late afternoon, they came across a tiny village and saw smoke rising from the middle. The party stopped the wagon on the road and went into to investigate. There was a small plaza around a well. One of the smaller buildings was on fire. On the ground they found a broken sword, a bloodied cloak, a basket of spilled fruit and many footprints, but no people. The entire village seemed empty.

As they looked around, a humanoid creature stepped out of a building. The hairless, pale thing glared at them through milky eyes and blue ichor flowed freely from multiple sores on its body. Another stepped from around another building. A third crawled up from the well. A fourth was crouching on a rooftop. The party quickly heard the sounds of others coming. The creatures charged them. The party fled. Dozens of the creatures came running out from buildings and from the far side of the village. It became a running fight. The party swung weapons as they ran, killing a few of the creatures. One of the creatures vomited a stream of blue ichor at Listig who protected his face with a raised arm. But the blue vomit stained his parang (the padashani robe he was wearing).

William dropped a well-placed wall of fire and several creatures ran through it, igniting themselves and dying quick deaths. The party came charging out of the village at a full run with a dozen creatures right behind them. They yelled at Almahdi to get the wagon moving and leapt on to the wagon as it raced away. Listig and Halimir climbed to the top of the wagon and began fired arrows back at the creatures that stilled pursued them. Eventually the wagon had enough speed that the creatures could not keep up and they abandoned the chase.
Listig quickly took off his parang and cast it aside and changed into his old clothes. The party kept up the rapid pace until they were well away from that village and then slowed down to spare the horses.

As the wagon continued rolling down the dusty road, the group discussed everything they had seen. It was obvious to them now. This illness was much more that they had originally thought. Some kind of infection was spreading like wildfire and those who died rose again as… something else. Undead? Infected? Zombies? They weren’t sure. The creatures that had attacked them back at the village seemed barely human.

Two hours later, the party crested a hill and saw the city of Qazadeen before them. It was a large city with high walls and magnificent towers. There was an outer city of hundreds of buildings clustered around the main city walls. The entire city  sloped gently up the side of the first of the Fekwar Hills. Several towers and huge domed buildings could be seen even from this distance.

The party’s wagon rolled toward the city. As they got closer to the city, they began seeing groups of people running between buildings in the outer city. Archers on the tops of the walls were firing arrows into the outer city. The wind shifted and, very distantly, the party could hear the sounds of battle.

It quickly became clear to them. The infection here was out of control. It looked like the outer city was in the midst of fighting hundreds, possibly thousands, of the infected. Judging by the archers on the wall firing on the outer city, it was likely that the infection had not yet gotten into the city center. The sandy plain before the city was dotted by small groups of people fleeing the city, some on foot, some riding steeds… some were being chased by infected.

And this is where we ended the session. The party is sitting on their big wagon, looking at the spectacle before them. The city of Qazadeen appears to be on the verge of being overrun by a horde of infected. And the magical talisman that they are seeking is somewhere in that city.
Pieces of Eight Campaign / Re: Session 16 Summary
« Last post by tanis on January 25, 2017, 08:35:30 PM »
LOL, 1) I vote that at the end of the campaign, a session epilogue with any and all Halimir-Must-Die moments included for the readers' enjoyment and edification, and 2) I look forward to seeing the new NPC page for Halimir is his post-campaign position within the World of Khoras.
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