Table of Contents
We picked up the action at the point where the party returned to Melvaunt after rescuing the young lords. It was after nightfall when you reached the city gate. The young lords took their leave of you to go to their separate homes, while you returned to the Crow’s Nest Inn. The guards at the gate had recognized you, and by morning, word had begun to spread of the rescue. The Lord Envoy, Peuter Marsk, sent you a message desiring that you meet with him in his office in the Council Hall at the earliest possible moment. Invitations arrived from the other noble families as well, some for dinner and some for meetings.
After thanking you for rescuing his son, Elaint, Lord Marsk questioned you closely about the events related to Vorbyx’s return. Bob gave a plausible explanation for why the hammer had been reassembled, and Marsk seemed eager to accept it. He rewarded you for the rescue by giving each of you a gold key, good for one favor if ever you need his assistance, and it is within his power to help you.
From the Lord Envoy’s office you went to Nanther Keep to meet with Lord Woarsten Nanther. He received you in his study with his son Oreal present. Along with Lord Nanther’s profuse thanks, the party was presented with a small chest containing 1000 platinum pieces. Lord Nanther offered to have the money deposited in his bank so that you wouldn’t have to carry it around the city, and the party took him up on that. Each person collected 100 gp and a letter with Lord Nanther’s seal stating that they had credit with his bank. In order to make purchases at the local shops, you need only present the letter and sign a note allowing the bearer to claim the money from the bank.
Flush with money, the group stopped in at a clothing shop to purchase nice outfits for a dinner party later that evening at House Calaudra. Such rich clothing usually sells for 75gp, but after dropping names, showing the letter from Lord Nanther and proclaiming yourselves heroes of the city, the tailor was sufficiently impressed to drop his price to 50gp each. He put all his people to work so that you could have your clothes by that evening.
The next stop was Bruilhaven, the manor house of Lord Vanth Bruil, father of Argens Bruil. (Of all the young lords you rescued, Argens was the only one who showed any potential as an adventurer. He is studying to become a Paladin of Tyr. He is actually Lord Bruil’s bastard by a commoner. Bruil made him his heir after a falling out with his other son, Halmuth Bruil. Halmuth holds the position of Lord of the Keys, which gives him command of the army and the city guard. I don’t know if you will recall, but you spoke to Halmuth during your investigation, and he encouraged you in your efforts.)
A servant led you through the house to a courtyard in back where Lord Bruil was directing his servants in the retrieval of a chest from a storage shed full of old junk. He welcomed you heartily, and explained that the trunk had belonged to his great-uncle, who had been an adventurer before he took an arrow to the throat. His companions had returned his gear to the family, and it had sat in this storage shed gathering dust ever since. He opened the chest, and pulled out several items which he presented to the party: a cloak of resistance +1, a pair of goggles of minute seeing, a Heward’s Handy Haversack, a quiver of Ehlonna, a pouch containing dust of appearance, and he even threw in the chest, though it does not appear to have any special properties. He also presents each member of the group with a carved wooden disk bearing the House Bruil seal, and explains that they can use the disks to obtain passage on his ships.
You did a small amount of shopping during the afternoon before heading back to the inn to dress for dinner. Bob paid for a carriage to take you to Calaudra Hall in style. Lord Andros Calaudra and his wife Lady Jhavasspeira received you graciously, and thanked you for saving their daughter Kara. She is the third of their eight children, five of which were present at the dinner. Elaint Marsk was also there, and it appeared that Lord Marsk had finally consented to his son’s relationship with a half-elf.
The dinner was a very elegant affair. Lord Andros questioned you about the events beneath Xul-Jarak. He seemed interested in getting at the truth of the matter, but he wasn’t openly skeptical of Bob’s story. He also provided a good bit of information about the political situation between the various humanoid tribes of Thar. As an expression of his gratitude towards the party, he gave each of you a ring of the griffon. By speaking the command word—rawthoron—the wearer is able to fly as per the spell for up to five minutes. This can be done up to three times per day.
The next day was mostly spent shopping and (for Bob) studying. Holden dropped by the shrine of Kossuth and gave til it hurt. While there, he picked up a few potions. He and Elvira also did some horse trading at the local armorer. In exchange for some suits of armor you had acquired as loot, Holden was able to get a mithral breastplate +2, and Elvira picked up a chain shirt +2. (The armor you were wearing was hampering your speed, so this is a good upgrade for you.)
The next day was also spent on shopping, studying and resting.
Finally, the evening of the 29th came and you gathered for your last dinner party at Leiyraghon Manor. On his formal invitation, Lord Dornig had scrawled the comment, “Since you have returned my prodigal son, I thought it appropriate that we should kill the fatted calf and dine on it.” It was his younger son, Kalman, whom you rescued. He is the black sheep of the family, being overly fond of women, drink, and cards, and not fond at all of business matters. Caradoc remembered Kalman behaving like a spoiled child on their first meeting, but since he had spent the previous two weeks being trussed up, beaten, starved, and prepped for his impending sacrifice to an evil god, he wasn’t at his best. Once out of danger, his manners did improve, and when you arrived at Leiyraghon Manor, he greeted you at the door with renewed expressions of gratitude. He also cautioned you that his father did not value him enought to part with any reward money for his safe return. He had informed Kalman that one dinner was all he was worth. Kalman, however, promised to reward the party himself, if/when he ever came into money of his own.
Prior to dinner, the party met with Dornig in a small sitting room. He questioned them sharply about the events that led to Vorbyx’s return. He seemed intent on blaming his son for the disaster, but was willing to let the party share the blame. His sour attitude seemed to promise that dinner would be long and tedious. The dining hall was more austere than that at House Calaudra. The ceiling was vaulted with heavy wooden beams slanting up from a second-floor gallery that encircled the room. Tapestries hung from the balustrade depicting various battle scenes, most of them between humans and orcs, but one showing humans fighting elves. Kalman tried to reassure Caradoc that such conflicts were ancient history now.
Servants with impeccable manners brought out the soup, and the party began eating. Dornig persisted in his sour questioning, asking the party what they intended to do about Vorbyx. At some point he noticed that everyone had finished their soup, but the next course had not been brought out. He reached for a small silver bell to ring for the servants, when SUDDENLY…..
Caradoc looked up just in time to see a hooded figure rise up over the balustrade and take aim at Lord Dornig with a crossbow. Bolts flew at him from the gallery, and he was struck four times. He cried out in pain, and fell from his chair. Looking up, the party saw that there were six such assassins, all reloading to fire again. Without weapons or armor, the heroes went into action to save their host from this attempted murder.
Caradoc went under the table to get to Dornig and heal him. Elvira leaped up, grabbed one of the tapestries, and swarmed over the balustrade to engage one of the attackers. Aust grabbed a dagger from the table, and hurled it at another of the attackers, striking him a solid blow. Holden cast wind wall to protect the group from missile weapons. Bob dove under the table and cast mage armor on himself.
I won’t bore you with round-by-round details, but a few highlights from the battle included Elvira grabbing up her opponent, hurling him down to the floor below, and then leaping down on top of him. With the wind wall up, the attackers leaped down to the floor to engage the party with their fists. They appeared to be trained in martial arts. Their main focus was on trying to kill Dornig and Kalman, and they nearly succeeded. A few well timed cure spells was all that prevented it. At first the battle seemed to be going their way, but the party made use of improvised weapons, Holden wielding a chair like a club, and Aust making use of the cutlery. Elvira made good use of her fists, while Bob and Caradoc relied on spells. Caradoc summoned up a flame blade that she wielded like a scimitar. Bob used magic missile and scorching ray.
After first trying to flee, and finding the doors locked, Kalman grabbed a spear from the wall, and used it to join the fight. Dornig picked up a chair and used it as a shield.
Slowly, the momentum in the fight shifted towards the heroes, and the assassins began to fall. When only two were left, they attempted to flee, but the heroes made use of their new griffon rings to block their attempted escape. Four of the assassins were killed, but two remained alive, thanks mainly to Elvira who was doing subdual damage with her fists. Unmasking the assassins, it was discovered that they were all half-orcs. No papers or identifying marks were found on them.
Bursting through a locked door into the kitchen area, the party discovered that the kitchen servants had been overpowered and bound. One of them had been killed attempting to resist.
That is where we left off. Dornig had a few moments of being in shock from the sudden violence, but he is now recovering his sense of self. As soon as anyone mentions calling the city guard, he opposes the idea. “I want to question these bastards before Halmuth Bruil takes them into custody. Once he has them in his power, I may never know who really hired them or what their motive was. For all I know, they could be working for him!”
We welcomed a new player today. Everyone say ‘hi’ to Eddie. Glad you could join us, Eddie, and look forward to gaming with you more.
We began the game where we left off last week, in the dining hall at Leiyraghon Manor with Lord Dornig insisting that the city guard not be summoned until the captives had been interrogated so that he could find out who was behind the attempt on his life. Elvira took on that task while the other four heroes split up to search the house in case any other intruders were lurking about. Bob and Holden searched the interior, while Aust and Caradoc did a circuit of the outside. The first two found no one, but the elves discovered a gnome in the back of the house standing over two unconscious guards. When questioned, the gnome gave his name as Gnosis and claimed that he had seen dark-clothed figures sneaking onto the manor house grounds, looking like they were up to no good, so he followed them. He had disovered the unconscious guards, heard the noises inside, and was debating what to do about it when the elves discovered him. Caradoc and Aust thought it best to bring him inside with them, and he complied willingly.
Back inside, one of the monks was telling Elvira the story of his life in exchange for being able to retain his anal virginity. He explained that he had been working for an orc named Daazlag, who was currently holed up in an abandoned warehouse near the docks. From his description, Dornig recognized the warehouse as one of his own. Gnosis was asked if he was familiar with the area, and he said yes, he could lead them right to it. He was invited to accompany the party and was taken to their bosom like a long lost brother.
The heroes wisely decided to go back to the Crow’s Nest first, and pick up their weapons and armor, thus depriving the DM of what would have been a great source of amusement. They arrived not long after at a dilapidated two-story warehouse with a tile roof. They did some reconnoitering, and found that there was no easy way inside the building. The only door was chained and locked, while the two upstairs windows were shuttered and latched from the inside. A small amount of light could be seen through cracks in the shutters. Using her ring of the griffon, Caradoc was able to fly up and peek through the crack to see three figures inside on the opposite end of the building—two seated at a table, and one pacing the floor. To get a better view of them, she peeked in through the window on the other end of the building, but accidentally bumped the shutter alerting one of the seated figures to her presence. She immediately flew up out of sight, while her friends below ducked for cover. In retrospect, though, that must have been when the bad guys began to prepare for a fight.
The heroes, meanwhile, made up their own plans. Caradoc would cast a wood shape spell to create a door in the downstairs wall, while Elvira would bust open the shutters of the window above. They would try to catch the bad guys in a pincer movement from above and below. Buff spells were cast first, and then the plan was put into action. Elvira waited for the party to get well inside the lower floor before she pulled the trigger, and busted open the window. The initial result was a bit anticlimactic. There was no one to be seen on either floor. As Elvira began moving into the room, however, she saw an orc with a long spear standing on the opposite end of the building near a stairway. The orc said something like, “You’re the dirty rat who killed my brother,” and rushed forward to do battle.
Meanwhile, downstairs, the rest of the group had cast light spells and they were beginning to move quickly through the warehouse towards the stairs on the other end. Gnosis, Bob, and Caradoc got their first, and they were greeted by a pair of tanglefoot bags hurled at them from the stairway by a couple of human rogues. Neither hero was glued to the floor, but both were entangled in the goo, seriously hampering their movement and spellcasting abilities. They waited for Holden to go up the stairs first, followed by Gnosis, then the two of them decided to use their rings to fly through an opening in the upstairs floor where an old broken down lift once operated.
Upstairs, the two rogues had taken up defensive positions to keep the heroes from coming up the stairs or through the lift. Bob and Caradoc were able to get past, but the stairs were effectively blocked. Gnosis attempted to tumble through, but failed.
On the other end of the upstairs floor, Elvira appeared to have met her match. Her opponent’s reach weapon allowed him to take an attack of opportunity every time she approached him, and she could only get in one attack. He was using his Spring Attack feat to make a fighting retreat across the floor, and while her attacks kept missing, his were proving deadly. Finally, she raged and made a Sunder attack on his long spear, breaking the haft in two. Angered by the loss of his magic weapon, he drew his falchion, stepped in close, and made two deadly attacks. With very few hit points left, Elvira chose to go down fighting rather than retreat to drink a potion. She swung twice, scoring a critical hit on the first attack, and following it up with another hit. Daazlag fell to the floor, dead, having taken 76 points of damage.
Yes, I was pissed.
Back at the stairs, Holden had managed to take out one of the henchmen with a hold person spell. The other one saw that the gig was up, and attempted to flee. He was pursued down the street, though, and hauled back to the warehouse. The two henchmen were separated—one on either floor—and questioned by the party. Bob and Gnosis made a bargain with one of them: information for his freedom. He revealed that his employer was actually Bremen Leiyraghon, oldest son of Lord Dornig Leiyraghon and brother of Kalman Leiyraghon, one of the young lords who had been kidnapped. It was suggested that the kidnapping had been somehow part of Bremen’s plan, and he wasn’t very happy that his brother had been rescued. In bulleted form, here is what you learned:
You kept your prisoner, wanting him to tell Lord Dornig in person that his son had tried to have him killed. Even so, Lord Dornig did not take kindly to the news. He suspects that it’s a plot by his enemies to ruin the Leiyraghon family. Kalman, however, finds it very easy to believe, knowing his brother’s ambition and viciousness. After a heated debate, Dornig was moved to offer this much: He wants his son brought in for questioning, but not by the city guard. He wants to talk to him himself, and discover the truth. He has offered the party six thousand gold coins to bring his son back alive, and prove either his innocence or guilt.
The party agreed to Dornig’s offer, but needed to rest before they set off in search of Bremen. They asked if it would be okay to stay at Leiyraghon Manor, just in case anything else happened. Bremen agreed, gruffly, and told Kalman to see to it, while he retired sulkily to bed. In the morning, after being served a hearty breakfast, the heroes retrieved their horses from the stables at the Crow’s Nest, and set out onto the moor. At about midday, they encountered a rider headed towards them. He slowed his horse to a walk and approached them cautiously. It was at this point that they realized they had no idea what Bremen Leiyraghon looked like. They spoke to the stranger and told him they were looking for Bremen to take him back to his father. He told them that he was Bremen, and that he had just that morning escaped from a raid on the caravan he had ridden out to meet. He thought there might have been captives taken, though, and he urged the party to continue on to see if there was something they could do to help, while he continued on to Melvaunt to report to his father. The party wasn’t about to let six thous—er, Bremen, out of their sight. They resisted his attempts to get away from them, and insisted that he accompany them back to the caravan site to see about any survivors. Bob summoned him a fresh mount, and they continued north.
When they reached the caravan camp, Aust spotted a troll scavenging in the wreckage. The troll spotted them as well, and warned his companions who drew back in order to measure the party’s strength. The trolls kept an eye on the party while they investigated the campsite. There were no dead orcs among the other bodies, and Bob thought that odd, since in past encounters with orcs he had seen that they never worried about burying their fallen. Aust found tracks leading off to the southeast, but they appeared to be humans shuffling along in single file with the captured horses being herded to one side of them. There were no orc tracks. That was also odd.
The only evidence that the raid had been carried out by orcs was one broken wooden shield with the emblem of the Red Claws. It looked like a very clumsy attempt to frame the Red Claws orcs, but Bremen insisted that the orcs who raided the camp were wearing the symbols of the Red Claws.
Rather than camp near the ambush site to be attacked by the nearby trolls, or to keep following the tracks in the dark, the party decided to return to Melvaunt that night. They turned their horses around, and headed south once more. Behind them came the trolls, trailing them by their scent, and hungry for fresher meat.
After two hours of forced marching, some members of the group began to grow weary. They had to go ahead and rest for the night. During the second watch, the trolls crept up on them in the dark. Holden and Gnosis spotted them as they loomed up through the dark, and sounded the alarm. A fierce fight ensued in which Elvira became entangled in one of Caradoc’s spells, and was nearly rent to shreds by the claws of the orcs. Thanks largely to Bob’s fire spells, the party was finally able to defeat the trolls, and loot their bodies.
During the battle, Bremen attempted to escape by leaping onto one of the horses. Aust rode him down, and Bremen tried to play it off like had been frightened of the trolls. Aust dismissed his explanation, and revealed that Dornig had specifically wanted his son brought back alive. Using that info, Bremen was able to get Aust to reveal that Dornig had nearly been killed, that Bremen was being taken back on that account, but that he was not being taken to the authorities—just to Dornig. At that point, Bremen realized that he was better off simply cooperating, and dealing with his dad when he got home.
After healing, looting the bodies, and getting their rest, the party headed back to Melvaunt. On arrival, they delivered Bremen to Dornig, and received their pay. Dornig, looking haggard and depressed, revealed that he was going to send Bremen to Mulmaster—a dangerous town, but one where Bremen would not be able to betray his family or his city. Before dismissing them, Dornig asked whether they intended to search out any survivors of the caravan massacre, and the party said they did. At that, they departed Leiyraghon Manor for their rooms at the inn.
On the way back to their rooms at the inn, the party discussed Dornig’s plan to send Bremen off to Mulmaster. Bob expressed some doubts as to whether Bremen would ever make it to that city. He seemed to think it likely that the lord’s humanoid allies would find a way to keep him nearby.
The group had a restful night at the inn, and woke up the next morning to find the weather clearing. After a quick trip to a local alchemist shop to empty the shelves, the group headed back onto the moor, so they could continue their investigation of the caravan ambush. They camped a few miles from the site in order to avoid any more encounters with trolls—or other scavengers.
The night went by peacefully, and the next morning they found the tracks Aust had spotted before—horse tracks mixed with human sized footprints—and followed them south towards Red claws territory. The trail became difficult to follow after a mile, and Aust had to spend a great deal of time searching about. The rest of the group followed him on foot, allowing the horses to rest. After about 8 miles they began to see markers indicating that they had reached Red Claws’ land: stone cairns topped by skulls with claws painted on them in red.
Another mile or so farther on, the horse tracks suddenly dispersed, and the human tracks simply disappeared. Caradoc used one of her druid spells to speak with the plants in the area. She discovered that three suns before a group had passed through consisting of four-feets, small-feets, and large-feets. The four-feets had gone off in several directions, the small-feets had disappeared, and the large-feets had backtracked before striking off to the northwest. The party had seen no large footprints, but it had already been determined that the raiders must have used pass without trace to hide their tracks.
They decided to investigate, and went off in the general direction they thought the "large-feets" must have gone. Aust ranged to and fro over the moor, searching for their trail, and eventually discovered where the spell must have worn off. The tracks indicated a party of a half-dozen or more ogres walking in single-file. By that time, the sun was beginning to set, though, and they had to make camp for the night. They had a cold camp, and set a watch order, doubling up for safety.
In the dark hours of dawn, while Gnosis and Holden were on watch, a voice called out from the darkness, telling Gnosis that he was covered and demanding to know what he and his companions were doing on the moor. Gnosis, not knowing who was speaking, tried to dissemble, but the voice dismissed his explanation that they were just travelers. Eventually, things were sorted when Gnosis realized that the newcomer was a member of the (relatively) friendly Red Claws tribe, who had picked up their trail while on patrol and was investigating. The rest of the group woke up, and the orc patrol joined them for breakfast.
The orc, Grokmed, told them that his chieftain, Ragnuk, would be holding a council that night and wanted them to speak. Haravak had been sent to Melvaunt to find them, but must have missed them. Envoys from the Broken Fang tribe had come to the Red Claw’s main village of Slagburg to convince the Red Claws to join with them in following Vorbyx. They claimed that Gruumsh himself had appeared to them and demanded that all the tribes do so.
The party felt pulled in two directions, wanting to follow the ogre tracks to see if they could rescue the prisoners taken from the caravan, but not wanting to refuse a summons to speak to the chieftain of the Red Claws. In the end, they decided that the prisoners would have to wait, and followed Grokmed and his patrol to Slagburg.
It was late in the day when they arrived at the stockade wall surrounding the village. The tribe turned out to jeer at the ba’nashkai—the humans—and the hated elves. Although allied with the humans, the Red Claws share many of the prejudices that all orcs have towards their long-standing foes. Some of them chafe under the necessity of maintaining their alliance with the humans, but others appreciate the peace that allows them to focus on more profitable endeavors.
After being briefly welcomed by Ragnuk, the party was put up in a stone-walled house covered with turf. They were brought food, and told to rest for a couple of hours before the council would begin. They discussed strategy, and cast a few long-duration spells. Haravak came to speak with them about the council, and they gave him the shield they had picked up at the caravan site. They offered it as evidence that someone was trying to incite war between the Red Claws and the humans, and urged him to take it to the village priest to let him examine it.
Haravak left with the shield, but returned an hour later to tell them it was time for the council. He guided them through the village towards the meeting place. All around them hundreds of orcs surged towards the council meeting, laughing, jeering, and jostling each other. They called out occasional lewd comments at Elvira, and there were many insulting remarks made about the elves.
The meeting place was a bowl-shaped depression in the hills that makes a natural amphitheater. At one end, a flat mound had been raised for the chieftain’s throne. Ragnuk was already there, flanked by his advisors. The three envoys from the Broken Fangs tribe stood before the mound on Ragnuk’s left. Haravak led the heroes to stand in front of the platform on Ragnuk’s right. Three to five hundred orcs stood on the hillside around them, cheering and jeering. It was the night of the new moon, and torches around the platform provided the only lighting to the scene.
Ragnuk stood up to speak, raising his hands for silence. "We welcome the envoys from the Broken Fangs, and are eager to hear their words, but first…."
He motioned towards the young tribal priest, Dwalik, who stepped forward to speak, raising his arms in invocation. "Grant us your wisdom, O’ He Who Watches. Guide us on the right path to serve your glory. Show us who are our friends, and who our enemies—so that we may slay with justice those who threaten us."
He stepped back into position, and Ragnuk gestured towards the envoys. "Speak now. Tell us what you want."
"You wish to know who your enemies are? I, Maugrok, can tell you! Four days ago, our tribe was visited by the One Who Does Not Sleep—the Great One-Eyed God of All Gods! He stood before us, eye gleaming and spear in hand. He praised us for our support of Thrull—who sought to unite all the orc tribes as one. It was a noble thing that we did for all our orc brothers. But he said that Thrull had proven weak. That is why he withheld his favor from him, and let these Vermin of the Elf-lands slay him.
"He it was who guided them to the resting place of Vorbyx. He gave them the weapon of Vorbyx to reassemble, and when they had done so, he took it from them and placed it once more in the hands of the Mighty Vorbyx.
"Now that the Hammer is restored, Vorbyx has returned to us to lead us once more in battle so that we may slay the humans and elves that have invaded our lands, and sink their filth-ridden cities into the sea!!"
Many in the crowd cheered his speech, and even some members of the council nodded in approval. The tall orc on Ragnuk’s right stepped forward shaking his head, however, and raised his hand for silence. The crowd calmed down, and he began to speak.
"The orcs of the Red Claws know well who their enemies are. Have we not fought them in the past?" He eyed Maugrok significantly, and a murmur went through the crowd. "Maugrok tells us he has had a vision of Gruumsh. Did we not receive envoys from him before saying that a madwoman had received a vision from Gruumsh, and that all the tribes were to unite behind some great and mighty orc who had risen from the ground to lead us against the humans? Where is this great and mighty orc now?
"I will tell you where he is: His corpse lies rotting in the dungeon beneath Xul-Jarak where he was slain by this ba’nashk-drul." Here he pointed at Elvira.
"Mighty indeed was Thrull!" he sneered. "And for him the Broken Fangs would have dragged us into a war with the humans—a war which would have seen many orcs slain—and to what purpose? We would do well to think hard before we trust Maugrok and his visions!"
The crowd applauded loudly, and Maugrok screamed out, "Blasphemer!" Before he could launch into a rant, though, Skargaz, the orc from Ragnuk’s left stepped forward calling for silence, and once more the crowd settled down, though there was still some murmuring at first. The orc addressed the previous speaker in a congenial but sneering tone:
"Noshkul, you sound like an old woman. Does a war with the humans frighten you? Are you afraid you won’t be able to sell them anymore hides from your sheep? Or is it your own hide you worry about, Oh Mighty Sheep Farmer?"
Noshkul’s hand went to the haft of his axe, but he restrained himself. Skarzag continued to speak."Perhaps it is true that Jurrg was a madwoman—or maybe she served Gruumsh better than you know by bringing these Vermin to Xul-Jarak to return Vorbyx to this world. Who are we to question the plans of the Cunning One-Eyed God?
"And when our brother orcs of the Broken Fang tribe stand before us and say that they have seen the Great One with their own eyes—they, not some mad drul—who are we to question their word? Will you call Maugrok here a liar? Does he look like a madwoman to you? What of their great chief, Garnak? Will you also call him a liar, and debate him axe to axe over what he saw? Not if you value your hide, I warrant!" He smiled at the crowd and several of them laughed at his joke, but stopped when Noshkul’s eyes sought them out. Skarzag continued:
"Noshkul, my old friend, rather than fear these ba’nashkai and their tree-rat minions, it is Gruumsh you should fear. Consider your words! You speak as if you think Gruumsh did not exist, as if it were impossible that he should ever appear and speak to his faithful servants. Perhaps Maugrok is right to call you a blasphemer. Be careful, or the One-Eyed God will use your hide to wipe his feet!"
Amidst cheering and whoops from the crowd, Noshkul began to make an angry reply. Before the situation could deteriorate, though, Ragnuk himself stood up, and shouted for quiet. The crowd fell silent.
"We will consider the words of our friends from the Broken Fangs, as well as the words of our valued counselors. First, however, we demand to hear from the ba’nashkai. Before we decide to follow Vorbyx, we wish to know more about him. Who can tell us more than those who brought him back to this world? That is why I have brought them here. I command one of them now to step forward and speak! Tell us what you know!" At this, Bob stepped towards the platform, and began a somewhat disjointed account of how the group had been led to Xul-Jarak—Thrull, the kidnapping, the prophecy of Vorbyx, etc. Eyes were starting to glaze over until he got to the part about summoning Vorbyx back into the world.
"…then we reassembled the Hammer of Vorbyx, and Vorbyx himself appeared. He was a half-fiend ogre mage, and we fought with him…" SUDDENLY… a loud voice called down from the sky:
"RAGNUK!! Do you dare to set yourself above ME? Do you dare to listen to the words of these verminous, lying ba’nashkai when I have sent ORCS to deliver my orders to you!? I sentence you to death, and any of the Red Claws who do not follow me will know death as well."
The words of an unknown and unholy tongue assaulted your ears, painting vile pictures in your mind. The sound of them was like the earth splitting open to reveal the Abyss beneath your feet, and a million demons howling for your soul. Your senses reeled and a shudder of stark terror ran through you. All around you, orcs were screaming out in pain, and covering their ears. Some fell writhing to the ground, while others looked upward with a holy fervor, and murmured, "Command me, O’ Lord! Command me, O’ Lord!"
The voice from above answered them: "Slay the Infidel!!"
Seeing that battle was imminent, the heroes began to prepare. Aust used his ring to take to the air, Caradoc cast barkskin on herself, and Gnosis drank a potion of bear’s endurance. From the sky above, a large orc swooped down. He had a patch over one eye, and carried a spear in his right hand, looking for all the world like Gruumsh. He wounded Ragnuk as he flew past him. Ragnuk unshouldered his shortbow and sent an arrow after the flying creature. The arrow seemed to strike a solid blow, but the damage was minimal. Bob cast dispel magic at the flying orc, causing him to crash to the ground and breaking one the other enchantments he had cast on himself. Holden then stepped forward and cast recitation in the name of Kossuth, the Lord of Flames.
At that point, half the orcs on the platform began to attack Ragnuk with their axes, while the others rushed to his defense. Below the platform, the envoys began to attack the party. Maugrok cast bless to offset the effect of Holden’s recitation, while the other two orcs rushed at Holden and Elvira with their greataxes. Haravak rushed forward to stand in defense of his friends.
Aust began sending arrows at the flying orc, but found that they didn’t do any better than Ragnuk’s had. Caradoc began calling down lightning, and Gnosis found that his magical bow was more effective against the flying orc.
The latter cast a sickly black cloud over the orcs on the platform, and Ragnuk responded with two more arrows, which still did little damage.
Elvira swung twice at one of her attackers, scoring a critical hit. Bob cast an ice storm hoping to hit both the bad orcs on the platform and the one-eyed orc. The latter was able to resist its effects though. Holden attempted to cast hold person on his attacker, but he shrugged off the spell.
The melee on the platform continued with the would-be regicides appearing to get the best of things. A female sorcerer cast rage on Skarzag. Maugrok stepped forward and attacked Holden with his spear, while Elvira took several blows from the axes of her attackers, one of them particularly nasty.
Aust continued attacking the flying orc, while Gnosis switched targets to attack Maugrok. Caradoc called down a lightning strike against the orc attacking Elvira.
The one-eyed orc flew at Ragnuk with an outstretched hand, glowing with sickly green magic. He hit Ragnuk in the chest, but the old orc was able to fight off the poisonous effect. Ragnuke dropped his bow, unloosed the greataxe slung over his back, and swung at his attacker, missing dramatically.
Elvira dropped one of her attackers, but the other was still unscathed, and she was badly hurt. Bob cast an empowered magic missile at the sorcerer on the platform while Holden cast divine power on himself.
On the platform, the sorcerer, near death, cast invisibility on herself. Noshkul was hit twice and staggered. With his last breath, he swung his axe at Skarzag, and then dropped to the ground. One of his companions stepped in and finished Skarzag off, and the other felled another of the rebellious orcs. Maugrok cast a healing spell on himself. Elvira’s remaining attacker struck her once, and would have felled her if not for the adrenalin rush of her rage. Haravak stepped forward, and attacked him.
Aust, seeing that things were going badly on the platform, moved forward to help Ragnuk. He fired at Jorbug, last of rebel fighters on the platform. Caradoc stepped in to help Elvira, casting cure serious wounds on her. Gnosis fired again at Maugrok, but missed him.
The one-eyed orc, stabbed at Ragnuk with his spear, leaving a nasty, festering wound. Ragnuk struck back at him with his axe.
Still on her feet—barely—Elvira continued to duel with her last opponent. Bob cast a scorching ray that dropped the evil cleric, Maugrok, and Holden rushed towards the platform to help Ragnuk.
On the platform, Jorbug felled one of his attackers, leaving him face to face with Dundar, who cursed him for a rebel and slashed at him with his axe.
Haravak sliced at the orc attacking Elvira, and SUDDENLY…
Everyone froze, and time was suspended until the next game. :)