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(9/16/03 7:40 am)
PBEM interlude in my campaign
My group won't be meeting again for a game until the end of the month, so in the interim we're doing a PBEM interlude to get the party from Rastor back to Verbobonc (where they'll receive their first visit from Hedrack's assassins). Since I'm already writing up those narratives for the players, I might as well post them here for your enjoyment. When we meet the party, they've all just levelled to 10, having defeated the Earth Temple twice (including Vranthis the second time), and the Fire Temple. The cast:

Cyr: CN Elf Rog7/Wis2/??? (currently cursed by demonstone, about to take Asn1 as soon as he murders an innocent)
Chase: CG Half Elf Ftr4/Rog4/Shd2, Cyr's half-brother
Shalathal: N Human Bbn8/Sor2
Hamish: NG Human Clr10 of Pelor

(9/16/03 7:42 am)
An evening in Rastor
You manage to drag the cart back to Rastor without incident. It's a difficult and exhausting journey; it takes a couple hours longer than a horse would have taken, but you manage to get back to town before nightfall.

You check in at the temple to Moradin, where you are fondly received by the high preist Rerrid. He and his priests offer to perform their healing rituals on you without accepting any form of payment, in thanks for your valiant efforts to save the townsfolk from their Tanbrosh addiction. You banter heartily with Rerrid about the evil that has infested the mines; he asks if you've made any progress in discovering the location of the sealed Dwarven temple, as described in the book you gave him last time you were in town, but you reply that you haven't.

You then escort Jurikath to Tymerian's tower. He is nervous as he approaches, and confides in you that they had not just been adventuring companions, but in fact, lovers. You warn him that the trials of the mines have affected Tymerian, and she will not be as he remembers; he says that he understands. When she comes to the door, they stare at each other for what seems like an eternity; first shock, then disbelief, and finally love wash across Jurikath's face. They embrace, and begin to tell each other of their horrible experience in the mines.

Tymerian invites you all in to join her for a meal. She quickly throws some food together (with the help of some cantrips) and opens a bottle that Chase recognizes as a very expensive Keoish wine. After the meal, she offers in gratitude to assist you in any way that she can; in particular, she offers to identify any magical items that you have collected from the mines.

(9/16/03 7:48 am)
Dinner at Tymerian's
May 31, late evening:

Over dinner, you discuss your plans for the next day. First thing in the morning, you plan to talk to the Orcs about possibly taking over the main gate complex of the mines. After that, you'll head to the mines yourself, and see if you can find the Dragon's horde without encountering much difficulty, and possibly also smash the Earth Altar before you leave. Tymerian thinks the plan to meet with the orcs is a fine one, and wishes you luck. She recommends that you talk to either Jardeth, who serves in an unofficial capacity as the town constable, and is a loyal friend of Rerrids, or to Verg and Unaret, who are two orcish traders who serve as the main go-betweens for Rastor's merchants and the orc camp. In particular, she mentions that Verg was one of the Tanbrosh victims that Hamish rescued, so he might be a good place to start.

After finishing your meal with Tymerian and Jurikath, and enjoying the fine wine she served, you graciously accept her offer of assistance with identification of the magical items you gathered from your last trip to the mines. She says that she'll have to rest a night before she can prepare to identify so many items, and suggests that you bring the items to her tower this evening, so that she can identify them in the morning while the party returns to the mines to find Vranthis' horde.

Hamish, Shalathal, and Chase rise, to go fetch the cart from the stables at the Dwarven temple where you had left it. Cyr remains in his seat, absentmindedly playing with a knife against the surface of the table where you'd been eating. "You guys go get the gear. I'll stay here and help with the dinner dishes." As Hamish, Shalathal and Chase leave, they can hear Cyr say, "Is there any more of that stew? Hauling that wagon back to town without a horse really wore me out."

At the temple, you get the cart, and sort through the gear. Hamish waves his hand, and quickly determines which items are magical, and which are not. You collect the following items from the cart for identification:
Firre's Short Sword
Firre's Chain Mail
Firre's Heavy Steel Shield
Firre's Bracers
Oamarthis/Swordmaster's Full Plate
Oamarthis/Swordmaster's Bracers
Necklace from the Fire Temple secret room
Arlainth's wand
Skassik's ring

The three red stones detect as magical, but you don't bother having them identified; you quickly determine that they are lesser keys of fire, by verifying that they behave the same way as the earth keys did when combined. You press two of the keys together, and they begin to pulsate with a dull light, which brightens as the two keys combine into one larger stone. Pressing the third key of fire into the combined pair doesn't seem to have any effect. After 15 minutes, the keys seperate, just as with the earth keys.

You return to Tymerian's with the gear. As you approach the door, Hamish gesticulates and mutters a quick prayer to Pelor. You enter, and see Tymerian and Jurikath working in the kitchen, scrubbing the stew pot and clearing the dishes, while Cyr lounges by the fire. Chase's keen eyes note a small carving in the table-top where he'd been sitting; it appears to be some sort of diagram for a clockwork device, involving gears, hooks, straps, and pointed screws; a humanoid stick figure appears to be part of the design in some way.

Suddenly, Hamish lets out a moan, and puts his hand to his temple. Chase turns to him. "Are you alright? What's wrong?" Hamish turns to him. "I felt a great disturbance... I fear something terrible has happened." Cyr chuckles. "Too much wine? This stuff's a bit stronger than that sacrimental swill you pass off to the flock, isn't it?"

Cyr throws some of his own gear onto the pile of goods for identification:
Zert's cracked short sword
Zert's flaming short sword

Chase looks at his brother. "What about the stone and the rod with the tentacles?" Cyr replies, "I don't want to be without those for the trip back to the mines. I can identify them on my own."

The four of you bid Tymerian and Jurikath a good night, and you leave for the inn to get a good night's rest. You sense a bit of awkward romantic tension in the air as you leave.

June 1, early morning:

You get up before the crack of dawn, and after Hamish's prayers, you make your way down to the tavern for breakfast. As you reach the bottom of the stairs, you hear a loud *crack* coming from the tavern. You rush in, and see that Cyr is already up, sitting alone in a corner table. He's got a short sword in hand, though he's holding it strangely, as though he was using the hilt as a hammer. There are scattered shards of stone on the table in front of him. He has a pained and exhausted look on his face. "It was worse than the voices that came to me in the mines... I was afraid I'd lose control while holding it in my possession."

(9/16/03 7:50 am)
Notes for Cyr
When Hamish enters and grasps his head, you suspect that he's probably cast a spell, and he's intent on you, but your not 100% sure what spell it was. (ie: you made sense motive vs. bluff, but failed your DC20+lvl spellcraft to identify the spell in place).

While the rest were out, and Tymerian and Jurikath were busy with the cleanup, you managed to snag 300gp worth of crushed pearl (enough to cast Identify 3 times).

In the morning, over breakfast in the inn, you notice a scry sensor. It wasn't on you -- it follows the rest of the party in as they find you at the breakfast table.

The severed demonic arm you took from Tessimon is really beginning to reek quite badly. In the morning, you look at it, and it's shrivelled up and covered in maggots. You don't think keeping it would be a very good idea.

As you mentioned, you have no spells on June 1, because you were too busy committing horrible acts of evil and carving the fake demonstone to get the required rest and meditation.

Finally, you did, in fact, grab that vial of poison from Firre. I don't know if you want to admit that to Hamish, though.

Edited by: msherman at: 9/16/03 8:27 am
(9/16/03 7:55 am)
A visit to the Orc camp
June 1, early morning:

When last me met, the party had just met for breakfast at the Grey Lodge in Rastor.

Shalathal sits down gruffly at the table. "Steak and eggs, please," she calls out to the man behind the bar.

Chase walks with her to the table, and sits next to his brother, where much of the debris from the crushed stone litters the table in front of him. He clears the debris out from directly in front of him, and begins absentmindedly fidgeting with some of the shards.

Hamish approaches, and puts a hand on Cyr's shoulder. Cyr is quite visibly shaken at this point, and he shudders as Hamish's hand makes contact. "Cyr, I can't tell you how glad I am that you have destroyed that evil stone. To tell you the truth, I was going to try to persuade you to destroy it but now I see you have the strength of character to do it yourself." He then turns to Chase. "Chase, take care with that. Please excuse me while I check that the evil is truly destroyed or merely released."

Chase drops the shard he was passing between his knuckles, and Hamish chants a quick prayer. He gazes intently at the table for a moment, and then a pained look crosses his face, and he lets out a gasp as his knees buckle and he falls into his chair. He takes a moment to gather his thoughts. "The evil is still here."

As he does this, Yarrow the barkeep returns with the breakfast. "Hey, now, we'll be having none of that, if you please; this is a family establishment." He points at a sign on the wall; it bears writing in two blocks; the top part in dwarven runes, and the bottom in common script. The common reads: "All cantrips, orisons, spells, prayers, incantations, blessings, curses, enchantments, transmutations, evocations, and other such witchery is strictly forbidden. Outside food and beverages are not allowed."

Cyr looks at Hamish, concerned. "Perhaps this is the cause, Hamish? I think it would be wise for you to dispose of this foul appendage." He opens the flap on his pack, and you all wince a bit with a whiff of foul air. He pulls a sack out of his pack, which is dark with oily stains. Hamish takes the sack, and glances inside, but is quickly overcome by the stench. The sack contains the demonic arm from Tessimon, or at least what is left of it; it has rotted much quicker than a normal severed arm would, and is covered in slithering maggots.

"I suggest we gather up the shards along with this sack, and take them to Rerrid for proper disposal," suggests Chase. "I want them properly destroyed." The rest agree, and the shards of stone are collected into the stinking sack, which Hamish holds carefully away from his body. A generous tip is left on the table when the party leaves the tavern.

As they walk, Chase chats with his brother. "Cyr, why were you up so early in the bar? I expected you to still be asleep, recovering your wizardly powers. Havn't been sleeping again?" Cyr's reply: "Brother, it was terrible. The voices encouraged me to kill and steal!! It was telling me to kill my own brother!!!"

When you get to the Temple of Moradin, you find that Rerrid is not there. An acolyte informs you that there's been a disturbance at the orc camp, and Rerrid is likely still there. Hamish gives the sack to the acolyte, who momentarily loses his grip on his dwarven stoicism, and winces as he promises to deliver it personally to Rerrid for proper disposal. The acolyte provides you with 5 mundane maces to use in destroying the altar.

You get to the orc camp, and discover that there is a large crowd gathered. An older orcish woman is on hand and knee on a rocky outcropping outside one of the huts. She is scrubbing at what at first looks like a blood stain, but can soon be seen to be written words. The lettering is in common, but the markings have the blocky lines and angles of dwarven runes. While some of the letters have already been cleaned off the rock, " our land!" can still be read.

Rerrid and Jardeth the half-orc constable are in a heated debate to one side. Chase listens carefully, and overhears some of the conversation. "I don't care what you say, Rerrid, the tribe demands justice!" "But Jardeth, the augury was clear. Punishing all the dwarves of Rastor for this horrible crime will not see justice done. I don't see how they could be guilty." "Of course, a priest of Moradin would say that. No dwarf could possibly be guilty of any crime, if it were left to you!"

Standing far away from those two, most of the orcs from the camp have gathered. Verg, the trader, steps forward, and approaches Hamish. "Respected healer, you must leave this place. While the tribe owes you a great debt of blood, outsiders have no place here on this horrible day. A great crime has been committed, an entire family slaughtered by the dwarves of Rastor. While there have long been some among them who hated us and wanted us gone, I never thought it would come to this."

Edited by: msherman at: 9/16/03 8:29 am
(9/16/03 7:56 am)
Notes for Hamish and Chase
On the walk to the orc camp, Chase privately talks to Hamish:

"I have concern that the stone exerts an evil influence over its owner, and suspect that Cyr, either under his own influence or at the stone's urging, staged the scene this morning. Having said that, I got a good look at the stone shards while 'fidgeting' with them, and I'm fairly certain that the stone is indeed destroyed; perhaps we've misjudged the source of the evil you keep detecting?"

[DMs note: the smashed stone was a fake. Chase failed an Appraise vs. Cyr's Craft.]

Edited by: msherman at: 9/16/03 7:57 am
(9/16/03 7:59 am)
Conversation with Verg and Rerrid
Hamish looks shocked at the news from Verg. "Verg, do you think that your tribe would accept Pelor and thus me, one of his clerics, as an impartial observer? I could perform a Divination to determine who the true perpetrator is. But if you do not wish us to interfere, I will accept that."

Verg looks uncomfortable at the suggestion. "Healer, we have good reason to trust you, but your Pelor is no friend to the Orcs. We need proper justice, not the senseless fire of your sun god."

Hamish avoids showing offense at his words. "I understand. Please accept our condolences for your whole tribe."

As Verg walks away, Rerrid and Jardeth approach. The dwarf speaks. "Father Hamish. I am glad to see you on this dark day. I heard your offer to Verg; while I can understand why he could not accept your help, I would certainly be glad of it." He grimaces sideways at Jardeth as he continues, "The suspicion of the tribe has fallen squarely on my clan, and the brother-clans. I know it cannot be so; or, at least, I pray it. Can you assist us with the wisdom of Pelor?"

(9/16/03 8:03 am)
The divination hits the fan
As Verg, Rerrid and Jardeth speak to Hamish, Cyr breaks away from the group, and walks towards the crowd of Orcs gathered in front of the thatched-roof cottage. Chase stays close to his brother, clearly suspicious. They note the telltale signs of frequent frost damage on the cross-beams and roofing.

As they round the corner of the building, they recoil in horror as they see 5 orcish bodies, a woman and 4 children, laid out in the sqare, all beheaded. Nearby lies a Dwarven War-Axe, covered in blood. On four of the bodies, including the woman's, the wounds look like the result of a single axe-blow; however, one of the children's necks looks severely mutilated, with stones and dirt embedded in the wound. It doesn't take you long to realize that this child's decapitated body was used almost like an oversized crayon to write the words now being cleaned off the rocks.

Cyr's gut begins to heave, and his face turns green. He rushestowards a nearby stand of trees. He waves off his brother as he begins to vomit, but Chase follows, uttering consoling words.

Meanwhile, Hamish gladly offers to help Rerrid uncover the truth about this grisly crime. "Father Rerrid, I would be honoured to assist you in any way I can. Although, may I suggest that we perform the Divination in a more private location to avoid offending the tribe. Jardeth, you are welcome to join us as a witness and representative of the tribe."

They agree, and back towards the village about 20 yards, just out of spoken-earshot from the Orc camp. Hamish withdraws a bundle of insense from his belt-pouch, which he'd procured from the Dwarven temple the night before. He clears the ground before him, lays out and lights the insense, and offers prayers to the morning sun. Rerrid, Jardeth, and Shalathal stand by, respectfully. As the insense burns, Hamish chants out his question. "Who or what should be held responsible for killing the orc family?"

A pleasent, if somewhat cloying, tune begins to play in Hamish's head. A calming female voice intones, "All of our Guardinals are currently assisting other Clerics. Your Divination is important to us. You have been placed in priority sequence." The music continues for a time, and then a deeper voice chants, melodically,

"The elf by your side must be made to atone
for the acts of the Demon, ensorcelled in stone."

Hamish quickly grasps the meaning of this verse, and a look of abject terror washes across his face. He leaps to his feet, and screams. "Cyr! NO! It cannot be!"

Cyr's vomiting is interrupted by the shout. He quickly glances back down the road towards Hamish, then at his brother, and bolts. Chase reacts nearly as quickly, and true to his name, gives chase. They run for minutes, each keeping pace with the other, finally ending when Cyr trips over an exposed tree root, rolling into the dirt. He palms the luck stone from his pocket, and tries to hide it in a nook in the tree's root system, but Chase spots the attempt, and kicks it from his hand. Cyr pleads for mercy. "The stone was responsible! It's evil! I rid myself of it to prevent further horrors!"

Chase is overcome with rage at this betrayal. He knew his brother was not the most ethically sound of elves, but he had no idea he could be capable of such an act. Chase draws Revenge, and raises it high into the air. He swings it down, enraged at Cyr's actions. At the last possible moment, however, he masters his emotions, and diverts the arc of the sword away from Cyr's throat, bringing the blade down on the stone instead. The brittle stone shatters, with a loud clatter.

At the instant the sword makes contact, Cyr is wracked with pain. Tendons pop out of his neck and shoulder muscles, as every joint in his body tenses unnaturally. Then, as soon as it started, it is gone. A sweat breaks out on his brow, and he bursts into tears. "No... what have I done? How... Chase, please, tell me! How could I have done this? How can I go on?"

Fleet-footed Shalathal is the first to arrive. She draws her greatsword, and turns to hold at bay the Orcish horde that quickly follows. The orcs are shouting for blood, demanding Cyr's head, and that of his brother. "An eye for an eye! The criminal's family must be killed!"

Jardeth, Hamish and Rerrid arrive soon after. "Halt!" shouts Rerrid, with a booming voice. "I claim the authority of judgement in this place! When you came to live in our land, you agreed to abide by our laws. Do you deny this?"

The orcs back away from Shalathal, and most sheath their weapons. They continue grumbling among themselves, and it is clear that they don't all agree that Rerrid's judgement should be respected, though it is equally clear that Shalathal's blade commands enough respect for now.

Hamish quickly mutters a prayer to Pelor, seeking to detect what evil may remain in this place. He is dismayed at first to realize that there is still evil present. That is quickly replaced by releif, as he realizes that the nature of the evil has changed; it is no longer overwhelming -- but 13 sources of evil are now present. Dismay returns, however, when Hamish realizes that Cyr is numbered among them; along with 11 of the angry young Orcs, he bears a faint aura of Evil. The 13th aura comes from the crushed shards of stone, which is merely
dim, indicating that the evil has passed from them.

Rerrid turns to Hamish, and asks him what he saw. "The taint of evil remains on Cyr, but the stone has indeed been destroyed and no longer exerts its influence." The orcs grumble when they hear this; there is no way that they will accept that as enough to atone for this terrible crime.

Rerrid pauses for a moment. He then draws his war hammer from his belt. "I declare judgement. Cyr did not commit these acts of his own volition. Responsibility for the crime is therefore tempered. He shall swear a blood oath to repay his debt to the tribe, at any future time they shall call on him to do so. Five lives are lost. Cyr owes the tribe five lives, to be taken in their name, of their choosing." He slams his hammer down onto the tree stump below. "It is so ordered. Hamish, if it is within your purview, may I suggest that you grant Cyr Atonement for his sins?"

(9/16/03 8:07 am)
A drunken interlude
With the look of a deer caught in an oncoming cart's lamplights, Cyr accepts the judgement handed down by Rerrid. Some of the Orcs grumble, but they seem to acknowledge Rerrid's authority, and respect his judgement as law. Verg steps forward, and speaks to Cyr, though he seems to be speaking more for Hamish's benefit. "The forge-preist's judgement is wise. At some time in the future, we will call upon you to repay this debt. For the 5 you took from us, you will slay 5 in our name. Now, we drink to seal it. Come."

He takes Cyr by the arm, and leads him with just a bit of force back towards the camp. The rest of the party follows, in a bit of stunned silence. Seeing your confusion, Jardeth explains as you walk back to the camp. "You are not used to the way of my father's people, I can see that. To an Orc, life does not have the... I think the word you'd use would be 'sanctity'. Today, five were lost, but next season, if the crops are good, Gruumsh will send us thirty more. You did rob us of the food and warmth that the five took while they lived, and for that, you must pay. But now we have a treaty, an agreement to repay, and like any treaty between two tribes, it is not considered sealed without a great feast."

As they get a moment of relative privacy, Hamish confers with Chase. "Chase, we can't ask anything of the orcs after these events. They won't trust us and would be rather disinclined to do us any kind of favour. I say we grab the dragon's horde, destroy the Earth altar and then go to Verbobonc. We can deal with whatever takes up residence in the West gate complex when we come back."

Chase replies, "I agree that we can't ask anything of them, but I think we should let them know why we came, and what we originally intended to ask, in complete honesty. Of course, we can't ask anything anymore."

As you near the camp, Verg calls out in Orcish (one of you speaks that, right?). "Women! Bring us wine! Slaughter a boar, we have a treaty to seal!" Out of nowhere, giant mugs are thrust into your hands. Hamish notes that they appear to be carved out of the vertebrae of Dire Boars. They're filled with a dark brew, thick with yeast, with a strong alcoholic
bite to it.

A fire has been set in the middle of the orc camp, and all the orcs are gathered around it. There seem to be many more here than you had noticed before. They're all drinking, laughing, slapping each other on the back and you can see many challenges of strength and endurance taking place around the fire. Orcs who not an hour ago were clamouring for the right to sink the first knife into Cyr's belly now bang their mugs boisterously into his, laughing like brothers. Cyr joins in the party, but more out of fear of offending than any real enjoyment. You can see that his face is wracked with grief, and he seems to be going through the motions like some sort of golem.

Bloody hunks of boar meat, just charred around the edges, are hacked off of the animal roasting on the fire, and passed around without aid of plates or cutlery. Hamish, completely confused by these events, and his head swimming from the stout orcish "wine", recalls Chase's advice, and turns to Jardeth. "Jardeth, perhaps I should explain why I originally wished to speak with you. We have been clearing vermin out of the Crater Ridge Mines, but it is a lengthy endeavour and each time we return to the West Gate complex which we have been using as a temporary base, some group of vermin has overrun it and we have had to clear it out again. We were hoping that your tribe would consider occupying the West Gate complex to keep it clear and allow us safe passage. However, after these most unfortunate events, I feel I cannot ask this of you. Please accept my sincerest condolences and if there is anything I can do to
help, please do not hestitate to ask."

Jardeth drunkenly calls out, "Kreugna! Marukiu! The healer has something to say to you!" The orc's leader, a large female carrying a barbed double-axe, approaches. She is joined by the tribe's adept, garbed in many layers of hides. Jardeth urges Hamish to tell them what he told him. Hamish explains his request, and the three bang there mugs together and laugh. Kreugna speaks, "Of course we will do this for you, Healer, for a fair mercenary wage! Many of our own tribe were taken by the Robes, promised glory and blood, but never seen again. One who escaped said that they are held there, enslaved, working in the mines. We will help you hold that place, so that you can free our tribe. Perhaps this is how the debt will be repayed!" Marukiu, the adept, adds, "We can spare 50 of our tribe to hold this gate, for a wage of 15 gold each day. Is this acceptable?"

The feast lasts the full day. You agree to meet the orcs and leave for the mines the next morning at dawn. As you drunkenly wander back to the Grey Lodge, Tymerian greets you sitting on the stoop in front of her tower. "Friends! I have completed the identification of your goods. You've got quite a haul

You follow her upstairs, and she returns the items, telling you what each one is:

Firre's Short Sword: +1
Firre's Chain Mail: +1
Firre's Heavy Steel Shield: +1
Firre's Bracers: Bracers of Health, +2 con
Oamarthis/Swordmaster's Full Plate: +1
Oamarthis/Swordmaster's Bracers: Bracers of Health, +2 con
Necklace from the Fire Temple: Fireballs, 1x6d6, 1x4d6
Arlainth's wand: Fireball, CL 6 (6d6), 14 charges
Skassik's ring: Feather Fall
Zert's flaming short sword: +1 Flaming

Zert's cracked short sword: Sword of Fire, +2, 5pts fire resistance when drawn, once per day 40' ranged touch attack that does 4d6 fire damage, can be repaired/reconsecrated (and the command word changed to something less offensive) for 6500gp (or 3250gp+260xp) by a Cleric weapon-crafter; Tymerian suggests that the blade could be left with Rerrid for that purpose while you were away in Verbobonc, if you wished. [DM's note: IMC, Rerrid is Ftr3/Clr6, since I accidentally let him enchant armor up to +2 last time they were in town.]

She then remembers something, and goes to her writing desk and takes a scroll, which she hands to Cyr. "Oh, I almost forgot, Cyr, here's that scroll you asked me for; 6 castings of Misdirection, which will cost you 900 gold. Do you have that on you?"

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