The Future of Oriam

The Orc Extortion - Part 1
Those Terrible Tree Traversing Transgressors

The new adventuring band consisting of Ethrehil the elven ranger, Xane the human warlock, darvin the human rogue, Rin the elven monk, and Veil the tiefling cleric ran into a tip that the small town of Frond offered consistent adventuring work for new adventurers like themselves, being somewhat off the beaten trading routes and in constant need of problem solving. By the time they would arrive at the town to meet Father Jorn at the temple of Brigantia, they would see just how dire a situation the town was already facing. They found the temple of Brigantia burned to the ground and were soon waylaid by Orcs. The Orcs had underestimated the group, however, and were quickly dispatched. One even had a curiously well penned note:

“Gruumsh, factoring in our losses to the elf, we still number 44. In addition we have attracted the following of two ogres and three bugbears. We can make good on any threats you make to this pathetic village.”

The adventurers made for Frond to inform them of the dire news, but the town was completely inactive with everyone holed up inside. Only the sheriff, and elven warrior by the name of Alanis, dared walk the streets. She took the party to Father Jorn who was indeed safe: safe in the jail for drunk and disorderly conduct, an act he claimed must have been divinely inspired since it saved his life in the end.

The group soon visited the mayor who explained the current situation and his culpability. Orcs had recently become a nuisance and the mayor put out an offer of a reward, thinking a couple of poachers may be killed and the Orcs would learn their lesson. Unfortunately, a visiting elf took things way too far. This elf, Naloc, went out and killed around twenty five orcs, and then animated them as undead and marched them into town, demanding his reward money. The horrified townspeople had nearly no choice, even though this wiped out a significant portion of treasury. Father Jorn being the most offended, had sent word to the capital city of Keltan to request adventurers for hire to slay this necromancer, which brought the party to town.

This event also brought more orcs to town, however, as mayor Ganderson had greatly underestimated their numbers. They ironically wanted the same thing: Naloc the necromancer’s head on a platter, or else they would raze the village just as they had razed the temple of Brigantia. The group had just missed them.

Ganderson and Jorn both promised payment from their personal coffers, but Ethrehil had a better idea. He would track the orcs down and take care of them first. They were his hated enemy, after all. The tracks were fresh, and easy to follow until they led to a river. Dozens of tracks to the river, and then only a few going out. The ranger and rogue split from the group to stealthily track these footprints. These appeared to disappear as well after a while, but the group deduced that the orcs had climbed up into the tree canopies. Ethrehil climbed up to spot the orcs travelling by branch and limb, and then took action. At the same time, the rest of the group was attacked by hungry wolves. Both halves of the group made quick work of their foes, Darvin and Ethrehil taking a heavy assist from gravity, and then joined back together.

Tracking further through the trees, they found a bonafide treehouse with some orcs clearly inside. Their stealth failed them at this point, but not their arrows. The cabin was soon lit ablaze by those up top, while those below knocked orcs off of their balance before they could safely reach the forest floor. One did manage to get off a warning signal however, and soon a giant ogre and a clearly high ranking orc came rushing towards them. In an act of foolhardy bravery Ethrehil jumped off of his perch 50 feet off the ground and transferred his momentum into the point of his blade, sending the ogre reeling. The rest of the party acted quickly and threw everything they had at the ogre before it had a chance to fight back. The orc leader fought as well as he could, but was outnumbered and outmatched, and surrendered. He told them they would not be able to stop Gruumsh, their leader, and that they should just kill the elf necromancer. He would reveal nothing more and was killed.

The party disagreed with the analysis, but decided they may as well stop the necromancer anyway, and headed for the graveyard and crypt he was suspected of occupying. They found skeletons playing musical instruments and dancing, and decided to wait til morning just in case. They dispatched of these percussionists and moved into the crypt. Bypassing some wolves who were minding their own business, they ran through a hall of traps, successfully retrieving some poison darts along the way. Finally the rogue snuck ahead to see why he was hearing hoofbeats. He saw a giant dining room with a jousting fence in the middle, skeleton knights on skeleton horses and a skeleton with a wand and robe watching the whole thing. He picked up his jaw and went to discuss it with the rest.

to be continued…

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Zombie Stranger: Twin Danger - Part 2
These orcs are driving me up the wall!

While combating the skeleton knights, the group discovered there was also a skeleton hiding under a table, but it wasn’t sneaky enough to go unnoticed. Veil was able to turn undead and make the skelerogue and skelehorses flee, but the skeleknights remained steadfast, jumping off their horses to engage. One got in a great shot with a mace that seemed to give Ethrehil a concussion, or at least temporarily dislodge his amygdala, but the tide turned and the skeletons were dispatched. It was however, quite odd that they seemed to behave in a manner consistent with an adventuring party. Even if they were one, skeletons are supposed to be mindless automatons. Among the skeletons possessions they found a (very short) adventuring diary of a beset upon bard. They had been sent to slay the elf necromancer, and he complained that they were sending him outside because they were jealous of his sweet steel drum playing. What happened after that was clear to everyone. But this diary was dated almost fifty years ago.

Moving on they found a room of cowering skeletons in cages, unable to speak, but communicating as best as they could that they would rather not be killed. Seeing light ahead, the party moved on to find a zombified elf of some sort, and more concerningly a zombified green dragon. Ethrehil was sure this wouldn’t be too much of a problem, so they all pressed forward to lay a concentrated assault on the dragon. This dragon was pretty capable of a concentrated assault of its own however, and after a couple dozen seconds had its assailants beating a retreat. He kited them into the dreaded cone formation and took a deep breath to unleash its deadly poison breath weapon. Unfortunately for the dragon, it was a zombie and possessed neither working lungs nor working saliva glands, and this effort was wasted. Its time spent positioning bought the group enough time to hurl one last volley of spells and missiles, which finally brought down the beast. While all this was occurring, the zombie elf began casting spells, to everyone’s shock. Luckily he was not a great shot, and the worst spells didn’t land on our heroes.

With the dragon gone, the party made quick work of this zombie(though after it turned invisible and tried to hide it took a while to find him). They discovered a few things. First, valuable gems inside the dragon’s belly worth hundreds and hundreds of gold. Second, that he possessed gills? And thirdly, the elf’s diary. Strangely enough, this was an aquatic elf. He had left his home, a giant lake protected by the ringed mountains to the north, fifty years ago on what the aquatic elves know as Sprumading. Sprumading is a coming of age ceremony where an aquatic elf leaves the lake to wander the land for a number of years before returning with the knowledge he gained. Some elves become adventurers, some opt to stay in the outside world, but most eventually return. Some elves are huge jerks however, and go around making skeletons and doing whatever the hell they want because Elflantis(not it’s real name) won’t prosecute crimes committed outside of its jurisdiction. This elf, Jarmush, appeared to be one of those.

The diary also mentioned how he regretted his twin brother Naloc couldn’t come on this trip with him because of how he had just developed cleric powers and had to stay home and explore them. Finally, in a notebook on his spell development, Jarmush was having great success creating a new type of undead. This undead remained mindless and under his complete control, but retained the abilities it had in life. This spell was going to make him very powerful. Unfortunately, Jarmush was a fool and while trying to make the spell more powerful so he could ensnare a young dragon into his service in undeath, he failed to make the spell’s caster immune to its effects, and turned himself into a zombie.

The party was pleased with all of this information, since this elf was apparently a twin they could just hand his head over and be done with it. The warlock Xane, however, heard the voice of his mysterious benefactor Zathras commanding him to pocket those spell notes, which he obeyed.

There was a gaping hole in the ceiling which the dragon had presumable come through decades ago, and the party climbed out for some fresh air. From the roof of the facility they could see two bugbears and two orcs lying in wait below. These orcs were a little different, however. They wore no armor and wielded the same kind of short sword as Rin. The group decided to attack from the roof and flip the ambush around. launching missile weapons which quickly took out one bugbear and forced another to retreat into the crypt. The orcs however began running at full speed towards the group. Forty five feet up they didn’t worry about this too much, until Rin noticed their stance and running style was the same as her monastery, the Aaradrythenai temple.

“Those are monks! They can run up walls!” she shouted.

Now, while it is true that monks can run up walls sometimes, that’s a rather advanced technique. Orcs are bloodthirsty and close in on their opponents at lightning fast speeds however. Combined with a monk’s ability to move super fast in their own right, their climbing may very well have seemed like they were running up a wall, especially having just heard the suggestion from a trusted party member. Ethrehil and Rin knew there was only one action called for in this situation. They turned to one another, silently nodded, and threw themselves off the wall. Some say they were trying to stab the orcs or kick them and ride them to the ground. Some say it was suicide. But that day, all anyone knew for sure is that jumping off a four story building will knock an elf the fuck out. In the tall grass the elves natural camouflage kicked in, obscuring them, perhaps forever.

The orcs meanwhile unleashed a furious assault on the party, especially on Veil, who was closest. After one orc was taken out, the other saw how poor his situation was, and grabbed the tiefling in desperation, threatening to jump. The party attacked anyway and he made good on his threat. The warlock acted quickly to catch Veil, and Darvin unleashed a deadeye shot that made the monk lose his grip and then his life.

After a while Ethrehil and Rin finally came to, not too much the worse for wear, but Ethrehil quite possibly now had a double concussion. Rin remembered that there was once an orc at her temple, by the name of Jarrod. He was an orphan that the temple master chose to raise in order to prove that the nature of good and evil was not innate, and that he could be civilised. The master was incorrect, however, and Jarrod slew two of his teachers in anger and was exiled from the temple.

Returning to town the group claimed their reward and lit a signal to let the orc leader know the job was finished. After a short while, the orc known as Gruumsh and a platoon of twenty orcs as well as another ogre arrived at the town’s main entrance to claim their quarry. Rin immediately recognized him as Jarrod but remained out of sight. Jarrod announced the town would now be protected but would render taxes unto him. Veil decided to try and scare him with some minor effects like some rumbling ground and a ghost whisper of “get out”, but Jarrod was not amused. Instead he decided to inflict more punishment for this offense, and commanded his ogre to take the sheriff Alanis.

Ethrehil wasn’t going to stand for it and stepped out of the crowd, with an ogre ear necklace from his previous encounter and with his sword drawn. “Over my dead body”, he promised.

to be continued…

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Annihilate the Orcs! - part 3
Trial by Trail

The orc’s leader Jarrod laughed off the challenge of the ranger Ethrehil, claiming that he was abducting no one. He explained that the choice whether to come with his band was completely Alanis’s. She would teach his men to read and write elvish, and teach them the way of the sword so they could put aside their axes. Knowing this choice was a false one and believing the orcs could easily overwhelm the group and the village, she agreed.

However, she swore an “Elven blood oath” to the orc, which the other elves knew was not actually a thing. In the process she left a handkerchief covered with her blood with the party and spoke in some coded language about a “where rat”. The group allowed this to happen and went to stock up as best as possible, while obtaining the mayor’s permission to use the wererat Jimmy to track the blood scent in exchange for his freedom. They made sure to stock up on plenty of silver. Another prisoner there begged for her freedom in exchange for information. She was a common pickpocket, and one of the persons she had pilfered from before he caused all the trouble was the elven Necromancer. She had found a crude map with landmarks clear enough to point out where he was headed, a dammed lake some distance north. The group gave her her gear back and left her to her own devices.

As soon as they left the lock up, they found the city under duress again. Five orcs were wandering the streets looking for the party specifically. These five were more powerful than orcs the group had previously fought, and included an eye of Gruumsh and an Orog. The Orog especially, in his plate armor proved quite deadly. Ethrehil barely made it out of the battle alive.

They began tracking, but immediately cam upon the end of another battle. Ten orcs had battles ten… somethings. Strange mantis men were cleaning their weapons after their side had just won a battle. No one in the group recognized these beasts, and has only ever heard of giant mantises, not humanoid ones. Even more strangely, they wielded strange weapons rather than their natural claws which still looked quite deadly. Four of these creatures remained and immediately rushed to defensive positions, some blurring, some seeming to concentrate on their weapons, causing them to glow. The group managed to kill one and wound the others however, at which point they became invisible and rushed away, not to be seen again.

Hours of trail following again and they were beset upon by eight orcs, a sight that would have sent them running a mere week ago, but one which they now faced with confidence. While they were surprised by the ambush, it was the orcs who were in trouble. The party made quick work, while Jimmy the wererat plucked one of the orcs axes for personal protection. Sensing they were themselves being tracked and desperately needing rest, the party searched for a safe place to rest, and found hollowed out sections of some giant redwoods. Indeed as morning came an Orcish general and his troops appeared to be following them, but the party got the drop on him. While he was more than a match for any of them, the general suffered humiliating defeat from being surprised, from having all of his opponents out of range, from being tricked into thinking he was being attacked by an illusory mantis-man, and by elves falling from trees.

Only a short while later the group finally found a cavern, under a waterfall, that appeared to be the orkin base. A pair of dwarves were teaching orcs about carpentry in the main entrance chamber, full of building supplies. Because of the noise of the craftsmanship and waterfall, and the orcs being unarmored, the group easily took them out before any alerts could be sounded.

By the party’s count now, there were just five orcs out of the original battalion of ~50. They’d taken out groups here and there, the mantis had killed some, and the necromancer had taken out a giant chunk. It looks as though Jarrod’s days are numbered, but perhaps he’s more than up for the challenge. In any event his “civilization” has crumbled. We’ll see how he fares next time…

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The Orc Who Died - Part 4

The group of heroes found that their werewolf buddy Jimmy had disappeared, taking advantage of their split attention to slip away. The party explored the Orcin caves finding many building materials and plans. Eventually they ran into a young adult half-Orc who begged to parley. He claimed to have been brought into the venture against his will by his father, and promised to give intel in exchange for his release, and offer safehaven in his hometown of Treadmill if they ever needed it. The group agreed to let him go and found out how many remaining orcs there were, and that there was a pit trap into an owlbear lair.

Darvin snuck ahead, disguising himself as the half-orc they just freed. He found two Orc Monk acolytes who ordered him to go guard the main entrance, but managed to get himself close enough to them that he could scope out the trap, trigger it with his crossbow, and attempt to send one of the monks in. They were far too swift for that, however, and avoided his shoves. The rest of the party barrelled in to take on the monks, who were particularly impressed at the Wood Elf monk displaying the same school of martial arts they followed. They played tennis with some deflected crossbow bolts, and one Orc was eventually slain by some swift punches. The other monk fell into the pit while trying to make an easy jump over it as he got poked in the kidney by an opportunistic Darvin. He faced the owlbears, and from the sounds of things, may have actually beaten one before succumbing. Jarrod brazenly sent Alanis to check on the noise, not at all fearing she would run off. Once she found the group she told them they had to move quickly.

The group then all decided to play the disguise game. Darvin remained as the half-orc. Alanis swapped clothing with the monk and faked being a prisoner, while the monk, being of the same race and build, disguised herself as Alanis. The cleric of deception disguised himself as the other Orc monk and took Xane as is captive. Ethrehil thought this was convoluted, but played along anyway, faking an arrow in his back. They went into Jarrod’s chamber and ferreted out some information before striking.

All that was left with Jarrod were his son, his high priest, and an Ogre. This was a formidable group however. The group’s deception was good enough to get the drop on him however. They focused all of their firepower on the Ogre to remove it from combat before it could supermurder them. Jarrod proved he could take any of them out in a single round, and dodge almost any attack, but he was far too outnumbered and his ki was not infinite. Before long he lay dying. He told the monk that he met his master a few months ago, though this master was supposed to have been dead at the time. He also begged for his unconsious son to be taken to the monastery to be raised. While the group debated what to do, Darvin made an executive decision and killed the orc. C’est la vie.

Among Jarrod’s personal effects were tons of letters going out to orc cheiftans asking them to join his cause, several rejection letters and a couple of acceptance letters. They also found what appeared to be an iron vein in the cave leading into a large cavern. The group went back to town to claim their reward and get their heroes welcome. They received a writ for 5,000 gp, and decided to set off for the capital city to claim a stake on the mine. Ethrehil opted to stay behind, since he knew Orcs would be coming in a few weeks, and the town would need a new sheriff and protector, because Alanis decided to pursue the necromancer.

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A Different Sun - Part 1
The Bells Toll

Rin decided to stay behind, at least temporarily, to help with town reconstruction, by using karate to chop wood into various lengths. So Xane of Wheelock, Darvin, and Veil decided to make their way to the capital city of Kanto. They got the outfittings they would need and set out in the morning.

The weather was very cold and harsh, the snow was still falling, so travel by foot was slow going. The party ran into some elven scouts in mid-afternoon, who approached them once they saw they had been noticed. They greeted them and offered to help them set up camp, warned them about local wolves, and about a strange musuclar man that had been spotted around the area. The group tipped them for helping with the camp and made rest for the night.

During Veil’s watch she was intrigued to hear some bells ringing. She woke the rest of the group, and Xane was more than intrigued by the bells, he was drawn to them. Veil and Darvin followed at a safe distance and about half a mile off the path they saw him approach two very strange looking humanoids. They appeared to be a pair pale blue hairless and nude old men, levitating off of the ground, holding a golden bell each. Both had evil looking eyes, one with a devilish grin and one with an angry frown. Staring deep into Xane’s eyes the creatures psychically attacked him, which was enough to break their spell over him, but his mind was strong enough to contest the attack. Veil and Darvin joined the fray. Using a bell one creature seemed to merge into and possess Xane and began to attack veil. The other tried to deal with Darvin who remained hidden out of sight and continued sneak attacking.

Veil was able to set up a zone of silence to render the bells useless, and protected Xane’s mind from evil, forcing the creature out, but suffered psychic, claw, and eldritch attacks in the meantime. One of the creatures psychically fed on his wisdom, rendering him unconsious. Darvin finished off his using his sneak attacks, and Xane hit the other with his most powerful eldritch blast to burn it to a crisp. They took the bells and destroyed the bodies to make sure nothing would return. Veil regained her wisdom by the time morning arrived.

The next day was still bitterly cold but the snow had at least stopped. Continuing on their way to Treadmill, the group encountered a battallion of men from Kanto, led by a Captain Lance. They had been sent to deal with the Orc problem in Frond, having received a carrier pidgeon a few days ago, but were pleasantly surprised to hear that the group had taken care of the problem on their own. Lance said they would continue to Frond to verify and secure the town, and begin constructing a local garrison and trade route to prevent future invasions, but that he would send word to Kanto to make them official adventureres of the realm and grant them accolades if they so desired.

As the group continued the next day, they followed a trail of blood in the snow that led to a badly injured adventuring group wearing next to nothing, not outfitted for winter at all. Amongst them was the strange muscular man. They shared no languages, but their leader, a bronze skinned human, could communicate telepathically with Xane. The man dumbfoundedly explained he was lost, had never seen snow in his life, and wanted to know why the sun was the wrong color. Before the groups could discuss much, they were ambushed by a fireball from a wand toting Mage. All of the other party except their leader was knocked unconscious.

Veil healed them while the rest of the group sprinted to attack the Mage, a move he wasn’t expecting. He warned them to stay out of it and asked them to please move on and forget what they saw. However the group attacked him more rapidly than he was expecting. He got off a summoning crystal of some kind, but a necrotic bolt from Darvin made it impossible for him to use a healing potion, and Xane slew him with his deadly witch bolt. He looted his hat and two wands before the parties made a run for it, narrowly avoiding a group of what appeared to be high level warriors appearing, including their new friend Captain Lance.

The adventurerers decided it would be best to get this lost group outfitted and send them back where they came from before more trouble could be caused. In a small village on the outskirts of the capital they bartered for some clothes and other provisions. They gathered from the psychic’s story that they were from another world and had come in through a portal. They gave them what they would need to get back to the mountains they came from and then began their own investigation. Reaching the capital city of Kanto they began their business in earnest.

In short order they exchanged land rights to the mine they had discovered for a portion of ownership, received the gold they had been promised by the mayor of Frond, and identified their magic items as a hat of disguise, wand of fireballs, and wand of magic missile. Zathras nudged Xane into checking out a museum, which was a history of the former gladiatorial arena, which was run back when clerical magic was gone. A mural depicted it’s greatest champion as a man very similar to the muscular yet alien gentleman they had discovered earlier, and they found out he had friends, some of whom had surviving descendants, though the gladiator himself never sired any children despite his large number of wives. They looked up where that descendant, who came from an elven adventurer of 200 years ago, might live.

The next morning Darvin broke into the house of this descendant, who it turned out at this point was 7/8 human, and rooted around looking for clues. He found a secret safe he could not open, and coded maps he could not translate, that referred to a particular ancient temple near the border. Darvin escaped the house just before the owner returned home, and from outside caught a brief glimpse of the owner spying on him through the window. Xane confessed he knew of this temple, as it was the location he was holed up in during the war, where he first met and became infused with Zathras. Xane also admitted that he was a warlock.

Finally the group went to the adventuring ministry to receive their letter of accolade, however the clerk there, an elderly woman, informed them she had received no such letter yet, and apologized that perhaps the captain had been busy with other things. Of course the party knew exactly what he was busy with. Right when they were about to leave, however, the bell rang, indicating a letter had arrived. It was a quest to go to the mountain range nearby to exterminate some strange race of creatures with spindly arms and legs. The clerk assumed that the letter was for them, and the party went along with the assumption. They hastily left, seeing another adventuring group heading into the building, the very group that had originally sent them to Frond, and didn’t even recognize them. They didn’t look that impressive anymore.

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Dungeons and This
Part 2 - a brief history of Gith

As a few days had passed, the winter storm had broke and the snow had begun to melt. The temperature was closer to a brisk but comfortable 45 degrees. Having gained more experience from their adventures, the party set out for the ringed mountain range confident they would find out more about these alien creatures and why Captain Lance was so intent on stopping them.

After a brisk day of marching the group found themselves ambushed by a pair of hill giants. All the better to test their new skill. Though the giants were formidable indeed, Xane and Darvin’s ranged supremacy, combined with Rin’s surprising ability to deflect even hurled boulders and Veil’s protective spells. After the first giant fell, however, something unexpected happened. rushing in from the sky came a giant Red Dragon, a full adult by the party’s estimation, which roasted the remaining giant to a crisp with it’s fire breath and then picked it up with it’s claws and flew away, seemingly not taking notice of the party.

After cleaning their drawers, and realizing the dragon had flown towards the very mountain they were heading to, the party decided to press on anyway. They reached it the next day without incident and began the climb, where luckily a hiking trail already existed. Before long they were ambushed by the very creatures they were seeking, calling themselves The Gith. However they wiped the floor with them without much trouble. These Gith had good numbers, but we’re not particularly sophisticated and had fragile, primitive weapons. After routing them, they turned upon hearing the slow clap of a single pair of hands, of course to see a ninja.

Well. A monk. A Gith monk. A Gith Zerai monk. Wait, what the heck is a Gith Zerai? The party didn’t know either. Luckily this Gith Zerai was happy to explain.

Long ago on the astral plane, a race of humanoids lived in slavery to the dangerous and powerful Mind Flayers. This race had no name, no prospects, and no hope. That is, until the one who called herself Gith was born. Gith lef Her people to realize their own psychic powers, to overthrow their slavers, and to escape bondage. The entire race took their name from her. However there were those amongst them that believed even though she was a great hero, she was too violent to be a leader. These were the people who became the GithZerai. Those that remained loyal to Gith became known as the Githyanki. The two subgroups hate only mind Flayers more than each other. The Githyanki became the warlike barbaric marauders that the GithZerai warned about, while the GithZerai became introspective monks dedicated to balance. The Githyanki live in the astral plane, the ultimate place from which to assault the prime material plane, while the GithZerai live in the elemental chaos, where their ordered minds create pockets of sanity where it is possible for them to live. It is the ultimate environment to practice their mental control and balance.

To get further to the point, a third tribe of Gith was rumored to exist. This group, rather than fighting to overthrow the mindflayers, instead escaped to the prime material plane before Gith had decided mere escape was not good enough. This tribe was lost and thought extinct, however some had just come through a portal in this mountain. The Githyanki found them and are beginning to recruit them into their fold, but the GithZerai will not allow that to happen, and would first destroy them.

Complicating this matter, the Githyanki somehow made a pact with the God of evil dragons Tiamat eons ago, the result of which is whenever they are on the prime material plane, a red dragon will serve them unerringly. In exchange these Githyanki give all of their extra treasure to red dragons.

The party knew they were no match for a red dragon, and so did the GithZerai. Their leader, Zeras, had a plan. This mountain was already occupied by another dragon, a Brass one, that could possibly be reasoned with to help them. The party would seek it out and try to gain an ally so they could eliminate the githyanki and close the portal, after which the GithZerai would leave. This band of GithZerai was also guarding the party of outsiders, who had made it this far. It was from them they learned the third tribe of Gith and themselves came from the same world, a desert planet known as Athas.

After exploring caves for a while, dealing with some screaming mushrooms and way outclassed kobolds, the party indeed found the Brass Dragon. After pretending he was going to kill them, and then making sure they had a sense of humor and could entertain him, the dragon calling himself Ssarb Nogard(the party quickly noted this was just Brass Dragon backwards, which Ssarb vehemently said was false and that they didn’t understand the intricacies of the draconian language) agreed to hear their situation.

He agreed this was a problem, but said a Red Dragon was out of his weight class, his only advantage being he was near his horde so he had a wealth of magical items to draw from. He said he had a decent plan to fight the dragon if he could get his hands on a particular ritual, but this was locked away in a Wizards Tower two days journey from here on the other side of the mountain, in the Sarasalan desert. The group didn’t believe they had the time to journey that far, and the dragon offered to barter for giving them a flight spell.

The party tried to offer some strange ceramic coins they had received from the party of outsiders, and the dragon turned deadly serious. He crushed the coins and said this was more serious than he thought. He moved aside revealing an emergency exit and gave them the gift of overland flight. He implored them to go to the Wizards tower now and he would explain when they returned with the ritual. The party hastily took off towards their next destination.

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This and Dragons
Part Three - The plot dump

The overland flight spell, of course, began to immediately wear off as the party reached the Wizards Tower, and they had to walk the last three miles. As they drew closer, they found tons of statues of lizard men, and other humanoids, and saw giant ancient metal lettering adorning the tower, reading “Lizards Tower”, and they could further tell that the L was actually half a W where most of the letter had rusted off. The base of the tower was adorned with more humanoid statues, which appeared to be lode bearing, and furthermore Xane could deduce they were petrified by some kind of magic.

The giant front doors were foreboding, but Xane found tiny holes he could peep through and warlock warped inside. Working together with the outside party they opened up the door. It was a giant empty room with some kind of sunblock mechanism and writing they couldn’t decipher. The only direction they could find was down. Traveling down they found a broken elevator mechanism which they were able to repair with some rope. Pulling up the elevator revealed a giant chest, but also a dozen deadly cockatrice. The party cautiously took them down, with Rin feeling himself almost turning to stone, but these glorified chickens were no match. The group found some restoration potions and a tiny dragon statue. Soon after finding it, the dragon statue began to stir and turned back to a flesh and blood pseudo dragon of the brass variety.

He informed the party that he had finally managed to slip in the tower yesterday only to be turned to stone, but luckily the curse of the cockatrice was only temporary. He warned that he had seen basilisks march out of the tower and turn people into stone permanently however. This pseudo dragon also could luckily read Sarasian, which was the script in the room above. He said this tower indeed used to be a wizards tower, and was filled with trials for prospective students. The script called for the tested to shroud themselves in darkness and travel backwards in time. Veil closed the massive doors and warped himself outside, then used a daylight spell to make an artificial sun travel west to east outside. The fake sunbeam shined through and made a sun statue move backwards. Once it reached its destination, it began to rotate, causing a spiral staircase to unscrew from the high ceiling. The party travelled upwards.

Here they found sleeping basilisks and planned to take them out before they could react, but Rin and Darvin worked out that these seemed to be illusions, and Darvin smelled a trap. They backed away from the illusions, instead focusing on some kind of elevator mechanism. It had buttons going up and down, and Rin figured out he could rotate them. Rin rotated them a full 180 degrees and pressed the up button, opening up a hole, from which a swarm of snakes fell out. The swarm proved much more formidable than advertised until they just decided to blast the hell out of it. All the noise triggered pit traps all around the illusory basilisks which lucky the party were not near. They rotated the elevator buttons to the left and right and this time opened a secret side door, which opened another stairway up.

Here they faced a group of salamanders led by a humanoid salamander, and these were powerful fiery beings. Even attacking them in melee caused the attacker to burn, and their blows seemed mostly ineffective. Combining their magic and tenacity they took them down. The higher they got in the tower the more and more of it was turning brass. The pseudo dragon explained that long ago his master was sent to this tower to recover some sensitive items by a brass dragon named Ssarb, but once he reached the top and touched a glass orb he went mad, as if possessed and began speaking the tongue of fire elementals. Salamanders were a slave race of the Fire elementals, responsible for constructing the city of brass. The pseudo dragon had no idea why they were launching an incursion on this land or on this tower. He believed if they could destroy that orb they would save his master. Who, by the way, had been sent to this tower seventy years ago.

The party rejuvenated themselves and then traveled to the top, where they indeed saw the nonagenarian Mage feverishly working in a study, and were immediately beset upon by a fire elemental, even deadlier than the salamanders below. Xane entered into a wizard’s duel with the Mage, while Darvin split his attacks evenly and the monk kept the fire elemental busy. Veil used his clerical abilities to make it rain, so to speak, which weakened the fire elemental and provided a helpful veneer of concealment from the steam that resulted. With his spells countered or deflected at every turn, Xane eventually engaged the wizard in melee with his black blade, while the party finally took down the fire elemental, which was protecting the glass orb inside of itself. The orb showed a visage of the city of brass, a marvelous sight, but Rin suffered no influence from it, and rained down blows until it shattered. The wizard who had been knocked down and near death regained his senses and begged for mercy, claiming he had no control of his actions. The party granted that mercy.

He explained that he had tried to steal something called the scrolls of Equinox from Ssarb and as punishment had been sent to this tower to retrieve some special items for him. He was successful but got greedy and tried to pilfer a beautiful orb which took over his mind. He had a theory about why the clerical magic was gone and thought he could fix it. The party broke it to him that it had been fixed fifty years ago and nobody knew why. The wizard then saw his reflection and that he was no longer a young man and wept in sadness. Just then they were contacted by Ssarb and reminded of their task. Ssarb ordered them to collect several things from the tower, mainly the beaks of the cockatrices, the lungs of the salamanders, and the dragon eggs he had sent the foolish wizard for many decades ago. The wizard summoned a secret chest to show he had fulfilled his geas. The party escorted him to the cave over a couple of days, mostly uneventfully, and found that while this wizard was now frail he could still take care of himself.

Ssarb congratulated the party for being the first to return successfully from the tower since he had started sending parties there decades ago. He rebuked any attempts to make him feel guilty for not warning them what they were in for or for the culpability of other dead adventuring parties. “they were all after my treasure, and even this one tried to steal my scrolls”. He admitted he did feel bad for the man’s loss of years. Ssarb could not restore his life, but offered to extend his life, at a steep price. The wizard agreed, and Ssarb transformed him into a zoraturtle, so that he could live for a hundred more years. The turtle smiled.

That out of the way, Ssarb fulfilled his promise. He explained the situation of Athas, and of why the gods disappeared 250 years ago and returned 50 years ago. Athas was a planet like any other, lush and full of life, but something happened that warped it. When magic was discovered there, it was discovered incorrectly, instead of normal magic, a more powerful kind was invented, so powerful it drew life force from all around any time it was cast. This would become known as defiling. It’s inventor grew so powerful that spells he cast would reshape entire swaths of land, turning forests into wastelands and oceans into silt. Unbelievably life found a way to continue in this land. Fearing this new paradigm and knowing it must not spread to other worlds, the gods completely cut Athas off from all planes, as completely as they possibly could. Some form of travel was still vaguely possible from time to time through back channels in the elemental planes, but for all intents and purposes Athas was on total lockdown. However, like any world on the prime material plane it existed physically, in space, as did the world on which Oriam sat. 250 years ago Oriam drew cosmologically close to Athas, on a scale where the gods became afraid that travel between the worlds would become possible. As our heroes had already learned at the history museum, this was correct. They completely cut off Oriam as a result and only opened up channels to it again recently when they felt it was now safe and it had moved cosmologically far enough away. The number of people on Oriam who had any knowledge of this could be counted in less than the number of Ssarb’s teeth.

Ssarb and others feared that if it was found that travel between the worlds was still going on, the gods would cut off Oriam again, this time permanently. Thus it was vitally important to keep these connections a secret and to destroy the portal. Ssarb would fight the red dragon, he would lose, but he would buy time. Given he was immune to the red dragons most dangerous weapon, fire breath, he would buy plenty of time. If the party could destroy the Githyanki sufficiently well the red dragon would leave, as the fight would no longer be worth his time. Ssarb would craft them several magical items. Special arrows from the cockatrice beaks, and special darts from his own sleep breath, and special potions to protect from fire from the lungs of the salamanders. He additionally decided to make the party all special magical items of his own creation.

The party agreed to the plan and came up with their own plan of assault by entering the Githyanki stronghold from the back. However they knew these deeper caves would be frought with danger. While they slept, Zathras was contacted by Mindflayers and told to bring two Gith primitives, alive, to a secret location and Xane would be greatly rewarded. He relayed the message and highly recommended it, though he did not order it. The party took perhaps their final nights sleep, and got their magic items from the dragon to continue into the caves.
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Pungents and Caverns
Part 4 - Penultimate Peril, Pets, Portals, Paralysis

To be written

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