Ruins And Ashes : Randewarn Frontier

Assault on Shalwen pt. 2
A brilliant distraction

They had accomplished more than any could have guessed. The vicious and devious black horned red dragon (they would soon learn goes by the name Reggoth) was routed, leaving the orc innocents and reserves relatively unscathed. And, thanks to exceptional espionage at the bridge, the city was taken with few losses on their side. Garothmuk was gravely wounded in a duel with the hobgoblin general during a Kaumn Guk’taul but was rescued, in a sense, by the golem Glotnum’s disregard for honor. The heroes happened upon the blood spattered scene in the town hall with Glotnum at its center, a silent and still gravestone of gore towering above the dead leader.

The City of Glass outside the town hall was something truly appalling to observe as well. Dead folk tied to posts and spiked through, their faces reflecting the torture they endured before death. Over that, the slaughtered hobble women and children piled on top of the armored soldiers tasked to protect them.

Atop all of that carnage, Gorbash raises the Frost Talon Banners. Above, Tayoth took a final flight around the city before heading off to report to Tessalth, in shame, despite the victory, for him being bested by Reggoth, the black horn.

Restoration and defense work was soon underway. Bodies of the slain were burned together in great piles in the outskirts of the city. Boaz established a safe radius for some ways beyond the central city, most of which is worked farmland. His efforts at Maddiston informed him of supernatural ways to spur the growth of plants. These methods were employed to push for a new harvest before the weather becomes too inclement. Orcs were tasked at harvesting in an effort to restore some of the destroyed winter stores.

Along with the winter stores, glass lane was ravaged and the docks were burned when the hobgoblins fled the city. It was certainly an orchestrated effort on their part. Efficient, if not a bit suspicious. Did they intend to lose this city?

Sol’cas visited those half-ruined docks where he encountered several traders and fishermen essentially stranded. He learned what he could of the area from them, and ultimately convinced a few brave kin to take him overseas in the hobgoblin infested waters to fish out a pirate enterprise in hopes of taking advantage of their ships and men to take back the seas from the hobgoblin incursion. Unfortunately, more urgent needs arose.

Guthug isolated himself in the wilds one evening to commune with the nature surrounding. He brought with him the scale that detects dragons at some distance to warn of an incoming attack. The scale warned of dragonkin in mass and direction, but with some communing, he was able to improve its precision to a pinpoint, even seeing in his mind’s eye an image of the detected dragonkin in a close radius. With this, he detected the incoming Tayoth, who returns in some haste with dire news.

That news? The Bone Delta in Randewarne and Celdvel in Ashenfeld were raided by hobgoblins near the same time the assault of Shalwen was underway. The raids were quick and precise. What was lost? Many lives, including Mama Kira and Jack Mckants, along with most of the elven population of the Delta and many folk in Celdvel. Curiously, the raids retreated as quickly as they came. But not without a certain bounty. The hobgoblins took with them Amaril, Kullg, and Callimusk. But why?

Tessalth had some insight on this. A visibly disturbed empress pondered the events in her audience chamber and balcony. She confessed to her visiting heroes that she had worked with the hobgoblin ruler, Kurrlagg Grinn, centuries ago. She offered the skills of certain basic magics, and also set up for him a font of immortality. The font would stop flowing, he understood, should he ever cross the Whitestone. His interest in parallis and runecasting, as made evident by the kidnapping of select skilled individuals and the theft of some supply of parallis, can only mean he intends to break free of that agreement while maintaining the life sustaining magics she gave. And with the help of Reggoth, he just may accomplish this. He cannot be allowed to succeed! Access to the gates, let alone the potential of runecasting by itself, would tilt these coming conflicts in the hobgoblin’s favor.

Tessalth decided it most prudent to send the heroes of Maddiston to handle this affair. They are the most skilled and capable in regards to both diplomacy and runecasting. Further, she offered a dragon protector for maddiston in their stead. Boaz agreed that this would be prudent. The brass dragon Fesh’ra was introduced to Maddiston, and seems diligent in her duties. She proved quite curious in nature. Hopefully the townsfolk’s curiosity of dragonkind outweighs their fear.

As the group prepares, the warnings of Tessalth echo in their minds. If those taken cannot be saved, they must not be allowed to aid Kurrlagg. By this she means they must be killed. Alas, they cannot allow that uneasy thought to cloud their minds as they approach this great challenge. They must infiltrate Kurrlagg’s capital at the center of the Treadlands and recover them at all costs.

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The Assault on Shalwen
A blue-scale perspective

“They smell. My Empress, how they smell. What is the word? ‘Sweat’? Why is it that these soft creatures share this one unfortunate commonality? Further, if water pours from their skin, why must they still spit and piss? Are they so filled with water that it must be purged from every possible portal without pause? These orc kin smell the worst when wet. But perhaps that is personal prejudice. They were, not two moons ago, a threat to my very home. Things have changed, though. I must purge these old vendettas just as these haired creatures purge liquid from every disgusting orifice.”

Feglaoth twisted these thoughts around in his mind as he absent-mindedly ran his talons over the flat of his blade. The motion of his hand called forth arcs of violent energy from the blade’s dragonbone veins. The consistency of the motion comforted him while as it assured him of the power he held within.

“Yes, I must become accustomed. Now a horde of orcs stands at my back. Allies. Hrmph. I must strive to reflect her grace and purged such petty notions from these scales. Yet fear still holds me. While these kin cannot espouse grace and temperance, their ferocity moves mountains. Is that their virtue?”

In the distance a dark beam flew toward the waning sun. The low hum of half a dozen horns echoed forth and Tayoth took flight from his resting place all at once. The Bloodied Scales made chase the shadow of his wings. Behind them the orc clans kept pace.

As the force encroached upon the bridge, a surge of confidence pushed them forward at an even greater pace. Three of the four massive towers were aflame! The fourth was beset by dumbfounded hobgoblin troops, hinting that it had changed hands. Explosions of force and flame erupted across the bridge as Tayoth boldly descended upon the stone structure, purging what villains braved its surface.

In an instant, the Bloodied Scales clashed with the regimented warriors below the tower. Conveniently, the bridge was wide enough for clans to rush either side of the Scales and clash with scattering hobgoblin forces.

“Surely our foe is better than this. They were rumored to have some mastery of sorcery. They were believed to have endless numbers of disciplined soldiers in fine gear.” Feglaoth lifted a corpse by its plate dressings. “The craftwork is passable,” he concluded with a shrug. The Hobgoblins had already been pushed back, off of the bridge.

Feglaoth dropped the lifeless body as Tayoth swooped in with some majesty nearby. It was hard to make out what was being said. He was speaking to those to whom the Empress entrusted with this city’s salvation, to the exclusion of any other. “Why is he…” – Eyes began to divert skyward over the southern sea. A red scaled dragon flew over the horizon, heading west toward those left behind, not fit for battle.

“Coward,” thought Feglaoth. “…Traitor!”

“Now the heroes give chase to the shadow of Tayoth’s wings. By her will. Be strong.”

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This side of the Whitestone
There can be Oni one

The Frost Talon horde travelled, one clan at a time, through the parallis powered gate. Likewise, a clan at a time, they appeared at the southern forward and rose up a war camp by the lake shore before the sun was low. Soon after, Tayoth arrived from Rande with his ‘bloodied scales’. A diverse and powerful force had assembled. A month ago, who among them would have foreseen this force in this place. They could only hope it would be as befuddling to their opposing force.

Early into the night, as Sol’cas labored over a new healing concoction for the clans to use and Boaz stalked the perimeter for game as well as enemy scouts, Guthug saw to his kin. While there is often interplay between the clans and nights often ring with the fighting and fucking of a horde at rest, each clan set up their own fires some distance from the others.

Guthug happened near the Grey Wolves clan in a moment of uproar. “Who is this one? I do not know this one’s face!” Members of the clan shouted as they brandished their weapons. Guthug saw from some small distance the singled out orc grow in size, bursting through his makeshift gear until he was a giant pale-skinned monstrosity! Guthug instinctively acted, charging the creature head on. Likewise, the bold Grey Wolves held their ground and stood behind their warchief.

Much of the settlement was made aware of the creature as the battle cries wrung out. But the distance between camps served to isolate the incident for some time. Indeed, it could not be missed. As a grisly beacon, the creature hovered into the air and blasted chill cold, extinguishing the fire below as well as the lifeblood of several unfortunate orcs.

The supernatural arrival of Sol’cas leveled the fight as he pinned the creature to the earth and dispelled its illusions. It stood stunned and baffled by its predicament. Just then, Guthug held it in place and battered it relentlessly with his skull tipped monstrosity of a weapon. Boaz finished the encounter from somewhere far away with two precisely placed arrows in the monster’s face and neck.

In the aftermath it was concluded that some beast from the hobgoblin domain had attempted to infiltrate the horde, but thanks to the close interpersonal bonds of the orc clans was called out and handled with cataclysmic finality. Sol’cas’s healing concoctions proved their worth as well, as bizarre and otherworldly the display. Any orc or dragonkin who doubted the prowess of the heroes of maddiston had all doubts quelled with that encounter. But also, they got to see a taste of the might and intrigue at the disposal of the hobble armies. This was surely a small taste of what was to come for all there that night.

The horde marches east in due haste. They hope to maintain the momentum of victory however small, and the element of surprise however fleeting.

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The Iron Eaters
The moot gathers

Zoxar was dead. All that remained of him was a heap of destroyed flesh, cast aside and forgotten like so many broken weapons. One tattooed orc from a neighboring tribe spoke up. “So ends the reign of another young upstart, and a gul-reft at that! What a shame. He showed some measure of promise!” Zoxar’s form had only begun to gather flies and already talks had begun of a shift in power. This meant a new warchief. In life, Zoxar had been a young orc full of vitality. He was brash and heedless of danger. Some, like the old orc Gorbash Iron Eater, would say that Zoxar’s reign was doomed to fail from the beginning.

“Youthful arrogance and inexperience are like brittle metal – untested they will shatter under the first true strike against them.” The old orc, Gorbash, saw to the disposal of Zoxar’s remains and had muttered many such proverbs in the aftermath of numerous similar conflicts. Weaponry and armor were stripped unceremoniously from the corpse and carefully inspected before being added to a sturdy chest for stockpiling. The contents would need to be presented to the orc responsible for slaying the former warchief. A feast would surely be in order, and maybe that would serve a good time to approach the new warchief in solidarity. Age had given Gorbash a more contemplative outlook compared to his hot-blooded battle companions. Like untempered blades, these young warriors might learn to find a smoldering dispotion like him, if they stood the test of time. Kicking the chest shut, he swung it over his armored shoulder and strode into the midst of the new campfires, searching for Zoxar’s slayer.

Guthug was a huge orc, with skin like scarred pig iron. More raw power than honed skill, he did not rely on layers of armor but instead hurled himself with immense force against his foe. Zoxar was boastful of his proficiency with the blade and his boasts were often proven both bloody and true. Officially witnessed as an orcish rite known as kaumn guk’taul, the challenge of leadership was seen by many as a sacred duty and honored tradition. Strength and speed won against youth and skill that day, and this fact satisfied Gorbash Iron Eater greatly.

Brief and bloody disputes were common memory in orcish life, but the brutal display of savagery by the hands of Guthug would serve to carry the name of the Frost Talons into the realm of legendry. In the recounting of the tale, orcs would speak of how Zoxar was overpowered in the initial rush, his body crumpling to the ground under the unrelenting force of Guthug’s onslaught.

Pummeled into a bloody ruin, now all that remained of Zoxar’s legacy was the sturdy chest containing his physical belongings. The masterful blades would be a welcome addition to any armory, by Gorbash’s reckoning. True prizes were rarely valued by your typical orc, but the orc known as Iron Eater had learned the value of all metals, even those rusted or battered could be salvaged or fashioned into new armor. The new warchief was clothed in his own scars, even those newly acquired were displayed proudly. What value would Guthug place on such armor as the old chief claimed ownership of? This was a different breed of orc than the now-defunct Greenbones. Guthug appeared to be an orc of the old ways, closer to the earth as the raw and unworked ore of iron might be. Experience and respect for tradition were apparent traits, as was his obvious prowess in battle. Gorbash continued forward, spying the campsite of Guthug.

Approaching confidently, the old orc announced himself and dropped the heavy chest before the musclebound form of Guthug. “You slew Zoxar, last of the Greenbones. You did this to satisfy the kaumn guk’taul, and I wish to claim recognition of your feats according to this tradition. I present to you the physical possessions of the dead warchief and hereby declare fealty to you, the new Warchief of the Frost Talons.” Pushing the chest toward Guthug with an iron-booted heel, Gorbash continued performing the requisite orcish signs and honorifics before rising and assuming a more relaxed stance. “You caved his head in fucking proper and I’m glad you did it. It’s about time we had a real leader around here. You have the fealty of the Iron Eaters and the other orcs will fall in line fast if they have any sense.”

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Revelations, pt 2
...and dragons

As the Maddiston crew lost themselves in plan and preparation, and contemplated their encounter with Shel and Rhaanos, a simple note was delivered to them from the hands of Loremaster Callimusk. This note had inscribed upon it the gate coordinates to Rande, a black feather that marked it as a message from the Pact, and a multicolored sigil not dissimilar to the umbrella covering the water below the dragonborn settlement of Sysgrum. Callimusk was discernibly shaken as he handed the note to Boaz, who then delivered the seeming gibberish to Sol’cas to decipher.

The party decided to go through the gate that night having input those coordinates. What they experienced on the other side was beyond their imagination in scope and grandeur. Callimusk writes this of what he saw the day before, and the experience was much the same for the party.

“Rande lies at the center or Randewarn and its name is an old elven word for home. While the surrounding wildernesses can seem vast and lifeless, Rande itself is a garden oasis. I came to learn that It is supplied nourishment by the bottomless well that is the parallel. Great whitestone pillars and other architectural styles present are the envisioned perfection of the ancient imperial style. Vines, ferns, hedges, and flowers accent these structures, cut by stone paths and great stone steps that climb the peaks and valleys of the city. Marvelous great black, green, gold, white, copper, et al marbled gargoyles in the image of dragons break the skyline and walkways. But, most marvelous of all, dragons of all sizes and colors soar across the skies. I am truly humbled.

At what might be the center of the city atop what might be the highest peak of the city rests what might be the most majestic of these buildings. A great stone stairway leads to its entrance an opening large enough to receive five carts abreast. Within, fine imperial tapestry lines the walls. On the floor of this receiving hall, a massive, unnaturally clean black rug with a shimmering decagon of overlapping scale segments to represent each of the draconic families. Past this receiving hall pathways to a maze of chambers can be seen. When passed, one can even find dragons at rest.

The most marvelous chamber in my mind has a centerpiece some 50 feet tall made of a shimmering clear marble, as if ice. Within, a skeleton of parallis glows a vibrant blue. The pillar base below shows the name ‘Rsothsar the Giving’. The structure is attended, presumably in perpetuity by ten kobolds. Each of these wearing a different colored cloak as the standing silent below the statue.”

Sol’cas, Guthug, and Boaz, with their trusted bodyguard Glot’num and spy Sage were greeted by a green dragon with a missing left claw and cheek scale who, after taking a form similar to that of a dragonborn, introduced himself as Tayoth. He wore his missing hand, seemingly mummified, on his hip in both forms. This must be the very same Tayoth that led the dragonborn from Sysgrum not long ago. But Tayoth was not who summoned them. He proceeded to guide them through Rande, ever nearing the center palace, as they experienced much of what was reported by Callimusk, but with the warm glow of a living night.

Tassalth, the empress of scale received her visitors in an open wall chamber with a balcony overseeing Rande’s giant hatcheries. Each is a different biome with nearly invisible glasslike bubbles enclosing them. Within, the shapes of eggs and attendants could be seen. Apart from some standard mostly elven adornments, the chamber is plain.

In natural form, the empress has faded copper scales. She wore a cape made of a collage of dragon scales, each, they later learn from Callimusk, given freely by the dragons and dragonborn under her protection. Her face was akin to what you might find on a dragonborn, but she stands upright and postured like an elf. From beneath her cape, wings that rise twice as high as her over again.

But that’s not how she appeared to the party at first. She looked over her domain in her classic disguise as the party approached. A disguise that identified her as the royal elven empress Glatnia. In that shorter form the cape drug some distance behind her. Her armor had distinct copper shoulder pads that extend nearly a foot in each direction. Her pale stomach was bare apart from loose chain adornments and her presumably flat chest covered by copper plate. She had long flowing copper hair and eyes shone like glowing emeralds. It wasn’t until she revealed her true form that the proportions of her adornments made sense.

They stood before the half-dragon daughter of Glat’nos. They stood before the last sovereign of the ancient elven empire.

Tessalth looked over the party, as peculiar a sight as it was. With a pleasant smile and cordial tones, she introduced herself and commented on their relationship thus far. She had been the mysterious benefactor pulling the strings of the Pact. Further, she claimed to be the progenitor of the Pact.

“You’ve become an interesting peculiarity. You have taken what has been put before you and made amazing gains. Some have served as a thorn in my side, others quite beneficial. Well, here I stand. Your benefactor. I’m sure you have questions.”

The three of them asked many questions, and in quick succession, reading her otherworldly expressions as she spoke her replies. Some questions she answered bluntly, others she bemoaned would be best kept for another time.

Verily, Tessalth was quick to discuss action. She gave them the choice to remain in her employ with none working between them. She expressed satisfaction and bemusement toward the impressive accomplishments of the heroes of Maddiston. She revealed her designs compatible with their own. She spoke then of her own. A sovereign nation for dragonkin. Dragonborn, Dragons, Kobolds, and Drakes alike will have place and purpose by her design. The dragonborn have joined her, as could be seen in the living city below them. Dragons of all size and scale roam freely here.

Her efforts have not been without resistance. She informs her audience that she is aware of their interactions with Shel in Haileer, who she marks a restorationist (Those who would see the elven empire restored). These are two worldviews that cannot coincide.

“You’ve united many under you with the offer of a new world. I do the same. I want a place for my kind and kin. The genocide inflicted upon us by the elf has been lost to history. In my time it was spoken of as if the victims were the villains. Now it is not spoken of at all. Well, the true villains received their justice. They are now humbled. I’ll not have them reclaim this graveyard they filled. Not again.”

She asks only now for loyalty. In return she assures Maddiston is theirs to do with what the wish. And, when the time comes, impress upon the folk of Maddiston and beyond her vision.

“Those with shorter, more ferocious lives, respect like leaders. They fear the long lived as out of touch, scheming outsiders.” She cocks a wry grin. ”Perhaps we are.”

This brings her to the concerns of the day. The growing hobgoblin threat has bent her plans, but they have not broken them. While she admits she had designs in mind for the orc warhorde, Guthug’s plans for them aligns with her plans. Retake the City of Glass from the hobgoblin incursion. To that end, she will give Tayoth to the cause. He will lead the Bloodied Scales under Guthug’s direction. Together they will take the city. Rulership should return to its original form; A council of Magistrates under a doje. The doje is the magistrate of war, in charge of the armed forces and defense of the city. While many magistrates from afar will sit nicely into their desired roles within the city, some seats will need filled. The liberators of the city have the privilege of choice, or leave that to Tayoth’s discretion.

The conversation ended with many questions left in the heroes’ minds. What happened at the fall? What did she mean by ‘poisoned by our enemies’ when asked of her father’s fate? What powers and knowledge does she hold? She is perhaps the oldest living creature. Many would give all they had for a conversation with such an ancient entity. It appears as though our heroes will have many such audiences to come.

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Revelations, pt 1
Orcs, Elves...

In the following weeks, Guthug established himself in his new role as Warchief of the Frost Talon horde. Among other things, this involved having a kind of moot in which chieftains and skilled warriors alike would compete for pecking order.

While this continued on, Sol’cas explored many avenues of discussion with Bezzalth. The focus of these discussions was what transpired in Sysgrum before the orcs arrived. According to Bezzalth, a greenscale dragon appeared from a passage opened on the western flank and led most of the dragonborn south along the western shores. They haven’t been seen since. It was a timely arrival. Just a month prior, the dragonborn discovered what many believed to be their true origins. Their culture was not lost to history as a slave race to the elves. Indeed, an elf named Tiamaste worked with a dragon named Bahmut to create them, as the party learned not long ago by reading Tiamaste’s written work. The very tomes recovered from Sysgrum at that time. Sol’cas was even given a tour of Bahmut’s hatchery below sysgrum.

Boaz spent much of his time scouting the region and learning what he can of the orcs that may be joining Maddiston. But, it was during his scouting that he encountered his kindred forest walkers, a sentinel scouting party. These scouts greeted Boaz as a friend and urged that he and Sol’cas see Shel in some haste to learn of her discoveries. And with due haste they did.

Shel and Rhaanos were alerted by scouts long before Boaz and Sol’cas stepped foot in the promenade. They met them there. A short time was committed to greetings and pleasantries before Shel urged them into the Silent Echo where she revealed her discoveries. There, the four of them discussed developments.

Rhaanos reported that the situation in Ashenfeld was growing ever more dire with threats from the east and west exhausting high lord Moriv’s forces. Needless to say, Rhaanos was quite thrilled to hear that the orcs were to no longer be a concern. It gave him comfort to know that Ashenfeld could fully focus its efforts east to the growing encroachments of the Hobgoblin raiders. He also appreciated the novelty as well as the potential in the southern elves that have settled in Maddiston. He looks forward to meeting ‘Mama Kira’.

In the time since their last meeting, Shel had used the parts of the slain white dragon as a focus to create a kind of divining rod for dragonkind. At first, she confesses, she expected the device was functioning incorrectly. It informed her that the population of dragonkin in Sysgrum was next to depleted, while unimaginable quantities inhabited Randewarn. Reports of the decimation of Sysgrum by orcs seemed to reinforce those findings. The time and contemplation since that discovery seemed to have driven her to a single-minded purpose. To emphasize this purpose, she said to the Sol’cas and Boaz with a stern fervor uncharacteristic of the bookworm she once was.

“The dragon always claims, takes, and hordes. Through guile and strength and to the death of all else they hold.”

The dragonslaying sword claimed from the corpse of the slain Zoxar was in fact Haileermont’s blade. Haileermont was the second emperor, famed for ending the reign of dragons once and for all. That very blade went missing from Haileer some two months ago. How it ended up in the hands of an orc warlord before raiding the dragonborn settlement, one can only speculate.

Boaz and Sol’cas returned to their Sysgrum base and continued work on preparing the Southern Gate for their orc horde. They had an army. But that’s not all. They also had a plan. The City of Glass will be wrested from the Hobgoblin horde. And it will be wrested by none other than the Frost Talons!

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The epic of Zoxar
A look back

In the beginning there was a scheme. A mysterious buyer in Thomwell was looking for elven relics and a greedy, devious, but unnaturally skilled Orcblood was up to the task.

This orc, Zoxar, took a special ring from the buyer meant to give him access to ancient elven ruins. He was now left with the task of finding one of these ruins to explore. On the search, he found a travelling monk who was on his pilgrimage from sysgrum. This monk knew of some such ruin in the wilderness not far from his home near the base of the Sys mountains. This monk agreed to join the orc on this expedition.

A couple wood elves with some skill were recruited to serve for the wilderness trek. One was found in a brothel, named Nalzara, the other a young friend by circumstance to the first elf, whose name was simply ‘Hazel’. Wood elves are not permitted to abandon their home in the forests near the sys mountains. Both of these elves were delinquents for that reason alone. This unfortunate fact haunts the expedition, as we will soon discover.

Once at their destination, the group found much more than any of them expected. Awesome alien technology from the past that they could only begin to grasp was laid bare before them. But these relics were not unguarded. Gnomish denizens, made mad from some strange corruption had to be dealt with. And dealt with they were.

Unfortunately, the wood elves may have journeyed too close to their own pasts for safety. A ranging party had spotted them in the forest and tracked them to the ruin where they wait outside in ambush.They had intended to return the runaways to their home for the elders to pass judgement on their delinquency. But Nalzara would not be had. As the rain poured down on a scene frozen in time, the knocked arrows of half a dozen rangers aimed at the battleworn party, Nalzara let out a cry of freedom. This startled one of the young rangers, who loosed his arrow into her gut.

As Nalzara fell back down the stair into the ruin, my brave scale-kin brother was slain defending the lives of the others. Zoxar, seizing the opportunity abandoned his hapless helpers to their fate. He fled, stepping over the dying Nalzara, and sought safety in the ruin. None could follow, as only he had a key.

Hazel surrendered to the ambushers. She fell to her knees, defeated and outnumbered. Alas, One of the Ambushers, called Theodys, suffered a conflict of the heart. In an attempt to prevent any further needless deaths, he aided in the captured Hazel’s escape and fled with her to the Dragonborn capitol of Sysgrum nearby.

A tenuous peace treaty was in place between the dragonborn and woodelves, you see. One that guaranteed that none would suffer injury or death at the hands of the other. The incident professed by Theodys and Hazel lays out many infractions of this treaty, from both sides.

It was in the hands of the young diplomat Brax to make this incident right. After considerable political intrigue, war was stayed with a compromise: The surrender of the young Hazel. But, none suspected she had honed her skills in one regard; She could shapeshift. This art is known by only the most hermetic and attuned. In Hazel’s case, a rat she had befriended in Thomwell some time ago, served as her model and focus. Her time spent in sysgrum allowed her the practice she needed.

So, Hazel returned to Sysgrum after an easy escape, to collect her rat friend. Theodys and Brax kept it safe, feeling duty bound to do so. She then returned to her mentor in the wilds for a time, practicing her crafts. But would find herself travelling to Sysgrum to meet her new acquaintances more and more often.

Theodys spent much of his time ranging with a couple dragonkin, now an exile from his home. Few were fond of the company at first, but Theodys had a disarming demeanor and respectable skill, so most were won over in friendship. He and Hazel became as much dragonborn as those born with scales around them. Though Theodys seemed ever burdened with the guilt of Nalzara’s death. You see, it was his arrow that slipped and cut her tale short.

Diplomatic talks continued to foster a timid peace between wood elf and Dragonborn as orc presence began to encroach upon their shared domain. It was at this point that a true green scale dragon appeared to reveal to us the true history of our kind. He went by Tayoth. Many left with him to this promised land, including Brax, to a place for their kin to the south.
It was at this time that Zoxar made a second appearance. This time he had the orc horde at his back. He made short work of the wood elves and remaining dragonborn alike. Theodys died defending his new kin, what few remained.

It was in this state that Guthug Frost-Talon challenged Zoxar, ending his reign to the sound of a whimper and a cracking skull.
-Bezzalth, the last scale of Sysgrum

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Sloppy Seconds
an exploration of a pillaged ruin

After successfully dominating many of the orc clans by defeating the strange half-orc chieftain Zoxar, the crew explores the area around Sysgrum. This includes the ruin next to the gate from which they emerged. Below is what they find in that ruin.

Entrance
Low Lit (From the entrance way daylight)
a score of dirt covered stairs lead to a massive open room. It smells of the earth and foliage covers the floors. The east wall was as pile of collapsed rubble but is now cleared to reveal the gate. In the back, an overseers passage can be faintly seen on the marbled stone wall.

Hall
Through the passage you enter a smaller room. All is dark and lifeless. This room is marked with the Imperial Sigil on the floor. It would appear to serve as a forum between several rooms. On each of the four otherwise barren marble walls is an overseer’s passage.

West Chamber
Elven inscriptions mark below sockets on a short altar in a small room.
‘Calm’
‘Power’
‘Sustenance’
‘Purity’
These are all empty.

East Chamber
A small chamber with a table, swept empty.
A Tincture determined to be of Stone Giant Strength hidden out of site. This would have been missed by all eyes but for Boaz’s.

North Chamber
A bed chamber. The stench of rot is suffocating. A large and luxurious bed for a smaller person with its blankets strewn about is pressed against the back wall. A corpse can be seen in the corner leaning back against the wall. Dried blood pools on the floor beneath. Two dead nude gnome women and a dead male gnome litter the floor. The male is headless and wears imperial robes. He rests beside a closed chest.
Inside the chest is a gnome’s head and nothing else.
A bust sits atop a dresser depicting an elven woman, adorned in jewels and regal clothing. Empress Glatnia, Sol’cas recalls. The dresser is empty
Covering much of the walls, deranged writings have been painted in thick strokes. Some words can be made out after some study to be gnomish expletives of anger and jealous cries of desperation. Elsewise, bolts weave through the mutterings in designs vaguely reminiscent of those found on the Gnolls and wild Humans of the frontier.

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King Guthug

The grizzled orc’s heavy footsteps sounded across the chamber as the group climbed the stairs. Looking down at her wrist, she thought back to the events that had brought him in her life. He had given her the chance for revenge against the beast that took her younglings, along with many of her clan. She would make sure he would have his chance for revenge against the clan that took his family and left him broken. Her brow furrowed as the events of the last kaumn guk’taul she witnessed played out in her mind. She shook her head loose of the image of Guthug’s body falling to the ground at Karguk’s feet.
Thud…thud…thud. His steps continued to carry around the torch-lit chamber. Sol’cas made several gestures to Boaz. After an unspoken conversation between the two, Sol’cas worked his arms in a delicate pattern and whispered several arcane words. Then he promptly disappeared. His elf friend’s taste for mischief was unparalleled. She could only hope that it didn’t get them all killed. She let her gaze fall on Guthug. He kept his jaw clenched as they ascended the winding stairs. She watched as sweat cascaded down the scars on his arms and legs. His hand was subconsciously drawn to the crudely fashioned figure made of bear fur and fangs on his hip. His thumb worked back and forth along one the canines hanging from the crude figure. After several minutes of taking part in this silent ritual he released the figure, letting it hang from his hip. His face hardened into the look she knew very well. He was ready for the kill. Garathmuk smiled.
After finally ascending the steps, Garathmuk, Boaz, and Dretkag followed as Guthug continued his march into Zoxar’s chamber room. Orcs filled the chamber, with one upon a throne made of books.
“I am Guthug of the Frost Talons. I come to challenge Zoxar to kaumn guk’taul.”
An orc in his prime rose to speak. In a matter of fact manner, he accepted the challenge, confident this elder challenger would fall, just as the others before him did. However, This younger orc’s confidence was merited. His victories over the other chiefs had proven his skill with the sword.
Zoxar weighed his option of weaponry and chose one of two masterful swords. Orcs from around the chamber began to form the ring. As they approached, Guthug produced a small vial. With a sharp intake, he emptied the contents of the container and tossed it away. Garathmuk pushed her way alongside Dretkag and Boaz towards the inner ring. The air was electric as everyone jostled around the fighters.
Guthug loosed his mace from his hip and readied his shield. Zoxar made ready in return. Looking at Zoxar’s armor, Garathmuk sized up Guthug alongside him. Zoxar had the clear advantage. He wore the finest armor she had ever seen, whereas Guthug wore but his pelt. He stood at least half a head over Guthug, and the difference of age in the fighters was soon made apparent. Zoxar easily dodged Guthug’s heavy handed blows, showing off some of the expertise that granted him rule over the clans. First blood soon went to Zoxar, which was immediately followed by the smell of singed hair. Zoxar’s precise cuts left several new opening across Guthug’s ragged skin. However, Guthug’s rebuttal against Zoxar’s shield stopped any momentum he had. Zoxar’s shield arm grotesquely twisted and popped as pain washed over his face. However, Zoxar countered and moved in close to exploit another opening.
“The Greenbones will be no more!” Guthug bellowed.
As the two moved around the ring and exchanged blows, it was obvious Guthug had started gaining momentum. With his back turned to Garathmuk, it appeared Zoxar was fighting some vicious ursine beast. Although at this point, she was sure Zoxar would rather be in that ring with a bear instead of Guthug. Guthug continued viciously swinging his weapon until it connected again with Zoxar’s shield. Zoxar’s leg tensed, the meat of his calf balled up as it tore itself from his heel bone. A muffled “Nnnn…” was heard as the mace struck against Zoxar’s temple. However, To the surprise of everyone, the last skull-crushing blow did not snuff the life from Zoxar. Trying to slide away on his back, Zoxar quietly said, “No” as he watched Guthug raise the mace one more time. The only response was a sickly wet thud.

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The Grand Opening

After dumping the grizzly remains of the hobgoblins (and giant) in the river, the party makes preparations for the elven village to relocate to the Randewarn frontier. Mama Kira decides she and her people would be more comfortable settling in the delta. There, she could test of the waters of this new alliance while keeping a bit of distance between the elves and Galbin’s goblins.

Before the evacuation commences, the party decides to interrogate Gressa, the former pact agent Mama Kira has locked up in a makeshift cell. Gressa is easily persuaded to to switch allegiances and seems almost excited for a new opportunity (as well as a drink.)

Introductions are made between Mama Kira and Galbin, Kulg, and Calimusk. Guthug insists the elves join the opening ceremony of the grand ‘Hanged Man’ Inn and bring whatever crafts they wish to sell. They agree, and with that, the party departs for Maddiston.

At the halfway mark, Sol’cas insists of summoning an earth elemental from the parallel. He planned to kill to beast and bind its essence in his new found ring. After a 10-minute long ritual, a large angry rock-like creature exhumes itself from the ground and attacks. But the planar being proves no match for the party and is now forever one with the magic of the ring.

The party finally arrives home to see the inn and their home completed. Guthug excitedly begins making preparations for the opening ceremony, a feast, and different games of skill. However, another surprise awaits as well. Gems is in town and he plans to run things from behind the scenes.

At first, Gem’s presence is a minor annoyance. But as they days continue, Boaz notices he has a affinity for Vonda.

The Grand Opening is a great success. Townsfolk eat, drink, and enjoy the merriment of the evening. A prairie boy takes the archery crown, Jack McKantz wins the tough man competition, and Garathmuk manages to consume to most pies. But the night was just getting started.

Fallow suddenly went into labor. Guthug, Garathmuk, and Biliary all attended to her. At the same time, Sage rushes to Sol’cas’s side telling him that the situation with Gems and Vonda has reached a boiling point. Boaz and Sol’cas run to her rescue, only to discover she is covered in blood with dagger in hand. Gems was slain by Vonda’s hand after an attempted rape.

Guthug’s (and it was definitely orcish) is born a healthy female. To celebrate, he tries to find another female to impregnate. Gressa looks like a good option, but he fails to seal the deal. With a shrug, he heads back to Garathmuk to cap off the night.

Boaz spends the night comforting Vonda. He refuses to let her take the blame for this. What problems could this cause the party in the future?

Sol’cas finally breaths a sigh of relieve and unpacks his favorite elven wine. He pours himself a glass and notices Aramil finally arrive to the festivities. He happily gives her a tour of Maddiston before also showing her his private chambers. The two immediately click and become somewhat inseparable.

With ‘The Hanged Man’ open for business, Boaz and Guthug decide to survey the surrounding areas and begin mapping out Randewarn. Besides a few gnolls and angry birds (which are easily dispatched) no immediate threats are found. Sol’cas works with Calimusk to construct a platform for his crystal ball. He can know see anything within a couple miles of his tower.

Finally, Guthug seems set on heading through the northern gate. There, he plans to show his strength and accumulate a following of orcs underneath his own banner. Will he become the next great orcish warlord? Only time will tell. 1396910427995.jpg

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