This entry is part 4 in the series Orcs & Elves

I’ve got a lot of campaign prep to get done. In fact, I’ve got so much to do that if I don’t do it here, I’ll either never get it done in time. But first, I have to paint a picture of the background for this to be useful to the rest of Campaign Mastery’s readership.

This Article

This article continues the preamble/primer of preexisting background material that is needed for the casual reader to understand the new content. Along the way, it just happens to give away a lot of material that other GMs might find useful.

  • Part 1 of the trio examined the general question of why I customize races in the campaigns that I create.
  • Part 2 got specific, discussing Elves, Drow, Ogres, Halflings, and Dwarves.
  • Part 3 concerned Orcs, Dwarflings, The Verdonne, and Humans.
  • Part 4 – this part – is the first half of an update to the history of the campaign.
  • Part 5 will finish bringing the history of the campaign up-to-date. With all that out of the way, I’ll conclude these preamble articles by quickly describing how I have written and am going to continue to write the rest of the series.

In other words, most of this five-part trilogy is about who’s who in the adventuring party at the heart of the work to come.

The observant may have noted that what was Part 4 (which was originally going to be included in Part 3) has now been split in two – again. When the proposed Part 4 reached 20,000 words I decided that it was going to be just too much for our readers to digest in one sitting. The other half has been written, it’s just waiting it’s turn to be made public. So this is about 11000 of those words, with another 9000-odd to go.

Some of the content may have appeared at Roleplaying Tips in the past, but I couldn’t find it when I went looking there. Johnn was kind enough, years ago, to give me explicit permission to republish the relevant materials, so there’s no problem. Some of the material dates back to the turn of the century, some of it dates from 2005, and some of it is more recent. Campaign Background material is like that – small increments of capital improvement adding up over a period of years into something massive. To be honest, if I weren’t under the gun, timewise, I would probably split this up into seven or eight separate articles. But even bundling this up into a few larger articles, there’s still more than enough to make this a very substantial series – once it actually starts, next Monday!

Tajik’s Misfits & The Seeds Of Empire Campaign

Founding members Tajik, Eubani, Ziorbe, and Arron; Recruits and temporary allies Leif, Verde, and Julia: Together, these seven are Tajik’s Misfits.

Initially, their mission was a simple scouting operation. Ab Orcish tribe had called for Moot and then vanished utterly. Several other tribes in the region had been decimated. Walled townships defended by seasoned and trained Warriors had been wiped out to the last citizen. While the Orcish first instinct was to mount a military expedition, survival instincts forced the Orcs to consider a more prudent approach. The Chief of Tajik’s tribe had been persuaded by three other Chiefs to send a scouting party instead. Duke Licheam, Regent of the Outer Kingdom, had concurred, and decided that the flexibility and resourcefulness of an adventuring party was needed – and, furthermore, since the Orcs were part of the Three Kingdoms now, the Kingdom should provide the bulk of the membership of that party. The Chief, thinking the entire notion a probable waste of time, decided to assign the most useless Orc under his command – the bothersome, irritating, always-asking-questions nosy-beak, Tajik, who needed a quest to earn his name.

That was more-or-less how it began – though Tajik wasn’t aware of all the behind-the-scenes maneuvering, and has had to read between the lines to figure out the above.

The Story So Far

Fortunately for the length of this post, I’ve already talked quite a bit about the Seeds Of Empire campaign and the events within it. The foundation is discussed in A Quality Of Spirit – Big Questions in RPGs, and in July 2009 I brought the story of the campaign more-or-less up to date in Campaign Update: Fumanor: Seeds Of Empire. So I can save several thousand words by assuming that you’ve all read those posts, and picking up the story from where I left off.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that I was too busy for a while back then to keep notes, so some of what follows will be a little rough. This phase of the campaign has (perhaps optimistically) been given the title of Imperial Sunset.

Adventure 17: Broken Bonds & Lost Worlds

The first challenge was restoring Ziorbe to life. Verde came to the rescue, reluctantly but knowingly employing the most extreme Fated ability, History’s Rebound, to alter time so that he had given Ziorbe a ring of Resist Electricity that he had manifested using Fortune’s Preparation in advance of the attack by the Beholder Liches. He then pumped the consequently only almost-dead Ziorbe full of healing potions also manifested using Fortune’s Preparation. All told, it cost him a significant portion of the Fated Points that he had accumulated during his long wait in the New Prime Material Plane.

(Unbeknownst to the party, the delay while healing Ziorbe gave the spirit of the Undead Mummy Priest and former party member, Chrin, time to possess Arron, though he was still too weak to seize control of the Ogre).

Once the party was together again, and safe, the time came for a serious mission review. Was there any longer any point in continuing? Chrin had delayed them for months, misleading them at every turn. On top of that, Ziorbe was struggling to cope with his near-death experience; as the subject of the time-altering power of the Fated, he was aware of both the impending calm of death and the unnatural twisting of reality that forced him to survive, and he was not very comfortable with the awareness of how helpless he was to prevent the Fated twisting his destiny. Leif was also struggling with the loss – permanently, so far as he knows – of his family, friends, and entire world.

After a short period of mutual angst, Arron cut to the heart of the question, using his direct simplicity as always. He pointed out that there were never any guarantees of success, but that had not stopped them from trying anyway – so nothing had changed. The betrayal of Chrin may have stocked those odds a little more strongly against them, but in the process the party had recruited new allies – Leif, Julia, and Verde – the last of whom was notorious for changing the odds whenever he felt like it. Their plan was always a long shot but it was also the best one that they had been able to come up with, and that hadn’t changed either.

Ziorbe, the member for whom lying and deception came most naturally, was then moved to chime in with an important point: It’s very hard to keep lies consistent, and the bigger they are, the harder it is. Chrin could not risk being exposed before he learned what he wanted to know – in order to win the party’s trust, he had to genuinely aid them, at least early on. That means that everything in general that he had told them would be true – up to a point. What they had to decide now was how far to trust the information that he had provided.

Eubani and Tajik then remembered a meeting with a Temple Priest when they first made contact on the main landmass. Chrin had told them that the Empire exiled its mavericks and undesirable from within the faith to the hinterlands, believing that this practice – suitably re-dressed for public consumption – was preferable to the generation of secret plots and cabals that would have resulted from more overt and extreme measures. Many Priests of the Empire, he said, looked back with pride on their “years in the wilderness”. The visit was to determine the location to which one particular cleric, unnamed at the time, had been exiled – since he (Chrin had decided) was likely to be the most receptive.

Although reticent to share information about this supposed potential recruit, there had been many conversations around campfires in the weeks and months since that time, and little by little information about their “target” had leaked out. His name was Kashiwaza, his title was Shisoteki Shidosha-No, and he was to be found in the town of Sing Tahn Wu. He was the youngest priest ever to rise to that rank, which roughly translated to Second Rank Thought Leader, responsible for codifying Church Doctrine within the faith of Beneck Wu. In this position he had access to much of the lore and spiritual arguements deemed unreliable, sensitive, restricted, and dangerous by the leaders of the faith, the Dai-ichi-Dasashi. These had misled the idealistic young Priest into formulating some foolish, erroneous, and politically dangerous notions of his own, and his attempts to convince the Dai-ichi-Dasashi had led to his current period of exile. Paramount amongst his contentions was that Beneck Wu was founded apon the assumption that the conditions then extant would remain permanent forever, and that by denying the potential for change in the metaphysical reality of the universe, Beneck Wu served to freeze the Empire into a state of spiritual paralysis and dogma. This, of course, cast doubts on the policies and wisdom of the Dai-Ichi-Dasashi and undermined the entire foundation of Beneck Wu, which in turn was the foundation of the totality of the Empire. Since such dangerous notions could not be permitted to be heard anywhere that mattered, the Shisoteki Shidosha-No had to go – but past experience had taught the wisdom of the policy of exile and not destruction. Once they had reconciled their doctrinal misconceptions with reality, many past such radicals had returned to advance the state of enlightenment and social structure of the entire Empire.

Actually, most of this information hadn’t been worked out at the time, so its content was simply handwaved. Those players reading this article are now learning it for the first time.

How much of this information was reliable was an unknown, but Ziorbe’s point was that it should be taken at face value until proven false. The party decided to accept all of this, for the sake of arguement, but – as Eubani pointed out – if it was true, the location of the Shisoteki Shidosha-No they sought would be the last place Chrin would have led them. What the party needed, first and foremost, was a map; if the town of Sing Tahn Wu was nearby, or even on the route they had been travelling, then they could assume that the location of the Priest was somewhere else, and further intelligence would need to be gathered; if not, then the location was probably genuine.

Finally, the roads were certain to be heavily patrolled, at least in this region – Chrin had led them here for a reason, after all. While they needed to follow the road until they reached a township where a map could be obtained, they should not travel on it; and, once they knew where they were going, they should strike out cross-country and avoid concentrations of people as much as possible.

Sidebar: Directions In Fumanor
Fumanor doesn’t use North, South, etc, as cardinal points on their maps. Instead, they use Sunrise, Sunset, Dexter and Sinister. Dexter is to the right when facing Sunset (i.e. looking back at the day that has been), Sinister is to the left likewise. Most maps in Fumanor orient with Sunrise at the top.

In other words:

  • Top of map = Sunrise = East
  • Left of map = Dexter = North.
  • Bottom of map = Sunset = West.
  • Right of map = Sinister = South.

Traditionally, most of the world’s problems have come from Elves, Drow, Orcs, Golden Empires, Dwarves, Ogres, Trolls, Giant Spiders, etc etc etc – all of them located to the Sinister of Fumanor. To the Sunrise and Sunset, Fumanor is bounded by impassible mountains, and to the Dexter are mountains only a little less inaccessible and terrible deserts beyond. This tradition conveniently ignores all the problems that have arisen internally, or to the Sunset and Dexter before the Kingdom expanded to its present size.

Broken Bonds & Lost Worlds Part 2: Abdul & Luk Tow

Three days of cautious travel later, and the party approached a small village. They were still on the extreme Dexter outskirts of the Empire. The area was crawling with patrols, presumably searching for them. Eubani, Ziorbe, and Tajik adopted some relatively crude disguises and entered the village, where they met a merchant named Abdul (a traditional family name dating to an era before his parents’ homeland was conquered by the Golden Empire).

Long-time readers of Campaign Mastery may remember Abdul – he was created here as an example for the article The Characterization Puzzle: The Inversion Principle. (I have to say I was at my improvisational best in creating knick-knacks for his store – I had completely run out of prep time. I don’t think the players suspected at the time that I was inventing the store’s contents and activities off the top of my head – of course, now they know. Sadly, none of them were documented at the time, so they are now lost. Oh. well.

After obtaining the map – and realizing that while they had all learned to speak Golden Tongue (the name they had given to the Language of the Golden Empire), only Ziorbe had bothered to start the difficult task of learning the written language – they returned to the rest of the party with the news that they were at the town of Luk Tow in Sha Hong province, down here and the place they were looking for – Sing Tahn Wu – was in Ho Shan Mien province, all the way over here.

Broken Bonds & Lost Worlds Part 3: A crisis of confidence

But events had moved on in their absence. Leif had apparently suffered from a sudden loss of confidence as a result of being left out of the mission, even though he would have stuck out like a sore thumb (being several feet shorter but only a little less wide at the shoulder than most citizens of the Golden Empire). Tajik and Eubani each tried to talk to the Dwarfling, without much success. He was still, ultimately, the equivalent of a 16-year-old displaced person who in one singular stroke of fate had been orphaned, lost his homeland, his birthright, and – seemingly – his reason for being. From Leif’s point of view, Eubani had been his mentor and role model, and Eubani’s recent questioning of his convictions and personal goals had effectively been a repudiation of everything that Leif aspired to. With that, he ran off into the darkness.

Eubani was about to follow, but Arron volunteered, suggesting that he might be better able to get through to him. As was routine when Arron spoke up, Eubani deferred to him. After searching around for a while, Arron found the troubled young Dwarfling and spoke to him for a time, while the others broke camp and prepared to move out under cover of darkness.

Arron and Leif took hasty cover as a patrol approached (undead work all hours) but somehow were detected and captured. Ziorbe, who had gone to warn them that the party were ready to move out, barely hid in time, and was able to return to enlighten the others as to what had transpired.

That was how the party came to discover that the tolerance shown toward their heretical priests was not extended to the common citizen. Undead not being known for their intellectual capabilities (not even the ‘upgraded’ undead of the Golden Empire), they had mistaken Leif and Arron for members of a socially-unacceptable movement located in the district; an object lesson had been ordered. This would only last until someone of genuine intelligence arrived in a day or so to pass sentence on the captured rebels (there were about a dozen of them, including the ‘ringers’). The crime of which they had been accused: agitating in favor of a participatory democratization in the selection of local representatives to the Capital of the province, since the appointed representative was corrupt, lazy, and acting in his own self-interest and not in the interest of the citizens of the province.

Broken Bonds & Lost Worlds Part 4: Rebellion, Betrayal, and Angst

Eventually, the party were able to identify Abdul as a leader of this ‘rebel faction’, enlist the aid of himself and a half-dozen or so other malcontents in a rescue, and so release the prisoners while various individuals provided a distraction. In the process, Leif seemed to regain his self-confidence, having reached the decision that Eubani and he could walk separate paths without harming Eubani’s role as a teacher. His role model may have acquired touchy-feely ‘feet of clay’, but that simply proved that he was mortal, and not a romanticized ideal that Leif could never live up to.

However, Abdul had been playing both sides, and was also the person responsible for reporting the ‘crime’ to the authorities. Untangling this web of deceit and drawing on the civics lessons they had received in the way the Golden Empire worked from Chrin, the party persuaded he – and the other rebels – that what should have been done was to report the corruption of the representative, and the way in which he was being shielded by the provincial government, to the Imperial Capital. With the thanks of the locals, the party were then on their way – cross-country, as planned.

The decision to help the townspeople solve their problem from within the system surprised me, as GM. I thought that the PCs would encourage the rebellion as a possible distraction for the Golden Empire, but Tajik and Eubani felt that these were ordinary citizens of the Empire and not their enemies – and that by calming the region down, they would convince the Imperial authorities that they were nowhere near the place. If they had encouraged the rebellion, sooner or later, word of their involvement would have leaked out; instead, they were able to pose as anonymous operatives of the empire in disguise preparatory to a scouting mission to the lands about to be invaded and vanish into obscurity.

Adventure 18: The Garden Of Shimono

I had lots of lovely illustrations for this adventure. Images of the Gardens and estate grounds, images of the demons, images of just about everything. But little if any of it is copyright-free, so while I felt free to use it privately, I can’t share any of it with you. Sorry.

The Teaser

I deliberately described this scene and then broke for lunch just to hook the players’ attention. It worked.

We rejoined the party crossing an Estate, ignored by the undead workers who diligently work the farms and tend the hedges virtually continuously. The estates themselves are things of beauty, crops are arranged like gardens; the architecture is like nothing they had ever imagined, with curving roofs rising to peaks on either side of a dwelling, immaculately presented. It has been a week since they left the village of Luk Tow. and in that time they have learned that the undead will leave them unmolested provided that they light no fires within eyeshot. The undead immediately smother such blazes, with their bodies if necessary. At first, the party over-reacted to this, but in their travels they have found that the undead workers are so simple-minded that they do not recognize a human agency as responsible; they are simply caring for the estates according to their basic instructions.

Only when an overseer is present do the party need to exercise more caution, and they have learned that such only normally tour an estate (on horseback) in the hours immediately after sunrise and before sunset, to assess the labors of the undead force and issue fresh instructions.

Feeling keenly the press of time, they had taken to proceeding for as long as their was light enough to do so, and have several times decided to press on at night using torches provided by Verde, if the surroundings did not offer sufficient concealment for the night.

Despite the gentle rise in elevation – the party are now in gently wooded rolling foothills – this has enabled the crossing of an estimated 20 miles a day; enough that the party are now more than 150 miles from Luk Tow. According to the map that was obtained from that town, the nearest settlement is 30 miles down the river that they were about to cross, the sixth or seventh that they had crossed in the week, some small, some wide.

This particular river was bridged by a wooden structure of considerable length, and that had proven to be the most difficult obstacle all week for the party to overcome, as it was going to take a good ten minutes to cross and was in plain view of the nearby mansion. Ultimately, unwilling to wait for nightfall and lose half the day, they decided to resort to a similar tactic to that used to escape the soldiers who had been waiting in ambush when you emerged from the caverns of Zhin Tarn – invisibility potions, small groups, and a rendezvous point under cover near the entrance to the next estate.

Immediately they started across the bridge, each party member started to see and experience strange things. There was a strange skull mounted on a pole at the far side of the bridge – twisted horns and four eye sockets, and a facial structure more akin to that of a horse than a human. The bridge’s far side showed evidence of having been hacked with axes and battered with something heavy like a mace or hammer. It was also singed and charred in places, and was the first thing they had seen on any estate that was in such disrepair. Immediately they set foot onto the estate on the far side, each party member become aware of a storm brewing, looming threateningly in the sky overhead. It appeared to have been boiling up for some hours, but when they set out to cross the bridge, there had been only bright sunshine and blue skies. Using Elven sight – which two of the party possess – revealed something unnatural about the storm, which appeared to be more like looking down into a campfire when the observer was actually looking up.

The Garden Of Shimono Part 1: A dire estate to be in

There was noticeable undergrowth which had not been cleared, and the fields showed no signs of having been tended for some weeks, and several of the trees showed signs of damage similar to that of the bridge. A crunching sound underfoot drew attention to a massive number of bones littering the estate, hidden in all that undergrowth. A quick estimate revealed enough partial skeletons in a 10′ square for 6 undead workers. The bones showed signs of damage similar to that of the trees and bridge. Some of them were quivering, still undead, but unable to reform. Whatever holds the bones of Undead Skeletons together, replacing sinew and ligament, had vanished or been dispelled or suppressed, without affecting the reanimation of the undead themselves. And finally, attempts to re-cross the bridge failed, there was a seemingly-solid boundary of force blocking the way which gave “Visions of hell” when touched. The party were trapped.

Bolts of “lightning” that were more like streams of burning oil began leaping from cloud to cloud, and a fiery rain began to fall. With no choice but to run for cover, something that could only be described as Demons erupted from the ground, ignoring the fires, and begin advancing toward the party, their invisibility having been disrupted by the burning droplets of “rain”. The party engaged the demons in battle, all the while falling back toward the estate house, but replacements kept erupting from the earth as each one fell – and they weren’t all that easy to kill in the first place, and of course, the party were taking continuous damage from the deadly rain. A voice from the house was then heard to exclaim (in Golden Tongue) “Spirits Preserve Us, there are people out there! THIS WAY!! QUICKLY!!! QUICKLY!!! Unbar the door, Hisagi! Let them in!”

The Garden Of Shimono Part 2: The Takamuchi Nightmare

That was the party’s welcome to the estate of Hisagi Takamuchi, his wife Lapisa, and their baby daughter Shimono. Hisagi was a minor bureaucrat within the Empire, a nobody of no great significance, and with no great authority, and became entwined in their story. The Takamuchi family had been trapped for weeks, ever since a mysterious hole was discovered in the ground over the hill, surrounded by strange markings.

Lapisa inspected the hole when it was discovered by the overseer, and directed that it be filled in immediately and the turf replaced. When the overseer led a work detail to do so, the demons erupted from the ground and tore them to pieces before crumbling to dust, destroyed by the protective magics of the ancestors.

But that night, the Demons came again, and destroyed all the workers as they continued their labors. They then assaulted the house, but failed to break through. The next morning, Hisagi and his family attempted to escape, only to find the bridges barred by “a wall of nightmares”. As they attempted to cross, one of the unholy storms began to brew overhead. Hisagi erected a warning using the skulls of one of the demons, finishing just before the flames began to fall from the sky. They barely made it back to the house alive.

Every night, the nightmare creatures came again, in a never-ending wave. The family had been besieged here ever since, sleeping by day as best they could, being awoken at odd hours by strange chanting coming from the direction of the hole. They were exhausted from lack of sleep (and the party weren’t in much better condition) and were almost out of food. They had almost become desperate enough to try and swim the river despite it being populated by underwater flesh-eaters – succulent to eat, but lethal – when the party arrived.

The Garden Of Shimono Part 2: It’s not a nightmare unless it’s scary

It took the PCs a while to figure out what had gone wrong, and it ultimately took the talents and expertise of several members to do so.

Shimono had been ill for some time, and there had come a day when Lapisa could not wake her. Realizing that the child had died during the night, she had instructed the Overseer of the Grounds to prepare a burial plot. Because the child had not been old enough to incur any responsibilities toward the empire, she would also not be required to serve as an Undead after her passing; her spirit was considered unformed by the standards of Beneck Wu, incomplete and undefined, and to have returned to the central reservoir from which souls issue to await a more perfect union between spirit and flesh, and the opportunity to grow into a whole being. Lapisa could not bring herself to send word of the passing to her husband, then away on duties at the Capitol of the Province. She took to spending her mornings sitting in the sun by the gravesite, chatting to her daughter’s grave about the management of the Estate, and the news sent by Hisagi, and so on.

One morning, she discovered that a ring of stones placed around the grave site, apon each of which was a rune or mark in glowing green light in a language that Lapisa did not recognize. Tracks were found of two humanoids of unusually light step leading from the hole. The overseer, apon interrogation, reported seeing two men with a bird walking across the bridge that morning, but because they had left the estate, they were no longer of concern to the Overseer; he simply instructed the Soldier’s Overseer to step up patrols of the grounds. Lapisa’s attention was then drawn back to the circle of stones. As she watched, the markings erupted into flames, and the grave site seemed to collapse in on itself as though it were being dug from underneath. The earth fell away to reveal her daughter, miraculously returned to life. Taking her daughter back to the house, she examined the child carefully and found that she was in perfect health.

With Hisagi due back from his labors at any moment, she instructed the overseer to wait until this evening, then fill in the hole and carefully landscape and plant shrubs around the stone circle to conceal it. With any luck, her husband would never know anything had been amiss.

To anyone with experience, this tale would have been filled with ominous foreboding; but Lapisa had received no education in such matters, and knew only that her faith in Beneck Wu had been rewarded.

The stones in question revealed a tangled tale of their own, when examined by the light of day (when the Demons absented themselves – though the barrier around the estate remained in full effect). Some were Elvish, and some Infernal. Examined by Elven Sight, and interpreted using what they had learned on past pan-dimensional jaunts, they revealed something no less frightening and forbidding.

The boundaries between dimensions had been weakened by the near-breakdown of the walls of the pocket realities within the Caverns of Zhin Tahn, but Lolth always assumes that she can do whatever she wants and worry about the consequences later. Elves, working under her directions, and ignorant of the weakening, had crafted a semi-permanent magic circle connecting Elvarheim with the Golden Empire, and centered a one-way barrier of force to protect it until they returned.

Demons had been able to crash through the barrier between worlds at the point weakened by the Elvish Circle, shifting the Elvarheim end of the link to The Abyss, and were now attempting to pervert the spellweaving of the elves – some of the chanting is in Elvish and some in Infernal – to make the connection permanent and to enlarge it. They want to make their plane and the material realm one and the same. Once they do so, they can conquer with ease.

There was more to the plan but I can’t recall the specifics or find the reference that I used. It was full of Infernal Politics and was revealed through some epic Swashbuckling through the Abyss that was great fun, but the details don’t matter – the preliminary stages (given accurately above) were bad enough. The really important developments of this adventure are still to come!

The Garden Of Shimono Part 3: From Bad to Worse

Some significant high points that bear mention:

The Demonic invasion was an unnatural development, and while it persisted, Verde’s Destiny – the fact that gave him his Fated powers – was undone, and he was reduced to a normal, classless, Verdonne in capabilities. The party blamed this effect on something the Demons had done, in which they were only indirectly accurate.

Similarly, Tajik discovered that his Clerical magic was severely limited in capability, as though he were attempting to cast in something even more extreme than Unhallowed ground. The party speculated that while the bridge binding the two planes together remained active, the Estates were nominally part of the Abyss, and Clerical Magic failed unless the Demon Lord who was master of this new Layer of Hell chose to permit them to succeed.

Eubani was somehow Blinded, though he found that he could still use his Elven Sight, which revealed that the Demon Prince was no mere avatar, this was the real thing, in its home plane. Every soul that the Demon had consumed still lived within, in eternal torment, struggling to escape its confinement, and fueling the dark powers of their Captor. He has since been struggling to integrate everything that he perceived in one singular moment of (literally) blinding revelation into a coherent narrative but is finding that he lacks the terminology.

In other words, the party’s three heavy-hitters were reduced to a mere shadow of their usual prowess at the same time as they were confronting a Demon Lord within the domain of which he was absolute Lord and Master.

The PCs also deduced that there were actually only half-a-dozen or so demons involved – five attacking the house and one of which had taken the place of Omechi. No matter how many times the demons outside are seemingly killed, the demon inside would restore them. Each demon outside seemed to be an army because its timeline had been sliced into a number of 12-hour intervals which were all occurring simultaneously from the point of view of the party.

The Garden Of Shimono Part 4: The Price of Victory

I can quote directly from the conclusion, however, because it was very carefully synopsized for the introduction to the next adventure.

Ziorbe attempted to slay the demonic changeling with a surprise strike through the body of the putative mother, who was attempting to shield the “infant” from the party, before pouring a healing potion down the woman’s throat in a futile event to spare her the consequences of the wound he had inflicted. The changeling skittered away on all fours after evading it’s grief-stricken ‘father’ who was seeking to strangle it, the cruel deception it had practiced on the couple exposed to his eyes by Tajik’s Break Enchantment.

Arron moved forward to intercept and strike at the creature as it revealed its hideous true form and began to resume its true size, but his strike was ineffectual by his standards, a mere 18 points. Verde, underpowered due to the Demonic restriction on his Fated powers which was even more restrictive than that of Tajik, also did his best, and also underperformed by his standards, doing only 16 points, and failing to score a critical strike.

From the front door came the crash of a double-headed axe, as the demonic underlings of the changeling responded to its silent call for protection. Leif immediately began to reinforce the door with the furniture that was at hand in hopes of keeping the army of temporally di-synchronous demons at bay. Julia began to move to stand ready should the reinforcement prove inadequate, as it inevitably, eventually, would, as the changeling tore through the roof, so immense had he become.

And then Tajik swung his sword, doing more than 300 points of damage – as surprising to him as it was to everyone else. With a shriek, the Demon seemed to explode, the disgusting skin flayed from it’s hide as the energies coursing through it were unbound from the patterns that had confined them. Sinews frayed and whipped back and forth, tearing themselves from the bone beneath, as every creature whose corpse it had assimilated into itself is released from their seemingly-endless tortured existences, leaving only a shapeless ooze no longer capable of manifesting a solid form, reduced to the essence of decay that was its original form before millennia of cruelty and evil transformed it into the vileness that had confronted the party.

Stunned from this transformation, the party could only stand and watch as, defeated, it seemed to seep into the foundations of the once-grand manor house, only to recoil back to the surface, denied passage by the protective wards against evil imbued within the structure by the ancestors of the owners. Moaning with anger and frustration and almost pitiful desperation, it crashed against the doors that Leif had been struggling to reinforce and smashed through them as though they were so much kindling. The minions outside fell back, wailing an unholy chorus of despair. Flowing out of the protected dwelling like a boiling black cloud, it began to seep into the ground outside, already thinning and dissipating from the effects of the sunlight against which it was no longer protected. And at that moment, Julia unleashed the spell which she had been preparing to use against the minions assaulting the doorway, and from the ground into which the Demon is seeking to escape shines forth intense Daylight. With one final wail, it faded from existence, denied its escape back to the plane from whence it had escaped.

Abruptly, there was silence, as the demons it had summoned from time were reduced to piles of ash in momentarily demi-human form, and all that remained was the sobbing of the once-proud owner of the house and the estate apon which it stood, as he held the still and lifeless form of his wife. Arron gently knelt beside him, putting a great hand apon his shoulder, and gently turning him away. “I’m sorry this had to happen,” he says gently, “but it was a demon, a Bad Thing. It was never a baby.” As though reawakened from the shock, Hisago looked at Tajik intently through grief-stricken eyes. “I don’t understand. Who did this? Who is responsible? Who is to blame?”

Before Tajik could answer, Ziorbe replied with icy calm, completely unrepentant and without remorse, “The envoys of Lolth, Queen Of Spiders, are the ones who made this possible, on her orders, and in her arrogant presumption. It is she who you should blame.” This was the first time the party had ever seen the Dark Elf in this particular frame of mind. He hates Lolth with the sort of passion only possible to a Drow; not even Eubani could claim to be so intractably merciless in his loathing for what has been done to his people. Everything that the Elves are now suffering, the Drow endured for centuries, and will always bear those emotional scars. As a race, the Drow may have been redeemed, but they will not be reformed for generations to come. Nevertheless, there was an inescapable sense of Justice in that the hatred towards others that Lolth had cultivated in her subjects was now turned against her.

Julia interrupted these philosophic musings and snapped the party back to reality. “What about the Gateway to Hell? Has it closed, now that the Demon is destroyed? We must inspect the area – and quickly; the sun is setting, and if it remains open, a new wave of foes cannot be far behind.”

“And what about Eubani’s sight?” asked Leif.

“Tajik! Look at your sword!” exclaimed Verde, as the blade slowly melts like a wax candle, consumed by the infernal fire to which it was exposed.

An original magic item: The Spirit Blade Of Clan Takamuchi (LT & A4 sizes) 381K

The Garden Of Shimono: Epilogue

Eubani was still blind. It took the appropriate cure spell to restore his sight. But what he saw of the Demon’s demise with his Elven Sight has him still preoccupied. It seemed to him as though the demon had somehow blended itself with the spellweaving of the Elves, like coating a spiderweb in dew. Somehow, this left it vulnerable to Tajik’s stroke, which severed not the infernal energies that rode the spellweave, but the spellweaving itself. The damage inflicted was not related to the Demonic nature of the target, or to Tajik’s class as a Priest; it was the unbinding of an Epic-standard spell, which released the energies contained in that spell. With one blow, Tajik had gone from an ally it would be “nice to have” in his eventual confrontation with his people’s problems, to a must-have asset in that battle.

Nothing in Elven lore explained how or why this might have happened. It suggested that the passage forged by the Elven Negotiators and usurped by the Demon was almost certainly also undone by that colossal blow, and so it proved.

Tajik’s sword was ruined. In its place, in thanks for their aid – bittersweet though it was – Hisago offered as a replacement an heirloom of the house, imbued with the same magics of protection that were woven into the estate. His honor demanded that Tajik accept it, he would not permit a refusal. As another freebie, I’m providing it as a downloadable PDF.

Adventure 19: On A Larger Scale

An adventure in two very different parts – but all roleplay for a change. The players kept looking around, waiting for the other shoe to drop, for something to leap out of the shadows, for… well, you get the idea. The absence of combat made them very nervous… which was exactly the way their characters were supposed to feel.

On A Larger Scale Prologue: Bathed in beauty

Actually, technically, this was also part of the epilogue to Adventure 18, but time ran out on us in the middle of that Epilogue. It ends on a serious cliffhanger, as you’ll see when you read the synopsis, that leads directly into Adventure 19. But at the time, this was where we started play for the day, and we just kept going when we got to the end of the Encounter below, so it makes more sense to repackage it.

Although the battle was short, it had left all who participated, emotionally spent. The manor was severely damaged, but there was now little to threaten the party, and Tajik needed to reestablish his spell list. As he settled down to pray, a deep gong sounded throughout what remained of the house. The Gong was to alert the residents of a message from the Court of the Emperor Of Gold, containing instructions for Hisago. A few minutes after it sounded, a scroll – bound by black silk ribbon with gilded edges – appears, floating in mid-air. Hisago was ordered to immediately travel to a conference between Imperial Representatives and a delegation from the Elven Lands who have come to negotiate an alliance with the Empire. Ziorbe’s quick-wittedness now bore fruit; at that conference, there was certain to be one voice bitterly opposed to any such alliance.

When Tajik resumed his prayers, he was abruptly surrounded by a soft pearlescent light, and a voice issued from his lips which was not his. Tajik could hear what it said quite clearly, but had no control over his mouth. “Summon your fellows, faithful Tajik, and have them join you in prayer. Secrets which have never been revealed must now become known unto you all, and reward given for your success in a most distressing incident.” When the party were all gathered in prayer, the Pearlescent glow spread to encompass them all. Their vision swam momentarily, and they found themselves somewhere else:

A perfect sunset behind snow-capped purple mountains gave way to a sunny blue sky overhead, and thence to a star-filled night sky within which the moon shines forth full and bright. Rolling hills led toward the mountains, lush and green; the more distant hills were covered in deep forest. Standing before the hills was a plain of rich grassland, populated here and there by scattered bushes, fields of flowers, and great trees standing in magnificent isolation. All this was visible between tall marble columns of impossible perfection, arranged in a circle; between the fluted column were magnificent thrones, of varying materials: twelve of them. Seated in these thrones, forming a circle around you, are the twelve Gods: Athena, Freya, Freya-Loviatar, Loviatar, Nepthys, Pan, Ushas, Yama, Kos, Bes, Corellan, and Arioch. Freya broke the silence: “Welcome, mortals, to the fabled fields of Elysium. In this place, you are as safe as you can ever be, anywhere; relax and enjoy a brief respite from your travails.” Pan continued, “Hot Baths have been prepared for you, and a feast of resplendid magnificence will be ready at the sound of the gong. Ushas then concluded, “When the gong sounds a second time, hie ye nigh, for then will you take council of our wisdom. We will return at that time.”

This was a quick pencil sketch that I did to illustrate the council chambers (minus the Gods), the better to help the players picture the scene.

With a blinding flash of lightning and a crash of thunder, the thrones were suddenly empty. Servants of flawless beauty, wearing simple robes of white silk clasped by golden chains, ascended the marble stairs from the fields. Each wore a headband of gold, delicately carved – this one in the shape of leaves, that in the shape of vines, another in golden chains – each surmounted by a precious gem of different colour or nature. There were two girls for each member of the party, save Julia, who has two strapping young men. One of the girls stepped forward, curtsied before the party, and announced, “We are those who find pleasure in the satisfaction of others,” she announces. “We are here to cleanse and restore you in body, mind, and spirit, for the Gods have pronounced you deserving of such. We perform this service by our choice and for our own enjoyment. Baths have been prepared for each of you, according to your nature and preferences. If you will accompany us?” Two servants then took each party member by the arms and led them off in different directions, until they were lost to each other’s sight, but not so far removed that they couldn’t hear each other. Flowers, bushes, and vines formed natural screens that protected their privacy. From the sounds, they could even picture the scenes of each other’s experiences.

At this point, I’ll draw a G-rated curtain over the bathing. This was an opportunity for the players to express the PCs personalities in a setting of comfort. Each of the NPCs also displayed their own personality – Ziorbe playing logic games while he bathed, Julia receiving a massage from one young man while the other polished her armor and weapon, Arron speaking to the girls in gentle words of the wonders that he had seen and putting the horrors that he had experienced to one side, listening as much as speaking, and generally reminding himself of the things in life that are worth fighting for, and that make it worthwhile to endure those horrors. The Gods, of course, had an agenda. The Gods always have an agenda.

On A Larger Scale Prologue: A feast fit for a God

After what seemed like a half-hour or so of gently relaxing bathing, a gong sounded, clearly audible. The servants used soft toweling to dry the bathers, and the party dressed in clothes that had been washed, mended, and polished where necessary, and which were now miraculously dry. The servants then led each member of the party back to the centre of the fields, overlooking the marble chamber where you were met by the Gods. There they could see that a long table has been set up and covered with a white silken cloth, apon which was placed a feast beyond any that they had experienced before. The servants escorted each to a place that had been set for them. The change that was evident in the companions was astonishing. It wasn’t just that they were really clean for the first time since they left the Dwarvling Kingdom in the new Material Plane; for the first time ever, they were all completely relaxed and comfortable ‘in their own skins’, at peace with their place in the world, the aches and stresses of the world left behind.

It was important to emphasize the effect that spending time in Elysium had on even casual visitors, the implication being that other planes would similarly ‘infect’ a visitor with their natures.

Ambrosia, the girl who stepped forward to introduce the servants when the party first met them, and who had offered to sing for Eubani, informed the characters that there were those who loved to cook, and for whom heaven is the preparation of food for those who reside here. Hero’s Feast, one of the divine magics made available to the followers of the Gods and to those who fall within Pan’s realm as entertainers, summons forth the handiwork of those who cook.

Here’s the menu for the feast:

  • Served Throughout: Roasted Nuts, Toasted Wafers & Cheese, Red Wine, White Wine, Elderberry Wine, and Apple Beer;
  • Entree: Fresh Apricots & Grapes, Pea and bacon broth, Cucumber Salad, Vegetable Stew
  • First Main Course: Pottage Royal (A Rich Beef Stew), Trenchours made from Maslin Bread, Manchet Bread, Fresh Mackerel, Roast Haunch Of Honey Glazed Venison In Comfit, Cured Ham, Frumenty, Roast Goose, Chykonys In Bruette, Whole Baked Salmon with White Sauce, Game Pie Flampoints, Whole Salmon poached in a light bouillon served on a bed of crisp lettuce and dressed with lemon and cucumber, and Lampreys in Galayne;
  • Second Entree: Bruet Of Almonds & Fruyter Sayge, Artichoke Hearts, Drinks as per first entree;
  • Second Main Course: Coney (Rabbit) Pottage, Pheasants & Partridge (Roasted), Alows de Motoun, Whole hog roasted on a wood burning spit, served with apple sauce and crackling, Salt Cod with Parsnips, Bream In Harblet, Vyaund de Cyprys Bastarde, Henne In Bokanade, Whole Chicken roasted with a selection of herbs, Slices of cold roast turkey served with a cranberry jelly, Served with baked potatoes and roasted root vegetables, Blackmanger Chicken, and Venison en Frumenty with Mushroom Gravy;
  • Third Entree: Ginger in Syrupe & Chestnuts Royal, Fresh-baked Bread and Plum Jam, Hot Herbal Tea
  • The ‘Golden’ Course (everything is gilded and / or golden): Rastons (Egg and Butter Enriched Loaf Pudding), Comfits – Gilded Sugar Animal Sculptures, Boars Head Enarmed with marzipan and gold leaf with real tusks, Apple Fritters, Poached Eggs in Golden Sauce, Roast Grouse, and Grilled Duck
  • Fourth Entree: Gingerbreads, Cinnamon-spiced hot meade, Tea with Lemon & Ginger
  • Desserts: Honey-Glazed Baked Pears, Apple Pie with Cream, Baked Custard, Castelettes (A large Castle structure from pastry, with fruit fillings), Fruit & Almond Milk Cakes, Seed Cake, Raison Pudding, Lemon Sorbet, and Peaches in Spiced Wine.

It was important to include a few items that had the players asking “what the heck is that?” so that I could get the characters talking about the food and the dining experience. In particular, I wanted them to recognize that the same place could serve as Heaven for members of any race; this was, at least in part, all about selling the concept of “this is heaven” to the PCs. More to the point, I wanted them to be able to describe heaven to an NPC who they had not yet met, because this is what the Golden Empire is denying to its citizens.

As they ate, the servants sang for the party, a complex blend of popular Human and Orcish songs rendered in Elven multipart harmonies; the combination took the subject of the song and expressed it from the perspective of a natural element. A song of battle triumph became the mountain’s pride in its majestic appearance, a victory over the forces that would erode it; a song of love became an expression of passion for a flower by a butterfly, or for the sky by a cloud, or a moonbeam for the darkness. A Dwarven drinking song became the tale of the relationship between a tree and the babbling brook that runs beside it. By the time the PCs were sated, unable to eat another bite, they had all gained a fresh appreciation for the natural world and all the things that are good to be found within it.

This was more of the same. But it also spoke to the nature of the Gods in Fumanor: In the course of the discussion that followed, the PCs realized that the Gods were aware at all times of the things sung about during the meal; they felt every loss personally. In their world, every creature had a place in the scheme of creation and a role, and is happiest when in that place and performing that role. They are not merely powerful, the universe they guard is ordered and orderly.

The entire experience, in fact, seemed to have been designed to impart some measure of a divine perspective of what they were fighting for, a reminder of what is at stake. Motivation was refreshed, and “internal batteries” recharged. At the same time, the party still felt frustration over what they were forced to do at the Takamuchi estate; to a certain extent, they could all empathize with Lapisa Takamuchi’s love for what she thought was a miracle child, and will be living with that for a long time to come. It also served as a reminder that no matter how abstract the conflicts may seem at times, real people with real feelings get hurt. As they were finishing up their sumptuous meal, the gong again sounded, summoning the party to the conference with the Gods.

While they found the whole experience humbling, enlightening, and extremely pleasant, the PCs were also smart enough to recognize that the Gods had been softening the party up for something. And since they usually tell and don’t ask, with the bare minimum of niceties, the party also knew that this was going to be something awkward. There were thanks exchanged for the meal and then comments that added up to, “but you aren’t fooling anyone; let’s get on with whatever the real reason for all this is.”

What followed was also, in part, an attempt to express to the players the personalities of the Gods. Kos was headstrong and impatient, Pan was the charming host with a sense of humor and loved teasing Kos, Freya was the leader who steered the conversation and kept it from wandering too far off track, Corallon displayed an Elvish (and impish) sense of humor, and so on. Rather than recite what was said, verbatim, what follows is a (detailed) synopsis.

On A Larger Scale Prologue: A Secret Revealed

Problems in the past had arisen because the Gods didn’t talk to one another enough. To address that problem, each of the Gods created a location within their domains to serve as a meeting place where they could gather to make plans, celebrate victories, etc. The PCs are currently enjoying his version of the meeting place. The PCs were brought here in part to give them a chance to recover spiritually from recent events, impart a little divine perspective, The cost of their victory was higher than the PCs realized; “Because Lapisa Takamuchi died in thrall to the worship of Beneck Wu, she was lost to the Gods; but because she had died in a manner removed from the apparatus of that worship, no Priest of Beneck Wu was on hand to preserve her spirit in their way, either. With no-one to shepherd and guide it to safety, her soul was lost, and in growing madness and despair will eventually fall victim to one or other of the Lords Of Chaos, recruited to strengthen their enemies. While not the smashing victory sought by the Demon Horde, recent events remain a small victory for the Artisans Of Despair. This was followed by a pep talk, in the course of which the origin of Life throughout the planes of existence (including the demonic hordes of the Abyss) was revealed.

In the first age, there were the Gods, and they gave form and structure to all existence. With the achievement of their greatest act of creation, that of a separate sentience able to appreciate what they had wrought, the first age ended, and the second began, the age of Paradise. And the subjects created by the Gods were known as Angels. To all that lives, there is a balance between potential and power. The greater the inherent power, the less flexible and less malleable their natures. It was the nature of the Angels to choose where on that scale they and their descendants would stand. And the Angels spread throughout the planes of existence, changing their bodily forms to be at home in the places they had settled, and choosing where apon the scale of potential they chose to consign themselves and their descendants. All sentient species are their progeny, from the most bestial Bugbear to the most ascended Celestial. But all were fair of form, an expression of perfection. This was the second age of existence, the Age Of Paradise.

When the Chaos Powers returned, it ended the second age and began the third era of existence. Of all the Angels, the fairest of all were those who resided in the Nine Paradises. Arioch took their form, and went amongst them, and corrupted them utterly, to the point where they irrevocably despoiled their paradise and became what you know as Demons. So monstrous were the deeds that they committed that they were utterly and eternally ruined and despoiled by their acts, and became the perversions and monstrosities that they remain to this day. Only Chaos, by virtue of being unbound to the Natural Order, could inflict change apon those that cannot change. Unless another Chaos Power, for reasons unknowable, chooses to undo what which was done to the Demons at Arioch’s hands, they are once again trapped by their place in the natural order, unable to change that which they are, and unwilling to do so even if they could. This was the true power of Chaos in the Third Age: since those who where changed were perfect already, the changes made rendered the subjects inherently less perfect than they were, and those changes were both permanent and cumulative by the nature of the reality created by the Gods. So corrupting were the machinations of Arioch in what is now the Nine Hells that many of those who resided nearby were also tainted, though to a lesser extent. Thus the Devils retain much of their former nature, but were also ruined; and the Rakshasa and Illithid retain still more, and were merely corrupted; and so on. The war with the Lords Of Chaos would have been lost utterly in the Third Age were it not for the greatest tactical blunder made by the Chaos Powers since the commencement of hostilities: they attempted to make the creations of the Gods mortal. In the God’s ignorance, they resisted; but only the strongest could be saved, and then, only partially. This stratagem, intended to weaken their supporters, introduced the slightest taint of corruption, of venality, to all it touched, even the Gods; but it also meant that each generation starts anew, without inheriting the corruptions of their progenitors, only the consequences of past acts.

At the moment that mortality was bestowed, in whatever degree, a new baseline was established for each species, a defined position within The Great Order and a defined inherent nature, from which each new generation would begin. Whatever they were at that moment is the nature and potential that each child would henceforth inherit. Nor was it solely a mistake by the Chaos Powers that produced this result; the Fertility Goddesses shared a unity of purpose even then that the rest of the Gods are still struggling to achieve, and they combined their powers and authority to turn the attack of the Chaos Lords against them. Demons were once just like mortals, but still fairer of form, thought and deed. As subjects of the Chaos Powers to be used against the Gods, they were of course exempted from the curse of mortality that was bestowed on other races, so they remain eternally unchanging and unchangeable, forever corrupted. That’s what the Chaos Powers would decree for all creatures in existence, because without its guardians, they are free to destroy the reality that vexes them.

This information is in complete contradiction to church doctrine, which blames the creation of Demons far more directly on the Chaos Powers, even suggesting that they might be minor Chaos Powers.

It was at this point that Arioch and Pan confirmed the party’s suspicions. Arioch: “Until now there has been no reason to correct the misconception.” and Pan: “But if that was the only matter that we needed to discuss, there would have been no need to bring you ALL here. We try very hard not to do anything by accident.

Oh yeah. They definitely have an agenda.

On A Larger Scale Prologue: Knowledge Confined

The Gods then turned the discussion to the second of the three “Great Secrets” that they now had to reveal: They are not omniscient, but when they grant a mortal priest Divine Power, they open a conduit between that mortal’s mind and their own, a conduit through which information, experience, and knowledge flows even as the cleric is refreshing his spells each day. As their followers gain in sophistication and awareness, so do the Gods. Things that are but a little understood by the mortal subjects may be clearer to the Gods, when the knowledge of many is compiled and integrated, but this is not infallible. If their followers don’t know anything about a subject, the Gods don’t know of that subject. All they knew of Beneck Wu, for example, they had learned from the party. This is why they were ignorant of the demiplanes and their inhabitants, such as Leif, created by the mad Illithid. While there are times when the Gods ourselves don’t have a full understanding of a situation, they do have millennia of past experience to draw apon, and lore long-forgotten. It would be more accurate to state that ‘If all their followers have never known of a thing, they do not know that thing’.

That is why the loss of Thoth, the God Of Knowledge, was so devastating to the cause of Order; his gift was the summation of all mortal learning, whether it was known to the Followers of the Gods or not. Knowledge from beyond the contemporary was harder for him to access, but key facts could always be discerned, and used as guidance for the discovery of more. Arioch has limited abilities along those lines: any knowledge that is intended to be kept secret by any of our followers is an open book to him, and he also provides experience and insight from his past affiliation with the Chaos Powers.

For a time, the gods also have the partial benefits of both, because Thoth had shared a lot of hidden lore with them before he was killed, and there is still more that he has left behind in secret and hidden archives awaiting rediscovery at such times as he deemed the knowledge would be of greatest benefit. Eventually, that advantage will run out, and they will be on their own, but they have a temporary advantage. Of course, each such cache of knowledge may also be a deception, planted while he was under the sway of the Lords Of Nihilism, so they can never rely on them unconditionally.

There is an inherent reverence for the past in the nature of all mortal life. It invariably seems happier, more golden, and more satisfying than daily existence, because it has been stripped of mundanity and tedium by memory. There are those who believe that ages past were more learned in the ways of spellcraft, for example. Sometimes, this is a true perception; but more often it is not. Overall, every Age saw improvements in skill and knowledge, an evolution of subtlety and comprehension. The gods may be neither all-seeing or all-knowing – but they know a lot, and see a lot, through their followers, and they have much experience to draw apon. There are times, as a result, when they are presented with an instinctive reaction to a situation which they do not understand themselves. But they have learned that it is better to act apon those instincts and risk error than to do nothing and risk being taken unawares.

The party, the Gods then stated, now journey toward an encounter with a truth that is profound beyond the Gods’ experience or understanding. They suspect that the reserve of Elven Lore the party is seeking is one of Thoth’s carefully-prepared caches of knowledge. They are as eager for the outcome and the resulting growth of understanding as eagerly and breathlessly as any of the party members. Corallan has some inkling of what it might portend, but even he is vague and unsure of the details; much knowledge was lost to him when his subjects were corrupted, and there are parts of his memory which would provide Lolth with a conduit into his inner self should he access them. In effect, this would make him like her, and like Thoth after he Fell, a dark God in the service of the Powers Of Chaos.

Raising the stakes for the overall mission!

To avoid this, he has deliberately locked away the knowledge which is dangerous for him to access. Even the hints and forebodings he can feel at the periphery of his awareness portend great revelations, sufficient to reshape all that you – and we – know. Because it is a secret, Arioch is also privy to it in part, but is bound by the same restrictions as he us. The Gods may not know of this truth until they learn it from the PCs, so that they can know it without trespassing on the dangerous knowledge.

They have explained this to emphasize how eagerly they are looking forward to the completion of the party’s current plans. It is maddening for them to know that there was a vital flaw in their understanding of reality, to know that the information is tactically and strategically vital, and to know that they could recall it in an instant, and yet don’t dare to to do so.

Ziorbe commented dryly, “Here it comes…”

On A Larger Scale Prologue: A dire threat?

Which only made it more significant when they instructed the PCs to delay, or even set aside their quest if they had to, because the Gods’ instinct is warning them that the greatest danger in the world right now is any sort of alliance, however temporary, between the Golden Empire and the minions of Lolth. At any price, such an alliance had to be not only stopped, but made impossible, for as close to all time as possible. They worried that the consequences of doing so could be extreme, even victory by the Golden Empire and the destruction of civilization by Lolth in a petulant rage – but that would be less damaging than an alliance between the two.

Corallen added three more factors for the Party to contemplate. The first was to remind them that once a spellweaving pattern has been established, it can be quickly replicated if needed. While they have disrupted the original bridge between Elven Lands and Golden Empire, it would only that a few days or weeks to craft another, even though the original may have taken years. This would be greatly aided by the negotiators bearing some sort of beacon or arcane device around which the weaving could grow.

The second was that through a similar device, they are undoubtedly aware that the bridge has been severed; though they will almost certainly blame the Golden Empire for this event, and will know nothing of the Demonic perversion of their design. At least they didn’t have to worry about the next bridge connecting to a layer of the Abyss. The original bridge was a corridor through the outer planes that happened by mischance to intersect with the Demon you battled, which is how he was able to follow the Elven ambassadors. The likelyhood of a new bridge both passing through a demonic plane and intersecting another being of such power at the instant of completion is extremely low.

The third wass that Corellen was extremely proud of Eubani and Ziorbe, ans another in whom he had taken special interest, a Cleric named Gallas – who, Arron exclaimed, was the person who had sent him to meet Tajik in the first place.


That’s it, I’m out of space for this post! This article really will conclude next Monday!!

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Orcs & Elves Series:
  1. Inventing and Reinventing Races in DnD: An Introduction to the Orcs and Elves series part 1
  2. Inventing and Reinventing Races in DnD: An Introduction to the Orcs and Elves series part 2
  3. Inventing and Reinventing Races in DnD: An Introduction to the Orcs and Elves series part 3
  4. Inventing and Reinventing Races in DnD: An Introduction to the Orcs and Elves series part 4
  5. Inventing and Reinventing Races in DnD: An Introduction to the Orcs and Elves series part 5
  6. On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 1-4
  7. On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 5-10
  8. On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 11-14
  9. On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 15-17
  10. On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 18-20
  11. On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 21-23
  12. On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 24-26
  13. On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 27-28
  14. On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 29-31
  15. On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 32-36
  16. On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 37-40
  17. On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 41-43
  18. On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 44-46
  19. On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 47-51
  20. Inventing and Reinventing Races in DnD: An Orcish Mythology
  21. On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 52-54
  22. On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 55-58
  23. On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 59-62
  24. On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 63-65
  25. On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 66-68
  26. On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 69-70
  27. On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 71-73
  28. Who Is “The Hidden Dragon”? – Behind the curtain of the Orcs and Elves Series
  29. On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapter 74
  30. On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 75-77
  31. On The Origins Of Orcs, Chapters 78-85