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Alumentare

Slave Market of Kharabad

Having just fended off a group of crazed giants, your procession moves on. They tend to their wounded and mend their injuries. Surprisingly enough, they even offer you food and water, albeit a small amount. You wonder at the motivations of your captors, having only just watched them slay a number of their own men for some sort of ill behavior. Their heads having rolled off to the side of the caravan stare up at you with an empty gaze. The caravan moves on.

Onward it goes, and well into the evening. The Orcs seem to be on a forced march and seem to have no plans of stopping this evening. Perhaps that is wise though, as the giants did not seem as though they were there to save any of you…

On and on you travel through the evening. Daylight falls away and is replaced by a black void with a hundred thousand tiny pinpoints of light. In school you were taught that those stars above represented the forms of the gods. Looking carefully, you see several of the major figures standing out.

The healing hands of Jazirian seem to ride low on the horizon, as if beckoning the sun to rise. Each morning they are the first to disappear as his power summons forth the sun. A group of stars that seems to be a long blade cleaves the darkness as the Sword of Heironeous, the Justicebringer. Another a demure face of beauty, that of Selune. The hammer and anvil of Moradin. The Eye of Chronepsis, the Watcher of Fate. Even Ba’al’s grinning skull is prominent in the sky tonight, seeming to look down upon you all with wry humor.

The first rays of light begin to touch the black sky. The constellations of the gods fade away as the blackness is seared away by the rising sun. As the morning’s sun rises and the heat of the desert begins to rise, the Orcs slow. They are obviously weary and tired, but a few whip cracks later, and they are quickly brought back to a fervor and redouble their efforts to push forward.

Onward you trod, and eventually what appears to be two huge spikes on the horizon come into more clear view. This must be some sort of ruins. Two gigantic obelisks rise up from the sands creating a perfect gateway to the desert lands. Around the giant stones can be seen other stone pillars and blocks toppled all around. Your caravan pulls into the shade of the ruins and appears to set up camp. But instead, they all forma great circle and kneel to pray to their god as the sun itself is highest in the sky.

It is while they are knelt in prayer, and the priests are chanting their cries to Ba’al and other notable heroes of their pantheon, that you detect movement. From underneath one of the slave carts crawls a trio of dwarves and they rush into the ruins. From another cart too scrambles a pair of dwarves. All are armed and wearing weaponry of the Dragon clan dwarves.

The warm lowlands air has turned hot, this must be the very entrance to the desert, as evidenced by what appears to be Khemetian ruins. [Know: Nobility, Engineering, etc] These ruins must have once served as a fortress as evidenced by the carvings on the stone. All along them are imagery of their great god-kings and their fearsome soldiers soundly defeating what appear to be legions of gnolls dressed barbarically. The great chariots of the Khemetians cut through the gnolls and bring defeat to what appears to be their own priests. It is strange however to think that the Khemetians were once this far north, past even the Orc lands and nearly into the northlands. At one time their empire must have covered at least half this huge continent.

Soon though, the sounds of sleeping orcs and snoring ogres resonates through the camp. Dwarven heads appear and make hand signals to one another. It is nearly comical, looking like ground squirrels peering for danger, but the grim looks on their faces ensure that no laughter erupts from your lips.

[The Dwarves attack from stealth, but are given away by magical alarms on the slave pens. The Orc priest uses his magic to paralyze the heroes, but not before they slay a good number of orcs and ogres. They too are added to the pens for enslavement.]

A solid week of travel in the desert heat has taken its toll on you all. The sun burns and blisters your exposed skin. The Orcs barely give you enough water to survive. Some days are so hot you simply black out from sheer exhaustion. [Seven days worth of travel, heat exhaustion damage, fatigued -2 Str and Dex.] But eventually, the sounds of horns wakes you from your reverie.

The great city of Kharabad looms before you. It is a great octagon, created by a great wall some fifty foot high and impossibly thick. Huge wooden doors banded with iron open to reveal the cities bustling interior. Above it all glow the great bronze covered domes of the temples of Ba’al. The domes reflect the sun and draw your eyes to their magnificence. No other buildings tower as high.

The main road you enter upon seems to be made of fine sandstone, and the curbs made from a macabre mixture of bones and lime cement, grimly reminding you that while orderly, the blackbloods that live here are thoroughly evil. The roads are crowded, bustling with activity. Orcs mill about in their day to day activities, selling goods, calling out to travelers as they pass, eager to make money. Kharabad has long been known as a city of great wealth and trade. From the great towers in the city, priests wail and chant to their dark god and call to the masses below for fervent obedience. A small Orc child looks at your cages as you pass and cries out to his mother “look mom elves and dwarves!” She pulls him back a bit from the cage and glares in your direction.

[Sadaat the Slaver] You are all taken to a large building, looking somewhat like a poor warehouse. The floors are of a dusty yellow clay and the walls made of sandstone. The place smells awful, with blood, vomit and other substances liberally applied to the floor and walls. You are all brought forth by Ogre strongmen, whose grip is like an iron vise. They toss you all into dark pens and lock the doors. You are separated and put into small cells, two to a cage. At least there is no sun and you can rest.

You hear a faint scratching later and look up to see a trio of goblins visiting each cage, peering in and determining the quality of their goods. They mark down what must be a value on parchment and move on, unfazed by the size and strength of the captives.

After only a couple hours, they come again and bring you out of your cells. They manacle you properly in slave chains and attach you to a group of other prisoners. You are taken out into a market square that is filled with people. They are all very excited and shouting and pointing at each of you. The dwarves are cheered and money is being waved. When Druj is brought forth however a hush fills the crowd and they gaze in amazement, few if any have ever seen a bugbear. The yelling resumes and money is again waved.

A hugely fat and disgusting looking Orc sits on a fine chair resembling a throne made of common materials. He sips thick red wine which he spits into the air laughing at the crowds eagerness. He wears a black turban of fine silk, and golden jewelry. His wealth is obvious. He is the slave-master Sadaat.

His Ogre minions draw you forth, one by one in front of a crowd of onlookers. They hold you before the throng and Sadaat shouts out your base price and strengths.

PJ – A savage beast from the northern highlands, this monstrosity has no concept of honor but it’s strength is nearly that of an Ogre! Truly, an unpredictable combatant and vicious foe!

Joe – This exotic gem is not only an elf, but a rare grey elf from far across the seas west of Khemet! A former magic user, only the most powerful of masters will have elven wizards to bow at their command!

Jason – What have we here? It looks like a northerner, but dresses like a Khemetian! Ah, look at the fire in this one’s eyes, a former priest of a heretic god? Ah, how grand it will be to see his blood spill in the arena.

Brian – Wait… what’s this? An orc? Oh, how tragic! Look and behold my brothers, for this is the fate of those who defy the priesthood of Ba’al! For your treasonous behaviors, you shall find death in the arena!

John – Oh what a treat! Dwarves! I love dwarves! They are such great servants! Strong and ambitious, they never tire. Even better to fight for us in the pits.

Mike – Another dwarf! How wonderful, they bleed and bleed and bleed. It takes forever to kill them, how the crowds love them so! This one looks feisty!

Tony – How amusing. This one has a pet dog. Loyalty is a virtue, this one has the look of a feral beast himself. I think I see a future star gladiator in this one!

The crowds begin to part, as each slave is sold off. As the crowds shift away and the fat slaver takes his gold, a figure stands out in the crowd of Orcs. Standing amid them is a Khemetian of sound frame, neatly shaven face and head. His body is oiled and he is dressed in a fine royal blue robe. Upon his tan face a tattoo that covers his left eye, one of the all seeing eye of Chronepsis, watcher of fate. He is often venerated by the Khemetians, as they have long been guardians of some of the more esoteric knowledge. He stares intently at each of you before Sadaat intrudes.

“What’s the matter Khemetian? Get outbid? I see a large purse at your side, you had the money. Better bid while you have the chance next time.” He laughs a deep gutteral chuckle that only returns a deathly glare from the Khemetian. He replies “what sort of talents do you need to be a successful slaver in Kharabad? I was thinking that a lack of morals and being in the favor of the high priests was all that kept you here. I doubt that it would take much to have you replaced…” With that, the conversation is over and the Khemetian walks off. When nearly out of earshot, Sadaat grumbles that he hopes that his purse doesn’t weigh him down when he’s being chased by cutthroats through the streets.

Those of you who are not warriors are whisked away by your new owners, through the throng of the crowds, quickly lost to your cohorts. Those of you deemed as warriors are taken toward what looks like a coliseum and a temple combined. The great arena is massive, easily the largest structure in the city. Even more impressive, is that you see that it is built into the ground, so that only half of it exists above the city streets and even more below. The temple complex lies to the front, adorning the side most visible to the people. In fact all visitors to the coliseum must have to pay a fee to the temple in order to enter. The power of the priests of Ba’al is complete here. Several other buildings that must be training facilities are also connected and in the grounds you can see gladiators competing and learning new skills. Oddly, it does not look as though they are all slaves, many Orcs are visible as well competing.

The new warrior slaves are tossed into the slave pens beneath the temple of Ba’al and tormented for a time before they are released into an arena to prove whether or not they are truly men and better than simple beasts. They are set against a small team of four bloodthirsty gnolls, who then race toward the players with reckless abandon. They engage the gnolls cautiously, and are surprised when the doors are thrown open again to release a dire lion into the midst. Luckily, the lion leaps towards the gnolls and tears into the first one.

The lion is dispatched with relative ease, through some excellent blows and magical assistance from an enslaved orc priest fighting alongside the players. The gnolls are then quickly defeated, and then even a few of the Ogre guards sent to dispatch the players for their lecturing and arrogance.

Eventually, they are led back to their slave pens and await their next match.

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Taken!

The characters have surrendered and rather than being killed outright, they along with their men have been taken as slaves by the Orc leaders and are headed back to their capital city of Kharabad, deep within the Thak-anon desert.

Unfortunately, one of the players got a little snide with their comments and the brash orcs cut out his tongue. They then went about removing the tongues of all other spellcasters in the group, ensuring that their newfound slaves would not be able to cause any problems.

Midway through their journey, the Orc caravan was attacked by crazed stone giants. Such creatures are rarely, if ever seen outside of their mountain homes, and these were particularly loathsome. Perhaps ravaged by disease, they were finally defeated by the Orc heroes and the caravan pressed forward.

Little did the Orcs know however, that their caravan was being followed by a band of dwarves from that came to aid the midlanders…

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The Siege

The players send the Duke’s wife away to one of the other nearby duchies, and they also seek aid. They begin their defenses and within a matter of two days, the Orc armies march upon them. The Orcs lay siege to the castle, surrounding it and preventing any escape. They begin building siege weaponry and demand the surrender of the keep. The players resist and shoot the Orc’s diplomat dead.

In another day, the Orcs begin firing catapults at the main walls and the players brace for the inevitable. Eventually, the Orcs break through and worse, from within a traitor poisons Nazak Gimgurn, the commander of the defenses, and even have the gate thrown open for the invading forces. The players are forced to defend on multiple fronts with a very limited force. Luckily, magic and determination hold off the invaders for a time.

Eventually though, the Orcs push through, their Ogre shocktroopers too much for even Nazak’s units to hold back. The players are pushed to the far side of the keep and contemplate surrender.

It is then that a familiar face appears on the wall. Sheth’uul the wizard that had been stalking them this entire time calmly strides forward on the parapets, intent on delivering the final blow and killing the entire lot of them.

One of the Orc commanders, a sorceror of noted power rises up on the walls and commands him to stay his hand. He exclaims that Sheth’uul will destroy the map and that the players are to be his trophies. Sheth’uul laughs and sends a bolt of fire their way, only to have the Orc sorceror block the magic and begin an assault on the six fingered wizard.

As the battle ensues on the parapets, an elven scout sneaks through the Orc lines and delivers a package to the players. The elves can not come to the direct aid of the duchy, but they offer a solution to the wizard – an arrow of slaying. It is a fitting end to the wizard who sought to slay the bloodline of the duke with the same tools.

The players use magic to cloak themselves and then drive the arrow of slaying deep into Sheth’uul’s throat just before he intends to deliver the final blow to the Orc sorceror. He falls to his knees dead.

Now the players must contend with the Orc army which now surrounds them, having shattered their defending troops and defenses.

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Cloaked in Shadows

The players analyze the cloak with great scrutiny only to learn that while mundane, it does seem to have some great significance. On the inside of the cloak is scribed what appears to be a map of the constellations – but as they would have been well over a thousand years ago. The locations of the constellations are obviously conveying some sort of meaning that is of great importance.

A wizard sought to extinguish the players for it, and goblin scouts from the south sought it out as well. For now it is assumed that the cloak is a map that will reveal a greater mystery, and it gives locations of something of importance.

At this time, under the study of the players, the cloak seems to begin to repair itself. No longer does it appear old and moldy, filled with moth holes. It begins to repair itself and takes on a more regal midnight blue hue, with all the markings plainly visible.

Tragically, the players were unable to finish their studies as they were interrupted by one of the Borderland Rangers, a young Helian who exclaims that his squad was ambushed by Goblin and Orc patrols, and that a much larger force is coming. They have only a day or two at best to prepare…

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Goblin Miners

The players then tracked the goblins back to a remote part of the duchy containing a very old sepulcher. They ambushed the goblins and decided to explore what the goblins had been looking at. This tomb turned out to be more than just a tomb, as below the family resting place lied a buried temple of ages past. This temple it turns out was once a sacred temple to the Orc clerics of Ba’al. As it was explored, it became obvious that this temple was once sacked by human knights and they slew all the priests within.

At the very depths of the temple, the clerics rose to defend their temple once more, even in death. After defeating the undead and many traps, the players found the lair of a devil that was bound here for eternity and yet lived. It was a powerful chain devil and for it to be here guarding something, the players would have to defeat it to find out.

Once banished, the devil’s treasure was apparent. Unfortunately, it was not as rewarding as the players had hoped. All the devil was guarding was his personal belongings and a worn out non-magical cloak.

They returned to the duchy keep to examine the cloak further.

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Where there's smoke, there's Clerics!

After the death of two of his siblings, Galen – the youngest son and priest of Chronepsis decided that he would have to take revenge. The bandits were known to operate out of an area not too far from here, preying on travelers on the King’s Road.

After learning that indeed the bandits were lead by a wizard, the players set afire to the inn that the bandits were using to conceal their activities. Unorthodox, but effective, it flushed out the bandits and sent them in search of a new stronghold.

It even brought their wizard out to the fore. Surprised to see another child of the Duke’s lineage, he laughed at his good fortune, and summoned up a batch of aberrant creatures to slay those that dared to interrupt his work. Knowing that they would succumb to his terrors, he then left.

The players survived and decided to follow the trail of the bandits in hopes to find this wizard and learn of his true intentions. This led them to what seemed to be an exchange between the bandits and some goblins. The goblins then seemed to attack the bandits and they fled.

But goblins this far north of the borderlands was certainly trouble. Almost always, the Borderlands Rangers took care of any traveling menace. For this many to slip by was unheard of…

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The Story So Far
Spilling Bloodlines

In the early fall season, the Duke of Deepingdale was summoned to the capital of the Helian Empire by its Emperor. In opulent chambers, the Duke was given hushed instructions and vowed to follow his orders. He left behind his keep, his wife and his children, with only a simple parchment bearing his crest to explain his deeds.

For the Empire he wrote, duty before all. This was the only consolation his wife was given. She acknowledged his valiance however and they soon took to a coronation ceremony to give her eldest son the position of Duke.

It was at this turn of events that the household was plunged into madness. Bandits dressed as the Duke’s own men infiltrated the ceremony and attacked mid coronation. They were successful in ruining the ceremony and creating a mass panic and confusion. One bandit, a skilled archer was able to slay the young Duke with a fell arrow of slaying.

A wizard came forth from the confusion to snuff the life from the only other son of the Duke’s known to live in these lands. With both sons dead, he felt confident that his plans were set in motion. He didn’t account for the Duke’s third son however that was supposed to be in the hot sands of Khemetia, deep within a temple of their esoteric gods.

The wizards plans were foiled for now, as the bloodline was not ended, but it would only be a matter of time.

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