Nirmathas Secrets

A Bad Dream
Downtime Post

HELP!”

The limping figure of a blond haired, bloodied man drenched in sweat from fear appeared over the hill to the left of the road, just before collapsing. Naturally, my companions and I rushed to his side.

“The town, it’s —” his sentence interrupted by uncontrollable coughing of blood, “it’s been… turned!”

I think all of us knew instantly what he meant, but the dwarven cleric had to ask: “Turned?”

He shook. “Turned to the dead. All dead. The guards, my neighbors, my fa— everyone. Everyone but the children that Sasha barred in the tavern. Please, in the name of the gods, I beg you to help them!”

The cleric broke the eternal seconds of silence by responding, “Let me help you first, and then you can help us get back to your village.”

“No, it’s too late for me,” the exasperated man said, as he tilted his leg to show the multiple streams of blood now crusted like a dried river bed, flowing from the mouth-shaped gouges in his calf. “There is only one thing to do now. You must take the footpath over that hill for three miles to my village… and save my daughter. Save the children.”

“We’re not leaving you to die,” the beleaguered half-orc magus retorted.

“Then I will die before you leave. GO!” and faster than anyone could think, he shoved a hunting dagger into his own left ear.

I reached for words to express the sheer horror and shock of the last few moments, and though my lips mouthed a prayer to Pharisma, no voice bolstered from the windpipes of my throat. Finally, the Elven fighter spoke up. “They’re only children. We have to go – now.” No other words were spoken.

The fastest sparrows in Fangwood forest couldn’t keep up with us as we tore down the footpath. Within minutes, we caught sight of the little pillars of white smoke rising between the treeline. No one hesitated to the cause. No one knew… it was already too late.


The smell of burning hay was accompanied by the sound of crackling fire and unseen screaming victims. Mobs of the undead were everywhere, like sweat splattered upon the ground from the swept brow of a smithy. A small gang of skeletons clambered towards our party. I was sorely tempted to blast them into oblivion with unquenchable fire, but kept my nerve. Our group made short work of them as we worked our way towards the only two-story building that wasn’t a grain silo or lumber mill – the tavern.

Before we knew it, we were pinned in by the mobs on three sides. Feydra, the magus, called “Mind the skies!” as I was accosted by the flying rotten corpse of a bat. Ghouls were to our front. A small horde of zombies were at our flank, and another batch of skeletons were held off from our rear by the fighter and the alchemist. And there, to my side, was the door into the tavern. The bats grew incessantly in number, and I knew that if we didn’t take care of the task soon, we would all die in the street.

I cast a spell to open the door, and what little daylight was left broke into the black hall. I entered. Four small silhouettes stood not twenty feet in front of me. I whispered, “It’s alright – you’ll be safe now.” They approached, slowly at first, then hurredly and haphazardly. A single beam of light shone through the boarded up window and cast its condemning illumination upon a young face – first the open mouth of menacing teeth, and then the gnawed eye-socket of a teenage girl with only patches of her golden hair still attached to the chasm of her skull. The hair color was a perfect match for the bloodied man, now as dead as his daughter had been for some time.

I ran out the way I came, and magically shut the doors, informing my companions not to enter the tavern. There was a new sound in the air – the sound of deathly pipes. I took flight above our pinned position between the lumber mill and the tavern, to assess a way out of the village. All of it had been overrun, and there was no end to our foes. To our front, just on the other side of the mill, was a group of ghouls, reared by a pipe-playing maiden of similar filth. She had a horror of meadow-weather heads about her waist. One of them I recognized in an instant: the head of my own father.

All the rage inside me tore loose into the skies, calling down all forms of ice and fire, concentrated upon the she-villain – everything I had within the horizon and depth of my arcane skill was hurled upon her wicked visage.

And still, she came forward… playing her dirge. My dismay went without words – how could such a thing be? Nothing could survive that!

A sharp pain in my side was quickly doubled. Arrows found their mark in my abdomen, and I felt myself falling from the safety of the sky, towards the piper. Was this to be my end? To face the same fate as my father – a consequence for our insatiable thirst for knowledge of the immortal arcana? I couldn’t bare to look upon my fate any longer, and shut my eyes in surrender….

“Tesh,” a mumbled voice called. I opened my eyes to see the boot of Tavius, the half-bred ranger perpendicular to my abdomen. “Come now, old man – awake with you. We’ve a long journey still ahead of us to Vigil.”

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"Security Detail Acquired"
Session 3 - Postview

8 Rova, 4665

Field Operations Report: Second Entry.
Classification: Research Contingent.

The world outside of the Academy moves at a much faster pace than I remembered and observed it. Within the last forty-eight hours, I have managed to make acquaintance with a small band of companions on an intriguing quest. Their number is but less than a half-dozen, but well experienced and highly mobile: a perfect retinue of security for my field operations. Several of their members are engaged in some sort of vendetta against Arazni, the queen of Geb. Our meeting was on account of their conflict with her undead forces; one of her minions, Ghuzmaar, a graveknight, managed to slay the watchmen of Three Pines Ford and walk openly into the inn of my residence. This band prepared to fight, and one among them gave the call to clear the inn. I quickly assessed through the window the undead abomination, the location of the front door, and the absence of bystanders. When the graveknight entered the room, I executed the standard procedure for undead combat with a fireball which finished off the creature. Following the precedent for destruction of a graveknight as recalled from my father’s research, the band and I destroyed the armor that served as a phylactery for Ghuzmaar.

After the ceremonial experience, we departed for Lastwall’s northern hold of Vigil, where a handful of the party’s members hope to obtain more information about the nature of Arazni’s canobic jars, known as bloodstones, and how to use them… wisely, I hope. I feel inspired to accompany them long enough to discern their anthropological governance, and then propose a contract of security detail to them for my research. Alas, I have no capital to barter with (which may or may not be crucial for two members), and no items of interest to negotiate with the others. I suppose my tethering to their ‘quest’ will provide the necessary resources better than I could obtain on my own.

Time will tell if there is anything I can learn about my father and his research in the kingdom of Lastwall… perhaps there will be better leads in Vigil than in Three Pines Ford. If not, I shall have to abandon this party there, and set out for Gorcha Pass – security detail, or no detail.

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Orc Incursion
10 Roma, 4665

The group woke from their dreams upon destroying Ghuzmaar. Each with a lot to think about. The fragment of Ghuzmaar’s cleansed soul gave them hints on how to fight one more of the graveknights, and Arazni herself. Faydra, Tavius, and Faeron explained more of their encounters with undead, and other creatures in the last few weeks. Tesh, Grem, and Martuph all agreed that they would join the party hunting down these bloodstones.

They rested, restocked, and prepared to head for Vigil. They turned north fairly quickly and re-entered the Fangwood. However, it wasn’t long at all before they ran across group of orcs. A hunting party this deep into civilized territory was cause for alarm, but before they could really determine what was going on, the orcs attacked.

One orc was still alive after the short skirmish. Tavius began a very… intense… questioning, only for the orc to drag him down into a wrestling match. Faydra used her scythe to remove the orc from Tavius, the orc proceeded to explain.

“Kromaz, that old orc is no stronger than you pink skins, we no longer follow him! Barabus leads us now, and his right hand Murshofan will bring a darkness to this land. Then we’ll strike you all down.”

Tavius who mentioned Kromaz asked, “Why do you call him weak?”

The orc pointed at Faydra “Look in front of you! He’s dumb enough to breed with pink skins!” before the orc could continue, Faydra beheaded him.

At this point, Tavius admits that Kromaz and his clan was the raiding clan who destroyed his home. Faydra admits that Kromaz is her birth father. After some tension, Faydra insists that if something odd is going on such that Barabus is in charge, then they need to see whats going on in Belkzen right away.

Later that day, the party thwarted a goblin ambush, Faydra barely slowed down to scorch, shock and slice the annoyance.

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The Breaking of Ghuzmaar
8 Rova, 4665

After discussing, and preparing for The Sundering Ritural. The new party gathered Ghuzmaar’s armor in the local Temple of Iomade. With the approval of the local clergy, they re-blessed the area for Torag. Then Martuph concencrated the area, and began channeling and hammering.

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"Lower Expectations"
Session 0 - Postview

6 Rova, 4665

Field Operations Report: First Entry.
Classification: Personal / Non-Research Contingent

Forty-two years ago to the day, I began the first day of a new seminar on Introductory Universalist Techniques with a full dozen students at the Academy. Though it was not my first course by any means, it was the first introductory course I taught in several decades. I recall the students fared well on their examinations: a note not worth mentioning, were it not for it’s relationship to the first day of the course.

It was the still within the first decade of the Academy’s policy to accept students from families of non-arcane vocations. Several faculty dinners were not immune to the concerns that the Academy had lowered its standards. The headmaster would always conclude such conversations with the same phrase: “None of us should lower our standards, but some of you might need to lower your expectations.” Needless to say, I had my doubts about the intellectual capabilities of the labor class neophytes. As the course endured, I discovered that what the students lacked in intellectual prestige, they made up for with innovative prowess when I did not accommodate their deficiency by lowering the standards for completion. One student defeated the imp in combat by signing up to be it’s caregiver at the beginning of the course, and feeding it Nuarda Seeds the night before his turn at the exam; the student’s success in subduing the imp was largely on account of the seed oil rendering the iimp mute, and therefor it’s throat unusable for the verbal component of it’s most potent spells. Innovation triumphed.

I met a dwarf on the boat to Three Pines Ford who reminded me of that student. On his first impression, he did not strike me as the brightest wand in the emporium. He lacked the basic philosophical ability to entertain the possibility that orcs were a superior race to dwarves without having to agree that the statement was true. Our dinner talk was less than appetizing; I wished that I had a few of the Nuarda Seeds tucked in my component pouch to put into his ale – the seed oil’s taste is almost indistinguishable from the human grog.The conversation must have upset him, for he resorted to gender insults when exiting the seacraft.However, he proved to have some measure of cunning – mixed with vindictiveness – when I presented him with an intellectual challenge of an invisible opponent. He focused on the ecolocation of my voice to lunge at me, missing his mark by not more than a pixie’s armlength, and thereby carry me overboard into the dockwater with him. His innovation did not triumph.

However, he did manage to impress me enough to make not of his name: Martuph Skyhelm.

Fin.

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Begin Again
New Session 0

Date 6 Rova 4665

Martuph Skyhelm and Teshladrel : Martuph and Teshlandrel spent the last leg of their travels from Kyonin on the same small lake-ship. Teshladrel came to the last meal on boat late, and had to sit across from Martuph. The conversation was… interesting. A few hours later, the ship arrived at Three Pines Ford.

Teshladrel was in the front of the line to depart. He was already thinking about the poor looking town he could see from the pier. Just before the seaman removed the rope and allowed departure, Teshladrel felt the ill-mannered belch of Martuph against his robes. He cast a minor spell to clean himself, which the dwarf found amusing. In an attempt to continue their mental jousting, Martuph smacked Teshlandrel on the back “Lady’s First”.

Teshlandrel responded with a second spell, invisibility, and stated “Forgive me, I didn’t realize my rudeness you are quite right miss dwarf.”

Martuph didn’t take this lightly, and knowing roughly where the elf was, attempted to grab him and jump off. He missed Teshlandrel by no more than a few inches, and went over alone.

“That will show you to respect your elders, and bathe.” Teshlandrel responded as he walked down the plank.

“Point to you.” Was Martuph’s response.

Later that same evening, Teshlandrel sat at the only empty tavern table in Three Pines. It wasn’t much later that Martuph joined him at the table; this time with Tavius along side. The verbal sparing continues, and slowly Faeron, Faydra, and gnome by the name of Gremalkin joined them. Food and drink was severed, more verbal sparing was mixed with eating, and at the end of the meal the Dwarf moved to call it a night.

As Martuph stood, a horrid feeling fell over him, and the others. Heavy, armored footsteps were audible over the crowd, despite being from outside. It was then that several of the new formed party caught sight of a creature out the window. Faeron recognized it as Ghuzmaar, returned from destruction and here to take the Bloodstone.

The party warned everyone still in the tavern to leave out the back. Ghuzmaar entered, and spells were flung. Ghuzmaar shrugged off a holy spell from Martuph. Ghuzmaar cast at Martuph, only to have his spell thwarted as well. Then Ghuzmaar took the brunt of spells from Faydra and Teshlandrel. He fell once again into a pile of armor.

Faydra, Faeron, and Tavius explained some of their history with Ghuzmaar, and that they did not know of a way of truly destroying him. The went to check on the rest of the town while Martuph, Teshlandrel, and Gremalkin studied the armor. It was then that Martuph remembered the story of another dwarven graveknight, and a ritual that broke his armor. Teshlandrel remembered reading about it as well. He set about his personal books and began looking for the reference, and found not only a reference, but a description of the ritual.

He provided the group with the description. The next day they set about preparing.

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The road to Trunau
Sessions 22-24

The part began its trip to Trunau, a small settlement known for surviving the orc hordes even deeply into Belkzen lands. The rumors of both trading orcs and the plot to blot out the sun come from sources in Trunau that still communicate with lastwall. The party hopes to learn more once there.

Despite still in southern Lastwall, they’ve encountered two orc scouting parties. The first was decimated. The second group had a scout escape to warn the hordes of a party moving upriver.

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The Bloodfist Attack
Sessions 20 & 21

Three Pines Ford was under attack by orcs. A massive number of them came only minutes behind a mere two scouts from Vigil bringing warning.

The orcs made their way past the gate and moat into town before the party new anything was going on. When they moved towards the fray a magical darkness covered the fight. They pressed inward, and found the orcs uncountable. Combat was intense, but the party’s ability to push through the tide of green and steel to the leaders of the orcs won the day.

After combat, Faydra had a chance to examine one of the leaders, and saw a familiar banner. A bloody fist on a black background. The symbol not of her former orc clan, but that of her disposed uncle, Barabus Manslayer. When she found an orc who was breathing, she requested healing long enough to question it.

“Who do you serve?” she asked, holding the orc up by his furred vest.

“Barabus.” was the only response from the confused orc.

Faydra dropped the orc, and removed its head with her scythe. She feared that Barabus had returned and displaced Kromaz, turning an already vicious clan of orcs into an enraged, empowered source of terror.

She spoke with Harris Warren who was looking for someone to investigate Belkzen while he took his surviving paladins to support Vigil. He had word that this was only a small section of the invading orcs, and that their spies had suspicions of an orc shaman planning a great magical ritual to darken the skies for the orcs final attack on Lastwall.

Tavius knew of a solar eclipse coming soon, and Faydra knew of a demonic ritual that would hold an eclipse longer than its natural duration. They discussed this amongst each other, then Faydra volunteered to investigate Belkzen. The rest of the party agreed to accompany her.

The party set out the next day, before they could leave Lastwall territory the came across a small scouting party of orcs. The scouts were well trained and had the support of other warriors, but not enough to dispatch or escape the party. The bodies had symbols of several small clans amongst the orc horde, confirming that this was the work of allied clans.

Now they continue towards Belkzen, with time right behind them.

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Downtime
Sessions 17, 18, and 19

The party finds it’s way to Three Pines Ford there, they rest and recuperate while hoping to find passage to Ustalav.

Faydra takes the time to work on her magical enhancement skills, and succeeds in making her own weapon magically sharp. After showing her progress to the party Tavius and Faeron request personal enhancements. Faydra takes them on happily, as they are practice for her personal, more powerful, crafting goals.

Faeron takes the time to research the Knights of Ozem, the Bloodstones, and what to expect in their travels. He finds that the Knights are perhaps Proud to a fault, in a streak of bad luck, but otherwise faithful and loyal. That is except for one.

Sa’ar interrupts Faeron’s research with a rude awakening one morning. It turns out he’s been tasked with a inquisition into the order by itself. He asks Faeron for his version of the events in Woodsocket after their return. Then explains that Horatio’s unit recovered Ghuzmaar’s armor. On their way to Vigil Horatio himself to slaughtered many of his comrades, and donned the armor, becoming Ghuzmaar risen. Sa’ar explained that he would take inform the Knights of Ozem of the party’s innocence in the matter, and left.

A few days later, everything fell apart. The vessel they planned to use drifted into sight on fire, and broken, only to sink before rescue ships could arrive. Then, before the party could even start the process of finding another way north, the town falls under attack.

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The Fey
Session 16

As the party moved toward the grove Ahli wished to investigate, they discovered a group of pixies and sprites fighting the plant creatures manifested by the fungal infestation of the blight. Once combat was over they discussed the situation with the surviving fey.

The grove ahead was once called the Three Couples Grove for its long term inhabitants and formation. Long before the blight three young dryad descendants of Arlantia, and three undeveloped treants came to a meadow in fangwood bordered by an Spruce, Fir, and Pine. The three dryads each bonded with a tree, and, due to their youth, took on aspects of the trees they bonded to. There the young treants rooted to grow alongside the dryads, forming a large ring of six trees. They made a pact to protect and entertain the local fey, animals, and friendly menfolk who came their way.

When Arlantia was corrupted by Cyth-V’sug, she began spreading her new taint to other older dryads. The three sisters were one of her first targets. There were older dryads, but with the need of a dryad’s involvement in the corruption of any fey, Arlantia saw the potential strength in the grove, and its danger if left alone. She bypassed several older, stronger dryads to take the grove early. Through deception, and the quick work of demonic helpers, she captured the three sisters and destroyed there treant companions, each of which was used to birth the three shamblers who now support the sisters in their twisted task of converting and killing.

The oldest of the three sisters, Picealith, now holds the grove while her sisters gather fey and animals for corruption. The shambling mounds help spread the molds of Cyth-V’sug, allowing for several small vegepygmy crops to form, all devoted to Picealith as their goddess.

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