The Sunless Dawn

Chapter 2 - Day 3: Arriving at the Old Temple
Bacon!!!!

Departing from the home of Thorvald the farmer and thanking he and his wife for their generosity (and ample supply of grits), the party once set out along the North Road on their way to the Old Temple.

They had not travelled but for a few hours when the party began to notice an eerie rumble travelling through the ground. All strained their ears to listen, and were quite worried to notice the distinct sound of eight feet pounding the ground, coming ever closer. Some ducked ran for cover in a nearby ravine, the other ‘braver’ (perhaps, foolish?) members of the party readied their weapons before advancing towards the source of the sound. In only a few seconds, 2 large, angry creatures burst out of the forest, causing much confusion and consternation among the party members.

“It’s a wild boar!” yelled one.

“No! It’s a four-legged orc,” shouted the half orc.

“You fools! It’s a bacon machine!”

“Oooh! Bacon, bacon, bacon, bacon, bacon, bacon…”

“What’s bacon?” asked the dwarf.

Regardless, the party made clever use of the unwieldiness of the boars. Taking cover behind trees and dealing heavy damage to them as they attempted to charge past. Grikk, in particular, was very gleeful that he was pre-tenderizing the meat with his fists, even before it had been taken off the animals. Through their skillful tactics and without taking too much damage for the slashing, piercing tusks of the wild boar, the party was able to capture all the jelly beans (DM Note: Must buy lots of jelly beans for next battle….) and defeat the beasts.

It was at this moment that three of the party discovered their calling. (Sound Revelation Music) First the Dwarf realized that he was, in ‘his’ deepest heart of hearts…a butcher…of vermin. Katze, the cleric, inspired by the mountain of potential pork products before them, suddenly realized her vocation as a chef. And finally, perhaps most profoundly, Grikk realized,, through the visions of his mother in the dying embers of a campfire, that his path was not to be that of a monk, but instead that of a….BARBARIAN!!!!! ARRRGGGH!!!

Having feasted upon 24d10 pounds of pork products, including some rather lean and gamey bacon. The party continued onwards. A few more hours passed, and finally they caught sight of it upon the hill. It was the Old Temple. Trying to scrutinize the structure, the party walked together, closer and closer to their destination…

(Cue Cutscene)

To be read in a deep male voice:

Atop one of the larger foothills of the Adler Mountains, and about forty miles North-Northwest of the town of Eichenstark, the party comes upon the ‘Old Temple’ complex. Abandoned about five or six human generations ago in lieu of the smaller, but closer to town, New Temple (which the party has seen) the former center of religion still possesses much of the grandeur that made one of the greatest architectural achievements of its time.

However, the centuries of disuse have taken a gradual toll, the plants of the forest have made significant progress in reclaiming the hilltop. Lianas and ivies twine around cracked marble pillars. Virtually every crack in the flagstones has been taken advantage of by some grassy plant or small shrub. There are even more than a few small trees beginning to take hold in the once carefully manicured grounds.

Under the influence of the harsh weather, the structures here have also begun to fail. Crumbled, weathered architectural elements can be found scattered all over the grounds. And the loss of several main pillars has caused the high roofs to cave in in several places, allowing access to the elements, and further accelerating the decline. The rubble is piled so high in some places as to make passage nearly impossible.

The temple complex was at one time richly decorated, and there are still significant hints of this to be found. Since the abandonment was very deliberate and well-planned, most of the moveable wealth of the Temple has long since been transported to the New Temple. What is left is the immovable, that which was considered largely worthless, and that which had been forgotten. It is the final category that attracts adventurers to the site nowadays…but if the current leadership at the New Temple are asked…they will almost certainly mention that nobody had bothered to turn off any of the security systems…

As the party approaches, they find the ruins perched atop the hill much as you would expect…but upon closer inspection you notice a few thin wisps of smoke rising from the hilltop. Campfires? Perhaps somebody or something has taken up residence here? The attackers? Ghosts? Well, apparently it is their job to figure it all out…

(End Cutscene)

Carefully making their way up the path alongside the sheer East Wall of the compound. The party was brought to a halt by the keen eyes of Grikk, the newly minted Barbarian. He had seen humanoid figures in the entranceway. Turning himself to smoke, the Computerized Cleric confirmed the observation, noting that there were two orcs standing in the entranceway of the compound. Throwing caution to the winds, the party charged up the curving steps to the gate and, catching the orcs by surprise, defeated them soundly. In a particularly epic moment, the orc formerly known as Q5, critically failed an attack of opportunity, blowing out his ACL and MCL in an attempt to land an unarmed attack, instantly disabling himself and leaving himself to the tender mercies of the party.

After some significant debate and over the protest of Grikk, it was decided to pitch the bodies off the cliff, and hopefully out of sight of any others that might be in the area.

Seeing that the sun had begun to set, the party set back down the hill away from the temple. After heading into the woods looking for a safe spot to camp for the night, the party settled down to a cold, dark night…hopefully out of sight and mind of the enemy they hoped to vanquish the next day.

Today was gained _xp and _gp. (Note to self…must check these figures later).

The weather forecast for the night…Cloudy, chance of rain, sleet, and snow after 4 AM. Lows near 33. West wind 8-12 mph.

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Chapter 2 - Day 2: Further North.
Orcs on a Farm

The morning began with a knock on the door, rousing the sleeping party from dreamland. In a panic some scrambled to get dressed, others readied their weapons, and still others just went to open the door.

It was the shift manager they had met the evening before. He brought news that a few more had come along the road early that morning at the behest of the council, and that he had a, shall we say, ‘side business’ that would allow the party to move the goods they had acquired from pillaging kobold corpses the day before. As the shift manager lead the party to his ‘storeroom’ the group was joined by a tall, but potbellied man, a human by the looks of him.

“What are you?” they asked.
“I am a wizard!” the man replied, “Name’s Hennet”
“Why weren’t you at the town council meeting?”
“Well,” he paused, “I, um, was in jail…again…”
“Oh.”

As the party were bartering and purchasing items from the shift manager, two more mysterious figures popped out of the shadows. One was as silent as a ghost’s shadow whispering. The other one clanked. After recovering from their shock, there were introductions all around as two more joined the party: An effeminate looking bard by the name of ___, and another who was just simply…sneaky looking…

“Why weren’t you at the meeting?” the party asked the rogue.
“I was…you just didn’t notice me.”

Soon thereafter, the party was back on the road, travelling through field and dale, valleys and forests. The party came upon a farm, and immediately, to those who could see, something was not right. Least of all was the orc standing in the road in front of the farmhouse. It was apparent that the orc had high enough intelligence to realize that a spyglass was good for spotting things. But unfortunately for the orc, he did not have enough intelligence to figure out why looking through the spyglass made everything appear really, really tiny.

Some bit of sneaking later, another orc was spotted in the barnyard in the back. Deciding that diplomacy might be the best policy, Grik the Half-Orc monk strode forward, greeting the orc in his native tongue: “Hail, Brother!”

To which the orc promptly replied! “Look! A human!!!” And so the battle began. “To battle!” Yelled most of the party.

Grik burst through the barnyard gate, slaying orcs in the process. He was closely followed by an angry dwarf with an axe and a flurry of arrows and magic missiles. In combat, the surprised orcs simply did not have enough toughness to stand up to the assault as they fell one by one, sometimes in twos, bleeding from horrible gushing wounds to their arms and necks caused by expertly shot arrows and sword blows (Note to self: Give enemies higher AC next time). Our heroes pushed onwards. The dwarf and a cleric stood off with two orcs through a barn door. The dwarf growled, “My ANCIENT enemy…” and the orcs growled right back.

Taking a turn away from the rest of the combatants, Grik took a flying leap over the fence…only to discover there was another unexpected element to the battle. Hidden from the view of most of the party, Grik found a human farmer, being menaced by two orcs, one much bigger than the other. One of the orcs grabbed the human while the approached him with a falchion. Grik attempted to dodge, but the orc did him a crushing blow, and the monk collapsed bleeding to the ground with a terrible wound. But for the heroic efforts of two clerics, Grik almost certainly would have died that day.

As Grik staggered to his feet, all were surprised to see the farmer break free for the larger orc’s grasp and go for a pitchfork. Instead of pursuing, the larger orc turned and headed into the farmhouse, the contents of which were yet unknown to the party.

Closing from both sides, a group led by Keira the fighter, the bard, and the rogue broke through the back door only to find more orcs, one of whom had evidently been working on breaking through a barred door in a rear hallway. At the order of the larger orc, this one turned to face the party while the leader battered down the door with apparent ease. The smaller orc was quickly felled, but before any further could occur, the horrible sound of a woman’s screams pierced all ears in the area. The sorcerer and Keira ducked forward to see what was happening, only to find the orc leader, holding a knife to a terrified woman’s throat.

A tense hostage situation ensued. The orc shoved his way into the hallway and started backing towards the door with his hostage in tow just as Grik burst through the front door. In a last ditch attempt to save the woman, Grik yelled in orcish, not all that convincingly, that the orc leader should drop the woman and fight like a real orc. To the surprise of everyone (DM included), the orc agreed, throwing the woman aside and standing to face the party. It was a fatally foolish decision. Hugely outnumbered and outarmed, the orc quickly succumbed to a flurry of blows and strikes.

Ignoring the farmer and his wife, the party proceeded to loot the bodies, finding a large quantity of standard issue orc equipment. Finally their materialism sated, they were able to give some attention to farmer.

Soon, they discovered that Thorvald as he was known, was a talkative one. He and his wife invited the party to stay for supper and he regaled them for hours and hours about his past life as a mountain guide, the story of the oaks in Eichenstark, and his words of wisdom for all adventurers.

“Remember,” Throvald said sagely, “All adventures eventually go towards the mountains.”

In a stroke of inspiration, he dashed to a back room, bringing the party a particularly comfortable looking pair of boots. “These will be more useful for you than I,” he said, “Take them as a token of my gratitude for your saving us.”

As the evening grew darker, the party decided to take Thorvald and his wife up on their offer of staying the night, despite the architectural critques of the wizard. As sleeping arrangements were made to minimize sketchiness, all went to bed, hoping for a restful night in light of the certain dangers ahead.

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Chapter 2 - Day 1 - On the North Road
Exploding Kobolds?

A group of sentients gathered today in a meeting held in the assembly hall of Eichenstark. Representing the town of Eichenstark were Laucivor, the five-term mayor of the town, Jane Cooperson, a local business woman, and Tarik, a surly dwarf representing the districts outside of the city walls. The topic is the North Road, a major trade route leading from Eichenstark.

The mood is a little tense…but not overwhelmingly so. The North Road is a well-maintained and heavily-travelled route, at least in the stretches near the town of Eichenstark. As the weather gets colder, the number of travellers diminishes, but unlike the mountain passes, the North Road is passable year round (albeit with difficulty if the weather turns for the worse). The road is largely safe, but there are occasional troubles with miscreants along the roads, but apparently nothing as bad as what they’ve been seeing in the last few days. The mountains are rich in mineral resources, and creatures of all types are out to extract. And anybody wandering around is likely to encounter somebody seeking to defend their turf.

But the attacks have been more, ‘malicious’ than that…while most well-prepared caravans have been able to fend of the attacks, but injuries have resulted and they have been quite grisly. There are conflicting reports of reports of marauding orcs (which are definitely atypical, since they usually keep to themselves in the mountains), but then also of an increasing number of animal attacks…including a number of grisly gorings, some of which proved fatal.

Reports suggest that the attacks are centered at an old religious site…approximately one days journey North. The travel is easy enough and the terrain is mostly flat, with a few minor bridged river crossings and some travel through forest. The town council has put out a call for those who would be willing to seek out the cause of these troubles, and put an end to them. A group of adventurers has responded to the call. They are, as recorded by the town scribe (a notoriously poor speller):

Rawena – A Female Human Sorcerer

Keyla – A Female Human Fighter

Novachek – A Male Gnome Druid

Grik – A Male Half-Orc Monk

Vorinir – A Male Dwarf Fighter

Vicmor – A Half-Orc Cleric

Katso – A Female Human Cleric

The town council offered 500 gp for each member of the party as a reward for completing the mission, or 750gp in merchandise credit if the party members so desired. This offer was gladly accepted by the members of the party who agreed to set out immediately on the mission.

As they were leaving the town hall, the party was approached by a man named Arthur, who claims to be a caravan manager, one of whose caravans was attacked by the raiders. Saying that he had a valuable star sapphire stolen that was desperately wanted by a client, he would be very grateful if the party would be willing to keep an eye out for this gem as they carried out their mission. Some members of the party say they would very happy to do, but only for a reward. Other members of the party were contemplating just keeping the gem and leaving poor Arthur to his fate (Evil Points!). Arthur seemed willing to provide information, including that the attackers were a band of orcs, and that the attacks did seem to resonate from an old abandoned temple about a days journey up the road. Armed with the information, the party set out.

Prominently placed along the side of the road are a series of stone millarium, or mile-markers, shaped like miniature stone obelisks. Each commemorating the hard work of one Berengar, apparently the head of Public Works (or something like that) responsible for the road’s construction. Each identical stone bears the inscription, in an archaic form of Common:

“Commissioner Berengar restored the roads and bridges of Wuserlich in the 6th year of the reign”

In the first dozen or so miles leading away from Eichenstark, a number of tombs and cemeteries line the North Road. Burials are not permitted inside city limits for fear of ghosts and disease. There indeed are a few restless spirits in the area (there always are), but none are particularly malignant. Most of the structures are pretty mundane, simple headstones and burial mounds. They are largely divided into a number of zones, mostly splint up into categories of wealth and status, but also a few by race, religion, or occupation.

A few of the richer former citizens of the area (those who didn’t choose to get buried back at the capital) have more elaborate structures. In contrast to the funerary monuments near the capital, the ‘aristocrats’ of this outer region have a penchant for the gaudy…perhaps just as a way to make up for some perceived deficiency (like living in the boonies). Several of the notable ones include:

Garen Cooperson, a barrelmaker and son of barrelmakers, is buried in a 25 foot granite scale model of a barrel. Rumor has it that his remains are packed into one of his family’s finest wares inside the rather imposing structure. Nobody really knows how a barrel-maker came by enough wealth to construct a tomb such as this, but nobody really every asked him what he put in the barrels either after they were done. Roquat the Dwarf, wasn’t really a dwarf. Well, he was…but in the sense that he was a really short and squat human (a little toad-like, actually) But perhaps because of his business acumen, or more likely just his stature, he was particularly skilled at making business contacts with several of the dwarven mining conglomerates in the nearby mountains. He was also a vocal proponent of equal rights and was well regarded in both communities. The trade was profitable, and with a generous commissions taken off the top, he developed quite a fortune. It is said that much of his wealth is stored within, and the walls are almost entirely studded with the jewels and treasures that he had collected over a lifetime. The outside is no show of cheapness either, a mound with retaining walls of marble lined with and the top studded with an array of glittering jewels. Tomb raiders have been tempted in the past, but it stands to reason the security here is fairly good. Additionally, this tomb located across a deep chasm from the road…thus serving its purpose of broadcasting the Dwarf’s wealth while remaining largely inaccessible. And perhaps the most arresting monument is actually a public one. It is a memorial to all those who have perished while traversing the nearby Adler mountains as well as final resting place for the dozens who have been found but never identified after the winter snows thaw. The tomb of the ‘unknowns’ as it is known is a simple polished granite structure, decorated with a few carved wreaths. The bronze statue to its left is the haunting image of a local woman, dressed in simple homespun cloth. She stares outward over the trees towards the highest peak of the range, holding up a single lantern lit with an Eternal Flame, as if waiting for her husband to come home. Officially, this place is called The Tomb of the Unknowns and the Eichenstark Mountaineers Memorial.

Several of the older tombs have started to crumble, especially those without living relatives to maintain them. It is one of the perils of building in a tectonically active region.

As one travels further outside the city, they see clearings, where farmers have cleared some of the forest to plant their crops.

Crossing over two rivers, the party comes to a fork in the road…where they find a small child sitting on the ground crying…Approaching the child, the party is startled discover that he is nothing but an illusion, and are dismayed to find themselves being pelted by rocks. It is an ambush…And the screaming yipping kobolds that are popping out of the woods do not mean them well at all.

In a brief but intense battle, the kobolds quickly find that they have bitten off more than they can chew. Several are pummeled to death the monks fists or cleaved into quarters by the dwarf’s longsword. Arrows and magic missiles fly. Soon, the kobolds are nothing but a warm pile of corpses on the side of the road. Looting the bodies, the party sets off on their way.

By evening, they have reached what appears to be a temple…but this one appears to be occupied by normal temple-like people doing their evening chores. In fact this is the multi-denominational New Temple that was built to replace the old one, abandoned many years ago. Approaching and introducing themselves, they are lead to the temple elder, an elf named Drusiphia who tells them about the situation. She conveys that the epicenter of the disturbances is in fact the old temple…but that the Gods have told them that this is not their business. Furthermore, she notes that the leader of the band…mostly orcs…is “at once a man, and sometimes a best…but at times both.” Finally, she gifts the party a party a map of the courtyard level of the ‘old temple’ as well as a box full of a dozen silver tinged arrows. She offers them a place to stay at the temple for the night…sending them off with a blessing. “The Median is the Path to Holiness…”

Tired by their first day of adventuring, the party falls asleep in the safety of this temple.

Today was gained 1000 xp. And approximately 300-500 gp worth of loot.

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Chapter 1 - Welcome to Eichenstark
Trouble on the North Road

The hamlet of Eichenstark is a crossroads, being neither here nor there, but the join that connects the two.  For the Kingdom of Wuslireich (perhaps the most powerful of the so-called “Western Lands”), the town has long been a bridge between North and South, East and West, civilization and wilderness, and an easy stepping stone from the mundane to realms of adventure, riches, and danger.   Few come to Eichenstark for its own merits, but at the same time, it is valued as a hospitable place for outgoing travelers and merchants to rest and refuel at a last comfortable inn before the long road ahead.  And for those who return from such journeys, the town is quite a suitable place for the reckoning of one’s riches…or for the mourning of one’s losses…

Truth be told, though, the terrain that Eichenstark clings to has few merits except but for its strategic placement.  The few year-round residents are amicable…but generally crusty, hardened folk, used to scraping a meager living from the marginal, windswept soils of the surrounding highland forests and bearing the brunt of long, cold, gray winters.  Many have found providing services to the towns many visitors to be a far easier way to make a (mostly) honest living.  For a town of its small size, Eichenstark’s narrow streets are surprisingly well-equipped with a variety of shops, inns, and services that would be of interest to most travelers.  On the outskirts of town are the warehouses that store the goods that are ready to go from here to there…but haven’t quite found somebody to take them yet.

Most notably, perhaps, the locals have found renown throughout the known lands for being particularly exceptional mountain guides.  The town lies in the Western foothills of the towering and continent-splitting Alderlich Mountains, just below the entrance to the only known pass across the mountains even remotely suitable for large-scale commercial traffic.  Even during the summer months, the only time when the road is passable, it is a well-known fact among merchants that hiring good local guide is a particularly sound investment.  But as the season turns, even this pass quickly closes off, leaving a long trek to the West Coast and a months-long sea journey as the simplest and safest route of contact with the East.  As is heard in the lines of a local song: 

“The one who crosses past oak leaf fall,
 
by triumph, wealth, or idiocy must be called

For many, like you, who seek adventure, Eichenstark is the place to begin.  When the time is right, as it often is, an opportunity arises for the extraordinary to distinguish themselves from the common chaff.  It is late in the trading season, a call has gone out from the town council to deal with some ‘disruptions’ that have recently arisen on the main road heading North.  Several trade caravans have been attacked by unknown raiders, and it is certainly not in the best interests of the the town or the local guilds to allow these attacks to continue.  The call has gone out for people willing to set forth and stop the attacks.  You have decided to answer that call…

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