June 10, 2015
The Auran Empire is pantheistic. That is, they make appeals to the Lawful and Neutral ones, hoping for good things. They propitiate the Chaotic, hoping to avoid those gods’ foul gaze.
There are five Lawful. There are five Neutral. There are five Chaos. All Aurans worship or propitiate all these deities.
Beyond the universal (in the Auran Empire) pantheon, there are also lesser immortals. Of these godlings, three Chaotic immortals are worth noting: the Lord of Hell, the Lord of the Abyss and the Lord of the Void. While they have enough worshipers to maintain their immortality, they are not worshiped by all. There are also other demi-gods.
However, more recently certain fanatical sects have emerged within the faith of Amonar to stamp out the practice of propitiating the Chaotic gods, be they the big five or the three Lords. These Inquisitors of Amonar are now under close guard. They were motivated by the Holy War, as Chaotic necromancers sided with the Neo-Zaharans, undermining the Auran cause.
Salazar learns that all his battle brethern in the Duchy of Blackmarsh have perished, and is thus sent to replenish the ranks The Battle of Ornellus Flats, where the Duchy of Blackmarsh’s best troops fought against the Lords of New Zaharians. They died in an early rearguard action, dying to a man in the early days of the Holy War.
This Holy War continued for over a decade. It ended only with the assassination of the Old Emperor by the Praetorian Guard. The Praetorian Guard was manned by war-weary troops who were tired of the war. After the Neo-Zaharians were driven from the island of the Auran Empire, the Praetorian Guard disagreed with the Emperor’s desire to continue the war and hunt them down. Given the strong opinions, assassination was used to settle their differences.
The Great Carthonian finds himself in the Wizard’s Guild, which bears an odd resemblance to a 19th century gentleman’s club. He realizes he was sent to this backwater, the Duchy of Blackmarsh, to deal with the lack of wizards. In the capital, wizards are fairly common. However, out here, in Blackmarsh with 5,000 residents, all the remaining wizards were conscripted and died at the rearguard action known as the Battle of Ornellus Flats, excepting the Duke’s wizard. Currently, then, there are but 2 wizards left in town, counting the Judge.
The Judge notes the library has been ransacked, the hall is dusty, and a humble servant brings him brandy. When asked if there are other magic users, the servant notes that a generation ago, the previous Duke put all wizards to the sword after a cabal of them attempted a coup. At that time, there were roughly 200 wizards. Only after his son ascended the throne were wizards even invited back to Blackmarsh. Thus, when they were sent off to fight, the number of residing mages had already been decimated. This is a problem given that the magical uprising is taking place just in Blackmarsh. The theory among the common folk is that the cabal and their apprentices insinuated themselves into the local Taurian community, and spread their evil ways amongst the barbarians.
The Judge is awaiting his appointment five days hence. He needs what is essentially a TSA body searching wand to prevent magical spiders. [Detect Magic has a twenty minute duration]. After drinking his brandy, alone, he decides to leave the desolate hall. He knows that a new priest of Amonar is in town, and perhaps they can be convinced to cast sufficient Detect Magic at the courthouse door.
Silanus is greeted by the Duke’s Advisor, Corbin (well-cut goatee), and warned of the Duke’s pissy disposition. Silanus enters the Duke’s chambers, and is asked to report on the progress of the levies being trained. Silanus notes that they are pitiful. He does have some more pressing news for the Duke, though. He tells him that he will be getting reinforcements in the form of disloyal legionaires in the form of the 11th Legion. They are fleeing a purge in the capital. Silanus notes that the 11th Legion is specialized in skirmishers and scouts, which would be fairly effective in Blackmarsh’s broken and forrested terrain. They discuss that the Praetorian Guard already sees the Duke as a loose end to be removed, there is nothing to be done to stop the 11th from setting up (given the Duke’s lack of legionnaires) here, and perhaps they are a sort of gift horse.
The Duke relates that he has a job for Silanus. A hamlet’s population has disappeared, the new Judge was attacked by followers of the old cabal that rose against his father, a crazed priest of Amonar is in town, and an ogre has been slain recently in Blackmarsh. The Duke wishes Silanus to ride herd over these and a few others to hunt out the source of this disturbance.
Burn’s Sleep, a small village of 600 with a freshwater pond fed by a waterfall, at the bottom of the escarpment. There a Mycenean mercenary slew a massive swine which had found its way down the escarpment. This mercenary is a hopilite. He will be the lieutenant to Silanus.
The Duke has two sons, the oldest four years of age, and a wife. Duke Nazar is 32 years of age, his wife twenty. She is the daughter of a neighboring lord. He is only the Duke because the Cabal killed off his brothers.
The Blackmarsh Rangers act as roving police and border guards. They also intercept megafauna that come off the plateau, such as T. Rex. However, there are too few since the Holy War.
Temperance notes that his cousin has fucked off to some were. A messenger has arrived with a message to call upon the Duke at the Ducal Palace. He is also requested to collect Salazar, and then present himself to the duke in one day’s time. The butler is looking at the ogre head, and complains bitterly of it adorning the post. And fleas borne by Bice, the warhorse. After sending the butler off to get a bag, Temperance prepares the horse.
Brother Salazar reluctantly accompanies Temperance to visit the Duke.
Leontius declines an offer in two weeks to stand in for trial-by-combat, as he does not know what the Duke requires of him in two weeks. He shows up at the anointed hour, surrounded by a hobo, a fanatical priest of Amonar, a dandyish paladin, and a Judge. Ionna says they smell bad. Likewise, the Judge has some assistants. The Judge and Temperance squabble.
All five of us are called in to see the Duke. Together, despite our insistence that each of us should be seen first. Entering the room, we see Corbin on the Duke’s right hand, Silanus on his left hand.
The Judge is shut down after demanding more security at the courthouse. The Duke tells Temperance to shut up, too. He then tells Leontius and Ionna that he is on contract for the rest of the summer. He is told to both guide and protect Silanus, and Leontius does so for 400 GP. Temperance is told to protect them and aid them in the execution of his duties, namely, rooting out insurrection. However, rooting out heresy is not the primary goal, at least in the short term. He then relieves the Judge of his duties as a Circuit Judge. His Honour Carthonian is surprised, and not in favor of leaving his current position. The Judge notes that the party needs a magician on hand. The grass tricksters will not do.
Temperance takes the opportunity to toss out the ogre’s head and request a reward. The hopilite argues nobody in the room but himself could kill an ogre. Later, Temperance receives 5 pp for the ogre head. Temperance is also told to “…never bring offal again…” to the Duke’s audience chamber or “…he will be whipped.”
The cleric heads off to the Shrine of Amonar and organizes the laity to ready the shrine. The burnt temple was to the Pantheon of the Fifteen.
Corbin hears Carthonian’s complaints running the court. He contends that small claims court was driving him mad, and his performance before the Duke was of the ‘Don’t Throw Me in the Briar Patch’ variety. Carthonian contends that he and Corbin collaborate, and use the expedition to collect spell components on the side. The other Judge in town is Cartho.
The next day, the Duke has lent each party-member a medium warhorse, and kitted us out with victuals. The hamlet of Auster Industria is but an hour distant by foot from the City and Castle of Blackmarsh. Temperance leads the way, followed by Silanus and Marula (his henchman), then the Wizard Judge and the Cleric, and then the two Myceneans in the rear.
Traveling southwards, the land is larger uninhabited now. Fruit orchards still dot the land. The hamlet is centered on a common area, featuring a well and about six houses. The crew notes that these houses are larger for peasants, as one would expect among freemen cultivating fertile orchards.
The priest translates the symbol, R, as the sign of revenge in Old Tauran. The Judge finds black feathers in the well. These are common spell components in Zaharan necromancy. This hamlet, notes Temperance, is a shadowed sinkhole, that is, the first level of evilness. The priest also notes there is no shrine of Amonar here. The Myceneans search the edge of the hamlet. There they Ionna hears the flapping mighty wings.
Quickly thereafter, the Myceneans find themselves confronted by a harpy. Hiding in the bushes, Ionna peppers it brutally, and then Leontius strikes it with a spear, after yelling “Harpies!” The beast claw-claw-bites, and manages to slash Leontius. The next turn, Ionna searches for other harpies, while Leontius misses. Again, the Harpy claws him. The next turn, Leontius slays it.
The rest of the party hears this in the background, but are charmed by a beautiful song, except for Silanus and the Judge. Hearing the beautiful song, so, too, are the Myceneans. Those of us charmed are wandering off to the edge of the woods.
Silanus and the Judge follow us, and see a woman with large black wings playing a crude harp. Silanus charges her, while the Judge casts a spell. The Judge is unsuccessful, and Silanus is clawed viciously. The next turn, the Judge is clawed again. Silanus misses. The next turn, the Judge casts Summon Hero, calling forth a magma warrior armored in obsidian, hailing from the Plane of Torment and Fire. The harpy misses, as does Silanus. The magma warrior eventually kills the harpy.
With the death of the harpy, Silanus and Judge argue about why the Judge didn’t do more hand-to-hand combat. In the meanwhile, the magma warrior butchers the corpses of the two harpies (for spell components) before blinking out of existence. Afterwards, the Judge butchers it for spell components. Irony! Or, efficiency.
We call it a night.
Temperance’s house in town is a Townhouse, whereas this hamlet has a manor house. The manor house needs fixed up, but could become “fancy digs” per the GM’s observation.