This report is longer and more blunt than usual...
You have been warned.
Du’Kratha, Simon, and I arrived late Friday night. As we were unpacking and getting ready, we heard the sounds of fighting near the tavern. Of course, by the time we got there the fighting was over. I was impressed by the showing of adventurers that were present. At a guess, I would say there were 50 people at the gather. I recognized many of them, and was glad to see that we would have such a force ready in case the Oni army attacked. I believe some of the Emerald Guard were present, as well as the Order of the Gryphon, a few of Clan Arimonte, the Black Shields(?), and Team Metal. I also saw many, many faces I recognized from Tyrangel, Greyhelm, and the Mydian Valley, far too many to list here. I also met a very unusual Gorbe named Vanama, whose fur was colored lavender, as were her eyes. She was very odd, but beautiful.
From what I was told, before my arrival there were many skirmishes with the Oni that were traveling through the area. To my surprise, the Oni that were not violent were allowed to pass peacefully. I do not disagree; I am just surprised that so many adventurers could restrain themselves so well.
Count Kelovar and Nigel had arrived. It had been quite some time since I had seen Nigel, so it was good to know he was well. An earth circle was being cast in the tavern, and Desdemona invited me to become invested as the Vornae representative. The Count had some objections, but as there were already so many people being invested, I hardly saw a problem with adding one more.
Things were quiet at night. I had missed some of the fighting earlier, and many of the adventurers were now happy to sit by the fire and chat. A shambling figure moved towards our fire from out of the darkness. Everyone’s first reactions to grab for weapons proved to be unnecessary, for this was an unarmed female Gnoll, seeking to share the warmth of our fire. Everyone remained wary around her, eyeing the child’s skull she was carrying and, I imagine, thinking similar thoughts. She introduced herself as a Shatha, and explained that she is a Shaman from the Gallymath in Westhaven. She came here to bring logic and reason to the other Gnolls who had come here. The child’s skull was that of her own child. Although I found this a little disturbing, I do not know the Gnoll customs, and she is a Shaman. I decided it did not feel as …inappropriate… as it first looked. We spoke at length, and she told me of her tribe, the Wick tribe, who are peaceful and do not carry weapons. She also told me of the other tribes living in the Gallymath, the Broken Branch and the Rotten Branch. The Broken Branch hate the Elves of the Gallymath, and think the “intruders” should move out. The Rotten Branch take this feeling to an extreme, and hate everyone, wishing only to conquer. They blame Evendarr for all of their sorrows. I have not discovered whether or not that blame is deserved.
Shatha offered to grant us a vision to aid us in understanding our situation. She needed a circle to do so, but we could not use the circle in the Tavern because there was something else going on in there. From what I was told, one of General Pox’s men was in there, having traveled here from the Mydian Valley. Simon was present for the entire meeting, and perhaps later I will add his accounting here. Shatha offered to bring us to her circle, far off in the woods. Myself, Du’Kratha, Sandrine, a Kyrilian named Annon, Daniel Simmons, Geryn Gryphon, Tamtur, Kellian, and one or two others went with her. (I do not mean for the lack of mention to be an insult, I just have an awful memory...feel free to correct me). Shatha did not use any components or scrolls. This was not traditional magic, but the arts of a Seer. Since anything could happen, Du’Kratha, Daniel, and myself decided to stay outside of the circle so that we could run for aid, or otherwise help those within in case anything went wrong. Nothing seemed to go amiss, but they were all very shaken and cold after the visions. We decided to return to the fire and discuss what had been seen with everyone gathered.
Shadows that slowly formed themselves into goblins and other types of Oni. They wore the hides of Gorbe and Wolven as trophies of their kills. Their numbers were too high to count. Their leader was a large Ogre, large enough to be compared to Atticus Doomhammer. This ogre was a shaman and a warrior, and his teeth were filed down to razors. He was rallying the orcs to war. As the seers looked upon this vision, this Ogre became aware of their presence. They felt a painful shove, and were pushed out of the vision. The next vision they saw was similar, but the Oni forces were smaller, and had lesser quality weapons and armor. They had no leader, and the seers felt an overwhelming sense of Victory, that the battle can be won. ~If this leader had been seen at the Oni meeting on Saturday, or on the battlefield later, no one mentioned it to me.~ The next vision was strange, and the meaning unclear. The forces of Evendarr were standing before a large forest. A figure many recognized as Prince Bane was at their head. He swung his sword in an arc, and all the trees fell over, bloody and torn. The impression given was that the very life of the forest itself had been killed, as if the trees were people. The final vision was of an Orc with a brown circle with a dot in the middle, on his forehead. All of the seers felt extremely cold, and were still shivering when the vision ended.
I have some thoughts on the meaning of these visions, particularly the one concerning His Highness Prince Bane, but visions and prophesies can easily become misleading.
After we returned, there was spatterings of orcs and trolls attacking, sometimes in small groups and sometimes larger. Most of them seemed to just be passing through, but upon seeing us they decided to attack. There were also goblins and kobolds moving through the area, acting mostly peaceful. Some of the goblins even called out a greeting as they strolled through our encampment.
I spent some time near the fire talking to Sandrine, who seemed quieter than usual. I wondered, not for the first time, if I had made a grievous and unforgivable mistake, back in February. But not everything in Tyrra is about me… I am sure Sandrine has her own reasons to be quiet. I also spoke with Woot and Mae, Kitty, Dracos, Patches, and a young elf who is didikai to Arimonte. I saw Tan Ji, but as he did not greet me properly, I ignored him. The Gypsy Trisana was also at the gather, but I did not recognize her because she had lost her voice. After a while, the cold and the hour began to get to people, and one by one everyone retired for the night.
Much of Saturday morning seemed uneventful. By now most of the adventurers knew that the Orcs, Goblins, Trolls, Ogres, and Kobolds were having a large meeting, and that they would not attack on their way through if they were left alone. But even when they were left alone, many of the Oni were very resentful of our presence. Those that attacked had preemptively assumed Evendarr had moved in for assault. I was not even sure if Evendarr still claimed these lands… and if so, they certainly did not and do not have the right to-- not after leaving the lands abandoned for years, the inhabitants subjected to whatever may happen. But there I go again…. referring to Evendarrians as “they” instead of “us”. Even after all this time among them, and even though I have held noble title within Evendarr for a year now, I still do not really consider myself one of them.
As Du’Kratha and I were walking to our cabin, we noticed a goblin woman painting on the bath house. We moved in closer… she was writing “pinkies go home”. Du’Kratha found this very amusing; while I was simply amazed she could read and write. We talked to her a bit, and jokingly commented on how she must think we could stay here, as long as the jochu left. She mistakenly made the comment that we were the same as the rest of the jochu, and Du’Kratha attacked her. But right as he was attacking she managed to throw the rest of her paint at him, and it would not come off. I never knew someone who could wear bright yellow paint and still walk with such pride and grace. For those that have concern for the goblin woman, do not worry… she was healed, and her error explained. Later on in the day, many of the bath houses were covered in similar goblin graffiti, so I think she is fine and well.
After asking a few people nearby, we were able to find an alchemic solvent to remove the paint. May Ringtail and I agree on one thing – we need to find out how to make that paint, so that we can keep track of Du’Kratha during battles in the dark. I also had the chance to speak to Tan Ji a little more, who corrected his previous error, and introduced himself to me. I do not know what sort of environment he was raised in, but it certainly wasn't a traditional Vornae city.
A group of Kobolds came through town, and although I would not really call them peaceful, they were amusing. They recruited adventurers to play waylay-tag, and Du’Kratha won. Shortly after this, a goblin arrived asking for directions to the meeting. We did not know where the meeting was, but decided some of us would attend this meeting with him. It was a good a chance as any to find out what was going on… hopefully the flag of peace that applied to the others attending the meeting would protect us as well. Count Kelovar nominated me to lead the diplomatic mission to the Oni meeting. I did not really desire to do this, but it was a noble order, and I did not want to be seen as shirking from my noble duties. He was also demonstrating a great deal of trust and faith in my abilities, and I did not wish to disappoint. We quickly selected adventurers from many different lands who were all skilled at diplomacy, as well as war.
We redirected the lost goblin to go westwards, and he quickly found the path to the meeting. I was walking safely towards the back of our group, but decided as we came in sight that I should probably be towards the front, as the “leader” of this task. Of course, as soon as I do so, the goblin leading us set off a trap, which destroyed most of my potions and elixirs, as well as my pen. I think I was as angry at my own stupidity as I was at the hobgoblin that set the trap… it has been years since I have been hit by such a simple trap, and I think having an escort or three wherever I go has made me soft. Note to self: fix that.
Anyways, it was not a good beginning. The Oni gathered there were angry, and felt it was incredibly rude and invasive for Evendarr to invite ourselves to their meeting. It was, but it’s not like we had any other options. There was a large green Oni named Gron, and another wearing armor whose name I did not get ~ This nameless one led the battles later. I think they are both from Lorinorea, although there is a possibility that Gron was actually Grond, as in, from the Grond Hills. There was also a Gnoll named Krisha from the Rotten Branch, and another one named Gran-ma from the Broken Branch. General Pox Morgh and his Lieutenant were present representing the Mydian Confederacy, and were easily recognized as the most powerful and influential members of this meeting. There was a yellow-skinned Ogre named Yan Tooth Galesh, and some of his tribe, as well as a few goblins from the Big Stick Tribe of Fengate. There were also two Kobolds who lived in Lorinorea, named Tralfaz and Ibnabn. I found the antics of the kobolds very amusing, but also worrisome. They were very persistent about being allowed to “eat the Kitty” and gesturing to Thondolis. I barely managed to suppress my laughter at the idea that these Kobolds would subdue such an intimidating Gorbe as he, and Thondolis, to his credit, usually managed to suppress the growling, and did not get up and rip them apart.
The meeting was a total disaster. The Gnolls were very angry, and did their best to incite violence in the rest of the Oni group. The Orcs and the Gnolls blamed Evendarr for everything, and were not willing to listen. The only offer they would accept was Evendarr's complete surrender. And the Goblins and Kobolds were too intimidated by the louder Oni to argue. I tried to ask them what their requests were; I tried to offer them a peaceful resolution. I was even willing to offer them the land that they claimed to desire. But I failed miserably. They were so… angry. General Pox was infuriating. I could tell that he had the ability to change things. He could have altered the direction of the meeting. But he enjoyed watching us squirm… watching my reactions to their anger and insults. So instead of stopping the frenzy, he added to it. He directed it towards Evendarr, and the supposed wrongdoings we have committed. I am amazed that the Oni did not jump up and attack us all right then and there. I looked to the others who had come with me, but they were just as overwhelmed as I was. The Stone Elf, Annon, was particularly overwhelmed by the raw emotion displayed, and the refusal to listen to logic. Seeing that my words fell on deaf ears, and feeling completely useless and frustrated, I gathered my things to leave. I felt that this was such a waste of time. And even worse, I had let down all those who had put their trust in my abilities to represent Evendarr. Something I had never wanted to do anyway!
So, silently ranting to myself about Vornae principles, Evendarrian bullheaded-ness, and Orc stupidity, I told everyone to leave. The Gnolls and Orcs were also shouting at us to leave, threatening to attack us if we didn’t hurry. Unfortunately, Annon, who I assume was still trying to understand the emotions he had witnessed, did not leave soon enough. He was attacked, and before we were allowed to heal him and take him away, an Orc marked him with blood, a circle with a dot inside. Aside from that, we were all able to leave without incident. Felling absolutely miserable and disappointed in myself, I soon separated from the rest, and left it to the others with me to inform everyone of what had occurred.
The mark that was placed on Annon was identified. It acted as a spirit-mark, but was something different, not of either school. It bound his spirit to his body. Seeing that it was drawn in blood, I immediately suspected Blood Magic. We are not sure what the exact effect of this mark would be… either it could bind his spirit to his body, making him immune to dying… or cause his body to linger on the field long after a life spell would help, preventing his spirit from resurrection. Since it was done by a very angry Orc, we all assumed it would have negative effects. I and another pooled together our knowledge of Blood magic, but decided to not try anything yet. There is a big difference between knowledge, and practice, and neither of us wished to make it worse. We discovered how to cure it later, and the mark was then easily removed. Just in case this mark is seen again~
It is a circle with a dot in the middle. Something is said while the mark is being placed. To remove it, draw an X with your blood through the circle, and chant: “By the light of the Sun/ Moon, your spirit is free”.
~Added note: It seems that this cure may not work in all lands. The mark may need the cantrip Spirit Unmark, possibly in addition to what I described, to remove the mark. It has been discovered that bodies thus cursed will die with the spirit remaining trapped within. The body will continue to decay at normal rates even though the spirit is still present. If none of the above methods work on a cursed deceased friend, you may want to consider rendering the body until a cure is found.
I was invited to an afternoon party by Geryn Gryphon, and quickly saw that it was, as described by others, a “traditional Thornebriar meat party”, and smelled delicious. Unfortunately, I was too irritated by the heat of the Daystar to feel like eating. I had the opportunity to speak with Tamtur for a few moments. He is a very quiet individual. Patches and Katrina were there, and Kylou also. I also had a chance to meet two of the scavengers that were at the gather, Ambassador Jinkai and Kitsune, a large Panda and a fox, respectively. They were different from most of the animal-kin I have met in that their culture had much in common with my own. Remembering Kylou’s offer of a drink, and my acceptance, I resigned myself to the inevitable and got smashing drunk.
Much later, Du’Kratha, Simon and I walked back to the tavern just in time to see a very large group of people leaving. Since they were already hurriedly on their way, we decided to not bother asking what was happening, and went for a walk. We happened to meet up with Crimson, Panda, Kaira, Daimos, and Lady Akoya at the brook, which had a swimming hole carved into it. It was very hot outside, and soon enough, many of them were jumping into the freezing cold water to cool off. It looked very tempting… but I decided I had already embarrassed myself enough for one day.
As it turns out, that large group was going to a crypt. Something about retrieving something that the Oni wanted, and we did not want them to have it. I suppose grave-robbing is O.K. as long as the crypt belonged to a member of any non-standard race. (That was sarcasm). I don’t know how that adventure went, but in the end, a trap went off and the cavern filled with acid, killing a Gypsy friend of mine who fortunately resurrected. From what I was told, those who were not trapped in the cavern ran to get assistance, and were ambushed by swarms of insects, which quickly turned into a large battle. The swarm attack prevented them from getting aid to those trapped in the catacombs.
I also, for the first time, performed the resurrection of a goblin. Apparently, the Big Stick goblin tribe of Fengate was openly opposed to the rest of the Oni that wished to attack Evendarr, and their representative was killed some time after we left. After he was healed and we discussed all that happened, this goblin confidently declared that the Big Sticks would defend Fengate, and have nothing to do with the rest of the Oni army.
I also spoke with General Pox’s Lieutenant, who told me some of the specific mistakes I made during the Oni meeting, one of the main ones being my race. Even the goblins agreed that a Vornae (stereotypical slaver) should not represent Evendarr to those who were once slaves. Although I was still vexed at the General's attitude during the meeting, I did appreciate the Lieutenant speaking to me later. The understanding is the same as it always is with such groups: Leave us be, and we will leave you be. It was also made clear that if Evendarr took the first strike, the General's forces would join with the rest of the Oni against us. It was good to hear that there was something useful accomplished by our attendance at that meeting, even if we could not see it.
Feast was unremarkable, but satisfying.
Saturday night began as all Saturday nights do, with the illusion of peace that is fostered by sharing good food and company.
As everyone selected places by the fire… yes, fire. I know I was complaining that it was hot outside earlier in this narration, but weather on the surface seems as quixotic as a chaos elemental, always changing. Anyway, shortly after we had all gotten comfortable, a Mystic Wood Elf woman came to our encampment asking for help. I believe her name was Distress, but I am not positive. Du’Kratha was off somewhere with Team Metal, so I decided to join Geryn, Nymbus, Lord Ahnatar and the others in helping her. She told us that Orcs had been attacking her observation towers for some time, and no matter how much they fended them off, the orcs came back.
We found a cave with a small group of Orcs in it, at least one of them a spellcaster, clustered around a pillar. Considering that we outnumbered them, and had not yet fought anything, I thought it would be an easily won battle. But somehow, these Oni were much stronger than the others I had encountered, and the spellcaster’s spells seemed limitless. When I died we seemed to be doing well, but by the time Trisana life’d me, the room was total chaos. More Orcs had entered, and were intent on reaching the pillar that seemed to be supporting the cave ceiling. Thinking perhaps this pillar was a source of their power, I tried to dispel its magic, to no effect. After much fighting, we had managed to kill all the Orcs in the room, and I was tapped of all my spells. I also noticed something curious…. many of our side were clustered around this pillar, and Nymbus was standing close to it, with a circle of power ready to be cast. I briefly wondered if perhaps the pillar has a charming effect. Being naturally resistant, I touched it to test the effect. And I learned what many already had discovered, that the Pillar renewed all the skills and spells of one who touched it. It had been Lore’d, and proved to be a magical item capable of granting 50 Arcane renews a day. The catch was, if all these charges were used in a day, it would disappear forever. Since it looked like it might be supporting the ceiling, none of us were keen on being in the cave if all the charges were used. At the point when I touched it, the pillar had 7 charges left. When more Orcs entered the room, demanding to see their leader, Nymbus erected his circle to protect the pillar and prevent the orcs from renewing at it. Without the aid of the pillar, these orcs were killed much more easily. One of them was carrying documents, which I will describe later. It would have been a great boon to our side if we had been able to keep this pillar standing… To our horror, Nymbus announced that the termites in the cave were also using up charges. We decided to drop the circle, and flee the cave. A few brave casters ran in towards the end to renew their spells, and that is how we discovered that the pillar was not holding the cave up, for it did not collapse when the pillar crumbled.
The documents were actually journal entries, written by a madman. The author described different physical and magical “experiments” that most would consider inhumane and disgusting. I will not detail them here, but it included things like forcibly mating different races/ monsters to see the results, and altering and combining the spirits of unwilling subjects to create an army for the Void of Corruption. Many who had traveled to Blackwell thought it sounded like it was related to the Terraverace. When I thought about it later, it seemed much more closely related to the Havoc Lord Kauffe in Greyhelm, and the 100 atrocities he needed to commit to achieve his ascended state. After we had decided to make copies of this and study it, a human with all black eyes came to town, seeking documents written by his Master. We soon discovered this human was chaos-tainted, and who knows what else. We did not know for sure what he was or who he served, but we all agreed that he should not get these documents. Since this chaos-tainted human had not yet attacked anyone, we all agreed it would be a good idea to test his reaction to seeing the documents. I brought them out towards the fire, where he was lingering, listening to the conversations of others. Sir Milo and Lady Akoya were watching, as well as Tamtur, Geryn, and many of the Order. May, Woot, and Kitty were also nearby. I was confident that if anything should happen, I would be well defended. My main concern was that this tainted human could rift. I brought out the documents, standing in a very small circle on the floor, just in case. The tainted human was very interested in them, and got uncomfortably close to me. I cast a circle of power, but he had a toe inside it. I don’t think I will ever understand how the physics of that situation work… but anyway. I quickly dropped that circle and moved to another. Although I considered his action assault, and expected everyone to jump on him, nobody else did. The tainted human was content to wait until my circle expired. My patience is not that long.
As I was explaining the situation, and reviewing the writings with Woot, waiting for the rest of the people gathered to decide this tainted human was bad news, I noticed that he was not moving or even blinking. Soon after I realized this, Patches hugged him from behind and dragged him away, stiff and unmoving. I couldn't help but grin at Patches' use of alchemy to end the standoff. Although I had planned on making copies of these documents for study, be they written by a Terraverace or by Kauffe… plans have changed. The writings will likely be destroyed – it is too risky to keep them. I don’t know what Patches did with the chaos-tainted human, but I did not see him again. Geryn placed Tamtur with me as a guardian, in addition to my Koukennin, for a large part of the evening.
It seemed the rest of the night would be uneventful. Just as we were all thinking “this is too good to be true”, the Kobold Ibnabn arrived, and warned us that the entire place smelled like Orcs. He also told us that the Oni are building war machines, from blueprints given to them. I told him of his goblin friend’s resurrection, and it further convinced him to not stand on the side of the Orcs. He did not stay for the fighting, but left to make sure his friends would be all right.
Soon after, we heard drumming and war-cries, and were attacked by a very large group of Oni. The battle was scattered, which made individuals easy picking for the casters. I also had the opportunity to discover what an excellent healer Iscariot is. He and I worked together for the rest of the battle, alongside Du’Kratha, Damakael, and Simon. I tried to keep track of my allies, but with the fighting so scattered, it became difficult to even tell friend from foe. Hobgoblins were setting up traps around the tavern and other areas on the battlefield, so between the Hobgoblins and Patches, I was sure to be careful of where I walked. One of the Orc leaders was a powerful Earth mage, and began to animate our fallen. This leader was eventually taken captive, but was killed after he tried to escape, and no useful information was gained. This is the same leader I referred to earlier, in the description of the Oni meeting. After a long battle, the Oni forces were defeated with few casualties on our side.
I was almost tapped of all my spells, with only 3 imprisons remaining in my memory, but was not nearly tired enough to retire for the night. So when a potion-maker came into the tavern later asking for help, I was more than willing to join in. Team Metal, Anno, Lord Ahnatar, Du’Kratha and I all volunteered to help. The potion-maker took us to his shop, claiming something he had been working on had exploded. His shop was full of oozes. Since our healing was low, and we had many fighters, I stayed in the doorway with Anno. At one point, the oozes got the upper hand, and had dropped Crimson and Du’Kratha. Blue barely made it to the doorway. I decided it was time for me to step in, and used those 3 imprisons on the oozes, leaving one standing. As Blue dispatched the one remaining ooze, we healed Du’Kratha and Crimson, and examined the room. The potion-maker rewarded us with potions and elixirs, and then asked us to help him find his cauldron, which had flown out the ceiling. We found it nearby outside, being…guarded?...by some plant creatures. I am not sure what alchemic effect the liquid in the cauldron had, but all the males with me seemed to love it.
While we were gone, everyone else had decided to go to bed. We did the same. Du’Kratha and I had to leave that next morning, so I do not know how the gather ended. I know there was another Oni assault on Sunday, and many were caused to resurrect. Cirus Baeden of the Black Shield met his permanent death that day as well. The Oni were winning the battle, and the adventurers present were forced to retreat through a magical gate. Many suspect that this success has galvanized the Oni towards further acts of violence against Evendarr.