Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Time of the Tarrasque #13: Death Pleases the War Goddess

Our heroes include:
  • Edel Naergon, high elf bard (magician) 3.
  • Fatou, human wizard (evoker) 2/cleric of Yaziel 1; and Nochaesh, owl familiar.
  • Jubair, human rogue 3.
  • Jumari Boneface, half-orc inquisitor 3 [deity not yet known to most of the PCs].
  • Lucretia Scavola, half-elf monk (zen archer) 3.
  • ZhaZha, half-orc cavalier (order of the dragon) 3; and Zafira, camel mount.
They are currently accompanied by the human druid Tailless, and her axebeak mount Cluck. Last time, the party assaulted a hideout used by Ghost Fist Clan orcs, and took the leader, Ilgash, alive.

After healing themselves and exploring the small cave, the heroes decided to heal Ilgash enough that they could interrogate her. Edel tried to question her diplomatically at first, but Ilgash could see no reason she should cooperate. The bard then let ZhaZha take over: the cavalier bodily picked up Ilgash, held her against the wall, and aggressively commanded the prisoner to cooperate. This intimidation was very effective, and Ilgash provided them with the following information:
  • She works for Yazdanyar, warlord of the Ghost Fists. He is with the rest of the clan, up near The Stairs. (This refers to one of the few known routes that caravans can use to climb the Shalash Escarpment, located in the desert a hundred miles or so to the north.)
  • She is here to gather information on the nearby settlements, to learn if they are worth raiding. 
  • Jibral the alchemist was not a direct contact of hers, but he was friendly with the summoner Izaz, who was a member of her tribe.
  • The Ghost Fists worship the Lord of Endings. (This is one of the titles of Asmolon, god of the void and death.) 
  • Tarifa was their spy in Spine Hollow. Ilgash isn't important enough to know any other spies the tribe might use.
  • Yazdanyar is a human devotee of the Lord of Endings. The tribe follows him because he is mightier than any of their warriors. 
  • The Ghost Fist Clan numbers a couple hundred orcs. Ilgash wasn't sure how many priests the tribe has, but there are at least a couple of them.
  • Ragalash is an elf (or half-elf?) from somewhere across the desert, but Ilgash didn't know where Yazdanyar found him. Ragalash has dark purple skin and white hair. (This led Jumari to conclude he must be one of the semi-mythical drow.)
  • The Ghost Fists had no raids planned here--yet--but Ilgash expected more of the tribe to arrive within a week. 
  • The tribe has one or two other hideouts between here and their home base, but none as good as this one. 
The party deliberated about what to do with Ilgash. Lucretia, at least, did not want to kill her in cold blood, but they couldn't simply let her go, at least not before her fellow tribesmen arrived. The monk suggested they turn her over to the druids at Spine Hollow, like they did with the spy Tarifa. The others agreed to this, and decided that ZhaZha and Jubair would accompany Tailless back to Spine Hollow, which would take at least three days round-trip.

While that group was away, the others would prepare for the arrival of more orcs. They used brush to build some screens atop the lookout spire, so that Lucretia would have some cover there. Jumari climbed up to the hole the spring issued from, and found that it was too small to hold anything of interest (or danger). She also burned the pair of unholy symbols they had seized from Ilgash's group, as well as the creepy wooden mask one of them had worn. Fatou scribed a few scrolls--a luxury of time that traveling rarely affords her--and finally identified the pearl of power they took from Tarifa.

Their friends reached Spine Hollow, and delivered a report as well as their prisoner. They acquired more provisions, and asked if any more villagers could accompany them. Unfortunately, the Hollow could not spare more people. Jubair proposed a bargain with Tailless that if she came back with them again, he would stop asking her repeatedly about how to get a pet axebeak. She agreed.

Traveling by night, the trio returned to Ilgash's cave just before dawn on the 27th of Leaffall. This date is the Feast of Broken Swords in Thovalas, and is the holy day of Lucretia's goddess, Bellonika. The monk awoke before dawn to start her prayers, and used her quarterstaff to practice glaive katas (Bellonika's favored weapon). She was disappointed that there would be no deaths on this holy day, because that would please the war goddess, so instead she spent part of the day hunting.

The battle begins!
That night, late in the first watch, Tailless heard a group approaching their position in the ravine. She alerted Edel, who went into the cave to wake the others. Meanwhile, ZhaZha, who was also on watch, mounted her camel and moved to the druid's position. Jumari had just enough time to hastily don her breastplate before a small group of four orcs came into view of the party's sentries. The orcs paused, sensing something amiss, and the heroes attacked. Fatou blessed the party as Lucretia started shooting at the orcs from her vantage point. Edel cast grease between the orcs and his friends. ZhaZha rode forward to meet the orcs, easily crossing the grease but failing to spear one with her lance.

The orcs closed with the cavalier, and one struck her. Two of the orcs entered a rage, and one attacked ZhaZha while the other went after her mount. The first barbarian landed a lucky critical hit with his falchion that, with her previous injury, was enough to kill her, not just knock her out. The other barbarian wounded her camel.

Jubair, Jumari, and Fatou (the last two using expeditious retreat) reached the fight, and the evoker shot a force bolt at ZhaZha's killer. Edel cast hideous laughter on the same orc, and the camel promptly bit the now prone barbarian. Lucretia shot one of the non-raging orcs twice, killing it.

We removed ZhaZha's mini from the board when she fell
dead in her camel's space. 
The other barbarian ignored the camel--and suffered a bite of opportunity for doing so--in order to cross the grease and attack Tailless. Jubair moved to flank this orc, but missed. Jumari joined that fight, and Lucretia shot the orc. Meanwhile, Edel stepped away from the scary barbarian and healed the druid.

The fourth orc struck ZhaZha's camel, knocking it out. (However, it soon stabilized on its own.) The prone barbarian, who had shaken off the bard's spell, tried to rise--but the axebeak crushed his head in its huge beak.

The surviving barbarian struck Tailless again, but then suffered a sneak attack from Jubair and a falchion blow from Jumari. Fatou reached the druid and healed her, as Lucretia downed the orc with an arrow.

This left only one orc standing, who was badly wounded. It tried to withdraw, but was pursued and taken down by the axebeak.

Jumari examined ZhaZha and learned that it was too late to heal her, for she was dead. She then healed her fallen friend's mount while the party searched the dead orcs. They found a couple of potions, and some jars of black paste, which Jumari and Fatou recognized as black fester (an orc concoction that, when applied to weapons, causes the wounds they inflict to resist healing magic).

The party took ZhaZha's body back to Spine Hollow to ask the druids if they could bring her back. On the way there, Edel composed a song praising the cavalier's bravery, and recited it as part of their plea to the druids' leader, Razima. Because ZhaZha had died protecting Spine Hollow, the sylph agreed to cast reincarnate on her, but lacked the expensive oils required by the spell. The heroes would have to return to Zahallan to acquire them. (ZhaZha would also need some castings of restoration to remove the permanent negative levels incurred in returning from the dead, but that spell is not available to druids.)

The adventurers left ZhaZha's body and camel in the druids' care and traveled to Zahallan. They had acquired quite a bit of nonmagical loot from their past several fights that they had not yet had time to trade for cash, so they did that now. This gave them enough to buy the oils for the druid's spell, and a decent start towards the other spells their friend would need once alive again.

The day of the new moon fell during their trip back to Spine Hollow. Jumari took some time to move away the party's camp in order to conduct some prayers and rites in privacy. Fatou took note of her absence, and recalled that the half-orc had also vanished for some time during the previous new moon. Fatou observes Yaziel's holy day on the full moon, and knows Asmolon's cult holds unholy rites at the new moon. She was, however, fairly certain Jumari did not observe those ways, given the inquisitor's passionate hatred for the death god's cult. The wizard's curiosity finally got the better of her, and she asked Jumari what religion she followed.

Jumari answered that she followed "the Lost Egg." When that statement met blank stares from her companions, she related the short version of her god's story: At some time in the distant past, the two dragon goddesses, the Adamantine Dragon and the Scintillating Dragon, mated and each produced a single egg that they laid in shared nest. The Tarrasque hatched from one of these eggs, and devoured the other. Jumari worships "That Which Is Not and Should Have Been," the potential of the unborn god. She prays at the new moon because it is reborn then, with new potential. Similarly, the winter solstice is a holy day, when the year is reborn. Her religion is not a common one; she had known only three followers--herself, her master, and her sister--before Jubair had asked her the same question a few weeks before and decided to become a follower, too.

The group continued on to Spine Hollow. They gave the oils to Razima, who performed the reincarnation spell the next day. ZhaZha returned as a half-elf, apparently a mix of high elf and the pale-skinned humans of the northern continent, but she retained her gender and her previous body's bright red hair and blue eyes.

The party intends to continue the fight against the Ghost Fist clan, and plans to go looking for their home near the Stairs...


Hurray! The inquisitor's big secret is finally out in the open! You'd think PCs would be more nosy than this group has been. Now that the others are aware of it, I have added the Lost Egg to the Dragon Gods section of the religions page.
The new ZhaZha

ZhaZha's player is currently adjusting her character sheet, and reviewing the effects of the permanent negative levels she has to cope with until she can afford to clear them. She may seek out a side quest or two to earn the money to pay for the required spells, so that she doesn't have to beg even more from her friends. We have a few weeks to work on that before our next session, due to real-life transitions affecting our group.

Lucretia's player has defended her doctoral thesis and found a postdoc position. We're all very happy for her, but unfortunately, the job isn't local, so she will be moving out of state next month. This means that this was her last session in person with us before then. We've been considering our options for how to continue the game from here, and will start by having her join us remotely, through Skype or the like. Whatever we work out will also affect her husband, Jubair's player, who will be joining her after he finishes his degree this winter.  

Appendix: Previous Sessions

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