Thursday, December 20, 2012

The thin blue line

Eight hundred blue Dragon-borns form a line around the city.
An additional hundred stand atop the hundred identical, slender towers.
They are supported by two hundred of the Black-cloaks and over a thousand Kobolds but Belgos knows that he and his kin are the real defence.
The kobolds are undisciplined and will break as soon as they are pushed and the Black-cloaks have no stomach for a real fight.
The Dragon-borns; they will stand firm. They are the true followers of Thereanthor, her true protectors.
The orcs facing them stand less than a quarter of a mile away. Dirty and pig-like but surrounding Khajag in numbers unimagined.
Not the hundreds he’d been told they’d be facing but, from what he could see, well over a thousand!
More disturbing though, is that they appeared organised.
Orcs, he’d always been led to believe, were stupid and incapable of following orders. Yet somehow five of the sundered orc tribes had, not only reformed themselves but allied themselves together.
Looking up at the sun, Belgos estimates the time to be just before noon.
Suddenly something appears in the sky…
An arrow flies high.
It’s followed by scores more…

Aurelius the never-was-chief

‘Another story!’ cried the grubby, little orc child.
Wurgoth smiled down on his grandson. He’d had lots of them but this one was his favorite.
Young but clever.
‘Calm yourself Ori. I’ll tell you one more… Long ago, before even I was born, there was a battle. The first battle ever fought by the reunited tribes.
Five tribes were there. The ‘Broken lancers’ the ‘Blood-bottlers’, the ‘Meat-drippers’, the ‘Flesh-lump-eaters’ and the ‘Bone-crunchers’. All led by their chiefs…
All except our tribe. Chief Orestes had gone to slay the dragon and left his most trusted general: Aurelius in command of his army.’
Ori sat up. ‘That’s not true! Chief Orestes did lead his army into battle!’
The bald headed Wurgoth smiled. ‘Yes, you're right but he wasn’t there yet.’
Repositioning his aching bones in the sturdy, wooden chair, the old orc continued.
‘The four chiefs of the other tribes met with Aurelius and each one bowed to him and took his instruction without dissent.
Each of the five mighty armies was divided into two parts and the ten divisions were lead by a chief or general.
Aurelius the wise lead one of the Broken lance armies and the mighty Bodan the other. Each commanded a hundred and fifty men. Boden though, like the other chiefs and generals obeyed Aurelius’ orders without question.
Each of the ten armies divided themselves around Khajag: City of the Blue prince Narcissus.
A magical barrier prevented living creatures from passing through an evil, magical barrier of lightning.
Each leader was allowed to decide upon their own plan of attack but they all knew that they answered to Aurelius.
On his signal the battle was started. Some of the groups attacked from distance with arrows. Some tried to topple the spindly towers that housed the magic. Some even charged the lightning field!
Aurelius was cleverer though. With shields raised, the majority of his division advanced upon the shimmering blue field of energy. A smaller group fired arrow upon arrow at the two figures atop the tower, preventing the evil Black-cloak from using his foul magics on the advancing orcs.
The Dragon-borns fired crossbow bolts but Aurelius’ men held their shields together so no bolts could penetrate.
When they got to the crackling energy screen, they halted and thrust their long spears through.’
Wurgoth clears his throat as he sees his little grandson’s eyes start to droop.
‘The Dragon-borns were no cowards. They wanted to fight and so they advanced. They passed though the energy shield to get to our warriors. They were seemingly unhurt but this didn’t surprise Aurelius. In fact Aurelius smiled, for now, in the open, his Broken-lancers outnumbered the spread thin troops of the Dragon.
The battle was furious and unrelenting. Orc and Dragon-born alike died by the sword and spear. Aurelius though had superior numbers and the Dragon-borns had no reinforcements because they were fighting battles on all sides.’
‘And then what happened?’ Asked the young orc in awe.
‘Then?’ Wurgoth smiled. ‘Then, when only a score of Dragon-borns were still standing on our side of the magical barrier, Orestes appeared as if from nowhere atop the tower nearest them and struck the head clean from the shoulders of the Black-cloak there.’
‘Where did he come from?!’ squealed the little orc.
‘Well, that’s a different story but his actions caused the magical barrier to fail. Aurelius took advantage of the momentary confusion and charged through. He and his men killed every Black-cloak and Dragon-born they encountered but more importantly, they broke into the nearby towers and killed each mystic powering the barrier. Soon the disciplined Dragon-borns had to break formation and as soon as they did that, they were lost.’
The old orc pulls himself to his feet and kisses his grandson on the forehead.
‘Many orcs died in that battle but it was a great victory. The tribes reunited. Thereanthor’s son killed and enough treasure found to provide all the weapons needed to fight the coming war. Your great, great grandfather fought that day. He was barely more than a boy himself but he always said it was the proudest day of his life.’
The little orc’s eyes were now nearly closed, ‘Was wise Aurelius ever a chief?’
‘No my grandson. Never a chief but instead he became so much more. He became the Chief of chiefs’… ‘But that’s also another story’.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Bodan and the Owlbear

It had been decades since the sundered tribes of the orcs had been reunited but the old stories were still told and retold with relish. This story especially was one favored by the children.

The wise women hushed them all before she began…

The mighty Bodan stood at the front of the ‘Broken lance’ army and surveyed the scene.
Never in living memory had so many orcs stood together.
Not just the ‘Broken lancers’ but also the ‘Blood-bottlers’, the ‘Meat-drippers’, the ‘Flesh-lump-eaters’ and the ‘Bone-crunchers’.
Aurelius the wise had divided up the armies into ten groups, each led by a different chief or general.
Bodan’s group was over a hundred orcs. All eager for battle.
The opposing dragon-borns were on the other side of the accursed blue screen of death…
An evil magical barrier that killed any that passed through.
Bodan looked at the massive, black metal box he had pulled with him.
Much taller than the biggest of orcs and just as wide.
Only Bodan’s bloodlust could match that of the creature held captive within.
An Owlbear!
The most ferocious creature ever to live.
A creature that would kill you, as soon as look on you.
Before ordering his men to release the crazed owlbear, he organised himself to be tethered to the creature by one of the ten-foot long metal poles used to control it.
Once free though, the huge creature lunged at Boden but Bodan didn’t flinch.
Because of the long metal rod between them, neither could reach the other.
He would have been pushed over but instead he took the impetus and charged instead at the blue barrier.
It was over a hundred feet away but on he ran. Pursued by the screeching owlbear.
The Black-cloaks atop the nearest stone towers did nothing.
The Dragon-borns behind the shimmering screen did nothing.
Bodan ran until he was within touching distance of the crackling field.
The Owlbear though, frustrated by not being able to reach Bodan, ignored the intangible light barrier and barreled straight through it.
The lightning field crackled but did not stop the mighty beast and it slaughtered two of the scaled Dragon-borns before they could even recover from their surprise.
Straining his powerful muscles, Bodan dug in his heels and directed the, now frenzied, beast towards the other stunned Dragon-borns.
Dozens went down before the howling Owlbear finally dragged Bodan through…
The lightning field crackled and primal energy coursed through Bodan’s thick skin.
Expecting to die, Bodan released his berserker spirit. He didn’t even notice that he was still standing.
Mighty Axe swinging, the savage Bodan was lost in his fevered dance of death.
Standing back to back, the mighty Bodan and the psychotic Owlbear cut a bloody mess through the Dragon-born ranks.
None could stand against them.
On seeing their leader survive the magical energy field, all his waiting orcs charged forward.
The Black-cloaks rained lightning and thunder upon them…
But on they ran.
The wretched Kobolds threw so many javelins at them, that the sky turned dark…
But on they ran.
But when they ran through the barrier…
These orcs were brave but most of them lacked even a measure of Bodan’s toughness. His resilience in the face of unwinnable odds.
More than half their number fell to the evil Dragon magic but on they came, throwing themselves at all enemies.
In the midst of them all, covered in blood, Bodan found himself panting with exhaustion. All his enemies lay dead around him and only the sound of the growling owlbear behind him broke the eerie silence.
Locking eyes with the amber-eyed monster, held out of reach by the metal pole connected to his waist and the creature’s neck, Bodan unfastened his belt.
As it fell to the floor, the wild, Owlbear understood that it had been freed.
With a screeching howl the huge Owlbear blinked twice, turned and tromped back, seemingly unfazed, through the blue energy field and headed back toward the forest.
Bodan still felt the link they shared though.
No longer a link of chain and steel.
A link of understanding, ferocity and mutual respect.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Blue Prince’s hopefully useful treasure

In addition to the 6,680gp worth of diamonds already received for Morten’s head and the wagon full of rotting, severed orc heads, the party found loads more in Narcissus’ ‘secure’ lair…

A Summoner’s Tome +4 Lvl:20 125,000gp (AP)
A Crown of the World tree: Lvl:18 85,000gp (AV1)
A Holy Symbol of Hope +4 Lvl:18 85,000gp (PHB1)
A Belt of Breaching: Lvl:19 105,000gp (AV2)
Some Aqueous armour +4 (Mindweave Cloth) Lvl:19 105,000gp (AV1)
A Ring of true seeing Lvl:19 105,000gp (PHB1)
A Cloak of the shadow thief Lvl:19 105,000gp (AV2)
A Footpads friend Rapier +4 Lvl:20 125,000gp (AV1)
A Totemic spear +4 Lvl:17 65,000gp (AV2)
A Healer’s brooch +4 +4 Lvl:19 105,000gp (AV1)
A Cord of foresight: Lvl:18 85,000gp (AV1)
A Liar’s trinket: Lvl:18 85,000gp (AV1)
And a Handy haversack: Lvl:10 5,000gp (PHB1)

Also, Diamonds worth: 698,499gp.
306 Platinum pieces.
270,834 Gold pieces.
689,241Silver pieces.

I really hope you can use some of these things. If not, you can get about half-book-value for them in any city. (Town’s would probably give you a lot less.)

Take what you want but declare it by stating your claim on this post.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Sharab Spring

The Sharab are an ancient people - humans, desert hardened, once great sea traders.  They made a life out of the most inhospitable part of the Furnace Coast and it's unrelenting dry heat. More than merely eking out an existence, they founded great cities, built on the wealth brought over the sea from far away fantastical kingdoms.

But, that history is old and in the recent years leading up-to the rule of Thereanthor, their cities had become disheveled  their larders emptied and their people scattered.
Still, there stood Febril; shining like a jewel wrapped in a desert cloth, the greatest trading port in all of Fissa.

It was the one place kept alive as, since being taken by the holy order of St. Cuthbert, the power shifted away from the ancient Sharab people and to the incomers in Febril.  The Sharab became a minority in their own land and few now refer to them as such anymore.

A hundred years later and this land is now utterly ruled by Thereanthor, as is everywhere from the south of Fissa where the dragon's eldest son Yddraig rules, through the mountains running East and West, right up to the North and Gom Dulat the power base of the Ancient Blue herself.

But, something is changing. The black cloaks are becoming fewer. Some suspect that those under the cloaks are not the formidible dragon force that once they were.  It is also clear that Thereanthor has eyes elsewhere and pays little attention to the subjected Furnace Coast. Despite this the black cloaks have been raising higher and higher taxes with local leaders assuming jumped up political powers and wielding them with a cruel hand.

You can pull a people so far, and no further. Their fabric was woven of the tough and proud Sharab, and at some point it could be pulled no more.  The *Snap* was audible.  In a little town of Bouazizi the market traders revolted, threw out the black cloaks and  never looked back.

Inevitably, the eye of the dragon must be drawn to them, and they will pay a terrible price.  But the delay in it happening is baffling.
Why is she distracted? Who knows.
Why are the black cloaks not able to cope? Who can say?

And all the while the revolution rumbles on.

Horde of the ring

Aurelius: general of Orestes' army, stares blearily at his battle plans. It shows a small city approximately a mile in from the circle of slender towers that surround it.
A ring of death.
The vast majority of Narcissus’ defending forces will be positioned just within this circle of blue light.
If he can get past that first barrier, the city itself will be no obstacle.
But how?
His attention is pulled jarringly from his plans by a young orc guard.
‘Sir, we have some new arrivals.’
The boy looks a bit unnerved but rather than ask him to expand upon his statement, Aurelius, flanked by several of his trusted men, strides past the boy and out of his tent.
It is Aurelius though who is shocked now.
In front of him are hundreds of armed orcs.
Orcs baring the crimson and black tribal markings of the ‘Blood-bottlers’.
Looking around, Aurelius finally finds the broken-tusked, smiling face of Auzoux: Newly crowned chief of his tribe.
‘Auzoux, what are you doing here?’
Auzoux is larger and younger than Aurelius but his intelligence is quite apparent.
‘When we were packing up in preparation to move out, a few of my men noticed your group heading away from the main compound. Away but without your women, children and weak. I confronted the few warriors that you’d left behind and they told me of your plan.’
Aurelius looks up into Auziux’ battle-scarred face but lets the other orc continue talking.
‘I’ve brought about half my force. Three hundred fighting orcs. If you’re going to war, we want in!’
Aurelius can’t help but smile. What seemed like hopeless odds have just changed dramatically.
‘I’m glad that makes you happy, as all the other chiefs are just a few hours behind me. Knut leads over two hundred of his Meat-drippers. Ragnar, from the Flesh-lump-eaters has about the same and Unger was bringing up the rear with a hundred of his Bone-crunchers!’
Aurelius steps forward and grasps Auzoux by the forearm. ‘My friend, you are more than welcome. You are all most welcome. With over a thousand orcs, this battle will go down in history!’

Monday, December 10, 2012

A battle well thought

The Blue prince: Narcissus continues to flap his wings, even as he steadies his breathing. Should he hold his position, high above his aggressors or should he dive into his secure den?
It’s only been a few moments since the attack began but already his personal guard’s been devastated.
Even one of his devils has been dismissed.
Still, his other troops will already be on their way to help.
His troops that are all currently positioned half-a-mile away, spread between all the towers.
It’ll take them too long to get back!
And, if they leave their defensive positions, the advancing orc horde will have an easier time breaching the cities defences.
Now Narcissus understands the mercenaries timing.
They had depended upon his arrogance.
He had allowed them into the heart of his kingdom.
Into his very throne room, while the majority of his soldiers were too far away to defend him.
Clever little monkeys!
With the keen eyes of a flying predator, Narcissus looks down at the mercenaries again.
He sees at least one bow slung over one of their shoulders.
Injured as he is, he can’t risk one or two lucky shots.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Warfare is based on deception

Standing at the head of his army, Aurelius breaks though the last of the trees and organizes his troops along the dirt road.
Three hundred orcs.
Three hundred fighting orcs!
Ten times the number he’s been used to commanding.
It’s a shockingly large number and he knows that every one of them will give their all in the upcoming battle.
Khajag is still hours away but Aurelius knows that the Blue prince’s dragon-born troops will already be waiting for them. He made no attempt to hide from the ever-present raven familiars circling overhead.
Narcissus will know they’re coming.
That was their primary objective though. To trick Narcissus into posting his forces away from his palace. To deprive the young dragon of support when his chief Orestes strikes.
Noon tomorrow.
Camp is set, fires are made and food is cooked.
No reason for subtlety.
Aurelius can’t rest though. He has struggled for two days to come up with a plan that will enable some of his brave orcs survival.
The battle, though vital, is unwinable.
Three hundred orcs verses at least four times that number of spell-casting Black-cloaks and Dragon-born warriors. And that’s not even including the thousand odd kobold skirmishers.
He does have two advantages though:
The first is that the blue barrier, though impressive, isn’t actually a barrier at all. It may stop living creatures passing through but it does nothing to prevent arrows or bolts.
The second is that although Narcissus’ troops massively outnumber his own, they will have to spread themselves thinly around the whole city.
Advantages true but still not enough to win…