Session Fifteen: The Worm Slain

Session Date: March 8, 2008

Facing the Worm
(Evening of 20 Azura TR 720)

The session began exactly where the last session had end. The temple founders Maban, Kalrun, Jaroud, were in the ancient barrow, facing H'flokgh'ka, the ophidian snake-man Elder Brood Ivashu that they had sought out. Duglan was lying on the floor between them, unconscious, with a dark bruise on his neck. The location of Bowdyn— and the escaped slave/prisoner was unknown. The Nolah who appeared to serve H'flokgh'ka had left the barrow earlier. A faingt glowing light came from somewhere behind the great worm-man.

H'flokgh'ka spoke further with Maban, who was sparing in the translations that she offered to the others. Judyn tried to make out what they were saying from practice in listening to Maban's dialogue with the creature. However, she could only make out only a few few basic words-- like references to souls, harvesting, and spawning. Maban agreed to H'flokgh'ka's requests for the group without reservation, affirming they would bring a cart to transport it to Coranan, so that it could gather souls there.

H'flokgh'ka also spoke to Maban about Duglan, whom it called an "unfaithful servant". Specifically, H'flokgh'ka said that Duglan had perviously served it, and brang it many souls to harvest and much flesh to eat. But then, he fled its service and never returned. It wanted to eat Duglan in punishment, but Maban persuaded it that Duglan had come to make amends. She also revealed that Duglan had become an Ilviran now and H'flokgh'ka looked at him before pronouncing, "It is true, upon death, his soul is already fated to Araka-Kalai; there is no need to harvest it." Maban did reveal this conversation to the others.

At Maban's suggestion, they all then backed out of the barrow with due reverence to the creature, taking Duglan with them.

Once outside, they collected things they had left (Kalrun's armor, etc.). The also found encountered Bowdyn, who had gotten lost when he (along with everyone else) came under the brood's influence. He had been brought back by the Nolah, apparently under the creature's charming powers, as he still seemed rather confused and disoriented.

Judyn at first wanted to follow and recapture the escaped slave/prisoner, saying that it would be better for him to die a clean death than starve in the wilderness still bound. However, daylight was fading fast and tracking him was nearly impossible, so she abandoned the idea.

Maban urged that they had to get far away from the place, and urged them to march on into the night. Eager to know all that she had learned from her speech with the creature, the others agreed and began traveling. As they did, Duglan woke up. Once he heard what had happened, he insisted they had to return to the barrow and kill the creature. The others tried to persuade hthat he needed rest first but he ingored them and started running back himself. Fed up, Jaroud smacked him on the back of the head to knock him unconscious once more. Carrying him, they marched through the dark forest back towards Taztos. Tired after nearly a full day's march out to the site, they eventually became lost in the woods (due to Orienteering roll), and stopped to camp.

Ilvir's Will Revealed
(Late Night / Early Morning 20-21 Azura, TR 720)

Exhausted, they set up their camp. Satisfied that they were beyond the reach of the creature's mind-controlling powers (the result of a successful Ivashu-wise roll), Maban told the others everything that H'flokgh'ka had told her. She emphasized particularly that it was not interested in collecting the souls of Ilvirans— but that it did want to collect as many souls of others as it could, to eventually return them to Araka-Kalai, so that they could be used to spawn "The Lesser Brood. It preferred human souls to those of animals, and prized elven souls above those of humans.

She also related what it said of Duglan, which clearly implied that Duglan had been lying about part of his story. He had served the Elder Brood under its power, bringing it the bodies of his fellows. However, at some point he had run off.

Maban was confused by the revelations of the day, and had no overt sense of the meaning and purpose of things yet, saying that she must dream on the subject. Judyn said that she was frightened and disturbed, but that she felt the fearsomeness of the Elder Brood was a test of their faith in Ilvir. If they believed in him, they would trust in his creations. Kalrun believed that they should use the thing to gain power, and feed their enemies to it. However, Jaroud stated bluntly that he felt it would destroy their church, but did not clarify or discuss the matter. Bowdyn was undecided in his thoughts regarding H'flokgh'ka.

As they were all exhausted, the made camp and prepared for sleep. Maban prayed for Ilvir to give her a dream that would clearly show the way she was to pursue. She implored Ilvir to give her a clear and unambiguous signalas to what she was to do [This was a "Find the Path" Faith roll that was successful] Duglan stayed unconscious, and the others slept without setting watches or binding him, though Jaroud set his dogs to keep guard their perimeter.

In the night, Maban received the requested dream from Ilvir. She found herself in dark, stone space, not unlike the barrow inhabited by H'flokgh'ka. She went to the back of the tunnel or barrow and there she found tFulsha -- the Nolah who had raised her. Fulsha chided her for leaving before her task was complete. She expressed confusion about hwat what her stask was to be. Fulsha told her about the "Great Orb", the vessel in which the Elder Brood stored that souls that it collected. Maban appeared confused and Fulsha turned and then held in his hand a 1.5 foot-in diameter glowing irrdescent sphere. Maban recognized it as the source of light in the back of the Nolah's chamber.

Fulsha further explained to Maban that, thought he Orb was not completely full, Ilvir wished for the Orb to be returned to Araka-Kalai now. "The souls have waited far too long to be reborn— the vessel no longer need be filled." Maban inferred from this that H'flokgh'ka was clearly in the wrong in wanting to harvest more souls— and that thecreature should instead be seeking to return to Araka-Kalai now. Maban expressed unceratinty to Fulsha as to how they should obtain the Orb from H'flokgh'ka. Fulsha suggested several possiblities— force, persuasion, and divine command.... though he warned that they are likely to be unsuccessful.

Maban awoke in the morning and told the others of her dream, which persuaded the others that they must wrest the Orb from H'flokgh'ka. Even Kalrun, who had been thinking that they should embrace the creature iinto their group and feed their enemies to it, agreed that Maban's vision must be true. ("Her visions have not led us astray in the past.")

So, it was now clear what they must do... they must get the Orb of Souls and return it to Araka-Kalai. The only remaining question was “How?”

The Plan
(Morning / Afternoon , 21 Azura, TR 720)

The missionaries and Duglan (who woke up with a splitting headache and who did not recall much of the last evening's events at all) developed a plan to get the Orb of Souls from the Elder Brood.

They agreed on several key points to their plan. They would go and get a cart as they told the creature they would do— since they felt it would be much more vulnerable while it was in the cart in their power, rather than in the lair it had made for itself. They would play along with it until they felt that they could safely attack it. Judyn suggested that they could take it much to the way back towards Araka-Kalai and even get its help in killing Analia's uncle before betraying it. However, the others felt that too risky.

Eventually they agreed to built a pit trap between the old barrow and Taztos that they would lead the cart to. They would dig the pit so that the cart would overturn and dump the creature into the pit. They could reasonably have pitch and other flammables in the cart to be dumped with it, ostensibly for camp fires, that they could then be set alight. In addition, Maban would see about turning the Nolah to their side.

Finding a good spot along the way back to Taztos— Jaroud, Kalrun, and Duglan stayed behind to dig the pit. (Kalrun had brought a shovel with him, and they took turns using that and their hands. Bowdyn, Maban, and Judyn continued back to Taztos to obtain a cart and more equipment for the trap, including spikes and pitch and oil.

Holy Shit!
(Evening, 21 Azura, TR 720)

Arriving safely back in Taztos, Bowdyn, Judyn, and Maban found that the large party they had passed on the Salt Route several days back had arrived at the fart. This was a large party, with six men-at-arms, approximately as many slaves, and two learned men, one of whom appeared to be in charge. The group well-equipped with considerable digging equipment— shovels, picks, wooden beams, spikes, and the like

Judyn went to talk to the man in charge. This turned out to be a member of the Guild of Arcane Lore, Malaris of Shostim, a Rethemi man in his fifites. Malaris had apparently come with official sanction (he had obtained permission from botht he Magistrate and the Marshall of Ramal province) to excavate a number of the old Jarin burial mounds in the area. The commander of Taztos, was apparently upset at this, but had no authority to stop them as Malaris had a writ from his superior officer. Malaris seemed quite pleased with himself over this.

Malaris asked Judyn about her and the others' activities. He remarked that it was unusual to see two women, and a barely armed man strolling by themselves in barbarian-filled wilderness. He noticed their accents and asked them how long they had been out of Melderyn. Thought he did not say so openly, it is possible that he suspected that the group were Melderyni wizards.

Judyn told him that they were Ilvirans from Kaldor who had come to Coranan to found a temple. They had heard word of a lair in the wilderness near Taztos that was once inhabited by an Elder Brood, and that they wanted to collect its "leavings" (i.e. shit) as holy relics for their temple. This story was plausibly close to the truth, and explained their need for a cart and digging equipment— while discouraging further investigation, for who but Ilvirans would be interested in Ivashu feces?

She succeeded wildly in convincing him of this (9 successes on Persuasion), and talked him into selling him more supplies than they needed, which they accepted. (Privately, Judyn was upset at his breaking into Jarin barrows, and while she didn't feel she could stop him, she at least wanted to undermine his efforts.) He even offered to lend some of his slaves to her, but she declined.

The Doomed Follower
(24-26 Azura, TR 720)

The next day, Judyn, Maban, and Bowdyn headed back off into the wilderness with thecard (which was pulled by a slow, but sturdy ox), returning to the place where they had left the others. The cart was tortuously slow to move through the woods— roots, uneven ground, branches, ruts, etc, caused problems at every turn. It took three full days before they reached the others.

Using the further equipment, they completed the trap. It was carefully constructed to be both hidden and deadly (5 successes). Also, the symbolism of killing a rogue Elder Brood with a pit was not lost upon them. They made a large spike at the center symbolic of Ilvir's tower within the pit of Araka-Kalai.

They then camped and set out the next day to finish their journey the Brood's barrow.. As they were going, however, Jaroud ]noticed a glint of steel behind them. He slipped off to double back with his wolf. Kalrun and Duglan stopped and drew their swords while the others continued on with the cart.

Jaroud successfully snuck up on the man following them, whom he recognized as having been a guard with Maralis's group (although he had not yet met Malaris. He stayed behind him, watching him move. The guard then saw the others waiting, and tried to run. Jaroud fired at him— a surprise blow. The bowshot glanced off his armor, but realizing he was surrounded, he threw down his arms when the others surrounded him. Kalrun called for Judyn to bring rope— and he tried to run again. With difficulty, they chased him down and overpowered him, this time tying him up.

They threatened him severely for meddling with them, but he claimed to only be following the orders of his master without knowing why. Judyn spoke kindly to him, trying to convince him that they had built the pit as part of a secret ritual of their order— but they were harming no one and he needn't report this back. He claimed to agree with this, but Judyn could tell he was lying.

They then considered tying him to a tree for several days to prevent him from seeing anything further or reporting back. However, while they discussed this, Kalrun stalked up to the hapless guard and slit his throat without warning. Kalrun explained that he had to defend the group, and this man and what he would say would be a threat to them. The others were only taken aback, but accepted his action. His body was thrown in the cart, to take to the Elder Brood.

The Surprise Assault
(Morning, 28 Azura, TR 720)

They took one more day to bring the cart all the way to the creature's barrow. As they neared, Jaroud's wolf Black Claw rushed forward ahead of them. Jaroud tried to call it back, but he could not. Once again, Jaroud's hounds began behaving strangely as well. He told them to stay behind.

Once they came to the barrow, they saw Black Claw on the ground at the front of the barrow ripping flesh off what appeared to be a dismembered human leg. The leg was muscular and meaty— and the group realized that it must belong to the runaway prisoner/slave. The Nolah, emerged from some unseen hle in the ground, approached the wolf looking angry. Black Claw backed away from the leg, and the Nolah grabbed it and headed back towards its unseen hole.

Before it entered, however, Maban called out in Ivashi, greeting the Nolah. It waited for her and the other to arrive. Maban, apparently having decided to try another tactic to get the Orb from the Elder Brood, prayed to Ilvir to let the Nolah heed her call— and she then spoke to it in Ivashu, saying, "Your master, the Elder Brood is a Heretic. You must kill him." The Nolah bowed to her and said, "Thy will be done" and entered the cave, holding the meaty leg in its two hands like a great club, apparently to assault the great Elder One.

Though none of the party could make out what was said, the Nolah's bow of obedience and recognition of a few words enabled Judyn and the others realized too late what she was doing. Cursing Maban's impulsiveness, the others hurriedly drew their weapons and took off after the Nolah. As they neared the back of the barrow, they saw it strike the Elder Brood, but it then collapsed backwards as it was struck by a number of rocks and skulls hurled at it by some mystic force.

The men all charged forward then, while Maban rushed ahead to treat the wounded Nolah, and Judyn tried to slip around the Brood to grab the orb. Jaroud struck it first, but his blow glanced off the armor-hard plates of its skull. He was then lightly wounded as a skull hurled by some unseen force struck him in the chest, knocking the wind out of him.

The fight continued desperately. Maban had been unable to rouse the unconscious Nolah and hid in the shadows, though she felt confused, as if the Elder Brood were trying to manipulate her thoughts. Duglan gave dealt a minor blow to the cratures heavily armored neck, as did Jaroud. Finally, Kalrun struck it solidy in the chest, driving his shortsword deep through layers of scales and skin. Kalrun's strike stunned the creature and Bowdyn followed up with a nother strike to the its neck. It fell back, gasping and pleading it for its life in Ivashi. In triumph, Bowdyn sneered "Taste the cycle of life, bitch!"

Dying, the worm turned back towards the orb held within the coils of its long tail, that Judyn was just reaching towards. As it did, Duglan raised a final blow. The creature grasped the orb and began a long deep breath into it, as if exhaling its very soul, all the while staring at Judyn on the other side. As Duglan finished his strike, he beheaded the creature, slicing through its neck. The breathing stopped and the Elder Brood fell to the ground.

Judyn seized the Orb of Souls, which was 1.5' in diameter, perfectly smooth and round, like glass or polished marble, but which glowed with ever-changing irridescent lights. As she held it, she felt a tingling through her hands and arms— and some how she felt more alive or more aware than she had before.

(End of Session)