Friday, August 31, 2012

Session #23: So you're in the army now...

{For the record... I embellished some of the NPC's responses here, but nothing that changes what the players know.  I just decided to spice things up a bit with the descriptions and scenery.

Game clock resumes a little after dawn; 03/07/3200}

For a few blissful hours after they arrive, there is a sense of relief, even one of security if not safety while they wait for the bureaucracy to catch up with them.  The can see that the camp is a nest of tremendous industry and activity, but all of it is mobile to one extent or another.  Off in the distance they can see that the city farther down the eastern slope of mountains they had just crossed; it has smoke from several fires raging through different sections.  The camp itself has several black-smithies, a mobile Guild Foundry along with hundreds of tents and temporary structures to process and house the ever growing ranks of the Imperial Army.  Dotted here and there are the camps of mercenary units each with their specialties. 

The clergy of the Empire are well represented within the camp; Gorhan being the embodiment of honorable battle is the most prevalent, followed by Justica the Incarnation of Justice and wife to Gorhan.  Soleth the Sheppard and Protector of Souls also has a traditionally strong presence in military affairs due to their healing abilities, but mostly because the temple of Elyr has the unsavory practice of healing friend and enemy alike… which has a nasty habit of prolonging any conflict.  The fact that She is unwelcome doesn’t deter Elyr’s faithful from establishing a large contingent of the Temple of Blessed Relief, but it is set off and apart from the actual military camp.  

 Milo is disappointed to find out that Ormazd is not a very popular God within the Empire due to the fact that the Clerics of the Sun chose not to take sides in the civil conflict between the Empire and its Southern Province.  Additionally, the temples of Ormazd are found mostly in that province and elsewhere in the sandy dunes of the Lost Lands, so there is a general disapproval of his presence.  Fortunately Ormazd is the father of Gorhan and there is no escaping the fact that Milo outranks every other cleric here of his level or lower; with the only exception being the clerics from the Order of Soleth.  It is this rank that actually affords the adventurers some status and means the Commanders will at least have to listen politely to them before sending them off to fates unknown.

The first tendril of the Imperial bureaucracy to arrive is the Guild Road master for this line. On officious chap being carried about on a desk that has a half-dozen legs sticking out from underneath; a chair was affixed to the side opposite the viewer and there was a rather garish umbrella on a metal pole to protect him from the elements.  He had not seemed to be at all pleased by Archie’s tardiness and the Road Master wandered off with Archie following upon his cart… the two of them deep in a discussion that got more animated as they got farther away.  The Heroes of Silverton get the feeling that Archie is deep in one of the most important arguments of his life. 

After a little while a pompous looking man in robes arrives at their camp followed by a parade of servants each seemed tasked with carrying several thick tomes bound with heavy locks as well as several pieces of a portable office.   A few moments later most of the travelers from Silverton are gathered around as the servant’s dash about, efficiently setting up the desk and chairs and have his writing implements set for him as he sits down in front of an opened ledger.  He takes his quill from a servant who has inked it for him.

“I’m Lord Reginald of the Imperial Registry and now Quartermasters Office.  You have answered the call to duty and the Emperor salutes you.”  This was a practiced speech and not one that he seemed to particularly care for, or even believe.  He continues in the same disinterested voice, “Now, who are you that your service may be recorded?” The party of dungeon delvers decide to let everyone else get processed first, and when it is their turn they give their names and other pertinent information to the Lordly Scribe and then Milo takes full advantage of his rank, “I really think that the first order of business is to arrange an audience with representatives from the temples of Gorhan, Justica, and Thormyr.”

Lord Reginald is shocked at the audacity of being spoken to in this fashion and he blinks a few times not quite sure how to proceed.  “And why would you be important enough to merit such attentions?”

Dwight, in a deep flat voice; “That’s why we need the clerics here.  Without them no one would believe us anyway.”

This was most assuredly NOT the answer the lordly burocrat was expecting and as such he seemed more intrigued than annoyed.  A servant was waiting for him as he snapped his fingers, and the lord speaks over his shoulder absently, “You understand the requirements…?”

“Yessir!” and the servant is off and running even as Lord Reginald is vaguely waiving his hand.  Not once having even looked at the servant.

He continues, “Very well, but for your sake I hope this is not an attempt to avoid your duty, or worse… wasting my time.”

After the representatives from the various temples arrive, each of them tells their story; only leaving out things like treasure acquired and the part about handing over the key to the gypsies; but each of them makes sure that they are standing firmly within the Aura of Truth projected by the clergy of Justica.  By the time they are done there are several more clerics of Justica on the scene creating overlapping fields of influence just to see if these people had found some way to circumvent this divine power.  As the heroes stories come to a close Dwight turns to the clerics of Thormyr and unwraps the Sword of Conviction and says; “I think this belongs to you.”

Sword; “I belong to myself and the goals for which I was crafted by the hands of the Arch-druid Cyramath 3262 years ago!  My destiny was determined long ago and Thormyr guards the way to my future.  I have killed giants, and dragons, kings and paupers: but I was made to slay the Dread Watcher!”  The Sword knew this was likely its only chance, and was aided by the fact that it need not stop for breath, “It all started back in 1806 when the Red Emperor, the last Demon-King of Old Nimoria commanded the greatest demonic army ever summoned so that he might rid the world of non-human filth.  He ordered his arch-mage to devise the necessary rituals and in his researches, the Demonologist known as Skullshank summoned forth the entity known only as the Dread Watcher to instruct him.  It is a foul creature that has the power to see the past, present and future with perfect clarity and accuracy, and it told Skullshank that the Emperor’s command could only be fulfilled upon the solar eclipse in the summer of 3202.  Skullshank was ordered put to death, but the Emperor chose to summon his own army and to rely upon the Dread Watcher to help him crush his enemies.

But the forces of the Elves and Daenkelder still proved too much for his demonic horde, so he turned his attentions eastward to Kothia.  That mighty nation would have fallen were it not for the brave efforts of Arden Brightheart, myself, and his loyal company of soldiers.  We had lured the Nimorian forces deep into Kothian territory and hidden ourselves within a cave that had been blessed by Thormyr himself to shield us from the evil eyes of the Dread Watcher.  Thus vexed, the vile creature was drawn to the cave and there we did battle!  The brave and loyal company died to a man trying to contain the vile being once the trap had been sprung, but in the end it came down to Arden and I to vanquish the Dread Watcher for all of time and Arden allowed himself to be struck a mortal blow in order to skewer the foul spirit.  And his strike was so powerful that it pierced the Dread Watcher and pinned it to the wall of the cave where it remained as my ossified sheath for thousands of years… until that greedy beast of a man pulled me out and shipped me off like third rate luggage!  Then I was put in that awful cell until this uncouth man delivered me here.”

All of the Priests of Thormyr were pale by now and one of them stammers; “Then the Dread Watcher walks freely again?”

Sword; “For a good many months now… weren’t you listening?”

Different priest of Thormyr; “Yep.  That’s the Sword of Conviction all right.”

Dwight; “So it’s yours then?”

Priest of Thormyr; “No!  Our lord has chosen you. So it is up to you to complete this task.”

Sword; “May the Gods help us all…”  the rest is muffled by Dwight rolling up the sword into the leather sheet and then bound it off and secured it on his back again.

By now several of the officials and lords that were actually in charge of this camp were making alterations to their plans and handing over samples of the silver polish and distributing copies of the formula to the alchemists.  In the shuffle the commanders decided to formally assemble the Heroes of Silverton into a ‘Detached’ unit on special assignment.  They ask who is in charge and everyone but Dwight takes a step backwards… and that’s mostly because Bob got behind him and wouldn’t let him move.  The commander of the camp grants Dwight the field promotion to Knight-Sergeant of the Realm.  They tell him to report the command structure and coat of arms to the Registry and then recruit such troops as will volunteer. 

After this the meeting breaks up and the adventurers move back into the familiar surroundings of the train that they have lived in for the last week.  Of those who left Silverton, only the deankelder who finally introduces himself to them as Khrasus of Soulgrave, a weapon smith and mercenary by trade; Lex Anne, and the Gavid the Huntsman.  The rest were swallowed up into the camp and off to their various fates.

They appoint Milo as second in command, and Archie is the Quartermaster, so that makes him third in charge of the company.  Archie retains full command over guild property and they are not happy about the detached duty status… the Engineer's Guild likes to know where every engineer and piece of equipment is at all times.  As Dwight is briefed on the military command structure and their overall plan they ask him if his unit will be going with the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd wave of troops, or whether they will set their own schedule.  The first wave leaves in 4 days and then the others follow in 2 week intervals.  They decide to travel with the army on the third wave so they can take maximum advantage of the army’s resources and supplies; but most importantly, because they want to stay informed about all the latest developments.

The rest of the session covers the first 16 of the 32 days before they set out towards Blessings Be.  Most of this time is spent figuring out if they want to keep the passenger car and add personnel or drop the car and travel lighter with a minimum complement.  Archie says the pluming can only handle 30 more people beyond everyone that is already here.  {They go for the cannon fodder… I mean extra troops.Two of them are 1st level clerics of Elyr named Ethel and Nanda; Ethel has strength and agility scores of 5, but has a 17 stamina and 18 for Personality.  Two are wizards of Aristemis; brothers Earol and Marol Dayrl.  Earol is the elder and he has an Intelligence score of 13 and is 2nd level, but only has a luck score of 7 and s strength of 3.  {I have all the stats, saves, and HP for everyone on scratch paper… most won’t last long.}   

Including Khrasus and Gavid there are 20 warriors Khrasus is 4th level (Dwarf), there are 6, 2nd level warriors and 12 first level warriors.  All but Khrasus have studded leather armor along with a shield and axe.  Khrasus is wearing full platemail and a shield.  About 10 of the warriors are best as archers… and one was given permanent kitchen duty.

They asked around for any specialty troops, and managed to sign on 3 steam knights, which are another marvel of Gnomish Teknologie.  These are essentially a suit of full platemail that has steam powered gear-work and a gnome pilot inside of each.  There is also a trio of rangers who sign on.  A couple of clerics of Elyr named Ethel and Nanda follow Hearn back from their enclave when she returns from buying the healing supplies and tithing to her temple.

Thingerlun spends his time searching for the area set aside for his order of wizards, and is directed to a district on the edge of the camp where there are several huts and shacks that appear to have grown out of the ground as well as a great many ornate doorways standing all over the encampment.  There is no discernible pattern or distribution of the doors and no two are alike.  One of the huts is acting as a tavern (because none of the others will serve wizards) and after a day of poking around he gets the name and door number for the wizard he needs to see about procuring a particular spell.

An old scraggly haired man opens the door; “Who are you that you would bother Therard of Kassantia before mid-day!”

Thingerlun puffs himself up; “It is Thingerlun, Wizard of the 3rd circle of Aristemis.”

Therard; “Oh, your that chap with the dragon familiar?  What do you want?” And the old man came outside and locked the door behind him.

Thingerlun; “I was looking to trade for some spells.”

Therard; “Well, I doubt I have anything you’d be interested in, you can’t cast fireball yet.  I have Choking Cloud and Sleep; those are good spells against orc because they cover an area.”

Thingerlun; “Actually I have Sleep, and what I’m looking for is the spell of extra sensory perception.”

Therard looks at him quizzically; “Whatever for?  You going to sift orc minds for anything of value?  Waste of time boy!”

Thingerlun says with an element of detached boredom to his voice; “I’m going to sift their minds for the location of their leader and kill him.  The Scourge will dissolve if it doesn’t have a leader.”

Therard stands there for a moment like a horse that’s been pole-axed; “Ambitious.”

Thingerlun; “Do you have the spell I’m looking for or not? And if so what’s the price.”

Therard; “I do, but that is a second degree spell so I would have 2 spells of the first degree or one of equal value, might I look through you spell book to see if there is anything I don’t already have?”

It was an innocent enough question, but Thingerlun isn’t a fool; “No, you shall have to tell me what you are looking for.”

Therard; “Well, no harm in asking.  At the moment I could really use Force Manipulation and Ropework if you have them.”

Thingerlun; “Actually, I have the Force Manipulation, but how about Spider Climb instead?”

Therard thinks for a moment; “Yah, that’ll do fine.  Wait here; I’ll go get my things.”

A few moments later he returns and a mound of fabric follows him out the door and starts to assemble itself into a small pavilion with a writing desk and a few chairs.  Thingerlun recognizes that they are being set up by unseen servants; it seems that Therard is showing off a bit.  Therard sits down at the desk opposite to Thingerlun and opens his spell book to a blank page: now, you sit there and open your book to the right pages so that I may scribe the spells while you review this scroll I had prepared for just such an occasion.  Thingerlun unrolls it and recognizes the basics of the spell well enough to see that this is the proper spell and then opens his book to the right pages and then spends the afternoon enduring Therard’s feeble attempts at hospitality while the old man copies over the spells he bargained for.  When he is finished Thingerlun closes his spell book and starts to leave then stops and says; “One last thing…” and as he turns to face Therard to ask him another question he sees that Therard has adopted a combat stance and is pointing a finger at him getting ready to cast. 

Therard; “You’ll not get the better o’me lad!  No funny business!”

Thingerlun; “I was just going to ask if you knew of any wizards who might be interested in joining up with me for a detached duty assignment?  Especially anyone who’s good with pyrotechnics and large areas.”

Therard relaxes a bit; “Oh, uh… try over at the Bent Wand, ask for the Daryl brothers, they’re good at making things go boom.”  And then he dashes for the door and slams it shut, the pavilion seems to fade into shadows and smoke.

Thingerlun wanders over to the edge of the wizard’s sector to the make-shift tavern and after buying drinks for a few people he finds the brothers and asks them if they are interested in signing up with a special unit.  They are enthralled with him immediately and introduce themselves as Earol and Marol Daryl.  Earol has eyes of a strange hue: one has a red iris and one a yellow iris.  Both appear to be weak and sickly, and Earol is the worse of the two, but they seem decent enough for wizards.  Marol has a squirrel peeking out from underneath the hood of his robe.  Earol says; "You’re the one who has the dragon familiar aren’t you?”  Upon confirmation the brothers fall all over themselves in their haste to join the company.

Thingerlun is thinking to himself as they all walk back to the train; “Neither of them is anywhere near my level of intellect, but they will do for fodder…  Now I need to start working on the reverse of the ESP spell as well as some of the others in my book.Thingerlun spends the rest of his time studying his spells and learning some new ones.

About 2 weeks after they arrived at the camp, the reports from the front start to filter down to the troop level and the news is good.  The efforts to liberate Longdale are progressing well.  The Flying citadel Sable Tower has moved into position deep behind enemy lines to the north of Longdale and the Knights of the Sable March have disrupted enemy supply lines.  Gorhan’s Fury is still on course for its appointed role in liberating Arval City.

Bob has spent his time arranging for some better coverings for the ‘buggy’ that Archie is letting them use; Bob isn’t fond of the idea that there is no roof on the thing and he has a feeling they are going to need it before all of this is through.  Archie gets a list of modifications so he can start to make arrangements for augmentations to the passenger car.  It’s carrying all the armor it can, but the interior can be modified to a certain extent.  Hearn has one of the luxury rooms modified to serve as a clinic.  Lex Anne claims the other luxury cabin because no one else seems that interested and spends the entire time gathering information and brewing things with her alchemy tools and the rooms kitchenette.  Archie arranges to upgrade the clockwork motors so that the train will be able to travel off the main roadway with greater ease…

Plans within plans... they slowly prepare for the trek eastward.
{Game clock suspended at noon, 03/ 23/ 3200}

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Props Post

OK! Part of why it's taken me so long to get things caught up is that I've needed the time to get some of the props done.  Sorry it took so long, but I think these will help folks to get a better mental picture of the scenes in this story.  I sometimes forget that we have readers who can't see all of the props and maps that reach the table...  To that end here are some maps and pics to help understand some of the nuances of this story.

Map of the Scourge Lands 3198:

The main reason that the orcs are able to hold so much territory is that they take advantage of the fact that the dead don't stay that way.  They corral and direct the hordes of undead that the fighting creates back at their enemies.  A coalition of elves and the Barony of Koranth hold the eastern front, and the daenkelder (dwarves) hold the western front.  Thire and the Theocracy of the Lance are loosely cooperating, but there is still very little Imperial involvement beyond advisers and a few specialist troops.  The Cinai haven't been heard from in some time and are presumed lost or besieged.  The Free Cities of Amthor, Cyros, and Ilnoth still stand.

Scourge Lands 3199:

The blue arrows are the spring and summer campaigns of orcs sailing down Far Trader and Corsan  rivers as well as sending an armada across the High Sea.  Thire's forces are drawn away from Longdale to repel the orc landing force.  The forces of the Theocracy of the Lance are split between defending the shores of White Tip lake and Blueblade lake (just off the southern edge of the map) as well as the banks of the Far Trader river.  In the 'civilized' lands battles are fought in the spring and summer; leaving time to prepare for winter, and next season's campaigns.  The red arrows are the winter campaign... because the orc's don't play by 'civilized' rules of warfare.  

Scourge Lands 3200
(When the players hear about all of this.)

The Scourge have nearly enveloped Blueblade lake, have subdued large parts of the Free Holds and are pushing south for the Lirean Sea.  If they succeed then they will have completely severed contact between the western and eastern provinces.  Since this is something that the newly formed Imperial Government of Crieste cannot afford to let this happen they have formally declared war and are now putting their entire might into dealing with the Scourge.

The Train...  
It's amazing what can be done with some old cracker boxes and some paint... the last two aren't done yet, but eventually I'll make the time.

From left to right ->  (Game Scale 1inch = 5ft)
the engine (75ft long x 20ft wide x 25ft high)
the coal car (42ft long x 20ft wide x 15ft high)
the passenger car (42ft long x 20ft wide x 20ft high)

Top view:

Here's a shot of the engine by itself:
I have the interiors drawn out as well, but I'll save those for another post.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Session #22: Its better to be late than not arrive at all...


{Game clock resumes at 11:01am 03/02/3200}

Thingerlun has wandered over to see what all the fuss is about and finds Bob, Dwight and Pat running around the Guild Sub-station and bickering with each other about how best to put out the fire, and they all turn to Thingerlun and ask if he has any spells or incantations that might work.  Everyone is perfectly willing to ignore the fact that a dragon helped them on the general theory that if you ignore something long enough it will go away.  Eventually Pat asks if the dragon is coming back and do they need to hide.

Thingerlun, beaming proudly and pustulently; “He’s with me.  And no… I don’t have anything that might help, though if I remember correctly clerics can summon water.”

Pat, frustrated; “By the time they get here the fire will already be into the buildings!  I wish there was something I could do…” at which point the faerie that has been following her ever since she ran out and hugged that tree above the mines pops flutteringly into sight just above them all.

The tiny little blond pixie looks at Pat sternly; “Well fine!  But I do you a favor, you have to do one for us!” as she finishes her sentence a dozen more pixies and their male companions the peskies pop into view and start invoking their will upon the flames.  In a matter of seconds the fire is snuffed out as these air spirits create little vacuums that starve the fire and then all but the first one leave.  The pixie flits through the air towards Pat; as the pixie is tapping Pat on the forehead she says, “Now it’s your turn…” and they both pop out of existence.

There is a stunned silence for a few moments while Bob, Thingerlun and Dwight try to process what just happened in the last few seconds.  In the end, they say nothing as they head back to the road and the train that is waiting there for them.  They see that the cleric of Thormyr has been brought to one of the two luxury suites available in the passenger car and that Hearn has converted it as best she can into a clinic for the refugees and everyone else.  Bob, Dwight, and Thingerlun arrive just in time to hear Hearn tell Archie and Ffwylldyr; “The cleric’s legs will have to be amputated and he will need round the clock care if he is to live… he has been too long without healing and he has developed the Rotting Sickness.” She turns to Dwight, “Hurry! We must prepare and Milo is unable to assist me.  I need you to use that flaming sword of yours; it’ll cauterize the wounds quite well.”

Before anyone else can do anything, the cleric of Thormyr gasps out a faint plea, “… the scroll… must… read.” He passes out again.

There are quizzical glances all around the room.  Hearn pipes up with; “Hey! Where’s Pat?!”

Bob informs her of Pat’s abduction by faeries and Hearn replies; “Should we go after her?” She looks at Thingerlun, you could summon them up or something right?!”

Thingerlun looks at her; “Nope.”

Hearn, “There must be something we can do… maybe they took her back to Silverton or something… Hey Milo might be able to divine her location!”

Dwight speaks calmly to Hearn; “You need to heal this cleric or the curse we carry might spread even wider.  Focus on what we can change.”

Hearn, moving about mechanically to get the patient prepared, “Yes, but…”

Bob, exasperatedly;  “Look, she’s gone! OK!  If they are going to bring her back they will and there’s nothing we can do about it.” He turns and heads of to the wreckage to look for the scroll that the cleric had mentioned.  He finds the way in without difficulty by following Pat’s tracks in reverse, and after a minute or two of searching he finds it under a twisted gear the size of a serving platter.  He examines it as he strolls back to the passenger car.  He notices the Imperial crest at the top and the seal at the bottom and sees that they are authentic he starts to read but his eyes stop at the words “… all able bodied citizens are hereby called to serve the Empire in this time of war…”

Bob; “Crap!  I’ve been drafted!”  In a huff he heads back up to the lounge/ galley on the third floor to show everyone who isn’t involved in the surgery.  A fair few of the refugees that still have a few coins to rub together are swapping the little wealth they have on the Daenkelder’s supply of Battle Brew.  For while supplies might be low, this stone hard mercenary had found a keg and hauled it on board and was making a mint off of the small cups he offered.  Folks were glad of the small comfort it brought: as the cleric’s screams could be heard throughout the quiet plateau.

Ffwylldyr snatches the missive out of Bob’s hands; “Let me see that!”  He scans through it then clears his voice: “To all Imperial Citizens. The Scourge have broken the treaty of Ashaven and are marching southward along their entire front.  Longdale and Ashaven have both fallen to the Scourge, even now the towns and villages along the shores of the Blueblade and White Tip Lakes and the Verden Forest is in flames!  All imperial citizens are to report to their nearest deployment center.”  His voice trails off in shock and a general hubbub ensues as the characters and NPC’s realize the radical shift in paradigm.  At one point someone pipes up with, “Does your world have the equivalent of Canada? Probably not...”

Storyteller, “Actually you could always head north to the kingdom of Morrain, but is there any where you can go that will allow you to escape the end of the world?”

Archie walks into the room lounge laughing, “the looks on our faces are priceless… the passengers, the bard, and Thingerlun are the only ones who’ll have to go off to fight.  The rest of you are road marshals and subject to Guild Law… you can’t be drafted.”  Giggles some more as he starts tinkering with some greasy bits of clockwork. 

Ffwylldyr, “I’m afraid not my friend…” and he quotes from the missive again, “… By order of the Imperial Court, the Plenary Defense Clause has been invoked, effective from the 1st of March, 3200.  All...”

Archie is off the stool and grabbing the missive from the Bard’s hands faster than anyone thought he could possible move, his eyes angrily scanning the document. “PODERON’S BALLS!!!   They actually did it…” he was shaking now, but from anger or fear no one could tell and he stood there reading and re-reading the scroll looking for a way out.  Ffwylldyr says to everyone in the room, “The Engineer’s Guild hasn’t gone to war since the second Demon War; when Ghorrene the Black Eagle landed is forces on the south eastern shores of Crieste back in 2894.”

By this point heroes and refugees are both scrambling to remember everything they can about the Scourge, Ffwylldyr clears his throat and in a voice that commands attention he says, “AHA! Now this is something I can help with… I’m a Bard you know, I’ve studied up on these things.  ‘The Scourge’ is the general term for the tribes of orcs, ogres, and giants that traditionally roam the wild lands of the northwestern portion of the Midar-Luminar Steppes where it runs into the flanks of the Ul-Dominor Mountains and the Daenkelder that live there.  For uncounted centuries the orcs were content to build their numbers until they would raid south and east… their numbers would dwindle and the orc would retreat again for a few years.  In 3185 everything changed.  They raided east at the end of that summer and advanced as an organized force against the unprepared Grand Duchy of Leherty, also known as ‘Old Kothia’.  For all the wonders and splendorous achievements in art and civilization, they were ill prepared, poorly led, and it wasn’t long before the great capital of Araloges was overrun and its libraries set to the torch while the green bloods gathered slaves and treasure.  But the orcs didn’t go home… they overwintered in the shattered province and continued their eastern campaign only to be thwarted by the arcane might of the Barony of Koranth.  Undaunted, the Scourge then began their relentless march southward into the heart of the Empire.  With the Provinces striking out independently, they couldn’t call upon Imperial forces for aid and the Provinces of Thire and the Theocracy of the Lance were hard pressed to keep the Scourge from advancing.  The Scourge has proven to be the greatest threat to Humanity since the war of Divine Right.

However, by the autumn of 3198 the advance of the Scourge had slowed to a crawl, no one knows why, but it is thought that the territory held by the Scourge was simply too large for them to control.  Whatever the reason, Tarkhan Khurzog; Master of the Scourge, was brought to the bargaining table and the Treaty of Ashaven was signed in the summer of 3199.  It set the straight line between Hali in the west and Helsuk in the east as the new border with the Scourgelands… conceding all occupied territories to the green horde.”

Dwight had joined them near the beginning of Ffwylldyr’s recital, having fulfilled his duties in the clinic, and he says, “Well, I guess we’re going to war.”

Thingerlun, “That’s fine and all, but there is the matter of this curse we are traveling under that is more important at the moment.” The lounge goes silent.  He continues, “How long until the cleric is well enough to perform the necessary rituals?” 

At this point several of the refugees start to fidget and ask questions like “What curse?” and other problematic questions.  During the course of the explanation it is determined that the heroes aren’t the only ones suffering under this affliction.  This information comes to their attention via the two main reactions to the revelation of the curse… many of the refugees swarm the heroes and demand a cure… several others jump out the windows and doors turning into hybrid rat-humans and run for their freedom.

They decide to wait on the plateau until the cleric is well enough to perform the ritual and after two days with little to do but discuss how they are going to cast a ritual large enough to help this many people, as only 4-5 of them ran off into the hills.  Milo and Hearn are managing to feed everyone with the Food of the Gods ritual, but even their greatest efforts wouldn’t be enough to feed everyone, but the Gods are merciful and everyone is gifted with a handful of granola mix and dried fruit.  Hearn notices that there are some rather lavish accommodations available on the luxury level, and that maybe the shower or steam room could be made to deliver the holy water as efficiently as possible to larger groups.  Which in turn led to the general discussion of the boiling point of holy water, whether the deity mattered, and would boiling it nullify its ‘holy-ness’?

Hearn eventually recovers from the horror of realizing that she left all the other folks behind and infected with this awful curse.  She redoubles her efforts to cure the folks that she can save, realizing that if the world dies… everyone dies.”

Thingerlun spends the time getting to know his new and best of friends, Sythrixis.  It turns out that he is only 42 years old and rather young for a dragon to be off on his own, but he sought out Aristemis as a Patron in order to help him gain the most from his draconic casting abilities.  She commanded him as sign of his loyalty to her that he should answer Thingerlun’s call for a Familiar.  To Thingerlun he says, “Our Lady of battles calls us to war my Arcane Brother, IT SHALL BE GLORIUS!!!”

And in the tiny portion of Thingerlun’s mind that was all his own, he thought “Oh great, A Gun-ho lizard…”

During this time the Heroes of Silverton meet one of the passengers that had here-to-fore gone unnoticed.  She is about 7ft tall and dressed in a black travel worn oiled-cloth coat and a wide, stiff brimmed hat of a circular cut. There was a veil of gauzy black silk attached on either side of her head, just above the ears in the fashion of the people of the Southern Province.   The drape of fabric hides all but her green eyes.  She has no obvious weapons beyond the longsword at her waist or the short bow and quiver on her backpack.  She moves with an unnatural grace.  The first time they interact with her is when they find her reading the missive and checking to see if it is a forgery. 

Bob is in the lounge and the rest of the party are off setting up the bath-works on the floor above them; “And you are?”

Tall Dark Stranger; “Lex Anne” and she continues to examine the document. 

Bob: “I haven’t noticed you around here,” pauses for a moment, “quite a trick.”

Lex just shrugs.  “I was in Silverton when everything happened, but I managed to hide in the hinterlands above the valley.  When you folks said you were heading east I tagged along, as I was heading in that direction before the snows fell.” 

Bob; starting to get frustrated, “And you were traveling because…?”

Lex; “I work for an import company in Kassantia.”

Bob sighs, “Doing…?”

Lex, looking at him now; “I’m in acquisitions.”

Bob, understanding blossoming through him; “AHA!  Southern Ditch Diggers contingent!”

Lex; "I’m an Imperial citizen like the rest of you, that’s why I’m so interested in this.” She throws the page to the counter.  “I guess I’m traveling with you folks for a bit longer than I thought.”  And she wanders off to think about things.

Later that evening {03/04/3200} the Cleric of Thormyr speaks to everyone from his bed via the intercom and tells them the story of what happened here on the plateau.

“The major reconnections for the road had been made and the paving work was in progress while the secondary functions were being laid out.  That is when the Giants attacked; it took us completely by surprise… and we were seriously under staffed for a long trip into the mountains.  No reinforcements came in answer to our messages and every day the danger of being attacked grew heavier upon us.  I set watches as for out from the encampment as I dared, but it was for nothing.  I still don’t know how they managed to sneak up on us, but one minute I’m mitigating yet another dispute between department heads and the next we are fighting for our lives from the onslaught of boulders and debris falling from the sky.

In the scramble for cover, we lost two of the engines over the side of the cliff as the giants pressed their attack using their clubs as levers.  There must have been at least 2 dozen of them and while they were attacking the cars and engines they could reach, the rest of us managed to man the defenses of the rest of the vehicles.  It was a standoff for about a day and a half, when suddenly the stones on top of the hill exploded with such titanic force as I could never have imagined before.  It took off half the top of the hill with it, but the force and the debris killed the giants and sent yet another of the engines to the savannah below.  It also crushed the engine I was in as it was rolling and tumbling towards the edge of the cliff, which is when my legs were crushed.  I hadn’t the strength to do more than bandage the few survivors in the wreck and cast the sanctuary spell, hoping Thormyr would see to the rest.  The zombies were hammering upon the wreck for… I don’t know for how long actually…”

{As to the ability of dispensing holy water through the pipe works, I left that up to a luck check against a DC of 15… Milo got a 19. } So the clerics set about sanctifying the various pipes and fittings with the proper runes and sealing them with the proper rituals.  It still takes them two days to get everyone through the process while the Cleric of Thormyr performed the cleansing ritual over and over again.  The process didn’t finish without at least one death threat.  Bob didn’t want to go through the ritual and wanted to be a were-rat.  He even went to extraordinary lengths to avoid being noticed when the groups were being shuffled into the water works, but eventually Milo threatened him, “You get in that shower or I’m going to have to kill you.  Nothing personal, but you are cursed… and you need to keep spreading it and killing people to get the most out of it and I simply can’t have that.”

They have to resort to grabbing Bob and forcing him into the shower; but eventually everyone is cured, whether they wanted it or not. And they must start planning what to do next.  Dwight finds Archie looking after some equipment on the exterior bridge, of the engine.  “Hey Archie, where do we go to find one of these deployment centers the scroll spoke of?”

Archie wiping grease from his hands with an equally greasy cloth; “Well lad, the road only goes in two directions at the moment.  Where we’ve been, and where we’re going, and that’s down into the lowlands.  Imperial missive or not, I only have the authority to travel between Silverton and Vaquaria.  And I’ve usually reported in by now and gone on vacation!”  He throws the cloth into the tool box that Hank is carrying as they move on to the next project of tending to the shutters on the passenger car to make sure they are all functional, undamaged and secured shut.

Dwight and some of the others are helping out with this and other preparations as the conversation continues.  Archie goes on; “Frankly I never though this line was a good idea, the lowlands between here and Vaquaria are extremely dangerous.”

Dwight: “Why?”

Archie looks at him; “They don’t call those the Demon Plaines for giggles boy!”

Dwight; “But there is a regular service through here, or at least there was.  It can’t be that bad can it?”

Archie; “Yah the trains ran regular, but they did it by being well armed, and as I said I’m usually on vacation by the time the demons and demon blooded push too far into the mountains.  Most of them prefer the heat of the jungle lowlands and savannahs between here and Kassantia ever since the demonic armies of the Black Eagle were defeated in 2899.  Now we are late in the season, I haven’t reported the road clear for the season yet and all we have are a few inexperienced road marshals and a gaggle of terrified refugees to defend the train.  And unless y’all have a cash of magic weapons for everybody we’re in serious trouble.”

Dwight; “So what’s the plan then, communication is out so we can’t wait for help.”

Archie finishing the last of the shutters; “We do the only thing we can.  We head downhill and I will engage the steam drive and both of the clockwork motors at the last moment hoping to boost our speed to levels that will deter any unwanted demonic attentions.  The rest of you will either strap yourselves down to your seats or to the roof with the rest of the road marshals in case our speed is insufficient to save us.  The real trick will be to do this hauling so many cars.”

Hearn asks, “But what is the road like between here and Vaquaria, how far is the trip?”

Archie; “Oh, well, with the road in a functional state it is less than a day’s travel without the snow mileage wise, but it normally takes about a day and a half of steady hauling because we have to go down onto the valley floor, across, then up the other side of the valley, which has a lower elevation.  Then down again for the few miles until we reach the city limits.”

They left the relative safety of the plateau in the early hours of the morning on the 6th of March so as to have plenty of time to cross the valley floor before nightfall.  Archie had stressed that this was very important when they were complaining about how early he was rousing the marshals.  It was a cold spring morning at 6000ft.  After a few hours of traveling ever downward, they began to experience the heat and humidity of the lowlands and all but Milo are uncomfortable and even Thingerlun doesn’t mind riding out on the roof because of the cooling airflow.  As they approached the last grade downward onto the valley floor, Archie activates the intercom; “OK! Places everyone, secure all cargo nets!”  They decide that with the possibility of demons, they should have Hearn operate the magical ballista since she is allowed to attack supernatural creatures, freeing Milo attack any demons that might make it onto the train with his enchanted mace.  Bob and some of the refugees defend the roof of the coal car along with Ffwylldyr, Lex Anne, and the daenkelder to defend the passenger car.  The daenkelder and Lex both dip their arrows in holy water hoping that this will fortify their ammunition against demons.

Archie then waited for them to confirm their locations and when all was secure he takes them over the last crest and down into the valley below.  A few minutes later after they reached the roads maximum speed Archie giggles to himself; “I always wanted to try this…” He fastens his goggles tight and pushes all three throttles to full power while disengaging from the road system to keep it from trying to slow their decent.  The drive wheels of the engine actually damaged the surface of the road slightly with the force of the acceleration.
Life can be scary.  Life strapped to the top of a wooden cart, all be it an impressive one, at 25 miles an hour is terrifyingly dangerous… all falls from the train are now lethal.  Everything seems to be going well and Archie is managing to keep them from crashing; if only just barely.  Sythrixis, who’s been following them for a while now, is enjoying the fact that for once he doesn’t have to keep circling back for the rest of them, but at noon he informs Thingerlun that there is a flock of something up ahead.  By this time the train is well out onto the plains and traveling upon the elevated roadway, but they are slowing now and are only at about 16 miles an hour; isolated copses of jungle occasionally pass behind them like green puddles... still lethal if they fall.

Thingerlun, who is riding upon the top of the engine with a safety line tied to his waist and one of the hooks on the side of the roof normally used to secure cargo, informs everyone within ear shot and they pass the word along as he queries Sythrixis for more details.

Sythrixis; “They are the size of a Veltoni and are humanoid, but with bat like wings.  We’re down wind and I smell sulfur.  They occasionally fly up out of the trees to get a good look in our direction and then drop back down into the trees.”

But as everyone was trying to figure out what these things are, Sythrixis reports via Thingerlun that there are at least a dozen that have darted up into the sky and are gaining altitude, but they are still out of range.  Everyone is waiting for the attack when the monkey demons swoop down out of the sky, using momentum to easily overtake the caravan.  The attack is focused upon the engine and Milo is the first to act and invokes the power of Ormazd to banish one of the demons from coming within 60ft of the train. 

Thingerlun and Hearn pool their knowledge and are able to discover that these particular demons are vulnerable to water, and Hearn then casts Bless on all of the water-skins of the people nearest to her and then steps back to man the ballista.  Lex and Bob both miss their attack, as does the Daenkelder with his clockwork spike launchers.  The monkey demons attack by grabbing and flinging their own fecal waste at the train and anyone they can reach.  They fail to hit anyone on the first round, but they are dismayed to see that where it hits the train it begins to slowly dissolve the deck.  The Sword of Conviction realizes that there are demons to be fought and tries to force Dwight into charging forward towards the two demons that have landed upon the rear of the engine, but Dwight proves the stronger of the two.  However, as he moves forward to get into a better position to defend the wizard and the clerics Dwight stumbles and falls over the edge of the deck, but catches himself at the last moment.  Thingerlun manages to pop 3 of the demons on his first volley of magic missiles due to the fact that these demons were remarkably frail {I rolled poorly for their Hp} and the breath weapon from the dragon proves ineffective at damaging the demons, but it impedes their ability to fly and they are quickly left behind.

During all of this, Hank had been crawling out onto the front of the engine with a wrench and had started to loosen the fittings on something.  Milo attempts to banish another demon, but the demon is unaffected.  Hearn fires the ballista but misses her target.  Lex wings one of the demons with an arrow, the holy water appears to be very effective in that it allowed the arrow to strike the demon rather than pass through harmlessly.  The daenkelder misses his attack on the monkey demon that has moved into melee striking distance.  Bob moves forward to try and climb up from the coal car to the top of the engine to try and flank the demons that had landed there.  This time the monkeys have better aim, Bob, Lex, are hid by acidic poo and Thingerlun gets hit in the face, {nat 20 on the attack roll; but player turns and says; “will it get rid of the pustules?”  Storyteller; “Roll your luck against a DC of 16…” player rolls a nat 20…  “Yes, but it still leaves Thingerlun scared.”  Player; “That’s OK, chicks dig scares.”}

Dwight is hanging their on the side of the engine and says to the sword; “I don’t suppose there is anything you can do to help here?”

Sword, indignantly; “OH! NOW you want my help… Maybe I should just let you fall!”

Dwight: “But then you’d be lost again.”

Sword; “I doubt it… not with these sapphires, not with my craftsmanship, no.  I’d be found and on my way again in short order.”

Dwight; “Um, but you’re a holy relic of a God who protects people…”

Sword; “Fine.  Be that way.  I’ve done what I can now the rest is up to you, so get us up there into the fight!”

Dwight; “I don’t notice anything different.”

Sword; “No, I don’t suppose you would, would you.”

But to the demon monkeys that were taking aim at Dwight, he simply disappears from their view and their attacks miss him and start to dissolve holes in the side of the engine.  Thingerlun let’s loose with another spray of magic missiles and takes out two more and seriously wounds two others.  Hank pulls out a large metal cone that has a flexible pipe attached to the narrow end of the cone and starts looking for a target.  Ffwylldyr swings his sword at the demon that has managed to land upon the passenger car.

Milo moves forward to try and kill one of the two that landed, but fumbles and hits Hearn instead and does significant damage.  Hearn casts Bolt from Above but fails.  Lex swings at the monkey demon that has landed on the roof of the passenger car, but misses.  Bob fails to strike the demon he was aiming for, and the mercenary daenkelder fumbles bad enough to hurt himself.  The Monkeys miss everyone except Bob and Thingerlun with their last volley, and one of the two demons on the engine fumbles its attack on Bob and falls in between the cars to be crushed under the train.  Bob plays it off like he meant to do that all along…

Dwight pulls himself up to the roof and moves to attack the nearest demon, not realizing that he is invisible to everyone… he still manages to miss even with all of those bonuses. {Rolled a 3 on the attack} Sythrixis zooms passed the train and tries to tail swipe a demon as he passes and misses.  Hank manages to catch 2 demons with the spray from the steam-belcher that he is holding and they dissolve.   The rest of the demons in the air fall away behind them and all that remain are the three that managed to land.  Ffwylldyr charges at the demon but nearest to him, misses, and nearly falls over the side.

Milo moves to engage the last monkey demon on the engine's roof; but is unwilling to charge, so Thingerlun kills it with an arcane bolt before Milo can get there.  Lex hits the demon on the passenger car with a well-placed shot as it was charging to grab Ffwylldyr and drag him away.  This gives Milo a chance to call down the power of Ormazd with a Bolt from Above which leaves nothing but a puff of ash and an after image of a streak of sunlight where the demon was.

It is a long and tense night, but they are lucky enough not to encounter anything as they creep the rest of the way to Vaquaria.  They are stopped about 2 miles outside of town at a very busy, but makeshift camp just after dawn on Saturday morning, the 7th of March.  There is a sense of relief as there train is billeted and they rest while they are waiting for orders.

{Game clock Suspended at Dawn on the 7th of March, 3200}